Comic Book Questions Answered – How Many People Has Superman Killed? Comics Should be Good

  

Comic Book Questions Answered – How Many People Has Superman Killed?

Comic Book Questions Answered – where I answer whatever questions you folks might have about comic books (feel free to e-mail questions to me at brianc@cbr.com). Here is a link to an archive of all the past questions that have been answered so far.

After reading my Movie Legends Revealed column about whether Batman actually killed anyone in the comic ic book that Zack Snyder used as the basis for Batman killing people in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, reader David R. wrote to me to ask a similar question about Superman, namely that he heard people talk about Superman’s history of killing people and wanted to know what was the comic book basis for that. Interesting question, David! Read on for what i could come up with! (NOTE: I won’t be counting alternate universes like Injustice: Gods Among Us or Imaginary Stories like Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow…although, to be fair, all comic book stories are imaginary, wocka wocka).

Clearly, the most famous example of Superman killing occurred in Superman #22, the last issue of John Byrne’s Post-Crisis run on Superman. Superman resorted to flat-out killing three Phantom Zone villains who had just wiped out an entire pocket Earth (BILLIONS of people)….

superman22

In the issues to come, new writers Jerry Ordway and Roger Stern would have Superman suffer a nervous breakdown and a split personality over what he had done, adopting the Gangbuster identity…

gangbuster1

gangbuster2

And then Superman would exile himself into outer space…

superman28

And that was the plan from the beginning. Note the last panel in Byrne’s last issue…

superman22a

So while people point to this storyline a lot to show Superman’s willingness to kill, do note that it messed him up BIG TIME. So it wasn’t like this was just thing he did and it was no big deal to him.

Okay, so that’s the major example, but there have been others.

Golden Age Superman wasn’t necessarily a killer, but it’s clear that he didn’t particularly give a hoot if people died. That isn’t to say that he killed them himself. In this bit from Action Comics #2/Superman #1, Superman makes a war profiteer change his ways by bringing him to a war.

Superman hurtles a torturer and sure looks like he kills him…

superman1a

And Superman knocks down a plane and we see no parachute….

superman1b

In Superman #2 (by Siegel and Shuster, as well), Superman accidentally exposes a dude to poison gas and doesn’t save him. I think this pretty much counts as killing the dude…

superman2

superman2a

Go to the next page for some more modern examples…


11 Comments

M Hardwick

July 23, 2016 at 10:49 am

Something about the title isn’t quite right.

Brian Cronin

July 23, 2016 at 11:06 am

Oops, that was actually fixed, but it takes awhile for the cache to catch up.

Fraser

July 23, 2016 at 11:39 am

JLA 9, first series. Superman breaks down a diamond creature into coal,apparently killing it. Jokes about it later.

Michael

July 23, 2016 at 11:42 am

Re: the Cyborg Superman- in the Hunter/Prey series, Darkseid seemingly kills the Cyborg (but of course didn’t and is just plotting to use him in some evil scheme), and Superman objects, claiming that when he destroyed the Cyborg’s body before he knew his consciousness would survive.

Serge Julien

July 23, 2016 at 12:17 pm

Superman : It’s a bird , it’s a plane, nope it’s Super Killer …,

Jeff R.

July 23, 2016 at 2:23 pm

Sentient robots absolutely count, and it is absolutely shameful to see you endorcing silver-age Superman’s robo-racism.

Ragnar

July 23, 2016 at 7:27 pm

In Jeff Loeb’s Superman/Batman team up comic, fairly early on they killed a lot of people using the excuse that they’d fix it with time travel.

Chad Smith

July 23, 2016 at 8:03 pm

I remember, when I was young, seeing a very old serial of Superman(maybe from the 40’s-I’d watch anything superhero related as a kid even if it was 35 years before I was born) and he was fighting people on top of a skyscraper and had no problem throwing them over the edge. I was shocked and horrified seeing him do that.

But then again he did leave 2 people stranded on top of a mountain to protect his secret identity in the 50’s TV show. I remember seeing that one as well and thinking “WTF did I just see?”

Converge241

July 23, 2016 at 8:34 pm

Why did Supes need an oxygen mask while exiled in space?

Michael

July 23, 2016 at 8:39 pm

Byrne’s Superman couldn’t breathe in space.

otakuevolution

July 23, 2016 at 11:00 pm

Ah, the Supergirl Saga. I still can’t parse my feelings about it completely, because part of me loves it and part of me hates it, and both just as intensely. The whole “pocket universe Earth” was to explain away the history of Superboy in the continuing LoSH continuity, right? I thought it was sort of clever.

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