Superman: The Animated Series
Superman: The Animated Series is an animated television series than ran from 1996 to 2000. After Batman: The Animated Series proved to be an enormous success, Bruce Timm and Paul Dini turned their attention to DC's other major hero: Superman. The new series would use the same "back to basics" approach to storyline and art stylings, giving the Superman mythos the same timeless feel that they brought to the Batman mythos.
Baby Kal-El, Last of His Kind, is sent away from the dying planet Krypton and lands on Earth, where thanks to the bright yellow sun he develops famous abilities far greater than a normal human. He grows up in Smallville, Kansas, where he was found and raised as a human ("Clark") by Jonathan and Martha Kent, who instill within him a powerful sense of right and wrong. As an adult he defends the city of Metropolis as an honest, virtuous hero christened "Superman" by its inhabitants. Not like that nut in Gotham City.
Since Superman does not quite have the enormous A-list Rogues Gallery that Batman has, the creators chose to largely dispense with the stand-alone format of the previous series, instead focusing on three Myth Arcs:
- The first arc of the series concerned Lex Luthor, the most powerful man in Metropolis before Superman's arrival. The Corrupt Corporate Executive version of the character from the Post-Crisis DC Universe, he is ever the Magnificent Bastard. With heavy doses of the Villain with Good Publicity, he immediately sees the man flying around righting wrongs as a threat and he begins a number of plots to either destroy Superman or get him on his side. These attempts include utilizing an unusual rock from space that seems to give Superman a hard time, cloning Superman (resulting in a creature that could only be described as Bizarro) and recreating a foreign mercenary as an android assassin...all in just in the first season.
- The second arc concerned the character of Brainiac. His origin was rewritten for the series, tying his origin far more closely with that of Superman. Here he is the computer system responsible for the upkeep of the entire planet of Krypton and he darn well knows in the pilot episode that the planet is doomed. However, he does not want the people to know because he is too busy making provisions to save himself. After the planet explodes he becomes an Omnicidal Planet Looter, determined to repeat Krypton's fate ad infinitum: collect all the data in the universe, then destroy the originals to keep his collected info from becoming obsolete. His quest brings him into conflict with Superman a number of times 
- The third arc brought in the characters from Jack Kirby's Fourth World. The intergalactic tyrant Darkseid (taking the role of the Big Bad for the overall series) sets his sights on Earth, and he wants Superman's help in conquering it. Darkseid is not the type to take "no" for an answer. This arc is usually regarded as the best of the series, as the drama and action were at its peak and the individual episodes collectively formed more of an ongoing story. This arc also brought in Supergirl.
Standalone episodes were, of course, not unknown. Intergalactic bounty hunter Lobo showed up to collect a Kryptonian pelt. Toyman was recreated as a thoroughly creepy Psychopathic Manchild. A new female villain, Livewire, was introduced and was not quite as popular as Harley Quinn was (but has also gained Canon Immigrant status). An imp from another dimension named Mr. Mxyzptlk showed up twice to give Superman fits. A pair of Kryptonian criminals were paroled from their extradimensional prison, only to wreak havoc on Earth. And, of course, Batman came to town, hot on the Joker's trail after the latter had gotten his hands on a massive chunk of Kryptonite. The more sci-fi feel of the show allowed DC characters that would have seemed out of place on Batman (like The Flash, the Green Lanterns, and Dr. Fate) to show up.
As befitting a DCAU production, the voice work is absolutely top notch. Tim Daly plays both halves of the title character with authority and distinction. Dana Delany gives us an utterly no-nonense Lois Lane who absolutely will not tolerate babysitting the newcomer from Kansas, and is skeptical about the man in the red cape flying around doing good deeds. Ultimately, Clancy Brown is the perfect Lex Luthor, smooth and cruel, slimy and utterly charming at the same time.
The series would be followed by Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, which took a large amount of characters and designs from this series.
A made for DVD movie was also made based on the series' style: Superman: Brainiac Attacks. It is not considered in continuity with the regular series. The series also gave stillbirth to The New Superman Aventures, commonly acknowledged as one of the worst video games ever. Titus Software, the company that made the game, also released Superman, a Game Boy game also based on the series, two years prior.
- Abusive Parents: Darkseid is, quite simply, not a nice person, and his children get no special treatment.
- Action Girl:
- Lois Lane, though traditionally a woman in need of rescuing, also has basic hand-to-hand combat training and some proficiency with light firearms. She is outclassed by the supervillains of the show, but when faced with normal human opponents, or when she is pushed into a corner without Superman to save her, she does well all by herself.
- Mercy Graves does not get many opportunities to show them off, but she has an impressive array of martial skills.
- Acquitted Too Late: When Superman and Lois Lane have found the proof to exonerate a man on death-row, they find that the governor is not at home because he decided to attend the execution personally, and Lois laments that they barely had time for him to make the phone call stopping the execution. Kenny is already in the gas chamber and the switch had already been thrown. It is a good thing Superman was able to save him anyway.
- Affably Evil:
- Lex Luthor, who hides his villainy beneath a thin veneer of courtesy and suave sophistication.
- Edward Lytener, who even when making declarations of absolute hatred and murderous intent is always so briskly, cheerfully polite. This continues after he becomes Luminus.
- Metallo is often friendly and grinning, but unlike most examples of the trope he is usually assuming the pleasant persona to mock and insult his foes.
- A God Am I: Darkseid has something of an ego. A completely justified ego.
- The Alcatraz: Stryker's Island. There there were only three known escapes from the island, the first involved a missile strike, the second involved an attack by Livewire and the third was part of a plan to blot out the sun.
- All Amazons Want Hercules: Maxima will only mate with a man who can equal her in combat.
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Lana Lang explains to Lex that she likes dangerous men, except it turns out she only likes dangerous men because she could never snag nice guy Clark Kent.
- All the Myriad Ways: Brave New Metropolis
- Ambiguously Brown: Lex Luthor. Fan speculation often mistook him for a light-skinned African-American, but Word of God says he is Greek and his appearance was based on Telly Savalas, a Greek-American actor. He was given a lighter skin tone in Justice League, probably to rectify confusion like this. Clark Kent/Superman had the same skin tone, which the creators refer to as a "reddish" tone in DVD audio commentary, but no fan ever confuses his intended color.
- Amnesiac Dissonance: When Metallo surfaces after being lost at sea in his premier episode he has forgotten who and what he is. He is christened "Steelman" by the pair of children who find him and is (briefly) a hero, rescuing a truck driver from a flaming wreck. However, he recovers his memory at the end of the day and resumes his vendetta against Superman.
- Amusing Alien: Mr. Mxyzptlk.
- And I Must Scream: Metallo's predicament at the end of "Action Figures". He gets better.
- And Knowing Is Half the Battle: Played for laughs in "Identity Crisis", when the clone Superman gives a speech about dares and courage to a group of kids. Their reactions are mixed.
- Arms Dealer: Luthor apparently has numerous sources of income, since he claims to employ two-thirds of Metropolis whether they know it or not, but the only one that gets any screentime is his weapons manufacturing.
- A-Team Firing: Averted throughout most of the series, except for the crossover "World's Finest," which brought Batman and the Joker to Metropolis and seemed to be trying to make up for not using the trope before. When the Joker kidnaps Lois his henchmen shoot at Bruce Wayne and, though they initially appear to be firing at his feet in a deliberate attempt to force him to fall off the roof, by the the time he actually falls they are firing dozens of shots at him from five feet away, outlining his entire body, without hitting him even once. When he finally does fall off the roof he lands on a scaffold and the criminals continue to shoot at him, firing so many bulets they knock the scaffold off the building and actually demolish the wooden floor he is standing on, still without hitting Bruce.
- Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: Titano.
