Most people know that it takes 365 days for the Earth to revolve around the sun. But, did you know that a complete revolution around the sun takes approximately 365 days and 6 hours. As a result, every four years, we add an extra day to the calendar to account for this. That day is February 29th—Leap Day!
Being born on this day gives the illusion that a person ages slower. When the rest of us turn 40, a leap day baby will have only had 10 birthdays. So, when Julie Schwartz was asked for Superman’s birthday in his “Answer Man” column, he cleverly replied that Superman celebrates his birthday on February 29th, which is why is so young. Turns out, Krypton’s calendar is not the same as the one on Earth and 18 Krypton years are equal to 25 of those on Earth. So, this was just an approximate date based on the equivalent Kryptonian date. So, Happy Birthday to the Man of Steel!
But wait, there’s more. Because Superman is a fictional character (I’ll bet some people wondered if I actually believe this). To make matters worse, he is a comic book character with over a quarter century of continuity and dozens of creators.
For example, in 1950, long before Schwartz’s announcement of February 29th date, ACTION COMICS #149 announced that the Golden Age Man of Steel was born on Kryptonopolis was in October.
Then, in 1958, ACTION COMICS #241, Superman states that he celebrates his real birthday is the date his rocket crash landed on Earth, which is June 10, 1958. Of course, in 1972, in SUPERMAN #263 (1973), we are informed that Clark Kent celebrates his birthday on June 18th, which is the date that his Kryptonian rocket arrived on Earth. So, this date is not that consistent. I think this was done because Action Comic’s release date was around that time.
The February 29th date is again given in one of the best Superman stories ever written, Alan Moore tell us what to get “For the Man Who has Everything” in SUPERMAN ANNUAL #11 in 1985. This was also adapted in a great JLU cartoon episode.
Other stories feature Superman’s Birthday, but I don’t think they give dates. In 1972, Superman suffers through emotional problems that Kryptonians get on their sixth birthday in SUPERMAN #249. Superboy celebrates his sixteenth birthday in the NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERBOY #1 (1980).
Of course, this was all what we comic guys call “Pre Crisis”, meaning that it happened before the continuity altering events that wiped out and revamped most of DC’s continuity in the Crisis of Infinite Earths mini-series.
Post Crisis, we discover, in the otherwise forgettable Millennium mini-series, that Superman’s rocket actually crashed in November. Then there was a blizzard, which helped the Kent’s create a cover story that Martha gave birth to Clark. (In the original continuity, the Kents dropped Superman off at an orphanage, but the orphanage couldn’t handle the Super Baby and quickly gave him back.) In 1990, Roger Stern uses the February 29th birthday in Action Comics #655. I guess I should add that Time Magazine also announced February 29th as the Man of Steel’s Birthday in 1988, which was after the Crisis, but I don’t think Time magazine is not in continuity. ;-) For completeness, in "Superman: Secret Origin" written by DC’s current Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns wrote that Clark Kent’s Birthday is December 1. I’m not sure why that date is significant.
Of course, there is a new DCU Universe and with it, perhaps Superman will get yet another Birthday. Until then, and for lack of a better day, I would like to take this opportunity to wish my favorite superhero a happy birthday. For a fictional character, Superman has had a lasting effect on society and on me as both a person and a writer.
In the words of Alan Moore, in the introduction to “Whatever Happened to the Man of Steel” (which is another one of the best Superman stories ever written), "This is an Imaginary Story... Aren't they all?"