Throughout comic book history, the Man Of Steel has been everything from temporarily hot-headed, placed under mind control, and even driven completely insane through pain. The ground rules for this list are pretty simple; these are the 15 best times Superman went absolutely insane, to the point where an outside force was needed to intervene. So by this logic, the famous confrontation with Batman in Frank Miller’s seminal work, The Dark Knight Returns, will sadly not be making an appearance on this list. In Frank Miller’s story, Superman is a government lackey, and doesn’t go insane, so much as he is told explicitly what to do by the President of the United States.
By this same line of thinking, the adaptation of the brutal fight in this year’s much talked about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice will also be excluded from this list, as the Man of Steel didn’t go insane, but was rather tricked by villain Lex Luthor into taking down Batman. And when your mother’s life is on the line, and you are on a delusional man’s ticking clock, it’s hard to think of an alternative means of rescue.
So without further ado, these are the 15 Times Superman Went Insane And Had To Be Stopped.
15. Smallville: Red Kryptonite And An Amoral Clark Kent
Smallville is one of the most beloved superhero television properties in recent memory, and this episode speaks to the quality it was able to achieve even with a minimal budget and a lack of modern technical advancement at the time. In this episode, Clark receives his Smallville class ring, and in classic comic book fashion, the stone it carries happens to have a little bit of red kryptonite inside it. The red kryptonite starts to mess with Clark’s mind, and it soon turns him into a 90’s jock-type jerk who has no care in the world for the people around him. You can see part of the episode here.
He confronts people by completely destroying their homes, he insults the principal, he incessantly flirts with Lana, he talks back to Pa Kent, and is consistently asking his friends to come with him to a bar. Luckily, Pa Kent comes to the rescue when they eventually corner Clark in the hay field that surrounds the family farm, and with a sledge hammer (in incredible early 2000’s slow-motion), he is able to break the ring and release Clark from its hold on him. It’s Ma Kent who perfectly sums up the encounter with red kryptonite when she states,
“If the green meteor rocks affect Clark physically, maybe the red affects him… emotionally.”
14. Super Friends: The Super Friends Are Hypnotized
So this initial entry is more of a comedic one, as the Super Friends program was never really considered a truly serious work. In this particular episode of the series, Batman, Aquaman, Robin, and the Blue Boy Scout himself are all hypnotized into creating trouble in the world by the infamous Voodoo Vampire. In the clip below, you can see part of the episode for yourself, where Voodoo Vampire forces the team into fighting Wonder Woman, who comes just in time to thwart her evil plan by the end of the episode.
It is tough to find complete episodes of the program online, but eventually the Super Friends are released from their captor, the day is saved, and like in most episodes of the program, the good guys prevail. Superman’s vampire state is both insane and terrifying at the same time. There’s nothing worse than a man who can leap tall buildings in a single bound, and then proceed to suck the blood of the living. Now here’s hoping for the eventual Underworld and Justice League crossover film that this episode will no doubt inspire. You can watch part of the episode here.
13. Superman 3: Drunk Superman Must Be Stopped
Superman 3 is an interesting film. That sentence basically sums up the picture, as it’s difficult to decipher exactly why certain choices in this film were made. One of the most bombastic choices was to have Superman be introduced to a certain type of Kryptonite that is concocted by Richard Pryor’s character, Gus, and it affects Superman in a similar fashion to the red kryptonite in Smallville. Superman becomes a neglectful drunk, and causes innocent people to be hurt by his actions. At the films eventual climax, Superman is struggling with his inability to help people, and is inevitably separated into two separate parts, a righteous Clark Kent and an immoral, dastardly Superman. You can watch their fight here.
The righteous Clark Kent ends up destroying his alter ego, and ridding the world of the mad Superman’s presence. The rest of the film is a mixed bag, and sees Superman confronting Gus and his henchman, as they hit him with an array of rockets, missiles, energy beams, a plastic bubble, and a beam of pure kryptonite. For a brief moment, the film leads us to believe that Superman was killed, but in truth he barely escapes with his life. As we know from every Superman comic ever made, and from the ending to Batman v Superman, Supes never really stays down for long.
12. Batman Beyond: Superman As A Traitor
Batman Beyond is hailed (rightfully so) as one of the greatest animated series of all time, as the futuristic style of the program and the dark themes contained within, were well ahead of their time in the realm of animated programming. In this episode of Batman Beyond, Superman shows up and asks current Batman, Terry McGuiness, if he would like to join the Justice League. The rest of the League’s roster, including Big Barda, Warhawk, Aquagirl and Kai-Ro, make their way to both heroes’ location. The rest of the League is surprised and taken aback by Superman’s invitation, as none of them were consulted about the decision. The League leaves Superman and Terry alone, and Superman reveals to Terry that he believes a traitor is among the team. Eventually it is discovered that Superman is the traitor, and that he is bring controlled by an extraterrestrial enemy. Yes, mind controlled Superman rears his ugly head again. It comes down to Terry to stop the tyrannical Superman, and an epic battle ensues. You can check out a clip from the two-part episode, “The Call” below.
11. Superman: Red Son: Superman Meets His New Home Of Ukraine
Superman: Red Son is a highly acclaimed graphic novel by literary genius, Mark Millar. Red Son is a three part comic series that explores a Clark Kent who instead of landing in good ‘ole boy Kansas, winds up landing in Soviet Ukraine, due to a difference in the Earth’s axis from the Superman story we know and love. In this story, James Olson is a CIA official who hires a young scientist, Lex Luthor, to destroy the menace. This comic takes place in the midst of the Cold War, and presents a story that deals with the building of nuclear arms to specifically fight Superman, instead of forcing a stand still with the Soviet Union.
Lex ends up creating a clone of Superman to destroy him, after many failed attempts at taking the Man of Steel’s life. The clone fights Superman, and during the fight, the two Supermen set off a nuclear missile in Great Britain. Luther’s clone sacrifices himself, and in turn saves millions. Naturally, Lex murders his “clone building” team and creates LuthorCorp, in hopes to one day destroy Superman. In the story, the Soviet Union expands its dominance across the globe, and eventually finds itself on America’s doorstep. Superman becomes a dictator figure, similar to a “Big Brother” archetype. The story continues with Superman fighting a KGB Batman, joining with and betraying Brainiac, and finally being thwarted by Lex Luthor. In one of the best comic endings of all time, as Lex wakes Superman up with a single note that reads, “Why don’t you just put the whole world in a bottle, Superman?”
10. Superman: Doomsday: Superman And His Super-Clone
Superman: Doomsday is a rough animated translation of the popular Superman story, The Death of Superman. In the film, a team of excavators hired by Lex Luthor discover a creature deep within the Earth, and the Doomsday creature starts a rampage towards the city of Metropolis. Superman engages in a fight to the death with the creature, and dies while also destroying Doomsday. Soon after his death, Superman can be seen flying around the city and assisting citizens in need. It is soon revealed that this is a clone of the Man of Steel created by Lex. The clone soon starts to take his job a little too seriously, his attitude darkens, and he eventually kills Toyman in broad daylight.
The real superman is revealed to be barely alive, and in a comatose state in the Fortress of Solitude. He undergoes extensive training, and eventually gets his strength back, along with a wonderful mullet to match. He heads to the city to confront the Superman Clone, and an epic battle ensues. So technically this is a “version” of Superman who goes insane and must be stopped by our Superman, but the battle is so great that it just had to make the list, not to mention the people of Metropolis were truly convinced that Lex’s clone was their own Superman. You can see some of the epic fight here.
9. Justice League Vs. Teen Titans: Superman Goes To The Dark Side
Justice League vs. Teen Titans is another strong entry in a long line of great DC Animated projects. In this movie, Raven’s father, Trigon, ends up corrupting the League members, and of course Superman is the real target here. Superman is mind controlled while doing laundry (because even the Man of Steel needs to visit the laundromat from time to time), and goes after his long time villain, Atomic Skull. The Man of Steel is eventually joined by his fellow Leaguers, as Trigon takes control of every single member. Trigon’s ultimate downfall is to underestimates the Titans and their abilities, and they work together to challenge his rule. An epic fight also ensues between the full might of the league and their teenage counterparts, in a battle to save the world. You can watch Superman getting possessed in this clip.
8. Injustice: Gods Among Us: Video Game And Comic World’s Collide
Injustice: God Among Us was one of the best fighting games in recent memory, and it just so happened to include all of our favorite DC heroes as well. In the video game, Superman creates an entirely new world order, after he is tricked by the Joker into killing the love of his life, Lois Lane (who also happens to be pregnant). In order to stop this regime from taking over the entire world, Batman enlists the help of every one of the League’s counterparts from a different universe, in order to confront and stop the tyrannical Superman. The game was followed up by a comic series that expanded the mythology, and allowed for some joyfully epic moments. In a marketplace that today is saturated by millions of comics that don’t break ground, this comic based on a video game was something truly refreshing. You can see the incredible trailer for the epic first game here.
7. Sacrifice: Maxwell Lord Makes Superman His Own
In the Superman: Sacrifice story line, Superman is controlled by the villainous Maxwell Lord, and is forced into seeing his greatest allies as his most nepharious enemies. In this storyline that helped to set up the Infinite Crisis event, Superman and Wonder Woman’s relationship is put to the test, as she must use all of her might to stop the Man of Steel from killing the ones he loves. This is one of the most beautiful stories of Wonder Woman and Superman’s relationship, and it’s great to see the most powerful man in the universe having to be saved by the most powerful woman. It’s a tale that dives deep into the interpersonal relationships of all the Leaguers, and shows how each and every one of them is so important to the Man of Steel. It’s also an incredibly interesting twist on the classic mind control formula, not just having Superman see red, but seeing his teammates replaced with enemies.
6. Joker: Endgame: The Other Snyder’s Joker Creates Some New Allies
In Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s epic conclusion to their Joker arc, the Joker uses a new toxin that he developed to mind control the entire league, and to use their powers against Batman. This story, accompanied by Mr. Capullo’s wonderful art, is the perfect conclusion to the crazy relationship between Bruce Wayne and the Joker that Scott Snyder had set up so beautifully. The battle is also one to remember, as it mimics Jim Lee’s epic Hush fight (more on that later). And the conclusion of the story is equally epic, and it has a similar feeling to Alan Moore’s seminal comic, The Killing Joke. The fight is cartoonish in the best way possible, and the terrifying illustrations wonderfully mirrors the Joker’s own sense of anarchy. This is the only fight on the list in which the entirety of the Justice League was under the control of one of their villains. Luckily for the fate of the world, the only member that was unaffected was Batman, who always has a contingency plan at the ready.
5. All-Star Superman: Black Kryptonite And Doomsday Jimmy Olsen
All-Star Superman is undoubtedly one of the greatest Superman comics of all time, if not the single greatest one. It opens beautifully, with a single page devoted to Superman’s origin, and with the remainder of the story devoted to a “greatest hits” type ode to the Man of Steel’s adventures over his many years of development. At one point in the comic, Superman saves Jimmy Olsen from a tremendous fall, and accidentally gets exposed to black kryptonite, which turns him into a Bizzaro-Superman that terrorizes the city of Metropolis. It is up to Jimmy Olsen to stop him, so he injects a little bit of Doomsday formula, and turns into the gigantic monster himself. The effects are temporary, though Jimmy Olsen ends up saving the Man of Steel and some citizens in the meantime. It’s one of the great examples of the Man of Steel needing the help of everyday people to save the day. He can’t do it all by himself, all the time.
4. Justice Lords: Justice League Animated Series Goes Darker
The Justice Lords were introduced in a two-part Justice League episode, “A Better World”, where in an alternate timeline, Lex Luthor is elected President of the United States, and has the Flash murdered. The alternate versions of Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman eventually confront Luthor in the White House, but Lex just tells Superman that no matter how many times he is imprisoned, he will escape and wreak havoc. Alternate Superman is fed up with the constant cycle of placing Lex in prison, and Lex breaking out, and murders him with his heat vision. The Justice Lords, as they are then being referred to as, take control over their world, and form a strict tyrannical rule. The Justice Lord Batman ends up inventing a machine that allows him to view alternate timelines, where he sees our Justice League. The Justice Lords decide to step in and aid the Justice League, by dispensing justice the only way they know how. The Justice League eventually confronts the Justice Lords, led by the evil Superman, and with the help of Lex Luthor, eventually defeat and imprison them. You can see part of the episode here.
3. Knightmare Arc: The Future Of The DCEU Is In The Hands Of Bruce Wayne
It was stated previously that the ultimate clash of the two biggest comic titans in Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, would not be included in this list, because Superman in the film doesn’t go insane, but is instead tricked into fighting Batman. However, this is not the only frightful interaction between the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel in Snyder’s film. In a flashback that is somewhat forced into the film, Bruce Wayne sees a future in which Superman is an evil warlord, and a war scorched desert with Darkseid’s insignia burned into it. We still don’t have any concrete information on what we’ll refer to as “Knightmare Superman” is going through. It’s possible he is being controlled by Darkseid, it’s possible that he was driven to madness by a great loss, or it’s possible that Superman is going to come back as something much darker when he eventually returns in Justice League. All I do know is despite the shocking inclusion of this scene in the film, it was beautifully shot, moving, and was a change of pace from the typical straight forward story line. You can watch the post-apocalyptic scene here.
2. Superman The Animated Series: Granny Goodness And Darkseid Take Control Of Superman’s Mind
If it wasn’t already dreadfully apparent, I believe that the Bruce Timm era of DC comics animated entertainment was a golden age in cartoon storytelling. This two-part episode was the series finale of the wondrous program, and signified the brilliance that was injected into it since the beginning. In this story arc, Darkseid gets a hold of Kal-El, and convinces him that he was brought up on Apokolips, instead of on Earth. Superman is sent to conquer the galaxy for his Lord and father Darkseid, and is eventually sent to Earth to do the same. When he arrives on the planet though, he begins to remember his time there, including both Supergirl and Lois. He is labeled a traitor when he is discovered, and is placed in a holding cell along with Supergirl. He eventually wills himself to escape, and confronts Darkseid directly with an epic fight that you can see below. Superman: The Animated Series introduced me to Superman in my youth, and he’s been my favorite character ever since. You can watch the final fight of the wonderfully made series here.
1. Hush: The Most Epic Confrontation Between Superman And His Greatest Ally, Batman
Batman: Hush is one of the greatest Batman stories ever told, and one of the most impressive single works of comic fiction to ever be realized. It is an epic storyline that needs to be read by anyone who loves the Dark Knight, or the realm of DC comics in general. Hush follows the story of Bruce Wayne attempting to confront Poison Ivy, who has been using her own special brand of toxins to control other villains in Gotham. Bruce Wayne suffers a fatal injury while chasing Catwoman, when his rope is cut and he falls to the ground. His skull is fractured, and Huntress saves him from a group of criminals, and brings him to the batcave to be looked over by Alfred. Under the direction of Bruce Wayne, Alfred contacts Bruce’s childhood friend, Dr. Thomas Elliot.
Elliot removes the fragments of skull from Bruce’s brain, and soon Batman finds out that Catwoman was being used by Poison Ivy to steal some ransom money that was to be delivered to Killer Croc in exchange for a child. Batman and Catwoman team up to go after Poison Ivy, who leads them all the way to Metropolis. When they finally arrive to her location, they find that Poison Ivy has taken control of the Man of Steel, and a gigantic fight ensues. The rest of the story is told as a thriller/mystery, in which Batman is desperately trying to find out who the masked figure is, who is constantly haunting his presence, the infamous Hush.