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File:Superman Posing.jpg

"This looks like a job for..."

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Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound! This amazing stranger from the planet Krypton! The man of steel --(gong ring)-- Superman!

—The opening to the Superman Theatrical Cartoons
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The Last Son of Krypton. The Man of Steel. The Man of Tomorrow. The Big Blue Boy Scout. The iconic Cape. The original Flying Brick. The Superhero.

While not quite the first superhero, he is certainly the Trope Codifier. Has been published continuously by DC Comics for almost 80 years. He first appeared in Action Comics #1 (June, 1938).

On the technologically advanced planet of Krypton, scientist Jor-El discovers that his planet will soon be destroyed by natural disasters. No one will believe him, however, and in a desperate attempt to save what can be saved, Jor-El builds a small rocket vessel to carry his infant son, Kal-El, to a different planet -- Earth. Because Kryptonians physically resemble humans in every way, the boy can blend in without being seen as alien.

As Krypton explodes, baby Kal-El is sent to Earth without any knowledge of his real identity. He lands outside of the rural town of Smallville, a small town in Kansas (although it wasn't too clear originally -- see Wikipedia for a full list of canonical locations). The baby is adopted by Jonathan and Martha Kent, who name the boy Clark, give him a loving home and teach him right from wrong.

However, Clark turns out to be different from humans after all. Kryptonians had evolved to absorb and store solar energy. While on Krypton, which orbited a relatively low-heat Red Giant (or in some versions Red Dwarf) star, their physical abilities were about identical to humans. When exposed to the rays of Earth's much younger, brighter yellow Sun, Clark learns that the surplus of energy gives him incredible powers, which increase as he grows up. Deciding to use his power for good, Clark puts on some spandex (or indestructible Kryptonian uber-cloth, Depending on the Writer) and fights crime as Superman! (Or at first as Superboy, in the Silver Age version of his origin). When not fighting evil, he masquerades as a mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, The Daily Planet, which helps him find disasters and emergencies that much sooner.

Naturally, the Clark Kent/Superman dichotomy has been explored a great deal and has changed over time (with Kent going from nervous, geeky klutz to sharp-witted Intrepid Reporter, among other changes). In the Golden and Silver Age, Clark Kent was little more than a facade for Superman. After Crisis on Infinite Earths, this idea was reversed. Nowadays, Depending on the Writer, either Clark Kent is the "real" person and Superman the façade, or both people are equally valid and natural aspects of his personality. Both sides also tend to be a lot more psychologically/emotionally vulnerable than you'd expect. Given his powers, and the usual stereotypes about strength of his level, it would be easy to mistake him for a simplistic oaf; but Supes is actually quite a complex guy.

Aside from fighting crime, much of Clark's personal life is explored in relation to his supporting cast from the Daily Planet, his hometown of Smallville, Kansas, and his beloved home city of Metropolis. Possibly the most famous supporting cast of any superhero, it consists of a large number of changing characters, the fixtures of which are: his doting parents Jonathan and Martha (aka "Ma and Pa") Kent, who continue to support and advise him throughout his adulthood (or Pre Crisis, throughout his childhood and teen years, before dying shortly after Clark's high school graduation); his gruff, hot-tempered, long-suffering boss, Perry White, who gladly accepts Clark's constant disappearances and eccentricities as long as he comes back with a headline story; his best friend (in both identities) Jimmy Olsen, a young cub reporter/photographer with a wildly fluctuating age, the highest Weirdness Magnet rating in the DC universe and the unique gift of a signal watch he can use to call Superman anytime he gets into trouble; his short-tempered, stubborn teenager of a cousin Kara Zor-El alias Supergirl, who also survived the death of their planet but arrived on Earth several decades later and has a hard time adapting to her new home and finding out what kind of woman and hero she wants to be; and most importantly, his sharp-tongued, recklessly determined go-getter of a reporting partner (and longstanding object of his affections) Lois Lane, who was desperately in love with Superman but who always dismissed the mild Clark Kent. However, she would eventually fall for Clark, not Superman, before learning they were the same person and marrying him.

Originally created by two sons of Jewish immigrants, who, after several tries, finally got him published in Action Comics #1, where he immediately took off; imitations of him pretty much created The Golden Age of Comic Books.

This wasn't their first attempt at the character they had in mind. Ironically, he was intended as a villain with superior mental powers (also ironically looking a lot like Lex Luthor, Bald of Evil and everything) but when that concept flopped they revisited the idea by exploring the real idea of a "Super"man and in collecting their ideas it formed the now famous "Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive..." pitch.

One prototype Superman comic was written by Siegel and Schuster in 1936. It depicts Superman rescuing innocent hostages from kidnappers. This pre-dates Action Comics #1 by nearly three years.

His powers include Super Strength, Super Speed, Flight, X-Ray Vision, Heat Vision, Freeze Breath, Nigh Invulnerability, Super Senses, and possibly others, depending on the interpretation.

On the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, he and the series he stars in almost universally tends toward the idealistic side, being the iconic Cape.

Along with Batman and Wonder Woman, he's one of the Big Three of The DCU. He has also been a member of the Justice League of America on and off (mostly on) since its founding.

