Thanks to everyone’s favorite pointy-eared Dark Knight Detective, we all know that criminals are “a superstitious, cowardly lot.” That goes double for super-criminals. Perhaps that’s why the bad guys tend to congregate in groups, despite a distinct inability to set their egos aside long enough to function as actual teams. With the advent of films like “Suicide Squad” and the formation of a new live-action Legion of Doom in the CW’s “Legends of Tomorrow,” supervillains are more popular than ever.
Considering this newfound mainstream popularity, we thought it was the perfect time to run down a list of the most notorious villain crews around. These malcontents and ne’er-do-wells are the baddest of the bad, the most evil bastards in all of comicdom. Singly, they may be easy pickings… but together? Together, they’re the most vile, dangerous beings in all of comics. We bet being bad never felt so good…
SPOILER ALERT! Spoilers ahead for numerous stories published by DC and Marvel Comics.
16. LEGION OF DOOM
Arguably one of the most notorious team on our list, the Legion of Doom’s evil tendrils have woven their way into mainstream popular culture thanks to its origins as the villainous foil of the animated Super Friends. Debuting in the first episode of the classic “Challenge of the Super Friends” cartoon in 1978, the group’s roster featured some of DC Comics’ greatest villains, including Lex Luthor, Captain Cold, Gorilla Grodd, Solomon Grundy, the Cheetah and Giganta. Operating out of their iconic Hall of Doom, this powerful assemblage of super-criminals was tailor-made to go toe-to-toe with the mighty Super Friends.
Although there have been many stand-ins in the comics over the years, a true Legion of Doom wasn’t seen in print until Paul Dini and Alex Ross’ critically-acclaimed “Justice.” Still, there’s no denying the impact the Legion has had on fans and creators alike, inspiring countless cultural references and lending its name to the popular wrestling tag team, the Road Warriors. Currently, the L.O.D. are making life hell for the CW’s Legends of Tomorrow, as the Reverse-Flash, Captain Cold, Damien Darhk and Malcom Merlyn pool their talents and resources in an effort to change history for their own nefarious ends.
15. HORSEMEN OF APOCALYPSE
Famine, War, Pestilence and Death — in one incarnation or another, the Horsemen of the ancient mutant powerhouse known as Apocalypse have plagued the X-Men and the rest of humanity for decades. Created by Louise and Walter Simonson during their seminal run on “X-Factor,” Apocalypse’s biblically-inspired henchmen are perhaps most notorious for turning a despondent Warren Worthington heel, after he was stripped of his wings by the Marauders during the classic “Fall of the Mutants” storyline. Preying upon our basest fears, the Horsemen fomented widespread catastrophic change on a global scale, while using one of the X-Men’s own against them.
Despite several iterations of the Horsemen appearing in print and on film over the years, what makes this cadre of villains so dangerously effective isn’t simply their raw power and tenacity, both of which are admittedly substantial. Rather, their true strength lies in Apocalypse’s ability to subvert and manipulate the values of his enemies. Several X-Men, including Wolverine, Colossus, Sunfire and Psylocke, have served as Horsemen, making it all the more difficult for their teammates to thwart Apocalypse’s evil machinations.
14. FATAL FIVE
Hailing from the 31st century, our next entry owes their formation to their arch-enemies, the Legion of the Super-Heroes, who needed their help to defeat the Sun-Eater, a super-weapon designed to consume entire galaxies. The original line-up included the cyborg Tharok, Validus, Mano, the Persuader and the Emerald Empress. After helping the Legion defeat the Sun-Eater, the Fatal Five received pardons for their past crimes. However, true to their villainous natures, they refused the amnesty and immediately set about conquering the worlds they had just helped save. Despite their small numbers, the Fatal Five are massively powerful, capable of destruction on a planetary scale and taking on the Legion’s vast numbers on numerous occasions.
As perennial adversaries of the Legion, their origins have suffered from perpetual reboots and roster changes. Although they have remained on the down-low in recent years — while DC figures out what to do with the Legion — one member is set to make a major splash post-Rebirth in “Justice League vs. Suicide Squad”. Recruited by Maxwell Lord as a member of his team of spoilers, the seemingly time-displaced Emerald Empress agrees to help the master manipulator, in exchange for helping her search for “the Legionnaire.”
13. LEGION OF SUPER-VILLAINS
Originally appearing as futuristic foes of Superman, recruited by Lex Luthor to fight the Man of Steel in the present, the Legion of Super-Villains’ history is just as confusing and convoluted as their heroic counterparts, the Legion of Super-Heroes. Built around a core of super-criminal analogues of the Legion’s founding members, Cosmic King, Lightning Lord and Saturn Queen fought their heroic counterparts on several occasions, surrounding themselves with a diverse mix of superhuman and alien criminals, many of whom were failed Legion candidates.
