A can of whoopass on the superhero question
September 25, 2006 2:05 PM   Subscribe

Comics question. Mirror mirror on the wall, who's the most powerful superhero of them all?

Full disclosure. I'm a neophyte when it comes to the spandex crowd. But the rash of superhero-based flicks has got me to thinkin'. Is there a sophisticated, literate, and/or canonical answer to the question, "Of the pantheon of Marvel and DC superheros and supervillains, who rules the coop as most powerful?"

Green Lantern seemed like the best frontrunner at first. Think about it: Dude can summon up anything, an artificial Superman, hell, how 'bout a freaking entire Justice League, at will. But it's the ring, not the wearer, who's powerful here. We're taking about heroes, not objects. Nix.

Second-round candidates: 1) Magneto. Unlike Superman, who's limited to kicking, smashing, and heat-raying his immediate surroundings, he can control and manipulate matter from afar. 2) Storm. Commands the most powerful of physical events on our planet -- meteorology. Billions of volts in electrical storms, nuke-level power in hurricanes. 3) Silver Surfer. Glancing at his bio on Wikipedia, this cat is the biz. Indestructability. Time travel. Hyperspace travel. Energy beams. Wowed yet?

Any heroes gallery would be incomplete without a rogue (erm, wuss) gallery, in which I'd put Cyclops, whose laser-beam could be duplicated without great difficulty as a military weapon; Green Lantern, who, in his various incarnations, gains his weapon through luck or benevolence; and the besotted Tony Stark of Iron Man. Each of the three is skilled, okay, outrageously skilled, in intelligence, leadership, finance, engineering, athleticism, whatever -- but nothing more.

That's it from my end. I've paraded my ignorance in spades. Weigh in, preferably with (repeating myself here) sophisticate, literate, and or canonical takes. (Snarky takes welcome in moderation).
posted by Gordion Knott to Media & Arts (55 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
The Endless
posted by riotgrrl69 at 2:15 PM on September 25, 2006 [1 favorite]

The geeks at Marvel had to basically dump a truckload of mental problems on poor ol' Molecule Man one they realized that he was practically omnipotent.

Oh, I'm so keeping an eye this thread.
posted by Skot at 2:16 PM on September 25, 2006

Also in Marvel there's the "Living Tribunal" who's essentially a god.
posted by bitdamaged at 2:18 PM on September 25, 2006

Thanos + Infinity Gauntlet?
posted by chunking express at 2:18 PM on September 25, 2006

Franklin Richards at the height of his powers could reshape reality.
posted by juv3nal at 2:21 PM on September 25, 2006

Want to kick Green Lantern's ass? Just paint yourself yellow.

Magneto can only manipulate *magnetic* matter from afar. Although, that apparently means he can rip the iron out of your red blood cells...

Storm can't really affect you if you're not on the surface of the Earth. So you're safe in your orbiting space station.

Yes, Silver Surfer would probably win any fight.
posted by bshort at 2:24 PM on September 25, 2006

Haven't seen a single superhero named before bshort's post.

Green Lanterns aren't vulnerable to yellow anymore.

In any case, the answer is: Batman as written by Grant Morrison in his run of JLA. Batman was the ultimate plotter, scientist and fighter, and could take down anyone (anyone) because he had contingencies planned.
posted by solid-one-love at 2:30 PM on September 25, 2006

SOL: Oooh, good point. Batman would be a formidable foe, although when faced with fighting a *cosmic* power, would he really be able to do anything?

Wouldn't Thanos simply crush him in a fight? (I know, Thanos isn't really a superhero, but still.)
posted by bshort at 2:36 PM on September 25, 2006

Nope, on the Marvel side, the answer is Eternity. After that, we have the relatively wimpy Celestials, who are only orders of magnitude more powerful than incarnated Cosmic Cubes such as Kubik. After that we have people like the Molecule Man and the Beyonder, but they are so pathetically weak that they can only destroy galaxies in the blink of an eye, and stuff like that.
posted by martinrebas at 2:36 PM on September 25, 2006

Can I submit a nomination for the Spectre, maybe?
posted by Faint of Butt at 2:39 PM on September 25, 2006

For the wuss gallery, I submit Arm-Fall-Off Boy.
posted by martinrebas at 2:46 PM on September 25, 2006

bshort: Batman has fought folks like Mongul and Darkseid and won, and they're cosmic baddies on a par with Thanos. He was integral to the fight against Mageddon at the end of Morrison's JLA run, too. Batman, in the hands of Morrison, eats cosmic baddies alive.

