In the world of superheroes, literally anything could turn someone into a major threat: a helmet, a briefcase… a glove with a bunch of shiny gems on it. Or in the DC Universe’s case, a ring. It sounds absurd for a piece of jewelry to be so dangerous, but for decades the Green Lantern Ring was considered one of the most Powerful Weapons in the Universe. Its unique power to create anything the user could imagine as long as they possessed the willpower to form it made Hal Jordan, Guy Gardner, and John Stewart heavy hitters both as solo superheroes and as members of the Justice League.
In 2007, writer Geoff Johns would expand the world of the Green Lanterns several times over however, with the introduction of six new Corps -- each based on a different part of an emotional spectrum, based off the hues of visible light. From these new Corps… and their ultimate opposites in the Black and White Lanterns, the DC Universe would find itself populated with even more ring wielders, each boasting more impressive and unique capabilities than the last. The landscape of what we believed we knew in terms of their powers would be altered forever, as we would watch all of these Lanterns battle one another and threats across the DC Universe, redefining everything. Still, with all that fighting it’s been pretty easy to get a fair reading on the ring wielders, so this list is devoted to the absolute best of the best -- 20 of the most powerful characters to ever use a ring, whether they were hero or villain, Green, Yellow, or Violet.
Looking at Arkillo, you’d think he would very much be the top dog of the Sinestro Corps crew, right after Sinestro himself. But in reality, his bark is a lot bigger than his bite, and his scary looks are mostly for show. That’s why when Sinestro was locked away Mongul was so easily able to wrest control from Arkillo, ripping his tongue out.
More recently, Arkillo wound up in a fight against Guy Gardner in a one on one battle without their Rings… and while Guy certainly didn’t walk away unscathed, he still managed to come out on top. The threat, when it comes to Arkillo, is absolutely his ring, and if you can match or neutralize that he’s a big puppy dog.
The most dangerous kitty in the DC Universe, Dexter was an abandoned cat which was adopted by a young woman from an animal shelter. After his owner was offed in a robbery, Dexter would go on to become homeless for some time, until some jerks tried drowning him by putting him in a bag and tossing it off the Brookyln Bridge.
Fortunately for Dexter, the Red Ring of Rage found him... and unfortunately for the jerks, the Red Ring of Rage found Dex-Starr. After he took care of those two, he would join Atrocitus’ Corps as the Red Lantern of Sector 2814. Still, while competent, he’s usually more of a mascot for the Red Lanterns. A cute, fuzzy mascot… that vomits napalm.
Iroque is the leader of the Indigo Tribe, which is eventually revealed to be a group of bad guys and sociopaths forced to learn what it is to know compassion by the Rings they wear. The Indigo Rings are powerful enough as is, as they’re capable of channeling the energy from other Rings in the emotional spectrum to be used defensively or offensively.
She was instrumental in gathering a coalition of Ring wielders during the War of Light to battle against Nekron, and she eventually proved to be one of the smartest tacticians when she prevented Black Hand from falling by inducting him into the Indigo Tribe forcibly.
The drill sergeant of the Green Lantern Corps, Kilowog feels like he’s been there since the very beginning, even though he didn’t even make his first appearance until Green Lantern Corps Vol. 1 #201 by Steve Englehart and Joe Staton. An alien from the planet Bolovax Vik, he faithfully joined the Corps even though it basically meant exile for him from his people and homeworld.
Ultimately, Kilowog has given his entire life to the Corps -- literally. When Hal was controlled by the Parallax entity, Kilowog was one of the Lanterns sent to stop him, and he was killed by his former recruit, only revived when Kyle and Ganthet sought to restore the Corps.
16 SODAM YAT
In theory, Sodam Yat should be a much bigger threat than he actually is. A member of the Daxamites, Sodam escaped his xenophobic home culture in order to join the Green Lanterns in the stars. On top of that, once under a yellow sun his powers expanded to Kryptonian levels, essentially making him Superman with a GL Ring.
He even received a further boost in power when he was granted the Ion entity after it was forcibly taken out of its previous owner Kyle Rayner. Despite his status as a Kryptonian and Ion, Sodam is never the tactical nuke the Corps needs -- falling to threats like Superboy Prime and removed from action by the time of the Blackest Night.
