Superman has been around for almost 80 years, which is more than enough time to develop a rogues gallery filled to the brim with outlandish villains. Over nearly eight decades spent fighting for truth, justice and the American Way, the Man of Steel has faced off against some genuinely bizarre foes – enemies who make baddies like Lex Luthor, Brainiac, or General Zod look positively restrained by comparison.
What makes these anti-social nogoodniks stand apart from their peers? Well, some of them are noteworthy thanks to the wacky nature of their origin stories or underlying concept. Others stand out owing to their off-the-wall power set or eccentric aesthetic. And then there’s those who have managed to tick all of these boxes, pushing the envelope of what it means to be a “bad guy” and rising to the forefront of truly outrageous supervillainy.
Whilst there are numerous examples of unusual antagonists from the Last Son of Krypton’s crimefighting career to chose from – seriously, the Silver Age of comics alone is a goldmine! – as always, a select few are worthy of special recognition. That’s why we’ve pulled together this list of the 15 Craziest Superman Villains of all time, ranked for your consideration!
On the face of it, Doomsday doesn’t really qualify as too “crazy” a Superman villain. After all, the creature's basically an unstoppable bone monster in green cut-offs – not someone who would look out of place in any villainous roster. Why then has “The Ultimate” made his way onto this list? Mostly because his comic book origin is completely bonkers.
Doomsday was created on prehistoric Krypton by alien scientist Bertron, who first exposed a powerless infant to the then-inhospitable conditions of Superman’s homeworld, then scooped up the poor little tyke’s remains in order to clone a stronger lifeform.
This cloned baby was then dumped back on the planet’s surface, with the process repeated roughly a gazillion times. Through the wonders of comic book science, this experiment resulted in that helpless babe evolving into the killing machine that is Doomsday.
Putting aside the fact that this isn’t actually how evolution works (this is comics, after all), Doomsday’s beginnings definitely qualify as crazy. Add into the mix his knack of returning from the dead more powerful than before and his weird ability to sense the presence of nearby Kryptonians, and Doomsday’s spot on this list starts to make a lot more sense!
There have been many different versions of Bizarro over the years, some more subtle than others. That said, even the most subdued incarnation of Superman’s imperfect duplicate is still pretty wild! With his chalky white skin and loopy upside-down logic, Bizarro is never anything less than visually outrageous, but he’s also very often depicted in a conceptually off-beat manner, too.
Since he first debuted in 1958, Bizarro has appeared in stories that have established him as a trailblazer within the ranks of “crazy comic book villains”. He’s exhibited reversed versions of the Man of Tomorrow’s powers (think freeze vision and fire breath, for example), spoken in an inverted form of English (“good” equals “bad” and so on), and best of all, populated a square planet (called Htrae!) with countless clones of himself and Bizarro Lois Lane!
Other Superman villains may eclipse Bizarro in the out-and-out ludicrousness stakes – not to mention in villainy, given his occasional team ups with the Man of Steel – but few have ever equalled the unique mixture of pathos, terror, and humor at the character’s core.
13 The Prankster
On first glance, there’s nothing overly notable about the Prankster’s shtick – with his focus on deadly gags, isn’t he just a poor man’s Joker? What saves the Prankster from coming across as the Superman comics’ watered-down answer to the Crown Prince of Crime, however, is the sheer scale of the zany weapons at his disposal.
Think about it: the Joker may be the undisputed icon of comedy-related homicide, but when was the last time he threatened anyone with gigantic, tangible traffic light men? Or launched an assault that relied on huge, electrified flowers?
Heck, in addition to causing headaches for Superman, the Prankster has even proven a handful for heavy hitters like Green Lantern and Hawkgirl, once temporarily incapacitating both with a giant cloud of hyper-potent itching powder! Not bad for an out-of-work children’s TV show host who still dresses like it’s 1942.
12 Toy Man
An adversary cut from similar cloth to the Prankster, the Toy Man relies on gadgets to do his dirty work – in this case (as his moniker would suggest) lethal children’s toys!
Much like his gag-obsessed colleague, the Toy Man also dresses in somewhat dated, garish attire, although the slight “evil clown” overtones to his outfit make it markedly creepier.
Of course, it’s hard not to be considered at least a little OTT when your modus operandi revolves around weapons like fully-armed, robotic toy soldiers and souped-up pogo sticks – especially when you’re going head-to-head with Superman! But the Toyman earns extra credit for sharing his mantle with two other unusual figures – a teenage prodigy from Japan and a killer robot.
Of these, the former has (until recently) been portrayed more as a good guy than a villain, while the latter – a homicidal over-sized children’s doll – is unrepentantly wicked. Despite their differences, both of these Toy Men also stock their arsenals with supercharged kids’ distractions – making them just as zany as their predecessor.
