By virtue of their status, villains are typically powerful. This is doubly true for comic book villains. The characters who often face off against the likes of Superman, The Flash, and Wonder Woman have to be capable of enduring a grueling fight. However, sometimes physicality is less significant than other attributes, such as intelligence or tactical prowess. Villains like Lex Luthor and Joker come into play here, presenting a different kind of challenge rather than just a straight up physical fight. That does not make them any less of a threat, though as the idea of "power" comes in all kinds of different forms. They just so happen to be threatening to a different degree when compared to the likes of a New God foe or an evil Kryptonian.
All of the above brings us to the following list of DC’s most vicious, but beloved, villains, ranked from least to most powerful. Arguably, DC's roster of villains are just as, if not more, compelling than its heroes and we'll admit that we sometimes root for the villain (Batman always winning is kind of annoying, right?) The ranking does take into account their heroic opponents. However, also worthy of consideration is how some of these villains would fair against each other. Does The Flash rogue Gorilla Grodd stand a chance against a character like Doomsday, even with his telepathic abilities? What’s Bane’s likelihood of survival versus Black Adam or the Reverse-Flash. That and much more will be examined as we rank DC’s strongest evildoers.
Bane is by no means weak. If anything, he’s remained formidable since his introduction. Bane goes on to do something few had even attempted at the time: He breaks the Batman by literally breaking the vigilante’s back. The “Knightfall” event puts the Dark Knight out of commission for a while. However, Bane’s victory isn’t exclusively physical -- he exhausts him mentally and emotionally. Thus, Bane’s intellectual prowess matches his brute strength, warranting him a spot here.
The villain’s weakness rests in his need of Venom. But let's recall that in some tellings of his story, Bane harbors above average strength before taking Venom. Still, he can be beaten by Batman alone. Again, this doesn’t make him less formidable -- Batman’s not easy to overcome.
Bane and Prometheus could be interchangeable in their rankings. Both are remarkably intelligent, rely on enhancements to access their abilities, and they both beat Batman. What gives the Justice League villain power over Bane? He’s a long-time enemy of the League who can best the Bat only because he harbors the vigilante’s combat prowess and that of other DC fighters. This is made possible by the helmet he wears, which has every fighting style known to man downloaded.
His equipment elevates him to a status amongst the League’s villain pantheon that is quite unique. At one point in time, Prometheus defeats most of the Justice League and the damage results in Green Arrow taking him out. Without a doubt, this character’s a special brand of villainy.
Could the Clown Prince of Crime rank higher on this list? Of course. Joker has proven time and time again that being mortal in a world full of meta-humans and aliens does not scare him and, if anything, he embraces the challenge such beings present. There are a few instances where he is shown to have what it takes to overcome them.
Whether it’s a battle of wits or a test of patience, rarely is anyone surprised when Joker comes out on top. However, his being a human does mean that there is only so much the Clown Prince is actually capable of. Regardless, he never fails at finding a way to make the most of the skills he does have at his disposal.
17 GORILLA GRODD
On paper, Gorilla Grodd seems a campy villain that should’ve been left in the Silver Age where he initially first appears. Yet, DC continues to find creative ways of inserting him into pretty compelling narratives. These stories aren’t just in the comics either, as Grodd’s thrown his weight around in television and video games and sometimes, he’s not even presented as a Flash Rogue.
Because of his telepathic abilities and hulking stature, Grodd has become remarkably powerful. With telepathy, he can rule legions of Gorillas or humans. Whenever he’s depicted in this fashion, fear is usually the tactic through which he stakes his claim on a territory. Super-strength, genius intelligence, and his host of telepathic abilities certainly give him an edge over any hero he may end up fighting.
16 LEX LUTHOR
Lex Luthor wasn’t always an evil scientist hellbent on destroying the Man of Steel. Once this characteristic becomes a staple of his, there’s no turning back. An overly intelligent business mogul who just so happens to hate the world’s greatest hero. What’s not to love? From this point of view, Luthor's capabilities seem minimal. In truth, they are; however, no one has the reach of a Lex Luthor-like figure.
