Superman has one of the best collections of villains in comics. There’s the criminal genius Lex Luthor, the evil megalomania Darkseid and the cold-hearted Metallo, just to name a few. Any number of these villains would be strong enough, clever enough and ruthless enough to conquer or destroy the world if it wasn’t for Superman stopping them. Yet no matter how brutal or cruel the villain, it seems like any number of them have ended up on the same side as the Man of Steel at one point or another.
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One of Superman’s best qualities is his undying belief in the goodness of others. He wants to give everyone a chance, so it seems like there’s no one so evil that he hasn’t been willing to work with them. That’s worked out well in some cases, and not so well in others. In some cases, the villain reformed and became a hero on his or her own. In other cases, the villain joined up with Superman, but went right back to being evil afterward. With everyone talking about Superman’s return in Justice League, CBR is going over 15 of his worst villains and how they teamed up with the hero.
15. LEX LUTHOR
When it comes to Superman, one of his enemies stands out above all others: Lex Luthor. As intelligent and ruthless as Superman is strong and selfless, Luthor has been Superman’s archenemy for decades and remains so to this day (sure, he’s currently playing the hero, but we all know better). That’s why it’s kind of a surprise how many times Superman and Lex Luthor have been on the same side.
Through the Silver Age, a variety of real and imaginary stories had Luthor and Superman working together, and even the movie Superman II in 1980 had the pair briefly team up. The most important pairing came in 2014 after the “Forever Evil” event, when Lex Luthor formed an Injustice League to fight an invasion by the Crime Syndicate. Afterward, Luthor was actually allowed to join the Justice League and fight alongside other heroes, including Superman, mainly to keep an eye on him.
Doomsday isn’t the smartest of Superman’s villains, but he holds a special place as the one who beat Superman to death in his very first appearance. A result of a mad scientist’s experiment on prehistoric Krypton, Doomsday was dedicated to the destruction of all life when he erupted from a tomb on Earth and made a path of destruction all the way to Metropolis. After Superman’s defeat and rebirth, Doomsday came back again and again, but one time he and Superman worked together.
In 2005’s Action Comics #825 (J.D. Finn, Ivan Reis), Doomsday found Superman fighting the supervillain Gog. Up until that point, Doomsday had become intelligent and developed emotions. Doomsday actually helped Superman fight Gog and saved the Man of Steel by going back in time to rewrite history, which changed the future to a better one.
While 1980’s Superman II made General Zod an essential part of pop culture, he’s been around long before then, having first appeared in the comics in 1961. A ruthless general on the planet Krypton, he was exiled to the Phantom Zone, which let him survive the destruction and head to Earth. With his powers and keen mind, he’s one of Superman’s worst enemies, but also became an ally in a new way.
In 2007, a new version of Zod was created, one who escaped from the Phantom Zone to turn the bottled city of Kandor into New Krypton. Zod became the new planet’s military commander and Superman joined the Military Guild under him to see what life would be like. The two worked together until Brainiac destroyed New Krypton, leading Zod to launch a war against Earth. The two went back to being enemies again.
Bizarro is the exact opposite of Superman, a stupid but dangerous copy of the Man of Steel who has all of the hero’s powers (though a little jumbled) but none of the brains. Where Superman is driven to fight crime, Bizarro is compelled to spread chaos. He’s always been an annoyance for Superman and occasionally crosses over to a full-on villain, but there’s something loveable about the chalk-white reverse-talking antihero.
In 1994, Superman #87 (Dan Jurgens, Stuart Immonen) started the “Bizarro’s World” storyline where Lex Luthor tried to make a clone of Superman and made a new version of Bizarro who was captured and tortured by LexCorp’s scientists. Superman was forced to rescue Bizarro and the two of them worked together to escape and destroy Luthor’s research so the villain could never make another monster like it again.
