The Last of Krypton. The Man of Steel. The Superman. He was the world’s first comic book superhero, and he remains among the most popular fictional characters in history. Day-to-day, Clark Kent is a mild-mannered reporter who writes for The Daily Planet, but as Superman, he fights for truth, justice, and the American way — at least that’s what he used to say. Superman doesn’t really use that phrase much nowadays, does he?
Regardless of what he fights for, Superman is a god to us mere mortals. His Kryptonian physiology endows him with remarkable abilities when around a yellow sun. He’s all-but-invulnerable and virtually unstoppable. That doesn’t mean there aren’t a handful of villains (and heroes) out there who wouldn’t be able to go toe-to-toe with the Man of Steel. Some of them have fought Supes before, and while many of them have lost, some have actually won.
That’s the thing many people don’t realize — Superman has died before; more than once, actually. Here are the 15 Times Superman Has “Died”.
15. Superman #188 (1966)
It’s virtually impossible to kill the Man of Steel, especially during his early years. Superman was the most powerful being in the universe during the Golden Age of Comics, and that continued throughout the Silver Age as well, except for one or two instances in which he bit the big one. After all, no one is completely invulnerable in the comic-verse. Everyone has a weakness, and Zunial, the Murder Man, exploited Superman’s Kryptonite weakness in Superman #188, “The School for Superman Assassins!”
Zunial, along with his fellow Galaxy Crimeteers, trained to become assassins worthy enough to defeat the Man of Steel, and they did that by training against a Superman android. Zunial became the first person to defeat the Android; so, to take the challenge himself, he traveled to Earth and killed the real Supes by using Kryptonite radio waves. This comic issue was the first time Superman had ever died, but it wasn’t his last. And, of course, being the superhero he is, he didn’t stay dead for long. Since the Android was designed to act like Big Blue, he sacrificed himself to revive the real Superman.
14. Justice League of America #145 (1977)
It was a little over a decade after Superman’s first death, and well into the Bronze Age of Comics, that our hero perished for the second time. Count Crystal descended into the fictional place known as Silent City and summoned the demon Azgore. They made a contract with each other, with Azgore imbuing the Count with supernatural powers, powers that only grew stronger with each Justice League member he killed. Other sorcerers failed to take down the League, but the Count was convinced he would succeed. And if he couldn’t, then Azgore would reap his soul as payment for failing.
Count Crystal’s supernatural powers enabled him to defeat the entire Justice League, which, at the time, included Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Arrow, Black Canary, Phantom Stranger, Red Tornado, and Hawkman. Superman was the first to go, since he was the Leaguer assigned to monitor duty that night. Thanks to Stranger, they soon discover Superman’s spirit, awaiting harvest from Azgore. When the demon fails to consume his spirit, he turns on Count Crystal and kills him. Then, the Stranger returned himself, Hawkman, and Superman back to life.
13. Superman #75 (1992)
There have been numerous occasions in which Superman either died or came close to dying, only to be saved or resurrected in the end. Those were glorified cop-outs, and that’s what DC Comics wanted to avoid with “The Death of Superman”. In the uniquely composed comic issue Superman #75, the Man of Steel goes toe-to-toe with Doomsday in Metropolis. They each threw everything they had into the brawl, and they both ended up dying because of their exhaustive efforts.
When Supes went six feet under, not only did the fictional DC Universe mourn his passing, but so did the real world. It was the end of an era — a very long one — that saw the world’s first comic book superhero sacrifice himself to save the ones he loved. Of course, being Superman, he didn’t stay dead for long. His pre-ordained resurrection occurred less than a year after his death, and he came back changed, with powers much more potent than before. The question is, will the same happen to the DCEU’s Superman in Zack Snyder’s Justice League?
