He’s the world’s most famous superhero. The Big Blue Boy Scout. The Man of Steel. The defender of truth, justice, and the American Way. Yep. Superman is pretty special. He’s an icon that speaks to what’s best about humanity while also defending us from the worst aspects of human nature. He’s the superhero against which all others are measured against. He’s as wholesome as apple pie. Well, at least most of the time.
Let’s face it, anyone with a “super” squeaky-clean image is bound to have some pretty big skeletons in their closet, and the Last Son of Krypton is by no means an exception to the rule. Sure, his heart is usually in the right place, but he’s had some creepy, not-too-great and quite inappropriate moments throughout the years that range from the comically bizarre to the downright offensive. Here are the 15 most notable moments when Superman was just a huge creep.
15. Destroys Metropolis – Man of Steel
One of the most controversial moments in Superman history occurred during the final act of Zack Snyder’s 2013 film Man of Steel. Superman (Henry Cavill) takes on his evil Kryptonian equivalent General Zod (Michael Shannon) in an overpowering round of fisticuffs that leaves Metropolis in ruins, killing quite a few innocent victims (and one not-so-innocent) in the process.
To be fair to Superman, Zod chose the town for his own reign of terror, and Snyder just wanted an excuse to see how much CGI mass carnage he could inflict on the screen. But it also makes Superman look pretty dumb and reckless. Why not goad Zod into taking the fight away from his adoptive city to a less populated area, or at least keep punching him towards the city limits? At least the Christopher Reeve-era Superman had the good sense to fake out Zod to take him the Fortress of Solitude. Snyder would cleverly use the finale of Man of Steel as a referendum in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. But it really shouldn’t have occurred at all if Kal-El had been using his head.
14. Kills People By Having Sex With Wonder Woman – The Dark Knight Strikes Again
While Frank Miller’s 1986 mini-series The Dark Knight Returns remains one of the most iconic Batman tales of all time, his 2001 sequel, The Dark Knight Strikes Again…was not. With a story too convoluted and messy to compete with the original, the follow-up settled for being controversial for controversy’s sake rather than provide any new ground-breaking elements to match its predecessor.
This haphazard nature led to one of the most bonkers and undignified moments in comic book history: when Superman and Wonder Woman have sex. No, we’re not being prudes here; the reason it’s so horrible is that the seismic shock waves from their intimate encounter wreaks havoc upon the Earth, causing an earthquake, a volcano eruption, and a hurricane, which collectively kill thousands. While the unaware world is left thinking the acts are signs of an impending apocalypse, the two lovers relax in the ocean before going out to eat. Our heroes in action, folks!
13. Stars in a Porn0 With A Friend’s Wife – Action Comics #593
Woo-hoo, another Superman sex moment! Ick. No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. This actually happened. So why did Superman agree to star in an adult film with Big Barda, the super-powered wife of escape artist supreme Mister Miracle? It’s complicated. And really, really weird.
The two become brainwashed by a trench coat-wearing villain named Sleez (gotta love that name), who is actually an estranged minion of Darkseid, who had dissociated himself from the porn-obsessed henchmen years earlier. But when the VHS tape of Superman and Barda’s tryst lands on his doorstep, Darkseid puts it to use, sending it to Mister Miracle (without telling him the contents of the tape. Stone cold).
Miracle justifiably freaks and confronts the pair, who, no joke, are filming another scene in — of all places — a sewer. In the end, Superman and Barda break free from the evil hypnotized-into-making-porn spell and Sleez explodes while lighting a match in their methane-rich environment. Which is the perfect way to end a story that’s a huge turd.
12. Almost Kills Pat Boone For Writing A Song About Him – Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane #9
In one of the most bizarre and ridiculous Superman stories of all time, milquetoast “rocker” Pat Boone pays a visit to Metropolis. His mission is to write a song dedicated to The Man of Steel, and he gets help with the lyrics from an unexpected source: reporter Clark Kent. Somehow, Superman unwittingly manages to have each line start with an initial of his alter-ego, and before he can correct it, the lyrics find their way to Pat Boone’s hands.
Completely freaking out that his error would expose his secret identity, he takes every measure possible to stop the song from being heard. He destroys the radio towers that will broadcast the song, places Boone in a tube when he tries performing it at another event, and most erratically, sets off dynamite in a concert hall, with Boone escaping just in time.
After all this dangerous activity, Superman loses the envelope with the lyric sheet and lazily asks Boone to have his fan club search for it, making all his insane plans pointless. You’d think if he was that freaked out about leaking his secret identity, he would do better than merely hide behind a pair of glasses in everyday life.
11. Tortures and Humiliates Jimmy Olsen and Aquaman – Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #115
Superman has always had a somewhat abusive relationship with fellow reporter Jimmy Olsen (more on this later), but he really put him through the wringer in Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #113. The issue starts off with Olsen covering a story about a submarine launch which goes haywire when it begins to sink.