With numbers and resources that rival the Legion’s, the LOSV infamously conquered Princess Projectra’s home world Orando and moved it into an alternate dimension to act as their base of operations. The campaign was notable for the death of popular Legionnaire, Karate Kid, who was killed by LOSV leader Nemesis Kid. More recently, it was revealed during the events of Final Crisis that Superboy-Prime inspired their creation much as Superman did for the Legion. The group’s current status is unknown in the post-Rebirth DCU, but with the Emerald Empress and a woman who appears to be Saturn Girl seemingly stranded in the present, we suspect it won’t be long until both Legions return to mainstream continuity.
12. FRIGHTFUL FOUR
The Frightful Four trace their origins back to 1965’s classic “Fantastic Four” #36, when the Wizard, Sandman, Paste-Pot Pete and Madam Medusa joined forces to fight Marvel’s first family — this was after a history of individual losses to the FF’s youngest member, the Human Torch. Over the years, the group has appeared in numerous configurations to plague the Fantastic Four, always under the Wizard’s leadership. Past members have included some true powerhouses, including Titania, Blastaar and Hydro Man.
Although his intellect doesn’t approach Reed Richards’ level of super-genius, the Wizard and his revolving cast of super-criminals managed to leverage their intimate knowledge of their arch-nemeses on several occasions, to strike the FF where it really hurts. This is perhaps best illustrated by the recruitment of Ben Grimm’s one-time flame and former FF member, She-Thing, into their ranks. Most recently, the Frightful Four were seen helping Reed Richards defeat the Quiet Man, who wanted to stage a global invasion by the monsters of Counter-Earth to set himself up as the world’s greatest hero.
11. THE CABAL
Born in the aftermath of “Secret Invasion,” the Cabal was originally Norman Osborn’s response to the existence of the Illuminati, a secret alliance of the Marvel Universe’s most influential heroes. Throughout Osborn’s “Dark Reign,” Doctor Doom, Loki, Namor the Sub-Mariner (playing both sides against the middle), Emma Frost and the Hood worked behind the scenes to promote their own hidden agendas. The Cabal was doomed to fail almost from the start, with multiple side deals and secret alliances forged between several members behind Osborn’s back. After Osborn’s siege of Asgard came to its gruesome conclusion, the Cabal disbanded.
When mysterious parallel universe incursions began to threaten Marvel’s prime 616 universe, Namor recruited a new, far more dangerous and unpredictable members to the group, including the Mad Titan Thanos, Maximus the Mad and former herald of Galactus, Terrax… who is also mad. Although they were successful in destroying many worlds in a last-ditch effort to save their own, Namor eventually betrayed his Cabal after months of sustained genocide. You know, because having two guys on your team who describe themselves as “mad” wasn’t an indication that maybe this was a bad idea. Karma’s a hell of a thing, though and Namor himself was betrayed for his murderous ways by the Illuminati, who left him to perish on a dying earth.
10. THE HELLFIRE CLUB
Perennial foes of the X-Men, who infamously sought to recruit Jean Grey into their ranks in their first appearance in 1980’s “Uncanny X-Men” #129, the Hellfire Club’s origins reach back to 18th-century England. The secret society has counted among its numbers some of the most influential and wealthiest families in the Marvel Universe. The Worthingtons, the Starks and the Braddocks have all held positions within the organization’s numerous global branches, even if they’ve remained remarkably ignorant of its clandestine activities.
The Hellfire Club’s Inner Circle includes some of the world’s most powerful mutants and funnels its vast resources into manipulating world events in their favor. Structured along the lines of traditional chess pieces, the Inner Circle’s roster has changed over the years as incessant internecine fighting has provoked numerous changes in leadership. Notable members include Magneto, Emma Frost, the mutant vampire Selene and Sebastian Shaw, who recently regained control of the Inner Circle, after deposing 12-year-old Black King Kade Kilgore. Facing the threat of extinction thanks to the Inhuman’s poisonous Terrigen Cloud, Shaw quickly aligned the Club with Magneto’s X-Men squad, welcoming the master of magnetism and Monet St. Croix into his Inner Circle.
9. SINISTER SIX
Much like the Flash’s Rogues, the Sinister Six is a group of blue collar superhuman mercenaries whose primary motivation is chasing down the next big score, while attempting to stay off the radar of their shared foe, Spider-Man. Originally recruited by Doctor Octopus as a means of taking out the wall-crawler using their combined might, the first incarnation of the group also included Kraven the Hunter, the Vulture, Mysterio, Electro and Sandman. However, none of the villains wanted to defer the honor of slaying the Spider to the others, so it was agreed they would face their enemy in succession. How this constitutes working as a team is beyond us, but the plot predictably failed. And we thought Doc Ock was some kind of super-genius.
