The Flash is easily one of the coolest characters in the DC pantheon. There have been several heroes to claim the mantle in the character’s 78-year history but they’ve all shared a ready wit, a striking visual and one of the most awesome and multifaceted powers in all of comic-dom. While Batman is usually credited as having the best rogues’ gallery in comics, it takes something pretty special to create an effective foil to a character with a power set as impressive as the Scarlet Speedster’s.
Many of The Flash’s most iconic rogues emerged in the Silver Age (as did the Barry Allen version of The Flash that most of us know and love today). With the best will in the world, most of them began life as personified gimmicks; but through numerous restarts, revivals, reboots and re-imaginings, many have been reincarnated as something altogether darker and more bloodthirsty. As readers’ tastes matured and developed over the decades, the villainy of The Flash’s rogues has become commensurately more homicidal. The tame, jokey villains of yesteryear have either been given a range of lethal modern makeovers or replaced by younger, more violent progeny over the years and we’ve ranked them in terms of just how lethal and psychotic they are.
15. THE TOP
Silly name? Surely. Silly power? Absolutely! But hey, it was the ‘60s! Roscoe Dillon’s gimmick is spinning around at super speed just like his beloved childhood toys. Doesn’t sound too impressive, we’ll grant you, but over the years he’s used this power to devastating effect. Essentially a human tornado, Dillon has been known to cause enormous destruction and even deflect bullets with his power. All those years of spinning activated dormant cells in his brain, granting him psionic powers.
Like his Silver Age compatriot Doctor Light, his mind was reorganized by Zatanna. He even spent some time in the hero racket, but his evil nature could not be undone by magical trickery. Even in death, The Top is threatening. Learning that he was terminally ill, Dillon planned for bombs to go off in Central City the instant he kicked the bucket. His disembodied spirit even possessed Barry’s father, Henry Allen.
14. THE THINKER
It’s always the quiet ones you need to keep an eye on! Clifford DeVoe has been a crooked lawyer, a career criminal, even a member of the Suicide Squad, but while the character has made efforts at reform over the years there’s plenty of blood on his hands. Lured out of the legal profession by his greed, DeVoe lent his brilliant mind to organized crime, helping the gangsters that he once put behind bars.
Over the years, he sought out new technology to help him as a puppet master of the underworld. He found it in the form of his iconic thinking cap, though its radiation eventually gave him terminal cancer. While DeVoe died nobly, his thinking cap took on a sentience of its own and, convinced that it was DeVoe himself, gave itself a holographic form, becoming the new Thinker and carrying on his predecessor’s dastardly legacy.
13. CAPTAIN COLD
Before you start sharpening your cutlass remember that we’re not dealing with the most iconic Flash villains, we’re talking about the 15 most homicidal, and for all his amorality Leonard Snart mostly tries to draw a line in the sand when it comes to taking life. Don’t be fooled though, he’s had his moments! Those only familiar with the affable Wentworth Miller’s portrayal in the TV show may be surprised at just how well Snart knows the dark places.
Amongst his greatest hits are: torturing and murdering his sister’s killer by freezing him then throwing him off a building, and having an icy hand in the death of Bart Allen. The character has been sanitized somewhat post- New 52 and re-imagined as a reluctant anti-hero, but given that he has spent six decades menacing various Speedsters, it seems unlikely that this snow leopard will change his spots!
12. TAR PIT
Joey Monteleone never really had a chance. The brother of a drug baron; Joey went to prison for armed robbery, where he discovered his latent metahuman ability to transfer his consciousness to inanimate objects. Seeing this as an opportunity to escape the confines of his prison, Monteleone used this ability in meditation… until the day his consciousness got inexplicably stuck in some molten asphalt.
His real body forgotten and left to atrophy, Tar Pit has spent the years since using his menacing form and near invulnerability to wreak havoc in Central City’s sister city Keystone. He has the ability to throw molten asphalt at his enemies, which he does frequently and indiscriminately. Years spent away from his real body have warped his mind and eroded his humanity and he thinks nothing of launching jets of molten tar at anyone who opposes him, no matter who’s caught in the crossfire.
