Since her first appearance in Action Comics #252, Supergirl has charmed the hearts of millions as the female cousin to arguably the world’s most well-known superhero, Superman. While their Kryptonian physiology grants them many similar powers under the Earth’s yellow sun, there are certain powers that have been displayed by one cousin while the other has yet to shown this ability. As with most comic characters, there are many variations of backgrounds and abilities to our heroes, so this list focuses on abilities displayed, however long or brief, by the main continuity versions of Supergirl and Superman, although there are some alternate versions with amazing powers that hopefully will be explored in the future.
One of The Flash’s most well known abilities, speedsters have the skill to control the speed and angles of their molecules in such a way that they are able to pass through any given substance. The Flash taught Kara this trick in the pages of Supergirl #55.
Kara is skeptical of her ability to go that fast, but Wally knows that a Kryptonian should be able to reach the necessary speed. When facing the Bizarro-Version of herself, Supergirl is hit with “Solid Vision”, which petrifies the Girl of Steel in a barrier, but she thinks back to a lesson from Wally, and manages to vibrate her molecules to phase through the trap.
The most recent Superman power to surface is also one of his most powerful. Superman discovered he was able to expel all the stored solar energy in his body into one massive explosion. While this is an extremely powerful ability that would be able to take out most Superman villains in a matter of seconds, it also depletes Superman of his solar energy for around 24 hours, leaving him completely powerless. Due to this, the move is usually a last resort for the Man of Steel, and he has only used it once or twice since its debut.
First appearing in Supergirl #14, Kara had the unique ability to generate sharp crystals from her body. She discovers this ability after a fight with Cassandra Cain leaves her bloodied up and hurt badly, but right before Cass finishes her off, crystals sprout from her wounds and spear Cass through the ribs. She originally believed these to be the product of experiments done by her father, Zor-El,. Once she met him, she was informed that this was a side effect of Kryptonite poisoning. The sickness caused her blood to crystallize once it came into contact with oxygen. She lost this ability once she was cured of her illness.
After the meddling of Vandal Savage, the Man of Steel’s greatest weakness became his source of power. Superman had kept his normal abilities like super speed, super strength, and invulnerability, but some took a twist. His heat vision was replaced by Kryptonite emitting from his eyes. His supervision also received an upgrade as he could now pick up various transmission frequencies from different parts of the Electromagnetic field. However, the Kryptonite worked similar to a chemotherapy and killed off healthy cells. This variation of Superman did not last long before he was healed.
Having been raised on Krypton since she was a teen, Kara learned many skills of her home planet that Kal hadn’t even known existed. One of these is Klurkor, a Kryptonian martial art. Supergirl was trained in its first level before she was also rocketed off to Earth after Krypton’s demise. She is also a skilled martial artist in Earth techniques, after training with the likes of Batman and the Amazons of Paradise Island. With this skilled Hand-to-Hand combat training, it’s safe to say she’d be able to beat her cousin in a depowered street brawl.
Another ability normally reserved for speedsters, the infinite mass punch is a skill that follows a basic rule of physics. The faster an object moves, the more mass it attains. Therefore, someone throwing a punch near the speed of light has the potential to hit with an infinite level of mass. As Wally West explains it, “hits like a white dwarf star.”
During a fight between the Shadow Thief and the Justice League, the villain creates a Shadow moon. Superman flies almost near the speed of light, and destroys the moon with a punch, not nearly as powerful as the infinite mass punch of a speed force conduit, but more of a mini version of the IMP.
Similar to her enemy Silver Banshee, Supergirl has the ability to manipulate her sound waves to affect her surroundings in any given circumstance. In a trap placed by Cyborg Superman, Kara uses this ability to disrupt the frequency of the machine used to trap her by altering the frequency of her own voice. These counter frequencies also have the potential to cancel out seismic waves or knock enemies down, similar to her friend Dinah Lance, AKA Black Canary. Superman has been seen to alter his voice offensively in extreme situations like Final Crisis. However, Kara is much more creative and therefore has used this power very differently than her cousin is able to.
An incredibly odd power to have, Superman uses his ability of super ventriloquism a lot more in the Golden Age of comics than he has done in recent years. It allows Superman to project his voice into other objects with enough skill to fool whoever the target audience is. Superman used this to display a fake loudspeaker announcement to get doctors to leave his hospital room. Even Krypto has been shown to be able to use it in the Pre-Crisis timeline, but not Supergirl.
It’s hard to imagine Superman as a figure of anger. However, Supergirl is much different. After fighting with Lobo, Kara is angrier than ever, and views Earth the complete opposite as Superman is able to. She sees the world as bitter, angry, and it seems to only offer pain to those unfortunate enough to live on it. This anger attracts the attention of the Red Lantern Corps, where Supergirl soon becomes a member of after accepting the ring. This gives her many new powers, including acid spit, wormhole creation, and hard light constructs.
For a brief time during a New 52 arc, Superman fused with Parallax, the yellow entity of fear. This gave him a multitude of powers not known to any other Kryptonian. Superman’s strength was enhanced, and he gained the abilities of Parallax. This includes Fear Projection, Mind Control, Solid Energy Constructs, and Fear Manipulation. In the Injustice universe, Superman was actually accepted into the Sinestro Corps. He uses his ring in a sinister amount of ways, including killing Black Canary. Did you know about these differences between the Cousins of Steel? Interested in learning more about Supergirl's powers?