The 5 Worst Superman Villains

Honorable Mention: Doomsday

Doomsday is a character that a lot of people hate for being a gimmick but he’s actually a brilliant villain for when he was created. In fact I think he’s the perfect villain for the time he was created.  It’s 1992 Marvel comics is riding high with it’s X-Men and Spider-Man titles, Image comics has suddenly become the new hot thing introducing a brand new hot character every-other month, and over at DC everyone’s raving about Vertigo.  Comic fans tastes have grown decisively grim and gritty.  The big blue boy scout has never been seen as more passe. The Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman TV has been announced but it’s going to be a romantic comedy and  with the super heroics as an after-thought.

So in this environment a character that looks like the illegitimate spawn of The Hulk and Rob Liefeld’s worst nightmare covered in chromium spikes is coming to literally bludgeon Superman to death.  That’ brilliant. Seriously that’s some Morrison-grade stuff. The problem is they kept bringing Doomsday over and over again to diminishing returns. Whether it’s an elaborate new backstory, new powers, or suddenly making him intelligent pretty every attempt at revising the character has fell flat.  This is partially because the initial Doomsday/Superman story was so well done that all other Superman/Doomsday punch-fests seem redundant.  It’s also partially because bringing back a villain so closely tied to zeitgeist of the era he was created in is like bringing back that Captain America villain who turned out to be Richard Nixon today.

5. Terra-Man

Terra-Man is sort of like a hair metal band that had the misfortune of forming after “Smells Like Teen Spirit” hit the radio. Like seriously if Otto Binder did a one-shot story about a  time-traveling cowboy with alien weapons on a flying horse fighting Superman it probably would have retained a bit of charm.  Unfortunately Terra-Man isn’t a Silver-Age character but a 70s character that seems painfully out of place.  He’s also way less fun than a time-traveling space cowboy on a flying horse should be. His origin is that he’s a wild west outlaw that got abducted by aliens and found his way back in back on earth in modern times. He’s also a raving xenophobe because… heaven forbid an alien weapon wielding cowboy be too fun.  Though ultimately the biggest problem is that like many lame villains he ultimately feels like he shouldn’t be much of a match for Superman.

The character got a much needed revamp as a completely different character in Dan Jurgen’s run (basically as a Planteer gone bad) but that didn’t stop him from getting offed by Black Adam in 52.

4. Conduit

So Kenny Braverman (ugh) was a former Smallville classmate of Clark Kent’s was abused by his father, got exposed to kryptonite radiation, got powers, and built a suit of armor seeking revenge on our hero.  This sounds exactly like a filler episode of Smallville yet for some reason DC spent hyping this guy as the next classic Superman villain.  Heck he was the only villain Doomsday to be featured in Kenner’s Man of Steel action figure line. He was also the key figure in a story-line where the world thought Clark Kent was dead leaving Superman without a civilian identity.

Writer Dan Jurgens ended up killing off Braverman (again, ugh) in his inaugural story and no one saw fit to bring this totally generic character.  At least until Zack Synder actually gave Kenny Braverman a cameo in Man of Steel.  On a side note I feel genuinely bad for including several Dan Jurgens characters on this list as I think Jurgens is actually one of the all-time great Superman writers and that he doesn’t get proper respect because his run was a product of (and a response to) the chromium age.

3.  Repo Man

Remember those halcyon days of the early 00s when we all thought Chuck Austen’s hilariously awful X-Men run was the worst thing that could ever happen to that franchise? Well after bringing the X-Men to to the realm of inadvertent comedy DC decided to sign Austen to an exclusive deal. Rumors began to circulate that Quesada had sent Austen as a mole to sabotage DC from within. Ok I actually started those rumors.  Like right now. But think about it makes sense.

As an X-Men writer Austen was a baffling phenomenon.  Fans and retailers alike almost universally despised his stories, yet he wrote one of Marvel’s fiscally successful books month in and month out.  Everyone hated it but everyone bought it.  His Action Comics run however was so poorly received in terms of sales that the final two issues were released under the anonymous pen-name “J.D. Finn.” There’s actually some debate over whether another writer was brought in to finish up the storyline under an assumed name or if DC thought people would buy Chuck Austen comics if they just didn’t have Chuck Austen’s name on them.

Chuck Austen’s brief tenor as a Superman writer produced some original villains. One of them Preus is actually born of a a pretty clever idea. (At least impressively clever by the standards of a guy who gave us a werewolf named Maximus Lobo) See Preus is a Xenophobe from Kandor who falls in with some white supremacists from earth who are totally willing to submit to an alien conqueror because he looks like a White dude. The other villain… Repo Man is just ugh.  He’s a skinny loser who thinks women don’t like him because he’s skinny, gets exposed to artificial Kryptonite (At Preus’s manipulation) that turns him into the Hulk and gets into a fight where he somehow manages to fight off the combined forces of Superman, Super Boy, and Krypto.  Then his powers wear off and Clark knocks him out but not until he’s ranted about wanting to have his way with all of the women in Superman’s life including Ma Kent.  Ewwww… just ewww.

Anyway at least Austen got a happy ending serving as a producer on Steven Universe and helping create Penn Zero: Part Time Hero for the Disney Channel.

2. Zod (Avruiskin of Pokolistan)

Initially a very obscure villain General Zod was an inspired choice for Superman II because he provides a threat that Superman can actually have a fist-fight with without requiring you to shill out the special effects money required for someone like Bizzaro.  Because Terrance Stamp was so memorable in the movie numerous creators have used Zod and save for a memorable John Byrne story it never seems to work.

