Mightier Than Steel: 15 Things Supergirl Can Do That Superman Can't

Sent from the dying world of Krypton, landing on the planet Earth, and becoming one of the world’s greatest champions, it’s easy to think we’re talking about Superman. Actually, we’re referring about his cousin, Kara Zor-El, known to the people of Earth as Supergirl. She too left Krypton right before it exploded, but whereas Kal-El was sent away to survive, she too sent to survive but also be her baby cousin’s protector. Unfortunately, Kara’s rocket got lost in time and space and she arrived a few decades later than expected. While she hadn’t aged much, Kal-El had, having grown to full adulthood and become known as Superman.

Kara had to reprioritize. If Kal-El no longer needed her, than what was she going to do? The answer: go on her own adventures. Going by the name Supergirl, Kara would take up the role of hero and persevere to protect her adopted world. Over the years there would be a couple Supergirls, not restricted to Kara, and even a few rebooted versions of the hero. While they experienced their own share of histories and trials, one constant existed: they could each do things Superman couldn’t. Today at CBR we’re looking at 15 things Supergirl can do that Superman cannot.


There are many Supergirl fans that believe the Girl of Steel is mightier than her younger cousin Superman. The primary reason for this is Batman. When the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel met Post-Crisis Kara, Batman often remarked that Kara Zor-El absorbs solar radiation much more efficiently and at a higher rate than her beloved cousin. According to Batman, this means Supergirl may have greater potential than Superman.

Batman’s claims certainly seem founded. Kara has outraced Superman before and even defeated him in combat on at least one occasion. Batman’s even trained her and spent the majority of their time together assessing her strengths and weaknesses. Both Batman and the audience know Kara had more time on Krypton, in turn giving her a greater ability to resist the dense gravity of her home world, boosting her power.


Often enough you’ll find that Superman gets a lot of grief for relying solely on physical power, with little skill to back it up. Except for the rare instances, Superman isn’t much of a skilled combatant; he kind of just swings his fists until his opponent is knocked out. It generally works for him…until he comes across someone of equal power who’s a superior fighter.

Supergirl doesn’t have that issue. Even while she was on Krypton, she went through some gnarly hand-to-hand combat training. After all, she was sent to Earth originally to be Kal-El’s protector. Once she got to Earth in the Post-Crisis universe, she struggled to control her powers. Superman and Batman then sent her to Paradise Island to train with Wonder Woman and the Amazons in hopes she’s become more disciplined. She did and in so doing became an even more astonishing fighter.



In a post-Crisis “pocket universe” where Superman was dead, Lex Luthor was a good guy and went to extreme measure to resurrect his love, Lana Lang. Lex’s advanced form of AI was called the “protoplasmic matrix,” or “Matrix” for short. And so, rather than creating Lana as he remembered her, Luthor’s wacky science led to the genesis of Matrix. She had the memories of Lana, but the Kryptonian abilities of Superman.

Matrix had a few powers the Man of Steel didn’t possess, including shapeshifting. Matrix took advantage of this ability to morph into the new Supergirl. Later, after what boils down to an interdimensional battle against General Zod, Faora, and Quex-UI, forcing Matrix/Supergirl to team up with Superman, the pocket universe was basically destroyed. The shapeshifting Matrix was taken back to the mainstream DC Universe where she became the first post-Crisis Supergirl.


As already mentioned, the Matrix Supergirl had quite a number of powers that certain other Kryptonian superheroes did not have. Many of her powers were linked to her own mind. This version of Supergirl had the added bonus of being completely telekinetic. Similar to various incarnations of Superboy who could use telekinetic fields to attack opponents, Matrix could do similarly. That said, in the beginning of Post-Crisis Superman’s adventures, his ability to fly and lift heavy objects was also described as a form of telekinesis.

Matrix expanded on that and had full tactile control of certain objects using nothing but the power of thought. However, the things that separated her from any other “S” wearing hero was that she could channel her telekinesis into a force blast. If Matrix concentrated hard enough, her telekinetic powers could incapacitate foes.



