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Superman (Superboy I Pre-Crisis and post-Infinite Crisis)

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Superman, the Last Son of Krypton

Alter ego: Clark Kent/Kal-El

Species: Kryptonian

First appearance: Action Comics #1 (May 1938)

"This looks like a job for Superman!"

Born on the planet Krypton, Kal-El was sent to Earth as a baby shortly before his planet exploded. Discovered and adopted by a couple living in the town of Smallville, Kal-El, now named Clark Kent, discovers his superpowers as he grows up. Learning of his Kryptonian heritage, Clark decides to dedicate his life to truth, justice, and the American way. Clark currently lives a double life in the city of Metropolis, as a mild-mannered reporter for the Daily Planet, and as Superman, the Man of Steel.

From the late Golden Age of Comic Books through the Bronze Age, Superman started his heroic career as Superboy in Smallville. This was Retconned out of history thanks to Crisis on Infinite Earths, and later recanonized after Infinite Crisis in Superman: Secret Origin. The New 52 origin in the Action Comics arc "Superman and The Men of Steel" decanonized this once again. Superman Reborn, an event that's part of the DC Rebirth relaunch, brought Secret Origin back into canon and removed the New 52 origin. As of Doomsday Clock #12, his stint as the original Superboy is back in continuity, as well as him having inspired the creation in the future of the Legion of Super-Heroes.


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    #-B 
  • 10-Minute Retirement: He undergoes this twice during Post-Crisis, namely after the events of The Supergirl Saga and Superman: Grounded. In both of those tales, he retires from being a superhero due to not being able to save someone from being killed, namely a Supergirl from a pocket dimension as well as all of its inhabitants in the former and most of the population of Kandor and New Krypton in War of the Supermen, forcing him to isolate himself to reflect on his nature as a hero. Fortunately, he always finds the motivation to get back into the fray as Superman.
  • '90s Anti-Hero: Briefly and only by aesthetic; when he comes back to life in the climax of Reign of the Supermen, he's wearing a black variation of his iconic outfit, has a mullet, and carrying bandoliers and two large guns, which he uses to fight against Cyborg-Superman. That said, his solar regeneration was taking longer than usual, so giant guns it was for the time being, and even after besting his opponent, he shows that he still is The Cape that everyone knows and loves. He ditches his one-time aesthetics after the storyline, save for the mullet, which remains for the next few stories.
  • 100% Heroism Rating: Thanks to his heroic exploits, he becomes quite a popular figure for the entire world all around. The majority of the superhero community admires and looks up to him, and though he's popular in Metropolis, other cities like Gotham also like having him visit from time to time.
  • The Ace: He's an All-Loving Hero who is Loved by All the common citizens of Metropolis, a clear winner of the Superpower Lottery and a Nice Guy to boot. He qualifies by default. Even his civilian identity as Clark Kent is one of the Daily Planet's best reporters.
    • But really, Superman's Ace-ness comes from his heart. He will always do the right thing for the benefit of all mankind, and never for himself.
  • Achilles' Heel: While incredibly powerful, Superman does have his weaknesses, with the most prominent being Kryptonite, an irradiated substance that was once part of Krypton that could affect Supes negatively in various different ways depending on color. He's also susceptible to magical attacks and his superpowers can be disabled by red sun radiation
  • Action Bomb: The New 52 Superman has the super flare. As of Superman (vol. 3) #38, he has the power to cause a massive explosion of concentrated solar energy, incinerating everything within a quarter of a mile. According to Batman, his heat vision was just a precursor to his new ability. The main drawback, however, is that the explosion depletes all the solar energy in his cells, rendering him human for the next 24 hours. As of DC Rebirth, this power has been slowly phased out, but he's learned to release shorter and less powerful bursts of it, while still retaining a considerable portion of solar energy at his disposal.
  • Action Dad: As of DC Rebirth, having finally retied the knot with Lois Lane and had a son, Jonathan Samuel Kent. Before this, he has acted as a Parental Substitute for a variety of young heroes, and officially adopted Lor-Zod (christened Christopher Kent) in one series.
  • Action Hero: Well, yeah. According to Grant Morrison: "Superman is a fighter". He even debuted in a comic book called Action Comics.
  • Actually a Doombot: A rare heroic version. In the The Silver Age of Comic Books, The Fortress of Solitude robots looked nothing like those today, they were all identical Superman copy-cats. This came handy in histories when he had to cover up his secret identity or required a helping hand while saving the day.
  • Adaptational Angst Upgrade:
    • In the Post-Crisis timeline, Superman is more angsty about being the Last Son on Krypton than his Pre-Crisis iteration was. This was enforced by DC, who wanted to put more emphasis on Superman being the Last of His Kind and who yearned to meet with other members of his race. This was mitigated somewhat with the return of Kara Zor-El, only for the angst to turn back up when Kandor was restored and Kal-El had to deal with the fact that a majority of Kryptonians were prejudiced and elitist when it came to their society and their thoughts on other races.
    • In the New 52 timeline, his adoptive parents were killed in a car accident when Clark was in his college years. This ended up with him not having as much emotional and social support as he used to have prior to his superhero days. Though it later turned out that this was the result of Doctor Manhattan tinkering with the multiverse in response to Flashpoint who restores the Kents after being inspired by Superman's kindness.
  • Adaptation Relationship Overhaul:
    • His relationship with Lois Lane is relegated to just platonic partners in the New 52, with Wonder Woman taking over as Supes's main love interest. This ultimately gets turned around in Rebirth where Lois is reintroduced as Clark's romantic life partner and has remained so since.
    • He entered a romantic relationship with Wonder Woman in Frank's Miller's continuity, with the two even having a daughter. Diana also became Superman's main romantic interest during the New 52 run, though this was eventually phased out with the Clark/Lois couple returning to uphold the status quo.
  • Adoptive Name Change: Born with the name Kal-El, he got the name Clark Kent from his adoptive parents (though this is because they didn't know that he already had a name).
  • Affectionate Gesture to the Head: He gives one to Supergirl during the Brainiac storyline to assure her that she is much stronger than she believes herself to be as well as to give her more confidence.
  • Affectionate Nickname:
    • His girlfriend/wife Lois initially called him "Smallville" as a snub, but now it's more an Insult of Endearment.
    • Jimmy Olsen not uncommonly calls Supes "big guy."
  • Afraid of Their Own Strength: Due to his world-shattering raw power, Superman has a very good reason to be mindful of how much force he's using in his daily life and while in costume.
  • Age Lift: His New 52 incarnation got his age lowered a few years. Which somewhat stuck after the Post-Crisis and New 52 versions of the character merged in Superman Reborn, though he & Lois were re-aged to appropriately account for Jon's current age of around 10-12; he and Lois are now around their late 30s, early 40s, which was hinted at in Action Comics 1000, where (presumably Pre-Jon, given his complete absence in the story) Lois and Clark talk about Lois' car being totalled, which she had "for 12 years" and got "as a high school graduation present", making her 28-30 at the time (which means that, if this was after they got married but just before Lois found out she was pregnant with Jon, and Jon is now 10-12, they must be somewhere between 38 and 40 themselves)
  • All-Loving Hero: He is continuously portrayed as always believing in the best of people.
    "The strange blue world to which my father sent me.
    If you knew how you are loved, not one of you would raise a hand in rage again."
  • Alliterative Name: Clark is pronounced with a hard "C", so the spirit of the trope is still in play.
  • Always Someone Better: Superman believes that at some point, someone would eventually encounter somebody who would either prove their superior or would outperform them. He tells this to a saddened Supergirl after losing to the villain Maelstrom, though his intent here is to mentor her into becoming a better hero...
    Superman: "There's something Batman told me a long time ago and it stuck with me. No matter how good a fighter you are, there’s always someone better out there."
    • This is a major factor in why Lex Luthor has such unbridled hatred towards Superman. Lex dedicated much of his hard work to gaining his talents, becoming a billionaire, starting a company, and becoming well-respected, which would have taken him a lot of years to do so. Then suddenly, Superman shows up with flashy powers, does a few heroic acts and immediately becomes the most loved figure in Metropolis. To Lex, the fact that Superman is more favorable in comparison to him infuriates him to no end.
    • Batman quietly and privately admits that Superman is better than him when it comes to being a hero, despite how much he would deny this in public. Unlike Lex, Bruce would never take this as a wound towards his pride and, if anything, would uphold Clark as what the best of Humanity should strive to be.
  • And I Must Scream: At one point, he's smothered in magma and then dumped into the ocean waters where said magma quickly cooled into solid rock, effectively trapping Clark in a pile of stone. He even notes that he might be stuck forever unless he finds a way to break out. And sure enough, he does.
  • And This Is for...:
    • In Krypton No More, during his second battle against the J'ai, a group of genocidal aliens, Kal-El exclaims "This time, I'm going to win the skirmish… for Xonn… and for Krypton!"
    • In The Supergirl from Krypton, when Clark realizes his cousin was defeated by Darkseid, he claims that he will fight against the Lord of Tyranny under his cousin's behalf.
    • While fighting against Rogol Zaar, Kal-El shouts "For Kandor" whilst beating down the monster who destroyed Kandor. There's even a practical reason for this; General Zod was fighting alongside Superman, so learning that Rogol Zaar destroyed Kandor, a city that he was raised in and served as its military leader, causes him to become angrier and take the fight more seriously.
  • Anti-Hero: Pragmatic Hero or Unscrupulous Hero at first in The Golden Age. Classical Anti-Hero or Knight in Sour Armor at the beginning of his career as a superhero in The New 52.
  • The Anti-Nihilist: Superman's core belief is using his powers for the greater good and holding out hope towards others to achieve a greater tomorrow. While Clark has undergone a number of tragic events and witnessed the deaths of his loved ones on multiple occasions, they have never stopped him from remaining the great hero that he continues to be.
  • Appropriated Appellation: In later retellings of his origin, other people like Lois Lane or even Lex Luthor are the first to call him "Superman", presumably because Clark is too humble to call himself that.
  • Rank Scales with Asskicking: Most of the time as the leader of the Justice League, but he also became a high-ranking officer in New Krypton.
  • Babies Ever After: In Convergence, the pre-Flashpoint Superman and Lois have their first baby and name him after Clark's father, Jonathan.
  • Back from the Dead: In The Death of Superman, of course. After "dying" in battle with the mindless monster Doomsday, Superman is actually resuscitated soon after his "death," spent some time in a coma, and eventually is woken up by androids.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: Practically a given for a member of the Justice League. Superman will always be willing to fight alongside his fellow JL members and his family, looking after them in the midst of fighting. Of everybody he's fought alongside with, this is most prevalent with Batman and Wonder Woman.
  • Badass Armfold: Not as common as Batman, but he still does it. And when he does, he can outright deter criminals. This is actually really effective because Superman is such a Nice Guy.
  • Badass Bookworm: Enjoys reading, is super-intelligent, and at least in John Byrne's characterization, a published author prior to becoming a journalist.
  • Badass Cape: Not so much as badass as just plain awesome, though. In some versions of the myth, he even came to Earth wrapped up in that cape.
  • Badass in Distress: In Krypton No More, he, Supergirl, and Krypto battle against an alien race known as the J'ai as they were genocidal planet conquerors, but lose the battle and are thrown in prison cells. Still, the three do manage to free themselves.
  • Bash Brothers: The great thing about Superman is that he's willing to be this to any superhero in the DCU, but most of the time with J'onn, Diana, Batman and Kara, respectively.
  • Batman Gambit: In The Super-Revenge of Lex Luthor after finding out Luthor was planning to discriminate against and demoralize him into retirement with Brainiac's aid, Supes decides to act crazy, hoping that this would attract his arch-enemies's attention. And given their obsession with Supes, they do react.
  • Batman Grabs a Gun: Or rather "Superman Grabs a Piece of Gold and Green Kryptonite". The first time Superman broke his "no-killing" rule was against a pocket-dimension version of General Zod and his henchmen who already killed their dimension's entire populace, an action that Supes saw as an in-universe Moral Event Horizon. He used Gold Kryptonite to depower the trio, but when Zod vowed to get back his powers and then kill everyone on Earth 1, Superman was forced to reveal Green Kryptonite to them, slowly killing Zod and his followers. The act itself traumatized Clark, forcing him to take a hiatus in his heroics for a short while.
  • Battle Couple: With Wonder Woman during the New 52.
  • Battle Trophy: Like Batman, Superman keeps trophies from his many adventures in his headquarters, the Fortress of Solitude. The many pieces of Kryptonian and other alien technologies he has confiscated over the years have often proved to be useful.
  • The Beautiful Elite: Born to one of the most respected and prominent scientists/people on all of Krypton, also blessed with a 50's Hollywood male lead facial features and the WWF SuperStars Era wrestler body.
  • Bear Hug: His favourite control/submission maneuver.
  • Being Good Sucks: Make no mistake, Superman enjoys being a superhero. However, he's uncomfortable in that he has to be a superhero as it means the world would become dependent on him. His biggest desire is to live out a normal life as Clark Kent but being the greatest superhero in the world means there's a responsibility to hold out on, which Clark would grasp onto. On a symbolic note, one could interpret Clark's desire as being that of a world where Superman isn't needed.
  • Best Friend:
    • Batman's to be precise. The two have a long, rooted history with each other and they are some of the founders for the Justice League. Despite how much of polar opposites they are to each other, Bruce and Clark have deep respect and admiration for one another and work extremely well together.
    • Of his Metropolis cast, Jimmy Olsen is, without a doubt, Superman's pal.
    • Martian Manhunter is a very interesting case, both of them survived the extinction of their civilizations and are now stranded on Earth defending and protecting their population so they don't share the same destiny. Bonded maybe by the fact of being both Last of His Kind in most continuities.
    • He has proven time and again he is this to Wonder Woman, although with several hints of Anchored Ship on both ends and across several continuities.
  • Beware the Honest Ones: He never tells a lie... ever!
    • His Secret Identity is even an interesting aversion, since he confirmed since day one his name is Kal-El from Planet Krypton, he just omitted the part his civilian disguise is that of one Clark Kent.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: He's one of the nicest, most easy-going guys you could ever wish to meet... but on the rare occasions someone (i.e. Darkseid, Mongul) really sets him off, he's downright terrifying. There's a reason why Batman considers Superman to be one of the two most dangerous beings on Earth (the other being Superman's own son).
  • Beware the Superman: He's dedicated his whole life and career to Defying this, despite Lex's insistence that he is this. Invoked and Subverted in What's So Funny About Truth, Justice & the American Way? when he stops holding back and mercilessly thrashes Manchester Black and his gang. In the aftermath, The Elite are terrified of Supes, with their modus operandi effectively turned against them, but Supes doesn't kill them. He wanted to get his message across as what he can be capable of without his sense of compassion and mercy, and that is enough for The Elite to reel back and rethink their perspective on Superman.
  • Big Brother Mentor: He always finds the time to enlighten and stand for the youngest, especially amongst his heroic peers, but most commonly in Jimmy Olsen, Supergirl, Nightwing, Cyborg, Firestorm and Captain Marvel cases.
  • Big Damn Heroes: His job in a nutshell is to do this as many times as (super)humanly possible.
  • Big Eater: Usually averted, as he doesn't need to eat; but he could be a big eater if he wanted. In Action Comics #454, Toyman siphoned off his energy using a device, leaving him constantly hungry. He had to eat constantly, or else he'd "starve to death!"
  • Big Good: Superman represents all that is good and righteous, has peerless strength of character, and brings hope to everyone. He is *the* superhero for the entire DC Universe. He is acknowledged as the League's most powerful member, in addition to being the Chairman and Face of the league, as he leads the League publicly (with Batman as his Number Two, helping him manage things behind the scenes, though it can be argued that Batman is the true leader of the JL as he's the brains behind the League). Superman always is called upon to deal with the most dangerous and serious threats.
  • The Big Guy: Yes, he's The Hero for the DC Universe as a whole, but he also qualifies due to his power, and is often the League's "big gun". One of those cases where The Leader pulls double duty as The Big Guy.
  • 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).
  • Blue Blood: He originates from the House of El, one of the most powerful, noble families on the Scientific council, the Krypton's ruling body.
  • Boxing Lessons for Superman: Trope Namer, where he took boxing lessons from Muhammad Ali. He has also had combat training courtesy of (...depending on continuity) Batman, Wonder Woman or Wildcat.
  • Brains Evil, Brawn Good: Not that he is dumb, but he does tend to rely on his strength more so than villains like Lex Luthor do; they in comparison seem to rely more so on intellect.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Given how long-running the series has been this trope has cropped up a few times.
  • Break the Badass: Even the world's greatest heroes have their fair share of hardships and tragedy, and Supes is no exception. There are a number of notable examples, such as killing the Pocket Dimension General Zod and his cronies after they've killed off said dimension's inhabitants, and witnessing the destruction of New Krypton where sadness takes over. He'll even sob uncontrollably if he's really devastated. However, it's the death of Jonathan Kent in the Brainiac arc that is stated to be the moment Superman felt utterly despondent and devastated to the point where The Black Ring reveals this to be his greatest failure in his perspective.
  • Breaking the Bonds: Superman has been encased, roped, and captured in a number of ways, but he's always been able to break out in an epic fashion. He's broken out of Kryptonite-laced chains on a number of occasions (it even makes for a nice cover art) and he was able to free himself from being buried under a slab of stone in the middle of the ocean, which would have been a nightmarish experience for anybody to go through, as Supes noted.
  • Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu: His battle with Doomsday is the best example of this because he DIED in that fight (he got better). There are other instances that but rarely is the damage done to him permanent.
  • Brought Down to Badass: In his long and storied career, Superman has been weakened or had his powers removed many, many times. All that meant was that he would save the day just a little slower.
    • In the past he lost his powers and just intimidated criminals by, y'know, being Superman at them. This was in the same arc where he became "Electric Blue" Superman. By now, Superman has so much experience suddenly losing his powers in the comics that he hardly breaks stride, even when he's the only powerless person on a planet full of Kryptonians.
    • In 52, he lost his powers again for just about exactly one year. He did retire from crime fighting, but instead spent the time pulling off Intrepid Reporter tricks that even gave Lois herself gray hairs. For example: wanting to get an interview with Supernova, he jumped out of his office window, betting that Supernova would save him.
    • In JLA Foreign Bodies, Superman demonstrated to supervillain Kobra that even without super-powers and his mind inside the villain's body, his fighting skills are more than enough to defeat him while Kobranote  was in Batman's body.
    • In the bottled city of Kandor, Superman becomes, well, Batman, going by Nightwing (and yes, this is the inspiration for Dick Grayson choosing his new name.)
  • Brought to You by the Letter "S": Trope Codifier.
  • Bullet Catch: Combined with Super-Speed and incredible durability, Supes can catch bullets without an issue just as much as he can be a living wall to a bullet storm. He mainly does this to save innocents from gunfire, but he's just as capable of using this feat to intimidate others, such as demonstrating himself firing a gun at point-blank range... ''and catching it immediately after the trigger was pulled.
  • Bully Hunter: Moreso in his earlier incarnations, but even in his modern depictions Supes is shown to be someone who stops or hunts down bullies of all sizes, from wife-beaters or extortionists to dictators and godlike despots. This even translated into Real Life, when Superman was used as a device to expose and discredit the Ku Klux Klan In the words of Grant Morrison: "Superman punches the bully".
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: As Clark, a shy, dorky individual working in a super competitive field where assertiveness and risk-taking are expected, yet he's consistently a top reporter for the Daily Planet.
  • But Now I Must Go: After saving Metropolis in the year 121,97- from nuclear destruction, Superman decides that he isn't needed anymore for that time and decides to travel through the timestream back to his time.

