Superman has been around since 1938 and Batman made his debut shortly thereafter in 1939. For 80 years (and counting) writers have given fans countless stories about these characters. It’s inevitable that, at some point, the heroes become a little stale. Reboots and retcons fend off this trend but writers frequently use another method to liven up DC’s legendary heroes. Elseworlds stories, or tales that take place out of the main DC continuity, allow fans to see alternative takes on their favorite heroes. With this year’s crossover, the Arrowverse is finally capitalizing on the benefits of these alternative stories and for good reason. In them, writers have more freedom to explore because they don’t have to make the story fit into the primary DCU (sometimes, the stories wind up in the main DCU anyway. Flashpoint Batman has seemingly joined the post-Rebirth continuity).
As a result, fans have gotten some wild, wacky and weird adventures. Superman: Red Son, Kingdom Come and the Batman: Vampire collection are just a few notable examples. Believe it or not, some of these Elseworlds heroes are even more powerful than their Prime Earth counterparts. For example, various versions of Superman have forcibly taken over the world, something that Earth-0’s Superman would never do. Not every Elseworlds hero is a winner, though. Some of them pale in comparison to the ones based in the main DCU. As a result, we’ve decided to list ten of the alternate universe heroes who are stronger than the original and ten who are weaker.
20 STRONGER: FLASHPOINT AQUAMAN
Aquaman is frequently characterized as a man of two worlds. Arthur Curry wants to foster peace between the surface world and the Kingdom of Atlantis. This urge to please both sides often hamstrings Arthur from making any real progress in bringing the two worlds into a harmonious existence.
In Flashpoint, Aquaman isn’t bridled by these concerns. While engaged in a catastrophic war with the Amazons, Arthur sinks most of Western Europe. Having been raised by the Atlanteans from a young age, Arthur never learned compassion. Flashpoint Aquaman came this close to ruling the world. Without Prime Earth Arthur’s limitations, this Aquaman is more powerful than ever.
19 WEAKER: OWLMAN
What is Batman without his moral compass and his mission to fight crime? As various versions of Owlman have proven, taking these core elements away from the Dark Knight turns him into a criminal mastermind. In JLA: Earth 2, Thomas Wayne Jr. is Bruce Wayne’s older brother. Thomas loses his mother and his brother and becomes Joe Chill’s protege. Subsequently, Thomas dedicates his life to crime.
The most significant difference between the power levels of Batman and Owlman is their intelligence. Batman naturally trained himself to become the World’s Greatest Detective. Owlman, on the other hand, artificially augmented his intellect. The Caped Crusader outranks Owlman due to this discrepancy alone.
18 STRONGER: RED SON SUPERMAN
Superman: Red Son is one of the most beloved alternate history stories in the history of comic books. Rather than landing in Kansas and becoming the hero we all know and love, Kal-El crashes down in the Soviet Union. The Red Son rises to power and leads the USSR. Together, they rule the world. More than ever, Superman exploits his ability to watch over life on Earth, which creates a totalitarian planet.
Worst of all, Superman takes in any dissidents and makes them (practically) brainless robots. The Man of Steel doesn’t adhere to the values he’s typically known for, which allows him to conquer the world. Another alternative version of Superman is even more formidable, though.
17 WEAKER: RED SON WONDER WOMAN
We’ve mentioned how the Superman in Red Son is a critically acclaimed alternate version of the Man of Steel. Unfortunately, this Elseworlds story, like a few others, doesn’t do Wonder Woman justice. Superman rises to power and, for all intents and purposes, rules the world, Meanwhile, Wonder Woman is downgraded to a character who stubbornly longs for the main star’s affection.
While Diana is as physically powerful as ever, she loses herself in her devotion to the Man of Steel. She can’t even see that Superman is simply using her and it’s fair to argue that Prime Earth’s Diana Prince would know better.
16 STRONGER: KINGDOM COME FLASH
Typically, the most powerful alternate heroes are twisted versions of their counterparts. Evil Supermen and Batmen can easily be found throughout the multiverse. With the Flash seen in Kingdom Come, his power doesn’t come from a corrupted heart. Instead, he’s genuinely more impressive than his counterpart on Prime Earth.
In this story, Earth-22’s Wallace West is the fastest man, including all other Flashes, in history. Wallace manages to run fast enough to merge with the Speed Force and become a god-like being. This version of the Scarlet Speedster enjoys a level of mastery over time that Barry Allen can only dream of.
15 WEAKER: BIZARRO FLASH
Bizarro is one of Superman’s most famous antagonists -- he’s a dark reflection of the Man of Steel, from his appearance to his powers. With the success of Bizarro, DC has explored similar takes on the members of the Justice League. Most of them turned out to be fairly laughable opposites of these heroes. But the difference between the Flash and his Bizarro League counterpart is as clear as day.
