Posted : December 2013Author : KJ Stewart
As I specified in a recent article (about heroic characters who are more powerful than Superman), I’m a huge Superman fan and a huge fan of comics in general, so this is in no way an attempt to sully the character – it is merely another attempt to deal in facts and shed some light on a myth, particularly as the last article of this nature went down very well and it’s generally an interesting topic…
The myth in question is the one about Superman being nigh unkillable – because it simply isn’t true – so I’m going to point out a few characters from DC Comics who, utilising consistent feats of power and/or standard usage of their abilities as actual evidence, could outright kill the man of steel using their standard powers (i.e. without any preparation, outside interference or objects of power/inventions) in the right circumstances, despite the fact that they aren’t actually as powerful as him overall.
Now, I am absolutely not trying to say that these characters would beat Superman in a straight fight – this would require the characters catching Superman by surprise or Superman not fighting back (due to being restrained, for example) – but I absolutely am saying that these characters could potentially kill Superman without having to use anything other than their standard powers and/or equipment. I’m prepared for the fact that there will be a lot of disagreement from hardcore fans of the character who simply don’t like the fact that their hero isn’t as invulnerable as they’d like him to be, but part of being a fan of the character is knowing everything about him or her – including their limitations – so do be open-minded please!
On that note, using actual evidence from comic books i.e. mentioning actual ways in which said characters could kill the man of steel by way of feats of power that they’ve actually demonstrated, here are ten DC Comics characters who are weaker than Superman, but who could (in theory) kill him without prep (not that some of these characters would ever want to do that, it’s just speaking hypothetically)…
10. Kryptonite Man
Let’s get the obvious one out of the way first… “Superman’s weakness is Kryptonite… therefore let’s make a villain for him who emits Kryptonite radiation!” It’s such a lame, boring concept. Several villains have shared this moniker, but for this point we’ll be focusing on K. Russell Abernathy.
K. Russell Abernathy was a scientist who was on the verge of something big. Whilst he was working out of a research laboratory on the Avenue of Tomorrow in Metropolis, he developed a Kryptonite isotope enhancer, which would enable Abernathy to harness Kryptonite radiation and convert it into energy. Unfortunately for him, the isotope enhancer overloaded, which caused a massive explosion of Kryptonite radiation in his laboratory. Not protected by lead shielding, Abernathy took the full brunt of the blast. However, instead of killing him, the massive blast of green radiation mutated him into a living Kryptonite Man. As mad scientists tend to do in such a situation, he immediately went on rampage through the city, firing blasts of green energy from his eyes, causing Superman to intervene (but, obviously, he struggled thanks to the fact that he found the culprit to be made of his weakness). That said, given that he only gained a slight increase in strength and endurance, his durability, speed and strength aren’t even close to Superman’s level – and nor does he possess the ability to fly or the power output of Superman’s heat vision. However, given that he can fire energy blasts made up of Superman’s inherent weakness, he could – theoretically – kill the man of steel given enough time, by completely bombarding him with such blasts.
9. Manchester Black
Manchester Black represents the psionically-powered characters who could, in theory, kill Superman. Anyone with enough telepathy to destroy the man of steel’s mind could potentially kill him and Manchester Black certainly has telepathy in abundance, but it is his telekinesis that could really finish him off emphatically. Manchester Black is, overall, nowhere near as powerful as Superman. He possesses no superstrength, no superspeed and no increased durability and the offensive power of his telekinesis – while extremely potent – isn’t as devastating as the damage that Superman’s physical strength and heat vision could potentially cause. However, Manchester Black has been shown capable of casually inducing a stroke in the man of steel. By telekinetically squeezing the capillaries in Superman’s brain (which Black said were tough, like concrete tubes), he caused Superman to “twitch like a spastic” (Black’s words, not mine!). It stands to reason, therefore, that if Black was to have put everything he had in to such an attack, he could kill Superman outright – and, again, this is without going in to the numerous ways he could kill him with a telepathic attack on Superman’s mind (Black is capable of mind-controlling the entirety of Superman’s rogues gallery at once with his mind, including the likes of Doomsday).
People often say that Superman’s second major weakness is magic – that’s wrong. It’s not a specific weakness of his, it’s just that he’s no more invulnerable to it than the average person i.e. in the same way a shotgun blast to the face would kill me, magic can kill Superman – it doesn’t mean shotguns are specifically a “weakness” of mine. That said, the fact that he isn’t specifically invulnerable to it means that someone who possesses enough of it could indeed kill him. Zatanna is a character whose magic is pretty potent and the specific nature of her spells mean that she could quite easily kill the man of steel. She is a member of the Homo Magi race (DC’s name for magically empowered humans) and as such is genetically gifted with great magical talent. She has a vast number of spells at her disposal, which she usually casts by speaking backwards (so, for example, if she wants to put someone to sleep using magic, she would say “peels”). However, the backwards-speaking is not always necessary for her to cast spells. With that in mind, being so powerful, simply saying “eid” (“die” backwards) to Superman should cause him to collapse dead on the spot (or “edicius timmoc”, which is “commit suicide” backwards, or any derivation of such a spell). Of course, Zatanna is one of many magic users in the DC universe who could, in theory, kill Superman, but in this instance we’re using her as the poster-girl. Of course, physically, she doesn’t even come close to Superman and at base level the man of steel is considerably more powerful than her, but she definitely has it in her to finish him off.