- Aw, Look -- They Really Do Love Each Other: It might not have reached the point of actual "love" just yet, but Lois's teary-eyed confession to Superman about her feelings towards his alter-ego Clark Kent (whom at the time was believed to be dead) in the episode "The Late Mr. Kent" reveals that she is starting to think about him as more than just competition from a small town in Kansas.
- Bad Boss: Darkseid, unsurprisingly enough; servants are regularly abandoned once they are no longer useful, you are sent to the slave-pits for talking, and with Kalibak he combines this trope with utter contempt for his son and his efforts to please him.
- Bad Habits: The Reverend Amos Howell.
- Badbutt: Lobo.
- Bald of Evil: Three guesses who.
- Baleful Polymorph: Mr. Mxyzptlk has a tendency to transform people into random animals, creatures and paintings as part of his crusade against Superman. When his bosses get involved, they turn his wife into a tree.
- Batman Can Breathe in Space: Averted. One way of killing Superman is to make him suffocate.
- Batman Gambit: Done to Mr. Mxyzptlk, getting him to proof read his name backwards.
- Battle Butler: Mercy Graves, Lex Luthor's chauffeur and right-hand woman.
- Battle in the Center of the Mind: In "Two's a Crowd" Rudy and Earl Garver battle in order to take control of Parasite. Garver wins.
- Battle Tops: Toyman unleashes a gigantic top that generates electric fields against Superman.
- Beam-O-War: Twice in "Ghost in the Machine." Mercy Graves attempts to shoot Brainiac with her pistol, but he easily overpowers her. Superman, however, activates the Sky Sentry and subsequently overloads Brainiac.
- Best Her to Bed Her: Maxima.
- Betty and Veronica: Lois and Lana can slip into this when they are in the same episode.
- Big Bad: Darkseid, whose schemes drive the ongoing plot-arc, as opposed to Brainiac and Luthor, whose schemes are more self-contained.
- Big Damn Hero: When an innocent man is about to be executed, Superman breaks into the gas chamber after the gas has been released and blows it outside to let it dissipate in the atmosphere.
- Bigger on the Inside: The Tower of Fate.
- Bilingual Bonus: Dan Turpin's funeral is accompanied by the Kaddish, the Hebrew mourning prayer. They got an actual rabbi to recite the prayer.
- Blessed with Suck: Metallo. In exchange for super-strength, nigh-invulnerability and immortality he gives up his senses of touch, taste and smell, and slowly goes insane.
- Boring but Practical: When Lois Lane needs to go out in a heavy storm she dresses in an unflattering plain yellow rain poncho, pointing out that even if it is not particularly attractive or special it will keep her dry.
- Bouncer: The Metropolis Yacht Club had a bouncer outside its exclusive gala who refused to allow even people who bribed him to gain entry. Of course, Volcana got in anyway.
Bouncer: "Behind the rope."
- Brainwashed: In the Grand Finale "Legacy"
- Brainwashed and Crazy: Again in the Grand Finale "Legacy."
- Brawler Lock: With Metallo. He comes to regret it later once John reveals his kryptonite power source.
- Briar Patching: When Superman has lost his powers after being brought to an alien habitat that simulates Krypton's environment, he explains to his assailants that they really do not want to throw him into the other habitat that he was trying to break into. It happens to be an Earth habitat, complete with yellow-sun projector. The villains realize their mistake pretty quickly.
- Bring It:
Superman: "I'm waiting."
- Broken Pedestal: The writers explained that they wanted Jimmy Olsen to be a member of the resistance in "Brave New World," and explicitly wanted it to be him who began throwing rocks at Superman, because they felt that nothing would better demonstrate Superman's fall from grace than losing the adoration of his biggest fan.
- Brought Down to Normal: Several episodes revolve around Superman losing his powers, either through the lack of a yellow sun or when they are stolen.
- Brought to You by The Letter "S": Obviously
- Bury Your Gays: Inverted (That is, if you managed to notice it at all). Maggie Sawyer is blown out of her car during an attack by Intergang and the next shot has her badly burned and motionless beneath a crushing pile of rubble, without moving her eyes or her fingers. Dan Turpin even calls the attackers "murderers" as he screams at them, so everything seems to be indicating that she is really dead...except she is alive, and she returns later on in this and future episodes. The intent of the trope, to hide or eliminate homosexuality in a work, is then reversed, as her subsequent recovery in the hospital features the very first appearance of a woman the credits and DVD commentary identify as Toby Raines, her partner in the comics.
- The Cape (trope): The original, and most would say still the best.
- Canon Foreigner: Volcana, Luminus, the Preserver, Sgt. Corey Mills, General Hardcastle, Detective Kurt Bowman, Darci Mason, Angela Chen and Unity. Mala is a somewhat complex example; see her entry under Composite Character.
- Canon Immigrant: Mercy Graves, Livewire.
- Cape Busters: The Special Crimes Unit is the branch of the Metropolis Police tasked with combating criminals beyond the scope of traditional law enforcement. Over the course of the series they evolve from fighting organized crime (With tanks) to combating alien invasions and clones of Superman.
- Car Bomb:
- The Alternate Universe of "Brave New Metropolis" spun off from reality after Lois Lane was killed by a bomb that Intergang placed in her car.
- In "The Late Mr. Kent," Clark Kent is "killed" by a bomb placed in his car by the real murderer behind the crime he is investigating.
- Cardboard Prison: Averted. There are only three prison escapes at all throughout the shows run, and they each feature equipment and abilities that would be required for such an escape.
- Car Fu:
- Superman himself uses a car to knock Metallo out of their fight when the Kryptonite has made him too weak to continue the confrontation. Afterwards he actually apologizes to Lois for the damage to her vehicle.
- Cosmic Boy actually hurls cars at Brainiac when they are fighting in Smallville.
- The Cavalry: In "Apokolips...Now!" Earth has refused to submit to Apokoliptian rule and Darkseid is about to annihilate the entire planet, with the implication that he really is able to do it, when the forces of New Genesis arrive. Orion explains that Earth is now under Highfather's protection, and any aggression against it will lead to all-out war between the New Gods.
- Celebrity Paradox:
- Cell Phone: When Clark runs off to find a phone to call the paper, Lois reaches into her purse and pulls out her cell phone. Of course, by then Clark is already gone.
- Chekhov's Gunman: Detective Bowman had a minor appearance in "Target" before his primary role in "The Late Mr. Kent."
- Chick Magnet: Clark Kent was irresistible in high school and Lana Lang even complained about his ability to attract every woman in the area.
- Clark Kenting: Lampshaded in "My Girl." Clark's friend Lana Lang does not buy his act for a second.
- Cloning Blues: Luthor's attempt to create a clone army of Supermen goes horribly wrong in "Identity Crisis".
- Closer to Earth: Of the two Intergang members that Jimmy asks for help in "Little Girl Lost," the boy runs off while Amy (the girl) stays behind to help. She explains that it is only right that she try to fix the problem she helped create, which is odd since she showed no concern while creating the problem, namely when she was committing robbery and attempting to kill Superman earlier in the episode.
- Clothes Make the Maniac
- Clothing Damage:
- When John Corben becomes Metallo, Luthor explains that his new body and skin are composed of metallo, an almost indestructible new alloy. However, his clothing is normal fiber and is reduced to tatters when he is hit by a train.
- Clark Kent's clothing is burned off and ripped to shreds when Brainiac tries to ambush him as a teenager in Smallville.
- Clark's civilian clothes are frequently destroyed, revealing his (undamaged) super suit underneath. When Superman's costume is damaged, it really shows the seriousness of the attack; the outfit has been shown to withstand fire, bullets, lasers, and all sorts of attacks that destroyed everything else in their path.
- The Collector: The Preserver in "The Main Man"
- Comic Book Fantasy Casting:
- Lex Luthor was based on Greek-American actor Telly Savalas. However, many viewers mistook his appearance for a light-skinned African-American.
