If you’ve ever dreamed of becoming a superhero, you might think twice about considering the occupational hazards that await you. We’re not talking about the super-powered criminals that scheme to destroy the earth on a regular basis; we’re talking about the big-league baddies, monsters and aliens who literally eat worlds for breakfast, some of whom even threaten to destroy the entire Multiverse itself.
This kind of evil can’t be stopped by brute strength alone, and in fact the greatest heroes in the DC universe have had to resort to negotiating with some of the fearsome beings on this list because they couldn’t be beaten. Join us as CBR counts down DC’s 15 most powerful cosmic villains.
The very embodiment of fear, Parallax is a parasitic entity that travels from world to world causing entire civilizations to destroy themselves out of paranoia. Born at the beginning of time from the yellow end of the emotional spectrum, it was previously thought that Parallax was only the moniker that Hal Jordan took up for himself when he was driven mad by the destruction of his hometown in “Green Lantern vol. 3” #48.
However, in “Green Lantern: Rebirth” (2004) it was revealed that the creature had been imprisoned by the Guardians of the Universe and all knowledge of its existence had been hidden. Sinestro’s power ring awakened it when he was imprisoned in the Power Battery and sensing Sinestro’s hatred for Hal Jordan, the creature spent years secretly influencing him, driving him to eventually give in to his murderous desires and free it. After the Spectre released Jordan, Kyle Rayner became its next host, going on to massacre countless Green Lanterns.
An extraterrestrial android with a penchant for shrinking cities and adding them to his bottle collection, Brainiac’s most infamous act is shrinking Kandor, Krypton’s capital city. Brainiac made his comic debut in “Action Comics” #242 (1958) but since then his origin story has gone through various changes. In the “The New 52,” it is revealed that his original name is Vril Dox, and that he was the greatest scientist on his homeworld, Yod-Colu. Attempting to save his planet from a group of aliens called The Multitude, he developed miniaturization technology, but was exiled by Yod-Colu’s government and his homeworld was destroyed.
Dox then distributed his consciousness across a series of robots (Brainiacs) that would each travel the universe, shrinking other planets in order to preserve them from the Multitude, hence Brainiac became known as the Collector of Worlds. Along the way, he encountered Krypton (before it was destroyed) and became obsessed with Kryptonians, hence beginning his long history with Superman. His “twelfth level” intelligence, superhuman strength and ability to mimic Kryptonian powers make him one of the DC universe’s most powerful cosmic villains.
The only known individual to wield the power of the orange light, Larfleeze comes from an incredibly long-lived species, and is said to be over several billion years old. His orange light, known as the Orange Light of Avarice, is able to incinerate the Guardians of the Universe and their Manhunters, which is an incredible feat given that the Guardians are immortal uber-powerful beings. In “Green Lantern” #39, the Guardians themselves are afraid of his orange light and offer to leave him alone if he will part with a mysterious box (later revealed to be holding Parallax).
After this another race of immortal beings, the Controllers, attempt to form their own force that will rival the Green Lanterns, and seek out the Orange Light of Avarice to empower themselves. But when they arrive on Okaara, where the Orange Lantern Power Battery is, they are immediately slaughtered by Larfleeze’s Orange Lanterns. This ignites a conflict between Larfleeze and the Guardians of the Universe, and once again the Guardians end up negotiating a peace treaty with Larfleeze in order to protect themselves.
Another formidable enemy of the Green Lanterns, Nekron is the physical embodiment of death and is directly responsible for the events of “Blackest Night” when he creates black power rings that reanimate the dead, producing a legion of Black Lanterns. Through a cunning plan involving reanimated Batman’s clone, Nekron is able to create black rings that latch on to Superman, Wonder Woman, Donna Troy, Kid Flash, Animal Man, Ice, Green Arrow and Superboy, transforming them all into Black Lanterns.
Nekron then marches through the universe with his undead army, fully intending to destroy the Guardians of the Universe, because who doesn’t have a vendetta against them? Through a bizarre ritual, involving the brutal sacrifice of Professor Zoom, Nekron brings forth The Entity, the being that gives life to every living thing, aiming to kill it and end all life in the universe. Thankfully he’s stopped before this can happen but it’s pretty grim. And by the way, don’t try to call Nekron’s soul to judgement; as the manifestation of all that is dark, he doesn’t have one!
11. THE ANTI-MONITOR
It wouldn’t be enough to say that Anti-Monitor is the epitome of evil, given that all of the villains on this list match that description. Instead, it’s better to describe it as the very opposite of goodness, a being dedicated to destroying everything that exists outside of its own anti-matter universe. Having spent a billion years battling the Monitor, its arch-nemesis and the epitome of everything positive, the two of them fell into unconsciousness for a further 9 billion years, until brilliant (but stupid) scientist Pariah accidentally awakened both of them, sealing the Multiverse’s doom.
