When all is said and done, and no matter who your favourite is, Superman is the definitive superhero. As one of the first superheroes, he’s often the one considered to be the one that ushered in the modern era of superheroes since his arrival in the 1930s. Due to his enduring popularity, he has had many team-ups with other heroes, as well as having fought a few too.
While Superman has met most of the characters in the DC universe, and thrashed most of the ones he’s fought, Marvel/DC team-ups remain few and far between. Therefore, “Who would win a fight between Superman and…” battles remain hypothetical. That being said, we’ve taken a look at a few of Marvel’s heavy-hitters who could exploit Superman’s weaknesses or possibly just outmatch him in terms of raw power and considered how they may be able to beat the big blue boy scout in an outright slugfest. No remember guys, these are characters that COULD take him down, not ones that necessarily WOULD.
Here’s 15 Marvel Characters That Could Beat Up Superman.
Marvel’s adaptation of the Norse god owes as much to Superman as he does to the original character from mythology. His alter-ego, the mild-mannered Donald Blake, has a certain Clark Kent appeal to him. Both Thor and Superman were sent to Earth by their respective fathers, albeit for vastly different reasons. Thor even has a red cape and a similar level of power.
If the two characters were to fight each other, it’s likely to be a straight-up slugfest with the two men hammering each other with their incredible strength until one goes down for the count. While possibly an even match in terms of strength, and even fighting skill, Thor does have one advantage: his ability to use magic. Superman is as vulnerable to magic as any other mortal and Thor is the son of Gaea as well as Odin, giving him enormous magical potential. While he rarely uses magic for more than opening portals or summoning lightning, he does have more than a few tricks up his sleeve. It’s by utilizing this power that Thor could potentially de-power Superman or force him to expel all his solar energy, making him vulnerable enough to take down.
14. Phoenix / Jean Grey
The Phoenix force is one of Marvel’s most powerful entities and one that has caused no end of destruction. Not only has it consumed the occasional inhabited star system in its time, it’s also possessed some of Marvel’s greatest mutants giving them god-like power. When it possessed Cyclops in Avengers Vs X-Men, he used its power to take on every hero on Earth simultaneously including both the Red and Green Hulks. In its favourite host, Jean Grey, the Phoenix is even more powerful. Jean herself has enormous psychic power and is possibly Marvel’s most powerful mutant.
A battle with Superman could well be over fairly quickly. While Superman’s strength and speed could make him a worthy foe for the Phoenix, he does have a weakness that Phoenix would certainly exploit: his mind. While a genius by human standards, his mind is vulnerable to telepaths meaning that the Phoenix/Jean would be able to overwhelm his mind with a psychic assault he would most likely have little defence against.
Another Marvel character that owes a lot to Superman is Gladiator. Once the leader of the Shi’ar imperial guard and later the leader of the empire itself, Gladiator is almost unparalleled in physical power. Like Superman, he can fly, is invulnerable to all but the most powerful of superhuman blows, and can split a mountain in half with a single punch.
A battle between the two is a simple, old-fashioned, punch out. Gladiator lacks the ability to use magic, and would likely have no access to Kryptonite, therefore it’s going to come down to fists. While Gladiator may not be able to use Superman’s weaknesses against him, he’s not without a weakness of his own. Gladiator’s power is linked to his confidence. If he doubts himself, even for a moment, his power levels can drop allowing Superman to take him out. For Gladiator to win this particular fight, he’d have to keep his head in the game at all times. This one could be very close indeed.
For much of her history, Rogue possessed the physical power of Ms Marvel (Carol Danvers) meaning she was superhumanly strong as well as having the ability to fly and resist physical harm. While she no longer has access to this power level, she does retain her original power to absorb the powers of others. In her very first appearance in Avengers Annual #10 Rogue fought the Avengers to a standstill having absorbed the powers of Thor and several others.
In a battle with Superman, Rogue would only need to be able to catch Superman off-guard long enough to make skin-to-skin contact. Not only would she gain instant access to his full Kryptonian powers, he himself would be weakened by the encounter. With the two foes evenly matched, Rogue would only have to absorb the powers of anyone else who happened to be nearby in order to tip the balance in her favour.
11. Molecule Man
He may not look like much, but Owen Reece A.K.A Molecule Man is one of the most powerful beings in the marvel universe. Able to alter the molecules in matter, he can create or destroy anything he wants to with little more than a thought. He is currently rebuilding the multiverse one molecule at a time after the events of Secret Wars.
If Superman were to attempt to battle him, it should be over in an instant with Molecule Man simply scattering Clark’s molecules. However, it might not be as simple as that as Superman’s great strength comes not just from the absorption of solar energy but also from his incredibly dense cellular structure. If his molecules are in fact so dense that Molecule Man is unable to merely ‘wish’ him away, there could be one heck of a battle. It could take Molecule Man quite some time before he was able to figure out that Superman has any sort of weakness allowing the Man of Steel to give him a serious beating.
At his classic power levels, X-Man is a telepath and telekinetic powerhouse without limits. During a battle with the Hulk X-Man was able to match the jade giant blow for blow, augmenting his physical strength with telekinetic body armour. X-Man also has telepathic power that eclipses even Charles Xavier’s making him an ideal person to battle Superman.
Superman has several advantages in terms of raw strength, speed, and combat experience. However, X-Man’s telepathic ability means he would likely be able to break apart any psychic defence the Man of Steel would be able to utilize. This may not be as simple as it would first appear as Superman remains a physical powerhouse and X-Man would have to match his physical power and use his own telepathic skills simultaneously, not an easy thing to do when being pummelled by fist that have pounded the likes of Doomsday, Mongol, and even Darkseid.
Genetically identical to the aforementioned X-Man, Cable generally lacks the ability to use his full potential due to being infected by a techno-organic virus as a child by the villain Apocalypse. He grew up in the far future where he became a general and leader of a resistance army. After returning to the modern day, he became a mentor to the team of mutants that became the first X-Force.
While Cable is generally not at the peak of his power, he has a tactical genius that matches Batman’s. when he targeted the Avengers, he used their various weaknesses against them and almost took out the whole team despite being close to death at the time himself.
In a battle with Superman, he would only need some prep time to come up with an appropriate strategy. As one of the most resourceful men in the Marvel Universe, he would potentially be able to synthesise Kryptonite or develop a similar means to capture or even kill Superman.
8. Franklin Richards
Franklin Richards has the power of a god in the form of a boy. His powers are seemingly without limit meaning that, in theory, there’s nothing he can’t do. Essentially, it’s not just a question of if he could defeat Superman, it’s how he’d choose to do it.
As a child, Franklin is still using his powers based on pure instinct instead of any tactical, or even conscious, knowledge. He’s unlikely, therefore, to simply blast Superman with intense energy or force. He’s more likely to wish Superman away and teleport him to the moon. Potentially, he could alter the sun to become a red son, leaving Superman powerless. He could even create an entirely separate dimension, as he has in the past, and send Superman there.
Whatever method Franklin used to defeat Superman, it’s certain that he’s far more powerful than the Man of Steel. The question really is, what circumstances could bring Superman to want to harm a child in the first place?
7. Silver Surfer
Superman and the Silver Surfer should be kindred spirits. Both are the last of their kind, incredibly powerful, and noble warriors. While the Silver Surfer doesn’t often fight other heroes, he has used his cosmic power to match the likes of Thor, Cable (who was at full power at the time), and The Hulk.
Superman’s usual weaknesses wouldn’t seem to apply here as the Silver Surfer has no telepathic or magic ability nor does he have access to Kryptonite. But as Superman found when he first fought Doomsday, he can be beaten by a foe who is simply more powerful than he is. Silver Surfer is significantly faster than Superman which would give him a significant edge in a battle, despite the two being, arguably, equally strong.
6. Absorbing Man
Not quite the powerhouse that some other entries on this list are, Crusher Creel A.K.A The Absorbing Man, does have one potential weapon to defeat Superman, the ability to absorb the properties of any matter he touches. He wouldn’t need to use a Kryptonite Weapon on Superman, he merely needs to touch Kryptonite to become a walking Kryptonite powered weapon himself.
Of course, this does assume that Creel could access Kryptonite. But as he tends to operate on behalf of others it’s possible that a mastermind such as The Leader could acquire Kryptonite or synthesise a decent enough facsimile. If Creel were to be able to absorb this Kryptonite, he could morph his limbs into Kryptonite hammers or blades, making short work of Superman by pummelling or stabbing him before he could escape. As far as the hypothetical battles on this list go, this could be one of the shortest, and bloodiest, of all.
5. Doctor Doom
When it comes to bad guys, there are few that do bad better than Doom. Victor Von Doom, the gypsy boy that became a monarch, genius inventor, and dark sorcerer has immense potential to do both good and bad. Indeed, the only man he has ever feared is Reed Richards, who Doom begrudgingly admits is his intellectual equal.
While Doom could be physically overpowered by Superman rather quickly, his armour would be no match for Superman’s strength, Doom has a variety of other skills which would defeat Superman. Not only could he use his scientific skills to either replicate or locate Kryptonite, he could create an energy weapon that utilised Kryptonite based energy beams, defeating Superman from a distance.
Of course, Doom’s skills do not end with science. When it comes to sorcery he is second only to Doctor Strange and could use a magic based attack to defeat Superman in a gruesome manner.
4. Doctor Strange
Second to Kryptonite, Superman’s greatest weakness is magic. While he isn’t any more susceptible to magic than any other being, he doesn’t have any resistance to it as he does with conventional attacks. And when it comes to magic, nobody does it better than Doctor Strange. Whether it’s using the Crimson Bands of Cytorrak or one of his darker spells, Doctor Strange has an arsenal of magic power at his command which Superman would have no defence against. If Superman were to be given some kind of magical protection from a third party, however, the battle might not be so easy to determine.
As with some other hypothetical battles on this list, it’s not a question of who would win the battle that is the interesting question. It’s why the two men would be fighting in the first place. What circumstances could make the Man of Steel and the Master of the Mystic Arts cross dimensions and fight each other?
As with several other characters on this list Hyperion owes much to Superman. But in Hyperion’s case, he’s a blatant rip-off of the Man of Steel! With only so many ideas to be had, there’s bound to be overlap, and some characters are created with a subtle nod to an existing character and are a deliberate homage. In Hyperion’s case, it’s less of an homage and more a straight-up copy, but we digress..
Both men are physical powerhouses with comparable strength, the ability to fly, and emit enormous energy blasts. While Hyperion doesn’t have the magic skills or (presumably) access to Kryptonite he does stand equal to Superman in just about every way meaning that the two men would have to duke it out the old-fashioned way. Much like the now-legendary Superman/Doomsday battle, it could well be a fight that ends up claiming the lives of both men and levelling a city in its wake.
Hulk is the strongest one there is. Unlike most other match-ups on this list, this one actually happened in the DC/Marvel crossover series back in the 1990s and Superman won! But, there was a catch. Hulk was in one of his less powerful incarnations at the time as he had his full intelligence and was not in his enraged (and more powerful) savage-Hulk form. In an enraged state, Hulk is at least as strong if not far stronger than Doomsday meaning that he could be far stronger than Superman and capable of tearing him apart.
In his most feral, and therefore most enraged, state Hulk’s strength is without limit while the modern age Superman does have an upper limit to his power. Had this been the Silver Age when Superman was essentially an unstoppable engine of destruction, there’s a good chance the two men could split the planet in half beating each other to a pulp.
1. The Sentry
The Sentry’s powers have always been somewhat nebulous. He has awesome physical strength which he has used to tear the Greek God Ares in two with little effort, he even fought Hulk to a standstill while Hulk was angrier than ever. When fighting Molecule Man, it appeared that he had the same power to manipulate molecules as he did, meaning that he may well be capable of power without any limit.
While Sentry is far more dangerous than Superman, it’s his dark side that is potentially even more powerful. Known as The Void, The Sentry’s dark half has all his power but none of the limits Sentry places upon himself. Should Superman attempt to battle either he’d almost certainly have the fight of his life on his hands. If he were to face The Void, there’s no telling what kind of pain and suffering he would face before being put down for good.
Have any other theories as to who else in the Marvel Universe could beat the Man of Steel? Do you think Adam Warlock or Thanos could do it? Or maybe you just think Squirrel Girl has the best chance? Let us know in the comments!