Many consider Superman invincible, and after a while, even Superman started to believe his own hype. That was until the massive event "Crisis on Infinite Earths". Here, Superman met his match, and then some, in the form of the Anti-Monitor. One of the most powerful malevolent forces the universe has ever known, Superman found himself practically helpless at the Anti-Monitor’s feet. The hero was about to be killed, but his cousin Kara had other thoughts on the matter.

Hearing her cousin getting the tar beaten out of him, Kara rushed to his aid and tackles the Anti-Monitor. From there, she proceeds to bludgeon the universal monster with everything she has. Nearly killing the creature, Kara turns her back on her enemy to urge her comrades to run. In that split second, The Anti-Monitor delivers a killing blow to Supergirl, before literally running away so he could heal.


Unlike Clark Kent who’s spent his life on Earth, when New 52 Kara arrived, she felt like an outcast; this was very different from her Pre-Crisis iteration. On account of the hostility and confusion she faced, Kara falls victim to a Red Lantern ring, a trinket specifically designed to hone in on a person’s latent anger and manifest for them in physical and violent ways. Though Superman has used a Green Lantern Ring, and even a Yellow Lantern Ring (in Injustice), he’s never wielded an Red Lantern Ring.

The rage-driven jewelry increases Supergirl’s phenomenal strength, putting her at the peak of her powers. A bit of a loose canon already, once she joined the Red Lantern roster, she was an engine of pure rage and destruction. The whole ordeal gave Supergirl some much-needed time to grow. She went from being embittered to understanding her place in the universe.



Matrix had a pretty good run as Supergirl. The only downsides were that if she was hit hard enough, as seen when she fought Doomsday she’d revert back to her purple gooey form, and readers eventually wanted a more traditional Supergirl. To that end, Matrix was bonded to Linda Danvers. Already on the verge of death, Linda’s life was saved and the two became a brand new Supergirl.

This new version of Supergirl now had even more power than either Kara or Matrix and acquired a totally new ability that no Supergirl before her possessed: pyrokinesis. Of course this was because Linda was actually the Earth born Angel of Fire, but that’s comics for you! Upon this epiphany, Supergirl learned to manifest wings of literal fire and she could channel incredible destructive fire-based attacks.


The age dynamic between Superman and Supergirl often seems paradoxical at times. Yet it’s not as complicated as it appears. Though she looks physically younger than Clark, Kara was born before him. They also left Krypton at the same time, but whereas Clark’s ship made it to Earth without any problems, her voyage from Argo City to Earth was met with a few issues.

It took her a number of years for her rocket to arrive and the entire time her aging was put on hold. There are a couple different versions of this story, but what matters is that no matter what origin you subscribe to, Kara undoubtedly knows a great deal more about Krypton than Clark. She understands its history, its way of life, and the political and social dynamics that defined the culture.



Superman isn’t known for having hatred or distrust of people, but that all changes where Lex Luthor is concerned. The two are mortal enemies and will never trust the other, seeing as Lex has tried to murder Superman countless times. Supergirl, or at least the Matrix version of Supergirl, had zero qualms with the man and didn’t mind moving in with him. After all, Matrix was created solely to please her maker, Lex Luthor.

After a bizarre episode involving a fractured psyche, forcing her to flee the planet, Supergirl returned home and began an intimate relationship with Lex. Because this is comics the situation got weirder when it was revealed Lex was living in the physical likeness of his son. He’d moved his brain to escape the Kryptonite-ring induced cancer that had poisoned his body. Talk about domestic bliss!


When Superman arrived on Earth, his life wasn’t immediately grand and full of love and adventure. Though he had Ma and Pa Kent to aid him in his growth, Clark felt like an outsider for many of his formative years. He struggled with the immersion of his powers and it took a significant amount of time to get ready to become Earth’s greatest champion.

