Pretty much as soon as he debuted, Superman has basically been a paragon of virtue in the DC Universe, the shining star that other superheroes measured themselves against. Even when DC Comics changed their continuity so that superheroes had existed for decades before Superman’s first appearance, he still managed to become an icon almost immediately, inspiring a whole new generation of heroes. However, no one can be universally loved, and yes, even Superman has had his detractors over the years.
In most of these instances, the hero in question eventually came around on Superman, and in some of these instances, it was only a temporary incident that led to them having short-lived disgust for their fellow hero (especially the ones who were teammates with Superman in the Justice League). However, all of these heroes, at one point or another, were very much not fans of the Man of Steel (we’re not counting alternate realities or instances of mind control — these were all in continuity and the heroes were acting out of their own free will). We’ll list them in chronological order of when they first had a problem with Superman.
Years before Marvel Comics debuted their own Hercules, the hero appeared in a rare two-parter in 1960’s Action Comics #267-268 (by Otto Binder, Wayne Boring and Stan Kaye). Hercules was brought to the present day by Lex Luthor, who planned on manipulating the demi-god into attacking Superman. However, once Hercules realized that he was being scammed, he ceased hostilities with Superman and befriended him instead. Superman then got him a job as a photographer at the Daily Planet.
Sadly, Hercules then fell in love with Lois Lane and his jealousy over her love for Superman eventually led to him trying to destroy his friend so that he could win Lois for himself. He even gained extra powers from the gods to do so. Luckily for Superman, when they found out what Hercules had planned, they took the powers away. Superman erased his memories and brought him back to the past.
14. BOOSTER GOLD
Booster Gold was a unique superhero in that he traveled from the future specifically to use his advanced technology to not only make himself a super-suit, but to then use his fame as a superhero to his financial advantage by becoming a spokesperson for various products. Naturally, this approach did not sit well with other superheroes, especially Superman. Superman particularly had a problem with Booster setting up shop in Metropolis (the city Booster lived in in the future).
Booster, for his part, felt that Superman was self-righteous and he also did not like how much more popular Superman was than him. They eventually patched things up (especially when a duplicate of Booster almost killed Superman — the panel above is actually the duplicate. John Byrne’s art is too good not to use!) and were even Justice League teammates for a time.
In John Byrne’s final arc before he left the Superman titles, he introduced a pocket dimension where the Lex Luthor of that world was the only thing standing in the way of three evil Kryptonians. Luthor invented an artificial being known as Matrix who could shape shift. He sent her to Superman’s dimension to get help. She shape-shifted into a female version of Superman, appearing as “Supergirl.” She brought Superman to the pocket dimension, but it was too late, everyone was already dead. After executing the villains, Superman brought Matrix to his dimension and left her in Smallville, where Ma and Pa Kent took care of her.
However, Matrix’s telepathic powers caused it to merge its thoughts with Superman to the point where it believed that it was Superman and that the real Superman was an impostor who had to be destroyed to protect Ma and Pa Kent!
An early arc in John Byrne’s run in Action Comics saw Superman, sick of terrorist attacks directed by the Middle Eastern country known as Qurac (sort of a mix between Iran and Iraq), actually invade the country and destroy most of their weapons. This, naturally enough, caused many Qurac citizens to fear the Man of Steel.
A few years later, Davood Nassur, who fled Qurac with his family, gained superpowers. Superman tried to reason with the young man, but he still remembered what Superman had done to Qurac, so he turned on Superman (his telekinetic powers did well against Superman). Eventually, the two became uneasy allies, as Davood was powered by a special belt that Lex Luthor had made to become even stronger and he took on the rather-embarrassing-in-retrospect-but-good-intentioned-at-the-time superhero name of Sinbad.
It is a stretch to call Lobo a “superhero,” but he is currently a member of Batman’s Justice League of America, and when he first faced off against Superman, he was working with the heroic group L.E.G.I.O.N. (albeit against his will), so he is probably close enough to being a superhero that we can count him on this list.
Lobo first clashed with the Man of Steel for the simplest of reasons — he was drinking at a bar and someone told him that Superman was tougher than him. Lobo couldn’t abide by that (a goody two shoes like Superman tougher than the Main Man?!), so he traveled to Earth to show Superman who’s boss (along with the two aliens who told him that Superman was tougher so that they could provoke Lobo into fighting Superman so that they could record and sell copies of the fight around the universe).
10. GUY GARDNER
Simply put, Guy Gardner’s problem with most major superheroes stems from his own feelings of inadequacy, so he has to overcompensate by being over-the-top and disrespectful to people like Hal Jordan, Batman and Superman. Superman, in particularly, struck a nerve with Gardner when they served together on the Justice League and Guy’s girlfriend, Ice, clearly developed a crush on Superman. After Superman’s “death,” Guy supported the Eradicator as the “real” Superman (when Superman returned, Guy confronted him in his new Vuldarian powers).
Years later, when Gardner seemingly died in a battle against the alien invader, Imperiex, Guy confronted Superman over what Guy found to be a serious case of disrespect, as no one seemed to particularly care that Guy had fallen in battle. Guy decided that, now that he was back, he needed to do the sort of gray area heroics that Superman could never do.
The Eradicator is an odd character for this list, because in a lot of ways, he adored Superman. In fact, his very existence was as an artificial being whose purpose was to help the Last Son of Krypton adjust to his life after the destruction of Krypton. However, that adjustment was a strange one, as it believed that Superman was ruining the heritage of Krypton by bonding too much with the people and customs of Earth.
