Though fans may still debate whether Superman is stronger than Goku, one thing that can’t be ignored… is they have practically the same origin.
For years, comic and manga fans have debated endlessly on who would win in a fight between DC’s Superman and Dragon Ball’s Goku. This argument might have originated because both characters have numerous similarities in their physical abilities and personality traits. Perhaps what exemplifies this the most is how the two have practically had the same origin story, making Goku and Superman harder to distinguish in the public eye.
Though Superman’s origin is pretty well known for its pop-cultural reach, it’s still worth reviewing his history due to its influence. After being born on the doomed planet Krypton, a baby named Kal-El was shot into space via rocket with the hopes of him surviving the collapse of the planet, which happened moments later. Eventually, the baby’s spacecraft crash-landed in a cornfield in Kansas, and the child is taken in by a loving family known as Kents. Kal-El, now named Clark Kent, quickly revealed that he was capable of superhuman abilities. After graduating from high school, Clark moved to the city of Metropolis to write for the Daily Planet newspaper to maintain a normal human life. After creating a convincing secret identity, Clark began acting as Metropolis’s iconic hero Superman.
Goku (or his birth name, Kakarot) was also a newborn on a doomed planet known as Vegeta, and much like Superman, escaped its destruction via spacecraft. Kakarot would also be crash-landed on earth and would be taken in by his surrogate grandfather Gohan. Gohan would raise Kakarot for a few years. In this time, Gohan renamed the child Goku and taught him martial arts. However, this all came to an end when Goku transformed into a giant ape after looking at a full moon and mistakenly crushed Gohan. Having lost Gohan, Goku was forced to fend for himself in the woods until he would come across a young dragon ball-seeking girl named Bulma, which began the original arc of Dragon Ball.
Considering all this, it’s obvious that Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama took great inspiration from Superman’s origin story which debuted all the way back in the ’30s. Having said that, it should also be stated that Toriyama didn’t straight up rip off Superman’s origin, but rather adapted and changed enough to make it feel fresh and original. Unlike Superman, Goku was part of an extremely aggressive warrior race of aliens and was quite unruly; however, after suffering a major head injury at a young age, he became the friendly character we see today. Also unlike Superman, the original Dragon Ball series shows Goku maturing into a hero, while D.C. often forced readers to fill in the blanks about Clark pre-Superman days. It’s also important to note that the intergalactic aspect of Goku’s origin wasn’t revealed until the second series in the franchise, Dragon Ball Z, and effectively reinvigorated the series.
The fact is that Dragon Ball probably wouldn’t be the same if not for using Superman’s origin as a template for Goku’s, but is that really a bad thing? Today, Dragon Ball is one of the most beloved manga and anime series worldwide, and maybe it was Goku’s familiar origin that helped it catch on with a western audience. Not to mention that this inspiration would eventually lead to the fan-favorite Frieza arc, which makes Toriyama’s adaption feel more acceptable due to its unique take on Superman’s origin. Though Dragon Ball may have duplicated some key aspects from Superman, it ended up helping the series live on and continue in a legendary manner. Though fans may never know who would win a fight between Superman and Goku, it’s clear one wouldn’t be the same without the other.