In the last ten years, DC Comics has seen both wonderful highs and miserable lows. The company’s decision to totally reboot its continuity angered many fans that adored the company’s long, interwoven history. Decades of character development and narrative were erased with Flashpoint. As a result, the New 52 destroyed a lot of the company’s good will with many of its fans. In recent years, DC has been moving in the right direction with DC Rebirth, another reboot. This soft reset returned DC to its roots by acknowledging the company’s legacy, and it managed to strike a balance between making comics accessible for new readers while remaining loyal to longtime fans.
With the New 52 several years in the rear view mirror and Rebirth already over two years old, it’s an appropriate time to reflect on DC’s best new characters of the last decade. Many fans disapproved of the New 52, but the reboot did introduce several characters that have found success. Rebirth has also debuted plenty of new characters, and many of them have resonated with fans. The Arrowverse can also stake a claim to introducing fans to original characters that been successful in their own ways. From Jessica Cruz to Harrison Wells, DC has churned out several notable characters in the last ten years. There are certainly some characters that didn’t pan out, and we can point to at least one glaring misstep. So, without further adieu, let’s take a look at ten of the best new DC characters of the last decade, and one fans wished never existed.
20 WALLACE WEST
The New 52 saw the departure of one Wally West and the arrival of another. However readers feel about that decision, the new Wally has certainly proven that he’s more than Kid Flash 2.0. Wallace is remarkable for a variety of reasons -- DC Rebirth retconned the identity of Wally’s father to Daniel West, or the Reverse-Flash. It takes more than a year of Rebirth for him to internally overcome the shadow of his father’s villainy.
With the return of the original Wally, Wallace needed a new role in the DC Universe, and he found one when he joined the Teen Titans. Since then, the new Kid Flash has grown into a capable hero and a successful character despite the return of his predecessor.
19 JESSICA CRUZ AND SIMON BAZ
There have been many Green Lanterns over the years, so it’s hard for new characters to stand out when they put on the Power Ring. Consider some of the successful characters that have served with the Green Lantern Corps, like Hal Jordan and John Stewart. However, two of the DCU’s newest Lanterns, Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz, have been shining examples of noteworthy new Lanterns.
Cruz battles anxiety and constantly fights it in her job as a space cop. Baz, on the other hand, is wrongfully arrested and a victim of racial profiling. Every day, he has to defy racism and negative stereotypes. Both characters clearly overcome great fear, and so much more, which is why they’re two of DC’s best new characters.
18 DUKE THOMAS
Just as there have been many Green Lanterns, a multitude of young heroes have served as Batman’s sidekick. Some of these characters have crashed and burned. However, Duke Thomas has found some success since debuting in “Zero Year.”
Thomas now goes by the codename of Lark because Batman doesn’t want to repeat the failures of past Robins. As Lark, Thomas has found his own unique niche in the Bat-Family; he fights crime by day and he’s a metahuman. Overall, Lark is a refreshing new take on the classic tale of Batman and Robin, and the young hero’s story is just beginning.
17 THE COURT OF OWLS
The Court of Owls has to be considered one of the best parts of the New 52. Batman’s war with this secret society was an incredible conflict that explored Gotham’s history, and how the city’s secrets relate to Batman. The cult-like organization’s ties in Gotham run deep, and the Court quickly became one of the most powerful threats Batman had ever faced.
Their agents, the Talons, were children the Court took, transformed and trained to carry out their mission, and the group even had major plans for Dick Grayson. Thankfully, Batman intervened, and the rest is history. The success and story-telling potential of the Court wasn’t just confined to the comics; the Gotham television show loosely adapted the storyline.
16 LUKE FOX
Lucius Fox was one of the most beloved characters in the Dark Knight trilogy, and that popularity is directly responsible for the creation of his son, Luke Fox, in the comics. As an MIT grad with double degrees in engineering and business management, Luke has all the technological know-how of his father. But Luke decides to travel off the beaten path because he wants to be a hero. He trains himself by becoming a cage-fighter, much to the disappointment of his father.
Luke gets his chance when the Dark Knight needs a new Batwing. Luke is a capable addition to Batman’s team, and, in Rebirth, officially becomes a member of the Bat-Family in Detective Comics.
