Whenever the toughest figure in comic books is mentioned, Superman often comes to mind. The Man of Steel has long been considered the greatest force in comics, with his many powers that make him nearly invincible. True, he has been defeated and even taken out completely, but he still keeps coming back. He’s been able to handle almost any threat in the DC universe with relative ease. However, one wonders how Superman would fare in the Marvel Universe. It has been touched on when DC and Marvel did crossover events, but more often than not, his fights have come to a standstill. Either he wins because our hero is holding back, or he has to join a team in order to have their help to defeat a villain.
Given the number of threats the Marvel Universe has, it is interesting to think about who could take on Superman. Some figures can go toe-to-toe with Superman in terms of strength. Others can manipulate magic, one of Superman’s key weaknesses. Others are just on another level altogether and beyond what Superman could handle. It’s fun to imagine how Superman can give some of these guys a tough time, and maybe even get close to his own victory. However, even without kryptonite, the Marvel Universe boasts a lot of figures who could take Superman down, often easily!
Superman has experience with robotic figures, thanks to his interactions with Brainiac. However, Vision is something entirely different. His strength is greater than people think as he can alter his density to make his body hard as steel or incredibly heavy. He has beaten cosmic entities, and his energy blasts can be very dangerous.
Another big advantage is the fact that Vision can turn intangible, which would allow him to avoid many of Superman's attacks. If he wanted to, he could reach through Superman's body, grab his heart, and probably end him just from doing that. Vision is seriously not to be messed with.
The sole survivor of the universe that came before ours, Galactus was reborn into a massive figure that needs to subsist on the energy of planets. Untold worlds have fallen to his “appetite,” with Earth being the only one with people willing to fight him on a regular basis. But what if he fought Superman? Well, there actually has been a Marvel/DC crossover in which Superman teams up with The Fantastic Four to do just that!
Unfortunately, Superman finds that he is having a ton of trouble trying to take the villain down. Galactus sees most mortals as nothing but insects to him and distractions to his menu. Entire armadas have done nothing to slow Galactus down, let alone hurt him, so Superman would be out of his league big-time, no matter how hard he tried. In the end, Superman actually became Galactus' gilded herald for a while, which goes to show you who won that one!
23 SQUIRREL GIRL
Some fans might do a double take on this particular entry, and we wouldn't blame them. Putting a hero whose “power” is having the strength and agility of a squirrel against Superman? This looks as lopsided a contest as possible. However, Squirrel Girl is secretly one of the biggest powerhouses in the Marvel Universe.
Doctor Doom, Thanos, Galactus, the Avengers, and the X-Men are just some of the people that Squirrel Girl has handily beaten! Sometimes it’s sheer luck, other times surprising skill, but Squirrel Girl just manages to come out on top each time. She could definitely hold her own against Superman.
22 PROFESSOR X
Superman may be stronger and faster than almost all the X-Men, and if it came down to it, he could probably take down the entirety of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters without much trouble. However, his mind is another story. It’s been shown that Superman is susceptible to telepathic attacks and has admitted that being mind-controlled is a major fear for him.
Thus, the most powerful telepath on Earth could conceivably bring him down. Xavier prefers not to misuse his powers, but against Superman, he may have little choice but to bring the full weight of his telepathic abilities down to shut his mind off. Superman can win in a physical fight, but in a mental one, Xavier is easily the victor.
Superman has tangled with evil in the likes of Lex Luthor and Zod, but he may be out of his league with Marvel's literal devil. Mephisto’s sheer power is deadly enough thanks to his supernatural abilities, and he can call on an army of demons to weaken Superman. The man draws power from the dark sides of human nature and that gives him more of an edge in a fight.
There’s also the way he can use his words to invoke a false sense of security; a master of deceit, he can lull Superman into thinking he’s won when Mephisto still holds the cards. Then there’s the brutal truth that Mephisto is basically eternal and can’t be destroyed as long as evil exists. Superman always sees the good in others but that may not be enough to deal with the twisted Mephisto.
20 GHOST RIDER
Ghost Rider would be an intriguing opponent for Superman. His biggest trick is the Penance Stare, which causes a victim to feel all the pain they’ve given to others. That might not work on someone as noble as Superman, but Ghost Rider also has supernatural strength and his flames are mystical and would hurt Big Blue more than regular fire.
His chain is also a deadly weapon and his motorcycle is as much a hell-sent battering ram as it is a vehicle. Ghost Rider can also stand up to Superman’s blows and keep coming back for more. The man even became ruler of Hell for a bit, which proves he’s got the power to give Superman a harsh ride.
This fight would be the unstoppable force against the immovable object. Cain Marko was granted a power by a mystical gem, meaning his powers are magic-based, which is always a problem for Superman. There’s also his incredible strength that’s held off all of the X-Men, and has even allowed him to beat the Hulk and Thor.
His mystical armor and force field also give him an edge, and would protect him from Supes' heat vision at very least. More importantly is that when Juggernaut gets going, he is unstoppable in battle, coming through no matter what. In short, he is always a threat. His momentum can’t be halted, even by Kryptonian strength.
