Superman, the Man of Steel, is considered both the standard to which all other heroes are held to in comic books and he’s also one the mightiest heroes in all of fiction. Like most things however, Superman is a character who has changed and adapted to fit the times he’s written in, but there’s still plenty of leeway where comic book characters are concerned. With a character as popular as Superman, it’s not surprising that multiple other versions have popped up. One of the most entertaining aspects about comics is alternate realities, worlds where things didn’t happen like they did in mainstream canon.
Marvel had their What If…? comics and DC Comics had their Elseworlds series. Numerous other timelines have been explored, and with the inclusion of the Multiverse, there’s always something new and different to examine, even with Superman. Each version of Superman is not created equal. Some are stronger and faster than others, while some are meaner or kinder. The world of comic books is a crazy and fun place, with a never-ending series of stories waiting to be told about alternate version of fan-favorite characters. Today at CBR we’re looking at 15 alternate versions of Superman and seeing who’s the strongest and weakest of the bunch!
15 STRONGER: KINGDOM COME SUPERMAN
The world of the Kingdom Come timeline wasn’t exactly a dystopian nightmare, but it definitely left a lot to be desired. Taking places decades after the likes of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman have retired and/or gone into self-imposed exile, a younger generation of heroes, with their carelessness and brashness are causing destruction worldwide and making the populace fear super-powered beings; they need to be reined in.
Reluctantly, Clark Kent reprises his role as Superman. This Superman is older, wiser, and stronger than his younger self. Thanks to years of absorbing solar radiation, kryptonite no longer hurts the Man of Steel; his physical strength is practically boundless. The only things/entities capable of coming close to offering physical discomfort are beings like Captain Marvel and his magical abilities. Kingdom Come Superman is the Last Son of Krypton at his absolute peak.
14 WEAKER: INJUSTICE SUPERMAN
In DC’s comic series Injustice: Gods Among Us, Superman turns into a malevolent dictator. Following the manipulations of the Joker, which led to the death of his wife Lois Lane, their unborn child, and the destruction of Metropolis, Superman snapped and killed the villain. He then went on to kill or recruit every other superpowered individual he could find.
This Superman is as powerful as he is ruthless, but nearly every physical victory he achieves is through being assisted by one of his allies. When the real Superman from the main DC continuity came to the Injustice world, he defeated the tyrannical Kryptonian and made it back home in time for lunch. It’s almost inexplicable, but Chancellor Superman’s merciless behavior, though it made him deadlier than ever before, also made him sloppier, causing him to behave more irrationally.
13 STRONGER: SUPERDOOM
In 2012’s Action Comics #9, a world was presented that offered up Superman as nothing more than a franchise. Created by the scientist Clark Kent, he built and designed an unstoppable robot in the image of Superman. Things go wrong because this is comics, as the Superman machine is sold to a corrupt corporation called Overcorp. They propagated a twisted version of the hero, calling him Superdoom.
He was so popular it ultimately took over the world as it became self-aware and hungered for increased commercialization. It travelled to alternate realities and slaughtered every version of Superman it met. Superdoom gained power to change form based on what people believed of him. Superdoom then travelled to DC’s mainstream Earth, where he nearly killed the New 52 Superman, but was later defeated.
12 WEAKER: ULTRAMAN
Ultraman raises the question about what if Superman was totally evil and also existed in mainstream DC Comics canon. Superman has a few evil counterparts, but Ultraman is arguably his most well-known. There have been multiple versions of Ultraman, each have been members of the Crime Syndicate, the evil mirror image of the Justice League from Earth 3.
Ultraman has all of Superman’s powers, yet he’s slightly weaker then the Man of Steel. This is because Ultraman never learned restraint and is compelled to simply kill his enemies rather than work around to find solutions to stopping an opponent without murdering them. Clark Kent on the other hand, has spent his whole life doing just that, and because of it, he’s learned how to out-maneuver opponents and be creative, thinking outside the box.
