We continue our series of comparisons with two good guys, but this time from a completely different point of origin. Today’s comparison is not going to be one between a DC and Marvel character, but rather one between an American superhero comic book character and a Japanese martial arts/fantasy manga character – Superman and Son Goku! Want to know who’s stronger? Keep reading!
Although it would be a close call and there is not much exact in-universe evidence to support it, based on what we know – whether it’s a fact or just an assumption – Son Goku might be able to beat Superman in a fight.
Dragon Ball (Japanese: ドラゴンボール, Hepburn: Doragon Bōru) is a Japanese media franchise created by Akira Toriyama back in 1984. The initial manga, written and illustrated by Toriyama, was serialized from 1984 to 1995. Dragon Ball’s initial inspiration was the classical Chinese novel Journey to the West, as well as modern Hong Kong martial arts films.
The series follows the adventures of the protagonist, Son Goku, from his childhood through adulthood as he trains in martial arts. He initially spends his childhood far from any civilization until he meets a teen girl named Bulma, who encourages him to join her quest in exploring the world in search of the seven orbs known as the Dragon Balls, which summon the wish-granting dragon, Shenlong, when gathered.
Along his journey, Goku makes several other friends, such as Krilin, Master Roshi, Oolong and others, becomes a family man, discovers his alien heritage, and battles a wide variety of villains, many of whom also seek the Dragon Balls.
The manga was adapted into two anime series – Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z, which together were broadcast in Japan from 1986 to 1996. Additionally, the franchise spanned 20 animated feature films and three television specials, as well as two anime sequel series titled Dragon Ball GT (1996–1997) and Dragon Ball Super (2015–2018).
DC Comics, for those of you that are not familiar with the story behind the comics, is a major American comic book publisher founded back in 1934. Along with Marcel Comics, it is the most popular comic book publisher in the United States. DC Comics is a major player in the comic book business and is the “home” of many famous comic book characters such as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash and many others.
Now that we’ve given you a short introduction, let us discuss the topic of this article in more detail.
Who is Son Goku?
Son Goku (Japanese: 孫悟空, Hepburn: Son Gokū) is the protagonist and main hero of the while Dragon Ball franchise. He is based on Sun Wukong, the main character in the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West, but his whole origin story can be compared to Superman’s origin story as presented in DC Comics issues.
Goku first made his debut in Dragon Ball chapter #1, titled Bulma and Son Goku (ブルマと孫悟空 Buruma to Son Gokū) in 1984, as an eccentric, monkey-tailed boy who practices martial arts and possesses superhuman strength. He meets Bulma and joins her on a journey to find the wish-granting Dragon Balls, which are used to summon the legendary dragon Shenlong.
Along the way, he finds new friends who follow him on his journey. Initially believed to have been born on Earth, Goku later learns that he is a member of an extra-terrestrial warrior race called the Saiyans, which is also the reason for his superhuman strength, and his birth name is Kakarot (カカロット, Kakarotto). As he grows up, he becomes the Earth’s mightiest warrior and protects his adopted home planet from those who seek to destroy it (there the similarity with Superman).
Goku is depicted as carefree and cheerful when at ease, but quickly serious and strategic-minded when in battle and also enthusiastic to fight. He is able to concentrate his Ki and use it for devastatingly powerful energy-based attacks; the most prominent being his signature Kamehameha (かめはめ波), in which Goku launches a blue energy blast from his palms.
Also pure of heart, Goku has frequently granted mercy to his enemies, which has often earned him additional allies in the process (though has also resulted in others taking advantage of his kindness), and he is one of the few who can ride the magic cloud called Kinto’un (筋斗雲, lit. “Somersault Cloud”); this is also an element adapted from the Chinese novel Journey to the West.
As the protagonist, Goku appears in most of the episodes, films, television specials and OVAs of the manga’s anime adaptations (Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball GT, Dragon Ball Super and Dragon Ball Heroes) as well as many of the franchise’s video games. Due to the series’ international popularity, Goku has become one of the most recognizable and iconic characters in the world.
