Despite the vast disparity in their powers and abilities on paper, Superman and Deathstroke have had several confrontations over their shared comic book history in the DC Universe. The Man of Steel is one of the most powerful superheroes in any universe while Slade Wilson's extensive combat training and keen tactical mind has allowed him to fight the entire Justice League single-handedly and a formidable threat for the entire DCU.
While these two have worked together on a few odd occasions, they've met on the battlefield more often than not. Now, we're taking a look back at the history of these two fan-favorite DC fighters to see how their most recent battles ended.
As a quick refresher, Superman is Kal-El, the Last Son of Krypton, who crashed on Earth as an infant to be raised as Clark Kent before becoming the world's greatest superhero. Between his superhuman strength capable of moving planets, endurance capable of surviving the ravages of a singularity, flight, heat vision, super breath and faster than a speed bullet, the Man of Tomorrow truly is one of the most powerful figures in the DCU.
Deathstroke is the world's deadliest assassin, who became a contract killer to the highest bidder after an extensive military career. Expertly trained in martial arts and a variety of weaponry, Slade Wilson gained a degree of superhuman strength, speed and endurance from top-secret genetic experimentation as well as a limited healing factor and enhanced senses. Further experimentation led him to be able to focus his brain activity making him a brilliant, effective tactician.
Superman vs. Deathstroke During the New 52
Deathstroke and Superman's first memorable recent match-up occurred during the New 52 era in Deathstroke #9 by James Bonny and Tony Daniel. The issue featured an unlikely team-up between Slade and Wonder Woman as the duo battled against the freed Titan Lapetus and his mythical army on Themyscira. Deathstroke had acquired the legendary Godkiller sword and swore to use it to vanquish Lapetus once and for all when Superman unexpectedly arrived in response to the commotion.
Assuming Slade was responsible for all the mayhem, Superman chastised the mercenary and sought to take him down before being surprised by a mighty swing from the Godkiller, with Deathstroke using the flat end of the blade to completely floor the Man of Steel due to his weakness to magic. Incensed, Superman quickly seized Deathstroke by the throat in the blink of an eye before Wonder Woman was able to successfully talk him down, ending the standoff in a draw.
Superman vs. Deathstroke During DC Rebirth
In Deathstroke #8 by Christopher Priest and Carlo Pagulayan during the DC Rebirth era, the American government learns that Deathstroke is targeting a wealthy figure with shadowy links to military. Slade's ex-wife recruits Superman into preventing the assassination from taking place after appealing to hid desire to save the lives of the innocent soldiers that would potentially be killed in the crossfire without his presence.
Wearing an experimental armor known as the Ikon Suit which affects gravity fields, Deathstroke is able to absorb Superman's attacks before concentrating the absorbed energy to knock back Superman, even drawing blood. While Deathstroke reveals he had been using the confrontation as a diversion so the government could kill his target themselves, Superman reveals that he preemptively had Slade's son Jericho hack into their files during the fight and expose the government's activities. Once again, the fight between these DC icons is effectively a draw.
Later, in Superman #32 by James Bonny and Tyler Kirkham, Deathstroke arrived in Metropolis targeting Lois Lane after the investigative reporter had written a story about him. Evading the Man of Steel after their initial skirmish, Deathstroke starts a fire to lure Lois out and holds her at gunpoint before Superman can come to the rescue.
Slade gives the Last Son of Krypton an ultimatum to either kill him and save the woman he loves or watch her die, but Superman opts to put out the raging inferno when it puts others' lives at risk. Superman later discovers Lois left alive and well at a safe house, with a letter from Deathstroke noting the assassination attempt was all a ruse from an unknown contractor to see exactly how far Superman would be willing to go.