5

We all know that Clark Kent is the alter ego of Superman, and that he wears a disguise to help fool people.

In All-Star Superman, he adjusts his posture and face to look like a pudgy out of shape guy. In older stories he uses a form of hypnosis to fool everyone.

What does he do now to fool facial recognition systems, since they can't be influenced like humans can?

  • 3
    "...since they can't be influenced like humans can?" Says who? If we are going to posit the existence of super hypnotism, no reason the absurd superpower cant work on computers too. – Broklynite Nov 28 '16 at 22:40
  • As they noted in Mystery Men, Lance Hunt wears glasses, Captain Amazing doesn't wear glasses. (Don't start that again) Same for Kent – infixed Nov 28 '16 at 22:45
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    Because glasses muck up facial recognition in real life; kairos.com/blog/the-effects-of-glasses-on-facial-recognition – Valorum Nov 28 '16 at 22:55
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    At one point in the older (pre-Crisis) continuity, Clark would subtly vibrate his face so that his features were made a little less distinct to anyone looking at him. The same would likely work against automated systems. I don't believe this explanation survived the Crisis and I'm not sure what, if any, explanations are used in current continuity. If you ask me, it's better not to question such things and just go with the conceit. – Patrick Wynne Nov 28 '16 at 22:56
  • I'm more impressed with how Rex Racer (Speed Racer's older brother) baffled the entire car racing world by listing his name directory style. – PoloHoleSet Nov 28 '16 at 23:15
9

The very short answer is that he can't. On at least one occasion his enemies used physical and facial recognition software to directly compare Kent with Superman and were successful in doing so.

He relies on the sheer improbability of someone like Clark Kent being Superman to fool people. Note that even when his greatest enemy was presented with unimpeachable proof of their physical similarity, they simply denied it.

enter image description here

enter image description here
Images courtesy of Superman - The Secret Revealed!

Interestingly, this conflicts with an earlier serial which cited "Super-Hypnotism" as being the secret of his success in fooling cameras into not seeing the similarity

enter image description here Images courtesy of Superman - The Master Mesmerizer of Metropolis!

  • It's not a "conflict". It's a "retcon". It's one of many details that were changed when the Superman series was rebooted in the 1980's. – Shawn V. Wilson Nov 29 '16 at 17:39
  • @ShawnV.Wilson - In this case it's a conflict (rather than a retcon) because there was no change in the continuity between the editions. – Valorum Nov 29 '16 at 18:01
  • Yes, there really was a change in continuity between them. Didn't you notice that your links refer to "Volume 1, #330" and "Volume 2, #2"? Volume 2 was the post-Crisis version, which began in 1987, following John Byrne's famous revision of the character in the "Man of Steel" miniseries in 1986. (He revised it largely to get rid of silly things like "super-hypnotism". – Shawn V. Wilson Nov 29 '16 at 19:53
  • @ShawnV.Wilson - As far as I'm aware they never retconned Super-Hypnosis out of the continuity, they just (subtly) stopped referring to it. You might want to ask that as a separate question though. – Valorum Nov 29 '16 at 19:54
  • Byrne retconned EVERYTHING out that he didn't explicitly put back in. That, in fact, was the whole point of the Crisis on Infinite Earths; not just for Superman but for the whole DC Universe. (I don't want to make this a Discussion Within The Comments, so you may have the last word if you like.) – Shawn V. Wilson Nov 29 '16 at 20:06
4

The DC comics universe never provides a solid answer to this.

However, it seems very likely that the following could be the reason:

  1. Clark Kent keeps his heat vision "on" at a low level which heats the air in front of his face. This could create a "heat effect" mirage and could obscure his features from any type of CCTV system.
  2. The energy field that provides Superman with his invulnerability also has the side effect of obscuring his image from being accurately recorded by electronic equipment.
  3. Superman's strength allows him to hold his facial muscles in a position when he "is" Superman that it "fools" visual devices that record his features. He simply "relaxes" his face when he returns to his Clark Kent identity.

The problem is that facial recognition (like DNA and airport scans) were not known about by most comic writers or their fans. As such it would have been impossible for them to have foreseen that those technologies would have played a large role in modern society. They couldn't write what they didn't know in the same manner that modern writers are overlooking quantum testing and molecular density scans which will likely be part of life in our near future.

  • I was mostly curious if there's been any instance of him running into a facial recognition system, or if Luthor as tried to use one to find his identity. – CBredlow Nov 28 '16 at 23:41
  • Yep. See @Valorum's answer – Shawn V. Wilson Nov 29 '16 at 17:39
  • Which makes "sense" as a retcon, and not as to why he hasn't been recognized by outsiders, the government or the media all of which have access to facial recognition software. And since that software , in one form or another, has been available to the better part of two decades, he really should have at least encountered dozens or hundreds of full or partial hits on his identity. – Mistah Mix Nov 30 '16 at 0:02
4

In recent years, he simply doesn't have to. Superman is careful (a) to act differently than Clark, and (b) not let anyone know that he even has a secret identity.

As far as most people are concerned -- and there have been stories where ordinary folks discuss this -- Superman spends his downtime at his Fortress of Solitude, or the Watchtower, or someplace like that. Clark Kent is just a guy who resembles him.

And if that's not good enough, remember that time Superman rescued Clark from beneath a collapsed building? All the news programs showed video of Superman shaking hands with Clark. (And by "Clark" I mean the shape-shifter Matrix who was happy to help out.)

Okay, that's a digression. But the point is, facial recognition isn't enough to prove that two people are the same person, especially if no one is inclined to believe it.

4

In the real world, facial recognition systems can be fooled by simply wearing glasses, albeit slightly weird glasses.

enter image description here

In 100 percent of their tests, the researchers were able to use the glasses to effectively blind facial recognition systems to their identities. link

Reading the article it discusses how current facial recognition software simply looks at the paterns of pixels, and with glasses that have weird pixel paterns, not nessicarily even coloring, it can fool the system.

So simply put his glasses themselves could be all the disguise needed in dated systems, and with some unique alien watsitmajiggys could create black rimed glasses that had unique pixel level patterns to throw off current software.

  • That's pretty cool. They ought to use that in a Superman story. – Shawn V. Wilson Nov 30 '16 at 17:36
  • One small problem in that in a world filled with sentient AI like DC universe this would have been overcome easily. – user93 Aug 5 '17 at 9:02

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