A lot of people think Superman is unbeatable – which, of course, he isn’t. He can be and has been beaten many times before. Even though he’s extremely physically durable, he’s been outright beaten to death, but that’s certainly not the most effective method of defeating him.
There are actually a number of more effective ways to overcome the Man of Steel without even touching him. Yes, you read that right, Superman can be defeated without the need for physical contact.
Various methods across numerous sources of fictional media are capable of bringing the Kryptonian hero down to his knees – or even killing him – which enemies can perform by using their minds or by using other non-physical means.
We aren’t saying that these methods will always work or that Superman couldn’t fight back against the enemies who might use them, we’re just saying that they can work if the conditions are right.
This article will list ten ways to defeat Superman without actually touching him…
Let’s start with the most obvious examples of ways to defeat Superman without touching him – the most prominent of which is undoubtedly Kryptonite.
Kryptonite is a substance derived from the remains of Superman’s home planet of Krypton. It is green and generally rock-like in texture, but the radiation it gives off can be detrimental to the Man of Steel.
The extent to which it harms him tends to vary from writer to writer, however. In some cases, small amounts have completely incapacitated him while, in other cases, he has managed to continue fighting despite being completely surrounded by it.
Anybody who happens to wield the substance is capable of defeating the hero. Kryptonite Man is an obvious example, as he has the ability to emit the harmful radiation. Others who have used it against Superman include Lex Luthor and Batman.
After Kryptonite, the next most well-known way that Superman can be defeated is definitely by magical means.
Contrary to common opinion, Superman is not specifically weak to magic any more than you or I are specifically weak to being punched, but the fact is that he is no more resistant to it than the average person – and there’s a big difference between the two.
Magic has been used to harm Superman in various ways – both physically and mentally. Characters who are physically empowered by magic seem to have a slight edge over him, in spite of their strength being similar to his, while magical blasts have hurt him, but in terms of magic being used against the Man of Steel without touching the him, he has been mind-controlled by it several times, contained by it several times and much more.
A great example of a character who has proven able to best the Kryptonian with non-physical magic would be Arion, the Atlantean sorcerer who immobilised him and mind-controlled him using a spell. Another example of someone who could defeat him is Zatanna, who could, for example, say “peels” (“sleep” backwards) to put him to sleep.
Red Sun Radiation
When Superman – or indeed any Kryptonian – is on his home planet of Krypton, he is essentially the same as an Earth human. It is only when he’s on Earth – or anywhere else in the presence of our yellow sun – that he is empowered to his famous super-powered levels.
On Krypton, there is a red sun and whenever he is exposed to the radiation or energy from that, he loses all of his powers, which enemies can use to weaken and defeat him.
It doesn’t cause him any harm – and actually leaves him as healthy as any regular human – but without his powers he is effectively useless against his usual gallery of rogues.
Anyone who can access such energies can use it against him. Those characters have included Lex Luthor and Batman.
Although he does have some resistance to it, some characters with powerful enough telepathy are indeed able to influence Superman’s mind.
Whether it be by using telepathy to mind-control the Man of Steel, by using it to put him to sleep or by using it to make him experience horrific illusions, with enough telepathic force, his willpower can undoubtedly be overcome and his mind can definitely be overtaken.
More often than not, the Kryptonian hero shrugs off such powers, but there is no doubt that he can be beaten by it in various ways if conditions permit it, as he has been controlled numerous times (seriously, it’s like the most attempted trick in the book!).
Characters with enough telepathic oomph to have influenced Superman’s mind in the past include Manchester Black, Maxwell Lord, the Insect Queen, Martian Manhunter, Eclipso and Nudge.
Unlike the aforementioned telepathy, one psionic power that Superman has absolutely no defense against is telekinesis.
Telekinesis is the ability to move and physically affect things with your mind and, given that the attack isn’t actually based on contact, Superman has no real way of fighting it off.
The Kryptonian hero can be thrown around like a rag doll if his opponent’s telekinesis is powerful enough – which some of it is, as telekinesis can effectively double up as super-strength in some cases – but there are other more intricate ways that it can be used against him.
