Superman, aka Clark Kent, aka Kal-El, has long been known as one of the most powerful superheroes ever. The guy is invulnerable, insanely strong, fast, can fly, shoot lasers out of his eyes… You name it; Supes has it. But, just like many other characters, even Superman has various versions – some stronger, some weaker.
It’s said that the longer his body absorbs the yellow sun’s radiation, the stronger he gets. That made us here at Comic Basics wonder – what’s the best of the best version of Superman? I went through the DC Comics lore to find out, so without further ado, here’s a ranked list of the 20 strongest, most powerful versions of Superman ever created.
Honorable mention: Golden Age Superman
I felt like the original version of Superman had to be included on the list, although virtually every other version of the character is, in fact, more powerful. In his first appearance in Action Comics #1 back in 1938, Superman had superstrength to a certain degree – like, lifting and throwing a car – could run about as fast as a bullet and could leap over tall buildings.
Yes, he couldn’t fly, just jump really high. His main enemies were thieves, burglars, and corrupt politicians – seemingly going with the spirit of the time when he was created. Golden Age Superman was around until 1955 or so when he got a major power upgrade from being a glorified catcher of purse-snatchers.
20. The New 52 Superman
If you’ve read some of my articles before (if you have, thank you!), you’ll notice I’m not a big fan of DC’s 2011 reboot of, well, essentially, their entire comic book history. Sure, some characters (like our man Supes) got way too overpowered to make sense, but this was not the way to go.
Anyways, the New 52 Superman was reimagined – including a super-lame, short-sleeved costume – and had much weaker powers. He was younger, couldn’t fly, was a bit weaker, and could even be hurt, unlike the common power set of the Man of Steel. Over time, his powers were amplified and reinstated, as they probably realized this version was super-crappy.
19. Cyborg Superman
There have been several robotic versions of Superman over the years, but Cyborg Superman was one of the more interesting. He first appeared in The Adventures of Superman #500 after the original Supes passed away. The guy who became known as Cyborg Superman claimed to be the original but was revived and rebuilt with Kryptonian technology.
It was true, to a degree. However, he wasn’t the original. Cyborg Superman was Hank Henshaw, a scientist who was killed – as was his entire crew – with insane amounts of cosmic radiation.
However, his mind didn’t die, only his body. Instead, he gained the ability to manipulate and control machinery psionically, using Kal-El’s rocket to create Cyborg Superman. He was quite powerful, just not on the same level as the Man of Steel.
Bizarro is quite a, well, bizarre character, but despite being Superman’s common enemy, many fans – including myself – grew to like the big numbskull. He first appeared in Superboy #68 in 1958, when Professor Dalton was demonstrating his duplicate ray to Superboy and accidentally created Bizarro.
He’s essentially a pale-skinned Superman doppelganger, but with almost all powers reversed. He was also quite dumb but essentially just wanted to be left alone and live in peace. Instead of heat vision and freeze breath, Bizarro has fire breath and ice vision. His X-Ray vision can see only through lead, whereas Supes has it the other way around.
The only thing about Bizarro is that he sometimes appears stronger than Superman because he doesn’t quite have morals and doesn’t hold back in battle. I felt sorry for Bizarro in most storylines because he didn’t choose to exist, nor did he choose to fight. Leave the poor dimwit alone!
17. Electric Superman (Superman Red & Blue)
The first time we saw electric Superman was in Superman Vol. 2 #123. Back in the 1990s, Supes went through several changes to ‘freshen up’ the character. He lost his insane super strength but got some new, energy-based powers instead. He could manipulate energy fields to lift heavy objects and needed a special suit to contain his newfound powers.
At one point, he actually split into two Supermen – Superman Red and Superman Blue. They had different motivations and lived separate lives, but both believed themselves to be the original Superman. That, of course, led to some issues, but he was eventually returned to his old self – powers included.
16. The Red Son
This was a somewhat funny version of Superman to me, although there’s nothing funny about the Soviet Union and the Communist regime. The Red Son first appeared in Superman: The Red Son storyline in 2003, where the writers wondered: what if, instead of Kansas, Kal-El’s pod landed in Soviet Russia?
