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"Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound! This amazing stranger from the planet Krypton! The Man of Steel —(gong ring)— Superman!"
— The opening to the Superman Theatrical Cartoons.

Look, up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's the description for... SUPERMAN!

The Man of Steel. The Last Son of Krypton. Champion of the Oppressed. The Man of Tomorrow.

The Big Good and iconic Cape of The DCU.

The Superhero.

Come on, hum that John Williams theme song. It pops into all our heads, eh?

Superman has been published continuously by DC Comics for eight decades and counting. He first appeared in Action Comics #1 (June, 1938).

On the technologically advanced planet of Krypton, scientist Jor-El discovers that his planet will soon be destroyed by a natural disaster. No one will believe him, however, and further the Council of Scientists that run Krypton's government demand that neither he nor his wife Lara make an attempt to leave the planet, lest they cause "needless panic." A man of honor, Jor-El promises exactly what they ask for, but in a desperate attempt to save what can be saved, Jor-El builds a small rocket vessel to carry his infant son, Kal-El, to a different planet — Earth. Because Kryptonians are Human Aliens, the boy can blend in without being seen as alien. Just before Krypton explodes, baby Kal-El's rocket is sent to Earth. He lands outside of the rural town of Smallville, a small town in Kansas (although it wasn't too clear originally — see Wikipedia for a full list of canonical locations). The baby is adopted by Jonathan and Martha Kent, who name the boy Clark, give him a loving home and teach him right from wrong.note  However, Clark turns out to be different from humans after all. Kryptonians had evolved to absorb and store solar energy and to tolerate high-gravity environments that would immobilize or even kill weaker species. While on Krypton, which was fifteen times as massive as Earth and orbited a relatively low-heat Red Giant (or in some versions Red Dwarf), their physical abilities were about identical to humans. When exposed to Earth's lower gravity and the rays of its much younger, brighter yellow Sun, Clark learns that the surplus of energy gives him incredible powers, which increase as he grows up. Deciding to use his power for good, Clark puts on some spandex (or indestructible Kryptonian uber-cloth, Depending on the Writer) and fights crime as Superman!


His powers include vast Super Strength and Super Speed, Flight, X-Ray Vision, Heat Vision, Super Breath, Freeze Breath, Nigh-Invulnerability (surviving supernova explosions and black holes), Super Senses, and possibly others, depending on the interpretation. When not fighting evil, he masquerades as a mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, The Daily Planet; this career helps him find disasters and emergencies that much sooner and does not require him to closely account for his whereabouts to his employers. Naturally, the Clark Kent/Superman dichotomy—most particularly, the question of which is the "real" person and which is the "mask"—has been explored a great deal, and has changed over time (with Kent going from nervous, geeky klutz to sharp-witted Intrepid Reporter, among other changes). In the Golden and the Silver Age, Clark Kent was little more than a façade for Superman. After Crisis on Infinite Earths, this idea was reversed. In some versions, both are essential parts of who he is; others, particularly Alan Moore, see both as masks worn by Kal-El to interact with humanity. Both sides also tend to be a lot more psychologically/emotionally vulnerable than you'd expect. Given his powers, and the usual stereotypes about strength of his level, it would be easy to mistake him for a simplistic oaf, but Supes is actually quite a complex guy.


Aside from fighting crime, much of Clark's personal life is explored in relation to his supporting cast from the Daily Planet, his hometown of Smallville, and his beloved home city of Metropolis. Possibly the most famous supporting cast of any superhero, it consists of a large number of changing characters, the fixtures of which are: his doting parents Jonathan and Martha (aka "Ma and Pa") Kent (pre-Crisis, throughout his childhood and teen years, before dying shortly after Clark's high school graduation; post-Crisis, advising him well into adulthood; and in the New 52 both dying before he becomes Superman); his gruff, hot-tempered, long-suffering boss, Perry White, who gladly accepts Clark's constant disappearances and eccentricities as long as he comes back with a headline story; his best friend (in both identities) Jimmy Olsen, a young cub reporter/photographer with a wildly fluctuating age, the highest Weirdness Magnet rating in the DC universe and the unique gift of a signal watch he can use to call Superman anytime he gets into trouble; his short-tempered, stubborn teenager of a cousin Kara Zor-El alias Supergirl, who also survived the death of their planet but arrived on Earth several decades later and has a hard time adapting to her new home and finding out what kind of woman and hero she wants to be; and most importantly, his sharp-tongued, recklessly determined go-getter of a reporting partner (and longstanding object of his affections) Lois Lane, who was desperately in love with Superman but who always dismissed the mild Clark Kent. However, in some interpretations, she would eventually fall for Clark, not Superman, before learning they were the same person and marrying him/them. In other takes, Superman has been a bachelor or dated/married different characters (in the New 52, he was dating Wonder Woman).

Originally created by Jerry Siegel (writer) and Joe Shuster (artist), two sons of Lithuanian Jewish immigrants who, after several tries, finally got him published in Action Comics #1, where he immediately took off; imitations of him pretty much created The Golden Age of Comic Books.note  Superman was an immediate success not only in the comics but in the wider culture. In The '30s and The '40s, he was adapted into radio, serials and most crucially into cartoons by Max and Dave Fleischer. It was in the latter adaptation that Superman received his most iconic superpower, that of flight. The phenomenal success and appeal of the character filtered into the wider lexicon to such an extent, that Superman has arguably become a major folk character, idiomatic of someone who can literally do anything and embody any Wish-Fulfillment one yearns for. Many aspects of the Superman mythos have fallen into the common lexicon. Kryptonite has arguably displaced Achilles' Heel, and the name of one of his supervillains has become a synonym for genius: brainiac.

On the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, he and the series he stars in almost universally tend toward the idealistic side, being the iconic Cape.

Along with Batman and Wonder Woman, he's one of the Big Three of The DCU. He has also been a member of the Justice League of America on and off (mostly on) since its founding.

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

General trope examples:

