Follow TV Tropes


Characters / DCEU: Superman

Go To

Main Character Index

Kal-El / Clark Joseph Kent / Superman
"It's not an 'S'. On my world, it means 'hope'."
"I gotta find a job where I can keep my ear to the ground. Where people won't look twice when I want to go somewhere dangerous and start asking questions."

Species: Kryptonian

Citizenship: American

Affiliation(s): House of El, Daily Planet, Justice League

Played by: Henry Cavill, Cooper Timberline (age 8), Dylan Sprayberry (age 13), Ryan Handley (SHAZAM!)


Dubbed by: Edson Matus (Latin-American Spanish), Guillermo Romero (European Spanish), Takanori Hoshino (Japanese), Adrien Antoine (European French), Patrice Dubois (Canadian French), Guilherme Briggs (Brazilian Portuguese)

Film appearances: Man of Steel | Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice | Justice League | SHAZAM! | Zack Snyder's Justice League

Other appearances: Man of Steel Prequel | Man of Steel: The Early Years | Metropolis Turkish Airlines TV Spot | From the World of Batman v Superman | Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice - Upstairs/Downstairs | Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice: Crossfire

"You're scared of me because you can't control me. You don't, and you never will. But that doesn't mean I'm your enemy."

Kal-El has been sent to Earth as a baby to escape the destruction of his birth world, Krypton. He is the biological son of Jor-El and Lara Lor-Van, the first naturally-born Kryptonian in centuries, and was adopted and raised on Earth by an American couple, Jonathan and Martha Kent, who named him "Clark".


After learning of his heritage, battling his own kind to save his world of adoption as well as overcoming his inner doubts, a sinister conspiracy against him and even death, he decided to become a protector for mankind.

This was capped off when he joined the Justice League and helped repel an Apokoliptian invasion of Earth.

