We all know that Superman is a jerk. That’s been a meme for years, even though many supposed examples of Superman’s jerkish tendencies are blatant lies put on comic book covers to convince potential readers to pick up that issue. That being said, there are still plenty of times when Superman is exactly as much of a tool as he’s made out to be. The most frequent victims of his super-tantrums are those he claims to hold near and dear. Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Lana Lang and the dozens of superheroes he’s befriended over the years have all suffered through Superman’s weird idea of friendship.
And sure, sometimes Superman isn’t really to blame. Sometimes brainwashing is the true culprit behind Superman’s questionable behavior. Still, it’s hard to believe those villains had to try too hard to make Supes do rotten things when he does them of his own free will all the time. In this list, we look at 15 times Superman, generally with no villainous prompting whatsoever, treated his loved ones like particularly stupid sheep who need the mighty Man of Steel to herd them in the right direction. He might mean well, but not even the best of intentions can make the items on this list anything but super terrible.
15. IT’S A HARD KNOCK LIFE
For most of his life, Clark Kent believed that he was Krypton’s only survivor. So he is understandably delighted when he learns Kara Zor-El, his kid cousin, also survived the destruction of their home planet. Superman and the duly-dubbed Supergirl spend her debut issue reminiscing about Krypton and how she found her way to Earth.
Kara is also happy at having reunited with her cousin and naturally asks if she will live with him from now on. But the Man of Tomorrow, for some reason believing that Kara’s presence will jeopardize his secret identity, instead drops her off at the nearest orphanage. Because clearly, leaving a newly superpowered teenager alone with a bunch of other teenagers is a much better plan than raising her yourself.
14. CORRUPTS ABSOLUTELY
In Superman/Batman #14, evil versions of Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl and Cosmic Boy arrive from the future to rewrite the past in their own image. Collectively known as the Legion of Super-Villains, they adopt the orphaned Kal-El and Bruce Wayne themselves and raise them up to be the biggest, baddest supervillains on Earth. Anyone who could potentially threaten their reign is eliminated, either by the three parents or their ill-gotten offspring.
Batman’s idea of an ideal birthday present for his “brother” is Green Arrow, who Superman happily incinerates with his heat vision. Superman goes on to snap Wonder Woman’s neck with her own lasso for daring to stand up to the Superman/Batman dictatorship. Lucky for the world, before he can cause further damage, Superman is chucked into another timeline.
13. THE LOIS LANE ROOM
Allegedly, Superman uses the Fortress of Solitude as a getaway and as a place to store souvenirs he’s picked up on his various heroic adventures. But as we found out in the Silver Age, Superman also keeps a very different kind of souvenir collection up there. Allow us to take you on a tour of the Lois Lane Room. Here, you can peruse endless photographs and even a life-sized statue of Superman’s coworker/girlfriend/stalking victim. Seriously, who does this? A super creep, that’s who.
In an imaginary story published in Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane #26, Superman marries Lana Lang and destroys the Lois Lane Room — not because he’s finally realized keeping a secret shrine of someone is weird, but because he’s afraid it will upset Lana. For her part, Lana is suspiciously cool with it all once the room is destroyed.
12. SUPERMAN’S SON, JIMMY OLSEN
Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #30 is often held up as a prime example of being superjerk. There’s a good reason for that. In this issue, Jimmy is sad about being an orphan, so Superman adopts him. Almost immediately, Superman starts gaslighting Jimmy for all he’s worth, scolding him for touching things Superman gave him permission to touch and destroying his perfectly lovely Father’s Day gift. A heartbroken Jimmy finally orders the adoption canceled.
So what excuse does Superman have for jerking his friend around? His prophecy machine –apparently he has one of those — warned him that he would destroy his son, so Superman chased Jimmy away instead. However, the computer was referring to a “sun” as in a star, not a “son” as in the poor guy who trusted him to be a good parent. That’s right: this issue happened purely because Superman doesn’t understand homonyms.