- Dan "Terrible" Turpin was based on Jack Kirby, creator of the New Gods. Long Live The King.
- The Commissioner Gordon:
- Superman spends most of his time working with Captain Maggie Sawyer of the Special Crimes Unit. Inspector Dan "Terrible" Turpin, Captain Sawyer's right hand man, was originally vehemently opposed to officially including Superman in police activities, but eventually accepted his assistance when it became clear that the superpowered and alien enemies were simply outside the weight class of the SCU.
- Commissioner Gordon himself appears in "World's Finest" during the initial Gotham scenes, and in a later episode he assists Superman when Superman is impersonating Batman.
- Common Knowledge: "Girl's Night Out", the episode of the DCAU featuring Batgirl and Supergirl against Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, and Livewire is commonly thought to be a STAS episode, but in reality it is officially a Batman: The Animated Series episode, according to both the episode list on the official website and the fact that it was on the BTAS Volume 4 DVD rather than Volume 3 of STAS (which included the last third of the series, including Supergirl's debut).
- Composite Character:
- Mala is named for an obscure male character from the 1950s, the leader of a trio of the first evil Kryptonians Superman battled in two stories. The more famous Phantom Zone idea and villains like Zod came later in the Silver Age and utterly eclipsed the original trio of Mala, U-Ban, and Kizo. However, in terms of her gender and relationship with fellow Composite Character Jax-Ur, Mala is based primarily on the evil Kryptonian Ursa from the film Superman II. Interestingly enough, Ursa was probably very loosely inspired by the comics' evil Kryptonian villainess Faora Hu-Ul; unlike Ursa and Mala, who like and respect their male allies, Faora was a man-hating Serial Killer back on Krypton.
- Kyle Rayner is a combination of Kyle, Hal Jordan, and John Stewart from the comics (Later, in Justice League, John Stewart eventually becomes a main character and Hal Jordan gets a minor cameo). When Kyle Rayner appeared in JLU ("The Return") he was redesigned to look less like Hal Jordan and more like his comic book counterpart.
- The Flash. Although it is never stated which Flash is in Speed Demons, he is confirmed to be Wally West in Justice League. His personality has a lot in common with Bart Allen and he has Barry Allen's day job as a forensic scientist.
- Jax-Ur is a mash-up of his comic-book incarnation and the better known General Zod.
- Continuity Cameo: In the pilot, the El family have a puppy, presumably named Krypto.
- Continuity Nod:
- In "The Last Son of Krypton, Part 3," when Clark Kent and Lex Luthor meet for the first time Luthor, irritated by Clark, remarks that he will remember the name "Kent." Throughout the series he refers to Clark only as "Kent," never by his first or both his first and last name, despite routinely varying how he addresses other characters.
- After one final strong gust of wind in "Superman's Pal", Lois comments that she needs to start wearing pants. In the next episode, "A Fish Story'", for the first time in the entire series (Except when she was undercover and in disguise) she wears pants. In the same scene, Jimmy Olsen uses the signal watch he received in that same episode to call for help from Superman.
- Cover-Blowing Superpower: In "The Late Mr. Kent," Clark Kent is "killed" by a car bomb and Superman wonders how he is going to continue living his life, since if people see him fly away from the wreck they will know his secret.
- Cowboy Cop: Dan Turpin.
- Crazy Prepared: Creating typos that spelled Mr. Mxyzptlk's name backwards right before he re-appeared
- Creator Backlash:
- Although they all praise the performance of the voice-actors (Especially Jimmy Olsen's VA), the production team has a very low opinion of Superman's Pal, an episode of the third season focusing heavily on Jimmy Olsen.
- They have a low opinion of "Little Big Head Man", which they felt tried and failed to recapture the success of the earlier Mxyzptlk episode.
- Creepy Monotone: Brainiac
- Crossover: The series had three crossovers with Batman: The Animated Series, confirming the existence of the DCAU.
- The season two three-part episode "World's Finest," which featured characters from Batman traveling to Metropolis.
- The season three episode "Knight Time," in which Superman teams up with Robin (Tim Drake) to hunt down a missing Batman.
- The season four episode "The Demon Reborn" in which Batman and Superman team-up to fight Ra's Al Ghul.
- Da Chief: Maggie Sawyer.
- A Day in the Limelight: "Superman's Pal," which focused heavily on Jimmy Olsen.
- Deadpan Snarker: Lois Lane. Clark (And Superman) often matches her snark-for-snark.
- Death by Adaptation: Dan Turpin.
- Death by Secret Identity: Detective Bowman is executed mere seconds after figuring out Clark's secret.
- Death Trap: Not quite once-an-episode, but explored. The episode "Target" featured several unique traps all focused on killing Lois Lane that were set up at an awards reception, her car, her office and finally in the lab of the man plotting her death.
- Defiant to the End: Earth is facing complete subjugation and annhilation, but Dan Turpin refuses to give Darkseid an inch.
- Demonic Possession: "The Hand of Fate"
- Despair Event Horizon: As the series ends in Legacy, with Darkseid finally defeated and tossed to the masses of Apokolips for judgement, the people he has long enslaved do not rebel against Darkseid, but instead carry him on their shoulders to his recovery. As he is carried off, he speaks one final line: "I am many things Kal-El, but here, I am God." Even after he has been crushed and beaten, Darkseid still wins!
- Destination Defenestration: Clark Kent was tossed through a window by Bizarro, but thankfully Superman was able to save his life.
- Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: Yes, Dan Turpin did.
- Dirty Cop: Detective Bowman. He made detective by framing a man for murder and "solving" the crime, then attempted to kill Clark Kent when he could prove the other man's innocence.
- Disney Villain Death: The Preserver, assuming he is dead.
- Distracted by the Sexy: Volcana gains entry to a private party, and draws the eye of on-duty photographer Jimmy Olsen, through raw sex appeal.
Rejected Party Guest: "Hey, what's she got that I haven't got?"
- Damsel in Distress: Lois Lane is the traditional damsel, frequently being rescued by Superman, but the trope is discussed in the episode "Target." Despite a madman consistently attempting to murder her she remains unconcerned and defiant, continuing her own invesitgation against the advice of others. She points out that she remains in control of her life despite the danger she is in and, even if she needs Superman to physically save her, she will never let herself become a damsel.
- Does Not Know His Own Strength: When his powers first began to manifest, Clark Kent had a lot of trouble adjusting to his newfound strength. When engaging in a "friendly" game of basketball, he accidentally threw his opponent across the court and through a refreshment table.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: In "Double Dose", Livewire makes it pretty clear she likes to associate her powers with her... femininity. Which adds a whole rape subtext to Parasite attempting to forcibly take them from her.
- Do with Him as You Will: Superman attempts this with Darkseid. It does not work.
- Do Not Taunt Darkseid. Nobody warned Dan Turpin, but he would do it even if he had been warned.
- Downer Ending: As the series ends in Legacy, Superman has finally defeated Darkseid, free of the brainwashing that forced him to lead an invasion of Earth, and he tosses Darkseid to the masses of Apokolips for judgment, freeing the planet after eons of slavery. However, instead of dethroning their oppressor the people of Apokolips raise Darkseid to their shoulders and carry him off to heal, begging for his recovery. As they leave, Darkseid speaks one final line to Superman: "I am many things Kal-El, but here, I am god." Unable to defeat Darkseid, even after physically crushing him, Superman returns to Earth where he has lost the trust of humanity and will be feared and hated for years to come.
- Drop the Hammer: Steel guest-stars towards the end of the series.
- Dystopia Justifies the Means: Darkseid. Apokolips is a nightmarish hellhole where he rules as a God, and he plans to conquer the Earth and enslave the human race purely For the Evulz. To say nothing of his ultimate goal of finding the Anti-Life Equation to eliminate The Evils of Free Will, so that he may remake the universe in his own twisted image.