15 JESSICA CRUZ
Another of the younger Green Lanterns, Jessica Cruz wasn’t supposed to be a Lantern at all -- since it requires people to be capable of overcoming great fear, and after an incident in the forest where all of her friends were lost, Jessica wound up afraid of literally everything.
But it was that fear which drew the Power Ring of Earth-3 to her when the Crime Syndicate attacked the Earth, and when she managed to overcome the influence of Volthoom’s ring, she was gifted with an invitation to the Corps. Since then, her inexperience has placed her just behind Simon, as for a long time she couldn’t even create constructs, but she has advanced admirably in the time since, even working alongside the Justice League.
14 SIMON BAZ
One of the newest Green Lanterns of Earth, Simon Baz was granted a weird, fused version of Hal Jordan and Sinestro’s rings after the two were believed to be gone forever. While locked in Guantanamo Bay at the time for a mistaken connection to an attack, the ring broke Simon out and finally allowed him a second chance.
Initially, Simon carried around a gun, intending it to be something of a back-up if his ring ever ran out of a charge. What makes him stand out from other Lanterns is his ability to heal people with his ring, and while he’ll doubtless become more skilled over time, for now what holds him back is his inexperience, as he’s one of the youngest Earth Lanterns.
Fatality was from the planet Xanshi -- a woman of royal blood allowed to train off-world in order to hone her nascent fighting talent into something more useful for her people. That actually worked out in her favor, as it meant she wasn't on the planet when it was destroyed thanks to the overconfidence of Green Lantern John Stewart.
She spent years attempting to kill not only him, but all Green Lanterns, to make up for their failure in helping her homeworld. Still, eventually she was gifted with one of the Power Rings of the Zamarons, which encased her in crystal until she learned to let go of her hatred and rage for the Green Lanterns and embrace love as a member of the Star Sapphires.
12 SORANIK NATU
It’s not often you’re given a chance to make up for the mistakes of your family. But what about when your family’s mistakes involve bending your entire planet to their will in the name of “order”? That’s the problem Soranik had to deal with when a Green Lantern Ring chose her.
As the daughter of Sinestro, merely accepting the ring was tantamount to choosing permanent exile -- nevertheless, she became a proud member of the Green Lantern Corps. But blood can be thicker than will, as Soranik most recently joined her father’s Corps and took over as its leader after feeling betrayed by a member of the Green Lanterns.
11 GUY GARDNER
The bad boy of the Earth Green Lanterns, Guy Gardner has done it all -- from fighting an army of undead Lanterns to getting knocked out in one punch by Batman. He’s also had almost as much experience fighting without his Green Lantern Ring as he has with one -- from his time briefly brandishing an early model Sinestro Corps Ring, to when he learned of his alien heritage and could shapeshift his arms into giant guns and swords.
And even when he was a member of the Red Lanterns and could fire napalm from his mouth. Still, he’s very much a case of a jack of all trades, master of none, never particularly excelling at any one thing.
10 SAINT WALKER
Time and again the Blue Lanterns have proven themselves vastly more powerful than the other Lanterns. Their rings can boost the charges of the Green Lantern rings to levels normally unheard of. They can cure both the attacks of Red Lanterns and neutralize the power of a Red Lantern Ring and help whoever was wearing it to let go of their anger.
And that’s just the start -- Saint Walker here can use his ring to rewind the time of a star, turning a helping a hurt giant become like new again. There’s just one flaw: without the will of a Green Lantern nearby, their Blue Rings otherwise worthless, putting a serious ceiling on how useful they can be.
If nothing else, Atrocitus is a survivor. He was one of only five within Space Sector 666 to survive the Manhunters’ malfunctioning and laying waste to all life within. And even after that, he became the only member of those five to survive to the present day, using blood magic and rituals to grant himself multiple powers including the ability to see into the future… and the creation of the Red Lantern Corps.
Easily one of the most powerful Red Lanterns, Atrocitus is one of the only members of his Corps capable of tempering his rage enough to create constructs, making him even more of a threat than his already formidable comrades.
Let’s not pretend here -- Larfleeze is the single most powerful ring user alive. In sharp contrast to everyone else, he harnesses the orange light all by himself. Granted, given his power is that of avarice, greed, that makes perfect sense.
