Franchise / Superman

"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

Up in the sky! Look! It's a Bird! It's a plane! It's the description for SUPERMAN!

The Last Son of Krypton. The Man of Steel. The Man of Tomorrow. The Big Blue Boy Scout. The iconic Cape. The definitive Flying Brick. The Big Good of the DC Universe.

The Superhero.

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 Comics for over 75 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. 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; this career helps him find disasters and emergencies that much sooner and does not require him to closely account for his whereabouts to his employers.

Naturally, the Clark Kent/Superman dichotomy—most particularly, the question of which is the "real" person and which is the "mask"—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 the Silver Age, Clark Kent was little more than a façade for Superman. After Crisis on Infinite Earths, this idea was reversed. In some versions, both are essential parts of who he is; others, particularly Alan Moore, see both as masks worn by Kal-El to interact with humanity. 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, 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 (pre-Crisis, throughout his childhood and teen years, before dying shortly after Clark's high school graduation; post-Crisis, advising him well into adulthood; and in the New 52 both dying before he becomes Superman); 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, in some interpretations, she would eventually fall for Clark, not Superman, before learning they were the same person and marrying him/them. In other takes, Superman has been a bachelor or dated/married different characters (currently, he's dating Wonder Woman).

Originally created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, 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 ), 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 (to the point where he can push planets), Super Speed (several times faster than light speed), Flight, X-Ray Vision, Heat Vision, Super Breath, Freeze Breath, Nigh-Invulnerability (surviving supernova explosions and black holes), 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.

See also Supergirl, his Distaff Counterpart.

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    Notable 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.

    Notable Comic Book Stories 
  • Superman's Service to Servicemen: A series of stories that ran from 1943-45 in which Superman takes letters from US soldiers overseas and solves problems for them or helps with requests. The series also includes an explanation for why Superman himself is not a member of the armed forces during World War 2. Notable for transforming the Golden Age Superman from the rough and tumble vigilante and social justice version of the character into the more familiar well-known hero and public servant who is admired by everyone.
  • The Living Legends Of Superman: An anthology of stories based on the premise on how future history would view Superman when he is gone.
  • Kryptonite Nevermore: Regarded as the first Bronze Age storyline for Superman, it sees all the Kryptonite on Earth destroyed and Superman's off the charts Silver Age power levels scaled way back to much more manageable levels.
  • For the Man Who Has Everything: Mongul incapacitates Superman by attaching a plant that grants an image of the innermost desires to the host. Adapted on Justice League Unlimited (and more loosely on the Supergirl TV show).
  • The Man of Steel: Contains Superman's revised origin, due to the Continuity Reboot brought about by the Crisis on Infinite Earths storyline.
  • Superman for All Seasons: An in-universe year-long look at Superman through the narration of Pa Kent, Lex Luthor, Lois Lane, and Lana Lang, focusing on each of their perceptions of him.
  • Exile and Eradication: After sentencing the General Zod and his accomplices of a Pocket Universe to death, Superman is consumed with guilt and leaves the Earth to do some soul-searching. When he returns, he must deal with the destructive artifact known as the Eradicator.
  • Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite: Unable to mess with Superman, Mr. Mxyzptlk gives Luthor a synthetic Kryptonite to drain Superman's powers. Notable for its ending with Clark Kent proposing to Lois Lane.
  • Panic in the Sky!: Brainiac heads to Earth with Warworld, intending to attack, and Superman assembles a small army of heroes to take the fight to Brainiac. Establishes the post-Crisis Superman as a leader among the hero community.
  • The Death of Superman, World Without a Superman, and Reign of the Supermen: Superman is killed by a monster known as Doomsday. After the funeral and attempts to steal Superman's body, four others appear on the scene either claiming to be Superman returned from the grave, or trying to help take his place.
  • The Battle For Metropolis/The Fall of Metropolis: A clone malady has infected Lex Luthor's healthy clone body, causing him to declare war on Cadmus Project in order to find a cure, a street war that ultimately leaves Metropolis in ruins. Notable for kickstarting the Milestone Comics Crossover Worlds Collide in the middle of the story.
  • Superman: The Wedding Album: Superman and Lois Lane get married.
  • 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.
  • President Lex: In his grandest scheme to top the Man of Steel, Lex Luthor becomes president.
  • Our Worlds at War: A semi-Crisis Crossover mainly centered on Superman that involved him and everyone else fighting the obscenely powerful Imperiex.
  • Superman: Birthright: The re-revised origin, replacing The Man of Steel.
  • Up Up and Away: Set immediately after 52. Superman lost his powers in Infinite Crisis, so Clark is helping bring Luthor to justice as a mild-mannered reporter, and is having 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 being 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 did get 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, it was a remotely controlled robot probe or some other technological method). This story reintroduces the Bottled City of Kandor to post-Crisis continuity, reintroduces many elements associated with Silver Age Brainiac and leads directly into New Krypton below. This arc was also adapted to Superman Unbound.
  • 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 note .
  • The Black Ring arc & Reign of Doomsday arc, the former of which starred not Superman, but archenemy Lex Luthor on a quest to achieve godhood, and the latter of which, taking place simultaneously, saw Luthor using Doomsday as a pawn against not only Superman, but his entire family and supporting cast. Featuring crossovers from many other DC characters, including Superman foes Brainiac and (duh) Doomsday, it was the last Superman/Luthor battle to take place prior to the New 52 reboot.
  • Superman: Grounded: After the events of New Krypton, Superman feels he is out of touch with the humans he has sworn to protect, so he decides to walk across America to reconnect with humanity.
  • Superman: Secret Origin: The re-re-revised origin, replacing Birthright - until DC rebooted its whole continuity again.
  • Grant Morrison's run on the rebooted Action Comics. 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.
  • Superman Unchained: A Superman mini series by the Dream Team of writer Scott Snyder and artist Jim Lee in the New 52 concerning Superman's experiences with and conflict against a superhuman similar to himself that is in the service of the US military.
  • H'el on Earth: A crossover event with Supergirl and Superboy, where the three go up against H'el: a mysterious powerful Kryptonian who wishes to resurrect Krypton at the expense of Earth.
  • Krypton Returns. Another crossover event which also serves as the sequel to H'El on Earth. When H'El travels in time to prevent Krypton's destruction, Superman, Superboy and Supergirl travel to the past to stop him.
  • Superman: Doomed: A crossover event which features a confrontation with Doomsday that caused Superman to mutate into a Doomsday-like creature.
  • Superman: Lois and Clark: A miniseries that brings back the pre-Flashpoint Superman and Lois Lane, along with their son Jon, following the events of Convergence. The family is found living in the New 52 universe, doing their best to fit in and survive in a universe that's not only different from their own but also has its own versions of them.
  • Superman: Truth: A story arc that features major changes in Superman's status quo after the Convergence event. After his secret identity is revealed to the world by Lois, Superman is forced to go on the run.
  • Superman: Savage Dawn: The conclusion of the Truth status quo. Superman confronts Vandal Savage, the villain responsible for his power loss.
  • Superman: Super League: The final storyline for New 52 Superman. In the aftermath of Savage Dawn, The Darkseid War and his fight with Rao, Superman is dying. But, before he goes, he's deadset on making sure humanity isn't defenseless without him.

    Notable non-Canon stories 

    TV series 

Non-Canon TV series:
  • The Adventures of Superman: The black-and-white/later color George Reeves (not to be confused with Christopher Reeve) series that introduced the famous phrase: "Truth, Justice, and the American Way"
  • The New Adventures of Superman: The first animated show starring the character.
  • The Adventures of Superboy: Precursor of sorts to Smallville, based on the Silver Age version of Superboy and featuring Lana Lang.
  • Ruby-Spears Superman: The first adaptation to incorporate John Byrne's revisions of the character.
  • Lois and Clark: The first TV series to pick up on the John Byrne-era post-Crisis idea of Clark as the real person and Superman as the disguise, and of Lex Luthor as a corrupt CEO. Also, this series focuses more on the title characters' relationship.
  • Superman: The Animated Series: An animated series that was a successor to/companion of Batman: The Animated Series at the start of the DC Animated Universe.
  • 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. One of the US' longest-running sci-fi shows ever.note 
  • Krypton, a prequel to Man of Steel

  • The Superman and Superman vs. Atom Man serials, starring Kirk Alyn.

