The Superman Diet: Meat Not on the Menu

Superman is a vegetarian. It was an idea presented briefly in Birthright and seemingly discarded soon after. It came to mind again when Mike Romo wrote a column on the Superman 2000 pitch put together in part by one Mr. Mark Waid! Two other authors of the pitch has personal stakes in the matter. Grant Morrison wrote Animal Man, whom he made into a 4th-wall breaking animal rights vegetarian super-activist, and Mark Millar is a vegetarian too. They all felt that Superman’s code against killing coupled with his super senses would preclude him from eating meat. Their proposal as a whole was never used, but aspects of what they thought to do has found its way into Superman titles, including the aformentioned stint of a non-meat Superman.

When I first read Birthright I was shocked that Mark Waid had the audacity to turn Clark Kent into a vegetarian. It just struck me as so odd. I’m a patriot and it seemed wrong to have an American icon that didn’t eat meat. Furthermore, it was well established in the continuity that Clark’s favorite meal is beef bourguignon, which is a seriously American meat and potatoes dish. But maybe it was I who was in err…

My recent thoughts on the matter diverge from my original position. In Birthright, Clark stops eating meat when he develops the ability to see auras. This aura-vision was the impetus for his refusal to eat meat, because he could see a being’s “life-energy” fade away as they died. However, there is no evidence whatsoever for the existence of an aura in humans or animals. I know at one point Superman’s invulnerability was based on some kind of aura, but I always assumed it was something only Kryptonians had. And finally lest we all forget, Superman hates magic, so why give him a power that doesn’t have a basis in hard science? (How he “hears” mechanical waves, i.e. sound, from orbit is a post for another day, I promise.) So I think what I really took umbrage with was the inclusion of this new power more so than what the power led Clark to do with his mouth.

When I read the actual proposal for Superman 2000 I saw things differently. The way they explain it, Superman’s senses are amplified threefold. He’s so aware of the world around him he can hear the electrical energy of neurons firing like tiny bottle thunderstorms in all our skulls. While I’m not sure that would work, at least it’s based on the real inner workings of our brains and not something without any basis in reality. The basic reason for that making him a vegetarian is the same, he’s so aware of the life around him he can’t condone himself killing it.

And why would he need to eat meat in the first place? Superman is solar-powered. He probably doesn’t need to eat at all. I don’t even remember seeing anyone eat on Krypton, why did this species even evolve mouths?! (Maybe they’re vestigial, but I digress.) I like to imagine that they have to eat when they’re not around yellow suns but when they are around yellow suns anything they eat is Super-metabolized and utilized to its maximum nutrient potential. Plants are just one step removed from solar radiation on the food chain, so he’d not only eat them out of deference to Animalia but also simple biological preference.

Clark has to sit down for a meal from time to time, he has a wife who likes to eat and he has to generally maintain appearances with his secret identity, but if there was scenario where he had to violently kill an animal himself to maintain his secret identity would he? I doubt it. He’s Superman, he’d find a way that didn’t involve killing. But that brings me to my next conundrum. Since Superman doesn’t need to eat anything at all how can he accept even the death of plants when he could just get out of the shade? Plants are living beings too and I’ve heard a few defenses when its pointed out that we kill them for food without hesitation, one is that they don’t have nervous systems therefore can’t feel pain as we know it, and two is that it is theoretically possible to harvest plant matter for food without killing the organism, like picking fruit off a tree. Both are valid arguments, but Superman doesn’t care about killing because it causes pain, he cares about it because it’s ending a life, so I don’t see point one holding up very well to him. As for fruit, I think people who aren’t biologists tend to forget that fruit is made to be eaten by animals. Plants rely on us as seed dispersers, and the science of plant/animal mutualisms is totally fascinating but possibly impossible to shoehorn into a comics article so just go listen to an episode of my podcast.

So far all of the arguments I’ve presented only apply to Kryptonians living on earth, I realize there will probably be some comments about how I’m a vegan hippy, but that would be purposefully missing the point of what I’m saying. However, there is one area where I think Kryptonians and humans against killing overlap: immune systems. Think about it, even without eating your body is constantly killing millions if not more hostile pathogens that are trying to invade your turf. There are millions more bacteria that are protected in this process, ironically you need bacteria to digest the food you eat, but it’s still a continuous slaughter you can do nothing to prevent. The very act of being and staying alive requires the death of other things, there’s no way around that. If you felt bad enough you could take immunosuppressant drugs but then you yourself would probably die off rather quickly. So how does Superman with a Super-immune system sleep at night? Well he probably doesn’t need to sleep, but that’s beside the point. I think Superman yet again has a moral work around, namely that his invulnerability probably prevents foreign microbes from ever getting under his skin, literally. If they can’t breach the rampart walls there’s not much need to utilize defenses against them.

Superman gets all the luck.

Batman on the other hand, is probably a steak, eggs and green protein shake kind of guy. He is also against killing but as a human he needs to eat and he would easily sacrifice a cow if it meant saving a Gothamite. And he’s gonna get the maximum amount of efficiency in his food. Plus he doesn’t really have time for bathroom breaks while he’s on patrol…

So having put some serious thought into things I must now admit that I agree with Messrs.’ Morrison, Millar, Waid and Peyer. Good on them for trying to logically anticipate the moral trajectory of the Man of Tomorrow!


Special thanks to fellow iFanboy writer Austin for workshopping this idea with me!

