The Last Son of Krypton. The Man of Steel. The Man of Tomorrow. The Big Blue Boy Scout. The iconicCape. The definitiveFlying Brick. TheSuperhero.While not quite the first superhero, he is certainly the Trope Codifier (and "super-" makes him the Trope Namer). Has been published continuously by DC Comicsfor over 70 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 are Human Aliens, 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 and to tolerate high-gravity environments that would immobilize or even kill weaker species. While on Krypton, which was fifteen times as massive as Earth and orbited a relatively low-heat Red Giant (or in some versions Red Dwarf), their physical abilities were about identical to humans. When exposed to Earth's lower gravity and the rays of its 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 in a career where he does not have to closely account for his whereabouts to his employers.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 façade 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; 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, the first character they called "Superman" was intended as a villain with superior mental powers (also ironically looking a lot like Lex Luthor, Bald of Evil and everythingnote In truth, the character probably inspired the Ultra-Humanite), 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, Super Breath, 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.
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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 teamups with Batman.
Emperor Joker: The Joker cons Mr. Mxyzptlk into giving him Mxy's reality warping powers and uses them to turn the world upside-down and repeatedly kill Batman. With Batman out of action, Superman has to stop him.
What's So Funny About Truth, Justice, and the American Way?: A Captain Ersatz of The Authority comes to Metropolis and tries to prove that their brutal methods of crimefighting are superior to Superman's softer approach. Received an animated adaptation as Superman Vs The Elite.
Up Up and Away: Set immediately after 52 Superman lost his powers in Infinite Crisis, Clark is helping bring Luthor to justice as a mild-mannered reporter, and has enough success that Lex hires metahuman killers to murder him. Luckily, Clark's powers start to return just as Lex begins a scheme to destroy Metropolis using Kryptonian technology. Notable for beginning a new era for Superman, one with several Silver Age aspects brought back in continuity, such as Luthor back to be a Mad Scientist rather than a Corrupt Corporate Executive. (To be sure, the post-Crisis Luthor was always as brilliant as the pre-Crisis Luthor, but post-Crisis Luthor didget that check in the new timeline. However, he couldn't remain a Villain with Good Publicity forever, so more recently, he's had to use science instead of wealth and power as his weapons... reminiscent of the old days when he didn't have wealth and power.)
Last Son: Superman discovers a Kryptonian child in a strange pod that falls to Earth, and, as his adoptive parents did with him, decides to raise this child with Lois Lane. Along the way, the child, named Chris Kent by Clark, discovers the joys of living like a human and having Flying Brick powers. This story also brings the Kryptonian General Zod into prominence (not the Soviet who was mutated by cosmic radiation), as well as canonizing his accomplices Ursa and Non from Superman II.
Brainiac: Superman fights the actual Brainiac for the first time (every other time, its was a remotely controlled robot probe or some other technological method). This story reintroduces the Bottle City of Kandor to post-Crisis continuity, and leads directly into...
The New Krypton arc, where Superman has to deal with the death of his father, his loyalty being divided between humanity and the 100,000 Kryptonian survivors he's manage to rescue, and a government/military conspiracy to kill him, led by his father-in-law*
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.
Superman and the Men of Steel: The re-re-re-revised origin as of the New 52 reboot. It once again decanonizes Clark's time as Superboy (but thankfully avoids another snarl with the Legion by establishing Legion presence in Clark's youth), having him take up heroics as a young adult, and starts him off as a Hero with Bad Publicity with him developing his powers over time similar to Man of Steel.
Smallville: One of the more unique takes on Superman, it follows young Clark Kent's journey from adolescence to adulthood and explores his reasons for becoming Superman. Recently surpassed Stargate SG-1 to become the US's longest running sci-fi show.
Superman Returns, a film supposedly in the same continuity but ignoringSuperman 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 4 years later in Smallville's tenth season.
Superman Batman Public Enemies - Based on the comic storyline of the same name, it features the World's Finest going up against President Lex Luthor after Luthor frames Superman for a crime he didn't commit.
Superman Vs The Elite - Based on the comic story "What's So Funny About Truth, Justice and the American Way?" Superman clashes with The Elite, Expies of The Authority, whose brutal style of heroics wins them a lot of fans—and makes the public question if Superman is still relevant.
See also Supergirl, his Distaff Counterpart, and Krypto the Superdog, his Kryptonian dog.Also worth mentioning: ''It's a Bird...," 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...
Alliterative Name: Commonly alliterating the letter L; Lois Lane, Lex Luthor, Lana Lang, and so on.
Clark Kent is not alliterative in writing but if said out loud uses the same k/hard-c phoneme.