    C-D 
  • Cannot Talk to Women: As Clark, but not (usually) as Superman.
  • The Cape: The Ur-Example. He could just about be considered the Trope Codifier; the fact that he wears a cape is one of the main reasons why capes are associated with costumed superheroes.
  • Catchphrase:
    • "Up, up, and away!"
    • "Seconds to Act!"
    • "Great Krypton (or Rao)!" Switched later in favor of "Great Scott!"
    • "This looks like a job for Superman."
  • Characterization Marches On: It has often been argued that Superman's characterization emphasizes the zeitgeist of the era and the direction of mainstream superhero comics as a whole.
    • Originally, Superman was something of a tough guy tackling (literally) wife beaters, war profiteers and abusive orphanages. By the end of the forties, however, he was the leading citizen of Metropolis, battling larger-than-life villains.
    • The Fifties stories have even more of a fascination with Mad Science, and Superman became much more of an law-abiding, Establishment authority figure. Some even argue that these Superman stories betray very 1950s male anxieties on the part of the writers.
    • The 70s "Kryptonite No More" era had a more relatable Clark Kent and more "grounded" stories, as well as a notable Marvel Comics influence.
  • Chest Insignia: His outfit has a big S in a diamond shield, at first just standing for Superman, later explained as being the symbol of the house of El.
  • Chick Magnet: Counting them all on each and every continuity: Lana Lang, Lori Lemaris, Lois Lane, Wonder Woman, the alien empress Maxima, Apokaliptians Big Barda, Amazing Grace and Lashina, Manitou Dawn, villainesses Plastique and Catwoman and many others all show interest in him. Oddly, he seems to attract more women as Clark than he does as Superman. Given his compassionate nature, his incredible power and badassery or his sheer force of charisma and good looks, this is only to be expected.
  • Child of Two Worlds: One of the best-known examples in fiction. He was born on Krypton and raised on Earth, and for a while believed he was the last Kryptonian. His struggle to reconcile both sides of his heritage would take a significant part of his history.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: Because of his Super-Senses, Superman can tell if someone is in danger and cannot resist going to help them. At times, he has admitted he cannot be everywhere for everyone and some people need to be ignored.
  • Cincinnatus: Practically everyone in-universe considers him the most powerful hero in the DC Universe, and he is generally the one to lead the whole superhero community when a Crisis Crossover occurs, but he still prefers to be accepted as the mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent over Superman.
  • Civvie Spandex: When he started his superhero career in the New 52, Superman wore jeans and a t-shirt with the typical Chest Insignia. He still wore his cape back then. During Superman: Truth, he wore the jeans and t-shirt but without the cape.
  • Clark Kenting: Duh. And subject to frequent Lampshade Hanging:
    Barry Allen: I still don't get why you don't do more to protect your identity. This new Lantern? Kyle? His mask covers most of his face. Smart kid.
    Hal Jordan: Clark hides behind a pair of glasses and you're worried about me?
    Barry Allen: Clark slouches, wears clothes two sizes too big and raises his voice an octave.
    • It depends on the writer just how much is an act. The intentional clumsiness is definitely an act, but whether the good-natured farmboy parts are all acting is another thing. Silver Age comics definitely had Kal-El treat Clark Kent as a disguise, rather than just another part of his life. More modern comics have it that Clark needs to be Clark Kent just as much as he does Superman.
  • Clark Kent Outfit: The Trope Namer. For the most part, he wears oversized clothes to hide his imposing physique in his civilian identity. If someone takes notice, he can just say he works out.
  • Clint Squint: Golden Age Superman was almost always drawn with his eyes narrowed, fitting his tough-guy persona at the time.
    • Some more stylized modern depictions have brought this look back as a way to honor his look in the original comics and the Fleischer cartoons
  • Clothes Make the Legend: Superman's costume is easily the most famous superhero costume in fiction, right down to the tone of colour, shape and meaning of the Chest Insignia, and even the underwear. The costume itself has become a template for different variations with their own flair and style worn by other members of the Superman family.
  • Collector of the Strange: In his spare time away from Metropolis, Superman's a bit of a hoarder if the interior of the Fortress of Solitude is any indication. Many stories show that he keeps a large menagerie of rare or endangered alien fauna, as well as small museums dedicated to his friends, superhero colleagues and his own Kryptonian heritage. Considering that it's the Fortress of Solitude, this is all stuff Superman does for his own entertainment.
  • Combat Pragmatist: If Superman has a chance to end a fight quickly to prevent casualties, he will take it. For instance, one time he was in a hurry to face an Arc Villain and Metallo stood in his way. Superman noted that he had 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.
    • A good example of how dirty a fighter Clark can be is in Superman: Brainiac, Superman at first gets handily defeated by the titular villain, who's so strong that he can pull a Punch Catch on the Man of Steel and crush his hand hard enough hard enough to draw blood, as well as manhandle him in such a way that Superman is unable to break his grip. Superman evens the odds by targeting the cyborg's head plugs, shooting him in the eyes with heat vision, biting him, using germ warfare, kicking him in the back of the head while he's distracted, and stomping on his neck when he finally gets him on the floor. It works.
    Brainiac: (crushing Superman's hand) Earth has robbed you of your potential. You are from a Kryptonian. You are a simple brute.
    Superman: (digs his fingers into Brainiac's heads implants, paralyzing him) When I need to be. (smashes Brainiac's face with his fist)
  • Commanding Coolness: Back when he joined the Kryptonian Military Guild, Superman got the rank of Commander and his own squad, the Red Shard.
  • Companion Cube: He was once given a Mother Box as an additional power source when he decided to travel to Apokolips to sort out issues involving Doomsday. The box turned out to be pretty handy when dealing with Doomsday.
  • The Constant: Many recent crossover events, mainly those penciled by Geoff Johns and Grant Morrison, position Superman as quite literally the centre of the entire DC Universe; everything is always changing around him, but his moral code and status as the DC Universe's most influential hero never truly changes. That is not to say that Superman is a completely Static Character, as he has changed greatly over the decades, but Doomsday Clock establishes that the core being that is Superman has always been the same in every iteration of the Metaverse (i.e. the "main" DC Universe in all of its forms). So long as there is a Krypton, a child sent away as a last hope and a kindly Earthling couple ready to take him in, the multiverse will always be in safe hands.
  • Convection, Schmonvection: He can traverse and fly through extremely hot surfaces, including magma and the sun's surface without getting burnt, which is certainly helped by his incredible durability and endurance. Given that his powers come from yellow sun rays, this does make sense. He's just as vulnerable to said surfaces as any normal person when he's depowered, however.
  • Cool Loser: As Clark Kent. No matter how much he plays up the dork angle, he's still a tall, handsome top reporter for one of the biggest newspapers in the world, married to another ace journalist, and pretty much liked by all.
  • Cool Starship: Whenever he required either protection against Kryptonite or found himself depowered, Superman had his "Super-Mobile", a single-sitter with all of his abilities and telescopic robotic arms to assist him in tasks he couldn't perform by himself.
  • Cool Uncle: Not biologically, since he doesn’t have any siblings, but he's this of sorts to Dick Grayson, the former Robin. After being forced by Bruce to give up his mantle due to a shoulder injury, he turns to Superman for advice. Superman then gives him an idea of what mantle he should take in when he tells him the myth of Nightwing. Since then, the two have grown closer.
  • Costume Evolution: Given his over eighty-year long history, there's been a lot of changes
    • In his first appearances, his cape was shorter with no logo on the back, he wore what looked like sandal boots and his trademark insignia was either a simple red and yellow triangle with an "S" on it, or a slightly more elaborate police badge with a red "S".
    • While the design for his costume stabilized relatively quickly, his logo didn't, so his insignia would vary in size, shape and general design from issue to issue for almost a decade. What the logo on the cape looked like, whether it was even there, and what color it was varied even more.
    • Post the mid-1940's, Superman's costume remained pretty much untouched until the 1986 continuity reboot, when his logo grew big enough to almost cover his entire chest. After this, only mild alterations, aside from radical changes like the black suit, or the Superman Red/Blue suits were made for a long while.
    • In the New 52, Superman's signature red briefs were scrapped, and his yellow belt became red and more detailed instead. The texture of the suit changed as well, being more like some sort of armor with seams all over it, and the general color scheme became a bit darker.
    • After the Rebirth event, Superman's costume was changed once again, to resemble a hybrid of sorts between the New 52 and classic suits. Though the briefs remain gone, the belt was redesigned to look more classic, the suit lost it's high collar and armor lines, and the boots are, for the first time colored blue, with only a red line on the top.
  • Dating Catwoman: Several instances:
    • Back in the early 80's there was an arc where a lecherous PR attempted to get him and Big Barda hypnotized to film them on a sex-tape. Fortunately Superman went aware of the situation and could stop it on time.
    • He and Amazing Grace from the New Gods, for the brief time he was amnesiac back in the Byrne era.
    • The Trope Namer herself developed a massive crush on him the first time they met, she treated their team-up like a date by flirting with him non-stop. This was completely one-sided and Played for Laughs.
      • Happened again in the New 52 when Superman lost his memories of the Kents' lessons and of meeting Batman and entered a relationship with Catwoman. This ended as soon as his memories returned.
  • De-power: Superman has seen his days of losing his powers and having to rely on his wits and physical prowess on a number of occasions. Usually, him losing his powers are to add drama to his stories, but it doesn't stop him from fighting back, proving his badass credentials, and eventually getting his powers back. After all, regardless of he doesn't have his powers, he's still Superman.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Especially in the Post-Crisis stories where "Clark Kent" was established as the "real" personality and Superman was a mask he wore to protect his normal life.
  • Deceased Parents Are the Best: Frequently, though not always, the Kents are deceased by the time Clark is active as Superman (though the reasons differ).
    • Post-Crisis, both Kents were alive and well, until Jonathan Kent died of a heart attack in Geoff Johns' run.
    • In the New 52 continuity, Martha died in a car crash caused by Mxypytlk's son, as part of his pre-emptive revenge on Superman, with Jonathan passing very soon after.
      • Post Doomsday Clock they are back after Doctor Manhattan saves Alan Scott's life, causing a chain reaction that inspires Clark to become Superboy and save them.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Generally averted in that Superman never ever gives into despair and losing hope. However, this is played straight in The Jungle Line where he catches a deadly and supposedly incurable disease, which throws Supes in a despondent spiral where he decides to go to a jungle in the south so that he could die alone and without having to break the hearts of his family and friends from watching him in such a terrible condition. He does eventually bounce back and overcome his disease and despondency with the help of Swamp Thing.
  • The Determinator: He will stand unwaveringly against overwhelming odds because he knows that if he falls, it's unlikely there will be any remaining hero to take his place. He just won't stay down––not until he saves the day.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: He dies in Lois's arms after his infamous bout against Doomsday while she cries after telling him that he's saved Metropolis. He gets better though.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: On more than one occasion Superman has singlehandedly defeated eldritch abominations, Physical Gods, and ACTUAL gods. He once defeated an entity that was essentially the embodiment of the universal desire for annihilation and oblivion by channeling the literal power of hope and the desire for life through himself into a tangible force. That's right, he's sent DARK GODS running home crying for mommy.
  • Ditzy Genius: Clark Kent is usually perceived as this by his coworkers: a neurotic, clumsy, and rather spacey individual, who nonetheless churns out Pulitzer-winning work on a daily basis.
  • Does Not Know His Own Strength: He's been all over the place with this. He has precise muscle control and can interact with ordinary people without much hassle, but the fear of him losing control and hurting someone is very real (and the basis of his speech to Darkseid at the end of Unlimited). He avoids using his full power unless he absolutely has to and once warned an enemy that being sick made him more dangerous, as he couldn't accurately judge how hard he was hitting.
  • Doomed Hometown: By the time Kal-El was born, Krypton had reached the end of its life and was about to explode. Faced with no other choice, Jor-El and Lara decided to fit Clark into a tiny spaceship and send him off to another planet just minutes before Krypton's detonation. Henceforth, he would come to be known as the "Last Son of Krypton" once he came of age.
  • Dork Knight: This could be the result of Obfuscating Stupidity or something else. In the modern comics, it's usually just because he's a farmer's son who moved to the big city. He doesn't really count as Alien Among Us, since he came to Earth as an infant.
  • The Dreaded: He's this in the eyes of criminals and the supervillain community. It's justified as they are aware that Superman is akin to a deity rather than just another hero to deal with. Most criminals and even a number of supervillains would rather bolt off the moment Superman makes his presence known, not wanting to try their luck against someone who could benchpress the world if he wanted to. Oddly enough, some villains actually developed a sense of respect for Superman because of this as they feel that his presence is enough to at least put a stop to more extreme forms of crime. After all, they're scared of a Superman who is usually smiling and helping others, and they'd definitely don't want to encounter him when he's actually angry.
  • Dying Alone:
    • In The Leper from Krypton, Luthor infects him with Virus X, an incurable Kryptonian disease similar to leprosy. When he feels he has only hours left, Supes builds a rocket and launches off to incinerate himself under the star Flammbron, facing his supposed fate with calm and serenity. Though he would later survive that story thanks to Bizarro using White Kryptonite to kill the disease.
    • During The Jungle Line when he realizes his Bloodmorel disease would kill him, Superman decides to pack a ride to the forests in the south and die there in the hopes that no one close to him would have to see him perish in such a miserable reach and spare them the heartbreak. Fortunately, Swamp-Thing helps Supes in getting cured before any of that could happen.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Say what you want about him dying after the fight, but Superman defeating Doomsday is one hell of an accomplishment, considering this is a creature that can effortlessly take on the Justice League and win almost without any inconvenience and is literally an unstoppable monster who wouldn't rest until he destroys everything.
  • Dynamic Akimbo: His most iconic pose, to the point of being the Trope Codifier in the superhero genre.