    open/close all folders 

  • The Ace: In Justice League, he gets this treatment posthumously as well as once he's back in the climax.
  • Action Hero: While previous live-action versions of Superman were not lacking in the action department, they mostly used their powers to save people and prevent disasters. This Superman finally gets to show how powerful he can be in a straight-up fight against characters of equal strength in modern live action movies. He has saved the Earth three times and counting.
  • Adaptational Angst Upgrade: Oh boy, yes. From having a much less happy backstory (including growing insecure due to having to conceal his powers as much as he could and facing accusations after the battle of Metropolis — which are for a large part a conspiracy against him orchestrated by Lex Luthor), this Superman is much less of a cheerful boy scout than other versions. It's all gone in Justice League, in which he has become much more upbeat after his resurrection.
  • Adaptation Personality Change:
    • Because he constantly suppresses his super senses and facing bad publicity in spite of his best efforts, this Superman is a lot more serious his comic book counterpart and other versions. By contrast his Clark Kent persona, while indeed a serious and hard-hitting reporter, is more lighthearted especially in his scenes with Lois (when Clark smiles his whole face lights up in an adorkable grin). He seems to need that switch in order to keep himself from giving into his despair and isolation when great doubt is publicly cast on his actions in Batman v Superman.
    • He shifts into his more mainstream demeanour after resurrecting and realising he's not alone anymore, though not without experiencing a psychotic episode beforehand.
    • He's also more confident and serious in his civilian persona in contrast to the bumbling and nervous personality he usually adopts, even having the courage to call Perry White out on his refusal to run stories about Batman. This is something it would be almost impossible to imagine Christopher Reeve's Clark doing.
  • Adorkable: He has his moments, such as after his kiss with Lois.
  • Age Lift: In the comics, Clark is 25 when he first becomes Superman and a lot of his Justice League teammates are around the same age and start their careers around the same time, too. Here, Clark is 33 when he becomes Superman, and while around the same age as Aquaman, he's older than Flash and Cyborg, but younger than Batman and Wonder Woman.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: He was bullied a lot while growing up because his Super Senses tended to leave him freaking out and made him the "weird kid."
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Played with. As a child, his first understanding of his abilities comes across as a case of sensory overload (a symptom commonly associated with disorders on the autism spectrum, among others). However, he quickly learns that what he's experiencing is happening to him because he's an alien, not because he has a neurological or mental disorder. Furthermore, his need to constantly keep his super hearing and x-ray vision under control isn't too far removed from what people with social disorders have to go through. After being revived, he briefly loses control of his super-senses and goes temporarily berserk.
  • Amnesiac Dissonance: A possible way to interpret Superman's new level in cheerfulness in Justice League is that his temporary death erased part of his memories and his time with Lois and Martha allowed him to show more confidence in his superhero duties and life in general. It is likely that Superman is more cheerful than before because he doesn't remember most of his pre-Justice League traumas.
  • Atlas Pose: Does something similar to this pose while holding part of a Soyuz spacecraft over his head.
  • Back from the Dead: He is resurrected in Justice League with a combination of the Kryptonian Genesis Chamber, a Mother Box, and a Speed Force lightning bolt.
  • Badass Armfold: He calmly folds his arms while telling General Swanwick that he will not allow the military to learn his secret identity in Man of Steel.
  • Badass Baritone: As Superman, he makes his voice much deeper than as Clark.
  • Badass Beard: Sports one during the first quarter of Man of Steel, when he saves an entire crew of workers from a burning oil rig.
  • Badass Cape: So badass that, like the New 52 version, the cape seems to be even more resistant than Superman himself. While he gets bruised and wounded during battles against Zod and his followers, the cape is unscathed. It's also the longest cape out of all Superman incarnations.
  • Badass in Distress: After entering Zod's ship, he gets weakened by the ship's atmosphere and taken prisoner. He escapes with the help of Lois and Jor-El, then saves Lois from crashing on Earth in a failing escape pod.
  • Batman Can Breathe in Space: Superman has no problem flying to space, and staying there for long periods of time while not needing to breathe at all.
  • Beard of Sorrow: The usually clean-shaven Clark grows a beard during his years Walking the Earth seeking his purpose in life, before becoming Superman. Arguably, he looks better with it.
  • Being Good Sucks: He gets hit by this trope hard in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. His attempts to do good are mostly met by suspicion and even outright derision. It even makes go into temporary exile, especially after Lex bombs the Capitol.
  • Beneath the Mask: As Superman, he seems to really take to playing the aloof-but-benevolent alien diplomat, being very confident and flawlessly composed. Beneath it, as we've seen, he's wracked with indecision and can come off as awkward from restraining himself so much.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: He's an extremely nice guy, but pissing him off isn't a good idea, as seen by the bullying trucker and Zod threatening his mother.
  • Big Damn Heroes: As is the norm, Superman gets several moments.
  • Big Good: Jor-El told him that his destiny was to become this for humanity, and he works hard to reach this point in both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Even while he's believed to be dead, his example still inspires Batman and the rest of the Justice League.
  • Birds of a Feather: He takes a shine to the Flash when he sees that he's also got super-speed. They race each other for fun after saving the world.
  • Blessed With Suck: Growing up in an alien environment, he underwent a painful adaptation process that involved spending years being unable to control the stimuli his senses were exposed to. He could see every layer of everything at all times and he could hear everything all together to the point of having a flip-out and running away from class to hide in a closet. It was paralleled with sensory over-stimulation and reactions of children with autism. Martha eventually coached him in tuning out the excess.
  • Blue Blood: His father was a Kryptonian noble and was their planet's premiere scientist.
  • Blue Is Heroic: Per the norm, he is a Primary-Color Champion but blue is the most prominent color of his superhero costume.
  • Breath Weapon: He displays this ability in his fight with Steppenwolf.
  • Brought to You by the Letter "S": His big red "S" chest insignia is the crest of his Kryptonian family and a symbol representing hope on Krypton, but to humans it's also a "S" as in "Superman".
  • The Cameo: He shows up at the final scene of SHAZAM!, but his face is very pointedly not shown on camera, only showing him from the head-down, as he was played by Zachary Levi's stunt double. David F. Sandberg wanted Henry Cavill to appear, but a scheduling conflict prevented him from appearing in the film.
  • Came Back Strong: His resurrection in Justice League appears to have made him stronger and faster than before, allowing him to keep up with the Flash and outmuscle Steppenwolf, and unlocked a new ability.
  • Carpet of Virility: Seen during his Walking the Earth time.
  • Character Development: Begins as a Classical Anti-Hero who doubts himself a lot secretly despite (originally) putting on the facade of a benevolent-if-aloof alien diplomat who's very confident and well-composed. Though he increasingly becomes The Cape and The Paragon throughout Man of Steel, by Batman v Superman he fits the two roles much better. He fully embraces The Cape in Justice League, eventually.