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  • 3D Comic Book: In 1953, editor Mort Weisinger put out a 3-D Superman book called Three-Dimension Adventures Superman, drawn by Wayne Boring, Al Plastino and Curt Swan.
  • The Ace: Superman seriously won the Super Power Lottery with the strength, flight, invulnerability, etc. but beyond that he's usually portrayed as incredibly competent and makes very few technical mistakes. He has eidetic memory, thinks billions of times faster than humans, had a super indexed I.Q. (the dude learned how to perform life saving surgery from a library of medical texts in 4 minutes). It's even a plot device in Superman: Earth One as right out of college, Clark lands every job he tries out for that involves technical skill (though he doesn't get the Daily Planet job at first because being a reporter or journalist is a very subjective job). He's almost perfect in every way and usually what makes him so interesting is how he deals with living in an imperfect world.
  • Acid-Trip Dimension: More than one.
  • Actually a Doombot: Back in the old Pre-Crisis days, Superman kept a regular supply of robot duplicates of himself at the Fortress of Solitude. They were often used for missions that Superman himself was too busy to go on, or to fake out villains or people trying to guess his secret identity.
  • Adolf Hitlarious: Hitler's appearance in an early 1945 newspaper story depicts him as a buffoon who invites Superman to Germany and dresses up as Superman himself in order to convince the genuine Superman that they were not so different and that they should all rule the world together. Superman is not amused.
  • Adoptive Name Change: Kal-El, from the planet Krypton, was renamed as Clark Kent by his adoptive parents from Kansas.
  • Aliens Are Bastards:
    • Some Kryptonians like Zod do not care about non kryptonian lives and are willing to destroy Earth’s cultures and turn the planet into another Krypton.
    • Brainiac represents everything bad and wrong about aliens as he takes cities from worlds then destroys their worlds because they will move on without them except Krypton because the planet’s core was going to explode. He controls the lives of everyone inside the bottled cities and kill anyone if they step out of line.
  • Afraid of Their Own Strength: One of the trope codifiers, see Beware the Nice Ones and Blessed with Suck below
  • Alien Invasion: In Pre-Crisis continuity, stories dealing with Krypton's culture and history would sometimes mention that in ancient times, the planet had been conquered by a race called the Vrangs (after all, on their own planet, the Kryptonians had no powers). The revolution to drive them away and take back their world is one of the most important events in the planet's history, and various bits of Kryptonian culture stem from it, such as the Day of Truth holiday to commemorate a slave who would not hide his feelings about the oppressors, even at the cost of his life; and the omnipresent headbands worn by Kryptonian men, to remember the simple cloth slings used as weapons in the revolt against the Vrangs.
  • Alliterative Name: Commonly alliterating the letter L; Lois Lane, Lex Luthor, Lana Lang, Lori Lemaris, Linda Lee, Lightning Lad, Lyla Lerrol and so on.
    • Also Clark Kent
      • Clark Kent's and Lois Lane's alliterative names may actually be the Trope Codifiers that started the trend of comic book characters (and sci-fi characters in general) being given alliterative names.
    • Some others include Conner Kent, Chris Kent, Hank Henshaw, and Vernon O'Valeron (aka Vartox)
  • All Gravity Is the Same: Zigzagged. While Krypton's higher gravity is an explanation for a Kryptonian's improved biology compared to humans (even when ignoring the presence of a yellow star), all works that take place on Krypton essentially treat it as just a weird looking Earth.
    • In pre-Crisis days, Earthling visitors to Kandor or other environments with Kryptonian gravity typically wore antigravity gizmos in their shoes so they could move around easily.
  • All Just a Dream: The first issue after the Death and Return storyline had Lois waking up to find Clark getting out the shower, causally commenting that she must have had a bad dream. Based on her reaction, the TV show Dallas was indeed broadcast in the DCU.
  • Alternate Company Equivalent: John Byrne created a character of Rampage, who was basically She-Hulk with orange skin. Not surprisingly, Byrne really loved the character of She-Hulk, and wanted to bring her somehow into the DCU.
  • Alternate Continuity: when Superman was introduced, a number of things were inconsistent with what he would become by the 1950s. In the 1960s, D.C. established some of their characters had counterparts on Earth-2 to represent earlier incarnations and so the same was done with Superman and the Supermen of Earth 1 and 2 existed until 1986 when the character was rebooted. Alternate versions have, however, come again including "All Star Superman" and "Earth-One" both of which are series that take place outside of the regular DC Universe.
    • Between the various media adaptations and the "Imaginary Stories", arguably more than any other fictional character.
      • Superman was first published in 1938. As early as the debut of the newspaper strips in 1939, alternate continuities began to appear, with stories that differed from the comics, including how Clark Kent became a reporter. The radio show offered yet another origin for Superman when it debuted in 1940. This trope goes right back to the very beginning of the character.
      • To put it in perceptive, there's an entire page on the Other Wiki's website that talks about every version of Superman to exist as well as having links to his appearances in other media.
  • Always a Bigger Fish: Comes up in many iterations. While Clark is quite possibly the most powerful being in the DC Universe, there are still quite a few beings who can take his full strength and give it right back to him with interest. Doomsday in particular comes to mind. For a list, see Jack of All Stats below.
  • Amazing Technicolor Population: The New 52 applies this trope to the Kryptonians, who in the new continuity were big on artificially achieving the "ideal body".
  • Ambiguously Jewish: Superman's background story is a pastiche of Moses and the immigrant Jewish experience, with a bit of Take That! towards the Nazi idea of the Ubermensch.
  • Amicable Exes: He generally gets along quite well with Lori Lemaris, though in fairness, they don't bump into each other that often. Things can be more awkward with Lana, who still carries a torch for him.
  • An Alien Named "Bob": Justified for Superman himself. He's an alien, and while his original name was Kal-El, he got renamed Clark by his adoptive parents.
  • And Call Him "George": Usually defied, but occasionally Superman's strength will be applied too forcefully when he's being affectionate.
  • And I Must Scream:
    • The original version of the Phantom Zone fell into this trope. Phantom Zone prisoners couldn't even touch each other; they were condemned just to watch the material world until their sentences expired.
    • In The Kingdom, Superman in one of his many deaths at the hands of Gog was subject to being slowly transformed into Kryptonite after being chained to a planet with a special bomb attached to it that would recreate the destruction of Krypton.
    • In Superman Vol 1 #282, Superman tells the tale of a Kryptonian named Nam-Ek (yes, that is his name. And this story was written ten years before the birth of the Dragon Ball franchise) who managed to make himself immortal and indestructible. When Krypton exploded, he survived, and remained floating in lifeless space, alone forever.
      Superman: Slowly, Nam-Ek realized that since he was immortal... he would remain there, suspended in space — alone — forever! And that's when he began to cry... And they say that somewhere in space... he is crying still...
  • Anti-Hero Substitute: During The Death of Superman arc, Eradicator was essentially Superman if he were a '90s Anti-Hero.
  • Anti-True Sight: Superman's X-Ray vision can be blocked by lead. However, Superman once used this to his advantage when The Joker tried to distract him with lead lined coffins planted throughout Metropolis; a quick wide beam scan made them stand out instantly as opaque objects.
    • During a Golden Age Prankster story in Action Comics, this was how Superman found the Prankster's hideout. The room was made of a material Superman couldn't see through, so naturally it attracted his attention.
    • While Superman knows that villains who line things in lead are trying to keep things from him, villains who are savvy often use this against him. Kryptonite radiation is blocked by lead as well. It bites him on the ass in Superman: The Movie, as he assumes that since Luthor hid something in a lead case, it must be the codes to stop the nuclear missiles. Instead, it's Green K.
  • Appropriated Appellation: In later retellings of Superman's 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: Superman has had many enemies, but all of them pale in comparison to these four in regards to who earns the Man of Steel's biggest enmity...
    • Lex Luthor, who sees Superman as an alien menace and cannot comprehend the fact that he is seen as the greatest paragon to Earth when that title should belong to him. Time and again and over the years, Lex has dedicated a majority of his supervillain career to spiting, attacking, and slandering Superman in whatever way possible, adamant about his claim that he is better than "the alien" and being the perfect brain antithesis to Superman's brawn. That said, while Lex is Superman's most consistent, recurring, and greatest foe, he has mixed feelings of pity and anger over the mad businessman, aware that he's using his gifted mind and talents for something counterproductive.
    • Brainiac, who played a key role in the destruction of Krypton on several occasions and is the greatest extraterrestrial antithesis to Superman. Not only is Brainiac someone who inspires terror and destroys alien civilizations for his own benefit, but he also occasionally desires Clark and Supergirl for their nature as being among the last of their kind. Superman personally finds Brainiac to be more revolting than Luthor, something which is further cemented when the Coluan is responsible for the death of Jonathan Kent, all because he was unwilling to comprehend being bested by the Last Son of Krypton.
    • General Zod, who uses Kal-El as a psychological projection to make up for taking revenge against Jor-El for preventing his coup against Krypton's Science Council and sentencing him to the Phantom Zone. With both being Kryptonian, they best represent their opposite traits and motives, and Zod is all too willing to brand Kal-El as a traitor to his own kind as well as a disappointment to Jor-El. Clark, on the other hand, sees Zod as one of his deadliest and most persistent foes due to his grudge against the House of El and his willingness to terraform Earth and destroy the race that Clark was raised in, and this is furthered when Superman takes in Zod's son and treats him better than his biological father, who would go on to embrace his name of Christopher Kent, become a hero, and oppose his own father's objectives.
    • Darkseid, who is undoubtedly Superman's strongest personal opponent. Both are polar opposites with Darkseid's desire to crush hope, demoralize others, and desire eternal subjugation contrasting Superman's desire to help and inspire others to fight for the greater good. Tellingly, Darkseid registers Superman as his biggest threat and he's made several attempts to spiting and attack the Man of Tomorrow so that he could one day dispose of and carry on with his plans undeterred. Due to his constant threats, personal attacks, displaying no shred of basic decency, and willing to destroy universes if it means killing one enemy, Darkseid is the one being Superman HATES the most, moreso than the aforementioned three.
  • Armor-Piercing Question:
    • Lex Luthor asks Superman one in the Elseworld of Red Son.
    • Superman gets one of his own, when he said. "You always said that I was holding you back, Lex. It's been a year without me. Where's the cancer cure? Where's the miracle tech?" Which pointed out that Lex Luthor wasn't out to help anyone but himself.
  • Armored Villains, Unarmored Heroes: Lex Luthor uses Powered Armor whenever he confronts Superman in person. Superman, of course, rarely has need for such toys.
  • Arranged Marriage: In the Post-Flashpoint Krypton parents often choose their children' spouse via gene-matching, although this custom was being phased out by the time of Kal-El and Kara Zor-El. A "Supergirl" 2011 story showed Alura wanting to get her daughter gene-matched, and Kara complaining she wanted to choose her partner freely.
  • Arrogant God vs. Raging Monster: Superman has met many enemies who are brute strength and no brains. But only the mindless Doomsday, famous for clearing entire planets of all life, has given him such a fight that was not only able to "kill" Superman, but making him fear the idea of battling the monster again. When you can scare a guy capable of punching through planets and has many more powers than you, and then keep getting up immune to whatever of those powers he used to kill you last time, you know you are destined to fight each other quite a few times.
    • Doomsday had a similar bout with Darkseid, handing the nigh-invincible New God one of the few one-on-one losses in his long existence. Darkseid is consistently depicted as being even stronger than Superman, yet Doomsday tanked his Omega Beams and cold-clocked Darkseid before he could use them at point-blank range.
  • Assimilation Backfire: The villain Parasite is a power thief who also gains the victim's weaknesses. This means whenever he steals Superman's powerset, Superman can actually beat him by using kryptonite.
  • Atrocious Alias: One comic featured a retired villain called "The Molester," which he intended to mean "The Annoyance."
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: Titano
  • Badass Boast: A somewhat dark example as Superman wasn't exactly in the best of places mentally. When a bunch of elemental spirits are summoned to tell Superman to leave Earth, Superman says he refuses. The spirits then threaten to start killing people around the world until Superman gives in. Superman tells them that even if they kill everyone on earth, they won't be able to do a thing to him, and if they do, he will simply destroy the ozone layer around Earth and make it impossible for the spirits to survive before finding another planet to live on. The spirits are cowed into giving up. When later asked if he really would have done it, Superman doesn't answer.
  • Bad is Good and Good is Bad: Bizarro.
  • Bad Mood Retreat: When Superman is overwhelmed by his responsibilities, he goes to an underground complex in the Arctic called the Fortress of Solitude, where only he can go because only he knows where it is and only he can lift its huge key.
  • Badass Family: Before the Crisis on Infinite Earths, he loved to reveal how extraordinary the House of El was, with The Krypton Chronicles and the World of Krypton all revealing how Superman's ancestors lived incredibly exciting and at times dangerous lives. Post-Crisis, most of this was removed, but even then Superman still had ancestors like Val-L who survived dangerous situations while The Kents revealed how the Kent family of the 19th century had their own adventures, with a later comic implying that the medieval hero Silent Knight was an ancestor to the Kent family. Superman formed his own with Lois and his son Jon, the former an Intrepid Reporter while the latter is also a superhero.
  • Bald of Evil: The Ultra-Humanite, until he transfers his brain into Dolores Winters. Also Luthor and Brainiac, who occasionally team up.
  • Barrier Warrior: Pre-Crisis, Brainiac's most powerful ability was a force field so strong even Superman could not penetrate it.
  • Bash Brothers: Superman and Batman. Also Superman and Supergirl.
  • Battle of Wits: During the Silver and Bronze Comic-Book Ages (approx. 1955-1985), Superman and Supergirl were so powerful that the writers had to constantly create villains who couldn't be physically beaten, forcing the heroes to come up with creative ways to win by outwitting and tricking their enemies. A recurring strategy was making them believe they had won so they lowered their guards and made a mistake.
  • Beat Still, My Heart: A variation is found in an old Superman comic. In an attempt to live forever, a character is implanted with a pacemaker that is remotely tied to a device at the Earth's core. Too bad that every heart murmur he experiences now sends shockwaves throughout the planet, and vice-versa. Ouch.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For:
    • In the very first issue of Action Comics #1 — the comic book that began the saga of Superman — the feature story included an episode where three gangsters kidnap a woman (later known as Lois Lane) as she is traveling home from a nightclub in a taxi. Clark Kent and Lois were dancing at the nightclub when one of the gangster's, Butch, smugly tries to cut in, but Lois refuses. Kent tries to stand up to Butch but gets nowhere. Later, after Butch and his goons have kidnapped Lois (no doubt planning to take her to a remote location to brutally beat and rape her), Butch arrogantly hopes that Kent will come after him ... not knowing that Kent (now as Superman) is coming to the rescue. The confrontation leads to Superman catching and (easily) picking up their car, shaking it violently so that the bad guys fall out and then, after securing Lois' safety, vaulting the now scared-out-of-his-wits Butch onto a telephone wire to await the authorities.
    • In For the Man Who Has Everything, Superman has been trapped by an alien plant that gives him a hallucination of the happy ending he would have wanted — living on Krypton, which was never destroyed. Unfortunately, Krypton is mired by social upheaval and unrest, making the scenario kind of nightmarish. However, it's suggested it was Superman's subconscious telling him there was something wrong with the fantasy.
    • In Superman Vol 1 #282, Supergirl is considering giving up her Supergirl identity. To illustrate she might regret that decision, Superman tells her a tale about a Kryptonian who wanted to live forever and managed to make himself immortal, only to find out that he would be alone forever.
      Superman: So you see, Kara... Sometimes, when we get the things we think we want most... they turn out to be a curse rather than a blessing!
  • Best Friends-in-Law:
    • In some alternate universe stories such like Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #57 Jimmy Olsen get married to Supergirl.
    • In Jimmy Olsen #56, Superman marries Lois and Jimmy marries Lucy, Lois' big sister.
  • "Best Of" Anthology: The Best Of Warner Bros Superman Collection is 30 disks worth of Superman TV shows, from Max Fleischer's Superman to Superman: Doomsday, and from Lois & Clark to Smallville.
  • Beware the Nice Ones:
    • Superman's one word response to being mind raped in "For the Man Who Has Everything".
      Superman: BURN.
    • The Elite also learn this the hard way.
    • It's generally a good idea to keep this trope in mind when dealing with The Man of Steel. He may be the quintessential nice-guy, but he's also generally considered to be the most powerful being on the planet. The rare occasions that his (rather immense) self-control slips are pretty damn terrifying.
  • Beware the Superman:
    • As of the New 52 reboot. Superman himself tends to meet this attitude with confusion — he doesn't see himself this way at all and doesn't understand why someone would.
    • Prior to the New 52, he understood perfectly why people would feel this way. Part of the reason he wears bright colors, no mask, and tries so hard to maintain a reputation as a boy scout is so that innocent people will understand that they don't need to be terrified of him — making him the exact opposite of Batman, a mortal man who expends tremendous effort to ensure that people are terrified of him. The first person to point out this difference between the two was Mr. Mxyzptlk.
    • In the Novelization of Kingdom Come, Wonder Woman points out that Superman could have easily just been an invisible guardian, but he chose to fly in the sky wearing those bright colors "like Apollo", and serve as an inspiration. Supes response was to reply lamely, "An ounce of prevention..."
    • In Superman: Lois and Clark, the pre-52 Superman functions as an invisible guardian, proving Wonder Woman right.
  • Big Good:
    • He is traditionally the chairman (and often acknowledged as the most powerful member) of the Justice League, and when not acting in his capacity as a Leaguer most other heroes tend to defer to his authority and judgment if only out of respect.
    • During the Bronze Age, Eliot S! Maggin liked to portray Superman as the living incarnation of the universe's moral imperative for good. Superman was literally the Big Good of the D.C. Universe.
  • Bizarre Alien Senses: Superman has all kinds of visions, not taking into account heat. X-Ray, microscopic, soul (Yeah that's a thing now.)
  • Blessed with Suck:
    • Post-Crisis, this is often how Superman views his own powers. While he is as strong as a god, he's also, well, strong as a god. His best writers have made him into quite a psychological thought-experiment: on the one hand, he's terrified to not lose self-control or someone (or many, many people) may die; on the other, he often hates himself for still being mortal enough to not be the god everyone wants him to be (such as when he can't save everyone who cries out for him - especially because he hears them... all of them).
      He knows he cannot save them all. And he still tries.
    • This idea led to one of the most iconic Superman speeches, in the series finale of the Justice League Unlimited cartoon, where Superman is fighting Darkseid and declares:
      I feel like I live in a world made of... cardboard, always taking constant care not to break something, to break someone. Never allowing myself to lose control even for a moment, or someone could die. But you can take it, can't you, big man? What we have here is a rare opportunity for me to cut loose and show you just how powerful I really am.
    • It's also been shown in various series that his worst nightmare is losing control, becoming more and more powerful so much so that he can't even keep it under key. Supes views his own abilities as blessed with suck because he does grow stronger, and with growing stronger means gaining more fine motor controls, controls he's afraid that one day he won't have. Blessed with suck indeed!
    • Superman: The Movie also highlighted one of his major fears. When Jonathan dies of a heart attack, he says, "All my powers... and I couldn't save him." Thanks to his hyper-sensitive senses, he also hears many cries for help, "but he knows he can't save them all." Just think of it, having the power to save anyone but having to make the Sadistic Choice of who to save. Every day of your life.
  • Blue Means Cold: One comic features Cynthona the Kryptonian goddess of ice. She can create monsters from frost and generate ice and her outfit is blue, as is her skin.
  • Bored with Insanity: Mr. Mxyzptlk, in an Elseworld/"imaginary story".
  • Brains Versus Brawn: Superman has this dynamic with his archnemesis Lex Luthor, which as one of the oldest superhero comic book franchises, did a lot to codify this dynamic in the medium. While Superman isn't shown as being particularly dumb, his Flying Brick superpowers definitely focus on strength and durability (Super Strength, Nigh-Invulnerability) which help him be a combat powerhouse. Lampshaded in his nickname "The Man of Steel." Lex Luthor on the other hand is a Mad Scientist, Diabolical Mastermind, Evil Genius who uses his vast amount of wealth as a Corrupt Corporate Executive to try to make his usually nefarious plans into reality.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Given how long running his series has been it's inevitable that this trope has come up a few times. Perhaps the most famous recent event to feature this is during the OMAC Project storyline, where Max Lord is controlling him to demonstrate why superheroes can't be trusted (since they can be turned against Earth by Mind Control, and the next guy might not be him and have more sinister plans in mind) and tells Wonder Woman that the only way to stop him is to kill him- and to the horror of Supes and the rest of the League, she does just that.
