If there’s a character who has always been considered one of the mightiest superheroes the world of comic books has ever seen, it’s none other than Superman. That’s because the Man of Steel has it all, as he has physical abilities and powers that make him nearly unkillable. While that may be true, we’ve actually seen him dying quite a few times in the comics.
Superman has “died” 14 times in the comics
One of the things that we know about Superman is that he is incredibly durable and can only be hurt by attacks by characters stronger than him or by magic. Of course, he also gets weakened by the presence of Kryptonite. Other than that, he is basically invincible in the world of DC and has always been one of the most unkillable superheroes of all time.
But the truth is that while Superman is basically invincible, he has had his fair share of deaths as well. Yes, there were times when the Man of Steel actually “died.” Take note that we used quotation marks there because some of the deaths of Superman in the comics weren’t actually deaths. Nevertheless, Superman has died a total of 14 times in the comics, even though he is often known as an invincible superhero.
Some of Superman’s comic book deaths were canon, whereas some were from comic book writers who didn’t write canon storylines about the Man of Steel. Meanwhile, Superman died once in the movies. So, with that said, let’s look at all of the times that Superman died in the comics.
All of Superman’s “deaths” are explained
1. ‘Superman’ #149 (1961)
The first death of Superman, as far as chronological order is concerned, happened in 1961 in ‘Superman #149.’ Entitled ‘The Death of Superman,’ this comic book title was one of the most forgettable events in the history of Superman’s comic book appearances, and that’s why not a lot of people remember that he died in 1961.
In this comic book storyline, Lex Luthor was able to cure cancer and found a way to convince Superman that he had already atoned for his sins. Nevertheless, he was able to lure Superman and kill the Man of Steel using Kryptonite rays. Of course, a lot of them didn’t remember this because it wasn’t a canon event, as it was only imaginary.
2. ‘Superman’ #188 (1966)
Superman’s first canon death happened in 1966 during the Silver Age of Comics. It was also incredibly unexpected that a character whom fans don’t exactly remember was the one who was able to kill Superman for the very first time. This villain was Zunial, the Murder Man, who killed Superman using his weakness to Kryptonite.
In this storyline, Zunial trained to become an assassin capable enough to defeat Superman, and he did so by training against a Superman android. After Zunial defeated the android, he traveled to Earth. He used Kryptonite radio waves to kill Superman after challenging the Man of Steel to a fight, thus becoming the first-ever comic book character to kill Superman. Fortunately for Superman, the android sacrificed itself to bring life back to the Man of Steel.
3. ‘Action Comics’ #366 (1968)
Remember that Action Comics tells a different story about Superman, and that was how Action Comics was able to tell a story about one of the deaths of the Man of Steel in the comics. This happened in issue #366 when Superman was exposed to Virus X, which could harm the Man of Steel.
Lex Luthor developed a version of Virus X that could infect Superman in this storyline. Superman didn’t want to suffer for 30 days before dying. Instead, he decided to go to Flammbron, the hottest star in the universe, to die there. The Flammbronians prevented him from doing so and cured him of the virus. While Superman didn’t exactly “die,” he was supposed to die right before the Flammbronians intervened.
4. ‘Action Comics’ #387 (1970)
Again, Superman crosses paths with Lex Luthor in ‘Action Comics’ #387 as Luthor still wants to kill the Man of Steel. The problem here is that Superman had been transported a million years into the future, where he decided to terraform and repopulate the planet. And while Superman was out of his reach, Luthor still tried to find a way to kill him.
Luthor knew that he would die before he would find a way to kill Superman, and that was when he weaponized a drone capable of harvesting energy from Superman, killing him in the process of doing so. The drone survived for over a million years and found Superman in the future. Superman was supposed to die (and he wanted to die) before the Master Healer revived him.
5. ‘World’s Finest Comics’ #207 (1971)
We know that Superman has no resistance to magic as he can be hurt by magic, like magic can hurt normal people. In that regard, Doctor Light used magic against the Man of Steel. Zatanna inspired him, and he created a light-based device that he thought would be powerful enough to kill Superman.
Doctor Light took control of an object called the Satanstaff and used it to “kill” Superman. But before he could actually destroy Superman’s body, Batman came to the rescue and helped Superman break free before the evil-doer could actually kill him completely. The duo eventually destroyed the Satanstaff after defeating Doctor Light.
6. ‘Justice League of America’ #145 (1977)
A decade after Superman’s first death in 1966, Superman died a second time during the Bronze Age of Comics. This happened when Count Crystal made a pact with a demon, who gave him incredible powers that only grew stronger every time he killed a member of the Justice League. And that was why Count Crystal believed that he would be the first to take down Superman and the Justice League.
Eventually, Count Crystal defeated the members of the Justice League, with Superman being the first to die. Luckily for the Man of Steel, the Phantom Stranger found Superman’s spirit before the demon could devour it. The Stranger eventually returned himself and Superman to life after the demon turned on Count Crystal and killed him for his failure.
