Considering Clark's Demise - Doomsday
Everyone knows by now – even people who were never that much into comic books – that Superman was essentially killed back in 1993 as a result of a battle with the most powerful earth-bound foe he’d ever faced.
The Death of Superman was the most pivotal event in DC Comics' history, and it came at the hands of a previously unknown monster named Doomsday.
Doomsday proved to be every bit as strong as Clark, joining an extremely small pantheon of beings that could make this claim. Indeed; the monster might have been even stronger – he was apparently more resistant to harm than the Man of Tomorrow.
The end actually came for them both, as they exchanged twin blows that rattled a city and cratered the earth, falling in lifeless heaps after the incredible strikes found their respective marks. But given his range of powers, did Clark make the fight harder than it needed to be?
The Man of Steel Takes a Magnificent Punch
The first encounter between Superman the Man of Steel and the menace called Doomsday was nothing short of impressive.
The extremely powerful monster unfurled a punch that Superman took full in the chest – without budging an inch.
This was a spectacular display of Clark’s vaunted resistance to physical assault, which is his second-most significant superpower (his planet-moving strength is his first).
However, although the effect of the blow on his person was imperceptible, a punch that powerful no doubt drained the Kryptonian bio-matrix that granted him such an incredible resilience – a fact which would become significant for the full day of battling to come.
A shocked Doomsday, used to everything giving way to his power, hesitated a moment, before gathering himself for a side-kick that sent Superman flying straight through a house and tree.
The Kryptonian demigod was unhurt, but marveled at the being’s power.
It is here that Superman might have avoided the blows by using his superspeed, and perhaps peppered Doomsday with punches and heat vision to slowly weaken the durable creature.
Although his heat vision is the power that taxes his stored-up energy the most, it was full daylight and he had little reason to worry about draining his reserves in the Death of Superman.
Of course, he had no way of knowing that Doomsday’s invulnerability levels were – impressively – even higher than his own, and a more strategic approach might’ve preserved his solar energies.
When we try to put your finger on just what made this new menace called Doomsday so very impressive, it eludes us at first.
After all, there have been ultra-powerful enemies that went toe-to-toe with the Man of Steel before, right?
And then it hits us: Doomsday doesn't need Kryptonite, magic, or any other of the very few things that seem to be able to actually hurt Clark.
This monster was so physically powerful, he was capable of simply tearing through that tremendous invulnerability and beating Superman to death.
The (Near) Death of Superman
Superman: Earth's Sole Effective Challenger
In Superman versus Doomsday, the next panel of their encounter showed Superman as the first superhero who was able to physically stop Doomsday from doing whatever he wanted.
All other strikes to this point had proved completely ineffective, with the Doomsday monster wreaking untold havoc with every single blow he took.
None of the hits from the other Justice League members had even moved Doomsday; they were unable to even give him pause.
Only the ultra-strong Almeracian princess, Maxima, had been able to let Doomsday know she existed. Nonetheless, he grinned after every blow.
When the entire team focused their respective energy blasts in an attempt to put him down, all they managed to do was free the monster's other arm from the alien metal cable that bound it.
Fire , ice, concussive force blasts, Green Lantern energy bolts and thermonuclear heat vision ionized the air in a combined energy blitz intended to roast the monster.
In the Death of Superman, even Kal-El's mighty heat vision was counted among the energy barrage – but the effort could not hurt Doomsday. In fact, all it seemed to do was free the monster completely.
incredibly, all the devastation he had rendered to this point had been done with one hand tied behind his back!
Doomsday - An Unkillable Menace?
It’s important to note that, although Doomsday seemed completely impervious to physical and energy-based attacks, this wasn’t the case; the monster was just exceedingly durable.
Only a being like Superman, who can fight at very high power levels for an extended period of time, could produce a sustained attack for long enough to start visibly slowing, damaging and eventually killing Doomsday. With that said, it seems that, once again, an attack-from-distance strategy would’ve worked in Superman’s favor to wear the monster down.
