YMMV / Superman

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  • Archive Panic: As one of the most enduring and popular characters in fiction, this is to be expected.
  • Broken Base:
    • After Superman Returns, the fans were deeply divided over whether the next film (if there was to be one) should be a sequel to said film or a reboot. This culminated with Man of Steel which some fans viewed as a betrayal for going in a Darker and Edgier direction, while other fans thought the film was the modernization the hero needed.
    • Naturally this happened with the New 52 reboot as well. Some fans didn't like the body armor (because why does an invulnerable man need body armor?), the increased aggressiveness and rebelliousness, the slightly odd "collar" design and of course the fact that he no longer wears his red trunks on the outside. Other fans think of it as a "modernization" of the character, and in fact appreciate the removal of the trunks, feeling these had become cheesy by this point.
  • Fandom Rivalry:
    • Who's the best Superman? Christopher Reeve? George Reeves? Dean Cain? Tim Daly? George Newbern? Tom Welling? Henry Cavill? Tyler Hoechlin? Fans fight endlessly over this.
    • Superman fans vs. Goku fans. The latter thinks that Superman is an overpowered bore, while boasting about how Goku could defeat him, while the former thinks that Goku is an idiot that couldn't out strategize a brick and that Superman is far more complex then they give him credit for as they boast that Superman is invincible. There's been a small but growing third party that just wants to see them team up.
    • Superman fans vs. Batman fans. The latter thinks Superman is an overpowered, boring one-dimensional goody two shoes and his fans are children with a lack of understanding of the world. The former thinks that Batman is an overrated, wangsty, ineffective man-child of a Creator's Pet and that most of his fans are biased, overly-cynical jackasses that don't actually read comics and thinks cynicism equals realism.
  • Friendly Fandoms:
    • With almost every other DC Comics fandom! Especially Shazam, Wonder Woman, Supergirl and Batman fans.
    • Superman fans and Spider-Man fans tend get along well, despite the whole DC vs Marvel thing, perhaps because the two heroes are so similar that you can't really like one and hate the other. Doesn't hurt that the two have had three crossovers to themselves and two company wide crossovers where they both appeared. The two fandoms became the other's sole confidant when the two franchises started facing the same problems. Capes gotta look out for each other.
  • Incest Yay Shipping: A number of Superman and Supergirl fans ship both characters together despite of being first cousins, either because they think there's no getting around the "Kryptonian of Steel, Human of Kleenex" trouble or because they genuinely think Clark/Kal and Linda/Kara make a good couple. To be fair, Silver and Bronze stories provide plenty fuel, accidental innuendo and subtext if you know where look (Action Comics #260, Action Comics #270, the infamous Action Comics #289, Superman #309 during the Krypton No More story arc, this panel from The Superdictionary). Fanfic writers such like Megamatt09 have penned long tales featuring them together.


    A to B 
  • Alas, Poor Scrappy: Subverted. Superboy-Prime's apparent demise in Blackest Night elicited this response, but it was undone barely a year after and he was just as bad as ever.
    • Played straight however, for New 52 Superman, since Savage Dawn finally had him acting like Superman before the very next arc killed him off. His dignified acceptance of his impending demise, and selfless prioritization of ensuring Earth's protection all while heading towards the inevitable was enough of a tearjerker that even some readers who never got on board with the character were genuinely sorry to see him go.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: The debate has raged for years over who is the real personality, Superman or Clark Kent?
    • Pre-Crisis Superman was very much the dominant personality, with Clark Kent as mask he puts on in order to "hide." He noticeably wasn't very committed to it, as the Clark Kenting trope is quick to point out, and several times tried to just give up on the persona and be Superman 24/7
    • The idea that Superman was the dominant personality was theorized by Jules Feiffer, whose words were paraphrased by Bill the Snakecharmer in Kill Bill Vol 2.
      • While that was the case in The Silver Age of Comic Books, several Bronze Age stories, most notably the "Mr. Xavier Saga" (no relation), came to the conclusion that he valued both identities equally, and felt miserable and stressed whenever he was forced to neglect either for an extended period of time. Without Clark, he had no way to ever relax; and without Superman, he couldn't help people in danger.note .
