Follow TV Tropes

Following

Characters / Superman The Character

Go To

The main character of the Superman comics is detailed here. Click here to return to the main character index.


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

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/superman_0002_1.jpg
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!"
Advertisement:

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.

Advertisement:


    open/close all folders 

     A - B 
  • 100% Adoration Rating: Everyone in Metropolis loves him, and he loves them back. Well, everyone that isn't an unrepentant criminal and/or a through-and-through villain, like (and especially) Lex Luthor. It helps that in addition to his heroics, he frequently makes public appearances for charity, and accepts interviews regularly to achieve as much transparency as possible. This was kept up until The New 52, where he is a more divisive and polarizing figure in the public opinion, even more after the events of Superman: Truth.
  • The Ace: He's an All-Loving Hero with a 100% Adoration Rating from 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, where he can use his Super Speed to type up a story right up to the last seconds of the deadline.
    • 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.
  • 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: As someone who fights all kinds of criminals in a daily basis, Superman is involved in plenty of action. He even debuted in a comic book called Action Comics.
  • 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).
  • Adorkable: Several times, especially as Clark Kent. His shyness and sweet nature are very much genuine.
    • Appropriately for a character who is meant to be a representation of the ideals of each age he's written in, post-Rebirth Clark (2015-onward)is overtly quite nerdy, such as when Lois playfully calls out his love of "old movies" like The Hustler and To Kill a Mockingbird. This quality is directly reflected in Steve Lombard, the Sports columnist at the Planet: Steve is basically the embodiment of a Jerk Jock, and his need to emphasize his "manly man" status actually comes off as a lack of confidence, and representative of "fragile" masculinity. Clark, however, doesn't hide his dorky side, which not only doesn't diminish his measure in the eyes of Lois, John, and the crew of the Planet, but actually endears him to them (and the reader), representing "true" masculinity — that is, being physically powerful, yet so self-confident and comfortable with who he is as a person that he doesn't feel the need to show off that power. Instead, he is very humble and gentle.
  • Afraid of Their Own Strength: Due to his world-shattering Super Strength, Superman has a very good reason to be mindful of how much force he's using in his daily life and while in costume.
  • The Ageless: In some continuities he doesn't really age at all (Batman: The Dark Knight Returns), while in others he does, but at a somewhat slower rate than everyone else and usually with white hair around his temples and just a few wrinkles to show for it (Earth 2, Kingdom Come, and Batman Beyond).
  • 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 John'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-John, given his complete absence in the story) Lois and Clark talk about Lois' car being totaled, which she had "for 12 years" and got "as a highschool 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 John, and John 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."
  • Almighty Janitor: Perhaps the best-known example of this trope. He is the world's greatest superhero who, in his secret identity, works as a reporter. In some versions of the story, he can be a Pulitzer Prize winning-reporter and a best-selling author (under an alias).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Arch-Enemy: To Lex Luthor, Brainiac and General Zod.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Most of the time as leader of the Justice League, but he also became a high-ranking officer in New Krypton.
  • Awesome McCoolname: His Kryptonian name, Kal-El, means Star-Child. Even without knowing the translation, it sounds pretty cool.
  • Babies Ever After: In Convergence, the pre-Flaspoint 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.
  • 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 Beard: He grows one in the epilogue of Superman: Doomed and keeps it for a few issues of Action Comics. The beard is hilariously shaved when Superman has a crazy adventure on Bizarro World. After the pre-N52 Superman arrives on the N52 Earth, he also grows a beard.
  • 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 Pacifist: Subverted, although media that portrays him as a Christ-like figure often play him up as one. The fact of the matter is, as Grant Morrison puts it, "Superman punches out the bully". Superman has a standard no-kill policy but is perfectly 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.
  • Bash Brothers: With Batman and Supergirl respectively.
  • 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.
  • 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. Just ask The Elite. 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).
  • 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: He is traditionally the chairman (and often acknowledged as the most powerful member) of the Justice League, and when not acting in his capacity as a Leaguer most other heroes tend to defer to his authority and judgment if only out of respect.
  • 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.
  • Bizarre Alien Senses: Superman has all kinds of visions, not taking into account heat. X-Ray, microscopic, computer (gained in the New 52), soul (Yeah that's a thing now.)
  • Blessed With Suck: Post-Crisis, this is often how Superman views his own powers. While he is as strong as a god, he's also, well, strong as a god. His best writers have made him into quite a psychological thought-experiment: on the one hand, he's terrified to not lose self-control or someone (or many, many people) may die; on the other, he often hates himself for still being mortal enough to not be the god everyone wants him to be (such as when he can't save everyone who cries out for him - especially because he hears them... all of them).
  • Blue Blood: He originates from the House of El, one of the most powerful noble families on Krypton.
  • Boxing Lessons for Superman: Trope Namer, where he took boxing lessons from Muhammad Ali. He has also had combat training courtesy of Batman and Wonder Woman.
  • 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.
  • 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 his powers and with his mind inside the villain's body, his fighting skills are more then enough to let him match and defeat him while Kobra is 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.
  • Bruiser with a Soft Center/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.
  • 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 to extortionists to dictators to godlike despots. This even translated into Real Life, when Superman was used as a device to expose and discredit the Ku Klux Klan.