11. “QUITE A LOAD” INDEED
Lois Lane became famous for two things: wanting to marry Superman, and constantly getting into trouble in the course of her duties as a reporter. So when a murderer threatens to kill Lois, Superman decides he must disguise her so the murderer won’t recognize her. He does this by arranging for her to get hit with a fat ray. Yes, a fat ray. Lois wakes up the next morning at twice her normal weight, much to her horror.
Not satisfied with merely subjecting Lois, without permission, to the potential health hazards of sudden massive weight gain, Superman goes the extra mile to make Lois as miserable as possible. When he rescues her after her car breaks down, Superman pretends not to recognize her and pointedly remarks about how much thinner his gal Lois is.
10. NOT JUST YOUR IMAGINATION
In Adventure Comics #168, we are introduced to Robert Lang, the kid brother of Superboy’s love interest, Lana. Like his sister, Robert is determined to prove that Clark Kent is Superboy. He comes close enough that Superboy begins to view Robert as a real threat. So how does Superboy handle that threat? By sending that kid on the trip of a lifetime.
Superboy uses his powers to somehow cause super-hallucinations, so that no one will believe anything Robert says. Robert meets — or thinks he meets — characters from, appropriately, The Wizard of Oz and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Robert seemingly comes out of this ordeal with nothing more than a strong desire to read. But Superboy sure did a lot of messing around with an impressionable child’s mind. Maybe there’s a reason we never see young Robert again after this issue…
9. OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND
As you may notice from other items on this list, Superman apparently thinks his superpowers give him the right to do whatever he wants to his friends as long as he claims to be protecting them from some greater evil. Jimmy Olsen was the recipient/victim of Superman’s mandatory benevolence in Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #40. As a birthday present, Superman tries to give Jimmy superpowers for a day. In a truly spectacular display of incompetence, Superman instead turns Jimmy invisible, supposedly forever.
Needless to say, this “accident” was anything but. Superman turned Jimmy invisible on purpose as part of a convoluted plot to force a murderer out of hiding. He could have just, you know, told Jimmy about this plan, and Jimmy probably would have been okay with it. But maybe things like healthy communication between friends are beneath the Last Son of Krypton.
8. IT’S IN HIS KISS
Superman II is unrepentantly silly from beginning to end. But the one part that has had fans rolling their eyes for years is the amnesia kiss at the end. Earlier in the film, Superman revealed his secret identity to Lois Lane. She seems okay with this at first, but in the long run, Lois doesn’t deal as well as Clark hoped. So he kisses the knowledge right out of her skull.
Putting aside the fact that Superman has apparently had very well-targeted amnesia-inducing saliva all this time, the fact that he think it is okay to muck about with Lois’ brain is pretty gross. Just because you have the power to mess with people’s brains doesn’t mean you should do so whenever you feel like it. Or ever, preferably!
Imaginary stories were a staple of the Silver Age, allowing creators to show Superman and company saying and doing things that they never would in the main universe. In one such imaginary story, it is Earth that meets an untimely end rather than Krypton, and an infant Lois Lane finds refuge and superpowers on Krypton. Lois, hilariously called Kandi Kan by her adoptive parents, uses her powers to protect Krypton as Supermaid.
Kandi’s friend, Kal-El, has long had a crush on her, but he doesn’t think she’d be interested in a mere mortal like himself. But by the end of the story, exposure to purple “Earthite”– this story’s version of kryptonite — causes Kandi’s powers to transfer to Kal-El. And how does Kal react to this? By giving the now mortal Kandi the brushoff. All class, that Kal.
6. RED K STRIKES AGAIN
There isn’t much that can hurt a Kryptonian. But of all the things that are able to bring Superman low, red kryptonite is definitely the weirdest. It’s been known to cause everything from animal transformations to bouts of uncontrollable, violent rage. On the TV show Smallville, exposure to red kryptonite turns Clark Kent into a selfish, thieving cad.