- Easily-Conquered World: Almarec. When Maxima leaves her maid and enemy take over by...you know, it is never revealed. They are just in charge when Maxima gets back, with no explanation for how they executed their coup.
- El Cid Ploy:
- In "Knight Time"...as Batman!
- In "Legacy," Kara uses the Superman Robots to make the people of Metropolis believes Superman is still around.
- Eldritch Abomination:
- Karkull. He and his minions were pretty much straight out of a Lovecraft story and compare quite blatantly to Nyarlathotep.
- Unity. Not the first or the last time the DCAU would go to the Lovecraft well, but probably one of the freakiest.
- The End - or Is It?: Entirely too many episodes to list. The series loves to end the episode on a shot of the Toyman's discarded mask, or Metallo walking slowly through the ocean depths, or the supposedly-catatonic Parasite's eyes beginning to glow...
- Eureka Moment:
- In "Target," Lois Lane realizes the identity of her stalker when she is told to relax and watch some TV, which makes her recognize the lie that she had been given earlier.
- In "The Late Mr. Kent," Clark Kent is reaching for a slice of pizza when he realizes that the man on death-row could be exonerated if somebody could verify his alibi, that he was eating pizza when the murder was being committed.
- Everything's Better with Monkeys: "Monkey Fun". Yes, the episode's name is actually "Monkey Fun".
- Evil Brit:
- Evil Gloating: Lampshaded and averted in "In Brightest Day":
Kyle Rayner: "Wait! Don't you want to talk first? You know, banter back and forth to show me your innate superiority?"
- Eviler Than Thou: When The Joker goes to Metropolis, Lex Luthor at first considers him beneath his notice due to his inability to destroy his "mere mortal in Gotham". Eventually, they strike up a partnership and the entire time, Lex believes that he's got the Joker's strings. After the Joker fails to kill Superman (though he came DAMN close), Lex decides to betray the Joker. The Joker anticipates this and turns it right back on him, taking a bomber Lex was building and nearly kills Lex and nearly levels all of the buildings he built in Metropolis (half of the city). He's only stopped by the timely intervention of Batman and Superman.
- Exact Words: Karkull's promise to whoever frees him. He said he was "power beyond understanding", not that you would get any of that power, foolish mortal.
- Executive Meddling: Originally, Ma and Pa Kent were supposed to die in Apokolips...Now!, but DC said that if they were killed they would need to be brought back to life later. Unwilling to walk down that path, the target was shifted to a different character.
- Exploding Calendar: Used as a gag in "Mxyzpixilated"
- Family-Friendly Firearms: The show generally averts this trope, many characters wield normal firearms and are explicitly using advanced weaponry when lasers are shown, but Heavy Metal plays the trope straight. Intergang initially wields traditional machine guns that are shown to fire bullets and eject spent casings when they are firing into the air to intimidate their hostages, but when they actually shoot at Superman and Steel they are inexplicably firing lasers instead.
- Family-Unfriendly Death: This may be the only western kids' cartoon show to feature a murderer being executed on screen.
- Fantastic Nature Reserve: Supes and Lobo were put in one by a collector of Last of His Kind species. Superman is forced to keep one in his Fortress of Solitude because some of the beings don't have homes.
- Fantastic Racism: Most of Superman's enemies hate him for personal and direct reasons, but General Hardcastle dislikes and distrusts him solely because he is an alien, with a history and motivation that can not be trusted.
- Faster-Than-Light Travel: The ship which brought Superman to Earth as a child was refurbished with the help of S.T.A.R. labs, and is used occasionally during the series to transport Superman through space. In its first re-appearance, "Stolen Memories," Superman travels five and a half light-years, just past Alpha Centauri, and returns to Earth in under four hours.
- Fiery Redhead: Volcana, literally. Also, Maxima and Orion.
- Fighting for Survival: Various times, notably with Turpin and Professor Hamilton
- Fighting From the Inside: In "Two's a Crowd" Rudy begns to fight back against Earl Garver after Garver has taken control of the Parasite, giving Superman the time and opportunity he needs to get rid of the bomb and save the day.
- Five Episode Pilot: "The Last Son of Krypton"
- Forceful Kiss: During his fight with Superman after turning into Metallo, John Corben grabs Lois Lane and forces himself upon her, only to recoil in horror when he realizes he can not even feel a kiss.
- Form-Fitting Wardrobe: Livewire's outfit is created by ionizing the air around her, and she herself describes it as "form fitting."
- For Science!: Weather Wizard accuses his brother of being willfully blind and naive when he was building the weather control machine, as he always knew that the Wizard planned to use it for crime and did not care, only interested in the science. His brother, however, never believed he would really go this far, and abandons the machine once its threat becomes clear.
- For the Evulz: In his second appearance, Edward Lytener becomes the villain Luminus, just to get back at Superman.
- For Want of a Nail: In "Brave New World," Jimmy explains that Superman was a split-second late when Intergang put a bomb in Lois Lane's car. Because of that Lois died and Superman decided to take a more proactive role in running the city.
- Free-Range Children: "Action Figures" features two children on a volcanic island, which is suffering from frequent earthquakes, running around with no more supervision than the admonition to return to the camp if the volcano erupts.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: In the episode Mxyzpixilated, Jimmy hands Clark a comic strip page featuring the titular Mr. Mxyzptlk. There are other comics on the page, Dini The Meany (parodying Calvin and Hobbes and Dennis the Menace), Gleen (parodying Peanuts), Dan Danger (parodying Dick Tracy) and Zub Street (Parodying Momma). The Mxyzptlk strip itself is by Siegel and Shuster, the creators of Superman. Check out the screengrab!
- Frickin' Laser Beams: Most humans use traditional firearms, but as the series progresses energy weapons are gradually introduced being used by LexCorp and the Special Crimes Unit.
- From a Single Cell: Brainiac
- General Ripper: General Hardcastle
- Genre Savvy: The Joker, bizarrely enough. When he guest stars and tosses Bruce Wayne off a Metropolis roof he instructs his men to go make sure that Bruce is really dead, since in this town it is far too likely that somebody could actually catch him in mid-air. When it turns out Bruce is alive (He landed on a scaffold) his men decide to stop trying to knock him off the building and instead just try to shoot him (not that that helps).
- Getting Crap Past the Radar
Lois: (While looking at a photo of Superman) Nice 's'.
- In the episode "Double Dose" with Parasite and Livewire there are a lot of sex references, especially rape innuendos as Parasite continually tries to, uh, feed off of her.
- This exchange in "My Girl":
Reporter (to Lana Lang about a present from Lex Luthor): "Miss Lang! Are the jewels real?"
- In "The Main Man," the bar Lobo is introduced in is called 'The Steaming Load.'
- In "The Way of All Flesh," Metallo tells Lois about how he has been thinking about her a lot, especially in prison.
- The Glasses Come Off
- Gone Horribly Wrong: The origin of maybe a quarter of Superman's enemies.
- Gosh Dang It to Heck: "Frag!"
- GPS Evidence: Jimmy Olsen finds a game token dropped by Intergang in "Little Girl Lost" and believes that tracing its source will lead them to Intergang. He and Supergirl travel all over Metropolis looking for an arcade that uses that particular token, but when they find it it is just an average arcade than some members of Intergang happen to patronize. Including two members who are there right at that very moment.
- Great Gazoo: Mr. Mxyzptlk.
- Hannibal Lecture: Brainiac gives one to Jor-El in the pilot, in order to convince him to let him escape Krypton.
- Hard Head: Averted. When Earl Garver is knocked out in "Two's a Crowd" his doctor explains that he has a serious concussion and will be unconcious for hours, if not days, and might even be comatose. The police have to bring in the mind-absorbing Parasite in order to get the required information before Garver's bomb explodes.
- Heel Realization: You can actually see Bizarro's heart break when he sees Superman saving Lois Lane and recognizes that he himself is not Superman.
