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Superman's Greatest Enemies

Characters list created by KBLists Avatar

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First Appearance: Superman #4 (March, 1940)

Mad scientist. Politician. Billionaire businessman. Terrorist. President of the United States. Even without super-powers, Lex Luthor is the definitive super-villain. In most versions of the story, his vendetta with Superman stretches all the way back to their childhoods in Smallville, and Lex has only gotten more obsessive since then. With a genius intellect and limitless financial resources to back him, Lex is determined to not only kill Superman but ruin everything the Big Blue Boy Scout stands for, out of pure spite. There have been so many classic Lex Luthor stories because the character has been able to adapt over the decades to represent society's image of evil, just as Superman remains the standard bearer for all that is good in the world. Lex may not be the most physically gifted of Superman's enemies, but his hatred of the Man of Steel is far more personal, consuming, and ultimately dangerous than that of any other baddie.
First Appearance: Action Comics #242 (July, 1958)

Be he a clone, an android, or a super-computer, Brainiac is one of the most awesome known intellects in the DC universe, obsessed with his collection of societies throughout the multi-verse. His repeated attempts to collect Earth cities such as Metropolis has routinely put him into conflict with Superman, who has since learned that Brainiac may or may not have had something to do with the destruction of Krypton. Throw in the fact that Brainiac often works with Lex Luthor, has killed Pa Kent, possessed Lois Lane, and is responsible for the shrinking of the Bottle City of Kandor, and Superman's got some very personal reasons to despise this particular intergalactic villain.
First Appearance: Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #134 (November, 1970)

The godlike dictator of the planet Apokolips, a world of nothing but suffering, Darkseid is perhaps the universe's most powerful despot. Obsessed with conquering Earth, he has tangled with most of DC's prominent superheroes, but none more often than Superman. Physically, he is in the same league as Kal-El, but he also possesses energy-based and psychic powers, the limits of which have not yet been detailed. His diabolical intellect and legions of demonic followers make him an all-around threat as long as this power-mad villain remains on his throne. Recently, he managed to even defeat the Anti-Monitor in battle.
First Appearance: Superman: The Man of Steel #18 (December, 1992)

Of all the nasty ladies and gents on this list, Doomsday is the one and only to successfully kill Superman. A hulking alien guided by aimless rage, Doomsday arrived on Earth bent on destroying any and all living things. He made short work of the entire Justice League and this naturally garnered the attention of Superman himself. The ensuing battle is the definition of epic comic book fights and ended with Superman dead in a weeping Lois Lane's arms. Yeah, Supes came back and, since then, Doomsday has been something of a disappointment, never truly representing the threat he did upon that first meeting. Nonetheless, he's a scary looking beast who can boast of doing what no one else has -- killing Superman.
First Appearance: Adventure Comics #283 (April, 1961)

Superman has long been called the Last Son of Krypton; however, DC has since shown us that many characters actually survived the death of Superman's home planet through various means. Krypto, Beppo, Faora, Jax-Ur, Kara Zor-El (Supergirl), the Kryptonite Man, H'El, Karsta Wor-Ul (Superwoman), and the inhabitants of Kandor. But of all of the members of this ever expanding list of survivors, none is more evil than General Zod, the former leader of the entire Kryptonian military who was imprisoned in the Phantom Zone by none other than Superman's father, Jor-El. Freed from decades of imprisonment and unleashed upon Earth, Zod is usually obsessed with getting vengeance through the death of Kal-El and also establishing a New Krypton on Earth. His status as the main bad guy in two Superman motion pictures also establishes him as one of the most iconic of Superman's opponents.
First Appearance: Crisis on Infinite Earths #6 (September, 1985)

The Anti-Monitor's exact origins have been re-written multiple times, but suffice it to say that he is one of the most powerful and destructive beings the superheroes of the DC multi-verse have ever encountered. The primary, universe-destroying antagonist of the cataclysmic Crisis on Infinite Earths, it took the combined efforts of nearly every villain and hero in the DC roster to keep him from bringing about a complete apocalypse. The Supermen of various realities were among those at the center of the battle. The Anti-Monitor's sheer power, combined with the fact that some of Superman's closest allies were killed in the fighting, are responsible for the Anti-Monitor's high placement on this list.
First Appearance: Superman #30 (September, 1944)

He may come off as an impish, smart-mouthed prankster, but Mister Mxyzptlk is easily one of the most powerful comic characters in existence. His extra-dimensional, magical powers give him complete mastery over all reality itself. Luckily for the people of Earth, Mxyztptlk usually keeps his villainy at the level of mischief and silliness, Superman being the preferred brunt of his nefarious jokes. That he is more powerful than even Superman makes for some compelling stories, as Superman can only win by outwitting Mxyzptlk and tricking him into saying his own name backwards. Thus writers have the opportunity to present Superman with conundrums which require more than a super-punch. Mxyzptlk's clown-like nature and limitless abilities meant he was ready-made for cartoons, which only helped expand his appeal and notoriety as one of Superman's most famous foes.
First Appearance: DC Comics Presents #27 (November, 1980)

