“The enemy of my enemy is my friend” – at least, that’s the prevailing wisdom. If that’s the case, then it must count double for superheroes and their opponents, at least if Superman is anything to go by! Over the course of a nearly 80-year career fighting on the side of justice, the Man of Steel has set aside his differences with several members of his rogues gallery in service of the greater good.
Yes, occasionally situations arise where even Superman’s nigh-unbeatable abilities and powerful allies prove ill-equipped for the task at hand. It’s at moments like these that the Last Son of Krypton has to appeal to the angels of his enemies’ better natures – or more often than not, convince them that aiding him will also help them.
More often than not, Superman’s pitch to his enemies amounts to the threat of mutually assured destruction. If his antagonists won’t pitch in to take care of whatever menace has reared its head, the Man of Steel makes it very clear that nobody (including them) will live to see another sunrise.
As such, these alliances tend to be rather short-term arrangements, although that doesn’t make them any less notable. Indeed, as this list of 15 Times Superman Had To Team Up With His Villains makes clear, when the Big Blue Boy Scout joins forces with his enemies, fireworks are never far behind!
15 The Superman Revenge Squad
In Superman: Last Son, Superman finds himself outnumbered three to one by Phantom Zone escapees General Zod, Ursa. and Non. Faced with this seemingly impossible situation, the Man of Steel’s solution is genius in its simplicity: he enlists the assistance of the Superman Revenge Squad. After all, the “squad goal” of the group – which at the time consisted of Lex Luthor, Metallo, Parasite, and Bizarro – has always been to destroy one Kryptonian, so who better to help him tackle three?
Luthor alone has devoted (some would say “wasted”) his considerable mental and financial resources to developing an arsenal of anti-Superman gizmos, so he’s already going to level the playing field. But when you factor in the other members of the Squad, the odds start to seriously tip in Superman’s favor.
Metallo has a Kryptonite heart – lethal to any Kryptonian – while Parasite can suck the powers and life-force from any poor sap he makes contact with. Then there’s Bizarro, who – as an imperfect duplicate of the Man of Steel – essentially is Kryptonian, complete with his own twisted version of the power set the species is known for. It’s enough to almost make you feel sorry for Zod and his fellow ex-cons (almost).
14 Practically Every Villain On Earth
If there’s one thing most supervillains can’t stand even more than being beaten by a superhero, it’s being beaten by another supervillain. Such was the case in Final Crisis, where craggy cosmic tyrant Darkseid and his minions have conquered the Earth, and forced the world’s supervillain community to join them or die.
Considering that most of the individuals involved got into the bad guy game in large part because they reject the authority of anyone other than themselves, this naturally didn’t go over well.
And so it was that a team comprising all the able-bodied nogoodniks on Earth (led by Lex Luthor, natch) came to Superman’s rescue when he stood alone against Darkseid and the hordes of Apokolips. While Luthor was rather awkward about fighting on the side of good (let alone aiding his hated enemy), for his part, the Last Son of Krypton seemed faintly amused by the whole scenario.
Poor old Bizarro doesn’t mean to be bad – it’s just that to according to his topsy-turvy logic, “good” often equates to “evil.” It’s part of what makes the defective Superman clone equal parts loveable and scary: his world view can be hilariously loopy, but when coupled with his potentially deadly powers, he can be a real threat, too.
Still, Superman remains acutely aware that Bizarro isn’t inherently wicked, and on multiple occasions, he’s even joined forces with the creature to ensure that justice is done. A good example was during the Bizarro’s World storyline. Here, the Man of Steel took sides with his chalky doppelgänger against Luthor, who was trying to kill the creature as part of a scheme to prolong his own life.
Whilst Superman was ultimately unable to prevent Bizarro from dying – imperfect duplicates have a tendency to, well, kick the bucket – he did his best to ensure his clone was spared from too much suffering. He also helped to ensure that his brother from a test tube mother was able to go out in sufficiently heroic terms, making this the most heartfelt team-up on an otherwise “needs-must” inspired list.
From her very first appearance, Maxima has set herself apart from other Superman enemies, quite simply because her main goal isn’t to kill the Man of Steel – it’s to bed him! This is because, as the oldest child of her planet’s royal family, Maxima is fixated on securing a suitable mate in order to sire the most impressive possible heir.
Superman has to date chosen to “swipe left” on her efforts at courtship, which initially resulted in a jilted Maxima lashing out at him with her powers. Over the years, however, she’s learned to deal with her amorous disappointment in a more constructive fashion, going so far as to join the Justice League!
In the early '90s, Maxima signed-on for a team roster nominally headed by Superman, marking a turning point in their previously antagonistic relationship. Whereas before they had only ever traded blows over the Man of Steel’s refusal to trade numbers, the pair soon developed the kind of mutual respect forged by fighting side by side.
The Silver Age of comic books was a wonderful time – a weird, wonderful time. Want proof? Back in 1964, Superman and Phantom Zone criminal Jax-Ur partnered-up to travel back through time in order to find a cure for the “spotted plague” sweeping the underwater city of Atlantis.
