Arguably the greatest superhero, Superman’s led the charge in comic books since he debuted way back in Action Comics #1. From that time, the Man of Tomorrow has endured countless adventures, spanning across different dimensions and throughout the universe; he’s battled intergalactic warlords and bald businessmen. Through thick and thin, Superman prevails, refusing to back down. While other might waver, he remains true to his beliefs in truth, justice, and the American Way. Of course part of the reason he’s able to win so often is because of the immense power Superman possesses.
Under Earth’s Sun, Superman is the physically strongest hero on the planet, with heat vision, invulnerability, flight, super speed, X-ray vision, and arctic breath to name a few. Anyone who would challenge such a being would have to be equally powerful, insane, or both. What makes Superman stories so compelling isn’t necessarily how he tries to fit into our world, but the villains he encounters. A hero is only as interesting as their foes, and Superman has some of the most bizarre and amazing assortment of bad guys. Today we’re looking at 16 of Superman’s villains and ranking them to see who’s the baddest of the bad in taking on the Last Son of Krypton.
16 SILVER BANSHEE
Unlike some of Superman’s primary villains, Silver Banshee is not content in just giving the Man of Steel a hard time. Rather, she’s also prone to attacking his Kryptonian cousin Supergirl. Siobhan McDougal, Silver Banshee, has a rather weird origin story; it deals with dimensions called the Netherworld and evil witches. Regardless, when Silver Banshee made her way to Metropolis, it meant trouble for many, Superman included.
What makes Siobhan especially deadly is power and how it stems from dark magic, one of Superman’s few weaknesses. Additionally, her trademark banshee wail can kill literally anyone who hears it, just so long as Silver Banshee also knows the victim’s full name. While it would typically spell disaster if any bad guy discovered Superman’s secret identity Clark Kent, he’d be virtually powerless if Silver Banshee found out his alias.
Different Gogs have plagued the DC Universe at one time or another and they’ve all proven to be both insane and powerful. The most common iteration is William Matthews; when he became Gog he became a literal god. Gog possesses all the fancy powers you can think of, including bending reality, super strength, energy blasts, flight, and even the ability to grant people wishes!
Time and again Gog’s made it his personal mission to try and kill Superman, a feat he’s proven successful at on multiple occasions. Most notably during Mark Waid’s The Kingdom, Gog was imbued with unearthly power. He chooses to go back in time and kill Superman repeatedly, travelling back a day further and further into the past. Though Gog should be considered an A-list villain, he’s been used rarely in recent years, shelved until someone can figure out what to do with him again.
Bizarro is one of Superman’s more peculiar and even interesting foes. There have been several Bizarros, one from the Silver Age and one from the Modern Age, but they are both equally kooky characters. In layman terms, Bizarro is an imperfect duplicate, or copy, of Superman. Everything Bizarro does or says is purposefully backwards and considered the opposite of normal.
The first Bizarro was a product of Professor Dalton demonstrating his duplicate ray on Superboy. Things went nuttier than usual and Bizaaro, an imperfect copy, was created. The Modern Age Bizarro, and the one people are more familiar with, is a flawed clone created by Lex Luthor. Bizarro is easily manipulated and sometimes fights Superman not because he wants to, but because someone’s convinced him too. His naiveté makes him extremely dangerous; he possesses all of Superman’s power, but little understanding about the repercussions of abusing said power.
13 MANCHESTER BLACK
Born and raised in England, Manchester Black was the leader of the ultraviolent vigilante team known as The Elite. Manchester came into direct conflict with Superman when he challenged the hero’s belief system towards dealing with crime. While Superman is prone to holding back and serving as a benevolent force for good, Black considered Superman’s ideology antiquated and failed to get the job done; criminals needed to be eradicated according to Black.
When Black and his team came to Metropolis to continue their dastardly work of killing criminals, Superman opposed them. Though they nearly beat Superman, he overpowered them, instilling fear into Black by giving him a lobotomy and showing what it looks like when he doesn’t hold back. Superman was committed to the notion that killing opponents makes a hero no better than his enemies.
After John Corben got involved in an accident that nearly destroyed his body, Dr. Vale saved the man by turning him into a cyborg. Vale also discovered that Kryptonite could be used as an energy source to keep Corben going, powering his mechanical body. The new Metallo, who already was somewhat unhinged, spent much of his time harvesting Kryptonite, which would attract the attention of Superman.