Ryan Haupt eats meat, but he tries to be nice about it. But beer is guilt-free liquid bread and he drinks that regularly on his podcast Science… sort of.


  1. As long as he doesn’t show up in a I’d rather be naked than wear fur ad. Does he wear animal products? Leather?

  2. I love that the articles on this site have been playing off one another creating some great conversations.

    great article and points Ryan, you vegan hippie!

  3. Superman’s still a jerk.

  4. All I know is, if you’re going to walk the earth that much, you’ll need some protein eventually. I hope he brought some dried soybeans along for the trip …

  5. Great article, Haupt. I was just rereading SUPERMAN: PEACE ON EARTH, the Paul Dini/ Alex Ross produced story. It focuses on Superman spending one day attempting to stop hunger around the world. In it, Superman notes that he gets his energy from the sun. He doesn’t need to eat so he can’t really understand what it feels like to be starving. He’s unsure if that’s a blessing or a curse.

    Anyway, I do like the idea that Superman’s super immune system is capable of killing all manner of bacteria and disease. To sterilize a wing of a hospital, couldn’t you seal it off and then have Superman suck all the air out of it? Would his mighty lungs breath in all the microscopic baddies and kill them? After that, all you’d need to do at that point is pump clean air into that wing. Could that work?

  6. Superman’s power set is the least scientifically sound of all the popular heroes. It’s very in-cohesive. His ability to see “auras” just compounds that. 

  7. Fun article. Very interesting to read as someone who became a vegetarian not too long ago. Batman needs meat, no doubt. To maintain that peak physique he would need huge portions of proteins and vitamins that could only come in meats.

  8. Man, I’ve retconned out most of Birthright in my continuity. Superman does not see auras in my world.

    Mmm… meat.

  9. Great article. As a former vegan who now eats bacon like it’s going out of style, I can see how someone of Superman’s inhuman ethics and admiration for life would try everything to minimize the amount of killing he causes. After all, meat means murder, and that’s fine. Just not for Superman.,
      P.S.: I saw my friends aura when i was tripping on mushrooms. Just sayin’

  10. The Superman that I envision eats meat. Just look at Action Comics #454.
    But what I envision could very well be different from what other people do, and I’m cool with that. 

  11. making him a vegetarian threw me out of the story.

    it didn’t work with his background as a farmer to me but i could get over it really.

    the real problem for me in the story is that he HAD to bring so much attention to it. you could show it in the art or whatever but making him say the way he did and the Soul vision thing was just a way to bring it up. it was WAY too forced into the story.

    how about bringing it up at a lunch meeting with lois instead???

  12. @Endlessw  He was a corn farmer at best, and that was before he had superpowers. Lots of people stop/start eating meat once they become adults regardless of what they were raised with.

  13. @Endlessw  Probably the main reason I became vegan in the first place is because I DID grow up on a farm and watched my pigs (whome I fed and talked to) slaughtered. In that sense I think his bacground fits with the Millar/morrison vision. Nevertheless i agree that it shouldn’t be forced.

  14. Is the killing of Zod and his gang from that parallel Earth, still in continuity?

  15. I’ve always felt Superman doesn’t have some sort of “Super Ethics” but rather the values that he was raised with in a small Kansas town.  I imagine with all the farms he would have a respect for animals but also for the fact that they’re raised and killed to provide food.  I’m sure he would want it done in the most humane way possible, but still.

    I know I could never kill anything unless it was absolutly required for me to survive, but that doesn’t stop me from eating tons of meat *other* people killed.

    But that’s just my two cents. 

  16. @Haupt 

    Ryan said, “But beer is guilt-free liquid bread and he drinks that regularly”.

    “Y’know, it’s just corn flakes in a can.” (Fred G. Sanford, Sanford and Son, season 2, episode 23 – “The Kid”)

  17. @AquaPimp82  I believe in the Superman Birthright version he ate Zod and the gang, so I think it’s okay!

  18. This article made me think of Matter-Eater Lad. I was assuming Matter-Eater Lad could be the “most ethical” because he doesn’t have to even eat plants (he can eat rocks, atom bombs, et cetera); but when Googling him I discovered he is actually one of the more ethically challenged heroes because he’s eaten several monsters — making me realize all he brings to the superpowered-table is the ability to eat, which means his power is not far from that of your run of the mill zombie when used the wrong way. 

    And all this ethical eating reminds me of Ultimate Hulk and Ultimate Blob, both of which had a thing for eating their foes; and really creeped me out.

    So I think Superman is really onto something here.

  19. The ultimate eastern philosophy hippie. Now he just needs long hair and a beard. Tho as Clark he’d now. Be a dead giveaway

  20. I can dig it.

  21. Clark/Kal El is a Kansas farmboy. He eats meat. Pa would be spinning in his grave if he did otherwise.

  22. One could even argue that since Superman literally photosynthesizes (although not via chlorophyll) that he is closer in biological terms to a plant than a mammal. 

    But man, this is dumb. Men eat meat. Supermen eat it RAW.


  23. Superman goes to a ball game and doesn’t eat a hot dog?  No way man.  Pa Kent grills up some burgers before the Super Bowl and has to make a veggie-burger for Clark?

    btw, not sure if it was an intended joke, but I lol’d when I read “Furthermore, it was well established in the continuity that Clark’s favorite meal is beef bourguignon, which is a seriously American meat and potatoes dish.”  Sacre bleu!

    A better question is whether the Fantastic Four eat beef, knowing from experience that they may be form-trapped Skrulls.