Superman is one of the strongest DC heroes of all time and a superhero of his strength needs villains who can pose a threat. Since Superman’s introduction in Action Comics #1, he has been depicted as the pinnacle of what it is to be a superhero. Many of the powers he originally had since the Golden Age are still around today, including super strength and super speed. After Crisis on Infinite Earths, Superman’s abilities became more restricted in order to introduce more powerful villains.
Posing a threat to the Man of Steel is a serious deal. A hero of his stature demands to be challenged. Some of the deadliest villains in DC’s history have faced off against Superman and over the years, the character has built up one of the most dangerous rogues galleries. In his tenure of protecting Metropolis and Earth, a huge number of villains have attempted to take down Superman and as a result, the number of enemies has stacked up over the years. Whether it be the evil masterminds like Lex Luthor or warlords like Darkseid, the list of threats has amounted to the hundreds.
Whilst Superman may be all-powerful and seem almost untouchable, there have been some close calls along the way. Mostly, he reigns victorious and finds a way to defeat everyone, but sometimes it isn’t just a battle of strength, sometimes it’s a battle of the mind. From Bizarro to Brainiac, Superman’s range of fan-favorite villains have always put up a fight, but who is the toughest to fight?
The complete opposite of Superman, Bizarro was made in the mirror image of the Man of Steel. Bizarro, created by Otto Binder and artist George Papp, first appeared in Superboy #68. Depicted as an antagonist, and sometimes an anti-hero, Bizarro has always caused trouble for Superman. A recurrent villain popping up every once in a while, Bizarro always poses a great threat due to the two’s similarities in powers.
The two characters are much alike, but Bizarro’s twisted and misguided attempts at being a hero have caused some sticky situations for Superman. Since Bizarro is a clone of the Man of Steel, he possesses the same strength and many of his powers, however, some are reversed and different. For instance, Superman has heat vision and Bizarro has freeze vision. Although they are much the same, Bizarro’s imperfections lead to an inability to fully became as powerful as he can be. Especially since Superman’s greatest weakness is Bizarro’s greatest strength, green Kryptonite. Apart from all the pummeling and destruction, Bizarro’s greatest power is the fear he invokes in Superman and that is why Bizarro has always remained one of the Man of Steel’s toughest threats to fight.
Brainiac, created by Otto Binder and Al Pastino, first appeared in Action Comics #242. Known as DC’s smartest villain, Brainiac has fought Superman many times over the years, most notably he is known for shrinking and bottling up Krypton’s capital Kandor. He is a super-intelligent being who was designed to conquer worlds. To Superman, Brainiac’s logic and meticulous calculations are his greatest threat.
Although Superman could best Brainiac in a fight, it is almost impossible to be rid of him. This is due to Brainiac being nearly indestructible as he replicates himself or transfers his consciousness to computer systems he has manipulated. Brainiac has taken many forms over the years but is most often depicted with a robotic body. When taking a physical form, Brainiac has super strength, which makes for a tougher fight for Superman. Ultimately, it is Brainiac’s technology combined with his twelfth-level intellect that makes him one of Superman’s most formidable foes.
Darkseid is unquestionably one of DC’s most evil and powerful villains. Created by Jack Kirby, he first appeared in Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #134. Darkseid isn’t strictly a Superman villain due to his strong affiliations with Jack Kirby’s Fourth World storyline in issues of New Gods and Forever People. However, recently Superman and the Justice League faced off against Darkseid in The Darkseid War, a storyline in the New 52’s Justice League and 2008’s Final Crisis. Hence, his inclusion as one of Superman’s toughest villains to fight.
The ruler of Apokolips and an actual god, Darkseid is the embodiment of evil and darkness, his villainy is nearly unmatched. Darkseid is what it would be like if Superman became a relentless, world-destroying tyrant, due to their powers being similar. This is what makes Darkseid an extremely hard villain to defeat. Like Superman’s heat vision, Darkseid’s Omega effect is another form of energy projection. It emerges from his eyes as beams that have the ability to change directions and seek their target. Even though Superman can withstand Darkseid’s Omega beams, he often struggles to take the blast which would normally instantly wipe-out those who stand in its way. All of this adds up to make the ruler of Apokolips one of Superman’s greatest villains.
Doomsday is an artificial creation from Krypton’s distant past, best known for being the primary antagonist in the iconic DC Comics crossover event, The Death of Superman. Created by Dan Jurgens, Doomsday first appeared in Superman: The Man of Steel #17. Depicted as a ruthless killing machine hell-bent on destroying Superman, he is the only villain to ever kill Superman. Destroying everything in his path, Doomsday has no humanity and may just be the villain Superman fears most.
Doomsday has survived Darkseid’s Omega light beams and Superman’s full force, his brute strength is unmatched. With the permanent ability to regenerate upon death, it is nearly impossible to defeat Doomsday. Superman has even teamed up with his archnemesis Lex Luthor to fight the ruthless villain, which proves the extent Superman must go to try and defeat him. Doomsday’s strength proves to be far greater than that of Superman and only in some iterations does he show weakness to Kryptonite due to his Kryptonian origins.
Many of Superman’s villains have a desire for destruction and a bloodthirsty need to kill Superman. However, Lex Luthor differs in that he envies Superman’s popularity. Created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, he first appeared in Action Comics #23. Lex only wishes to kill Superman to try and achieve a similar level of greatness. Having endured as the primary archenemy of Superman, there have been many versions of the character with different reasons for trying to be rid of the Man of Steel.
It is almost impossible to talk about Superman and not mention Lex as he is Superman’s most well-known enemy. Even with all of the superpowered villains with incredible powers, it all comes back to Lex, an ordinary human. Known for his complex and calculating schemes to take down the Man of Steel, Lex’s superpower is his intelligence as he is able to outthink Superman’s physical threats. Additionally, Lex Luthor’s Warsuit is a creation that allows Lex to physically balance the playing field with Superman. Often depicted as having Kryptonite weapons, Lex is able to cripple Superman and bring his strength down. Ultimately, Lex can jeopardize Superman‘s physical upper-hand, but it’s through his cleverness that he is able to pose the greatest threat out of any villain.