It is no secret that some superheroes walk a fine line with their actions and morals. There are, however, a few superheroes that strive to be a light and uphold justice while remaining true to their moral code. One such superhero that seems to be able to fight crime without dipping on the dark side is the Man of Steel himself, Superman. In a universe that is often called dark, Superman is the boy scout. Of the DC universe heroes he sets himself apart by not only striving to maintain justice while staying within the confines of the law, but also by pushing others to do the same. This has caused an internal struggle within Superman battling between what he can do and what he should do.
This goes to show that Superman is the most ethical, honest, and decent hero to grace the pages of comics, right? Well, maybe not. Superman might maintain his code most of the time, but everyone waivers. Even the mighty Son of Krypton. Superman first appeared in 1938 and no one can stay perfect for 78 years, but some of the things he has done crossed lines that even left other heroes shocked and appalled. Here is a list of the 15 most despicable acts ever committed by Superman.
15. Fatherly Love
Most fans of Superman will know of Jimmy Olsen. For those that do not know, Jimmy is “Superman’s Pal” and a human sidekick to the Man of Steel. Olsen has had many adventures (and several misadventures) over the years, but none were quite as disparaging or heartbreaking as “The Son of Superman” in which Superman adopts Jimmy. It is all part of a plan conceived by Superman after he is told that he would kill his son. Superman decided the best way to make sure this didn’t happen was to adopt Olsen, treat him like garbage until Olsen legally emancipated himself from Superman, and then apologize later.
Is now a good time to point out that Superman doesn’t even have a son? Solid plan Superman. During the time in which Superman is Jimmy’s father, Jimmy tries to be the best son possible while Superman demeans him and destroys the things that Olsen gets him. This does in fact result in Olsen freeing himself from his new abusive parent, but all is forgiven in the end.
14. Jimmy Olsen Vs Aquaman
While we are on the topic of Jimmy Olsen, let’s not forget the time that Superman pitted him against Aquaman. Due to the destruction of a submarine that he was on, Olsen finds himself in the belly of a whale. While in the whale, he finds a gem that gives him all of the powers of Aquaman. Apparently, having Superman as a mentor has rubbed off on Olsen because he almost immediately starts using his new-found powers to save people in danger on the high seas.
In a twist of events, Superman pulls a Highlander and decides that there can be only one. He decides that whichever one of them can last the longest without water gets to be king of the sea. It is later revealed that this was not the doing of Superman at all but instead a shape-shifting villain named Captain Bane. So why does this make the list? The hero that can fly faster than a speeding bullet waits until the very last moment to save them— and doesn’t bring water. Instead, he allows them to lick the sweat off his boots. Jerk move Superman.
13. Ain’t Nobody Got Time For Logic
Superman has a good friend who unfortunately dies in a car crash. Superman has the same response we would all have and pushes the government for safer vehicle standards and driver education while also working with law enforcement to better police road violations. Just Kidding. He decides to personally destroy all cars; because, logic. He starts by breaking into an impound lot and destroying all the vehicles inside. He then proceeded to destroy entire car lots and factories. But there are still cars on the road, so the job is not quite done. Superman decides the next logical step would be to kidnap the mayor and force him to create new laws to make the roads a safer place. Once these regulations are in place and Superman comes back to his senses, he returns to his life as Clark Kent and receives a parking ticket due to the new laws he put in place.
12. The Greedy Side Of Superman
When con men take advantage of the owners of an oil well and end up in control, Superman decides it is time to step in to save the day. Superman takes the high road and decides to do… well, the exact same thing the con men did in the beginning. He pretends to be a business man himself and buys the majority share of the well. After he has control of the well he drills until he actually strikes oil. Once the well is proven to work, he blackmails the con men to give him a million dollars. He uses the million to pay the original owners for the money of which they were conned. Kidding again. He keeps this money and sets fire to the oil well. This way he can screw the con men out of the well, but also leaves the original owners with nothing, and a thick cloud of smoke for those who live close to the well to breathe. Everyone loses— except for Superman.
