From Academic Kids

For other uses, see Superman (disambiguation).Template:Superherobox

Superman, nicknamed The Man of Steel, is a fictional character and superhero who first appeared in Action Comics #1 in 1938 and eventually became one of the most popular and well-known comic book icons of all time.

The character, who was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, subsequently appeared in various radio serials, television programs, and films. Superman was born Kal-El on the planet Krypton. He was sent to Earth in a rocket by his scientist father Jor-El moments before Krypton exploded, landing on Earth outside the town of Smallville, where he was discovered and adopted by the amiable Jonathan and Martha Kent. As he grew, he discovered that he possessed superhuman powers. When not fighting the forces of evil as Superman, he lives disguised as Clark Kent, a "mild-mannered reporter" for the Daily Planet. Clark's love interest is fellow reporter, Lois Lane.

Superman is a loan translation from the German Übermensch (literally "over-man" or "super-man").



Superman's abilities and relationships have changed over time. Editors and writers used the process of retroactive continuity, or retcon, to adjust to changes in popular culture, eliminate restrictive segments of the mythos, and permit contemporary storylines. These changes, while significant, permit the retention of the core elements that make Superman an iconic character.

The modern story of Superman's origin parallels that of other cultural heroes and religious figures [1] ( who were spirited away as infants from places where they were in danger.

Missing image
Cover of Action Comics #1, the first appearance of Superman. Art by Joe Shuster.

In the legend extant in the early 1960s (and memorably summarized at the start of each episode of the 1950s Adventures of Superman television series[2] (, Superman was born on Krypton as Kal-El, the son of Jor-El, a scientist and leader. When Kal-El was two or three years old, Jor-El learned that Krypton was doomed to explode, and he brought this to the attention of Krypton's ruling leaders, the Science Council. Disbelieving Jor-El's prediction, they refused to warn their fellow Kryptonians, and forbade Jor-El to do so. Jor-El promised that neither he nor his wife Lara would leave Krypton, and decided to use the little time remaining to save his son. Moments before Krypton exploded, they launched Kal-El in a rocket ship towards Earth, knowing that Earth's lower gravity and yellow sun would give the boy extraordinary powers.

Kal-El's ship landed in a field near the town of Smallville, and was discovered by Jonathan and Martha Kent. (In the earliest comics, the Kents were named "John" and "Mary"; in a 1942 text novel and the 1950s television series The Adventures of Superman, the Kents were named "Sarah" and "Eben.") They named him Clark, after Martha's maiden name. After formally adopting him, the Kents raised him on their farm through his pre-school years. By the time Clark started school, the Kents had sold their farm and moved into Smallville, where they purchased a general store. During this time, both Clark and the Kents had discovered Clark's amazing powers, and, with Clark realizing the good he could do with his powers, began training their adopted son to use his powers wisely. At the age of eight, Clark adopted the superhero identity Superboy, and began to fight crime, both in the present and in a far future time as a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes. After he graduated from high school and the Kents died, Clark moved to Metropolis to attend Metropolis University. During his junior year, Clark changed his superhero name to Superman. After graduating with a degree in journalism, Clark was hired by the Daily Planet.

In 1986, after the Crisis on Infinite Earths miniseries, DC Comics hired writer/artist John Byrne to recreate the Superman character and retell the Superman mythos, reshaping the previous forty-eight years of stories by putting several new twists on the established mythos. In this "post-Crisis" version, starting with the miniseries The Man of Steel, Superman—like all "post-Crisis" Kryptonians— was created through in-vitro fertilization on Krypton. While a fetus, he escaped Krypton's destruction in a spacecraft (his "birthing matrix" with a rocket engine attached), and landed months later outside of Smallville, by which time he had fully gestated into an infant. Effectively this Superman was "born" on Earth, and was a "son" of Earth as much as Krypton. As in the original version he was found and adopted by the Kents, and raised like a normal human. In the retelling, Clark's powers developed gradually, beginning with his nigh-invulnerability, and he didn't fly until he was a teenager. After leaving Smallville, he traveled the world before settling in Metropolis, completing his education, and going to work at the Daily Planet. The remodeled Clark did not become a superhero until just before starting work at the Daily Planet, when he prevented an experimental spacecraft from crashing in Metropolis. The Kents were kept alive during Clark's transition to Superman.

In the post-Crisis comics, Clark Kent is presented more as the "real" person, with Superman the secret identity that he presents to the world to prevent his enemies from harming his family or friends. Also post-Crisis, people do not suspect that Superman is hiding his real identity because he wears no mask. The concept that Clark is the real man, and the greater emphasis on his earthly upbringing, is a deliberate reversal of the earlier, pre-Crisis version. As in the original version, Lois Lane is Clark Kent/Superman's love interest. In the early 1990s, Lois and Clark fell in love. Clark soon told her he was Superman, which caused a brief strain in their relationship, but they eventually married, in the mid-1990s special Superman: The Wedding Album.

A 2004 miniseries, Birthright, introduced further changes to Superman's origin story, bringing back some of the pre-Crisis elements eliminated by John Byrne and introducing elements of the Smallville television series.

In Metropolis, Superman (as Clark Kent) works as a reporter at the Planet, "a great metropolitan newspaper" which allows him to keep track of ongoing events where he might be of help. Largely working on his own, his identity is easily kept secret. Fellow reporter Lois Lane became the object of Clark's/Superman's romantic affection. Lois's affection for Superman and her rejection of Clark's clumsy advances have been a recurring theme in Superman comics, television, and movies.