Notable Superman Comic Book Series:

  • Action Comics: Anthology series for most of its run, starring Superman as the lead feature plus various backup characters.
  • Superman: Superman's self-named series. Renamed Adventures of Superman between the Byrne reboot of the late 80s and the mid-2000s, when it resumed its original title and historic issue numbering (and a second Superman title created after the Byrne reboot was canceled).
  • World's Finest Comics: Featured regular team-ups with Batman.
  • Superman/Batman: The modern successor of World's Finest Comics.
  • Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen: Probably the comic that truly shows the Silver Age in its purest, distilled form. In the '70s, Jack Kirby used the series to launch his Fourth World metaseries.
  • Superman's Girlfriend, Lois Lane
  • Superboy
  • Adventure Comics: Featured various Superboy or other Superman family member stories.
  • DC Comics Presents: Featured team-ups with assorted DC characters
  • All-Star Superman: A recent comic series based on the Silver Age version of the character that strips away current continuity in favor of telling fresh but classic stories.

Notable Superman Comic Book Stories:

TV series starring the character:

TV series where he's part of an ensemble cast:

Movies starring the character:

  • The Superman Theatrical Cartoons made by Max and Dave Fleischer and Famous Studios.
  • The Superman and Superman vs. Atom Man serials, starring Kirk Alyn.
  • Superman and the Mole Men, staring George Reeves and leading into The Adventures of Superman.
  • The franchise starring Christopher Reeve, consisting of:
  • Superman Returns, a film supposedly in the same continuity but ignoring Superman III and IV, starring Brandon Routh. Opinions vary as to whether it was a return to form or an ill-advised misfire. Met with reasonable success, though not enough to warrant a sequel. However, the Superman costume created for the movie would later be reused four years later in Smallville‍'‍s tenth season.
  • Man of Steel, a 2012 reboot of the character, directed by Zack Snyder. Not, as the name suggests, an adaptaption of John Bryne's 1986 miniseries, it stars Henry Cavill as Superman, Amy Adams as Lois Lane and Michael Shannon as General Zod. It's produced by Christopher Nolan, who has had success with another DC hero.
  • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, a film released in March 2016, in which Henry Cavill reprised his role as Superman.
  • Justice League, the 2017 follow-up to Batman v Superman.

Animated movies starring the character:

Theatrical Productions Starring the Character:

  • It's a Bird... It's a Plane... It's Superman, 1966 Broadway musical which ran for less than 150 performances before closing, despite receiving several Tony Award nominations; in 1976 ABC broadcast it as a TV special.

Video Games Starring the Character:

Other versions of the character:

Parodies of the character:

Essays Featuring the Character:

See also Supergirl, his Distaff Counterpart, and Krypto the Superdog, a 2005 cartoon based off the adventures of his Kryptonian dog.

Also worth mentioning: It's a Bird... by Steven T. Seagle, which is a meditation on the Superman mythology through the eyes of someone who's been tasked with writing new installments of the series, and isn't sure he can do it because he doesn't feel anything in common with Superman. Then he really begins to think about the whole thing...


Superman is the Trope Namer for:

Tropes used in Superman include:
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Superman: BURN!

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    • It's generally a good idea to keep this trope in mind when dealing with The Man of Steel. He may be the quintessential nice-guy, but he's also generally considered to be the most powerful being on the planet. The rare occasions that his (rather immense) self-control slips are pretty damn terrifying.
  • Big Good: Leader of the Justice League, on top of being the most powerful superhero of all time.
  • Bored with Insanity: Mr. Mxyzptlk, in an Elseworld/"imaginary story".)
  • Blessed with Suck: Post-Crisis, this is often how Superman views his own powers. While he is as strong as a god, he's also, well, strong as a god. His best writers have made him into quite a psychological thought-experiment: on the one hand, he's terrified to not lose self-control or someone (or many, many people) may die; on the other, he often hates himself for still being mortal enough to not be the god everyone wants him to be (such as when he can't save everyone who cries out for him - especially because he hears them... all of them).
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He knows he cannot save them all. And he still tries.

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    • This idea led to one of the most iconic Superman speeches, in the series finale of the Justice League Unlimited cartoon, where Superman is fighting Darkseid and declares:
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I feel like I live in a world made of... cardboard, always taking constant care not to break something, to break someone. Never allowing myself to lose control even for a moment, or someone could die. But you can take it, can't you, big man? What we have here is a rare opportunity for me to cut loose and show you just how powerful I really am.

