Comics On TV

Supergirl Is the Strongest Superhero on TV (We Did the Math)

We broke down the numbers to rank the strongest heroes in comic-book TV, including Luke Cage, Superman, Jessica Jones, the Incredible Hulk, and a not-especially-amazing Spider-Man.

by | July 3, 2018 | Comments

Supergirl -- Image Number: SPG3_ReturnArt.jpg -- Pictured: Melissa Benoist as Kara/Supergirl -- Photo: Jordon Nuttall/The CW -- © 2018 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

For decades, the might of various superheroes has led to good-natured discussions and drag-out fights in comic book shops and playgrounds all over the country. Often, those conversations get muddled as the strength of a character, like Batman, gets wrapped up in his martial arts prowess or other skills. True strength often gets lost in the fun of building scenarios in which Venom fights Superman.

But the notion of super-strength becomes more compelling as television can finally dramatize the ability in interesting and fairly inexpensive ways. As Luke Cage executive producer and showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker told Rotten Tomatoes recently, titular star Luke Cage (Mike Colter) can easily pick up a Volkswagen. It is a point referenced throughout the show’s second season whenever anyone mentions Luke’s strength. Since the classic Volkswagen Beetle weighs roughly 1,800 lbs. – the newer models weigh in closer to 3,000 lbs. – it gives us a good measure to compare his strength to some of television other super-strength heroes.

While Luke might be the strongest man in Harlem, is he the strongest of the strong?


Luke Cage (Mike Colter) | Marvel's Luke Cage 87%

Thanks to the image of the Volkswagen and an early episode in the second season in which ESPN watches Luke train, we know exactly how strong he can be. Besides being told he can pick up car, viewers see him toss a 400 lbs. tractor tire as though it were a standard basketball. Heavy steel doors present him with little challenge, and he seems to take a special pleasure in ripping doors off of cars to use as an impromptu discus or shield for his non-bulletproof allies. All of which reveals a sort of strength that is impressive while still feeling relatively grounded. His comic book counterpart is said to be able to lift as much as 50,000 lbs, making the TV Luke far weaker, but definitely strong enough in the context of the show.

Also, it should be noted his strength is an upgrade from where he started in the first seasons of Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. As referenced early in the second season, he received an added boost of strength, speed and durability after Claire (Rosario Dawson) and Dr. Burstein (Michael Kostroff) used the technique which first gave him powers to revive him late in the first season.


The Incredible Hulk (Lou Ferrigno) | The Incredible Hulk

THE INCREDIBLE HULK, Lou Ferrigno, 1978-82. ©Universal Television/courtesy Everett Collection
(Photo by Universal Television/courtesy Everett Collection)

While in theory, the Incredible Hulk is capable of infinite strength, the late 1970s CBS television series could only take that strength so far. He could burst through brick walls, bend steel with his green hands and, quite infamously, throw a grizzly bear (around 600 lbs.) across a lake. He also had a habit of lifting and overturning Buick Skylarks, a popular model of cars in film and television at the time, weighing in at 3,000 lbs.

Oddly enough, that makes the Ferrigno version of the Hulk roughly as strong as Luke. Granted, demonstrations of the Hulk’s strength were limited by the show’s budget. The Hulk was also known to push farming equipment around and leap from four-story buildings. Those feats could push him into a higher tier of strength, but the tendency to get mad and throw around Skylarks keeps him in the relatively contained tier of Luke Cage.

The current Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) of the Marvel Cinematic Universe definitely reaches closer to the infinite potential of his comic book counterpart, talking on giant wolf Fenris and other impressive creatures in Thor: Ragnarok. But as seen in Avengers: Infinity War, Thanos proved a formidable foe. Perhaps in the next Avengers film, Hulk will prove he is the strongest by far.


Vixen (Maisie Richardson-Sellers) | DC's Legends of Tomorrow 87%

As the keeper of the Spirit Totem, Amaya Jiwe has access to a great variety of abilities beyond those seen on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. She can derive enhanced senses, endurance, and speed in addition to creating energy shields and projections of animals capable of interacting with the world. It would be the most powerful object in the Arrowverse if not for the fact it can only call on the spirit of one animal at a time.

With that in mind, Amaya’s tendency to call on the spirit of the gorilla seems like a good way to measure her potential strength. A gorilla can lift 10 times its body weight – around 4,000 lbs. with some estimates going as high as 4,600 lbs. Presumably, the gorilla spirit is the ideal of gorilla fitness, giving Amaya an impressive amount of power to take on the likes of Grodd. The totem bearer can also call upon the spirit of other strong animals like lions, bears, and rhinos. The latter may make Vixen an incredibly powerful hero, provided she was willing to cause that level of destruction.


Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) | Marvel's Jessica Jones 83%

Jessica Jones still appears to be stronger than Luke, even with the boost to his lifting ability. Granted, she uses that strength in purely practical ways with the big feats of strength — like moving cars out of her way — used more as jokes. Nonetheless, she has no problem throwing sedans around (3,000-4,000 lbs.).

But the key difference between them appears on leg day. It is key to Jessica’s abilities as she uses that strength to hurtle herself up buildings. That feat certainly requires a lot of power. Luke’s jumping strength, as seen in the season 2 training scene, makes him better than any living Olympic long jumper, but nowhere near what Jessica can accomplish.

The comic book Jessica – who can straight up fly – is said to have an “unrevealed” upper limit to her strength, potentially making her one of the strongest super-powered beings in the Marvel Universe. Her Marvel Cinematic Universe equivalent could be capable of such feats of strength. Provided, of course, she had the necessary motivation to, say, pick up a building.


Spider-Man (Nicholas Hammond) | The Amazing Spider-Man 20%

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, Nicholas Hammond (as Spider-Man), 1978. (Everett Collection)
(Photo by Everett Collection)

The 1970s Spider-Man show ran for two short seasons on CBS and did its best to recreate Peter Parker’s myriad abilities on a tight TV budget. His webbing always looked like rope and scenes of him clinging to the side of buildings always looks a little too comical for comfort. But the show was dedicated to being as faithful as it could in its first season.

And one of the key abilities of Spider-Man is his radioactive spider-inherited strength. Traditionally, he has “the proportionate strength of a spider,” which can lift anywhere from 2 to 120 times its bodyweight depending on species. For Peter, this roughly translates to 20,000 lbs., depending on the needs of the plot. Not that the show could ever dramatize this upper limit. In fact, the second season pulled back even further on his abilities in hopes of courting an older audience.


Wonder Woman (Lynda Carter) | Wonder Woman (1976) 100%

WONDER WOMAN, Lynda Carter, 1976-79 (Everett Collection)
(Photo by Everett Collection)

Diana has always had the strength of the gods on her side. She could hold back the tide of war, bust through walls, bend guns, and tow vehicles with her lasso. Like the other 1970s TV shows mentioned, dramatizing her powers to their fullest was beyond the technical prowess and budgets of the day. It was also beyond the writers at times, who played employed the “as strong as the plot needs her to be” rule for her strength.

Even her comic book counterpart’s strength varies with each story, so we will assume the ’70s Wonder Woman was roughly on par with ’70s Spider-Man in terms of strength. Her current DC Extended Universe film manifestation, as played by Gal Gadot, gets far closer to the godly ideal, making her one of the mightiest superheroes around.


Mon-El (Chris Wood) & Superman (Tyler Hoechlin, Dean Cain, et al.) | Supergirl 86% et al.

Supergirl - Chris Wood as Mon-El, Tyler Hoechlin as Clark/Superman (Shane Harvey/Katie Yu/The CW)
(Photo by Shane Harvey/Katie Yu/The CW)

As a Daxamite, Mon-El has the comparative strength of a fairly fit Kryptonian. Traditionally, the character is said to have the same strength as Superman; of course, Superman once had the ability to push planets out of their orbits, making the notion of strength a ridiculous concept.

Since the 1980s, Superman’s powers decreased considerably, leaving him strong enough to keep a space shuttle (165,000 lbs) in the air (with an assist from his flight ability), but not so strong that he can lift a mountain from its roots. Over the course of various television shows, he has proved strong enough to help a rocket complete its trajectory (as seen in the first episode of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman). In theory, Mon-El would be capable of this sort of strength if given the challenge. Although, this past of season of Supergirl saw him do little else but be the prince of indecision.


Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) | Supergirl 86%

But as Clark (Hoechlin) admitted in the season 2 finale of Supergirl, Kara Danvers (Benoist) is the strongest of the television superheroes. To prove it, we have a moment from the season 1 finale in which she lifted the crashed space station Fort Rozz off the Earth and into a trajectory away from the solar system. It nearly killed her, but she was successful.

Now, Fort Rozz is fictional and therefore hard to quantify, but our own real-life International Space Station is said to weigh (under Earth’s gravity) 450 tons – 900,000 lbs – and it is only a fraction of the size of Fort Rozz. If Supergirl can move something in the 100s of tons, she is definitely in a class by herself; in fact, that sort of power makes some of the developments in more recent episodes quite alarming. Maybe Worldkiller Reign (Odette Annable) really had the strength to shatter the Earth all along.

Nonetheless, Supergirl stands above all other TV superheroes for sheer strength. Of course, how she applies that power makes all the difference in the world. And seeing as she tends to empathize with her opponents, it is doubtful we will see her move anything that massive any time soon.

