Some things about Superman just don't make any sense. Take this business of tugging on his cape. What if you can't help it?


The other day I heard Jim Croce’s song You Don’t Mess Around with Jim, with its immortal line: “You don’t tug on Superman’s cape...” That got me thinking. Let’s say Superman is out saving the world. Me being me, odds are I’d be in the next room washing my face. I’d stumble out with my hands in front of me, searching for a towel, my face covered with soapy water, my eyes closed. I’d walk up behind Superman, find the end of his cape, and say, “Ah! Here it is!” Then I’d stand there humming and wiping the soap off my face with the cape. Superman would crane his neck around to see who was messing with his cape, then BAAAAMMMM! The next thing I’d know, I’m waking up on the sixth moon of Jupiter, and saying, “Man, what was that? I must have had an allergic reaction to the soap.” Why do super heroes even wear capes? Who are they trying to impress? Capes are so 19th century tin-pot dictator chic. Who wears capes anymore? Another thing about Superman that’s always irritated me — in the comics he’s always flying off to the furthest corners of the universe to have adventures. And yet, according to the rules set by the comics themselves, Superman only has his powers because of a unique combination of his Kryptonian physiotype and Earth’s sun’s solar radiation.  The law of inverse squares, people! How much clearer does it need to be? The further Superman gets from our sun, the less super power he has. Duh! Let’s say Superman says, “Man, I could really go for a burrito right now. And Mr. Mxyzptlk was telling me just the other day the best burritos in the galaxy are on Alpha Centauri, just a few short light years away. I think I’ll hop on over for lunch.” He jumps off the Earth and heads for Alpha Centauri. As Superman passes Mars, soaring through the near absolute zero of space, he thinks, “Man, it’s getting kind of chilly out here. I should have worn a jacket.” (Note: at its closest, Mars is over twice as far from the sun as Earth. By definition, on Mars Superman’s powers would be less than one-fifth what they are here — which would still make him a really strong guy.) As Superman passes Jupiter the vacuum starts kicking in, and he thinks, “Geez, I’m getting a splitting headache. I should have brought some aspirin.” As Superman rounds Neptune he passes out, and by the time he zooms past Pluto he’d just be some dead normal Krypton guy floating through space. Wearing a cape. . . . In last week’s column I included the throwaway line, “When you’re waiting in line at Burger King, you never expect you’ll be standing behind the lead singer from R.E.O. Speedwagon.” It was a made-up situation, but after that issue hit the news stands I got an email from Marcee Stromberg, telling how something similar happened to her in real life.  About 10 years ago, she and her husband were coming home from the Clay County Fair in Spencer, Iowa, and stopped at a Burger King in Jackson. I’ll let Marcee tell it from there: “Shortly after we ordered, a limo pulled up and some dudes emerged. As they headed into the restaurant, the BK staff started to react — giggling, poking each other, OMG's!  “The dudes turned out to be the group Styx. What are the odds -- they had a gig at the fair's grandstand that night, and had stopped for Whoppers on the way!” Well, shoot. Now I’m going to have to start loitering around fast food places with my autograph book.