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  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Given how long running his series has been it's inevitable that this trope has come up a few times. Perhaps the most famous recent[when?] event to feature this is during the Justice League of America OMAC Project story line, where Max Lord is controlling him to demonstrate why superheroes can't be trusted (since they can be turned against Earth by Mind Control, and the next guy might not be him and have more sinister plans in mind) and tells Wonder Woman that the only way to stop him is to kill him -- and to the horror of Supes and the rest of the League, she does just that.
  • Brought to You by The Letter "S" (Just take a look!)
  • Bus Full of Innocents
  • Canon Immigrant
    • Jimmy Olsen, Inspector Henderson, Perry White, Kryptonite and the name "Daily Planet" from The Adventures of Superman
    • Professor Pepperwinkle from the first TV show
    • Mercy and Livewire from Superman: The Animated Series
    • Ursa and Non from Superman II
    • Chloe Sullivan, from Smallville, is en route for this. Originally created because Clark needed an Intrepid Reporter friend, but putting Lois from the get-go would trigger everyone's sensors. DC Comics has since bought the rights to use her character, apparently just to prevent misuse from a third party; but now that they have her, it's just a matter of time until she shows up in some comic it was announced officially at Comic-Con 2010 that plans are now in motion to officially bring her into the comics in Action Comics #893.
    • Smallville‍'‍s Lionel Luthor, Lex's father, has been brought into continuity as well. Although Lex had obviously always had a father, albeit barely-glimpsed in flashbacks, since 2000 his father has officially been referred to as "Lionel," and in Superman: Birthright he was depicted as having a beard and long hair just like on Smallville. Recently[when?], he reappeared in the Blackest Night story arc to get revenge on Lex for murdering him.
    • His flight power comes from the Fleischer cartoons where it was introduced because the animators found it easier to depict than his original jumping power -- and far less silly-looking.
      • In fact, most of his powers beyond the core strength/indestructibility have been immigrants -- for instance, his heat vision grew out of the early Silver Age conception of his X-ray vision actually projecting X-rays -- which the writers then decided he could focus and use to burn things.
    • Kryptonite comes from the 1940s-vintage radio program.
  • Captain Ersatz: Arguably, the entire super hero genre. But, more strictly speaking, there's Captain Marvel, Captain Atom, Supreme, Apollo, Mister Majestic, Icon, the Samaritan, the Silver Sentry, Captain Amazing, Gladiator, Hyperion, the Sentry, the Plutonian, Suppaman, and (at least in regard to his origin[2]) Son Goku. It's usually taken as a given these days that any "super hero universe" needs someone to fill the role of the top, most respected super hero in the world, and it's almost always an Expy of Superman. This creates some awkward situations when these companies fold, DC buys up their characters, and suddenly these Superman Expies are running around in the same universe as Superman himself (as has now happened to Captain Marvel, Captain Atom, Icon, Mr. Majestic, and Apollo).
    • To be fair, Icon and Superman had already met in Worlds Collide.
  • Catch Phrase: There have been many:
    • Superman: "This looks like a job for Superman!" and "Up, up, and away!"
    • Perry White: "Don't call me Chief!!!! and "Great Caesar's ghost!"
    • "Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's Superman!" has been shown as an In-Universe catch phrase. Metropolitans no longer speak these words because they actually think the blue and red figure in the sky is a bird or a plane, but because those are their lines, and they get a kick out of performing them for the tourists.
  • Characterization Marches On: Way, way back when Supes was first created, he was far more rough and aggressive than his modern counterpart. While he was never as cold-blooded as the early Batman, the Superman of the 1930s had no problem using his strength to the fullest and never seemed to care that fatalities would presumably occur, although these were seldom shown explicitly on the page. This came to an end late in 1940, and ever since then, Supes has been the Thou Shalt Not Kill boy scout we all know and love.
  • Chest Insignia: The big S in a diamond shield, at first just standing for Superman, later explained as being the symbol of the house of El -- and that even later as the Kryptonian symbol/glyph for "Hope".
    • Motif Merger: Chest insignia are used for Superman/Batman crossovers.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Silver-Age Lois and Lana, though not Lori, Luma, or Lyla.
  • Cloning Blues: Averted completely in the first (non-canon) Superman Red/Superman Blue story. When he accidentally clones himself, the two of them eliminate all evil and turn earth into a paradise, and restore Krypton. It even resolves the Lois/Lana Love Triangle! A later version of the story played the trope more straight.
    • Bizarro. Pre-Crisis, Bizarro was always played as sympathetic, being dangerous only because of his stupidity. These days, he's often portrayed as an out-and out killer.
  • Clone Degeneration: Bizarro
  • Clothes Make the Legend: DC tried changing his costume a few times, but it didn't last long.
  • Clothes Make the Superman: Double use - in the late 90s, DC tried to change his outfit to be lightning-themed and the suit gave him electricity-based powers (he was de-Kryptonian-powered at the time); that plan didn't go over well. Then he got his Kryptonian powers back, and his non-powered original suit back, showing that, even though the general public loves to make fun of the underwear-on-the-outside classic look, it also loves the tights & cape so much that anyone who dares to drastically change the Big Blue Boy Scout's uniform will be ripped a new one.
    • After Flashpoint he's wearing an "Darker and Edgier" version of his suit, in a more armorlike fashion, with lines thrown in everywhere just for the hell of it. Naturally, it's not exactly popular.
  • Comic Book Time
  • Complete Immortality: In many incarnations.
  • Continuity Porn: Any story by E. Nelson Bridwell, proud and joyful Bronze Age King of the Promoted Fanboys! A fellow who loved his job.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Lex Luthor, since the Crisis.
    • Also Morgan Edge, since the Crisis. (Before the Crisis, he was just a passably obnoxious executive.)
  • Corrupt Politician: Not the norm, but Lex Luthor occasionally counts.
  • Crowning Moment Of Funny: Yellow Lantern.
    • And Pink Kryptonite. Lookin' pretty hot there, Jimmy.
  • Curse Cut Short: One exchange between Superman and Brainiac in the Justice League cartoon:
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Superman: Read my lips, go to-
Brainiac: Unfortunate...