The God of Mischief has serious advantages against Superman. He is millennia-old and has a vast amount of experience to bring into play against Superman. There are also his magical powers, which are always a weakness for the Man of Steel. More importantly is how Loki is the greatest schemer alive, a genius at trickery and games who would adore the challenge of taking on someone as noble as Superman.
Superman would try to see the good in him while Loki would be running rings around him with his schemes, tricks and more. For Loki, it would just be a grand game, and taking on the Man of Steel would have him laughing for decades.
17 MOLECULE MAN
A lab accident made Owen Reece the most powerful human in the Marvel multiverse. He can alter anything around him in any way he wants. He could turn New York into a desert, raise islands from the ocean depths and merge the Earth and the moon. What stops him is the fact that all this power rests in the hands of a guy who would much rather sit home and watch TV.
Owen prefers a much more “normal” life, and often sits out major conflicts as he’s afraid of how his powers might make things worse. Yet his powers mean Superman would be no threat to him. All it would take is a simple nod and blink and Owen can do anything he wants to Superman, from turning him to glass to sending him to the other side of the universe. If there’s one person in the MU Superman should avoid, it’s Molecule Man.
A regular Skrull is already a deadly opponent thanks to their mastery of shape-shifting. Now imagine a Skrull that happens to possess all the powers of the Fantastic Four. Superman would be hard-pressed against an opponent who can stretch around him and cut off his breath with an invisible force field.
This is all not to mention that Super-Skrull could easily pose as someone else to get close and hit Superman before he even knows what’s happening. An enemy who can be anyone around you (and even unseen totally) is very dangerous! Thus, Super-Skrull could have the fight won before Superman knows it’s even started.
15 MR. FANTASTIC
Reed Richards is often underestimated in a fight, much to the detriment of his opponents. His stretching abilities can be quite useful, as he is able to turn himself into a variety of shapes and make it harder for Superman to handle. More importantly is Reed’s standing as one of the smartest men in the world.
He would take the time to observe Superman first and figure out his weaknesses early on. Even during a fight, Reed would be busy putting together clues on how he can handle Superman. Give him a toolkit and Reed could whip up some device to beat Superman in minutes, and prove that brains can top brawn any day of the week.
There are a few cosmic forces that Superman can definitely take on, but a creature that once wiped out a solar system is something else entirely to him. While Jean Grey has been able to control the Phoenix in the past, it’s still a primal cosmic force of incredible power that has barely been defeated by the Avengers and the X-Men. Feasting upon a sun adds to its power, which can get out of the control of its host.
When cut loose, there’s no physical body to attack, just that massive firebird that Superman would be hard-pressed to douse. To the Phoenix, Superman would be just a plaything to batter around before crushing him with ease. This creature is beyond the Man of Tomorrow’s capabilities.
Obviously, the Master of Magnetism has a lot going for him in a fight against Superman. If they’re fighting in a city, Magneto can basically turn their surroundings into an ammo dump to hurl buildings, bridges, cars and more at Superman. Magneto’s powers are trickier than most expect, though! For example, his force fields can conceivably hold off Superman’s punches.
He could also manipulate the iron in Superman’s blood to weaken him, give him a cerebral hemorrhage and more. Superman is an alien but much of his biology makes him susceptible to Magneto’s attacks. Throw in how ruthless Magneto can be and he could beat Superman without too much trouble.
12 SILVER SURFER
Superman is strong to be sure, but that’s not much against the Power Cosmic. A team-up special had him and the Surfer going at it once, and while Superman got some shots in, he was clearly in over his head. The Surfer has incredible cosmic power within him, giving him untold strength and energy manipulation powers. Plus, his surfboard is part of him and is definitely considered a weapon.
There’s also the thing about Superman having trouble breathing in space, which is the Surfer’s “home turf.” Norrin Radd may be calm much of the time, but in combat, he can be amazingly ruthless if need be. Superman can give the Surfer a challenge but the former Herald of Galactus will almost always come out on top.
11 DOCTOR STRANGE
Besides kryptonite, magic is Superman’s other main weakness. This would make him a major target for the Sorcerer Supreme. In physical fights, Strange isn’t that good, although he can hold his own. Luckily, if he went up against Superman, his magical powers would give him all the advantage he needs.
Strange doesn’t even need to get close, just wave his hands and deposit Superman on the other side of the planet or another dimension. He can use a variety of spells and energies to take Superman down and hurt him badly. Strange is held back by his old Hippocratic Oath, though, so he definitely would not take Superman's life, but he could definitely defeat him in a battle.
For years, the Squadron Supreme were a major in-joke. The heroes of an alternate Earth were discovered by the Avengers, and each Squadron member was an obvious pastiche of a member of the Justice League. Hyperion was the sole survivor of his planet who posed as a mild-mannered reporter on Earth. He’s bounced between his reality and the regular Marvel universe, and in each case, is a serious powerhouse.
He has all of Superman’s power but fewer of his morals (he once took over his world in the belief he would “save” it), which makes him much more dangerous. His atomic punches give him more power as well. Thus, if they went toe-to-toe, it’s probably the doppelganger that would take down the original.
