Since his debut in 1938, Superman has been one of the most inspiring and heroic characters in all of comic books. No matter what obstacles may lie in his path, the Man of Steel always finds a way to overcome it, making it easy to see why he is such a strong symbol of hope.
However,.Clark Kent is definitely not perfect, and has even made some rather questionable choices over the years. In fact, some of his decisions and actions actually make it hard to consider him a hero. Looking at some of the highs and lows from his time as a character, here is our list of the 5 worst, and 5 most heroic things that Superman has ever done.
Worst: Everything With Lois Lane In The Silver Age
For as bright and hopeful a character as Superman is typically depicted, there was a time where he was actually more of a jerk than anything. Throughout the Silver Age of comic books, Superman treated his girlfriend, Lois Lane, rather horribly.
From making her fat to convincing her that he had killed himself, to cheating on her, and many more things, it is surprising that Lois Lane chose to remain in his company. Considering how horribly he treated her during these years, it was also hard to label the Man of Steel as a hero.
Heroic: Continuing The Fight
Even when doing the right thing is the wrong thing to do, fans can generally count on Superman to make the right choice and continue to fight the good fight. During Kurt Busiek’s (Camelot Falls) storyline, readers get to see the Man of Steel do just that.
When a magical being approaches Superman and asks him to stop saving the world, he also presents the idea that threats will grow more powerful to the point where even Superman cannot win. Faced with the impossible choice of letting few die to save the many, Clark then decides that he cannot just ignore someone in need, choosing to ignore the being and continue on as Superman. While the story offers a great look at Superman’s overall character, it also serves as a great reminder that even he is not alone in the world.
Worst: Adopting And Tormenting Jimmy Olsen
Alongside his tormenting of Lois Lane, Superman put his pal, Jimmy Olsen, through a much harder treatment. After adopting the young man within the comics, Superman’s treatment of Jimmy could actually be considered abusive.
Even though the duo are supposed to be friends, there is really no excuse for the way Superman treated Jimmy during this time. Furthermore, it is surprising that Jimmy put up with such treatment to begin with. Thankfully, Superman is unlikely to do something like this today, but it doesn’t change the fact that it is a permanent blemish on the character’s history.
Heroic: Pulled The Earth From The Dark Multiverse
One of the largest acts of heroism that Superman has ever accomplished is dragging the Earth out of the Dark Multiverse. Towards the end of DC’s Final Crisis series, Superman is one of the last few beings remaining after Darkseid's attack, but actually managed to save the entire planet from one of the most devastating attacks it had ever witnessed.
Granted, he did have a bit of help from other Supermen from across the multiverse, but it doesn’t change the nature of his heroism or the act itself. Thanks to stories like this, it is easy to see why some find the character to be too overpowered. However, his acts as a hero are also the reason he inspires so many beyond the comic pages alone.
Worst: Policed Earth
At one point during the '90s, the toll of being Superman really began to weigh on Clark. After designing his own satellites to help him get the job done wasn’t enough, Superman then created a robot army that resembled himself and began to police the Earth.
While it is scary enough to imagine a world where Clark loses control, it is also interesting to see him cross the line in this manner. Eventually, the villain Dominus is revealed to have been influencing Superman from afar, but it doesn’t change how terrible this action is.
Heroic: Sat With A Suicidal Person
In both All-Star Superman and Superman: Grounded, Superman has taken a very different approach to heroism. Instead of using his fists to solve the problem at hand, Clark actually chose to have a conversation, taking his time and actually listening to the problems of others.
Both of these stories feature a moment where Clark is having a conversation with a young woman about to jump to her death. Furthermore, while the premise of the two stories is similar, both offer different, yet equally fantastic, looks at Superman. Through stories like this, readers are reminded that Clark is also capable of experiencing human struggles, all while witnessing him find a non-violent or forceful solution to a problem.
Worst: Abandoning Earth
Whether it is briefly in stories like For Tomorrow or extended periods of time like in Kingdom Come, there have been times where Superman actually abandons Earth. Though he typically doesn’t leave it entirely defenseless, he knows how powerful he is and all the good he can do, and yet still chose to leave the world behind anyway.
Furthermore, while he typically has a good reason for making such a drastic decision, his responsibilities as Superman generally outweigh his own feelings, making it difficult to see him truly hanging up the cape in some instances. Likewise, given how often the world needs Superman within the DC universe, leaving everything behind doesn’t seem like the wisest decision ever.
Heroic: Give Up His Powers
Considering how much power Superman alone possesses, it is important for him to stay within certain boundaries in order to avoid abusing that power. However, thanks to stories like “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” readers get to see exactly what happens when that power is abused.
Following one of the deadliest assaults against superman yet, Clark knowingly and willingly ends up killing Mr. Mxyzptlk. Likewise, while some would argue that he was justified in this action, Superman also realized that he could no longer continue to wear the (S) after what he had done. In order to avoid becoming a horrific version of himself, Superman heroically chose to give up his powers and live as a human for the remainder of his days.
Worst: Killing Zod
While Superman often places certain limits on himself, there was actually a time where he broke his own rules and didn’t suffer any repercussions. At one point in the comics, Superman was actually pushed to kill Zod after seeing no other option.
Though Superman still felt horrible after the encounter, there weren’t really a lot of long term consequences for the Man of Steel. Once again, while some would argue that his actions were justified, it is still one of the worst things Superman has ever done.
Heroic: Sacrificing Himself
Of course, few other acts of heroism are greater than making the ultimate sacrifice. After the monster Doomsday began a rampage around the world, not even the efforts of the Justice League were able to stop him. Destroying virtually everything in his path, superman was the only thing that stood between Doomsday and the people of Earth.
After a very long and devastating battle, the two characters finally beat each other to death, with Superman having saved the planet once again. Though he would eventually make a return only a short while later, this is still one of the most heroic moments in his entire publication history.
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