Supervillains in cartoons run a massive gamut, from laughably weak to complete gods that stand head and shoulders above even the largest of superhero team-ups. While each villain usually brings more to the table than just how hard they can punch (except Doomsday), how hard they can punch is certainly still an important factor to the threat of the villain. Compare, for example, the Joker and General Zod. Both threatening villains, but vastly different power levels.
So this list isn’t really about how hard these villains can punch (although that will come up), but rather about how easily the superhero protagonists defeat their supervillainous foes. Some of them are defeated easily by a few heroes, some take entire teams to defeat, some require the full roster of available superheroes to battle, and one of them is never defeated by the heroes (guess where he is on the list). It’s important to remember that since this is a cartoon list, everyone’s power levels have been shifted around a bit. Most importantly, this is NOT a “who would win in a fight” list, and it is not trying to quantify power levels. It’s just a list of powerful villains who gave the Avengers and the Justice League a whole lot of trouble. Or not.
20. ARES AND THE ANNIHILATOR
In Justice League Unlimited, the DC Animated Universe opened up to a vast array of heroes and villains. One of the earliest episodes, “Hawk and Dove,” deals with Wonder Woman and superhero brothers Hawk and Dove involving themselves in an Eastern European civil war. Against them stands Greek god of war Ares, and his Destroyer Armor knockoff called the Annihilator.
After getting soundly beaten by the armor, the heroes are desperate to find a solution. Given a clue by the armor’s maker, Hephaestus, the pacifist Dove figures out that the armor feeds off aggression and violence, and surrenders to the armor, shutting it down and foiling Ares’s plans. While Ares and the Annihilator are physically powerful, having such a crippling weakness places them soundly at the bottom (top?) of this list.
Another DCAU villain, Mongul is the master of Warworld and an archenemy of Superman. While physically powerful, enough to stand up to Superman and Wonder Woman, he is defeated somewhat easily first by someone weaker than Superman in his first appearance, and again by the Black Mercy plant in his Justice League Unlimited appearance, in an adaptation of Alan Moore’s “For the Man Who Has Everything.”
Mongul’s main issue is that he will never be a “big” villain, like Darkseid or Galactus. One man and one plant defeat him, rather than requiring the full force of a super-team to take down, and much of his threat comes from stolen technology, especially in the DCAU where Superman-level strength is a lot easier to come by.
18. THE IMPERIUM
The very first villains the Justice League face in the DCAU, the Imperium are a race of shapeshifting aliens who are definitely not White Martians, no sir. While quite strong individually, the real threat comes from their sheer numbers and shapeshifting infiltration. However, they have a fatal weakness the Justice League can and do exploit; i.e., they’re like vampires and burn up in direct sunlight, another callback to their inspiration, the White Martians, and their weakness to fire.
While their plan is to cloak the Earth in eternal darkness, Batman of course sabotages their machine, because he is Batman. They also fall into the weakness that plagues Martian Manhunter in Justice League, their telepathy never working as intended because it would make them TOO powerful.
Chronos is a brilliant inventor, so brilliant that he creates a functional time machine. While his plot was basically an excuse to have the Justice League cross over with the cast of Batman Beyond and visit DC’s Old West characters, he’s still a threatening villain, throwing all of time out of whack with his meddling. Toward the end of the story, time begins to unravel and he nearly destroys the universe just to spite his wife.
While his actions threaten all of existence, the man himself is still a weedy little nerd continuously bending over for his wife. In the end, because this is DCAU, Batman defeats him by reprogramming his time machine, locking him into a time loop that seems a little extreme, even for Batman. He was just a normal guy, you could put him in regular jail, Bruce!
No, not the Bat-hound. A member of Joker henchmen group the Royal Flush Gang, Ace is a massively powerful psychic. Her initial appearance shows her capable of driving millions insane simply by making eye contact through a TV screen (made especially creepy as Joker explains her powers and his plan while Ace’s eyes stare out at you from your own screen).
Her second appearance was far more tragic, as her powers grow and run out of control, going from merely warping mental perception to full-blown reality warping. Unfortunately, her powers were also killing her, and her death would kill everyone in range with psychic backlash. While Amanda Waller wants to kill Ace outright, Batman finds another solution, helping Ace to control her powers and allowing her to die peacefully. And then everyone cried.
Omnicidal leader of the Annihilation Wave, forever trying to break into the universe from the Negative Zone, Annihilus is one of Marvel’s most enduring threats. In his Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes appearance, he attacks the Negative Zone supervillain prison 42, in an attempt to unleash the Annihilation Wave on the larger universe.
While he immediately displays his power, nearly destroying the prison and breaking through to the main universe, along with killing a bunch of nameless S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and a few supervillains, the Avengers and volunteer villains defeat him by stealing his Cosmic Control Rod. This causes his bug minions to turn on him, revealing that his powers and control over the Wave largely came from his staff rather than inherently.