  • "(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman" by The Kinks from their album "Low Budget".
  • Laurie Anderson's "O Superman", a politically charged interpretation of Superman.
  • 3 Doors Down's song "Kryptonite".
  • Eminem's "Superman" a NFSW number about why the singer can't be your superman.
  • Five for Fighting's "It's not easy"

  • The Adventures of Superman (1942) by George Lowther, a retelling of Superman's origin followed by a story about the character involving pirate ghosts. In this book, his adopted parents were named Sarah and Eben, rather than the more familiar Martha and Jonathan.
  • Superman: Last Son of Krypton (1978) by Elliot S! Maggin. Superman must team up with Lex Luthor to oppose the plans of an alien conqueror who is literally predestined to rule. Mostly serves as a character study of both Bronze Age Superman (and Bronze Age Luthor).
  • Miracle Monday (1981) by Elliot S! Maggin. Lex Luthor discovers the physical basis for magic and uses it to escape prison, accidentally releasing a demon called C.W. Saturn on Earth. Saturn proceeds to challenge Superman in an attempt to destroy his standing as the moral champion of humanity.
  • The Life and Death of Superman (1993) by Roger Stern. As the name may imply, it's a retelling of the hero's death at the hands of Doomsday and return following the presence of four impostors. It also included some details about Superman's backstory which is written to mirror the continuity of the comics at the time.
  • Superman: Doomsday & Beyond (1993) by Louise Simonson. Also an adaptation of Superman's death & resurrection, but intended for a younger audience.
  • Enemies And Allies (1990) by Kevin J. Anderson. Batman meets Superman in the late 1950s at the height of the Cold War.
  • The Last Days of Krypton Also, by Kevin J. Anderson. Here we get a look at Krypton before its inevitable destruction.

    Animated movies 

    Video Games 


  • It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superman premiered on Broadway in March 1966, just as the Dynamic Duo was dominating American TV. Sadly, the Man of Steel was not nearly so successful on the Great White Way, and the show lasted less than six months. It was adapted into an ABC TV special in 1975, and has been revived several times to modest success, most recently in London in 2014.

    Other versions 
  • The 1940's radio version which created the "Up, up, and away!" catchphrase
  • The Just Imagine version of Superman
  • The Tangent Comics version of Superman
  • The Earth One contemporary version of Superman by J. Michael Straczynski and Shane Davis as a young man, similar to Marvel's Ultimate Spider-Man except that this series comes out bi-annually in original graphic novel format. Compare to the New 52 version of Superman.
  • The 1930s version of the character, or more specifically of Clark Kent, seen in Tom De Haven's 2005 novel It's Superman!

  • Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies:
    • Goofy Groceries, a spot gag cartoon from 1941 (about then-popular advertising mascots and products coming to life). One of the earliest Superman parodies saw the superhero, pictured on a box of soap flakes, confronting the short's main antagonist, an Animal Crackers gorilla, who has captured a Can-Can dancer. Superman confronts the gorilla, which promptly growls at him and causes him to cower and run in fear, like a little boy.
    • Super-Rabbit, a 1943 short starring Bugs Bunny as the titular hero. After gaining Superman-like powers by eating super-charged carrots, Bugs takes up the titular identity to capture the hunter "Cottontail" Smith. Bugs confronts and taunts the hunter and his horse, but his hubris get the better of him and he loses his carrots while in flight, instead being eaten by the two. Confronting the now-powered up criminals, Bugs declares that "This looks like a job for a REAL Superman", dives into a phone booth... and dons the uniform of the U.S. Marines, marching off for "Berlin, Tokyo and all points East." This short was notable for making Bugs Bunny an honorary member of the U.S. Marines through the Army's tenure in World War II.
    • Stupor Duck, a 1956 short starring Daffy Duck as the titular character and his alter ego, Cluck Trent. The story centers around Daffy/Stupor pursing a non-existant supervillain named Ratnik, coming to his conclusion after listening in on his editor's office note  and not realizing he was merely watching a TV show and that the stated threats were mere fiction. The comedy comes as Stupor searches for "Ratnik" and finds "evidence" of his work — an old building being imploded for a new skyscraper, a submarine conducting war games being mistaken for a cruise ship being sank by Ratnik's goons, an abandoned railroad bridge being demolished for a Warner Bros. movie, and a government moon rocket mistaken for a nuclear warhead. Even the opening of the Superman cartoons/TV shows is parodied: Stupor is "more powerful than a bullet" (a pop gun), "more powerful than a locomotive" (a puttering 1800s-style train) and "able to leap tall buildings in (not quite) a single bound."
  • Super-Turtle, a Funny Animal turtle with Superman's powers, who appeared in various half-page humor strips in various Silver Age DC Comics.
  • Super-Squirrel, Superman's Funny Animal counterpart on Earth-C-Minus. The "Squirrel of Steel" is shown to be a member of his world's "JLA" (the "Just'a Lotta Animals").
  • How It Should Have Ended. Superman is a recurring character in that web series, appearing at the Super-Café alongside Batman in practically every comic book film-related episode.

See also Supergirl, his Distaff Counterpart, and Krypto the Superdog, his Kryptonian dog.

Also worth mentioning: It's a Bird..., a graphic novel written 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...

This looks like a job for TV Tropes:

    A - D 
  • The Ace: Let's face it, Superman seriously won the Super Power Lottery with the strength, flight, invulnerability, etc. but beyond that he's usually portrayed as incredibly competent and makes very few technical mistakes. He has eidetic memory, thinks billions of times faster than humans, had a super indexed I.Q. (the dude learned how to perform life saving surgery from a library of medical texts in 4 minutes). It's even a plot device in Superman: Earth One as right out of college, Clark lands every job he tries out for that involves technical skill (though he doesn't get the Daily Planet job at first because being a reporter or journalist is a very subjective job). He's almost perfect in every way and usually what makes him so interesting is how he deals with living in an imperfect world.
  • Acid-Trip Dimension: More than one.
  • Adolf Hitlarious: Hitler's appearance in an early 1945 newspaper story depicts him as a buffoon who invites Superman to Germany and dresses up as Superman himself in order to convince the genuine Superman that they were Not So Different and that they should all rule the world together. Superman is not amused.
  • Afraid of Their Own Strength: One of the trope codifiers, see Beware the Nice Ones and Blessed with Suck below
  • Aliens and Monsters: The very first Bizarro story by Otto Binder assumed Bizarro to fall into this category, and he is destroyed at story's end. Fan letters quickly made it clear that Bizarro was much too sympathetic to die so ignominiously, and he was soon re-created by Lex Luthor.
  • Alliterative Name: Commonly alliterating the letter L; Lois Lane, Lex Luthor, Lana Lang, Lori Lemaris, Linda Lee, Lightning Lad, Lyla Lerrol and so on.
    • Also Clark Kent
      • 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.
    • Some others include Conner Kent, Chris Kent, Hank Henshaw, and Vernon O'Valeron (aka Vartox)
  • 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.
  • Alternate Continuity: when Superman was introduced, a number of things were inconsistent with what he would become by the 1950s. In the 1960s, D.C. established some of their characters had counterparts on Earth-2 to represent earlier incarnations and so the same was done with Superman and the Supermen of Earth 1 and 2 existed until 1986 when the character was rebooted. Alternate versions have, however, come again including "All Star Superman" and "Earth-One" both of which are series that take place outside of the regular DC Universe.
    • Between the various media adaptations and the "Imaginary Stories", arguably more than any other fictional character.
      • Superman was first published in 1938. As early as the debut of the newspaper strips in 1939, alternate continuities began to appear, with stories that differed from the comics, including how Clark Kent became a reporter. The radio show offered yet another origin for Superman when it debuted in 1940. This trope goes right back to the very beginning of the character.
      • To put it in perceptive, there's an entire page on the Other Wiki's website that talks about every version of Superman to exist as well as having links to his appearances in other media.
  • Amazing Technicolor Population: The New 52 applies this trope to the Kryptonians, who in the new continuity were big on artificially achieving the "ideal body".
  • Ambiguously Jewish: Superman's background story is a pastiche of Moses and the immigrant Jewish experience, with a bit of Take That towards the Nazi idea of the Ubermensch.
  • And Call Him George: Usually defied, but occasionally Superman's strength will be applied too forcefully when he's being affectionate.
  • Anti-Hero Substitute: During The Death of Superman arc, Eradicator was essentially Superman if he were a Nineties Anti-Hero.
  • Anti-True Sight: Superman's X-Ray vision can be blocked by lead. However, Superman once used this to his advantage when The Joker tried to distract him with lead lined coffins planted throughout Metropolis; a quick wide beam scan made them stand out instantly as opaque objects.
    • During a Golden Age Prankster story in Action Comics, this was how Superman found the Prankster's hideout. The room was made of a material Superman couldn't see through, so naturally it attracted his attention
  • Appropriated Appellation: In some continuities, got his superhero name from the press.
  • Arch-Enemy: Since the early 1940s, it's been Luthor. Depending on the continuity, Brainiac, General Zod, and Darkseid may be up there as well. Prior to Luthor's appearance, the Ultra-Humanite was Superman's biggest foe.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Lex Luthor asks Superman one in the Elseworld of Red Son.
    • Superman gets one of his own, when he said. "You always said that I was holding you back, Lex. It's been a year without me. Where's the cancer cure? Where's the miracle tech?" Which pointed out that Lex Luthor wasn't out to help anyone but himself.
  • Armored Villains, Unarmored Heroes: Lex Luthor uses Powered Armor whenever he confronts Superman in person. Superman, of course, has no need for such toys.
  • 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.
  • Atrocious Alias: One comic featured a retired villain called "The Molester," which he intended to mean "The Annoyance."
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: Titano
  • Bad Is Good and Good Is Bad: Bizarro.
  • Bald of Evil: The Ultra-Humanite, until he transfers his brain into Dolores Winters. Also Luthor and Brainiac, who occasionally team up.
  • Barrier Warrior: Pre-Crisis, Brainiac's most powerful ability was a force field so strong even Superman could not penetrate it.
  • Bash Brothers: Superman and Batman. Also Superman and Supergirl, at least before the Crisis.
  • Beware the Nice Ones:
    • Superman's one word response to being mind raped in "For the Man Who Has Everything".
    Superman: BURN.
    • The Elite also learn this the hard way.
    • 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.
  • Beware the Superman: As of the New 52 reboot. Superman himself tends to meet this attitude with confusion - he doesn't see himself this way at all and doesn't understand why someone would.
    • Prior to the New 52, he understood perfectly why people would feel this way. Part of the reason he wears bright colors, no mask, and tries so hard to maintain a reputation as a boy scout is so that innocent people will understand that they don't need to be terrified of him — making him the exact opposite of Batman, a mortal man who expends tremendous effort to ensure that people are terrified of him. The first person to point out this difference between the two was Mr. Mxyzptlk.
    • In the Novelization of Kingdom Come, Wonder Woman points out that Superman could have easily just been an invisible guardian, but he chose to fly in the sky wearing those bright colors "like Apollo", and serve as an inspiration. Supes response was to reply lamely, "An ounce of prevention..."
    • In Lois and Clark, the pre-52 Superman functions as an invisible guardian, proving Wonder Woman right.
  • Big Good: He is traditionally the chairman (and often acknowledged as the most powerful member) of the Justice League, and when not acting in his capacity as a Leaguer most other heroes tend to defer to his authority and judgment if only out of respect.
    • During the Bronze Age, Eliot S! Maggin liked to portray Superman as the living incarnation of the universe's moral imperative for good. Superman was literally the Big Good of the D.C. Universe.
  • 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.
    • It's also been shown in various series that his worst nightmare is losing control, becoming more and more powerful so much so that he can't even keep it under key. Supes views his own abilities as blessed with suck because he does grow stronger, and with growing stronger means gaining more fine motor controls, controls he's afraid that one day he won't have. Blessed with suck indeed!
    • Superman: The Movie also highlighted one of his Adult Fears. When Jonathan dies of a heart attack, he says, "All my powers... and I couldn't save him." Thanks to his hyper-sensitive senses, he also hears many cries for help, "but he knows he can't save them all." Just think of it, having the power to save anyone but having to make the Sadistic Choice of who to save. Every day of your life.