The Man of Steel releases Jax-Ur from the Zone so that he can act as a guide on a pre-kablooey Krypton, in order to locate a gigantic mushroom capable of curing the plague. If the mission is a success, Jax-Ur is assured an early parole – so of course, he completely botches it!
It’s not that Jax-Ur isn’t able to track down the overgrown fungi; he actually delivers on that score. The real problem arises from the fact that, alongside his efforts to help Superman, Jax-Ur also tries (and ultimately fails) to enact a plan that will free the rest of the Phantom Zone crooks as well!
Whilst Jax-Ur’s commitment to the guys and gals back in the joint is kinda commendable, Superman didn’t look to kindly on this behavior, and it was back to the Zone for him by story’s end.
10 Virtually Every Villain In The DC Multiverse
What could be bigger than ganging up with practically every villain in the DC Universe? Try teaming-up with every villain in the DC Multiverse! In the legendary Crisis On Infinite Earths maxi-series, mega big bad the Anti-Monitor doesn’t just threaten to destroy the main reality our heroes live in, but every single alternate version of that reality too.
In typical villain fashion, the baddies of this virtually endless number of Earths at first joined forces to blindside the understandably distracted superheroes. That was until they had one simple yet important fact pointed out to them: if the Anti-Monitor annihilates all of existence, that will include them as well. Once this harsh truth had sunken in, the villains quickly agreed to a temporary truce (at least until the Multiverse was safe again).
And so it was that Superman (along with every other hero in existence) formed ranks with an unsavory band of cross-dimensional crumb bums - most notably his own reality’s Luthor and Brainiac, who were in charge of the villain collective.
9 Mister Mxyzptlk
Outside of Alan Moore and Curt Swan’s classic Whatever Happened To The Man of Tomorrow tale, Mister Mxyzptlk has generally been portrayed as more of an omnipotent nuisance rather than a malicious threat. After all, the imp’s modus operandi is usually to pester the Last Son of Krypton until he can be tricked into saying his own name backwards (just as hard as forwards, by the way), banishing him back to the Fifth Dimension. Essentially, it’s all just a game to him, no matter how dangerous the stakes may get!
Not all Fifth Dimensional beings are as good-natured as Mxyzptlk, however. When the Superman titles relaunched with the New 52 reboot a few years back, the Man of Steel came up against the far more malignant Vyndktvx. Unable to overcome Vyndktvx’s reality warping powers solo, Superman was aided by Mxyzptlk himself, along with his wife, Gsptlnz.
Not surprisingly, the ensuing battle gets pretty surreal pretty fast (in case the above paragraphs didn’t make it clear), and while Superman manages to come out on top, the aftermath has heartbreaking consequences for Mxyzptlk.
8 Mongul II
During the Our Worlds At War event, entropic force Imperiex decided it was snack time – with the entire DC Universe on the menu! For an appetizer, he opted to chow down on Warworld, with its despotic ruler, Mongul II (son of the original tyrant) barely escaping alive.
After seeing first-hand the awesome threat posed by Imperiex, Mongul showed up on Superman’s doorstep, determined to ensure his father’s old enemy was ready for the fight to come. With that, a Rocky-style training regime began, with Mongul playing Apollo Creed to Superman’s Balboa.
Continuing the Rocky analogy, Imperiex later filled the shoes of Ivan Drago when he was responsible for Mongul’s apparent demise. Fortunately – as in a Stallone flick – Superman proved able to overcome this tragedy in order to defeat his seemingly unbeatable opponent. But one thing’s for sure: he couldn’t have done it without Mongul’s help.
This entry is a funny one, as the team-up actually takes place off-panel! In Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, we get a glimpse at a version of Superman from a dystopian future. In this world gone very, very wrong, it turns out the Man of Steel has been forced to make some unpleasant compromises to safeguard the Earth. Of these, the most shocking has to be an alliance with Darkseid!
In his defense, the Last Son of Krypton’s deal with Apokolips seems to weigh heavily on his conscience. Nonetheless, the union constitutes an almost unforgivable moral compromise, something that this haunted, grim version of Superman is all too aware of. As such, it comes as a huge relief both to the readers and the Man of Steel himself when this terrible scenario is seemingly averted later in the series.
In an effort to be more proactive in his approach towards Earth’s attackers, Superman personally recruited a small army of costumed adventurers during Panic In The Sky. Amidst this colorful bunch – assembled to see off the combined threat of Brainiac and Warworld – one figure stood out like a sore thumb: Deathstroke the Terminator!
Employing the dubious logic that Deathstroke was the best tactician he could enlist (because Batman isn’t known for his planning skills, or anything), the Man of Steel was able to overlook his draft pick’s career as an assassin. It was a big call - and not one that ended up paying off, really.
