Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Superman vs. Green Lantern: The Debate Continues

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.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

- Second, at least some Green Lanterns (Hal Jordan and John Stewart, specifically) are capable of stopping Superman in his tracks if they have to.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

- 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):

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

- 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.


SallyP said...

Nicely done. Especially the reasoning with Sodam Yat and Superbrat Prime. If you are going to go up against Superman, you NEED experience. Which is why I've always loved that John managed to take Superman down in about three seconds during "Rebirth", with that old zap to the eyeballs.

Not to mention that Guy pretty much beat Superman to a pulp WITHOUT any Green Lantern ring, just his Warrior powers. Haw!

Sea_of_Green said...

See, that whole thing with Guy just goes to show that there are a LOT of characters capable of taking out Superman rather easily, based purely on his weaknesses to certain abilities (telepathic, magical, etc.). Why comic book readers get so fixated on the "Superman vs. Green Lantern" scenario is beyond me. :-\

SallyP said...

I think that a smart and crafty Green Lantern COULD take out Superman. As you mentioned, John did it rather effectively. Hal would just use a big ol' boxing glove, which is stupid. Kyle could probably come up with something creative.

Frankly, I think that Salakk could mop the floor with him. Salakk is pretty ruthless when he has to be.

Pete said...

Give Batman a GL ring again. Fight's over.

Or I agree with Sally. Salaak would own him.

jneeman said...

There was a case where some villain copied, and disguised himself as Hal, and got his ring. From there the villain used the power ring to make a planet of kryptonite to kill Supermen. Luckily the real Hal stopped the impostor before Superman died.

Armane said...

Can't imagine if a ring chose Superman. LOL

Abhijeet said...

You forget some rather crucial details like superman one shotting john stewart in Sacrifice arc or in S/B 29 hal admitting he threw everything he had on superman and superman just said "you okay,bro" or superman taking guy gardner's ring away or supergirl taking away john stewart's ring or eradicator embarrassing yellow lantern guy gardner or recently a kryptonian pwning both hal and john at the same time only to get pummeled by superman or need I go on.

Edna Lepley said...

It all comes down to what the comic needs or how bad it written, it one or the other. Sometimes Supes is truly super, others he can't even take down a mere mortal Bruce Wayne. It's one of the HUGE downsides of comics. No character is always the same power level, they flex constantly for the story. And some writers flat out screw some characters over for their story. Example The Dark Knight Returns cartoon. Superman was a super chump in that cartoon due to the writers.

Nick Tirone said...


Michael said...

During the 2007-2008 season of the animated TV show, The Batman, in the episode “Ring Toss,” Dick Grayson meets Hal (Green Lantern) ... isupermanring.blogspot.com

Sanityangel _0310 said...

Thats the thing, the lantern ring power is limitless and to add to that the creativity is based upon its user. Its one of the most powerful things in tge whole universe. We will never know grant that information . don't vet me started on the white ring , which is life. Their are beings stronger then Superman and Hal Jordan , and with powers that can sweep supes out .

Adam Knowles said...

Green lanterns have been around billions of years before kryptonian's, when you think about guardian technology is ridiculously light years ahead of krypton.

Keldon Rush said...

Speed. Superman is as fast as the Flash (whole other never-decided vs). Nearly every appearance of Superman in a comic book portrays him severely handicapped. Superman can *think* and move so fast that Green Lantern would basically be standing still. My take is that whichever of them first realized that the contest was on would win. Since Superman is way way way faster I expect it would be him.