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Superman is one of the most powerful heroes in the comic world, with a fan base and following that will defend his sometimes seemingly limitless strength and ability to overcome every adversary presented before him tooth and nail.
Darkseid is the polar opposite, with powers to match the Son of Krypton. Ruler of the dark Planet Apokolips and one of the New Gods in the DC Universe. His existence may be eternal as long as there is evil and death; there will be Darkseid.
I will be exploring the history of these two juggernauts before pitting them in a one-on-one hypothetical battle.
I will use their past encounters, their victories and defeats, and all the powers shown to be commonly available to them.
These Gods amongst their peers will battle it out until only one is standing.
Tale of the Tape
Clark Kent AKA Superman(Kal-El)
- Powers: Super strength, flight, invulnerability, super speed, heat vision, freeze breath, x-ray vision, superhuman hearing, and a healing factor.
- First Appearance: ACTION COMICS #1 (1938)
- Hardest Opponent: Doomsday. Sorry Darkseid, there is perhaps still nothing more iconic than the fact Doomsday and Superman fought one another to the death. While it may have been retconned, it lingers in the air of comicdom and superhero lore as historical trivia.
- Weaknesses: Kryptonite, Magic, minor weakness to electric currents
- Advantage: A more extensive array of powers, more commonly in combat with mighty foes.
Darkseid (pronounced Dark Side)
- Powers: Super strength, invulnerability, genius-level intellect, teleportation, and energy blasts(omega beams).
- First Appearance: SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN #134 (1970, but only at the end)
- Hardest Opponent: Superman. These two have battles on multiple worlds and in numerous Universes. Where some other heroes or foils occasionally do arise for Darkseid, the Man of Steel has foiled him the most, though Orion makes a good case.
- Weaknesses: Radion, his Omega Beams.
- Advantage: Ruthless, extremely good at maintaining his composure during any conflict, and access to insanely advanced technology.
The Man of Steel
While running through the lore of Clark Kent and his history, one can find that consistency is not always rampant in the blue-suited hero’s tale. So, for the sake of comparing, I’ll bring only the most consistent lore for the Metropolis-based superhero into consideration.
Born on Krypton, raised on Earth, Superman’s body has absorbed the sun’s solar energy and developed altered physiology. It has made him capable of taking a tank shell to the chest as if it was a pillow. He’s just slower than the Flash and has been shown to fly quick enough and with enough force to reverse the Earth’s rotation on more than one occasion.
Did that make time go backward in a movie once? I’m not going to…look Christopher Reeves was an excellent Clark Kent. The point is that Superman is super fast.
The man is nearly unbreakable inside and out. His willpower has been tested against the mighty of the Green Lantern ring’s power repeatedly. Unless he faces the Joker, which is relevant for a later point.
He can freeze moving water with his breath, which is an incredibly odd but useful power to bestow upon him. He can shoot lasers of such intensity he may even be able to pierce his skin. As shown in alternate timelines, these lasers once lobotomized Doomsday. Doomsday’s hide is equally as indestructible as the Man of Steel.
Superman has ripped through asteroids, taken blows from literal Gods in the DC Universe, and come back from death not once but twice. That’s right, even when finally injured, the Man of Steel can heal. Not quickly, but completely, over time.
This is the hero that embodies the idealism of an indestructible symbol. How can you ever test a hero that can’t be defeated? You give him some weaknesses.
Green kryptonite weakens him by stripping him of his powers. At the same time, other colors of it have different effects but are equally rough on the Kryptonian.
Magic has often been his foe, and here and there, some sorcerers or inter-dimensional beings have given him a run for his money. Not to mention other survivors of Krypton.
Oh, and then there’s the Dark God himself, Darkseid. He brings with him into the DC Universe an entire world full of trouble that has invaded Earth on more than one occasion.
See also: Spiderman vs Wolverine: Web vs Claw
Home to its Despot Ruler, Darkseid, Apokolips is an ecumenopolis. That means a planet covered entirely by a city. It is a world where most lives are that of enslaved workers who do nothing but the will of their leader, Darkseid.
Darkseid wishes all known life to mimic this world and bend and bow to his will. Creating technology for him and proving worthy of his praise via feats of great strength or will in combat.
He uses Mother Boxes to mutate and mold individuals into parademons or some of his Female Furies. Warriors who fight and lead his armies at his behest. This incredibly advanced computer that is the pinnacle of Apokolips technology also creates Boom Tubes. These are portals that allow travel across galaxies. Meaning he can bring the fight to you anywhere, he wants.
The technology of Apokolips is second to, if not equal, to the home planet of the New Gods; New Genesis. It is far superior to Earth and any available to Superman or his allies. Yet, the heroes often band together as the Justice League to hold off Darkseid and his campaigns against Earth.
See also: Batman Universe Guide: Welcome to Gotham City
A History Divided
The first time Darkseid encounters Superman, in issue #1 of The Forever People, they don’t fight. Darkseid finished trying to get the Anti-Life Equation from The Beautiful Dreamer. She can’t hold it, so he just gives her back with a trap laid beneath her and takes off. They won’t even come to blows until almost a decade after this encounter. The Justice League fights Darkseid along with the New Gods. It kills him when stopping him from destroying an alternate Earth before Superman even joins in to help.