  • Bored With Insanity: Mr. Mxyzptlk, in an Elseworld/"imaginary story".
  • 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.
  • Brought Down to Normal: Being under a red sun will do it. Superman visited Kandor many times just to be a regular guy - and a Batman Expy named Nightwing.
    • It's happened on a few other occasions too, notable ones being after Infinite Crisis and during Superman: Truth.
    • The N52 Superman's "solar flare" power brings him down to normal for a day after he uses it.
    • One can usually spot Character Derailment if the writer thinks Superman is all about his powers, and when he loses them, he's either pathetic or Wangsty. invoked
  • Brought to You by the Letter "S" (Just take a look!)
  • Bus Full of Innocents: A common "This looks like a job for..." moment for Superman. See: Superman: The Movie. Kingdom Come features a tram full of innocents.
  • Butt Monkey: In the Pre-Crisis Silver Age, as depicted on, almost anyone that ol' Supes encounters becomes a Butt Monkey — he forces Lois and Jimmy to marry apes, leaves civilians in mortal peril (or just refuses to untie them) while he goes to hunt the bad guys....
  • 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, Non, and the growing sunstone crystals from the films.
    • Chloe Sullivan, from Smallville. 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.
  • 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, Agent M, the Silver Sentry, Captain Amazing, Gladiator, Hyperion, The Sentry, the Plutonian, Suppaman, and (at least in regard to his originnote ) 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).
    • The truly funny thing about all this? Superman himself began life as a Captain Ersatz of John Carter of Mars. "Leap tall buildings in a single bound" wasn't always just a poetic turn of phrase, when he made his first appearance Superman literally jumped, he couldn't actually fly. His feats of strength were also much more in line with those that John Carter could perform on Mars. He was basically just John Carter in reverse, coming from an alien planet to Earth and getting enhanced strength and durability. Over time with Power Creep, Power Seep (and, in the Silver Age, New Powers as the Plot Demands), as well as Character Development he became a much more distinct character, but in the beginning he was pretty much just John Carter ON EARTH.
  • Cartwright Curse: Mostly averted, notwithstanding some stories taking place in the distant future in which Lois has passed away.
    • An interesting subversion takes place in Superman: the Movie where Lois dies and Superman flies back in time to save her.
  • Catch Phrase: There have been many:
    • Superman: "This looks like a job for Superman!" "Great Krypton!" 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.
      • In the Silver Age, he often used the phrase "Great Scott," but it's far less common these days.
    • 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.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: Pre-Crisis Supes and Pre-N52 Supes. Both incarnations just want to save people even if they're Brought Down to Normal or forced to be a Mysterious Protector. The N52 Supes is getting there, refusing to let the long-term power loss of Superman: Truth stop him being a hero.
  • Clark Kenting: Of course! It's easier to believe in early stories, when Superman was not a well-known or recognizable figure, and only Lois encountered him with any regularity.
    • Interestingly, in one Golden Age story, Clark and Lois were going undercover to infiltrate a club where robberies of wealthy patrons was taking place. Lois bleached her hair, and insisted that Clark remove his glasses. When he does, she doesn't recognize him as Superman. She's just surprised that, as she says, "you're actually kind of handsome!"
    • In one of the newspaper strip plotlines, a Hollywood producer is making a Superman movie and decides that Clark Kent would be perfect for the role, due to his close resemblance to Superman. He has Clark remove his glasses. Lois looks him over, and her comment is "I guess he could sort of look like Superman, if you stretch your imagination to its limits."
    • Thanks to the help of robots or friendly shape-shifters (and on more than one occasion, Bruce Wayne), Clark Kent and Superman have appeared together enough that Clark's "resemblance" to Supes is explained as a coincidence. This fact is lampshaded in All-Star Superman when Superman finally reveals his identity to Lois, and she refuses to believe it because he's done such a good job of covering it up all these years.
  • 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.
  • 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 powers and costume to be lightning-themed, as a result of his near-death experience at the hands of Doomsday (basically, his Kryptonian biology that processed sunlight and turned it into energy for him to use decided to go Up to Eleven and turned him into an actual energy being). The idea was that Superman had become too comfortable in his powers and personal life and that putting him in a situation of having to relearn his abilities would be a chance for Character Development. That plan didn't go over well. Then he got his original powers and 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 Boyscout's uniform will be ripped a new one.
  • Combat Pragmatist: If Superman needs to take down an opponent quickly, and circumstances allow him to do it without using lethal force, he is able to do that quickly. For instance, one time he was in a hurry to face a Big Bad and Metallo stood in his way. Superman noted that he has no time to waste with a twerp like him and simply shot off his limbs with his heat vision, leaving the cyborg in a pile of parts and his limbless torso out of action, but otherwise unhurt.
  • 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.
  • Continuity Snarl: In the early days, Superman's adventures were rather inconsistent, which was common at the time. After D.C. Comics had created Earth-2 where earlier versions of some of their superheroes existed, it was decided that there was a Superman on that Earth who was more consistent with the earliest stories (was never Superboy, worked for the Daily Star, etc.). That satisfied most fans, but others were quick to point out that not all of the inconsistencies could be so-explained (Kryptonite was introduced years after the Superboy retcon, which was decreed years after his newspaper and boss' names were changed) and the hardest of the hardcore insist that there was at-least one other alternate Earth to explain this.
  • 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.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: He religiously tries to avoid giving these and mostly succeeds, but if you really manage to piss him off, he will give you the beating of a lifetime. He does occasionally wind up on the receiving end of these, however, with Mongul I being one of the most notable examples.
  • Curse Cut Short: One exchange between Superman and Brainiac in the Justice League cartoon:
    Superman: Read my lips, go to-
    Brainiac: Unfortunate...
  • Da Editor: Perry White.
  • Death by Origin Story: His parents died, of course, when Krypton blew up. Originally this also included both Pa and Ma Kent dying, marking the passage between Superboy and Superman.
    • Averted in post-Crisis Superman, where both Ma and Pa Kent are alive in the main continuity.
      • Played straight again in the New 52.
  • 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. vary quite a bit over the decades of his existence.
    • 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 writers go with the basic: DNA structures being completely different from each other, making it impossible to make children. Others goes with the Power of Love: 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.
  • 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.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: In one of the anti-smoking Richard Williams ads, Supes deals with the villain (a petty cigar peddler named Nick O Teen, who was tricking kids into smoking) in a very Out of Character fashion—by grabbing him by the collar and throwing him into orbit!
    Superman: "Not so fast, Nick O Teen! If you want to go up fast, take one of THESE!"