When crises arise, Clark quickly changes into Superman. In the Fleischer animated series of theatrical cartoons, he often ducked into a telephone booth to make the transformation. In the comic books he rarely does so, favoring the Daily Planet's storeroom. Clark sometimes has to quickly improvise in order to find a way to change unnoticed. In the first Christopher Reeve Superman movie, Kent, comically unable to use a newer, open-kiosk pay phone, entered a revolving door and changed clothes while spinning within it at superspeed. Thus made invisible, he appeared to enter the building as Kent and exit seconds later as Superman.

Superman's abilities

Superman possesses extraordinary powers which render him, as stated in the lead-in to the 1950s television series, "faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound". His powers were relatively limited in the early stories, but grew to become near-godlike by the 1980s. After Byrne's 1986 rewrite, Superman's powers were diminished, though have grown again since then.

His powers include:

  • Near invulnerability: In the 1940s, "nothing less than a bursting artillery shell could break his skin"; by the 1970s he could fly through a star and shrug off a nuclear blast. In 1986, Superman was somewhat depowered. Still able to withstand artillery shells, lasers, and even nuclear explosions, he would be killed if he flew into a star. His powers have since increased, allowing him to fly into the sun unharmed. In addition, his immune system protects him from toxins and diseases.
  • Vision-related powers:
    • X-ray vision: The ability to see through anything except lead. He can see things behind a wall as if the wall were not there, or can "peel back" layer after layer of matter in his mind. Opponents sometimes use lead lined constructs in an attempt to hide things from Superman. In one "post-Crisis" story this trick backfired when Superman simply scanned the field for lead, which instantly stands out as the only opaque substance to his vision, and found the hidden item easily.
    • Telescopic vision: The ability to see very distant objects, without violating the laws of physics.
    • Superman can also see the entire electromagnetic spectrum, including infrared and ultraviolet, allowing him to see in the dark.
    • Microscopic vision: The ability to see extremely small objects and images.
    • Heat vision: The ability to apply heat to a target by staring intensely at it with the conscious act of activating his power. Visually, the power is typically depicted as twin laser beams firing from the eyes. These beams can be made invisible, allowing Superman to work undetected.
  • Super hypnotism: Pre-Crisis, Superman had the ability to hypnotize others at will. This ability was dropped in the modern comics. One late 1970s story, attempting to explain the effectiveness of Superman's disguise as Clark Kent, suggested that his super-hypnotism, aided by his Clark Kent glasses, worked continually to make others see him as a thin, mild mannered man, not an athlete in a suit, and even included photographs of himself. However, this theory presented numerous flaws, such as various stories where Batman would disguise himself as Clark Kent; it also failed to account for anyone studying Kent's build from behind, let alone how the illusion could work on a video camera or whenever Kent was performing his job as a TV news anchorman. For these reasons, this explanation for his disguise's effectiveness was dropped, in favor of the traditional "suspension of disbelief" status quo.
  • Super-hearing: The ability to hear any sound at any volume or pitch. The only Earth creature who can detect sounds at the frequency he can is a dog (70-100,000 Hz).
  • Super voice: Superman is a master ventriloquist; he used this once to rescue Lois from criminals. He is also a brilliant mimic, able to impersonate human voices or animal sounds. Pre-Crisis, Superman also possessed the power of "super-ventriloquism," or the ability to pitch his voice across vast distances, which he would use in combination with his super-hearing as a means of communication.
  • The power of flight, by force of will, which also allows him to maneuver precisely in any direction, as well as hover. Originally, Superman could jump 1/8 mile, and only acquired the ability to fly in the early 1940s, when the first Superman animated films were being produced and super-jumping proved to not look very impressive on theatre screens.
  • Super breath: The ability to create hurricane force winds by blowing, and to chill his breath to freeze a target (this latter ability has also been called "freeze breath").
  • Super speed: The ability to move at an incredible speed, like the Flash. This includes running, but flying is less strenuous and more versatile. The earliest Superman ran at a mere 30 miles per hour, but quickly became much faster; by the 1950s, Superman became capable of flying through space at faster-than-light speeds, as well as travel through time. Post-Crisis, his top speed seems to be at or near the speed of light, and he can no longer travel through time under his own power.
  • Super strength: The exact magnitude of Superman's strength is unknown, it is generally accepted that his strength easily surpasses the capacity to lift 100 tons, but how much more is not known exactly. This is because Superman's strength, like his other powers, has fluctuated over time, with the Man of Steel being at times able to shift a planet from its orbit. One figure for Superman's strength is 250,000 tons.
  • Super intellect: In the earliest comics, Kryptonians were endowed with genius-level intellects on their native planet. Eventually, this superior mental talent was altered to being another superpower gained only under the influence of a yellow sun (though Krypton still possessed an advanced educational and intellectual state). In the Silver Age comics, Superman possessed the intelligence of a collection of the world's greatest minds. He had a computer-like brain, which gave him total recall and the ability to speak all earthly languages and even most alien ones. His skill with science and mathematics were beyond human comprehension. However, over time, this power as a whole has been scaled back, if not eliminated, in current comics. The ability is evident in The New Batman-Superman Adventures and the Justice League cartoon series, though.

From the 1940s through the early 1980s, Superman's powers were nearly unlimited: he could travel millions of light-years in brief periods of time; he could dive into stars unharmed; he could travel through time by moving at speeds faster than light; and he could move planets and lift any weight. He could even vibrate his body so fast, the vibrations rendered him "invisible" to the human eye.

When Superman was revamped in 1986, he became more vulnerable and was no longer omnipotent. As in the original series, writers again gradually increased his powers. Since "coming back to life" during The Death of Superman story arc, Superman can once again survive nuclear blasts, though they leave him wounded and weakened, and he can no longer fly faster than the speed of light or travel through time under his own power. His strength too has increased, to the point of allowing him to move mountains again.

