1903, coined by George Bernard Shaw to translate German Übermensch, "highly evolved human being that transcends good and evil," from "Thus Spake Zarathustra" (1883-91), by Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900). The German word was first used in German by Hermann Rab (1520s), and also was used by Herder and Goethe. It was Englished as overman (1895) and beyond-man (1896) before Shaw got to the modern version in his play title "Man and Superman" (1903). Application to comic strip hero is from 1938.
So was created ... Superman! champion of the oppressed, the physical marvel who had sworn to devote his existence to helping those in need! ["Action Comics," June 1, 1938]
His ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound dates from 1941; the "Action Comics" introduction is less succinct: "When maturity was reached, he discovered he could easily: Leap 1/8th of a mile; hurdle a twenty story building ..."
updated on December 20, 2020