Superman, the Man of Steel and the Last Son of Krypton, is generally considered the greatest superhero to ever grace comic books. The shining example of humanity’s potential, people have been looking up to Superman ever since he first arrived on the scene in Action Comics #1. Since then, the Man of Tomorrow has faced adversary after adversary and endured adventure after adventure; he usually comes out of his crazy and/or intense escapades relatively unscathed. In part, it’s due to the immense powers Superman possesses, thanks to his exposure to the sun and its solar radiation. Under Earth’s star, 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, that sum up the totality of his might.
Few could possibly hope to present a physical challenge to Superman, which has made some readers consider Kal-El boring; he can do anything and beat anyone. Except for those rare moments he can’t; Superman has in fact been killed on multiple occasions. While rare and far between, Superman is not unbeatable and those with knowledge to his weaknesses, have exploited them. Here at CBR we’re looking at 15 times that Superman, the Man of Steel actually died.
15. INFINITE CRISIS
During DC’s “Infinite Crisis”, the villain Superboy-Prime tears through the DC Universe, fighting and killing anyone who gets in his way; all in the name of creating a new multiverse. Superboy-Prime and Alexander Luthor plan to destroy the Earth with a massive high-tech tower. Along the way, nearly every superhero ends up fighting Superboy-Prime, including the entirety of the Green Lantern Corps, but it eventually comes down to Superman and Superman from Earth 2 to hit their younger, alternate self with everything they have.
Taking on the insane teen, the two Supermen fly Superboy-Prime through a red sun, which robs them of their powers, and they crash land on the sentient planet Mogo, which is stocked with Kryptonite. As all three Kryptonians start losing their powers, Superboy-Prime’s madness keeps him going, and he kills the older Superman from Earth 2, before finally falling to a beating from Superman.
14. THE FINAL DAYS OF SUPERMAN
While Superman might be the original Man of Tomorrow, plenty of folks have tried to take his place. In the New 52 Superman storyline “The Final Days of Superman”, Superman dies. Yet as we’d later discover, it was only an aspect of Superman. Regardless, in leading up to his death, a man named Denny Swan acquires energy-based powers and wants to become not only the Energy Superman, but the only Superman.
To do this, he tries his hardest to murder the Man of Steel, while Superman tries to talk him down. When all looks lost, the New Earth Superman (the original Superman) appears and takes both combatants into orbit. The New 52 Prime Earth Superman is then able to use his solar flare attack to defeat Denny. Afterwards, Prime Earth Superman falls to Earth and dies, thanks to something involving kryptonite poisoning and ridiculousness.
13. THE KINGDOM
The Kingdom, which was the tentative sequel to the highly-acclaimed Kingdom Come by Mark Waid, featured Superman dying, not just one time, but many, many times. Twenty years after Kingdom Come the sometimes-villain known as Gog arrives, imbued with power bequeathed to him by Zeus, Ganthet, the Phantom Stranger, Shazam and Highfather, and is clearly insane on account of all the power that’s been pumped into him. He immediately goes and kills Superman, before time-traveling back a day into the past and killing him again. He repeats over and over again until time anomalies start appearing all throughout time and space.
The time-traveling hero Rip Hunter recruits Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman from Kingdom Come, along with their younger selves, to battle Gog. It takes a while, but they finally beat Gog and insure the Kingdom Come timeline never happens.
12. COUNTDOWN: ARENA
In the DC Comics mini-series known as Countdown:Arena the neigh all-powerful cosmic villain Monarch captures heroes from all over the multiverse. His wants to create an army to lead against the Monitors and the rest of the multiverse. To that end, he’s captured three different Green Lanterns, Superman, Wonder Women, etc. and has the respective groups of three fight to the death to determine who’s the strongest.
In the final issue of Countdown: Arena, it’s time for three Supermen to fight. The three Supermen come to an understanding and help a chakra- energy driven Superman reach his peak power to take on Monarch. It doesn’t work and that Superman dies. Out of the final two, Red Son Superman is knocked out and taken by Monarch while the more traditional Superman escapes to fight another day.