  • Breaking the Bonds:
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: He'd often do an Aside Glance wink to the reader in Silver Age comics. The Christopher Reeve movies similarly have Superman fly into space and smile at the camera.
  • Brought Down to Normal: Being under a red sun will do it. Superman visited Kandor many times just to be a regular guy - and a Batman Expy named Nightwing.
    • It's happened on a few other occasions too, notable ones being after Infinite Crisis and during Superman: Truth.
    • The N52 Superman's "solar flare" power brings him down to normal for a day after he uses it.
    • Pre-Crisis, gold kryptonite permanently removed any Kryptonians super-power, including Supes himself.
    • Twice a depowered Clark Kent fought Batman. And won both times.
  • Brought to You by the Letter "S": (Just take a look!)
  • Brutal Honesty: In Superman Volume 1 #176, Superman and Supergirl celebrate a Kryptonian holyday called the Day of Truth in where Kryptonians honor the memory of a hero by speaking nothing but the truth, not matter the cost. The thing is, both cousins may be incredibly, astonishingly, rudely blunt.
    Woman: Oh, Superman! What do you think of our little darlings? Aren't they cute in the super-costumes some of them have on?
    Superman: Did you say darlings, madam? Frankly, this is the worst collection of misbehaved brats I've ever seen! And you tried to flatter me, dressing your babies like me, hoping I'd pick them as winners!
    Woman: How dare you? I never heard such rudeness!
    Lois Lane: Superman! Did you have to be so blunt? Everyone's offended!
    Superman: Did you expect me to be a hypocrite and praise those little demons? I just had to tell the truth as I saw it!
  • Bus Full of Innocents: A common "This looks like a job for..." moment for Superman. See: Superman: The Movie. Kingdom Come features a tram full of innocents.
  • Butt-Monkey: In the Pre-Crisis Silver Age, as depicted on, almost anyone that ol' Supes encounters becomes a Butt Monkey — he forces Lois and Jimmy to marry apes, leaves civilians in mortal peril (or just refuses to untie them) while he goes to hunt the bad guys....
  • Calculator Spelling: Played for Drama in the "World Against S" storyline when Jimmy is trying to learn the significance of the military's Area 7734, and Steve Lombard points out it's "hELL" upside down.
  • Came from the Sky:
    • According to his origin story, this is how he was adopted by the Kent family.
    • In Superman Unchained, Wraith ended up on Earth this way. Unlike Superman, however, he ended up landing at a military installation and sent for a purpose he appears to have known, thus leading to very different development.
  • Can Always Spot a Cop: Thanks to his X-Ray vision, it's pretty easy for Superman to spot an undercover or plainclothes cop because he can see their badge, handcuffs, police-issue sidearm, etc.
  • Canine Companion: Krypto The Super Dog is his awesome, super-powered white pet dog (although the whole El and Kent families kind of adopted it). In the Silver and Bronze Ages, Krypto followed Superboy everywhere.
  • Canon Immigrant:
    • Jimmy Olsen, Inspector Henderson, Perry White, Kryptonite and the name "Daily Planet" from radio's The Adventures of Superman
    • Mr. Mxyzptlk from the Superman newspaper comic strip.
    • Professor Pepperwinkle from the first TV show
    • Ursa, Non, and the growing sunstone crystals from the films.
    • Kristen Wells (who would go on to become Superwoman) from Elliot S! Maggin's novel Miracle Monday.
    • Mercy, Livewire, and Angela Chen from Superman: The Animated Series
    • Chloe Sullivan, from Smallville. Originally created because Clark needed an Intrepid Reporter friend, but putting Lois from the get-go would trigger everyone's sensors. DC Comics later bought the rights to use her character, apparently just to prevent misuse from a third party. She was officially brought into the comics in Action Comics #893 in 2010.
    • Smallville's Lionel Luthor, Lex's father, has been brought into continuity as well. Although Lex had obviously always had a father, albeit barely-glimpsed in flashbacks, in recent years his father has officially been referred to as "Lionel," and in Superman: Birthright he was depicted as having a beard and long hair just like on Smallville. He reappeared in the Blackest Night story arc to get revenge on Lex for murdering him.
    • His flight power comes from the Fleischer cartoons where it was introduced because the animators found it easier to depict than his original jumping power.
  • Cape Snag: Superman is well aware of this problem, to the point he has used it against other cape-wearing enemies. In this animated short he grabs Bizarro's cape and throws his clone away.
  • Captain Ersatz: See Superman Substitute. Arguably, the entire super hero genre. But, more strictly speaking, there's Captain Marvel, the other Captains Marvel, Indigo, Miracleman (especially when Superman fan Alan Moore wrote him), Captain Atom, Supreme, Apollo, Mister Majestic, Icon, the Samaritan, Agent M, the Silver Sentry, Captain Amazing, Gladiator, Hyperion, the Sentry, the Blue Marvel, the Plutonian, Suppaman, All Might, and (at least in regard to his originnote ) Son Goku.
    • It's usually taken as a given these days that any "super hero universe" needs someone to fill the role of the top, most respected super hero in the world, and it's almost always an Expy of Superman. This creates some awkward situations when these companies fold, DC buys up their characters, and suddenly these Superman Expies are running around in the same universe as Superman himself (as has now happened to Captain Marvel, Captain Atom, Icon, Mr. Majestic, and Apollo).
    • Superman himself derived from many pre-existing pulp types. For example, John Carter of Mars — "Leap tall buildings in a single bound" wasn't always just a poetic turn of phrase, when he made his first appearance Superman literally jumped, he couldn't actually fly. His feats of strength were also much more in line with those that John Carter could perform on Marsnote . The Clark Kent look and outfit was based on silent comedian Harold Lloyd. Likewise, Gladiator was another inspiration. Over time with Power Creep, Power Seep (and, in the Silver Age, New Powers as the Plot Demands), as well as Character Development he became a much more distinct character which set a pattern for others to emulate.
    • Likewise, Lex Luthor derived from villains in Fritz Lang, such as Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler and Rotwang from Metropolis, which also supplied the name of Superman's City of Adventure, being a mix of Mad Scientist and Criminal Mastermind with megalomaniacal delusions of grandeur.
  • Cartwright Curse: Mostly averted, notwithstanding some stories taking place in the distant future in which Lois has passed away.
    • An interesting subversion takes place in Superman: the Movie where Lois dies and Superman flies back in time to save her.
  • Catchphrase: There have been many:
    • Superman: "This looks like a job for Superman!" "Great Krypton!" and "Up, up, and away!"
      • In the early years he would often say "Seconds to Act!" before jumping in to save someone Just in Time.
      • In the Silver Age, he often used the phrase "Great Scott," but it's far less common these days.
      • Superman would also occasionally blurt, "Great Rao!"
    • Perry White: "Don't call me Chief!!!! and "Great Caesar's ghost!"
    • "Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's Superman!" has been shown as an In-Universe catch phrase. Metropolitans no longer speak these words because they actually think the blue and red figure in the sky is a bird or a plane, but because those are their lines.
  • Cerebus Rollercoaster: Superman has gone through several "darkenings" through his decades-long history. At the beginning of the Golden Age his powers were more "grounded" and he fought criminals, corrupt businessmen and war profiteers. During the 40's and the Silver Age, though, his adventures gradually got more fantastic and more light-hearted. Then the Bronze Age brought Superman's social crusader status back, his comics became more serious and more introspective, and his universe got darker, culminating in Batman breaking off their friendship, Supergirl getting killed, and Superman losing his secret identity, his powers and most of his friends. When he was rebooted in the Dark Age, the tone was lighter than the 70's but also more serious and more depressing than the 60's, and it was not long before Superman was punched to death.
  • Character Shilling: One of the few characters in fiction who can get away with being shilled. He’s the Big Good of the DCU, a Nice Guy, and incredibly powerful, so you can understand why other characters would praise the guy so much. He’s also helped by being characterized as a Humble Hero; Superman himself is acutely aware that, contrary to his public image, he’s not perfect and frequently acknowledges his flaws.
  • Characterization Marches On: Way, way back when Supes was first created, he was far more rough and aggressive than his modern counterpart. While he was never as cold-blooded as the early Batman, the Superman of the 1930s had no problem using his strength to the fullest and never seemed to care that fatalities would presumably occur, although these were seldom shown explicitly on the page. This came to an end late in 1940, and ever since then, Supes has been the Thou Shalt Not Kill boyscout we all know and love.
  • Chest Insignia: The big S in a diamond shield, at first just standing for Superman, later explained as being the symbol of the house of El.
    • Motif Merger: Chest insignias are used for Superman/Batman crossovers.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Superman/Clark Kent and Lana Lang were a couple of sorts when they were teens. After Clark left Smallville they became Just Friends (much to Lana's regret).
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: Pre-Crisis Supes and Pre-N52 Supes. Both incarnations just want to save people even if they're Brought Down to Normal or forced to be a Mysterious Protector. The N52 Supes is getting there, refusing to let the long-term power loss of Superman: Truth stop him being a hero.
  • City in a Bottle:
    • The Bottle City of Kandor. Kandor was a Kryptonian city which was shrunk by Brainiac before Krypton's destruction. Superman managed to retrieve the city from Brainiac, and he and Supergirl spend most of Silver and Bronze Ages looking for ways to re-enlarge Kandor and its inhabitants (they finally succeeded in a 1979 story).
    • After this, refugees from a race of tiny people from another dimension eventually take up residence in the replica of Kandor Superman had placed in the Fortress as a memento. And they turn out to be pretty much stuck in there, because exposure to Earth's atmosphere would cause them to turn into monsters (they would change back to normal upon returning to replica!Kandor).
    • In Krypton No More, Kara appears to smash it when she tries to convince her cousin that Krypton is not real, but in reality she destroyed a replica.
    • In the Post-Crisis universe, Kandor was reintroduced in the Superman: Brainiac storyline.
  • Clark Kenting: Of course! It's easier to believe in early stories, when Superman was not a well-known or recognizable figure, and only Lois encountered him with any regularity.
    • Interestingly, in one Golden Age story, Clark and Lois were going undercover to infiltrate a club where robberies of wealthy patrons was taking place. Lois bleached her hair, and insisted that Clark remove his glasses. When he does, she doesn't recognize him as Superman. She's just surprised that, as she says, "you're actually kind of handsome!"
    • In one of the newspaper strip plotlines, a Hollywood producer is making a Superman movie and decides that Clark Kent would be perfect for the role, due to his close resemblance to Superman. He has Clark remove his glasses. Lois looks him over, and her comment is "I guess he could sort of look like Superman, if you stretch your imagination to its limits."
    • Thanks to the help of robots or friendly shape-shifters (and on more than one occasion, Bruce Wayne), Clark Kent and Superman have appeared together enough that Clark's "resemblance" to Supes is explained as a coincidence. This fact is lampshaded in All-Star Superman when Superman finally reveals his identity to Lois, and she refuses to believe it because he's done such a good job of covering it up all these years.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Silver-Age Lois and Lana, though not Lori, Luma, or Lyla. Chloe does this for a little while in the early seasons of Smallville.
  • Cloning Blues: Averted completely in the first (non-canon) Superman Red/Superman Blue story. When he accidentally clones himself, the two of them eliminate all evil and turn earth into a paradise, and restore Krypton. It even resolves the Lois/Lana Love Triangle! A later version of the story played the trope more straight.
    • Bizarro. Pre-Crisis, Bizarro was always played as sympathetic, being dangerous only because of his stupidity. These days, he's often portrayed as an out-and out killer.
  • Clone Degeneration: Bizarro
  • Clothes Make the Legend: DC tried changing his costume a few times, but it didn't last long.
  • Clothes Make the Superman: Double use - in the late 90s, DC tried to change his powers and costume to be lightning-themed, as a result of his near-death experience at the hands of Doomsday (basically, his Kryptonian biology that processed sunlight and turned it into energy for him to use decided to go up to eleven and turned him into an actual energy being). The idea was that Superman had become too comfortable in his powers and personal life and that putting him in a situation of having to relearn his abilities would be a chance for Character Development. That plan didn't go over well. Then he got his original powers and suit back, showing that, even though the general public loves to make fun of the underwear-on-the-outside classic look, it also loves the tights & cape so much that anyone who dares to drastically change the Big Blue Boyscout's uniform will be ripped a new one.
  • Combat Pragmatist: If Superman needs to take down an opponent quickly, and circumstances allow him to do it without using lethal force, he is able to do that quickly. For instance, one time he was in a hurry to face a Big Bad and Metallo stood in his way. Superman noted that he has no time to waste with a twerp like him and simply shot off his limbs with his heat vision, leaving the cyborg in a pile of parts and his limbless torso out of action, but otherwise unhurt.
  • Complete Immortality: In many incarnations.
  • Continuity Porn:
    • Any story by E. Nelson Bridwell, proud and joyful Bronze Age King of the Promoted Fanboys! A fellow who loved his job.
    • Alan Moore. Any Superman story written by him will show his deep knowledge of Silver Age Supes.
    • Grant Morrison. He loves the sillier aspects of Silver Age Superman, and will often mine those stories for content.
  • Continuity Snarl: In the early days, Superman's adventures were rather inconsistent, which was common at the time. After D.C. Comics had created Earth-2 where earlier versions of some of their superheroes existed, it was decided that there was a Superman on that Earth who was more consistent with the earliest stories (was never Superboy, worked for the Daily Star, etc.). That satisfied most fans, but others were quick to point out that not all of the inconsistencies could be so-explained (Kryptonite was introduced years after the Superboy retcon, which was decreed years after his newspaper and boss' names were changed) and the hardest of the hardcore insist that there was at-least one other alternate Earth to explain this.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive:
    • Lex Luthor, since the Crisis.
    • Also Morgan Edge, since the Crisis. (Before the Crisis, he was just a passably obnoxious executive.)
  • Corrupt Politician: Not the norm, but Lex Luthor occasionally counts.
  • Countrystan: In one story arc, Pokolistan is a fictional Soviet state that was conquered by the reimagined Post-Crisis General Zod.
  • The Cowl: Ironically he was this back in the Golden Age: he was a feared urban legend and a vigilante who mercilessly beat thugs, crooks and wife abusers and cowed corrupt politicians and businessmen. He was pragmatic and harsh, he caught criminals by surprise and left as soon as he solved the situation.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: In Pre-Crisis days, Raoism felt very much like one of the Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, Islam). It even has a variation on the Noah Flood story, with the prophet Jaf-El (one of Superman's ancestors) predicting a flood, but with the difference that the Kryptonians are saved by winged animals who lift them above the flood waters — so that, on Krypton, the animals saved the people instead of vice versa.
  • Crystal Spires and Togas:
    • Many depictions of Superman's Krypton fit this trope. Post-crisis, though, Krypton was more dystopian despite all the crystal-toga trappings. When Superman: Birthright retconned Krypton's society back to something closer to the pre-Crisis version (i.e. a more general super-advanced civilization without a specific, dominant theme), the togas changed back to Space Clothes.
    • For maximum effect, post Infinite Crisis reverts some of Birthright's changes to include some of the Byrne era Kryptonian aesthetics so that you have the crystal spires and the togas at the same time.
    • In the pre-Crisis universe, the citizens of Kandor who survived the destruction of Krypton settled on a planetoid which they called Rokyn. As seen here, Kandor was definitely a crystal-and-toga place.
    • The Supergirl books often go into detail about the culture and society of Krypton, particularly Argo City (Supergirl's hometown). Supergirl (Rebirth)'s first scene depicts Argo City: everybody wore colourful, bright clothes and long, flowing robes and capes; and the buildings were tall, alien-looking structures made of glass and metal.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: He religiously tries to avoid giving these and mostly succeeds, but if you really manage to piss him off, he will give you the beating of a lifetime. He does occasionally wind up on the receiving end of these, however, with Mongul I being one of the most notable examples.
  • Curse Cut Short: One exchange between Superman and Brainiac in the Justice League cartoon:
    Superman: Read my lips, go to-
    Brainiac: Unfortunate...
  • Da Editor: Perry White.
  • Deadly Environment Prison: One issue has the villain contain a pair of hostages within a magnetic force field generated by one of his devices. The field generator and the hostages are hidden within an active volcano, where the extreme heat would boil away the hostages in seconds without the protection that the force field offers. Superman's dilemma is how to extract the hostages and also keep their compartment intact.
  • Death by Origin Story:
    • His parents died, of course, when Krypton blew up. Originally this also included both Pa and Ma Kent dying, marking the passage between Superboy and Superman.
    • Averted in post-Crisis Superman, where both Ma and Pa Kent are alive in the main continuity.
    • Played straight again in the New 52.
  • Defusing the Tyke-Bomb: Clark Kent and Lois Lane acted this way toward Lor-Zod, son of General Zod — one of the worst enemies of Superman — and his henchwoman Ursa. Everyone else — including his abusive birth parents, Lex Luthor and the USA Government — wanted to capture him and control him. Lois and Clark adopted and raised him with the name of Christopher "Chris" Kent. Chris eventually became the hero "Nightwing" -no THAT Nightwing, although both boys took his codenames from the same Kryptonian mythological being- and fought alongside his adoptive father and his cousin Supergirl.
  • Depending on the Writer: Superman's powers (and the explanations for them), history, personality, status as Last of His Kind, the society of Krypton, etc. vary quite a bit over the decades of his existence.
    • Jimmy Olsen who, due to Comic-Book Time and RetCons, repeatedly goes back and forth between being a journalist in his early twenties and a tag-along photographer in his mid teens fetching coffee.
    • The possibility of Superman having children with Lois Lane, or any other female human for that matter. Some writers go with the basic: DNA structures being completely different from each other, making it impossible to make children. Others goes with The Power of Love: different species can't stop true love so children can be made, no problems. Or Take a Third Option: it becomes possible with the help of advanced science.
    • Superman's super speed is especially susceptible to this. Sometimes his speed is so great that he can pull off amazing feats like tagging speedsters like The Flash or Professor Zoom, flying down from Earth's atmosphere to save a woman and a baby precisely one split second before they're about to get hit by a crashing spaceship, and disarm and locate The Joker's bombs hidden all across Metropolis before Joker could even finish his sentence. Then other times... he's shown to be somehow not fast enough to stop a supervillain from executing a bunch of captured soldiers with ordinary machine gun bullets.
    • Whether or not he needs to breathe in space changes depending on the author and time era. Sometimes he'll be able to fly through the cold of space just fine and can breathe normally there as he would on Earth. Other times, he'll be written as having to wear an oxygen mask whenever he's out in space.
  • Depraved Kids' Show Host: The Prankster
  • Determinator: Oooooooh, just ASK Supes to give up if you're a villain. Let's see how long you last afterwards.
  • Devil in Disguise: In the comics from the early 90s, it was revealed that publisher Colin Thornton, who had hired Clark Kent away from The Daily Planet to serve as editor for Newstime, was a mortal disguise used by the demon Lord Satanus.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: In one of the anti-smoking Richard Williams ads, Supes deals with the villain (a petty cigar peddler named Nick O Teen, who was tricking kids into smoking) in a very Out of Character fashion—by grabbing him by the collar and throwing him into orbit!
    Superman: "Not so fast, Nick O Teen! If you want to go up fast, take one of THESE!"
  • Distant Finale: As mentioned under Alternate Continuity, there have been loads of What If? stories about Superman over the decades, and quite a few of them take the form of distant finales. Some notable ones include Otto Binder's The Old Man of Metropolis; Elliot S! Maggin's The Living Legends of Superman, The Ghost of Superman Future, and his prose short story "Luthor's Gift;" Alan Moore's Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?, and Mark Waid's Kingdom Come.
    • Stories of Legion of Super-Heroes and DC One Million could also count, being set in the future and dropping hints about Superman's ultimate fate.
    • The very last issue of the main title prior to the Flashpoint reboot also provided a distant finale, with an organization that Superman founded looking back on his legacy and commenting that he and Lois did, indeed, get to live happily ever after.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Pre-Crisis, when Superman is Brought Down to Normal, Clark won't have to pretend to be a mild mannered reporter, as he did to Steve Lombard and Morgan Edge in Who Took the Super Out of Superman.
  • Doppelgänger Attack: The villain Riot's superpower.
  • Dumb Muscle: Villains have the mistake of assuming Superman relies on his brawn. Luthor often does this, and The Joker made the mistake in the aforementioned example with lead-lined coffins, stating he came to Metropolis thinking Superman wouldn't be able to match wits with him. Remember, Supes has to trick Mr. Mxyzptlk every 90 days to unwittingly send him back to his home dimension by being sneaky and clever.
  • Dynamic Akimbo: Supes himself is the Trope Codifier for this in the Superhero genre. This is the standard pose he takes when Shooting Superman is invoked.

