Follow TV Tropes

This is based on opinion. Please don't list it on a work's trope example list.


Tear Jerker / Superman

Go To
"The Origin of Superman" (1973)
WARNING: Spoilers are unmarked.

The storylines

The supporting cast

The Movies


  • Pick any incarnation of Superman that shows the destruction of Krypton; nearly every version of this event shows countless Kryptonians facing the final moments of their lives and the end of their civilization. Not sad enough for you? Well, there's also every incarnation of the scene where Jor-El and Lara are forced to place the infant Kal-El into a spaceship on a course for Earth to save him, even acknowledging that they're sending him alone on a planet where he'd be the only one of his kind, with some versions having them acknowledge they have no way of knowing for certain if humans will be afraid of him or if they'll accept him. It's safe to say it's bleak situation that any parent would be terrified to be in.

Golden Age

  • In Superman (Volume 1) #65 (1950), Superman met Kryptonian survivors for first time. And they all were power-hungry criminals whom he had to banish from Earth permanently. It was only when Power Girl reached Earth many years later that he met a sympathetic Kryptonian.

Silver Age

  • "Rip Van Superman." An accident involving a cyclotron and Kryptonite leaves Superman in a coma for centuries. Eventually he wakes up to a group of humans who tell him he's in the 30th century. After a moment of shock, the hero realizes the implications — Perry, Lois, and Jimmy are long since dead, and as friendly as the locals prove, he can't shake the feeling of loss. Fortunately, the future humans have access to a time machine that manages to ensure he only ends up unconscious for a week, ending the story on a positive note.
  • The Alternate Universe story Superman vol 1 #149: The Death of Superman! is the original The Death of Superman story, penned by Jerry Siegel himself. Lex Luthor manages to murder Superman, forcing Clark's friends to watch horrified. Superman dies for real and doesn't come Back from the Dead. Every decent person on Earth mourns him. Hundreds of thousands of persons wait outside of the Metropolis chapel to say goodbye to him, including Lois Lane, her sister Lucy, Perry White, Jimmy Olsen, Lori Lemaris, Lana Lang, Krypto the Superdog, Linda Lee (Supergirl's Secret Identity), and the Legion of Super-Heroes.
    Meanwhile, Luthor and a bunch of crooks throw a party... until Supergirl breaks into Luthor's mansion, reveals that she is Superman's cousin and secret emergency weapon, and she takes him away, bringing him to the Kryptonian Bottle City of Kandor. Luthor is put on trial for murder.
    Earthlings and Kandorians watch the proceedings on television. Lois, Perry, and Jimmy testify at the trial. Luthor tries to wriggle out of paying the penalty, but the Kandorian judge replies that "[They] don't make deals with murderers". Luthor is sent into the Phantom Zone, and Supergirl carries on in her cousin's name, with the help of Krypto, becoming a popular, beloved, and very sad hero.
    Bystander: Good luck! We miss Superman, but we're glad you're taking over for him!
    Supergirl: ... I never thought it would turn out this way... All the time I was Superman's secret emergency weapon, I eagerly looked forward to the day when I could operate openly! Now that it's finally happened, I—I feel no happiness at the "glory" that's now... mine...
  • Superman meets another superhero from another world with similar powers, appearance, and even origin story named Hyperman, who recruits Superman to help cover for him as his Secret Identity. The whole issue is Superman weirdly being a dick and doing everything in his power to expose Hyperman's identity. By the end however, we find out why: in the same way Red Kryptonite had unexpected effects on Kryptonians, Superman realized that Hyperman's "Blue Zoronite" had incurably poisoned him and would soon rob him of his powers and eventually his life. As such, Superman had manipulated events so Hyperman would be forced to retire and spend his last days married to the woman he loves and remembered as a great hero. The story ends with Hyperman, in his civilian identity as Chester King, figuring out Superman's true motives and peacefully dying with his beloved wife by his bedside.
  • In Action Comics #317, Lena Thorul (Luthor) thinks her friend Linda Danvers (Supergirl) has betrayed her and wants to move out of the country because Linda was her only friend and now she has no one and no reason to keep living in Midvale.