The alien warlord Mongul is the master of WarWorld, which in most versions of the comic stories is comparable with the Death Star from "Star Wars." Seeing Superman as an obstacle to his goal for complete universal domination, he routinely seeks out battles with the Last Son of Krypton, something most bad guys try to avoid. The exact limits of Mongul's powers and abilities have never fully been defined and, on most of their meetings, Superman has been pushed to the very limits of his capabilities against him. Mongul is also the central villain of the "For the Man Who Has Everything" story by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, one of my all-time favorite Superman tales.
First Appearance: Superboy #68 (October, 1958)

A backwards thinking and talking version of Superman of the altogether backwards Bizarro World, Bizarro has a heart of gold, but by virtue of his demented perspective, weak mindedness, and loneliness, he often winds up causing havoc during his visits to our world. The fact that his strength and invulnerability rival those of Superman himself, and that he's equipped with other powers which counteract those of Superman (for example "freeze vision" and "flame breath"), mean he can cause quite a problem for the Metropolis Marvel whenever they tangle. The combination of humor and danger inherent in the character made him easy to adapt into television cartoons, thereby helping him become one of the most recognizable of all of Superman's central villains. Were it not for the fact that he's basically a well-meaning innocent, he would rank much higher on the list.
First Appearance: Action Comics #252 (May, 1959)

Everyone knows what Superman's greatest weakness is, right? I mean, who wouldn't say Kryptonite? Well, in Metallo, Superman has to deal with a guy whose heart is literally made of the stuff. Like any Superman nemesis who has been around for awhile, the details of Metallo's origin and look have been reconfigured more times than I care to count. But that one basic detail, the one that matters, remains the same: he's a bad guy with a mechanical body powered by kryptonite. As long as that remains true, Superman's always going to have to keep a wary eye out for John Corben.
First Appearance: Adventures of Superman #500 (June, 1993)

So there have been two incarnations of the Cyborg Superman. The first, Hank Hanshaw was an astronaut who, long story short, wound up transferring his consciousness into the craft that brought Kal-El to Earth, and thereafter replicated Superman's genetics to design a new body for himself, augmented by kryptonian metal and technology. Following DC's umpteenth reboot of its continuity, Cyborg Superman is now Zor-El, father to Supergirl and uncle to Superman, who survived the destruction of Krypton thanks to interference from the villainous Brainiac. In exchange, Zor-El was forced to become Brainiac's cybernetic lapdog, scouting new planets for the Collector of Worlds. In either case, he is a mentally unstable Kryptonian blessed with technology the likes of which mankind cannot counteract... never a good combination.
First Appearance: Batman #1 (April, 1940)

Yes, of course the Clown Prince of Crime is Batman's arch-nemesis, but Superman has run afoul of the Joker more often than I'm sure either man would have preferred. Some of these run-ins came by virtue of Superman's own close friendship with Batman and thus he has often been called in to aid Bats in taking down the criminal. However, Superman's most notable conflict with the Joker occurred when the villain managed to acquire Mister Mxyzptlk's reality-altering powers and created a universe in his own image, which naturally put Batman helplessly under the Joker's control, leaving Superman to save the day on his own. Granted, on any typical day, Superman has the power to take down the Joker with ease, but the Joker is still crazy enough to keep Superman guessing. On one occasion, after easily thwarting the Joker's plans, Superman dared to ask the villain why he had even bothered. The Joker's reply? "Oh Superman, why not?"

Superboy Prime

First Appearance: DC Comics Presents #87 (November, 1985)

Is there anything more tragic in comic books than when a superhero becomes a corrupted shadow of his former self? Superboy Prime was an alternate reality version of Clark Kent who emerged during the massive DC Comics crossover event called the Crisis on Infinite Earth and proved himself worthy of the name of Superboy by helping to destroy the reality-warping Anti-Monitor. Unfortunately, as part of the fallout from the Crisis, Superboy was slowly driven mad by helplessly watching a darker universe unfold before his eyes. Obsessed with returning the universe to its old form, Superboy went on a crazed rampage that left several super-heroes dead and culminated with him punching an actual hole through reality itself. He was so dangerous that it actually took the combined efforts of two separate versions of the adult Superman to bring a stop to his plans.
First Appearance: Action Comics #340 (August, 1966)

There have been several men to embody the Parasite, the purple-skinned baddie who feeds off of the energy and powers of others. Whoever the Parasite might be at any given moment, if he hasn't fed for awhile, the he can appear to be a feeble skeleton figure; however, once he comes into contact with a powerhouse like Supes, he can transform into a rampaging behemoth that can prove difficult to handle even for the entire Justice League. The Parasite might not be in the upper echelon of Superman's best known rivals, but he has presented the superhero with some real scares over the years and must be handled carefully by any hero with super powers.
First appearance: Action Comics #64 (September, 1943)