      • One good story involved a pair of gambling aliens separating Clark and Superman. All that happened was that there were two Supermen, and that when one of them was Clark the other felt compelled to be Superman, and vice versa.
    • Michael Fleischer once suggested that if Krypton had not exploded and Kal-El had grown up there, he might have been so overshadowed by his brilliant father that he might have been more like shy, mild-mannered Clark.
    • Post-Crisis is the opposite, Clark is the dominant personality with no knowledge or memories of Krypton until well into his adult years and after he started operating as a super hero. This means that Clark comes off as a far more assertive and aggressive person than the Pre-Crisis "wimp." This makes Superman come off as stiff and artificial because, as Clark puts it, "Clark is who I am, Superman is what I can do."
      • To a certain extent this is how George Reeves played Clark. He was easygoing, but could be assertive if there was an emergency. There were times when Reeves' Clark seemed to forget he wasn't supposed to be Superman.
    • Modern writers now suggest that there are actually three personalities; the first is Clark at home, who is a decent, normal guy like any other. Then there is Clark at the Daily Planet, still a nice guy if occasionally clumsy and a little goofy, likes to play things safe but also an ace reporter and Deadpan Snarker par excellence. Finally there is Superman, who is every inch The Cape and honestly believes in Truth and Justice, almost to a fault. He sees Krypton as his birthright, but not his home and tries to bring the best of that society to Earth while trying to steer away from its shortcomings.
      • It has been implied that, similarly, there are three personalities; Clark Kent, the mild mannered, calm and somewhat geeky dude. Superman, the superhero, who fights for Justice and Freedom and wants to inspire the world to be good. And Kal-El, a merge of both personalities and who he really is for those who are closest to him.
    • Superman is typically portrayed as an eager hero, happy to save everyone else. Five For Fighting's song about him, also called "Superman," portrays him as "a man in a silly red sheet" who's aware that he's not as special or heroic as everyone else thinks he is, and who struggles under the pressure of being the person everyone looks up to.
    • More importantly, Superman was originally a hard-nosed bruiser who went after not just criminals, but businessmen and lawmakers who he perceived as screwing people over.
    • Is Clark Kent an exaggerated disguise Superman takes to fake everyone out? Or is Superman a projection of Clark's desire to help others? Or, does Kal-El struggle to balance the nerdy reporter with the macho crimefighter? Before 1986, the answer was clearly the former, but between that point and about 2003, it was the later. From that point forward, it's been somewhat opened to interpretation, but in 2011, the New 52 pretty much got rid of the exaggerated nerd angle once again.
      • This is NOT counting appearances in film, western animation or live-action TV, but only comic books. For the record, the exaggerated nerd appeared in most cinematic interpretations, but not Man of Steel or Superman & the Mole Men whereas of the four live-action shows, he only played the exaggerated nerd in Superboy. Animation has tended to follow whatever interpretation the comics were going with at the time.
      • What is interesting is that the Golden Age Batman had Batman being the mask Bruce Wayne wore, while Clark Kent was the mask Superman wore. Now, it's reversed - Bruce is the mask that Batman wears, while Superman is the mask Clark wears.
    • The writer of The Screamsheet has had a love/hate relationship with Superman over many years, resulting in a number of different interpretations, from a cynical dick to a desperate outcast wanting acceptance to a straight-up awesome guy.
    • Cracked has pointed out that for a person who is fighting for truth among other things, he has chosen a way of living with separate identities that is not only inconvenient but involves a lot of lying to some of the people that are closest to him. Does he have a psychological need for being not only the next-to-invincible alien but also a regular human?
    • Consider Mr Mxyzptlk. Is he merely a Jerkass Reality Warper who tests the Man of Steel's patience, or a more benevolent Trickster encouraging Superman to use his brain and to think and use his powers in unconventional ways? He may well be a big Superman fan who loves seeing what he can do!
    • Superboy Prime: An Omnicidal Maniac who destroys anything he doesn't like, or a kid who's been given incredible power and thrust into a situation he was in no way ready to handle? Or a deliberate parody designed to screw with the fans heads with lines like "I'll kill you to death!" Or maybe he's just dumb?