Bronze Age


  • "Crisis At Hand" dealt with the issue of domestic violence, as Clark learns that a woman in his apartment building is suffering abuse at the hands of her husband, but legal circumstances render Superman unable to intervene. One particular moment has Clark at the Kent farm, in tears from frustration as he tells Jonathan and Martha about it, and his super-hearing can still hear the abuse going on.
  • The Death of Superman: The entire ending of the fight between Supes and Doomsday, where you suddenly realize that the Man of Steel knows that he might not survive this, and still keeps on fighting. Then when they both drop dead, you're subjected to 4 straight pages (2 of them double spreads) of every person who's seen the fight starting to break out into tears. Anyone who read the comic did, too. And the flag made from Superman's torn cape was just extra incentive for the waterworks.
    • The Funeral For a Friend arc that came afterwards was even worse, all starting with this: Superman Armbands.
    • Bibbo Bibbowski, a big-hearted lug who initially liked Superman because he was "tough", first tries to help Professor Hamilton try to save Superman (even though the only thing protecting Bibbo from getting fried himself was a personal force field), and after the funeral, he prays to God and asks Him why He would take a hero like Superman instead of "an ol' roughneck" like him.
    • The moment you realize that the greatest hero since the creation of modern comics has just DIED tends to make more than a few tears well up in your eyes, ending a decades-long career spent saving the lives of sentient beings around the universe countless times. To quote an AC/DC song "For those about to Rock, We salute you". We love you, ya Big Blue Boy Scout.
    • In Real Life, one of the entertainment news outlets that covered the Death of Superman storyline was literally titled: "Superman Falls Victim To Age of Anti-Heroes." That's incredibly sad when you remember that the 90s era of comics were being overrun with Darker and Edgier anti-heroes, almost symbolizing that there was no place left in comics for Nice Guy heroes like Superman.
  • Superman trying to end famine in Africa in Peace On Earth. He's a Physical God, he should be able to accomplish anything, right? He can't.
    • Turns into a Heartwarming Moment in the end: Superman could not. But maybe Clark Kent will be able to help. Through an "interview" with Clark, Superman gave his message to the people.
      "As you know, I have always tried to provide comfort for those in want, pain, and fear. Many times I'd considered taking stronger action to help the world, but I realized such measures could be shortsighted and dangerous. I tried to relieve world hunger, but I encountered heartbreaking poverty, not only in the slums and wastelands of the world but within selfish men's souls. I now see that taking on this responsibility was too ambitious for one man, even a Superman. The welfare of Earth and all its people will always be my primary concern. But if there is a solution to the problem of hunger, it must be one that comes from the compassionate heart of man and extends outward toward his fellow man. There's an old saying: 'Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach him to fish and he eats for a lifetime.' That simple message asks humankind to nurture with knowledge, to reach out to those in need and inspire others to do the same. That is life's greatest necessity and its most precious gift. I ask everyone to share what they have with those who need it. Their knowledge. Their time. Their generosity. Especially with the young, for on them rests our future... and all hope for a true peace on Earth."
  • Action Comics #800 is a retelling of Clark Kent's life from the moment the Kents found him until the instant he decides to be Superman. While that story is good (and has a few tearjerker moments itself), it's interspersed with short b+w vignettes of people in the DC Universe who have been inspired by Superman in different ways, such as the man who willed himself to learn to read because he wanted to know what Superman was saying in a comic strip, or the boy dying of cancer who reassures his father that he'll be fine because they're "going to get all the Kryptonite out." It's the final piece that really turns on the waterworks, though: It's the story of a policeman who wears a Superman shirt under his uniform; he'd been doing it for six years, ever since another cop had been shot, and all the guys he worked with made fun of him for being superstitious. Then one day, he runs to help a woman who's being attacked, and is shot in the process. When he recovers and returns to the precinct, everybody who'd ragged on him is there to welcome him back, and they're all wearing the same Superman shirt. He still wears his, too, complete with the bullet hole.
    • The "Boy with Cancer" story is even better when you realize it was drawn by Tim Sale, best known for his collaborations with Jeph Loeb whose son Sam Loeb died of cancer. And the art is close enough that, if you wanted to, you could see the dad in the story as Jeph himself.
  • The scene of The Supergirl from Krypton (2004) when it looks like Darkseid has obliterated Supergirl and Superman is hunched over the ashes, shedding tears. Even though they were faking her death, his expression makes clear how shattered Clark would be if someone would have brutally killed off his family's only survivor right after being reunited with her.
  • Nearly everything involving Golden Age (aka the original) Superman of Earth-2 in Infinite Crisis, especially Lois' death and his own death. It's even more of a tearjerker if you grew up back in the Golden Age of Comics, since it's your Superman and Lois Lane.
    Earth-Two Superman: Superman always saves Lois Lane...
  • Near the end of Geoff Johns' Superman: Brainiac arc in Action Comics, Superman fails to save Pa Kent from a fatal heart attack, because Kandor was returning to full size and he was mesmerized.
    • Equally sad is that after Pa Kent's funeral, Superman actually fantasizes about going after Brainiac, the villain responsible for the whole damn thing, cornering him in his cell and brutally beating him to death. It's not only incredibly creepy to see Superman actually fantasize about killing someone, no matter how terrible, but the look on his face in the final panel of the fantasy that shows him realizing this won't bring his father back, just makes it even more heartbreaking.
  • Superman/Batman #76. Every damn page of it. The issue is from the viewpoint of Superman as he deals with the death of Bruce Wayne. The most touching moment is when Superman is talking to Wonder Woman. 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.
  • The ending of the War Of The Supermen storyline. New Krypton is destroyed. Flamebird (Thara Ak-Var) sacrifices herself to reignite the sun while Chris Kent is held back from saving her by the Nightwing entity. Chris seals himself into the Phantom Zone to make sure his biological father General Zod doesn't escape, bidding a final farewell to Superman, his true dad. Sam Lane is hailed as a hero instead of the xenophobic bastard he truly is, while everyone thinks all Kryptonians are evil. In the aftermath, both Superman and Supergirl are emotionally shattered. Superman copes with his depression by walking the USA and Supergirl goes missing for several weeks.
  • Superman's second encounter with Manchester Black, the anti-hero pastiche and main villain from Superman Vs The Elite/What's So Funny About Truth, Justice and the American Way? Black has become obsessed with tearing down the image of Superman as The Paragon, and wants to prove that Superman is one tragedy away from becoming just as cynical and cruel as him, which is why his plan culminates with killing Lois! Black just gloats while he watches Superman cradle Lois's body in his arm, perfectly willing to be killed as long as it means proving that Superman broke... only for Superman to somberly tell him that he'll always mourn Lois, but he is never, EVER going to stoop to Black's level, and will only dedicate himself to keeping him behind bars for life. Finally realizing that Superman's moral code is genuine, this breaks Black completely, finally forcing him to accept that HE'S the villain. He reveals that Lois's death was only a mental illusion meant to break Superman, she's completely fine, and disappears. He eventually commits suicide.
  • In Superman/Shazam: First Thunder, Superman discovers that the newly-revealed Shazam, a Flying Brick superhero who can give Supes a run for his money, is actually a kid who just witnessed his best friend gunned down in front of him as an unintended consequence of his superheroics.
    • Superman soon tracks down the Wizard Shazam, and has worked his way up to a full-blooded rage.
      Superman: What is wrong with you?! He's a child! His life shouldn't be about this! Little boys go to school, play with their friends, and go to bed at night. Their biggest concerns should be homework and schoolyard crushes, not if their best friends are going to be murdered by assassins!
      Wizard Shazam: It is his fate to bear the mantle.
      Superman: Do not talk to me about fate.


