How Much Does Clark Kent Weigh?

Portrayals of body image in comics, especially of women, has been a bit of a hot issue for some time. I think the discussion of how our culture views women on the page and women who are peers is a totally valid discussion, usually derailed by someone pointing out that men’s bodies are also idealized when drawn as superheroes. I think that’s a pretty weak argument, personally, but also not the argument I want to have right now. This post is about bodies, and health, and stuff like that, but it’s also basically a joke, so let’s agree to have some fun with it, ok?

While watching Man of Steel I noticed something in the moment when Superman falls to his knees in anguish: he lands with a thud. It’s a marble floor and he really hits it and the sound comes through loud and clear. If I were to recreate the even myself I would only do so using kneepads. It got me wondering, how much does this dude weigh? (Yes, this is actually how a scientist’s mind works, notice something, ask a question, spend a lot of time trying to figure it out.)

quitely_supermanThere are obviously a lot of factors in play, like the fact that maybe he made that noise because of his invulnerable skin, not his weight, but I’m only using that moment of my launching point, whether or not the weight actually played a factor. Of course, the simplest solution is to just look it up. According to the DC comics Wiki Clark Kent comes in at 235 lbs (107kg), which is pretty hefty, but also a number I’m suspicious of.

Kal-El is not human. Kryptonians evolved on Krypton, not earth. I’ve always thought that the literally astronomically low odds of them looking just like us are mostly just cosmetic (and that Jor-El is really good at finding planets). Therefore, I have no reason to believe, and actually every reason to suspect, that Clark’s physiology is its whole own thing. We’re often reminded of the fact that Krypton is a much bigger planet than earth. I think the assumption is usually that beings involved on a bigger planet would be denser in order to withstand the higher gravitational forces of life on that world, which makes a sort of logical sense. But would the fact that Clark was mostly raised on earth have any effect on how his body actually developed as opposed to how it might have on Krypton? One quick thing to note is the difference between mass and weight. A pound is actually a unit of force, not mass. So your weight is dependent on the size of the planet you are on, which is why we say you weigh less on the moon. A kilogram is a unit of mass, which is a function of your existence independent of where you are in time or space, so your mass doesn’t change with the gravity or your situation.

By way of analogy, I used to wonder what the children of a colony on Mars might grow up to look like. I always suspected that they’d be pretty skinny, and possibly taller than us because the lower Martian gravity would make it easier to grow taller. I also wonder if our bones might be less dense not having to had to grow against the same strains of earth gravity. I have no idea if that’s science or not, it’s just what I thought. If I’m right, this would mean that, even at 6’3’’ and 235 lbs Clark is actually tall and scrawny by Kryptonian standards. And if the bone thing is true, then a depowered Kal-El living back on Krypton might well be the equivalent of Sam Jackson in Unbreakable.

reign012But let’s assume that Clark’s genetics mostly override these environmental factors. His bones and muscles are going to be denser than any human. Even a slight difference in density can have big effects. Male chimpanzees, which are usually between 3 and 4 feet tall and 90 to 115 pounds yet have denser muscle fibers than humans making them much stronger than us. Their arms and legs can generate about twice the amount of force of even a much bigger human, and they can jump about a 1/3 higher than a track-and-field athlete. Is it possible that Jonathan and Martha Kent really just shaved a gorilla and raised him as their own? Suddenly the Silver Age makes much more sense.

Thus a denser Clark Kent might not weigh that much more than a human but still be able to generate a lot more output of force, even without the yellow sun boost. But what about flight? I don’t want to get into a whole big thing about how he flies, but let’s assume it involves some sort of localized distortion of his own gravitational field. If that’s the case, then Clark actually weighs nothing while he flies, and whatever he wants at any other time (hint: remember the difference between weight and mass). It may not be something he’s even aware of. His weight might actually fluctuate every time he switches from one identity to the other!super_BMI

All this thinking of weight led me to wonder about Clark’s BMI, or body mass index. Using a calculator provided online from the National Institute of Health, I input Clark’s stats and got back a BMI of 29.4, which is overweight and right at the border of obesity which begins at 30. If Clark had some extra bourguignon and put on five pounds he would be obese. Just to see how that compares to an actual human, I put in Henry Cavill’s stats (6’1’’ and ~205 lbs) for a BMI of 27, or still squarely in the overweight category. I guess the Man of Steel really is an American after all.