- Hello, Attorney!: Mr. Mxyzptlk's wife appears at his trial to offer up evidence that his obsession with Superman means he is not responsible for his actions. She is turned into a tree.
- Heroic Comedic Sociopath: Lobo. Since the show is intended for kids he's not allowed to do anything truly horrific, and comes across as mostly Played for Laughs instead.
- Hide Your Lesbians: Maggie Sawyer is an imported character from the Superman comics, first appearing in the 1980's, and has been an out-lesbian since 1988. However, this could not be explicitly stated in a kids show and the closest they get to covering this point is in Apokolips...Now! when she is visited in the hospital by a woman who comforts her throughout both parts of the episode. The woman is unnamed in the show, but DVD commentary and the credits reveal that she is Toby Raines, Maggie's long-time girlfriend in the comics, and was included as a reference to their relationship.
- Homage: The diner scene in "New Kids in Town" is taken directly from Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Except that Brainiac wears pants (hey, it is a family show).
- Hometown Nickname: Lois calls Clark "Smallville".
- How Do I Shot Web?: Parasite figures out his ability to drain energy rather quickly, but was confused when he began to lose what he had gained after a few hours. It took him a while to recognize the time limit and need to re-drain people.
- Hulk's Cooldown Hug Corollary: The episode with Lois' pet chimp, which had become gigantic.
- Human Aliens: Kryptonians, of course, as well as the New Gods (Apart from the Parademons and a few of the ruling class).
- Humongous Mecha: Superman's first battle is against the Lexo-Suit 5000, a combat machine which, at this point, is regarded as the most powerful weapon on the planet.
- I Always Wanted to Say That: Chameleon Boy always wanted to say "Up, Up, and Away!"
- I Am Not Left-Handed: When Volcana and Superman square off she knocks him off his feet, then comments that that was with her left hand.
- If I Wanted You Dead...: Lex Luthor explains to Lois in "Target" that, if he were really behind the most recent attempts on her life, he would never have left such a blatant trail that would lead back to himself.
- I Gave My Word:
- The Main Man's word is his bond.
- When Mr. Mxyzptlk is put on trial by his superiors, they list numerous charges against him, but cap it off with the most heinous of all his actions: Going back on his word.
- Ignored Expert: Jor-El, the former Trope Namer.
- Ignore the Fanservice: Mr. Mxyzptlk's wife blatantly attempts to seduce him, magically changing into a dozen revealing outfits, but he does not even look up from the killer robot he is building. Eventually, she smashes a plate on his head and walks away.
- Inadvertent Entrance Cue: This exchange in "My Girl:"
- I Need to Go Iron My Dog: When Clark and Lois notice a breakout from Stryker's Island, Clark runs off to turn into Superman by telling Lois that he will find a phone to call this in. Lois pulls her cell-phone from her purse, but Clark is already gone.
- Inferred Holocaust: In the episode "Bizarro's World" a nuclear missile detonates a few miles above Metropolis. A few months later, in "Apokolips...Now!, Part 1", a nuclear power plant melts down just off the coast. To put it mildly, the cancer rate in Metropolis is about to become...impressive.
- I Never Said It Was Poison: In "Target", Lois finds out it was her acquaintance Edward Lytener who is trying to kill her when he says he watched Lois's award on the TV while in his workshop. But he does not have a TV on his workshop.
- In-Series Nickname: In "Identity Crisis":
Clone!Superman: What... am... I?
- In Spite of a Nail: In the Alternate Universe of "Brave New Metropolis" the city and people in it have all been transformed since Lois Lane died, except for Lex Luthor. When Lois is transported there from the primary universe, she explains that he is the one person who is exactly the same.
- Intrepid Reporter: Lois Lane, whose introduction revolves around her discovery of a wide-spread gun smuggling ring, and Clark Kent himself. In fact, it kind of bothers Lois that he is the only person who can out scoop her.
- Invincible Hero: Averted. The writers were generally quite good about coming up with new ways to challenge him, ranging from kryptonite, to red sun rays, to messing with his head and/or senses, attacking him with things his powers don't cover, to villains who were simply more powerful than him.
- Invoked Trope: Ra's al Ghul wants to arrange a meeting with Superman and, since he does not have the personal relationship with him as he does with Batman, he kidnaps "Lois" and leaves her in mortal peril, since he knows Superman always shows up to save her.
- I Own This Town: Luthor states it outright in the pilot.
- Just a Flesh Wound: Subverted. Dan "Terrible" Turpin is shot in the knee while trying to storm Garver's base in "Two's a Crowd," but he explains to Captain Swayer that it is "just a singe." However, he then limps away, assisted by another officer, and is absent from the rest of the episode.
- Karmic Death:
- Kurt Bowman tried to send a man to the gas chamber......and got sent there himself after Superman revealed the plot.
- Bruno Mannhiem is thrown under a bus and left to die in circumstances that are very similar to the way he had exploited and abandoned Toyman's father.
- Killed Off for Real:
- Daniel "Terrible" Turpin Earth's Greatest Hero. The original plan was for it to be Ma and Pa Kent, but DC said they would have to bring them back to life. Bruce Timm is very adamant about averting Death Is Cheap, so he chose someone else.
- Detective Bowman was executed via lethal gas...on screen.
- Bruno Mannheim was killed after Darkseid was done using him.
- Knight Templar: "Brave New Metropolis"
- Kryptonite-Proof Suit: Superman wears a lead-lined suit to protect himself from actual Kryptonite, and also has an insulated plastic suit that protects him from both Livewire and Parasite (Although they never get around to explaining how he can breath through the plastic).
- The Lancer: Inspector Dan "Terrible" Turpin of the Special Crimes Unit serves as the lancer to Capain Maggie Sawyer, Superman's contact on the police force, and occasionally to Superman himself.
- Last of His Kind: It's revealed that Lobo is one of these, and seems at first that this would be a point that reveals why Lobo's as psychotic as he is...until he nostalgically reflects on how he destroyed his entire planet for a school science project.
Lobo: "Gave myself an 'A'."
- Left Hanging: The episode "The Prometheon." It ends with Superman and Dr. Hamilton subduing the eponymous creature, a heat-absorbing android the size of a skyscraper, by freezing the entire Metropolis Reservoir. And that is it. Fade to black. What do they do with it? They do not say. How do they keep it from waking back up when the water melts? They do not say. And how do they deal with the fact that, until they do figure out a solution, they have frozen the entire Metropolis water supply? Again, they do not say.
- Les Collaborateurs: Bruno Mannheim.
- Lesser of Two Evils: During the events of "The Main Man," both Superman and the psychotic bounty hunter Lobo are imprisoned, on account of both being the Last of His Kind. Superman breaks out of his cell, and Lobo pleads for Superman to release him, too. Superman initially refuses, thinking that his imprisonment is a fitting punishment. Lobo, understandably enraged, vows that..
"It might take me a week, it might take me ten years, but I'm gonna bust out, and kick that big red 'S' of yours all over the galaxy, right after I'm done nukin' the Earth into guacamole! And that's *coughs* a promise!"
- In the short time that Lobo was on Earth, he built a small nuke when simple wanton destruction wasn't summoning Superman quickly enough. And, both from Lobo's canon and his status as a famed bounty hunter, he's a man of his word. It also helps that he's the Last of His Kind because he created a doomsday device that wiped out his entire planet...for a highschool science project. Needless to say, Superman thinks that allowing the Chaotic Neutral Lobo roam the galaxy is a preferable alternative to the prospect of a fully Chaotic Evil Lobo gunning for Earth's destruction, and lets him go after making him swear to leave the Earth and its people in peace.
- This even gets carried over into the Justice League animated series: after Superman is apparently killed, Lobo shows up at the League watchtower, and the heroes initially believe him there to wreak vengeance for Superman having defeated him. Turns out he thought Superman's departure left a job opening for a Flying Brick.
