The Man of Steel is the prototypical superhero. For decades he has been standing up for what is right by jumping over tall buildings and running faster than a speeding bullet. Drawing his power from the Earth’s yellow sun, Superman possesses a myriad of abilities, including super strength, flight and invulnerability.
With such immense power, it is hard to envision anyone standing a chance against the Last Son of Krypton. Even though Superman possesses seemingly God-like abilities, that’s never stopped folks from trying.
Mere mortals like Lex Luthor and Batman have been able to best Superman in battle, but only through rigorous preparation. While Superman has gone up against the heavyweights of the DC Universe, we can’t help but wonder how he’d fair against some of the Marvel Universe’s most powerful, and resourceful villains.
* While various incarnations of Superman tend to be all over the place on the power spectrum (Silver Age Supes once destroyed an entire solar system by sneezing), we’re going to focus on modern era Superman for this one.
15. Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom is one of the most intelligent minds in the entire Marvel Universe. Say what you will about his fashion sense, but the dude invented time travel. In addition to being insanely rich and powerful (he can declare diplomatic immunity, after all), he is also a master tactician.
In this bout, Doom holds the element of surprise over Superman. While Clark was busy saving a cat out of a tree or punching things really hard, Doom would be using all of his resources to gather information about the Last Son of Krypton. This valuable intelligence would give Doom the upper-hand in battle.
It is safe to say that Dr. Doom would be able to synthesize Kryptonite, which he could weaponize. Also, it doesn’t take Doom-level intellect to figure out that Supes doesn’t handle magic attacks too well. Considering that Doom is more than proficient with magic, the one two punch of technology and mysticism would put him down.
Even if Superman managed to overcome those odds and was able to defeat Doom, we all know that it would later be revealed that Superman only defeated one of the Doombots. The real deal would be holed up in Latveria planning his next move, which would undoubtedly involve stealing Superman’s powers, which he has done to numerous other characters like Silver Surfer and The Beyonder.
Despite what Jennifer Lawrence may lead you to believe, throughout the majority of her career, Mystique has primarily been on the side of evil. While there is no way Mystique could ever go toe-to-toe with Superman, she does possess a particular set of skills that could totally destroy him.
Mystique’s mutant ability is shape shifting, which means that she can rearrange her cellular structure to adopt the appearance of anyone. In addition she can also mimic her target’s voice perfectly as well as reproduce inorganic items like clothing. With these abilities, Mystique would easily be able to parade around as Superman, engaging in an epic smear campaign that could completely tank his reputation.
Imagine Mystique planting a few bombs around Metropolis, setting them off, transforming into Superman and doing nothing but sitting back and watching the chaos! Mystique wouldn’t even have to resort to such extremes to humiliate Superman and dismantle his squeaky clean image. Picture Superman/Mystique strolling into a brothel, or buying underage kids booze, or pulling a Rob Ford and getting caught on tape indulging in illicit substances. Superman would have a public relations nightmare on his hands that he may never be able to recover from!
13. The Absorbing Man
Agents of SHIELD fans will likely recognize the name Carl “Crusher” Creel, but to the rest of us, he is better known as The Absorbing Man. Creel was a former boxer and two-bit criminal spending time in the slammer when Loki, wanting to annoy his brother Thor, granted Creel the power to absorb the property of any material he touched.
Over the past five decades, Creel has used his abilities to turn his body into some of the strongest substances in the universe, absorbing the properties of adamantium and even the Cosmic Cube. Of course, Creel has suffered his fair share of humiliating defeats, like the time he was tricked into absorbing helium or that time he became a giant pile of cocaine in order to prevent the Punisher’s bullets from killing him (Marvel Knights Spider-Man #16, 2005).
While Creel may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, he would only need to get his hands on a teeny tiny sliver of kryptonite in order to turn his entire body into the deadly green rock, and Superman doesn’t stand a chance.
12. Kraven the Hunter
Sergei Kravinoff really liked to kill things. He was so adept at big game hunting that he wore a lion’s face as a vest. In the Marvel Universe, he set his sights on Spider-Man, becoming one of the web slingers most recognizable foes. We think that it’s safe to say that if Superman was flying around in the Marvel Universe, Kraven the Hunter would want to take a shot at him.
While we realize that in terms of sheer strength and ability, Superman could sneeze in Kraven’s direction and win this fight, but let’s give Kraven the benefit of the doubt. Firstly, Superman would never even be aware that Kraven was hunting him; he’s got far bigger fish to fry, which means that Kraven would be able to study the Man of Steel for a prolonged period of time without worrying about being detected.
Assuming this, it is not out of the question for Kraven to obtain some form of Kryptonite, as he would need it in order to level the playing field. Kraven would definitely be more interested in gold Kryptonite, which nullifies the effects of the yellow sun (the source of Superman’s abilities), turning Superman into a regular, normal guy, as Kraven adheres to a strict moral code. So, if Kraven could lure Superman to an area and bombard him with gold Kryptonite, we would be in for an epic hand-to-hand brawl where Kraven would emerge the victor.
Apocalypse is considered the world’s very first mutant, having been born thousands of years ago. While the extent or limits of his powers are fairly nebulous, it is safe to say that he possesses the chops to give Superman a run for his money.
First of all, the big blue guy is immortal. He also has total control over the molecules in his body that allows him to not only alter his appearance, but transform parts of his body into weapons. Apocalypse can also absorb and project energy, has the ability to directly communicate with computers, and has further enhanced his powers by merging with Celestial technology, who were essentially space Gods that could create universes.
In addition to his super powers, Apocalypse is highly intelligent, being both a master strategist and possessing genius level intellect in various areas of science.
10. The Purple Man
Those familiar with the Netflix series Jessica Jones have surely been creeped out by the deviant behavior and sociopathic tendencies of resident baddie Killgrave. If you haven’t watched the show, Killgrave is better known in Marvel comics as The Purple Man, a dapper gentleman who uses his ability to produce pheromones that allow him to control the actions of those around him.
Possessing a twisted moral compass, although to be fair he does manage to rock purple clothes with an impressive level of swagger, The Purple Man was relegated to B-level obscurity until his reappearance as the main antagonist of ex-superhero Jessica Jones.
Before Jones hung up her tights, she was known as Jewel, a hero possessing super strength and flight. Unfortunately none of these abilities were able to protect her from The Purple Man, who used his mind controlling pheromones to keep Jones under his control for months.
In addition to keeping Jessica Jones around as his plaything for an extended period of time, The Purple Man has exhibited the ability to control hundreds of people at once. It’s safe to say that influencing one Kryptonian shouldn’t prove to be terribly difficult.
9. The Void
Back in 2000, a middle-aged, down on his luck loser named Robert Reynolds suddenly remembers that he is The Sentry, a superhero who has the power of a million exploding suns, effectively making him one of the most powerful superheroes in the entire Marvel Universe. Realizing that his archnemesis, The Void, is coming back to threaten all of existence, Bob sets out to warn the superheroes of the Marvel Universe of the coming danger. Unfortunately, no one can remember him.
After some time, it is revealed that Bob isn’t a raving lunatic and is actually telling the truth. Peter Parker won a Pulitzer Prize for a photograph of The Sentry, Mr. Fantastic gradually remembers Bob as his friend and the many adventures they went on together, and Angel remembers how The Sentry taught him to face his fear of falling.
As the general public starts to remember The Sentry, Reed Richards discovers the cause of everyone’s selective amnesia. The Sentry and The Void are the same person. The Void is a repressed part of Bob that is dark and evil, a counterweight to The Sentry’s good nature. After coming to this realization, Bob erased his memory and the memories of almost everyone on Earth, wiping The Void, and The Sentry, from existence.
The Void shares the same power as The Sentry (see: 1 million exploding suns, above), which means that if it ever came down to The Void versus The Man of Steel (who derives his power from one sun), we’d have to put our money on The Void. It’s a simple numbers game.
8. The Magus
There have been three incarnations of the character known as The Magus, but we’re going to stick with the first one here. Also, you may want to take a seat for this one because it’s twisted and confusing, even for a comic book.
Adam Warlock is essentially a test tube baby created by scientists in order to achieve the “perfect human”. After rebelling against his creators, Warlock travels into space where he acquires the Soul Gem (one of the Infinity Stones), which allows him to capture the souls of other beings.
Eventually he runs into the Universal Church of Truth led by the evil and insane Magus. Warlock eventually discovers that Magus is in fact a future version of himself, who travelled back in time after being driven insane by his use of the Soul Gem in order to ensure that his younger self (Warlock) would travel the path that would eventually result in him becoming Magus.
In addition to the power of the Soul Gem, which we really can’t stress enough has the power to capture peoples’ souls, The Magus had super strength, the ability to teleport, become intangible and was virtually precognizant. The Magus possessed an immense amount of Cosmic power that allowed him to bend the fabric of reality at will, and he was a master manipulator and schemer. The Magus is essentially Lex Luthor, if Lex was some kind of super wizard and sported an Afro.
Unfortunately for the comic book incarnation of Loki, many folks nowadays tend to judge him based on his MCU counterpart. While Mr. Taylor Swift has delivered possibly the only memorable villain in the entire MCU, he is portayed as being significantly weaker than his comic book source material.
Loki is a God. Superman is an alien whose physiology allows him to absorb and harness the power of the Earth’s sun to give him incredible powers. In a battle of sheer brawn Superman may hold a slight edge over Loki, however their fight would never even come to trading blows.
Unfortunately for Superman, he is a boy scout, meaning that he almost always takes the moral high road. Loki on the other hand is called the trickster God for a reason. Loki wouldn’t fight fair. He would subvert and manipulate Superman at every turn, just as he has done to his own brother, who is also a God (Thor), for decades. Combine that with Loki’s substantial magical prowess and Superman goes down for the count.
Before he was a giant cosmic being that liked to chow down on entire planets full of sentient lifeforms, Galactus was just a normal dude flying around in a spaceship when his universe was destroyed by the Big Bang that created our universe. Because comic books, this sole survivor had all of his universe’s energy and knowledge transferred into him, turning him into the entity known as Galactus.
Galactus traverses the universe, munching on planets for sustenance without regard for the beings who populate these planets. He is essentially the physical embodiment of the cosmos, and as such wields the Power Cosmic, which essentially makes him a God.
The Power Cosmic can do virtually anything Galactus wishes, including transmuting matter, teleportation, creating interdimensional portals, creating life and resurrecting the dead, telekinesis, memory and emotional manipulation, and technology so advanced it could destroy and remake the multiverse.
While Galactus has been defeated in the past, it’s safe to say that he would wipe the floor with Superman. If Galactus didn’t outright vaporize him or transport him to a solar system with a red sun, he would probably make Supes his herald and simply move on to the next world.
5. The Beyonder
An alternate dimension called the “Beyond-Realm” was accidentally discovered when lab technician Owen Reece opened a tear in space-time. Some of the dimension’s energies escaped this alternate dimension and grants Reece nearly infinite power, which he uses to become the villain (and occasional hero) known as Molecule Man.
The remaining energy of this dimension somehow gains sentience and, curious about the nature of humanity, decides to abduct some of Earth’s superheroes and super villains and drop them into “Battleworld”, a planet cobbled together from various pieces of other worlds, where he forces the heroes and villains to fight to the death.
Despite taking on the somewhat questionable physical form of a white guy with a jheri curl, The Beyonder is omnipotent, meaning he/it has unlimited power, omniscient, meaning he/it knows everything that there is to know, and omnipresent, meaning he/it is present everywhere. Superman may have messianic qualities, but he isn’t a God, and there is no way he could go up against one.
There is a reason why the MCU is setting Thanos up to be the big baddie to rule them all. Thanos is a mad man who has defeated some of the biggest heavyweights of the Marvel Universe, all because he is infatuated with Death.
Thanos has made it his life’s mission to amass power for the sole purpose of snuffing out life completely. In addition to his genius intellect, his training as a master combat strategist, his enormous superhuman strength, stamina and durability, Thanos has been collecting incredibly powerful cosmic trinkets for decades. Just like there is an app for everything, Thanos would have a weapon that would gain him the upper hand against Supes in virtually any contest.
If Thanos was in possession of the Infinity Gauntlet, which grants its user complete mastery over time, space, reality, power, mind and soul, Superman is finished before the fight even begins. During the titular Infinity Gauntlet series in ’91, Thanos was able to command a number of cosmic entities including Galactus and Eternity, the personification of reality and time. Thanos could literally erase half of all the sentient life in the universe with a snap of his fingers. Sorry Supes, you once got beaten to death by spiky monster who had one of his hands tied behind his back for half of your fight.
From the pages of Doctor Strange comes the being known as Dormammu. Doc Strange himself has called Dormammu a threat to the life of the universe, and considering the fact that Dormammu once challenged Eternity, the personification of reality and time, to a smack down just goes to show how powerful and dangerous Dormammu is.
Dormammu is a being from another dimension, where the laws of physics as human beings understand them simply do not apply. He is made of pure mystical energy, and as such he cannot be destroyed. Dormammu’s hobbies include casual genocide, the enslavement of entire universes, and the proliferation of his own brand of religion in which he is the sole deity, not unlike certain popular cults.
Dormammu’s control over mystical energies can be used to essentially do whatever he wants at any given time including energy projection, matter manipulation, possession, necromancy, and the creation of actual demons. The guy can make you literally experience the videogame Doom in real life before you even encountered him.
2. Molecule Man
In recent years, Owen Reece, better known as Molecule Man, has been portrayed as more of a reluctant hero than an outright villain, but for the majority of his career, he’s been bad to the bone.
Owen Reece was a lab technician who accidentally opened a wormhole between the Earth’s dimension and that of another dimension entirely (see: The Beyonder, above). This tear in spacetime imbued Reece with cosmic radiation, which in turn enabled him to manipulate molecules with his mind, which essentially means that he can do anything he wants.
In addition to being able to restructure anything and everything on the molecular level, Molecule Man is also shown to have a high degree of “cosmic awareness”, which is comic book speak for being omnipotent. He can sense the actions of powerful cosmic entities, even when those entities are actively trying to block him out. This means that Molecule Man would be able to preemptively counter any attack Superman could think of, resulting in an uncontested display of brains over brawn.
Drawing heavily on Japanese creation myths, the character known as Amatsu-Mikaboshi is a nasty one. While the Marvel Universe’s interpretation of Shinto mythology is complex, we’ll settle for the abridged version here:
Billions of years ago, the entity known as Mikaboshi existed in the dark, primordial void in a state of nothingness. The Kami, a race of humanoid beings from another dimension, saw this big empty space and decided that they would create the Earth and populate it with a bunch of living things, kind of like real estate developers. Mikaboshi didn’t like all of this development as he thought it would lead to the gentrification of his neighborhood (author’s interpretation), so he attempted to put a stop to all of this creation.
Mikaboshi’s attempts were foiled and he was sent to the Shinto equivalent of Hell, where he was trapped for ages. He eventually escapes and threatens the existence of the entire universe due to his near infinite powers which include, but are not limited to: invulnerability, the ability to traverse dimensions instantly, demonic mysticism (he can control hordes of demons and summon armies of the undead), and the ability to absorb and/or enslave anything and anyone including immortals.
Sorry Supes, but Mikaboshi wins in a flawless victory.