The best example of a character using telekinesis against Superman is Manchester Black. The English anti-hero used his powers to induce a stroke in the Man of Steel by pinching the capillaries in his brain to induce a stroke.
Superman can be defeated by visual powers. To start off this point, we should probably explain exactly what we actually mean by visual powers.
Visual powers are powers that are activated when the victim simply looks at the character who possesses the power in question.
There are characters who can defeat opponents when other characters simply look at them. Although such characters aren’t all powerful enough to have their powers work on those as powerful as Superman, there are certainly some who possess enough power for it to work on the Man of Steel.
Examples could include Johnny Sorrow, who is so hideous that looking at him can kill people, but it turns characters as powerful as as powerful as the wizard Shazam to stone and even badly injured Doctor Mid-Nite – and he’s blind! Other characters could include Jasmine from the Buffyverse, who magically gets people under her control when they look at her.
Teleportation / Dimension-Dumping
Some abilities that are noticeably missing from Superman’s power-set are teleportation and inter-dimensional travel.
As a result of those facts, those powers are legitimate ways to defeat him – and there are various ways in which they could be used to do so.
By using dimension-traversing powers, some characters are capable of sending people and objects to other dimensions with just a thought, which Superman would be unable to return from under his own power. And some teleporters are capable of doing the same (not inter-dimensionally, of course), which could mean teleporting the Man of Steel into the middle or a red sun or inside a solid object.
Characters capable of doing these kinds of things could include anyone wielding Marvel’s Zodiac Key, Mister Mxyzptlk, Darkseid or pretty much any magic user worth his or her salt.
Threaten Those He Loves
Superman is a true hero. As a general rule, he has morals and is a decent guy. He also has a lot of people around him who he cares for and loves – and that can be a weakness for a hero. Therefore, if a character threatens those people, there’s every chance Superman could surrender and admit defeat.
The kind of people we’re talking about include his Earth parents Martha and Jonathan Kent, his longtime love interests Lois Lane and Lana Lang, his Kryptonian family (such as Supergirl, Power Girl and his dog Krypto), his fellow Justice League members and even good old Jimmy Olsen.
Superman would even sacrifice himself for some of those people and that’s an emotional weakness that his enemies know they can exploit.
Characters that have done this kind of thing before include the likes of The Joker, Lex Luthor and Darkseid.
Superman has absolutely no resistance to the formidable and virtually unlimited power of reality warping.
By its very nature, it can alter anything in existence to suit the wielder’s needs and, while Superman has never physically been effected by it before (i.e. nobody has ever turned him into a teapot or anything like that), he has been a victim of its consequences, such as in the Emperor Joker story arc, when he found himself in a completely altered universe.
The most powerful reality warpers can change things on a cosmic scale and, unlike some characters in fiction (like Marvel’s Thanos and Doctor Doom, for example), Superman has never shown any resistance to it.
Characters who wield such power include Mister Mxyzptlk (who is so powerful that he does regularly toy with Superman), Lucifer Morningstar and Vyndktvx – all of whom could remove Superman from existence with a mere thought, if they wished.
Energy manipulation is a little-known but extremely effective method of defeating Superman – and it’s one that can be used in various ways.
First of all, certain energy manipulators can generate forms of radiation, so some of Superman’s opponents could create Kryptonite radiation or red sun radiation in order to weaken him. They could also pull the yellow sun energy out of his body to remove his superpowers and effectively render him mortal.
But there are also other forms of energy that Superman has proven weak against – such as the extra-dimensional Q-Energy or even the aforementioned magical energy. If any opponent can create or manipulate these things, Superman would be in danger.
Powerful energy manipulators who could be capable of such feats include Johnny Sorrow, any power ring wielder in the DC universe, or Marvel characters like the Silver Surfer and Thanos.
What do you think? Can Superman be beaten via these methods? What other ways can the Man of Steel be defeated without even touching him? Have your say below!