7. ‘Action Comics’ #583 (1986)
A lot of the different events involving Superman’s deaths in the comics came from crossover events, and that was what happened to the storyline called ‘Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?’ as this two-part story was able to tell a story about one of the deaths of the Man of Steel.
In this comic book storyline, Superman voluntarily walks into a Gold Kryptonite chamber, removing all his powers and superhuman abilities preventing him from absorbing yellow sunlight. He disappeared and was never found again after he entered the chamber, heavily implying that he was either dead or had decided to take on the life of a normal human being named Jordan Elliot, the husband of Lois Lane.
8. ‘Superman’ #75 (1992)
As one of the most popular storylines of Superman in the comics, ‘The Death of Superman’ stands as one of the most famous deaths of the Man of Steel as he had to go up against Doomsday, who we know is one of the few villains strong enough to actually give Superman the toughest fight of his life.
In this storyline, the beast known as Doomsday could push Superman to his very limit, as they ended up dying due to exhaustion. Superman was buried as the entire world mourned. But he didn’t stay dead as there was a contingency plan regarding the possibility of him dying. This storyline has been adapted in animated movies and even in the live-action ‘Batman v Superman’ film.
9. ‘The Kingdom’ #1 (1999)
During the 90s, there was an Elseworlds story written for DC, as this was the Kingdom Come storyline that fans loved. Set in the future, the superheroes of this world were now older and removed from society. And in ‘The Kingdom,’ a sequel to this storyline, several superheroes died, including Superman himself.
In this comic book, the Quintessence, a group of powerful beings who keep an eye on the universe, granted William Matthews incredible powers that allowed him to take on Superman as a character named Gog. He was able to defeat the Man of Steel using his new powers. He did so repeatedly by traveling to the past so that he could kill Superman a lot of times while siphoning the Man of Steel’s powers in the process of doing so.
10. ‘Red Son’ (2003)
The ‘Red Son’ storyline is an alternate version of the DC universe wherein Superman landed in Soviet Russia instead of in Kansas. As such, this storyline is another Elseworlds story that depicts the Man of Steel as a person raised by the Soviets. And that is why Red Son Superman was an entirely different person from the standard version of Superman.
In this storyline, Luthor still despises Superman and longs to kill the Man of Steel. He had to get help from Brainiac and Batman to do so, as he could weaken Superman with Kryptonite radiation before propelling him to space in an exploding rocket. For a while, Red Son Superman was thought to have been killed before he showed up at Luthor’s funeral, thus proving that he was only “dead” for a while.
11. ‘Infinite Crisis’ #7 (2006)
While Golden Age Superman has always been one of the most powerful versions of the character, he actually died at one point in his history. This happened in the massive ‘Crisis on Infinite Earth’ sequel, ‘Infinite Crisis,’ released in 2006. At the end of Crisis on Infinite Earths, Kal-L of Earth-Two, Superboy-Prime, Lois Lane, and Alexander Luthor Jr. entered a paradise dimension that was a lot like heaven, where they were supposed to remain forever.
However, Lois started to fall ill, and that was when Kal-L decided to restore Earth-Two because he believed this was the only way for him to cure Lois. He did so successfully, only for Lois to succumb to her illness. Kal-L fought Kal-El out of anger but had become too weak after the fight. Superboy-Prime, who wanted to destroy the universe, killed Kal-L by beating him to death.
12. ‘All-Star Superman’ #12 (2008)
‘All-Star Superman’ is one of the most popular Superman storylines ever, as the Man of Steel was arguably at his strongest in this limited series. Superman became a lot stronger in this storyline after his cells were overloaded with the radiation of the yellow sun. While he did become stronger, his overloaded cells were supposed to kill him soon.
In the final issue of this limited series, Superman needed to repair the sun, and that was why he set off on a journey to try to fix it so that everyone on Earth would survive. No one knew what happened to him after that, but it was believed that Superman had died because he never returned to Earth. There was a theory that he was maintaining the sun and finding a way to survive for all those years.
13. ‘DC Universe vs. The Masters of the Universe’ #2 (2013)
We know that there are a lot of different crossovers in the world of comics, and we got one involving DC and the world of He-Man. Of course, this was never part of the actual continuity of either of these universes. Still, it was just a fun crossover featuring characters we never thought would actually be in a crossover.
In this storyline, He-Man was powerful enough to defeat the Justice League, and that was when he had to go up against the Man of Steel. While Superman was a tough opponent, He-Man defeated him using his magical sword. We know that Superman has no resistance to magic, and that was how He-Man defeated and killed him despite the fact that Superman eventually returned a few issues later.
14. ‘Superman’ #52 (2016)
We often see a lot of different reboots in DC, and that was what happened in a soft reboot involving DC Rebirth. Of course, we know that a superhero would eventually die in this soft reboot, and it happened to be the Man of Steel himself.
In this storyline, Superman dies from Kryptonite poisoning during the story arc after he goes up against Denny Swan, the Energy Superman. He defeated Denny but ended up getting poisoned by Kryptonite as a process. However, this Superman was eventually replaced by pre-Flashpoint Superman, who was trapped in this dimension.
Have something to add? Let us know in the comments below!