I just finished reading DC Comics Presents #18 by Gerry (I killed Gwen Stacy) Conway and Dick Dillin/Frank Chiaramonte and the issue makes a rather interesting argument as to why Superman is vulnerable to magic. In the Bronze Age, of course, DC was interested in playing up the fact that magic could harm Superman in an attempt to respond to the criticisms that the Man of Steel's invulnerability hurt his relatability. Different writers have given different explanations for this vulnerability over the years, but Conway gives a rather unique on in this issue. DC Comics Presents #18 starts with Superman researching his vulnerability to magic. He discovers that magic does exist as an energy beyond ultra-violet in the invisible spectrum of radiation. Meanwhile, in upstate New York, Zatanna is about to perform her own sort of magical experiment. She starts by explaining her theory of magic's origins to her father, Zatara, a nd librarian Madame Van Jung. Zatanna claims that magic is performed by utilizing mystical energies from another dimension, and that the Homo Magus offshoot of humanity had the genetic ability to access these energies at will (for more info on the Homo Magi see Justice League of America #164). Since Zatanna's mother was Homo Magus, the young hero excels at using magic. However, the Homo Magi genes became diluted over years of intermingling with plain, old Homo Sapiens, so, as time went by, people started to need rituals and spells to access the same abilities that Homo Magi used to conjure at will. Zatara finds his daughter's explanation and can't help but add in at the end: "It even explains why Superman is vulnerable to magic! Not having been born on Earth, he has no Homo Magus genes whatsoever!" (Page 8).
I found this to be an interesting way of explaining Superman's issues with magic. It's a different way of approaching the issue and has a logic of its own. Of course this story was from 1980 and we've had a few continuity restarts in the DC Universe since then so it's probably no longer relevant. I thought it worth bringing up since the Trinity War crossover is approaching and is fueled by the magical avenues of DC Comics. It's likely that Superman will be confronted by his vulnerability to magic once again and we could possibly be treated to a new explanation as to why it can hurt him. I wonder what some of you think of Gerry Conway's explanation, if you have or like a different explanation, and what your favorite memory of Superman dealing with magic is. Paul Kupperberg found every opportunity to put the words "I hate magic" in Superman's mouth. If the Trinity War is as mystical as I think it will be, Superman is really going to hate this event.