    E - I 
  • 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. (Though this has been exaggerated greatly by out-of-context covers, panels, and pages.)
    • He beat up and/or killed (usually off-panel, but not always) humans quite frequently in his earliest appearances.
    • In his very first appearance, he bound and gagged a woman whom he identified as a murderer; he kept her bound while he persuaded the governor to halt the execution of the other woman, who was wrongfully convicted of the same murder mere seconds before she was to be executed. (Later on, female villains always realized defeat before being confronted, or other females would deal with the villain.)
    • 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.)
      • 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).
    • In the early issues of Action Comics and Superman, Clark Kent's place of employment and editor were the Daily Star and George Taylor respectively. The editor went without a name at all for a long time, and there is a single issue where Clark Kent sends his dispatches to the Evening News in Cleveland, Ohio.
  • Eating Optional: In many incarnations, Supes doesn't need to eat, but often will out of habit or because he enjoys the taste.
  • Egocentric Team Naming: Team Superman and The Supermen of America.
    • The latter takes its name from the official Superman fan club, back in the Golden Age.
  • 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 was intended to be this when he was initially created, but he's simply too stupid to comprehend the harm he can cause, rather than intentionally being evil.
  • Evolutionary Levels: The first Canon explanation 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.
  • 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
  • Fanfare: Many of the adaptations will have a fanfare of some kind, often with a three note motif, basically saying "Superman" through music.
  • Fantastic Naming Convention: Kryptonians are typically given one syllable names and have one syllable family names, such as the lead character Kal-El.
  • Fantastic Racism: In Superman: Godfall, the Kandorians are incredibly xenophobic and racist against all non-native Kandorians, especially Empireths, who are mutants with psychic powers as well as the typical Kryptonian powers under a yellow sun.
  • Fiction 500: Lex Luthor since The '80s.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • Genius Bruiser: In Real Life and In-Universe people do tend to forget Superman's formidable intellect and cunning. Understandable because his physical power is quite overshadowing, but enemies, readers and audiences alike underestimate Clark's brains at their peril.
  • Good Is Old-Fashioned: A favorite jeer of antiheroes against him.
  • Going for the Big Scoop: Lois Lane, frequently.
  • Gratuitous Spanish:
    • Third-rate villain Encantadora is from Spain and the writers will remind you of it by generously peppering her dialogues with unnecessary Spanish words and phrases. It gets really annoying after a couple of pages...
    • the 2000 Superman Annual was part of the "Planet DC" event, featuring familiar heroes going to foreign countries and teaming up with new heroes from those countries. Superman teamed up with three Mexican heroes, Acrata, Iman, and El Muerto, all of whom are extremely prone to this; El Muerto describes his amazing stealth as allowing him to disappear and reappear at will, "like a fantasmo."
  • 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.
  • Groin Attack: Expect Superman to suffer this in some Fanfictions, although it's not always effective. Not surprising.
  • 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.
  • Hero Does Public Service: No job is too small for the Man of Steel. One day, he's halfway across the galaxy fighting a universal threat. The next, he's reading books to orphans or planting gardens.
  • 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..."
  • Holding Out for a Hero: The stories have explored this on many an occasion, Supes himself seems particularly worried that the world will grow overreliant on him and become unable to function if anything happens to him. As a result, he holds off on stopping most crimes and natural disasters; his general philosophy is that if humanity can handle it on their own, he's going to let them try. This is arguably Lex Luthor's beef with Superman... but only because Luthor wants humanity overreliant and unable to function without him.
    • In Superman: Red Son, wherein a communist Superman had no problems with using his abilities to prevent every bad thing possible (from each according to his abilities and all that), people did indeed grow too reliant upon him to solve all their problems. Eventually cars stopped being manufactured with seatbelts — the citizens expected Superman to save them if they got into a wreck. (Ironically enough, Lex Luthor opposed him on those grounds in that reality, too.)
    • Superman's ultimate retort to Lex Luthor comes in All-Star Superman at the end:
      Luthor: I could have saved the world!
      Superman: You could have saved the world years ago if you had wanted to.
    • This explains Lois Lane's reckless behavior in many of the Golden Age comics and Fleischer Studios Superman Theatrical Cartoons. She gets in trouble so often because she's sure Superman will always come to save her, and in fact she wants the excuse to see Superman again. Highlighted in Elliot S! Maggin's novel Last Son of Krypton:
      Professor Gordon: Say you were somewhere really out of the way, Miss Lane. In Zaire. In the abandoned shaft of a diamond mine. The mine caved in. You had about an hour's supply of air. Absolutely no one knew where you were, and even if they did there would be no chance of getting you out in time. What goes through your mind?
      Lois Lane: I wish Superman would stop stalling. I've got a deadline to meet.
    • The whole Superman holding back ordeal started in the Bronze Age with Elliot S. Maggin's Must There Be A Superman? from Superman #247. In it, The Guardians of the Universe subtly imply to him that his superheroics are causing human culture to stagnate and to cut it out. He's shaken by it and decides to hold back on the problems that regular humans would be fine with handling.
    • It can be said that Superman is trying to defy this trope by using his status as The Paragon. He is supposed to empower humanity, not to be a living crutch.
  • Hologram: Usually of Jor-El.
  • Home Base: The Fortress of Solitude
  • Home Field Advantage: Played with by Superman and other Kryptonians, who have a Home Field Advantage anywhere near a yellow sun.
  • Hostile Terraforming: In various media, villainous Kryptonians often attempt to remake Krypton on Earth.
  • Hulk Speak: All Bizarros
  • Humans Need Aliens: Superman is the classic example. Think of all the times Superman has saved the day, a lot of those times he saved humanity from extinction. Humanity would have been long gone without him.
    • Made more apparent when he defeated Doomsday as he was the only hero capable/willing to defeat the monster. Without him humanity would have perished at this monster's hands.
    • Deconstructed in a Bronze Age storyline where Superman finds himself Brought Down to Normal in his Clark Kent identity and decides to experiment with living a week as just one identity. As Clark, he sees a subway being flooded, and realises he could do nothing to stop it now that he's powerless. Fortunately, the fire department arrives to take care of the crisis, and Clark realises that the world always got along fine before there was a Superman.
    • In the second issue of the John Byrne reboot, Supes sees a mugging happening, but then notes that Metropolis' Finest (police officers) are on the job, so he needn't bother helping.
  • 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
  • Idiot Hair: That little curl across his forehead.
  • Immigrant Patriotism: "Truth, justice, and the American way", anybody?
  • Immortality: The type varies by series. He's always hard to kill and is immune to earth diseases and toxins and generally ages really slowly if at all. In some continuities he continues to get more powerful with age.
  • Immune to Fate: Some treatments portray Superman as so powerful and such a great force for good that he can actually defy Fate and rewrite predestined events.
  • Immunity Disability: Superman's near invulnerability is often parodied by having it also prevent him from shaving because even his beard is too tough to cut.
    • John Byrne addressed that in his run by Clark using his own heat vision reflected on a mirror to shave.
  • 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.
  • In-Name-Only: If Kevin Smith is to be believed, Jon Peters' Superman Lives, a movie that was never made, would have had Superman's iconic outfit be replaced by an all black one, Superman wouldn't fly, and he'd fight a Giant Spider, it would have also given Lex a pet named "Chewie", as well as making Brainiac fight polar bears. This is true folks. Fortunately, Kevin Smith tried to make a script that worked the changes in while still throwing in the traditional Superman feel, but Superman Lives was never made to this day.
  • 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.
  • Insect Queen: In the Silver Age, Lana Lang sometimes gained insect attributes to become a heroine aptly known as "Insect Queen." In a nod to this, there was a Modern Age villain known as Insect Queen, ruler of an imperial group of insects called the All-Hive (not remarkably different from the alien incarnations of Queen Bee) who reshaped her body to be like Lana.
  • Interspecies Friendship: Most of Superman's friendships qualify, though not necessarily Clark Kent's.
  • In the Doldrums: The Phantom Zone associated with the franchise.
  • 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 Repower 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
  • Its Pronounced Tropay: Lex Luthor's name is pronounced "Lu-thor" not "Luther"