Sure, Deathstroke barked the occasional command and voiced the odd pragmatic counterpoint during mid-battle strategy sessions. But all in all, the mercenary’s main value-add mostly came when he engaged the enemy in close-quarters combat – not exactly an area where Superman’s non-evil roster was lacking panache.
Whereas Bizarro represents the Man of Steel’s unintentionally wicked alternate self, Ultraman provides a chilling vision of a Superman who gleefully embraces evil. Hailing from an alternate Earth where DC’s greatest heroes are instead irredeemably corrupt, Ultraman is everything Superman isn’t: belligerent, cruel and a bully.
When the entire DC Multiverse found itself within the cross-hairs of cosmic vampire Mandrakk the Dark Monitor during Final Crisis, every incarnation of Superman rallied together to oppose him. This included a less-than-willing Ultraman, who spent half his time trying to provoke his heroic counterpart into a fight. Ironically, for all that Ultraman seemed out of place – even a liability – on the team, at the end of the day, his participation proved crucial in defeating Mandrakk.
Fusing their essences together in order to power a giant Superman robot capable of going toe-to-toe with the Dark Monitor, Superman and Ultraman embodied the expression “the sum is greater than the parts.” While the robot gained the upper-hand against Mandrakk thanks to Superman’s incredible moral conviction, it took the vicious pragmatism of Ultraman to finish the monster off, after he convinced his co-pilot this would not contravene his code against killing.
Okay, so technically, this one never happened – but then, technically nothing on this list ever happened (and we're not just talking about continuity retcons, either). In Superman: Red Son, the rocket carrying the baby Man of Steel lands in Soviet Russia (not rural America!) in 1938. As such, Superman grows up to first be the champion of the USSR, and later its “Big Brother”-like head of state.
Along the way, he defeats Brainiac and reprograms the computerized world conqueror to essentially function as the Fortress of Solitude’s AI personal assistance app. Together, the pair oversee the expansion of a Utopian Soviet State across the globe – with only a Lex Luthor-led United States offering any resistance – albeit at the cost of individual liberties and freedoms.
Fortunately for lovers of democracy everywhere, Superman’s totalitarian regime (which was admittedly benign, but still) eventually crumbles – in part due to the treachery of Brainiac. The inherently tyrannical AI turns out to be free of the Last Son of Krypton’s control, and in the ensuing struggle between them, Superman (seemingly) dies, rescuing the Earth from his influence. So the next time you complain about Siri or Alexa not operating properly, remember: at least you’re still alive…
It takes a, well... super guy to team-up with the person who once killed them. Luckily, Superman fits that bill, as seen when the demands of the Our Worlds At War campaign dictated that he fight alongside his one-time murderer, the unstoppable bone monster Doomsday!
Unlike Superman’s ill-judged experiment with Deathstroke, Doomsday proved a highly effective addition to the roster of heroes standing up to Imperiex – even if his first act was to murder several of them.
Whereas the good guys had generally struggled to defeat Imperiex’s probe fighters, Doomsday wiped several of these out with ease, and he and the Man of Steel made a surprisingly effective duo.
On the downside, the big brute alone was no match for Imperiex himself – who reduced the creature to a skeleton without breaking a sweat – but in Doomsday’s defence, no one was.
2 General Zod
Ever found yourself partnered-up with a work colleague you just can’t stand? Well, don’t feel too bad – Superman found himself in the exact same boat when he ended up working alongside General Zod in New Krypton. In that story, the bottle city of Kandor is enlarged and a new Kryptonian planet established, forcing Superman and Zod to put aside their differences for the greater good of their race.
The Man of Steel joins the military under Zod, and they soon build an effective working relationship – even successfully thwarting a political plot threatening their new home. Of course, this being comics, things eventually go to Hell in hand basket, when New Krypton is obliterated and Zod declares war on Earth.
As is to be expected, Superman rallies to the defence of our world, putting him in direct opposition to the General once more. The hostilities conclude when Zod is sucked back into the Phantom Zone, leaving behind billions of dollars in property damage – and the faint memory of the one time two of Krypton’s greatest sons stood side-by-side.
To say that Lex Luthor hates Superman is an understatement akin to describing the criminal genius as “kinda clever." Frankly, the depth of Luthor’s loathing for his archenemy is so great that it borders on superhuman, which always makes those rare times when these rivals team up so special.
Of these occasions, their recent collaboration in the pages of Action Comics really stands out – mostly because of how screwed up it was! Essentially, it all boiled down to an apparently reformed Luthor convincing new BFF Superman to allow him to wear the iconic S-shield and operate as the DC Universe’s newest superhero.
So far, so simple – right? Nope, not by a long shot. It turns out that Luthor’s “redemption” was in fact part of a convoluted scheme to trap Superman in an inescapable prison dimension – with part of the plan involving Luthor sacrificing a chance at true love itself! By the end of it all, no one walked away from this team-up with a good taste in their mouth…
What are your favourite team-ups between Superman and his villains? Let us know in the comments!