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Inspired by my wife who asked, "Did Superman name himself? Isn't that kind of egotistical?"

As I understand it (I can't find a full scan of Action Comics #1 online), Superman was already going by that moniker in his first appearance. I know that in time, the "S" symbol was retconned to be his family's crest.

first page scan of action comics #1

I've found reference to Lois Lane referring to him as "Superman" in an article and the name sort of sticking, but that's sort of a chicken dinner before the egg sort of scenario.

Where did Clark originally get the name "Superman"?

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    Nietzsche named him.
    – John O
    Dec 27, 2012 at 1:01
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    “Isn't that kind of egotistical?” I dunno. Would you be reassured if, as your plane fell out of the sky, you heard someone say “It’s okay! We’re saved! Not-Bad Guy is coming to rescue us!” Apr 1, 2018 at 22:11
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    @PaulD.Waite That's just silly. Obviously it'd be Spandex Man.
    – Misha R
    Apr 2, 2018 at 2:40

3 Answers 3

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It depends on which version of his origin story you're referring to. There may be something to the claim on that page you found that Lois Lane named him, if that page refers to the earliest version (of the heroic character we know today). The original Superboy was added in the 1940s to explain more of Superman's backstory (and even, for a while, Superbaby). Apparently the name "Superboy" arose, in that version, due to local myths about Kal-el's exploits, though he didn't go public with the Superman persona until adulthood and the move to Metropolis. It seems rational to suppose that he chose the name for himself in that version, based on the fact he'd grown from a boy into a man; for anyone else to name him Superman would be highly coincidental.

The Silver Age version of Superman, a.k.a. Superman of Earth-One, adopted the name "Superboy" to fight crime as an eight-year-old child, then changed his own name to "Superman" upon moving to Metropolis. This origin story persisted into the Bronze Age.

A key reboot with a new origin story occurred in 1986 when DC Comics released The Man of Steel. I actually have a copy of that somewhere in the basement, but don't have time to hunt for it and don't remember much of it. Wikipedia states that as Superman only developed his powers later in his teens, he accordingly never used a Superboy persona in that version, and that later he "adopted" the identity of Superman. That sounds like he named himself, but I can't say for sure without reviewing the story first-hand.

Later, yet another reboot happened with DC's publication of Superman: Birthright in 2003-2004, which wound up replacing The Man of Steel as the canonical version of Superman's origin story. In that version, the Daily Planet webpage names him Superman.

In the later 2009-2010 story Superman: Secret Origin, Superman is first named in a newspaper story by Lois Lane, potentially bringing us full circle.

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Yes. In Action #1 Superman named himself, later Siegel told us he created his own indestructible costume, and of course he came up with the secret identity of mild mannered Clark Kent too.

Later when the S on his chest had morphed into the modern shield, that to some ( including John Byrne ) looked like two yellow fish on a red background, collided with Marlon Brando's ego. Brando who was playing Jor-El in 1978 wanted to wear the S shield.

This resulted in idea the S was coincidentally shaped like an S and was first a kryptonian glyph. In the Movie Superman gains his costume in his Fortress.

In Man of Steel 86 somewhat confusingly had the Kents invent the shield.

Earlier in Elliot S Maggin's sword of Superman the S shield came via the big bang when the Sword of Superman was forged - the symbol then IIRC imprinted in Pa Kent's dream.

In any event the Alien origin of the S gave the writers an opportunity to make Superman more humble by giving the naming of Superman to Lois.

Morrison has New 52 tidied this up by making the shield and the suit Kryptonian - and again Lois sees an S and comes up with Superman.

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Wikipedia says:

The Reign of the Superman" (January 1933) is a short story written by Jerry Siegel and illustrated by Joe Shuster. It was the writer/artist duo's first published use of the name Superman, which they later applied to their archetypal fictional superhero. The title character of this story is a telepathic villain, rather than a physically powerful hero like the better-known character. (Although the name is hyphenated between syllables due to it being broken between pages on the story's opening spread, it is spelled Superman in the magazine's table of contents and in the story's text.)

Siegel wrote "The Reign of the Superman" in 1932. Inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche's idea of an Übermensch,

Siegel reconceived the character in 1933, as a hero bearing little resemblance to his villainous namesake. When he saw the 48-page black-and-white comic book titled Detective Dan, Secret Operative No. 48, he decided that a Superman who was a hero could make a great comic character. He wrote a crime story which Shuster drew in comic format. Titling it "The Superman", they offered it to Consolidated Book Publishing, the company that had published Detective Dan. Although the duo received an encouraging letter, Consolidated never again published comic books. Discouraged, Shuster burned all pages of the story; the cover surviving only because Siegel rescued it from the fire. Siegel and Shuster compared the character to Slam Bradley, a private detective the pair later created for Detective Comics #1 (March 1937). "We had a great character," Siegel later said, "and were determined it would be published." Siegel and Shuster would next use the name in June 1938's Action Comics #1, featuring the superhero Superman

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    Quoting directly from wikipedia is a very poor way to answer a question, especially one with an existing strong answer. The little numbers are the footnotes showing the original sources of information. Those are where you'll find the high quality primary sources that the wiki writers are (supposedly) referencing.
    – Valorum
    Apr 1, 2018 at 21:50

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