    • Lex Luthor: Pure evil? A hero striving to show the human race that it has some worth when set against the impossible, unreachable ideal that is Superman, rejecting no act that would prove his point as worth it to the greater good? A tragic figure whose actions are ruled by obsession based in deep insecurities unearthed by Superman's mere presence? A titan of industry and politics driven mad by a world that truly can't appreciate his genius nor see the threat Superman poses? A petty dick who'll stoop to any level of crime, including stealing forty cakes, which is as many as four tens And That's Terrible?
  • Ass Pull: Silver Age Superman stories were notorious for coming up with convenient new powers for the main character all the time.
    • Superman had pure kryptonite injected into his veins, yet was still able to overpower a villain who had been a match for him even when he was healthy.
  • Audience Awareness Advantage: Probably the ultimate example of this, and has been for decades (since the Silver Age at the least). For instance, a remarkable number of criminals seemed to not only know that Superman was weakened by Kryptonite, but exactly what each color of Kryptonite would do... even if it was that color of Kryptonite's first time showing up. Because everyone knows Superman is hurt by Kryptonite! But even more than that is the whole "people don't know Clark Kent is Superman wearing glasses" deal. Again, having gotten blatant enough that even characters in-universe who are in on the secret have mocked others for not getting it. And the number of times "Clark Kent and Superman are never in the same place together!" is used as evidence is almost appalling - though that was solved in the late Silver Age by Supes having Superman robots, while post-Crisis, a few times Clark and Superman appeared together and it was established they were besties. (In The Death of Superman, for example, Matrix Supergirl posed as Clark when he was "rescued".)
  • Base-Breaking Character:
    • Some fans find Superman one of the greatest comic characters in history while others find him a boring character that is too perfect and overpowered to connect with the fans.
    • Lex Luthor: Competent antagonist who provides an interesting Evil Brains contrast to Superman's Good Brawn, or weakling that the writers make too big of a deal over purely out of the Grandfather Clause?
    • Lois Lane - awesome woman by way of her guts and intelligence, or an annoying pain in the ass Designated Love Interest?
    • Naturally, the changes made to Superman in the New 52 have divided fans, from the changes to his costume to some differences in his personality to the fact that he's dating Wonder Woman instead of his usual default love interest Lois Lane.

    C to D 
  • Captain Obvious Aesop: This article mocks Superman: Grounded for this, pointing out that Superman appears to be making the statement that drug dealers and child abuse are bad and treating it as though it's some radical new idea.
  • Complete Monster: See here.
  • Crazy Awesome:
  • Creepy Awesome:
    • Metallo, whenever writers and artists play up his mechanical nature.
    • Parasite.
  • Damsel Scrappy: This is the characteristic once strongly associated with Lois Lane. Ironically, it can be argued that Lois' role as a Damsel in Distress was far more important to the Superman plot than her role as a love interest, Depending on the Writer. In the 1940's, she did need to be rescued a lot (usually while pursuing a news story), but was fairly intelligent and could sometimes get herself out of scrapes by kicking ass and taking names. Once the 50's, 60's and early 70's came around though... Yeesh. She was an empty headed twerp who was constantly putting herself in danger for no reason, and whose sole goal in life was to trick Superman into marrying her. She took Too Dumb to Live to uncharted levels. In recent comics and other media she's a much more well rounded and developed character, who is extremely competent and able to take care of herself. She still needs to be rescued sometimes, and the trope may pop up occasionally, but for the most part she's a very independent, intrepid and intelligent reporter who just needs a little help against super powered aggressors from time to time.
    • The sixties-era book Superman's Girl Friend, Lois Lane seemed dedicated to making sure every single reader hated poor Lois. If you Google around, you'll find scans of multiple letters columns where readers asked for Superman to spank Lois (which would in fact occur, though in the context of Super Dickery). A few may have had other motives than scrappyhood, though.
    • Even when there's neither any Super Villain's ill will nor a big scoop one jump away from her window, she can be trusted to find something dangerous. Letters on the label are bigger than her eyes, so... they just don't fit in, right?