How Superman's powers work

Superman's powers are derived from his Kryptonian biology and Earth's sun (a yellow star), and are likely increased by Earth's lesser gravity (versus Krypton's higher gravity).

Various explanations have been offered over the years explaining how Superman's powers work. In the earliest comics, all Kryptonians were said to possess superpowers while on Krypton. By the late 1940s, this was changed to Kryptonians only gaining superpowers when under a lower gravity environment such as Earth's. In the early 1960s, after the introduction of Supergirl, this was amended to Kryptonians deriving their powers from mainly exposure to a yellow sun (vs. Krypton's red sun), as well as to a much lesser degree Earth's lower gravity; when under a red sun, a Kryptonian would be completely powerless, even if it was a low-gravity environment. John Byrne in his 1986 reboot suggested that Superman's powers were telekinetic in their functioning (in addition to the traditional yellow sun explanation).

One such "scientific" explanation used in various recent analyses of how Superman's powers might work is as follows:

Kryptonian mitochondria absorb certain wavelengths of the radiation emitted by solar fusion. Under a red sun, this yields increased abilities, which are multiplied a thousand-fold by a yellow sun. The solar energy supplements respiration, such that when cellular materials (perhaps Kryptonian ATP) combine with glucose, they produce abilities beyond those of humans under a yellow sun.

"K-ATP" is produced rapidly, enabling a Kryptonian to build up reserves that permit days of super-powered activity in the absence of sunlight. In addition, Krypton's gravity was 50-100 times stronger than Earth's, so Kryptonian cells are also much stronger and denser than a human's.

Under a yellow sun, other factors contribute to invulnerability. First, cell membranes and organelles become more resistant to harm; secondly, a bioelectric field surrounds the cells, making them thousands of times tougher. This "aura" surrounds Superman's epidermis and teeth, and possibly his nails as well. His hair is invulnerable, too. Superman has been shown shaving and presumably cutting his hair by reflecting his heat vision off of a piece of curved, reflective metal from the rocket in which he landed. In fact, any type of reflective metal will work as shown in the Time and Time Again story arc, Superman in Action comics #663 page 11. When his cells become "supercharged" under a yellow sun, a Kryptonian becomes super-powered. He is invulnerable to forces under 1 kt., and is harmed only by repeated blows of over 1 mt. His brain and nervous system keep up with his enhanced speed, as they too are amplified by K-ATP.

Superman's other senses are less linked to solar energy than his strength and speed. Due to Earth's thinner air, he can hear things no human can. Solar energy magnifies its accuracy, allowing him to fine-tune it. His taste, smell, and touch are equally acute. He sees all wavelengths, from radio to X-rays, allowing him to detect thermal trails and other "invisible" things.

Superman's cells store vast amounts of yellow solar energy. He replenishes his supply even on cloudy days, and weakens only after a week without sunlight. Near a red sun, his powers would fail faster. Red solar radiation creates a chemical which does not lead to the super energy produced by K-ATP. Kryptonite exposure also stops the process that converts yellow sunlight into superpowers, leaving Superman immediately weakened. His powers return quickly once the kryptonite is removed. In recent comics, Superman seems to be slowly building up immunity to kryptonite, and it is possible that its effect is in part psychological.

Earlier in his life, as in his battle with Doomsday, Superman's solar energy supply was depleted by exertion. More recent exertions caused less of a power drain, suggesting that he is now either storing more energy, or growing stronger under the yellow sun. It is unknown whether higher energy stars might increase his powers even more.


There are some things Superman cannot do. Since he is not human, he cannot donate blood, tissue, or organs. Procedures like surgery are impossible without special equipment. He does not sweat under earthly conditions, as no temperatures are high enough to make him secrete liquid to cool himself down. Like humans, he needs food and water to survive. The issue of whether Superman can father children is humorously explored in the movie Mallrats, as well as in the essay Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex by sci-fi author Larry Niven (originally published in his 1971 collection All the Myriad Ways.). On the television series Lois and Clark, the pair adopted a child who, like Clark, came from mysterious origins. But historically, many stories have established that Superman can in some manner have progeny.

As a Kryptonian, he has one specific area of vulnerability. Since Krypton was destroyed, its remains (rendered radioactive by the explosion) have been spreading throughout the universe as kryptonite, a crystalline substance which has several major variants:

  • Green kryptonite is fatal to Kryptonians exposed to it for a sufficient period of time.
  • Red kryptonite has unpredictable effects on Kryptonians' physical or mental states, such as splitting Superman in two, inducing amnesia, turning him into a giant, etc. The effects wear off in 24-48 hours, after which a Kryptonian becomes immune to that particular piece. In the television series Smallville, red kryptonite causes the repressed, more violent and less conscientious part of his personality to gain control; on Lois and Clark, red kryptonite induced a sense of apathy. In the "Tower of Babel" arc in the JLA comic book, a piece of red kryptonite made his skin invisible, allowing the sun to supercharge his cells past their normal limit and cause great pain to Superman himself.
  • Gold kryptonite permanently removes a Kryptonian's superpowers.
  • Blue kryptonite affects only Bizarros, in the same way that green kryptonite affects only Kryptonians. In some story arcs, it can also counteract the effects of red kryptonite.
  • White kryptonite affects (and kills) only plant life.
  • Jewel kryptonite gave Phantom Zone prisoners amplified mental powers.

