It can be said that Superman is one of the greatest superheroes of all time – maybe the greatest, depending on one’s perspective – but he doesn’t have a great stable of villains. A few of his enemies are all-time greats, but he doesn’t have a Rogue’s Gallery on par with Batman. That leads to a pretty broad spectrum in his villains from laughable to cool.
Some of these villains originate from comic book stories that could inspire the next Superman movie, but there are a bunch that are best avoided in any medium. Not every nemesis of Superman was a winner, but in his more than eighty years of comic book history, a few standouts emerged.
10 Laughable: The Prankster
The Prankster, Oswald Hubert Loomis, is one of the most laughable Superman villains. He’s also one of the earliest. He debuted in Action Comics #51 in August 1942 and he does exactly what his name suggests. He pranks Superman.
Loomis uses his elaborate practical jokes for crime, which sort of made him like the Joker, but he was far less interesting. Since he was never a serious threat to Superman, his goofy antics wore thin and he only made sporadic appearances in the many years since.
9 Laughable: Microwave Man
Not all of Superman’s most laughable villains are products of the Golden or Silver Age of Comics. Microwave Man was so bad he made exactly one appearance in the entire history of DC Comics. Microwave Man debuts in Action Comics #487 in 1978.
He’s a scientist who gives himself superpowers with a bunch of microwave ovens and then begins robbing banks. Though characters with microwave-based powers like Firestar are very powerful, Microwave Man wasn’t very interesting at all and he was never revisited.
8 Laughable: Bloodsport
The Man of Steel faces all kinds of threats in the comics, from the mundane to the cosmic. Bloodsport is kind of in-between. Bloodsport went on the run after being drafted into the U.S. military.
His brother was wounded in Vietnam. Angry at Superman, who Bloodsport blamed, he used technology developed by Lex Luthor to be able to teleport any kind of weapon from anywhere into his hands. It’s kind of cool, but not quite. That may be one reason why Bloodsport is making an appearance in The Suicide Squad.
7 Laughable: Maxima
Maxima is mostly known for being involved in one of the strangest Justice League romances with Superman when both were on the team. But she started off as a villain in 80s Superman comics. Maxima is the princess of the planet Almeric and decides to hunt down Superman because he’s a great genetic match for her. He declines, but she doesn’t take no for an answer.
Her campaign is unusual and awkward in many respects, and it never really improved. She continued to pursue him even after joining the Justice League and after he and Lois Lane had married in the early 90s.
6 Laughable: Superman Revenge Squad
Supervillain teams are very cool, especially when they’re composed of heavy hitters like with the Sinister Six (potentially right around the corner in the MCU). Superman’s Revenge Squad should be pretty cool, but it’s not. The team is made up of various Superman villains, all seeking revenge on the Man of Steel.
It’s had a lot of different rosters over the years. Maxima was part of the post-Crisis On Infinite Earths version, as was Bizarro and Lex Luthor. Despite the big names, the concept never really seemed to work in the comics.
5 Cool: Doomsday
On the line between laughable and cool is the character of Doomsday. Doomsday was created specifically to kill Superman in the epic if controversial 90s event The Death of Superman.
Doomsday is extremely powerful, strong enough to take down the Man Of Steel, but he has no real character or personality. Still, villains strong enough to go toe to toe with Superman are few and far between, so Doomsday does have some merit. He’s been a consistent thorn in Superman’s side for nearly thirty years.
4 Cool: Brainiac
Brainiac is a major Superman villain who at various times, has been the culprit behind the destruction of Krypton. This incredible alien intelligence also shrunk the city of Kandor and represents perhaps the greatest cosmic threat to Superman outside of Darkseid.
Revisions to continuity since his first appearance in Action Comics #242 in July 1958, as well as varying takes on the characters over the years, have diminished his role in Superman’s backstory. Though he hasn’t been in the movies yet, he’s ubiquitous in animated and live-action television DC series.
3 Cool: General Zod
General Zod may be one of the most well-known Superman villains to the general public, thanks to his being the main villain in two Superman movies, including 2013’s Man Of Steel. He is also a major villain in comic books and one of the coolest. He is essentially the evil version of Superman, with all his powers and none of his morals.
General Zod debuted in Adventure Comics #283 in April 1961, and his story has been more or less the same since. He was the head of the Kryptonian military, an authoritarian figure who clashed with the scientific and humanistic perspective of Jor-El.
2 Cool: Lex Luthor
Lex Luthor might be the greatest Superman villain. He’s certainly one of the evilest Superman villains. With a brilliant mind and virtually no scruples, Lex Luthor has taken his jealousy of Superman to insane heights. He’s developed extraordinary technology, become President of the United States, and even had a Power Ring at one point.
He’s cool because he contrasts so well with Superman. Where Kal-El is giving, accepting, and dedicated, Luthor is selfish, resentful, and determined only to improve himself.
1 Cool: Darkseid
Darkseid didn’t start out as a Superman villain but was the evil figure at the heart of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World mythology for DC Comics. Over time, Darkseid rose to prominence in the greater DC Universe until ultimately he became in many respects its big bad. Extremely powerful, cunning, and a real threat to Superman, he’s become the Man of Steel’s coolest villain.
The two have clashed frequently in the comics and have in animated movies and shows as well. They met for the first time in live-action in Zack Snyder’s Justice League.
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