Superman’s involvement with Darkseid was often indirect. In Darkseid’s first appearance, his connection to Jimmy Olsen is almost humorous with how the two enemies would eventually become one another.
Pitting Superman against Darkseid, while modern-day seems the most apparent choice for either of them, took quite a while before it became common.
Superman, #3, 1987. Darkseid and Superman finally come head to head. It does not go well for the boy in blue. Running from Omega Beams as Clark Kent, he is eventually shot down in the sewers, and Darkseid is disappointed. He wanted to capture Superman. Instead, this glasses-wearing look-a-like is somehow there and not even dead. (Genius Level Intellect is listed as a power on the DC database, by the way.)
He then tosses Clark, who pretends not to be Superman, to the pits of Apokolips. He emerges in his tights and begins to investigate, you could say, what Darkseid’s plans are. Although they haven’t come to blows, Superman knows of Darkseid just as Darkseid knows of him.
Eventually, Superman runs into one of Darkseid’s minions known as The Pacifier and nearly gets burned to a crisp in the furnaces of the Dark World.
Oddly enough, issue #4 doesn’t pick up where this leaves off. You have to jump to The Adventures of Superman #426 comic from the same year to learn that Superman is, as usual, just fine. Except also now one of Darkseid’s minions. They don’t come to blows again until Action Comics #586 of the same year.
Continuing from the previous comic, Superman breaks free of mind control and finally gets some revenge on Darkseid. Though Darkseid can take a punch, it is mostly taking punches that he does here. Darkseid sends Superman home with a Boom Tube as the Man of Steel is closing in for one more hard right hand. Then the Dark God admits he was beaten fairly.
This will be common. Darkseid will have an advantage with his Omega Beams and tech in many of their clashes but eventually, lose to barreling punches and brute force from Clark Kent. In Cartoons, in comics, in general.
See also: How Strong is Spiderman
Darkseid Shows Dominance
One of the most infamous stories, and perhaps an argument for Darkseid to be considered a more challenging foe than Doomsday, is when Darkseid takes control of the Kryptonian. This story has been done more than once and may find its way to the Silver Screen.
In Superman: The Animated Series. The Legacy arc has Darkseid bend, Superman, to his will and turns him into his weapon against Earth. Though Superman is eventually freed of this, his reputation and spirit take an incredible hit.
In Justice League: Dark, Superman and all of Earth have lost to Darkseid. He’s handily wrecked the Justice League and the Kryptonian, and Superman is no match for him. Darkseid gains more power with the more death or worlds he conquers. Though this is somewhat unclear in how it occurs, it is consistent in writing. We see John Constantine help alongside Raven to unleash Trigon, locking the two Evil Super Powers in an endless battle in this film.
John Constantine also traveled to another Universe where he saved other versions of his friends from a monstrous Darkseid. This Darkseid successfully conquered and enslaved most worlds in that timeline. Not to mention he even followed John through the portal Constantine opened. Entering briefly into the safer reality where Darkseid still gets whooped by an angry Kryptonian on Earth.
Constantine states if he isn’t able to trick that version of Darkseid into ignoring this Universe, everyone in it will meet the same fate as the one they came from. He does, and this is important for later because it tracks in showing Darkseid is not at his full power in most fights with Superman.
In Countdown to Final Crisis #3, Darkseid plants a bomb inside Jimmy Olson. It turns Olson into a kryptonite emitting fail-safe. After which, he is on the verge of killing Superman before The Atom and Olson rise up to save him.
In the death of the New Gods#8, Superman faces off against a fully powered Darkseid and, with all his might, breaks the villain in literal half, only for Darkseid to immediately reconstruct himself. Then, outmatched but surviving, Superman becomes nothing more than an assist character in the battle between a cosmic entity, the soul of Orion(technically Darkseid’s son) and Darkseid. Constantly getting knocked out and barely partaking in the fight. This again shows that Darkseid can become more powerful than Superman by a large margin if things fall into place.
Two cases of being beat by a mere mortal ring true for both of these titans, which is hard to live down. That mortal is, of course, Batman. Batman once had Green Arrow put a kryptonite arrow into the backside of a distracted Superman and beat him to near-death, only to stop and say in a harrowing fashion. “I want you to remember who beat you.” Rough.
When Darkseid defeats the Justice League in Final Crisis and leaves nearly everyone on the Earth puppets at his fingertips, he has essentially won. Sitting comfortably, victoriously on a throne, Batman shows up and mortally wounds him. Shooting the God of Evil with a Radion bullet leaves Darkseid helpless to his eventual fate. It does cost Batman his own life, at the time anyway, and ends a God.
In this timeline, we see a different side of Superman. Characteristics he displays in his standard timeline are impressed upon, and in my opinion, he meets his truly, greatest defeat. Not against Darkseid, Brainiac, Luthor, or Doomsday…but The Joker. The Joker tricks him into killing Lois Lane with the right amount of fear gas and then laughs.