    E-F 
  • Eating Optional: In many incarnations, Supes doesn't need to eat, but often will out of habit or because he enjoys the taste.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The Superman that first appeared in 1938 was very different from what he would later become. For starters, he only had super strength, speed, and was extremely tough, but wasn't invincible, his powers weren't the result of the yellow sun, but instead something every Kryptonian had, even on Krypton, and he was said to have been found as a baby on by a "passing motorist" who turned him over to an orphanage. Clark Kent was also more of a mask than anything, and he actually used other identities on occasion. He also didn't fight supervillains, but instead common criminals, such as sleazy landlords, exploitative employers, fraudsters and war profiteers, and was considered a radical and a threat by the police. He was also far more aggressive and hot-tempered, and had a fairly cavalier attitude about killing criminals.
    • His backstory wasn't fully fleshed out until the end of the Golden Age. An early novel describes young Superman as being found by "Eben" and "Sarah" Kent, and the existence of Jonathan and Martha as his parents, and his childhood home of Smallville didn't fully materialize until the 1950s. He also had no Fortress of Solitude, basically no knowledge of Krypton, and no contact with Jor-El. Even Kryptonite didn't appear until the end of the 40s.
    • The first two versions of Superman were even more unrecognizable. The first "Super-Man" (The Reign of the Superman) was a bald vagrant that turns villainous after a science experiment gives him psychic powers, and the second version (whose story was never published) was just a really strong guy who beat up criminals.
  • Early Installment Character-Design Difference: It took close to a decade for Superman's costume to become what it became famous for. Early Superman art drew heavily from the circus strongmen of the era, especially the costume, which originally featured laced sandals in lieu of boots. His logo also evolved. The original insignia was shaped like a police badge, and only featured a simple red S in the middle. This evolved into a red and yellow inverted triangle, which had slowly morphed into the familiar shield around the end of the Golden Age. During this time, other small details varied as well, in some early comics, his boots were yellow or blue, and sometimes his shield was on a black background.
    • Superman's appearance was also quite different. Since he was based on strongmen, he didn't quite have the body a typical superhero has today, being more broad and athletic than jacked. He also wasn't particularly good-looking at the start, looking more like a 1930s bruiser with a heavy jaw, prominent laugh lines and narrow, squinting eyes than a god-like alien messiah.
  • Emotional Bruiser: Considering he is the iconic Cape, Superman more than qualifies. Whenever he is being affectionate, it makes him even more endearing to the readers.
  • Endearingly Dorky: His entire Clark Kent persona. In modern incarnations, Superman is this naturally.
  • Enemy Mine: On a few occasions, Superman has been forced with a number of his enemies, such as Luthor, Zod, and Mxyzptlk in order to stop a greater threat. It's made abundantly clear that neither Supes nor his enemies are comfortable with whatever alliance they'd have to make.
  • Eternal Recurrence: Ever heard the phrase "they think they're the centre of the universe"? Well, Doomsday Clock reveals that Superman really is! Dr. Manhattan changing the details of Clark's life in an effort to make him Darker and Edgier causes reality to warp around him, establishing that the many iterations of the main DC Universe are technically the same reality, the "Metaverse", that has been slowly warped beyond recognition due to Superman's constantly changing origin story. Without him, some entire superhero teams cease to exist (at least, in their original formats). Superman's existence really is that pivotal. Not only that, but variants of Superman exist in every single alternate reality of the multiverse, with most of them being Hope Bringers like the progenitor model.
  • Even the Loving Hero Has Hated Ones:
    • Darkseid is Superman's most hated enemy, which is a testimony to just how vile and depraved the Lord of Tyranny is, to the extent that the one hero most known for being compassionate and awe-inspiring thinks killing him is the preferred option. Even Lex Luthor doesn't elicit as much hatred in Superman as Darkseid does
    • Brainiac becomes the recipient after he plays a role in the death of Jonathan Kent. It was already enough that the Coluan played a role in Krypton's destruction and traumatized Supergirl, but it was attacking the Kent Farm out of petty rage over being defeated, causing Jonathan to die of a heart attack after saving Martha from an explosion that really caused Superman to develop a seething hatred towards Brainiac. At one point, Superman has a dream about viciously and remorselessly killing Brainiac in a prison cell.
    • Mongul has antagonized Superman a number of times, but it's in For the Man who has Everything where he finally earns Supes's complete scorn and anger. When he's freed from the Black Mercy that subjected him to an idealized fantasy that was slowly killing him, Superman gives out a seriously angry look at Mongul before his eyes glow red and announce his intent to "burn" the alien tyrant.
    • Domestic Abusers also tend to very quickly earn Superman's scorn. They represent everything that goes against the teaching of good moral values and ethics and the nurture a family should provide for itself, so naturally, Clark gets ticked off whenever he has to deal with them. In fact, domestic abusers induce more anger in Superman than most villains do for that reason, hence why he deals with them as quickly as he could.
  • The Everyman: Superman may be an impossibly powerful hero, but Clark Kent is just a guy who grew up on a farm, works a mid-range white-collar job in the big city, and his friends and family are similarly normal people (barring a few exceptions). Even his favorite things are the stuff normal people like, such as movies, ice cream soda or To Kill a Mockingbird.
    • It is this aspect that makes Superman an inspirational figure, as he is an example that power and heroism can come from humble sources (as opposed to, say, Batman, who was born into privilege, or Wonder Woman, who is literally an immortal flawless goddess). Kal-El's Kryptonian physiology makes him super, but Clark's simple upbringing makes him a hero.
  • Expy: Of Heracles/Hercules.
  • Expy Coexistence: Whether intentionally designed after him or just drawing on the imagery of Flying Brick with a cape, as the years have gone by he's teamed up with Captain Marvel / Shazam, Icon, and Apollo.
  • Extremely Protective Child: To the point where even most of the enemies who know who he is won't make a go at Ma and Pa Kent. If they so much as try, that's a guaranteed way to piss off Big Blue in a way that he'll forget to hold back.
  • Extremity Extremist: Whenever he fights, Superman almost exclusively uses his fists. When you can push planets without breaking a sweat, you don't need much else.
  • Famed in Story: As both Superman for being the DCU's greatest superhero and as Clark Kent for being the DCU's greatest journalist.
  • Family of Choice: As far as family is concerned for Clark, the Kents come first and foremost as they were the ones who unconditionally accepted him when he was a baby and instilled good morals in him, effectively making them the main reason why Superman is the hero he is. He still respects Jor-El and Lara, but he does find some conflict with his race as Kryptonians were known for being rather prejudiced and bigoted and even Jor-El was prone to being antagonistic at times, especially when his tenure as Mr. Oz is concerned.
  • Farm Boy: Was raised as one. Depending on the continuity, he did superhero work during this point on his life (Pre-Crisis and Post-Infinite Crisis). Downplayed in the Silver and Bronze Ages, when the Kents sold their farm around the time Clark started school and bought a general store in Smallville. His former status as one is sometimes used to explain his Dork Knight attitude in some stories.
  • Fatal Flaw: Superman's Chronic Hero Syndrome can sometimes push him into borderline martyrdom.
    • Superman being the embodiment of the Humble Hero gets deconstructed sometimes but at the same time reconstructed as well. Because he is so humble, he doesn't take a greater role in leading mankind into a better tomorrow, even though most agree that Superman would make an excellent world leader and keep humanity from destroying itself because, let's face it, often times Humans Are Morons. But at the same time that humility helps him avoid the Beware the Superman situation that could corrupt him if he starts to believe he knows what's best over everyone else.
  • A Father to His Men: He's the default leader of the Justice League for a reason. If you're a Super Villain, it's a very, ''very, very bad idea to hurt a Leaguer even when he's not around, in time he'll know.
  • The Fettered: Has a very strict code towards the respect of all life, enemies included, so he holds back in almost all his fights.
  • Finger Poke of Doom: Provides the image for the page. His overwhelming strength means that he can usually deal with most low-level crooks simply by flicking or tapping them on a non-comedic context, which also helps him limit his own strength.
  • Finishing Stomp: Whenever a bigger, sturdy enough character or Eldritch Abomination needs to be submitted, Superman uses his Goomba Stomp version to deal with the baddie.
  • Fish out of Water: His alien origin is often played up this way, especially in recent Superman works.
    • Other works will lean into the fact that Superman was raised from infancy as Clark Kent on Earth, knowing nothing of Krypton until his late teens or early twenties. Thus, when Clark encounters surviving Kryptonians, he's a fish out of water among them, since he only knows Kryptonian culture, language, and history from the archives of the Fortress of Solitude. In the New 52, Superman's attempts to calm down a freshly-arrived Supergirl backfired because his Kryptonian speech sounded to her like he'd learned it from a book, not someone who actually speaks the language.
  • Flanderization: Originally, he was something of a tough guy tackling (literally) wife beaters, war profiteers, and abusive orphanages. By the end of the forties, however, he was the leading citizen of Metropolis, battling larger-than-life villains.
    • Also when he was first introduced, he was a real scrapper and not afraid to get in the face of authority figures. That changed around World War II along with Batman, and by the end of the fifties, he was flanderized into the ultimate boy scout and establishment figure. By the '80s, he'd become somewhat more morally ambiguous and a bit more cynical about people in power, especially after The Man of Steel reboot. In the years since, with the expectations of The Cape trope being codified in the social consciousness has created a kind of feedback-loop on the character, where Superman is The Cape because the trope was based on him, but his actions are inspired by the perception of what a Cape should be and have him act accordingly, etc. etc.
  • Flying Brick: The Trope Codifier. Flight, strength, invulnerability.
  • Flying Firepower: He can fly and has Eye Beams.
  • Foil:
    • Doctor Manhattan is Superman with all the power, but with none of the compassion, inspiration, and love. Jon Osterman isn't a villainous example either as he's instead disillusioned, apathetic, and lacking of any desire to do anything and as a result, Superman ends up pitying him as he quickly recognizes he's a hollow shell beneath his god-like power and presence. However, Jon does end up realizing how influential Superman is and is motivated to at least set things right in his world by raising his own "Clark Kent" in the form of Mime and Marionette's son.
    • For a crossover example, there's Spider-Man himself. Both are heroic paragons and even have journalism as their job occupation. The biggest difference is that Clark Kent is an Experienced Protagonist who is well-respected by nearly everyone while Peter Parker is early in his heroic years and isn't as well-respected. Although the two fight against each other, they very quickly become friends due to sharing a strong heroic drive and joining each other's respect.
  • Four-Star Badass: In the New Krypton saga, General Zod is incapacitated in a failed assassination attempt and he chooses Kal-El as his replacement for command of New Krypton’s army. That’s right; Superman briefly became General Kal-El. Let that sink in for a moment.
  • Friendless Background: Sometimes. Usually, because he had to keep his powers a secret growing up, in other incarnations it was due to bullying. Even the incarnations that did have friends growing up usually only had a few close friends and not many others.
  • Friend to All Children: There is not a single child in the DC Universe who fears Superman. If a child is in danger, he/she closes his/her eyes and says to him/herself "I'll be okay, Superman will save me." And he will. Cause he's friggin' Superman.
  • Friend to All Living Things: The champion for truth and justice is also always ready and willing to find missing puppies to take'em back home, help kittens off a tree or protect a wilderness patch from a natural disaster.
  • Friendly Enemy: He has this dynamic with Mr. Mxyzptlk, at least at times when the latter isn't too mean-spirited about his pranks. At the same time, Mxy's clashes against Supes are less about epic, destructive battles and more about crazy, zany pranks and puzzles that aren't meant to be malicious (for the most part). One of Mxy's motivations for these turns out to be so that Supes doesn't put in too much stress about being a hero and just have fun being that. This is reciprocated as Supes does tell bedtime stories of Mxy to his son.