  • Character Shilling: In Justice League. Batman and Wonder Woman gush over how he was a paragon of hope to the world and with his death, the world has become a darker place, leading Batman to plan his resurrection. Even after he gets off to a rocky start with the rest of the heroes, he easily befriends them and earns their respect. Flash in particular is elated to stand alongside Superman and they have a race at the end of the movie.
  • Chest Insignia: His uniform has a big red "S", which is the crest of his Kryptonian family and a symbol representing hope on Krypton.
  • Chick Magnet: Thanks to his Samaritan Syndrome, women tend to see Clark as more of a "guardian angel" than a threat. His handsome features are definitely a plus, as well.
  • Child of Two Worlds: He is one of the most famous examples in fiction. Before escaping from Zod's ship, Jor-El tells him that he wanted Superman to know what it means to be human so that, in time, he could become the bridge between humanity and Kryptoniankind.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: Clark can never leave well enough alone, even though it goes against his adoptive father's wishes for prudence. The only time he doesn't jump in is when a tornado engulfs Jonathan, and even then it was only because Jonathan insisted he stand down, despite the consequences for both of them.
  • Civvie Spandex: His suit seems to be some sort of Kryptonian formal wear, either a scout uniform or, considering the ceremonial cape, some kind of diplomatic dress. The "S" symbol is the House of El crest standing for "hope." He wears it unaltered throughout Man of Steel.
  • Clark Kenting:
    • Par for the course in the Superman mythos, being the Trope Namer. Clark is shown disguising himself with nothing but a pair of glasses, as he joins the crew at the Daily Planet in the conclusion to Man of Steel.
    • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice makes this more convincing by showing Clark with a different posture and demeanor (that of an aggressive, somewhat brash Intrepid Reporter to contrast with Superman's Gentle Giant kindness), and having him wearing loose-fitting clothing to hide his Heroic Build.
  • Classical Anti-Hero: Probably the fundamental difference between Man of Steel and previous ones starring the character is that Superman isn't an Ideal Hero yet, being more of this instead. From a young age, Clark has to deal with insecurity about being accepted by the world in spite of his powers. Despite this, he has a sense of duty to use his powers for good so, as an adult, he's unable to settle down in a civilian job for long, since he skips town whenever his cover is blown. This ends when he becomes Superman and finally gets a job at the Daily Planet. Earlier, this leads Clark into an "Uncle Ben" situation: Pa Kent dies to protect his secret and he blames himself for not saving him.
  • Comic-Book Movies Don't Use Codenames: In Man of Steel, he is only called "Superman" by a few soldiers. By the time of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, it appears that more people have taken to referring to him by name.
  • Crucified Hero Shot:
    • A shirtless Clark underwater with his arms extended, after the oil rig he's on collapses.
    • On leaving the Kryptonian ship, he floats out through a hole in the wall in this pose.
    • In a pre-Crucifixion example, when Clark is in a church pondering whether he should surrender himself to Zod, a stained glass window of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane is prominently in the background.
    • In a post-Crucifixion example, the imagery of Batman and Wonder Woman lowering his dead body after the battle with Doomsday with Lois crying at his side is evocative of de-Crucifixion paintings.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    Superman: You'll learn.
  • Death Wail: Lets one out after killing Zod.
  • Destructive Savior: In Man of Steel. Though he's fighting to protect humanity, his battles with Zod's soldiers and later Zod himself cause lots of damage to nearby buildings.note  As of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, he's more careful about what gets damaged in combat.
  • Designer Babies: Averted, Superman is the first naturally-born Kryptonian in centuries. born to Jor-El and Lara Lor-Van.
  • Determinator: No matter how he is outnumbered or how much Kryptonite his enemies may have, Superman will never back down. He demonstrates a lot of Heroic Resolve while under the debilitating effects of Kryptonite poisoning, both during his battle with Batman and the subsequent battle with Doomsday.
    Superman: Maybe, but I'm not about to let that stop me from trying.
  • Disney Death:
    • In Man of Steel, he loses consciousness and seems to be dead after destroying the World Engine. Thankfully, the Sun kicks in.
    • In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, he has TWO of them, both in the span of minutes of each other. One is when he gets nuked whilst fighting Doomsday in space. Naturally, the Sun came out. The second time is when he has a near-death experience with Doomsday that leads most people to believe that he's dead. However, some dirt rises around the coffin after his funeral ends, revealing that he is, in fact, alive.
  • Don't Make Me Destroy You: While Clark previously warned Bruce that he'll take him down if Bruce doesn't stop being the Batman, by the time of their actual fight, he's realized that Lex Luthor is the real threat, and wants Bruce's help to rescue his mother, who Lex is holding hostage. When his initial attempts to talk to Bruce fail as Bruce just attacks him before he can finish his sentence, Clark shows how powerful he is in an attempt to convince Bruce that if he was here to fight, Bruce wouldn't stand a chance. Unfortunately, this fails to convince Bruce, who just breaks out the Kryptonite.
  • Doomed Hometown: Krypton was his doomed home planet. His parents sent him on Earth shortly after his birth to have him escape its destruction.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The first thing he's shown doing is saving the crew of a burning oil rig.
  • Extremity Extremist: Whenever he fights in Man of Steel, Superman almost exclusively uses his fists. Justified in that he hadn't learned the full extent of his powers.
  • Eye Beams: As a Kryptonian exposed to a yellow sun, he can project solar energy into a beam through his eyes.
  • Face Death with Dignity: When Batman is about to kill him, he doesn't beg for his life at all, but simply requests that Batman save Martha Kent. It ends up saving him.
  • Fake Shemp: He appears in SHAZAM!, but his face is not shown. Henry Cavill was not available, so a stand-in (Zachary Levi's stunt double) showed up wearing the suit.
  • Farm Boy: Raised on a farm in Kansas which he points out to some military guys think can't get past the whole "alien" thing.
  • Fatal Flaw: Superman's Chronic Hero Syndrome ends up pushing long past the point of martyrdom, especially in Dawn of Justice.
  • Fight Off the Kryptonite: Grabbing the Kryptonite spear severely weakens him, but he resists long enough to kill Doomsday.
  • Fish out of Water:
    • The main conflict of Man of Steel, as Clark's abilities alienate him from society.
    • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice takes it even further, as people either hate or revere him, but do not treat him as an equal.
  • Flash Step: He pulls this off twice, once in BvS during his fight with Batman to step through the lead smoke, the other time to appear instantly in front of Wonder Woman and grabbing her Bracelets of Submission, demonstrating just how ridiculously fast he actually is.
  • Flying Brick: Although the classic line isn't used, he is still a super strong and durable flyer. He's Trope Codifier after all.
  • Foil: To Zod — Another surviving member of Krypton with designs on being the messiah of their lost civilization. However, whereas Zod is a ruthless elitist, Kal-El is compassionate and altruistic. In this manner, Kal embodies all the hopes and aspirations of Krypton's people for a better future while Zod personifies the authoritarianism and Social Darwinism that drove Krypton to ruin in the first place.
  • Forced to Watch: During a tornado, Jonathan refused help from Clark in order for his adopted son to hide his abilities from the people there. Cue Manly Tears.

