Thanks to his remarkable powers and abilities far beyond those of mere mortals, the mighty Superman cannot be harmed by conventional means.
Bullets bounce off of his skin. Fire won’t burn his flesh. Even nasty poisons have no effect on his solar-infused Kryptonian physiology. So, it goes without saying that Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s Superman can’t get drunk, just as long as he has his fabulous superpowers.
Whenever he loses those thrilling superpowers, however, it’s a different story. Because Clark Kent has had his remarkable superpowers for his entire life (in most storylines), he never had to build up an alcohol tolerance. Unfortunately, this means that when Kal-El loses his superpowers through magic, deadly Kryptonite or his solar flare power, it’s actually really easy to get The Last Son of Krypton drunk.
In both the comics, television and movies, Superman has had an ambiguous relationship with alcohol. Christopher Reeve’s Superman politely told Margot Kidder’s Lois Lane, during their interview in Richard Donner’s Oscar®-winning, epic masterpiece, “Superman: The Movie” (1978): “I never drink when I fly.”
Curious about getting drunk, acting evil and flicking some peanuts? Have we got the film for you.
However, in Richard Lester’s horrible 1983 mess, “Superman III”, a counterfeit-Kryptonite-infected Superman drank a lot of liquor in a bar, specifically with a bottle of Johnnie Walker Red Label Scotch and showed he could be a pretty mean drunk. It felt like a moron excuse not to use Red Kryptonite, but it was what it was, courtesy of screenwriters David and Leslie Newman.
The third Christopher Reeve Superman movie is notable for upping the Kryptonite game by artificially combining the alchemical components of Green Kryptonite with tar and created by Richard Pryor’s character Gus Gorman, no less. The crazy result?
Well, it is exactly what you’d expect — a kind of Red and Black Kryptonite hybrid that turns Superman into an evil, coked-out drunkard, who miraculously splits in two and picks a fight with himself: Good Clark Kent, Evil Superman.
Of course, Lester’s “Superman III” may have its faults, but seeing Supes get plastered beyond one of Krypton’s moons and shatter bottles with peanuts, like bullets, is not one of them. But don’t forget sloshed Supes other such douchey acts, such as blowing out the Olympic torch with his Super Breath, setting The Leaning Tower of Pisa upright, causing a catastrophic oil spill and having extreme sexy time by nailing actress Pamela Stephenson. I’m sure Stephenson’s legendary comedian husband, Billy Connolly didn’t mind. Now, that’s how you rebel, Tom Welling!!!!
All this silliness culminates in a surreal fight staged at a Metropolis junkyard between Evil Superman and Boy Scout Clark Kent. Are they really throwing down or is it all just taking place in Kal-El’s head?! Who cares.
Watching all of this Silver Age greatness and mad-eyed Superman send his alter ego into a trash compactor, only for the latter to rise up and choke the evil doppleganger to death, was well worth the price of admission for a movie ticket back in 1983. Trust me, that fight was the only decent scene in Lester’s “Superman III”.
More recently, with cinematic Superman actors, Brandon Routh in “Superman Returns” (2006) and Henry Cavill in “Man of Steel” (2013), both were shown drinking (Routh) and even working in bars (Cavill), but they didn’t suffer no ill effects from alcohol, just bad scripts and terrible directors.
On television in 1993, Dean Cain was drinking as well, but with no negative effects on “Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman”.
In the comics, it has been established that The Man of Tomorrow gets his main nutrients directly from our yellow sun, meaning he doesn’t even need to eat or drink. Yet, he’s capable of doing both. He generally doesn’t drink alcohol, turning away Lois Lane’s offer of wine and brie during one of their initial meetings in John Byrne’s Man of Steel #2.
This changed in recent years, thanks to the introduction of Superman’s “solar flare” power. This power enabled The Man of Steel to expel all the solar energy out of his body at once, essentially turning him into a living bomb. While this was an effective power move, it also left Clark powerless until his body could absorb sufficient amounts of solar radiation. In the pages of Superman #38 from 2015, Superman’s discovered he has a “super flare” power where he expels all of the energy in his cells to create a bright, powerful blast capable of incinerating everything within a quarter mile. The downside — aside from the mass destruction — is that using the Super Flare ability depletes his cells, essentially making Superman human for 24 hours. The power emerged during a fight with Ulysses in the final chapter of “The Men of Tomorrow” arc by artist John Romita, Jr. and writer Geoff Johns. Ulysses is a super-human who can absorb energy and use it to achieve Superman-level strength and flight in addition to a variety of other powers. When Kal-El blasted Ulysses with his Heat Vision, Ulysses began to absorb it, but suddenly Superman started to glow, setting off his Super Flare power. The power was enough to end the fight, knocking out Ulysses and causing Superman to pass out. Later, Batman explains to a battle-worn Superman, “It looks like your Heat Vision is actually a precursor to another ability you possess. You unleashed the energy stored in every one of your cells. You created a solar flare, Clark. A super flare.” A new costume for Superman was made for the issue, but it turns out to be more of a subtle revision. Here’s some history: As part of The New 52’s initiative to modernize DC’s characters, Superman’s suit was changed to be a Kryptonian armor that would cover his body at a moment’s notice.
This armor was mostly destroyed in the battle, leading to the reveal of a new costume. The costume still had a New 52 feel to it with the suit lines, collar, wrist guards, crappy plot and lack of red trunks, but the armor look has been toned down considerably, lending itself to more of a classic, cloth-material look. Not as big a departure as a blinding, destructive power, but notable nonetheless. During this time, Clark was essentially human, letting him experience all the joys and frailties of regular human life. To everyone’s surprise, Superman felt this temporary power loss was a fantastic gift as he could finally feel the full spectrum of human sensation and even found eating and drinking a much more pleasurable experience without powers. Unfortunately, the Justice League of America decided to take advantage of this by giving Clark a night out on the town. Clark ended up in a bar with The JLA, took one sip of his light beer and promptly became so drunk that he started babbling about how his new Super Flare power would encourage bad guys to be less bad before he passed out on the table. The JLA found this hilarious and commented that Superman has the alcohol tolerance of a flea. Clark woke up the next morning with a fraction of his superpowers and a massive hangover. Although he still managed to take down some criminals, the pounding in his head made him swear never to go out drinking again. In 2018, the iconic and classic look of Superman was brought back in both superpowers and costume and The New 52 was diminished, hopefully permanently.
Given that Superman does lose his outstanding powers on a semi-regular basis, it’s actually very possible that Clark Kent could get drunk every now and then. Due to his weak alcohol tolerance, however, Superman likely stays away from bars as a rule – which is a good thing for the rest of us.
Considering how unbelievably dangerous regular humans can become when under the influence of alcohol, an inebriated Superman is likely a danger Clark Kent would rather spare the rest of the world.
Join us for more discussion at our Facebook group
check out our CBH documentary videos on our CBH Youtube Channel
get some historic comic book shirts, pillows, etc at CBH Merchandise
check out our CBH Podcast available on Apple Podcasts, Google PlayerFM and Stitcher.
Use of images are not intended to infringe on copyright, but merely used for academic purpose.
Images used ©Their Respective Copyright Holders