    J - R 
  • Jack-of-All-Stats: Played with: Normally, nearly every A-list character outclasses Superman in one particular area, though Superman wins out by being number 2 or 3 in each area. Sometimes, though, Superman reveals that he actually is the number one in certain active and passive powers, and that he was just holding back before.
    • The Flash is not nearly as tough as the Man of Steel, but in Flash:Rebirth #3, the "Fastest Man Alive" turns the holding-back tables on the Big S:
    Clark: I've raced you before, Barry. I even won some of those races.
    Barry: Those were for charity, Clark.
    • Darkseid is just physically more powerful in every way except for speed. Or at least, that's what we're usually led to believe, until Superman pulls off the kid gloves. Then, the Lord of Apokolips meets the Source Wall with his face.
    • Martian Manhunter is a bigger winner of the Superpower Lottery than Superman, having Super Strength, X-Ray Vision, Super Speed, Invulnerability, and Flight just like Big Blue, but sporting invisibility, telekinesis which can create forcefields or be launched as a weapon, phase-shifting, and of course telepathy. In short, he has what it takes to survive Superman, and due to J'onn's telepathy, a one-on-one fight would be touch-and-go (owing to Superman's Torquasm-Vo and mental blocks, which render him impervious to anything but the most powerful mind attacks). However, Superman is weak to only four very uncommon things — Kryptonite (relatively rare), Magic (very rare in the muggle world), red sunlight (needs to be synthesized/replicated), and other beings on New God levels of strength — while J'onn is weak to one very, very, absurdly common thing: FIRE.
    • Batman, Lex Luthor, Ted Kord and a multitude of other characters are much more intelligent than Clark. At the end of the day, though, Clark is still a Pulitzer-Prize winning author and journalist, and in many stories intelligent enough to be well-versed in several scientific fields.
      • Notice that being more intelligent than Clark doesn't necessarily mean that they are balanced enough to make good on said advantage, what with people like Lex Luthor and Bruce Wayne being seriously handicapped by their insecurities and childhood traumas.
    • While not wielding as much raw power as Supes, Wonder Woman is said to be a more skilled hand-to-hand combatant.
    • There are a few characters who are explicitly shown to be far-and-away more powerful than Superman, to the point where it's not even a contest — The Spectre, Raven, The Phantom Stranger, the Champion of each and every Lantern Corps, and The Anti-Monitor.
      • Clark isn't alone in his tier of power, either. Several other characters, including Captain Marvel, Wonder Woman, Red Tornado, Icon, any and all Daxamite characters, Lobo, and, obviously, other Kryptonian characters are all in the same tier of power (arguably). However, as everyone admits, Clark beats them out in one very important area: his sense of duty, unwavering sense of mercy and justice, and charisma make him a born leader.
      • On a side note, the amount of time he's spent on Earth soaking in the sun allows him to occasionally curb-stomp other Kryptonians, and he has shown himself to be a good deal more powerful than every non-Kryptonian in the list. The fact, though, that they even have a chance in a fight against him allows them to be considered on the same tier.
      • Lobo is perhaps one of the closest competitors, as he's immortal, but he lacks self-sustained flight and he's minutely weaker than Supes, and both him and Superman know that Supes could just drag him into the sun. If he ever did that, one of them would come out feeling great… the other, not so much. He could regenerate from a single cell, but there wouldn't even be that much left of him. His immortality, of course, means that his essence would still be stuck inside the sun. Not a good way to go.
      • Captain Marvel is the other closest competitor. He has strength that is almost on par with Superman's, as well as flight, and his ability to summon magic attacks in the form of lightning. However, he's not nearly as fast as Superman (see Ludicrous Speed), lacks the super-senses, and doesn't have heat vision or freeze-breath (his lightning partly makes up for it, but still lacks the diversity and power of the latter attacks). Also, Supes has far more experience in combat.
  • The Jailer: The Master Jailer
    • Superman himself qualifies since he holds the key to the Phantom Zone where several super-criminals (Kryptonians et al.) are banished for their crimes.
  • 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.
  • Kick Me Prank: This comic, along with a dose of Added Alliterative Appeal.
  • 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.
  • Leotard of Power: Worn by Superman himself in at least one film incarnation (specifically, in which he was portrayed by Christopher Reeve).
  • Lex Luthor
  • Lilliputians: People from the Bottle City of Kandor.
  • Lighter and Softer: Since the late Golden Age, this is Superman's perceived personality and settings in relation to any other mainstream superhero you may think of. It's also sort of a Base Breaker since Supes' detractors find him dorky and always lagging with the current comic book trends because of this, but on the other hand, his fans see this very trope as one of Superman's most endearing traits that also sets him apart from the rest of the DC Comics universe and even the company's competitors.
    • To this very day, there have been multiple attempts to make Superman Darker and Edgier, but the character has survived all of them relatively unchanged.
  • 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.
  • Ludicrous Speed: Superman's max speed has never been recorded, but he can easily go several times faster than light speed, to the point where he warps space-time, allowing him to time-travel.
  • Mad Scientist: Lex Luthor, back in the day. And back in The Golden Age of Comic Books, there was the Ultra-Humanite.
  • MAD: 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.
  • Mayfly-December Friendship: Superman is sometimes portrayed as immortal, meaning that he will outlive the human friends he cares about. It becomes a plot point in Superman/Batman #76. Superman is talking to Wonder Woman in the wake of Bruce Wayne's death. Clark is discussing how they'll outlive everyone they know and how they're higher beings. Diana stops him, telling him that no matter how he wants to rationalize it, he's just a man grieving for a lost friend.
  • Mecha-Mooks: At least in continuities where he has them, Superman has the Superman Robots.
  • Me's a Crowd: This is how Bizarro populated Bizarro World.
  • 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.
  • Mistaken for Own Murderer: In "The Monster from Krypton", red kryptonite transformed Superman into a dragon-like creature called a drang. When he held his cape in his mouth to communicate the change, Jimmy Olsen thought the creature had killed him and called in Supergirl and the army.
  • 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.
  • Motive Decay: After his brain damage was cured by the demon Neron in Underworld Unleashed, Atomic Skull has mainly appeared as just a superpowered thug-for-hire without any real motives.
    • After getting her book, Silver Banshee now goes around causing trouble for no reason, and her tribe seems to have been forgotten. She can now be motivated by money, as well.
    • Originally, Prime wanted to replace New Earth with a "perfect" Earth—Earth-Prime. When he found out this was impossible, he just wanted to destroy everything.
  • Muggle Foster Parents: The Kents.
  • 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.
  • My Greatest Failure: At various points in his history, Superman has had the bottled city of Kandor to deal with. More recently, he's had the only time he's ever had to kill someone; this caused him to actually leave Earth for a while. During the Silver Age and the Bronze Age, Superman's biggest failure was arguably when he destroyed Lex Luthor's protoplasmic lifeform that he created as well as causing his hair to fall out when he was trying to rescue Luthor from a lab fire when they were teens. Sure it was an accident and mostly not his fault (Luthor caused the fire and Superboy had no way of knowing what was inside at the time), but it didn't help that before the fire, Superboy jokingly said he could spy on Luthor to find out what he was working on. Luthor believed Superboy destroyed his experiment out of jealousy and dedicated his life to destroying him and proving he was better. Luthor had the scientific genius to make a cure for Kryptonite as well as unshrink Kandor, so if things had gone differently, Superman would have had a lot less problems in his life and an ally against evil as well.
    • Nowadays, Superman also feeling really guilty of being unable to help his childhood friend, Mon-El, conquer his deadly weakness for lead and leave the Phantom Zone where he was cast into at his request as the only way to save his life. A painful one for Superman happened just after his resurrection. After the excitement and relief of him returning from the dead, he and Lois raced off to Paris for a getaway to catch up. While he was gone, the Toyman kidnapped a bunch of kids, including the son of co-worker Cat Grant, Adam. Adam attempted to lead the other kids away, but Toyman caught them and slew them all. Superman was so distraught over this, it lead to him vowing never to take another vacation again.