12. The Kingdom #1 (1999)
In the ’90s, Eisner Award-winning writer Mark Waid teamed up with fellow Eisner Award-winning artist Alex Ross to create an Elseworlds story for DC Comics: Kingdom Come. The miniseries stands out from other Elseworlds stories since its a deconstructionist tale set in the future, with superheroes who were now aged and removed from society. A few years later, Waid penned a sequel, and sort of prequel, titled The Kingdom. Though it couldn’t live up to the reputation of Kingdom Come, it did give us another Superman death — several of them, actually.
Set two decades after the events of the original miniseries, The Kingdom sees the Quintessence — a team of superpowered beings who keep an eye on the universe, consisting of Zeus, Highfather, Ganthet, Phantom Stranger, and Shazam (the wizard, not the former Captain Marvel) — granting William Mathews amazing superpowers. Taking on the name Gog, Matthews sought out Superman and killed him using his newfound gifts. Not only that, but he traveled a day back in time and killed Superman again — and again, and again, and again — each time siphoning off more of Supes’ powers.
11. Infinite Crisis #7 (2006)
While the majority of Superman’s deaths befell the Earth-One incarnation of the famed superhero, the original, Golden Age Superman also met his untimely demise a few times. One of those instances came in the Crisis on Infinite Earths sequel, Infinite Crisis, in 2006. At the end of Crisis on Infinite Earths, Kal-L (Earth Two’s Superman), Lois Lane, Superboy-Prime, and Alexander Luthor Jr. voluntarily entered the paradise dimension — a sort of Heaven, if you will — where they chose to remain for the rest of their lives.
After spending years away in paradise, Lois began to fall ill, and Alexander Luthor Jr. convinced Kal-L that the only way to save her would be to restore Earth-Two. So they did, by breaking out of their pocket dimension and dismantling the current Earth. Unfortunately, Lois Lane still dies, and when Kal-L found out the current Superman, Kal-El, was on Earth-Two, he blamed him for her death. So, he attacked him, and they fought each other until Wonder Woman intervened. Later, the two teamed up to stop Superboy-Prime from destroying the universe. Sadly, Kal-L was too weak to fight Prime, and Prime viciously beat him to death in Infinite Crisis #7.
10. Superman #52 (2016)
Comic book universes reboot quite often, and whenever the DC Universe resets, heroes tend to die. During Crisis on Infinite Earths, both Supergirl and the Flash sacrificed themselves to save the ones they loved, as well as the multiverse. Then, as a result of Flashpoint, Wally West disappeared into the Speed Force, and he was eventually replaced with a new Kid Flash. A few years later, when DC wanted to do a soft reboot with DC Rebirth, another hero had to go — and this time it was Superman.
DC was planning to bring back the original, pre-Flashpoint Superman, so that meant having to kill off the New 52 Supes. In the final issue, Superman #52, Superman dies from Kryptonite poisoning during the story arc The Final Days of Superman, after going toe-to-toe with Denny Swan, the Energy Superman. Although he defeated the other Superman, the poison had already taken its toll. Plus, since the pre-Flashpoint Superman was trapped in this dimension following the events of Convergence, he decided to carry this Superman’s legacy as the new Man of Steel. It was probably one of the more pointless comic deaths out there, and it was even kinda sorta undone just a few weeks ago.
9. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
We’re making an exception for Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, since it is a comic book movie and it does feature the death of Superman. The movie took heavy inspiration from stories from the early Modern Age, such as Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns miniseries as well as The Death of Superman story arc. While the majority of the movie focused on building up the titular fight between the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel, the ending saw the duo unite with Wonder Woman for a showdown with the Kryptonian monster Doomsday.
Batman lured Doomsday, who’s very much not Kryptonian in the comics, to an abandoned dock so that he could use a Kryptonite spear to kill the creature. Unfortunately, he and Wonder Woman were preoccupied with the beast, so it was left up to Superman to obtain the spear. While Wonder Woman was holding down Doomsday with the Lasso of Truth, Batman weakened the villain using the final round in his Kryptonite gas gun. Superman then flew in and impaled Doomsday with the spear, but before he could finish the baddie off, Doomsday stabbed Supes with one of his bone protrusions, thus killing the Last Son of Krypton — until returns in Justice League, that is.