Thus, despite the fact that Eradicator was actually the person who saved Superman’s life post “Death of Superman” (in the process, he created his own Superman-esque body and became a superhero), the two have clashed, as well, over Superman’s unwillingness to recreate Krypton on Earth — Superman even has a half-human son, which was the final straw for the Eradicator!
8. ALPHA CENTURION
The Alpha Centurion had one of the stranger debuts for a comic book character, as he showed up in an alternate timeline during Zero Hour, where he was Metropolis’ hero instead of Superman (a Roman centurion who was taken into outer space and trained by aliens and given their technology and sent back to Earth centuries later). However, when his timeline was erased, the character still made his debut, with the same origin, only now in the main DC Universe.
Like Hercules before him, Alpha Centurion initially had a problem with Superman over the affections for Lois Lane. Alpha Centurion also took a job with Lex Luthor. In the end, though, he became Superman’s friend and he quit working for Luthor and became an independent superhero.
Also during Zero Hour, the Justice League met Triumph, who actually had helped found the Justice League, but in their first battle, he was set apart from history for years, erased from everyone’s memory! When he returned, he was still a young man and his former peers were now all veteran heroes. He had to take a gig on Martian Manhunter’s superhero training team, Justice League Task Force.
Later, he had such a string of bad luck that he eventually turned on Superman and the other heroes in the Justice League, using a magical Thunderbolt to lay waste to the League and trying to put Justice League Task Force in their place. Ultimately, it was Superman’s kindness to him that broke through to Triumph and caused him to part ways with the magical Thunderbolt, even if it meant his own death.
Maxima was a member of the royal family on the planet Almerac and she decided that Superman would make a perfect consort for her. She was outraged that he was not interested in her. She fought against him but was ultimately defeated. Later on, she aided him and the heroes of Earth in their battle against Brainiac, who had invaded Earth with Warworld. She then joined the Justice League along with Superman. Even after his “death,” she remained in the League.
When her League broke up, however, she began to try to get Superman to be with her again and when he again turned her down, she committed to being a villain, joining the Superman Revenge Squad. Later, she reformed again and helped save the universe in a battle with Brainiac.
When you see the Justice League together, it is hard sometimes to remember that Aquaman, though he looks human, is very much a part of his Atlantean culture. Not only that, but as the King of Atlantis, he has a whole different outlook on the world. This was made very clear in the pages of Superman #162 when Aquaman showed up to arrest Lex Luthor for crimes against Atlantis.
The problem was that Luthor was in the middle of running for President of the United States. Superman could not allow Aquaman to just arrest an American citizen (especially one running for President) and Aquaman was disgusted that his friend would allow the clearly evil Luthor (especially since Aquaman knew Superman knew Luthor’s evil ways better than anyone) get away with the whole Presidential ploy. The two friends clashed before Luthor talked his way out of the dilemma.
4. THE ELITE
Introduced in the classic Action Comics #775, the Elite were a parody of the successful Wildstorm series, The Authority, which had their own version of Superman on their team (Apollo) and yet handled superheroing in a much more violent fashion, a way that had made Superman appear out of date. Thus, in Action Comics #775, writer Joe Kelly had The Authority stand-in, The Elite, show up in the DC Universe and causing all sorts of damage as they did their “heroic” acts. Throughout all of it, they also mocked Superman and challenged him to a fight.
Superman ultimately did fight, and win, against them. The rest of The Elite split from their crazed leader, Manchester Black, and became an affiliated Justice League team. Black became a recurring Superman villain.
For decades, Superman and Batman were the best of friends. They even shared a title, World’s Finest Comics, for 40 years! When DC rebooted their continuity following Crisis on Infinite Earths, Superman and Batman were now no longer best friends, but they were still allies (Batman was now so much darker that their old friendship did not really work).
Over time, they became good friends again. However, around the time of Infinite Crisis, their friendship became frazzled. After a confrontation with the Man of Steel, Batman actually agreed to give Lex Luthor access to a project that he knew could be used as a weapon against Superman. Soon after, Batman told Superman “The last time that you inspired anyone was when you died.” Daaaaaaaaaang, Batman!
The Legion of Super-Heroes often held try-outs for new members, but often, the rejected heroes are none too pleased about getting turned down. One of these heroes, Absorbency Boy, could absorb the powers of the other heroes around him. He was rejected for his powers being too limited (which doesn’t make a lot of sense, as being able to absorb the powers around him is actually quite useful). Embittered, he later attacked the Legion.
Years later, he turned the people of Earth against the Legion and all “aliens,” especially Superman! Now calling himself Earth-Man, he resented aliens like Superman being so revered on Earth. Earth-Man later was forced to join the Legion as an attempt to reform and he realized the follies of his xenophobic ways.
Ever since Supergirl was re-introduced following Crisis on Infinite Earths, the character has mostly been marked by her anger. This was exaggerrated further still when the New 52 debuted, with Supergirl once again a stranger on Earth. She was confronted with her cousin, Kal-El, early on, but she refused to come under his control.
Eventually, she became paranoid and even worked with a villain, H’El, who proposed to recreated Krypton on Earth. Supergirl resented how Superman acted like she was a child that needed to be constantly watched. Her anger eventually led to her becoming a temporary member of the Red Lantern Corps, where at least she could use her anger for a good purpose.
If you were a superhero, do you think you’d get along with Superman? Let us know in the comments section!
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