I bet he had an emergency plan for The Spectre, too, but he was too distracted by Brother Eye (vis. Infinite Crisis).

There's also the argument that Animal Man is the most powerful superhero; at his height, he was essentially the godly manifestation of all animal life in the universe.

Or perhaps even Damage, because he was the source of all of the energy that created the DC Universe, pre-Infinite Crisis.

In the final analysis, the only real answer to the question is "whoever the writer wants."
posted by solid-one-love at 2:47 PM on September 25, 2006

Matter-Eater Lad!

Watch out! He . . . eats things!
posted by Skot at 2:49 PM on September 25, 2006

If you google, "Most powerful superhero", many nerds seem to argue (wrongly) that (at least for the DC side) Superman is the clear winner. The answer is definitely Batman, because I am sure that at this very moment, he has a kryptonite cage with little Super-Treats leading up to it just in case he and superman ever get into an argument.

However, if Batman ever got into a fight with the Marvel crew, I'm sure he could be defeated by many of the Ridiculously Powerful ones. I dunno if Eternity or the Celestials count as superheros/villians though...
posted by muddgirl at 2:51 PM on September 25, 2006

Isn't Living Tribunal more powerful than Eternity?
posted by louigi at 2:53 PM on September 25, 2006

I'm going to say this again. Franklin Richards could reshape reality. whoever-you-think-is-more-powerful? *poof* she/he/it never existed because he wills it so.
posted by juv3nal at 2:54 PM on September 25, 2006

unfortunately there is no clear cut answer but heres a good shortlist:
The Spectre
Dr Manhattan
Cap't Marvel (Shazam)
Dr Strange
...and many many many more.
posted by fidgets at 2:55 PM on September 25, 2006

Batman would just use his utility belt to defeat them all. For evidence, see the end of this short film.
posted by jonson at 2:55 PM on September 25, 2006

My boyfriend and I were debating last night whether Jean Grey or Xavier was the most powerful mutant, and besides realizing that we were huge nerds, also realized that we couldn't even agree on that, so I think it would be hard to get a consensus on the most power superhero period.

Nonetheless, I'll throw my superhero neophyte hat in for Jean Grey/Phoenix. (Full disclosure, most of my x-men knowledge comes from the cartoon and movies.)
posted by wuzandfuzz at 2:58 PM on September 25, 2006

To answer the only question you asked which is remotely answerable ( Is there a sophisticated, literate, and/or canonical answer to the question, "Of the pantheon of Marvel and DC superheros and supervillains, who rules the coop as most powerful?"):

No. There is no answer to this question.
posted by aubilenon at 2:59 PM on September 25, 2006

I'm going to say this again. Franklin Richards could reshape reality.

Sure, but practically everybody in the Marvel Universe can do that. Wikipedia has a list of reality-warpers:

* Arcadia DeVille
* Jamie Braddock
* Tyler Trevor Chase
* Willie Evans Jr.
* Fan Boy
* Hyperstorm
* Mad Jim Jaspers
* Mister M
* Onslaught (after absorbing Franklin Richards)
* Proteus
* Mikhail Rasputin
* Franklin Richards
* Scarlet Witch
* Magician
* Phoenix
* Wiccan
* Beyonder
* The Impossible Man
* Korvac
* Kubik
* The Man With the Power
* Molecule Man
* Shaper of Worlds
posted by martinrebas at 3:06 PM on September 25, 2006

Quote regarding eternity: "He is, along with Death and Galactus, one of three fundamental entities in the Marvel Comics Universe (the Living Tribunal is further above them all and maintains the cosmic balance of power)"
posted by bitdamaged at 3:06 PM on September 25, 2006

That's me out then. Nevermind Super or Spiderman, I'd have gone for Great Uncle Bulgaria from The Wombles, to be honest!
posted by Matt_MP at 3:07 PM on September 25, 2006

I'm going to say this again. Franklin Richards could reshape reality. whoever-you-think-is-more-powerful? *poof* she/he/it never existed because he wills it so.

