Superman derives his powers from the sun, which scientific research suggests he should be black, and not white — as he’s depicted in comic books, TV shows and movies.
Superman’s biological father, Joe-El, explains in the movie “Man of Steel” that he’s more powerful than humans because his cells have absorbed radiation from Earth’s sun, which is younger and brighter than his home planet Krypton’s — strengthening his muscles, skin and senses.
Other movies demonstrate that Superman is indeed powered by solar radiation, which Chamary argues would be a similar process to photosynthesis.
Light rays are made of photons, which can be converted into energy by pigment molecules in both plants and animals.
Photons behave as both waves and pure energy, and the length of a wave determines how much energy it has.
Krypton orbits a red star, which would be relatively cool and dim, and photosynthetic species — including Superman — would need darker skin pigments to harvest its low-energy light, argues Chamary.
Superman’s dark pigment would perform a different function than melanin, which earthlings use to protect against the damaging effects of high-energy ultraviolet radiation.
Humans who migrated out of Africa about 200,000 years ago were exposed to less sunlight, so their offspring had less evolutionary incentive to use metabolic resources on producing UV-blocking skin pigments.
Chamary suggested several evolutionary possibilities for Superman’s superpowers, but he said those abilities must have been useful for survival on Krypton.
He admits that market forces would likely prevent DC Comics from depicting Superman as black, beyond a gimmicky character from Earth 2, but almost anything is possible in science fiction.
“Science says Superman should be black,” Chamary said. “Hopefully the next time we see him on screen, the Man of Steel will be a more realistic, solar-powered superhero.”