During the Silver Age, a popular trend in comic book covers, especially in the "Superman" group of titles, was to show the hero doing something really jerky. Inside the comic, the story would explain why what the hero was doing was not actually that bad. For example, one cover showed Superman detaching Lois Lane's oxygen hose while in outer space. In actuality, Superman realized that the hose was tangled and that she would die unless Superman didn’t act.
However, sometimes, even after the explanation is given, Superman still comes off as a real jerk, even if his intentions are good. Another example: instead of Supes warning Lois Lane that she might be murdered at work on a Tuesday, he convinces her that she's dying so that she'll skip work. That's just how Superman's deranged mind works sometimes. So, to clarify, we're not talking about times Superman has killed. These are just examples of Superman being a real jerkwad.
15 FAKE MURDERS A MERMAN
In "Superman" #139 (by Jerry Siegel, Wayne Boring and Stan Kaye), an old classmate of Lois Lane invites Lois, Clark and Jimmy on to his boat and it is clear that he is very much interested in Lois Lane, but she only has eyes on Superman. So Superman quickly comes up with a plan that involves his old girlfriend, Lori Lemaris. He makes it look like he is still in love with Lori before "accidentally" causing the death of Lori's husband. It's suspicious enough that even Superman's best buddy, Jimmy Olsen, is like "Yeah, he might have just killed that guy."
He then becomes a merman so that he can marry Lori. Lois' classmate proposes, but Lois is no longer interested in love now that Superman is off the table. While driving later, she almost crashes, but is saved by the real Superman, who faked the whole thing so that Lois would consider marrying her rich friend. He treats Lois like a child.
14 WAGES WAR ON CARS
In "Action Comics" #12 (by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster), a friend of Clark Kent's is struck and killed by a speeding car. This makes Superman decide to declare open war on speeding. Now, this story is not quite as ridiculous as it might seem, but Superman still acts very much unhinged in the tale. He starts off by breaking into a radio station to tell everyone over the air that he is going to be taking on unsafe drivers. He then bursts out of the wall of the building for no reason.
The obsessed Superman destroys cars that the police had confiscated from people with traffic infractions. He then destroys all the cars sold by a cheap used car saleseman (as cheap cars cause more accidents). He then destroys an entire factory that made sub-standard automobiles (the workers only barely got out before the whole thing toppled). Superman then breaks back into the newly-fixed wall of the radio station to continue his verbal diatribe against unsafe driving. He finally tortures the mayor of the city until he agrees to clamp down on traffic violations.
13 ALMOST LETS PARASITE SUCK LOIS DRY
In the most recent "Superman Annual" #2, Lois Lane was transformed by Brainiac into a powerful psionic being. However, the power was too much for Lois to handle, so she fell into a coma. This was not before she learned Superman's secret identity and noted that she would reveal it as soon as she had the chance. So now Superman was in a weird spot. He wanted his friend to get better, but if she did, she would reveal his secret identity. This led to some awkward interactions with her boyfriend, who knew that something was up with Superman.
In "Superman" #27 (by Scott Lobdell and Ed Benes), the Parasite was drawn to Lois' power and began draining her. Superman saved her and fought off Parasite, but then Superman realized that he could actually cure Lois, if Superman controlled his drain just right. The reason it's on this list, though, is that Superman was also motivated by the fact that the Parasite would suck out Lois' knowledge of Superman's identity. This whole thing was a risky endeavor and Superman seemed a bit too willing to risk Lois if it meant protecting his identity.
12 ALLOWS ALIEN ABDUCTION
In "DC Comics Presents" #13 (by Paul Levitz, Dick Dillin and Frank McLaughlin), Superman discovers an alien race that is cutting a path of destruction throughout the galaxy. He quickly destroys their fleet and is then visited by a few members of the Legion of Super-Heroes, who traveled back in time to make sure that the alien fleet was not destroyed. You see, in the next thousand years, that race would have made themselves better and better at war and making weapons. This would eventually come in handy when they would help Earth in the Millennium War.
Similarly, the aliens would kidnap children from planets to train as warriors for them. One of the children they kidnapped was Jon Ross, the son of Clark Kent's childhood best friend, Pete Ross. Jon was destined to become a great warrior for the aliens and the Legion insists that Superman leave him in captivity for the good of the future. Superman agrees, but Pete is driven insane with anger at his former friend. The issue received such negative reactions from the audience that just 12 issues later, Levitz wrote a sequel where Superman changes his mind and rescues Jon.
11 DRUGS STUDENT, STEALS IDENTITY
All the way back in "Superman" #1 (by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster), Superman overhears a college football coach pay two ringers to play for his team in a must-win game for him. They also agree to injure the other team's star players during the game to make sure the coach's team wins (as he will be fired if he loses the game). Superman decides to get involved, but how he got involved was bizarre. He finds a student he looks a lot like and then doses the student with a drug that paralyzes him so that Superman can take his place. Supes doesn't think to just explain his plan and ask, as that would be much more sane.