Whenever he has had reality-warping powers of that degree (as, say, Ego-Spawn or Avatar), he could not be described as a superhero. As a more reasonably-powered character (Tattletale or Psi-Lord), he wasn't all that powerful.

The question specified most powerful superhero, not comic book character.
posted by solid-one-love at 3:08 PM on September 25, 2006

Man, I'm such a fuckin' geek.
posted by solid-one-love at 3:09 PM on September 25, 2006

Come on, people. Galactus and The Living Tribunal aren't superheroes, they're cosmic entities. They don't count.

I once heard a very good argument for The Flash being the most powerful superhero, due to his control of relativistic effects.
posted by Jairus at 3:09 PM on September 25, 2006

I'm sure you could fabricate an Ultimate Hero/Villain. Say, if a Super-Skrull got Lantern's ring, was trained by Mogul (ala Supes post-Return), sidekicked for Batman for awhile, and was equiped with other tech swiped from Richards/Luthor/Doom/Stark, then there wouldn't be much that could stand against him/her/it.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 3:12 PM on September 25, 2006

Er, Mongul, even.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 3:13 PM on September 25, 2006

To answer the only question you asked which is remotely answerable [...] No. There is no answer to this question.

posted by ed\26h at 3:14 PM on September 25, 2006 [1 favorite]

Isn't Living Tribunal more powerful than Eternity?

You're right -- Living Tribunal it is. Unless you count God, who in Fantastic Four #511 was revealed to be Jack Kirby.

If cosmic entities don't count because they're too powerful, then my money is on Aunt May. Spider-Man has beaten cosmic beings in fistfights, so he's pretty tough -- but Aunt May has fought Spider-Man twice and beaten him unconscious each time, using nothing more than stealth and a heavy vase. Also, she keeps coming back from the dead, which is rather tricky to do.
posted by martinrebas at 3:22 PM on September 25, 2006

posted by MegoSteve at 3:29 PM on September 25, 2006

Gah, Mxyzptlk. Left out the z.
posted by MegoSteve at 3:29 PM on September 25, 2006

You will never, ever, find consensus on this anywhere.

Entire web sites have been devoted to it. (I think this one was my favorite, and I still think A-Ko should have won it.)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 3:35 PM on September 25, 2006

To settle the boyfriend/girlfriend argument mentioned earlier: Jean Grey is, far and away, more powerful than Xavier. The student has eclipsed the master on multiple occasions. Xavier operates on a higher level more regularly (well, he did before he lost his powers recently), but that's just because Jean preferred not to use her full spectrum of abilities -- when she does, the Phoenix happens. Grant Morrison's NEW X-MEN run is actually the definitive Jean Grey / Phoenix story, IMO, not the Dark Phoenix Saga -- since, as continuity has gone to great lengths to point out, that one wasn't really Jean.

Anyway, since the question is limited to superheroes/supervillains, which does, I think, rule out most of the "godlike entity who merely observes" crowd... then the Silver Surfer is pretty high up in the running. And then, of course, there's Lobo, who pretty much cannot die under any circumstances. And yeah, Jean would definitely be up there -- she might be existing on a higher plane of reality now, but she was still an X-Man, and she still wears spandex, so I'm gonna vote for her. IT'S A RESCUE MISSION! (/grantmorrison)
posted by logovisual at 3:39 PM on September 25, 2006

It also has come up on this site quite a few times.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 3:39 PM on September 25, 2006

Oh, another "who would win" site: Superherofight.com
posted by logovisual at 3:42 PM on September 25, 2006

How can I forget Squirrel Girl? She can talk to squirrels, has a prehensile tail, and wears an utility belt full of nuts. She has easily beaten Doctor Doom, M.O.D.O.K., Terrax and Thanos.
posted by martinrebas at 3:45 PM on September 25, 2006

For "most powerful in DCU," I'm voting for Darkseid. He's handed just about every hero in the DCU his/her ass at one point or another, including Superman.