11 STRONGER: THE SUPERMAN
Is there such a thing as a Superman who’s too powerful? Then answer is probably yes and can be seen in the Tangent Universe. Created by Dan Jurgens, in this reality, Superman is not Clark Kent, but rather Harvey Dent, the childhood survivor of a failed superhuman development program. Driven by the “god-force”, his brain evolved at a rapid pace, lending him a wide variety of psychic and physical powers, the likes of which Superman can’t even come close to demonstrating. This Superman became so powerful he started to lose touch with his humanity.
Things got even more out of control when this Superman decided the best way to protect the planet was to rule over everyone. He was so strong that Superman couldn’t beat him, but instead required the combined might of the heroes from Tangent Universe and DC Universe to defeat him.
10 WEAKER: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS SUPERMAN
In 1986, legendary writer Frank Miller came out with The Dark Knight Returns. Now a modern classic, the story showed an alternate future where Batman had gone into retirement, but returned a decade later when Gotham City is threatened. The Superman of this world has become an ally of a brutal U.S. government that Batman adamantly opposes; he’s ordered to arrest the Dark Knight. The result was one of the best battles between the two characters.
The Superman of The Dark Knight Returns wasn’t necessarily evil, nor was he the strongest Superman ever. As seen in the story, a nuclear warhead almost proves his undoing; something an in-cannon Superman would practically laugh at. In his fight with Batman, despite Bruce being aged, Superman loses. It’s possible to say that Superman was holding back, and he probably was, but a win is a win and Batman won.
9 STRONGER: CAPTAIN ALLEN ADAM
As seen in Watchmen, the character Doctor Manhattan is an exaggerated version of Captain Atom, with a bit of Superman for good measure. But what if Superman himself was Doctor Manhattan? That’s where Captain Allen Adam comes into play. Essentially a fusion Doctor Manhattan and Charlton Comics character Captain Atom, Allen Adam was abducted alongside all of the other multiversal Supermen in Final Crisis: Superman Beyond. He is also the closest thing his world has to a Superman counterpart.
This Captain Atom is ridiculously powerful, in seen in the crazy feats he performs. In fact, Atom’s might is so great he has to drug himself to keep his quantum senses at a manageable level. He’s omnipotent and can do nearly anything required of him, including fusing Superman and Ultraman together into one character.
8 WEAKER: SUPER-SOLDIER
In one of the few crossovers between Marvel and DC Comics, the two companies got together in the ‘90s and mashed up some of their favorite characters. Out of this, the Amalgam imprint line was born. It was a PR stunt since both companies were struggling in terms of sales, but Amalgam didn’t help matters much.
One new hero that stood out was Super-Soldier, the fusion of Superman and Captain America. In this alternate world, Clark Kent is an ordinary human until he’s experimented on with a super-soldier serum created from alien DNA. Though he gets incredible powers and becomes a shining champion of justice, Super-Soldier wasn’t anywhere near on Superman’s level. Even with great super strength, he needed a shield to defend himself anything larger than a bazooka blast.
7 STRONGER: ALL-STAR SUPERMAN
The Silver Age version of Superman was for all intents and purposes a living god. Capable of doing literally anything the script required, including time travelling, making up new powers on the fly, and pulling scores of planets at a time, Superman was unbeatable. In the comic All-Star Superman, we get a version of that Superman, except he’s at least three times stronger than nearly any version we’ve seen before.
The story features Superman slowly dying on account of a slow cellular death through intense solar radiation. Instead of flat-out killing him, the solar cancer has multiplied his power to incalculable levels. Stronger than ever before, and one of the strongest Supermen in the entirety of DC Comics lore, Superman attempts to complete his own bucket list. At the story’s end, he goes to effectively live in the Sun.
6 WEAKER: JUSTICE LORDS SUPERMAN
In episodes #37 and #38 of the ‘00s Justice League cartoon, the world realized what happens when Superman and the League decide to rule by way of lethal justice. In this timeline, Lex Luthor, who is the President, captures the Flash and executes him on TV. In response, an enraged Superman kills Luthor with an healthy dose of heat vision. From there, Superman proceeds to take over the world.