It wouldn’t be an Avengers cartoon without an appearance by the first Avengers villain ever. As in the comics, Loki reveals himself to be behind several major plot points in Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, engineering the initial supervillain breakout, as well as putting together the Masters of Evil, all with the goal of taking over Asgard while Thor is occupied with aiding the Avengers on Midgard.
His plans come to fruition when he steals the Odinforce while Odin rests in the Odinsleep (Odin is not known for his modesty), and conquers the Nine Realms. Using his magic, he binds Thor and Mjolnir, and, with the power of the Odinforce, takes on the entire Avengers team with ease. His downfall comes not from the Avengers, but from losing control of the Odinforce and awakening Odin.
While Enchantress usually plays second fiddle to Loki, in Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, she establishes herself as a threat above and beyond Loki by allying with the fire giant Surtur. Using her newly enhanced powers, she destroys the homeworld of Beta Ray Bill, and subsequently fights both Thor and Bill on equal footing. While they eventually defeat her, she escapes to continue her machinations under the control of Surtur.
She never confronts the Avengers again directly due to the series’ cancellation before her plot could be resolved. She is, however, shown to be able to drain the Avengers’ powers from worlds away, and break a spell placed by Odin to release Loki from his torment, as well as control the Destroyer armor and grant it to Loki.
Graviton is the first villain of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, one of the villains to escape from the various superprisons in the Breakout. Notable in comparison to Justice League‘s Imperium, it takes just one of Graviton to challenge the Avengers. Thanks to his gravity powers, he is extremely powerful. His single-minded desire for revenge drives him to villainy, distracting the Avengers at a crucial moment while all the other supervillains escape.
Able to lift entire cities, along with being able to stand up to Thor’s hammer and Hulk’s blows at the same time, his incredible power allows him to nearly defeat the Avengers. In a bit of dramatic irony, it is one of the weaker members, Wasp, who defeats him with a zap after a massive combined assault by the Avengers.
Doomsday kills Superman. You are now up to speed with everything Doomsday is notable for (also spoilers, we guess). While the DCAU version doesn’t make it quite that far, he still puts up a considerable fight first against the Justice Lords, and later against Superman and the Justice League. Justice Lord Superman defeats him the first time with heat vision lobotomization, and real Superman defeats him later by banishing him to the Phantom Zone.
DCAU Doomsday is largely unchanged in power and viciousness from his comics counterpart, the only difference being he encounters the Justice Lords first, instead of Superman. Although the series ended before he could escape the Phantom Zone to threaten the League again, Cadmus general Wade Eiling becomes a knockoff Doomsday, and is defeated by the D-list of the Justice League in an homage to the Seven Soldiers of Victory.
10. JUSTICE LORD SUPERMAN
The Justice Lords were the DCAU’s take on the Crime Syndicate. A mirror universe where Flash is killed by Lex Luthor, the Justice League becomes increasingly authoritarian, eventually taking over the planet. This culminates with Superman killing President Luthor, and completing transformation from the Justice League to the Justice Lords.
Lord Batman creates a dimension-hopping device to fix the “problems” of the League’s Earth. Chief among them is Lord Superman, just as powerful as Superman but with a twisted moral compass. He seeks to save humanity from itself, and in doing so has removed all free speech, free elections, and lobotomizes most supervillains with heat vision. His first act on League Earth is to lobotomize Doomsday, overcoming a threat that had taken down the entire League.
This list’s only X-Men entry, Apocalypse is perhaps the most powerful of all X-Men villains, barring mutants who flip-flop like Phoenix. An immortal mutant from ancient Egypt, in X-Men Evolution, he remains just as powerful. Sabotaged by future man Rama-Tut (known in the comics as Kang the Conqueror), he defeats the future tech by absorbing and integrating it, then using it to construct a doomsday weapon.
Using Rogue to absorb all of the X-Men, Brotherhood, and Acolytes’ powers, he reawakens and defeats Magneto and the X-Men with ease. One of his most notable feats is mind-controlling Professor X, along with defeating all of the X-Men and Magneto near effortlessly. He nearly conquers the world and turns all humans into mutants, but Rogue stops him by re-absorbing all his abilities.
If there’s one thing that gives the Justice League trouble, it’s magical nonsense. Morgaine Le Fay and her son Mordred are among the most powerful spellcasters the League faces, but it’s Mordred alone who accomplishes what Morgaine never could: defeating the Justice League and conquering the world.
Because Mordred is in fact a young child, his plan is of course a bit more childish than a standard supervillain plan. Using a powerful magical artifact, he banishes all adults from the planet and warps reality to one more suited to his sensibilities. He is eventually defeated (because he is a child, and therefore dumb) by the Justice League-turned-children. They trick him into turning himself into an adult, trapping him in his own spell and banishing him to an eternal life without eternal youth.