It has been stated that heat vision drains the Man of Steel’s vast energy reserves more than any other ability; but, since it was daytime, Supes should’ve rose climbed the sky and lobbed intermittent blasts of the searing heat from the heavens.
Over the course of an afternoon, it would’ve hurt enough to keep Doomsday’s attention on him – thus sparing civilians – while Superman availed himself of the Sun’s unfiltered rays. Using his superspeed, he could’ve quickly responded to any unforeseen deviations from the plan. If there is one problem with this, it's that they were both already fighting at superspeed; an extra burst would've really started wearing Clark down. Superman vs Doomsday, no matter how you slice it, would not have been an easy task for the Kryptonian.
A Super-Strategy for Superman
Another tactic that the Man of Steel might’ve used in Superman vs Doomsday is his ice-breath, in combination with his powers of flight.
Doomsday had Incredible Hulk-like jumping abilities (greater, actually), so Clark could have hovered far up in the sky, made the monster jump up to hit him, and quickly flown off to the side.
As Doomsday’s back was turned during his parabolic trip back to earth, Superman could’ve flown just behind him and frozen the monster inside a block of ice.
Although it would’ve been shattered eventually, the minute or two could’ve afforded Kal some needed rest and solar replenishment. In fact, on his way back to the lower reaches of the troposphere, Clark could have used his heat vision on Doomsday just as the monster was bursting through the cold, heightening the damage rendered. Slowly, his durability would be taxed as the afternoon wore on, with Clark all the while suffering minimal damage. The Death of Superman might truly have had a different outcome!
Superman versus Doomsday: On Equal Terms
The main thing suggested by the battle in Death of Superman was that Doomsday’s physiology was even more resilient than the Man from Krypton's.
Their level of invulnerability might have started out at or near the same peak, but Clark’s gave way faster to the terrible power each super-creature brought to the table.
Several times during the bought, Superman expressed surprise at Doomsday's apparent resilience – even after taking shots from the most powerful beings in the Justice League.
Their physical strength, however, seemed to remain on the same level – which was definitely a first for Clark, who's proved to be even stronger than the Dark God Darkseid and the mighty conqueror Mongul.
Superman Doomsday - Battle School
Another difference in the Death of Superman was that Doomsday didn’t appear to have a healing factor, so while his store of energy was truly terrific, it did not replenish as Superman slowly wore him down throughout the day-long battle.
Since we know that Superman does have a solar-based healing factor, a semi-asymmetric warfare approach should have seen him to a moderately easy victory: stay away and use a combination of heat vision and ice-breath.
In Superman vs Doomsday, the Man of Steel also could've launched projectiles at superspeed for a more directly physical option.
As Doomsday weakened, Clark might have expended a superior burst of energy to grab him and take him into orbit, where his inability to propel himself without the aid of a normal force would leave him stranded for a few years - assuming he was thrown fast enough to experience free-fall.
In fact, Superman could go up there periodically and douse him with heat vision until even Doomsday's exceptional hide fails.
Superman versus Doomsday
Superman has incredible reserves of energy, given his Kryptonian biology - which has aided him tremendously in every one of his superhero battles.
However, he was noticeably tiring in Death of Superman as the battle with Doomsday wore on, which suggests that every hit Doomsday landed on him drained his abilities just a bit.
Compare to the very first encounter, when the Man of Steel took the mountain-crushing blow unleashed by Doomsday without budging an inch.
Given that Superman regularly takes hits as powerful as Tomahawk missiles without registering damage or even pain, every punch of the monster was probably close to a tactical nuclear strike in terms of sheer power. Even Clark can only take so many of those.
For Those That Would Call Him Hero...
All-in-all, Kal-El last son of Krypton, champion of Earth, put up a valiant effort against a monster with strength and durability greater than the gods themselves (note what Doomsday did to the dark god Darkseid in the Hunter/Prey series).