     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.
  • Catch Phrase: "Great Krypton (or Rao)!", "Up, up, and away!", "This looks like a job for Superman!"
    • Those are some of the older ones, "Great Scott!" is one he uses these days.
  • 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: Lois Lane, Lana Lang, Lori Lemaris, Wonder Woman, the alien Maxima 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 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 civillian identity. If someone takes notice, he can just say he works out.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Commanding Coolness: Back when he joined the Kryptonian Military Guild, Superman got the rank of Commander and his own squad, the Red Shard.
  • 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.
  • The Constant: Many recent crossover events, mainly those pencilled 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.
  • Dating Catwoman: He and Amazing Grace from the New Gods, for the brief time he was amnesiac back in the Byrne era. And the Trope Namer herself developed a massive crush on him the first time they met, and treated their team up like a date. 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.
  • 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.
    Batman: Do me favor and lose the sense of humor.
    Superman: Do us both a favor and buy one.
  • 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).
    • In the Silver Age, they died because of a disease contracted from a chest Superboy had found.
    • 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.
  • The Determinator: He just doesn't stay down, not until he saves the day.
  • 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: Krypton is one of the best examples in fiction.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Eternal Hero: Depending on the continuity, Superman can live for millions of years. In All-Star Superman, Superman even shares an adventure with several of his descendant Supermen.
  • 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, cheeseburgers, and 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.
  • 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.
  • Eye Beams: 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."
  • Famed in Story: As both Superman for being the DCU's greatest superhero and as Clark Kent for being the DCU's greatest journalist.
  • 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.
  • 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 detroying 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. Summed up best by the Spectre in Kingdom Come:
    Spectre: Superman's greatest and most nessesary failing is his inability to see himself as the inspiration he is.
  • 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 when he's around.
  • 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 Trope Image. His overwhelming strength means that he can usually deal with most low-level crooks simply by flicking or tapping them, which also helps him limit his own strength.
  • 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.
  • Flight: 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.
  • Flying Brick: The Trope Codifier. Flight, strength, invulnerability.
  • Flying Firepower: Can fly and has Eye Beams.
  • Foil:
    • Lex Luthor, Superman's greatest arch-nemesis, is a man who desires to be a god. He is controlling, egotistical, selfish, sadistic, and uses his intelligence and talents to acquire more power and destroy his enemies. In contrast, Superman is a god who thinks of himself as a man, and uses his limitless gifts to bring peace and joy to the entire world without asking for anything in return.
    • Darkseid is Superman with all the power and none of the compassion. He rules as an absolute, unstoppable dictator over his people, even though it doesn't seem to bring him much joy or benefit. Superman on the other hand is a protector of a flawed people who sometimes don't appreciate him enough, but is content with his never-ending quest to do good.
    • Batman is a heroic antithesis to Superman. Clark was raised in a humble farm, but had everything he needed in his adopted parents who raised him with the values that would later shape his heroism. Bruce was born into incredible wealth, yet lost his parents at a young age, an event that broke him to the point he swore to seek vengeance with his own two hands. Clark 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 law on the world. Batman is a mere mortal man, but does everything to bend his allies and the world to his will. Finally, Superman is the costume, while Clark is the real identity, but Batman is the actual person, while Bruce is merely a disguise for the world. Despite this, the both of them are best friends, seeing the other as inspirations for each other.
  • 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.
  • 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.