Another DCAU Greek god, Hades is considerably more powerful than Ares, and also more willing to throw down with the Justice League. Trapped in Tartarus after betraying Olympus to the Titans, Hades seeks to escape with the help of magician Felix Faust. Although he is eventually sent back, it takes the entire Justice League to bring him down. Even then, they only win by virtue of destroying the key to his portal, which drags him back to Tartarus.
Hades is strong enough to knock out Superman with a single blow (which is still impressive even in the lower-power DCAU), as well as take hits from Superman, the Flash, and Wonder Woman. He is also extremely skilled in magic, able to drain the life from Faust and raise the spirits of the dead to battle the League.
One of the Justice League’s most dangerous villains, Brainiac is an artificial intelligence at least partially responsible for the destruction of Krypton and countless other worlds. While his physical abilities (initially) aren’t all that impressive, his incredible intellect, combined with the ability to control others with nanotechnology, makes him one of the more enduring villains the DCAU.
His ultimate plans finally came to fruition when merged with Lex Luthor. With Luthor’s creativity, Brainiac was able to integrate the technology of nanotech super-weapon, the Dark Heart, which in turn allowed the fusion to stand up and easily defeat all seven members of the original League. While he was eventually defeated and seemingly destroyed by the Flash, nearly killing himself, he would later return, fused with Darkseid, as the ultimate villain of Justice League Unlimited.
While Darkseid has had his ups and downs in the comics (mostly downs), in the DCAU, he was one of the most powerful and enduring villains. First appearing in Superman: The Animated Series, his physical strength was second only to his far-reaching and deep-seated schemes. Able to take on Superman near-effortlessly, his greatest victory came when he brainwashed the hero, turning him into a weapon to attack Earth. While Superman eventually broke free of the control, his public image was forever tarnished.
Later, in Justice League, Darkseid was able to combat the entire League at once, as well as display remarkable aptitude for technology. His final act before his “death” was to hack Brainiac and bring him under his control. His final appearance, for the finale of the show, saw him fuse with Brainiac and nearly conquer Earth, only to be finally defeated through the combined efforts of Superman, Batman and Lex Luthor.
While soon-to-be MCU star Thanos did not appear in Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, he did appear in the much-lower quality movie spinoff Avengers Assemble. Despite appearing in a lower quality show, Thanos proved to be the better of the Avengers. With the powers of the Infinity Gauntlet, he nearly destroyed Earth, and easily defeated the Avengers.
Most notable is that he was able to defeat the Avengers using the powers of only one Infinity Stone at a time, perhaps foreshadowing the fate of the Avengers in the upcoming Infinity War. Like most of the immensely powerful villains on this list, the Avengers were able to defeat him by exploiting his ego, topped off with an anti-Infinity Stone robot pulled out of Iron Man’s shiny metal butt.
Back to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Galactus, Devourer of Worlds, serves as the final villain for the series. As he does, Galactus rocks up to Earth and uses his four heralds to begin preparations to consume the planet. While the four heralds are defeated by the Avengers and all their friends, including the Fantastic Four and the New Avengers, Galactus proves to be too much for them and begins devouring Earth.
As has clearly become a theme with this list, Galactus is defeated not through punches but through ingenuity. Mr. Fantastic and Iron Man open a portal to the Negative Zone, keyed to Big G’s Power Cosmic, and banish him there. This also apparently provides a permanent solution to Galactus’s hunger, allowing him to feed on anti-matter instead of planets.
The massively powerful Anti-Monitor made his first and only animated appearance in the unjustly ignored Green Lantern: The Animated Series. A recurring villain, Anti-Monitor was able to face down the full might of the Green Lanterns, Red Lanterns, and the Star Sapphires. Similar to the comics, he devours planets in waves of anti-matter. He also commanded a vast legion of Manhunter robots, providing him with much-needed ground troops to combat individual Green Lanterns.
One of the few villains on the list to be defeated in a straight fight, it still took most of the Green Lantern Corps and the Guardians, along with several Red Lanterns, to finally get thrown into the sun. Unfortunately, his power possessed AI Green Lantern Aya, who continued to threaten the Green Lanterns until the end of the series.
The AMAZO android, better known as Doctor Ivo’s android or simply the android, is one of the most powerful antagonists in the DCAU. Initially able to defeat the entire Justice League with little effort, he vanishes into space after deciding they’re not worth his time. Upon his return to Earth in Justice League Unlimited, he has ascended to near omnipotence, able to defeat the Green Lantern Corps with a thought, tear through the entire expanded Justice League effortlessly, and has evolved past any weaknesses he had in the past.
The android is never truly defeated, instead convinced to stand down by Lex Luthor of all people explaining to him the meaning of life. He retreats with Doctor Fate, who promises to show him the meaning of life. After a brief confrontation with a returned Solomon Grundy, he retreats into space and is never seen again.
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