  • Genius Bruiser: Closer to his comics counterpart, this Clark is established as being quite intelligent, knowing how to treat wounds, maintaining a high degree of control over his powers, being a pretty good tactician, and being knowledgeable about science and a fan of the classical Greek philosophers. He may have been the first "genetic roll of the dice" in Kryptonian civilization in centuries, but those "dice" (Jor-El and Lara) were loaded towards intellectualism to begin with. Also, like in the comics, he eventually chooses a civilian career where his powers give him no special advantage over anyone else (well, typing at super-speed does help with the deadlines).
    • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice shows him learning from his previous fights, as he immediately moves the battle with Doomsday into Earth's orbit, which not only allows him to minimize property damage, but receive support from a nuclear missile.
  • Gentle Giant: He's tall, hugely built and almost immeasurably powerful but he has a shy, soft-spoken personality and is kind and altruistic. This is best illustrated in Batman v Superman when he offers himself before Congress and the scene is framed to show just how big he is.
  • A God I Am Not: He is very uncomfortable with the thought of people revering him as, or even comparing him to, a god in any way.
  • Godzilla Threshold: He doesn't have a Thou Shall Not Kill code yet, so he only uses lethal force as an absolute last resort against an opponent who is simply too dangerous for him to hold back against. His killing of Zod is actually what inspired said code in the first place. And, true to form, Zod's reanimated corpse (Doomsday) is what causes him to cross this threshold once again.
  • Good Is Not Soft: He levels devastating blows on villains (who are a match for him, so it's give-and-take). As Superman, he does not visibly hold back at any point, which is usually a major facet in his combat ability.
  • Good People Have Good Sex: Implied when he slips into the bathtub with Lois.
  • Greater-Scope Paragon: His sacrifice inspires Batman to assemble the Justice League, which takes up his role of protector of Earth until his resurrection.
  • Guttural Growler: For a brief period in Justice League. While manhandling Batman after being resurrected, he talks with a very gruff tone as he's chewing Batman out.
  • Happily Adopted: As usual. Clark may be a Human Alien, but he and his adopted parents are closer than blood. Flashbacks make the relationship more nuanced; he went through a phase of rejecting Martha and Jonathan as just the people who found him. Though he seems to have gotten over it for the most part, he does refer to Jor-El as his father pretty consistently, which hits Martha pretty hard.
  • The Hero: Of all the DCEU protagonists introduced so far, Superman is the best example of the standard heroic archetype. He is brave, modest, responsible, saves people from both human threats and natural disasters etc.
  • Heroes Love Dogs: He shares many affectionate moments with his dog.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Because Lois is a redhead in this adaptation.
  • Heroic BSoD: In Dawn of Justice, the Senate subcommittee bombing and his inability to stop it hits him hard.
  • Heroic Build: Justified. Spending years and years Walking the Earth and working in all kinds of jobs that require great physical effort tend to do that to you. Plus, having a body that "drinks the sun" helps.
  • Heroic Bystander: What Clark was before he discovered his heritage. His Chronic Hero Syndrome was clashing with his adoptive father Jonathan's admonishments that the world was not ready for someone like him.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: In the climax of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, he kills Doomsday with the Kryptonite spear, which weakens him and allows Doomsday to impale him. But luckily, he will get better.
  • Heroic Spirit: He's Superman, this is a given. Whether it's preventing a disaster or punching out supervillains, Superman doesn't stop fighting until people are safe.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: Several protestors, politicians, and such angrily blame Superman for the massive destruction and loss of life from his battles against General Zod and his forces. Batman also considers the Man of Steel a threat to the planet instead of a hero. It all dies out when Superman saves humanity once more through a Heroic Sacrifice against Doomsday, he's eventually recognized as a true savior and mourned by everyone.
  • Hidden Depths: He displays some medical and scientific knowledge in Man of Steel, which is unexpected considering the amount of time he spent as a vagabond. He's also seen reading philosophy texts as a kid.
  • Hope Bringer: He tells Lois that the "S" on his chest is the Kryptonian symbol for "hope". Thus, Kryptonians would see someone with this crest flying towards them as "hope is coming". Jor-El intended him to become a hope bringer for the people of Earth, although they were divided between trusting him and fearing him following the battle of Metropolis. It's not until his Heroic Sacrifice against Doomsday that everyone realizes he truly was a savior, and he became an Inspirational Martyr as a result.
  • How Do I Shot Web?: He took years honing his natural gifts (with a lot of help from his adoptive parents) and even destroyed a mountain on his first attempt at flight.
  • Humble Hero: He is very modest despite being practically a god among men, and he doesn't seem to enjoy being perceived as the latter.
  • Hunk: Handsome, check. Manly, check. Jawline, check. Big arms, check. Large torso, check. Pronounced muscles, check. Body hair, check. There's no doubt that this version of Superman is a perfect example of Hunk.
  • Hurting Hero:
