Wednesday, August 22, 2012

When Did Superman's Heat Vision Start?

As many of you probably know, Superman's heat vision was not an early power. Both Superman and Superboy originally used "the heat" of their X-ray vision to melt things. This changed at some point fairly early in Weisinger's tenure. I am not quite sure why; was it because of the obvious problem that bullets were made of lead and thus not affected by X-rays? So I started going through the early Weisinger Action issues, looking for the changeover. What surprised me at first was how common the "heat of my X-ray vision" meme was in Superman. To give you an idea, it popped up in Action #254,, #255, #256, #258, #259, #262, #263 and #264, or in 8 of 11 issues. But after that it vanished for awhile, only appearing in Action #271. And even that appearance comes with an asterisk:
But in actuality that particular panel is being narrated by a fake Superman and Luthor henchman named Gypo. So it is far from certain that really represents a real instance of the heat of Superman's X-ray vision being used. On the other hand, it is fairly easy to pinpoint the first use of Superman's heat vision in Action; it appears in Action #275 (April 1961):
Okay, so in the second appearance of Brainiac, heat vision was established? But you know the problem; there are several other Superman mags to check, so I decided to start walking it back from April 1961, partially to see if there was an earlier appearance and partially to see if there was a more credible last mention of the "heat of my X-ray vision". There was no mention of Superman's heat from eyes power in Superman #144 (April 1961), but I did find this in Superman #143 (February 1961):
End of story, right? Not quite, however, for when I went forward to see when the first mention of Superman's "heat vision" came, I found mention of the heat of his X-ray vision in stories published after April 1961. The latest mention I can find now is from Superman #146 (July 1961):
The first mention of heat vision I can find in Superman issues comes from #148 (October 1961):
The transition from "heat of X-ray vision" to "heat vision" is pretty easy to track in Superboy. From Superboy #87 (March 1961):
While in the following issue (April 1961):
So it appears pretty obvious that the changeover came between the issues published in March 1961 and April 1961. Update: This is also one of those areas where you cannot trust the reprints. When I went to read the Superman story in Action #259, the closest issue at hand was the reprint in 80-Page Giant #1 (August 1964), where this sequence occurs:
But after noticing that there were several mentions of "heat of my X-ray vision" after this, I hunted down the original, and sure enough:


Scipio said...

THANK you for determining that.

jaerdaph said...

Very nice detective work!

Kirk House said...

As I recollect, Superman/Superboy was said to have heat vision, x-ray vision, telescopic vision, microscopic vision, and... super vision. Super vision was editorially explained as using several of these "visions" simultaneously.
Anyhow, thanks for investigating this. It explains why we as kids could never quite sort out whether (or why) heat vision was a byproduct of x-ray vision.

Anonymous said...

Superman measures heat in ounces?

Anonymous said...

I remember seeing reruns of the 1950's TV show, and they would refer to his "X-ray vision" even when he was using it to produce heat. I never knew before this blog post just when the comics started to call "heat vision" a separate power.

MichaelRbn said...

I recall a text piece in one of the Superman/Superboy Giants that listed and detailed all the High Weisinger Era vision powers.

PS:Ultra Boy's versions were designated Penetra Vision and Flash Vision and were always supposed to be colored blue.

Martin Gray said...

Fascinating stuff, nice one. Presumably at some point Superboy learned to turn off the actual x-ray aspect and keep the heat. Or was he seeing through things at the sane time, but DC wasn'f showing us?

Anonymous said...

Have you read Michael Fleischer's Superman Encyclopedia. His section on Superman's powers does a phenomenal job tracking first uses of different powers, growing levels of strength, etc.
I presume the roots of heat vision in x-ray vision is why it never worked on lead (though I recall they actually had it working on lead by the end of the bronze age).

Kirk House said...

I don't have the references to hand, but didn't Superman occasionally use his heat/x-ray vision on lead... for instance, lead pipes... to melt the lead and drip the molten metal over a chunk of kryptonite?

Pat said...

Kirk, they would not have used the heat of his X-ray vision, because lead is impervious to X-rays. I do know that at least one time, Superman actually melted the Kryptonite with the heat of his X-ray vision; it happened in Action #252, although that was a small piece.

Fraser, I think I have the Fleisher Superman Encyclopedia around here somewhere, although I haven't seen in in a long time.


How come Superman never uses those other body function powers_superfarting,superpooping,super bo,super urination.