With his new cyborg body, which made him more than a match for Superman’s strength, plus his ability shoot and radiate Kryptonite in destructive blasts, Superman would always have his hands full when he fought Metallo. At one point Corben was implanted with multiple kinds of Kryptonite and later sold his soul to the demon Neron to upgrade his powers further.
11 CYBORG SUPERMAN
Like many villains, Hank Henshaw didn’t start his life as an evil cyborg, but life got in the way and transformed him into one. After Hank and his space-faring crew experienced a tragic accident akin to what the Fantastic Four endured, they received super powers, but it didn’t go well for them. Two of his friends died, Hank’s consciousness left his deteriorating body and found refuge in a robot.
When he revealed his new form to his wife, she jumped out a window, killing herself. Overcome with rage and grief, Hank’s consciousness eventually found its way into Superman’s birthing matrix. It made him a new body and turned him into Cyborg Superman. Hank and Superman would battle multiple times, and Cyborg Superman would try and take Clark’s place after he died at the hands of Doomsday. With all of Superman’s powers and more, Henshaw remains an unrelenting threat.
Rudy Jones, or Parasite as he’s commonly known, is one of Superman’s most monstrous-looking villains. Originally a janitor at S.T.A.R. Labs, after he suffered terrible overexposure to radiation, he was turned purple and given the ability to absorb an individual’s life-force and power by touching them. Since Parasite debuted decades ago, his powers have evolved. He can now even absorb Green Lantern energy and practically any power he comes across.
When Superman comes across Parasite, he’s exceptionally cautious, more so than with other villains. If Superman touches him, he’ll be drained of his might. Parasite is a character ripe with potential and many writers have used him masterfully and displaying just how brutal and fearsome an opponent the walking leech-monster can be. Unleashed, Parasite is one of Earth’s deadliest villains.
Many readers have a mixed relationship with the character known as Superboy-Prime. Heralding from a universe much like our own, this version of Clark Kent discovered not only did he have powers, but he was the only person on his planet who did. Though he helped save the multiverse during Crisis on Infinite Earths, by the time DC’s Infinite Crisis rolled around, he’d gone quite insane. Fans are torn where Superboy-Prime is concerned if only because he possesses all the powers and abilities of Superman, but amped up a level, yet he’s also a selfish brat who wines a bunch.
Still, few villains have reached Superboy-Prime’s power level. He single-handedly took on the entire Green lantern Corps, struck crippling blows to the Anti-Monitor, and even killed the Superman of Earth-2. All in the name of creating a new, perfect multiverse.
Mongul bares many similarities to the evil New God Darkseid, though he’s not quite as powerful as the ruler of Apokolips. Mongul is a cruel and unforgiving conqueror that roams the universe on his planet-sized Warworld, a massive destructive engine. Navigating the cosmos, Mongul enjoys enslaving entire worlds. Superman would fight and defeat Mongul multiple times, embittering the warlord deeply. In retaliation, Mongul’s tried to destroy Superman, and with strength enough to defeat Wonder Woman, he’s nearly prevailed.
His most famous near-success, was when he infected Superman with the Black Mercy plant, which nearly drove the Kryptonian hero insane. His son picked up where he left off after Mongul died. Unlike his father, though he too would hate Superman, the younger Mongul attempted acquiring power from the Yellow Lantern battery, forcing him into interstellar skirmishes with Sinestro of the Yellow Lantern Corps.
7 MR. MXYZPTLK
The villain Mr. Mxyzptlk is more a practical joker and trickster than full-on bad guy. That said, he’s put Superman through the wringer now and again. Possibly the most powerful foe Superman’s ever dealt with, Mxyzptlk comes from the 5th Dimension, which in turn makes him a living god when he visits the regular universe. Oftentimes bored, he enjoys the stimuli he receives that come out of battling wits with Superman.
Even though he could turn the Man of Steel into a piece of kryptonite without a second thought, the interdimensional imp enjoys their back-and-forth too much; until he doesn’t. In relatively recent Superman issues, Mxyzptlk nearly destroyed Superman, kidnapping his son in the process. No longer was it fun and games that could be dealt with by tricking the imp into saying his name backwards. If Mxyzptlk wants to rule the universe, there’s nothing that can stop him.