11. DC UNIVERSE VS. MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE
In the out-of-canon crossover event DC Universe Vs. Masters Of The Universe, the Justice League comes to blows with He-Man and his allies. The strongest hero in his land of Eternia, He-Man might not be quite as strong as Superman, but with his magic armaments, it almost doesn’t matter. Despite the two sides being stocked full of heroic figures, the villainous Skeletor masterminds a plan to kill He-Man. That plan involves mind-controlling the Man of Steel into doing his dirty work and killing the hero.
The battle between two of comic books’ strongest beings is fast and brutal, as would be expected. However, the fight comes to a shocking finish when He-Man stabs Superman right through the chest with his magic-based power sword, killing him. Of course, this is a comic, so Superman was fine a couple issues later.
10. THE PRICE OF VICTORY
The world of James Robinson’s Earth 2 shared a strikingly different timeline from Earth 1, the mainstream counterpart. When Darkseid originally attacked Earth, the Justice League assembled for the first time, combatted the awesome threat and defeated the New God. On Earth 2, our heroes aren’t so lucky.
In this world, Darkseid’s invasion is a success and the heroes are fighting to preserve what little life there is left. Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman, in one last hurrah, mobilize, having put together a stratagem that could defeat Darkseid’s minions. Wonder Woman and Superman throw themselves into battle, serving as distractions so Batman can put his plan into motion; they know it’s a suicide mission. As the battle reaches its conclusion, Wonder Woman is suddenly killed by Steppenwolf, while a distracted Superman is then overrun by Parademons who plant a device on his head, killing him.
9. COUNTDOWN TO FINAL CRISIS
“Countdown to Final Crisis” was a year long event that was, as the name suggests, counting down to the even bigger event “Final Crisis”. It mainly focused on a small group of superheroes and their adventures in jumping around from one alternate Earth to another. When the Challengers, made up of Donna Troy, Kyle Rayner, Ray Palmer, Una and others arrive on a familiar Earth, all the while carrying a dying and diseased-ridden Karate Kid, they realize it’s not their Earth and the world’s population has been infected by a cannibalistic disease.
While some of the Challengers later make it safety to another world, Una does not, dying to save one of their friends. In the meanwhile, we see the world go to ruin, and we see Superman get infected, and presumably, eventually die.
8. THE SCHOOL FOR SUPERMAN ASSASSINS
The early days of Golden and Silver Age Superman comics were positively bonkers and chock full of insanity. In Superman #188 for example, there’s a group of aliens called the Galaxy Crimeteers, who for some reason or another, have made it their sole purpose to figure out ways to kill Superman. They take classes, practice with a Superman robot, and are dedicated to their studies.
If that sounds ridiculous, that’s only because it is. After much training, the alien Zunial finally kills the Superman android and decides to move on to the real thing. When he arrives on Earth, he actually succeeds in doing the impossible by killing Superman, albeit with the assistance of some kryptonite radio waves. Not to worry, the Superman robot would later get reactivated and sacrificed itself to save Superman.
In the Justice Society of America story arc “Fatherland”, the world’s heroes have fallen to the Axis of Evil. Nazis have taken over the planet, at first unleashing the Darkness Engine, producing a field that nullified super powers, Superman’s among them. With no powered heroes to fight back, the Axis rounds up all the remaining heroes and locks them away in concentration camps. Flash forward twenty years and Mr. Terrific, who the other surviving heroes now see as their leader, formulates a plan to restore the timeline.
In a massive jailbreak, the remaining heroes and villains team up in a suicide mission to give Terrific the time he needs. Superman is among the last to fall, having stolen a suit of war armor, but fall he does. Mr. Terrific realizes he can’t alter the timeline, so he sends a warning down along the timeline to his younger self.
6. THE CARNIVAL OF SOULS
Superman doesn’t have many weaknesses, but the ones he does have, wreck absolute havoc on him. Many people believe kryptonite is Superman’s only vulnerability, but the Man of Steel is extremely susceptible to magic and its energies. In Justice League of America #145, Superman runs into the evil sorcerer Count Crystal in the first couple pages and is immediately killed. The Count hits him with some magic and Superman dies like a chump.