    • While Superman has oftentimes been shown lifting a globe (the Daily Planet's), this is one version that shows how much just feeling one has to bear the weight of the world on one's shoulders can do to a guy with Superman's powers. Even before he finds the suit, just because he's a good person at heart.
    • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice takes this further—while he's much closer to becoming the Ideal Hero he wants to be, he is scarred by what happened in Metropolis and is emotionally-damaged by the ungrateful masses who are skeptical of him after all he's done.
  • Ideal Hero: He spends the entirety of Man of Steel striving to become this. By the time of Batman v Superman, he apparently fits the mold considerably better, but still isn't quite there. He fully becomes this in Justice League.
  • If I Wanted You Dead...: Paraphrased in his second confrontation with Batman. Superman's goal in the battle is simply to get Batman to stop fighting, and he has no interest in seeing him die (likely because of Thou Shall Not Kill principles).
    Superman: Stay down! If I wanted it, you'd be dead already!
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Clark's reaction after finding out he's a super-powered alien. As an adult, he moves from place to place trying to live a quiet life. But both as a child and an adult, he's compelled to be a Heroic Bystander until he finally becomes Superman.
  • Ill Boy: Martha mentions that it was hard for him to breathe as a child. Explained to be because Krypton's atmosphere is near, but not quite, Earth composition, and he needed to adjust. It also supports the Kryptonite Factor.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: When he stabs Doomsday through the chest with the Kryptonite lance, Doomsday returns the favor, impaling him on one of his Spikes of Villainy as he's also weakened by the Kryptonite. Superman then uses said spike as leverage to further push the kryptonite lance.
  • Innocent Blue Eyes: Of the heroic and idealistic variety.
  • Inspirational Martyr: His death fighting Doomsday convinces humanity that he was their protector, and it shows at his funeral (with this message on a shrine "If you seek his monument, look around you"). His sacrifice also motivates Batman to form the Justice League ("I failed him in life, I won't fail him in death").
  • Intrepid Reporter: As Clark Kent, he assertively and effectively looks for scoops.
  • Interspecies Romance: He (a Kryptonian) and Lois Lane (a human).
  • Ironic Echo: In Batman v. Superman, Batman asked him "Do you bleed?" before making efforts to kill him. In Justice League, when suffering from Resurrection Sickness, Superman manhandles Batman and throws that very same line back in his face.
  • It Sucks to Be the Chosen One: This is a running theme in his narrative arc; he was conceived by his parents to break the eugenic cycle of Krypton and to serve as an inspiring figure for Earth. However, he never asked or wanted that responsibility. Similar to the depiction of Jesus of Nazareth in the Martin Scorsese film, The Last Temptation of Christ, Superman here is presented as fully human (well, Human Alien) and fully "divine" (superpowered) and is unable to reconcile the two halves. He wants to have a normal life but circumstances beyond his control (and a general sense of obligation) force him to continually expose himself to a judgmental and suspicious world.
  • The Joy of First Flight: When Superman learns to fly, it is treated with great gravitas, as it's one of the last of his superpowers he learns.
  • Kryptonite Factor: The Trope Namer appears in Batman v Superman where Batman uses the green rocks to create both a gas and a lance in order to even the playing field.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: He suffers from this upon being resurrected, forgetting about the Doomsday battle and Martha Kent's rescue when he head-butts Wonder Woman and almost crushes Batman's chin, only retaining memories of the latter's hostility and reminding him of "Do you bleed?!".
  • Last of His Kind: The only survivor of Krypton... until the reveal that Zod and his followers survived. Then said followers got sucked in the Phantom Zone, and Zod died, making him this again.
  • Leitmotif:
    • Composed by Hans Zimmer and officially released as the trailer theme An Ideal of Hope. The full version of this theme appears in Man of Steel as "What Are You Going To Do When You're Not Saving The World." A simple piano melody, representing Clark Kent and his Earthly home and life, that crescendos into a full orchestra with marching drums in the background, symbolizing Superman's purity, power, and patriotism. The motif gets a Dark Reprise in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice as "Day of the Dead" as Superman is still struggling to do the right thing despite the burden of heavy criticism from the media in an increasingly morally-gray world.
    • Danny Elfman didn't use it an any point in Justice League, going for a reinterpretation of John Williams' Superman theme instead.
  • Lightning Bruiser:
    • He's not as brutally fast as Faora, but holds his own quite well against her and Nam-Ek since he has the advantage of superior strength and flight. And in the climactic battle with Zod, he flies fast and hits hard.
    • In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, he is able to stand toe-to-toe with Doomsday and even overpower him on occasion through his strength and speed. And effortlessly overwhelm the entire Justice League when amnesiac, and once he's back, Steppenwolf in Justice League.
  • Living MacGuffin: Prior to launching Kal-El to Earth, Jor-El imbued his cells with the Codex, which holds the genetic potential of the entire Kryptonian species.
  • Load-Bearing Hero: He demonstrates this multiple times, because of course. This gets turned on its head early on Man of Steel during the burning oil rig scene. Clark is strong enough to hold up a falling oil rig, but the rig collapses under its own weight anyway.