Whether he owes it to his race or having held the ring for so long, he’s been alive for centuries, meaning he has more experience with his ring than nearly anyone else. And while he has no traditional Corps to back him up, he’s completely capable of creating one -- as he can turn anyone he offs into a construct to join his army.
7 CAROL FERRIS
For many years, Carol Ferris had the unfortunate luck of being possessed by the Star Sapphire, frequently turning her into one of Hal Jordan’s greatest enemies. After having to deal with the Sapphire’s influence for years and even gaining a measure of control over it, it’s no surprise Carol was one of the first women chosen when the Zamarons started to adapt the Guardians’ usage of rings to create their Corps of Love.
Even the Zamarons themselves acknowledge her as the strongest of the Star Sapphires, and Carol would go on to tame The Predator, the embodiment of Love which powered the Star Sapphire Corps.
6 JOHN STEWART
John Stewart didn’t necessarily get off to the best start as a Green Lantern. Chosen as Hal Jordan’s “back up” Lantern, he spent much of his time on Earth operating with a chip on his shoulder. When he was eventually called up, his arrogance caused the destruction of an entire planet, which would unfortunately be the only legacy he had for many years after Hal Jordan destroyed the Corps.
Still, since then he’s made amends and then some as a key member in the fight against the Sinestro Corps, the Black Lanterns, and the power of Volthoom. And once the Guardians fell, John would eventually become the de facto leader of the Corps itself in a surprisingly impressive character growth arc.
Is there any doubt Nekron belongs on this list? Ruler of the realm between limbo and purgatory, Nekron holds power over every soul yet to be sentenced to their true final resting place. Eventually, he managed to trick William Hand into becoming the avatar with which he was able to cross over into the land of the living, in the hopes of ending the Life Entity and returning everything to its original state of nothingness.
A master over those who pass on, Nekron is eventually revealed to have been the one responsible for so many heroes easily returning from the grave, giving him sleeper agents in the War of Light. He also has control over every Black Lantern, granting him an army bigger than any in the universe.
The impossible things that Hal Jordan has achieved with the Green Light of Will, Sinestro has achieved with the power of fear. After years of watching Parallax conquer its’ hosts rather than the other way around, Sinestro became the first master of the fear entity, asserting his control over it through pure… willpower.
It’s not the first time his experience as a Green Lantern has come in handy, as he used it to train Hal Jordan, helping him become the Lantern he is now… and to conquer his home world of Korugar. He even managed to construct a Corps of his own and go to war with one of the most powerful forces in the universe in the famed Sinestro Corps War.
3 HAL JORDAN
Hal Jordan was widely believed to be the greatest Green Lantern to ever live… which is probably why Parallax used him to destroy the Corps. Nevertheless, Hal clawed his way back from that humiliation, and helped rebuild the Corps stronger than ever. Since then, he’s proven the people right, showing his will to be stronger than anyone could have ever imagined, achieving the impossible again and again.
Most recently, after spending years using Krona’s glove as a makeshift Green Lantern Ring, Jordan has found his physiology altered in such a way that he’s closer to the will spectrum than anyone else, even using the glove to craft his own personal Green Ring, granting him abilities no other GL could dream of.
2 KYLE RAYNER
Though Sinestro had a terrible habit of referring to him as the “alley rat”, the truth is Kyle has accomplished more as a Green Lantern than almost any other member of the Corps. As the Torchbearer, he kept the green light shining throughout the universe when the other Corps members were either ended, incapacitated, or powerless at the hands of Hal Jordan after he’d been changed by Parallax.
Plus he was the first member of the Corps to wield the power of Ion, the emotional entity of Will. And ultimately, after the War of Light he would go on to become the only White Lantern -- not a bad legacy for someone who found his ring while trying not to throw up in an alley.
1 ALAN SCOTT
The man who started it all in the real world, Alan Scott was Green Lantern before there was ever a Corps. Alan Scott was saved from his certain demise when his train crashed, instead turning into Earth’s very first Green Lantern. It would eventually be revealed that Alan’s power came from the Starheart, the wild magic of the universe the Guardians collected and tossed away.
That power made Alan the heavy hitter of the Golden Age of heroes, and even today he’s respected as one of the Elder Statesmen of the Justice Society… as long as he can keep the power of the Starheart under control, at least.