Other variants were introduced sporadically, but after the 1986 John Byrne reboot, all versions except for green were retconned out of existence. Since that time, an updated version of red kryptonite was reintroduced into the comics. Recently, with the destruction of the Kryptonite meteor in Superman/Batman, large quantites of kryptonite have fallen to earth; new forms beyond the red and green are believed to be amongst them, however, only blue kryptonite has been seen in addition to the previously known types so far. The effects of the new blue kryptonite are unknown at this time.

Kryptonians are also vulnerable to magical and psychic effects, although they are no more detrimentally affected by such effects than a normal human would be.


Given his abilities, personal equipment plays less of a role for Superman than for other superheroes.

The Fortress of Solitude, located in the Arctic in the pre-Crisis version of the mythos and (until recently) in Antarctica in the post-Crisis version, in recent issues of the comic book, however, the Fortress has been destroyed and Superman rebuilds it deep in the Amazon. The Fortress acts as Superman's getaway, although it has communications equipment for urgent messages. While various 1940s comics made mention of Superman having a "mountain retreat," the Fortress in its familiar sense was first introduced in the comics in 1958.

Pre-Crisis, the Fortress included laboratories, a private zoo of alien animals, a room for communication with the Phantom Zone with a projector to place or remove people from it, a Krypton memorial, a trophy room, and a gym with custom exercise equipment. It also had tribute rooms to personal friends like Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Batman, and Clark Kent (to throw off suspicion about his secret identity by visitors unfamiliar with it), where Superman prepared special gifts for each in the event of his death. Most importantly, the Fortress was where Superman stored the bottle city of Kandor, which pre-Crisis, was a Kryptonian city shrunken and stolen by Brainiac prior to the planet's destruction. For years, Superman worked to reverse the city's condition, while also enjoying the opportunity to visit a native community where he was an honored guest.

Post-Crisis, the Fortress was originally created by the Kryptonian artifact, the Eradicator, when Superman tried to dispose of it in Antarctica. The device created the Fortress which contains much of Krypton's technology, including artificially intelligent robots. Superman and fellow superhero Steel encased the Fortress in a tesseract, permitting the Man of Steel to carry the Fortress wherever he travels. Superman also stores in the Fortress various equipment, weapons, and vehicles of Kryptonian design, including a large fighting mecha called a battlesuit and a means of accessing the Phantom Zone.

A trademark of the Fortress in all of its incarnations is a memorial statue of his Kryptonian parents, Jor-El and Lara, holding up a globe of the planet Krypton.

Superman, in the pre-Crisis comics, also had androids that could impersonate himself (as both Superman and as Clark Kent). He largely abandoned them when Earth's pollution began to interfere with their functions. Post-Crisis, Superman at one time had built various Superman robots; however, all but one were destroyed, with the sole remaining robot currently being kept on duty at the Fortress of Solitude. This one remaining robot was destroyed by superheroine Donna Troy, at the expense of her own life, though she was soon resurrected.

For situations involving kryptonite, Superman in the original comics had a collection of lead-lined suits for protection. If his powers were disabled or he needed stronger protection, Superman also had his "Supermobile," a small flying car-like vehicle which could fly anywhere and use its powerful waldo arms to handle outside objects.

Superman's costume was created by Ma Kent; pre-Crisis, she created it out of the blankets from the rocket that brought him to Earth. Said blankets, like everything else from Krypton under a yellow sun environment such as Earth's, shared Clark's invulnerability. His armor-like costume could also protect others that wore it. While carrying passengers in flight, Superman would wrap them in his cape to protect them from air friction. In the post-Crisis comics, his costume is invulnerable because of the bioelectric field that his cells produce (see how it works)

In the original comics, Clark's eyeglass lenses were made from two small rounded pieces of glass from his spaceship. Since they were of Kryptonian origin, Clark could fire his heat vision through them without melting them (in contrast, the post-Crisis Clark has to lift his glasses [made of ordinary materials] off his eyes when he uses his heat vision). Superman also sometimes carries spare change in his hollowed-out belt buckle, which also doubles as a Justice League communication device. When he had Kandor in his possession in the pre-Crisis comics, all of these improvisations were supplemented by the products of the professional tailors and lenscrafters available in the bottle city.

Personality and character

Originally, Superman's personality could be rough and destructive. In one really early story in which the government would not help maintain low income areas unless a disaster occurred, Superman went on a rampage and created one. Superman is also nearly always portrayed as having had some hand in WWII, when the timeline permits. As superhero stories became more oriented toward young readers, the writers moved toward his better known "boy scout" persona. Even so, Superman's capacity for a violent anger is a key element to many of the most 'dramatic' moments in his appearances, since it is this sort of telling snapshot into his psyche that allows readers and watchers to see that Superman's goodness is not inherent to his being, but learned, like it is with us.

This is why, despite the emphasis on Superman having powers "far beyond those of mortal men," his name referred also to his goodness. While Jor-El sent Kal-El to Earth because he felt the human race had the capacity to be great and good if they wished to be, it is clear that Kal-El chose to become Superman and a force for good. The education he received on the family farm is the most potent symbol for 'old fashioned values' one can conjure, and this helps ground the character. He seems out of place and out of touch with his world because he is, in fact, the product of 'better times' more than the real world.

Superman has been willing to lay down his life or sacrifice his powers for good. He rescues cats from trees and participates in community fund-raisers. He often acts behind the scenes and lets others receive the credit. His modesty and humility catches his foes and critics off-guard, as they do not understand why he spends his life helping others and doing good.

Recent writers have attempted to deepen Superman's persona and provide a rationale for his goodness. They reveal his self-doubts, and his fear that he might abuse his powers and become a monster, subject to no one. He therefore makes it a point of submitting to authority, helping him to feel a restraint on his actions. In an extraordinary show of mutual respect, Superman has given Batman a ring of green kryptonite, so that if he ever lost his reason, posing a danger to himself or to humans, Batman could use the ring to defeat him.

