In Reply to: Superhero by night posted by ESC on August 23, 2009 at 12:56:
: : There's a popular culture phrase that originated either in the movies or in comic books about superheroes that I keep hearing all over the place but can't track down where it all started or what the original words in the phrase were.
: : I keep seeing things like 'CEO by day, Superhero by night'; or 'mild mannered writer by day, Superhero by night'; and all sorts of variations on this.
: : My own thoughts were that it came from either Batman or Hong Kong Phooey but I've been unable to confirm this.
: : Apologies if you don't do origins of popular culture phrases on this forum, but this phrase is really bugging me now and I'd love to find out where it came from.
: I was guessing that it was Superman/Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter. But I'm not hearing the exact phrase here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u8x7mZf0kLE (An aside. I was amused to see a comment by a youngster that nobody over 50 would be visiting YouTube.)
The phrase is being used as a snowclone, i.e. a pattern/template for generating new phrases such as "X is the new black". It's often hard to find the original that created the pattern because of all the noise of the clones.
There are a lot of Google hits for variations of "mild-mannered reporter by day, crime fighter by night" (it was even used in an episode of "Smallville") which would indicate Superman EXCEPT Superman isn't particularly known for being "by night" so I don't think this is the original form of the phrase. Batman haunts the night, but has nothing to do with newspapers. OTOH, The Green Hornet is a newspaper publisher by day and a masked crime fighter by night and not currently popular so you can see how the Superman version might overtake the original except I haven't found the real evidence for The Green Hornet yet either. Hmmm...