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  • Da Editor: Perry White
  • Death by Origin Story: Ma and Pa Kent before the Continuity Reboot, most of Krypton's population in all versions.
  • Depending on the Writer: Superman's powers (and the explanations for them), history, personality, status as Last of His Kind, the society of Krypton, etc. have varied quite a bit over the decades of his existence.
    • Jimmy Olsen who, due to Comic Book Time and Ret Cons, repeatedly goes back and forth between being a journalist in his early twenties and a tag-along photographer in his mid teens fetching coffee.
    • The possibility of Superman having children with Lois Lane, or any other female human for that matter, some writers goes with the basic: DNA structure being completely different from each other, impossible to make children; others goes with the Power of Love full stop, different species can't stop true love so children can be made, no problems. Or Take a Third Option: It becomes possible with the help of Sufficiently Advanced Science.
    • Or the fourth option: sex with a Kryptonian is likely to kill a human woman.
  • Depraved Kids' Show Host: The Prankster
  • Determinator: Oooooooh, just ask Supes to give up if you're a villain. Let's see how long you last afterwards.
  • Devil in Disguise: In the comics from the early 90s, it was revealed that publisher Colin Thornton, who had hired Clark Kent away from The Daily Planet to serve as editor for Newstime, was a mortal disguise used by the demon Lord Satanus.
  • Doppelganger Attack: Riot
  • Double Consciousness
  • Dressed in Layers: Clark opening his shirt to reveal the Superman costume under his clothes is one of the iconic deceptions of the character.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Superman wasn't a very nice person in quite a few older stories. In particular, this showed up a lot in Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane and Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen.
    • Also, his powers were added over time and his costume was all over the map. He used to wear lace up sandals instead of boots and his chest logo was anything from a basic triangle to a coat of arms. The merchandise was even worse in the early days as they couldn't even get his color scheme right (sometimes his costume was primarily yellow instead of blue.)
  • Egocentric Team Naming: Team Superman and The Supermen of America.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Imperiex
  • Elseworld: Pretty much began the practice in comics, in "Imaginary Stories".
  • Entitled Bastard: Several of his enemies have no problem with begging for their lives after having tried to kill Supes.
    • Really though, if you can't expect mercy from Superman, who can you expect it from?
  • Enemy Civil War: Several. Often Bizarro World.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: Beppo and Titano.
  • Evil Counterpart: Ultraman (No, not that one), Cyborg-Superman, and Superboy-Prime.
  • Evil Knockoff: Bizarro
  • Evolutionary Levels: The first Canon explanation for Superman's powers in Action Comics #1. His then-unnamed planet was millennia ahead of Earth on the evolutionary scale. Originally, he had been conceived as being the last post-human from the end of time, rather than an alien from another planet.
    • This exact origin is brought back in the Superman: Red Son story but it is not revealed until the end. Superman in this series is ironically a distant descendant of Lex Luthor with the "L" suffix being a contraction of his name.
  • Expansion Pack World
  • Expy: Of Heracles/Hercules.
  • Eye Beams: Heat vision. Originally this was just his X-Ray Vision turned up full blast, but eventually the heat effect got its own name.
  • Face Heel Turn: In some continuities, Lex used to be a pretty nice guy and Clark's good friend, but it was a long time ago.
    • More recently, there's Ruin, a.k.a. Professor Emil Hamilton
  • Fail O'Suckyname: One comic featured a retired villain called "The Molester," which he intended to mean "The Annoyance."
  • The Fettered
  • Fiction 500: Lex Luthor since The Eighties.
    • Morgan Edge
  • Fictional Political Party: Lex Luthor represented the Tomorrow Party when he ran for President during the 2000 Election. This party was explicitly not the Republicans or the Democrats which do exist in the DC Universe.
  • Flanderization: Originally, Superman was something of a tough guy tackling (literally) wife beaters, war profiteers and abusive orphanages. By the end of the forties, however, he was the leading citizen of Metropolis, battling larger-than-life villains.
  • Fleeting Demographic Rule
  • Fling a Light Into the Future: Jor-El sent his son to Earth not just so he could live, but as a gift to help humanity.
  • Flying Brick: The original, and one of the few who can be excused.
  • Flying Saucer: Brainiac's original spaceship. He replaced it with a skull-shaped one after his Skele-Bot 9000 upgrade.
  • For Great Justice: Truth, Justice, and the American way.
  • Forgotten Trope: Few today know it, but Superman's iconic costume is based on one of the traditional outfits worn by circus strongmen in the nineteenth and early 20th centuries -- right down to the cape (which they usually took off at the start of their acts).
  • Fourth Wall Observer: Mr. Mxyzptlk
  • Friendly Rival: Vartox, and Captain Marvel. He's actually friends with both of them, but they end up fighting a lot anyway.
  • Friend to All Living Things
  • From a Single Cell: Several. Often Brainiac.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Many second-rate Superman villains undergo this in Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?. It's all Mxyzptlk's doing.
  • Galactic Conqueror: Mongul
  • The Glasses Come Off: Just when Clark does it, it's a different reason than the trope usually has.
    • Or sometimes the same reason. Post-Birthright, it's established that Clark has vivid, otherworldly blue eyes, the kind you immediately notice and can never forget. The glasses mute them into a much more normal shade. Clark is in fact more attractive when he takes the glasses off... and that's why they're on in the first place.
    • Speak for yourself.
  • Good Is Not Dumb: Sometimes invoked, according to the writer.
  • Good Is Old-Fashioned: A favorite jeer of antiheroes against him.
  • Going for the Big Scoop: Lois Lane, frequently.
  • Great Gazoo: Mr. Mxyzptlk.
  • Green Rocks: Good ol' kryptonite, of course. Note that pre-Smallville, it was really only good for Kryptonian-killing, so it wasn't Green Rocks by that trope's definition.
    • Well, from 1985 until 2005, this was true, kryptonite was only good for hurting Kryptonians (and, about as quickly as realistic radiation, humans). Until the Crisis on Infinite Earths, though, a number of different colors of kryptonite existed, and they each had a different effect on Kryptonians, and some even had an effect on humans. Some of them were brought back after Infinite Crisis.
  • Half-Human Hybrids: Children of Superman and Lois occasionally show up in Elseworlds stories, but the mainline comics have averted the idea by claiming it is biologically impossible.
  • Happily Adopted: Clark is from outer space, but he and his folks are closer than blood.
  • Heavyworlder: Superman's powers were, in many older stories including the entire Silver Age run, due in part to Krypton's heavier gravity.
  • High Altitude Interrogation: Superman has, surprisingly, has done this. On at least one occasion, he dropped a mook, used superspeed to catch him, and said, "Now, we can keep doing this until I get tired, or..."
  • Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act: Pre-Crisis, Superman could visit the past by exceeding the speed of light, but it was physically impossible for him to change history.
  • Hologram: Usually of Jor-El.
  • Hollywood Cyborg: Metallo, as well as the Cyborg Superman
  • Home Base: The Fortress of Solitude
  • Hometown Nickname: Lois Lane's use of "Smallville" for Clark Kent, which in some continuities goes from insulting to affectionate over the course of time.
  • Hulk Speak: All Bizarros.
  • Human Aliens
  • Iconic Logo: The S-symbol, one of the most instantly recognizable symbols in the world in real life, as well as the actual logo used on his comic book, with block letters at a slant.
  • Identity Impersonator: Lookalikes, holograms, a friendly Shape Shifter or two; he used to have a fleet of Robots for just this but they kept going sentient and becoming villains
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness
  • Incredible Shrinking Man: The Bottle City of Kandor. For that matter, Brainiac's shrink ray that put it in the bottle in the first place.
  • Inner Monologue: Because most of his adventures are solo affairs, so he has no one to banter Expospeak with, Superman used to use a lot of thought bubbles back in the day. Now that thought bubbles are less popular, he doesn't do it as much, except in Superman/Batman, where he and Bats are the narrators.
  • Interspecies Friendship: Most of Superman's friendships qualify, though not necessarily Clark Kent's.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Clark Kent and Lois Lane, later Jimmy Olsen.
  • Invincible Hero: Most writers take pains to avert this trope, but Supes is hard to write unless Kryptonite Is Everywhere, and that gets old fast. Alan Moore was a master at finding compelling stories for him. The best Superman stories (Kingdom Come, among others) thus tend to be the ones that focus on the problems his powers can't fix. A perennial favorite is "Sure, you're invincible. But everyone else isn't." Also leads to Blessed with Suck.
  • Involuntary Shapeshifting: This was the most common effect of Red Kryptonite in The Silver Age of Comic Books, with Re-Power being a close second. Jimmy Olsen was also put through many, many transformations both in the Superman titles and his own.
  • It Amused Me: The Prankster
  • The Jailer: The Master Jailer
  • Jerkass: All the supporting cast at the Daily Planet (Lois, Perry, even Jimmy during the 90's) has been this at one time or another.
  • Jerk Jock: Steve Lombard, the resident sportswriter at the Daily Planet.
    • Whitney Fordman, a character in Season One of Smallville.
  • Just a Machine: Often his attitude towards AI.
  • Just Whistle: Jimmy's wristwatch can summon Supes.
  • Justice League of America
  • "Kick Me" Prank: This comic, along with a dose of Alliteration.
  • Kneel Before Zod: The Trope Namer
  • Krypto the Superdog
  • Krypton-Shattering Kaboom
  • Lantern Jaw of Justice: the Trope Codifier.
  • Last of His Kind: One of the classic examples, although the degree to which it actually applies varies over time.
  • Legion of Super-Heroes: He was a member when he was Superboy, depending on the continuity.
  • Lex Luthor
  • Lilliputians: People from the Bottle City of Kandor.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: In Superman: The Movie, Lois Lane dreamily says after her first interview with Supers, "What a super man... (Beat) Superman!"
  • Loves My Alter Ego: Lois Lane (used to be the Trope Namer. While Lois is known for more than just that, she is the iconic example). At least, until the Post-Crisis era when she finally learned the truth.
  • Mad Scientist: Lex Luthor, back in the day. And back in The Golden Age of Comic Books, there was the Ultra-Humanite.
  • Mad Magazine: Has used a number of parody names over the years including Superduperman, Stouperman, and Lotis & Cluck.
  • Make Me Wanna Shout: Silver Banshee
  • Master of Disguise: Jimmy Olsen, when he had his own book.
  • Me's a Crowd: This is how Bizarro populated Bizarro World.
  • The Messiah
  • Mind Screw: A story arc in Superman #307-309 written by Gerry Conway was about Superman being tricked by Supergirl into thinking that they are actually Earth-born mutants (because Superman was being a Soapbox Sadie over potential ecological disasters).
  • Mineral MacGuffin: Sunstone, the crystals Kryptonians used to grow buildings.
    • And Kryptonite, of course.
  • Minnesota Nice: Raised in Kansas, but the idea still applies. Supes is one of the nicest of all superheroes.
  • Mix-and-Match Man: The Conner Kent version of Superboy.
  • Modesty Cape: Real Life example: This has become a staple for the actresses who play Lois. Margot Kidder originated the pose, followed by Teri Hatcher and Erica Durance.
  • Moses in the Bulrushes
  • Muggle Foster Parents: The Kents.
  • Mythology Gag: In at least two continuities, Superman turned evil -- one of of which involved serving almighty Darkseid. Similarly, in at least three continuities -- one of which is the mainstream DCU -- Lex Luthor aspires to or becomes President Evil.
    • Much of the new Action Comics #1 is this to the original. This is a young brash Superman who is more activist like the original, his costume isn't finalized, his powers are mostly limited to the ones he had in the original Action Comics #1 (though the new version already has his heat vision and x-rays so this might also be a nod to Smallville), he even works for George Taylor at the Daily Star like he did in the original (they only changed the name to the Daily Planet because at the time there was an actual Daily Star and there were trademark concerns.)
    • The 2013 film Man of Steel made a very subtle one -- it takes a bit of Fridge Brilliance to realize that Superman's iconic costume, other than his cape, is in fact the underwear for Kryptonian battle armor!
  • Name's the Same: Despite her name, Lois Lane is not going to be in the musical version of Taming of the Shrew.
  • Never Be a Hero: Nine times out of ten, when someone gets superpowers it's not a good thing.
  • New Old Flame: Both Lana Lang and Lori Lemaris were introduced this way.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands
  • Nice Guy
  • Nice Hat: Nice Headband; A headband was the equivalent of a nice men's hat on Pre-Crisis Krypton, but also a symbol of citizenship; convicts like the Phantom Zoners were forbidden to wear them in public. They were traditionally an article of men's clothing, so Superman did a bit of a double take when Kara started wearing one when they became fashionable in the 80's.
  • Nigh Invulnerability: Not very "nigh," actually.
  • No Gravity for You: One classic story has a depowered Clark Kent using an Anti Gravity device to battle villains. It works because he knows how to fly and the Mooks don't.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown. Superman rarely enjoys such moments, but he has his moments. Superman explicitly tells Darkseid that he's going to enjoy finally not holding back in the final episode of JLU, in a major Crowning Moment of Awesome.
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Superman: That man [Batman] won't quit so long as he can draw breath. None of my teammates will. Me? I've got a different problem. I feel like I live in a world made of cardboard. Always taking care not to break something, to break someone. Never allowing myself to lose control, even for a moment. Someone could die. But you can take it, can't you, big man? What we have here is a rare opportunity for me to cut loose, and show you just how powerful I really am. [Lets loose with a punch that distorts the air with a sonic boom and sends Darkseid flying... real far.]