     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 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 Physical God 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.
  • God Couple: With Wonder Woman in the New 52.
  • A God I Am Not: He refuses to be seen as a god. Despite that he has lots of followers that worship him as a god, much to his discomfort.
  • 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. However, some write him as Dumb Muscle.
  • Good Is Not Soft: He tries to use as little force as possible, but he's still not soft on bad guys.
  • 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.
  • 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 it 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.
  • 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.
  • The Hero: The greatest and most iconic representation of a superhero. The entire genre of superhero comics started with him''.
  • 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.
  • 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. This gives an interesting spin to his relationship with Lex Luthor. The tendency has been occasionally Lampshaded.
  • The Heart: 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 strong physique. In his earlier years, this was somewhat averted as he had what one would call a lean 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 Sacrifice: 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 live more 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.
  • Heroic Willpower: Superman resorts to this trope in order to fight mind control.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Batman and to a somewhat lesser extent Jimmy Olsen, with a few shades of Big Brother Mentor and Parental Substitute in the latter case.
  • 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.
  • Human Alien: Kryptonians are outwardly indistinguishable from humans, despite obvious biological differences. It is mentioned that Jor-El chooses Earth because humans looks exactly like Kryptonians, so Kal-El could live among them without detection.
  • Humble Hero: One of his definitive character traits.
  • 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!"
Advertisement:

     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 rocketship which also eventually transmit a message or series of messages from Jor-El which usually tells 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 the 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.
  • 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 Lana, Lois, and Batman, 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 them. 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 he is? 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 Lois Lane (human). 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.
  • Invincible Hero: Really, there is no question that Superman will beat the bad guy and save the day. The question is how will he do it and what moral questions his actions will raise.
  • 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, unlike some people) 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".
  • Jack-of-All-Stats: Bordering on Master of All. Superman may not be as fast on land as the Flash, or as smart as Batman, or as big of a boy scout as Captain Marvel, or as fearlessly determined as the Green Lanterns... but he can do all of those ALMOST as well as those heroes and Depending on the Writer he can be better at some of them.
  • 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 
  • 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 coloured 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 6'3" and the leader of the Justice League.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • Literal Split Personality: 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.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • "Kal-El" can be understood to mean "vessel of God" or "voice of God" in Hebrew, which fits the Moses theme of his origin.
    • The Hebrew word "El" (אל), meaning "God", is frequently used as a suffix in the names of angels (e.g. "Michael", "Gabriel", "Raphael" and "Zadkiel"), hinting at Superman's role as an archetypal angelic figure.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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 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.
  • 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.
  • Mundane Utility: He uses his laser eyes to sew clothing and shave himself.
  • Name From Another Species: Inverted. Clark, a Kryptonian, is adopted by humans and given a human name. His original name is Kal-El.
  • Nature vs. Nurture: Brought up in most depictions of the character. Superman is Kryptonian, but was raised by kindly old 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.
  • 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.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Over the years, any power that could possibly help Superman defeat a villain or hide his identity has been given to him. Super-weaving, super-muscular control, broadcasting his voice through police radio, super-coffee making, you name it.
  • 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 more purer and nicer, what with being a literal, near-perfect demigoddess.
  • Nice Hat: As Clark Kent, he occasionally wears a fedora or a baseball cap.
  • Nigh-Invulnerable: 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".
  • 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.
  • Not So Different: He and Batman may have a lot of disagreements, 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. 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.

