It all started with a reader's e-mail. "Please help," wrote Ian Booth. "There's a huge argument between me and my mates. Who would win - a Jedi Knight or Superman?" In his 771-word response, HowStuffWorks staffer Robert Valdes examined the scenario from several angles. He shared his thoughts with the rest of us, and that was all it took. Before long, break-room and lunch talk revolved around who could take on Superman.
Superhero Image Gallery
In this article, we'll look at what it takes to beat Superman and whether a range of foes could win against him. Like Superman, our opponents are all stars from big-name movies, books and comic books. Let the games begin.
We'll begin with the question that started it all -- would Superman win in a fight against a Jedi Knight? Booth's e-mail raised several specific questions. Would a Jedi be fast enough to sense Superman's approach? Could the Jedi manipulate Superman in mid-air? Could a lightsaber be made from kryptonite?
Jedi are fast, and part of their training involves fighting without using their sight or other senses. But they don't quite reach Superman's speeding-bullet status. Physically, Superman has the upper hand.
Because of Superman's strength and speed, using the Force to manipulate him mid-flight would be a lot like manipulating a starship. If the Force could manipulate starships in flight, Darth Vader could have crashed all the X-wings during the Battle of Yavin. Or, Luke Skywalker could have destroyed all of the Star Destroyers during the Battle of Hoth. The logical conclusion is that Jedi are not capable of stopping something as strong and fast as a speeding starship. Some portrayals, like the "Clone Wars" series, do show Jedi performing extreme feats with the Force, but those feats come with a price. To even attempt to stop Superman in mid-flight could seriously injure or kill a Jedi.
Finally, there are two reasons why a Jedi wouldn't have a lightsaber made from kryptonite:
A lightsaber uses crystals to focus the blade, and gathering these crystals from the planet Ilum is a rite of passage for a Jedi. Under certain conditions, the crystals emit light and energy. Kryptonite is not typically crystalline; it's usually a metal or a rock. The crystalline versions of Kryptonite that have existed have emitted radiation, just like Green Kryptonite, rather than light or energy.
Kryptonite affects Superman because of its radioactive properties. Adding kryptonite would only make a lightsaber more deadly to him if the resulting weapon emitted the same radiation.
However, a lightsaber may be useful against Superman even without the presence of kryptonite, since magical weapons can harm him. If the Ilum crystals are by nature magical, then the blade might slice through Superman just like it can slice through Vader's arm. You can read more about lightsabers in How Lightsabers Work.
With these points in mind, it seems unlikely that a Jedi could defeat Superman, regardless of who has the high ground unless lightsabers are magical.
A Sith Lord, on the other hand, could be a formidable opponent for Superman. Unlike Jedi, Sith Lords don't hold themselves to a code of balance or fair play. They give in to powerful emotions like passion and rage, and they use the Force with a vengeance. Sith Lords also use synthetic crystals and make other adjustments to their lightsabers. They may be more likely to entertain the idea of making a kryptonite or magical lightsaber. Failing that, a Sith Lord may tune his lightsaber in such a way that it bypasses Superman's protective field.
A Sith Lord's no-holds-barred approach to wielding the Force also provides a potential advantage. So while he might not be able to stop Superman in midair, a Sith Lord could act first, unleashing the Force while Superman was on the ground. The ensuing fight between a Sith Lord and Superman has the potential to be long and brutal, especially as the Force weakens Superman. A Sith Lord could win, depending on:
How effectively and repeatedly he can strike Superman with a lightsaber or Force lightning
Whether these weapons have an effect on Superman If the Force and lightsabers can affect Superman, they could allow a Sith Lord to overcome the natural advantage Superman seems to gain when fighting evil.
Power of the Sun and Phone Booth Wars
Superman’s powers come largely from his exposure to Earth’s yellow sun, and the sun has been charging his solar batteries for nearly all of his life. While it’s unlikely at this point that Superman’s batteries could run down, we’ll assume that all of these battles mentioned in this article take place on Earth or in the presence of a similar star.
Suppose Superman took on the other person best known for creative use of a phone booth -- the Doctor of the BBC TV series "Doctor Who." To survive, the Doctor would need to rely on his ship, the TARDIS (really shaped like a police box, not a phone booth). The TARDIS is a time machine, and with it, the Doctor could avoid the fight, prevent it from happening or even prevent the planet Krypton from exploding.
Superman vs. the Death Star
Superman has x-ray and heat vision, freezing breath and an impenetrable field that surrounds his body and his clothing. He can move at tremendous speeds, and he can fly. The Death Star has 10,000 turbolaser batteries, 2,500 laser cannons, 2,500 ion cannons and 768 tractor beam projectors. It also has a Superlaser, which focuses the energy from the station's hypermatter reactor into a beam capable of destroying planets.
