Comic Book Superstrength

The tern “superstrength” gets thrown around a good bit in comics. How do you know who’s stronger than who? I mean, I know Hulk’s the strongest one there is (as is Superman) but how do I tell who’s got more muscle among everyone else? I’m writing a few stories and I’d hate to get the comparative power levels wrong.

Why yes, I AM a comic geek. :smiley:

Marvel did publish a strength ranking at one time. The Hulk was #1 because his maximum strength was theoretically unlimited. Being an old time Fantastic Four fan, I was surprised and a bit let down to realize that the Thing didn’t even make the top league- meaning that not only could the Hulk hand him his ass anytime he wanted, Thor and some others could too.

I’m unaware of an official DC ranking, and of course there’s no crossover comparison at all.

With DC, there’s no real measure, other than to look through their appearances and eyeball it. (Although there’s the Mayfair Games sourcebooks.)

A lot of Marvel’s stuff (cards, encyclopedias) includes quantified power levels.

You’ll find that relative strength levels depend mainly on one thing, no matter which publisher is involved: the needs of the story. Heroes who can routinely smash certain villains most of the time will be beat down by that villain if the writer decides it’s necessary. As with continuity, expecting something like strength levels to remain constant is a distant hope in comicdom.

Short answer: It varies. Sticking to just DC and Marvel, I think you have to differentiate between cosmic heroes like the Spectre or Thanos and more earth-based heroes such as Superman or the Hulk. I’m also assuming that you are just talking about strength and not overall power as they are different things.

If we just focus on the earth-based characters then I think we can break it into a two catagories (for our purposes):

We have the Class 100 characters. These are characters that can lift over 100 tons unaided. That limits the playing field somewhat. For example, in normal circumstances Spiderman can lift about 10 or so tons. the Class 100 level let’s us kick out the likes of Spidey etc.

So who does that leave us with? On the back of the envelope I’d put the following (in no particular order):

Wonder Woman
Black Adam
Captain Marvel
Super Girl
Martian Manhunter
Wonder Man

Of those, I’d say the base strongest would be either Super Girl or the Hulk.

The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe lists strength levels for all the characters. The measurement is how much they can “lift(press)”. This is presumably a two-hands anyhow lift, or something like a clean and jerk.

The highest level is “Class 100”, where the character can lift over 100 tons. Spider-Man can press 10 tons, the Thing 85 tons, etc.


Thing is a major leaguer and I want to say somewhere around Class 70 (capable of lifting seventy tons under optimal conditions) and is only outclassed by Colossus, Juggernaut, Thor, Hulk and other Class 100+'s.

Of course, it also depends on the writer and the story. Spiderman, a relative lightweight at only Class 10, has bested Thing before and also took out the entire X-Men including Colossus at one point if I am remembering correctly.

Supergirl is stronger than Superman now? Geez, that’s taking the whole “Everything Was Better In 1983” mindset that DC has had going for a while now a little far, isn’t it? I mean, I’m okay with Hal Jordan suddenly coming back and the re-appearance of the Kal-L from Earth 2 but won’t somebody please think of the children?

I know that in the X-Men fight at least, Spidey didn’t just go in there and start trading body blows with Colossus. He fights “smarter” than his official strength level and through a combination of quirky power uses and Spidey sense can usually take on people who should be otherwise able to pulp him with a single punch.

There is a very good website for comic fans that has it’s own boards just for fights between characters:

Not trying to promote another website but I just wanted to use it as an example. They have set rules for fights called PIS and CIS.

PIS means Plot Induced Stupidity. That’s where a character does something stupid for the sake of the story. For example, Superman not using his superspeed in a fight or Thor not dropping his enemies into other dimensions.

CIS means Character Induced Stupidity. That’s where a character basically forgets his powers or just acts like an idiot.

My favorite rule is this one:

What is the Spiderman vs. Firelord exemption?
Spiderman vs. Firelord, or SvFL, is a shorthand that refers to any time when a character performs a feat that their powers and skills should be blatantly insufficient for, and is not repeated or is rarely repeated again relative to the character’s overall established career, as well as the character’s opponents’ established showings. In statistical terms, it is an outlier, something that is radically beyond the character’s established capabilities.

For example, Spiderman defeating a herald of Galactus is a case of the SvFL exemption; however, Batman being able to sneak up on Superman is not because he has done so frequently under different writers.

For standard CBR fights, feats considered to fall under the SvFL exemption are not valid. Likewise, examples of writing which go against firmly set canon are also ignored. For example, in Larry Hama’s run of Batman and Grell’s run of Iron Man, both characters were out of character and did things very much against established canon; therefore those runs are disregarded.

Mild hijack: I was amused to discover that Marvel had recently revived Squirrel Girl, a character created by Steve Ditko for a one-shot appearance years back and then promptly forgotten. In that first appearance, she somehow managed to get the drop on Doctor Doom of all people, using only her relatively mediocre array of rodental powers. The **Great Lakes Avengers ** series re-introduced the character as a hilarious spoof of Batman, in that she routinely takes on and triumphs over demigod-class villains. Squirrel Girl most recently appeared in the GLX-Mas Special, where she is called in by S.H.I.E.L.D. to beat the crap out of Thanos.