11 Atomic Skull
Atomic Skull is the type of enemy that comic books were made for. Originally young student Joseph Martin, he was blasted by “gene-bomb” energy, which turned his flesh transparent, caused him to give off deadly levels of radiation, and granted him super strength as well (so, y’know – swings and roundabouts).
Not only did this result in a pretty wild supervillain aesthetic – an armored, blazing skeleton – but further down the line caused Martin to develop severe brain damage (exacerbated by a violent episode involving some thugs).
This mental impairment led Martin to take on the “Atomic Skull” persona, which was based on a character from his favorite vintage movie serial. It also drove him to lock horns with Superman, who Martin – in his delusional frame of mind – mistook for “Doctor Electron”, the Atomic Skull’s archvillain in the serial.
A glowing, super strong skeleton-man suffering from insane hallucinations? If that doesn’t count as crazy, nothing does.
Hellgrammite is an insect man, and honestly, that’s more than enough to snag him a spot on this list. With his zany human/bug physique this guy automatically makes the grade – just look at him: large red eyes, humongous pincers, green carapace, and (best of all) antennae on his head!
Then there’s Hellgrammite’s extended powerset, which is even crazier than his look. In addition to the genre-standard super strength, he can leap ridiculously vast distances, secrete adhesive fluids, possesses a hardy exoskeleton, and can convert his victims into “larvae”-like copies of himself, which he can control.
It’s this last ability that makes Superman act particularly quickly to squash this overgrown bug’s schemes before they can cause too much damage – although thus far, he’s resisted doing so by means of bug spray.
An evil computer AI is fairly mundane by comic book supervillain standards – but an evil computer AI with the “body” of an artificial sun? Now that definitely counts as crazy!
Hailing from the 853rd Century, Solaris the Tyrant Sun also boasts an origin as unique as “his” appearance. Solaris was created in the 20th century to combat a computer virus the Tyrant Sun himself sent back in time.
Unbeknownst to his creators, however, Solaris had hidden his own programming within the virus as well. This allowed him to subvert his initial benign design – as well as making his existence a predestination time paradox, too!
This star-based piece of malware would later be reprogrammed as a force for good by one of Superman’s distant descendants. However, the change didn’t stick, and Solaris was soon up to his old tricks – until, that is, the now-immortal Last Son of Krypton pulled his plug once and for all!
A product of the Silver Age, Super-Menace in many ways epitomizes the loveable wackiness which defines that era. When the rocket ship carrying baby Superman to Earth collided with an alien spacecraft, the ship and contents were copied by a duplicator ray.
Whilst the original rocket would go on to land in Kansas, allowing Superman to be raised by the kind and moral Kents, the facsimile ended up with the cruel and immoral Dereks. The seeds were sown for the eventual emergence of Super-Menace – the replica baby grown to maturity, and raised by his criminal parents to be the opposite of everything the Man of Steel stands for.
Dressed exactly the same as his identical twin, except for the addition of a black eye-mask – laugh if you will, but it’s probably marginally more effective than a pair of glasses – Super-Menace shared all of Superman’s powers.
Crucially, his strange physiology (he’s an “energy force”, rather than an outright clone) made him immune to Kryptonite, allowing him to easily overpower Superman. Fortunately, Super-Menace underwent a change of heart, rescuing the Man of Steel before killing himself and his rotten foster parents (which is… pretty bleak, actually).
So Kancer… is a cancer. To be more specific, its a vaguely-humanoid monster bred from cancerous cells removed from Superman. Yes, this is something that actually happened.
Thanks to its Kryptonian DNA (courtesy of its former host), Kancer possesses the same powerset as the Man of Steel, along with with cancer-based super powers (really), most notably a necrotic touch that ravages (and ultimately dissolves!) the bodies of its victims.
As if this weren’t nuts enough, Kancer also harbors weird daddy issues relating to Superman – for “abandoning" it – and develops a familial attachment to Russian General Zod imposter (don’t ask) who manufactured the creature.
The monster also once displayed a jealous rage towards fellow Superman semi-clone Superboy (and therefore quasi-sibling), claiming the Teen of Steel isn’t worthy to wear the S-shield, which goes to show just how insane this walking, talking virus really is.
6 The Sand-Superman
The Sand-Superman – or Quarrmer, to give him his proper name – was created by mixing a cocktail containing Superman’s powers, sand from Earth, and psychic energy from the so-called “Quarrm dimension”. The combination of these ingredients was yet another Superman doppelgänger – although is far and away the oddest, being made entirely out of animated sand!