11. Football Glory
When Superman catches wind of the corruption of some football players, he does the honorable thing. He knocks out and kidnaps a player from the opposing team and steals his identity. He then proceeds to practice as Tommy Burke and becomes a football start during a game… because of all his superhuman powers and whatnot. Even though he ends up finding out the identity of those who were trying to fix the game, he didn’t do anything ‘heroic’ until the game was over. During the game, Superman finds out that the players fixing the game had kidnapped the real Tommy Burke. Except he decided to finish the game instead of rushing to the aid of the person he put in danger. Only after he wins the big game does he drop Tommy’s identity and go do what Superman is supposed to do.
10. No Justice For Zibarro
In All-Star Superman, the Man of Steel is working to prepare the world for the day he dies. In his adventures, he finds himself trapped in the Bizarro World. In order to get off of this world Superman seeks out the help of Zibarro, an outcast in the Bizarro world for being intelligent and having feelings. He helps Superman build a rocket that will help him get out of this world and in return Superman promises to find a way to get Zibarro out of this world and allow him to join a world where he would fit in. Superman and Zibarro build the rocket and successfully get Superman home. Once there, Superman takes some poetry given to him by Zibarro and hangs it on the walls of the fortress of solitude. He then promptly forgets about helping Zibarro escape his prison of a home and goes on with his life.
9. Nuke Them All!
In Kingdom Come, Superman is older and lives in isolation away from people and other heroes when it comes to his attention that a group of young heroes accidentally destroyed all of Kansas with a nuclear fire. Superman comes out of his isolation in order to assemble a new Justice League and contain the new heroes. They create a prison out of the area that used to be Kansas and send young metahumans there in order to reform them and teach them how to actually use their powers for good. Unfortunately, they place too many metahumans in this newly created prison which causes an overflow issue. This also leads to fights breaking out against the inhabitants and the problem becomes more than the new Justice League can handle. Thus, Superman agrees that the United Nations has no option but to nuke Kansas again and wipe out all of the collected ‘heroes.’
8. Superman Betrays The Bro Code
With all of his powers and abilities, one would think that Superman wouldn’t have so many problems with getting brainwashed. In this particular instance, Superman was brainwashed alongside Big Barda, who happens to be the wife of one of Superman’s closest friends Mr. Miracle. The two were coerced into making X-rated films for a villain named Sleez (such a fitting name). This story was odd enough from the beginning, but to just add another layer of “what is going on,” the villain Darkseid stepped in to save the day. Darkseid, who just so happened to gain access to a copy of the film, showed it to Mr. Miracle. Betrayed and hurt, he confronted Superman and Barda causing the trance to wear off. Now in their right state of mind, the two set out to find Sleez and bring him to justice. However, once Sleez found out that he no longer had mind control over them he took his own life.
7. You Won’t Miss Your Home, Will You?
I think that we can all agree that Superman hates crime. But his vision of stopping crime hasn’t always been perfectly executed. For example, he once came to the realization that many of the criminals that he dealt with all came from the same area of the city. He devised a plan to stop criminals at the source by destroying the poorest areas in Metropolis. He graciously allowed the residents time to vacate their premises before burning the neighborhoods entirely to the ground. Once all the buildings were completely destroyed, they were replaced with more extravagant, luxurious housing that the owners of the destroyed homes would not be able to afford, basically rendering them homeless. Kicking people out of their homes only to watch you destroy them and rebuild new homes where they won’t be able to afford rent is not how you stop criminals, Superman… that is how you make them.
6. A Taste Of His Own Medicine
Villains usually get what is coming to them, and in most cases this refers to jail time. Well, not for the villain in Superman’s first appearance in Action Comics 1, #1. In this issue, Superman comes across a small time villain working to create a choking gas. Superman goes to confront him when the gas in unleashed in the factory choking the villain. Superman remains unharmed due to the fact that this particular gas does not have the same effect on Kryptonians, but he just stands there and watches the man choke to death. Superman makes the comment that the guy is, “only getting a taste of the fate he planned to doom others to,” which may be correct, but what kind of morally upright hero can simply stand and watch as a man dies slowly choking? If he is willing to let someone die, villain or not, what makes him different from the criminals?