Superman dwells on this before finding and deciding to rip out The Joker’s heart. The Clown dies happy as if proving a point; even in death, he’s won. The trickle effect of this is Clark no longer agrees with the laws of man. Instead, branding his Justice League as the proper court of law and righteousness for the entire world.
Eventually, Darkseid makes a full invasion when he learns the heroes of Earth are battling one another. In an impressive brawl with Clark, Darkseid shows what resembles fear. This Superman will kill him, not just beat him. He says as much out loud and leaves Earth alone.
Suppose we are to count this Superman and Darkseid encounter. In that case, we must also take into consideration the Darkseid from the Universe Constantine visited.
I have a lot to dwell on as I prepare to tackle this fight from an outside perspective. Settle in; planets are about to crack.
The powerful pair meet face to face for a fair fight, with no interference, no outside help, and no tricks. That’s how this works, but they do have time to prepare.
This is the first important point. With all we’ve learned, this is a pretty even fight. Let’s take the more well-known and written forms of Superman and Darkseid and pit them against one another. We don’t get the amped-up version the ruler of Apokolips plans to become.
To win, Darkseid often resorts to his schemes or Omega Beams. It has not been enough in the past; this is the second point. Unlike before, however, let’s push Darkseid to a no retreat encounter to get the most out of this and see if it ends differently than a brawl. It wouldn’t. This is the final point.
We start seeing craters. These Gods hit with such force every blow is one of them flying and a dent in the worlds they fight across. Superman wins this fight most of the time in their historical bouts, but Darkseid is more than just brute force.
Taking away his access to a Mother Box at the start would mean little. He can teleport. He would force this fight to travel to worlds that would suffer from quaking blows and retrieve his tech. It becomes a game of wits, and Darkseid is the intellectual…except history shows us something else.
Superman is constantly written as one of the quickest thinkers in the heat of battle. Reading over ‘how’ he uses his powers reveals to us. Darkseid, in particular, is often outmaneuvered. When needed, Kal-El knows how to perfectly utilize his speed and cold breath.
Surely, Darkseid planned for the eye beams and was ready physically for the fight. Still, some ice breath and high speed later, the Mother Box Darkseid tried to gather up is shattered before it plays a role.
The attempt at using innocent lives to divert the focus of Superman ends as soon as it begins, most commonly. If it doesn’t, the likely end is still the same.
Once Superman rushes the Despot to an empty planet, craters leave nothing but pools of Darkseid’s blood. Superman reminds the God of Evil what his Injustice self reminds readers. He can kill a God. I can imagine Darkseid has a last-ditch effort before Superman sticks him on the Source Wall at the edge of creation. In this place, immortal beings are imprisoned eternally. Darkseid’s final card?
More than he’s ever mustered, Darkseid puts his full power into his Omega Beams, enough to leave him helpless if he misses. SuperSpeed and a redirect, Superman likely leads this attack back against his foe. Unless Darkseid outwits him, which is plausible. Using their shared history as our resource, it is most likely Superman will lead the blasts to hit Darkseid. Either way, the fight ends here.
Darkseid’s attack seals the bout. Fully powered Omega Beams turn either the God of Evil or the Man of Steel into dust. It’s over. If either survives the blast, Darkseid still ends up on the wall.
I give this one to Superman.
Although Darkseid has all the tools to win, it would require the fight to be more on his terms. For Darkseid fans, I will admit earnestly: a fully powered Darkseid, such as the one Constantine saw in an alternate Universe, would win every time. Against any version of Superman.
- This is my first article about any DC Universe characters.
- Darkseid is once saved by Wonder Woman and the Amazons and becomes slightly good. He hates that.
- They face each other multiple times in the animated world.
- In the New 52 era, Superman increases his strength until he can bench press the weight equivalent of the actual Earth for 5 days straight.
- Doomsday once beat the living hell out of Darkseid.
- Darkseid earned his power by slaying Old Gods.
- I know it’s pronounced Dark Side, but I still read it as Dark Seed all the time.
- Darkseid at full power is written to be unrivaled by any character in comicdom.
- Jack Kirby created the character Darkseid. Kirby is one of the biggest creator names in comicdom.
Question: What are Darkseid’s motives?
Answer: He wishes to enslave all life under his will.
Question: Is Darkseid a planet buster?
Answer: It seems plausible he could destroy a planet, but it would be a dangerous feat to undertake at his base power level.
Question: Who’s stronger, Superman or Darkseid?
Answer: Superman seems to edge out base Darkseid a bit if we look at their feats. Darkseid does have a higher maximum power limit, however.
Question: Will we see Superman VS Darkseid in a live-action film?
Answer: It is seemingly the current plan for the DC cinematic Universe to build towards this.
When I started writing this, I was prepared to bring Superman down a peg or two. Yet, with all the reading I put in, I found the Man of Steel wasn’t built to lay down.
Darkseid and Superman’s history have been intertwined ever since they finally came to blows. It will likely be for as long as comics are written. They’ll trade wins and losses when needed, and their power will always be at the top of the list in the DC Universe’s handbook.
Darkseid has the best backhand in the world of comic books, but Superman never kneels to the might of a villain. He always pushes himself to be more, whether moving a planet; or breaking a God.