At first, the Sand-Superman was a threat to the Man of Steel for two main reasons: first, he permanently depleted Superman’s power levels whenever they were in close proximity; and second, even the slightest physical contact between the pair would blow up the entire planet (which we can all agree is best avoided).
As the Sand-Superman absorbed more and more of Superman’s essence, he began to develop a similar thirst for justice, transforming from villain to hero. He eventually realized that his presence on Earth could only end in disaster and returned forever to Quarrm – but not before he’d already sapped Superman of roughly half his power!
Comics have a proud tradition of giant apes to rival even the cinema, and Titano may well be the most outlandish of them all. That said, like many of the characters on this list, Titano has gone through several revisions over the years.
In his original incarnation, he’s a regular – albeit uncommonly bright – chimpanzee launched into space, who ends up bombarded with cosmic radiation whilst in orbit. In a nice instance of animal testing actually empowering one of its victims, once Titano makes it back to Earth, he rapidly grows to enormous size and promptly sets about wrecking the place.
When Superman comes along to intervene, he’s given a rude shock, as a secondary part of Titano’s mutation inexplicably turns out to be Krytonite vision! A great big monkey that shoots lasers out of its eyes? Doesn’t get much crazier than that!
4 The Ultrasphinx
The Ultrasphinx has to date only ever appeared in one Superman story – arguably the greatest: All-Star Superman – but that single outing alone is still enough to see him crack the top five on this list. A figure of immense power, the Ultrasphinx calls ancient Egypt home, and is – you guessed it – a living, breathing sphinx.
This man-lion’s list of powers is equally as crazy as his anatomy, and includes time travel, force field projection, and quantum manipulation – meaning he can trap his opponents in a state of being neither living nor dead (think Schrödinger's cat, only observable).
Indeed, the Ultrasphinx is so monumentally dangerous, he actually compelled legendary strongmen Hercules and Atlas to enlist Superman’s help them defeat him – which the Man of Steel did, by answering a supposedly unsolvable riddle, no less!
Terra-Man is one of those villains who’s always going to come across at least a little quirky no matter how you reboot his origin or powers. Even so, the 1970s version is undoubtedly the zaniest!
If you thought some of the previous origin stories on this list couldn’t be topped, try this on for size: in the Wild West, a child is abducted by an alien who teaches the boy how to use an 1880s-inspired raygun, in addition to granting him decelerated ageing and the ability to breathe in space.
It gets even better, though. The boy grows up to become an interstellar cowboy bandit, even taming a winged space horse to serve as his steed. Together, man and space horse roam the cosmic plains as the most feared outlaws in the universe.
Oh, and in case you needed any more proof of just how bonkers (and glorious) Terra-Man is, bear in mind that he also speaks with a ludicrous Wild West accent, peppered with (often inaccurate) jargon from the period.
2 The Composite Superman
The thing about seemingly goofy villains is that sometimes, if you peer just below the surface, you’ll discover a character who is actually kinda terrifying. Such is the case with the Composite Superman, who has a questionable origin, a laughable aesthetic and an absurdly over-powered collection of abilities.
When janitor Joseph Meach is hit with an energy blast, he soon finds that he now possesses the powers of Legion of Super-Heroes.
Meach uses his newfound power to torment Superman, Batman, and Robin, but not before using his shapeshifting talent to transform his appearance into a combination of Superman and Batman, only with green skin. It… doesn’t look great.
Ridiculous-looking or not, the newly christened Composite Superman quickly gains the upper hand over his targets, due to his unbelievable might – the cumulative powers of the Legionnaires being too great for even the Man of Steel to overcome.
Seeing both the Man of Steel and the Dynamic Duo so helpless is actually pretty chilling, all the more so when Meach only loses out due to his powers fading on their own, rather than as the result of heroic intervention! It just goes to show you can’t always judge a book by its cover.
1 Mister Mxyzptlk
Was there really any other choice? Mister Mxyzptlk is practically the archetypal “crazy Superman villain” – and with good reason, too. Even his name is ludicrous (it’s pronounced “mix-yez-pit-lik”, in case you were wondering).
After all, he’s a Fifth Dimensional imp possessed of infinite reality warping power, who wears a derby hat. What could be more crazy? And that’s without taking into account his only major weakness: being tricked into saying his name backwards (admittedly no easy task), which banishes him back to Zrfff.
But what truly sets Mxy apart from the competition is just how surreal adventures involving him almost always are. This is a guy who can make whole skyscrapers come to life with a snap of his fingers, so think just how weird things get – and just how much of a hassle Superman faces – when the imp really decides to break a sweat!
What other crazy Superman villains didn’t make it onto this list? Let us know in the comments!