On the other hand, Pre-Crisis Kara seemed raring to go from the moment she landed. Of course Superman wasn’t going have any of that and said she was unfit for duty and put her in an orphanage. Undeterred, Kara did as her cousin instructed until the time came when she finally moved on and embraced the Earth as her home. The entire time, Kara never experienced the same level of distress Clark did.



On both the CW TV show and in the comic books, Supergirl seems to give Superman a run for his money where speed is concerned. In the early days of their Post-Crisis relationship, Kara didn’t wholly trust Superman and rebelled against him once or twice. Running (or this case flying) away from the Man of Steel, she quickly zoomed out of his telescopic, microscopic, and every other vision power he possessed.

On the Supergirl TV show, we see the Girl of Steel racing the Flash, racing neck-in-neck with the Scarlet Speedster; she also did this in the New 52.Superman typically struggles to keep up with the Flash, but not Supergirl. While no one has come out and said, “Supergirl is faster than Superman”, all signs are indicating just that.


Throughout much of DC’s New 52, the comic book company chose to take a new and bold approach with Supergirl. As previously mentioned, Kara joined the Red Lantern Corps. When she arrived on Earth, her time was spent in constant self-doubt and fighting people she didn’t know. As a result, Kara grew gloomy. So she took the oath of the Red Lanterns who are defined by their hate and anger.

This gave Kara access to a myriad of abilities; many Superman would never be privy to. The most notable, and repulsive, of these abilities was Red Lantern power to vomit acid blood. Surprisingly deadly, the oral sludge could burn through most materials and hurt nearly anyone; it was likened to having the force of napalm and acid mixed together.



Another unique ability belonging to Supergirl/Matrix’s repertoire was the power to turn invisible. Similar to speedsters like the Flash, or even heroes like Superman who also had fantastic super speed, Supergirl can vibrate so fast she appears invisible to the naked eye. It’s just one of those many skills she learned from the Flash, the Fastest Man Alive. Matrix, on the other hand, could legitimately become invisible.

Thanks to the bizarre science that made her, while it would often require a draining amount of concentration, Matrix could will herself to be completely invisible. Even though she wasn’t quite as strong as Kara Zor-El, she was powerful enough that turning invisible and slugging someone with across the jaw with the force of a literal wrecking ball was a devastating combination.


The biggest weakness to any Kryptonian is of course kryptonite. The bane of Superman’s existence, the radioactive rock from his home world has brought the Man of Steel to his knees on multiple occasions, nearly killing him. In the Post-Crisis DC Universe, Supergirl proved she didn’t share her cousin’s weakness to the green stuff. In out of canon stories, Superman’s demonstrated the ability to surpass his weakness to kryptonite and even shatter chains made of it. In mainstream stories however, this is not the case. But we’re not talking about Superman, but Supergirl.

After arriving on Earth, Kara did a little soul-searching and wound up training with The Outsiders superhero group. Even though her arms are bound with kryptonite chains, she easily defeated the team’s strongest members. Then, tired of fooling around, Kara easily broke the chains, revealing the kryptonite had little to no effect on her.



The ‘80s were a heck of a time. To some it looked like fashion had generally been thrown out the window. Huge hair and ridiculous garments that didn’t completely match was the hot thing. Since fitness was also at an all–time high, legwarmers and headbands were in style. Looking like she just came out of Olivia Newton-John’s Physical music video, Supergirl rocked ‘80s fashion like only she could. Nothing in Superman’s clothing repertoire could ever hope to come close to competing with Kara’s totally clutch fashion sense.

The outfit itself, while it kept the general basics to the traditional Supergirl uniform, varied itself thanks to the red headband, tying Supergirl’s long, curly shoulder-length hair. She’d wear that same silly headband until the day she died in Crisis on Infinite Earths. Inexplicably, the headband survived the Anti-Monitor’s attacks, while Supergirl did not.


More in Lists