When the mob (who have bet heavily on the crooked team, knowing that they have ringers) comes to try to get rid of the new star player, the actual player is still in his apartment paralyzed and Superman allows them to take him! After all, now Superman doesn't have to worry about him getting in his way. Superman then leads the underdog school to victory.
10 PROSECUTES LOIS FOR MURDER
In a two-part story going from "Superman's Girl Friend, Lois Lane" #99-100 (by Robert Kanigher, Irv Novick and Mike Esposito), Lois gets into an argument with Lana Lang when they are secretly both invited to a talk show in Gotham City to talk about how much they know Superman during Superman Appreciation Day. On the drive home, Lois gives Lana a ride but after a crash, only Lois makes it out alive. Bruce Wayne visits her and once he is convinced of her innocence, agrees to have Batman defend her in court.
With the great Batman defending her (which doesn't make any sense, of course), the district attorney's office figures that the only man who could defeat Batman at trial would be Superman. Thus, he becomes a special prosecutor and prosecutes the love of his life. The only reason this isn't higher on the list is because it was Lana Lang as the supposed murder victim, and Superman was close to her, as well. You can click here if you're curious as to how Lois was exonerated.
9 TESTS SUPERGIRL WITH MIND GAMES
When Supergirl first came to Earth, Superman decided that she would work best as his secret. It was kind of a jerk move, in and of itself, to say, "Yeah, you have to go live in an orphanage and never show people your powers unless I need your help. Why? Because I've arbitrarily decided you're not ready yet, that's why!" In any event, after a few issues of this, Supergirl encountered Krypto (who was a relatively recent addition to the Superman mythos at the time). Superman is outraged that she reveals herself to someone without his permission, even their dog. So he banishes Supergirl from Earth for a year in "Action Comics" #258 (by Otto Binder and Jim Mooney).
She has the pluck to rebel a bit and still do some heroing from outer space. Then Superman brings her back after a week and tells her that, jkjk, it was just a test to see if she could explain why her secret identity as Laura Lee disappeared for a week. After she proved she could do so, Superman knew she could be trusted with his secret identity (although she figured it out before this). Why not just tell her that that's her test? How would it have changed anything?
8 SPANKED LOIS LANE
In "Superman's Girl Friend, Lois Lane" #14 (by Otto Binder and Kurt Schaffenberger), Lois Lane is on one of her regular visits to Superman's Fortress of Solitude to take photographs for the Daily Planet of the crazy things that Superman has collected since her last visit. While there, Lois has an idea. Superman was always going on about how dangerous it was to be "Mrs. Superman," but what if Lois just lived at the Fortress? It sure seemed like a safe place.
So, Lois schemed her way to being exposed to radiation that would require her to stay at the Fortress for a few days. She planned to then use it as proof that they should get married. Superman figured out her scheme, though, and decided to make it a very unpleasant experience, including using a Superman robot to spank her! Lois eventually begs Superman to take her home. Superman is pretty messed up.
7 MAKES LOIS FAT WITHOUT ASKING
In "Superman's Girl Friend, Lois Lane" #5, we got a story from Otto Binder and Kurt Schaffenberger that popped up every once in a while, which was Superman altering Lois Lane in some way "for her own good." The big thing in all of these is that Superman doesn't trust his friend enough to just let her in on these schemes.
In this issue, Lois witnessed a killer so non-descript that only she would be able to recognize him. The next day, she was accidentally expose to a "growth ray" that made her gain 100 pounds, which would not come off no matter what. Superman did not recognize her, so she tried to pretend she was someone else, but eventually she had to admit it was her. While at a carnival, though, the killer saw Lois through a funhouse mirror and realized that it was her and tried to kill her. Superman stopped him and revealed how he had exposed her to the growth ray. He even says "I knew you wouldn't consent if I told you." That's not okay, Superman!
6 TORMENTED LOIS TO ELICIT REACTIONS
In "Superman's Girl Friend, Lois Lane" #2 (by Otto Binder and Kurt Schaffenberger), there is a movie being made about Superman's life and the director has cast Clark Kent, Jimmy Olsen and Perry White to play their own roles. However, he has decided to cast actress Gilda Glamarr as Lois Lane. Then the filming of the movie keeps getting delayed due to what appears to be sabotage.
Not only does it look like sabotage, but it looks like Lois Lane is the one sabotaging the picture! At one point, real bullets were shot at Glamarr (Superman stopped them, of course). Glamarr claimed that Lois told her that she would never finish the picture! After a few more instances, Superman demands that Lois leaves, as he never wants to see her again. Then the reveal occurs: Superman was behind it all, as he was capturing Lois' various reactions (anger, dismay, fear, heartbreak) to show that she should be in the movie. The director agrees and Lois is somehow happy that her friend tormented her like that instead of just, you know, helping her with her acting?
5 DESTROYS TENEMENTS
"Action Comics" #8 (by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster) opens with Superman observing a trial where a young defendant's mother explained that it wasn't the fault of her son, but rather the fact that they live in a tenement and that such an atmosphere causes the young inhabitants into a life of crime. Superman is curious, so he follows a few of the young boys who live there. He gets caught up for a while in their criminal misadventures but then the story takes a bizarre turn.