During “Crisis on Infinite Earths”, the Anti-Monitor succeeded in collapsing the current Multiverse, and in attempting to destroy Earth One brought on the Shadow Demon War which results in the deaths of many heroes and villains. It took the combined efforts of superheroes and villains to weaken it, and even then, it was only destroyed after Superman punched it into a star. On a side note, Alexander Luthor Jr. created a “paradise dimension” as a home for some of the heroes whose Earths were destroyed, but unfortunately this leads to Superboy Prime going insane!
If you thought the Anti-Monitor was bad, just wait till you meet its creator! Krona was an Oan scientist, hailing from the same planet as the Guardians of the Universe. Obsessed with observing the origins of the universe he created a machine that allowed him to see the beginning of existence. Unfortunately things went awry and the machine explodes, shattering the universe into the Multiverse, and giving birth to the Anti-Monitor, which unleashes evil into the universe. As punishment for this, the Guardians turned him into pure energy, banishing him to wander the cosmos for all eternity.
Krona continues his quest to discover the origins of existence, destroying entire universes in his wake, until he eventually arrives in the Marvel Universe! In “JLA/Avengers” #2 he drains the powers of both the Grandmaster and Galactus, while nearly killing the greatest heroes from both the Marvel and DC Universe; Superman wielding Thor’s hammer is perhaps the most epic crossover moment ever! Krona is sucked into the universe seed, the Cosmic Egg, and the Spectre manages to piece reality back together, but don’t worry, Krona soon returns for more wanton destruction.
A cosmic villain who truly knows what it means to walk on the dark side (double pun power!), this Omega-empowered rock monster’s formative acts were to poison his mother, order the death of his second son, and then banish his wife (who was then imprisoned in solitary confinement for decades). Ranked by CBR as the greatest Justice League Villain of all time, Darkseid has never been content with ruling just one world, and as a New God himself, he’s consistently schemed to destroy every other deity in existence, leading him to attack Themyscira in search of the gods of Olympus and resulting in the decimation of the Amazon population.
During the events of Grant Morrison’s “Final Crisis,” Darkseid corrupts the Multiverse, possesses the bodies of superheroes, and then releases the Anti-Life Equation upon Earth, which gives him complete control over the thoughts and emotions of all living beings in the universe. When Superman attempts to attack him he reminds the Man of Steel that killing him will also kill humanity, because his life is now linked with every soul affected by the Anti-Life Equation. Our heroes prevail in the end, but Darkseid’s immortal spirit returns to plague them further.
8. GRANNY GOODNESS
Don’t be fooled by the name, there’s nothing grandmotherly or good about this creature of pure evil! Although she hailed from the lowly peasant class of Apokolips, Darkseid was so impressed with her talent that he bestowed immense power and responsibility on her, tasking her with training Apokolip’s elite soldiers. She’s the chief of the Female Furies and raised Scott Free, one of the only children to escape her orphanages. One of the most disturbing characters in the DC universe, Granny lives to corrupt the innocent.
On Apokolips, she combined torture and brainwashing with childcare, to turn children into fanatical warriors for Darkseid, and she uses the same methods on earth, using orphanages to recruit the strongest warriors for Apokolip’s armies. In the miniseries “Amazons Attack” and “Countdown” she masquerades as Athena, using Amazon training centers to secretly recruit female warriors. Make no mistake, this is no elderly woman! Granny is an immortal expert warrior, and with her superhuman strength she has previously overpowered Batman and injured a Guardian of the Universe. Her first appearance was in “Mister Miracle” #2.
Evil most definitely runs in the blood of this family, as Steppenwolf is Darkseid’s uncle and the younger brother of his uber-bad mother, Heggra. Created by Jack Kirby and first appearing in “New Gods” #7, Steppenwolf was later re-introduced in a flashback as one of the only survivors of Doomday’s attack on Apokolips, and he was also a key conspirator in the murder of Highfather’s wife.
Steppenwolf was tasked with leading Darkseid’s legions of parademons to attack Earth-2 in “The New 52”, and although their plans ultimately failed, the Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman of Earth-2 are all slain in the battle thanks to genius as a military leader and expert fighter. Ironically, soon after this, Steppenwolf himself was killed by Earth-2’s Bizarro, Darkseid’s Superman clone whom Steppenwolf had personally trained. Steppenwolf is rumored to be the central antagonist in the upcoming movie “Justice League: Part One,” and as an immortal superhuman and master swordsman, his presence in it is sure to entertain!
If you’re named as Darkseid’s chief assassin, the likelihood of your redemption is quite small. Garbed in clothing from Renaissance Italy, a souvenir of his time spent in exile on Earth, Kanto is extremely passionate about his work, considering it an art form. As a young man in Italy, Iluthin (as he was formerly known) met and fell in love with an Italian woman, but just as they were about to wed, his former master, Kanto 13, slew her at the altar. Darkseid himself watched on as master and student battled, Iluthin defeating Kanto 13. Iluthin then returned with Darkseid to Apokolips as his new assassin, having forsaken his old name.