    G-H 
  • Genius Bruiser: It's less focused on as many readers felt it would make him almost too powerful, especially since many of his enemies rely on their intellect, but it has been established that Clark possesses an extremely high level of intelligence and is every bit as formidable in analytical problem solving and science as he is with combat. Recent writers have been establishing that, while Batman and Martian Manhunter are the expert tacticians, Clark is much smarter than he looks.
    • In the Post-Crisis era, it was pointed out that as a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist, Clark is no slouch as a detective either. He may not be in Batman's league, but his day-job means that he's much better at it than any average joe.
    • And if Superman (vol. 2) issue #6 is any indication, he's also a novelist. Guess Superman has more free time than some of us thought.
    • There's also the time where he helped a few doctors with heart surgery despite never stepping foot in medical school. He got himself prepped by memorizing an entire bookshelf worth of medical textbooks in less than a minute!
    • Even moreso in the Silver Age, where he routinely built Ridiculously Human Robots with strength on par with his own and was stated to possess a Photographic Memory. Both have occasionally popped back up since then.
  • Gentle Giant: Superman is well over six feet three inches tall, has the strength of a god, can fly through stars without breaking a sweat, can block bullets with his bare skin, can fly across galaxies... and he'd rather give you a hug than a punch if he can help it. He's a One-Man Army and an All-Loving Hero at the same time. There's a reason one of his nicknames is The Big Blue Boy Scout, he's just that nice. And that is a great thing for everyone.
  • A God I Am Not: He refuses to be seen as a god despite having some god-like abilities and powers. Despite that he has lots of followers that worship him as a god, much to his discomfort. Considering he lives in a universe full of literal gods, his attitude makes sense.
  • God Couple: With Wonder Woman in the New 52.
  • Good Feels Good: Superman will always help those in need and asks for nothing in return. Why? Partly because it gives him joy.
  • Good Is Not Dumb: Superman, a paragon of justice and benevolence, is also among the smartest and most insightful characters of the DC Universe.
  • Good Is Not Soft: He tries to use as little force as possible, but he's still not soft on bad guys, with the exception of a few baddies like Darkseid, Brainiac, Zod, and Mongul.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: Chances are if he isn't using his Heat Vision or Super-Breath, he's using this over any other kind of martial art. It's justified by the fact that it would be awkward to focus on kicks given the way he flies, but he’s certainly capable of kicking if the situation requires it.
  • Good Old Ways: Raised from childhood in a humble family of farmers with mid-western moral values. It is also the main reason why he is despised by new generations of anti-heroes and villains, branded as "outdated" and unable to weather present issues. But as demonstrated in What's So Funny About Truth, Justice & the American Way?, This is the very reason why we´ll always need not just his god-like abilities, but also his pureness of heart and intentions.
  • Good Parents: Clark and Lois are protective of their son, but also see the potential and desire within him to become a great superhero. So rather than keep him hidden (which would likely force him to sneak out doing superheroics) or let him completely loose, superheroing becomes a family activity for them. Clark and Lois have basically taken the lessons learned from Ma and Pa Kent, and taken them to the next level with their son.
  • Good Running Evil:
    • Superman's main motive for joining New Krypton is to improve its culture (and keep an eye on Zod) from within. When he refuses to pick a Guild, he's placed in the Military Guild under Zod's leadership but doesn't let that stop him from thinking outside the box, such as defusing hostage situations without bloodshed. When Zod is incapacitated by an assassin, Kal briefly becomes General Kal-El.
    • In the Rebirth era, Superman reluctantly agreed to take the throne of Apokolips to prevent its people from destroying themselves in a power struggle due to Darkseid's absence. This didn't pan out and Superman returned to Earth, leaving Orion to rule in Darkseid's place.
    • You'd never expect to see amongst his Superhero Sobriquets "Ruler of hell", right? ...guess what? It happened and for one night only, but still.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: He never uses profanities, but once in a while he has told to people as Darkseid or Brainiac or Zod to "SHUT THE HELL UP!" after putting up with enough of their... nonsenses.
  • The Grappler: Whenever required, the Man of Steel himself has resorted to this in order to control/submit his most dangerous foes. Since he has to be extermely careful while doing so as he must be in a constant vigil that a Cooldown Hug doesn't end up being one of the fatal variant.
  • Guile Hero: He may be incredibly powerful, but he often needs to think on his feet and match wits with his foes when his abilities can't solve everything on their own. In fact, many of his stories during his Golden Age and Silver Age heyday involved coming up with creative solutions with his abilities to foil the villain's plot.
    • This is the entire premise behind his rivalry with Mister Mxyzptlk, the imp from the fifth dimensional who can warp reality and is far more powerful than Superman. The only way to defeat the imp is by getting him to say or spell his name backwards (which will banish him back to the fifth dimension for a minimum of 3 months), and Superman keeps finding clever ways of tricking ol' Mxy to do that.
  • Guns Akimbo: About the last figure you'd expect, but he does confront and fight against Cyborg-Superman for the first with two large guns in each hand. Justified as because he was recently revived, his solar energy input was taking longer to be recharged and two large guns were the best option he has when fighting against a cybernetic, insane doppelganger of the Man of Steel.
  • Happily Adopted: He was raised by the Kents, who instilled a lot of their values in him. He and his folks are closer than blood.
    • Before New 52, Clark and Lois got Zod's son, Lor-Zod in adoption. Rechristened as Christopher Kent and raising the kid as their own.
  • Happily Married: To Lois Post-Crisis, Pre-New 52; this remains the case when that era's Clark and Lois show up subsequently. Superman Reborn merges them with their new 52 selves, and this carries over to the fusion.
  • Has a Type: Superman has one requirement. The initials L.L. His love interests are Lana Lang, Lyla Lerrol, Lori Lemaris, Lisa Lasalle, and Lois Lane. The tendency has been occasionally Lampshaded.
    • In older histories, Clark's nanny's name was established as Laetitia Lerner and in more recent ones, his biological mother's full name is Lara Lor-Van, providing a possible explanation.
    • Played for Laughs: This gives an "interesting spin" to his relationship with Lex Luthor.
    • In an odd Real Life Contrived Coincidence, 50's Hollywood society playgirl Leonore Lemmon was George Reeves' fiance.
  • He's Back!: Anytime he's either retired or forced out of commission in some way, he'll always come back in an epic fashion, albeit with the help of either his loved ones or an admirer of his. On a literal note, he comes back triumphantly in the climax of Reign of the Supermen, ready to take the "Man of Steel" mantle again once he recovers enough.
  • Heart Is an Awesome Power: The real reason Superman can go into battles with outright gods when need be. If someone's life is on the line, if a world is in danger, if the universe is falling apart... Superman will do everything in his power to make sure that never happens.
  • Heavyworlder: Superman's powers were, in many older stories including the entire Silver Age run, due in part to Krypton's heavier gravity.
  • The Hero: The greatest and most iconic representation of a superhero. He's effectively this for the DC Universe as it's his ability to inspire hope, determination, and a drive to protect others that makes Superman the revered hero of his world. Doctor Manhattan, a godly being who was consumed with extreme apathy, dissatisfaction, and a lack of interest ended up inspired by Superman's ability and influence as a hero and acknowledges him as the greatest being he's ever encountered. On a meta-scale, the entire genre of superhero comics started with him.
  • Hero Antagonist: Superman is the main antagonist of Lex Luthor: Man of Steel, a storyline that places the protagonistic focus on his Arch-Enemy. Amusingly, Lex, a full-fledged Villain Protagonist, sees Superman as a Big Bad, as panels show the Man of Steel in an unflattering light. However, nothing about Supes' action support Lex's claims as the former deals with criminals. Even Supes' battle against Hope is seen as him defending himself and Metropolis's citizens, despite Lex projecting it as him attacking the Science Spire. In the end, despite being the antagonist, Superman says a few words that summarize Lex's entire character, making all clear that the Man of Steel was never a villain and everything Lex says or tells is a biased, jealous perspective of a narcissistic madman.
  • The Hero Dies:
    • One of the best-known examples; he gives his life fighting against Doomsday and ends the fight in a tie with both dying. His loss ends up affecting more than just the superhero community on Earth and is succeeded by four different individuals who want to prove their worth as Superman's successor. That said, he does come back alive.
    • Less so his New 52 version, who suffers a fatal case of Kryptonite poisoning and dies. Fortunately, the Post-Crisis Superman takes up his place (then a Cosmic Retcon sort of merges them... it's complicated).
  • Hero Does Public Service: No job is too big or too small for him. One day, he's halfway across the galaxy fighting a universal threat. The next, he's reading books to orphans or planting gardens.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: After War of the Supermen Clark believes he's fallen into this due to the actions of General Zod and his army in trying to take over Earth, as shown when people around him start reacting out of fear and hate whenever he turns up. This is subverted in that the people are actually expressing their love and adoration towards him; Superman is actually being unknowingly tampered with by a corrupted Jennings, who was altering Supes's sight and hearing to make him perceive that humans are hating him.
  • Heroes Love Dogs: Just ask Krypto.
  • Heroic Build: Between yellow sunlight and having worked in his father's farm since he was a kid, Superman has a very strong physique. In his earlier years his was a circus strongman build, this was somewhat averted between the late 50'-early 60's as he had what one would call a leaner physique. Played completely straight in modern comics where he is incredibly muscular.
  • Heroic Resolve: He doesn't stay down while there are people in danger.
  • Heroic RRoD:
    • A major contributor to his death after fighting Doomsday. The battle essentially pushed Superman to his absolute limits and the sheer force the two threw at each other drained his energy and strength as it dragged on. The story elaborates that his solar energy input was getting exhausted as the fight against on, so by the time it ended, they were completely exhausted and Supes died not long after.
    • In Post-Flashpoint, his Solar Flare energy wave emits an explosive wave that is similar to a nuclear strike in terms of its visual appearance and the potential damage it could cause. However, said attack costs most of Supes' solar energy input and leaves him powerless for a day at top.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: If he has to die to ensure that others will be saved and/or would assure that worlds would survive, then he would openly do so. But as told above, this does become his main Fatal Flaw.
    • He continues fighting Doomsday to the death in The Death of Superman to protect the people of Metropolis, even though it meant sustaining mortal wounds in the process. He came back to life later.
  • Heroic Self-Deprecation: Whenever he suffers a crushing defeat, it hits him hard. Also, some versions of the character emphazise his status as the last Kryptonian, with all the angst that entails.
  • Heroic Spirit: As the archetypical superhero, he more than qualifies. When push comes to shove, he will not just do the impossible, he will overcome it.
  • Heroic Willpower: Superman resorts to this trope in order to fight mind control. Considering how a lot of his opponents are very powerful in their ability to break the minds of others, it's safe to assume that Superman's willpower is just as potent as the strongest Green Lanterns.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners:
    • With Jimmy Olsen and to a somewhat lesser extent with Batman.
      • Jimmy and Superman/Clark are (at least in some continuities) very close friends. During the Silver Age, the two had no shame about expressing affection for each other either with words or with a hug, the newspapers ran stories on the relationship similar to a celebrity bromance (though Lois' position as Superman's girlfriend made her just as famous) and Jimmy even spent the night in the Fortress of Solitude once after visiting the place for a story. However, both of them had romances with a number of women (most prominently Lois and her sister). Right after The Reign of the Supermen arc, Clark and Jimmy were roomies for a while due to the destruction that came after his fight against Doomsday.
      • In the new 52, they are roughly the same age and share an apartment.
    • One of the major changes from pre-Crisis to Post-Crisis is the removal of this trope from Batman and Superman's relationship. The impact of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, as well as Character Development in the Bronze Age that had turned Batman back to his dark roots, set the stage for relatively little kerfuffle over the retcon, the reasoning being that their "true" personalities (friendly, laid-back reporter versus gruff, brooding vigilante) were too different to get along.
      • It went back to normal with the launch of the Superman/Batman title.
      • In the New 52, they went from "distrustful, yet respecting" of the other, to actually pretty good friends. A new book, Batman/Superman, even details how they first met and shared adventures for the duo. Batman even keeps Superman & Wonder Woman's relationship a secret for as long as he could out of respect.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • You probably wouldn't expect the Man of Steel to be a Metallica fan, would you? Believe it or not, not only does he consider them to be his favorite band, but he owns every album of theirs, with his favorite being (somewhat appropriately) ...And Justice for All.
    • ... apparently there's another good reason of why he's called "The Man of Steel", proving him as a full-time headbanger.
    • Elliot S! Maggin created an intricate mental profile of Superman when he was writing the character which included a list of banal hobbies such as scrapbooking and keeping memorabilia of his favourite television commercials. Meanwhile on the more fantastical end of the hobby spectrum, he also likes playing chess on a giant-sized board with his robot servants in the Fortress of Solitude.
  • High-Altitude Interrogation: Superman, surprisingly, has done this. On at least one occasion, he dropped a mook, used super speed to catch him, and said, "Now, we can keep doing this until I get tired, or..."
  • Hope Bringer:
    • Is this for DC Comics as a whole due to being The Paragon of goodness and humility, his incredible powers, and incredible empathy for people from all walks of life. Some of his most famous scenes are him comforting others with his presence and talking down people who are about to do something horrible to themselves or others.
    • In continuities where there were heroes before he showed up, it's generally shown they were forgotten or fell out of favor with the world. Superman tends to be the spark that brings all kinds of new heroes pouring out of the woodwork.
    • His ability to inspire hope is potent enough that he was granted a Blue Lantern Ring during the events of Blackest Night.
  • How Do I Shot Web?:
    • His time as Superboy in the Silver Age days involved his adoptive parents mentoring him in controlling his powers. In Up, Up, and Away, after recovering his powers, Supes realizes that his control over them is cumbersome and trains to hone them back to mastery.
    • In New Krypton as a general, he offers to train the soldiers of Kandor's Military Guild on how to use their newfound powers upon being exposed to yellow sunlight rays.
  • Human Alien: Kryptonians are outwardly indistinguishable from humans, despite obvious biological differences. It is mentioned that Jor-El chooses Earth because humans look exactly like Kryptonians, so Kal-El could live among them without being detected.
  • Human Hammer-Throw: What follows a Hoist Villain over Head.
  • Humble Hero: One of his definitive character traits. He ultimately doesn't see himself as anyone special, and sometimes voices his doubts about whether he can live up to The Ace image people place on him.
  • Hunk: Textbook example. He's a tall, incredibly muscular man with brawny good looks.
  • Hypnotic Eyes: Superman has occasionally demonstrated the ability to wipe people's memories and hypnotize people with a stare, especially in the Golden Age and Silver Age. Even without this, his eyes are sometimes described as a shade of blue too rich and vibrant to belong to a human, hence how part of his Clark Kenting works: the glasses tone down his eyes to "blue" from "blue!"