Maxima first appeared in 1989’s Action Comics #645 (Roger Stern, George Pérez) as an Amazonian alien warrior who wanted to bear children and thought Superman would be her perfect mate. With her psychic powers, the two fought both verbally and physically, and she often joined his enemies like Brainiac to beat Superman.
However, Maxima has also been a hero, joining the Justice League and also working with Superman directly. She’s gone back and forth since then, joining the Superman Revenge Squad against him and also helping Superman against the supervillain Imperiex. Through it all, she offered herself to Superman many times, only to be rebuffed. If the two of them joined together in marriage, they would have some of the most powerful kids in the universe.
In the Silver Age, Jax-Ur was a sociopathic scientist from Krypton who was sentenced to the Phantom Zone for destroying a populated moon. While he survived the destruction of Krypton, he remained just as evil, plotting with General Zod to escape and carry on his experiments.
In 1964’s Action Comics #310 (Leo Dorfman, Curt Swan), Superman discovered the underwater city of Atlantis was struck by a “spotted plague.” To save them, Superman agreed to work with Jax-Ur to go back in time to Krypton before it was destroyed. While he pretended to be reformed, Jax-Ur created a jeweled form of Kryptonite that let him use his mental powers to affect the world outside the Phantom Zone. He tried to trick Superman into exiling himself from Earth, but Superman foiled his plan.
The alien cyborg Brainiac only wants to get smarter and learn more about the universe, and he’s not above killing all other life while he does it. He’s best known as the villain who made the Kryptonian city of Kandor smaller so he could steal it, but he’s also been a ruthless enemy of Superman, sometimes second only to Lex Luthor.
In 1985, the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” storyline changed the DC universe forever. The Anti-Monitor tried to destroy the multiverse, and Brainiac tried to unite the villains to conquer other Earths, but eventually joined the heroes to stop the end of the multiverse. It was a brief moment when Brainiac and Superman were on the same side, but then Brainiac went back to being evil.
Darkseid is the literal God of Evil, created by Jack Kirby in 1970 as a member of the New Gods, dedicated to conquering the universe. From his planet Apokolips, Darkseid has been obsessed with the single goal of finding the Anti-Life Equation that would let him control all living things. That’s brought him up against Superman many times, one of the few heroes who can fight Darkseid.
In the 1988 miniseries Cosmic Odyssey (Jim Starlin, Mike Mignola), another New God named Metron found the Anti-Life Equation, which turned out to be a living being. The Equation sent four “aspects” of itself to destroy four planets including Earth, collapsing the Galaxy. To save himself, Darkseid organized a team of heroes including Superman to stop the Equation and save everything. It wasn’t the only time Darkseid worked with Superman, but definitely one of the most epic.
7. MR. MXYZPTLK
Mr. Mxyzptlk was created in 1944’s Superman #30 by Jerry Siegel and Ira Yarborough and is one of Superman’s most frustrating and powerful enemies. As an imp from another dimension, Mxyzptlk can alter reality in any way he wants with his only limit being that he has to say his name backward or do some other crazy stunt of his own design.
One of the few times he was on Superman’s side was during the “Emperor Joker” storyline in 2000 by Jeph Loeb, Ed Guinness and J. M. DeMatteis. In that story, Mxyzptlk was tricked into giving the Joker his power to change the universe, and the Joker created a twisted mockery of the world in his own image. Mr. Mxyzptlk had to work with Superman to stop the clown from destroying the universe, showing he could be a good guy, after all.
There have been two versions of Mongul in the DC universe. The original Mongul was created by Len Wein and Jim Starlin in 1980, a power-mad dictator who tried to consolidate power over Warworld (which was retconned into becoming a gladiatorial arena). Mongul was a powerful enemy of Superman, and was one of several villains whose souls were stolen by Neron. After that, his son became the new Mongul.
Mongul II arrived in 2000 as an ally of Superman to stop the villain Imperiex during the “Our Worlds at War” crossover where Imperiex had destroyed Warworld and was headed for Earth to destroy the universe. Mongul and Superman worked together, along with other DC heroes and villains, to stop Imperiex and save reality. Once they succeeded, Mongul II went on to cause almost as much chaos and destruction as his father.