- Lighthearted Rematch: At the end of "Speed Demons," Superman and the Flash recognize that they never did determine who was the Fastest Man Alive and close the episode starting a private race. The winner is not revealed, but signs in the Flash Museum in the sequel series Justice League Unlimited signal that the Flash was the victor.
- Lightning Can Do Anything: Including turn people into lightning.
- Like Brother and Sister: Lana Lang explains that if Clark says he loves her like a sister, she will go right back to dating Lex Luthor.
- Limited Wardrobe: Except for two scenes, one where he is undercover with Lois Lane and once when he is attending a funeral, Jimmy Olsen wears the exact same outfit for literally every scene in the entire series. Lois actually has a very varied wardrobe of different styles of clothing (Shorts, skirts, dresses, gowns, etc.) and Clark mixed his wardrobe up on occasion. It is mentioned on the commentary of "The World's Finest" that the creators tried very hard at averting this trope, but were limited by budget constraints, so instead of getting different outfits they would just change the color of their regular clothes to give them several different combinations
- Living Lie Detector: Clark Kent, using his super-human senses, can gauge heart-rate and eye-level to make a fairly accurate deduction of a person's honesty.
- Load-Bearing Hero
- Louis Cypher: Kanto.
- Love Cannot Overcome: Lois Lane breaks up with Bruce Wayne once she discovers his identity as Batman. Bruce and Clark lament together that she likes Bruce and she likes Superman, but not the other halves of their identities.
- Love Makes You Crazy: Luminus
- Loves My Alter Ego: Lois Lane has an infatuation with Superman throughout the series, but in keeping with the Post-Crisis interpretation of the characters she begins to develop feelings for Clark Kent as the series progresses.
- Magic Skirt:
- Lois Lane gets this all the time, as most of the time she is falling from high heights, getting caught in gusts of wind, being carried by Superman, and being attacked by bad guys, all while wearing these short skirts. She eventually gives up and starts wearing pants.
- Mercy Graves, Lex Luthor's bodyguard. She is always running around doing high kicks, being beaten up and sent flying by people, all in an outfit that looks more like a tight top than a full chauffeur's uniform.
- Lana Lang as well when she shows up.
- Make Wrong What Once Went Right: Brainiac travels back in time to Smallville to kill Clark Kent before he can become Superman.
- Mama Bear: Martha Kent picks up a shotgun when Brainiac comes after her son and gives him both barrels.
- Marilyn Maneuver: Frequently, considering how often Lois is swept into the air by heroes and villains while her skirt flutters about.
- Mirror Universe: "Brave New Metropolis"
- Monster Sob Story: The Toyman's origin. No wonder he is so screwed up.
- Music Soothes the Savage Beast: Titano in "Monkey Fun".
- Mythology Gag: There are numerous references throughout the series to past incarnations of the Superman mythos, including the comics themselves and other media adaptations.
- Superman at first mispronounces the name Mxyzptlk as "Mix-ill-plick"... exactly the way it was pronounced on Superfriends.
- In Last Son of Krypton, Part 3 Lois tells Bibbo to have Clark call "Commissioner Henderson" if she is not heard from soon. Inspector William Henderson was a character originally introduced in the 1940's radio series as Superman's contact on the police force; he was later adapted into the television series and, eventually, the comics. His role was eventually supplanted by Daniel Turpin and Maggie Sawyer, two characters who would become important recurring characters within this series, and he is currently Metropolis's Police Commissioner. He is given a small role in Feeding Time and appears in the background in Apokolips...Now!
- In "New Kids in Town", Brainiac has one to Superman II
"At last, the son of Jor-El kneels before me."
- In "Target," when Lois Lane is trapped in the elevator Superman rescues her and says that "I believe this is your floor," the same line he spoke to Lois when rescuing her from an elevator in Superman II.
- The comet that Darkseid will use to destroy the Earth in "Little Girl Lost" is Fleischer's Comet.
- The Mxyzptlk comic strip in "Mxyzptlkated" (See Freeze-Frame Bonus above) is written by Siegel and Shuster, the original creators of Superman. Both the episode and the comic feature Mxy looking for "McGurk," a hulking Expy for Rodin's "Thinker," that Mxy searched for in his very first comic book appearance.
- Bizarro gets a hideous alien "dog" which he calls "Krypto."
- At Mr. Mxyzptlk's trial, his wife appears to offer up evidence that his obsession with Superman means he is not responsible for his actions. One of the pieces of evidence she puts forth is a copy of Action Comics.
- During Maxima's tenure with the Justice League of America, it was revealed that her heavy-handed and reckless methods of ruling Almarec caused a lot of resentment among her subjects, to the point that when the elders banished her there was a great deal of support for said banishment. In this series, as soon as she leaves the planet to court Superman her handmaiden organizes a coup to save her people from her rule.
- The episode "Monkey Fun" was apparently a remake/homage to a similar episode of the 60s Superman cartoon.
- Naughty Tentacles: That one scene with Supergirl in "Unity" comes awfully damned close...
- A Nazi by Any Other Name: The planet occupied by Mala and Jax-ur has a few general similarities, including references to an economic depression and internecine warfare that was stopped by the new regime which taught discipline and efficiency, but the parallels become hard to miss when they use the Hitlergruß (Nazi Salute).
- Never Say "Die": Averted. The word itself pops up with stunning regularity, and this is probably one of the only American cartoons to show a criminal being executed.
- New Gods: Jack Kirby's Fourth World becomes an integral part of the show with the introduction of the mythos in the season one episode Tools of the Trade. Eventually both Apokolips and New Genesis would compete over the Earth and Darkseid would become a personal rival of Superman. This conflict would extend past the end of S:TAS, the New Genesis/Apokolips rivalry would become a frequent issue in Justice League and Orion, introduced here in Apokolips...Now! would eventually joined the expanded League in Unlimited.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: The trio of alien bounty hunters have the powerless Superman at their mercy, primed for the kill, but they decide to throw him into the animal habitat that he explained they really did not want to throw him into. When the Dodo bird appears and Superman explains that it is an Earth habitat, complete with yellow sun generator, they realize their mistake.
- Ninja Maid: Mercy Graves for Lex.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Fictional character version - Dan Turpin's funeral is attended by Jack Kirby characters such as the Fantastic Four in their civilian identities; sadly, later versions of the episode remove these characters to avoid lawsuits. Bruce Timm admitted that Dan Turpin was modeled on Jack Kirby himself.
- No-Nonsense Nemesis: Sinestro.
- Noir Episode: "The Late Mr. Kent".
- Nosy Neighbor: A 50-year-old wife is watching Superman and Maxima fight at a construction site. Her husband, newspaper blocking his view, tells her to stop spying on the neighbors.
Wife: Now they're kissing!
- Not Me This Time:
- Lois Lane and Clark Kent frequently go to Lex Luthor to learn the truth behind the current villainous scheme, but several times he explains that no, he is not the one trying to kill somebody and/or blot out the sun...this week.
- In "The Late Mr. Kent," Kenny, who is on death row, admits that he was a thief who committed robbery plenty of times, but he never hurt anybody and did not kill the woman he was convicted of murdering.
- Not So Different: Unusually, Superman gets this from an ally. When he goes to Doctor Fate for help, Fate explains that he has retired from superheroics, weary from the endless battle. He tells Superman that the two of them are similar, both masters of their own fate, and Superman should join him and likewise leave behind the petty conflicts of humanity. Superman, of course, explains that they are nothing alike.
- Not So Harmless: In "World's Finest", when The Joker arrives in Metropolis, the mob, Luthor, and Superman all assume that he must be, at best, a minor irritant, just a powerless whackjob in a weird suit. By the end of the three-part series, he has taken over the Metropolis mob, blown up half the city, and nearly killed both Luthor and Superman. When Batman shows up, it's pretty clear that Superman and Luthor don't take him seriously either. At first.
