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You are an 18-year-old Clark Kent, and you have made the decision that to spend four years in college would be too big of a waste of time; you are ready to start saving the world now. Developing your vocational skills would be to not focus on your strengths anyway.

Fueling that decision is the fact that your superhuman abilities should be able to provide you with a source of income on their own. However, as you are to be an agent for good, your source of income must meet the following requirements:

  1. Does not do any moral harm (no robbing banks at night or stealing cars)
  2. Does not give up your 'alter ego' (using your powers in plain sight to excel at manual labor)
  3. Raises minimal suspicion about your alter ego (you'll need to cover your whereabouts to your friends/neighbors)
  4. Provides enough money to live in a big city like Metropolis.

Superman's exact abilities seem to vary by comic book/movie, but the most notable powers are:

  • Super strength
  • Super speed / flying
  • X-ray vision
  • Heat (infra-red) vision
  • Ice breath
  • Invulnerability

Surely there must be some way to leverage your powers for sustainable income?

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    $\begingroup$ Be a power generator. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Mar 23 '15 at 23:27
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    $\begingroup$ Aw you beat me to it. But, to the OP, is the job part of their superheroism or a cover? $\endgroup$ – Dider Mar 23 '15 at 23:34
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    $\begingroup$ @ShihabDider The sole purpose of the job is to give the superhero enough money to live in the city. It should be as minimally distracting from his superhero duties as possible (so a full time job at the daily planet would not be ideal!) Ideally it would take advantage of his powers to get sufficient income quickly. $\endgroup$ – Señor O Mar 23 '15 at 23:37
  • $\begingroup$ This feels quite broad to me, without any limitations on the superpowers in question. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Mar 24 '15 at 3:47
  • $\begingroup$ A Monica said, it's too broad. Superman and Mister fantastic have very different powers and will be better suited for different things. $\endgroup$ – Vincent Mar 24 '15 at 4:13

11 Answers 11

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Start a Mining Company

Clark Kent needs to Superman-up and scout for precious metal deposits with his x-ray vision. When he finds one of sufficient size on some land for sale he can sell the family farm and buy the land with the precious metals. He can then, initially, mine it out in private. Once he's waited a sufficient time to not arouse suspicion, he can start selling the metals and building a larger mining operation legitimately.

Now he has more capital, he can continue buying land and start mining operations to extract the precious metals there. This process means he will eventually have enough cash flow to move to the city and not need to be seen working at the mines.

Win the Lottery

Check the winning lotto numbers. Fly fast enough to go back in time. Then buy the winning ticket. Now he can buy the Daily Planet and live off its income and the interest of his winnings.

Start a Space Travel Company

He can go ask Jor-El how interplanetary spaceships work. Pretend to toil for years as a mad engineer and finally reveal his 'creation' to the world. Begin space tourism and colonization.

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    $\begingroup$ Relevant xkcd what-if.xkcd.com/14 $\endgroup$ – Dider Mar 23 '15 at 23:49
  • $\begingroup$ @ShihabDider Oh right. Wow, I read that before, forgot it, and just had my mind blow again. What an awesome thing to just happen to me. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Mar 23 '15 at 23:51
  • $\begingroup$ Great answer, especially using x-rays to find precious metals and breaking the lighspeed barrier for time travel $\endgroup$ – Señor O Mar 24 '15 at 0:18
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    $\begingroup$ Why sell the family farm? Just bury enough uncut (or cut) diamonds behind the barn. $\endgroup$ – Mindwin Mar 24 '15 at 4:14
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    $\begingroup$ @Mindwin, I totally forgot that scene. Good point. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Mar 24 '15 at 4:45
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Start a "Superhero" Charity/Trust Fund

The charity is run for the benefit of the superhero. If I were mayor of a city, especially one that frequently benefits from said superhero, I'd propose a fund especially for the superhero to get whatever they need. It may turn out to be cheaper to pay an annual salary to the superhero in exchange for their services rather than attempt to hunt him/her down as a vigilante. Besides, it would allow the police department to focus on other things.

If I were the superhero, I would start a social media campaign for said trust fund/charity pointing out that "superheroes need food, too." I'm sure plenty of people would love to buy a meal for the guy/gal who just saved their life. Some people may just want a way to express their appreciation beyond single "Gee thanks, Mister!" line that superheroes often get... Some other bonuses:

  • Gives people a target to express their appreciation. Seriously, not everyone is ungrateful. Additionally, it's legal, so what even if it gets sour looks from the government, there is nothing inherently wrong with it.
  • Give enemies a target for their vengeance; the superhero gets to know who their enemies are without the dramatic reveal. In addition, taking the superhero hostage to draw out the superhero is... dumb for them, smart for the superhero.
  • This charity is merely overlooking finances, which is not that hard. As long as you live modestly as your cover story demands, no one will suspect you.
  • If this gets big enough, it could help pay for superhero-ing legal fees.
  • May also attract allies.
  • Good excuse to cut out on friends/family: "a superhero wants some money, and I need to go verify their super-powers. They don't schedule appointments, so I need to go! Bye!" or "Oh, a bank robbery! I need to go see if that superhero shows up so I can recognize him/her."
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    $\begingroup$ It's legal, so there is nothing inherently wrong with it? Have you heard the term "Lawful Evil"? That said, I like this idea, even though superheroes traditionally refuse compensation for their work. "My reward is that justice has been done" or something like that. $\endgroup$ – KSmarts Mar 24 '15 at 17:49
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Call me... The Jeweler

Does your superhero have the power to pressurize coal into diamonds and melt precious metals with heat vision? Then he can make a great living as a maker of fine jewelry.

Benefits: He wouldn't have to work too many hours a week. He would not need co-workers and he could sell his wares online.

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  • $\begingroup$ ^^ I like this one $\endgroup$ – Señor O Mar 25 '15 at 18:18
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Be a private investigator.

  • You mostly set your own hours as long as you get the job done. And you don't have to take the cases that would require long, set hours, such as a stakeout.
  • Superpowers might let you be really, really good at it. You might be able to make quite a comfortable living.
  • You could get leads into the criminal underworld.
  • People would understand you being unreachable for long hours pretty much any time of day.
  • If you go somewhere in disguise as part of a superheroing investigation, you have a ready-made reason for being in disguise.
  • Fast cars, beautiful women (or handsome men, depending). I can believe everything I see on TV, right?
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    $\begingroup$ Based on what I've learned from TV and movies, private investigators are always on the verge of bankruptcy. Also, that beautiful woman is probably just pretending to like you so she can manipulate you. $\endgroup$ – KSmarts Mar 24 '15 at 17:46
  • $\begingroup$ @KSmarts Going by my experience, beautiful-women-wise, that is still better than the web developer idea... :) $\endgroup$ – Darth Wedgius Mar 24 '15 at 20:48
  • $\begingroup$ Those dames do tend to get a bit conflicted partway through... $\endgroup$ – KSmarts Mar 24 '15 at 21:06
  • $\begingroup$ @KSmarts That's true. And maybe I needn't've mentioned the beautiful women aspect, seeing as superheroes, regardless, seem to be naturally surrounded by women who look like they were bitten by radioactive puberty. $\endgroup$ – Darth Wedgius Mar 25 '15 at 15:47
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Web Development/Blogging

Hear me out. Web development allows our young hero to have a low maintenance moderate income job which leaves him free to fly around whenever he likes, without the problems of having to change costumes (though if journalists can't figure he's Superman with glasses, then it doesn't matter much.) or make excuses to get out of work.

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  • $\begingroup$ Good practical solution. The ability to travel anywhere and cover anything could help with blogging. Web development would require some learning/classes. Flexible schedule is key. $\endgroup$ – Señor O Mar 24 '15 at 0:14
  • $\begingroup$ Depending upon which reboot of course. Clark would have faced certain difficulties as a web developer in 1950... $\endgroup$ – IchabodE Mar 24 '15 at 17:27
  • $\begingroup$ @MBurke Easy solution: invent the internet! $\endgroup$ – KSmarts Mar 24 '15 at 17:41
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Investigative Journalist

There is a reason Clark picked that profession in the first place. It is the perfect excuse to run off whenever there is an emergency, to head towards, rather than away from war zones. Plus you conveniently get all kinds of first hand information from the things you do personally and from your super friends.

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As a superhero, superman is providing a public service - essentially free. However, his abilities would allow him to make loads of money with effectively minimal effort - for him. Simply as superman approach the commercial space industry and offer to orbit or deorbit one commercial satellite each year, at the bargain basement rate of, say, 10% of the cost of a conventional launch. All because superheroes have to eat too, and this service provides a great benefit at relatively little cost and time, and what's more, it saves the environment from having all those tons of combustion products dumped into the atmosphere.

As satellite launches (exclusive of the cost of the satellite) cost 50-400 million US dollars each time, and recovery is near impossible for geosynchronous satellites, a mere ten percent of this (i.e. 5-40 million US dollars) is something that any company in the satellite industry would leap at.

Superman could orbit a satellite simply by donning a long-range radio headset that works by bone conduction (There's no air in space to conduct sound in any other way) and a location transponder. He'd then pick up the satellite, fly up with it, and the ground crew could direct him to the right spot using the transponder and radio. This would probably be an hour's work (nothing takes less than an hour) at minimal expense to him, other than his usual large meals.