There are obviously ways to refine this test and factor in things like the percent of your body made up of fat, but those require more than a simple internet calculator. And of course I’m not actually arguing that Superman is overweight, but I do think it’s hilarious that he does come up as being overweight given his chiseled features.

That’s about all I have to say on how much Clark Kent weighs. I hope you enjoyed my journey down the rabbit hole. Which character’s weight do you stay up late wondering about? Let us all know in the comments!

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Ryan Haupt also has a BMI of 27, coincidence? Yes. Hear him debunk other suspicious coincidences on his super cool podcast of science.

Comments

  1. koryrosh koryrosh says:

    This was an incredibly interesting thought experiment, and I really enjoyed reading it.

    The character I’ve found myself thinking about is the Phantom Stranger (and to a lesser extant the Greek characters of the DCU). If we take the current origin of the stranger (he’s Judas), then what does that say about the religious world of the DCU? If Jesus is the son of God, but we still have the Greek gods, and other characters like Rama-Kushna (Hindu) and Shazam, who has the wisdom of Solomon (Judasim). And don’t forget about all the characters in Hell. What the heck is going on with the metaphysical world of the DCU?

    Of course all of this assumes that they have some sense of what they’re doing in the new-52, which is, well…questionable.

    • Nightwing97 Nightwing97 says:

      Let’s look at this:

      Christ was crucified, who was the son of god.

      Wonder Woman comes from the world of the Greek/Roman gods

      The Marvel family gets their powers from the Greek gods as well.

      The Endless seem omnipotent, and Dream himself has visited Hell.

      Then again, there have been various versions of hell depicted in the DCU, most recently Didio’s very uncreative, archetypal version.

      There are probably more, but these examples are enough to confuse anyone…!

    • Nightwing97 Nightwing97 says:

      Then again, this begs a question (at the risk of sounding preachy) that I have always thought about in the real world: If there is a higher being, why is it that there is only ONE? Why does ONE religion over all others have to be right? This could apply to our fictional world as well. Why can’t Zeus, “God”, Destiny, The Monitor, and all of the others have some stake in the fate of the world?

      Food for thought. Tried to keep it brief and from sounding TOO preachy. :)

    • campbell campbell says:

      I’ve thought about this a lot too. Why, in the Marvel universe, aren’t there cults/churches to the Asgardians? Gods that actually exist?
      Surely a world were gods actually, physically exists would massively change the whole world’s belief structure.

    • IthoSapien IthoSapien says:

      I’ve thought about this alittle bit as well. First off, there are churches to Thor in Marvel 2099, and worshippers. But the people who originally worshipped them (Vikings/Nords) died out or were converted or whatever.

      Second, people SEE this guys walking around all the time. If they don’t believe they’re just heroes witha fetish for classical mythology, they just accept them as “gods”. Religion is based on faith; that “This” exists even if I can’t see it all the time. “Why is there thunder in the middle of the day? Is it a mira…Oh, Thor is here now. That’s what happened”. No uncertainity there, in most cases.

      In the DC universe, as I’ve always looked at it; everybody’s real. Therefore, everybody’s right. Since we don’t see God in the DC universe, we might assume he’s at the top. But everybody below him (The Spectre, Rama Kushna, The Moniter ((Who’s dead now, right?)) the Endless, the Greek Gods) interacts with the worlds (don’t forget there’s 52 of them in the Multiverse). But since people in them have different beliefs (Deadman, Lex Luthor, the Spectre) they only acknowledge certain aspects.

      ” If there is a higher being, why is it that there is only ONE? Why does ONE religion over all others have to be right?”
      Because if there’s a higher being, who made him? Then who made that guy? and That guy? So there’s one. If someone is telling you there religion is right, it’s because they’re trying to convert you ( I’m a Christian BTW) and trying to chip away at your old religion. Stuff like Buddism, nobody’s trying to convert you. Believe what you want. Most others though try to convert others.

    • Nightwing97 Nightwing97 says:

      @IthoSapien I think you misread. I meant that people seem to be in constant battle over whose religion or god or scripture is correct. I just mean that it’s possible that maybe more than one higher power exists! Like in our comics! :)

      I’m an atheist, so I’m kind of able to look at all of these religions objectively. But I respect everyone’s beliefs.

    • IthoSapien IthoSapien says:

      @Nightwing97, actually think you misread my post because that’s what I was talking about.