There, he was raised under the communist regime and had all the same powers as our good ol’ Man of Steel, but with a twisted sense of morals, values, and behavior. There was another version of Supes similar to this one, known as Overman, who landed in Nazi Germany. However, I found him to be a bit too offensive to be on the list.
Essentially, the difference between the Red Son and the regular Superman was their upbringing, so they have the same powers, but they use them in totally different ways. The Red Son was heavily trained from the get-go, so he is more battle-tested. Combine that with twisted morals, and you get a very dangerous Supes.
Brutaal is a Superman version first appearing fairly recently in Earth 2, Vol. 1 #14. After Superman of Eart-2 had died in this new continuity, Darkseid saw an opportunity for a new attack. Only this time, he came guns blazing with a new member of his crew.
That new member was Brutaal, a Superman clone created by Darkseid himself, who seemingly had the same powers as Superman, only amplified due to his lack of restraint and morals. Brutaal easily defeated Earth-2’s defending heroes but was then taken down by a completely new, different Superman, Val-Zod. Don’t worry; we’ll get to him.
14. Jon Kent
If this article were written, like, five-to-ten years in the future, this fellow would likely be even higher on the list. Jonathan Samuel Kent is the son of Clark Kent and Lois Lane, who was born with all the same powers as his overpowered pops. However, the reason why I got him on this list is his upbringing.
You see, Clark had no idea who he was or what his powers were about. He had to learn stuff on the go, by himself, through trial and error. On the other hand, Jon has the mentorship of his father from the get-go, who has shown him the ropes of being Superman since he was a toddler.
Jon started as Superboy, working as a superhero with his dad and his best friend, Damian Wayne (Bruce Wayne’s kid, who became the new Robin). Later, Jon Kent became Superman and traveled through time with his grandfather, Jor-El, and despite having all the same powers as his dad, he found cool new ways to use them.
13. The Dark Side Superman
This version of Supes is often called the Armored Superman, first (and last) appearing in Superman: The Dark Side in 1998. This reimagined version of Superman didn’t land in Kansas, Germany, or the Soviet Union. Instead, he landed on Apokolips and was raised by none other than one of his biggest foes, Darkseid.
He was sinister, wanting to eradicate the New Genesis along with his evil adoptive father. The dude is just a menace in powerful armor, helping Darkseid destroy stuff. Eventually, he realizes what he was doing was wrong, kills Darkseid, takes over as the ruler of Apokolips, and starts reseeding the New Genesis after he participated in its destruction.
12. Injustice Superman
This version of Supes first appeared in the Injustice: Gods Among Us video game, which was so popular that it resulted in several comic book spin-offs – like Injustice: Gods Among Us #1, where this version of Superman first appeared in comic book form.
Injustice Superman was tricked by the Joker into killing Lois Lane and their unborn child. Superman then lost his mind due to incredible guilt, grief, and remorse and took it too far for the first time by killing the Joker in a brutal fashion. He then lost all of his inhibitions and established a totalitarian dictatorship over the entire planet, with him as the fascist tyrant in charge.
He had a twisted sense of morals and peace, which made him downright terrifying.
If you find the name familiar, it’s because we’ve mentioned it earlier when speaking about Brutaal. Val-Zod of Earth-2 first appeared in Earth 2 Vol. 1 #19 as one of the few not-Clark-Kent versions of Superman. In this scenario, Clark wasn’t the only surviving Kryptonian after their planet was shattered. After Kal-El’s death, Val-Zod took over as Earth-2’s Superman.
After Brutaal defeated virtually every hero on Earth, Val-Zod came and saved the day, eventually destroying Superman’s evil clone. The thing that sets him apart is that, although he and Kal-El seemingly have the same powers, Val-Zod could consciously use energy fields emitted by the yellow sun’s radiation.
It allowed him to lift and throw heavy objects without having to physically pick him up. It was a simple but effective upgrade that allowed him to defeat Brutaal, who was essentially Superman with no restraints.