  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Superman wasn't a very nice person in quite a few older stories. In particular, this showed up a lot in Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane and Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen. (Though this has been exaggerated greatly by out-of-context covers, panels, and pages.)
    • He beat up and/or killed (usually off-panel, but not always) humans quite frequently in his earliest appearances.
    • In his very first appearance, he bound and gagged a woman whom he identified as a murderer; he kept her bound while he persuaded the governor to halt the execution of another woman, who was wrongfully convicted of the same murder mere minutes before she was to be executed. (Later on, female villains always realized defeat before being confronted, or other females would deal with the villain.)
    • Also, his powers were added over time and his costume was all over the map. He used to wear lace up sandals instead of boots and his chest logo was anything from a basic triangle to a coat of arms. The merchandise was even worse in the early days as they couldn't even get his color scheme right (sometimes his costume was primarily yellow instead of blue.)
      • Flight didn't even appear until the early 40's, around the time of the Superman Theatrical Cartoons. Before then, he could only leap tall bounds (the creators used the metaphor of a grasshopper's relative high jumps).
    • In the early issues of Action Comics and Superman, Clark Kent's place of employment and editor were the Daily Star and George Taylor respectively. The editor went without a name at all for a long time, and there is a single issue where Clark Kent sends his dispatches to the Evening News in Cleveland, Ohio.
  • Eating Optional: In many incarnations, Supes doesn't need to eat, but often will out of habit or because he enjoys the taste.
  • Egocentric Team Naming: Team Superman and The Supermen of America.
    • The latter takes its name from the official Superman fan club, back in the Golden Age.
  • Elseworld: Pretty much began the practice in comics, in "Imaginary Stories".
  • Entitled Bastard: Several of his enemies have no problem with begging for their lives after having tried to kill Supes.
    • Really though, if you can't expect mercy from Superman, who can you expect it from?
  • Enemy Civil War: Several. Often Bizarro World.
  • Evil Counterpart: Ultraman (No, not THAT one), Cyborg-Superman, and Superboy-Prime.
  • Evil Knockoff: Bizarro was intended to be this when he was initially created, but he's simply too stupid to comprehend the harm he can cause, rather than intentionally being evil.
  • Evolutionary Levels: The first Canon explanation for Superman's powers in Action Comics #1. His unnamed planet was centuries ahead of Earth on the evolutionary scale. Originally, he had been conceived as being the last post-human from the end of time, rather than an alien from another planet.
    • This exact origin is brought back in the Superman: Red Son story but it is not revealed until the end. Superman in this series is ironically a distant descendant of Lex Luthor with the "L" suffix being a contraction of his name.
  • Expy:
  • Eye Beams: Heat vision. Originally this was just his X-Ray Vision turned up full blast, but eventually the heat effect got its own name.
  • Face Death with Dignity:
    • Superman's usual reaction to be told he is dying in storylines like The Last Days of Superman, All-Star Superman or The Final Days of Superman is "I have no time to waste crying. I have many things left to do, and very little time to do them".
    • The Leper from Krypton: When Superman guesses his death is inevitable, he does not weep, get mad or suffer a breakdown. Instead, he very calmly builds a rocketship which will take to a star where he has chosen to be cremated, says goodbye to Earth, asking them to not cry over him or build any monuments, and steps into the rocket, hoping that Supergirl can successfully take over him.
    • As Supergirl is dying in Crisis on Infinite Earths, she asks her cousin to not cry, and she tries smile despite the bleeding hole in her belly. Later it would be revealed she knew she would die if she fought the Anti-Monitor, but she went and battled anyway.
  • Face–Heel Turn:
    • In some continuities, Lex used to be a pretty nice guy and Clark's good friend, but it was a long time ago.
    • Ruin, a.k.a. Professor Emil Hamilton
  • Fanfare: Many of the adaptations will have a fanfare of some kind.
    • Many will have a three note motif, basically saying "Superman" through the music. John Williams' theme does this twice.
  • The Fantastic Faux: Hank Henshaw and his family are a brutal, vicious Deconstruction of the Fantastic Four formula: they are an astronaut and his wife, along with two others who travel into space and are bombarded by radiation. The radiation, however, immediately kills two of them and forces them to create bodies of out of rock and energy respectively (thus becoming parallels to The Thing and the Human Torch). Terri Henshaw likewise becomes more and more intangible to reality until her husband is forced to build her a robotic body to live in. These circumstances leave them all mentally unhinged, and all three are eventually Driven to Suicide. Henshaw's own body also decays and he eventually becomes a consciousness that can live in machinery and computer circuitry, later returning as a major archenemy: the Cyborg Superman.
  • Fantastic Naming Convention: Kryptonians are typically given one syllable names and have one syllable family names, such as the lead character Kal-El.
    • The family names tend to sound a lot like the letters of the alphabet (besides the House of El, other Kryptonians have had names like Dev-Em and Jax-Ur). Not reminding fans of that pattern might be one reason that villains like Zod tend not to use their full names (he's General Dru-Zod).
    • Only the men use the family names directly. Supergirl isn't Kara-El, she adds her father's complete name, making her Kara Zor-El.
    • Earth-2 Kryptonians actually have single letter last names. Superman in that universe is Kal-L, for instance.
  • Fantastic Racism: In Superman: Godfall, the Kandorians are incredibly xenophobic and racist against all non-native Kandorians, especially Empireths, who are mutants with psychic powers as well as the typical Kryptonian powers under a yellow sun.
  • Fiction 500:
  • Fictional Political Party: Lex Luthor represented the Tomorrow Party when he ran for President during the 2000 Election. This party was explicitly not the Republicans or the Democrats which do exist in the DC Universe.
  • First Contact Farmer: When Superman first arrived on Earth as a baby, he landed on the farm of the Kents, who subsequently adopted him.
  • Fling a Light into the Future: Jor-El sent his son to Earth not just so he could live, but as a gift to help humanity.
  • Flying Brick: One of the first.
  • Flying Firepower: If Superman has to remain in the air at a distance of a target, he can easily strike from there with his ranged attacks: heat vision and super breath.
  • Flying Saucer: Brainiac's original spaceship. He replaced it with a skull-shaped one after his Skele Bot upgrade.
  • 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. In the movies, Luthor wears a toupee to cover his bald head, showing his vanity and deep insecurity, while Clark is incredibly handsome, but isn't afraid to put on dorky glasses to blend in with the rest of society.
    • 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 environment, where his adopted parents instilled him with the values that would later shape his heroism. Bruce was born into incredible wealth, yet the loss of the things that mattered most to him, his parents, broke him to the point he swore to seek justice with his own two hands. Clark inspires the inherent goodness in people. 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, yet bends 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, they are best friends, seeing the other as inspirations for each other.
  • Foot Bath Treatment: One comic used this in the splash panel. The plot of the story is that a crook wished away Superman's powers, leaving him mortal and vulnerable. The opening panel shows him sneezing while Jimmy Olsen pours hot water into the bucket at his feet.
  • For Great Justice: Ever since the '50s The Adventures of Superman TV series, one of Superman's mottos has been that he stands for "Truth, Justice, and the American way."
  • For Want of a Nail: Most What If? and alternate timeline stories revolve around Superman not existing or being raised away from the Kents. This often ends up disastrously for the DCU as a whole of that dimension.
  • Forgotten First Meeting:
    • A few stories over the decades depict Clark Kent and Lois Lane meeting as young teens, sometimes with Clark becoming Superboy.
    • A few stories also have young Clark meet young Bruce Wayne.
    • Silver Age Superman first met Supergirl when his cousin's rocket landed on Earth... or so he thought. Since both characters had the ability to time-travel and were members of the Legion of Super-Heroes, they had already met back when he was a teenager Superboy, but his first memory of her was wiped out to protect the future.
    • In Superboy #80, Supergirl goes back in time to meet her teenager cousin and play with him. Both kids hit it off immediately, but Superboy wipes his memory out after Kara leaves so he does not reveal Supergirl's existence prematurely.
    • Action Comics #358 had Superboy in flashback having ended up in Argo City after being accidentally knocked unconscious and rendered amnesiac by a robotic resource scavenger for the city, he's later taken by an alien being intending to consume him and it erases everyone's memories of his time there to spare them the suffering. Superman only realizes something happened when she shows him a crystal she had from childhood but no idea where it came from because it was the crystal he'd carved just prior to being knocked out after planning to give it to his adoptive mother and had no idea what happened to it.
  • Fourth-Wall Observer: Mr. Mxyzptlk
  • Friendly Enemy: Bizarro, in most versions. Mr. Mxyzptlk, sometimes. And Ambush Bug started out this way till he went straight (though even as a "friend," he's still an incredible pest).
    • It's telling that in the "Superman Family" illustration by Curt Swan on the Characters Page, Mxyzptlk and Bizarro are depicted among them.
  • Friendly Rival: Vartox, and Captain Marvel. He's actually friends with both of them, but they end up fighting a lot anyway. There's also Batman.
  • From a Single Cell: Several. Often Brainiac.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Many second-rate Superman villains undergo this in Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?. It's all Mxyzptlk's doing.
  • Galactic Conqueror: Mongul
  • Gaslighting:
    • "Dead Again" had Brainiac, who was thought to still be lobotomized after the events of "Panic in the Sky!", pull this off by making it appear that Superman's body was still in his grave, making everyone, even Superman, think that he wasn't the real deal and that he was truly dead.
    • In Krypton No More, Supergirl is coaxed into making her cousin believe Krypton never existed for his peace of mind (long story). She pulls this off by going through Clark's home and the Fortress of Solitude, switching the Bottle City of Kandor, the Phantom Zone projector and anything could prove the existence of Krypton with dummies, and then telling him Krypton was a delusion of his.
  • The Glasses Come Off: Just when Clark does it, it's a different reason than the trope usually has. Or sometimes the same reason. Post-Superman: Birthright, it's established that Clark has vivid, otherworldly blue eyes, the kind you immediately notice and can never forget. The glasses mute them into a much more normal shade. Clark is in fact more attractive when he takes the glasses off... and that's why they're on in the first place.
  • Genius Bruiser: In Real Life and In-Universe people do tend to forget Superman's formidable intellect and cunning. Understandable because his physical power is quite overshadowing, but enemies, readers and audiences alike underestimate Clark's brains at their peril.
  • A God I Am Not: For all his godlike might, Supes refuses to think of himself as a god and instead sees himself on the same level as your average nonpowered mortal human, though some characters seem to think is one, or is trying to be one. Batman states it's a good thing that the guy with godlike powers doesn't think he's a god. The very few times the character took this attitude, things go bad, fast.
  • God Is Good: Rao is the God of Krypton, and Flamebird and Nightwing are His Children in the Post-Crisis continuity. In the New Krypton storyline, Supergirl isn't feeling particularly pious after her father's murder, and deems her friend Thara -who claims Flamebird is bonded with her- a nutjob. Yet still Kara is saved by literal divine intervention in the Hunt for Reactron when Flamebird manifests through Thara and stomps Reactron. Later Kara apologizes and confides to Thara that she's feeling hopeful now because if the gods are real, it means her deceased father is in a better place.
  • Good Is Old-Fashioned: A favorite jeer of antiheroes against him.
  • Going for the Big Scoop: Lois Lane, frequently.
  • Gratuitous Spanish:
    • Third-rate villain Encantadora is from Spain and the writers will remind you of it by generously peppering her dialogues with unnecessary Spanish words and phrases. It gets really annoying after a couple of pages...
    • The 2000 Superman Annual was part of the "Planet DC" event, featuring familiar heroes going to foreign countries and teaming up with new heroes from those countries. Superman teamed up with three Mexican heroes, Acrata, Iman, and El Muerto, all of whom are extremely prone to this; El Muerto describes his amazing stealth as allowing him to disappear and reappear at will, "like a fantasmo."
  • Grave-Marking Scene:
    • Pre-Crisis Superman visited Pa and Ma's graves every so often.
    • War World: Before entering the command console, Mongul pays a visit to the grave of the last Warzoon.
    • During the "Up, Up And Away" arc, Superman visits the graves of Superboy and Earth-2 Superman and Lois Lane.
    • In the beginning of Superman (Rebirth), Post-Crisis Superman visits the grave of his New 52 counterpart.
  • Great Gazoo: Mr. Mxyzptlk.
  • Green Rocks: Good ol' kryptonite, of course. Note that pre-Smallville, it was really only good for Kryptonian-killing, so it wasn't Green Rocks by that trope's definition.
    • Well, from 1985 until 2005, this was true, kryptonite was only good for hurting Kryptonians (and, about as quickly as realistic radiation, humans). Until the Crisis on Infinite Earths, though, a number of different colors of kryptonite existed, and they each had a different effect on Kryptonians, and some even had an effect on humans. Some of them were brought back right before Infinite Crisis.
  • Groin Attack: Expect Superman to suffer this in some Fanfictions, although it's not always effective. Not surprising.
  • Guns Are Worthless: Shoot Superman or any member of his Kryptonian family and you will not be doing much more than throwing beer cans at them.
  • Happily Adopted: Clark is from outer space, but he and his folks are closer than blood.
  • Has a Type: Superman has one requirement. The initials L.L. His love interests are Lana Lang, Lori Lemaris, and Lois Lane. This gives an interesting spin to his relationship with Lex Luthor.
  • Hates Being Alone: This has been a part of the personalities of Superman and his cousin for decades:
    • In the Pre-Crisis universe Clark felt very alone when he was Superboy because he could never play with kids his own age, there was no one like him, and no one could relate to him. Before graduating, his foster parents died, and he felt even more isolated and a bigger outcast. When he met his cousin Kara he felt incredibly happy because he had a family again, someone he could feel connected to.
    • Pre-Crisis Supergirl faced almost the same hardships after arriving on Earth. Fortunately Kara already had a blood relative she could talk to, but she spent several months living in an orphanage until she was adopted. She hated the place because she felt utterly alone and friendless in a strange land.
    • In Superboy #80 both cousins talk about this.
      Superman: Many years ago, when I lived in Smallville as Superboy, I could never play with kids my own age for fear of giving away my identity! Oh, how I longed for a human playmate who was super, like myself!
      Supergirl: I know how you feel! I, too, dare not play with anyone my own age!
    • In Many Happy Returns, Superman tells Linda he feels very alone because -even though he's greatest and most loved hero in the world-, he has no social life.
    • Superman feeling alone and without friends plays out in modern stories such like Kingdom Come — in where he had lost his parents, wife, cousin and friends —, and Superman: Secret Origin — in where he didn't dare play with anyone for fear of hurting them.
    • In Batgirl (2009), Kara and her friend Stephanie Brown — the then-current Batgirl — watch a cheesy movie. Most of audience laughs out loud when Dracula cries out he is alone, but both girls cannot laugh about it. They know what being alone is like, and they don't find it funny at all.
    • The New 52 Supergirl was a lonely, angry teenager. Her family and friends were dead, she could not bring herself to trust her cousin, she didn't manage to make friends or fit in with humans, and she was frequently attacked or betrayed by people she put her trust in. Her issues of alienation, grief and anger got worse until she finally flew off the handle.
  • Heavyworlder: Superman's powers were, in many older stories including the entire Silver Age run, due in part to Krypton's heavier gravity.
  • Hero Does Public Service: No job is too small for the Man of Steel. One day, he's halfway across the galaxy fighting a universal threat. The next, he's reading books to orphans or planting gardens.
  • Heroic Resolve:
    • Superman may be worn out, wounded, beaten or almost dead, but menace his wife, his cousin, his son, his parents or his friends and you will wish you were dead. Even hurting his dog is suicidal.
    • In the Superman: Brainiac arc, Superman has been beaten, captured and imprisoned by Brainiac. Still, when he sees Brainiac has stolen Metropolis and captured Lois, he shatters his shackles and fights on.
  • High-Altitude Interrogation: Superman has, surprisingly, has done this. On at least one occasion, he dropped a mook, used superspeed to catch him, and said, "Now, we can keep doing this until I get tired, or..."
  • Historical Badass Upgrade: In the "Camelot Falls" arc, Superman in a possible future faces against Khyber, or Hassan-i Sabbah. In real life, Hassan is already considered relatively badass, being the founder of the Order of Assassins. In DC, Hassan in that possible future is shown to be strong enough to fight Superman, cause global devastation by hurling Superman into the Earth to destroy part of a continent, and finally be able to kill Superman (albeit he had to use all of his energy and took advantage of Superman's hesitation to kill him).
  • Holding Out for a Hero: The stories have explored this on many an occasion, Supes himself seems particularly worried that the world will grow overreliant on him and become unable to function if anything happens to him. As a result, he holds off on stopping most crimes and natural disasters; his general philosophy is that if humanity can handle it on their own, he's going to let them try. This is arguably Lex Luthor's beef with Superman... but only because Luthor wants humanity overreliant and unable to function without him.
    • In Superman: Red Son, wherein a communist Superman had no problems with using his abilities to prevent every bad thing possible (from each according to his abilities and all that), people did indeed grow too reliant upon him to solve all their problems. Eventually cars stopped being manufactured with seatbelts — the citizens expected Superman to save them if they got into a wreck. (Ironically enough, Lex Luthor opposed him on those grounds in that reality, too.)
    • Superman's ultimate retort to Lex Luthor comes in All-Star Superman at the end:
      Luthor: I could have saved the world!
      Superman: You could have saved the world years ago if you had wanted to.
    • This explains Lois Lane's reckless behavior in many of the Golden Age comics and Fleischer Studios Superman Theatrical Cartoons. She gets in trouble so often because she's sure Superman will always come to save her, and in fact she wants the excuse to see Superman again. Highlighted in Elliot S! Maggin's novel Last Son of Krypton:
      Professor Gordon: Say you were somewhere really out of the way, Miss Lane. In Zaire. In the abandoned shaft of a diamond mine. The mine caved in. You had about an hour's supply of air. Absolutely no one knew where you were, and even if they did there would be no chance of getting you out in time. What goes through your mind?
      Lois Lane: I wish Superman would stop stalling. I've got a deadline to meet.
    • The whole Superman holding back ordeal started in the Bronze Age with Elliot S. Maggin's Must There Be A Superman? from Superman #247. In it, The Guardians of the Universe subtly imply to him that his superheroics are causing human culture to stagnate and to cut it out. He's shaken by it and decides to hold back on the problems that regular humans would be fine with handling.
    • It can be said that Superman is trying to defy this trope by using his status as The Paragon. He is supposed to empower humanity, not to be a living crutch.
  • Hologram: Usually of Jor-El.
  • Home Base: The Fortress of Solitude. Although he doesn't live there. He lives in an apartment. Most of the time, the Fortress is basically just his rec room, but it also serves as a serious superhero H.Q. when he needs one.
  • Home Field Advantage: Played with by Superman and other Kryptonians, who have a Home Field Advantage anywhere near a yellow sun.
  • Hostile Terraforming: In various media, villainous Kryptonians often attempt to remake Krypton on Earth.
  • Hulk Speak: All Bizarros
  • Human Aliens: Kryptonians look right like humans.
  • Human Alien Discovery:
    • In general the origins of Superman, as well most of his Multiverse counterparts, are about discovering he was a Human Alien from the planet Krypton when he was an adult or a teenager. Usually their powers were discovered before his origin story, but in the case of one of his counterparts (Superboy-Prime), the discovery came at the same time with the powers, activated during the First Crisis.
    • An inversion occurs in the Elseworld Superman: Last Son of Earth, in which the human baby Clark Kent crashes on the planet Krypton and was adopted by Jor-El and renamed as Kal-El, later becoming the Green Lantern of his planet and sector, and recovering his memories from the Earth.
  • Humans Are Special: In various retellings of the origin story, Jor-El's faith in humanity and the influence his son could have on it is usually one of the reasons he choses to send him to Earth. As he grows up, Superman firmly holds on to this belief.
  • Humans Need Aliens: Superman is the classic example. Think of all the times Superman has saved the day, a lot of those times he saved humanity from extinction. Humanity would have been long gone without him.
    • Made more apparent when he defeated Doomsday as he was the only hero capable/willing to defeat the monster. Without him humanity would have perished at this monster's hands.
    • Deconstructed in a Bronze Age storyline where Superman finds himself Brought Down to Normal in his Clark Kent identity and decides to experiment with living a week as just one identity. As Clark, he sees a subway being flooded, and realises he could do nothing to stop it now that he's powerless. Fortunately, the fire department arrives to take care of the crisis, and Clark realises that the world always got along fine before there was a Superman.
    • In the second issue of the John Byrne reboot, Supes sees a mugging happening, but then notes that Metropolis' Finest (police officers) are on the job, so he needn't bother helping.
  • Identity Impersonator: Lookalikes, holograms, a friendly ShapeShifter or two; he used to have a fleet of Robots for just this but they kept going sentient and becoming villains
  • Idiot Hair: That little curl across his forehead.
  • Immigrant Patriotism: An alien (as in, an extraterrestrial) who proclaims to defend "Truth, justice, and the American way", anybody?
  • Immortality: The type varies by series and according to the writer. He's always hard to kill and is immune to earth diseases and toxins and generally ages really slowly if at all. In some continuities he continues to get more powerful with age. In most cases it's moot on account of the Comic-Book Time, with Superman still maintaining his largely human supporting cast.
  • Innocent Aliens: Most Kryptonians are good-hearted and compassionate people who though have their differences with the non-kryptonian people do genuinely care about them and they will fight for them and protect them as well.
  • Immortality Field:
    • The Phantom Zone keeps its prisoners alive. Outside of its intended use of punishing criminals humanely, it has also been used to save dying heroes, like the lead-poisoned Mon-El in pre-Crisis.
    • Planets with yellow suns like Earth make Kryptonians, barring Kryptonite Factor, Nigh Invulnerable and Long-Lived. The inverse is in planets with red suns.
  • Immune to Fate: Some treatments portray Superman as so powerful and such a great force for good that he can actually defy Fate and rewrite predestined events.
  • Immunity Disability: Superman's near invulnerability is often parodied by having it also prevent him from shaving because even his beard is too tough to cut. John Byrne addressed that in his run by Clark using his own heat vision reflected on a mirror (normally a fragment of the ship that brought him to Earth) to shave.
  • In Name Only: If Kevin Smith is to be believed, Jon Peters' Superman Lives, a movie that was never made, would have had Superman's iconic outfit be replaced by an all black one, Superman wouldn't fly, and he'd fight a Giant Spider, it would have also given Lex a pet named "Chewie", as well as making Brainiac fight polar bears. This is true folks. Fortunately, Kevin Smith tried to make a script that worked the changes in while still throwing in the traditional Superman feel, but Superman Lives was never made to this day.
  • In the Doldrums: The Phantom Zone associated with the franchise.
  • Incredible Shrinking Man: The Bottle City of Kandor. For that matter, Brainiac's shrink ray that put it in the bottle in the first place.
  • Inner Monologue: Because most of his adventures are solo affairs, so he has no one to banter Expo Speak with, Superman used to use a lot of thought bubbles back in the day. Now that thought bubbles are less popular, he doesn't do it as much, except in Superman/Batman, where he and Bats are the narrators.
  • Insect Queen: In the Silver Age, Lana Lang sometimes gained insect attributes to become a heroine aptly known as "Insect Queen." In a nod to this, there was a Modern Age villain known as Insect Queen, ruler of an imperial group of insects called the All-Hive (not remarkably different from the alien incarnations of Queen Bee) who reshaped her body to be like Lana Lang. She was also fought by Supergirl in the "Death and the Family" arc.
  • Insult of Endearment: Lois Lane's use of "Smallville" for Clark Kent in some continuities goes from insulting to affectionate over the course of time.
  • Interspecies Friendship: Most of Superman's friendships qualify, though not necessarily Clark Kent's.
  • 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?
    • Every cinematic version of Superman has had different interpretations over the decades, each of them having different ways to portray the Superman/Clark Kent dichotomy. Christopher Reeve's Superman was a light-hearted, old-fashioned kind of hero reminiscent of the Silver Age who merely used the Clark persona as a facade. Brandon Routh's version was mostly similar to Reeve's, albeit a bit quieter and more introspective, what with him returning to Earth after a five-year long journey to Krypton, questioning his relevance in the 21st century and having a son out of wedlock with Lois. Henry Cavill's portrayal is the most flawed and morally conflicted version of Superman thus far, constantly mindful of the effects his actions have on humanity and questioning his place in the world. Another difference from Reeve and Routh is that Cavill portrays both Superman and Clark as the "real person", with the issue of a Secret Identity not addressed until the end of Man of Steel. In the sequel, the difference between Clark and Superman becomes a bit more obvious, with Cavill playing Superman in a stoic and patient, sometimes stern, manner, and Clark becoming more dynamic and assertive.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Clark Kent and Lois Lane, later Jimmy Olsen. Ron Troupe was added during the Funeral For a Friend storyline as Clark's replacement on the Daily Planet staff, and stuck around after Clark was "rescued".
  • Invincible Hero: Most writers take pains to avert this trope, but Supes is hard to write unless Kryptonite Is Everywhere, and that gets old fast. Alan Moore was a master at finding compelling stories for him. The best Superman stories (Kingdom Come, among others) thus tend to be the ones that focus on the problems his powers can't fix. A perennial favorite is "Sure, you're invincible. But everyone else isn't." Also leads to Blessed with Suck.
  • Involuntary Shapeshifter: This was the most common effect of Red Kryptonite in The Silver Age of Comic Books, with Repower being a close second. Jimmy Olsen was also put through many, many transformations both in the Superman titles and his own.
  • It Amused Me: The Prankster
  • I Work Alone: Post-Crisis Superman's reason for not joining the Justice League was that he was more comfortable working alone. That eventually changed.