Once Superman decides that the tenements are to blame, his idea for a solution is to.... destroy them all! He sends the boys (who he has now befriended after jumping off some buildings with them to scare them -- they enjoyed it too much) to give everyone a little notice to get out of the buildings with all of their possessions. He then tears them all down. The National Guard shows up to stop him and he just keeps on going. His plan? During disasters, the government rebuilds destroyed housing so, well, that must happen here, too! Yes, it does sound like the plan of a delusional five year old. Good observation!
4 MAKES LOIS THINK CLARK KENT KILLED HIMSELF
Most of the time, Superman is at least a jerk to Lois for presumably somewhat noble reasons (or at least, in his mind they are noble reasons). Other times, though, Superman is just a jerk to Lois because it amuses him. That was the case in "Superman's Girl Friend, Lois Lane" #1 (by Jerry Coleman and Kurt Schaffenberger), when Lois Lane disguised herself as the French actress Lois LaFlamme so that she could get close to a foreign dignitary for an interview.
Superman decides he has to teach her a lesson for using such tactics in the pursuit of a story (huh?!), so he falls for "Lois LaFlamme" as Clark Kent. When she rejects him, he pretends to kill himself right in front of her, just to make Lois feel bad. Then a duke duels with Superman over LaFlamme's hand in marriage. The duke shoots Superman and the bullet ricochets and kills the duke. Only, of course, it is all a trick, as the duke was secretly Jimmy Olsen (who was just thrilled not to be on the receiving end of Superman's torment this time around) and it was all just to make Lois feel awful. She confesses and everyone goes back to being friends.
3 ALLOWS LIVING CREATURE TO BE TORMENTED
In a three-part storyline in "Action Comics" #510-512 (by Cary Bates, Curt Swan and Frank Chiaramonte), Lex Luthor seemingly reforms and falls in love with a charming bald woman named Angela Blake. Superman is naturally skeptical, but after running every test he could (including a telepathic scan of Luthor's mind), he sees that there is no sign that Luthor is lying. He literally has reformed. Lex even helps save Superman in "Action Comics" #511.
After Luthor marries Angela, Superman gives her a kiss and she and Superman are transported to an awful dimension. It seems that Luthor's plan was so diabolical that he erased his own memory of it! Angela was a clone of the real Angela Blake, and would transport to another dimension whenever Kryptonian skin touched hers. Superman, though, figured it out beforehand (when he scanned Luthor's mind) and just flew away before being teleported to the other dimension. He takes Luthor in, who is legitimately distraught that the Blake clone, who he actually did come to love, was trapped in the awful dimension. However, Superman was just okay with leaving her there.
2 HOPES MINI-SUPERMAN DIES
In "Superman" #125 (most likely written by Jerry Coleman, drawn by Wayne Boring and Stan Kaye), Superman gains a bizarre new ability. He lost all of his own powers, but they are transferred to a miniature version of Superman that he would now project from his hands. That mini-Superman had all of the same powers as Superman, so it did all of the same things that Superman would normally do.
This worked out for a while, but the problem was that Superman became jealous of all of the attention the mini-Superman was getting. Superman began to feel bad for himself, as he was no longer the big hero. He was just the delivery system. Therefore, when Superman sees a situation involving a meteor shower heading towards Earth with some of the meteors having kryptonite in them, he sends off the mini-Superman while thinking, "Eh, if it kills him, it kills him." At the same time, though, some gangsters tried to attack Superman with a piece of kryptonite themselves. The mini-Superman sacrificed itself to protect Superman from the gangster's kryptonite. When it died, Superman got his powers back. So everything worked out for Superman... the jerk.
1 ADOPTS, TORMENTS JIMMY OLSEN
The king of Superman's classic "act like a jerk for some weird reason" plans was "Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen" #30 (by Otto Binder, Curt Swan and Ray Burnley) where Superman decides that, hey, why not just adopt the orphan Jimmy Olsen? Now, you might think that's kind of weird since Superman has a secret identity, so when would he even have time to raise Jimmy? Good question, but whatever, Jimmy was happy with whatever time Superman spent with him, so it was all good.
Superman, though, then began tormenting Jimmy: burning presents, mocking him, etc. Jimmy eventually decides to cancel the adoption. Superman then reveals the truth. He had been given a prophecy that said that "Superman would destroy his son." So he had to make sure that Jimmy would not be his son anymore. Like most of these things, the most foolish thing is that he didn't just tell Jimmy what he was doing. "Hey, Jimmy, sorry, but I need you to stop being my son because of this prophecy." But nope, Superman's plan is to just torment his friend, because Superman is deranged.
Oh, by the way, "Superman's son" was actually a reference to a miniature sun that Superman had made as part of an experiment that then overloaded. Superman had to destroy it.
What do you think is the worst thing Superman has ever done that did not involve killing? Let us know in the comments section!