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  • No Man Should Have This Power: In "The Day the Cheering Stopped", Superman gets a magical sword which was apparently created at the dawn of time. It gives him incredible power (even for the pre-Crisis Superman) and helps him defeat the villain. In the end he realizes the incredible power the sword will give him and feels that it will make him an all powerful protector. He decides he doesn't want this power and throws it into space.
  • Official Couple: Superman and Lois Lane.
  • Old Retainer: In the Post-Crisis reboot, Superman eventually inherits his father's faithful robot servant Kelex.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: In some continuities, this is the origin of the name "Superman" -- it's a handle laid on him by Lois or Perry White for headlines and news stories, in lieu of a proper name.
  • Our Mermaids Are Different: Lori Lemaris
  • Outdated Outfit: Jimmy and his bow tie and jacket.
  • Papa Wolf: Clark is generally a nice guy but threaten Kara or Chris and you will be lucky to leave with just a few broken bones.
  • The Paragon: Depending on the continuity.
  • Perma-Shave: Courtesy of heat vision and mirrors.
  • Photographic Memory: He possessed this along with super-fast thinking in The Silver Age of Comic Books and The Bronze Age of Comic Books, and regained these abilities post-Infinite Crisis.
  • Phrase Catcher: "Look, up in the sky!"
  • Pillars of Moral Character [context?]
  • Polar Bears and Penguins: The location of the Fortress of Solitude, somewhere up north.
  • Powered Armor: Ruin. And sometimes Luthor.
  • Power Creep, Power Seep: Especially during The Silver Age of Comic Books, when he could fly many times faster than light, move planets by pushing on them, and survive the interior of a supernova.
    • In his first comic book appearances, Superman couldn't fly. That helps to illustrate just how far the power creep has gotten...
  • Powers as Programs: The Parasite
  • President Evil: Lex Luthor, from 2000 till roughly 2004. Arguably, one of the most iconic and interesting character developments that Lex Luthor has gone through over the years.
    • The idea of Lex becoming President of the United States was reused in Superman: Red Son. It has also been hinted several times that this will also happen in the future of Smallville‍'‍s version of the story.
  • Pretty in Mink: Lois, at least in some of the silver age covers.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Toyman
  • Psychic Powers: In the past "Psionic Superman" was one common explanation for Superman's Required Secondary Powers. He doesn't have super strength, he just lifts things with his mind and needs to touch them to use it (hence why he doesn't just rip his "handle" off whenever he carries something), "x-ray" vision is clairvoyance, "superhearing" is clairaudience, "heat vision" is pyrokinesis, and so on. This is the only ability of his clone in The Death of Superman, and was very strongly hinted at in John Byrne's post-Crisis reboot of the Superman mythos.
  • Raised by Natives: The Kents
  • Reality Warper: Mr. Mxyzptlk
  • The Reveal Prompts Romance: With Lois Lane.
  • Retcon: Many. That trope's page lists eight separate issues on which the character's history has changed, and some of those have gone back and forth more than once. And that's just counting retcons, not changes to the status quo going forward.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Uh, oh. You've just pressed Superman's rare Berserk Button.
  • Rival Turned Evil: Conduit
  • Robot Master: Toyman
  • Robot Me: The Superman robots
  • Rogues Gallery: Lex Luthor, Darkseid, Brainiac, Bizarro, Mr. Mxyzptlk, Metallo, Toyman, Mongul, the Parasite, General Zod, etc.
  • Romantic Runner-Up: Poor, poor Lana. Also, Superman himself wound up this to Lori, after she married an alien (an alien merman, natch). Poor Supes had actually proposed to Lori back in college, and she turned him down.
  • Samaritan Syndrome
  • Scout Out: One Justice League comic involved a situation where the heroes had to tie something off with a rope. Superman effortlessly makes an impressive knot. Someone compliments him on it, and he says, "Well, I was in the Boy Scouts," earning the comment, "Of course you were..."
    • Justice League Animated for some reason explicitly says the opposite :
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The Flash: So you're not a Boy Scout after all.
Superman: Never made it past my first merit badge.