8. Superman #149 (1961)
As previously mentioned, most regard Supes’s first death as the one depicted in the 1966 story arc “The School for Superman Assassins!” — but he had actually died once five years prior, in Superman #149, “The Death of Superman.” Yes, the iconic 1992 storyline “The Death of Superman” wasn’t the first time that title was used. But, considering that the issue from 1961 wasn’t particularly well-remembered, or pertinent to the DC Universe, the publisher might have thought no harm, no foul.
Superman has fought many enemies, but his greatest foe will always be Lex Luthor. The two have been a thorn in each other’s sides for decades, and the first time Luthor came close to getting his revenge was in “The Death of Superman.” He sought to atone for his past, and the best way he thought to do that was to cure cancer — and he did. He became a hero, but it was all a ruse. One day, Luthor lured Superman into a trap and killed him using Kryptonite rays. The reason we don’t consider this an actual death is because the story was an imaginary tale (read: not canon).
7. Action Comics #366 (1968)
Just because Clark Kent is a Kryptonian, that doesn’t mean he is immune to all diseases and viruses. Sure, he may not succumb to earthly maladies, but viruses, such as Virus X can surely weaken, if not kill, the Man of Steel. The first time we saw Virus X was in Superman #156, “The Last Days of Superman,” when a strange Kryptonite-laced object in space was carrying a sample of the virus. It reappeared in a four-issue Action Comics story arc in 1968.
Unlike the situation in Superman #156 — in which Clark mistakenly thought he was exposed to Virus X but was actually suffering from Kryptonite poisoning — Lex Luthor developed a homemade batch of Virus X and infected Superman in Action Comics #363. Instead of suffering for 30 days, Superman chose to mount a rocket into the hottest star in the universe, Flammbron. Thankfully, the Flammbronians prevented Superman from doing this, as thanks for saving someone close to them years prior. They then took him to another planet, where they were able to cure him of the virus.
6. Action Comics #387 (1970)
When it comes to arch-rivalries like Lex Luthor and Clark Kent, there is seemingly nothing that would prevent Luthor from killing the Man of Steel. In Action Comics #387, Superman had been thrust a million years into the future, where he took it upon himself to terraform and repopulate a planet devoid of life. Even though he was out of reach — and out of time — from Luthor, that doesn’t mean Lex gave up on his diabolical plan to kill the Man of Steel. No, instead, he took his plans a step further.
Luthor knew he would die long before he would ever be able to kill Superman, so he weaponized a drone that would harvest the energy from him, after he dies, so that it could search for Clark around the world — and across time. The drone eventually catches up with Superman in the year 1,001,970, where it comes close to killing the superhero. However, the Master Healer revives Superman, even though he said he wanted to die. Just when it seemed like all hope was lost, Clark miraculously returned to the moment he left in 1970.
5. World’s Finest Comics #207 (1971)
Superman can resist virtually anything, but not magic. It’s one of the few things that the Kryptonian is vulnerable to, and the Justice League villain Doctor Light used that against him. After seeing the magician Zatanna in action, Doctor Light was inspired by her gifts and decided to create a light-based device of his own that would be able to defeat Superman — but not head-on.
Doctor Light, aka Arthur Light, mind-controlled Superman’s alter-ego, Clark Kent, and he convinced the mild-mannered reporter that the Man of Steel was out to kill him. The only way to defend himself would be to hunt for an ancient, magical artifact known as the Satanstaff.
Superman had noticed he’d been missing time, so he asked Batman to watch him when he wasn’t wearing the cape. Batman soon discovered that Clark had found the Satanstaff and personally delivered it to Doctor Light’s men, who then unwittingly use it to kill Superman. Or so they thought. Before Light could obliterate Superman’s body, Batman intervened, and the Man of Steel broke free of his imprisonment. Together, they then hunted down Doctor Light and destroyed the staff.
