16 Times Superman Acted Like An All-American Jerk

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Vote up the best instances when Superman was a real piece of work.

In an era in which the Man of Steel’s most notable portrayals feature him feuding with Batman and snapping necks, no one is going to earn any originality points for saying that Superman is a jerk. What may come as a surprise to more casual Clark Kent fans, however, is the fact that Supes has been an occasional bully for much of his published history - going all the way back to the Action Comics issues of the '30s.

And it’s not just Bruce Wayne on the wrong end of Superman’s antagonism. When Kal-El gets in a belligerent mood, anyone and everyone are fair game - including Jimmy Olsen, Wonder Woman, and even his beloved Lois Lane. Sometimes, Superman is satiated by a well-planned prank - but sometimes his inimical itch can only be scratched by acts that border on outright sadism. So much for truth, justice, and the American way!

Photo: Superman III/Warner Bros.

  • Superman Adopts And Then Mistreats Jimmy Olsen In 'Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen' #30
    Photo: DC Comics
    362 VOTES

    Superman Adopts And Then Mistreats Jimmy Olsen In 'Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen' #30

    Many of Superman’s Silver Age adventures are silly by nature, but the events of Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #30 really capture the era’s ability to make Superman look like a super-jerk. The issue features Superman, not Clark Kent, adopting the orphaned Jimmy Olsen and making their father/son dynamic official - only to quickly transform into a nightmare of a dad.

    Superman yells at Jimmy for no reason, burns his Father’s Day gift, and even goes as far as to cancel the adoption. Olsen is understandably traumatized by the whole thing, but he’s relieved to discover that Supes only treated him poorly because of a prophecy warning that Superman would ruin his own son. Superman reasons that the only way to save Jimmy is to disown him completely - though it remains unclear why the mental torment was necessary.

    In the end, it turns out that the prophecy was actually referring to a miniature “sun” in the Fortress of Solitude

    362 votes
  • Superman Outs Batman’s Secret Identity On Social Media In 'Injustice: Gods Among Us' #10
    Photo: DC Comics
    414 VOTES

    Superman Outs Batman’s Secret Identity On Social Media In 'Injustice: Gods Among Us' #10

    The Injustice: Gods Among Us storyline - both in video game and comic book form - pits Batman as a resistance leader against Superman’s own fascistic regime. The tale features myriad acts of malice by the Man of Steel, many of which are perpetuated against Bruce Wayne, but one committed in Injustice #10 really makes it personal.

    Tired of the Dark Knight’s attempts to prevent his rise to power, Superman retaliates by signing up for the DC Universe’s equivalent of Twitter - and then outing Batman’s secret identity to the public. The post is instantly shared millions of times, and Wayne is forced underground to continue his rebellion against the guy who put him on blast. 

    414 votes
  • Clark Kent Gaslights His Love Interests Throughout The Entirety Of ‘Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane’
    Photo: DC Comics
    265 VOTES

    Clark Kent Gaslights His Love Interests Throughout The Entirety Of ‘Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane’

    Any number of issues of the Silver Age series Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane could qualify for a list of problematic comics, as if the title wasn’t enough of a giveaway. Each and every entry in the saga features Lane doing her best to either suss out Superman’s identity or get him to marry her, while the Man of Steel delights in convincing her that she is insane.

    The series sees Superman imprison Lois, spank her, and turn her into an overweight person to teach her humility. Anytime the intrepid reporter comes close to figuring out Clark Kent’s secret life, he uses his superpowers to gaslight her into thinking that she’s losing her mind - and that’s when he isn’t outright teasing her with obvious double entendres. 

    265 votes
  • Superman Forcibly Gentrifies A Neighborhood In 'Action Comics' #8
    Photo: DC Comics
    185 VOTES

    Superman Forcibly Gentrifies A Neighborhood In 'Action Comics' #8

    One of the earliest examples of Superman being a jerk - albeit, a well-meaning one - is in one of his earliest adventures of all, 1939’s Action Comics #8. In the tale “Superman in the Slums,” the Man of Tomorrow becomes convinced that many transgressions are a result of low-income neighborhoods, and so he sets out to wipe out the local slums of Metropolis.

    Taking inspiration from a cyclone, Superman starts knocking over buildings until the National Guard arrives to confront him, resulting in the complete destruction of the neighborhood. The slum is replaced by a series of apartments, which are ostensibly intended for the people he just displaced - provided they’re not already financially ruined by their voided damage deposits and the homelessness they must endure during the weeks of construction. 

    185 votes
  • 5
    265 VOTES

    Superman Wipes Out Low-Income Housing In ‘Justice League Unlimited’

    Lex Luthor has manipulated the Man of Steel on numerous occasions, but it’s difficult to blame the mega-rich megalomaniac for Superman’s actions in “Clash,” an episode of Justice League Unlimited. That tale features Luthor constructing a series of low-income housing units out of the supposed goodness of his heart, but Kal-El isn’t buying it.

    When Superman insists on investigating the homes, he discovers a mysterious electronic device buried deep under them and decides to wipe it out. The idealistic Shazam, who had just endorsed Luthor for president, arrives to stop him and the two duke it out, ultimately resulting in the destruction of the units. It is only then that Luthor reveals that the device was just a decoy meant to draw Superman’s attention and prompt him toward destruction. 

    It's a real wake-up call for the Man of Tomorrow, but that doesn’t do much for all the folks who lost their homes due to his hubris. 

    265 votes
  • Clark Kent Allows His Best Friend’s Son To Be Imprisoned By Aliens In 'DC Comics Presents' #13
    Photo: DC Comics
    148 VOTES

    Clark Kent Allows His Best Friend’s Son To Be Imprisoned By Aliens In 'DC Comics Presents' #13

    The actions of Clark Kent in DC Comics Presents #13 are so heinous that they had to be retroactively fixed several issues later. The tale in question involves the son of Superman’s best friend, Pete Ross, being seized by aliens who, as the Legion of Superheroes helpfully informs Superman, are destined to one day play a major role in Earth’s ongoing survival.

    With this in mind, the Man of Steel informs Ross that he will not be rescuing his son since the planet will benefit from his continued captivity. Pete rightfully tells Superman off and threatens vengeance, and it’s hard to blame the guy. The story’s conclusion proved so controversial that Superman ends up heading into space and saving the boy anyway a dozen issues later - but only due to a litany of reader complaints. 

    148 votes