Arguably the most famous superhero in all of comic books is Superman. One of the most powerful beings on Earth, if not the universe, Superman is invulnerable, indestructible and his strength levels are almost off the charts, and that’s just to start with. He can also fly and shoot heat beams from his eyes and freezing cold from his breath. The Man of Steel is the benchmark for all powerful beings to try and reach.
Over the years there has been much speculation on which heroes can defeat Superman, whether that’s from DC, Marvel or some other comic book universe. The fact is that they are all just that; speculation. However, what about the beings that have come up against Superman and won? From the DC world, there have been a few of these cases. Both heroes and villains, these characters have faced off against Supes and walked away victorious.
Many may argue that these beings didn’t strictly defeat Superman as he always come back, but there are some that have come very close and have even killed the Man of Steel. So with this list we look at those characters that have come up against Superman and come out on top. Even if it was only briefly. Some are well known and others aren’t, but they’ve all bested the Boy Scout hero at some time or another.
The first entry on the list is more of an honorary mention than anything else. Any comic book fan, or anyone else for that matter, will be well aware of the battles and face offs between The Man of Steel and The Dark Knight.
On paper this has always seemed like a one sided battle. Superman has Batman beat in pretty much every way, except for the mind. The cunning detective knows everything about Superman, including all his weaknesses. Not only that, but Batman’s love of gadgets means he can often build a costume or suit that can match Superman’s power. When they fight, both heroes walk away, however, Superman respects Batman’s ingenuity so much that he’s entrusted Batman with the job of taking him out if he ever becomes out of control or goes rogue.
14. The Joker
Everyone reading this may well be surprised to know that Batman’s greatest foe has actually defeated Superman. The Joker doesn’t have any powers that could match Superman, but what he does have is insanity. This may not sound like much, but there isn’t anything The Joker wouldn’t do or any lines he wouldn’t cross in order to achieve his goals.
There are several story arcs in which this happens. In the story line Emperor Joker, the Joker steals powers and changes reality to fit his own image. Having Superman locked up in Arkham Asylum is one way to take him out of the picture. The Joker has also launched a nuclear missile on Metropolis and tricked Superman into killing Lois Lane. Although The Joker never destroys Superman, there is no limit to his cruelty and ability to put Superman down and make him do things that Superman himself could never recover from.
13. Kryptonite Man
As with many characters in the comic book universes, there have been many incarnations of Kryptonite Man. The first was an alien who passed through a cloud of Kryptonite and gained its properties as well as enhanced strength and durability. The other versions include a clone of Superman who gets his powers from Kryptonite, an alien that can absorb Kryptonite and also a being that can absorb any radiation and then expel them as a beam of radiation, including Kryptonite.
As you can guess, any incarnation of Kryptonite Man is going to be a problem for Superman. There have been several occasions in which Kryptonite Man has had the Man of Steel on the ropes. With his use of Kryptonite, he instantly weakens Superman and makes it difficult, if not impossible, for him to fight back. However, as Superman is one of the most popular characters in the DC universe, he is never alone. His battles against Kryptonite Man have seen him being saved by Krypto, Supergirl and even Jimmy Olson.
Quite possibly the most powerful and most formidable villain in the entire DC multiverse, having destroyed many worlds and universes, Anti-Monitor is responsible for more deaths than any other comic book character. As well as having the basic superpowers such as superhuman strength, durability and invulnerability, Anti-Monitor also has near limitless cosmic powers. This enables him to manipulate energy and matter as well as warp reality.
First introduced as a villain to the Green Lantern corp, Anti-Monitor would go far beyond that and destroy most of the DC universe; including killing Supergirl and the Barry Allen version of The Flash. Superman himself cannot come close to even touching Anti-Monitor, let alone hurting him. Superman is no match for Anti-Matter and is an easy foe for him. However, because of Anti-Monitor’s reality warping powers, the universe in which he has killed so many heroes often resets itself and the fallen heroes come back. So Superman has only that to be thankful for as a hand-to-hand fight between the two is always going to end the same way. Death to Superman.
11. The Flash
If there’s one thing that Superman has that not many other heroes have, it’s the incredible power of restraint. More often that not, Superman really is the most powerful being around and no one is his equal. However, given that he is aware of this, Superman often limits his own fighting ability as he doesn’t want to kill anyone. A good example of this is when Superman and The Flash go at it.