Although he succeeded in killing Doomsday, it came at the apparent cost of his own in life in Death of Superman, when the two combatants unleashed a final exchange that felled them both.
Superman: A Legend Succumbs
If Superman is Invulnerable, How Did Doomsday Kill Him?
Superman is, quite possibly, the most durable mortal in all of comic books. In fact, he's more durable than many celestial entities, and the verdict is out on whether he's actually mortal at all - as long as there's a (non-red) sun around.
His invulnerability is one of his greatest attributes, allowing him to shake off blows that decimate entire super-teams.
With that said, how was it that Doomsday was able to put the Man of Tomorrow down for the count? In the Death of Superman, one of the most amazing displays of Superman's resilience to physical attack came - as mentioned above - when Doomsday unleashed that first terrifying punch, which didn't even cause ole Supes to budge.
The fact that the second blow from Doomsday sent Kal flying through houses and trees tells us something very important about how his invulnerability works: it's like an energy meter gauge that can dwindle over time.
Superman's invulnerability is due to some kind of Kryptonian biological aura emitted by his cells and powered by sunlight. Since his cells are the ultimate solar batteries, their energy reserves are not infinite (this is what it means to be a battery, essentially).
As such, they can be drained over time, when too much energy is used in the absence of continuous sunlight, or energy is used much faster than it can be replenished.
That first punch by Doomsday was so abundantly powerful that even though the Man of Steel took it easily, it must have sent a shockwave to the aura his mighty cells generate, and depleted them, reducing that vaunted impregnability enough that a second mighty blow would actually register.
Doomsday was such an impossibly powerful adversary that Superman was forced to use up more energy for every single action than he ever had before. to add fuel to that rapidly-burning fire, not many people who read Death of superman understood that the entire battle between Doomsday and Superman was taking place at superspeed! So, for half-a-day of explosive pummeling, they never once emerged from the realm of superspeed - until the final blows. It's no wonder that the rest of the Justice League didn't stand a chance in a fight with the ultimate monster.
The Death of Mighty Superman
Laurinzoscott from Kanab, Utah on March 23, 2020:
OMG IM IN COMIC NERD HEAVEN
Laurinzoscott from Kanab, Utah on March 23, 2020:
OH MYYY GODDDD THIS IS THE MOSTawesomest (i know its not a word) article this comic nerd has ever read ...the images, the questions...wow...if you wete a woman id ask you to marry me...you captured not only the dubject at hand but brought up stuff comic nerds could debate for hours......Wow
Flats on December 04, 2015:
In the Hunter/Prey series we find out that Doomsday is a highly evolved Kryptonian designed & evolved for war by an alien working with Kryptonian scientists. So Doomsday should have an enhanced physiology from the yellow sun just like Superman.
Tbland on July 21, 2013:
Thanks, I like the new kid on the block too. I went all nostalgia too with Margot Kidder
Zaton-Taran (author) from California on July 21, 2013:
Thanks Tbland. Always happy to have a reader. I checked out your superman Man of Steel review - awesome and voted up! Out of nostalgia, I had to choose Christopher Reeve as my fav Superman, but this new cat Henry Cavill is very good too. Voted up!
Tbland on July 21, 2013:
Wow! I'm not a big comic book fan. I read a few as a kid. But as far as writing goes, you did an awesome job. I totally agree with Angie about the whole breakdown...great analysis.
Zaton-Taran (author) from California on April 06, 2013:
Thanks Geekdom and Angie for your kind thoughts! I think the Death of Superman is still the highest-grossing comic book to date
Angie Martin from Frazier Park, California on April 05, 2013:
This is a fantastic Hub! I appreciate your breakdown of one of comics' darkest moments, and how things could have gone differently. There is definitely a lot of food for thought here! It is interesting to reflect back on this epic moment and wonder how the world of comics would have changed had Superman not died that day.
Geekdom on April 05, 2013:
Great Breakdown of the fight.