    • Starting late in The '70s comics, Lois was written to be more assertive to avert this trope, and needed rescuing much less often, including in her solo stories in The Superman Family. This included Lois having mastered a Kryptonian form of martial arts named "klurkor."
    • Being associated with this trope is probably what spurred John Byrne, in his Post-Crisis retelling of Superman's origin, to make it very, very obvious that Lois was now an Action Girl. This eventually led to an Inversion immediately after her wedding to Clark when he was kidnapped after temporarily losing his powers. Lois took her Army brat background to extremes, becoming a G. I. Jane in order to come to the rescue.
  • Dork Age: Superman is now more than 75 years old. Everyone has one period they consider a Dork Age. The most common candidates, however, are:
    • Superman transforming into an electrical being, then splitting into Red and Blue Superman, in the 90s. (This odd development was in fact a take on a 50s "imaginary story" with a similar concept.)
    • Superman: Grounded, J. Michael Straczynski's half-aborted run on the main title which involved Superman walking across America "to rediscover the country" was so critically derided that it was called the worst comic of the year.
    • The "New 52" version has its detractors, mainly due to a relatively radical costume redesign and a perceived attempt to make Superman Darker and Edgier.
    • Superman: Truth was a mishandled attempt to reinterpret Superman as a cynical, brooding character. It does have its defenders, but that DC's sales numbers fell to their pre-New 52 levels that following initiatives are working to undo the damage.
  • Draco in Leather Pants: Lex Luthor's humanistic rhetoric can be convincing enough that some fans forget that he rarely ever actually means it.

    E to H 
  • Ensemble Darkhorse: Lots over the years:
    • Bizarro. Only appears every once in a while and rarely plays a major role in the story, but beloved for his goofy and lovable personality, plus his at-times legitimately tragic nature.
    • Mr. Mxyzptlk, mainly for always being really funny whenever he shows up.
    • Krypto the Superdog. Cheesy maybe, but the dog is so brave, loyal, and just plain fun that he'll always be a welcome part of the Superfamily.
    • Supergirl for being cool, lovely, awesome and different enough from her cousin to earn a good number of loyal followers.
  • Escapist Character: Superman.
  • Evil is Cool: Lex Luthor, Metallo, General Zod, and plenty of others.
  • Fashion-Victim Villain:
    • Both the Pre-Crisis and Post-Crisis versions of the villainous Ultraman. The Pre-Crisis version wore a blue bodystocking with huge spiked shoulderpads, and the Post-Crisis version is wearing pajamas with weird circular bubbles on the belly. The New 52 versions avoids this by wearing an outfit almost identical to Supermna's.
    • Parasite's Pre-Crisis design. See Nightmare Retardant below.
    • Kryptonite Man's Pre-Crisis design. I mean good lord.
    • Similarly, Brainiac's Silver Age costume must be seen to be believed.
  • Foe Yay: With guess who... and Lois. Doesn't help that he has the same initials as all of Clark's major love interests. Though technically he's Alexander Luthor.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • In Action Comics #270, Superman dreams he travels to the future and his cousin is now Superwoman, the world's greatest heroine. Fast-forward twenty-five years and she is killed by the Anti-Monitor, never becoming Superwoman or taking over her cousin. And Superwoman is one of her worst enemies in the Post-Crisis universe.
    • Likewise, in the dream future of Action Comics #270, Superman voluntarily revealed his Secret Identity to the world after losing his powers. In What Ever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow and Superman: Truth, Clark was outed in decidedly more tragic circumstances.
    • In Action Comics #275, Supergirl dreams that Superman never turned up and she lived her cousin's life. In Elseworld's Finest: Supergirl & Batgirl, written 37 years after, Superman never turned up and Supergirl was world's greatest hero... because Lex Luthor found Kal-El's rocket and murdered the baby.
    • In one old Silver Age comic (see It Only Works Once), Superman burns out a part of Jimmy Olsen's brain after he discovers his secret identity. After Irredeemable, where Superman Expy the Plutonian lobotomizes his sidekick Samsara, it's a lot more disturbing.
