Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex

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Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex is a 1969 essay in which science fiction author Larry Niven details the problems that Superman would face in sexual intercourse and reproduction with a human woman, using arguments based on humorous reconciliation between physics, biology, and the abilities of Kryptonians as presented in Superman comic books. The issues discussed include Superman's loss of physical control during intercourse, the presumed "super powers" of Superman's sperm cells, genetic incompatibility between humans and Kryptonians, and the dangers to the woman during gestation. The title is a reference to Superman's power and invulnerability, contrasting it with the relative fragility – like Kleenex brand facial tissue – of a human. The hypothetical woman is referred to in the essay as "LL", the initials of three women Superman has been romantically involved with: Lois Lane, Lana Lang, and Lori Lemaris.

Publication history[edit]

The essay was first published in the men's magazine Knight in 1969,[1] then collected in Niven's 1971 collection, All the Myriad Ways.[2] It was republished in the 1978 anthology SuperHeroes edited by Michel Parry and noted with a starburst on the cover: "SPECIAL BONUS FEATURE! Intimate details of Superman's sex life revealed!"[3] It was reprinted in the 1990 Niven compilation N-Space.[4] It was published with softcore illustrations by classic Superman artist Curt Swan with all identifying logos and names removed, in a 1995 edition of Penthouse Comix.[5]

In 1986 it was posted to Usenet, leading to an early debate about online copyright violation.[6]

In popular culture[edit]

Many of the points given in this essay are presented in Kevin Smith's 1995 movie Mallrats. On the podcast How Did This Get Made?, Smith later said he only read "Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex" after fans pointed out the similarity.[7]

In issue 6 of The Boys, Butcher mentions that his human wife was killed when, after being impregnated by a super-human, the super-powered fetus kicked its way out of her abdomen.

In Garth Ennis's one-shot superhero comic parody The Pro, the title character gives oral sex to the Saint, after he saves her baby's life. At the point of climax, the Saint shouts "In God's name, move your head!" just as his ejaculation blasts through the wall, flies hundreds of feet in the air, and clips the wing off a passing airplane. The Saint saves the plane from crashing but is humiliated when the passengers realize he's still naked from the waist down.[8] A similar scene appears in the film Hancock, starring Will Smith.

Filker Tom Smith's "Superman Sex-Life Boogie" adapted the themes of the essay, presenting them as a lament by Superman.[9]

On the podcast StarTalk episode, "Cosmic Queries: Super Powers", super-scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson responded to the question, "Could Lois Lane have Superman's baby?" His answer was that, because Superman physically resembles humans, there should be sufficient genetic overlap between Lois and Superman for a cross-species baby. Tyson also said that if Spock could be half-human and half-Vulcan, then Lois can have a half-human and half-Kryptonian baby with Superman.[10]


  1. ^ Knight, The Magazine for the Adult Male, Volume 7, Issue 8, December 1969.
  2. ^ Niven, Larry. All the Myriad Ways (Ballantine Books, 1971).
  3. ^ Parry, Michel. SuperHeroes (Sphere books, 1978)
  4. ^ Niven, Larry. N-Space (Tor Books, 1990).
  5. ^ Penthouse Comix #5 (Jan./Feb. 1995).
  6. ^ Von Rospach, Chuq. "Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex". Usenet. Retrieved 28 February 2016. 
  7. ^ Scheer, Paul (August 21, 2012). "Wild Wild West, episode #43 of How Did This Get Made?". Earwolf. Retrieved 2015-06-22. 
  8. ^ La Yuxtaposición del Bocadillo
  9. ^ Tom Smith. "Superman Sex Life Boogie". Tom Smith Online. 
  10. ^ Cosmic Queries: Super Powers

External links[edit]