11. GOLDEN GLIDER
Leonard Snart’s sister Lisa started out as a figure skater and a decent enough girl (unless you happen to live in the Flashpoint Universe where she murdered her father). When her boyfriend, The Top, was killed while fighting The Flash, however, she swore vengeance upon the Scarlet Speedster and became a far more unsavory character. She even went so far as to foil her brother’s attempts on The Flash’s life for fear that Captain Cold simply wasn’t sadistic enough to do the job as slowly and painfully as she’d like.
Her bids for revenge went way beyond attempts on Barry Allen’s life. She’s also gone after his beloved Iris more than once, even going so far as to frame Barry for her murder. She even hired the Ringmaster to upstage The Flash as Central City’s newest protector to try and damage his reputation. Hell hath no fury, as they say.
Wally West can tell you that nothing cuts deeper than seeing an old flame turn to supervillainy. To be fair, though, Francis Kane’s tragic backstory is enough to make anyone wayward. From a young age Frankie had the metahuman ability to manipulate magnetic fields. This manifested tragically when an outburst of her powers accidentally killed her father and brother. Her superstitious mother blamed the devastated Frankie, disowning her and claiming that she was possessed by the Devil.
Directionless, she joined the Teen Titans without gusto, but soon quit and turned to S.T.A.R Labs to try to gain some control over her powers. Unfortunately, she was infused with a piece of Trigon’s soul, emerging as a malignant new persona, Magenta. Though she spent years as a villain, allied with such ne’er do wells as The Cicada Cult and The New Rogues, Wally never gave up on her and she eventually reformed.
9. WEATHER WIZARD
The Weather Wizard was originally about as innocuous as any Silver Age villain. Mark Mardon was a petty criminal who escaped a prison transport by jumping out of the window, returning home to find that his brother had died of a heart attack while working on his latest invention: The Weather Wand. Mardon took the devices and used it to carry out a series of gimmicky and generally non-violent crimes.
The character was given a darker makeover post-Infinite Crisis and while he still uses the Weather Wand, he developed metahuman abilities. His origin was dirtied up a bit, too. Upon breaking out of prison, Mardon sought sanctuary from his scientist brother Clyde, murdering him when he threatened to notify the police. He went on to be a regular member of many incarnations of the Rogues and landed the killing blow on Bart Allen with a lethal bolt of lightning.
8. MIRROR MASTER
While few take Mirror Master seriously, he represents a pretty terrifying concept. Can you imagine a prospect more terrifying than looking into a mirror to pluck out a stray nostril hair, only for a complete stranger to look back, reaching out through the glass to throttle you and steal your possessions? Sam Scudder also began as a petty crook, but while his peers simply happened upon their gimmicky gadgets, Scudder invented his, spending decades going toe-to-toe with The Flash using his mirror technology.
While Scudder was no choirboy, his successor Evan McCulloch is a really nasty piece of work. A sociopathic hitman, with a long list of confirmed kills that includes his own father. A consortium of government and corporate interests did the one thing that you can do with such a dangerous threat: they gifted him Scudder’s mirror gun, reasoning that it would make him the ultimate infiltrator.
James Jesse is a more formidable threat than anyone whose outfit incorporates stripy leggings has any right to be. He spent decades using an arsenal of whacky gadgets like exploding teddy bears, itching powder and potato head bombs. Despite the PG-13 modus operandi, Trickster has a wicked cunning and has even outsmarted The Demon Neron.
Jesse would later go straight, even joining the FBI and formulating plans to help take down his fellow Rogues. The character would be given a far more sinister re-imagining, however, in the classic 1990 Flash TV show where he was portrayed as an obsessively creepy mass murderer, clad in everything that was wrong with the ‘90s. The icing on the cake? He was played by the one and only Mark Hamill. Watching his performance you can see the beginnings of what would become his iconic portrayal of the Joker in Batman: The Animated Series.
Geoff Johns has made many wonderful contributions to The Flash, including this femme fatale whose primary skill is the unnerving ability to fuse metal and flesh, resulting in her death metal/cyberpunk appearance. She’s essentially a combination of Bane from “Knightfall” and The Joker in “Death of the Family” since she reforms an all-star line-up of the Rogues, uniting The Flash’s enemies against him and even upgrading some before weakening her nemesis’ psychologically by targeting his allies.