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  • Secret Identity
  • Secret Identity Change Trick
  • Secret Secret Keeper: Pre-Crisis, childhood friend Pete Ross was the first person to figure out Clark's identity. He didn't let him know he knew until they were both adults. Post-Crisis, the trope still applies, but Pete figured it out as an adult.
    • Lori also figured out his identity long before telling him she knew; she's telepathic, after all.
  • Shock and Awe: Livewire
  • Shut UP, Hannibal
  • Sidekick: Jimmy Olsen straddles the line between sidekick and plain supporting cast member.
    • When Kirby was writing him, Jimmy got his own sidekicks, the Newsboy Legion.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Lex Luthor.
  • Space Pirate: Amalak. Also Terra-Man.
  • Space Western: As well as being a Space Pirate, Terra-Man is also a literal, time-displaced Space Cowboy. Complete with an alien flying horse. (The Post-Crisis version of Terra-Man never left Earth and is an eco-terrorist)
  • Spider Tank: A recurring Running Gag in Superman stories (including Superman: Birthright and Superman: Doomsday) is Supes having to fight a giant robotic spider, due to Executive Meddling (by Jon Peters) on the never-made '90s Superman film.
  • Spinoff Babies: Superboy, "Superbaby"
  • Starfish Character: Comic fans had almost forgotten it, too.
  • Stealth Mentor: Mr. Mxyzptlk, Depending on the Writer.
  • Story-Breaker Team-Up: Superman / Madman. Averted with Superman / Batman.
  • Strike Me Down with All of Your Hatred: Some dark heroes tried to get Superman to do this to discredit his idealism.
  • Superboy
  • Super Family Team: With Supergirl (his cousin), Superboy (his clone) and Steel (a friend).
  • Super Dickery
  • Supergirl
  • Superhero
  • Stock Superhero Day Jobs: "Mild Mannered Reporter for a great Metropolitan newspaper..."
    • In an episode of Smallville, Tess Mercer points out that a Superhero might think twice about being a reporter, as their coworkers make a job out of revealing secrets, among other things. She says this in response to a character that's more or less read off the list of reasons why being a reporter is a Stock Superhero Day Job.
  • Strong as They Need to Be: Supes' strength seems to be all over the place sometimes, writers differentiated it by making scales of power between the other Earths, in which the Superman from that universe isn't as strong as the Superman from the other one; Crisis on Infinite Earths came and mostly made the presence and worth of other Earths useless, with this Supes was (in theory) given a consistent power level; still it's common to see writers making notes about how Superman can destroy Earth with his strongest punch and run at the speed of light, things that only the ridiculously overpowered Silver Age (Pre-Crisis) Superman could do.
  • Superheroes Wear Capes
  • Super-Hero Origin: There was this planet, see, and it exploded...
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Doomed planet. Desperate scientists. Last hope. Kindly couple.