    • cosmo cosmo says:

      I think that DC & Marvel have always been deliberately vague with their theological hierarchies in order to avoiding offending potential readers. Thus, DC’s “Creator” deity remains unseen, though, in the last couple issues of Phantom Stranger He/She may or may not be running around in dog form (is a team up with Socks from Animal Man in the near future?) The simplest approach, in my opinion, is to say that multiple Beings & Pantheons exist in The Big Two and leave it at that,

      As far as The Endless, my impression is that they exist as something very distinct from the various other Pantheons, as some, such as Death or Destiny, predate any other living thing divine or otherwise. When Hades’ time comes, Death of the Endless will usher him away. Indeed, in The Sandman Special, it is stated (I forget by whom) that Dream should have interceded for his son, because Hades fears him. Also, if the other deities did not fear Dream, why do none of them (except Azreal) try to wrestle the key to Hell from him by force? Yet, at the same time, it is made quite clear that The Endless have no power over The Furies/Fates.

      Perhaps, it’s most like relationships between various monarchies of differing power and prestige, each always weary of how the another might one-up him/her. After all, our conceptions of supernatural entities (from the ancient gods to The Endless) have often been colored by our own sense of humanity.

    • Nightwing97 Nightwing97 says:

      @cosmo Very good points, my man! I’m sure if people go through EVERY issue depicting these deities, it’s possible to eventually find out who the big cheese really is in the DCU.

      To avoid offense, they should continue to keep it vague, though.

      @IthoSapien that was actually directed towards your last paragraph. I wasn’t really talking about people trying to convert others, I meant religion in general. I don’t want to go into it too much here, but I just meant that I don’t like how MOST religions kind of disregard other people’s beliefs. I’m sure that there are people, like you, that respect other people’s religions. But in general, people can be REALLY unfriendly to those who don’t share their beliefs. That’s part of why I’m atheist…

      ANYWAYS, I’m not sure whether this would unify people in the DCU (seeing their deities everyday), or further fuel conflict between them. I’m sure it would drive some people a little bit crazy…

    • IthoSapien IthoSapien says:

      @Cosmo, very well thought out response. It’s kind of surprising that aside from the New Gods on New Genesis and Darksied on Apopkolops you don’t see deities fighting alot in the DCU. In fact I think it’s more common for them to debate/converse/compromise then fight. I think the Endless though are separate from Gods, and I remember reading they existed before anything else at the birth of creation.

      @Nightwing97, what I was told in a Black Studies class is that societies try to maintain one belief system so things run smoother. People believe in the same stuff, more harmonius I guess. When you’ve got dozens of groups fighting about what to believe, then you can see the logic in that. So thats why you see some places try to “enforce” a state “religion” (India promoting Hinduism and suppressing Christianity, or Feudal China promoting Confusihism and suppressing Buddism. ) I guess Ancient Egypt was really good at it, which lead to that culture lasting 2000+ years. I don’t know if I totally by that explanation, but it’s interesting to think about.

      I think alot of people in the DCU are crazy anyway (or at least the majority of people in Gotham), but the only crazy cult thing I can think of is the Cult of Superman. I don’t think seeing gods flying around would really phase them much, if it were me I’d worry about all the clandestine organizations running around, the dozens of Superteams, and a big satellite housing them floating above Earth. So maybe what you believe/worship is pretty low on the list of concerns y’know? :)

    • cosmo cosmo says:

      For some good old-fashioned deity in-fighting, I recommend Wonder Woman, who’s plot since the reboot has been rooted in conflicts among the Olympian Pantheon. I also view The Endless as separate, pre-existing entities. At the same time, they were not the creators of the universe, and have their own fallible limitations. There are powers, such as The Kindly Ones, that they too must yield to.

      I have this nagging feeling that there are more cults in the DCU than the one for Superman. Given all the horror titles DC has produced over the decades, there has to be. And does the Religion of Crime count as a cult?

      I think that when beings like Superman first appeared, there would have been people who viewed them in religious terms. (This idea is the basis of the excellent Silver Surfer; Parable story). However, as they grew common, the tendency probably died away. If you can walk down the streets of Metropolis or New York and see multiple heroes in flight on any given day, it takes away the exceptional aspect of it. That said, I have also wished that writers had more lee-way to experiment with these ideas and superheros. There was actually a recent storyline in Powers that took on a few of these issues. I don’t know the name of the arc, but it was the last one before the Bureau relaunch. Basically it involves super-powered characters who claim to be pagan gods and the question of does it even matter if it is true or not. If I have the power of Thor and think that I’m Thor, does it make a difference if I actually am or not?