This line of thinking, that Superman is a hero as deeply conflicted with his gifts as Batman is with his past, is key to the modern interpretation of Superman not as a better man, but what is best in man. It is also important that Superman often struggles with vast social issues in his fiction, including tackling world hunger, unsuccessfully, in a short wide-panel 1990s graphic novel called Peace on Earth. (with artwork by Alex Ross). Through these conflicts, discussions of good and evil are formed, as Superman struggles with restraint in the face of bigotry, avarice, and cruelty. In this manner, Superman's excessive arsenal of powers is rendered secondary to his ability to convince others to act.

This was a further motivation for Superman becoming a reporter, for it is then possible that his physical abilities give him no unfair advantage in a field where the critical skills are intellectual (although his editor, Perry White, praised him in Superman: The Movie as "the fastest typist I have ever seen"). He writes fiction in his spare time, publishing two books, "The Janus Contract" and "Under a Yellow Sun".

Far from a perfect individual, Superman is often pictured with a sense of childish innocence mixed with patriarchal restraint. He is also a man with an incredible depth of feeling, since he lives within his own mind as much as he does in the reality of society, often struggling with the differences between the right answer and the practical one. In many ways, Superman is truly one of the most "human" heroes conceived, since he responds to emotional grief in stark contrast to the way he shrugs off bullets, bombs, and death-rays. Superman's daily martyrdom is reflected tellingly in print during his reappearance in the mid-1990s miniseries Kingdom Come, where he is pictured as a bearded carpenter with a long beam of wood across his back, mirroring a Christ-like image of a man who gave himself for a world that, in that storyline, did not love him.

Superman's "lily white" persona has been mocked, ridiculed, and spoofed, especially in recent comic book history, when "grim and gritty" comics dominated the market. Superman may seem old-fashioned and even quaint compared to the "dark avengers" who currently command the lion's share of the market, and this is intentional. Superman fights fair long after both sides have begun swinging below the belt, knowing that his vast powers require him to act with equal restraint. On several recent occasions, Batman has faced Superman, and Batman has served as a foil to Superman's goodness; Batman, in his more recent incarnations, won't hesitate to use guile or underhanded tactics to gain an advantage, while Superman will be overly hesitant to use his natural gifts as an unfair edge. Indeed, Batman has undergone an increasingly dark makeover. However, Superman continues to be a driving force in the medium after more than sixty years.


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Cover of Superman #14, dated January-February 1942. Art by Fred Ray.

Superman was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster not as a hero, but as a villain. Their short story "The Reign Of The Superman" concerned a bald-headed villain bent on dominating the world. The story did not sell, forcing the two to reposition their character on the right side of the law. In 1935, their Superman story was again rejected, but DC Comics printed another of their creations, Dr. Occult, who made his first appearance in New Fun Comics #6, October 1935.

The revised Superman first appeared in Action Comics #1, June 1938. Siegel and Shuster sold the rights to the company for $130. DC copied the character without remuneration to the creators, while suing other companies for copying it. The Saturday Evening Post reported in 1941 that the pair was being paid $75,000 each per year, still a fraction of DC's Superman profits. In 1946, when Siegel and Shuster sued for more money, DC fired them, prompting a legal battle that ended in 1948, when they accepted $200,000 and signed away any further claim to Superman or any character created from him. DC soon took Siegel's and Shuster's names off the byline.

During a multimedia career spanning over sixty years, Superman has starred in every imaginable situation, throughout the universe, and in many eras of history. Facing myriad perils, his powers have increased to the point that he is nearly omnipotent. This poses a challenge for writers: "How does one write about a character who is nearly as powerful as God?" (Superman's Kryptonian name, Kal-El, resembles the Hebrew words for "all that God is") This problem contributed to a decline in Superman's popularity, especially during the 1960s and 1970s, when Marvel Comics brought a new level of character development to mainstream comic books. By the early 1980s, DC Comics had decided that a major change was needed to make Superman more appealing to current audiences. Writer-artist John Byrne joined Superman and re-started with his The Man of Steel retelling of his origin. This 1986 reboot brought substantial changes to the character and met huge success at the time, being one of the top-selling books. The re-launch of Superman comic books returned the character to the mainstream, again in the forefront of DC's titles.

Some fans debated whether the more drastic changes were necessary, and some of the more traditional historical elements Byrne removed from the backstory were later restored. Byrne himself quit the books after a few years because he felt DC was not supporting the changes he made. But Byrne's changes became the template for Superman's origin and characterization for almost two decades. Most notably, his alterations to Lex Luthor, altering him from a scientific oriented villain to a businessman remain to this day.

Two alterations have had long-term effects. In the epic The Death of Superman storyline, the hero apparently died at the hands of supervillain Doomsday. He returned from the dead, though his "death" gave rise to a number of new characters and storylines. In 1995, Superman (or rather, Clark Kent) finally married Lois Lane, and the two have had a happy marriage... so far. Future editorial changes to the series may reverse some or all of these changes.

In 2003, DC Comics released a 12-issue maxiseries titled Superman: Birthright, written by Mark Waid and penciled by Lenil Francis Yu; this was made into a retcon of Superman's post-crisis origin, replacing Byrne's version, but yet using many elements from that version, along with elements that subtly tie into the Smallville television show.