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  • Superhero Trophy Shelf: Not the Trope Codifier (that's probably the Trophy Room in The Phantom's Skull Cave), but the Fortress of Solitude is still probably the best known example. It's huge, and most of the space seems to be filled with souvenirs of Supey's adventures.
  • Superman Can Breathe In Space: In some continuities, like the DCAU, he requires an oxygen supply; in most, he just awesomes away the need to breathe. It's sometimes handwaved as being able to hold his breath a really long time.
  • Super Senses
  • Super Strength: And how. 200 quintillion tons? Superman only needs one arm for that. Bear in mind that in that story he was overpowered by solar radiation and that's supposed to be based on his Silver Age/Pre-Crisis incarnation.
  • Superpower Lottery: No matter how much some want to balance him out.
  • The Syndicate: Intergang.
  • Terra Deforming: One Silver Age comic shows the Fortress of Solitude surrounded by buildings, because future humans have intentionally melted the polar ice caps in order to colonize the Arctic. Superman is upset by this, not because of the catastrophic effect on the environment, but because he doesn't have privacy anymore.
  • Thematic Rogues Gallery: The Phantom Zone criminals.
  • Theme Initials: "L.L."
  • Thememobile: The Super-Mobile, used during situations where he is Brought Down to Normal to compensate for his lack of superpowers.
  • They Do: Clark and Lois, after several decades until reboot's Flashpoint.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill
    • And when his alternate self violates this rule in the DCAU, be afraid.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: In the first Christopher Reeve Superman film, Superman is given a Sadistic Choice by Lex Luthor. He destroys the missile headed for Hackensack, New Jersey, saving millions and keeping his promise, but in doing so is forced to let Lois Lane die. Superman ends up breaking Kryptonian law by using time travel to save her.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Beef bourguignon with ketchup. Lois introduced Clark to beef bourguignon. The ketchup was his addition.
  • Tranquil Fury: Very rare but used in some of his more memorable stories. Used against an Authority-Expy group in "What's Wrong with Truth, Justice, and the American Way?" with disturbing effect.
  • Tribute to Fido: The miniseries A Superman for All Seasons, by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, gave teenaged Clark Kent a dog named Shelby, after Sale's own dog. It was a two-panel gag, but Shelby later became more notable as the golden retriever in Smallville.
  • True Companions: The Daily Planet staff.
  • Tsundere: Lois Lane is a type B towards Clark.
  • Upbringing Makes the Hero: His childhood on a farm gave him his connection to humanity and values.
  • Unlucky Childhood Friend: Lana Lang.
  • Underwear of Power: Well, yeah. It's Superman.
  • Villainesses Want Heroes: Hot Amazon Maxima thinks Superman would make a good baby daddy.
  • Voodoo Shark: Superman needs to change into his costume, so he has to duck away for a second...into a phone booth?
    • It made more sense when phone booths were walled off boxes you couldn't look inside, rather than tiny glass bubbles around a phone that don't exist any more anyway. The 1978 movie got a good gag out of Clark trying find a place to change into Superman, and pausing to give a booth-less kiosk an incredulous glance. However, there is also another wrinkle to the legend: when reporters found themselves in the middle of a story, they would duck into the first phone booth and call the editor. Perfect alibi!
      • In Smallville, it makes sense again: the Daily Planet basement still has old-fashioned phone booths from when the building was built. The booths are tucked away in a corner of the basement and the one exposed side is covered with stained glass. Granted, though, Clark only seems to use it at night when no one else is in the basement.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Both Smallville (see above) and Metropolis -- though the "Big Apricot" is almost universally on the East Coast somewhere, and 90% of writers make it a Captain Ersatz of New York City. In the Fleischer cartoons, in fact, it was specifically stated that Clark & co. lived in Manhattan; it was a plot point in the "Electric Earthquake" short.
    • Eventually, it was settled that Smallville's location would be in rural Kansas. As for Metropolis, it's often hinted that it's at the bottom of upstate New York, somewhere on the state's small coastline. The story in which Earth-Prime's Superboy first appeared, right before the Crisis, explicitly described Earth-Prime!Manhattan as having overgrown and overrun the location of Metropolis, suggesting the two locations are adjacent but not identical. Alternately, several other sources have placed it in Delaware. And one briefly-canonical source put it on Great Egg Harbor Bay in New Jersey, a few miles southwest of Atlantic City.
  • Wife-Basher Basher: In the very first issue of his own comic in the 1930's, Superman deals with an abusive husband by brutally throwing the guy into a wall and beats him until he promises to never hit his wife ever again.
  • Will Not Tell a Lie: Superman himself, mostly. Except for those related to his Secret Identity.
    • And not even then. It isn't technically a lie if he says his name is Kal-El when asked, after all...
  • Wolverine Publicity
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Mr. Mxyzptlk goes back to his own dimension if tricked into saying his name backwards, though Post-Crisis this is a self-imposed weakness, one of many he uses as rules of the "game" he plays with Superman.
  • Wonder Child
  • Wrong Parachute Gag: In #176, which explains how Superman decided on his ideal location for his Fortress of Solitude, he's on a flight over the arctic as Clark Kent when the plane suffers engine troubles. Almost immediately, everyone went for the parachutes, but Clark, who was inspecting the packs with his x-ray vision, notices a ripped parachute and switches it with his good one. Luckily for Clark, nobody notices the Human Aliens dropping like a stone in the arctic night.
  • You Could Have Used Your Powers for Good: Supes towards any number of his enemies, especially Luthor.
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Traditionally, colorists have always used blue for the highlights in Superman's black hair. Parodies often take this literally, giving him actual blue hair.
    • Played straight by Livewire.
  1. OK, he doesn't actually know the weak and unmanly nerd Clark Kent that his daughter married is the dangerous and powerful alien menace that threatens Earth, humanity and mom's apple pie are one in the same, but he's still Supes' father-in-law.
  2. in most other respects, Goku is based on the Monkey King
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