Clark Kent's and Lois Lane's alliterative names may actually be the Trope Codifiers that started the trend of comic book characters (and sci-fi characters in general) being given alliterative names.
All Just a Dream: The first issue after the Death and Return storyline had Lois waking up to find Clark getting out the shower, causally commenting that she must have had a bad dream. Based on her reaction, the TV show Dallas was indeed broadcast in the DCU.
Assimilation Backfire: The villain Parasite is a power thief who also gains the victim's weaknesses. This means whenever he steals Superman's powerset, Superman can actually beat him by using kryptonite.
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 considred 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 an extremely powerful superhero.
Bizarre Alien Senses: Superman has all kinds of visions, not taking into account heat. X-Ray, microscopic, soul (Yeah that's a thing now.)
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).
He knows he cannot save them all. And he still tries.
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:
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.
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 event to feature this is during the OMAC Project storyline, 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.
Ursa, Non, and the growing sunstone crystals from the films.
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 later bought the rights to use her character, apparently just to prevent misuse from a third party. She was officially brought into the comics in Action Comics #893 in 2010.
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, in recent years 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, 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.
) 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.
Superman: "This looks like a job for Superman!" and "Up, up, and away!"
In the early years he would often say "Seconds to Act!" before jumping in to save someone Just in Time.
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.
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 boyscout 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.
Motif Merger: Chest insignias are used for Superman/Batman crossovers.
Clingy Jealous Girl: Silver-Age Lois and Lana, though not Lori, Luma, or Lyla. Chloe does this for a little while in the early seasons of Smallville.
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.
Jimmy Olsen who, due to Comic Book Time and RetCons, 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 writters goes with the basic: DNA extruture being completely different from each other, imposible 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 advanced science.
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.
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.
He beat up and/or killed (usually off-panel, but not always) humans quite frequently in his earliest appearances.
Also, his powers were added over time and his costume was all over the map. He used to wear lace up sandles 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.)
His arguably most famous power (flying) didn't even appear until the early 40's, around the time of the Superman Theatrical Cartoons. Before then, he could only leap tall bounds (the creators used the metaphor of a grasshopper's relative high jumps).
Eating Optional: In many incarnations, Supes doesn't need to eat, but often will out of habit or because he enjoys the taste.
Evolutionary Levels: The first Canonexplanation for Superman's powers in Action Comics #1. His unnamed planet was centuries 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.
Executive Meddling: In 1940, Jerry Siegal wrote a story called "The K-Metal from Krypton," that would have introduced an early version of kryptonite and Superman revealing his secret identity to Lois. Siegal's publishers nixed this story as damaging to the franchise and made it clear the Status Quo Is God that hold for years while both story innovations would have to wait for years.
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.
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.
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.
Happily Adopted: Clark is from outer space, but he and his folks are closer than blood.
Has A Type: Superman has one requirement. The initials L.L. His love interests are Lana Lang, Lori Lemaris, and Lois Lane. This gives an interesting spin to his relationship with Lex Luthor.
Heavyworlder: Superman's powers were, in many older stories including the entire Silver Age run, due in part to Krypton's heavier gravity.
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 Expo Speak 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.
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.
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.
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).
My Dear Idiot: Lois Lane's use of "Smallville" for Clark Kent in some continuities goes from insulting to affectionate over the course of time.
Mythology Gag: In at least two continuities, Superman turned evil—one of of which involved serving almightyDarkseid. 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.)
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.
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 ofcardboard. Always taking care not to break something, to break some one. 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 with a sonic boom and sends Darkseid flying... real far.]
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 pre-Crisis Superman) and helps him defeat the villian. 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.
Old Retainer: In the Post-Crisis reboot, Superman eventually inherits his father's faithful robot servant Kelex.
One Super One Powerset: Among other things, Superman has a weakness to Kryptonite. He also has a Kryptonite Proof Suit. You'd expect him to wear it pretty much all the time or at least line his costume with lead to reduce the effects. However, he brings it out only when he's fighting a villain that specifically uses Kryptonite as a weapon and expects it in advance.
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.
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. This is the only ability of his clone in The Death of Superman.
Reimagining The Artifact: Clark's job as a reporter was considered an artifact for decades, which led to him being recast as a TV reporter. However, the problem was solved by asserting Clark's love of writing, a craft that not only allows him to do a social good just as important as his superhero activities, but also allows him to earn a living that feels like he does not have a unfair advantage.
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.
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.
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..."
Second Super Identity: Back in the early '90s, the Superman comic books had a super-antihero named Gangbuster. After a year, he turned out to be Superman, with a trauma-induced separate personality.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 movie got a good gag out of Superman trying to duck into a phone booth, only to find a booth-less kiosk. 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 phonebooths 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.
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.
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 Alien dropping like a stone in the arctic night.