While Superman doesn’t come to the rescue, Aquaman saves the day, but not before Olsen gets eaten by a giant whale and somehow emerges with all of Aquaman’s abilities. Huh?
When Superman discovers what’s happened to Olsen, he becomes an unlikely sadist, pitting them against each other in a contest to see who can go the longest without water (while mocking Aquaman about his missing wife Mera). This humiliating exercise ends with Olsen licking the moisture off Superman’s boot. So why was Superman being such a jerk? Turns out, he was being impersonated by the shapeshifting villain Captain Bane, as the real Superman shows up to explain afterwards. Great timing.
10. Superman’s Bizarre War On Cars – Action Comics #12
Superman went off the deep end in the pages of Action Comics #12. Not only does the issue kick off with him destroying a bridge for no apparent reason, but it showed he really had it in for the American automobile industry. After learning that an acquaintance died in a car accident, he decides that humankind can’t be trusted behind-the-wheel (fair enough) and proceeds to destroy every vehicle he sees.
His first target is an impound lot, as if someone whose car has been towed was in need of more bad luck. Then he moves to a used car lot and beats the hell out of the merchandise as the manager looks on in horror. But he’s still not done! His next stop is a car factory, which he completely immolates, with factory workers barely making it out alive. And even the mayor of Metropolis gets blamed, with our hero showing the civil servant bodies of accident victims in the morgue so that the city will enact stricter traffic laws. Of course, it’s pretty convenient for a guy who can fly to make these kinds of judgments!
9. Originally A Villain – Reign of The Superman
It’s hard to fathom, but Superman originally started out as a villain in 1933. Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster had a much darker vision for the character, as seen in the first issue of their self-published fanzine, Science Fiction: The Advance Guard of Future Civilization. The story, entitled The Reign of The Superman featured Bill Dunn, a vagrant who volunteers for an experiment run by a mad scientist.
The result turns Dunn (who sports a chrome dome not unlike Lex Luthor) into a powerful being with telepathic powers, which he exploits for evil ends, including stealing, killing, and almost singlehandedly starting the apocalypse. But after he murders the scientist who granted him his abilities, he runs out of the magic potion, reverts to his formal self and goes back into poverty. It’s a downbeat, dark storyline that one would never associate with the character we know and love today. Simon and Shuster later elected to go in an entirely different creative direction when the Superman we know and love debuted in Action Comics #1 six years later.
8. Becomes An Abusive Drunk Jerk – Superman III
In Superman III, our hero (played by the late Christopher Reeve) is given a batch of synthetic Kryptonite, and while it shows no effect at first, its exposure changes Superman’s demeanor, making him petulant, selfish and possessive of his new love interest, Lana Lang (Annette O’Toole). This causes him to forego his usual heroic duties and lapse into depression and rage, leading to silly acts like blowing out the Olympic flame and straightening the Tower of Pisa. His most hilarious feat? Getting sloppy drunk at a bar in full costume (and a mean drunk at that).
Luckily, a freak accident splits Superman into two versions of himself, with the good side winning the ensuing brawl(although he gets his hands dirty by strangling his doppelgänger to death). It should be noted that while Superman III is a truly terrible sequel, Reeve is clearly having an absolute blast playing a nasty and petty version of the character that gave him worldwide fame. It’s one of the few enjoyable aspects of the film.
7. Tweets Out Batman’s Secret Identity – Injustice Gods Among Us #28
The comic based off of the popular fighting video game of the same name features a chilly alternate universe where Superman becomes a totalitarian dictator in the wake of murdering Lois Lane (which WOULD make our #1 spot, but we take sympathy, given The Joker tricked him into doing it. Still though. Yikes).
As one would expect in a storyline like this, Batman takes an opposing stance, and drafts his fellow Justice League members to end Superman’s abuse of power before things get any worse. But Superman is wise to The Dark Knight Detective’s methods and decides on a dangerous and totally uncool power-play: he reveals Batman’s secret identity on Twitter. Yep, a hero known for his unshakable sense of decency, one who is fiercely protective of his own secret identity, tells the whole world that Bruce Wayne is Batman in a tweet. To add insult to injury, Batman’s own son Damien totally sides with Supes. Ouch.
6. Deadbeat Dad – Superman Returns
Superman Returns is hands down the weirdest Superman movie ever made. It has relatively little action, and has Superman returning from outer space from a mission to visit his home planet (which we all know doesn’t exist anymore–what did he expect to find?). Not to mention the fact that Brandon Routh’s approximation of Christopher Reeve was unsettling at times (the idea that the 2006 film was a spiritual sequel to 1980’s Superman II was also an awkward fit).
This take on Supes’ relationship with Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) was as dead as Krypton. She’s moved on to a more dependable suitor (James Marsden) who looks after Lois and her son Jason, who Superman later learns is actually his own kid. Rather than step up as a dad, he’s content whispering to him while he’s asleep and spying on Lois with his X-Ray vision like a forlorn stalker. But even voyeurism gets old, and he sets off to the skies again. Real thoughtful. Up, up and away!