Kanto first appears in “Mister Miracle” #7 where he tries to trap and kill Mister Miracle, but is so impressed with his skills that he lets him go. With the exception of Darkseid, Kanto is unequaled as a strategist and unrivaled in hand-to-hand combat.
Another immortal being of pure energy, Imperiex has already succeeded in doing what most other cosmic villains can only dream of. He’s destroyed the universe countless times, only to create a new one from its ashes. Why exactly does he do this? He’s a perfectionist. Imperiex believes that the current universe is flawed (not totally untrue) and that his destiny is to destroy it so that a new perfect one can be created. He first appears in Superman #153, having already destroyed countless worlds in the galaxy on his way to Earth, intending to destroy it because it is the planet that holds the universe together and destroying it will trigger a new Big Bang.
Lex Luthor rallies Earth’s superheroes, the U.S. military, and other countries together in a bid to stop him, even releasing Doomsday to help Superman fight Imperiex. Although their plans succeeds, with Imperiex being sent back to the beginning of time and destroyed in the first Big Bang, at least eight million people on Earth are killed during the battle alongside Queen Hippolyta, Maxima, Aquaman, Doomsday, Guy Gardner, Steel and General Sam Lane.
An old foe of the Justice League, Despero made his comic book debut in “JLA” #1 as a scrawny alien with powerful mind control abilities who enslaved the JL when they came to aid the citizens of his homeworld, Kalanor, whom he had also subjugated. After his inevitable defeat, he was imprisoned at Takron-Galtos, a prison planet, but his incarceration and puny physique would not last for long. Despero escaped and sought out the fabled flames of Py’tar, which transformed him into a hulking juggernaut.
Equipped with both psychic might and impossible strength, he returned to Earth to exact revenge on the Justice League, starting a pattern that would be repeated for years to come. Each time his body is destroyed, his consciousness survives as a hateful spirit and it isn’t long before Despero finds a new body to possess. In “JSA/JLA: Virtue and Vice,” Despero even manages to possess Lex Luthor, who has been elected as president of the United States.
An invulnerable giant being who uses face-sucking starfish clones of himself to mind control more than nine galaxies, Starro the Conqueror is no average supervillain, and, unlike Despero, he didn’t start off in a puny body. Starro the Conqueror can fly and possesses superhuman strength, having previously decapitated Despero with one swing of his axe. He made his comic book debut in”The Brave and the Bold” #28 (which is also the first appearance of the Justice League of America), written by Gardner Fox with art by Mike Sekowsky, where he transformed Earth’s starfish into giant monsters that went on a worldwide rampage.
During “Infinite Crisis,” Starro goes all out, first appearing as a member of Alexander Luthor Jr.’s Secret Society of Supervillains, flooding Earth-26 and defeating the superheroes there. He then commits his most terrifying act to date, joining the Sinestro Corps, where he wields five yellow power rings and controls several supervillains. Now that’s a cosmic villain!
2. THE GUARDIANS OF THE UNIVERSE
Hailing from the planet Maltus, the Guardians of the Universe were one of the first intelligent races to inhabit the universe. After Krona created the Multiverse, they relocated to the planet Oa, dedicating themselves to ridding the universe of evil, and establishing the Green Lantern Corp as a universal peace-keeping force. For billions of years the Guardians seemed to champion justice and stand against evil of any kind; unfortunately, recent events have exposed their utter hypocrisy.
During the events of “Rise of the Third Army” and “Wrath of the First Lantern,” many of their ancient secrets were revealed, and some of their worst crimes include sealing away the other Oans for billions of years in the Chamber of Shadows, plotting the death of the Red Lanterns, and causing the fall of the Blue Lanterns Corp. These terrible acts were all part of their grand scheme to wipe out every Lantern in order to create the Third Army.
The Guardians use Volthoom, the First Lantern, and Black Hand, to charge up the Third Army, who are then sent forth to bring the whole universe under Guardian control; a task that they very nearly accomplish. Volthoom eventually breaks free, taking control of the Guardians before being slain by Nekron.
A being that only comes back stronger each time he’s killed, Doomsday is not just the arch-nemesis of Superman, but also the ultimate threat to life in the Multiverse. Although he doesn’t have the power to necessarily destroy the universe, he’s devoted to making sure no life exists in it. Created by a prehistoric Kryptonian scientist, Doomsday was originally a humanoid infant released into the harsh wilderness of ancient Krypton. He was killed over and over again, eventually evolving to the point where he was able to kill all of Krypton’s natural predators. His next stop was Bylan 5, where he slew Darkseid’s fiance, before fleeing the planet to seek out other worlds to destroy.
Doomsday’s most famous battle takes place in “Death of Superman,” where the two titans slay each other in an epic battle that destroys a large part of Metropolis. The world mourns Superman and Doomsday is flung into space, only to return from the grave stronger than ever!
Got another cosmic villain that deserves to be on this list? Let us know in the comments!