Another evil iteration of the Man of Steel is called Ultraman, a guy from Earth-3, which is essentially Earth-One turned upside down. Here, the Justice League is not a group of superheroes, but supervillains, known as the Crime Syndicate, with Ultraman as their head.
The fact that he’s evil and doesn’t hold back doesn’t make him more powerful than other evil versions of Supes we mentioned before, right? So, why is he breaking the Top 10? Well, how about Superman’s greatest weakness – Kryptonite – actually fueling his powers? That’s right, Ultraman gets stronger every time he’s exposed.
9. Calvin Ellis
This is probably my favorite version of Superman on the list because, out of all the alternative-universe versions of the character, Calvin Ellis is the most unique. He first appeared in Final Crisis #7 in 2009 as a version of Superman from Earth-23. He came to Earth and became a superhero later in his life, much like Clark Kent.
He also came to help in the Final Crisis multiversal war against Darkseid to help other Supermen and later became the leader of the Justice Incarnate – a multiversal group of heroes defending not one but all the universes. So, what stands out about Calvin to make him such a high pick on this list?
Unlike Clark Kent, who hid behind the disguise of a shy journalist, Calvin Ellis’s civilian identity was perhaps just as powerful as his superhero identity – he was the President of the United States. That means, with all the regular Superman powers, Calvin also had the biggest political power on Earth, making his job as a superhero that much simpler. At least on his Earth.
8. Kingdom Come Superman
I was heavily thinking about putting this iteration of Superman much, much higher on the list, but he eventually fell to number 8. Superman of Earth-22 first appeared in the Kingdom Come storyline in 1996 and displayed some of the biggest strength we’ve ever seen from Supes. Strength doesn’t always come in physical form – mental strength is sometimes even greater.
In this universe, the Joker murdered Lois Lane instead of tricking Supes into doing so. But, unlike Injustice Superman, Kingdom Come Superman dealt with grief in the best possible way. He returned as one of Earth’s most powerful heroes and defenders, and instead of becoming a symbol of tyranny and insanity, he became a symbol of hope.
That’s a strength that not many versions of Superman presented. However, on top of that, the story is set in the distant future, meaning Supes spent much more time irradiated by the yellow sun, becoming increasingly more powerful – to the point where he was completely immune to Kryptonite, and all his powers were amplified.
7. Silver Age Superman
The Silver Age Superman is kind of the norm for what we consider to be the regular Man of Steel. The Superman of Earth-One first appeared in Superman #76 in 1952 and has been around since the big New 52 relaunch in 2011. So why is he so high on the list? Well, one could argue he should be even higher, depending on what moment of the character’s history we’re talking about.
You see, Silver Age Superman’s powers grew exponentially over time to such ridiculous levels that Dc simply decided to hit the reset button, as the comics just stopped making sense. He once chained several planets together and towed them across the galaxy. At other times, Superman could easily fly through the time barrier without breaking a sweat.
He became nigh-omnipotent in terms of what he could do with his powers, so they simply had to take a step back and make the character at least a bit more realistic. They went too far with the initial version of the New 52 Superman (you know, the guy with short sleeves, being a young, pesky little jerk) but corrected it along the way.
6. Superman X
I’m unsure if we ever saw Superman X in the comics, but I know he appeared in season 2 of the animated series Legion of Super Heroes. His name was Kell-El, and he came from the distant future – the 41st century, to be precise. He was artificially created using Clark Kent’s DNA and Kryptonite.
Through this amalgamation, Superman X was immune to Kryptonite, as well as many other forms of energy. Adding to normal Superman powers, he also had energy projection, knew basic forms of magic, and had even more enhanced senses than Clark Kent. Superman X was an insanely powerful guy. Luckily, he was still a good fellow.
5. Superboy Prime
Superboy Prime was, essentially, Clark Kent of Earth-One, but from the Earth-Prime universe, aka “the real world” where you and I currently live in. He was raised by the Kents and had all the Superman powers, but with some additions and enhancements. You didn’t think he was this high on the list for nothing, did you?