- Not-So-Innocent Whistle: Bizarro whistles, to himself, before knocking a boulder down a hill so he can "rescue" the 'city-zens' of his planet.
- Not What I Signed on For: Weather Wizard's little brother abandons the weather control machine because, even though he always knew his brother would use it for a criminal scheme, he never thought it would involve murder and wholesale destruction.
- Obfuscating Disability: Clark Kent wore a sling around his "injured" arm after Superman saved him from falling to his death in "Target."
- Oh Crap:
- Mr. Mxyzptlk: "Aw, nuts."
- Brainiac: "Kal-El? This development was highly improbable."
- Omnicidal Maniac: Brainiac's goal is the eventual destruction of all existence after he has collected its data.
- Papa Wolf: Jonathan Kent was ready to go out and clobber Brainiac with a shovel when he thought Clark was in danger, but Martha recommends a shotgun instead.
- Pet Monstrosity: Bizarro's "dog", Krypto.
- Pet the Dog:
- Even though Luthor honestly had nothing to to do with Livewire's attack on Superman, he still picked up her medical bills due her habit of bad mouthing Superman when she was a DJ.
- When Metallo lost his memory, he saved a couple of children from a landslide and later rescued a truck driver from a crash.
- Phantom Zone: The original zone appears numerous time throughout the series. Jor-El originally planned to use the zone to save all life on Krypton, as they would place the population of the planet into the zone and, using the ship he had built, fly to a new home and retrieve the people. Though the Kryptonian government refused this plan, Jor-El's ship still had a Phantom Zone projector which Superman would use on Earth to parole Kryptonian criminals who had served their sentence, and also to help human research progress in the area of inter-dimensional travel and observation.
- Physical God: Darkseid. Superman himself is an arguable example, though he never calls himself a god or accepts worship.
- Planet Looters: Brainiac travels from planet to planet, collects its knowledge, and then destroys it to move on to the next.
- Playing with Fire: Volcana
- Polluted Wasteland: Apokolips.
- Powers as Programs: Generally averted, if a villain seeks to remove Superman's powers they need to remove their source (the sun), but villain Parasite plays the trope perfectly straight. He can drain the powers of any character and then use them himself, leaving the other person powerless while he gains fantastic abilities. Ra's al Ghul also once attempted to drain Superman's powers and take them into himself, but his methods were outside the ken of science.
- Pre-Mortem One-Liner: All of Mad Harriet's dialogue.
- Private Eye Monologue: Superman does one in "The Late Mr. Kent".
- The Professor: Professor Hamilton
- Psycho Electro: Livewire
- Psychopathic Manchild: Toyman
- Puppeteer Parasite: "Unity".
- Pure Energy: Livewire describes herself as such and, though it makes for a very interesting character, it does not make any more scientific sense than every other "energy being" out there.
- Real Life Relative: Ma and Pa Kent's voice actors (Mike Farrell and Shelley Fabares) are married in real life.
- Reality Warper: Mr. Mxyzptlk.
- Redemption Equals Death: After Bizarro realizes that he is not Superman, he stays behind to hold up a collapsing ceiling so Superman and Lois Lane can escape a massive explosion. Do not worry, he reappears later.
- Red Herring: Detective Bowman is introduced in "Target" as already having a grudge against Lois Lane, and is later seen watching her in her apartment as she begins to break down from the repeated attempts on her life. However, he has no connection to the attempted murders, and would return in a more prominent role in "The Late Mr. Kent."
- Remember the New Guy?: Dr. Fate, whose sole appearance is treated as a return to the series.
- The Renaissance Age of Animation
- Ret Canon:
- Livewire and Mercy were two characters created for the show and then introduced into the comics.
- Parasite gained the outfit of his S:TAS counterpart starting in the early 2000's.
- Despite the show's version of Supergirl being a loose adaptation of Kara Zor-El, the then-current Supergirl, Linda Danvers, wore the costume of STAS Supergirl for the rest of her tenure.
- During the "Public Enemies" arc of Superman/Batman comic, Metallo's disguise was reminiscent of his human form and disguise on S:TAS.
- Ridiculously Human Robot: Darcy
- Road Runner vs. Coyote: The plot of "Mxyzpixilated".
- Robot Girl: Darcy
- Rogue Agent: The villains in "Where There's Smoke" are rogue agents of an unnamed government agency.
- Ruritania: Kaznia (which plays a larger role in Justice League).
- Sarcastic Confession: "The Main Man" (watch it here):
Lois Lane: I'm confused, Kent. See, I've lived in Metropolis most of my life, and I can't figure out how some yokel from Smallville is suddenly getting every hot story in town.
- Second-Person Attack: Done frequently.
- Secret Identity Identity: Clark Kent makes it pretty apparent that he is the "real" identity, whereas Superman is the costume; when Pa Kent is unconcerned that Clark has "died," since he can just pick a new name, Clark explains that he is Clark, he could never stop being who he is.
- Sense Loss Sadness: Metallo.
- Shiksa Goddess: Mr. Mxyzptlk is married to the tall, leggy, red-headed Gsptlsnz.
- Shock and Awe: Livewire gains electric powers after being struck by lightning.
- Shooting Superman: Obviously, and he regularly points it out.
- Smith Will Suffice: Variation; when Bruno Mannheim finds himself on Apokolips, he asks "Where in God's name are we?" to which Kanto replies "That depends. To which God are you referring?" right before introducing him to Darkseid.
- Smug Super: "New Kids in Town" reveals that, as his powers began to manifest, Clark Kent became a jerk in high school. Even Lana Lang, his girlfriend and best friend, found him arrogant and hard to be around sometimes.
- So Bad It's Horrible/TheProblemWithLicensedGames: The tie in game Superman 64 is the poster child for bad adaptations and bad games in general.
- Space Jews: If Mxy and the High Council are anything to go by, the members of the 5th Dimension are apparently all stereotypically Jewish imps. Except for Gsptlsnz, Mxy's Shiksa Goddess.
- Split Personality Takeover: Earl Garver takes control of Parasite after Parasite tries to absorb Garver's memories. Eventually, the two of them duke it out for control of the body.
- Spotting the Thread: Lois Lane recognizes that Edward Lytner was lying about something when he congratulated her on winning the Excalibur Award, since he claimed to have been in his lab for twenty-four hours without any television or radio to connect him to the outside world.
- Stalker with a Crush:
- Lytner (Luminus) leaked confidential corporate secrets to Lois Lane hoping to win her affection, and when she never even noticed he was interested he began to methodically plot her death with numerous high-tech gadgets and schemes
- Toyman in "Obsession".
- Starfish Aliens: Including Starro itself in one brief scene. Unity is one of the strangest.
- Stop Helping Me!: When his clone DNA begins to break down, Bizarro decides to prove to the world that he is Superman by going out and committing heroic deeds. This includes protecting a building that was under attack (that was being demolished) and fixing a broken bridge (that was opening to allow a ship to pass beneath it).
- Super Rug Pull: Superman tries it on Darkseid.
- Super Speed: Superman himself, and he even has a race with the Flash in one episode to see who has the title of "Fastest Man Alive."
- Super Strength: A classic Superman ability.
- Swiss Cheese Security: Lampshaded by Lois after someone broke into her apartment for the second time in the same episode. "I need to get better locks."
- The Syndicate: Intergang.
- Tailor-Made Prison: Livewire's cell and the surrounding hallways.
- Take That: "Spider powers? Ew."
- Taking the Bullet: Superman dives in front of Bizarro to take a sonic cannon shot that probably would have killed the already-weakened Bizarro. When Bizarro asks why, especially when they had been fighting only moments ago, Superman explains that it is because he is Bizarro's friend, and he knows Mr. Mxyzptlk tricked him.