    • Superman's famous match with Muhammad Ali has become a tearjerker since they both died in 2016 (twice in Superman's case).
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • In Action Comics #270, Superman dreams he travels to the future and he has become a sickly, powerless old man. Fast-forward several decades, and it's been established that Kryptonians age more slowly on Earth due to the yellow sun, and they actually become more powerful as they grow older.
    • In that same issue, Linda Lee works as a reporter in the Daily Planet. Linda never was a reporter in the comics, but in 2016 she became one in her Live-Action show.
    • In Superman Vol 1 #282 made his appearance a Kryptonian called Nam-Ek who wished he was immortal. This tale was written ten years before the birth of Dragon Ball.
    • In a letter at Superman: Man of Tomorrow #3 a couple of readers said that it would be cool, if Lex Luthor killed Superman and took over his titles, like Action Comics. What do you know, fifteen years later the second part of their wish came true In The Black Ring. And it was awesome.
    • Superdickery was meant to be a tongue-in-cheek interpretation of Superman being a jerk. While that's not the case in the Silver Age comics that are frequently targeted by the site, in the early comics, Superman was kind of a jerk (or at least much more aggressive than how he became later).
  • Ho Yay: His comments about how Jimmy looked in a bow-tie were not subtle. This is arguably a variation on Kissing Under the Influence since he had just been exposed to pink Kryptonite. This was also a spoof of the Silver Age, where that sort of Ho Yay happened all the time.
  • Iron Woobie:

    J to O 
  • Jerkass Woobie:
  • Magnificent Bastard:
    • Lex Luthor, who has been DC's go-to guy for Magnificent Bastardry from the word "go". It doesn't matter whether he's a Diabolical Mastermind, a Mad Scientist, a Corrupt Corporate Executive, a President Evil, or any combination thereof, Luthor stands at the top of DC's villainous hierarchy because of his ability to outmanouvere, outplan, and outfight anybody else who might want the job. As someone once remarked, other villains might fear The Joker, but they want to be Lex Luthor. To see him at his best check out Last Son, New Krypton, The Black Ring, and of course, Lex Luthor: Man of Steel.
    • General Zod achieves this status during New Krypton, going toe-to-toe with Luthor and Brainiac (who would qualify for this trope, were it not for his utter monstrousness) in the MB Olympics and matching them play for play. Every move that Alura, Superman, Luthor, General Lane, and Brainiac make only further cements Zod's position, and brings the two sides closer to war, and while that's what Luthor and Lane want, it ends up backfiring on them horribly when it turns out they cannot take Zod in open warfare.
  • Memetic Mutation:
  • The Merch: He was the first comic book character to have a steady flow of merchandise through the 40s and 50s ever since he debuted on the four-color page.
  • Moral Event Horizon:
  • My Real Daddy: Many of DC's own staff will point to Mort Weisinger as being this for Superman, as it was his direction as editor that expanded Superman beyond being a guy who could lift cars, jump high, and run fast into the super-powerful Flying Brick fighting other evil super-powerful aliens, as well as turning Lex Luthor into the implausibly intelligent Mad Scientist.
  • Narm Charm: Powered by this. It's a super-powerful Human Alien fighting monsters, robots, and supervillains with help from a newspaper team, a superpowered dog, two other Human Aliens, and sometimes a mad scientist. And yet none of this craziness prevents the comic from telling stories with gripping pathos and heart.
  • Newer Than They Think:
    • Lex Luthor. Many villains of a certain type - Corrupt Corporate Executive Karma Houdini Magnificent Bastards, generally bald - have been described as Lex Luthor Expys on this site. Norman Osborn and Obadiah Stane, for example. However, Luthor was only a Corrupt Corporate Executive Karma Houdini after the Crisis in 1986. For most of the character's history he was a Mad Scientist driven to criminality by his hatred of Superman rather than the other way around. If anything, he is an Expy of the Green Goblin rather than the other way around.