She’s a charismatic leader and an expert tactician. She’s been romantically involved with such nefarious types as Goldface and Hunter Zolomon. While her publication history is fairly short (she made her first appearance in 2001) the audacity and mastery of her plot against The Flash, as well as the fact that she came closer than just about anyone to killing him, have earned her a comfortable spot near the top.
5. HEAT WAVE
Given the ubiquity of our instinctive fear of fire, it’s no surprise that any superhero worth their salt has a flame-wielding nemesis. Firefly, Pyro and, of course, The Phoenix have all been attuned to fire’s inherent beauty and devastating destructive power. Mick Rory’s childhood pyromania was so engrossing that he set fire to his home and watched it burn with his family inside.
While he’d go on to live with his uncle, his deadly obsession with fire would continue as he locked a child who bullied him in a burning building. Originally, he terrorized The Flash with a flamethrower (unfortunately named his ‘Hot Rod’), but he would later go on to develop metahuman pyrokinetic powers in the New 52. Whatever the cause of his flames, he’s been known to use them to deadly effect on innocent citizens and his fellow villains.
4. CAPTAIN BOOMERANG
A Suicide Squad staple and occasional running joke of the DC Universe; perhaps Captain Boomerang’s greatest accomplishment is making audiences actually like Jai Courtney! Over the past 57 years he’s tangled with both the Barry Allen and Wally West incarnations of The Flash numerous times armed with a variety of razor sharp and explosive boomerangs. Anyone who doubts the threat level of a razor-sharp boomerang really needs to see Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior.
While Digger Harkness would meet his end in a desperate crime gone awry in Identity Crisis, he would later be replaced by his illegitimate son Owen Mercer. Not long after, he would return from the dead as a Black Lantern in the “Blackest Night” storyline and rip out his son’s heart in the hopes of reincarnating him as a fellow Black Lantern.
When you’re a kid who finds out that your father is a serial killer… you’re gonna have issues. Hunter Zolomon seemed to take it pretty well, growing up to join the FBI and eventually becoming close friends with Wally West’s Flash. When Flash failed to prevent Grodd from breaking his back, he reasoned that having a tragic origin like his predecessor Barry Allen would make him a more effective hero. One misunderstanding with a cosmic treadmill later, Zolomon would go on to become Zoom; successor to the Reverse Flash costume (though with a subtly different power set).
His inaugural act was to attempt the murder of West’s significant other Linda Park along with her unborn twins. While The Flash saved her, she would tragically miscarry in the battle. Despite his murderous acts, Zolomon is the consummate villain who’s the hero of his own story.
2. GORILLA GRODD
In the great pantheon of DC supervillains, few can match Grodd’s lethal combination of intelligence, brute strength, agility and ferocity. He’s a palpable threat not just to every human on the planet, but also to his fellow gorillas. Essentially a fascist and a warlord with telepathic powers, there are few more formidable threats in the DC Universe.
Whether he’s manipulated others through telepathy or deigned to get his huge leathery hands dirty, he’s racked up one hell of a bodycount over the decades. By crippling Hunter Zolomon and leaving him paralyzed from the waist down, he’s also indirectly responsible for everyone Zoom’s killed as well. While he has been loosely affiliated with the Legion of Doom, Injustice League, Tartarus and The Secret Society of Super-Villains, Grodd’s this power hungry dictator’s loyalty has always been to himself.
1. REVERSE FLASH
The best villains function as dark mirrors for our beloved superheroes in ideology or appearance, but it’s rare that a hero’s dark doppelganger is tied to their origin. In Flash: Rebirth, Geoff Johns made the Reverse Flash the architect of every tragedy in Barry Allen’s life, including the murder of his mother and the subsequent imprisonment of his father, not to mention his attempt to erase Iris from history.
Reverse Flash’s ‘negative speed force’ powers are equal and opposite to Barry’s own and his genius is matched only by his sadism. His malice isn’t just directed at Barry either. Recently he beat the living daylights out of Batman and destroyed the letter that Flashpoint Thomas Wayne wrote for his son, out of sheer bloody-mindedness. Thawne even ruminated recently on whether he should travel back in time again to raise young Barry Allen after having murdered his mother. That’s pretty twisted!
Did we miss your favorite murderous miscreant? Do you take exception to the order? Let us know in the comments section.
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