Thankfully, the Phantom Stranger is keen on current events and hurriedly summons Wonder Woman, Batman, Green Arrow and others to help. They perform a séance, head into an extradimensional realm known as the Carnival of Souls, fight Crystal, who also kills Hawkman, beat him and then the Phantom Stranger resurrects both Hawkman and Superman.
5. CAMELOT FALLS
In the Superman-centric storyline known as Superman: Camelot Falls, the Altantean wizard Arion time travels to the present to warn Superman about the future. According to the mage, Superman and the others only make matters worse whenever they prevent a Crisis. If they keep saving the day, Arion warns, then something bigger will eventually destroy them all. To convince Superman further, Arion shows the hero a vision of the future.
In it, a mad warlord named Khyber has been biding his time until he’s ready to take over the world. Superman fights him, but Khyber throws Superman into the core of the planet, causing the world above to get destroyed. Years later, Superman returns, barely alive, and fights Khyber again. He nearly kills the villain, but hesitates; he doesn’t want to murder. This gives Khyber the opportunity he needs to kill Superman.
4. ABSOLUTE POWER
In issues #14-18 of Superman/Batman, the Legion of Super-Villains has re-written history, sending the planet into a dark age. Cosmic King, Lightning Lord and Saturn Queen have changed history; they raise Batman and Superman as their own children. In this alternate timeline there are still pockets of resistance, with one in particular led by Wonder Woman. In an intense battle, Wonder Woman kills a tyrannical Batman, before an enraged Superman kills her in retaliation. He then kills the remaining resistance fighters, including the Living Bomb; the Living Bomb’s energy creates an explosion that mixes with a time bubble.
It ruins the timeline completely, jettisoning Batman and Superman through different timelines. In many of the new worlds they land in, Batman and Superman are killed; their deaths reboot the timelines again. However, one of their more brutal deaths came at the hands of Jonah Hex and Scalphunter.
3. DC UNIVERSE ONLINE LEGENDS
In the comic book tie-in to the video game DC Universe Online Legends, folks read about a dystopia of a future where the world’s villains had united with Lex Luthor and engaged in all-out war against the planet’s superheroes. In both the cinematic trailer leading up to the video game and the actual comic, we see how the Man of Steel was killed.
After spending days, if not weeks, fighting constantly, Superman is recharging in outer space. However, when he hears his friends in pain, he can’t help but return to Earth. Unfortunately, Lex Luthor has outfitted himself with an incredibly powerful suit of armor, and is waiting for him. The moment Superman arrives on the scene, Luthor uses his armor’s powers to stagger the Last Son of Krypton, before ramming a kryptonite-tipped spear through his chest.
2. POWER AND GLORY
In Bryan Hitch’s 10-issue Justice League of America story called “Power and Glory”, there’s a tremendous amount of time travel, world-ending disasters, and general zaniness. At one point, Superman is invited over to the Infinity Corporation Building and discovers there’s a scientist named Vincent who is trying to save his life.
Working on something called the Stones of Forever, Vincent states that the Stones talk to him, but the real kicker is that over 60 Supermen have appeared at that location, popping up from seemingly the same place in time, all dead. It’s a confusing mess, but eventually it gets tracked down to a mad Kryptonian called Rao. After plenty of comic book hijinks, Superman eventually beats Rao, and alters time by not dying.
1. DEATH OF SUPERMAN
Up until the “Death of Superman”, readers had never genuinely considered the possibility that Superman could be killed. In 1992, everything changed. After arriving on Earth and breaking out of its prison, the Kryptonian monster known as Doomsday goes on a rampage across the entire United States, killing every living thing in sight. Seemingly unstoppable, Doomsday takes out the Justice League before Superman is pulled into the battle. They fight for hours, their battle going across the country until they arrive in Metropolis.
Once there, they beat the stuffing out of one another, before Superman and Doomssday take each other out at the same time, hitting the other with their last vestiges of strength. Just like that, Superman died — it was a phenomenon. New outlets across the world broadcasted the death of Superman. It was a historic event. Following a three-month hiatus on all Superman comics, eventually Superman returned.
Which of these deaths was the most shocking to you? Let us know in the comments!
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