Additional powers that Superboy Prime had were body density alteration (yes, he could alter his density at will), and on top of that, he usually had no inhibitions.
But, the best part – he had the Anti-Monitor’s super absorbent armor that directly fed yellow sun radiation into his cells, making the power growth process exponentially faster, almost to a point where he could feel the difference on a day-to-day basis. He was absolutely insanely powerful and would be even higher on this list hadn’t he been such an annoying, obnoxious fellow.
4. Apokolips Superman
This isn’t the same Superman I already mentioned, who grew up on Apokolips. No, this guy was actually our common Supes from the storyline Justice League: The Darkseid War. In this storyline, the Justice League (along with Lex Luthor) came to Apokolips to battle Darkseid and his peers.
The air was full of lead, so Superman couldn’t see, and there was no yellow sun, so Superman grew weak and started losing his powers. That is, until Lex threw him into the fire pits on the planet, explaining that they emit the same type of solar energy as our yellow sun. So, when he tossed Supes in the pit, it was like tossing him into the Sun.
Superman came out absolutely insanely powerful, and recharged to levels of power he hadn’t experienced many times before. Kryptonite had no effect on him, as he’s seen holding a large chunk of the stone in his hand with no ill effects. He blazed through a group of parademons in a heartbeat. It would be interesting to see what the extent of his newfound power was.
3. All-Star Superman
This version of Supes came in the storyline of the same name, All-Star Superman, from 2005. Many fans dig it as the best Superman storyline ever. It’s really awesome and fulfilling because, just like Kingdom Come Superman, this version of Kal-El showed more than just physical strength and resilience.
This version of Superman flew very close to the Sun and even entered it, virtually overdosing on solar radiation and having his powers absolutely skyrocket. I won’t get into the details of the story, but essentially, this version of super-powered Superman is the baby version of the number one on this list…
2. Cosmic Armor Superman
There’s a lot of debate about which version of Superman is stronger between Cosmic Armor Superman and my number one on this list. But, whichever you choose as number one, you won’t go wrong. Cosmic Armor Superman, aka the Thought Robot, first appeared in Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #2 in 2009.
Essentially, the Monitors created this unfathomably powerful version of Superman that is somewhat of an amalgamation between a human and a synthetic life form. Cosmic Armor Superman had absolute cosmic awareness – to the point where he could draw on the comic world narrative to alter reality at will.
No amount of strength Superman ever had could top that. He was an absolute god – unbeatable in any way, as he could simply alter the narrative to do absolutely anything you can imagine. Basically, Superman became a plot device – and I’m not too fond of such omnipotent plot devices because the story just loses its weight, which is why he’s #2 on my list.
1. Superman Prime One Million
Last but not least, the absolute pinnacle of Superman’s power ever seen in the comics (not being the I-can-do-whatever-the-plot-needs Cosmic Armor Superman) is Superman Prime One Million. Don’t get me wrong, he’s probably just as powerful as the Thought Robot, but created in a different way that actually makes sense – if any comic book makes reasonable sense.
He first appeared in DC One Million Vol. 1 #4, an event in DC comics that weren’t really awesome overall (at least, in my opinion) but gave us some amazing characters and arcs. This Superman was from the 853rd century. He left Earth sometime in the 21st century but returned tens of thousands of years later to give some of his new powers to his descendants.
Then, he returned to the Fortress of Solitude, situated in the very center of the Sun, where he remained for over 15 000 years, absorbing insane amounts of solar radiation to the point of his powers becoming literally infinite. He was not just a god – he was among the most powerful beings in the universe, if not the most powerful.
This version of Superman is actually the future version of All-Star Superman, but with about 15 millennia worth of skinny-dipping in the Sun. If falling into a solar energy fire pit made Superman so powerful he could hold Kryptonite – his biggest weakness – with no harm, imagine what 15 000 years in the center of the Sun does!
Superman Prime One Million beats any other version of Clark Kent, and it’s not even close.