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 reproducing with a human woman, using arguments based on humorous reconciliation between physics, biology, and the abilities of Kryptonians as presented in Superman comic books.

Publication history[edit]

The essay was first published in the men's magazine Knight in 1969 [1] and then collected in Niven's 1971 collection, All the Myriad Ways.[2]

The article was republished in the 1978 anthology SuperHeroes[3] edited by Michel Parry and noted with a starburst on the cover: "SPECIAL BONUS FEATURE! Intimate details of Superman's sex life revealed!"

In 1986, the essay was reposted onto Usenet; this led to what is thought to be the very first online report of copyright violation.[citation needed]

The essay was also reprinted in the 1990 Niven compilation N-Space.[4]

A comic book-style adaptation, illustrated by classic Superman artist Curt Swan, and with all identifying logos and names removed, was published in a 1995 edition of Penthouse Comix.[5]

Other uses[edit]

Many of the points given in this essay are reused and paraphrased 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 to the argument in Mallrats.[6]

In Frank Miller's comic Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again, Superman touches on the theme of the essay when asked about sex by Lara, his teenage daughter by Wonder Woman.

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.

The television series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman normally avoided the issue, even during the characters's marriage. The exception was when Superman lost his fine control over his powers, due to red kryptonite exposure. In that episode, Clark accidentally gave Lois a bruise when hugging her, and did not dare to sleep in the same bedroom until the problem passed.

The television series Smallville also cited the same argument to explain why Clark refused to sleep with Lana Lang, when he was in possession of his super powers. They were, however, able to be intimate when she also had super-powers in season eight. In the season nine episode "Escape", Clark tells Chloe Sullivan that he has been learning how to control his powers so that he would not harm a human during intimacy.

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.[7]

A deleted scene from the 2008 movie Hancock illustrates a similar "dangerous ejaculation" scenario, when Hancock throws his partner aside before his ejaculation blows three large holes in the roof of his trailer.

Filker Tom Smith's "Superman Sex-Life Boogie" recounts the problem from Superman's perspective.

In the graphic novel Superman: Earth One, Volume Two, Jonathan Kent trying to warn an awkward teenage Clark about sex, saying "Man of steel, woman of tissue paper. That's all I'm saying."

On the podcast show StarTalk in the episode "Cosmic Queries: Super Powers". On the question "could Lois Lane have Superman's baby", Neil deGrasse Tyson responded saying, because Superman looks so humanoid, there should be sufficient overlap for genetic compatibility between Lois and Superman for a cross-species baby. Tyson also pointed out that if Spock could be half-human and human-Vulcan, then Lois can have a half-human and half-Kryptonian baby with Superman.[8]


  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. ^ Scheer, Paul (August 21, 2012). "Wild Wild West, episode #43 of How Did This Get Made?". Earwolf. Retrieved 2015-06-22. 
  7. ^ La Yuxtaposición del Bocadillo
  8. ^ Cosmic Queries: Super Powers

External links[edit]