15 CORUM RATH
In DC Rebirth, plenty of Atlanteans resented Aquaman for his wish to facilitate peace between the ocean world and the one on the surface. Corum Rath’s disdain is on another level, though. Rath uses those feelings to become the leader of a xenophobic group of rebels called the Deluge. Under Rath’s guidance, the Deluge challenges Arthur’s rule at every turn.
Eventually, Rath ascends to the throne and becomes the new ruler of Atlantis. Of course, the power goes to his head. Rath completely cuts his city off from the world by covering it in the Crown of Thorns. This is only the beginning of Rath’s downward spiral, and he’s a textbook representation of the saying “absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
DC Rebirth has introduced a few new speedsters, and Godspeed is the most intriguing of them all. The man under the mask, August Heart, works with Barry Allen at the Central City Police Department. When August loses his brother, the perpetrator goes free because the evidence is destroyed in the accident that gave Barry his superspeed powers.
Heart takes matters into his own hands and gets struck by Speed-Force infused lightning for his efforts. At first, Heart uses his powers to help the Flash. However, Heart’s hunger for revenge drives him over the edge, as he becomes Godspeed, a villain that feeds on the superspeed of others.
13 MARIONETTE AND MIME
Marionette and Mime have not been in the DC Universe very long, but they’ve already made an impact. These two characters have become, arguably, the leading characters of Doomsday Clock -- other than a Rorschach-focused fourth issue, the pair has appeared in every installment of the series.
The two criminals are representative of the blurred lines of good and evil in Geoff Johns’ future DCU. They’re clearly villainous and dangerous, but their love for each other is the strongest connection that DC has introduced in quite some time. Mime is particularly intriguing, as his silent-yet-powerful presence reminds the reader of Black Bolt (without the crown, of course.)
12 GOTHAM GIRL
Saving Batman from certain death is a surefire way to make an impactful debut, and that’s exactly how Gotham Girl and her brother, Gotham, arrived in the DCU. Tom King introduced fans to these superpowered siblings in the very first issue of his run on Batman, as the two heroes rescue Batman as he unsuccessfully tries to steer a crashing plane.
Gotham and his sister, Claire, are inspired by the Dark Knight, and use their powers, which shorten their lifespans with each use, to follow his example. Batman takes Claire under his wing after she has to take out her Psycho Pirate-controlled brother. It’s clear that King has big plans for the newest hero to fight at Batman’s side.
11 JACKSON HYDE
Several characters have assumed the mantle of Aqualad, with the latest being Jackson Hyde. Like some of DC’s other notable new heroes, Hyde is particularly interesting due to his lineage. As the son of Aquaman’s rival, Black Manta, Jackson has to battle his father’s legacy on top of the other difficulties faced by teenage heroes.
Additionally, Hyde stands out for his representation of the LGBTQ+ community and, in Rebirth, Hyde is introduced as a gay character. With his controversial relationship with his father and his status as a gay superhero, Jackson has blazed a trail and become one of DC’s best newcomers.
10 CAITLIN SNOW
Killer Frost isn’t a new character, but the Caitlyn Snow version of the character didn’t debut until 2013. Snow has found success in both the Arrowverse, as a member of Team Flash, and in the comics, as a member of the Suicide Squad and the Justice League of America.
Snow is consistently an example of a character proving that the past doesn’t have to define who you are. The fact that Batman himself vouches for her further cements her status as a legitimate hero. Caitlin’s arc on The Flash is equally captivating -- she must, at times, battle and come to grips with the monster within.
As the first Lantern, Volthoom technically paved the way for the countless ring bearers that followed him. The character is also noteworthy for his sheer power. A long time ago, in a galaxy not so far away, the Guardians of the Universe feared Volthoom’s power enough to throw him in a dark hole and swallow the key.
Yes, the Guardians imprisoned the First Lantern in the Chamber of Sorrows, a prison in a black hole, for several millennia. Naturally, when Volthoom broke free, he was insane and thirsty for revenge. Due to his incredible power level, it took all of the Green Lantern Corps’ might to stop him.
8 JOHN DIGGLE
The overall quality of Arrow may waver throughout the seasons, but there’s at least one constant: John Diggle’s steady presence on the show has always been one of the show’s redeeming factors. Diggle, played by David Ramsey, was initially a bodyguard and limo driver for the star of the show, Oliver Queen. However, Diggle continues to prove that he’s a proficient hero in his own right.