Clark Kent, as Superman's designated representative and friend, selected because Superman spends most of his time in altruistic works, would hire accountants and managers to manage and invest this sum of money, and would receive a generous salary and the right to stay in Superman's many investment properties.

To protect Clark from suspicion of being Superman, Superman could also offer accommodation at a few of his other investment properties to other people in need - a predilection for letting friends stay in his houses would deflect suspicion from Clark.

Meanwhile, Clark could spend a little spare time getting an education that would let him justify the princely salary Superman is paying him.

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Of course, start your own propaganda agency. Being superhero attracts a lot of attention. Your superhero might use a formula one like costume full of propaganda banners. This would raise millions of dollars.

Whenever your superhero is recorded on television or he gives interviews he would put all those banners right into the noble television hours where most advertisers want their products to be seen.

This is a quick and easy solution, if not for the somewhat grey ethics about using your costume to make propaganda.

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  • $\begingroup$ This would pose a threat to the hero's secret identity, but if nobody notices that Peter Parker is TOO friendly with Spiderman to get all those photos yet (Ben Ulrich aside), I think it may be fine too. $\endgroup$ – Mindwin Mar 24 '15 at 4:09
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Make Money as a Superhero

Whether it's providing relatively cheap orbital lift, creating impossible designer drugs, or literally mind-blowing acoustic concerts, the best way to maximize your income from superpowers is as a superhero. In addition to letting you use your powers openly, it also gives you fanpower - people will pay more just because something is done by a superhero.

So now the key is disguise that income so you can use it as your alter ego. And the best profession for that is...

Writer

Being viewed as a professional writer has a ton of advantages:

  1. Income varies incredibly widely between writers depending on how popular their work is. So you basically don't have to disguise or hide anything - you can make wild purchases that would otherwise appear way outside of your purchase range, because no one has any idea how much you really make.
  2. You can hide behind a pseudonym. You won't reveal it, of course, but you can imply to anyone who asks that you write under a different name, and that's considered normal. So you don't have to actually write anything.
  3. While actual writing takes a ton of work, much of isn't visible. So your fake profession doesn't take any time at all. You can, in fact, use your regular (or irregular) disappearances to enforce your alter ego, rather than damaging it. That time you were kidnapped by Dr. Feel Quite Alright and spend 2 weeks on an island is no longer a reason for you to be fired - you were just working on your next book.
  4. You can take your earnings, invest them and turn them into legitimate income for when you eventually retire.
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  • $\begingroup$ But you also have to learn how to launder money, or else people will be able to trace the money from when you get it as a superhero to when you spend it as your secret identity! Seems risky... $\endgroup$ – sumelic Mar 24 '15 at 7:06
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Become a sportsman

Pick a popular discipline. Use your superpowers and show the world that you are the strongest/fastest. Just make sure not to break the current world record too much, as it would clearly show you're "cheating".

I'm not sure though if anti-doping tests would not reveal your inhuman nature.

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  • $\begingroup$ There might be some problems with someone invulnerable getting a blood test... $\endgroup$ – KSmarts Mar 24 '15 at 17:50
  • $\begingroup$ @KSmarts, yes, in one of the movies, someone tries to take a sample of superman's blood, and the needle snaps on his skin. $\endgroup$ – Monty Wild Mar 24 '15 at 21:41
  • $\begingroup$ @KSmarts: he'd have to expose his arm to kryptonite just before blood test. $\endgroup$ – Trang Oul Mar 25 '15 at 7:23
  • $\begingroup$ His blood would show...strange...results anyway I'm fairly sure. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Apr 15 '15 at 8:49
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Warehouse Business

I think the easiest and best job for Superman would be in a Warehouse. I know it doesn't sound that great but it actually takes a decent amount of logistics and calculations (especially if he's the only one doing the work, which is what would happen so no one else could see him)

I worked in a Warehouse for about 4 years to help get me through college, it was actually pretty fun and the machines that you use are really cool. Essentially a warehousing job entails a lot of MOVING.

In a Warehouse employees are constantly just trying to get stuff in the door so you can get it back out. There are Powered Pallet Jacks, Forklifts, and all sorts of other awesome equipment to get the job done. Essentially all of the products need to be received, stored, invoiced, and loaded on a truck. This is all super easy for Superman!

Because of Superman's incredible speed he would be able to have a HUD Computer (like a Google Glass) which can tell him all of the items that are needed and where they go and he could get it done in just seconds instead of hours! Imagine someone that could actually keep up with a computer telling them as fast as it can what/where products needs to be loaded on a truck!

He could own his own business where he would load/receive trucks inside the Warehouse and do all the work himself and then in the morning the truck drivers can just leave with the deliveries. Each truck could potentially have tens of thousands of dollars worth of revenue (even up to hundreds of thousands depending on the products) and the cost of labor would be NOTHING! He could make a fortune in no time!

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