Who is Superman?
Superman is one of the chief characters in the DC Comics universe. Born as Kal-El of Krypton, he was sent to Earth by his parents, moments before the tragic destruction of his home planet. On Earth, he landed in Kansas, near the estate of ones Jonathan and Martha Kent, two local farmers who took him in and raised him as their own child, giving him the name Clark Kent. Young Clark was thus raised in Smallville, not knowing his heritage and the powers he possesses.
As he grew up, Clark Kent became aware of his powers and found out about his heritage, but he decided to accept the Kents as his real parents, even after discovering his true identity. Most of these scenes include him discovering the messages left to him by his real father, Jor-El, through which he learns everything about himself and his heritage.
Later on, Clark Kent becomes a reporter for the Daily Planet, a Metropolis-based newspaper, while simultaneously “working” as Superman, the protector of Metropolis and the Earth. While working for the Daily Planet, Superman meets Jimmy Olsen, a trusted friend and ally, and Lois Lane, a big-shot reporter, with whom he eventually falls in love and starts a relationship. He’s also had an on-and-off relationship with Wonder Woman, but Lois was always his first and true love.
One of Superman’s first opponents was General Zod, another survivor from his home planet, who threatened Earth, before being stopped by Superman. Unlike some other DC superheroes, Superman has a lot of extra-terrestrial enemies, some of the most notable being Brainiac, the collector of planets, and Doomsday, a Kryptonian monstrosity matching Superman’s own powers. Still, his archenemy is a human, a very powerful and very intelligent human, but still only a human. His name is Lex Luthor and he plays a very important role in Superman’s crime fighting career.
Superman’s most famous nickname is the Man of Steel, which symbolises his superhuman strength and abilities. He is certainly the most powerful among the DC Comics heroes, but he also has a very strong weakness – Kryptonite. Those who know this, often used this to their advantage, since Kryptonite can do devastating damage to the Man of Steel.
He has appeared in a lot of derivative material, including a film series starring Christopher Reeve, the DCEU, where he’s played by Henry Cavill and several animated features.
Son Goku vs. Superman – who is stronger?
Actually comparing Son Goku to Superman is pretty complex. Why? Well, not only are they not part of the same comic book genre and come from different traditions, they are also conceptually completely different. Superman is a superhero, while Son Goku is a fantasy character. The superhero genre certainly is a sub-genre of fantasy, but the worlds they come from are really different.
Another thing that makes this comparison difficult is the fact that a lot of Goku’s feats are not actually substantiated and are basically assumptions with more or less evidence. Superman’s powers have been demonstrated and substantiated by comic book evidence over and over, so the situation is pretty clear when it comes to the Man of Steel. Son Goku, on the other hand, never demonstrated everything he’s supposedly capable of, but still – we think we managed to gather enough data to give you a relatively objective and evidence-based comparison, so let us see what it looks like.
Comparing the powers of Son Goku and Superman is not that difficult as some other aspects. As far as Superman goes, his powers and feats are well-documented throughout the comics and it is very easy to support every statement with evidence. Superman has superhuman traits like strength, speed, durability and others. He can shoot burning lasers from his eyes and ice from his mouth. He can also fly and is generally able to stand his ground in any form of physical confrontation, despite the opponent. Although he looks like a god from a human perspective, he isn’t one. In fact, on Krypton he would’ve been like any human on Earth, but the Earth’s atmosphere and living conditions enhanced his powers in that environment.
Son Goku, on the other hand, has become a true saiyan god as the series progressed. He doesn’t have any superpowers like superman does, but he can utilise his physique and his fighting skills in such a way that he truly does seem superhuman. He is a constantly evolving character that upgrades his skills and potential after each big challenge, becoming more powerful after every fight. In that aspect, his potential is practically unlimited and it is safe to assume – although, we have to reiterate that, there is no hard evidence for this – that his potential could become higher than Superman’s.
