[The memorandum reproduced below, a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse into the Silver Age of Comics, was discovered in the DC Comics archives.]
From: Ted Freberg, Managing Director
Re: Superman’s Powers
It has come to my attention that Superman’s powers, specifically the Vision powers, have been proliferating beyond what our readers are willing to swallow, even within the rich fictional tapestry that is the DC universe.
The fact that Superman has any extraordinary visual talents at all is suspect to begin with. Remember, Superman’s powers as originally conceived were the result of his coming from a planet with a gravitational field stronger than that of Earth. This would suggest an array of superhuman abilities related to strength, speed, and physical resilience. Even if we accept the fudging of the whole jumping/flying issue, a gravity differential frankly does not explain why he can see through walls or project rays of intense heat from his eyes.
I realize that the initial justification for creating the Visions — “It’s fun to draw beams coming from his eyes” — is a valid one, and has certainly contributed to artist morale. Heat Vision, X-Ray Vision, Telescopic Vision, and even Microscopic Vision are well and good, and have, in any event, become firmly associated with the character. However, it seems that in recent issues, certain authors have taken to adding Visions in a haphazard and even whimsical fashion. For example:
Action Comics #318: Here, Superman has the power of “Super Vision.” This term confused me when I first saw it, because it would seem to describe any and all of the various Visions. However, I soon realized that it was, in fact, the power to “supervise” others — including, in this case, Lex Luthor, whose plans for world domination are thwarted by a negative performance review. This seems a bit too conceptual for a franchise whose stock in trade has always been physical confrontation.
Superman #102: Superman manages to resolve what would appear to be an intractable set of simultaneous crises (including a Doomsday machine, Lois Lane being held hostage, and a Kryptonite hailstorm), by using what are referred to as his “Defeating-His-Enemies Vision” and his “Hail-Reversing Vision.” This sort of thing is quite unsatisfying for the discerning reader, and, to put it bluntly, can only be attributed to laziness at the story-construction level.
Action Comics #322: On Page 3, an uncomfortable-looking Jimmy Olsen complains of “having that same old problem.” It is not mentioned again until the final panel of the book, in which Jimmy reveals that “Superman cleared it up with his Anti-Chafing Vision.” The existence of such powers, while occasionally humorous, tends to trivialize Superman’s core powers and, by extension, our flagship character himself.
However, what specifically compelled me to put my foot down was a plot outline for an upcoming Justice League of America that recently crossed my desk. The creators of this outline have supplied Superman with “Re-Vision,” which allows him to modify events that have already happened. This is simply unacceptable. We are trying to provide a coherent linear narrative here, and even a basic time-travel plot must be handled with the utmost attention to continuity; if Superman is capable of altering history with a beam from his eyes, we’re stepping into some very confusing, not to say Dadaist, territory that is best left to our underground counterparts.
The trend toward scripting in such spurious powers, which has already begun to affect DC’s reputation (we won’t soon live down the infamous “TeleVision” issue of Superboy), has to be halted. For this reason, I am instituting the following policy: Effective immediately, the addition of any new Vision to Superman’s repertoire must be approved by Corporate. Work on all other Visions currently being fleshed out in storylines — including Excellent Vision, Double Vision, Annoy Perry White Vision, Money Vision, Ursula Andress Vision and Slightly Blurred Vision — will now be discontinued.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.