    I-J 
  • I Am Not Left-Handed: He holds back against most opponents because of his strict Thou Shall Not Kill policy, but if he doesn't, curb stomping usually ensues.
  • I Am Who?: His origin in more recent decades has this element. He gets a mostly normal early childhood, then starts developing special abilities, then eventually encounters or is told about his rocket ship, which also eventually transmits a message or series of messages from Jor-El which usually tell him he has a great destiny. Typically he has at least two if not three of these in his origin.
  • Icy Blue Eyes: His strikingly blue eyes heavily contrast his dark hair, serving as a mark of his Kryptonian heritage. The various Superboys also share this trait, as well as many of the Supergirls.
  • Ideal Hero: Supes is pretty much the platonic ideal of superheroism. He's strong, courageous, kind, selfless, courteous, patient, merciful, and incorruptible. No other hero radiates goodness and justice like he does, though Captain America over at Marvel can come pretty close.
  • Identical Grandson: In Superman Returns to Krypton whilst attending his birth parents' wedding, one guest remarks how Kal-El looks a lot like Jor-El's father
  • Identical Stranger: Over the years, Superman has encountered many near-identical doppelganger heroes from alien planets, though they very rarely appear beyond their initial appearances. This trope was overused so much during the Silver Age that later comics subverted the trope almost as often as they played it straight, with some doppelgangers being revealed as fakers and frauds.
  • I Gave My Word: Tied in with his determinator status— when Superman says he'll do something, he'll pull out at all the stops. His New 52 incarnation unknowingly passed on a chance to resurrect his parents, consequence-free, because he'd made a promise to save another group of people and insisted they be rescued instead.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Staring in the Bronze Age, this was made a part of his character. He felt alienated from the rest of humanity because he was so powerful and had very few true equals. In Post-Crisis, this manifests as him thinking of himself as Clark Kent first and Kal-El second. Whatever the case, this is generally the reason why he maintains his "mild-mannered reporter" identity, as it gives him a sense of normalcy and belonging that Superman can't provide.
  • Implacable Man: Only if you hurt his friends and family, especially Ma', Pa', Lana, Lois, Diana or any other league member, and even then he won't kill you, or even try to make you suffer. But he'll definitely put you in a good solid inescapable prison cell for the rest of your life where you'll get to grow old and die on your own and won't hurt anyone ever again. At least until another author wants to use you. More importantly, it's his primary crime-fighting style. He stands there and takes your best shot to show you that fighting him is pointless, then flies after you to show you that running is also pointless. Also, if you're attacking him, you're not attacking innocent people, so it's worth the risk of taking the occasional punch that could hurt him. Unless you have a bit of kryptonite with you, almost nothing can stop him.
  • In a Single Bound: During the Golden Age, Superman was known for how incredibly high he could jump, but this has mostly been made redundant by his Flight.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Superman is the moral center of the DC Universe, with a righteous and unbreakable spirit. In Final Crisis, Mandrakk recognizes Superman as the last and greatest protector of life in the universe.
  • Innocent Blue Eyes: Of the "heroic and idealistic" variety. In Birthright, Martha Kent made him wear his iconic glasses to hide them. She remarks that she's never seen eyes quite like his, eyes so brilliantly blue that looking into them is like looking into the sky.
  • Interpretative Character: Given his lengthy history and iconic status, Superman is more of a symbol than a physical person, which means that every writer has a different yet equally valid interpretation of what Superman represents. At his basic core, Superman is a good guy with superpowers. But how powerful is he? Is he an All-American icon or does he transcend nationalism? Is he "Superman first, Clark Kent later" or the other way around?
  • Interspecies Adoption: He was officially adopted by the Kents after landing on Earth and they raised him like any human boy.
  • Interspecies Romance: With Lana Lang and Lois Lane (humans), with Lori Lemaris (mermaid) and Wonder Woman (Amazon/demigod) as of the New 52.
  • Interspecies Friendship: Most of Superman's friendships qualify, though not necessarily Clark Kent's.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Because it's a job that he cannot automatically do with his superpowers. Clark has shown himself to be a very skilled and adept journalist and is highly respected by his peers for his work.
  • Invincible Hero: Really, there is no question that Superman will beat the bad guys and save the day. The question is how he will do it and what moral questions his actions will raise.
  • Irritation Nightmare: Played for Drama; at the end of Superman: Brainiac, he has a dream/nightmare about storming into a prison full of rage and remorselessly killing Brainiac for causing his adopted father's death. When Clark wakes up, he's shaken by the idea of him acting as such even towards someone he justifiably hates and collapses in depression, knowing that something like this would never bring Pa Kent back.
  • I Should Have Been Better:
    • Averted. Most of the time Superman realizes that even he has limitations and that he can't save everyone. But every so often when life's hardships really pile up or for a very special circumstance, Superman regrets that he couldn't do more. Two notable examples:
    • In the JLA story A Midsummer Night's Dream, the villain No-Man hits the JLA with some Mind Rape which leads to Superman violently attacking No-Man yelling, "Not a single day goes by that I wish I couldn't do more for these people, to live up to the name that they gave me!!".
    • An issue of Hitman written by Garth Ennis of all people (who, it should be noted, has always been extremely respectful of Supes) shows a completely sincere and respectful version of Superman who failed to save an astronaut who happened to be right in front of him while he was holding a nuclear reactor shut. He stated, "That's the one thing I'm truly afraid of. That everyone believes above all else. They know I can't be everywhere, but if I'm around, I'll save them. That they needn't be afraid. But when the moment came, Superman failed him".
  • It Runs in the Family: Stories showing what the Els of Krypton were like generally show they were always non-conformists by Kryptonian standards, and that while the Kents had a big influence on Clark, he also gets a lot from Jor-El and Lara as well.
  • Jack of All Stats: Bordering on Master of All. Superman may not be as fast and nimble on land as the Flash, or as compassionate and battle-savvy as Wonder Woman, or as resourceful and driven as Batman, or as big of a Boy Scout as Captain Marvel, or as fearlessly determined as a Green Lantern, or attain the selfless, noble and deep understanding of the human nature as Martian Manhunter does... but he can do all of those ALMOST as well as them and Depending on the Writer he can be even better from time to time.
  • The 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.

    K-N 
  • Keeping Secrets Sucks: Subverted. He is the last person to tell others something you shared to him ever. but his Secret Identity thing doesn't help him to get a normal social life most of the time, at all!
  • Kid Hero All Grown-Up: It was established in the Silver Age that he first became a superhero in his adolescence as Superboy before eventually becoming Superman in adulthood, which was done away with Post-Crisis when John Byrne's The Man of Steel miniseries serving as a new origin for Superman instead went with Clark beginning his superhero career as Superman when he became an adult. After the introduction of Superboy-Prime (an alternate universe counterpart of Clark who inhabits a world similar to real life in that superheroes for the most part only exist in comic books and other works of fiction) and Kon-El (a teenage clone of Superman), Superman's history of being the original Superboy in his youth would eventually be reinstated by Infinite Crisis before being eschewed once more by New 52 and subsequently restored to canon yet again during the Rebirth era.
  • Knight Errant: Downplayed since he isn't a knight by trade nor requires armor due to his Super-Toughness, but he absolutely qualifies checkmarking each and every box in what Old-School Chivalry respects to.
  • Kryptonite Factor: He is the Trope Namer, of course, with his weakness to Kryptonite (radioactive Green Rocks from his home planet) established back in the 40's. Since then, he's gained a few other vulnerabilities: he has only basic resistance to magic (though some authors treat magic as a bona fide weakness for him and his kin), red sun radiation can temporarily rob him of his powers, and there's a whole spectrum of colored Kryptonite with varying effects (from Red Kryptonite that causes a random change for 48 hours, to Gold Kryptonite that robs him of his powers permanently).
  • Kung-Fu Jesus: An irony, since he's a character developed by two Jews. See the obvious parallels between Kal-El being sent by Jor-El to "show the way" to mankind, and the tale of Jesus. (The films tend to play up this aspect more than the comics ever did.) To be fair, the duo envisioned him as Space Moses.
  • Lantern Jaw of Justice: Probably the most iconic example in all of Comics.
  • Large and in Charge: He's around 6'3"-6'4''/ 225-237 pounds. Founder, leader and whenever it is required, the BFG of the Justice League.
  • Last Kiss: At the end of Superman's Return to Krypton, just before he enters his space pod, Lyla confronts Kal-El and shares a longing kiss with him. Said kiss becomes more passionate and drawn out as Lyla realizes this would be the last time she and Kal would ever spend time together. Soon afterwards, Kal-El would enter his spaceship and blast off to Earth while Lyla remains at Krypton, awaiting her doomed fate alongside the planet.
  • Last of His Kind: One of his famous epithets is "The Last Son of Krypton", but over the decades this status has become little more than lip service as we have encountered countless other surviving Kryptonians, including the entire colony of Kandor. DC editorially mandated that Superman remain the last surviving Kryptonian for many years after Crisis on Infinite Earths rebooted the whole DC Universe, but various holdovers kept slipping through the cracks in altered forms (e.g. Supergirl as a shapeshifting protoplasmic being from a pocket universe, General Zod as a human cosmonaut, etc.) until eventually the real Kara Zor-El Supergirl returned and reopened the floodgates.
  • Last Stand: Even if the odds are against him or he's likely to die, Superman will not give up a fight until he's certain the day is saved. Of course, his battle against Doomsday is a perfect display of such valor and he goes down like a true hero.
  • The Leader: Of the DCU superhero community as a whole. Types II and IV; not only is he admired by everyone, they trust his judgement. He is Co-leaders of the League with Batman, acting as the face of the league and Chairman.
    • He is widely acknowledged as the second most capable leader in the entire DCU, with only Nightwing surpassing him.
  • Leotard of Power: Worn by Superman himself in at least one film incarnation (specifically, in which he was portrayed by Christopher Reeve).
  • Lightning Bruiser: Also The Ur-Example; He's as powerful as he is fast, though it's hard to tell due to Supes constantly having to limit his power to jeep himself from causing collateral damage. In Pre-Crisis, he was so fast that he was able to break the light barrier and travel through time, though he could only spectate the past.
  • Literal Split Personality:
    • Back in the early sixties when "Imaginary stories" were told far and wide in DC, there's a famed one where he had to be literally split in two different, autonomous beings: "Superman Blue" and "Superman Red". Both possesing the same power set and levels but red being more driven and blue being the insightful one.
      • Revived in mid-90's when his powers changed into those of an Energy Being.
    • Mr. Mxyzptlk reveals in Superman Reborn the pre-Flashpoint and New 52 Supermen are actually two halves of the same person. They merge back together in the end.
  • Love at First Sight: A Kryptonian actress named Lyla Lerrol immediately becomes attracted to Kal-El in a Pre-Crisis storyline where Superman accidentally went to the past and ended up in Krypton and he's openly accepting of the idea of being a couple and even getting married. Unfortunately, Krypton is fated to explode and Supes as to be sent back to the present because the Earth needs him, ultimately making their relationship that of tragic love.
  • Magnetic Hero: Able to draw not just myriads of fans and followers around the world, but to be the voice of the whole DC super-heroic community.
  • Martial Pacifist: As Grant Morrison puts it, "Superman punches out the bully". Superman has a standard no-kill policy but is willing to break it if an enemy is just that massive of a threat to the safety of Earth or the multiverse at large, although he certainly doesn't take such decisions lightly and always looks for an alternative beforehand.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • "Kal-El" can be understood to mean "vessel of God" or "voice of God" in Hebrewnote , which fits the Moses theme of his origin and hints his role as an archetypal angelic figure.
    • In Kryptonian, "Kal-El" translates to "Star Child", an allusion to Superman's spectacular introduction in an otherwise humble setting; an alien who travelled to Earth from a dying planet, passing through numerous stars throughout the journey. "Star" can also be used in a metaphorical term, as in Kal growing up to become the universe's biggest beacon of hope.
  • Messiah Creep: In his early years, Superman was merely a champion of social justice who took on evil businessmen, war criminals and terrorists. It's not until The Silver Age of Comic Books that he was reinterpreted as a heavenly savior.
  • Messianic Archetype: Most of the time, Superman is treated as the comic book analogue of Jesus, what with his coming from Krypton, his inspiration of mankind and the current superhero generation and his death and return. His creators also intended him as an analogue to Moses, with the iconic rocket representing the river down the Nile. There's also the fact that "Kal-El" can mean "voice of God" in Hebrew and the fact that the rocket that brought him to Earth as a baby is sometimes drawn as vaguely starlike while Christ's birth was heralded by the Star of Bethlehem.
  • Metalhead: He happens to be a fan of Metallica, even stating that his favorite album by them is ...And Justice for All.
  • Mini-Mecha: The "Kryptonian Warsuit" he wore during Dan Jurgens' Reign of the Supermen arc. Same case as in his Super-Mobile but this time it was a defense vehicle that could be manned or guided remotely by thought, complete with a vast array of high-powered Kryptonian weaponry.
  • Minnesota Nice: He was raised as a Kansas farmboy, and he makes sure to apply his midwestern values to his heroics all the time.
  • Moses in the Bulrushes: A classic modern example. The lone survivor of a natural disaster, shipped off to safety by his parents (with only minutes to spare in some versions), found and raised by humble, hard-working people until he discovers his true heritage in young adulthood.
  • Mr. Fanservice: One of the most attractive males in the comic book medium, which is no mean feat.
  • Mundane Utility:
    • He uses his laser eyes to sew clothing, shave himself and cut his own hair
    • His Super-Speed and reflexes combined can be used to type up a whole, wide and very informative story right up to the last seconds of the deadline in his day-job.
    • He's even known for using his Super-Hearing to detect emergency calls into the police, criminal, underground or CB waves to take action.
      • ...also, during interrogations, it has proven to be an excellent lie-detector.
    • Even he has learned to project his voice, thus protecting his secret identity pretending either Clark or Superman (Depending on the circumstance) "is in the other room".
      • ...and with a careful application of last both, he can even impersonate practically every (male) voice he has ever heard.
  • Muscles Are Meaningful: Built like a tank and can shove around planets, stars, or entire solar systems if need be depending on the story, being the heaviest hitter of the Justice League by a long shot, with his only peers being the similarly well-built Martian Manhunter, Captain Marvel/Shazam and Wonder Woman.
  • Muscles Are Meaningless: Was this in his teenage years, where his nerdy physique was hardly a good indicator of how strong his Kryptonian powers made him (though he was still far weaker than his strength as an adult).
  • My Country, Right or Wrong: Superman doesn't believe in unconditional loyalty when it comes to governments, he will usually follow the wishes of the American people, even if he doesn't agree with them:
    Superman: "The world will never know how I struggled with the decision to stay out of the electoral process. Should I have gone on television and told the voters not to elect this man? And what then? If I use my influence — my character and my reputation — to tell people how to vote, what does that make me? I choose to fight for Truth, Justice, and the American Way. And for all its flaws, American democracy does work... The United States doesn't need me to dictate, or worse, deprive her people of that most precious gift. The freedom of choice. Even when I knew in my heart that choice was wrong."
  • My God, What Have I Done?: He is really against killing. In fact, after killing off the Pocket Dimension Zod and his cronies, despite having been forced to do so, Clark is so ashamed by the deed that he flies off to space in exile.
  • My Greatest Failure:
    • His inability to restore Kandor to its original size. In the Post-Crisis version, this also includes Jonathan Kent's death at Brainiac's hands and his inability to prevent a war between Earth and New Krypton. The New 52 and DC Rebirth versions deeply regret being unable to save Jonathan and Martha Kent from the fatal car accident that took their lives.
    • The deaths of Jonathan and/or Martha Kent in various continuities tend to serve as a reminder that for all his amazing powers, there are some things even Superman cannot do, and he should never take any life or his abilities for granted. Especially in ones like the Silver Age where he's indirectly responsible for their deaths.
  • My Suit Is Also Super:
    • Superman has no problem diving into the center of the sun without even leaving scorch marks on his spandex booties, so having bullets bounce off without ripping the material isn't exactly attention-getting. Pre-Crisis, this was explained by his wearing a "super suit" made from Kryptonian materials. Post-Crisis, it was explained that the same force that made his skin nigh-impregnable transferred the quality to skintight costumes (thus allowing for dramatic rips of the cape, as well).
    • Similarly, his glasses are fashioned from pieces of the windshield of the rocket that brought him to Earth, so as to allow his heat vision to be used without melting his glasses. Although whether his Eye Beams generate heat throughout their length or only where they converge varies according to artist and writer. He's been shown to be able to generate points of heat within objects (heat vision heart massage, anyone?) while others show parallel holes where his heat vision burned its way in.
    • The Post-Crisis canonical explanation is that Superman has a bioaura that protects his suit. He's even extended it a few times to save people.
    • In the New 52, Superman wears skintight Kryptonian armor that is as nigh-invulnerable as he is. Prior to finding the armor, he wore Civvie Spandex that would tear apart when he was damaged.
  • Name From Another Species: Inverted. Clark, a Kryptonian, is adopted by humans and given a human name. His original name is Kal-El.
  • Nature Versus Nurture: Brought up in most depictions of the character. Superman is Kryptonian, but was raised by kindly adoptive parents. In older stories, it was usually implied that his superior Kryptonian heritage and abilities were the cause of his strict moral compass, but in later stories, it's outright stated that Superman's upbringing is responsible for creating who he is.
    • Particularly highlighted in stories like All-Star Superman, where native Kryptonians appear and immediately begin abusing their superpowers, but show remorse after they begin to deteriorate and Kal-El cares for them, demonstrating that all Kryptonians have potential for good and evil, if only for the compassion shown to them by others.
    • Despite this, there is an element of "nature" in Superman's Incorruptible Pure Pureness. Many Elseworld retellings of Superman's origin story that change the landing location of Kal-El's baby rocket, including the very bleakest ones (e.g. him being raised in Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, and even Apokolips) still portray Superman with enormous potential for good. However, the differing circumstances of his upbringing in these stories can misguide his naturally strong instincts for justice and compassion.
  • Nerds Are Sexy: In Post-Crisis stories Clark has little difficulty attracting women despite his sometimes nerdy pursuits and farmboy naivete. Of course, being built like Superman helps.
  • Nerd Glasses: Wore these in his teenage years (which heavily resemble Harry Potter's glasses) to help with his Clark Kenting and keep him from accidentally firing off his heat vision, but wears significantly more mature looking lenses as an adult. They were made from glass from the spaceship that brought him to Earth.
  • Nice Guy: Hands down the nicest person in the DC Universe. Anyone with similar levels of niceness will draw occasional comparisons to Superman.
    • Modern stories have him now as the second nicest guy, after a certain Captain Marvel/Shazam, who is literally an innocent pre-teen/teenage boy. Some books also have Wonder Woman being much purer and nicer, what with being a literal, near-perfect demigoddess.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: He's more than capable of relentlessly beating his foes down, but only does so if he's pissed off, which is easier said than done, or against a foe of equal strength. He's done this with Mongul, a tyrant who tries to subject Supes to a mental prison via a plant that would slowly kill him, Darkseid, and Manchester Black's team, just to name a few, and in the case of the latter, Supes was holding back and giving them a demonstration of what he could be if he wasn't a symbol of hope.
  • "No More Holding Back" Speech: The Trope Namer, back when it was "World of Cardboard Speech".
  • No-Sell: A lot of the time, Supes would allow his enemies to hit him with everything they've got; bullets, batons, blades, their own fists, only for them to realize that he's not even fazed or made a budge and become terrified of him. Supes would then beat them into submission or flee the scene. Provided his body can withstand whatever human weaponry there is, Supes would use that to his advantage and try to save civilians from using his body as a shield, knowing that he'll take the brunt of an attack or explosive without a scratch while a civilian is saved.
  • Normal Fish in a Tiny Pond: Averted. Superman has the powers any Kryptonian would have under Earth's sun, but whenever he loses his powers or fights other Kryptonians or Physical Gods, he defeats them through intelligence and determination. To Kryptonians, Superman would be a non-rich Batman that emotes.