As for their weaknesses, Superman has two, while Goku seemingly has none. Superman’s major weakness is Kryptonite, which can even kill him, but it is safe to assume that Goku wouldn’t use Kryptonite, as he would consider it an unfair advantage. His second weakness is his dependence on the Earth’s environment and it’s Sun, without which he would (1) not have the powers he has, and (2) not be able to last very long in a fight, because he would lose his energy. This means that in order for the fight to be completely fair, Son Goku would have to battle Superman on Earth without using Kryptonite, which in itself means that Goku has a slight advantage, since he needs no adaptations. He also doesn’t have a weakness, as far as we know, which is also a very important fact when comparing the two.
This is where things actually get tricky. Namely, we’ve already covered Superman’s speed compared to the four Flashes, where we established that although he’s not faster than the Flash, he is still fast enough to pose a challenge for the crimson Speedster. Superman is extremely fast, that cannot be doubted. He can fly around the world – both literally and figuratively – in mere seconds and is known to have travelled as far as Pluto in ridiculously little time. And while we don’t have the exact number, we know that Superman is extremely fast.
As for Goku – well, we don’t know, actually. We know he’s fast. His reflexes are brilliant and he can, indeed, move really fast. But how fast? We haven’t a clue. If we consult Dragon Ball Super, where Goku’s powers have become almost absurdly big, and compare his speed to the general speed of the Dragon Ball Z characters, we could assume that he’s become faster than even Superman. The sad thing is – we have absolutely no proof of this and this brings us to the verifiability issue mentioned above. This one of such unverified (or even unverifiable) assumptions that you can freely interpret, but in lack of hard proof – we’ll state that Goku is still not faster than Superman.
Although this category has enough evidence for both characters, it is the most difficult one to compare because both Goku and Superman are extremely durable and can really last very long in a battle.
Superman is known as the Man of Steel. And although his body isn’t actually made of steel, he cannot be harmed by humans and the majority of human-made weapons (the only weapon known to have wounded superman is a very large nuclear bomb). As for extraterrestrial powers, Superman’s well-known fight against Doomsday has proven just how long he can last and his encounters with Darkseid have shown that he can even survive (although not without much pain) being hit by an Omega Beam. This is massive, really, as both Doomsday and Darkseid are among the most powerful beings in the DC Comics universe. Superman also has a regenerative factor that renders him practically immortal, which is also very important for this comparison.
Son Goku, on the other hand, isn’t immortal in the same sense as Superman and we’ll probably never know how he’d react to being hit by Darkseid’s Omega Beams, but he is an exceptional fighter who doesn’t get tired and gets better after every fight. Son Goku is a trained martial artist so he is automatically better in hand-to-hand combat; Superman is good, but he is not a trained martial artists – he relies on his strength and on his powers, while Goku relies on his skills. His saiyan physique also enables him to last very long in a fight, so long that it is questionable whether he can get tired at all (while Superman can), but this is also one of the unproven assumptions open to interpretation. He also grows after each battle and becomes stronger, which also makes him more durable after each fight.
We’ve analysed all the important aspects of the characters’ powers and we can summarise them like this: Superman seems to be the faster of the two, while Goku seems to have a slight advantage in the other two categories, but only a slight one.
This is why we think that Goku could beat Superman, although we have to reiterate that it is really open to interpretation, as a lot of Goku’s powers and abilities are just assumptions that are not fully supported by in-universe evidence; that is not the case with Superman and his powers. With Goku being a better fighter and having a lot of the same powers as Superman, but not having an outright weakness like the Man of Steel and not being dependent on the environment, if his powers are really like what is assumed – we think we have our winner.
But, whoever would win this fight, we know one thing for sure – it would be an epic clash never before seen in the history of popular culture! Curtain.
And that’s it for today. We hope you had fun reading this and that we helped solve this dilemma for you. See you next time and don’t forget to follow us!
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