When discussing Superman online, we often see people cite random examples of Superman doing something outside of his typical power levels, to show that he is capable of that and then to use that as a point of consideration in how he would fare in a specific battle being discussed.

In one such discussion, which centered on Superman being able to find a specific individual quickly in NYC, random examples of Superman's powers were brought up, which I am not familiar with:

  • Searching every building, car and subway in a 200 mile radius in a few seconds

  • Taking a few seconds, without moving and just by turning his head, to ascertain that a certain individual was not in a 20 mile radius

  • Viewing peoples DNA

  • Viewing to the edge of the universe

The argument was then made based on the above, that Superman could search every individual in a city of 10 million people, every building, car and subway in a few seconds, or minutes at most.

Is there any truth to this? Is Superman that powerful, or are the examples above exceptions written by writers making him more powerful than he is typically?

How powerful is Superman typically (e.g. what are the ranges of his x-ray vision, speed, etc) and how powerful is he if we take ever example of him at his most powerful?

P.S. ideally the answer would cover all/many powers, but at the very least they should touch on the powers discussed above, which are useful in finding a specific person in NYC in minutes.

  • This looks an awful lot like a Shark vs. Gorilla question. Unless a Batman vs. Superman fight has occurred in canon, there will likely be no objective answer to this. VTC'd as nonconstructive in its current form. May 5, 2012 at 16:29
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    @GabeWillard I'm not asking about superman vs batman really, that was just to give some context. The question is about Superman power if taking every canon but uncommon portrayal vs his power in his typical portrayal.
    – RC Toaster
    May 5, 2012 at 17:33
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    @GabeWillard - while there are no rules, it's a lot more polite and friendly to FIRST suggest ways of improving the question (or better yet, edit yourself) and only then VTC/DV if the poster doesn't address the concerns in reasonable time. Not to mention that in this case, as OP noted, the SharkvsGorilla format was 100% clearly NOT the point of the question but merely an excuse to ask a very good and interesting question, and OP's only fault was over-weighing on "what's my reason for asking" part. May 5, 2012 at 19:27
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    As @DVK says, edits can be rolled back, votes to close stay for a lot longer and make the question look a little dodgy...
    – AncientSwordRage
    May 5, 2012 at 20:27
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    @DVK I already told you I didn't know what I was doing was a bad idea. It's not my responsibility to phrase your questions correctly. I'm sorry you are bitter at me for causing all of your problems, but I can't help that now. May 6, 2012 at 18:35

4 Answers 4


I would pretty much consider myself as close to an expert on Superman as I've come across. I've read and own so many comics and collections and crossover events, etc that I've lost count. And my readings go back to Action #1 (reprints of course) so I'm familiar with most incarnations of the character. From your question I take it you are asking about the typical incarnation in the books and leaving out movies, animation, etc. So let's leave it at the books.

Typically speaking, in every version of Superman, he's been the upper limit or near upper limit of the comic book genre at that given time. NOTE: I'm speaking of the conventional characters and not the cosmic or force of nature personified types like Highfather or the Spectre or Watcher or Living Tribunal, etc. So what I mean is even though the original 1939 version would PALE in comparison to even John Byrne's man of steel version, he was the most powerful at that time.

The "ultimate" version of Superman would be (no, not pre-crisis Supes but...) Superman One Million. This version is basically nigh-omnipotent after living in solitude inside the sun for 15,000 years.

The version that is most powerful following thay would be Pre-Crisis Superman. This is the one that became the canonical version that everyone, even those who never read a Superman comic book knows. Even though Julie Schwartz brought this version down a few notches he could still pretty much tow planets behind him no problem (literally).

John Bryne DRASTICALLY reduced the Post-Crisis Superman's power levels during his time with the character and this is where it gets confusing when referencing feats of strength or limits.

The main takeaway here is that pretty mich everything Byrne did to Superman has been either eliminated or retconned away. And that includes both good & bad. Ever since Byrne left there has been almost a mandate to gradually increase Superman's power levels to something closer to his pre-crisis levels.

Superman say over the last decade is once again one of the most powerful characters in comics.

Superman's vision powers, even today, are absolutely mind-boggling.

His telescopic vision can see the edge of the galaxy (Lois says this in conversation with him). He can also see in 4 dimensional space (Final Crisis: Superman Beyond). We only see in 3.

He can absolutely see at the dna level and actually beyond that.

He not only can scan 20 miles for a person in seconds, this is really him taking his time to do it. In a recent issue, when Lois gets shot covering a war on the other side of the PLANET he HEARS the interruption of her HEARTBEAT! And reaches her from METROPOLIS in about 2 seconds. He could have moved faster but it would have caused massive destruction to do so.

SPEED: Even the more recent versions of the character can reach speeds fast enough to break through the time barrier. Especially through flight.

STRENGTH: In "President Luthor" Clark is so upset at Luthor's ascent to the presidency that he cracks a moon of either saturn or jupiter in half with a punch. And that's an older reference now. Superman is back to what I call "planet pusher" level or close to it.

So I hope this helps categorize somewhat where Superman is typically. Minus an inconsistency here or there Superman is generally portrayed as one of, if not, the most powerful conventional superhero in the DC universe.


Due to nature of character Superman, such type of speculations exist in world.

Actually, Superman can do anything.

He is not like Batman who can't fly or can't replicate his body. Its on story writers to define powers of Superman. There's nothing which documents exact powers of Superman.

So, its wise to ask for reference in discussions.

Do you know, Superman can kiss a girl from a distance!

Tell me where you find this. Any comic, movie etc reference?

Specifically, searching every building, car and subway in a 200 mile radius in a few seconds is a small thing for Superman. Mind it, In Superman - The Movie, he flied faster than light to go back in time to save his girlfriend.

From Wikipedia,

Superhuman Vision - His senses grant him the ability to see farther and with greater accuracy and detail than humanly possible. Sometimes includes the ability to see EM frequencies invisible to humans, such as radio transmissions, infrared light, the bioelectric aura which surrounds all living things, even in pitch-black darkness. Offshoots of this power include Telescopic Vision, which allows him to "zoom in" on far away objects, sometimes hundreds of miles away, and Microscopic Vision, which allows him to zoom in on objects that would normally be too small to see, like those on a cellular or molecular level.

It says that he can see DNA of people, but there's no context source attached with this.

I am not agree with viewing edge of universe as he is dependent on speed of electromagnetic waves for viewing (Yes, he can see edge of past universe like Hubble Telescope). Its also possible that edge of universe isn't emitting anything. Plus, in true sense, there's no edge of universe.
But, if canon presents such things, we'll have to believe somehow.


Going back to original question , he finds people quickly, by having enough knowledge of where they are or where their going to be. He does research before looking for someone. The whole reporter thing has some play in it.

  • Hello Noshameo; welcome to the site. SE doesn't work like most forums, so When you get a moment, please take a look at our FAQ.
    – Tynam
    Apr 9, 2013 at 7:57

Superman is physically the most power character in DC Comics, he may as well be a god. He's stronger than both Thor and Hercules, putting him above Odin the physical strength because Thor is the strongest one from Asgard. There is really no limit on what he can do; Darkseid is essentially a god and Superman has not only beaten him on more than on occasion, he's also smacked him around. He is hands-down the most powerful character. No one could really stand against him, Dr. Fate, Captain Atom, the Martian Manhunter are all strong but no where near the level of Superman, he can run faster then the speed of sound, fly faster then the speed of light, super breath, freeze breath, heat vision, telescopic vision, and more not to mention he has a vast knowledge of both Earth and Kryptoninan fighting. He's one smart cookie!

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