Obviously, with the Infinity Gauntlet, this fight could be over before it even starts. However, even without that, Thanos would be a serious challenge for Superman. In terms of raw power, the man can hold his own against the Hulk and others and has a variety of other powers to back him up.
More importantly, Thanos is a brilliant strategist and a cunning fighter who can lull an opponent into a false sense of victory before striking. The Titan is totally ruthless and knows he can use innocents in danger as a way to distract Superman before he makes the fatal blow. Gauntlet or not, this is one cosmic being that Superman should never go up against.
The ruler of the Dark Dimension has been a long-time enemy of Doctor Strange. This monstrous figure is held back by various rules of the higher powers to just invade Earth but he keeps trying. Superman has issues with magic, of course, which automatically means he’d have a problem handling this one.
With everything from magical flames to an army of Mindless Ones, Dormammu can overwhelm Superman with his power before going in for the final blow. The man is a demonic being and that’s a power even the Man of Steel would have a hard time taking down.
7 CAPTAIN MARVEL
She’s been through some tough times, but Carol Danvers always shows how she’s one of the brightest stars in Marvel. Thanks to various cosmic accidents, Carol has a power potential even she isn’t fully aware of fully. She is capable of tapping into energies that could blow a moon in half and often finds herself needing to hold back for fear of destroying those around her.
Superman can relate to that, so a battle on Earth might make them both hold back. However, if they were fighting in space, Carol clearly has the edge in terms of sheer power. Also, her military background gives her an additional edge needed to take Superman down, and the will to take him out permanently.
6 DOCTOR DOOM
A 1980 special actually has Superman briefly tangling with Doctor Doom. Doom gets away with kryptonite and also using his diplomatic immunity as ruler of Latveria. But even without those, Doom is capable of handling Superman. The fact that the man is a brilliant genius of the highest order and a cunning strategist makes him dangerous.
Superman knows full well the damage Lex Luthor can create just with his mind, and Doom is Luthor to the tenth level in terms of scheming and being one step ahead. His armor gives him major power and his deep knowledge of magic can definitely take a toll on Superman, no matter how hard he tries.
The Imperial Guard are the elite warriors of the Shi’ar Empire who protect hundreds of worlds. Gladiator is their long-time leader and powerhouse who’s stronger than half the team put together. It’s been shown that his strength relies on his utter confidence as the more he anticipates victory, the stronger he can be.
He’s been shown to trash the entire Fantastic Four and the X-Men with ease, and has stood up against major galactic threats. In a head-to-head fight, Gladiator has the edge, as he can easily survive space, which can give Superman problems. Superman is strong but Gladiator is used to cosmic threats and his military experience makes him ruthless enough to take down Superman.
A highlight of JLA/Avengers was Thor and Superman going at it in a knock-down, drag-out fight. The most astounding part of it was when we saw that Superman was actually able to hold Thor's hammer. Superman seemed to get the upper hand but it was hinted Thor was holding back against the Man of tell, as he is a mortal. So, if Thor would actually unleash his powers, we know very well that he would have the upper hand.
Thor is a literal god with centuries of experience and stamina; a divine warrior who can go for days. There’s also his hammer, which not only packs a serious punch but can call down mystical lightning to hit Ka-El. Maybe Superman got the upper hand in that miniseries but in a serious fight, the God of Thunder would be the winner.
3 THE SENTRY
The Sentry is an obvious Superman analog in the Marvel Universe. However, if pushed, he might be even stronger as he has “the power of a million exploding suns.” He doesn’t have heat vision but he does have amazing speed and power on par with the Hulk and others like him. The fact that he is mentally unstable doesn’t help as it makes him unpredictable in a fight.
A big factor is the Sentry’s literal dark side, The Void. A monstrous force living inside him, the Void can escape from the Sentry and make him even more dangerous. Superman might be able to handle the Sentry but if the Void comes into play, even the Man of Steel can fall to its evil force.
2 WORLDBREAKER HULK
They touched on this in a 1999 one-shot where Hulk and Superman go at it, but it’s clear that Superman was pushed to the limit. But in a straight-up fight with the much more powerful Worldbreaker version of Hulk, Superman would be taking on a force more brutal and cunning than Doomsday.
This is a creature who has literally cracked worlds in half. Superman can hit him with just about anything he has and all it will do is tick him off. Superman will tire but this version of Hulk’s limits are still yet to be fully understood. Thus, if anyone in the Marvel Universe can take down Superman in a fight, the Green Scar is it!
1 THE BEYONDER
It’s one thing to be a powerful figure in your universe, but it’s another to actually be your own universe. The Beyonder was his entire reality, eventually taking human form to explore the Marvel Universe. This, of course, caused the famous Secret Wars event book. If he wanted to, The Beyonder could wipe the entire DC universe out with the blink of an eye.
He’s only really held back by his curiosity about humans and his desire to find a place to belong. It looked like he’d sacrificed himself at one point, but he came back and made people fear him and the greatness of his powers. He might actually toy with Superman a bit in a fight but make no mistake: nothing Superman can do could hurt the Beyonder.