Other characters

Familiar supporting characters in the Superman mythos include:

  • Lois Lane: Superman's love interest, who is often portrayed as indifferent to Clark, but in love with Superman. Actresses portraying Lois have included Noel Neill, Phyllis Coates, Margot Kidder, Teri Hatcher, and Erica Durance.
  • Jimmy Olsen: Daily Planet photographer who often works with Lois and Clark, and has become a good friend to both. Jimmy is also known to have associated with Superman, earning him the nickname "Superman's Pal."
  • Perry White: Editor-in-chief of the Daily Planet.
  • Lana Lang: Pre-Crisis, a television reporter who grew up in Smallville and shared Lois Lane's sometime obsession with trying to expose Clark Kent as Superman. Post-Crisis, Lana is aware of Clark's identity as Superman and has protected his secret.
  • Lori Lemaris: A mermaid who Clark Kent dated while attending Metropolis University, and was the first person he proposed marriage to (though Lori turned him down).
  • Pete Ross: Clark Kent's childhood friend from Smallville; pre-Crisis, Pete secretly discovered Clark was Superboy, but kept the knowledge to himself. Post-Crisis, this didn't occur; instead, he married Lana Lang, with whom he had a son named Clark. Lana and Pete later divorced.
  • Jonathan and Martha Kent: Superman's foster parents who adopted and raised him after he landed on Earth. Often referred to as Ma and Pa Kent.
  • Supergirl: Pre-Crisis, Superman's cousin from Krypton. Post-Crisis, several newer unrelated versions of Supergirl have been introduced. In recent issues of Superman/Batman, a new "Supergirl from Krypton" (looking very much like the original) arrived on Earth.
  • Steel: An engineer genius named John Henry Irons who created a high-tech, mechanized suit of armor to fight crime in, after Superman's death in the Death of Superman storyline, and still serves as a superhero today.
  • Superboy: In pre-Crisis continuity, Superboy was the name of Superman as a boy. Post-Crisis, the name belongs to a clone, originally thought to have been of Superman, that was created after Superman died during the Death of Superman storyline.
  • Krypto: In the pre-Crisis mythos, Krypto was the El family pet dog, who was sent into space in a malfunctioning test rocket of Jor-El's, and eventually drifted to Earth, where he was found by Superboy and gained superpowers. Post-Crisis, a newer version of Krypto was recently reintroduced.
  • The Justice League of America: a team of superheroes of which Superman is a member and often the leader (pre-Crisis, Superman was also a founding member of the group). Other notable JLA members include Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash and the Green Lantern.

Superman also has a rogues gallery of supervillain enemies, including:

  • Lex Luthor: Superman's most well-known enemy. Pre-Crisis, arch-villain Lex Luthor was a friend of Clark from Smallville who became a criminal scientist with an all-consuming vendetta against Superman. Post-Crisis, the two first met as adults (though this has apparently reverted back to the pre-Crisis version with Birthright), with Luthor the corrupt head of a mega corporation. He was later elected President of the United States; he was removed from this position when his evil nature became exposed to the American public.
  • Darkseid: A cruel and merciless alien who rules the planet Apokolips and only deals with Superman when it benefits his own agenda. Not originally created as a Superman villain, but by Jack Kirby for his New Gods series. The character is now often associated with Superman.
  • Bizarro: A grotesquely flawed duplicate of Superman who clumsily tries to emulate the original and causes a great deal of damage in the process.
  • Metallo: A criminal cyborg who prefers using kryptonite as a power source, which makes him a deadly threat to Superman.
  • Mr. Mxyzptlk: A being from the fifth dimension with magical powers who delights in tormenting Superman and traditionally could only be made to return to his native dimension by being made to say or spell his own name backwards.
  • Brainiac: The pre-Crisis version is an alien android bent on conquest and Superman's death. The post-Crisis version is an alien entity who is an organic being, later converted into a robotic one, with similar ambitions.
  • Phantom Zone Prisoners: Pre-Crisis, these prisoners are Kryptonian criminals who hate Superman, as the son of their prison's creator, and become extremely destructive when they escape into Earth's yellow sun environment. Their leader is General Zod.
  • Parasite: A superpowered man who can absorb the powers, strength, and memories of any organic being, and wants Superman's power for himself.
  • Intergang: A nationwide organized crime syndicate armed with weapons supplied in part by Darkseid.
  • Doomsday: A mindless, impossibly powerful, raging monster that "killed" Superman during the Death of Superman storyline.
  • Imperiex: An all-powerful force of nature whose purpose is destroying galaxies. Eventually, Superman, the superhero Steel, and Darkseid stopped Imperiex by using Doomsday as an ally, along with a powerful weapon called the Entropy Aegis.
  • The Toyman: An insane criminal who uses special equipment and weapons based on toys.
  • The Cyborg Superman: A reanimated astronaut cyborg who briefly impersonated Superman after his death, and also destroyed Green Lantern Hal Jordan's home of Coast City.
  • Gog: A human from the future who masters time travel, and hates Superman for allowing his parents to die.

In Metropolis, Superman enjoys a close relationship with the police department. This especially applies to the Special Crimes Unit (SCU), a police unit that deals with superpowered threats, led by Captain Margaret Sawyer, one of the few openly gay characters in mainstream superhero comics today.

There have been a number of characters called Superboy. The original Superboy, introduced in 1944's More Fun Comics #101, represented "the adventures of Superman when he was a boy." This Superboy is no longer in publication, as post-Crisis continuity deemed that Clark Kent did not become a superhero until he reached adulthood. A new Superboy character who is a clone of Superman was created in the early 1990s; adventures featuring this character continue to be published. The Superboy name has also been the name of denizens of other dimensions, such as one from a "pocket universe" parallel dimension in the late 1980s post-Crisis Superman comics, and several individuals the current Superboy encountered during his trip through Hypertime (one of those essentially being an exact double of the pre-Crisis Superboy).