  • Male Might, Female Finesse: Despite both having super strength, Superman is a heavy-hitting brawler, while Wonder Woman relies on agility and precision. They're both essentially the Good Counterparts to Zod and Faora in this regard.
  • Manly Tears: He bursts into tears with the death of his adopted father, then his Tears of Remorse for killing Zod. For the third time after the Senate bombing.
  • Mismatched Eyes: Clark has sectoral heterochromia, in which his left eye is both brown and blue in the iris, doubles as Fridge Brilliance as stated on said Fridge page.
  • Messianic Archetype: Superman is modeled after Jesus as a symbol of hope and savior figure.
  • Momma's Boy: He cares very much about his mother, so attacking her when he's around probably won't end well for you. Unfortunately in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Lex Luthor guesses this and kidnaps both Martha Kent and Lois Lane. Lois is quickly saved, but that was just to get Superman's attention — his mother is the real hostage.
  • Morality Chain: Justice League shows that Superman was a Morality Chain to the whole world. Without him, people lost hope, crime rose to an exponential degree and Steppenwolf is free to invade without any significant threat. Bruce has to resurrect him to give the world hope again.
  • Moses in the Bulrushes: He was sent to Earth as a baby by his Kryptonian parents to escape the destruction of their world.
  • Mr. Fanservice: He is a certified Hunk with at least one Shirtless Scene per movie to show it off. Lampshaded when Captain Carrie Farris of the Air Force is completely Distracted by the Sexy when near him (and admits it to her commanding officer, General Swanwick).
    Swanwick: What are you smiling about, Captain?
    Captain Farris: Nothing, sir! [Beat] I just think he's kinda hot...
  • My Greatest Failure: He feels guilty to some degree for the destruction that occurred in Metropolis, but he is also keeping said guilt in mind as a way to make sure that nothing so drastic ever occurs again on his watch.
  • Name From Another Species: Inverted. Clark, a Kryptonian, is adopted by humans and given a human name. His birth name is Kal-El.
  • Nice Guy: Despite being initially met with hostility from all sides, he's almost never less than courteous and helpful. At one point, he saves one of the soldiers that had been firing on him as well as on Zod's troops, and as he puts him down, he asks him sincerely and without any rancor if he's alright; this seems to dumbfound the soldier.
  • No-Sell: He is immune to physical harm and the strength of normal humans can't even budge him (without Kryptonite, that is). This is best illustrated when he works as a waiter, as Ludlow (the Jerkass and pervert Canadian truck driver) responds violently to his defense of his coworker Chrissy, who was being harassed by Ludlow. Ludlow tries to push him and nothing happens.
  • Not Quite Dead: As revealed in the last shot of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice with dirt particles starting to ascend over his coffin, he's seemingly healing, albeit very slowly. By Justice League, his body is healed enough for the Justice League to perform a resurrection with a Mother Box.
  • Not So Stoic: His stoicism all goes out of the window when lives are in danger. He spent an entire lifetime holding his anger in, and then Zod threatened his mom...
  • Official Couple: He gets together with Lois towards the end of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Clark had an engagement ring stashed at his mother's house waiting for the right moment, which Martha gives to Lois during his funeral, and since she's later seen wearing it, she would have said "yes". They reunite in Justice League.
  • One-Man Army: Downplayed in Man of Steel; though individually, he is much more effective against Zod's crew than the human Armed Forces, he wouldn't stand much chances of stopping it by himself without their involvement since he's outnumbered. Likewise, it takes a team effort with Batman and Wonder Woman to take Doomsday down in Batman v Superman.
    • He plays this completely straight in Justice League however, instantly turning the tide of the battle once he steps in.
  • Papa Wolf: Inverted. He is very protective of his adopted mother, Martha. He beat Zod into the ground for nearly harming her and was about to laser beam Lex to his death for kidnapping her.
  • The Paragon:
    • Not quite yet in Man of Steel. He has more than potential for it in him, that much is for sure, and both of his fathers understood this. Throughout the film, he's mostly trying to discover what direction to take his powers in, settling on being the alien mediator and representative. So while Jor-El tells him to be "an ideal to strive towards", he is not his usual Ideal Hero self yet. (He also doesn't have the benefit of 12 years' training through Neural Implanting that Jor-El's avatar subjected him to in Superman: The Movie. In this movie, he spends the corresponding amount of time doing odd jobs)
    • By the end of Batman v Superman, he has quite clearly grown into this. His Heroic Sacrifice inspires Batman to create the Justice League, and it also most likely prompted Batman to undergo some Character Development, from cynical, brutal and careless vigilante to a more suitable defender of justice.
    • At the end of Justice League, he fully embodies the trope, helping the Flash to gain more confidence most notably.
  • Patriotic Fervor: "I grew up in Kansas, General. I'm about as American as it gets."
  • Play-Along Prisoner: In Man of Steel, he willingly turns himself over to the US military, even allowing them to handcuff him.
    Lois: You let them handcuff you?
    Superman: Wouldn't be much of a surrender if I resisted. And if it makes them feel more secure, then... then all the better for it.
  • Pinball Protagonist: Superman spends most of his time in a reactive state in Dawn of Justice. It is Batman and Luthor who push things forward.
  • Power Floats: A very rare example of floating horizontally rather than vertically in the final battle against Zod in Man of Steel.
  • Power Incontinence: He experiences this through Sensory Overload in his childhood as he adapts to the Earth's environment.
    • He has a bit of this again upon being resurrected, seeing the skeletons and organs of the Justice League members.
  • Powerful and Helpless: This happens to him in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. After kidnapping Martha, Lex coerces him into fighitng Batman in exchange for his mother's life. Superman is so angry that he attempts to physically threaten Luthor if it means saving Martha, but Luthor made sure his men didn't tell him.
  • Primary-Color Champion: In Man Of Steel, it's a visually-darker example, but still counts. In Batman v Superman, the colors on his costume are brighter.
  • Punch Catch : He does it to a newly born Doomsday, proceeding to overpower him via twisting his arm (albeit with two hands to counter for Doomsday's much greater mass).
  • Raised by Humans: He was born of Kryptonian parents and raised by a human couple.
  • Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: A Tall, Dark, and Handsome man who has a very pale skin, making him a Rare Male Example of this trope note .
  • Red Baron: Is known as Superman (following the tradition set by Superman: The Movie), "the Man of Steel" and "Son of Krypton".
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: His eyes glow red when he's about to shoot his beams.
  • Relative Button: Don't threaten Martha Kent. Zod found this out the hard way.
    • Happens again in Batman v Superman when Lex has Martha kidnapped. He goes from quiet and in control to livid in a matter of seconds. Despite Lex warning Clark that if Clark kills him, Martha dies, Clark looks ready to vaporize Lex on the spot.
  • Resurrection Sickness: He suffers from Laser-Guided Amnesia (forgetting about the Doomsday battle and Martha Kent's rescue when he head-butts Wonder Woman and neck lifts Batman, only retaining memories of the latter's hostility - "Do you bleed?!") and a bit of Power Incontinence (his X-Ray Vision is unfocused once again, making him see skeletons and organs) upon being resurrected. Lois helps him put the pieces together afterwards.