     O - R 
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Marriage to Lois Lane comes with the unfortunate problem of having Sam Lane as a father in-law. The man is an obnoxious 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.
  • 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.
  • Overprotective Dad: As mentioned below, Superman is extremely protective of those he sees as his family, particularly his adoptive and biological children and the children of his friends. As a result, he often struggles to restrain himself when they're in the crossfire and works tirelessly to keep his kids safe. This was also deconstructed in DC Rebirth, where his reluctance to allow his son Jon into harms way prevented Jon from gaining actual crimefighting experience until Damian snuck Jon out to Metropolis. Although he grounds Jon at first, Clark ultimately realizes that he needs to stop coddling Jon and lets him go on his own adventures for as long as he's with Damian.
  • 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 Batman or even 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).
  • 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 Badass Beard is probably going to slide closer to Darker and Edgier.
  • Physical God:
    • At his highest power levels Post-Crisis.
    • Really, at any point after the early Golden Age. Even after his Post-Crisis power down, he could move mountains and change the course of mighty rivers and wrestle Thor.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Precision F-Strike: He almost never uses profanity, but he once told Darkseid to "SHUT THE HELL UP!" after putting up with enough of his shit.
  • Primary-Color Champion: The archetypical hero dressed in red and blue.
  • Rapid-Fire Fisticuffs: Whenever he faces someone as strong as he is, Superman sometimes resorts to this.
  • Real Men Eat Meat: Averted in some depictions, where Superman is a vegetarian.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: If Superman is in a position of leadership, you can expect him to be open-minded and willing to listen to suggestions. 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... or if he's 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.
  • 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 friends.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: 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.
  • Secret Identity: Don't tell anyone, but Superman is actually mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent.
  • 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.
  • Series Mascot: Of DC Comics, alongside Batman.
  • 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.
  • Signature Move: The famous single or double-fisted flying punch, actually called a Superman punch in real life.
  • Small Steps Hero: For the better in idealistic stories, for the worse in cynical 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.
  • 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.
  • 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). And since several versions are functionally immortal...
  • Super Breath: 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.
  • 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 to 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 in tend to follow.
  • Superhero: Practically named the trope, as he was the one who codified modern use of the "super" prefix.
  • Superhero Sobriquets: The Man Of Steel, The Man Of Tomorrow, The Big Blue Boyscout, The Last Son Of Krypton.
  • 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.
  • Super Intelligence: 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.
  • Superman Stays Out of Gotham: The co-Trope Namer.
  • Superpower Lottery: The undisputed champion of this trope, who demonstrates powers like solar explosions, heat vision, Flight, Hypnotic Eyes, multi-story jumping, nigh invulnerability, freeze breath, Super Intelligence, Super Speed, Super Strength, Super Senses, Super Will, X-Ray Vision, Super-weaving, super-muscular control, broadcasting his voice through police radio, and super-coffee making. Only immensely powerful mystic entities or cosmic beings come close.
  • Super Senses: He has superhearing that allows him to hear clouds scraping together or a cell splitting, or hear across a vacuum, telescopic vision, microscopic vision that allows him to see electrons, can see the entire electromagnetic spectrum (including infrared, X-Ray, etc.), and more.
  • Super Speed: An absurdly fast flier, and a fast runner, too. How absurd you might ask? He's able to fly from Pluto back to Earth in seconds, putting him at far beyond the speed of light. He's only outclassed by Captain Marvel and The Flash, both on ground and in air.
  • Super Strength: The exact limits of his strength is unknown, 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 Darkseid 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.
  • 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.
  • 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: A type 5. He doesn't intend to cause fear in evildoers, but his reputation does so anyway. Sometimes, he's even worried about the fear he inspires, making him feel like an outcast.
  • 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).
  • 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 Batman. Then again, Batman seems to have the power of making other characters dumber just by being there.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Beef bourginon with ketchup.
  • ¡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's also this with Batman and Wonder Woman, forming the titular "Big Three" or "Trinity" of DC Comics.
  • 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 - W 
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Has often ended up this as a result of villain schemes.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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!
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 superheroism, he still does his job at the Daily Planet to pay his bills.
  • "World of Cardboard" Speech: The Trope Namer.
  • World's Best Warrior: Played with. 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 DC's most powerful superhero. 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...
  • X-Ray Vision: The Trope Namer. 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.

Top

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:

/

Media sources:

/

Report