When it comes to Superman’s greatest weakness, there is no competing with kryptonite when it comes to the most famous. But fans may be less aware that the Man of Tomorrow also doesn’t fare too well against magic… but his teammate Hawkman may actually have an answer to this problem. Where kryptonite can be blocked by lead, magic is vulnerable to the very metal making up Hawkman’s blade.
Nth metal, also called ninth metal, is a rare substance that is native to Thanagar, the homeworld of the hawk-people known as Thanagarians (the most famous being Katar Hol and Shayera Thal, also known as Hawkman and Hawkwoman). Nth metal is used to create both their iconic hawk wings and weapons, all able to negates the effects of gravity, allowing anyone wearing the metal to fly. But the magic doesn’t stop there: enhanced durability, increased healing, energy transference, and even the Hawkman family’s recinarnation are all similar benefits. However, one of Nth metal’s most useful traits is its power for magic negation.
The Thanagarian substance was originally created by Gardner Fox and Dennis Neville, and made its first appearance along with Hawkman in Flash Comics #1, by Fox and Harry Lampert. Though this original story makes no mention of the ability to negate magic, the ability has become an integral part of the metal’s lore, appearing in comic continuity with Trinity #16 by Kurt Busiek and Mark Bagley, and in other media. So why has this property never been used to solve Superman’s famous weaknesses to magic?
Superman’s Magic Problem Actually Makes Him A Better Hero
With enough unbelievable properties to essentially solve most problems, Nth metal is more than a little similar to the golden age version of Superman, blessed with enough otherwordly powers that he could fix almost any problem with the wave of a hand. These days, there is a reason Nth metal is considered rare in DC’s continuity, being too powerful to be used in anything but small doses. Combine the strengths of Nth with the weakness of Superman, and the result that is somehow less compelling and heroic.
It’s when Superman loses his abilities, whether it be to kryptonite, magic, or rays of a red sun, that the character has showed it’s not just his powers that make him a hero, but his determination and dedication to helping others. Though writers have sometimes relied too heavily on his weaknesses as plot devices, they are still an important part of what makes Superman who he is. The Last Son of Krypton is essentially an unwavering force for good, but it’s easy to be that way when one is all powerful. These vulnerabilities help to keep the Big Blue Boy Scout human, to both the reader and himself. Sure, Superman could make armor to protect him against all his weaknesses, but then he wouldn’t be the superhero that fans know.
So, yes, Hawkman could easily give Superman his sword —which he barely uses— and render him invincible to one of his biggest weaknesses. But then, it’s the Man of Steel the world adores… and might grow a little bored with the Man of Nth Metal.