  • Jack of All Stats: Played with: Normally, nearly every A-list character outclasses Superman in one particular area, though Superman wins out by being number 2 or 3 in each area. Sometimes, though, Superman reveals that he actually is the number one in certain active and passive powers, and that he was just holding back before.
    • The Flash is not nearly as tough as the Man of Steel, but in Flash: Rebirth #3, the "Fastest Man Alive" turns the holding-back tables on the Big S:
      Clark: I've raced you before, Barry. I even won some of those races.
      Barry: Those were for charity, Clark.
    • Darkseid is just physically more powerful in every way except for speed. Or at least, that's what we're usually led to believe, until Superman pulls off the kid gloves. Then, the Lord of Apokolips meets the Source Wall with his face.
    • Most versions of Brainiac possess a personal forcefield too powerful for Superman to break through with brute force.
    • Martian Manhunter is a bigger winner of the Superpower Lottery than Superman, having Super Strength, X-Ray Vision, Super Speed, Invulnerability, and Flight just like Big Blue, but sporting invisibility, telekinesis which can create forcefields or be launched as a weapon, phase-shifting, and of course telepathy. In short, he has what it takes to survive Superman, and due to J'onn's telepathy, a one-on-one fight would be touch-and-go (owing to Superman's Torquasm-Vo and mental blocks, which render him impervious to anything but the most powerful mind attacks). However, Superman is weak to only four very uncommon things — Kryptonite (relatively rare), Magic (very rare in the muggle world), red sunlight (needs to be synthesized/replicated), and other beings on New God levels of strength — while J'onn is weak to one very, very, absurdly common thing: FIREnote .
    • Batman, Lex Luthor, Ted Kord and a multitude of other characters are much more intelligent than Clark. At the end of the day, though, Clark is still a Pulitzer-Prize winning author and journalist, and in many stories intelligent enough to be well-versed in several scientific fields.
      • Notice that being more intelligent than Clark doesn't necessarily mean that they are balanced enough to make good on said advantage, what with people like Lex Luthor and Bruce Wayne being seriously handicapped by their insecurities and childhood traumas.
    • While not possessing as many powers as Supes, Wonder Woman is said to be a more skilled hand-to-hand combatant.
    • There are a few characters who are explicitly shown to be far-and-away more powerful than Superman, to the point where it's not even a contest — The Spectre, Raven, The Phantom Stranger, Mr. Mxyzptlk, the Champion of each and every Lantern Corps, and The Anti-Monitor. Note that several of these characters use magic, something Superman explicitly has no superhuman resistance to.
      • Clark isn't alone in his tier of power, either. Several other characters, including Captain Marvel, Wonder Woman, Red Tornado, Icon, Captain Atom, Vartox, any and all Daxamite characters, Lobo, Solomon Grundy in his strongest incarnations, and, obviously, other Kryptonian characters are all in the same tier of power (arguably). However, as everyone admits, Clark beats them out in one very important area: his sense of duty, unwavering sense of mercy and justice, and charisma make him a born leader.
      • On a side note, the amount of time he's spent on Earth soaking in the sun allows him to occasionally curb-stomp other Kryptonians, and he has shown himself to be a good deal more powerful than every non-Kryptonian in the list. The fact, though, that they even have a chance in a fight against him allows them to be considered on the same tier. On the other hand (at least Pre-Crisis), Faora is a more skillful unarmed combatant than he is, having been a martial artist back on Krypton.
      • Lobo is perhaps one of the closest competitors, as he's immortal, but he lacks self-sustained flight and he's minutely weaker than Supes, and both him and Superman know that Supes could just drag him into the sun. If he ever did that, one of them would come out feeling great… the other, not so much. He could regenerate from a single cell, but there wouldn't even be that much left of him. His immortality, of course, means that his essence would still be stuck inside the sun. Not a good way to go.
      • Captain Marvel is the other closest competitor. He has strength that is almost on par with Superman's; as well as flight; invulnerability possibly greater than Superman's note  and lacking Superman's explicit vulnerability to magic; the ability to summon magic attacks in the form of lightning; and the (somewhat inconsistently depicted) power of enhanced wisdom. However, he's not nearly as fast as Superman (see Ludicrous Speed), lacks the super-senses (particularly X-Ray vision), and doesn't have heat vision or freeze-breath (his lightning partly makes up for it, but still lacks the diversity and power of the latter attacks). Also, Supes has far more experience in combat.
      • Aquaman is no slouch in the raw power department either, what with him being able to live under literally crushing oceanic pressures with no ill effects. Superman himself often admits they are quite evenly matched blow by blow.
  • Jackass Genie: In World's Finest comic book story "The Three Magicians of Bagdad!", Superman must pretend he's a genie who must obey the villain's commands. When commanded to bring gold, he brings molten gold. When commanded to bring a weapon he can seize the city with, Superman uses a long chain to bring lightning.
  • The Jailer: The Master Jailer
    • Superman himself qualifies since he holds the key to the Phantom Zone where several super-criminals (Kryptonians et al.) are banished for their crimes.
  • Jerk Jock:
    • Steve Lombard, the resident sportswriter at the Daily Planet.
    • Whitney Fordman, a character in Season One of Smallville.
  • Just a Machine: Often his attitude towards AI.
  • Just Whistle: Jimmy's wristwatch can summon Supes.
  • "Kick Me" Prank: This comic, along with a dose of Added Alliterative Appeal.
  • Kneel Before Zod: The Trope Namer
  • Krypton Shattering Kaboom
  • Lantern Jaw of Justice: the Trope Codifier.
  • Last of His Kind: One of the classic examples, although the degree to which it actually applies varies over time.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: In the "Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite" storyline, Mr. Mxyzptlk can't make his usual visit to the Man of Steel because he's busy having fun in another dimension, so he hands Lex Luthor a piece of red kryptonite. When we see Mxy in the other universe, he harasses a mostly obscured team of superheroes strongly implied to be the Fantastic Four while assuming the form of a color-inverted Impossible Man. Mr. Fantastic is only seen as his stretched out torso and his legs, the Invisible Woman's legs are the only parts seen of her, the Human Torch's presence is made known only by a glimpse of the fiery trail he leaves when he flies, and the Thing's appearance is hidden to avoid legal action from Marvel Comics by having Mxyzptlk spray him with brown glop while assuming the form of a fire hydrant.
  • Legion of Super-Heroes: He was a member when he was Superboy, depending on the continuity.
  • Leotard of Power: Worn by Superman himself in at least one film incarnation (specifically, in which he was portrayed by Christopher Reeve).
  • Lilliputians:
    • People from the Bottled City of Kandor. Kandor was a Kryptonian city which was shrunk by Brainiac before Krypton's destruction. Superman managed to retrieve the city from Brainiac, and he and Supergirl spend most of Silver and Bronze Ages looking for ways to re-enlarge Kandor and its inhabitants (they finally succeeded in a 1979 story).
    • Supergirl's parents and the remainder survivors of Argo City shrank and moved to Kandor after Kara rescued them from the Survival Zone.
    • Whenever Kal and Kara wanted to visit the Kandorians they needed to shrink to go in the Bottle City.
    • In Krypton No More, they are so worried about Superman’s deteriorating mental stability that they talked Supergirl into convincing him that they did not exist for his own good.
    • In the Post-Crisis universe, the Kandorians and their shrunk city were reintroduced in the 00's.
  • Lighter and Softer: Since the late Golden Age, this is Superman's perceived personality and settings in relation to any other mainstream superhero you may think of.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: In Superman: The Movie, Lois Lane dreamily says after her first interview with Supers, "What a super man... (Beat) Superman!"
  • Literal Split Personality: Comic fans had almost forgotten it too.
  • Long-Lost Relative: A constant in most of continuities: Clark Kent/Kal-El grows up believing he is his biological family's only survivor until another Kryptonian rocketship crashes on Earth, and Clark meets his long-lost first cousin Kara Zor-El, who -depending on the version- was launched into space later and/or took longer to arrive.
  • Lost in Imitation: The live-action Superman films never quite seem to get past the first two Richard Donner/Christopher Reeve films.
    • To put this in perspective, Superman has two recurring on-screen Rogues Gallery — Luthor or General Zod — who have appeared in 6 out of 7 filmsnote . Batman V Superman Dawn of Justice tried to change things by bringing in Doomsday, except he's presented as a degenerated mutated clone of Zod rather than an entirely different character. The characterization of Luthor likewise as a Laughably Evil "mastermind" rather than the super genius of the comics is also derived and based entirely on Gene Hackman's character rather than the many Luthor stories or recent animated adaptations that emphasize his scientific genius.
    • Many of the myriad other aspects of Superman's mythos and the more diverse Rogues Gallery, whether it's Brainiac (who is forever rumored to appear in a Superman film), Mr. Mxyzsptlk, the Toyman, Metallo, Bizarro, Parasite as well as famous iconic elements like the City of Kandor, the Black Mercy Plant among others have yet to make any transition to the live-action medium, leave alone the more diverse science-fiction stories Superman has been part of.
  • Loves My Alter Ego: Lois Lane (used to be the Trope Namer. While Lois is known for more than just that, she is the iconic example.) At least, until the Post-Crisis era when she finally learned the truth.
  • Ludicrous Speed: Superman's max speed has never been recorded, but he can easily go several times faster than light speed, to the point where he warps space-time, allowing him to time-travel.
  • Mad Scientist: Lex Luthor, back in the day. And back in The Golden Age of Comic Books, there was the Ultra-Humanite.
  • MAD: Has used a number of parody names over the years including Superduperman, Stouperman, and Lotis & Cluck.
  • Make Me Wanna Shout: Silver Banshee
  • Master of Disguise: Jimmy Olsen, when he had his own book.
  • Mayfly–December Friendship: Superman is sometimes portrayed as immortal, meaning that he will outlive the human friends he cares about. It becomes a plot point in Superman/Batman #76. Superman is talking to Wonder Woman in the wake of Bruce Wayne's death. Clark is discussing how they'll outlive everyone they know and how they're higher beings. Diana stops him, telling him that no matter how he wants to rationalize it, he's just a man grieving for a lost friend.
  • Meaningful Appearance: Lex Luthor has green eyes. This served as a plot point when his doppelganger from another universe turned up dead: he was differentiated by having blue eyes. Luthor is also known to dope up on Kryptonite-based steroids, which make his eyes seem unnatural. And of course, given Luthor's intense jealousy of Superman, they're thematically appropriate.
  • Mecha-Mooks: At least in continuities where he has them, Superman has the Superman Robots.
  • Merchandise-Driven: DC introduced the Supermobile at the request of the Corgi toy company, because the Batmobile had been such a good seller for them. The little two-seat spaceship with the manipulator arms has appeared sporadically in the comics over the years, but fans are probably most familiar with it from its appearances on The Super Friends. A revamped version was included as part of the Super Powers action figure line in the 1980's.
  • Me's a Crowd: This is how Bizarro populated Bizarro World.
  • Metal Muncher: On Golden Age Krypton there were a race of beasts known as metal-eaters. They were popular attractions at the Kryptonian zoos, with children bringing sacks of scrap metal to feed them. They were kept in their cages with glass bars. (Why couldn't fangs strong enough to crush metal be able to break glass?)
  • Microts:
    • In the Bronze Age, comics stated that Kryptonian time was divided into "dendars", their equivalent of a minute that consists of one hundred seconds.
    • The Krypton Chronicles included a glossary explaining several Kryptonian terms and words. A "thrib" is "a very short period of time, equivalent to an Earth second". 10,000 thribo (Kryptonese plurals are created by adding an O to the word) make a "wolu" (equivalent to an Earth hour), and ten woluo make one "zetyar" (one Krypton day). A "lorax" is a Kryptonian "month" of 73 days. There were six loraxo in the year of 438 days.
    • Some months were also named in the stories. In The Great Phantom Peril, Superman learned that Faora Hu-Ul was tried and convicted on the 52nd of Belyuth, in the year 10,000.
    • The New Krypton story arc has the Kryptonians using a weird time unit, apparently of an order of magnitude similar to the minute.
  • Mind Screw: A story arc in Superman #307-309 written by Gerry Conway was about Superman being tricked by Supergirl into thinking that they are actually Earth-born mutants (because Superman was being a Soapbox Sadie over potential ecological disasters).
  • Mineral Macguffin: Sunstone, the crystals Kryptonians used to grow buildings. And Kryptonite, of course.
  • Minnesota Nice: Raised in Kansas, but the idea still applies. Supes is one of the nicest of all superheroes.
  • Mistaken for Own Murderer: In Action Comics #303: "The Monster from Krypton", red kryptonite transformed Superman into a dragon-like creature called a drang. When he held his cape in his mouth to communicate the change, Jimmy Olsen thought the creature had killed him and called in Supergirl and the army.
  • Mix-and-Match Man: The Conner Kent version of Superboy.
  • Modesty Bedsheet: Modesty Cape and Real Life example: This has become a staple for the actresses who play Lois. Margot Kidder originated the pose, followed by Teri Hatcher and Erica Durance.
  • Monster and the Maiden: Superman and Lois's relationship would qualify. He is a superpowered alien hero while she is a normal human journalist. Whether as a married couple or colleagues with feelings for each other, they use their respective abilities and resources to fight crime.
  • Moses Archetype: While Superman has become a Messianic Archetype in modern times, the creators of the character Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster (who were both Jewish) intended for his character and origin story to reflect Moses, having been sent to live away from his doomed home and birth parents in a "basket", only learning about his true heritage when he becomes a man and then embracing that heritage in his new persona, using his awe-inspiring powers to help the helpless.
  • Motive Decay:
    • After his brain damage was cured by the demon Neron in Underworld Unleashed, Atomic Skull has mainly appeared as just a superpowered thug-for-hire without any real motives.
    • After getting her book, Silver Banshee now goes around causing trouble for no reason, and her tribe seems to have been forgotten. She can now be motivated by money, as well.
    • Originally, Prime wanted to replace New Earth with a "perfect" Earth—Earth-Prime. When he found out this was impossible, he just wanted to destroy everything.
  • Muggle Foster Parents: The Kents.
  • Murder by Inaction: In Superman (Volume 1) #338: "Let My People Grow!", Brainiac gets accidentally hit by his size-changing ray and is shrinking rapidly and uncontrollably. He begs Supergirl to save him, but she refuses to: her enlarging ray has only two shots left, which she plans to use on her cousin and the Bottle City of Kandor, and she is NOT wasting energy on him. Even Superman pleads with her, but Kara doesn't cave in, and lets Brainiac disappear. Reviewed here.
  • My Greatest Failure: At various points in his history, Superman has had the bottled city of Kandor to deal with. More recently, he's had the only time he's ever had to kill someone; this caused him to actually leave Earth for a while. During the Silver Age and the Bronze Age, Superman's biggest failure was arguably when he destroyed Lex Luthor's protoplasmic lifeform that he created as well as causing his hair to fall out when he was trying to rescue Luthor from a lab fire when they were teens. Sure it was an accident and mostly not his fault (Luthor caused the fire and Superboy had no way of knowing what was inside at the time), but it didn't help that before the fire, Superboy jokingly said he could spy on Luthor to find out what he was working on. Luthor believed Superboy destroyed his experiment out of jealousy and dedicated his life to destroying him and proving he was better. Luthor had the scientific genius to make a cure for Kryptonite as well as unshrink Kandor, so if things had gone differently, Superman would have had a lot less problems in his life and an ally against evil as well.
    • Nowadays, Superman also feeling really guilty of being unable to help his childhood friend, Mon-El, conquer his deadly weakness for lead and leave the Phantom Zone where he was cast into at his request as the only way to save his life. A painful one for Superman happened just after his resurrection. After the excitement and relief of him returning from the dead, he and Lois raced off to Paris for a getaway to catch up. While he was gone, the Toyman kidnapped a bunch of kids, including the son of co-worker Cat Grant, Adam. Adam attempted to lead the other kids away, but Toyman caught them and slew them all. Superman was so distraught over this, it lead to him vowing never to take another vacation again.