One of Superman's most enduring recurrent super-villains, Toyman is an inventive genius who creates innocent looking toys with deadly intentions. Though he is rarely a match for Superman himself, he is at his most despicable when his inventions threaten the lives of the children who are drawn to his creations. This fact gets right to the heart of Superman's insistence on protecting the lives of the innocent and thus Toyman holds a relatively high place in the ranks of Superman's most despised foes.
First Appearance: Justice League of America #29 (1964)

An evil counterpart for Superman from an alternate reality, Ultraman is also the defacto leader of the Crime Syndicate, the members of which are all evil reflections of the Justice League of America. As Superman's opposite, Ultraman finds his superhuman abilities (comparable with those of the Man of Steel) enhanced by exposure to Kryptonite. He and the Crime Syndicate have made several attempts to conquer our reality, but have always been turned back by their heroic counterparts.
First Appearance: Omega Men #3 (June, 1983)

One of DC Comics' most popular anti-heroes, the intergalactic bounty hunter Lobo is a wise-cracking sociopath who travels the universe on his "Spacehog." One of the few beings in the universe who is at least physically competitive with Superman, he is also the last survivor of his race, just as Superman is the last survivor of Krypton. Of course, in Lobo's case, he actually murdered every last member of his own kind -- for a school science project. As one might assume, his use of brutality sets him at odds with the Big Blue Boy Scout's strict sense of morality and the pair have clashed repeatedly with neither man being able to permanently harm the other. Lobo's adherence to his own bizarre sense of morality and status as an anti-hero mean he's not all villain, so he can't be rated too high on this list, but few others here represent the sheer physical threat to Superman in a toe-to-toe fight than does Lobo.
First Appearance: Action Comics #595 (December, 1987)

One of the more unusual Superman villains, Silver Banshee was a woman from the British Isles who had become trapped in the netherworld as the result of a spell gone wrong and was subsequently transformed into a psychopathic mystical entity with a murderous banshee cry. Released back into our world, she has since had multiple run-ins with Superman and Supergirl, her magical powers and pure rage often proving a challenge for either of them.
First Appearance: Action Comics #13 (June, 1939)

Few people realize that the Ultra-Humanite was actually the first super-villain in comics. Debuting just a year after Superman, who was himself the first superhero, Ultra-Humanite was initially a bald criminal mastermind with telepathic powers who was confined to a chair. His various schemes ran him afoul of the Man of Steel on numerous occasions before Lex Luthor or the Joker ever graced a comics panel. In time, the Ultra-Humanite would use his psychic abilities to transfer his consciousness into other bodies, most notably an extra hairy albino gorilla!
First Appearance: Action Comics #51 (August, 1942)

The first iteration of the Prankster was your typical super-villain of comics' Golden Age, which is to say that he was as gimmicky as he was goofy. Over time, he has been retconned more than once, each time giving him a more serious, menacing tone. He has never been among the most popular or threatening of Superman's nemeses, but he has been a persistent nuisance and makes the list on sheer longevity alone.

Honorable Mentions

Vandal Savage - This power-mad immortal has caused plenty of problems for DC superheroes in general, not just Supes.

Manchester Black - Johnny Rotten look-alike asshole and leader of the super-powered weirdos known as the Elite.

Kryptonite Kid/Kryptonite Man - Serving up Kryptonite poisoning since 1960.

Faora - Phantom Zone criminal who, despite her notorious hatred of men, is somehow attracted to the ultimate chauvinist, General Zod.

Livewire - One of DC's most successful characters created for cartoon and transitioned into the comics, rather than the other way around.

Solomon Grundy - He's basically a zombie version of the Hulk, which means that Superman is often called in as one of the few beings who can handle this murderous monster.

Morgan Edge - Media mogul, slave to Darkseid, and mob boss. All around, a pretty busy guy.

Terra-Man - A futuristic Wild West outlaw/environmentalist who rides a winged horse? Okay, sure.

Legion of Super-Villains - As one might expect, a dastardly counterpart to Superman's teenaged allies from the future, the Legion of Super-Heroes.

Atlas - Any of several different characters based on the mythological character and used by DC for some gimmicky dust-ups with the Man of Steel.

Titano - Imagine King Kong with Kryptonite eyes. That's Titano.

Imperiex - A malevolent force so great it forced Superman to resort to teaming up with Doomsday and Darkseid (!!!) to stop him.

Kalibak - Son of Darkseid. Need I say more?

Deathstroke - This master assassin isn't quite on par with Superman physically, but nonetheless has been a recurrent adversary for the Man of Steel.

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Favorite Superman Lists (19 lists)
list by KBLists
Published 3 years, 1 month ago

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