The techno-organic being Brainiac is one of Superman’s oldest and most iconic foes. Boasting a 12th-level intellect and incredibly advanced super technology, Brainiac transverses the multiverse, looking for civilizations that pique his interest. Once he comes across those unfortunate enough to merit his curiosity, Brainiac shrinks entire cities, abducts them, and adds them to a bottled collection of countless other worlds he’s stolen. Practically ageless, Brainiac is responsible for the deaths of untold billions, if not trillions.
Brainiac has a vested interest in Superman, since he’s the last survivor from Krypton who’s also imbued with remarkable power. Upon learning about the existence of Supergirl too, Brainiac would harass Earth, seeking to abduct its prized cities and the Kryptonians who inhabit them. It was also recently revealed, that whenever Superman defeated Brainiac, he wasn’t defeating the villain himself, but avatars.
Zod is the dark to Superman’s light. For every ounce of good in Superman, Zod is pure, unadulterated selfishness and malevolence. Caring little for others, including his own people, General Zod represents the opposite of everything the Man of Steel stands for. Everything action Zod makes is to benefit himself. Even in moments he wishes to protect his family, it’s all part of some enigmatic master plan. Lives are a currency to be traded and bartered where Zod is concerned.
Should Superman ever turn on Earth, the result would be very similar to if Zod ruled the planet. Like Superman, Zod is every ounce the Kryptonian and possess all of Superman’s powers, including super speed, super strength, flight, heat vision, hurricane breath…the list goes on. Unlike Superman, Zod does not believe in restraint. A compelling villain, there’s a reason why he’s one of Superman’s most popular baddies.
Upon his debut, Doomsday did the unthinkable and killed Superman. People could scarcely believe their ears at hearing about the Man of Steel’s untimely demise. After taking down the Justice League with zero effort, it was up to Superman to stop him. They fought for hours until they hit the other with their last vestiges of strength.
A mutated creature with no understanding of remorse, Doomsday is the walking embodiment of death and destruction. Anything breathing is a potential victim of the Kryptonian monster. In the unlikely event Doomsday is beaten, his body evolves so that it cannot be beaten the same way twice. Doomsday is even powerful enough that Darkseid is powerless before him. He’s withstood the New God’s Omega Effect, his strongest attack, only to come out unscathed. Doomsday is one of the few beings in the universe Superman fears.
Darkseid is one of the oldest and first New Gods and he’s the tyrannical ruler of the war world Apokolips. Darkseid’s ultimate goal is to rule the universe and eliminate free will. You might be able to see how this would irk Superman and why the two seemingly come to blows every other Tuesday. Superman is constantly challenging the New God if only because he’s one of the few beings in the universe who can and is willing to. Darkseid’s taken Superman’s affronts rather personally and in turn spends endless amounts of time scheming the Man of Steel’s demise.
When it comes to pure evil, you don’t really get worse than Darkseid. He’s the end-all-be-all of evil. There’s a reason he’s going to be the big bad in later DCEU movies. After all, he’s made it his purpose to possess the dreaded Anti-life Equation, which alone doesn’t sound particularly friendly.
2 LEX LUTHOR
Superman’s first real supervillain, Lex Luthor is nearly as iconic figure as the Man of Tomorrow! All his life, Lex has hated Superman, distrusting the Man of Steel and hating the civilians who fall for, what Lex perceives to be, Superman’s beguiling attempts to win them over. Nobody views Superman like Lex does. Where the citizens of Metropolis and the world see a savior and a superhero, Lex sees an alien demigod capable of bringing civilization to its knees if we allow ourselves to put all our trust and faith in this creature from the stars.
He also resents Superman, wishing to be equally worshipped, using his hatred as an excuse for why he’s not using his genius to benefit mankind. If only Superman wasn’t around, then Lex could cure cancer or save the world. At least that’s how the megalomaniac thinks.
They say keep your friends close and your enemies closer, but what if your best friend is also your greatest enemy? That’s the conundrum Superman faces with his fellow crime-fighter Batman. Batman is Batman and that ends the conversation for many. It’s often said given enough prep time, Batman can beat anyone. While in the Golden and Silver Age of comics this wasn’t true, in recent years the Dark Knight has become virtually unbeatable.
He’s pretty nearly defeated every comic book figure out there. While they consider each other best friends, Superman and Batman punch each other far more than is healthy for buds. In fact, it’s a wonder they get along at all. Comic readers love matching up the duo, and writers do too; it’s always a classic example of brawn versus brain. Readers forget Superman has a genius-level intellect too.