My @Quora answer to Which superheroes can defeat Superman?
Answer by Thaddeus Howze:
You don't tug on Superman's Cape. You just don't do it.
Few superheroes in the DC Universe would even consider entering the ring with Big Blue.
- Most supervillains who engage him are counting on his restraint (his fear of hurting innocents or causing egregious collateral damage) and whatever plan they have concocted to allow them to gain the upper hand.
- Superman is arguably one of the most powerful metahumans on DC Earth. Since the DCnU reboot, it has not been determined if there is single metahuman who is physically more powerful.
But if I were to consider all of the canon versions of Superman as a reference, Superman could be defeated by several heroes using a variety of techniques. Superman is amazingly tough and fantastically durable but not completely unstoppable.
- To put his power in perspective, we have almost never seen Superman go full out against many enemies for fear of collateral damage on an epic scale. (See: Man of Steel (2014) for an indication of what could really happen if Superman fought at his peak ability.)
Superman vs Doomsday
- When Superman fought Doomsday to a standstill and both were effectively killed, Doomsday had already fought his way through the entire Justice League, including Wonder Woman, Guy Gardner, and the Martian Manhunter. They were barely able to slow him down. Most were lucky Doomsday was still partially restrained or they would have been killed.
https://youtu.be/KIWle6pVv1wSuperman vs Darkseid, Animated Adventures
- Superman invariably fights with restraint. With good reason, a use of his casual strength can destroy almost anything he touches. He describes it as "a world made of cardboard."
- If he fought using his powers at their maximum, speed blitzing, super-strength unfettered by restraint, and his energy projection powers, most of the Justice League or any force rallied against him would be rendered insensate in seconds.
Superman vs Imperiex
- In the previous version of the DC Universe, he was taught to fight unrestrained by his enemy Mongul to battle against the cosmic enemy, Imperiex. Imperiex was so bad-assed, he sent multiple smaller versions of himself to fight all over the Earth.
- Each one was equal to Superman on a good day and whenever anyone destroyed one, it required a sacrifice: one took an atomic tank to self-destruct to destroy, one required Wonder Woman to fight to the brink of death to defeat it. The other pretty much mowed their way through Earth's heroes pausing for soliloquy.
- Only Superman could fight one unaided. And he only did it well once he had been trained to remove his self-imposed physical restraints on his powers.
To have any chance at all against Superman you must attack at one of his key weaknesses and have a strategy:
- The chaotic energies of magic – he isn't weak to magic, he just gets far less of the bonuses normally associated with his invulnerability. Powerful users of magic have the best chance of being able to stop him with creative use of their powers.
- The deadly radioactive material, Kryptonite – the radiation from Kryptonite pushes his stored solar energy out of his body replacing it with the poisonous radiation and killing him. He becomes powerless and nearly unable to defend himself in any way. In the new DCnU, the availability of Green K is pretty rare, but it can be simulated with a Green Lantern's ring.
- You must fight him to a standstill draining away all of his stored solar energy and survive long enough to do that. (Only been done effectively, once, by Doomsday).
- Bring him into an environment where he no longer is able to recharge his solar energy, i.e. an arena with a red sun
- If you have psionic abilities, you may find Superman somewhat less difficult to handle, but several incarnations of the character had formidable mental defenses called Torquasm Vo and Torquasm Ro. And despite his lack of mental powers, his sheer willpower has defeated far stronger psychics.
- Recent data in the DCnU/New 52 indicates his new superpower – "Solar Flare" uses all of his power in a catastrophic explosion of energy, leaving him temporarily without use of his solar-derived Kryptonian abilities.
Heroes assigned to the Superman Hit Squad
- Zatanna, Zatara, and Doctor Fate: All are powerful users of magic, a primary weakness of Superman. They would have to be very crafty and likely would work best if all three of them were coordinated in their efforts. There are other lesser masters of magic, but their efforts would probably be insufficient to the task.
- The Spectre: Considered the wrath of God in previous versions of the DC Universe, his power was nearly without limits. Even Superman's prodigious abilities would be second to a fully unleashed, magically powered Spectre. Unfortunately the Spectre is an unreliable entity whose powers wax and wane often depending on the being acting as a host for his powers.
- Captain Marvel/Shazam: Easily capable of going toe to toe with Superman for at least a while, Captain Marvel's greatest advantage is the magical origins of his powers. Any magical manifestation of his power would give him a good chance of damaging Superman and gaining a possible advantage.
The good Captain has sucker-punched the Man of Steel for a quick KO. Most of the time their battles are much less conclusive.
- Wonder Woman: The strongest woman warrior in the DCnU, her physical prowess was once nearly the equal of Superman and she was trained as a warrior in a number of combat disciplines and doesn't hesitate to kill her enemies if she can. Superman acknowledges how dangerous she can be.
- Her skill with weapons has few equals in the Justice League and all of her weapons were forged by the Gods, making them magical and able to harm Superman.
- Of all the physical opposition capable of being rallied by the heroic side of the scoreboard, Wonder Woman is capable of bringing the smack-down with extreme prejudice.
- The Martian Manhunter: while he is just shy of Superman's raw physical power, his mental might is unequaled in the Justice League and he would be capable of attacking Superman both physically and mentally at the same time.
- In coordination with a team of heroes, the Manhunter's mental might would definitely keep Superman off-balance. His ability to coordinate the team would also aid in their chances of taking the day.
- Icon: an alien being whose physical powers equal or perhaps even exceed that of the Kryptonian. He has in the past proven to be capable of holding his own against Superman, which is no mean feat.
- Orion and Big Barda of the New Gods (whose fate is unknown in the DCnU): Both incredibly powerful beings, physically and technologically, they would definitely give Superman a run for his money. Both have weapons capable of emitting radion energy, a signature energy of their worlds, capable of harming or even killing Superman.
Orion of New Genesis – physically capable of holding his own in direct confrontation with the Man of Steel and has technology from New Genesis capable of harming him.
- The Green Lanterns of Earth (Kyle Rayner, Guy Gardner, Jon Stewart, and Hal Jordan) with their oanite rings powered by the Green energy of Oa, they are able to create functional radiation signatures similar to Kryptonite with comparable effects. They can also temper the radiation to limit the effect as well, binding or incapacitating him. Given the currently transforming state of the Lantern powers, their capabilities may be even greater than they have been in the past.
- Batman: A masterful fighter, one of the finest on Earth, has also kept a ring made of Kryptonite in case Superman ever went rogue. In previous continuities, it was Superman himself who suggested that Batman keep such a weapon, just in case. While exposed to Kryptonite, Superman would be far more vulnerable and with the proper application of force by Batman, he might be able to defeat Superman in a confrontation.
All this is assuming Superman wants to be stopped…
None of these scenarios guarantee anything. They only mean a coordinated attack with individuals who know his weaknesses and aren't facing a Superman intent on killing them have any chance at all.
If Superman were prepared and had decided to SUN-DIP, a state where he flies to the sun, immerses himself absorbing all the solar energy he is capable of holding and then some, if he returned to Earth, nothing Earth's heroes could muster have any chance of stopping him.
Sun-dipped Superman is capable of moving worlds…