Love Rhombus: You might want to check out your local RPG store. As Tengu mentioned, both Marvel and DC have had multiple games based on their comic properties. Discontinued game materials are often available at a substantial discount, and they provide useful stats for relative strength, speed etc., at least for the characters as they appeared at the time of the game’s publication. For example, the DC Heroes (2nd Edition) supplement I just pulled off the shelf tells me that Superman circa 1992 had a Strength of 25, which translates to a lifting ability of 819,200 tons.

Hmmm…the main guy I was thinking of and who my story is based around is Hourman, who, as his name implies, gets a boost of physical power for only 60 minutes a day, but I don’t know how much power, which birthed my question. However, I hadn’t thought of these other folks. I will check out that site, thanks very much Lochdale. I’m as much a sucker for a geek ball-kicking contest as anyone :D.

Hourman’s strength is hard to peg particularly. I can check various DC roleplaying supplements I have, and such, if it would help - I’d guesstimate based on the most recent Hourman stuff I’ve read that he can lift at least two tons and can’t lift more than ten.

This obviously doesn’t take into acount beings such as the Spectre, who if in an arm wrestle with anyone would win, simply because they would.

Just for those of you that missed it, this exemption was worth it. Because, while the outcome was, on it’s face, ridiculous, it was well crafted enough that the fight - prelude, duration, and outcome- was fantastic reading. It’s clear the Spidey doesn’t fpr a second think he’ll win, and the reader is left wondering how he’ll get bailed out. That he hangs on, wins, and it’s only then that the cavalry arrives, is much cooler than a last minute save by hero x. As a fight, it’s also a good example of the sum of a hero’s powers being much more than the individual talents he uses against lesser opponents.

off to the garage to find his comics

I agree. It was a well written comic and a great fight. I remember reading it as a kid and being well impressed. The rule just applies to fights on the fight board so that there is a base level of understanding before the arguments begin.

I don’t entirely trust the Mayfair stats, personally (which is while I didn’t reccomend it).

Certain characters [sup][sub]coughBatmancough[/sub][/sup] have stats I don’t think can really be justified. Batman’s Spirit (Mystical HP, described as the ability to withstand an attack on their belief system, or a magical attack), for example, is higher than John Constantine’s.

Incidentally, the Spidey vs Firelord battle is a two-parter in Amazing Spider-Man #269-270. It’s not the only time Spidey takes out a vastly superior opponent just by lacing into them and going for broke. He also trounces Iron Man 2020 in a special issue whose number I forget. That battle, as well as the overall story, was a lot better than S v FL.

One resource I’ve used before was the Marvel Super Heroes Role Playing Game. Each character has seven stats: four physical, three mental. The physical stats are the FASE (Fighting, Agility, Strength, Endurance), and the mental are the RIP (Reason, Intelligence, Psyche). So, since everyone has a Strength rating, you can gauge relative strength.

Each stat is given a number that corresponds to an adjective on the scale. Here’s the scale as I remember it:

0 None
2 Feeble
4 Poor
6 Typical (most untrained humans fall here)
10 Good
20 Excellent (the limit of unenhanced human ability)
30 Remarkable
40 Incredible
50 Amazing
75 Monstrous
100 Unearthly

And there were “shift” levels above that for enhancement purposes. Anyway, as I further recall, Spidey’s strength was in the Incredible range, meaning he could potentially lift up to 20 tons. At the Amazing level are characters like The Vision, who can lift up to 50 tons. The Thing had Monstrous strength, which meant up to 80 tons, and Unearthly strength was defined just as “more than 80 tons”. The only three at this top level that I can recall are The Hulk, Thor, and Wonder Man.

There are pages out there about the old role playing game, and you can look up the strength ratings of many of the heroes. Here is one such page.

Amusing Anecdote:

I once made a character for the aforementioned great old Marvel game. Since you randomly generated your character (and I do mean random: the basic book had about 50 pages of tables for this) you could pick up some very weird powers, or almost none at all.

I wound up with Fighting 100 (i.e., can shatter anything below adamantium) and enough armor and structure to take a nuclear blast.

My friend, though, got the real deal. He was mostly human. He had, however, the ability to teleport throught space and time pretty much at will. It would taken him awhile to reach the far side of the galaxy, but what did he care?

He named his character Sir Isaac Newton. He didn’t discover gravity - he invented it!

I remember when I read comics it often seemed that strength levels changed from story to story. Spidey should kick butt when fighting Daredevil or Captain America but didn’t always. I remember a fight between Spidey and Wolverine where Spidey couldn’t really hurt Wolverine with a punch in the jaw because of an Admantium jaw. Comon. What would happen to flesh against metal when hit with Spidey’s strength.

Didn’t they reinvent Superman and reduce his planet miving strength? I didn’t think Wonderman had class 100 strength. More like 80. What about Doc Samson? I’ll check MArvel Universe and get back to you.