Pre-Crisis, Superman's foster parents, Jonathan and Martha Kent, died in the summer after his high school graduation; post-Crisis, the Kents are alive and well and are regularly visited by Clark, who relies on them for advice in difficult times.

Comics that regularly feature Superman

Current comics starring Superman:

Current comics in which Superman does not star, but appears regularly:

Additional reading

  • Last Son of Krypton - a novel by Elliot S! Maggin: Superman's "life story" is told and he faces a mysterious alien ruler.
  • Miracle Monday - a novel by Elliot S! Maggin: tells the story of Superman trying to stop an entity of pure evil from causing universal chaos.
  • "For the Man Who Has Everything" - written by Alan Moore, illustrated by Dave Gibbons: Batman, Robin, and Wonder Woman journey to Superman's Fortress of Solitude to celebrate his birthday only to find their friend rendered comatose by the evil alien Mongul by an alien parasite that grants its host the illusion of their heart's desire. This story was originally published in Superman Annual #11 and recently adapted for the animated series Justice League Unlimited by J.M. DeMatteis. Reprinted in Across the Universe: The DC Universe Stories of Alan Moore (ISBN 1401200877)
  • Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? - written by Alan Moore, illustrated by Curt Swan and George Pérez: The final chapter on the pre-Crisis Silver/Bronze Age Superman. Originally published in Superman #423 and Action Comics #583.
  • The Man of Steel - written and illustrated by John Byrne: The revamp of Superman's origins following the Crisis on Infinite Earths.
  • The Death of Superman, World Without a Superman, and The Return of Superman - written by various artists, notably Dan Jurgens: the story of Superman's death, the world's (and his loved ones') reaction, and his eventual return. A novelization of the trilogy, entitled The Death and Life of Superman, was written by Roger Stern.
  • Kingdom Come - written by Mark Waid, illustrated by Alex Ross: A painted epic, in which Superman has temporarily retired, giving way to a new breed of reckless, morally ambiguous superheroes. The story was novelized by Elliot S! Maggin.
  • Superman For All Seasons - written by Jeph Loeb, illustrated by Tim Sale: Superman as a young man in a timeless, Rockwellian America, from confused lad to superpowered metropolite.
  • Superman: Red Son - written by Mark Millar, illustrated by Dave Johnson: Elseworlds story asks "What if Superman had been raised in the Soviet Union?" Superman now stands for workers' rights and the struggle for global equality, and sets out to promote world communism.
  • Superman: Birthright - a twelve issue maxi-series written by Mark Waid and illustrated by Leinil F. Yu: A "re-imagining" of Superman which brings back some old, pre-Crisis concepts and adds new modern ones.

Adaptations in other media

Missing image
The 1941 theatrical cartoon Superman, produced by the Fleischer Studios.
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George Reeves as Superman (1951)
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Actor Christopher Reeve as Superman
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Actor Brandon Routh as Superman in "Superman Returns" due in 2006.

The Superman character has made the transition to radio, television, and movies, each on multiple occasions. Among the actors who have played the role are George Reeves, Christopher Reeve, and Dean Cain.

There have also been numerous animated cartoon series starring the Man of Steel:

The last three are in continuity with Batman: The Animated Series and its spinoffs, forming what some fans call the "Diniverse", named after Paul Dini, who writes and produces the shows.

Cultural influences

Missing image
USPS stamp honoring Superman's first appearance

Both Superman's name and the premise of his character owe a debt to the concept of the Übermensch, developed by the 19th century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, and elaborated upon by George Bernard Shaw. Additionally, Superman is believed to have been inspired in part by Philip Wylie's 1930 science fiction novel Gladiator, about a man whose superhuman strength inspires him to help the human race, but who is instead spurned by humanity precisely because of his power. Other sources cited as inspirations include Doc Savage and The Shadow. Superman is a staple of American pop culture.

DC Comics has trademarked variations on the "super" theme, such as "superdog" and "supergal", to circumvent parody or product confusion. Nevertheless, a great many imitations and parodies of Superman have appeared over the years. One of the first Superman-like characters to emerge, Fawcett Comics' Captain Marvel, sparked legal action because of its similarities to Superman. Well-known spoofs of Superman include Mighty Mouse, Underdog, Super Grover, and Super Goof.

In the 1990s, comic book artist and writer Rob Liefeld created a Superman pastiche and starred him in his own comic book series, Supreme. The series, published by Liefeld's Awesome Comics, sold moderately well at first, but sales dwindled until the series was taken over with issue #41 by writer Alan Moore. Moore produced 22 issues of Supreme that paid homage to the classic "Silver Age" Superman.

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld expressed his fandom of Superman in several ways. On the Seinfeld TV show, a Superman statue sat on the stereo in Jerry's livingroom, and a Superman refrigerator magnet was always visible in his kitchen. Jerry affectionately addressed some of his girlfriends as "Lois Lane". Seinfeld is also famous for having a Superman reference in every episode. In 1998, an American Express commercial featured real-life Jerry Seinfeld and an animated Superman as buddies holding a running conversation around New York City.

One of the few Superman-like characters that DC Comics allowed to stand without litigation is Hyperion, from Marvel Comics's superhero team, Squadron Supreme. The Squadron Supreme was created to do unofficial JLA/Avengers crossovers; the "new" characters were thinly veiled versions of their DC JLA counterparts. Hyperion stood in for Superman, the Whizzer for The Flash, etc. DC in turn introduced the "Assemblers of Angar", a thinly-veiled Avengers pastiche. Hyperion has been revamped in a new Marvel series, Supreme Power, giving a new take on the Superman mythology.