    O-R 
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Marriage to Lois Lane comes with the unfortunate problem of having Gen. Sam Lane as a father in-law. A former field medic who rose to become into one of the most influential officers within the U.S. Army ranks and a far-right nut who regards Superman as a threat to mankind and Clark Kent as a wimp who isn't "good enough" for his daughter at his best, and a genocidal nutjob who tries to kill all Kryptonians everywhere at his worst.
  • Official Couple: With Lois Lane. And Wonder Woman for the New 52, before it was Ret-Gone'd.
  • Old Superhero: The events of The Immortal Superman sees him aging considerably when he enters a time bubble to the far future until he looks around to be in his 80s or 90s.
  • One-Man Army: When he has to, Superman can plow through whole legions of supervillains. Hell, he once vaporized an army of Doomsdays (as in the guy who killed Superman) in a matter of seconds.
  • One Super, One Power Set: 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.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: If Superman is angry, that's very, very bad... but if he's angry enough to want to kill someone... RUN!
  • Our Hero Is Dead: Once he takes off to be cremated by the sun in The Leper from Krypton, Earth's populace believes that Superman has died. It turns out he survived his trip in the sun and sometime later, his disease is cured by Bizarro's inept attempt to Mercy Kill him by giving him White Kryptonite.
  • Papa Wolf: Hurting a kid or one of the teen heroes in front of Superman is a wonderful way to get him to take the gloves off and tell you exactly how badly you're gonna get your ass kicked. If it's a hero he's related to (Supergirl, Superboy), the beating goes double.
    • If any hint of a threat comes near his son Jon, and Clark won't hesitate to vaporize even Batman or Robin
  • The Paragon: Ask any hero in The DCU who their greatest hero and example is, their answer will be Superman. Any superhero who tells you otherwise is either blatantly lying or operates out of Gotham.
    • Batman may not say it, but you bet your bottom dollar he certainly thinks it.
    • Hell, ask any villain and they'll tell you the same.
  • Parental Substitute:
    • He has taken on this role to Supergirl and, to some degree, to Jimmy Olsen.
    • Also Nightwing's, 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 abusive father (the story portrays Batman as a Jerkass) and instead staying with his mother (the caring, nice Superman).
    • He was ironically this to Zod's son, treating the boy with far more kindness than his real father ever did.
  • Patrick Stewart Speech: Because of his Midwestern upbringing, he believes in the flaws, but ultimate goodness of humanity, and will share his viewpoint with anyone who doesn't believe this.
  • Perma-Shave: Well, Superman does still need to shave (many comics and cartoons have made gags of the fact that he uses his heat vision as a razor because normal blades break on contact), but he always evokes the traditional image of the clean-shaven hero whenever he's in-costume. Any story that gives Superman a beard is probably going to slide closer to Darker and Edgier.
  • Person of Mass Construction: Superman's multiple abilities and full-time willingness to always lend a helping hand afford him helping to repair and rebuild not just buildings or cities, but entire civilizations if necessary.
  • Phrase Catcher: Curiously, all of them more famous than his own Catchphrases, and all of them came from his famed radio show intro.
    • "Look, up in the sky! ...it's a bird ...it's a plane? ...no, IT'S SUPERMAN!"
    • "Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound."
    • "Strange visitor who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men."
    • "...fighting the never-ending battle for truth, justice and freedom/the american way/a better tomorrow." the last part may vary depending of the times and age it's uttered.
  • The Pollyanna: No matter what happens, Superman will never stop believing in the inherent goodness of all human beings.
  • The Power of the Sun: Earth's yellow sun is what makes him and other Kryptonians Flying Bricks with Eye Beams. Inverted with red stars, which take away his powers. Blue stars actually give him even more powers.
  • The Power of Trust: At least some versions of Superman give Batman a piece of kryptonite just in case something ever happens. And some versions of Batman, the New 52 version for example, have in turn trusted Superman with the means to stop him if he goes rogue.
  • Powerful and Helpless: This occurs in Clark during the Crisis at Hand story arc where his attempt to stop a Domestic Abuse case goes wrong when the wife, Amanda, ends up calling the cops on Superman. Even when using his Clark Kent guise, he can't do anything about the abuse unless Andrea directly calls the cops.
  • Primary-Color Champion: The archetypical hero dressed in blue, red and splashes of yellow.
  • Punch Catch: A maneuver he adopted in most recent times, used as a persuasion/intimidation one, and preferred whenever he goes against one of his many, many expies.
  • Purity Personified: Superman has often shown that his strength of spirit and the purity of his soul is enough to either meet the requirements of using an Only the Chosen May Wield item withstand Holy Is Not Safe situations.
    • When the renegade angel Asmodel blasts Superman with heavenly light, it's a complete No-Sell against Clark who just keeps pounding away at him.
      Asmodel: How?! How can you withstand the scouring light of heaven?! Only the purest of souls can gaze upon this flame and not be driven mad!!
    • In Action Comics #773, Ra's Al Ghul tries to call of the essence of Gaia, AKA the spirit of the earth itself, to act as her vessel to smite mankind and put humanity back in its place. However during the ritual, Superman intervenes to stop him and they both start to merge into one with Ra's trying to absorb Superman. Gaia immediately puts a stop to this claiming that Ra's is empty inside and far from the perfect vessel. Then she turns to Superman and she almost sounds smitten by the man of steel.
      Ra's Al Ghul: I have served you loyally since the dawn of civilization!! Betrayed my own world to free you!! I am your perfect mate!!
      Gaia: You are empty. Empty, save for a void that would consume me as it has consumed you.
      Ra's Al Ghul: NOOOO!!
      Gaia: (talking to Superman) But you...rarest of elements...Pure. Full...Loving and loved. You can heal me...
  • Rapid-Fire Fisticuffs: Whenever he faces someone bigger than he is, resorts effectively to this.
  • Real Men Eat Meat: Averted in most depictions, where Superman is a strict vegetarian.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: If Superman is in a position of leadership, you can expect him to be the most open-minded and willing to listen to suggestions you can possibly imagine. A good case is when he became General of New Krypton and most of the time, worked as a peacekeeper to stop New Krypton from going to war with other alien species. Even Zod admitted Superman was a positive influence in New Krypton.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Tends to use this more as an intimidation tactic... he just can't help it whenever he's really... REALLY MAD!.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Superman Reborn reveals Superman is actually both ends of the trope. The younger and brasher N52 Superman is red while the calmer and more mature pre-Flashpoint Superman is blue; they even glow with those same colors. Merging those attributes is crucial for Superman to be whole again.
    • Therefore, Clark has been the Blue for the likes of Batman or Green Arrow, and the Red for the likes of Wonder Woman or Martian Manhunter.
  • Religious Bruiser: His Silver Age version, who studied and seemingly worshiped the Kryptonian Sun god, Rao, like all other Kryptonians.
  • Reluctant Warrior: Being the son of scientists and farmers, Superman would rather talk his opponents down instead of fighting them. Of course, Superman is not entirely opposed to violence and will not hesitate to put villains down with force.
  • Relationship Upgrade: With Wonder Woman since Justice League #12 in the New 52. Then, DC Rebirth rearranged history so that Clark and Lois would get back together and he and Diana would only remain good (albeit "crushie") friends.
  • Refusal of the Call: In Krypton Nevermore, he loses most of his power and wants to quit being Superman because he is sick and tired of being alone, being burdened with responsibilities and being judged and derided every time he makes one mistake. I-Ching convinces him it is not a good idea.
    I-Ching: "Your attitude is understandable! But I beg you to reconsider... one does not choose responsibility! It is often thrust upon one! To refuse it is to commit the worst act of cowardice! Look around you... See a world burdened with misery... with untold agonies — a world which has need of you — as you were!"
  • Respected by the Respected: Anyone who knows about Superman and has seen him in action ends up respecting the hell out of him. Even for the villains, most of them end up having Villain Respect for him even if they also hate him. Not a surprised give that Superman is The Determinator. He never gives up and he one of the few omnibenevolent heroes in the universe alongside Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter and Captain Marvel, (for Batman, it depends on the situation as he can be an example of Pure Is Not Good given his, at times, Knight Templar tendencies.)
    • Biggest props have to be when "The Presence" (AKA the capital-G of the DC Multiverse) compliments him after the Spectre rescues Supergirl from the Heavenly realms she was lost in. The Presence even calls Superman, "My good and faithful son".
  • Rousing Speech: He does this after he travels to the year 121,970, and learns the use of superpowers has been banned in Earth, and old superheroes are dumped in a retirement home off-world. Hence, when the Metropolis governor asks for their help, the retired heroes are unwilling to listen to him out until Superman makes a passionate speech:
    Superman: Superman: Don't throw away this chance, men... We can prove to Earth that superpowers shouldn't be taboo... and that we're not has-beens who've forgotten how to use them!
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something:
    • Would you believe he claimed the title of "Ruler of HELL" for one night? Yes! It happened in the most apt "Superman #666" and he did it to stop the last remaining "Kryptonian demon" from corrupting him, thus cleansing his very soul from most of the evil. Although to him, it was All Just a Dream... or wasn't it?
    • As of the Rebirth continuity, Superman succeeds Darkseid as the God-King of Apokolips, albeit with his trademark good-spirit and hope-bringing intact.