    • Stane is an odd example; he predates Corporate Lex by a couple of years, but physically the comic book Stane is Lex's identical twin, the only difference being he is slightly taller and doesn't have green eyes. Just look. Even more bizarrelly, 80's corporate Lex was the spitting image of The Kingpin.
    • Siegel and Shuster's original proto-Superman character was a bald villain with Psychic Powers.
  • Nightmare Retardant: Anytime an artist uses Parasite's purple, but largely human-looking Pre-Crisis design. It's just not as scary as his later designs, and makes the character look like a loser in a purple suit, rather than a terrifying Humanoid Abomination.
  • One True Pairing: Clark and Lois, obviously. Albeit supporters of other couples are far from scarce or undevoted, this one is practically synonymous with comic book romance. They’ve been together since the franchise’s inception and finally got married in the 90’s. The fact that Lois is Supes' official girlfriend in the vast majority of adaptations and spin-offs definitely helps.

    P to Z 
  • The Problem with Licensed Games: Sadly one of the biggest examples of this trope. Aside from the various fighting games he's appeared in, virtually none of the games starring Superman has been considered better than So Okay, It's Average. Superman 64 is even considered one of the worst video games of all time, with the NES Superman game being considered almost as bad.
  • Sacred Cow: Superman himself, as the originator of the superhero genre and one of the world's biggest icons of fiction. While some people dismiss him as an unrelatable Invincible Hero, many of his fans strongly believe that he's a universally-loved character, and will adamantly defend him from outright criticism.
  • Ship-to-Ship Combat: Between Superman/Lois fans and Superman/Wonder Woman fans.
  • Shipping Bed Death: Inverted. Clark/Lois is far and away the most popular couple in the comic book medium. By the 80's, fans were tired of the Clark/Lois/Superman triangle and just wanted Clark and Lois to be in an actual relationship. They were Happily Married until the New 52. And as of Rebirth, they're back together.
  • The Scrappy:
  • Strawman Has a Point:
    • Superman in the Action Comics comic Muscles For Money. Sure he was being a jerk, but his argument that he deserves a reward for all his good deeds does have merit.
    • Superboy Prime may be insane, but he's not far off when he says that superheroes have gotten too dark for their own good.
    • Lex Luthor may be pure evil (and a bigot) but some of his criticisms about humanity putting its collective faith in the godlike alien that is Superman are not entirely unreasonable.
  • Super Couple: Again, Clark and Lois. DC even based an entire show based around their couple, and Smallville built them up similarly. Even Superman: Lois and Clark, a New 52 book focused on pre-Flashpoint Lois and Clark, was a surprise hit for DC because it featured Clark and Lois together again.
  • Stoic Woobie: When Lois at one point breaks off their engagement and returns his ring (with fair cause; marrying Supes is a daunting prospect for a dozen reasons), a brokenhearted Superman flies out to the middle of the Atlantic to try to calm down. There he bumps into Lori Lemaris of Atlantis, his ex-girlfriend, and confides in her how frustrating it is that he's the only man in the world who can never allow himself to get angry. He chucks the ring miles over the horizon. Then Lori asks, "Wasn't that Ma Kent's engagement ring?" Supes realizes she's right and bolts off over the horizon to retrieve it.
  • Unpopular Popular Character: Mr. Mxyzptlk. In-universe most of the cast thinks he's an annoying little snit. Out-of-universe he's one of Superman's most endearing and well-known enemies.
  • WTH, Costuming Department?: Superman's uniform is so iconic that any drastic change to its design is bound to bet met by derision from the most dedicated fans. To elaborate:
    • The New 52 suit created controversy by removing the traditional red trunks and replacing them with a red belt. Also, fans did not like the explanation that the suit was an armor because Superman obviously does not need armor.
    • The "T-shirt and jeans" look in Grant Morrison's Action Comics was at first well-received, mostly because it was used in Superman's new origin story and was only temporary. By the time Superman: Truth hit the shelves, however, such outfit had outstayed its welcome with the readers.
    • The Rebirth suit (a combination of the classic, New 52 and DCEU designs) has been mostly well-received, with the only major point of contention being that the boots are now blue instead of red.



Live-Action TV

Western Animation