  • Mysterious Protector: In the original The Man of Steel miniseries, Clark was this til he was forced to save the space plane in front of a huge crowd. In Kingdom Come, Wonder Woman commented that Superman could have chosen to remain behind the scenes and do his superheroing in secret but chose to be as obvious as possible. In Superman: Lois and Clark, he's doing just that, staying out of the way of the New 52 Superman but still performing feats of bravery invisibly.
  • Mythology Gag: In at least two continuities, Superman turned evil—one of which involved serving almighty Darkseid. Similarly, in at least three continuities—one of which is the mainstream DCU—Lex Luthor aspires to or becomes President Evil.
    • Much of the new Action Comics #1 is this to the original. This is a young brash Superman who is more activist like the original, his costume isn't finalized, his powers are mostly limited to the ones he had in the original Action Comics #1 (though the new version already has his heat vision and x-rays so this might also be a nod to Smallville), he even works for George Taylor at the Daily Star like he did in the original (they only changed the name to the Daily Planet because at the time there was an actual Daily Star and there were trademark concerns.)
  • Never Be a Hero: Nine times out of ten, when someone gets superpowers it's not a good thing.
  • New Old Flame: Both Lana Lang and Lori Lemaris were introduced this way.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands:
    • Between 1939 and 1986, he was the king of this trope in the comics. At first, he was basically only super strong and super fast with the ability to leap great distances. Then he developed super hearing, x-ray vision, telescopic vision, microscopic vision, infer-red vision, the ability to fly, the ability to breathe in space, super breath (which was sometimes a freezing agent and other times, simply forceful enough to blow something away), time travel (usually in spectral form), super hypnotism, and heat vision, while his strength and speed had no apparent limits. An attempt to limit his powers came and went in 1970, but in 1986, the John Byrne reboot narrowed down what his powers werenote  and rarely did any depiction deviate from this.
    • The Christopher Reeve movies were notorious for this, as he and/or other Kryptonians often displayed telekinesis, the ability to teleport and non-spectral time travel. While the comics narrowed down his powers in 1986, the fourth film in 1987 added still more powers, such as the ability to speak in space, and a "vision" power that allowed him to fix the Great Wall of China after a battle, not to mention his partial clone Nuclear Man was able to blast fire from his hands. Apparently, he could even transfer his ability to breathe in space to a woman whose hand he's holding. Oh, and then there's that S-thing he throws at Non in the second movie, although there's debate over whether it was a power or a weapon.
    • Even the 1950s TV series had this trope, as in one episode he's able to phase through a wall (after innumerable occasions where he'd crash through one) and in another episode, he splits himself into two.
  • Nigh-Invulnerability: Not very "nigh," actually.
  • No Gravity for You: One classic story has a depowered Clark Kent using an Anti-Gravity device to battle villains. It works because he knows how to fly and the Mooks don't.
  • No-Harm Requirement: Superman being the all powerful, yet restrained Flying Brick he is, has an eternal desire to save the day while causing as a little harm as possible. Not just to innocent and property, but his enemies too. Given the nature of a lot of his foes, this often doesn't go well for the man of steel.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown. Superman rarely enjoys such moments, but they happen. Superman explicitly tells Darkseid that he's going to enjoy finally not holding back in the final episode of JLU.
    Superman: That man [Batman] won't quit so long as he can draw breath. None of my teammates will. Me? I've got a different problem. I feel like I live in a world made of cardboard. Always taking care not to break something, to break some one. Never allowing myself to lose control, even for a moment. Someone could die. But you can take it, can't you, big man? What we have here is a rare opportunity for me to cut loose, and show you just how powerful I really am. [Lets loose with a punch that distorts with a sonic boom and sends Darkseid flying... real far.]
  • No Man Should Have This Power: In "The Day the Cheering Stopped", Superman gets a magical sword which was apparently created at the dawn of time. It gives him incredible power (even for pre-Crisis Superman) and helps him defeat the villain. In the end he realizes the incredible power the sword will give him and feels that it will make him an all powerful protector. He decides he doesn't want this power and throws it into space.
  • No Name Given: Supes in all but the original story never named himself "Superman". It was bestowed upon him by one person or another or by the Metropolis public thanks to the "S" on his shield. In Superman: The Movie, Superman only calls himself "a friend" before Lois gives him a Line-of-Sight Name. In The Man of Steel, Supes goes with Superman in a "Sure, Let's Go with That" amused way.
  • Not Allowed to Grow Up: After decades of teenagerdom, Jack Kirby finally let Jimmy reach the age of 21, and he stayed an adult until the Crisis reboot.
  • "Not So Different" Remark:
    • In Krypton No More, Superman has been tricked into believing he is a mutant human (long story). After defeating two mutant super-villains, Superman thinks that they are not so different:
      Superman: The ironic part is — They and I have so much in common! We were all victims of mutation, yet they turned their powers against the normal world...
    • In the second Superman / Spider-Man team up, Doctor Doom tries this routine on Superman, arguing that Superman should be more pro-active in dealing with the world's ills, as Doom is never shy about using his power. Super responds with a nice Shut Up, Hannibal!, about how he refuses to start down that slippery slope.
    • The Black Ring provides a rare example where it's the hero who utters this line. When Lex Luthor realizes that Superman is Clark Kent, Superman tries to show thim that they are more similar than Luthor wants to believe. Luthor being Luthor, he refuses to admit it.
      Superman: You see, Lex? We're more similar than you think.
    • In the Justice supplementary materials, Batman notes that Superman uses fear to fight crime, just as he does. However, while Bats engenders it from hiding in the shadows, Superman does it by flying in the sky and reminding everyone he has X-Ray Vision, so the shadows can't hide them.
  • Now, Let Me Carry You: Superman usually spent his time saving his supporting cast, but occasionally they get to return the favor.
  • Obfuscating Disability: Clark Kent wears unnecessary glasses as a disguise.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Anytime (like, 99% of the time) Clark Kent pretends to be much more cowardly and out of the loop than he actually is.
  • Oh, My Gods!: Silver Age Supes sometimes exclaimed, "Great Rao!" Rao was the main god of Krypton.
  • Official Couple: Superman and Lois Lane. During the New 52 reboot, Superman and Wonder Woman.
  • Old Retainer: In the Post-Crisis reboot, Superman eventually inherits his father's faithful robot servant Kelex.
  • Omniglot: Most incarnations of Superman have him being able to speak every major Earth language, if not all of them.
  • One Super One Powerset: Among other things, Superman has a weakness to Kryptonite. He also has a Kryptonite-Proof Suit. You'd expect him to wear it pretty much all the time or at least line his costume with lead to reduce the effects. However, he brings it out only when he's fighting a villain that specifically uses Kryptonite as a weapon and expects it in advance.
  • One-Book Author: Clark Kent has only wrote one novel, Under a Yellow Sun, the writing process and publishing was showcased in the eponomyous graphic novel.
  • Our Mermaids Are Different: Lori Lemaris, started out as Clark's College girlfriend and settled into being an ally of the Super Family throughout the bronze age.
  • Origins March On:
    • Many retcons origin tend to try and explain several things that wouldn't hold up today, such as how Kal El's rocket made it to Earth and landed in Smallville without the government noticing. Sometimes, it's because there was atmospheric interference. Sometimes, it's because government bureaucracy made them too slow to respond before the Kents came and left. Other minor updates include explaining how the Kents were able to justify Clark without any legal adoption papers or birth certificates, and despite Martha's infertility. One story stated that a horrible snowstorm (which may or may not have been phenomena created by the rocket itself) had kept the Kent farm isolated for the better part of a year, and that Martha just claimed she'd gotten pregnant and given birth in that time.
    • The origin of his powers has also changed over time. Originally, back when his powers were limited to him simply being stronger, faster, and able to leap higher than regular humans, Superman's powers were said to be the result of Earth having lower gravity than Krypton. Since Superman's body was adapted for Kryptonian gravity, it enabled him to perform superhuman feats here on Earth. However, over time he gained a wide variety of new powers for which this explanation held no ground, like the ability to fly and Eye Beams, so it was changed to his powers being the result of exposure to Earth's yellow sun.
  • Ornamental Weapon: The Fortress of Solitude's armory is full of alien super-weapons that Superman never touches.
  • Our Time Travel Is Different: Before 1985, Superman and Supergirl could fly fast enough to jump into the timestream, which looked like an endless multi-colored tunnel, and travel to the far-flung future or the distant past under their own power. Time-travel was an important part of story arcs like Two for the Death of One, The Unknown Supergirl, The Great Darkness Saga and A Mind-Switch in Time. The 1986 reboot, though, limited their powers so they could no longer time-travel.
  • Outdated Outfit: Jimmy and his bowtie and jacket.
  • Papa Wolf: Clark is generally a nice guy but threaten Kara, Chris, Jonathan or Conner and you will be lucky to leave with just a few broken bones. In Action Comics #850, Kara tells him: "And next time, let me fight my own battles. I could've taken her, if you hadn't come in all Papa bear at her."
  • The Paragon: Depending on the continuity. He's The Paragon in the Marvel Universe in the Superman / Fantastic Four crossover, with both Franklin Richards and Ben Grimm being "golly gee whiz" about him. (Especially after Supes lets Franklin have his cape before leaving.)
    • Action Comics #1000 gives a shining example of the effect Superman has: in one story, an Elite Mook tells how Superman helped his Heel–Face Turn:
      "The last time he caught me, I was in over my head. I was smuggling plutonium for Skull and nearly died. Superman knew the cycle of poverty and violence I was stuck in. He put in a good word for me so that once I got outta jail, I landed a decent job. Thanks to him and his patience, I finally have my life on track. I'd like to see him again. To thank him."
    • Every For Want of a Nail story, such as, of course, The Nail, shows how screwed up the DCU is without him. In Kingdom Come, Wonder Woman tells Supes that when he left, all of the old guard more or less gave up on humanity and became more distant.
    • Doomsday Clock and All-Star Superman showed that every universe had a Superman, even if it were just a comic book. The one universe without one? The Watchmen universe, which Dr. Manhattan realized it needed one — so he created one for it, essentially.
  • Parental Substitute:
    • The Ur-Example in comics has to be Superman's Earth parents, Jonathan and Martha Kent. While Kal-El would always have powers by virtue of being Kryptonian by birth, the comics stress repeatedly that it was the Kents' values that made Superman the hero he is. Lampshaded in the "Reign of the Supermen" series with regard to the Jerkass Superboy clone:
    Jonathan Kent: "No son of ours would act like that, powers or no!"
    • Superman, in turn, has taken on this role to Supergirl and, to some degree, to Jimmy Olsen. Also Nightwing, if Nightwing: Year One is any indication. After Batman fires him, he goes to see Clark. It's not hard to interpret it as a child getting away from his overly-strict father (the story portrays Batman as a Jerkass) and instead staying with his mother (the caring, nice Superman).
  • Patrick Stewart Speech: Superman occasionally will drop one of these, such as his now-iconic "Dreams save us" speech from What's So Funny About Truth, Justice and the American Way?
  • Pedestrian Crushes Car: More variations on this than can be counted, see also Trainstopping below.
  • Perma-Shave: Courtesy of heat vision and mirrors.
  • Perpetual Storm: In one version of his origin, the spaceship carrying baby Kal-El to Earth crashed into Kansas during a snowstorm lasting several months, cutting off the Kent farm and allowing the Kents to pass him off as their own child.
  • Phantom Zone: Trope Namer. The Phantom Zone (as well known as Ghost Zone, Limbo, Hyperspace, Underworld or The Land of No Return) from the Superman comics, the barren, harsh dimension absent of any physical material and located outside of the normal space/time continuum to which Kryptonian criminals are banished.
    • Since it was Jor-El who discovered the Zone and developed the Phantom Zone Projector -which could send people into it-, the Zone inmates bear a massive grudge against the House of El and the last members of the lineage: Superman and Supergirl.
    • In Convergence: The Adventures of Superman #1, Superman and Supergirl have to go into the Zone. Superman warns her cousin that "The Zone's dangerous. Filled with Krypton's worst. And because our fathers built their prison, we'll be targets". As they fly over the place, Kara notes that the Zone is "Miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles", and the sky changes colors constantly and suddenly. Superman states that "Nothing in the Zone makes sense".
    • In Supergirl (2015), Kara's rocket remained trapped many years into the Zone before breaking free and landing on Earth.
    • In Supergirl (Rebirth), Lar-On was quarantined to this place, where he would remain frozen outside real time. However he escaped the Zone through a dimensional rift.
  • Photo Doodle Recognition: In one pre-Crisis story, Superman is to be featured on a postage stamp. He goes to great lengths to make sure that a side shot of him is chosen, rather than a full-face view, because if the stamp was postmarked in a town with a double-O in its name, the letters might land on his face in such a way that they resemble a pair of glasses, which might give away his secret identity. Presumably kids in the DC universe never doodle glasses and mustaches on newspaper photos, which might also be a bit of a clue.
  • Photographic Memory: He possessed this along with super-fast thinking in The Silver Age of Comic Books and The Bronze Age of Comic Books, and regained these abilities post-Infinite Crisis.
  • Phrase Catcher: "Look, up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's Superman!" According to Elliot S! Maggin, Metropolis citizens know that it's absurd to think the flying man is a bird or a plane, but it's their "role" to speak the Catchphrase.
  • Planet Destroyer: On an intermittent basis. In the Pre-Crisis era, he was this, being able to annihilate an entire solar system's worth of planets with a sneeze and towing entire chains of planets. In the Post-Crisis and New 52 eras, he's more of an implicit example, never being shown to destroy anything larger than a moon but still being able to survive galaxy-level attacks from the Void Hound or massive supernovas and have the strength and ability to fight beings on this level like Nebula Man, Dominus, or Darkseid. It wouldn't be until Rebirth that he would finally be shown destroying a planet again. After being trapped on a planet in the Sixth Dimension by the World Forger and weakened for a long period of time, he managed to finally escape the planet, completely shattering it in the takeoff.
  • A Planet Named Zok: Krypton is perhaps one of the most famous examples.
    • In a Bronze Age storyline narrated in Superman #307-309, Superman and Supergirl have to protect Xonn (a planet located in Cygni-Gi system) from an Alien Invasion.
    • In the Pre-Crisis universe, the survivors of Krypton settled in a world they called Rokyn (meaning "Rao's gift").
    • Supergirl has also visited some weirdly-named worlds such like Ysmault (during her Red Lantern phase), Grax or Primeen.
  • Polar Bears and Penguins: The location of the Fortress of Solitude, somewhere up north.
  • Power Creep, Power Seep: Especially during The Silver Age of Comic Books, when he could fly many times faster than light, move planets by pushing on them, and survive the interior of a supernova. In his first comic book appearances, Superman couldn't fly. That helps to illustrate just how far the power creep has gotten...
  • Power Crystal:
    • Several times, Kryptonite is a formidable power source. Generally done in the interest of making things harder for Kryptonians. For example, it was the power source for Metallo in his original incarnation, though with no anti-Superman malice at the time (all the scientist who made Metallo happened to have on hand when he made him was some Kryptonite).
    • In the Post-Crisis universe and other continuities Kryptonians use a kind of glowing crystals called "Sunstones" which perform a large array of tasks like building or information storing.
    • In Superman: Brainiac, the Man of Steel studies information about Brainiac recorded in Sunstones left by his father.