Tag Cloud

Black Mirror Spectrum Originals slashers BBC America crime drama comic Horror supernatural robots 2018 screen actors guild Disney streaming service National Geographic richard e. Grant political drama stand-up comedy spinoff Chernobyl Awards Best and Worst Rom-Com versus Action Comic Book dramedy south america Holiday true crime 20th Century Fox award winner disaster Sundance TV MTV American Society of Cinematographers mockumentary Marvel Studios sports docudrama 21st Century Fox PBS Summer 71st Emmy Awards IFC Apple TV Plus YouTube Premium cancelled The Arrangement See It Skip It Hallmark canceled YA Netflix Syfy El Rey period drama Sci-Fi A&E NYCC Podcast Paramount SXSW zombie Winter TV Comics on TV TV nature social media children's TV Disney Channel ratings Crunchyroll Film Festival Holidays spanish language Lifetime Cannes Apple cooking comiccon composers Rock crime thriller Fall TV Avengers renewed TV shows crime diversity ABC Family Fox News television Music HBO Max TCA Winter 2020 GoT Schedule Superheroes Video Games Sundance Now Animation transformers Polls and Games Disney MCU politics Acorn TV Crackle CBS harry potter Nat Geo adaptation 2020 unscripted CW Seed CNN Tomatazos Grammys Thanksgiving teaser 2015 Reality Competition Writers Guild of America video The Purge thriller TIFF YouTube Red Biopics quibi VH1 doctor who TCA RT History space based on movie Anna Paquin series blaxploitation festivals TV renewals police drama ABC Musicals Set visit hist Mudbound Star Trek New York Comic Con science fiction Valentine's Day miniseries Pixar game show sequel screenings Hulu dragons Interview First Look WGN TruTV kids ITV talk show Character Guide canceled TV shows war Disney+ Disney Plus Year in Review Epix LGBTQ werewolf Logo DC streaming service what to watch boxoffice Rocky Trivia Infographic dc Vudu jamie lee curtis Paramount Network Cartoon Network Fantasy casting OWN TV Land Amazon Prime sitcom Extras Television Academy Lionsgate San Diego Comic-Con Awards Tour historical drama Sundance 2016 Britbox Watching Series Dark Horse Comics animated Creative Arts Emmys Tarantino green book Calendar Reality cancelled television Binge Guide Amazon Studios revenge natural history LGBT TLC Warner Bros. Martial Arts Red Carpet Opinion Discovery Channel E3 facebook Pride Month Food Network History justice league theme song Premiere Dates Quiz cancelled TV series Musical spider-man Toys 2017 Elton John Shudder comics travel Pop documentary reboot Hallmark Christmas movies USA Nominations aliens Showtime GLAAD psychological thriller OneApp romantic comedy Stephen King Mindy Kaling cats Drama GIFs sag awards cults Heroines Trophy Talk crossover Mystery APB CMT spain adventure BET rotten movies we love Mary poppins ESPN Box Office Tubi psycho cinemax NBC Esquire 24 frames Spring TV Amazon 2019 joker zero dark thirty book 45 CBS All Access Mary Poppins Returns WarnerMedia Cosplay Teen Marvel blockbuster SDCC Universal TCA 2017 FX binge Shondaland Photos E! ghosts Trailer name the review Chilling Adventures of Sabrina witnail Turner game of thrones latino Western indie DC Universe DGA Countdown independent halloween Tumblr Nickelodeon Pirates Sneak Peek cancelled TV shows directors FXX finale Masterpiece SundanceTV Song of Ice and Fire Walt Disney Pictures Emmys Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Peacock toy story The CW Christmas Women's History Month Adult Swim DirecTV Freeform Marvel Television Comedy Star Wars golden globes Academy Awards technology movie Film Endgame Superheroe strong female leads The Witch anime The Walking Dead spy thriller RT21 dogs zombies Disney Plus Lifetime Christmas movies vampires anthology Mary Tyler Moore Ovation PaleyFest mutant DC Comics medical drama discovery romance Starz Lucasfilm Spike Ellie Kemper YouTube AMC dceu elevated horror biography singing competition Brie Larson christmas movies Certified Fresh Emmy Nominations Columbia Pictures tv talk foreign Turner Classic Movies free movies Arrowverse 007 Apple TV+ FOX Oscars TBS streaming First Reviews Sony Pictures Baby Yoda IFC Films Ghostbusters USA Network Marathons cops Family Rocketman Classic Film breaking bad batman cartoon Kids & Family cars President Captain marvel X-Men Pet Sematary BBC TNT Country Super Bowl Bravo Winners HBO hispanic serial killer A24 TCM VICE Netflix Christmas movies Amazon Prime Video MSNBC movies Election Comedy Central