  • Samaritan Syndrome: As a boy, he saves his classmates from drowning. As an adult Walking the Earth, this is what enables Lois to track him down. Lois's obsession even stems from Clark using his powers to save her when she was investigating an alien crash site. She notes that to completely disappear, Clark would have to stop helping people, and he just doesn't have that in him.
  • Save the Villain: When Doomsday awakens, he attempts to attack Lex Luthor, his own creator. Superman has to intercept the blow and save him from almost certainly getting splattered.
  • Screaming Warrior: Whenever Superman is in a fight, especially after said opponent — be it man or machine — threatens his planet, he seems to scream a lot. Such as when he drags Zod through downtown Smallville for threatening his mother and when he destroys the World Engine. He also lets out a scream of anger when fighting Batman and Doomsday in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Invoked by Zod when they're the only two living Kryptonians left after the rest got sent back to the Phantom Zone, as Superman destroys the last working ship (his, actually) that could have been used to breed new Kryptonians. Its Genesis Chamber is empty, though, as it needs Superman's DNA to work. Of course, Superman himself makes it perfectly clear that his people went down their self-destructive path of their own free will, and he doesn't want a repeat of that. Then Zod himself is killed by Superman shortly after.
  • Shirtless Scene: Quite a few scenes show off Henry Cavill's impressive physique and hairy chest throughout he movie he has appeared in.
  • Shoot the Dog: Killing Zod to save an innocent human family. He's visibly upset that it had to come to that. So much, even, that it may have caused him to adopt his familiar Thou Shalt Not Kill code.
  • Showy Invincible Hero: In the climax of Justice League. While he spends most of the movie dead or recovering from his resurrection, when he shows up during the final battle it's the moment that turns the tide in the heroes' favour. Steppenwolf, who can fight Wonder Woman and Aquaman to a standstill, is unable to land a single punch and gets trounced with zero effort.
  • Signature Move: When up against powerful opponents, as the prototypical Flying Brick with expert control of his flying, Superman will often just slam into them at Mach 3, as some form of Dynamic Entry.
  • Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Trailer: Superman doesn't appear in any of the teasers for Justice League, likely to keep the nature of his resurrection a secret. He's resurrected halfway through the movie and spends some time at the Kent farm in Smallville so he can regain his lost memories before joining the League in the climax.
  • Small Steps Hero: In Man of Steel, despite agreeing (at first) with Jonathan that he needs to keep his powers a secret For The Greater Good, Clark risks outing this secret several times because he just can't stop using his power to help people, before officailly becoming Superman. As a teenager, he risks his secret saving a school bus, and as an adult Walking the Earth, he tries to stay below the radar, but always blows his cover by saving people. In Batman v Superman, this trope is deconstructed, as Superman feels self-doubt that he's not doing enough to help people, and there's plently of public debate about his tendency to deal with small and immediate problems without thinking of the bigger picture and potential consequences. For example, his flying into a foreign war zone and saving Lois from a warlord sparking a massacre or at least, this is what Lex Luthor wants people to think happened.
  • Story-Breaker Power: Zack Snyder admitted that this is the reason he's absent during most of Justice League. He's ridiculously, overwhelmingly powerful compared to the rest of the team, the second strongest member of which (Wonder Woman) still occasionally has trouble with normal humans thugs with guns. When he actually does get brought back before the climax, he one-shots every other member of the League, trashes the Mother Boxes with Cyborg's help, saves all the innocent bystanders (lifting entire buildings full of people to evacuate them), and delivers a downright embarrassing Curb-Stomp Battle to Steppenwolf, the Big Bad of the piece who had already thrashed everyone else he fought, including some Green Lanterns, the Amazons, and the rest of the Justice League. Superman does this all with basically no effort and a smug smile on his face the entire time. Suffice to say there wouldn't have been much of a movie had he been there from the beginning.
  • The Stoic: Superman takes pains to control his emotions, mindful of accidentally killing people and/or exposing his powers.
    • Averted in Justice League, where he is a lot more expressive and cheerful, even quipping alongside the Flash after his resurrection and regaining his sense of self completely upon recovering from his Unstoppable Rage.
  • Superhero: He is the Trope Codifier and Trope Namer. He is the first modern superhero and, initially, the protector of Metropolis. Over time he extends his activities to the rest of the world and even inspires Batman to create a group of superheroes.
  • Superheroes Wear Capes: He is the Trope Codifier with that billowing red cape. In this verse, it is apparently a tradition on Krypton.
  • Super Breath: Probably due to the Mother Box boosting his powers upon resurrecting him, he is now capable of chilling his breath to freeze a target.
  • Superpower Lottery: Thanks to Earth's yellow sun, he possesses superhuman strength, speed, durability and senses. He also has separate abilities, such as the power to fly, see through opaque objects, project thick beams of heat from his eyes, generate ice-cold currents with his breath, as well as becoming virtually impenetrable to most weapons and possessing accelerated healing.
  • Tall, Dark, and Handsome: As with all depictions of Superman, he is tall (Cavill is 6'1"), dark-haired and handsome (as noticed by Carrie Farris).
  • Taught by Experience: Since he lacks the formal training all Kryptonian soldiers undergo since birth, Superman had to rely on his own life experiences in how to control his powers. Even Jor-El said the only way to know how strong he had become was to keep pushing his limits. Zod might mock his Farm Boy upbringing, but in the end Superman manages to be a credible threat to Zod’s forces and save Earth. What he lacks in formal training, he makes up with adaptability.
  • These Hands Have Killed: In the climax of Man of Steel, Superman is forced to snap Zod's neck when he makes it clear that he will never stop massacring humans, while threatening to eye-beam a terrified cowering family to death. Horrified by his own deed, and with the additional burden of having to end his species, Superman can only scream in anguish before Lois comes in to comfort him.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the entire film's running theme is how the world Superman lives in can be paranoid about it and easily manipulated into hating and even destroying him, which is contrasted by the unflinching love everyone seems to have for him after his sacrifice to stop Doomsday and save the world... again. Indeed, Justice League shows that a world without Superman is a world without hope.