Deathstroke is a hired killer and mercenary created by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez in 1980’s The New Teen Titans #2. Though he started out as an enemy of the Teen Titans, he’s gone on to fight Batman and Superman with his skilled use of guns and swords, enhanced strength and keen tactical mind.
In the 1992 eight-part crossover “Panic In The Sky” (starting with Action Comics #674 by Dan Jurgens and Roger Stern), Brainiac took over Warworld and used it to attack Earth. To fight him, Superman recruited heroes like Batman, Captain Marvel, Guardian and Aquaman, but also brought Deathstroke onto the team to be the field leader. With Deathstroke on the team, Superman was able to stop the invasion and end Brainiac’s attacks, but Deathstroke went back to taking jobs as a contract killer.
In the alternate world of Earth-3, good is evil and evil is good. Instead of the Justice League, there’s the Crime Syndicate and instead of Superman, there’s Ultraman. Ultraman has all of Superman’s powers, but uses them to commit crimes instead of fighting them. He’s also made stronger by kryptonite, but that’s a whole different story.
Ultraman has been an enemy of Superman for decades, but that changed in 2008’s Brave and the Bold #12 (Mark Waid, Jerry Ordway) when Megistus turned Earth’s yellow sun into a mystical red giant. That weakened Superman and Ultraman’s powers so they had to work together to stop the insane alchemist from taking over the universe. Superman even helped Ultraman by tricking Megistus into turning his fists into kryptonite, which made Ultraman strong enough to beat the villain.
3. THE ERADICATOR
When Superman died, four new heroes rose up to take his place, each claiming to be connected to the real Superman. One of those heroes was the Man of Krypton, later revealed to be the artifact called the Eradicator, first seen in 1989’s Action Comics Annual #2 (Jerry Ordway, George Pérez, Roger Stern, Mike Mignola, Curt Swan) as an alien machine. The Eradicator built a new body based on Kal-El and tried to make Superman (and Earth) more Kryptonian.
In Action Comics #903, the Eradicator had become a hero with the Outsiders when he was taken by a creature called the Doomslayer, a clone of Doomsday who planned to crash his ship into Earth, destroying it. Doomslayer thought he had killed the Eradicator, but the Kryptonian clone survived in a Doomsday clone’s body and worked with Superman to save Earth.
In 1983’s Omega Men #3 (Roger Slifer, Keith Giffen) the alien warrior Lobo was introduced, and he later became an alien biker with a bad attitude who also worked as a bounty hunter, which led him to fight different heroes including Superman on many occasions. Lobo made the jump to Superman: The Animated Series in 1996 with the two-part episode “The Main Man,” written by Paul Dini and directed by Dan Riba.
Airing in the first season, the episodes had Lobo hired by an alien called the Preserver who wanted Superman for his collection. Unfortunately, after delivering Superman, Lobo was captured to be a part of the zoo as well. Lobo and Superman were forced to work together to escape with the condition that Lobo left Earth alone.
In 1943, Action Comics #64 introduced Winslow Schott as a psychotic criminal named Toyman, created by Don Cameron and Ed Dobrotka. At first, Toyman was more of a nuisance who made toy-based gadgets, but he evolved into a psychotic genius who would even kidnap and kill children. That made him a more dangerous threat to Superman.
In 2002, a new Toyman named Hiro Okamura was introduced in Superman #127 (Jeph Loeb, Ed McGuinness) who was more of an ally to Superman than an enemy. In 2004’s Superman/Batman #5, the two heroes were facing a threat where a meteor made of kryptonite was heading for Earth. Okamura used his genius at building inventions to help them with a giant robot that looked like a combination of Batman and Superman. It did the trick and saved the world.
What other supervillains has Superman teamed up with? Let us know in the comments!
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