    • In Last Daughter of Krypton, a sunstone guides Supergirl back to Argo City and then displays a message recorded by her father.
    • In Bizarrogirl, the Bizarro's rocket ship is controlled by sunstones. Supergirl also learns information about the Bizarro race via a Sunstone.
    • In Who Is Superwoman?, Supergirl keeps a communication device made from Sunstones. Kara smashes it to pieces in a fit of anger and gets her hand bleeding, which shows sunstones are not only glowing and multipurpose but also hard.
  • Power Loss Makes You Strong:
    • Superman often went to Kandor to become Nightwing to relax, and prove to himself he could be a crimefighter without powers.
    • The "Green Sun" story in Superman #155 (August 1962). Superman is not only rendered non-superpowered, but blind. He still manages to overcome the Big Bad using ingenuity and gumption.
    • He did the same thing in Superman #309. Orange sunlight has rendered him, Supergirl and Krypto blind and cut their powers in half, and he has to come up with a way to defeat an alien army using his brains.
    • During the "Krysis of the Krimson Kryptonite" story, Superman was left completely powerless thanks to Mr. Mxyzptlk. At one point supervillain Mammoth goes on rampage, and after a bit of trouble Superman is able to eventually get him to surrender, just by bluffing him.
  • Power Trio: Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman have been called the "holy trinity" of the Justice League, and they've even had a few team-up comics called Trinity.
  • Powered Armor: Ruin. And sometimes Luthor.
  • Powers Do the Fighting: Superman can often leave ordinary mooks in the hospital by doing absolutely nothing when they try to sock him in the jaw. Shooting Supes sometimes has similar results since he's Immune to Bullets and the shots might ricochet back at some of the shooters.
  • Powers as Programs:
    • In Demon Spawn, villain Nightflame intends to transfer Supergirl's powers to herself.
    • In Strangers at the Heart's Core, another villain -Shyla Kor-Onn- attempts to steal Supergirl's powers by plugging her into a life-draining machine.
    • Several examples in Kryptonite Nevermore:
      • The Sandman Superman gradually drains Superman's powers.
        Superman: The faster I fly... the faster it flies! And I can't seem to attain top speed... Almost as though it's somehow... draining my power!
      • An ancient artifact called the Devil's Harp steals abilities and powers from other people. His owner Nyxly wanted to be a great musician, and the Harp stole the talent from a famous pianist. He wanted to fly, be super-strong and invulnerable, and the Harp stole Superman's powers.
    • In The Girl with the X-Ray Mind, Kryptonian mad scientist Kru-El devises a belt device which can give other people Kryptonian-like powers. His partner-in-crime Jax-Ur tests it on Lex Luthor.
    • Subverted in Kurt Busiek's Action Comics arc Back In Action, where an intergalactic Auctioneer kidnaps a bunch of heroes with the intent of selling them to collectors. On his ship, everyone lost their powers. Superman figured that since everyone's powers came from different sources, that they were being blocked mentally. He breaks the block by putting himself in mortal danger (for a normal human) and is protected by his invulnerability. Since he knows it's a lie, the mental block is broken.
    • In a story focused on Bizarro, the Thing of Steel creates Bizarro Amazo. The reversal of Amazo's ability to copy every power for himself means he steals superpowers to give to powerless people. He spends the issue causing chaos by giving powers to random people who don't know how to control them, with the heroes near powerless to stop him, relying on tricks to get him to both give them back and leave.
  • Present Peeking: In some of the early comics, one of the first of Clark Kent's powers is the ability to see inside the gift wrappings.
  • President Evil: Lex Luthor, from 2000 till roughly 2003. The idea of Lex becoming President of the United States was reused in Superman: Red Son. It has also been hinted several times that this will also happen in the future of Smallville's version of the story.
  • President Superhero: The concept of Supes possibly being president goes back to the Silver Age, when Jimmy Olsen had a dream about it. Some aspects of it are examined as to how Superman being the president would be different; for instance, the splash panel shows an emergency situation. President Superman tells the Secret Service men to get behind him. Also, at the end, when the possibility is mentioned in some way to the Man of Steel, Supes points out that he couldn't be president as the U.S. president has to be a native, and he wasn't born in the United States.
  • Pretty in Mink: Lois, at least in some of the silver age covers.
  • Promotion to Parent: Superman usually serves this role for his younger cousin, who arrives on Earth after losing her parents. Ironically, in the Post-Crisis comics Kara was born earlier and she expected to raise her baby cousin when she arrived on Earth, but her ship was delayed and she was put in suspended animation, and when she crash-landed on Earth, Kal was an adult.
  • Psychic Powers: In the past "Psionic Superman" was one common explanation for Superman's Required Secondary Powers. He doesn't have super strength, he just lifts things with his mind and needs to touch them to use it (hence why he doesn't just rip his "handle" off whenever he carries something), "x-ray" vision is clairvoyance. This is the only ability of his clone in The Death of Superman.
    • At one point, he had practiced a Kryptonian meditation technique called Torquasm-Vo specifically to resist psychic attacks. When the Maxwell Lord storyline popped up a few years later, though, the writers seemed to have forgotten about it, and it wasn't mentioned.
      • Potentially justified as it was explicitly stated that Lord had spent years planting the necessary psychic commands in Superman's mind before putting his plan into action, allowing him to draw it out and stop Superman throwing off his influence.
    • Kon-El (a.k.a. Conner Kent/Superboy) has an interesting variation on this. While not actual psychic powers, he does posses what has been called "tactile telekinesis" which has been used to explain a number of his abilities like Super Strength and Flight. An added benefit of tactile telekinesis is that it gives him the ability to control the things he comes into contact with just like standard telekinesis (which it pretty much is honestly though Superboy's can only be activated through touch).
  • Psychopathic Man Child: Toyman
  • Raised by Natives: The Kents
  • Real Award, Fictional Character: In many continuities, Lois is a Pulitzer winner. Sometimes Clark is too.
  • Reality Warper: Mr. Mxyzptlk
  • Real Men Hate Affection: Averted. Superman is possibly the most sensitive and emotive mainstream hero out there, despite being the definitive brick.
  • Retcon
    • His origin, early years, and powers have been revamped a ridiculous number of times just in "official" comic book continuity (and not counting in-story changes). Probably the most notable and drastic example took place in John Byrne's "Man of Steel," commissioned by DC in the 1980s to "clean up" the past several decades of Superman continuity by revamping his origin and the story of how he began his superhero career. Among other things, this retcon scaled back Superman's powers from the levels they had been inflated to (although they have since begun to creep back up a bit), re-established Superman as the only surviving Kryptonian (that one didn't stick either), and wiped out previous continuity in which Clark Kent had a hero career as a teenager in Smallville using the name Superboy, during which time he also befriended the young Lex Luthor.
      • That last retcon is also notable for completely borking the continuity of the Legion of Super-Heroes comic, since the eponymous Legion was introduced in the Silver Age as a group of thirtieth-century teenagers who were inspired to form their own "hero club" by stories of Superboy's exploits. The Legion's writers at the time tried to patch things up by, variously, establishing that Superboy had only existed in a pocket universe, killing off the pocket universe Superboy, revamping one-shot character Mon-El into a Superboy Expy, further rejiggering the timeline by having Mon-El kill the Time Trapper, and finally scrapping and rebooting the whole damn thing during the Zero Hour: Crisis in Time! crossover in 1994. The Legion of Super-Heroes was then rebooted again in 2001, and then retconned again in 2007 back to a variant on the original continuity, with some adjustments. By this point, alternate timelines, retcons, and reboots are a fact of life for Legion fans.
    • One of the biggest things was the origins of Superman's powers. Originally his powers were inherently genetic because he was from a race of "supermen" — this can be found in the prologue of several Fleischer shorts. But after the horrors of World War II thoroughly discredited such fascination with eugenics, it was rewritten that his powers came from Earth's yellow sun. Additionally, Superman's strength and invulnerability were attributed to being super-dense. Post-Crisis, his powers came directly from the yellow sunlight. When Superman met the "pocket Superboy", the latter wiped the mat with the adult Supes, because he had pre-Crisis power.
    • Pre-Crisis, Superman's invulnerability and powers manifested immediately, leading to the adventures of "Superbaby". Post-Crisis, it took 18 years for Clark to develop his superpowers fully.
    • Another major Superman retcon that most people don't know about is his attitude. Siegel and Shuster originally wrote him as very rough and aggressive. On one occasion he kidnapped a slumlord, trapped the man in one of his own shoddy buildings, and threatened to collapse the whole structure on top of the guy if he didn't promise to improve conditions for his tenants. He also "accidentally" snapped the neck of a wife beater. A far cry from the Big Blue Boy Scout we all know and love today. World War II shifted his priorities into patriotism and he became a champion for "Truth, Justice and the American Way". When the Comics Code Authority came into being in the early 50s, its restrictions on characters' behavior ensured Superman became really square.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Most modern continuities use this to justify Superman's success at maintaining a secret identity as Clark Kent; since he doesn't even wear a mask, most people don't even think of the possibility that Superman has a secret identity (although he also uses various minor 'tricks' like vibrating his face slightly if anyone's trying to take a picture of him or wearing glasses with shaded lenses that make his distinctively blue eyes seem a dimmer colour).
  • Reimagining the Artifact: Clark's job as a reporter was considered an artifact for decades, which led to him being recast as a TV reporter. However, the problem was solved by asserting Clark's love of writing, a craft that not only allows him to do a social good just as important as his superhero activities, but also allows him to earn a living that feels like he does not have an unfair advantage. (Not to mention a news anchorman must be seen on camera on a strict schedule, while a beat reporter only needs to worry about a deadline.)
  • Relative Error: Superman and Supergirl are -usually- extremely close since both are the Last Of Their Kind and biological family. They are so close that people who is not aware of their kinship, assumes that they are lovers. Some examples:
    • In Action Comics #500 Superman explains several fans how he came to Earth, became a hero, met his cousin... A member of the audience then blurts out: "I never knew Supergirl was your cousin — I guess I always thought she was your girlfriend!"
    • In Supergirl vol 2 #20, Linda Danvers -Supergirl's secret identity- tells her friend Joan that she's got a date for lunch with Clark Kent. When Joan starts gushing about her hot date, Linda tells Clarks is her cousin.
      Linda: 'Fraid you're on your own today, Joanie. I've got a date for lunch.
      Joan: With the gorgeous Mr. Philip Decker, I presume—?
      Linda: Nope. A different man... named Clark Kent.
      Joan: Clark Kent... THE Clark Kent, the news guy from GBS?! Don't you ever see guys who aren't nationally famous?
      Linda: Relax, Joan. Clark's my cousin!
  • Relatively Flimsy Excuse: In Pre-Flashpoint comics "Conner Kent" is Clark's cousin who is being raised by Martha and Jonathan following his own parents' deaths, and "Linda Lang" is Lana Lang's niece. Likewise when he and Lois Lane adopt Chris, they claim that he's the son of Clark's cousin. Or... Lois' cousin? Dang it, where are those forged papers again? Superman might count as well — rather than the usual adoption route, current continuity has the Kents being snowed in for a few months after finding the rocketship, and claiming Martha was pregnant but hadn't told anyonenote .
  • The Reveal Prompts Romance: With Lois Lane.
  • Retcon: Many. That trope's page lists eight separate issues on which the character's history has changed, and some of those have gone back and forth more than once. And that's just counting retcons, not changes to the status quo going forward.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Uh, oh. You've just pressed Superman's rare Berserk Button. Technically the red eyes just means Superman is on the brink of unleashing his heat vision, but when he is shown with just the red eyes and not the beams, that's usually because he is angry enough to have to consciously hold himself back from unleashing it.
  • Reed Richards Is Useless: Superman is supposed to be a genius with access to spectacularly advanced extraterrestrial (i.e. Kryptonian) knowledge and technology. This has varied over time, but he has created chemical formulas, robots, space vehicles, etc. and stored alien specimens and objects in his Fortress of Solitude; occasionally he even explores outer space out of intellectual curiosity. Yet none of this seems to help anyone on Earth nor does it seem to be influencing human technology.
    • Of course, since the Bronze Age (specifically the story "Must There Be a Superman?"), Superman has been very concerned about inadvertently making humanity too dependent on him by solving too many of our problems for us. This concern might apply to introducing super tech as much as it does to his super power feats.
  • Retroactive Idiot Ball: When Superman was first created, little about his home planet of Krypton was known other than the fact that its technology and genetics were far more advanced than our own, and that the planet died suddenly without giving its people enough time to evacuate. As Superman gained more New Powers as the Plot Demands and new details about Krypton were introduced, it was suddenly revealed that most (if not all) of the entire Kryptonian population were not only aware that they gained godlike Combo Platter Powers on planets with comparatively lower gravity, thinner atmospheres and yellow suns like Earth, but that the entire reason Jor-El sent his son to Earth was so that he could enjoy these benefits. In turn, this made the entire Kryptonian species look like morons for staying put on one small planet where they were basically Muggles until the moment it blew up. Later retcons then established that Kryptonians had once formed a powerful empire that attempted to conquer and colonize other planets, but somehow failed at it and were forced to retreat back to Krypton. But yet again, this backfired as readers began to wonder how a space-faring race with the potential to become Flying Bricks ever managed to screw up that badly.
  • Revision: Superman's origin was built up a bit more every time it was told. Action Comics #1 had a very bare-bones origin and explanation for Superman's powers. Superman #1 added some details about Clark's childhood and life before coming to Metropolis. But it was the newspaper strip's third retelling of the origin that added all the now-familiar details about Krypton, introduced Jor-L (not El) and Lara, and explained why the infant Kal-L was the only Kryptonian to survive. That version of the story even details how dangerous the spaceflight to Earth was, and how the rocket avoided several near-disasters on the way.
  • Rival Turned Evil: Conduit
  • Robot Master: Toyman. Superman himself also counts if you take into consideration his robot-assistants at the Fortress of Solitude.
  • Robot Me:
    • The Superman Robot Duplicates. Made by Superman to fill in when he's unavailable and help him maintain his secret identity.
    • When Supergirl arrived on Earth, his cousin made several duplicate robots for her. When Kara fought crime while living at Midvale Orphanage, she used a robot decoy of herself to keep the other orphans from noticing her absence.
    • Post-Crisis Superman villain Conduit uses robotic decoys to distract the Man Of Steel.
  • Rogues Gallery: Lex Luthor, Darkseid, Brainiac, Bizarro, Mr Mxyzptlk, Metallo, Toyman, Mongul, the Parasite, General Zod, etc.
  • Romantic Runner-Up: Poor, poor Lana. Also, Superman himself wound up this to Lori, after she married an alien (an alien merman, natch). Poor Supes had actually proposed to Lori back in college, and she turned him down.
  • Running Gag: It has become a tradition that Superman's first public appearance is saving a crashing aircraft of some type. In Superman: The Movie he saves Lois from a crashing helicopter and then Air Force One. In Superman: The Animated Series, a spaceplane. In Superman Returns, he announces himself saving yet another crashing aircraft n his first appearance on Earth after several years away, In the original The Man of Steel mini-series, another spaceplane. And on Supergirl (2015), in addition to James Olsen mentioning that Superman's first public rescue was a crashing aircraft (something Supergirl herself did), when Clark Kent/Superman shows up in the second season premiere as a real character instead of being The Faceless, the first thing he does is another spaceplane rescue.
    • Perry tells Jimmy to go do something, Jimmy happily says, "Right, chief!" and Perry bellows, "Don't call me chief!"