  • Took a Level in Cheerfulness: After his resurrection, Clark has lost part of his memories and gets angry, to the point he initially perceives the other heroes of the Justice League as threats. It's only when he gets reunited with Lois and Martha that he gains optimism and sense of hope. He even quips alongside Flash in the battle against Steppenwolf.
  • Took a Level in Idealism: Being obliged by circumstances to kill the last of his Kryptonian brethren literally with his bare hands only results in him adopting a Thou Shalt Not Kill code and becoming more idealistic and fettered. Becomes fully realized in Justice League.
  • Tranquil Fury: In Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice, he keeps his composure while being thoroughly pissed at Batman. At the worst of times, he comes across like a stern parent scolding a child. Taken to a horrifying degree in the Bad Future, where he keeps a stone-cold face while painfully killing Batman and his allies.
  • Truer to the Text: This version of Superman was introduced as a lot more serious and driven by guilt and insecurity due to his more traumatic backstory. After his resurrection in Justice League however, he acts a lot more cheerful and inspiring, fully taking his role as The Paragon of the Earth, which his mainstream comics version is so famous for.
  • Unstoppable Rage: He does this when he's under a severe amount of emotional distress or when someone harms those he cares about.
    • Such as when Zod nearly killed Martha he tackles the him out of the way and brutally pounds him to a pulp even though Zod is the more seasoned warrior but Clark was able to overpower him through sheer protective instinct.
    • His reawakening in Justice League has him going berserk on the rest of the team and outclassing every single one of them.
  • Unwanted Revival: This is discussed in Justice League when Batman resolves to resurrect him. The other Leaguers are concerned he might not come back with his mind or morals intact, while Alfred points out that he could be at peace. While Superman does suffer some Resurrection Sickness, once he reunites with Lois and has a moment to breathe he seems pretty happy to get a second chance at life.
  • We Help the Helpless: As Clark Kent, he'd rather bring focus to people who are suffering in various ways such as not having a home to go. It's executed perfectly with this line.
    Clark Kent: Perry, when you assign a story, you're making a choice about who matters. And who's worth it.
  • Willfully Weak: Clark can really hold back his strength on his own accord because he knows that if he doesn't hold back, he would cause major damage if he wanted to. Especially in his fight against Batman, where Clark is clearly using kid gloves.
    Superman: Stay down! If I wanted it, you'd be dead already!
    • In Man of Steel he's only unskilled in that he isn't a trained warrior compared to the very well-trained elite Kryptonian soldiers he has to face off with for his first real outing. Note, for the brief time they were on Earth, Zod manages to overcome his Power Incontinence and need for a breather apparatus, and Faora manages to outright master Super Speed on second contact. All of which took Clark much longer to hone, and even then, he's never had a chance to test himself to the limits. However, since he has been exposed to the yellow sun for 33 years, he was able to match them on raw power, but it became a problem when Zod caught up. It's also shown in the fight scenes that his style of hand-to-hand combat, while understandably not on par with the soldiers, is still more advanced than other onscreen portrayals of the character, where he often relies solely on his devastating power rather than technique.
    • This is further seen in Batman v. Superman. Superman is a better fighter than he was in the previous movie, but when his strength is brought down to near-human levels he is no match at all for Batman's twenty+ years of fighting experience, training, skill and Powered Armor. Batman also gets an upper hand in that the kryptonite grenades he uses to bring Superman down a few levels also leaves him debilitating pain until it wears off. Once he recovers, he goes toe to toe with the humongous, increasingly stronger and much more powerful Doomsday. Then in that fight, Wonder Woman surpasses him in technique, while he clearly has more raw speed and power once again - whereas Diana uses precision and agility, Superman uses his sheer flight speed to strike with immense momentum.
    • He also holds back to an immense degree in Justice League, as nothing in the movie can threaten him. The blows he throws out against Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Steppenwolf clearly don't remotely compare to the blows he traded with Zod and Doomsday; instead of sending a monster weighing thousands of pounds flying hundreds of meters and through several skyscrapers, or releasing shockwaves that leave craters hundreds of feet in diameter, his blows simply send his human-sized targets a couple dozen meters into walls or leave them in man-sized craters a couple feet in depth into asphalt. His heat vision against Cyborg also fails to melt through a cop car, even though the beams Zod and him fired in the final battle of Man of Steel were sufficient to melt through entire skyscrapers and thick steel beams in milliseconds.
  • World's Strongest Man: Strongest being on Planet Earth, and as a Yellow-Sun powered Kryptonian, he's one of the strongest beings in the universe.
  • Working-Class Hero: He takes on a number of blue-collar jobs before becoming Superman. Even when he does become a journalist he's assigned to the sports column. A majority of the people he's shown rescuing all tend to come from humble or underprivileged backgrounds and his beef with Batman mainly came from his terrorising of slum dwellers. In Justice League, Bruce points out that this makes Clark "more human" than him.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Only because he is forced to defend his adopted homeworld against a fanatical band of Kryptonian super-soldiers whose ranks happen to include women that are just as skilled and deadly as their male counterparts. He also has no trouble attacking Wonder Woman, but that can be chalked up to being resurrected and having lost his memories.
  • X-Ray Vision: He can see through virtually all opaque objects and surfaces except through lead. He had troubles focusing it in his youth, seeing people as skeletons and organs.


Video Example(s):


Man of Steel

Clark Kent's establishing moment is when he saves a school bus of his classmates, even though they thought he was a freak and a few of them bullied him. It echoes the biggest conflict of the plot, saving the Earth despite not knowing if they fully trusted him or even liked him.

How well does it match the trope?

4.5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / EstablishingCharacterMoment

Media sources:

Main / EstablishingCharacterMoment