5. Destroys Poor Neighborhood – Action Comics #8
Man, Golden Age Superman sure had some bizarre ideas on carrying out social justice, huh? This issue proves Superman’s ideology can be flat-out terrifying. It begins with him threatening to drop a group of juvenile delinquents to their death. After that bout of tough love proves successful, he wonders if he can do anything else to help keep children out of trouble.
His solution? Destroy their impoverished neighborhoods! Inspired by a newspaper article that showed how the government would provide new housing after a slum was decimated by a cyclone, Superman takes action and obliterates the dwellings of the less-fortunate. This ruckus draws the attention of the National Guard, of which Superman manipulates to utilizes their armory to inflict even more damage.
The story ends with the uplifting statement that “the slums were replaced by splendid housing conditions.” Of course, it doesn’t state if the now-homeless citizens all moved back in, when they were more likely uprooted by the more well-to-do…or in modern parlance, hipsters.
4. Drugs A Man and Assumes His Identity – Superman #1
Superman #1 is messed up stuff, with the supposed champion of justice committing identity theft. While investigating charges of corruption against a college football coach, Superman decides to take on the identity of football player Tommy Burke.
After being injected with a paralytic drug, Burke panics: “What have you done to me? I can’t move!” To which Superman replies (with a chilling grin): “Merely this: I’m going to take your place in your life for a few days! So long for now!” And off he goes.
Could you imagine if this happened to you? The sheer panic of knowing some maniac is going to impersonate you and do God knows what while you are completely unable to move? In this case, Superman is merely indulging his fantasy of becoming an all-star athlete, although his reckless behavior nearly gets him kicked off the team.
So while Superman is destroying Burke’s professional career, he also allows for him to be kidnapped by thugs, shrugging it off by saying “Fine! They’ve taken him off my hands!” The story doesn’t end like that of course; Superman’s crazy scheme works for the greater good and Burke goes back to his old life. Scarred forever, mind you.
3. Adopts Jimmy Olsen Only To Abuse and Disown Him – Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #30
If you think Jimmy Olsen had it bad when Superman was impersonated by Captain Bane, it pales in comparison to what the real Superman put his “friend” through in Jimmy Olsen #30. After Superman is told by a psychic that one day he will kill own son, the Man of Steel decides the safest option is to adopt one and become so estranged that they’ll never communicate again.
His choice of son turns out to be Olsen himself, which is weird, given the minimal age gap between the two. After Olsen agrees, he keeps trying to make his new dad happy, but Superman scorns him at every turn, often becoming destructive and verbally abusive.
Eventually, the literal man-child has had enough of Pop’s weirdness and legally emancipates himself from Superman, upon which our hero explains why he had to put him through such a humiliating experience. Why they continued to stay friends must be chalked up to superhero Stockholm syndrome. A Greek tragedy seems like a feel-good comedy compared to this familial fiasco.
2. Would Marry His Cousin If He Could Get Away With It – Action Comics #291
Speaking of familial fiascos! While, thankfully, Superman has never hooked up with his Kryptonian cousin Supergirl, it doesn’t mean he hasn’t thought about it. Action Comics #291 centers on cousin Kara trying to help Clark/Kal-El find a wife. This seemingly uneventful, dull topic for a comic goes off the rails rather quickly after she takes him back in time to meet Helen of Troy. When that doesn’t work, they venture into the future, where she sets him up with a woman who seems just his type — until her husband shows up.
Things go from awkward to alarming afterward, when Clark explains that if he ever did wind up getting married, it would be to someone just like her, but of course they can’t, because of both Earth-bound and Kryptonian laws. Supes would be a whole lot more convincing if he didn’t look like he was about to kiss her while saying those words. She then finds an exact duplicate of herself (from another world) for him to date which is supposed to make this less creepy. It doesn’t.
1. Made Lois Lane Gain Weight Then Fat Shamed Her – Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane #5
If no other entry in this article convinces you of Superman’s creepiness, The Fattest Girl in Metropolis (actual title) should seal the deal. Lois Lane gets hit by a growth ray, which makes her gain weight at a rapid pace. Worried that Superman won’t find her attractive anymore, she does everything possible to hide her appearance.
As if having to buy clothes at “The Fat Girl’s Shoppe” and fending off casual insults wasn’t humiliating enough, Superman says that she’s “quite a load,” while flying her around Metropolis. That’s right, the strongest man in the world (or universe), who’s been shown lifting 200 quintilion tons, complains about carrying a heavier Lois Lane.
All that is pretty horrible, but the worst part? Superman was the reason Lane gained weight! It was all part of some nutty scheme to stop some crooks. So he was in on the joke all along, meekly saying that he knew she “wouldn’t consent” so he couldn’t tell her “for her own good.” That makes it better, right? One can only imagine the outrage if this issue was published today, but its pretty crazy it was ever published at all. That’s the 1950s for you.
Well, that wraps up our list of Superman’s creepiest moments. Which of his moments weirds you out the most? Tell us in the comments!