You probably mentally completed that famous phrase involuntarily as soon as you started reading it, huh? That’s because the Man of Steel has, over the last seventy-plus years, become such a huge part of our culture that we all know he is able to “leap tall buildings in a single bound.”
And we know that Clark Kent is a mild-mannered reporter just as well as we know that Superman is faster than a speeding bullet.
The story of the Kryptonian growing up in Kansas before becoming a reporter for The Daily Planet in Metropolis, all while trying to keep his identity secret from Lois Lane and defeat Lex Luthor is so well know and has so permeated the collective consciousness, that it would be impossible to guess at how often it is referenced in film, television, music, literature and even advertisements.
Have you ever heard it said that something is “my own kryptonite?” Of course! We all have! Because “kryptonite” has become so well-used that is essentially synonymous with “weakness.”
Not only has the story of Superman been told various times in various media, making reference to the character is a readily understood way to talk about heroism, bravery, strength, and courage. Conversely, when someone says that they’re “not Superman,” we know that they mean they aren’t perfect. Even if you’ve never read a single comic featuring the Man of Steel, chances are, you are easily able to pick up on references made to him, because he’s a huge figure in pop culture, which has made him a huge figure in the way we relate to each other and communicate.
I’m no expert on comic books and super heroes, so I’d love to hear what sorts of other super hero references have made it into our common conversation.