4. Action Comics #583 (1986)
DC Comics has been around for almost a century, and they have published some outstanding stories during that time. Most of those stories are crossover events, such as the aforementioned Crisis on Infinite Earths, Kingdom Come, and so forth. Rarely does a short story arc make as much of an impact as a multi-year event — but that changed with Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?, a two-part story written by none other than the legendary Alan Moore and drawn by comic book Hall of Famer Curt Swan.
The first part of the story unfolded in Superman #423, and the second part — the one that concerns this list — occurred in Action Comics #583, both of which released in 1986. At one point in the story, Superman voluntarily walks into a Gold Kryptonite chamber, which permanently removes a Kryptonian’s powers and superhuman abilities, preventing them from being able to absorb yellow sunlight. After he had entered the chamber, he disappeared, and his body was never found. However, it’s heavily implied that Lois’ husband, Jordan Elliot, is, in fact, a powerless, mortal Superman. Could this story be the basis for the inevitable Man of Steel sequel?
3. Red Son (2003)
What would the world have been like if Kal-El had not landed in Kansas, and had not been taken in by Jonathan and Martha Kent? That’s the concept Mark Millar rolled with when he penned Superman: Red Son in 2003, an Elseworlds story depicting a Soviet-raised Superman. Inspired by Superman #300, an imaginary tale in which Kal-El’s ship landed in neutral waters, Millar got the idea for Red Son. “As a kid growing up in the shadow of the Cold War, the notion of what might have happened if the Soviets had reached him first just seemed fascinating to me,” he said.
In this well-regarded story arc, Superman isn’t the only character to receive a makeover. Instead of a reporter, James Olsen was a CIA agent, and instead of being a pioneering CEO, Lex Luthor was a scientist at S.T.A.R. Labs (who later forms LuthorCorp). Despite being set in an alternate reality, Luthor still despises Superman and wants to kill him. His four-pronged plan includes aid from Batman and Brainiac, the latter of which weakens Superman with Kryptonite radiation and propels him into space on an exploding rocket. People presumed the Soviet Superman had died until he showed up at Luthor’s funeral.
2. All Star Superman #12 (2008)
In 2005, legendary comic book writer Grant Morrison teamed up with artist Frank Quitely for the 12-issue limited series All-Star Superman, which aimed to bring Superman back to his heroic roots popularized during the Golden Age of Comics. The idea for a series like that originated in the late ’90s, with Morrison saying their “intention is to restore Superman to his pre-eminent place as the greatest superhero of all.”
To do that, they pitted the Man of Steel against his greatest enemy: Lex Luthor. In the series’ final issue, Luthor’s temporary superpowers began to wear off, and Superman knew the sun wouldn’t last for long (long story), so he said goodbye to Lois Lane and took off to repair the star. He saved the day one last time.
In a sense, Superman did die. He didn’t go back to Earth, at least not in the year shown in the issue. All in all, it was a fairy tale ending. Although he couldn’t protect the people he loves on Earth anymore, he was still maintaining the sun, which means he hadn’t given up his duty to protect the universe — or, at least the solar system.
1. DC Universe vs. The Masters of the Universe #2 (2013)
Have you ever wondered who would win in a fight between the Justice League and the Avengers? Well, so have the people who write the comics for those teams, which is why there have been numerous crossover events across companies, with stories such as JLA/Avengers, DC vs. Marvel, and even DC Universe vs. The Masters of the Universe. Even though these stories exist outside of their respective publishers’ continuities, sometimes the people who give us these stories just want to have fun.
Defeating all the members of the Justice League is one thing, but defeating Superman, one of the most powerful superheroes in all of comics, is another thing entirely. But if anyone could do it, it’s He-Man. In the miniseries’ second issue, He-Man and the Man of Steel faced off with each other, with the defender of Eternia eventually stabbing the Last Son of Krypton in the chest with a magical sword, apparently killing him. Of course, it was all a ruse, and Supes returned a few issues later.
We’re sure there are dozens of other “deaths” that Superman has suffered over the years in the comics. Tell us all about your favorites in the comments!
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