    • cosmo cosmo says:

      Also, thank you for your kind words about my previous post . . .

    • IthoSapien IthoSapien says:

      @Cosmo, good point; I forgot about WW New 52. Then again the idea of the Greek Gods fighting each other has been so common in the stories it might as well be a permanent characteristic of faithful adaptations of them. I was referring to Deities fighting in Vertigo stories. Aside from the Furies vs Dream, you don’t see them “fight” fighting. I think that’s due to so many of the writers being British and trying to be more sophisticated than “Oh, who can hit harder?”. As an aside, WW is awesome right now. Right, back to topic…

      I’m sure there are hundreds of cults in the DCU, but very few devoted to people like Superman. I don’t count the Religion of Crime, just because the guy they worship (is it still Cain?) exists and wants their worship. I mean it’s like Joker and Harley Quinn; her believing he loves her is crazy but really she’s a pawn he uses then someone he tried to brainwash to worship him. There was that Speed Cult that worshipped Salvitor in Mark Waid’s Flash run, but they’re all dead. I’m sure there’s others but I imagine it’s hard build a cult on anyone in the JL. (Incidently, there is this thing called “Batmanism” in England. Look it up for a laugh. Now that’s a cult waiting to happen).

      I sometimes wish comics writers would tackle religion more in comics, but see numerous problems occurring if that happened. I mean Dan Slott got death threats over his Superior Spider-Man story, who wants to invite trouble over something people LITERALLY have died for?

      My only thing about the “does it matter if so and so is a god” is, is it true? And I’m talking about mental state here. There’s a difference between Thor walking around, and some guy with a WMD walking around thinking he’s an actual god. Those who have powers and delude themselves into thinking they’re magical beings are more dangerous in my mind than an actual deity existing in the real world. If you believe youre the god of thunder, what else will you believe? See what I mean?

      And, you are welcome btw.

    • Nightwing97 Nightwing97 says:

      @cosmo No problem, mate! I always love intelligent conversation. And, yeah, I forgot about the New Gods stuff.

      @IthoSapien I’d like to see it tackled a bit more, too! In fact, I’ve had this idea for a comic for awhile now. I’d call it “Watching Gods”, and it would explore how people would live knowing that there are beings out there that could crash into their apartment at any moment; how it would affect daily lives and (like we’ve been discussing) how it would affect people’s beliefs. Think of it as taking cue from stories like “Marvels”, “Sandman”, and even the perennial “Watchmen”. I hope that I’ll be able to write it one day,

    • IthoSapien IthoSapien says:

      @Nightwing97, sounds interesting. Based on your description though, having gods crash into your car/apartment on a regular basis probably wouldn’t inspire much worship or faith. Although I can see alot of humor potential for the insurance claims that would follow: “Yes I’d like to collect my insurance policy on my car. ‘Ok, what happened to it?’. Oh, it was an act of god. ‘Uggh, I hate these; WHICH ONE?!’ “.

      I’m also working on a comic that deals with deities. My working title is “Resurrecting Bob”, and a side story is the main deities (God, Buddha, the Hindu deities, Satan, basically all the main gods that are still worshipped) sit at a table and argue who came first and who is the real Creator of all things? It’s just a subplot to fill a plothole in the main plot. My goal is to get my first issue published by next year (in time for my local comic con), but I have so many ideas I don’t know if RB should be my “first”.

    • Nightwing97 Nightwing97 says:

      @IthoSapien On the one hand, you may not want to scare people off by doing something too radical too quickly… But on the other hand, fuck ‘em! Did stories like Watchmen or Sandman have precedence? Maybe it’s better to start off with something that poignant to draw people’s attention towards you.

  2. BioXD says:

    That calculator does not account for lean body mass (muscle). I’m 5’7’ at 150 pounds and I do some weight training. I’m currently at about 15 BMI and’the calculator returns a 23.5 value. There is a big difference within the “ideal weight” of people with lots of muscle and people who don’t exercise, a person with the same weight can look absolutely different and be a lot healthier depending on wether their weight is from fat or muscle.

  3. Jamozk Ekhiss Jamozk Ekhiss (@JamozkEkhiss) says:

    Firstly, yes, bone and muscle do deteriorate when in lower gravitational fields than their origin (that’s why we can’t go to Mars and astronauts only do short periods in space), so you’d be correct.
    Secondly, BMI can’t actually be used to make a point – muscle weighs more than fat, so the majority of professional athletes would be calculated as overweight.

