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Friedrich Nietzsche was a German philosopher who wrote about the Übermensch (German for Superman).

Nietzche's writings were a frequent theme in Smallville. Lionel and his son Lex both read Nietzche extensively.

Known Books

Season One

Clark is carrying a copy of The Portable Nietzsche.


Lana: Nietzsche? I didn't know you have a dark side, Clark.
Clark: Doesn't everyone?
Lana: So what are you: Man or Superman?
Clark: I haven't figured it out yet.
Season One: Pilot

Lex: Do you know what my father gave me for my tenth birthday? A copy of The Will to Power. "Behold the superman. Man is something to be overcome." Sun Tzu, Machiavelli, Nietzsche, they were the voices that nurtured me after my mother died. My father made every question a quiz, every choice a test. Second best was for losers, compassion for the weak, trust no one. Those were the lessons I grew up with.
Season One: Reaper

NB The line from "Also sprach Zarathustra" may have been rather liberally translated by Lionel or his chosen author, since the German original suggests more "Man is something that shall be surpassed" in a capacity or evolutionary sense.

Carter Hall: You know, the philosopher Nietzsche believed we shouldn't live for the future, but for the present. He thought that people who chased after some far-off future dream were really running away from their true destiny.
Lois: Yeah, well, Nietzsche can call me a chicken if he wants, but he has never dated someone like Clark Kent.
Carter Hall: It wouldn't have mattered. To him, the true hero was the person who embraced the life that he or she was given and made it better. He called that person "Übermensch".
Lois: A Superman.
Carter Hall: Nietzsche believed we could all be one. In our own way.
Season Ten: Shield


  • Books by Nietzsche have appeared three times in the series:
    • Clark was holding "The Portable Nietzsche" in the Pilot episode, shortly before Lana asks him, "So what are you: Man or Superman?"
    • In Season Two's Suspect, Lionel was shown reading a copy of Beyond Good and Evil. The line he read said, "That which is done out of love always takes place beyond what is good and evil".
    • In Season Seven's Descent, Clark saw an original copy of Friedrich Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil in Lionel's safe.
  • Nietzsche felt that compassion is the greatest human weakness, because it allowed the weak to restrict the growth of the strong. Lionel trained Lex relentlessly in this philosophy, so he would never accept defeat.
  • In Superman The Animated Series pilot episode "Last Son Of Krypton", Lois saw the House Of El emblem on the chest of her flying hero and gave him the name Superman based on Nietzschean fantasy. As she put it: "Nice S, He's strong, he fast, he flies, he's the Nietzschean fantasy idea all wrapped up in a red cape: Superman".