5. Superman Destroys Universes With Anti-Monitor
Any fan of DC Comics will be aware that the storylines can get a tad confusing. DC tried to consolidate the number of storylines and versions of heroes in the 1980s with the storyline of Crisis on Infinite Earths. One of the worlds getting destroyed was Earth Prime. This earth was basically the comic book version of our earth. No one had superpowers and characters such as Superman and Batman were still just comic book characters. One individual named Clark Kent, after Superman from the comic books of Earth Prime, finds that he actually does have Superman’s powers. He saves the universe and finds himself in a Paradise Dimension. In time, he has a change of heart and breaks out of the Paradise Dimension and joins forces with a villain known as the Anti-Monitor, reinstating the crisis on Infinite Earths. With this pair-up, many individuals die with the destruction of several entire universes.
4. Backhand Through The Wall
Rarely does it end well when a group breaks down from the inside. We saw this in action in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War when the group fell apart and fought one other much to the dismay (and enjoyment) of fans. Staying in line with their reputation as the darker comic line, DC took infighting to another level. In Injustice: Gods Among Us #11 Batman, The Green Arrow, Captain Atom, and Black Canary devised a plan to get in the Fortress of Solitude. Once in the fortress, the group was separated and Superman came to “greet” his guests. Green Arrow found himself in a room with alone with Superman and knew that there was little he could do. In a last-ditch effort to get away, he fired an arrow at Superman with no avail. Obviously. Superman proceeded to backhand the Green Arrow. Through the wall. To his death.
3. The Melting Of Dr. Light
Superman #13 followed something called the Trinity War which pitted several heroes against each other and saw the death of several of them. Superman and Wonder Woman are rarely at odds and usually on the same team, this time being no exception. Therefore, when Dr. Light planned out and attacked Wonder Woman, it set Superman down a dark path. Superman confronted Dr. Light, but the confrontation took a turn for the worst when Superman used his heat vision to melt Dr. Light’s head directly off of his shoulders. Later on in the story it is revealed that Superman was under mind control at the time he killed Dr. Light that was part of a plan to once and for all destroy the Justice League. Even though Superman wasn’t in control of his actions, Dr. Light is another death at the hands of Superman. A man this powerful should not be so subjective to mind control. Maybe he should look into a helmet, it works for Magneto.
2. Superman Kills A Pregnant Lois
Superman has found himself on the wrong end of mind control on many occasions. One particular instance comes when he faces off against the clown prince himself, the Joker. This takes place after Clark finds out that Lois is pregnant. He tries to convince her to slow down and rest a bit, but where is the story in that? She gets a lead on a corrupt politician and goes with only Jimmy Olsen as back-up. Upon arrival Jimmy Olsen is killed and Lois is kidnapped. Superman goes to save her from the Joker’s submarine. Once on the sub, Superman is hit with gas, but escapes the Joker just to find that Doomsday is aboard the ship. He promptly grabs Doomsday and flies to outer space where he can kill him. He realizes that he hears two heartbeats and realizes that the gas has deceived him and he has taken Lois into space where she suffocates to death. As if that wasn’t bad enough, when her heart stops beating, a timer for a nuke that the Joker implanted in Lois goes off destroying Metropolis.
1. Superman Brutally Kills The Joker After Lois’ Death
After the toxins wore off of Superman, he is left alone in the sky with a dead Lois Lane and unborn child in his hands looking down at what used to be Metropolis. The nuke has destroyed everything, no more buildings, cars, people, anything. This pushes Superman to a new level of anger and he decides to go far beyond his moral line for vengeance. He finds out that Batman has captured the Joker and has taken him in for questioning. As Batman intensely interrogates the Joker, Superman crashes through the door. Without uttering a word, he approaches the Joker and shoots his fist directly through the Joker’s chest killing him. This is not a mind-altered Superman. This is regular Superman killing in cold-blooded vengeance. This act shocked the characters of the comic and readers alike; and it is rare that Batman is shocked by the actions of others.