    Overall, nice article.

  4. I don’t remember why, but I recently looked up Batman’s stats to see how I measure up. Basically I need to grow an inch and put on 35 lbs of muscle. Neither of those things will happen.

  5. Kamilo Kamilo says:

    Random thought on the issue of super flight. Since watching the film, what struck me was how he initially leaps like classic 1930′s Superman before full on flying in the more traditional sense. For some reason that got me to thinking perhaps he is basically swimming in the air. It is also pointed out frequently that not only is Krypton a larger planet, it is also much harsher than Earth, with a much thinner atmosphere. In this sense, perhaps Clark is able to utilize his Kryptonian speed and strength to basically tred air like we would water, we just don’t see much of the motion because its either a static comic page or a brief shot in a film.

    • Nightwing97 Nightwing97 says:

      Exactly! Imagine you’re at the part of a pool where your feet are barely touching the floor, and you’re trying to keep them down: that is how I imagine Clark goes around. He actually works to KEEP himself on the ground, and it’s a relief when he springs into the air!

  6. Pompster Pompster says:

    I have actually wondered about the size and weight of Superheroes, in particular Spider-Man. Is it possible to be really skinny and super strong? Does the denisty of mscules (that provide the strength?) have to mean the size is big?

    I really shouldn’t ;et this stuff worry me.

    I;m also shocked to find that kilograms are not a unit of weight. everything I was taught in school was wrong.

  7. IthoSapien IthoSapien says:

    I think that him growing up on Earth had a big impact on him. Martha mentions that when he was a baby he had trouble breathing, so we know his lungs had to adapt, why not muscles? Then again thats the movie. But don’t forget Jor-El in the movie either, without armor the guy was pretty heavy-set which might have been “average” on Krypton. Then theres the genetic modification, so people are altered to what they should be (soldiers would be ripped I guess). Kal was a natural birth, so theres the X factor in what kind of genes he got from Jor-El and Lora since they were modified.

    In the comics, I’ve always thought Superman must weigh tons or something, based on how strong he is (but Ryan’s little experiment kinda debunks that).

    So I guess Supes is Earth fat but Krypton puny. Depending on where you get the comparisons…

    • Nightwing97 Nightwing97 says:

      Well, I honestly don’t think things made sense as described in MoS.

      When looking at it in general, Clark came from a planet where he would have weighed more do to the stronger gravity. Earth gravity is lighter, so he would actually weigh LESS…

      So when his light gravity is combined with over-saturation from the yellow sun, he is Superman! Imagine trying to lift a beach ball on the moon. That’s how he’d carry a truck around…

    • IthoSapien IthoSapien says:

      Ok, but see that’s in the comics too. “He will be like a god to them. The sun will nourish him, and he will be able to defy their gravity”. So it’s not just MoS, it’s the comics themselves that are wrong if it’s illogical (and really, how much of Superman mythos is “logical”?). It’s also how they explain his flight, and @Kamilo used a pretty good analogy for it. Swimming thru the air and such.

      But what I was saying was, he GREW UP on Earth, so maybe that influenced his body somehow (metabolism, endurance, bone density). Hopefully I didn’t misread your post.

  8. kennyg kennyg says:

    I will never buy the idea that physiological differences like denser muscles and bones explain Superman’s strength. There’s no way he could be as strong as he is and have it be muscles that make the difference. He would have to be incredibly dense, and much larger than a human. And how would he lift or catch anything heavy while flying, here’s nothing to provide leverage. Why don’t surfaces he’s standing on break when he picks up something incredibly heavy? How can he catch a ship or airplane without it breaking since he can’t hold it in more than one small part of the surface area?

    I’m telling you, it’s some form of telekinesis. Only possible explanation. And if that is the case, he could be morbidly obese or a bean-pole and it wouldn’t affect his super strength.

  9. Vidman Vidman says:

    Excellent article, as koryrosh said, very fun thought experiment.

    But in just the first two paragraphs it occurred to me, maybe the thud was because Superman was totally willing to hit the marble floor with all his weight. I know even in a moment of anguish, such as this, I would not want to hit a marble floor with my knees with all my weight behind my knees. I could seriously hurt myself, but Superman couldn’t be hurt by such a simple thing as pounding a knee into a little marble.

    That option would have killed the thought experiment though.