Clark spends the entire summer between the second and third seasons under the influence of red kryptonite. This gives him plenty of time to offend pretty much everyone he’s ever met. He physically shoves Chloe Sullivan around, deliberately doesn’t contact his worried loved ones for months on end, and gets into a full-on super-battle with his own father. Fortunately, the red kryptonite ring that caused all the trouble shatters during the fight.
5. SUPERMAN’S BEST FRIEND
Krypto the Super-Dog frequently fought crime alongside Superboy in Smallville. But it’s kind of surprising that they had time to do that in between all the times they’ve tried to kill each other. Multiple covers show Superboy and Krypto viciously attacking each other. Superboy was even ready to fling Krypto into space on more than one occasion. But somehow, that wasn’t the worst thing Superboy ever did to him.
In Adventure Comics #272, Krypto becomes a Hollywood star and lets fame go to his head. To bring him down to Earth, Superboy literally poisons Krypto’s pool water to make Krypto old and frail. Hollywood immediately drops the crotchety Krypto. Now that his dog has been sufficiently humbled, Superboy deigns to give him the antidote, restoring his youth and strength. Bad Superboy! Bad!
4. KING OF THE WORLD
Injustice: Gods Among Us is a comic book prequel to the video game of the same name. The focus of both is an alternate universe in which Superman appoints himself dictator of Earth. What pushed him over the edge, you ask? The Joker tricked him into killing his pregnant wife, Lois, which resulted in Metropolis getting nuked. Superman takes this very, very badly. After murdering the Joker, Superman takes over the world, determined to restore law and order whether anyone else wants him to or not.
And, surprise surprise, some of Earth’s other heroes don’t approve of Superman’s regime. Superman retaliates in all sorts of horrible ways: he exposes Batman’s secret identity to the world, pummels Green Arrow to death and breaks Batman’s back. Losing your wife and your city really sucks, but our sympathy can only stretch so far.
3. BATMAN V. SUPERMAN… AGAIN
Most superheroes have been mind controlled at least once in their careers. Superman is certainly no exception. Surprisingly often, villains seek to brainwash Superman for the express purpose of beating up Batman. In World’s Finest #95, for example, an alien race makes Superman and Batman hate each other so they’ll fight and settle the age-old question of whether Batman could take Superman in a fight.
Nearly 1000 issues later, Superman tries to kill Batman and Robin at the behest of the villain Horatio Socrates. And in World’s Finest #261, the Penguin and Terra-Man hypnotize Superman into thinking that he’s the Sundance Kid and that Batman is his enemy. We’re sure there are other examples, but we’re running out of room here, so let’s just move on.
2. IT’S A WONDERFUL SCAM
Have you ever thought about just dropping everything and starting a new, less stressful life somewhere else? Superman sure did. But unlike the rest of us schmoes, he has both the powers and the selfish attitude to make his dream come true. In Superman #210, he hypnotizes all of his friends into believing Clark Kent killed himself over Lois Lane’s repeated rejections. That seems a bit extreme, but okay.
After successfully faking his death, Superman is shocked to discover that people actually like him and are sad he is dead. Clark, of course, “miraculously” comes back to life by the end of the issue. You’d think a grown man would know better than to fake his death to avoid personal problems, but then again, this is Superman we’re talking about…
1. WORST ROBOT BATTLE EVER
In Superman #150, Lana and Lois take their romantic rivalry for Superman to the next level: they pretend to arrange a duel to the death in the hopes that Superman will finally marry one of them. Now granted, this is not exactly healthy behavior, but the way Superman deals with it is equally horrifying. Supes figures out he’s being pranked and sets up a prank of his own.
Constructing robot duplicates of both Lois and Lana, he arranges for each woman to not only duel her friend’s robot double but to “kill” said double. Lois collapses with grief when she stabs “Lana” to death, while Lana is horrified when she fatally “shoots” Lois. Somehow, when we heard about Superman setting up a robot battle, we were picturing something way more awesome than this.
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