- Tank Goodness: Intergang commits its first on-screen crime by robbing a bank with a tank.
- Tear Jerker: The ending to "Apokolips...Now!" has Superman crying within the episode.
- Teleporters and Transporters:
- Ten-Minute Retirement: Doctor Fate abandoned the war against evil after he grew weary of the endless conflict that never changed anything. He tried to get Superman to likewise step back from humanity, but Superman's refusal to do so inspired Fate to return to the war.
- Terminator Twosome: Targeting teenaged Clark in "New Kids in Town." The villain is even a stoic, implacable robot.
- Terrorists Without a Cause: John Corben and crew, Luthor's buyers in "My Girl", and the hijackers in "World's Finest, Part 1".
- That Man Is Dead: "Steelman is dead."
- There Is Another: Supergirl, surviving as a Human Popsicle
- There Was a Door: When Bizarro takes Lois Lane out to dinner, he enters the restaurant by smashing through the wall next to the door. When they leave, Lois asks him to use the door this time and, happy to oblige, he smashes through the door.
- Thou Shalt Not Kill: Superman, of course, is a prime follower of this philosophy.
- Thrown From the Zeppelin: Lex is not afraid to do this, or to make sure that there is nothing left of someone for the police to find.
- Time Travel: In the third season, Brainiac from the thirty-first century goes back in time to Smallville to kill Clark Kent before he can become Superman. Three Legionaires travel back as well to make sure he does not succeed.
- Too Kinky to Torture:
Lobo: "If they drag us back into those cages, they'll probably strap our butts to the floor with razor wire. Not that it ain't a pleasurable way to perk up an otherwise ho-hum evening, but I do have me that prisoner to deliver."
- Turn in Your Badge: Inverted. Maggie Sawyer remarks that if she had a nickel for every time Dan Turpin turned in his badge of his own volition, she would be richer than Luthor.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Mr. Mxyzptlk, a man approximately three feet tall with half his height occupied by his head, is married to the tall, leggy Gsptlsnz.
- Undying Loyalty: The end of the series has probably the darkest version of this trope imaginable. Darkseid is about as evil as you can get and treats his slaves horribly. Yet even after Superman beats him and throws him down to the slaves' mercy, they pick him up to treat him. Why?
Darkseid: "I am many things Kal-El, but here I am god."
- Unusual Euphemism: Shoot my monkey.
- Up, Up, and Away: Superman's classic pose, and a line Chameleon boy always wanted to say.
- Villainesses Want Heroes: Maxima to Superman. And then she met Lobo.
- Villainous Breakdown: When Superman manages to stop his machine and return the sunlight to its normal hue, the usually Affably Evil Luminus goes into a full-on rage and tries to beat Supes to death with his bare hands before Superman's powers return. He is not fast enough.
- Villain Team-Up: Several examples.
- Livewire/Parasite, which laced their partnership with a lot of sexual innuendo and implied rape.
- Mr. Mxyzptlk/Bizarro, a team up that the creative team later came to regret, as they felt it did not quite live up to previous independent episodes with each character.
- Darkseid/Mannheim, but that was more lopsided than the human partner would have liked (though Mannheim was oblivious to the fact that he was just a pawn.)
- Lex Luthor/Joker in "World's Finest," the first crossover with Batman and the official formation of the DCAU.
- Voice Changeling: Superman could mimic voices thanks to precise muscle control and a really good ear, which creeps the hell out of Robin when he demonstrates it.
- Voices Are Mental: When Parasite drains somebody's thoughts and memories he also gains their voice, although he can chose when to use their voice and when to use his own.
- Walk, Don't Swim:
- Metallo, after falling into the ocean to his apparent death. He is made of metal, after all.
- The Prometheon lands in the waters of Metropolis bay and begins to walk towards land.
- Wannabe Line: The annual gala of the Metropolis Yacht Club is exclusive enough to have a gaggle of tuxedo-wearing people held at bay by the rope and Bouncer.
- We Can Rule Together: Luthor, Brainiac and Darkseid all give this speech to Superman in separate episodes.
- Weirdness Magnet: Superman brings out all the aliens, demons, and mad scientists. Lois Lane seems to attract more than her share of freaks and killers, too, as lampshaded by Dan Turpin:
Lois Lane: Bizarro?
- "Well Done, Son" Guy: Kalibak's original reason for attacking Supes was that he wanted to please Darkseid.
Darkseid: I can't believe he's blood. (After watching his son get one-shotted by a furious Superman)
- Western Terrorists: John Corben and crew, Luthor's buyers in "My Girl", and the hijackers in "World's Finest, Part 1".
- What Have I Become?: John Corben finally realizes what a monster he has become after he discovers he can not even feel a kiss.
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Superman's Thou Shalt Not Kill rule tends to become more of a guideline when dealing with Starfish Aliens and artificial intelligences.
- What Measure Is a Non Unique
- When All You Have Is a Hammer: Averted, despite public perception of Superman as a character who simply uses his ever-evolving powers to solve his current problems. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Mxyzpixilated where Superman not only continually tricks Mr. Mxyzptlk back to his own dimension, but successfully gambits him into staying there permanently. What is more, he convinces him that he was simply toying with the annoying imp the entire time (and very well might have been).
- Why Won't You Die?: Livewire wonders why Superman refuses to die after she keeps shooting him with lightning.
- Will Not Be a Victim: Lois Lane is the traditional damsel, frequently being rescued by Superman, but she is also a competent and driven woman all on her own. In the episode "Target," despite a madman consistently attempting to murder her, she remains unconcerned and defiant. She points out that she will never let herself become a victim, and she actually beats up her assasin with her own hands before he catches her in one last Death Trap.
- With Great Power Comes Great Insanity:
- When Rudy Jones was first introduced his characterization was desperation instead of malevolence, and he stopped his partner when he tried to actually hurt people. However, after he became Parasite he became obssessed with draining anybody he could get his hands on and taking revenge on a world which hurt him.
- Sergeant Corey Milles from "Prototype," who became violent, paranoid and obsessive after prolonged exposure to the suit.
- The Worf Effect: Kalibak is voiced by Worf himself and always charges Superman to little effect.
- Worth It: Mr. Mxyzptlk was stripped of his powers and sentenced to three months in our universe as punishment for breaking his word, but he proclaimed that it would all be worth it to see Superman get clobbered. He changes his mind pretty quickly.
- Worthy Opponent: Lex Luthor once explained to Lois that, as much as he disliked her for the shots she takes at him and his company, he respects her for her skills and abilities.
- Would Hit a Girl: When Superman tackled Livewire through a wall, she incredulously goes, "At least we know you hit girls!"
- Who Dares?: Darkseid's reaction to Superman hitting him. Unlike most examples, it's quite intimidating as Darkseid really can take whatever Superman dishes out.
- Xanatos Gambit: Darkseid brainwashes Superman and turns him against humanity in the series finale "Legacy." If Superman wins, then Darkseid can claim Earth without having technically broken his treaty with New Genesis, since it was Earth's own hero that conquered it. if Superman is defeated, then one of Darkseid's enemies is destroyed and Earth is laid to ruin in the conflict.
- You Fail Physics Forever: It is Superman, so one has to expect an elastic relationship with the laws of physics, but anything being strong enough to push a spaceship out of a black hole's gravity well is pretty hard to swallow.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness:
- "Your usefulness to me has ended." -- Brainiac to his brainwashed victim, Batman, in "Knight Time."
- Darkseid does not say the actual line, but when Bruno Mannheim has served his purpose in "Apokolips...Now!" he is left to die on an island about to be destroyed by a nuclear explosion.
Mannheim: You said you'd make me a king!
- The DVD commentary suggests "king of Hell" as an alternative.
- Though, in practice, most of his schemes just involve trying to rebuild himself from the last time Superman destroyed him. Again, and again, and again...