During the 2007-2008 season of the animated TV show, The Batman, in the episode “Ring Toss,” Dick Grayson meets Hal (Green Lantern) Jordan. And one of the first things young Mr. Grayson says is, “If you and Superman were ever in a fight, which one of you would--”
Sadly, Dick doesn’t get to finish his question ("--win?") because Batman interrupts him. For his part, Hal Jordan just seems amused by the whole thing (“Nice kid!”). But the scene throws into light the ongoing debate among comic book readers of just WHO would win the fight if Superman were to go up against Green Lantern.
I poked a little fun at this debate in a blog article last summer, but the debate has gained some momentum since then, thanks primarily to events in last year's “Sinestro Corps War” story in the Green Lantern comics. In that story, fans on either side of the debate finally got to see an actual, prolonged slugfest between a Kryptonian (Superboy/Superman Prime) and the “ultimate Green Lantern” (Sodam Yat/Ion). Readers have latched onto the fight as evidence of what just would happen if fan favorites Superman and Hal Jordan were to go head-to-head. However, ultimately, the fight seems to have made the debate more complicated rather than settle any real arguments.
Further examination of that fight is in order, but first, here is an overview of some main details fans knew about Superman’s abilities vs. Green Lantern’s abilities leading up to the Sinestro Corps War:
- First, it's pretty well established that Superman has a healthy respect for Green Lantern power.
- Second, at least some Green Lanterns (Hal Jordan and John Stewart, specifically) are capable of stopping Superman in his tracks if they have to.
- Third, Hal Jordan's chances of sustaining at least a broken arm during a Kryptonian attack are rather high -- evidence that Superman is capable of getting through Hal's force field. (Per writer Geoff Johns, Hal's constructs are supposed to be among the STRONGEST in the entire Green Lantern Corps):
- With a little strategy, a Green Lantern power ring doesn't even have to be wielded by a certified Green Lantern in order to have the ability to stop Superman:
- In a few "Elseworlds" stories (particularly Red Son and The Nail), Superman or a Kryptonian equivalent is shown easily defeating Green Lantern(s). Superman fans point to these stories as proof that a Green Lantern is no match for Superman, whereas Green Lantern fans tend to dismiss them because they're "Elseworld" fantasies and therefore not in continuity.
(NOTE, please: Throughout this post, by "Green Lantern," I mean SPECIFICALLY a member of the Green Lantern Corps. The Golden-Age Green Lantern, Alan Scott, is not a member of the Corps and therefore is not represented in this post -- though of ALL Green Lanterns, I really think Alan Scott has the best overall chance against Superman, merely because Superman is vulnerable to magic, and Alan's powers are magic-based.)
Those little details aside, here's a brief look at Green Lantern Corps #18 (2007). Remember, the battle it contains is NOT between Superman and one of the more well-known Green Lantern characters (Hal, John, Guy, Kyle, etc.), but rather between Superman Prime and Sodam Yat, newly "promoted" to Ultimate Green Lantern status by being given the power of Ion.
Now, even without the involvement of Green Lantern powers, a fight between Prime and Sodam would be impressive enough, because:
- Prime is a Kryptonian from an alternate universe. He has Superman's full abilities and absolutely no desire to hold back from using them -- and he has no qualms against killing.
- Sodam is a Daxamite, meaning he has powers akin to Superman's. And, as a Green Lantern Corps officer fully embroiled in the Sinestro Corps War, he has no qualms about killing Prime if he has to.
However, Sodam also has Green Lantern abilities. In fact, as Ion, he has UBER-Green Lantern abilities. Theoretically, he should be able to wipe the floor with Prime, right?
Well ... Actually, Sodam Yat loses the fight.
Sodam arguably has some serious disadvantages here. First of all, he's fighting on Earth, which is LOADED with lead -- it's in the soil, it's in the buildings, it's in the plumbing, IT'S EVERYWHERE. As a Daxamite, lead is as poisonous to Sodam as kryptonite is to Superman. So, Sodam is confronted with a type of problem Prime certainly doesn't have to worry about here. Prime takes full advantage of Sodam's weakness to defeat him (see the issue for all the gory details).
But shouldn't Sodam be able to use his Ion abilities to compensate for that problem? Theoretically, yes, but the trouble is, Sodam JUST RECEIVED his Ion powers from the Guardians of the Universe -- like, probably not even an hour before finding himself in a major slugfest with one of the baddest boys in the Multiverse. And before receiving the powers of Ion, Sodam was still a Green Lantern rookie -- granted, a very talented rookie, but a rookie nonetheless. Therefore, Sodam didn't use his Green Lantern/Ion powers to full advantage in his fight with Prime -- probably because he didn't know how!
(NOTE about the Guardians of the Universe: They REALLY should have given the Ion powers back to the much more experienced Kyle Rayner, if they really wanted Ion to be able to take down Prime all by his lonesome. But, I guess that makes too much sense.)
Compare this to the times Superman went up against Hal Jordan as Parallax (in Zero Hour, or in Green Lantern #64 (1995), etc.). Parallax essentially had souped-up Green Lantern powers similar to Ion's. Not only that, those powers were wielded by Hal Jordan, who as a Green Lantern is supposed to be the best of the best of the best ... In every confrontation between Superman and Parallax/Hal Jordan, Hal wiped the floor with Superman. But that brings up another issue.
Remember that, in his fight with Sodam Yat, Prime did not hold back at all. Now, this fact helps support the single most persistent argument among Superman fans when discussing Superman-versus-Green Lantern scenarios (or any "Superman versus" scenario, for that matter). The argument is that when he fights, Superman holds back, period. This is because Superman is generally a nice guy who, at heart, doesn't want to hurt anybody, even bad guys trying to make mincemeat out of him. It's instinctive in Superman, so the argument goes, because he's fully aware of just how powerful he is, and he's afraid of ever losing control. So, theoretically, hardly anyone has ever really faced Superman at his most powerful because, even at a subconscious level, he's always holding back.
Generally, I'm inclined to believe that a Green Lantern is capable of stopping Superman AS LONG AS the Lantern has time to PREPARE and come up with a strategy for fighting Superman -- and Superman isn't likely to give an opponent time to come up with a strategy if battle is imminent and immediate.
I'm also inclined to believe, based on the evidence, that Superman is much more powerful than any Green Lantern -- but there are just enough "what ifs" out there to cast a little doubt on this belief.
So, I'm forced to conclude that the issue will never be fully resolved unless and until DC Comics stages a genuine, gloves-off, full-blown Superman-versus-Green Lantern battle.