  • The end of the Star Light, Star Bright series where Neil deGrasse Tyson helps Superman find where Rao and Krypton are in the sky on Earth. When they do find it, the light from it is the exact moment Krypton was destroyed.
  • The death of the New 52 version of Superman in The Final Days of Superman. Already weak from Kryptonite poisoning, he sacrifices himself by absorbing a massive amount of solar energy from a deranged metahuman. He survives long enough to say goodbye to Batman, Lois, Steel, Lana, Kara, and Wonder Woman.


  • Superman: Rebirth #1: Pre-Flashpoint Superman spends most of the issue with the great hope of reviving his New 52 counterpart, even helping Lana steal his body and taking them to the Fortress of Solitude. He even recounts his death and rebirth to her. It's all dashed away when he discovers that there's no Regeneration Matrix in the New 52 Fortress of Solitude, and that New 52 Superman left everything to the New 52 Supergirl.
    • Lana thinks Pre-Flashpoint Superman is New 52 Superman at first, running up to him and gushing relief.
      Lana: CLARK! You're alive! What happened — How did you —
      Superman: Um... Miss Lang... I'm afraid I'm not who you think I am.
      [Cue Lana's crestfallen face]
  • In Superman #1 (2016), Jon Kent accidentally kills his cat with his heat vision. The look on his face is heartbreaking.
  • Action Comics #958. Lois is unable to explain to Jon that Doomsday killed his father, and when things get serious, she's unable to watch and turns off the television.
  • In the Revenge story arc, Superman and Supergirl see Zod blasting off the sky the vessel where they believe Lois and and Jon are fleeing.
  • At the end of the Action Comics: Rebirth arc Men of Steel, Luthor had just come back from an arc where he and Superman stopped a mind control plan which, due to his Apokolips-built suit, almost turned him into Darkseid, and he comes back victorious, his Heel–Face Turn still intact, despite personal temptation, and the unsteady truce between him and Supes strengthened. Then comes in Mr. Oz aka Jor-El, who rips the S-Shield from his suit's chest and breaks the thing in half. Luthor's face just screams "I'm trying to be good! Why can the world not let me!"

The Animated Series

  • One of the most heartwrenching versions of Krypton's demise is possibly the one shown in the 90's animated series. It includes a scene with Lara's father, one of the most outspoken skeptics against Jor-El's theory, which is implied to be heavily influenced by his dislike for his son-in-law. Leaving the house, he sees the rocket carrying baby Kal-El leave the planet, just as another earthquake begins, which finally hammers home to the old man that Jor-El was right.
    Bystander: Another earthquake?
    Lor-Van: No... the last one.