He's not a hero, however.
posted by lekvar at 4:17 PM on September 25, 2006

Clearly, we gotta decide what a hero is. Obviously, the Tribunals and Eternities and Deaths blah blah blah won't cut it. That being said, I kinda like the Silver Surfers chances.
posted by my homunculus is drowning at 4:35 PM on September 25, 2006

Oh, another "who would win" site: Superherofight.com


Oh, and Swamp Thing kicked Batman's ass back during Alan Moore's run...
posted by Scoo at 4:58 PM on September 25, 2006 [1 favorite]

Nate Grey. Jean Grey. Rachel Summers. Franklin Richards. And on, and on. There have been plenty of nebulously omnipotent psionic heroes--so many that it's really pretty boring when a character suddenly realizes that (a) their abilities are infinitely more powerful than they'd previously expected and/or (b) their god-like potency makes them a danger to everyone they love. For whatever reason, comic book writers seem to think that simply increasing a character's power levels counts as "character development."

D.C. used to do this a lot with Superman. When he was first created in the late 30's, his big thing was Leaping Over Tall Buildings With a Single Bound. Some four decades of power inflation later, he'd become probably the most physically powerful character on this list. Leaping over buildings? Kid's stuff. Hell, he could camp out in the core of the sun. He could literally throw Jimmy Olsen into the future. Eventually, the writers came to their senses and nerfed his powers. It's not necessarily a hero's power that makes them interesting; it's what they do with it that keeps a reader coming back.
posted by Iridic at 5:00 PM on September 25, 2006

I would have to go with Superboy-Prime

he survive the destruction of his home universe Earth Prime.

He punched the walls of his "paradise dimension" so hard that he caused continuity disruptions in 20 years of DC comics.

He broke out of the Phantom Zone and the Speed force.

He destroyed the JLA tower.

and took over the OMACS from Bruce Wayne.

He takes on the Entire Green lantern corps and kills like 30 of them.

In the end it takes 2 Superman incarnations Kal El and Kal-L and the remaining green lanter corps to imprison him.

He is immune to kryptonite, and magic, and he is seriously batshit insane.

I think his record speaks for itself.
posted by Megafly at 5:03 PM on September 25, 2006

Superboy-Prime sounds like a good playmate for Kid Miracleman
posted by Scoo at 5:32 PM on September 25, 2006

Despite the tiresome, yet-again restructuring of the DCU by making superboyprime "batshit insane", et al, I have to re-propose Green Lantern (choosing between Kyle, Hal, Tomar Re, Kilowog and, yes, Sinestro) as the most powerful superhero of all time given that any modern GL wields the most powerful weapon in the universe.

The limit is will power and imagination, and Kyle and Hal both have plenty of each. IIRC, Hal did pretty much lay waste to the DCU single-handedly (yes, he was possessed, but deep down it was Hal doing the wielding).

Even Kyle managed to get uber charged as Ion and pretty much put the entire DCU out of a job.

The writers have to write some weaknesses into the characters, otherwise there'd be no comics, but -- Infinte Crisis notwithstanding -- GL (Hal would be my choice) could smack down anyone out there, even Silver Surfer.
posted by hrbrmstr at 5:53 PM on September 25, 2006

There are all sorts of characters who have the ability to reshape the universe. As far as everyday characters go it basically comes down to Thor (who I can't believe hasn't been mentioned as yet) and Superman.

The Sentry has been retroactively created as a challenger on the Marvel side, but given his schizophrenic nature I suspect Thor would take him out.