Since that inauspicious debut, there have been numerous incarnations of the team, the most memorable in recent years starring in their own ongoing series, “Superior Foes of Spider-Man.” Although they only had five members, team leader Boomerang insisted on using the Sinister Six moniker. His criminal logic, while somewhat facile, is infallible, citing that there’s no better deal than calling themselves a six-piece and only splitting the loot five ways. Maybe they should have made the Living Brain leader…
8. SECRET SIX
Created by Gail Simone and Dale Eaglesham, the modern villainous incarnation of the Secret Six first appeared during “Villains United” as a carefully selected group of super-criminals recruited to undermine the agenda of the recently reformed Secret Society of Super Villains. Reporting to the mysterious Mockingbird (who turned out to be Lex Luthor), the Six eventually came under the leadership of Catman, after several battles with the Society. They remained together as a band of high-priced mercenaries, with something of a revolving roster, taking on a variety of jobs that pitted them against heroes such as the Birds of Prey and Wonder Woman, but rarely saw them actually paid for their efforts.
Recent addition Bane subsequently took over leadership of the group, but only led them on one ill-fated mission to Gotham City to murder several members of the Batman Family, which ultimately ended with their incarceration. The team’s latest revival, under the leadership of the ever-popular dreamboat Catman, has them working for a new Mockingbird, who was quickly revealed to be none other than the enigmatic Riddler.
7. THE ROGUES
Every superhero worth their salt has a stable of worthy supervillains capable of testing their resolve and pushing the limits of their abilities. Few, though, have banded together in the same way as the Rogues, a collection of working class villains dedicated to making life hell for the Flash. Led by the criminal mastermind Captain Cold, at one time or another, the Rogues have counted among their ranks virtually every major Flash villain. Outside of terrorizing the Flash, their prime motivation is cold, hard cash. They aren’t without their morals, however, typically refusing to kill unless absolutely necessary.
It came as something of shock, then, when the Rogues became inadvertently responsible for the death of the then-newest Flash, Bart Allen. Duped by Kid Zoom into murdering Bart, the Rogues hunted down and killed the evil speedster upon escaping the prison planet Salvation. During the “Forever Evil” storyline, they stood by their moral code, refusing to murder the citizens of Central City on the orders of the Crime Syndicate. Although they have yet to make a substantial appearance post-Rebirth, they were briefly seen considering leaving Central City, after a horde of new speedsters took to the streets.
6. SECRET SOCIETY OF SUPER VILLAINS
Originally created as an evil counterpart to the Justice League of America by legendary writer and editor, Gerry Conway, the Secret Society of Super Villains (SSOSV) debuted in their own ongoing series in 1976. Recruited by Darkseid to act as his agents on Earth, the group turned on the evil New God, citing his past efforts to enslave the planet. The series, although short-lived, featured an eclectic group of second-string villains battling the DCU’s ultimate villain, while pursuing their own criminal endeavors.
Although there have been several incarnations over the years, including Libra’s Society during Grant Morrison’s “Final Crisis” event, it is perhaps their most recent, post-New 52 iteration that truly showcases the depths of the organization’s evil. Gathered by the mysterious Outsider as an army for Earth 3’s invading Crime Syndicate, this version of the SSOSV included virtually every supervillain in the DC Universe, as the Syndicate tried to change the world into a haven for super-criminality. Ultimately vanquished thanks to the heroic efforts of Lex Luthor and his Injustice League, the vast network of villains predictably scattered in the wake of the Crime Syndicate’s defeat.
5. BROTHERHOOD OF (EVIL) MUTANTS
First appearing in the classic “Uncanny X-Men” #4 as a band of mutant terrorists under the leadership of Magneto, the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants’ agenda is nothing less than securing global dominance for the mutant race. Representing the flip side of Charles Xavier’s dream of living in harmony with the rest of humanity, the Brotherhood believes the mutant race is — and always has been — at war with regular human folk. Over the course of the organization’s long history, several incarnations have emerged, each with its own agenda. The most notable of these is Magneto’s prototypical configuration, which included future Avengers Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, and the classic line-up of the Blob, Pyro and Avalanche, under Mystique’s leadership.
In recent years, as the mutant race has come under attack from all quarters, the Brotherhood’s methods have become increasingly violent and unpredictable. Case in point: In an effort to create a new mutant utopia, Mystique’s most recent version of the Brotherhood conquered the island nation of Madripoor, using the Mutant Growth Hormone to transform the populace into a violent, hedonistic horde of over-powered miscreants. Not exactly our vision of a utopia, but what do we know? Maybe mutants dig that kind of thing?