On the show, Diggle is most known for his role as Spartan on Team Arrow. But, in recent seasons, he’s filled in for Oliver as the Green Arrow himself. It’s fair to argue that Diggle has become one of the vital members of the Arrowverse.
It’s early yet, but DC’s New Age of Heroes has (mostly) been a bust. That being said, there’s at least one character from the heavily-promoted line that seems primed to become a successful character. Sideways, or Derek James, has been one of the most enjoyable heroes DC has debuted in quite some time.
James has been called DC’s answer to Spider-Man, and it’s an accurate comparison. Both characters are superpowered teenagers in high school. James even has an Uncle Ben moment in his development as a hero. Sideways will likely become a crucial fixture of the DC Universe, as his power set (travelling between dimensions) could be crucial in fixing the dying multiverse.
Readers can point to recency bias with this pick, and that’s a fair point -- Roundhouse has only appeared in one comic so far. However, it’s also fair to bet on the character’s potential. Roundhouse, or Billy Wu, made his debut in Teen Titans #20 when writer Adam Glass introduced a new lineup of the team. With only one appearance under his belt, little is known about Wu, but he has several characteristics that should set him up for success.
Wu reminds readers of Ned from Spider-Man: Homecoming. He’s a hefty teenager that always has a joke or witty retort in his back pocket. Genuinely overweight superheroes are a rarity, and it should be refreshing to see one as a main member of the Teen Titans.
5 EMIKO QUEEN
What’s not to like about Emiko Queen? She has a fascinating backstory because she’s Oliver Queen’s half-sister and the daughter of Shado, a legendary assassin. Komodo, a bitter enemy of the Green Arrow, kidnapped and trained Emiko, which makes her one of the most dangerous young heroes in the DCU.
When it comes to her family, Emiko struggles to pick a side; at different points, she’s betrayed both Oliver and her mother. Regardless, as the latest Red Arrow, Emiko is much more than the stereotypical sidekick. She recently joined the newest iteration of Robin’s Teen Titans, which will allow her to truly make a name for herself.
4 JONATHAN SAMUEL KENT
There have been other Superboys. Previous Elseworlds stories have explored the idea of Superman having a son. But there’s something special about Jonathan Samuel Kent: he has legitimate staying power and he’s the firstborn son of Superman and Lois Lane.
Kent debuted during the "Convergence" event, and, since then, has only seen his role expand. Jon always has to deal with the weight of living up to his father. The pressure of being Superman's only son must be insurmountable but Jonathan handles it with grace. The Super-Family is now complete, and thanks to the newest Superboy, readers get to enjoy the limitless storytelling possibilities of Superman’s life as a father.
3 MEENA DHAWAN
In DC Rebirth, female speedsters are few and far between, which makes Meenha Dhawan even more remarkable. Dhawan, a scientist at S.T.A.R. Labs, gets struck by lightning in the same Speed Force storm that gave August Heart his powers. Meena adopts the alias of Fast Track and helps Barry train the many new speedsters running around after the storm. Fast Track and the Flash battle the Black Hole and the two heroes briefly dated.
Dhawan disappears and eventually returned as an agent of the sinister Black Hole group. Meena proves that she still has a good heart, though, when she helps Barry prevent Grodd from destroying Central City.
2 HARRISON WELLS
Through four seasons of The Flash, Harrison Wells has consistently been one of the best characters on the show. Wells owes a lot of his success to the acting flexibility of Tom Cavanaugh. Harrison, or Harry, or “H.G.,” depending on which season of the show you refer to, has filled every role from big bad to useful teammate to sacrificial hero and more.
Wells isn’t always a main player on the show -- sometimes, he’s little more than comedic relief. But fans have fallen in love with every version of the character, which is why he deserves a place on this list.
1 WISH NEVER EXISTED: TELOS
Man, "Convergence" could have been cool. The event was supposed to bring DC’s various alternate timelines together, which would have allowed countless permutations of character interactions. Deimos, rather than Brainiac or Telos, was revealed as the “big bad” of the event. Unfortunately, Deimos, Telos and Convergence itself, failed to live up to the hype.
Telos was one of the driving forces of the event, but his bark was much worse than his bite. The event also suffered from “too many villains syndrome”, as Brainiac, Telos and Deimos all played important antagonistic roles. This confusion, plus a muddled climax and the failure to establish Telos as a legitimate villain, led to a disappointing finish to what could have been a great Crisis-level event.