When fighting Superman, the Death Star's Superlaser might be a liability instead of an asset. The reactor's power output is comparable to that of a small star. Depending on how similar this energy is to that of a yellow sun, the laser might actually make Superman stronger. But even without a power boost from the Superlaser, Superman would still be invulnerable to the Death Star's other weaponry. Even if the Death Star managed to trap Superman in its tractor beams, it might not be able to penetrate his skin with its weapons.
In addition, Superman wouldn't need to find a two-meter-wide thermal exhaust port in order to destroy the Death Star. His strength and dexterity would allow him to punch his way through the hull to access to the space station's reactor. He could then use his heat vision to start a chain-reaction and fly out again to escape from the resulting explosion.
To defend itself against Superman, the Death Star could leave the vicinity of any yellow sun and stay so far away that Superman couldn't reach it before losing his powers. But this might only delay the inevitable -- Superman's body has stored so much energy from the Earth's sun that his batteries may never run out. Then, the Empire could retrofit its weaponry to use kryptonite ordnance. Otherwise, the Death Star would fall quickly.
We'll look at what would happen if Superman fought superheroes from a galaxy closer to home in the next section.
Superman vs. Superheroes
The most logical people to pit against Superman are other superheroes. Even though they can't all beat Superman, many can at least hold him off for a while. Most of the superheroes we'd like to see go head-to-head against him are from Marvel Comics rather than D.C. Comics. The barrier between those worlds would have to fall for a while to let these brawls take place.
Some of the X-Men might be able to take on Superman without a lot of help. A fight between Wolverine and Superman, for example, would be like an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. Superman is stronger and faster, but Wolverine has his adamantium skeleton and claws. Ultimately, the outcome depends on how strong and sharp adamantium really is and whether it can stand up to Superman's strength and heat vision. Wolverine's healing factor might give him a slight edge, but not if Superman hurls him into the sun. The outcome of their fight would depend on luck, chance and cunning.
While Wolverine might hold his own while fighting Superman physically, Professor X and Jean Grey -- even pre-Phoenix Jean Grey -- are ideally suited to fighting him telepathically. Both are powerful psychics, and Superman has no defense against psychic attacks. Either character could defeat him by entering and destroying his mind, especially if they caught Superman by surprise.
Another good opponent from the X-Men is Rogue, whose mutant abilities allow her to absorb ordinary people's strength and memories as well as mutants' superpowers. With a little luck, Rogue could touch Superman and absorb his powers. If she held on long enough, she could kill him, but it's unlikely that Superman would allow her to do so.
However, the power Rogue absorbs may be the ability to gain strength from the Earth's yellow sun rather than the physical manifestations of that strength. If that's the case, she would lose the ability she absorbed long before becoming strong enough to fight Superman. In addition, Superman is much faster than Rogue is, so she'd need perfect timing or the assistance of other X-Men to distract him while she made her move.
With members like Rogue, Professor X and Wolverine, it seems obvious that a team of X-Men could overpower Superman with ease. However, his speed, hearing and physical invulnerability could make the battle difficult -- the mission would require extensive planning and careful execution.
Another Marvel character who might be a worthy foe for Superman is Galactus, also known as the Devourer of Worlds. Superman can reverse the spinning of the Earth to reverse time, but Galactus consumes entire planets. He's is an immense being who can wield the Power Cosmic, a force so powerful that Galactus has to wear special armor to contain it. On a purely physical level, he's bigger, heavier, stronger and more powerful than Superman. Beyond that, he's the Third Force of the Universe and keeps the balance between Eternity and Death. Fighting Galactus would be much like fighting a god.
However, if Superman is invulnerable to the Power Cosmic, it wouldn't matter how big or strong Galactus is. Superman would be able to outmaneuver him, and eventually Galactus's power would wane as he became hungry for another world to devour.
Superman vs. Batman, Chuck Norris, and Kaiser Soze
We could talk at length about whether Batman could defeat Superman. But lots of people have done so already, including Frank Miller in "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns." A movie called "Superman vs. Batman" was even in the works as recently as 2002. It all comes down to the creative use of kryptonite, combining it with Batman's cunning and technical savvy.
If Chuck Norris can turn up the sun when he gets cold, he can turn it down when he fights Superman.
Superman is big and strong, but Kaiser Soze is wily. Could he con the Man of Steel into doing something deadly? Maybe. But in spite of his skill at disguising his identity, Kaiser Soze certainly couldn't convince anyone that he's really Superman.
Superman vs. Magic
In some ways, magic is the new kryptonite. Superman has no defense against it, and it can affect him greatly. He's fought many powerful magicians, many of whom have been difficult to defeat. The outcome of these battles depends on strategy and exactly what kind of magical powers he's facing.