There have been a few face offs between the two and the first time they did, Flash assumed that his speed alone would be enough to defeat Superman. But it wasn’t. On another occasion the two went for it, The Flash used his full power and potential. Including a run up that saw him travel at almost the speed of light and land a punch on the Man of Steel that knocked him into orbit. Although The Flash has never been in a situation where he needed or wanted to kill Superman, the fact is that these two have fought. The Flash came out on top and there wasn’t anything Superman could do about it.
10. Lex Luther
The infamous arch-enemy of Superman, Lex Luther has beaten The Man of Steel on several occasions. The only problem with Lex is that whenever he is on the verge of true victory against Superman, he tends to throw it away and ends up back at square one.
With his genius-level intelligence, Lex Luther has been a real thorn in Superman’s side for decades. Luther is many things; a businessman, a gifted scientist, politician and even a philanthropist, but if there’s one thing that fuels him the most, it’s his hatred of The Man of Steel.
Luther often uses Kryptonite as away to get to Superman, mixing the element with tech and armor that he’s designed. He has also cloned Superman in the form of Bizzaro, melded his mind with the powerful Braniac and joined forces with other villains to attack Superman. However, every time Lex is close to victory, he lets it slip through his fingers and allows Superman to come out on top.
9. Green Lantern – Hal Jordan
The most famous weakness of Superman has to be the effect that Kryptonite has on him. This isn’t always too much of a problem for Supes as there isn’t that much of it about, and a big chunk of what’s left is locked up safely in the Batsafe. But imagine if there was a power that could recreate Kryptonite at will? Well, there is. The green ring worn by the Green Lantern could do just that.
When an evil entity posed as The Green Lantern, he started to cause trouble. However, Hal Jordan was falling into a spiral of despair after his home town had been destroyed. So instead of beating the entity, Jordan bonded with him and became the powerful and evil Parallax. With his new found God-like powers, Jordan terrorized the DC universe. This included synthesizing Kryptonite in order to stop Superman and take him out.
The universal tyrant and dictator of the planet Apokolips, Darkseid is only interested in adding more worlds to his growing empire. Conquering planets and destroying everything in his way, Darkseid’s goal is to be the ultimate overlord of the entire universe.
With powers that are off the charts, such as strength, speed, durability, immortality, Telekinesis and the deadly Omega beams that he can shoot from his eyes, Darkseid beats anyone that stands up against him. That is until he meets Superman.
The two have battled on many occasions and most of the time they both walk away. There was one occasion however, in which Superman was rendered completely powerless and paralyzed by Darkseid’s Omega beams. Lying on the ground and writhing in agony, it looked as though Superman was done for. But help came from the most unlikely places as it was Lex Luther that stepped in to save the day. Using his superior intellect, Lex answered a question that Darkseid had searched the universe for. After this, both Lex and Darkseid disappeared into the ether and the world was saved.
7. Wonder Woman
Another hotly debated and anticipated matchup in the DC universe is between Superman and Wonder Woman. Having similar powers and abilities to Superman, Wonder Woman is a hero that many think could take down The Man of Steel. However, as they are both good and pure beings, they always end up on the same side and fighting for the same cause.
However, in a story arc that involved the villain Maxwell Lord, Superman was being mind controlled by Lord and was commanded to do unspeakable things. This included beating Batman to the point of death. Wonder Woman, who was immune to Lord’s mind control powers, went to stop Superman. What followed became an epic battle between the King and Queen of the DC heroes.
As the fight went on, Wonder Woman got the upper hand by slicing Superman’s throat with her tiara. Eventually Wonder Woman got hold of Maxwell Lord and snapped his neck in order to release Superman from his control. But there’s no doubt that the Amazon had Superman beat.
Atlas was a Greek mythological God with the power and strength to hold up the heavens and the stars on his shoulders; such was his punishment. In the DC universe, Atlas may not have the world on his shoulders, but he is still one of the strongest and toughest characters there is.
With strength, power and invulnerability greater than Superman’s, the two were forced into hand to hand combat in the story arc Superman 677: The Coming of Atlas. In that story, Superman and Atlas match each other blow for blow, however Superman just can’t hurt or weaken Atlas. Supergirl flies in to aid her cousin but Superman sends her away and tells her to avenge him if he loses, which it looks like he will as Atlas keeps going, even stamping Superman into the ground and making him lose consciousness.