4. CRIME SYNDICATE OF AMERICA
If DC’s “Forever Evil” storyline taught us anything, it’s that the Crime Syndicate of America are quite possibly the Justice League’s most feared adversaries — not counting Darkseid, of course. Created by legendary creators Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky way back in 1964’s “Justice League of America” #29, the CSA originally hailed from Earth 3, a parallel world where every aspect of society was reversed. Here, Superman’s villainous analogue is the evil Ultraman, while Wonder Woman and Batman are represented by the evil Superwoman and Owlman, respectively. Other members include a sadistic version of the Flash named Johnny Quick and Power Ring, Green Lantern’s nefarious, weak-kneed stand-in.
Although there have been a few different versions of the team over the years, depending on which version of DC continuity we’re talking about, it is the most recent incarnation that nearly succeeded in killing the Justice League and remaking the world in their evil image. This more bloodthirsty Syndicate employed widespread catastrophic violence to throw the world into chaos, even moving the moon into alignment with the sun to create a perpetual twilight world more conducive to Ultraman’s powers.
3. DARKSEID’S ELITE
Less a supervillain team and more an ultra-powerful arsenal of Fourth World WMDs at Darkseid’s disposal, the Elite are his chosen band of warriors and sycophants dedicated to his agenda of multi-versal conquest. Boasting some of the most accomplished soldiers, torturers and tacticians in DC’s multiverse, Darkseid’s Elite have waged war across multiple dimensions on their master’s behalf, most often against members of the New Gods of New Genesis and the Justice League. Counting among their numbers the animalistic Kalibak, the super-assassin Kanto, master strategist Steppenwolf and insufferable mouthpiece Glorious Godfrey, the Elite use their uniquely-suited abilities to prime targeted worlds for Darkseid’s dominion.
During the New 52 reboot, Darkseid engaged them in a war on two fronts, tasking Steppenwolf with an invasion of Earth 2 (where he managed to kill that world’s Wonder Woman, Superman and Batman), while battling the League and the Anti-Monitor himself on Prime Earth. Although both conflicts ultimately ended in Darkseid’s defeat, he is the darkest part of the cosmic balance between good and evil, and as such, is destined to return for his prophesied final battle versus his son, Orion. We can only assume his pantheon of dark gods will be on hand to pave the way.
2. MASTERS OF EVIL
Over the years, there have been almost as many versions of the Masters of Evil as there have been of their sworn enemies, the Avengers — and that’s saying something. The original Masters were recruited by Baron Zemo to help him exact revenge on his recently resurrected foe, Captain America, in the now-classic “Avengers” #6. Although Zemo’s influence over the group would eventually shift to other criminal masterminds, including Ultron, Egghead and most notably his son Helmut, it was daddy dearest Heinrich who got the ball rolling. Under the second Baron Zemo’s command, the Masters of Evil would arguably know their greatest success, with dozens of the Marvel Universe’s most dangerous villains storming Avengers Mansion, nearly overrunning the heroes with their sheer numbers.
Although ultimately defeated, the younger Zemo would take a more subtle approach during his next outing, assembling a versatile team of villains, who masqueraded as the heroic Thunderbolts. Later still, after a number of pretenders, including Justine Hammer and Max Fury attempted to organize new versions of the Masters, Zemo returned to once again take the reins of the team his father founded in the pages of “Avengers Undercover,” hoping to reconstitute a team worthy of his evil legacy.
1. SUICIDE SQUAD
Without a doubt, our final entry is the most popular crew of villains around. Thanks to the commercial success of a blockbuster movie, featuring a star-making turn for Margot Robbie as the delightfully mad Harley Quinn, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone on the planet who hasn’t heard of the Suicide Squad — and yes that includes your mom. Just ask her. A clandestine group forced into working for the United States government under the direction of tough-as-nails Amanda Waller, the Squad’s popularity has only grown since John Ostrander and Luke McDonnell reimagined the classic military unit led by Rick Flag, as comics’ supervillain version of the Dirty Dozen.
Although there has been a tendency in the past to recast villains like Captain Boomerang and Deadshot as antiheroes, it’s the team’s conflicting personal agendas and the constant threat of death on the job that keeps fans coming back for more mayhem. More than any other team on our list, the Suicide Squad taps into our fascination with the psychology of evil and how we can use it against our enemies. Fighting fire with fire may not always be the best strategy, but where the Squad is concerned, it’s definitely the most rewarding.
Don’t think these teams are all that bad? Let us know who you think is worse in the Comments!