Bizarro Flash might be the slowest man alive. He doesn’t run fast and he tires easily. He’s not totally useless but, in a footrace with the Flash, Barry Allen would leave him in the dust.
14 STRONGER: THE BATMAN WHO LAUGHS
With other alternate heroes, without virtues or morals the loss makes them comparatively weak. There are some exceptions to this pattern and, of them, the Batman Who Laughs, or Laughs for short, is one of the most notable. When Bruce Wayne breaks his cardinal rule, the Joker’s gas turns him into a heartless villain who threatens the multiverse. With no remorse to affect his decisions, this version of Batman coldly takes what he wants.
This Batman-Joker hybrid takes out the Bat-Family and the Justice League. He also manipulates the other evil counterparts of the Dark Knight and comes this close to destroying the multiverse as we know it. Laughs isn’t limited by Bruce’s morals, so he’s a powerful, deadly villain.
13 WEAKER: VAL-ZOD (EARTH 2)
Superman is one of the most powerful heroes in the DCU. This strength comes from his physical body as well as his heart. While the Man of Steel would prefer peaceful solutions to problems, he has proven, time and again, he’ll do what is necessary to subdue villains and monsters going after innocent life. In other words, Superman may not like violence but he’s willing to resort to it as needed.
If the will to fight is stripped from the Man of Steel, is he still physically powerful? In the case of Val-Zod, the character’s status as a pacifist makes him comparatively weak. At first, Val-Zod doesn’t use his powers to their full extent, which costs his allies on several occasions.
12 STRONGER: DARK FLASH
Several alternate heroes have one pivotal moment in their turned on its head, which results in significant changes from their source material. In the case of Walter West, the loss of Linda Park drastically altered his timeline. The tragedy robbed him of the hopeful attitude that made him famous throughout the DCU. As a result, Walter became the Dark Flash, a man who sought to punish criminals with unrelenting force.
When Walter sets his sights on the main Earth’s Wally, he effortlessly matches the Flash’s speed. Walter’s unending pursuit of criminals arguably makes him more powerful than the Scarlet Speedster.
11 WEAKER: FLASHPOINT BARRY ALLEN
"Flashpoint" is one of the most notable, and controversial, events in recent memory. The series culminated with a complete reboot/relaunch of the DCU, the New 52 and Batman, Superman and other heroes were drastically altered but, in some ways, Barry Allen drew the short straw compared to his Justice League teammates.
At the beginning of event, Barry doesn’t have any powers. In this timeline, he never became the Flash. Barry had to recreate the accident that gave him his abilities (and it took multiple attempts to get it right.) Needless to say, a powerless Barry is outranked by the Flash.
10 STRONGER: INJUSTICE SUPERMAN
The tragedy Superman experienced in Injustice: Gods Among Us is one of the worst in the character’s history. The Joker makes the Man of Steel think he’s fighting Doomsday when, in reality, the victim is Lois Lane. Inadvertently, Superman is also responsible for the destruction of Metropolis.
Let’s just say the Man of Steel snapped due to these misfortunes. Superman forcibly takes control of Earth and becomes its tyrannical leader. Countless heroes (and villains) pay the ultimate price during Superman’s ascension. This version of the legendary hero is one of the most dangerously evil ones imaginable. While he lacks Clark Kent’s famous heart, his merciless conquest of Earth makes him comparatively more powerful.
9 WEAKER: ALL-STAR BATMAN
This version of Batman isn’t comparatively weak in the traditional sense. In many ways, he’s largely the same Caped Crusader as his counterpart from the main continuity. However, this iteration of the Dark Knight takes the first half of that nickname to the extreme, which arguably weakens him.
Frank Miller’s portrayal of the Caped Crusader in All-Star Batman & Robin is notoriously cruel; frankly, he’s just not a good guy. Granted, the Dark Knight is rarely a ray of sunshine. But, here, Batman’s heart is cold. While the hero’s excessively harsh outlook strikes fear into criminals, it dilutes his ability to inspire those around him.
8 STRONGER: ULTRAMAN
Other versions of Superman have explored what the Man of Steel would be like if he experienced a life-altering tragedy. Multiple iterations of Ultraman stand out because he is inherently evil. In the New 52, the character is particularly evil. He was raised to seek vengeance against Krypton’s destroyer, which firmly placed him on a path fueled by rage. Plus, Kal-ll took out his adoptive “parents,” who he manipulated into taking care of him in the first place.