Seeing the impending death of his master, Krypto comes to Superman’s aid. Unlike his master, Krypto can hurt Atlas and Atlas finds it almost impossible to put the dog down. This gives Superman a chance to recover. But if it wasn’t for Krypto, Superman would have been no more!
5. Muhammad Ali
That’s right! The late great Muhammad Ali may have been an icon in the world of boxing and a humanitarian, but he was also the man that knocked out Superman.
In the DC comic book Superman V Muhammad Ali, aliens invade Earth and demand that the Earth’s best fighters come forward to challenge them. Both Superman and Ali step forward and volunteer themselves. However, Ali being who he is, says that Superman isn’t from Earth and therefore Ali is the obvious choice to save the Human race. The Aliens aren’t happy with this and tell Superman and Ali to fight each other. Wanting to be fair, the aliens move to a planet with a red sun, draining Superman of his powers. Needless to say, Ali knocks him out and goes on to be the champion to represent Humanity. Later however, Superman recovers and the two teamed up to take down the aliens and save the world.
4. Captain Marvel (Shazam)
There is a simple fact about Superman that not everyone is aware of; Superman can’t handle magic. Whenever he comes up against any being that can wield magic, Superman struggles. More often than not, Superman wins, or at the very least walks away from his magical fight. However, Captain Marvel, aka Shazam, is pretty much a match for Superman. They have most of the same powers and are equal in a lot of them such as strength. However, Shazam gets his powers from a magical lightning bolt which gives him a strong advantage over the Man of Steel.
The two of them have fought on numerous occasions and in multiple story arcs, with many of them seeing Shazam as the victor. More often than not Shazam uses his magical lighting bolt in order to knock Superman clean out. The only reason that Shazam has never taken out Superman completely is because his magic charm wears off, and when it does he reverts back into his normal form, which is a small teenage boy. If that wasn’t the case, then the results of their battles would be very different.
Mongul is possibly one of Superman’s greatest and most challenging foes. Originally Mongul was created specifically to challenge Superman both physically and mentally. The two of them have fought hand to hand on several occasions and only once has Superman come out on top on his own. The other times he had help to defeat Mongul. Physically a lot stronger than Superman, Mongul can take so much punishment that Superman fell unconscious immediately after his only victory against the villain.
On another occasion, Mongul used The Black Mercy, an alien plant that feeds off its victims while paralyzing them. The Black Mercy put Superman in a dreamlike state in which he was unaware of what was going on around him and was unable to fight back. The only reason that Superman got out of this was because help came to his rescue. That help was in the form of Robin. Robin took the plant off of Superman and made Mongul The Black Mercy’s next victim.
2. The Avengers
Every comic book fan’s dream is to have a crossover between the heroes of DC and the World’s Mightiest Heroes of Marvel. There have been a few attempts and story lines over the years which have put these two greats together. One of those crossovers involves the Man of Steel going up against Thor. The hotly anticipated and much debated face off between Superman and the Thunder God was an epic battle. But there was only one winner: Superman. However, the victory over Thor wasn’t an easy one and Superman was left severely weakened and in need of a rest.
The Avengers however didn’t give him the chance. With Marvel’s strongest all getting together to avenge Thor, The Hulk, Ironman, Wonderman, The Vision and Hercules, to name a few, went for Superman. The group attacking him in his weakened state and all at once was too much for The Man of Steel, and he was repeatedly beaten unconscious.
There is one being in the whole DC universe who only has one purpose, and that’s to destroy Superman. Depending on which story arc and version of Doomsday you see, his origin will be different. However, the outcome is always the same.
From the comic books, Doomsday was born on Krypton and all he knows is destruction. Using brute force and violence, Doomsday wrecks everything, everyone and even every planet he comes into contact with. That is until he meets Superman.
Superman, seeing what Doomsday has done and is capable of, sets out to stop him. The epic battle which follows sees both characters fight to the death and the world would soon mourn the death of Superman. However, Superman does come back eventually after falling into a deep sleep in order to regenerate.
Doomsday may not be the most interesting or exciting character, but there is one thing he does better than anyone else, and that’s kill Superman.