    S-T 
  • Save the Villain: Because of his unshakable belief in the innate goodness in everybody and the sanctity of all life, he'll go out of his way to save anyone if he has the power to do so. Heck, he once saved Darkseid when the latter was grievously injured by Doomsday.
  • Scare 'Em Straight: Superman invokes this against Manchester Black and his 90sAntiHero team, delivering a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown and terrifying them, effectively turning their ideology against them. Supes does this as a demonstration of what he could be if he decided to use his powers for tyranny instead of helping people. This works well enough to get Black and his minions to give up and reconsider their ways.
  • Secret Identity: Don't tell anyone, but Superman is actually mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent. As of Action Comics #1050, you really don't want to tell anyone Clark is Superman, thanks to Lex Luthor erasing the knowledge from everyone's brain and then adding a Brown Note that would potentially kill anyone who learns the secret.
  • Secret Identity Change Trick: Clark does this on multiple occasions, finding an obstructed spot to change his costume and confront his enemies and whatever urgent threat as Superman. He's one of the most well-known examples of the trope for a reason.
  • Secret-Identity Identity: A recurring theme with Superman is how he chooses to define himself according to his Kryptonian heritage, his role as a superhero, and his upbringing as a human. Sometimes, he thinks of himself as Superman first and Clark as a disguise. Other times, he thinks of himself as Clark first while thinking of Superman as a "brave face" for humanity. Some stories Take a Third Option and treat both Superman and the mild-mannered reporter as masks for the genuine Clark Kent. Compared to Batman, whose civilian "Bruce Wayne" persona is almost universally considered to be just a mask, Superman leaves much more room for both reader and writer interpretation.
    • The Silver Age emphasised Superman's alien side the most, especially his longing for a life on Krypton that he never had a chance to live. "Kal-El" can be considered the persona that Silver Age Superman wears in his Fortress of Solitude and his old adventures inside the Bottle City of Kandor, the only places where he could live out this fantasy life. Alan Moore's classic story For the Man Who Has Everything posits Superman's (initially) perfect dream life as that of an ordinary man on Krypton, which may seem strange for modern readers.
    • Some modern stories split the difference; when asked to give his name by Wonder Woman holding the Lasso of Truth, where Batman simply answers "Batman", Superman answers that he's Clark Kent and Kal-El.
  • Sensible Heroes, Skimpy Villains: A very downplayed case in Doomsday Clock. Superman's costume wholly covers him up from the neck down while Doctor Manhattan is completely naked. The downplayed part comes from the fact that Jon is more a driving force of the cataclysm that occurs in the story rather than any real villainous intent he has. Additionally, Jon's nudity is symbolic of the fact that he is detached and apathetic about existence, emotions, and a drive to do something, which starkly contrasts Clark's clear desire to help others and be a Hope Bringer, with his "S" logo even being a symbol of hope.
  • Series Mascot: Of DC Comics, alongside Batman.
  • Shadow Archetype:
    • Batman being The Cowl to Superman's The Cape. Despite this, both of them are allies and friends, seeing themselves as an inspiration to each other.
      • Clark grew up in a humble farm, but had everything he needed in his caring adopted parents who raised him with the values that would later shape his entire life. Bruce was born into incredible wealth but lost his parents at a very young age, an event that broke him, he counted nevertheless with the nurturing support of his butler, a man he adopted as father figure later in life.
      • Superman inspires people to do good. Batman strikes fear into those who would do evil.
      • Clark has unlimited power, yet never uses it to impose his vision of a better world to anybody. Batman is a mere mortal, but does everything to bend enemies and allies to his whim.
      • Bruce's strict "no killings" policy is what set him apart of many Vigilante anti-heroes, while Clark had to take this unfortunate choice when there were no more options to be found.
      • Finally, in Superman's case, "the costume" is what he does, while "Clark" is who he is, Batman is all that's left, while Bruce is merely a mask he must use to the world.
    • Lobo of all people! You can figure in case you don't know that every time they had to form a team-up is not a ride in the park for Superman... at all! He's the extreme opposite of Superman in every single sense...
      • ...for causing the extinction of his own people by himself.
      • ...for having a similar power set he will never use for the greater good, but to satisfy his own tacky desires.
      • His word may be his bond, but it is just what he strictly promised what one can expect, and nothing more.
      • He's also not attached to a strict moral code as he's more than willing to kill not just if he has to, but if he wants to and at his own convenience.
    • While both Martian Manhunter and Superman are powerful, heroic aliens who suffered the loss of their respective civilizations, they are very different in a couple of respects:
      • Superman considers Earth his true home and sees himself as human. J'onn on the other hand grew into adulthood on Mars, having accepted Earth as his new home but always longing for his loss.
      • J'onn reveres his home planet, its culture and his people's peace-striving living in ways Clark never did for Krypton's millitaristic, science-ridden way of life.
    • Doctor Manhattan is what Superman could have been had he had the powers of a God but at the cost of losing any drive in life to the point of complete apathy and lacking any desire to do something for anybody, himself included.
  • Shipless Faster-Than-Light Travel: Superman can fly across space to visit distant worlds, although it is worth mentioning that he had to go into special training in order to learn how to hold his breath long enough to make this viable. Pre-Crisis, he could do this naturally.
  • Showy Invincible Hero: When written well, watching him plow through villains or stand in one spot tanking everything they throw at him can be either awesome or hilarious.
  • Small Steps Hero: For the better in idealistic stories, for the worse in cynical ones.
  • Smarter Than You Look: Clark has never been portrayed as being below average in intelligence, but most Justice League works tend to center on Batman and occasionally The Flash and Cyborg as the "brains" of the group. That said, when he has to, Clark can prove to be very intelligent and analytical, even to the point of coming up with his own technological inventions if he puts his mind to it.
  • Socially Awkward Hero: An interesting example. He's a natural leader, charismatic and loved by pretty much everybody, but, by virtue of being a farm boy thrust into a big city lifestyle, the fact that he grew up somewhat isolated from his peers because of his powers, and just natural clumsiness, he can come across as a bit awkward, even when he's not playing it up as Clark.
  • The Soft-Hearted Warrior: Superman is widely considered the World's Strongest Man and is both feared and renowned as the most ferocious protector of the Earth. Though he will never back down from a fight if one is necessary, Superman greatly prefers other methods of helping or defending others. Called the "Big Blue Boy Scout", he will even perform such mundane good deeds as helping the elderly cross the street, reading books to orphans, delivering food or supplies across the world, and, of course, rescuing helpless kittens from trees, finding missing puppies to take them back home, or just protecting and campaigning for the stray ones.
  • Something Person: Super + Man.
  • Split-Personality Merge: At the end of Superman Reborn, the pre-Flashpoint and N52 Supermen combine into a single, complete version of Superman; ensuring his integration into the new DC Universe.
  • Spotting the Thread: In The Leper from Krypton once Virus X is cured from his body, he returns to Earth after several days and finds out someone has been impersonating him during his time away. As he investigates his impersonator's identity, Superman notices he handles each Crisis in odd ways: shattering an iceberg by vibrating instead of punching it, dodging a lava flow while rescuing a building... Then he realizes that it is not one single pretender but seven: his Justice League male teammates stepped in for him while he was away.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: During his time trapped in Krypton during a Pre-Crisis storyline, Kal-El ends up falling for an actress named Lyla Lerrol. Lyla especially loves him and Kal-El openly reciprocates the feeling, but their plans for a married life are doomed due to Krypton's inevitable collapse and destruction. This prompts Lyla to have a very passionate and longing kiss with him before Kal-El is sent back to the present.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye:
    • In Who Took the Super out of Superman?, Clark Kent pulls a vanishing act using his super-speed when he decides to bolt from a crowd of reporters besieging him.
      First Reporter: "Wh-Where'd he go?
      Second Reporter: "Did you see him duck out—?
      Third Reporter: "Didn't see a thing!
    • At the final scene of The Krypton Chronicles, Clark Kent quietly and smilingly sneaks out while his boss Morgan edge is rambling about his next assignment.
      Morgan Edge: "I cant see it now: The Thanagar Saga! Get that, Kent, and— Kent! Where the blazes did he disappear to this time?"
    • In Public Enemies, he it intentionally to Batman by showing up suddenly when his friend is examining the body of a victim, to Batman shock and dismay. Inwardly, Superman admits he loves being able to surprise Batman like that.
      Batman: (thinking) I hate it when he just appears like that.
      Superman: (thinking) I have to admit. I love being able to do that to him.
  • Stop Worshipping Me: There have been times where cults seeing him as a deity have emerged on Earth and even other planets. Given how Clark views himself this makes him very uncomfortable when it happens and he always tries to put a stop to it.
  • Story-Breaker Power: Very much so during the Silver Age due to all the New Powers as the Plot Demands. Mostly averted in the Post-Crisis continuity and beyond.
  • Strong and Skilled: One of the biggest reasons he's pretty much unstoppable is that he's both immensely powerful, and very skilled at using said power. He spent his whole childhood and teen years learning to precisely control his immense power, as if he didn't, he would accidentally hurt people more than he needs to. In addition, after he became a public figure, he has been trained by some of the best martial artists and warriors in the world, just to make sure he has even more control and so that he can handle himself when weakened.
  • Strong as They Need to Be: In relation to other heroes like Wonder Woman and Aquaman, sometimes Superman is barely, slightly stronger, some others way, way more. At times it has been explained that a quick sun-dip can Super-charge himself to even higher levels. And whenever he's arround bigger stars (Hyper-giant blue class or something of the kind), Superman increases his strength by the thousands-fold.
  • Stronger with Age: Several stories have stated that as strong as Clark usually is, his powers will only increase with time (and in some cases, such as Unchained, that the powers Clark has at the moment aren't even the smallest fraction of what he could have). Theoretically, the most Clark gets exposed to our sun, the longest his powers last and the stronger he gets.
  • Super Cop: Defied. People believe he is this because of his good relationship with the Metropolis police force, but Superman has to frequently remind them that he is not one. Post-Crisis, the mayor deputized Superman to get around the fact that Superman might be viewed as a vigilante.
  • Superdickery: Silver Age Superman is the Trope Namer for a reason. Many issues have him devising plans for problems that are needlessly complex, and involve making Lois Lane or Jimmy Olsen's life worse (for example, zapping Lois with a ray that makes her overweight to hide her from criminals). Smug and insensitive remarks toward the situation he put them intend to follow.
  • Superhero: Practically named the trope, as he was the one who codified modern use of the "super" prefix.
  • Superheroes Wear Capes: And in some continuities, it's the blanket his parents wrapped around him as they sent him off.
  • Superheroes Wear Tights: His outfit was based on circus strongmen, which involved tights.
  • Superhero Sobriquets: The Man Of Steel, The Man Of Tomorrow, The Big Blue Boyscout, The Last Son Of Krypton.
  • Superman Stays Out of Gotham: The co-Trope Namer. Although Gotham and Metropolis are often situated close to eachother, Superman generally avoids getting involved with Gotham's problems if he can avoid it, usually out of professional courtesy for Batman.
  • Superpower Lottery: The undisputed champion of this trope, attained due to his Bizarre Alien Biology charged up thanks to The Power of the Sun. Only immensely powerful mystic or cosmic entities can come close:
    • Superman is capable of flying at supersonic speeds (over two thousand miles per second) in a planetary atmosphere and at faster-than-light speeds while in space.
    • Since his creation and over the years, any power that could possibly help Superman defeat a villain or hide his identity has been given to him, to canonically never have it again: Solar Explosions, Hypnotic Eyes, Multi-story Jumping, Super Will, Mild Bio-replication, Turn into an Energy Being, Super-weaving, Super-muscular control, Super-broadcasting his voice through police radio, the "Amnesia Kiss", Super-coffee making... you name it!
    • His body is nigh-invulnerable due to his superhumanly dense cellular and anatomical structure as well as his radiating bio-electrical aura. Superman is under some circumstances resistant or immune to different forms and levels of lacerations, blunt force trauma, energy-based assaults, falls from great heights, explosions, the cold void of space, toxins and all known diseases on Earth. In fact, he's one of the very few number of beings in the DC Universe who can take a direct hit from Darkseid's otherwise all-disintegrating Omega Beams, survive it for more than an instant, and come out with only intense pain, exhaustion and a few "shallow injuries".
    • He can create hurricane force winds by blowing, and also chill his breath to freeze a target. Superman can also breathe in large amounts of air to dispel clouds of gas by exhaling it.
    • While he doesn't have the knowledge base of a Luthor or Brainiac, Superman's mind actually works at a far, far faster rate than that of a normal human being, being able to substitute for a quantum supercomputer in a pinch and work almost as fast as the Flash's, who can process quadrillionsnote  of thoughts per second. He also possesses perfect recall, and is a genius with Kryptonian technology. Superman: Earth One ran with this portrayal, making Clark a genius in highschool and college, while more conservative portrayals list him as a Straight-A Honor Student in high school at the very least.
    • He has Telescopic-microscopic vision that allows him to see electrons, the entire electromagnetic spectrum (including infrared, ultraviolet, etc.) or watch across enormous distances, computer (gained in the New 52), soul (because that's a thing now)... and more.
    • His trademark Eye Beams of course. The current page image and certainly a Trope Codifier. Superman can fire beams of intense heat from his eyes. These beams can be made invisible, allowing him to work undetected, and can be adjusted to affect matter on a microscopic level. Feats include powering up the giant ion planet moving engines, annihilating an army of Doomsday clones in one blast. Just remember, "Burn."
    • Super-Hearing that allows him to hear clouds scraping together or a cell splitting, or hear across a vacuum.
    • He's the Trope Namer for X-Ray Vision. He has the ability to see through anything except lead. Since it is passive, this ability would not generate harmful radiation in the same manner as a focused projection of hard X-rays.
    • He's an absurdly fast flier, runner and swimmer too! How absurd you might ask? He's able to fly from Pluto back to Earth in a few minutes, putting him at far beyond the speed of light. He's only rivalled by The Flash, Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel, all of them on ground and in air and Aquaman in water.
    • Superman's perfect muscular memory is such that he can even catch bullets shoot by himself.
    • Possibly his ultimate and most definitory ability since day one is his Super-Strength. The exact limits of his strength is unknown (and also depends on the continuity), but he has been shown as capable of lifting far in excess of one billion tons. Different periods and intensities of exposure to Earth's solar radiation can cause his strength to fluctuate over time. Superman's known feats include lifting an enormous pyramid and flying it to Mars without any strain, physically defeating everything, from Darkseid to Elder gods in combat, moving Earth away from the Sun with the aid of Green Lantern while Starbreaker was pushing it toward the Sun (a feat that at minimum would require quintillions of tons of force), and having the strength necessary to shatter planets with individual blows. Unhealthy levels of high exposure to solar radiation can exceed Superman's "normal" strength level. As of the New 52 he's capable of bench-pressing the planet earth's weight, 5.972 sextillion tons, for five days with barely any effort at all.
  • Suplex Finisher: As demonstrated on several of his animated encounters, it has proven to be pretty effective against foes as strong as him, like Solomon Grundy or Doomsday.
  • Taking the Bullet: He's taken bullets head-on several times, partly to shield civilians from getting hurt or killed and partly to demonstrate just how out of their league a crook is when it comes to dealing with him. Considering his Super-Toughness, he's usually a non-lethal example, hence it comes off as not being dramatic. He'll even do this against stronger weaponry and even against Kryptonite-laced ammunition if it means saving someone and risking getting badly hurt, dazed, or even killed for it.
  • Tall, Dark, and Handsome: Six foot something, black hair, and when he's cleaned up his look, considered very attractive.
  • Technical Pacifist: Superman has no desire to kill anybody, or even severely injure anybody, but if you force his hand, he will beat you unconscious.
  • Terror Hero: An unorthodox example and it's mainly because of his own abilities than any characteristic intent. With the ability to fly at super speed and smash steel like its paste, Superman essentially lets criminals know that nowhere are they safe from a man who can near-instantaneously track down and find what they are doing, scaring them considerably. Batman himself notes this as an example of how effective Superman can be when he tries to be scary, more so than he could. Impressive, considering Superman is a gentler, passive version of this trope, though he does feel that it may make him an outcast as scaring others isn't his preferred way to stop others unless he's forced to.
  • The Teetotaler: In some versions, though no version of him is depicted as a heavy drinker, despite not having to worry about any negative side effects.
  • And Then John Was a Zombie: He transforms into a Doomsday-like monster called SuperDoom in Superman: Doomed after Superman is inflicted by Doomsday's virus. Naturally, he does manage to recover and revert back to his normal self at the story's conclusion.
  • This Is a Drill: A variation of Tornado Move. By spinning around, Superman can either create localized tornadoes or even as the name indicates, use his own legs as a drill to dig his way underground if required.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Generally, Superman will save any life if it's within his power to do so and has sworn to never kill, a rule that he will only break under the most extreme circumstances, and when he does kill, it tends to haunt him for a long time and is enough to compel him to quit super-heroics. Exactly how far he takes this is Depending on the Writer; sometimes he refuses to kill demons or even Xenomorphs, while other writers have him break the rule when fighting the most extreme Big Bads who can fight him on his own level and are a danger to millions of lives, such as Darkseid, Doomsday, or Brainiac. Also, while he applies this rule strictly to himself, he generally doesn't second-guess his fellow heroes regarding this trope: He's the most powerful hero in the world, which means he's both held to the highest standards and capable of capturing almost any villain without resorting to deadly force, but this means that he has no right to hold other heroes to the same standard (unless "willing to kill" means "kill-happy maniac," such as with Magog or the Elite). Ironically, because Superman isn't as deadset on this rule for his fellow heroes, he has an easier time convincing them not to kill than Bruce.
  • ¡Three Amigos!:
    • Was this with his childhood friends Pete Ross and Lana Lang, but they have grown apart since then due to Clark's increasing fear of his own powers and later his awareness of his status as an alien, with Pete being reduced to increasingly minor roles over the years since his inception. Lana is at least cordial with Clark in the few times they get to catch up.
    • He always shares this dynamic with Batman and Wonder Woman during their stint in the Justice League. In addition to the three of them having a very good friendship with each other, they're also seen as premier heroes to look up to by many.
  • Time Abyss: By the end of The Immortal Superman by which the future has reached a very far point from the present day, Superman is stated to be a million years old. That is until he goes back to his time after declaring that the future no longer needs him.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: While a protector who would abide by rules, Superman would always choose good over the law if a situation calls for it. Luthor's presidency decides to stamp him as a criminal? Supes will fight the government with Batman's aid if it means doing the right thing and gaining back the public's trust. He is to be charged with arrest because superpowers are illegal? He will gladly break that rule if means saving an innocent life. Superman describes it best during The Immortal Superman...
    Superman: Listen, violation patrol! Forget Directive A-7— I'm trying to save lives!
  • Took a Level in Dumbass: His IQ seems to drop a few points whenever he's with the Justice League, or more specifically whenever he's around Martian Manhunter or Batman. Then again, both characters seem to have the power of making other characters dumber just by being there.
  • Tornado Move: With the aid of his Super-Speed, Superman can fly around in a circle fast enough to conjure a large whirlwind. It's more of a defensive move meant to minimize damage, he has employed this maneuver to sweep away a swarm of killer bees away from Metropolis, deflecting thrown boulders, containing and absorbing the blaze of a burning building to thrust its blast and explosive force upward, and sucking up litter out of the sea to minimize water pollution.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Beef bourguignon with ketchup, although this could be an Overused Running Gag note .
    • Several incarnations also show him as having an insatiable sweet tooth, eating candy and fast food by the pounds, since his metabolism literally will not allow him to get fat.
    • There's also an Ice Cream Float that transcended to Real Life called "The Clark Kent" after himnote . Three balls of vanilla ice cream floating in root beer served in a Collins tumbler. We encourage you to taste it!
  • Trapped in the Past: In Superman's Return to Krypton, he slips through the timestream and ends up in Krypton a few years before its destruction. The planet's red sun radiation saps away his powers, leaving Kal-El trapped in the past and forced to live in Krypton.
  • Trauma Conga Line: New 52 Superman's life sucked. In the space of around two years of published stories he (among other things) got nearly killed by kryptonite poisoning, dunked in a Apokoliptian Fire Pit, had his identity revealed to the world and became a social pariah, lost his powers, and got more kryptonite poisoning which ultimately proved fatal and painfully killed him.