This Superman was just plain evil. Justice Lord Superman’s used his heat vision to lobotomize Doomsday and took over the world’s governments. Though incredibly strong, he still couldn’t beat the righteous and true Superman, proving himself an inferior copy in all respects. Additionally, the Superman from the Justice League show is verifiably weaker than his comic book counterpart. If he can defeat Justice Lords Superman, than comic book Superman can too.
5 STRONGER: SUPERMAN: THE LAST SON OF EARTH
If the idea of Superman and all his powers, but also armed with a Green Lantern Power Ring, comes across as a bit overpowered, that’s’ only because he is. In the DC Comics Elseworlds story from 2000 Comics, readers got a chance to see what Superman would be like with the most powerful weapon in the universe. Written by Steve Gerber, the story tried to pass on social messages about xenophobia and authoritarianism.
The plot itself saw a complete reversal of Superman’s iconic origin. Here, Superman is sent from Earth to Krypton where he picks up a Green Lantern ring. Along with all the powers he later possesses, thanks to spending time on Krypton and adjusting to their gravity, the ring gives him additional powers, leaving his abilities restricted only by his willpower.
4 WEAKER: CENTAUR SUPERMAN
In the Elseworlds tale Whom Gods Destroyed, written by Chris Claremont, readers got a bizarre version of Superman. In this world, the Nazis are in complete control, what with the Third Reich never falling, and Superman is primarily an instrument of evil and he has also hardly aged a day. Lois Lane, after experiencing a vision of Superman killing her, tries to figure out with the mystery with Superman.
Then things get weird. Circe turns Superman into a centaur, and then later a woman, and Lois becomes the new Wonder Woman. Together, Wonder Woman Lois, Centaur Superman, and Lana Lang are able to overthrow the Nazi rule. Together, the three of them the go live on the moon. So that happened. Anyway, Centaur Superman, what with being half-horse, wasn’t quite as powerful as readers knew Superman to be. Oh well, it happens.
3 STRONGER: SUPERBOY-PRIME
Superboy-Prime is unquestionably one of the strongest non-magic based mortals in the entire DC Universe. There are few beings in the Multiverse that boast his level of power. Despite being a teenager, Superboy-Prime is leagues above most heroes or villains. Superboy-Prime comes from a universe much like our own, but he was the only person with superpowers. Originally good during "Crisis On Infinite Earths", he went insane in "Infinite Crisis".
He fought nearly every superhero on the planet, including the entire Green Lantern Corps, and almost took them all down. With power dwarfing Superman’s by leaps and bounds, Superman even stated it’s likely Superboy-Prime cannot be killed on account of his vast power. Prime killed Superman from Earth-2, murdered multiple Green Lanterns, punched a hole in reality, and almost destroyed the Anti-Monitor with a single blow.
2 WEAKER: CIVIL WAR ERA SUPERMAN
Superman: A Nation Divided was an Elseworlds story that told the tale of Private Atticus Kent. Joining the Union to fight the Confederacy, it doesn’t take long for General Ulysses S. Grant to realize that he has a being of immense power on his side. This Superman, though he didn’t boast all the power he’s typically known for, was still a force to be reckoned with. Single-handedly, this version of Superman helps to change the tide of the Civil War.
In spite of his great power however, Civil War Superman could still be hurt by cannonball fire. Eventually, the era of the Civil War is too small for Superman, especially once he discovers he came from another world. He then embarks on a search for his Kryptonian ancestry.
1 STRONGER: CHRISTOPHER KENT
Christopher Kent was not the son of Superman and Lois Lane, but rather his biological parents were General Zod and Ursa. Stemming from Earth-16, the place most commonly known as the Pre-Crisis world Superman Jr. and Batman Jr. Christopher became the Superman of his world and would become far stronger than Clark Kent would as regular ol’ Superman.
Appearing in the mini-series Countdown Arena, Chris Kent had evolved himself and his powers to staggering degrees. Due to rigorous training, he could perform acts that other Supermen can’t. This self-imposed evolution let him access his chakras, opening up a whole world of abilities. Along with the regular powers Superman is known for, Chris could redirect and hone his heat vision on opponents, absorb energy attacks from enemies, physically grab the heat vision of other Supermen without harm to himself, and grow to incredible heights, boosting his power even more.