In the Avengers/JLA crossover Thor got the drop on Superman but ultimately lost out. Later on, he remarks that he could probably take him now that he knows what he's up against. Being of Swedish descent and a Marvel truefan I'm firmly on the side of Thor - especially given the Odinforce he inherited in the last series. He was, truly, a God. That beats the Silver Surfer and Galactus every time.

I'm such a loser . . .
posted by aladfar at 6:13 PM on September 25, 2006

I think this is an unanswerable question. Most characters in either universe out there can be written in such a way that they could destroy/dominate/reinvent the universe given the will, opportunity and circumstances. I mean, for pete's sake John Constantine could find the Anti-Life Equation hidden in a victorian credenza, sell it for a Green Lantern ring and favors from God and all three Devils, trump the Endless with a paradox, and just sit there grinning threatening to bring it all to a close. (Or at least, sucessfully bluff everyone into thinking that he already did it.)

The best answer to question is, "whichever character the editors decide should be given omnipotence only to have it stripped away in a dramatic plot involving a crossover between at least three books, and the death of at least one character this summer."
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:23 PM on September 25, 2006

Silver Surfer wins this one hands down, with Superman and Green Latern as honourable mentions.
posted by Vindaloo at 6:40 PM on September 25, 2006

Vindaloo, your spelling of "honorable" reveals you as a scurvy ridden island dweller. It's not your fault that your judgement is clouded. Thor, if he felt like it, could easily dispatch the surfer. Mjolnir can smash that board like so much tissue paper.

I feel like a Scientologist stacking the Modern Library vote. ; )
posted by aladfar at 7:02 PM on September 25, 2006

Your question is inherently flawed. By not qualifying what you mean by "powerful", you open yourself up to all sorts of misconceptions.

It is not possible to have a "most-powerful" superhero. It is part of the nature of meta-humans to have a weakness. Any weakness can be exploited. A baby with a chunk of Kryptonite could kill Superman. Does that make the baby "more powerful" than the Man of Steel? Perhaps, or perhaps not. In that situation, yes. A yellow butter-knife could cut a Green Latern to shreds. And so on, and so on. Every hero excels in certain areas, every hero can be defeated, sometimes it requires multiple methods or abilities, but in the end, everyone falls.

In order for someone to be the most powerful, they would have to have all the abilities of God, not A god, but THE God. And once you make that assumption, you've gone well beyond the concept of a "super" hero. There are seemingly an infinite number of omnipotent individuals in the comic book world. The are also many who are omniscient. Some can be omnipresent. None are all, and if they were, they wouldn't be very interesting. It's their weaknesses that make interesting stories. Each have a niche, and a role to play. Each can be defeated by other individuals, or combinations thereof.

Your question would be better phrased "Which individuals in comic books are considered among the most powerful beings in their respective universes?" Or a variation of that. There are any number of answers. All are wrong. All are correct.

P.S Add the Phantom Stranger to your list of powerful individuals, he (possibly) survived the death a universe and came to ours.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:50 PM on September 25, 2006

Dude, it's rock-paper-scissors.

The only question worth asking is: which superhero is the coolest. And since the answer is The Silver Surfer, you can go ahead and close the thread now.
posted by Eamon at 8:10 PM on September 25, 2006

posted by Coda at 8:24 PM on September 25, 2006

If we're limited strictly to Marvel/DC, I'm not sure. If we're opening it up to all comics, I'd have to say Q from Star Trek: The Next Generation (yes, there was a comic version).
posted by vanoakenfold at 8:02 AM on September 26, 2006

And what about Doctor Manhattan? I think he might have a place somewhere on this list, if not the top...
posted by inging at 9:08 AM on September 26, 2006

What about Promethea? She has complete magical power over the real world. Kinda new-world and hippy-love and imaginationish, but she should still be in the running.
posted by banannafish at 9:36 AM on September 26, 2006

My boyfriend and I were debating last night whether Jean Grey or Xavier was the most powerful mutant

Some people have all the luck ...
posted by WCityMike at 10:00 AM on September 26, 2006

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