    U-Y 
  • Underwear of Power: Certainly a Trope Codifier. This was averted from the New 52 reboot to Action Comics #1000, where there's usually a red belt.
  • Uniqueness Decay: He started out as the sole survivor of Krypton, but then Krypto, Supergirl, Kandor, and the Phantom Zone were introduced. Throughout his history, he went back and forth on this. The early Post-Crisis works were adamant about keeping Clark as Krypton's only survivor, with other Kryptonian characters still alive being from other worlds to compensate. This lasted until Kara Zor-El properly came back.
  • The Unmasking: Happens a few times in AUs (Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?, the Injustice: Gods Among Us comic tie-in). The main continuity explores it in Superman: Truth, a post-Convergence storyline, with his secret identity being publicly revealed to the world.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Has often ended up this as a result of villain schemes.
  • Up, Up and Away!: Well, duh! He's practically the first character people think of when it comes to that pose and said pose is now something a lot of heroes do to project themselves as a great protector as well as a symbol of justice, all inspired by the Man of Steel.
  • Upbringing Makes the Hero: No Death by Origin Story (for the Kents), no Freudian Excuse, he was just too well-raised to not be a hero.
  • Vampiric Draining: As SuperDoom he inherits Doomsday's power of being able to absorb the lifeforce out of any living being within a hundred yards from his presence. Clark is naturally not happy about having such powers.
  • Vibration Manipulation: While not as well known for it as the Flash, Superman has been shown to vibrate his molecules into an intangible state and vibrate his body to increase the damage of his attacks. In The Death of Superman, he defeated Cyborg Superman by punching through his chest and vibrating so fast that Cyborg Superman's body — which was weakened by kryptonite exposure — was completely obliterated.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: He and Batman may have a lot of disagreements (since the 80s), but they both respect each other for the same reason. Clark had all the power to go anywhere or even take over the world. Bruce had a fortune that he could squander forever in a life of luxury or simply, give up to everything and turn into supervillainy. But despite every other opportunity presented to them, both of them chose to become heroes instead, and it is this shared trait that they deeply admire in the other, and allows them both to be best friends.
  • Walking the Earth: He did this in the story arc Superman: Grounded, just before the New 52. After feeling he was out of touch with the American people, he decided to remedy the situation by handing in his US citizenship and literally walking all over America looking for people to helpnote . Amazingly, no-one seemed to notice that Clark Kent was doing the exact same thing at the exact same time in the exact same places, but if anybody did, then Clark could simply claim that he was following Superman, as many other reporters were surely doing.
  • Warrior Prince: ...in exile. Reluctant as he might be about both ends of the term, he's more than qualified, thanks to his Kryptonian Blue Blood heritage.
  • We Help the Helpless: A recurring trait since his Golden Age days is that Superman will always do his best to help and save as many helpless people as he could. It's this selfless action of looking after those who couldn't fight back and always treating them with respect that earns him the title of "Champion of the Oppressed".
  • We Used to Be Friends: Silver Age Superboy and Lex Luthor grew up in Smallville together, with Lex knowing Superboy's identity. Then, one day, Lex had an unfortunate lab accident. In saving him, Superboy accidentally caused Lex to lose his hair (some versions add other details, but the loss of hair is a constant). Lex took it poorly and vowed revenge on Superboy.
  • Weak to Magic: Magic is one of the few ways to bypass Superman's Nigh-Invulnerability and cause him harm. That said, it's not as impressive as it sounds as magic simply affects Kryptonians just as much as it does any other living being.
  • Welcome to the Big City: In some continuities, Clark expresses surprise when he visits Metropolis for the first time. While he enjoys the city sights, monuments, and skyscrapers, he finds it rather jarring how apathetic the civilians tend to be, given that he came from Smallville, a farm town with a lively populace, though he eventually does get over it.
  • What Beautiful Eyes!: Clark doesn't just have blue eyes, they're a particular shade of blue that you wouldn't see in any human, namely robin egg blue. Being the loving Nice Guy he is, those eyes project help to make Superman look more comforting than he already is. The eyes are also a reason he wears glasses as part of Clark Kent guise as they shield away the color shades to make Clark look less conspicuous and more human.
  • What If God Was One of Us?: Despite his godly strength, speed, and toughness and his plethora of other superpowers, Superman makes it clear that he thinks of himself as a human first and foremost and acts like it when he's out of costume, being just as likely to be stammering over a date with Lois and minding his bills as he is to be saving the world from an alien invasion. Sometimes he wishes he were a god though, since he would like nothing more than to be able to make everyone happy since he can hear everyone's troubles through his incredible super-hearing, leaving him feeling guilty that he can't do more than he already has.
    Superman: I may have been conceived out there in the endless depths of space... but I was born when the Rocket opened, on Earth, in America. I'll cherish always the memories Jor-El and Lara gave me... but only as curious mementos of a life that might have been. Krypton bred me, but it was Earth that gave me all I am. All that matters. It was Krypton that made me Superman... but it is the Earth that makes me human!
  • What You Are in the Dark: Superman has, a few times, shown himself to be just as kind, heroic, and worthy of praise when no one's looking. This is why he's The Paragon — Superman can already do whatever he wants without a lot of people able to object. But what he wants to do is be the ideal to aspire towards. When trapped in a Lotus-Eater Machine during the events of For the Man Who Has Everything, Superman eventually figures out what's going on. And even though he looks to break free, he's still remorseful of the people he has to leave behind, knowing they're not real.
  • When He Smiles: Superman is not a dour guy (Batman's the one who's got that covered), but he can be very serious when there's business to take care of. However, he has the world's greatest smile: warm, friendly, comforting, genuine, and freely given. When a civilian is trapped in a burning building or his fellow heroes are about to be beaten into the dirt, Superman coming out of the skies with that smile of his lets everyone know that things are going to be okay now that he's here.
  • Wife-Basher Basher: Superman hates those who abuse their family and household and is sure to deliver swift punishment to the abuser if he ever hears of a case.
    • One of the first things he did in his very first appearance is to beat the ever-loving tar out of a cruel husband for harming his wife until said abuser surrendered in fear.
    • When a child and Superman fan from Chicago named William tried to stop his cruel father from hitting his wife, the dad slapped William and threw him in the house basement, prompting William to scream out Superman's name until the hero picks up his voice. Rescuing the boy, Superman furiously calls out the father for his actions and he is arrested. To comfort the kid, Superman gives his phone number to William and his mother shortly before they are called to child protection services with Superman telling William to call him every day.
    • This is deconstructed in one Post-Crisis story. In this case, Superman confronts an abuser similar to the one he encountered in his Golden Age days, but his wife didn't press charges and took to staying with her husband, an action that would prove fatal as she is killed the next time said husband lost his temper. This caused Clark to become guilty for not doing enough and even froze up in another domestic violence case in fear of making the situation worse. That said, if he ever hears of an abused woman screaming for help, Clark would not hesitate to intervene, with the addition of getting Lois to call family services and other qualified professionals to take care of the work onward.
    • Another deconstructed example occurs in a New 52 storyline, with Clark mentioning that one of the first heroic acts he did was to stop a case of domestic perpetuated by an abusive husband. However, said husband would resurface as a Kryptonite-wielding supervillain who seeks revenge against Superman for beating him.
  • Willfully Weak: He usually holds back, otherwise he'd break people and the whole world. If he stops holding back, someone's about to SUFFER.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility: A constant with Superman is the fact that if he ever decided to go rogue, there would be very little anyone could do to stop him. Superman himself is aware of this and always holds himself to the highest possible standard. This is one of the reasons why Superman never kills anyone unless he absolutely has to — as The Paragon, the Big Guy and the Big Good of the DCU as a whole, Superman knows that he's an ideal to aspire towards, and treats all of his actions as such. Even in places like the Lotus-Eater Machine of For the Man Who Has Everything — even when Superman is in a world that he knows is fake, knows will end any moment and knows that he has no responsibility towards — he's still the nicest guy in the world.
  • Wolverine Publicity: As one of DC's most popular superheroes, this is to be expected. He always shows up in a new series starring an untested character. Then again, considering how fast he is, he can pull this off if he wants to.
  • Wonder Child: For Jonathan and Martha Kent.
  • Working-Class Hero: Despite his superhero career, his decision to lead a simple and honest civilian means he still does his job at the Daily Planet to pay his bills.
  • Working Through the Cold: Even after being infected with Virus X, he still tries to soldier on with his heroics, regardless if the virus would kill him. It isn't until he only has hours left that Superman decides to die in his own terms whilst entrusting the world's protection to Supergirl.
  • World's Best Warrior: Zig-zagged. People only think Superman is this. The truth is that, while Superman has the power and combat experience to go with this trope, he is not a warrior by nature and chooses to focus on protection instead of combat.
  • World's Strongest Man: Considered by many to be one of, if not the most powerful superhero in DC comics. There are superheroes who outclass him in certain areas (Flash in speed, Wonder Woman in combat ability, Green Lantern in courage and determination), but the fact that Superman is no slouch in these areas and his power increases with age means that Superman invariably remains in this trope.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Well, not first. But, be it the Silver Banshee or any other villainess he has to face, Kal-El doesn't care about the gender of his opponents.
  • Written-In Absence: Many stories feature his friends getting into trouble while he is away. A common excuse is that he is "on a space mission". And then, of course, there were those radio show episodes where he crosses paths with Kryptonite...
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Part of his core philosophy instilled in him by his parents and upbringing is that Humanity is more than capable of bettering itself and creating a better future. This is also one of the reasons he chose to be a superhero in the hopes that his actions inspire others into adopting and upholding this belief.
    • He's also had these with Supergirl, given that in her teen years, she still faces the issue of being inexperienced and prone to emotional outbursts and low self-esteem, Kal-El would often remind her of how proud and trustful he is for her cousin to be a hero by telling her she's more than capable of doing great things and overcoming tremendous odds. Case in point...
      Superman: You can do this. You're so much stronger than you give yourself credit for. Sure, our family shield can be a target. But it's also a badge of honor that I know you wear proudly each and every day.
  • You Are Not Alone: He's a big believer in this, often comforting those who've either led a lonely life or are out of options regarding social support.
    • He's also been on the receiving end himself, especially in Post-Crisis where his nature/reputation as the Last of His Kind is more pronounced. In Krypton No More, after the events of New Krypton left him even more isolated and dejected, Supergirl takes it upon herself to cheer Clark up and remind him that he's not alone.
  • You Could Have Used Your Powers for Good!: Being raised under simple, yet determined ethics about heroics, Superman believes that having great powers means the capability to do great good. As a result, when confronted by other villains, namely Luthor, who do have said talent, but abuse it for evil or self-serving ends, a disappointed Kal-El will sometimes remark how they could have used them for good. In the Up, Up, and Away! storyline, he confronts Lex sometime after taking a hiatus from heroics and chews him out for wasting his time and money on developing anti-Superman weapons when he could have used said time and money to provide a better future as he always likes to claim about.

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