  • Sacrificial Planet: The final arc of John Byrne's run involves Kryptonian villains from a "pocket reality" stripping its Earth bare of all life and even destroying its atmosphere as a show of power and then threatening to come to the "real" Earth and do the same.
  • Saving the World: Superman is determined and committed to save the world and protect people for reasons that go beyond simple justice or righteousness: his cousin and he are the only survivors of a dead world. They cannot bear the thought of losing their adoptive home. Many of their stories lay emphasis on this:
    • In Krypton No More, Superman is having a breakdown because he fears losing Earth the way he lost Krypton, and he swears he will not let the planet die.
  • Scout-Out:
    • In Identity Crisis, Supes identifies a bowline knot. Of course, it's the first knot a Boy Scout learns. Green Arrow muses that he loves and hates Supes for that knowledge.
    • Averted in Justice League which suggests he was only briefly a scout.
      The Flash: "So you're not such a Boy Scout after all?"
      Superman: "Never even made it to my first merit badge."
  • Second Super-Identity: Back in the early '90s, the Superman comic books had a super-antihero named Gangbuster. After a year, he turned out to be Superman, with a trauma-induced separate personality.
  • Secret Identity Apathy: In post-Crisis continuity, Lex Luthor refuses to believe Superman even has a secret identity. The idea that someone with all that power would pretend to be a normal person just doesn't make sense!
    • In Elliot S! Maggin's novels Last Son of Krypton' and Miracle Monday, Lex maintains dozens of aliases for assorted purposes, and he casually assumes that a fellow Übermensch like Superman probably does the same thing. Since exposing any one of those aliases would at best merely inconvenience Superman, Lex figures it really isn't worth the effort.
    • It's sometimes canon that most people in the DC Universe don't believe Superman has a secret identity. They just assume he's Superman all the time. Not wearing a mask probably helps with this perception.
  • Secret Secret-Keeper: Pre-Crisis, childhood friend Pete Ross was the first person to figure out Clark's identity. He didn't let him know he knew until they were both adults. Post-Crisis, the trope still applies, but Pete figured it out as an adult. It was Lana whom was the teen Secret Secret-Keeper; she was saddened that it meant she and Clark would remain as mere friends.
    • Lori also figured out his identity long before telling him she knew; she's telepathic, after all.
  • Self-Imposed Challenge: invoked Superman in his Clark Kent identity enjoys working as a newspaper reporter because actually writing good newspaper articles is something that doesn't depend upon his powers. While his powers may help him get the story, writing the story well enough to appear in the Daily Planet is something he actually has to put serious effort into. For him this is an enjoyable and welcome challenge.
  • Shock and Awe: Livewire.
  • 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.
    Joker: A person can really learn to hate that guy.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!:
  • Sidekick: Jimmy Olsen straddles the line between sidekick and plain supporting cast member. When Jack Kirby was writing him, Jimmy got his own sidekicks, the Newsboy Legion.
  • Slave Liberation:
    • In the Pre-Crisis continuity, Kryptonians were conquered and enslaved by the Vrangs until a general revolt led by Superman and Supergirl's ancestor Hatu-El succeeded in kicking the Vrangs out of Krypton. The Vrang revolt was eventually retconned back in the Post-Crisis and Post-Flashpoint continuities.
    • In "The Devil's Brother", Supergirl leads a slave revolt against Dax, overlord of a parallel dimension. After helping them overthrow Dax, Supergirl urges the now-free slaves to never again let someone take their freedom away.
    • In a 90's story, Conner frees all the slaves on the strange island populated by anthropomorphic animals he washes up on after being struck by lightning.
  • The Sleepless: In an interesting twist, Kryptonian bodies don't need to sleep -yellow sunlight gives them so much energy as they need, as well as quick cellular regeneration and healing-, but their minds have to. Their mental health deteriorates if they don't sleep and dream.
    • In Superman Vol 1 #365, a villain prevents Supergirl from sleeping, and dream-deprivation makes Kara move quickly from irrational to insane.
    • In Superman Family #200, sleep-deprivation makes Supergirl cranky and irritable.
  • Sliding Scale of Continuity: A Level 3 (Subtle Continuity) in at least The Silver Age of Comic Books — while Mort Weisinger was the editor, his supporting cast, Rogues Gallery, and mythology were slowly built upon, without readers requiring to have read any previous stories most of the time.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Lex Luthor is often depicted playing chess—sometimes with a Superman as one of the playing pieces.
  • Small Steps Hero: Usually, Superman will not sacrifice any innocent (or even not-so-innocents) For the Greater Good. Either he will Take a Third Option, or he will fight to the end to look for one.
  • Space Pirates: Amalak. Also Terra-Man.
  • Space Western: As well as being a Space Pirate, Terra-Man is also a literal, time-displaced Space Cowboy. Complete with an alien flying horse. (The Post-Crisis version of Terra-Man never left Earth and is an eco-terrorist)
  • Spider Tank: A recurring Running Gag in Superman stories (including Superman: Birthright and Superman: Doomsday) is Supes having to fight a giant robotic spider, due to Executive Meddling on the never-made '90s Superman film.
  • Spinoff Babies: Superboy, "Superbaby".
  • Standard Office Setting: It features the offices of The Daily Planet where Superman works in disguise as "mild-mannered" Clark Kent. Depictions have varied over the years, but they usually have the reporters, including Kent, in a bullpen, while chief editor Perry White has a private office.
  • Standard Power-Up Pose: Superman usually adopts a pose like this when he flies into the atmosphere to supercharge on solar energy. Probably helps the surface area for better absorption.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Rarely invoked in-story all through eight decades of Superman and Lois Lane. But on occasion when it is tackled, it's done as part of an epic story.
  • Starter Villain: Bea Carroll was a murderess who framed one of her rivals. She's taken out less than halfway through Action Comics #1.
  • Stealth Mentor: Mr. Mxyzptlk, Depending on the Writer.
  • Stock Superhero Day Jobs: "Mild Mannered Reporter for a great Metropolitan newspaper..."
    • In an episode of Smallville, Tess Mercer points out that a Superhero might think twice about being a reporter, as their coworkers make a job out of REVEALING SECRETS, among other things. She says this in response to a character that's more or less read off the list of reasons why being a reporter is a Stock Superhero Day Job.
  • Story-Breaker Team-Up: Superman / Madman. Averted with Superman / Batman.
  • Strike Me Down with All of Your Hatred!: Some dark heroes tried to get Superman to do this to discredit his idealism.
  • Strong as They Need to Be: Supes' strength seems to be all over the place sometimes, writers differentiated it by making scales of power between the other earths, in which the Superman from that universe isn't as strong as the Superman from the other one; Crisis on Infinite Earths came and mostly made the presence and worth of other earths useless, with this Supes was (in theory) given a consistent power level; still it's common to see writers making notes about how Superman can destroy Earth with his strongest punch and run at the speed of light, things that were more commonplace with the ridiculously overpowered Silver Age (Pre-Crisis) Superman. And those aren't even the extremes of the Post-Crisis Superman; since The Death of Superman, his power keeps on growing, to the extent that he can travel at 137.8 million times the speed of light and bench-press the weight of the Earth for five days straight without stopping or even being fully strained.
    • Logically, any fistfight capable of actually hurting or killing him, as with Mongul or Doomsday, should either propel Superman into space or drive him through the Earth like a bullet every time he receives a punch, but of course it's never depicted that way. Such fights do tend to smash up the surrounding landscape, though, so Supes usually tries to keep them out of inhabited areas.
  • Success Symbiosis: In at least some versions of the story, Superman uses Lois Lane to scout out the baddies and types her papers as Clark Kent in order to keep it that way.
  • Superdickery: Essentially the trope namer. His covers in the Silver Age often made him look like a complete jerk, usually for no reason
  • Super Family Team: With Supergirl (his cousin), Superboy (his clone), and Steel (a friend).
  • Super Hero: Arguably the Trope Maker, most certainly the Trope Codifier.
  • Superheroes Wear Capes: The Trope Codifier. There were caped heroes before Superman, but Superman set the standard for the caped superhero.
  • Superheroes Wear Tights: The Trope Codifier. Superman's tights were based on strong-men costumes and men's athletic wear of the period.
  • Super Hero Origin: All-Star Superman got it down to eight words.
    Doomed planet. Desperate scientists. Last hope. Kindly couple.
  • Superhero Sobriquets: So many over the years. Most famously the Man of Steel and the Last Son of Krypton. Also the Man of Tomorrow, the Big "S", the Action Ace, the Metropolis Marvel, and the Big Blue Boy Scout (as well as, thanks largely to Spider-Man, just "Supes"). As Superboy, he was the Boy of Steel and the Kid from Krypton.
  • Superhero Trophy Shelf: Not the Trope Codifier (that's probably the Trophy Room in The Phantom's Skull Cave), but the Fortress of Solitude is still probably the best-known example. It's huge, and most of the space seems to be filled with souvenirs of Supey's adventures; only the Batcave comes close to rivaling the Fortress in regards to this.
  • Superman Can Breathe In Space: In some continuities, like the DCAU, he requires an oxygen supply; in most, he can just awesome the need to breathe away.
  • Superpower Lottery: No matter how much some want to balance him out.
  • Super Senses: Pretty much all of them. Depending on the portrayal, Supes always has his X-Ray and Telescopic Visions and Super-Hearing. His smell, taste, and touch may be super-sensitive Depending on the Writer and his visual acuity may span the entire spectrum.
  • Super Speed: While usually not as fast as his fellow Justice League member The Flash, he's still "faster than a speeding bullet".
  • Super Strength: And how. Pulling a planet in outer space? He can do it at a young age. 200 quintillion tons? Superman only needs one arm for that. Bear in mind that in the latter story he was overpowered by solar radiation and that's supposed to be based on his Silver Age/Pre-Crisis incarnation.
  • Super Toughness: A Trope Codifier for superhero comics. He's almost completely invincible, with only a handful of exceptions.
  • Super Weight: Started as a Type 3 and peaked at Type 6 during the Silver Age. After Crisis on Infinite Earths, he reverted to Type 4. He sometimes reaches Type 5 depending on the story.
  • The Syndicate: Intergang
  • Terra Deforming: One Silver Age comic shows the Fortress of Solitude surrounded by buildings, because future humans have intentionally melted the polar ice caps in order to colonize the Arctic. Superman is upset by this, not because of the catastrophic effect on the environment, but because he doesn't have privacy anymore.
  • Thematic Rogues Gallery: Superman's rogues are organized around a pulp sci-fi theme, featuring loads of mad scientists, alien invaders, cyborgs, robots, and ray-gun wielding gangsters.
  • Theme Initials: "L.L."
  • Thememobile: The Super-Mobile, used during situations where he is Brought Down to Normal to compensate for his lack of superpowers.
  • They Do: Clark and Lois, after several decades until Flashpoint's reboot.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill:
    • It goes deeper than just a code against killing. Superman told Batman in Kingdom Come that neither he nor Bats wants to see anyone dying. That said, he's not dogmatic about it, and if he has to kill the villain to save innocents, or even himself, he will make a determined effort to do it. Doomsday, Darkseid, Mongul I, Brainiac, General Zod, and various others have all learned about this part of him at one time or another.
    • In some cases, when Brought Down to Normal, he's been more flexible with his code, since he's no longer a godlike being, and can be hurt or killed himself.
  • Tightrope Walking: In Superman's early appearances he couldn't fly; he got around Metropolis by running quickly along telephone wires. He explains on more than one occasion that as long as he jumps over the connectors at the telephone poles he's in no danger of electrocution.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: In the first Christopher Reeve Superman: The Movie, Superman is given a Sadistic Choice by Lex Luthor. He destroys the missile headed for Hackensack, New Jersey, saving millions and keeping his promise, but in doing so is forced to let Lois Lane die. Superman ends up breaking Kryptonian law by using time travel to save her.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Although Lex Luthor is a genius, even he has done jaw-droppingly stupid things. Everybody knows Superman is super-vulnerable to Kryptonite, right? So, why not wear a ring made of the stuff at all times, just in case? Well, as Mr. Luthor was reminded the hard way, it may not kill humans in minutes, but it is still a radioactive element, as he already knew. Turns out wearing a radioactive rock on your hand gives you terminal cancer in the long run.
    • If it wasn't for Superman, Lois Lane would be dead since 1940 thanks to her fondness for snooping around way too much. Sometimes it's shown that she takes those risks because she knows she has backup; she can handle herself just fine, but just lets herself get into these situations because a hostage can get the best details of what the criminals and supervillains are up to, and will always have Superman to back her up if/when she needs it.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Beef bourguignon with ketchup. Lois introduced Clark to beef bourguignon. The ketchup was his addition.
  • Trainstopping: Superman loves it, and was probably the Trope Maker.
    • Trainstopping is the obvious way for Superman to demonstrate that he's "more powerful than a locomotive."
    • In the rebooted Action Comics #1, the first issue of Grant Morrison's run, Lex Luthor causes a Metropolis bullet train to go out of control. Superman can stop it, but being as this is set in his early days, when he was weaker and couldn't even fly yet, stopping the train almost kills him, allowing Lex and the military to capture him. (Added Stealth Pun: Superman has to be faster and more powerful than a speeding bullet locomotive!)
    • Parodied in a Sergio Aragonés drawn MAD strip, where Superman stops a train without moving an inch. The final panel shows the entire train derailed, with people lying everywhere, and Superman's got an Oh, Crap! expression on his face. In a similar gag, Superman lifts an ocean liner out of the water to save it from danger. It promptly breaks apart from having all of its mass supported by only his hands, with passengers falling out of the wreckage.
    • Subverted in Superman: The Movie, in which he elects to become the missing train track, rather than stop the speeding locomotive.
  • Tranquil Fury: Very rare but used in some of his more memorable stories. Used against an Authority-Expy group in "What's Wrong with Truth, Justice, and the American Way?" with disturbing effect. He usually reserves his quiet rage at Lex Luthor; many times he'll hover outside Lex's office just silently glaring at him. In The Incredible Hulk crossover, he stonily tells Luthor he understands why Hulk gets so pissed off all the time while keeping his cool.
  • Transformation Sequence: The familiar shot of Superman opening his shirt when nobody's looking was apparently too mundane for the first two films with Christopher Reeve, so they had scenes of Superman changing where there was more of a metamorphosis.
    • In Superman II and Superman III the plots of each film involve something happening to Superman on a physiological level so there's transformation scenes then too.
  • Trope Codifier: He's the superhero, with plenty of expies being made after his debut. He's also this for several different tropes including The Cape, Superheroes Wear Capes and the Flying Brick type of hero.
  • True Companions: In a rather unique exception to all the strictly superhero teams in comics, the core staff of the Daily Planet — especially the foursome of Perry White, Lois Lane, Clark Kent, and Jimmy Olsen — consider themselves to be like family to each other.
  • A True Hero: A common argument raised both in and out-of-universe is whether or not Superman can truly be considered a "hero" for many of the things he does. Superman is a massively powerful, invulnerable and practically all-seeing entity who can easily stop the vast majority of crimes or catastrophes that befall the world without any real personal risk or sacrifice. For Superman, stopping a bank robbery or stopping a derailing train aren't very "brave" or difficult feats, but they still save lives or keep order. In addition, Superman is often noted to be one of (if not the only) hero for whom no job is too large or too small; whether it's punching out a Galactic Conqueror, stopping an asteroid, talking someone out of committing suicide, or rescuing a cat from a tree, he's there to help.
  • Tsundere: Lois Lane feels deep affection towards Clark, but he often drove her mad until she learned about his Secret Identity.
  • Upbringing Makes the Hero: His childhood on a farm gave him his connection to humanity and values.
  • Un-Reboot: Almost happened with the Superman films. A planned reboot, Superman Lives, didn't work out, so the next film, Superman Returns, returned to the continuity of the first two films starring Christopher Reeve. It itself was a disappointment, so the franchise was rebooted again with Man of Steel.
  • Underwater Base: Superman established an undersea Fortress at the Sargasso Sea in Action Comics #244, but he abandoned it shortly after.
  • Underwear of Power: Well, yeah. It's Superman. Averted in the New 52 reboot, where there is a red belt where it once was. Then played straight again in Convergence and Action Comics #1000.
  • Villain Respect: Not from Superman obviously (unless you're on one specific alternate earth or two) but usually towards him. While many villains or criminals in general want to beat, hurt, or even destroy Superman, he is almost as often respected by those on the wrong side of the law as the right. This can be due to several factors like the fact that the villain respects his power (Maxima), his integrity and determination to help the world (Ra's Al Ghul), the challenge he represents (Lex Luthor), or simply that he is a representation of everything good and decent in the soul (Manchester Black).
  • Villainesses Want Heroes: Maxima thinks Superman would make a good baby daddy.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Ambush Bug was a type 1 to Superman in the Bronze Age. The Bug believed he and Clark were best pals, while Superman regarded him as a generally well-intentioned but incredibly annoying pest.
  • Voodoo Shark: Superman needs to change into his costume, so he has to duck away for a second...into a phone booth?
    • It made more sense when phone booths were walled off boxes you couldn't look inside, rather than tiny glass bubbles around a phone that don't exist anymore anyway. Superman: The Movie got a good gag out of Superman trying to duck into a phone booth, only to find a booth-less kiosk. However, there is also another wrinkle to the legend: when reporters found themselves in the middle of a story, they would duck into the first phone booth and call the editor. Perfect alibi!
      • In Smallville, it makes sense again: the Daily Planet basement still has old-fashioned phone booths from when the building was built. The booths are tucked away in a corner of the basement and the one exposed side is covered with stained glass. Granted, though, Clark only seems to use it at night when no one else is in the basement.
  • We Have to Get the Bullet Out!: On those occasions when Superman is hit with kryptonite projectile ammunition, there is no medical question about the need to have it removed from his body considering its radioactivity is fatal to him in the short term. Unfortunately, operations to do that are often complicated by his invulnerability in a yellow-sun environment, but at least one surgeon is smart enough to use a controlled exposure to kryptonite radiation to weaken Superman enough to make the necessary incisions.
  • Weak to Magic: Downplayed in that they're not particularly weak to it, but Kryptonians such as Superman are capable of being damaged by magic and magical weapons like an average human would despite their Nigh-Invulnerability, which is one of the only ways to directly harm them that isn't Kryptonite.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Mr. Mxyzptlk goes back to his own dimension if tricked into saying his name reversed, though Post-Crisis this is a self-imposed weakness.
  • Weird Crossover:
    • Even before Warner Bros. absorbed DC Comics, DC had the license to print Looney Tunes comics. In 2000, DC launched the four-issue series Superman and Bugs Bunny wherein the wacky Dodo bird (from Porky in Wackyland) meets Mxyzptlk, and they form a partnership to wreak havoc on both universes.
      • In the late '70s, there were a couple of traveling stage shows with the Looney Tunes meeting the DC superheroes, with actors dressed as the characters. Absurd, sure, but glorious when you're about four years old.
    • And let's not even get started on the oddity that is Superman Meets the Quik Bunny.
    • Superman also had a crossover with pre-cartoon He-Man (there was no Prince Adam in the story).
  • We Were Your Team/ For Want of a Nail: All of the DC Universe's heroes take their cues from Superman, even the Darker and Edgier ones. In every story where Superman either has vanished or never existed, the heroes of the universe drift apart or vanish themselves.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Both Smallville (see above) and Metropolis were originally in a non-specific state. It has since been determined that Smallville is in Kansas, and Metropolis is in Delaware
    • Though Metropolis was based on New York City, the prevailing theory as to why Delaware was chosen as Metropolis' home are five-fold: 1) Delaware is a corporate Tax Haven with more corporations per-capita than citizens in many areas; 2) It's on the East Coast with direct access to the sea; 3) Metropolis is supposed to be in relatively-close proximity to Gotham, and since Gotham is officially in New Jersey, Delaware was a natural choice; 4) There are literally no large/major cities in Delaware, despite being about as big as New Jersey, so unlike New York or Pennsylvania, you can throw a city in anywhere in the state and not be fighting for real-estate with real-life cities; 5) Gotham is supposed to be the gritty counterpart to Metropolis, and since New Jersey is the Evil Twin of Delaware, well...
    • DC once said Metropolis is New York City during the day, and Gotham City is New York City at night.
  • Wicked Toymaker: Toyman, a villain whose motivation varies from telling to telling but usually focuses on the fact that he's a somewhat broken man who makes deadly little toys.
  • Wife-Basher Basher: In the very first issue of his own comic in the 1930s, Superman deals with an abusive husband by brutally throwing the guy into a wall and beats HIM until he promises to never hit his wife ever again.
  • Will Not Tell a Lie:
    • Superman himself, mostly. Except for those related to his Secret Identity.
    • And not even then. It isn't technically a lie if he says his name is Kal-El when asked, after all...
    • Conversely, back in the Silver Age, Superman seemed to enjoy messing with people's heads, especially villains.
    • In Superman Volume 1 #176, Superman and Supergirl celebrate a Kryptonian holiday called the Day of Truth in which they have to speak nothing but the truth, no matter the cost. It is not an easy task because they are incredibly blunt when they are being honest. Also, several crooks ask Superman about his secret identity and his Fortress' location.
  • Willfully Weak: This is the case with Superman who usually holds back his formidable power and doesn't just kill every enemy who crosses his path due to his moral upbringing from the Kents, along with sometimes being afraid of what he's capable of if he cuts loose. In some stories, he also doesn't even know the full extent of what he's capable of and holds back because he's afraid of finding out what his true capabilities are.
  • Wolverine Publicity: He and Batman are DC's biggest offenders since the early forties. Superman shows up everywhere.
  • Weaponized Car: Superman's Supermobile can simulate Superman's powers and protect him from power-sapping radiation. It's equipped with twin Rocket Punches.
  • Wounded Hero, Weaker Helper: Superman has been known to need help from humans (sometimes his friends, sometimes a stranger) when he encounters too much Kryptonite. As he's Superman, virtually everyone is weaker compared to him.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Superman has a strange life, as demonstrated when his first reaction to seeing a teenage girl flying out of a Kryptonian rocketship while wearing a version of his own costume in Action Comics #252 is "A girl, flying! It — uh — must be an illusion!"
  • Wrong Parachute Gag: In #176, which explains how Superman decided on his ideal location for his Fortress of Solitude, he's on a flight over the arctic as Clark Kent when the plane suffers engine troubles. Almost immediately, everyone went for the parachutes, but Clark, who was inspecting the packs with his x-ray vision, notices a ripped parachute and switches it with his good one. Luckily for Clark, nobody notices the Human Alien dropping like a stone in the arctic night.
  • X-Ray Vision: Supes is the Trope Namer. He can see through anything except lead.
  • Yellow Peril: Not surprisingly, this trope was in full force in newspaper strips publishing during World War 2.
    • As a joke on the term, in the early '80s Superboy was given an enemy named the Yellow Peri (referring to the mythical Persian spirits called peris). A blonde teenage girl in a yellow genie costume who had learned some magic, intending to be a hero, but then lost control of it, her character had nothing to do with actual Yellow Peril villains; it was just the writers poking fun at the name.
  • You Are Not Alone:
    • All-Star Superman: In one of Superman's most human scenes of his entire history, Superman - who is dying, running out of time — talks a girl out of suicide.
      "It's never as bad as it seems. You're much stronger than you think you are."
    • In Krypton No More, Superman is feeling lonely and abandoned, and his cousin Kara goes to great — and extreme — lengths to show him he is not alone.
    • In Action Comics #850, Supergirl has to take over her cousin's body to save his life. Before leaving, she uses her heat vision to write on the wall: "Hang in there, big guy. You're not in this alone."
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Pre-Crisis, Superman could visit the past by exceeding the speed of light, but it was physically impossible for him to change history.
  • You Could Have Used Your Powers for Good!: Supes towards any number of his enemies, especially Luthor.
  • You Mean "Xmas": Miracle Monday, from Superman #400, is somewhere between this and an Homage to a Passover seder, with several customs and key phrases being nearly identical.


Video Example(s):


Superman Vs. Son Goku

Son Goku (voiced by MasakoX seeks out a fight with Superman (voiced by ItsJustSomeRandomGuy after hearing that he's one of the strongest beings in the universe. After tracking him to Metropolis, Goku challenges the Man of Steel to a fight to determine which of the two is stronger in a fight to the death.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (15 votes)

Example of:

Main / UltimateShowdownOfUltimateDestiny

Media sources: