Superman is one of the most famous and celebrated superheroes of all time. He’s famous for having a whole array of strengths and powers, with everything from X-ray vision to telepathy. And let’s not forget, the guy can fly too! He may have been kicking butts since the 1930s but he isn’t always the big shot he makes himself out to be. What Superman doesn’t want you to know is that he has a whole bunch of weaknesses too.
So if you happen to be an up-and-coming supervillain, then boy, are you in for a treat because we have a whole list of ways to beat up, damage, and even kill Superman – and no, we’re not just talking kryptonite. If you’re not a supervillain, then read ahead with caution – things could get ugly. So read on if you dare, here are 15 Weaknesses You Didn’t Know Superman Had.
15. Nuclear Weapons
In the world of comic books, nuclear weapons are used frequently enough that the whole damn universe should be gone by now. Far from just being a looming threat, they are often put to real use as weapons in comic books. And we’re not just talking about some kid falling into a vat of nuclear waste and coming out with powers. We’re talking everything from nuclear blasts to nuclear bombs and explosions. And even Superman isn’t immune to being damaged by nuclear explosions. Okay, so there have been occasions where he’s walked away from nuclear explosions. They don’t normally kill him, but they have been known to cause him a lot of damage sometimes.
There have been at least two occasions where nuclear weapons nearly killed Superman. One of these occurred in the New 52 universe, and one in the Pre-New 52 Universe. In one case, he was left laid on the ground, unconscious and looking worse for the wear. Still, if we’re honest, most people would come out a nuclear explosion much worse off than that.
With all the cool powers that Superman has, it’s surprising that none of them have any magic behind them. Not only that, but among all his cool powers, there are none that protect him against magic. The reason for this is simple – his powers occurred as a result of a natural phenomenon, rather than anything supernatural. This means that magic affects him the way it affects anyone else; he’s just as vulnerable to it as normal humans are. In fact, magic seems to have very unpredictable effects on Superman. This had put Kal-El in danger multiple times, and has proven to be one of his biggest weaknesses.
And of course, in comic books, magic powers are actually pretty common. Supes has come across many magic powered enemies in his time and, based on his history, it seems that magic is most dangerous for him when it comes from semi-divine or divine beings.
13. High-Pitched Frequencies
One of Superman’s many powers is super-enhanced hearing, which has come in handy for him many times. Imagine all the things the average person could do with that ability. Anytime someone was gossiping about you, you’d know. You wouldn’t have to buy a radio; you could just listen to someone else’s.
Of course, Superman uses this power for more noble endeavours. It’s helped him with everything from hearing calls for help from across the city to hearing conversations on other planets. And it doesn’t just allow him to hear at long distance, it also allows him to hear frequencies that humans can’t pick up. And although hearing all these extra noises and frequencies has its uses, it also has its downfalls.
His super-enhanced hearing leaves Superman vulnerable to certain frequencies that can be painful to hear. We’re not just talking dog whistles here, but crazily high pitched frequencies that can make his ears ring. This ultimately mean that his power leaves him vulnerable to something that most people can’t even hear.
12. His Good Nature
Superman is famous for being the good guy. And although that may be a good thing, it often can be a disadvantage. It may sound strange, but hear us out.
Despite the many variations in Superman’s powers, one of his defining traits has remained – his inability to fight ruthlessly. This may sound ridiculous; after all, the guy is constantly fighting and defeating villains. But his good nature usually stops him from fighting with complete abandon. More often than not, he restrains himself and only fights the minimum necessary amount.
Superman could easily obliterate the world as we know it if he wanted to, but he keeps his powers under check and has a strict moral compass to keep him from doing wrong. While he has a lot of technical strength, he rarely fights to his full potential because he tries so hard to be good – and this puts him at a disadvantage, as most villains fight at their full capacity without giving a damn who they hurt.
11. Muhammad Ali
If you’re looking for a henchman to help you take down Superman, then you don’t have to look for mutants or aliens. In fact, we’ve got just the guy for the job – tried and tested. And his name may ring a bell: Muhammad Ali. Heard of him, by any chance?
It might not be the competitor you’d expect to go against Superman, let alone beat him, but it seems you don’t always have to be a superhero to have world-class fighting abilities. Muhammad Ali may be better known for fighting fellow humans, but in a special edition comic book, he stepped into the ring with Superman. And believe it or not, he beat Kal-El in a boxing match.
Yes, that’s right, the Man of Steel was knocked out by one of the human race’s greatest fighters. It just goes to show that even humans are capable of getting the better of Superman on certain occasions. He doesn’t seem so tough now, does he?
10. Virus X
Virus X is a deadly Kryptonian virus that has the potential to wipe out Superman and all Kryptonians. And what makes it all the more dangerous is that no cure has ever been discovered. It has a dark history in the comics as being a looming threat to Superman. In the comic issue Superman No. 156 it’s described as “a contagion fatal in 30 days to any native of Krypton“. With no known cure, that leaves little time to do anything about it.
The Virus X is described as having similar effects on Kryptonians as leprosy has on humans. Some of the known symptoms include: the victim’s skin turning green, then becoming bloated and distorted. In some stories, the Virus X is also capable of being contagious and fatal for humans too. Despite there being no known cure, Superman, of course, has gotten lucky in the past, and been accidentally cured by “white” kryptonite.
It seems Superman has a bit of a love and hate relationship with lead. That’s if… anyone can really have a love and hate relationship with lead. What we’re trying to say is, although it can come in handy for him, it can also make him slightly weaker.
Lead is useful to Supes because it is the only element that can block Kryptonite radiation. And since Kryptonite is his biggest weakness, lead can help save Superman’s life from time to time. However, it does come with a catch. Lead also just so happens to be the only substance which Superman’s X Ray vision cannot see through. Therefore, it can make him vulnerable in certain situations by lessening his power. Villains should be careful how they use this, though, as in the past his inability to see through lead has allowed him to identify areas in which people are trying to conceal something from him.
8. Psionic Attacks
We all know that Superman takes immense pride in his morals and doing the right thing, but what happens if he’s brainwashed into doing the wrong thing? How would the world cope with one of the world’s most powerful weapons – Kal-El – falling under the control of a supervillain? As it turns out, both of those things are very possible, as all Kryptonians have naturally poor defences against psychic and telekinetic attacks.
While physically stronger than almost every being in the universe, Superman’s mind is malleable for anyone who knows how to use mind-control. Having had his brain hacked and been aimed at other heroes – notably Wonder Woman, Superman once trained extensively in order to overcome this weakness.
That training, however, didn’t do anything to patch Superman’s flaws when it comes to telekinetic attacks, whereby experts in telekinesis are able to affect Superman’s molecular structure, thus creating the potential for irreparable harm on a microscopic level.
7. Solar Energy Exhaustion
In many respects, Superman has always been a bit ahead of his time. One way he’s done this is by being something of a pioneer for sustainable energy. No really, the dude is literally solar powered. While the sun may be helpful for all of us, to give us a bit of vitamin D and prevent an ice age, it’s even more important to Superman. The sun provides him with energy to spare, and spending time beneath the sun’s yellow rays is the source of his superpowers. While that may give him an easy way of getting huge amounts of power, it can also leave him vulnerable.
Unfortunately for Superman, if he loses access to the sun’s rays, he will soon become vulnerable. He begins to lose his strength and powers, making him weak in any battle. This has been used against him a few times, and ultimately proves that, without any solar power, he’s about as powerful as a battery-operated action figure.
6. Red Sun Radiation
For Superman, one of the only things worse than being deprived of yellow sun rays is spending time beneath a red sun. It seems that for all the good that yellow sun rays do, red sun rays do the complete opposite. One of the downsides to being a Kryptonian like Superman is that red suns have the ability to stunt his superhero potential. They do this by depleting his yellow sun reserves in order to weaken him and rid him of his powers.
Interestingly, red sunlight was actually the native source of solar energy surrounding his home planet of Krypton. However, it has become dangerous for Superman, since he spent his entire life absorbing yellow sun rays here on Earth after his home planet was destroyed. This weakness has been used against him multiple times, and is one of the most reliable ways to weaken the Man of Steel for a fight.
5. Sensory Overload
Superman has just about every super sense you could ask for – his vision, his hearing, and even his sense of smell are heightened. His senses are vastly stronger and more capable than humans’, allowing him to pick up on things that we can’t. But this isn’t always as great as it sounds. We discussed earlier how certain frequencies can hurt his ears, and his many other heightened senses can also cause him havoc. Although it’s rare, there have been times where his senses have overloaded.
And theoretically speaking, there’s great potential to use this against him. If he’s constantly exposed to all the sounds, sights, and smells possible, then the only thing stopping all that information from overwhelming him is his ability to hone in on certain things. If you took that ability away, he’d be too swamped in information to be able to process anything, due to the vast sensory overload.
4. His Secret Identity
A superhero is nothing without their secret identity, and as one of the first superheroes ever created, it’s no wonder the world’s most well-known alter ego is Clark Kent. A rural farm-boy from Kansas, Kent’s small town charm is actually one of his biggest downfalls as it’s repeatedly used to hurt him and the people he loves. No matter how well he hides his identity, Superman will always be Clark Kent, and that will always haunt them both.
Whether it’s his beloved mother Martha or Lois Lane, aka the woman who can’t recognize Clark as Superman with glasses on, any good enemy to Superman knows that getting to his loved ones is the best way to get to Superman. From endless kidnappings, ransom attempts, and repeated dangling from insane heights, no one in Clark Kent’s life is ever safe, and the worst part is Clark can’t even explain to the people he loves why they’re always in danger. So while a secret identity may be essential to survival for Superman, it’s also one of the biggest weaknesses that he has.
Sometimes Superman’s powers and weaknesses can vary depending on his incarnation. For instance, many of the comic book versions of Superman have never shown a weakness to electricity. There have even been occasions where he’s absorbed it and used its power. But in certain spinoff media, such as some animated adaptations, he’s shown a vulnerability to electric shocks.
This vulnerability has been used against him by multiple villains. Both Live Wire and Conduit have used electricity against Superman, in order to weaken him or destroy him in a fight. And they aren’t the only ones who’ve gotten the better of Superman by using electricity. Toyman has also used this against Superman, as he planted a trap that caught and shocked the Man of Steel. These examples all come from the animated Superman, who has been widely criticized by fans as being weakened in order to make it easier to put him in danger.
2. Extreme Brute Force
Believe it or not, sometimes it’s the most basic powers that are the most effective, even when it comes to fighting Superman. While he may have a lot of strengths, even Superman has his limits when it comes to how much brute force he can take. In fact, pretty much all incarnations of Superman have been victim to physical trauma from sheer brute force. It’s one of his most consistent and overlooked weaknesses.
Just a few of those who have beat him in battle or caused him significant damage through the use of brute force include Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, Shazam, Atlas, and Darkseid. And of course, as we previously mentioned, Muhammad Ali has knocked him out by just throwing punches. It just goes to show that you can have all the fancy powers you want, but sometimes a good right hook is enough to put you back in your place.
1. Lois Lane
For many of the world’s biggest heroes, love can sometimes get in the way of the battle against evil. Whether it’s getting distracted by a damsel in distress, lashing out at the world over a broken heart, or even being seduced by a villain, love has proven over the years to be many heroes’ ultimate weakness. And Superman is certainly no different. After all, behind every great superhero there is a girl who has the real power. And for Superman, that girl is the one and only Lois Lane.
Just as he needs energy from the sun for his powers, Superman needs love from Lois Lane for his morale. It’s generally an arrangement that has worked pretty well, as throughout the comics their relationship has been fairly stable. Well, as far as comic book relationships go, at least. However, on the odd occasion that things go wrong with the couple, it results in Superman being left heartbroken and depressed. Even the strongest among us is left powerless in the face of love.
Which of Superman‘s weaknesses were you most surprised to learn about? Let us know in the comments!