7. Doctor Light
The Doctor Light pictured here is Arthur Light, but this entry could well apply to Kimiyo Hoshi as well. Doctor Light has the ability to control and manipulate all forms of light for a variety of purposes. For example, he could bend the light around him to become invisible, generate blasts of energy, create force fields and even fly. By mentally repulsing photons, Light could create areas of complete darkness. Light could even “power up” by draining the ambient light in the area. As a result of his powers, Light could, for example, drain the ambient sunlight from Superman to drain him of his powers and, ultimately, his life force. Or he could replace the yellow sunlight in Superman’s body, which powers him, with red sunlight, which weakens him and would ultimately kill him. Light has also shown the ability to take control of a Kryptonian’s heat vision, which he could potentially use against the man of steel. Essentially, Light has complete control over the very source of Superman’s powers – and that could be used to cause fatal results – but he doesn’t have the physical abilities to rival Superman in any way, shape or form.
Parasite is another moniker that has been utilised by several individuals in the comic books but, as a general rule, they all have the same powers. The character has the ability to temporarily absorb the energy, knowledge and super-powers of another being by touch and has utilised this ability against Superman on numerous occasions quite effectively and, in theory, if he was given the chance to absorb all of Superman’s energies and powers, he could drain him of his life force entirely and, ultimately, kill the Kryptonian. Again, however, he is another character whom Superman should really not have had any trouble with. At base level, Parasite possesses no enhanced physical statistics – no superspeed, no superstrength, no real durability to speak of etc – and he can’t fly, so Superman should be able to defeat him from afar with ease. But that’s not to say that Parasite doesn’t have the means to kill him in the right circumstances, because he certainly does.
5. Johnny Sorrow
Johnny Sorrow (who is an awesome character, incidentally) has a very simple way of killing Superman – if Superman looks at his exposed face, he’d die. Sorrow is by no means a low-powered character in general – he’s a high-end energy manipulator who, by default, is actually completely intangible in his base form (and therefore pretty much invulnerable to all physical attacks). Having previously been a silent film actor, an accident with a teleportation device shredded his body and transported his remains to another dimension. An entity called the King of Tears restored Sorrow’s consciousness, which now inhabits a floating suit and mask.
When he takes off the mask to expose his face, he becomes tangible, but anyone looking upon his gaze and whom sees his grotesque features will almost certainly die. Indeed, it is so grotesque that it has even effected blind characters and indeed Johnny himself (when he saw a recorded image of himself he was paralysed). Given that his face has caused magical beings as powerful as the wizard Shazam to turn to stone, there is no justifiable reason why it wouldn’t kill Superman outright (despite the fact that Superman has a far bigger array of superpowers than Johnny, who has no other enhanced attributes).
4. Phantom Girl
Phantom Girl is a native of the planet Bgztl and, like everyone else from there, has the ability to turn intangible and phase through solid objects (in all of her incarnations). As a result, theoretically, she could phase a solid object (let’s say a rock) in to Superman’s heart or brain, then turn tangible again, which would surely kill him. Aside from her phasing abilities, Phantom Girl can also fly but, other than that, she has absolutely no mentionable superpowers whatsoever. Superman is much faster, much stronger, much more durable and has a tonne of other esoteric abilities that Phantom Girl doesn’t. However, in the right circumstances, she still has the ability to kill him if she wants to (as do any other characters with the ability to phase).
3. Sun Boy
Sun Boy is a superhero from the future in DC Comics but who, through the wonders of time-travel, has indeed encountered the heroes of the present on numerous occasions – including Kryptonians like Superboy. He has the ability to tap into internalised solar power, allowing him to project luminance and heat to whatever degree he desires, as well as manipulate it however he wishes. As a result, there’s no reason why he couldn’t rip the solar power out of Superman, in the right circumstances, and sap his energy until he was dead. He is also able to project light bright enough to lead to permanent blindness and that could be seen from miles away in space. He can concoct heat within seconds that can melt through steel or be tossed as fireballs. In the postboot reality, Dirk also had infrared vision and could detect heat patterns. That said, none of those powers would do much to Superman in battle and he has no real physical strength, speed or durability to speak of, so all in all he is nowhere near as powerful as the man of steel.
2. Jesse Custer
Part of the Vertigo imprint of DC Comics, Jesse Custer is the protagonist of the comic book series Preacher.
Fused with a powerful entity named Genesis, Custer was gifted with the ability to order people to do whatever he commands using a power known as the “Word of God”. That said, apart from this power, he is an otherwise ordinary human without any enhanced physical statistics and who is nothing more than a relatively proficient hand-to-hand combatant. However, by simply saying to Superman “kill yourself” or “rip your own heart out”, he could kill the man of steel with relative ease. One of Jesse’s more memorable scenes involved him saying “go f**k yourself” to a guy he had beef with… which the man promptly did, quite literally. Nice huh?
This isn’t just “in theory”, of course, because it has actually happened, but the fact is Doomsday has proven that Superman can be killed by a simple physical beating. That said, the fact that Superman allowed this to happen was nothing short of stupidity – plot-induced stupidity, of course – because he is actually far more powerful than his monstrous counterpart. In terms of basic physical strength and durability, the pair are relatively equal, but when you consider that Superman has consistently demonstrated a much higher level of superspeed than Doomsday, can fly and has ranged attacks such as heat vision and freeze breath, you have to wonder why he resorted to the tactic of a close-ranged, non-superspeed slugfest with the behemoth. Had Superman fought tactically, he should have worn down Doomsday with relative ease or taken the fight to space and dumped the non-flying Doomsday at the wrong end of the universe. But no, they fought out a fist fight which killed the Kryptonian hero. So there you have it; ten DC Comics characters who are weaker than Superman but who could (in theory) kill him without prep. What do you think of this list? Which other characters who are weaker than Superman could theoretically kill him? Let us know in the comments box below.