  • Mysterious Protector: In the original The Man of Steel miniseries, Clark was this til he was forced to save the space plane in front of a huge crowd. In Kingdom Come, Wonder Woman commented that Superman could have chosen to remain behind the scenes and do his superheroing in secret but chose to be as obvious as possible. In Superman: Lois and Clark, he's doing just that, staying out of the way of the New 52 Superman but still performing feats of bravery invisibly.
  • 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.)
  • 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
    • Between 1939 and 1986, he was the king of this trope in the comics. At first, he was basically only super strong and super fast with the ability to leap great distances. Then he developed super hearing, x-ray vision, telescopic vision, microscopic vision, infer-red vision, the ability to fly, the ability to breathe in space, super breath (which was sometimes a freezing agent and other times, simply forceful enough to blow something away), time travel (usually in spectral form), super hypnotism, and heat vision, while his strength and speed had no apparent limits. An attempt to limit his powers came and went in 1970, but in 1986, the John Byrne reboot narrowed down what his powers werenote  and rarely did any depiction deviate from this.
    • The Christopher Reeve movies were notorious for this, as he and/or other Kryptonians often displayed telekinesis, the ability to teleport and non-spectral time travel. While the comics narrowed down his powers in 1986, the fourth film in 1987 added still more powers, such as the ability to speak in space, and a "vision" power that allowed him to fix the Great Wall of China after a battle, not to mention his partial clone Nuclear Man was able to blast fire from his hands. Apparently, he could even transfer his ability to breathe in space to a woman whose hand he's holding. Oh, and then there's that S-thing he throws at Non in the second movie, although there's debate over whether it was a power or a weapon.
    • Even the 1950s TV series had this trope, as in one episode he's able to phase through a wall (after innumerable occasions where he'd crash through one) and in another episode, he splits himself into two.
  • 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.
    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 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 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.
  • No Name Given: Supes in all but the original story never named himself "Superman". It was bestowed upon him by one person or another or by the Metropolis public thanks to the "S" on his shield. In Superman: The Movie, Superman only calls himself "a friend" before Lois gives him a Line-of-Sight Name. In The Man of Steel, Supes goes with Superman in a "Sure, Let's Go with That" amused way.
  • Not Allowed to Grow Up: After decades of teenagerdom, Jack Kirby finally let Jimmy reach the age of 21, and he stayed an adult until the Crisis reboot.
  • Now Let Me Carry You: Superman usually spent his time saving his supporting cast, but occasionally they get to return the favor.
  • Official Couple: Superman and Lois Lane.
  • 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.
  • Our Mermaids Are Different: Lori Lemaris
  • Outdated Outfit: Jimmy and his bowtie 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. He's The Paragon in the Marvel Universe in the Superman / Fantastic Four crossover, with both Franklin Richards and Ben Grimm being "golly gee whiz" about him. (Especially after Supes lets Franklin have his cape before leaving.)
  • Parental Substitute:
    • The Ur-Example in comics has to be Superman's Earth parents, Jonathan and Martha Kent. While Kal-El would always have powers by virtue of being Kryptonian by birth, the comics stress repeatedly that it was the Kents' values that made Superman the hero he is. Lampshaded in the "Reign of the Supermen" series with regard to the Jerk Ass Superboy clone:
    Jonathan Kent: "No son of ours would act like that, powers or no!"
    • Superman, in turn, has taken on this role to Supergirl and, to some degree, to Jimmy Olsen. Also Nightwing, if Nightwing: Year One is any indication. After Batman fires him, he goes to see Clark. It's not hard to interpret it as a child getting away from his overly-strict father (the story portrays Batman as a Jerk Ass) and instead staying with his mother (the caring, nice Superman).
  • Pedestrian Crushes Car: More variations on this than can be counted, see also Trainstopping below.
  • Perma Shave: Courtesy of heat vision and mirrors.
  • Perpetual Storm: In one version of his origin, the spaceship carrying baby Kal-El to Earth crashed into Kansas during a snowstorm lasting several months, cutting off the Kent farm and allowing the Kents to pass him off as their own child.
  • Phantom Zone: Trope Namer. The Phantom Zone, the harsh dimension to which Kryptonian criminals are banished. Sometimes they don't stay.
  • Photo Doodle Recognition: In one pre-Crisis story, Superman is to be featured on a postage stamp. He goes to great lengths to make sure that a side shot of him is chosen, rather than a full-face view, because if the stamp was postmarked in a town with a double-O in its name, the letters might land on his face in such a way that they resemble a pair of glasses, which might give away his secret identity. Presumably kids in the DC universe never doodle glasses and mustaches on newspaper photos, which might also be a bit of a clue.
  • 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!"
  • A Planet Named Zok: Krypton is perhaps one of the most famous examples.
  • Polar Bears and Penguins: The location of the Fortress of Solitude, somewhere up north.
  • 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...
  • Powered Armor: Ruin. And sometimes Luthor.
  • Powers Do the Fighting: Superman can often leave ordinary mooks in the hospital by doing absolutely nothing when they try to sock him in the jaw. Shooting Supes sometimes has similar results since he's Immune to Bullets and the shots might ricochet back at some of the shooters.
  • Powers as Programs: The Parasite
  • Power Trio: Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman have been called the "holy trinity" of the Justice League, and they've even had a few team-up comics called Trinity.
  • Present Peeking: In some of the early comics, one of the first of Clark Kent's powers is the ability to see inside the gift wrappings.
  • 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 Man Child: 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. This is the only ability of his clone in The Death of Superman.
    • Kon-El (a.k.a. Conner Kent/Superboy) has an interesting variation on this. While not actual psychic powers, he does posses what has been called "tactile telekinesis" which has been used to explain a number of his abilities like Super Strength and Flight. An added benefit of tactile telekinesis is that it gives him the ability to control the things he comes into contact with just like standard telekinesis (which it pretty much is honestly though Superboy's can only be activated through touch).
  • Raised by Natives: The Kents
  • Real Award, Fictional Character: In many continuities, Lois is a Pulitzer winner. Sometimes Clark is too.
  • Reality Warper: Mr. Mxyzptlk
  • Real Men Hate Affection: Averted. Superman is possibly the most sensitive and emotive mainstream hero out there, despite being the definitive brick.
  • 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 an unfair advantage. (Not to mention a news anchorman must be seen on camera on a strict schedule, while a beat reporter only needs to worry about a deadline.)
  • 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.
  • Reed Richards Is Useless: Superman is supposed to be a genius with access to spectacularly advanced extraterrestrial (i.e. Kryptonian) knowledge and technology. This has varied over time, but he has created chemical formulas, robots, space vehicles, etc. and stored alien specimens and objects in his Fortress of Solitude; occasionally he even explores outer space out of intellectual curiosity. Yet none of this seems to help anyone on Earth nor does it seem to be influencing human technology.
    • Of course, since the Bronze Age (specifically the story "Must There Be a Superman?"), Superman has been very concerned about inadvertently making humanity too dependent on him by solving too many of our problems for us. This concern might apply to introducing super tech as much as it does to his super power feats.
  • Revision: Superman's origin was built up a bit more every time it was told. Action Comics #1 had a very bare bones origin and explanation for Superman's powers. Superman #1 added some details about Clark's childhood and life before coming to Metropolis. But it was the newspaper strip's third retelling of the origin that added all the now familiar details about Krypton, introduced Jor-L (not El) and Lara, and explained why the infant Kal-L was the only Kryptonian to survive. That version of the story even details how dangerous the spaceflight to Earth was, and how the rocket avoided several near-disasters on the way.
  • Rival Turned Evil: Conduit
  • Robot Master: Toyman.
    • Superman himself also counts if you take into consideration his robot-assistants at the Fortress of Solitude.
  • 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.

