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In the early Action and Superman volumes, Superman is described as "Leaping over skyscrapers", and similar such terms. He is also portrayed as running from place to place, which begs the question, if you can fly, why run? Apparently he could leap over tall buildings, but long distance air travel was something else again. The old TV show also began with "Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound".

Seems from all this that Superman didn't really "fly" - i.e. he had no wings or propulsion system - he just made very long, strong (strong enough to reach escape velocity from the earth and much larger worlds as well), high jumps, and was able to navigate using aerodynamic principles - similar to a flying squirrel or fish, as opposed to a bird or bat.

Even though later on we find that he did travel long distances by air, couldn't we explain all of Superman's maneuvers as extraordinary powerful and carefully calculated leaps and bounces?

The proof would be from situations where he demonstrates acceleration without a boost from some external source of energy: If it's all leaping, even if it's incredibly powerful, he would be constantly decelerating to some extent.

Is there any proof that he could actually fly using some sort of propulsion system, like an airplane or a bird, and not just engage in mighty, calculated leaps? Would constraining Superman's ability to jump (hard to imagine how...) result in him not being able to "fly"?

This question is definitely not a duplicate. I am not asking how he flies, I am asking if he actually flies. See accepted answer, from before this question was mistakenly closed.

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marked as duplicate by K-H-W, Stan, Andres F., Ward, Eureka Mar 9 at 8:56

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

    
@KHW - it's a bit of a different question and I'm not sure the answers there completely cover it - "Super Leaping" can essentially cover everything IMO. I'd like some very strong, concrete evidence for vs against. –  Vector Mar 9 at 2:46
    
Superman's powers have changed over the (real) decades. He couldn't fly at first. What are you asking? –  Beta Mar 9 at 3:59
    
@Beta - I think what I'm asking is quite clear. If you have a clear answer, please post it! –  Vector Mar 9 at 4:13
    
Of course he can fly ComeAndGo. These days it would be quite silly to imagine Superman not flying. -1 –  Izumi-reiLuLu Mar 9 at 5:07
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It's not 100% clear whether you're just talking about how Superman's powers were defined originally, or if you're also asking about how they're defined now. For instance 'Seems from all this that Superman didn't really "fly"' sounds like it's about his original powers, but 'Would constraining Superman's ability to jump (hard to imagine how...) result in him not being able to "fly"?' is in the present tense, so it could be asking about whether constraining the current Superman's ability to jump would prevent him from flying. –  Hypnosifl Mar 9 at 6:04

2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

From what I've read the idea of Superman being able to fly, as opposed to just leap, was invented by the Max Fleischer Superman cartoons which began in 1941--first one was "The Mad Scientist" which can be viewed here. This idea was only later introduced in the comics--someone on this page quotes The Great Superman Book by Michael Fleisher as saying:

In the early years of his super-heroic career, Superman was not endowed with the power of flight. Although he possessed superhuman speed, he moved from place to place by running or by executing gigantic leaps. Month by month, however, Superman’s running speed increased, along with the complexity of the aerial maneuvers he was able to perform once he had left the ground. The transition from leaping to actual flying was extraordinarily gradual and was punctuated with a great deal of inconsistency. Not until May 1943, in fact, is Superman explicitly referred to as a “being who can fly like a bird” (Act No. 60: Lois Lane-Superwoman!”), and not until later that same year can it be said, without qualification, that Superman actually possesses the power of flight (Act 65, Oct ’43; “The Million-Dollar Marathon!”; and others).

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OK - I just watched Mad Scientist : Opening has the leaping over tall buildings stuff, but at one or two points in the animation it appears clear that he has the power of acceleration - particularly when he is pushing back the skyscrapers into position. –  Vector Mar 9 at 8:39
    
I'm not that familiar with the 1940's comics, but I though they made it clear that Superman learned, or discovered, all those powers by himself, which was a slow process since there was nobody who could teach him. Similarly, in the TV series Smallville, he couldn't fly either. –  Mr Lister Mar 9 at 11:06
    
@MrLister - That is interesting - perhaps he developed those powers over time and learned to improve/maximize them. –  Vector Mar 10 at 0:50
    
@MrLister, I think the 1940s comics mostly just showed the fully-grown Superman and didn't show his child or teen years when he was first discovering his powers--the article at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_and_Martha_Kent says they didn't come up with the final names for his parents until the early 50s, and that "The Kents made few appearances in Superman stories until the introduction of the Superboy comic book series in 1949". –  Hypnosifl Mar 10 at 5:54

That is correct when Superman first appeared in Action Comics #1 (published April 18, 1938) he couldn't fly. He also had no heat vision but he had superhuman strength, could run at amazing speeds, leap high into the sky and had a incredibly dense body structure.

With a character as long-lived as The Last Son of Krypton the details of his origin, relationships as well as his abilities have changed significantly from his inception in what's called the Golden Age of Comic Books (c.1938 – c.1950).

Superman began to float in midair, accelerate, and change direction while in midair after 1941. For more on GOLDEN AGE SUPERMAN check out his Wiki Page: HERE

Changes began in earnest during what's called the Silver Age (c.1956 – c.1970) of comics though they have continued to changing certain aspects of Sups abilities and history throughout the Bronze Age (c.1970 – c.1985) and even today in what's refereed to by some as the Post-Comic Code DC or New 52 years, which began in 2011.

A good example of how things have changed for Superman was when the publishers decided, during the Modern Age (c.1985), that there was never a time when young Clark Kent was Superboy. As a result all of the stories that depended on Clark's having worn the blue, red and gold as a boy could no longer stand. Most notably the popular Legion of Super-Heroes series had to be retconed as the 30th Century team had only banded together because of the Legend of Superboy.

What hasn't changed much over the years is spirit of the Superman Mythos, Clark (Kal-El) Kent has always been an overwhelmingly positive character... well until Man of Steel that is, but that's another answer!

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+1 - Superman as far as I'm concerned only comprises the Gold and Silver Ages. After that the changes become so radical that it really can't be considered the same character or history at all. –  Vector Mar 9 at 7:09
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This is a good write-up of the changes to Superman canon over the years, but it's not really an answer to the OP until it specifically addresses the change of canon from jumping to flying. –  Avner Shahar-Kashtan Mar 9 at 8:21

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