At first glance, Gandalf the Grey, a wizard from "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," is no match for Superman. After all, he seems to be an elderly gentleman with a staff and a pointy hat who can make fireworks. But the important thing to remember is that Gandalf single-handedly defeated the Balrog known as Durin's Bane, an enormous, fiery demon inadvertently unearthed in the Mines of Moria.
Gandalf and the Balrog are both of the Maiar -- powerful spirits present from the beginning of the world. The Maiar are second only to the Valar, the godlike beings who sang the world into existence. Gandalf isn't just an old man with a stick, and the Balrog isn't just a monster made of fire. They're both essentially demigods.
If you don't remember Gandalf's fight with the Balrog, here's how it went down. The foes met on the bridge of Khazad-dùm in the Mines of Moria. Gandalf stood between it and the rest of the Fellowship. He broke the bridge, and he and the Balrog both fell. Gandalf chased the Balrog for eight days, then fought it for two days and nights. Finally, he threw the Balrog from the top of a mountain, and its fall broke the mountainside. After the Balrog fell, Gandalf died.
The Balrog succeeded in killing Gandalf for one reason; when their battle began, Gandalf was already weary. If he faced Superman rested and refreshed, their battle would resemble his fight with the Balrog or Superman's first fight with Doomsday. Doomsday is the only being that has ever managed to kill Superman.
In fact, Gandalf and the Balrog are similar in much the same way that Superman and Doomsday are. Gandalf and the Balrog are both Maiar, and Superman and Doomsday are both super-powered beings from Krypton. Both pairs are like two sides of the same coin. Buildings crumbled around the brawling Superman and Doomsday, and a mountain peak turned into lava and rock as Gandalf and the Balrog fought.
A fight between Superman and Gandalf would be similar -- the landscape around them would shatter from its impact. But, in the end, Gandalf is immortal, and he's nearly a god. Even though he doesn't have the youthful appearance or visually stunning powers that Superman does, he has the divine power to outlast and eventually overpower him. In addition, although he doesn't wield fireballs, Gandalf has power that most people would call magical and which can affect Superman.
Superman vs. Harry Potter
Gandalf doesn't create many visual displays of magic, but Harry Potter does. Even though he's just a teenager and hasn't completed his magical training, Harry Potter has plenty of ammunition against Superman. Whether it's something as silly as the Bat-Bogey Hex or as devastating as Avada Kedavra, Superman has no defense against magic.
The real question is whether Harry would stoop to using one of the Unforgivable Curses on Superman. With the Imperius Curse, Harry could force Superman to do something deadly, like walk into a room full of kryptonite. He could also debilitate Superman with the Cruciatus Curse, which causes pain so intense that it can drive victims insane. Or, he could kill Superman directly with the Killing Curse.
However, the three curses that could bring a swift and deadly end to a fight with Superman are also the three that Harry is least likely to use. All three are forbidden in the wizarding community. The only wizards who use them are Dark wizards, aligned with Voldemort. However, Harry has a Batman-like desire to avenge the killing of his parents. If Harry were convinced that Superman killed Lily and James Potter, he might react with the Unforgivable Curses.
Even without those curses, Harry knows plenty of spells that could slow down or stop Superman. A quick Petrificus Totalus would paralyze Superman completely. Various hexes and jinxes could also slow him down. But without an Unforgivable Curse, Harry wouldn't be able to end the fight. He'd need to enlist Hermione Granger, who could either find a source for kryptonite, find a magical way to create it or find a spell to mimic its effects.
Harry would also need both Hermione and Ron Weasley to help him strategize. Some spells require the caster to be able to see his target, and Superman's speed could make that impossible. Hermione, Ron and Harry would have to work together to keep Superman from simply flying up to Harry and breaking his wand. For Harry to defeat Superman, he'd have to have the right motivation and very careful planning.
Regardless of the opponent, any battle against Superman requires the right combination of luck, skill, strategy and weaponry.
For lots more information about Jedi, Superman and related topics, check out the links on the next page.
Superman vs. Loud Noises and Evil Willow
Superman's hypersensitive hearing isn't always an asset, since it makes him particularly vulnerable to sonic attacks. For example, he might find himself unable to defeat the Witch-king of Angmar, the leader of the Nazgul in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. The Witch-king cannot be defeated by man, which his why Eowyn, a woman, was able to destroy him. Superman technically isn't a man (he's a Kryptonian) but that loophole won't defend him against the Witch-king's piercing voice.
In season six of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," Willow Rosenberg gives in to dark magic. Earlier in the season, she demonstrated a flair for tinkering with time and dimensions. In the end, she flayed someone alive before trying to channel energy that would destroy the world. In addition to her immense power, Willow is unpredictable and grief-stricken, which would make her a formidable and reckless opponent. Most likely, Xander, often portrayed as the most useless member of the Scooby gang, would have to come to Superman's rescue.