The most Zod-awful version of General Zod isn’t Kryptonian and he’s not even general.  Avruiskin was the son of Russian Cosmonauts who was exposed to radiation and gets weaker in yellow sunlight but stronger in Red sunlight. The ghost of the original Zod appeared in a vision to him and apparently signed over the rights to his brand name. Avruiskin then built a suit of sunlight filtering Iron Man armor and took over a tiny Eastern European country where he plotted to take over the world. Somehow writer Joe Kelly had set out to create a new General Zod and ended up ripping off Doctor Doom.

Zod then sent a number of different villains to fight Superman even though the two had never actually met. This was a very long and complicated storyline that was interrupted by DC’s “Our Worlds At War” crossover (coming soon to a worst crossover list near you.)  The whole affair ended with Zod accidentally killing himself trying to ram into Superman while his powers were in flux and nothing of value was lost.

1.  Toyman (90s Incarnation)

Toyman is one of countless gimmick villains introduced by the Golden Age and one of the few that stuck around. The thing is most of these villains weren’t really based on the idea of creating clever schemes that our heroes would have to clean up. One of Toyman’s biggest problems is that his gimmick is near identical to that of the Prankster so writers have tried a number ways to set the two apart.  Thankfully the toy theme lends itself well to a lot of different interpretations. Perhaps this is why we’ve had such radically different takes on the character in Superfriends, Superman The Animated Series, and Smallville.  Unfortunately one of these takes was just downright toxic.

In Superman #84 and #85 Dan Jurgens decided to make a child abducting serial killer who sleeps in a giant crib and rants incoherently about his mother. At best this is fodder for a throwaway Batman story but then he murders Cat Grant’s son Adam in the kind of bad story that has the half-life of Strontium-90. Realizing the mess they had made DC had spent the next decade doing a painful series of reboots including replacement characters, a retcon involving Zatana’s mind-whipes from Identity Crisis, and finally revealing that the serial killer Toyman was actually malfunctioning robot built by the real Toyman.  

So yes the character’s utterly repellent, the story’s a complete downer, and it’s the kind of antagonist that has no business being in a superman story.  But what really puts this one over the top is that Jurgens admitted on twitter that if he did it all over again Superman would have saved the kid.

‘Saturday is market day and the usually sleepy place awakens. Booths spring up and the farmers flock in to offer their produce. Rows of stolid looking cheeses are lined up like so many corpses awaiting identification. Cabbages, cauliflowers and apples are everywhere, piled in heaps. The hot chestnut vendor calls his wares and the ubiquitous faker harangues his credulous audience. The hum of voices in barter fills the air. Soldiers everywhere, en repos, or just passing through. Clad in their horizon-blue uniform, topped with their steel casque, they stroll around. it’s at the market that I first mixed with the poilus and found that their rough, cheery philosophy and kindly bonhomie make them the most lovable comrades.’

Behind the Wheel of a War Ambulance – Robert Whitney Imbrie, WW1 American ambulance driver

Repo the Genetic Opera & The Devil's Carnival sentences

• “I am only living out a lie.”
• “It’s a thankless job, but somebody gotta do it.”
• “It could change your life rest assured.”
• “Who’s there? Stay back.”
• “Let your life be a dream.”
• “I can’t have guests.”
• “(insert name) steals all the hearts.”
• “Technically you belong to (insert name)”
• “Didn’t you say that you’d protect me didn’t you?”
• “Let the monster rise.”
• “But he always has a way of finding you.”
• “An entire city built on top of the dead.”
• “I could smell the dead.”
• “I’d be lost if I were to lose you.”
• “Now I am sequestered, part of the collection.”
• “I’m lost without you here.”
• “I am the monster.”
• “I am the villain.”
• “I will find a hole and fuck it
• “Someone’s going to hang if I don’t get my coffee!”
• “Why relive that moment?”
• “Remember who you are.”
• “But you could learn from all my failures.”
• “Don’t look back, till you’re free to chase the morning.”
• “I’ve always longed for true affection.”
• “I must be brave, come, come what may.”
• “Bloodbath, it’s gonna be a bloodbath
• “All you’ve ever told me every word is a lie.”
• “But I didn’t know I love you so much.”
• “And the castle is left for the taking.”
• “And it’s my job to steal and rob.”
• “I’ve deceived the only one that matters.”
• “Liar! You said you trusted me.”
• “I…I trust you.”
• “A few pennies more.”
• “You’re map is utterly useless.”
• “Trust me, trust me darling dear.”
• “There’s no need to fear.”
• “Trust me, like I trust you.”
• “Missed me, missed me.”
• “Na na na-na na.”
• “My friend the rules are changing.”
• “Let me take all of you in.”
• “What is this place?”
• “Take only what you need?”
• “Open the fucking door!”
• “Need I remind you of the rules?”
• “Help me, help me, they’re coming for me.”
• “ Wanna help me out here? I’m locked in this stupid cage.”
• “C'mon, I’m not gonna bite.”
• “Let me lighten your load… “
• “Now let’s play a game.”
• “Shadow takes all, my pet”
• “The knife in my back, it reminds me of you.”
• “And in their name, let’s drink to true love.”
• “Remember that you were warned.”
• “ I am the excuse you give when you can not follow the rules.”
• “Come here for redemption.”
• “And tied me up with sheets.”
• “The curtains ran between my legs.”
• “As you’ll note, The Rules are clearly stated.”