Ultraman has defeated Black Adam and other god-like beings. These victories, along with his freedom from the potential restraints of altruism, make him more physically powerful than Superman.
7 WEAKER: GOTHAM BY GASLIGHT BATMAN
Most of the time, one of the various sources of Batman’s power is his technological genius. In modern times, this intelligence allows the Dark Knight to create state of the art weapons and tools. As the world has progressed, so too has the Caped Crusader’s arsenal.
What happens, then, when Batman is placed in a time period before the age of computers? DC explored this scenario in Batman: Gotham by Gaslight. While this story is quite popular, let’s face it: this iteration of the Caped Crusader paled in comparison to the one we know and love. Without advanced technology, the Dark Knight was a vigilante limited by his world, which was in the early stages of the Industrial Era.
6 STRONGER: GRID
Cyborg has always been a compelling character due to the clash between his humanity and his robotic other half. Having a heart can limit Victor Stone’s ability to fight crime because emotions can cloud his judgement. With the creation of Grid, DC gave fans a version of Cyborg that is an utter machine.
During "Forever Evil", Grid helps the Crime Syndicate in its attempt to take over the world. Grid turns off the power in several major cities and releases all metahuman prisoners. With cold, unfeeling logic, Grid could be unstoppable whereas Cyborg can always be weakened by his emotions.
5 WEAKER: EARTH-14 SUPERMAN
The Justice League of Assassins is one of the most obscure alternate versions of the team and this lack of exposure is a shame. The group made its brief debut in Superman (Vol. 4) #15 during the “Multiplicity” storyline. As the title suggests, the Man of Steel meets various iterations of himself and his teammates. On Earth-14, he meets the Justice League of Assassins, which includes gritty versions of Batman, Superman, Harley Quinn and others.
The group is fairly unremarkable -- they’re quickly defeated by the villainous Prophecy and Earth-14’s Superman is unable to stop him. With this brief, lackluster track record, the Man of Steel from Prime Earth can easily be considered the more powerful version.
4 STRONGER: POWER RING
Power Ring is often portrayed as a dark reflection of the Green Lantern, whether it’s Hal Jordan, John Stewart or Kyle Rayner. Harold Jordan is a close imitation of Hal and enjoys most of his counterpart’s powers. Unlike traditional Lantern Rings, though, the Power Ring’s limits are not defined. It’s been estimated that whoever wears the Power Ring could be nearly omniscient.
During the “Trinity War” storyline, Power Ring displayed his impressive strength when he destroyed a Sinestro ring. Plus, according to the Outsider, Power Ring and his teammates have destroyed immortal beings. Without any known limitations, Power Ring outranks the Green Lantern.
3 WEAKER: SUPERDOOM
Despite being the Last Son of Krypton, Superman is often viewed as the pinnacle of humanity. Sure, he’s an alien but many people see him as someone we should all strive to be. Clark Kent is known for his persistent hope, selflessness and altruism. For this reason, the Man of Steel’s power extends beyond his physical body -- he is an icon who makes those around him better.
But what happens when you take the humanity out of Kal-El? DC delivered a heartless Superman when it introduced Earth-45’s Superdoom, a robot initially created by Clark Kent, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen. Superdoom pales in comparison to the real Man of Steel because it lacks the heart and soul that defines Superman.
2 STRONGER: EARTH-3 SUPERWOMAN
Earth-3’s Superwoman, or Lois Lane, is quite evil. First, she’s guilty by association due to her relationships with Ultraman and Owlman. As a dark reflection of Wonder Woman, Lois enjoys the typical Amazonian power set and she also has heat vision. Whereas Diana Prince has the Lasso of Truth, Superwoman uses the Lasso of Submission to take over her enemies.
Superwoman’s real strength comes from her manipulative personality. She lied to Ultraman and Owlman and turned them against each other. Leading up to an attack by the Injustice League, Lois also pulled the strings to free Mazahs. Wonder Woman wouldn’t manipulate people so blatantly, so Lois’ willingness to do so is certainly an advantage.
1 WEAKER: LEATHERWING BATMAN
In Detective Comics Annual #7, DC gave fans a version of Batman more old-fashioned than the one seen in Gotham by Gaslight. The Dark Knight is usually a land-based hero; he’s the protector of Gotham City. Batman: Leatherwing turns this characteristic on its head because the Caped Crusader is a pirate who sails the high seas.
Instead of the Batcave, the Dark Knight is based out of Vespertilio Cay. While this Elseworlds story is a fun twist on a legendary hero, this Batman is heavily restrained by his time period. Forget the Batmobile and other fancy gadgets; here, the Caped Crusader merely fights crime with a sword.