Superman’s rogues’ gallery has many memorable villains that have not only posed a threat to the Man of Steel but to other superheroes and the Justice League. From Lex Luthor to Darkseid, Superman has had some struggles defeating some villains regardless of his powerful abilities because they are either much stronger than him on a power scale or put in him situations he has difficulty getting out of, especially if it involves endangering the life of another person. So the question is who is Superman’s ultimate enemy? Not just in the measurement of power scales but in rivalry. Personally, I think that title belongs to the Kryptonian, General Zod. 

Drastic Endings

Both Superman and General Zod come from the world of Krypton. While there are various iterations of the character’s backstories and storylines, we will discuss the mainstream timeline prior to the events of Flashpoint.

In Countdown #30, readers get a brief look at Zod’s past. It tells the story of how Zod went from a respected general to a prisoner of The Phantom Zone. Jor-El had warned the people of Krypton of the approaching danger of the planet’s unstable core causing the destruction of Krypton. Yet, only a few listened to him, one of those few being Zod. Zod, his wife Ursa, and his friend, Non, caused an insurrection trying to get the people, as well the government, to listen to Jor-El’s heeds of warnings. 

Unlike Zod, Jor-El did not engage in violence or join Zod’s crusade despite the fact that Zod was trying to help him. But as Zod has shown, he instead let his lust for power and violence blind him from the goal of saving the lives of billions. When he and his wife, and Non were caught, the government sentenced them to death but Jor-El implored them to instead be sentenced to life in the prison known as The Phantom Zone. They did but not long after their sentencing, Krypton, in the end, met its demise. 

Clash of Worlds

As most fans obviously know, Superman strives to be an ideal example for Earth. He strives to be a beacon of hope for others and to maintain peace. While General Zod on the other hand is someone determined to gain what he wants, power. On his arrival on Earth, he planned to transform the Earth into a new Krypton with the help of Ursa and Non. At that time, he also had a son who was being raised by Clark Kent and Lois Lane. So what does this have to do with Zod being Superman’s ultimate nemesis? They are opposites but one loses his way by being corrupted by his lust for power. 

Superman recognizes that humans can suffer the same fate of destruction that Krypton did if they don’t change for the better. After Zod’s return from the Phantom Zone, he seeks to turn Earth into a new Krypton, to begin again and not make the same mistakes the old Krypton did. However, Zod’s determination to rebuild his lost home would mean the destruction of all life on Earth.

Krypton had its chance to become an example for the universe by not harming its own ecosystem but they recklessly did so and, despite their advancements far more superior to Earth’s, they ignored the danger they were causing to their planet. Superman, moved by the will to do what’s right, wants Earth to learn from Krypton and make a better future for itself. Zod has no interest in Earth.  

Superman’s Legacy

Superman's #1 Enemy: General Zod

One can’t blame Zod for wanting to rebuild his home, especially being one of the people to heed Jor-El’s warnings but the issue lies in Zod’s attitude towards humans whom he sees as inferior and has no problem destroying their planet. Superman, despite being an alien, has grown to love the people of the little blue planet and wants to help them achieve a measure of greatness, something some of Krypton’s inhabitants forgot to do. While General Zod might’ve had good intentions at first, his selfish desire for power has led him to commit horrible acts that have nothing to do with his original cause. 

Superman and Zod are both powerful beings with free will. One decides to conquer and bring every being to their knees at any cost, while the other humbly helps others and, while he has the power to do what he wants, unlike Zod, he doesn’t. He uses it for good. These two characters have fought each other for over six decades worth of comic book history and in comic book films. What makes Zod the ultimate Superman villain is how their battles highlight how their rivalry imitates the classic story of good versus evil.

As always, good triumphs every time.

Nathan Gonzalez
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