    S - Z 
  • Sacrificial Planet: The final arc of John Byrne's run involves Kryptonian villains from a "pocket reality" stripping its Earth bare of all life and even destroying its atmosphere as a show of power and then threatening to come to the "real" Earth and do the same.
  • 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..."
    • In Identity Crisis, Supes identifies a bowline knot. Of course, it's the first knot a Boy Scout learns. Green Arrow muses that he loves and hates Supes for that knowledge.
    • Averted in Justice League which suggests he was only briefly a scout.
    The Flash: "So you're not such a Boy Scout after all?"
    Superman: "Never even made it to my first merit badge."
  • 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 Identity Apathy: In post-Crisis continuity, Lex Luthor refuses to believe Superman even has a secret identity. The idea that someone with all that power would pretend to be a normal person just doesn't make sense!
    • It's sometimes canon that most people in the DC Universe don't believe Superman has a secret identity. They just assume he's Superman all the time. Not wearing a mask probably helps with this perception.
  • 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. It was Lana whom was the teen Secret Secret Keeper; she was saddened that it meant she and Clark would be Just Friends.
    • Lori also figured out his identity long before telling him she knew; she's telepathic, after all.
  • Self-Imposed Challenge: Superman in his Clark Kent identity enjoys working as a newspaper reporter because actually writing good newspaper articles is something that doesn't depend upon his powers. While his powers may help him get the story, writing the story well enough to appear in the Daily Planet is something he actually has to put serious effort into. For him this an enjoyable and welcome challenge.
  • Shock and Awe: Livewire
  • Shout-Out:
    • Many many times throughout the years in the various media he's been depicted in, Superman or, sometimes, an Expy has been shown holding a car above his head pointed slightly downward in reference to the image on the cover of Action Comics #1, his first appearance. Most of these shout outs do not show the car being smashed into a hill side with people still in it the way Superman was in that iconic cover.
    • Adventures of Superman #634, by Dan Abnett and Andy Lannin,g had the Eradicator and John Henry Irons create a "charged vacuum emboitment" out of "block transfer computations" to prevent the timestorms ravaging Metropolis. And if that sounds familiar to viewers of the Doctor Who serial Logopolis, well, Abnett wrote the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip for a while, and has also done Big Finish Doctor Who audio dramas and New Series novels.
    • Also, an episode where Superman finds himself in the middle of a battle between a titanic Metallo and a Super Robot. With all the myriad shout outs from other giant monsters that show up to complicate matters (including a rather literal Gorilla-Whale), you'd think the Robot would be based on Mazinger Z, and it is... due to the fact that it bears an even stronger resemblance to G. Kaiser.
    • In a comic book story titled "Business as Usual", it's still 9:03 am when Lex Luthor comes up with solutions for all executive troubles Lexcorp was facing that day and Mercy asks what they'll do then. Lex says they'll do the same thing they do every day. This answer is similar to what The Brain usually tells Pinky at the end of every Pinky and the Brain episode. In Lex's case, that "same thing" is "figure out a way to destroy Superman".
  • 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.
  • Sliding Scale of Continuity: A Level 3 (Subtle Continuity) in at least The Silver Age of Comic Books — while Mort Weisinger was the editor, his supporting cast, Rogues Gallery, and mythology were slowly built upon, without readers requiring to have read any previous stories most of the time.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Lex Luthor is often depicted playing chess—sometimes with a Superman as one of the playing pieces.
  • Small Steps Hero: Usually, Superman will not sacrifice any innocent (or even not-so-innocents) For The Greater Good. Either he will Take a Third Option, or he will fight to the end to look for one.
  • 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 on the never-made '90s Superman film.
  • Spinoff Babies: Superboy, "Superbaby".
  • Standard Powerup Pose: Superman usually adopts a pose like this when he flies into the atmosphere to supercharge on solar energy. Probably helps the surface area for better absorption.
  • Star Fish Character: Comic fans had almost forgotten it too.
  • Starter Villain: Bea Carroll was a murderess who framed one of her rivals. She's taken out less than halfway through Action Comics #1.
  • Stealth Mentor: Mr. Mxyzptlk, Depending on the Writer.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 were more commonplace with the ridiculously overpowered Silver Age (Pre-Crisis) Superman. And those aren't even the extremes of the Post-Crisis Superman; since The Death of Superman, his power keeps on growing, to the extent that he can travel at 137.8 million times the speed of light and bench-press the weight of the Earth for five days straight without stopping or even being fully strained.
  • Superboy: In 1944, the character of Superboy was introduced in the form of Superman as a boy. It took a while before it was clear that this was canon—a 1948 retelling of his origin didn't mention it—but by the '50s, it was clear that he had—in fact—grown up as Superboy until 1986's Man of Steel miniseries, when it was established that he had NOT grown up as Superboy. However, this reboot/retcon clashed with the history of the team Legion of Super Heroes, so it was established that there was a Superboy who was part of an "alternative time loop." In 2009's Secret Origin (basically a reboot except that it was published after its ensuing continuity had been established), it was posited that Clark Kent WAS Superboy growing up, and in fact, the Legion had visited him as in the early comics. However, after the 2011 reboot, it was established that he was NOT Superboy and that's how it stands.
    • In 1993, his partial-clone Superboy—later known as Conner Kent as well as Kon-El—was introduced as part of Reign of the Supermen though he didn't officially adopt that name until after the story wrapped up. This character has been adapted into Young Justice and all adaptations of the death & return saga.
    • Alternate Superboys in the comics include the aforementioned Superboy of the alternate time loop, as well as Superboy Prime who was introduced in a tie-in to Crisis on Infinite Earths but lingered in a forgotten dimension before reemerging as the villain of Infinite Crisis in 2005.
    • Superboy was a figure in the Filmation and Hannah Barbara cartoons that featured Superman between 1966 and 1986.
    • Superboy was, however, ignored in live-action versions during that period, with the exception of an unreleased pilot episode for a planned black & white TV series. Not long after DC had established that Superman was never Superboy, the producers of Superman: the Movie aired a Superboy TV series that lasted four years, but was never aired in reruns and was only recently released in home media. Interestingly, it was cancelled in 1992, the year before the "new" Superboy was introduced in the comics. This was a precursor to Smallville that ran throughout the '00s.
    • Finally, incarnations where Superman appears young enough to be called "Superboy" but is still called Superman include the animated series Legion of Super Heroes and Superman: Earth One.
  • Super Dickery: Essentially the trope namer. His covers in the Silver Age often made him look like a complete jerk, usually for no reason
  • Super Family Team: With Supergirl (his cousin), Superboy (his clone) and Steel (a friend).
  • Super Hero Origin: All-Star Superman got it down to eight words.
    Doomed planet. Desperate scientists. Last hope. Kindly couple.
  • 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; only the Batcave comes close to rivaling the Fortress in regards to this.
  • 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.
  • Superpower Lottery: No matter how much some want to balance him out.
  • 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.
  • Super Toughness: A Trope Codifier for superhero comics. He's almost completely invincible, with only a handful of exceptions.
  • Super Weight: Started out a Type 3 and peaked at Type 6 during the Silver Age. After Crisis on Infinite Earths, he reverted to Type 4. He sometimes reaches Type 5 depending on the story.
  • 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: Superman's rogues are organized around a pulp sci-fi theme, featuring loads of mad scientists, alien invaders, cyborgs, robots, and ray-gun wielding gangsters.
  • 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 Flashpoint's reboot.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: It goes deeper than just a code against killing. As Superman told Batman in Kingdom Come, neither he nor Bats wants to see anyone die. That said, he's not dogmatic about it, and if he has to kill the villain to save innocents, or even himself, he will make a determined effort to do it, as Doomsday, Darkseid, Mongul I, Brainiac, and various others have all learned at one time or another.
  • Tightrope Walking: In Superman's early appearances he couldn't fly; he got around Metropolis by running quickly along telephone wires. He explains on more than one occasion that as long as he jumps over the connectors at the telephone poles he's in no danger of electrocution.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: In the first Christopher Reeve Superman: The Movie, 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.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Although Lex Luthor is a genius, even he has done jaw-droppingly stupid things. Everybody knows Superman is super-vulnerable to Kryptonite, right? So, why not wear a ring made of the stuff at all times, just in case? Well, as Mr. Luthor was reminded the hard way, it may not kill humans in minutes, but it is still a radioactive element, as he already knew. Turns out wearing a radioactive rock on your hand gives you terminal cancer in the long run.
    • If it wasn't for Superman, Lois Lane would be dead since 1940 thanks to her fondness for snooping around way too much. Sometimes it's shown that she takes those risks because she knows she has backup; she can handle herself just fine, but just lets herself get into these situations because a hostage can get the best details of what the criminals and supervillains are up to, and will always have Superman to back her up if/when she needs it.
  • 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.
  • Transformation Sequence: The familiar shot of Superman opening his shirt when nobody's looking was apparently too mundane for the first two films with Christopher Reeve, so they had scenes of Superman changing where there was more of a metamorphosis.
    • In Superman II and Superman III the plots of each film involve something happening to Superman on a physiological level so there's transformation scenes then too.
  • True Companions: In a rather unique exception to all the strictly superhero teams in comics, the core staff of the Daily Planet — especially the foursome of Perry White, Lois Lane, Clark Kent, and Jimmy Olsen — consider themselves to be like family to each other.
  • 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. Averted in the New 52 reboot, where there is a red belt where it once was.
  • Villainesses Want Heroes: 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 anymore anyway. Superman: 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 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.
  • Weird Crossover:
  • We Were Your Team/ For Want of a Nail: All of the DC Universe's heroes take their cues from Superman, even the Darker and Edgier ones. In every story where Superman either has vanished or never existed, the heroes of the universe drift apart or vanish themselves.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Both Smallville (see above) and Metropolis were originally in a non-specific state. It has since been determined that Smallville is in Kansas, and Metropolis is in Delaware
    • Though Metropolis was based on New York City, the prevailing theory as to why Delaware was chosen as Metropolis' home are five-fold: 1) Delaware is a corporate Tax Haven with more corporations per-capita than citizens in many areas; 2) It's on the East Coast with direct access to the sea; 3) Metropolis is supposed to be in relatively-close proximity to Gotham, and since Gotham is officially in New Jersey, Delaware was a natural choice; 4) There are literally no large/major cities in Delaware, despite being about as big as New Jersey, so unlike New York or Pennsylvania, you can throw a city in anywhere in the state and not be fighting for real-estate with real-life cities; 5) Gotham is supposed to be the gritty counterpart to Metropolis, and since New Jersey is the Evil Twin of Delaware, well...
    • DC once said Metropolis is New York City during the day, and Gotham City is New York City at night.
  • Wicked Toymaker: Toyman, a villain whose motivation varies from telling to telling but usually focuses on the fact that he's a somewhat broken man who makes deadly little toys.
  • 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...
    • Conversely, back in the Silver Age, Superman seemed to enjoy messing with people's heads, especially villains.
  • "World of Cardboard" Speech: Delivered the trope-naming speech in Justice League while fighting Darkseid.
  • Wounded Hero Weaker Helper: Superman has been known to need help from humans (sometimes his friends, sometimes a stranger) when he encounters too much Kryptonite. As he's Superman, virtually everyone is weaker compared to him.
  • 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.
  • Yellow Peril: Not surprisingly, this trope was in full force in newspaper strips publishing during World War 2.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Pre-Crisis, Superman could visit the past by exceeding the speed of light, but it was physically impossible for him to change history.
  • 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.
  • You Mean Xmas: Miracle Monday, from Superman #400, is somewhere between this and an Homage to a Passover seder, with several customs and key phrases being nearly identical.
  • You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Angry: Accompanied by Red Eyes, Take Warning and followed by Beware the Superman.