Superman Spends What? The Price of Being a Superhero


Superman Returns Brandon RouthThere’s no question that superheroes are a lucrative bunch. From Spider-Man to The Dark Knight, crime-fighters on the big screen often translate to big bucks at the box office. But how much does it actually cost to be a superhero? To celebrate Superhero Week — and May 4’s all-star blockbuster The Avengers — delves into the sustainability of our favorite heroes’ super extracurricular activities. Would they have the funds — and good health — to keep up with their secret lifestyles?  We’ve brought you Spider-Man, Batman, Iron Man, and the Hulk, and now, it’s time for the Man who’s faster (and thriftier) than a speeding bullet: Superman. We break down Bryan Singer’s 2006 film, Superman Returns , and discover that being Superman’s life is pretty much the best. In fact, with this post comes my resignation and an application to take over his duties and general lifestyle.

Name: Clark Kent

Alias: Superman

Occupation: He’s a pavement-pounding reporter for Metropolis’ Daily Planet, though he’s lucky to have the job after his unannounced five-year “vacation” — the one no one seems to notice matches up perfectly to Superman’s five-year hiatus.

Income: Well, it’s not much. The man’s an average reporter at the Daily News of Metropolis. According to the U.S. Dept. of Labor, the average reporter makes approximately $35,000 a year, but that includes television reporters and those fancy folks at the New York Times. Considering that Kent is replacing an old reporter and he’s been missing for an exorbitant amount of time, we’re going to place him on the lower end of the scale, above the kids fresh out of college and below the solid $35k-ers. Salary: $30,000 a year.

Housing: Get ready to start tearing your hair out and screaming at that bird, or plane, or flying man in sky because Superman is about to blow your mind with the hidden superpower you can’t even try to possess (no matter how many times your dad sends you Yahoo! Articles about how to save money on everyday necessities): penny pinching. When he first crash lands back on Earth, he says rent free with his mama and when he returns to the big city, he’s ambiguously “still looking” for an apartment. He does take a little nap in Earth’s mesosphere, where he closes his eyes and hangs out like a confused, right-side-up bat just waiting to hear a crime to disturb his slumber so he can swoop down and save the day. He also throws some crystals into the water in Antarctica, which yields a giant crystal mansion which you might call the Fortress of Solitude. This magnificent palace costs him approximately nothing. Rent: $0 (The bastard.)

Costume: Keep up the fist-shaking and the screaming, because Superman doesn’t even need to buy his super suit. Why? It comes from space. Yes, as in that big mystery in the sky. The invulnerable material comes from Krypton, and unfortunately, no foreign currency exchange was willing to crunch the numbers to determine how many American dollars fit into one Kryptonian Ruble or Peso or Rupee or whatever Kryptonians use for currency. Superman does, however, (spoiler!) sustain a sizable rip in his suit when Lex Luthor stabs him with a Kryptonite crystal, and considering a sewing needle would be no match for the space-age fabric, he’d probably have to run home to Krypton to get it repaired. Then again, he does manage to shape his coif into that shiny do with the signature flirtatious curl at his temple, so he’s probably got an emergency tube of Dep on hand at all times. Cost: Year’s supply of Dep at $39.69, plus One Vacation Day for travel to Krypton.

Weapons: Did you not catch the part where he’s Superman? He doesn’t need weapons because he was born with invulnerability to everything but Kryptonite, the ability to fly, x-ray vision, heat vision, ice breath, super strength, ridiculously sensitive hearing, and the ability to disguise himself with only a terrible hairdo and some hipster glasses. Cost: $0

Disguise: This is likely where all of Clark Kent’s discretionary spending goes. In the comics, Superman had a pouch under his cape in which to hide his regular clothes, but Singer’s version doesn’t exactly explain that. Besides, ripping one’s clothes off while running has to have some sort of incidental loss. With that margin of error in mind, let’s assume he loses his outfit once every three or four quick changes. And Clark’s not fancy, so that’s $99 dollars for a London Fog Big and Tall overcoat, $240 for his Sears brown suit and shirt, $40 dollars for his leather loafers, and $14 for Urban Outfitters prescription-less “readers” black frame glasses. Cost: $353 (Chump change, considering he doesn’t pay for anything else.)

Damages: In most cases, Superman diminishes the damage from some near catastrophe by being, well, super. But on a few occasions, he makes a mess all on his own. His fiery return to earth destroys what I’ll estimate at about two acres of perfectly good corn-growing farmland. According to Bloomberg news, farmland is averaging at about $2,350 an acre, so if he’s the nice guy he swears he is, he’ll buy the damaged land off the owner’s hands — even if the owner is his mama. Then there’s the cost of at least a year of corn. According to the Iowa Corn Growers Association, an acre of land yields about 183 bushels of corn per harvest and the University of Illinois places each bushel at approximately $7 a bushel. Cost of making it right: $5,981

Transportation: He. can. fly. He doesn’t do the subway and taxis are for suckers. (Sorry, Lois Lane. He’ll still help you hail one if you want.) Cost: $0

Risks: He’s pretty damn invulnerable. Of course, that pesky Kryptonite causes problems from time to time, and when Lex stabs him, Superman winds up in critical care at the hospital. A visit like this could run him up to $20,000, especially since he is most definitely without health insurance, considering modern medicine can’t do much for death by Kryptonite. Superman, however, escapes in the middle of the night, good as new, without the proper discharge papers. And when all is said and done, even if the hospital wanted to charge him for medical services after he just saved the whole city, where would they send the bill? And who’d be audacious enough to hand the Man of Steel a whopping hospital bill? That’s what I thought. Cost: $0 (I repeat, the bastard.)

Perks: Is the fact that he’s netting $23k and change not enough of a perk? He’s got it made.

Entertainment: He doesn’t really have much fun because he spends so much time staring starry-eyed at Lois and fighting crime around the world, but he does make time for a few beers with Jimmy Olsen when he finds out Lois is seriously dating James Marsden. And he even gets a little tipsy, and since he’s so strapping, I’d say he’d need at least six beers to get saucy (that’s about $5 dollars a beer, plus a $2 tip per drink because he’s so super). He also steals a little date with Lois Lane, but he’s such a baller that all he has to do is fly her around through the dark (romantic) night, which costs him — you guessed it — absolutely nothing. Total: $42

Miscellaneous: In case you missed the last hour of the movie, Lois Lane’s little boy is actually Superman’s son. So for good measure, let’s say good ol’ Superman pays Lois Lane secret child support. Based on his $30k salary in the state of Kansas, he’d owe Miss Lane about $318 a month. Cost for a year: $3816

Sustainability: Clark Kent could sustain this until the end of time. His life is a charmed one — minus that part where he’s got a handful of vengeful enemies and (sigh) deadlines. But I’d fight 10-foot-tall fire-breathing tree people all day everyday if it meant I could stop paying $1,000 dollars a month in rent, okay? (Just don’t quote me on that when the Tree People Apocalypse comes.)

Final Calculation: He’s up $19,771.31 at the end of the year. Maybe next time he takes Lois out, he could finally spring for a steak dinner and some champagne. Verdict: Can I be Superman?

Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler.

[Image: Warner Bros.]


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