In 2004, local authorities in Sweden refused to allow a child to be named Stålmannen, which means Superman (literally: The Man of Steel). The Swedish parliament was considering at the time whether to intervene and overrule the initial judgement.[3] (

Superman in popular music

Superman has long been a popular subject for music, inspiring songs by artists ranging from The Kinks and Barbra Streisand of one generation through The Sugarhill Gang, Genesis, R.E.M., Crash Test Dummies, and Spin Doctors to current performers like Eminem, Dream Theater , Three Doors Down, Our Lady Peace and Five For Fighting. See: Superman in popular music

Superman parodies/references

  • Apollo of the superhero teams Stormwatch and the Authority is often seen as a Superman-pastiche. He also gets his powers from the sun, wears a spandex outfit with a triangular logo on the front, and possesses the powers of flight, heat vision and super-strength. As a differentiating twist, Apollo is the gay lover of Midnighter, the corresponding Batman-pastiche.
  • Hyperion, originally of Marvel Comics' Squadron Supreme, was originally a tribute to Superman; like Superman, he was a solar-powered alien who fell to Earth in a spaceship and tried to live as a human. In the darker Supreme Power reboot, Hyperion is taken from his foster family by the government and raised as a super-soldier to be acutely aware of his biological superiority, and believes himself to be better than all humans.
  • The Saint from the independent comic The Pro was an obvious parody of Superman; he wore a blue spandex uniform with a red cape, had a day job as a reporter, and had an unrequited crush on his pushy co-worker.
  • From its earliest days, MAD Magazine has frequently spoofed the Man of Steel; some consider the parody "Superduperman!" (from issue #4) to be the magazine's first true example of what would come to be the MAD vein. Since then, numerous MAD articles about or including Superman have appeared, including parodies of the various TV and movie projects. Other related pieces include:
  • "What If Superman Were Raised by Jewish Parents?" (in which the rabbi is unable to circumcise his super-foreskin, but he makes his mother proud by using his vision to become a radiologist);
  • "What If Truth in Advertising Laws Applied to Comic Book Previews," which made sport of DC Comics' killing and reviving the character;
  • "The Incredi-Man Archives," an alleged reprint collection of a 1940s infringement of Superman (like Captain Marvel). The character boasted such powers as incredi-hearing and incredi-viola playing, and like Superman, avoided World War 2 service. However, Incredi-Man did so by faking homosexuality;
  • Various gag strips, including one by Sergio Aragones in which a hobo finds Clark Kent's abandoned suit inside a phone booth and steals it, and another by Don Martin in which a series of massive lifts induce a "super-hernia."
  • Author John Varley wrote the short story "Truth, Justice and the Politically Correct Socialist Path", a parody where Superman does not land in the United States but in Soviet Russia. In this story, "Kyril Kentarovsky" took on the identity of "Bolshoiman", who attempted to represent Russia but only managed to get thrown into a gulag (with Leon Trotsky as his cellmate). The story can be found in the collection "Superheroes", edited by John Varley and Ricia Mainhardt.
  • Japanese manga artist Akira Toriyama parodied Superman in his first series Dr. Slump, in the form of "Suppaman" (the way that Superman is written in Japanese katakana), a short, fat, pompous buffoon who transforms into a Superman-like costume by eating a sour (or "suppa" in Japanese) pickle. Unlike Superman, Suppaman can't fly, and instead pretends to fly by lying belly down on a skateboard and scooting through the streets.
  • In the Philippines-produced movie Fly Me To The Moon (produced around 1988), starring Tito Sotto, Vic Sotto and Joey De Leon (the hosts of Eat Bulaga!), Superman's costume got sucked into their spaceship's rocket booster while the three were on their way to the moon. Superman, who appears in the film wearing only polka-dot boxer shorts, is shown begging the astronauts for the return of his costume.
  • In an episode of the television series The Monkees, the Monkees audition over the telephone in a phone booth, delaying Clark Kent from using the booth to change into Superman.

See also: Superdupont, Superlópez


1#Template:Anb Moses, Gilgamesh)

2#Template:Anb Narrator Bill Kennedy intoned at the start of each program: "Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Look! Up in the sky. It's a bird. It's a plane. It's Superman! Yes, it's Superman - strange visitor from another planet who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Superman - who can change the course of mighty rivers, bend steel with his bare hands, and who disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, fights a neverending battle for Truth, Justice, and the American Way."

External links


Animated Cartoons


Fan Pages

  • Superman Homepage ( – "Everything you ever wanted to know about the Man of Steel and more"
  • Superman Through the Ages ( – a website focusing mainly on the pre-Crisis version of Superman
  • Supermanica ( – a wiki site devoted to the minutiae of the pre-Crisis Superman Family.
  • Supermanica: Superman ( – Supermanica entry on the pre-Crisis Man of Steel
  • Supermanica: Superman of Earth-2 ( – Supermanica entry on the Golden Age/Earth-Two version of Superman
  • Index of Superman's Silver Age adventures (
  • Superman Supersite (
  • Superdickery ( – The darker side of Superman
  • Krypton: the fanfilm ( – The page of the fanfilm "Krypton"
  • Superman: The Last Son of Krypton ( – Recently Superman has returned to audio dramas, the first medium he appeared in outside of comic books. The audio dramas are produced by a full cast of over fifteen people with full sound effects and music score, and are available for free download in .mp3 formatde:Superman

es:Superman eo:Superman et:Üliinimene fi:Teräsmies fr:Superman id:Superman it:Superman nl:Superman pl:Superman pt:Super-Homem (banda desenhada) ja:スーパーマン sv:Stålmannen zh:超人


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