He has been POTUS, cures cancer in an Elseworlds tale, and is one of DC’s most impressive inventors. Lex Luthor could stealthily take over the world if he gave it serious effort -- or he could save the world just as easily. Luthor’s sole weakness, the only thing holding him back is his bizarre obsession with Superman.
15 VANDAL SAVAGE
Because of his immortality, measuring Vandal Savage’s power against that of other villains is complicated. He’s existed throughout much of human history, wearing many hats while advising the likes of kings and emperors. Much of his post-Crisis lore suggests he, too, has been a king, ruling civilizations the world over from time to time. In modern human history, however, he makes a name for himself by being a crime lord or working closely with villains like himself.
In addition to immortality, he’s equipped with most super abilities, speed, strength, intelligence, etc. Savage’s formidability has its limits, though. At his core, Vandal Savage is little more than a power-hungry thug who’s conveniently a little too difficult to defeat, but manages to lose at a very alarming rate.
14 RA'S AL GHUL
Ra’s al Ghul has a legacy in comics like no other. He’s a villain the hero relates to, even understands, but is unable to agree with their methodology. Furthermore, Ra’s, in most depictions of the character, has great respect for Batman (or "Detective" as he has been known to call him). Yet, it’s his immortality and his status as the Demon’s Head that drives many of the narratives in which he takes part.
What makes him any more powerful than Vandal Savage? His success rate as a ruler throughout time and in the modern era of humanity. Ra’s also commands respect, ensuring his legacy thrives after he’s gone thanks to loyalists. Of course, his combat prowess is worth mentioning, since Ra’s remains one of DC’s best martial artists.
A Lantern without their Power Ring is typically inconsequential when it comes to measuring raw power. Thus, this list disregards that removing said Ring renders the user completely powerless. These tiny devices can either keep the cosmos in tip top shape, or devastate the universe in the most unpredictable of ways. After founding the Sinestro Corps thanks to the power of fear, Sinestro and destruction become synonymous.
Sinestro’s perception of others’ fear gives him an advantage not all villains can say they have -- he induces fear. This, in addition to the Power Ring’s capabilities, energy projection, construct creation, etc., makes the former Green Lantern a difficult threat to combat.
12 GENERAL ZOD
As some of the most powerful beings in the multiverse, Kryptonians aren’t folks the average joe would want to square up against. This is especially true if the Kryptonian in question is evil and ruthless. General Zod usually takes on such a role, painting the perfect picture of what a Superman who abuses his power could look like.
Overall, Zod’s abilities may not be as powerful as the Man of Steel’s, but he still poses an incredible threat. Because their powers are so alike, Superman is often Earth’s best bet at thwarting the General’s malicious agenda. The same can be said of General Zod’s various Kryptonian compatriots.
11 CYBORG SUPERMAN
Though he shares Superman's abilities, Cyborg Superman’s more interesting traits have nothing to do with powers such as flight, heat vision, or super hearing. What makes the villain so compelling are his technological enhancements. His cybernetics allow him to control technology, and subject other technologically controlled beings to his will. Cyborg Superman’s mechanical augmentations also give him the ability to morph his tech into weapons.
All of the above and much more gives the Cyborg a unique edge. Yet, these advantages rarely see him succeed in his plans. One thing they do ensure, however, is his continuous return. Cyborg Superman may be often defeated, but he doesn’t stay down for long.
The demon Trigon has been a thorn in the Teen Titans’ side since his first appearance in New Teen Titans. He’s one villain the young team of heroes often has a difficult time ridding themselves of. Usually, this comes down to the demon’s connection with his daughter, Raven. For centuries, Trigon has ruled planets in other realms, exerting his dominance through his incredible abilities.
Thanks to his demon form, Trigon can cast illusions, project energy beams, and transform his body. A magical staff that he wields also allows him to manipulate energy, making him all the more formidable. It’s no surprise that whenever he’s a threat, it takes the full force of the Titans to bring him down.
9 BLACK ADAM
The powers that give Black Adam his abilities are ancient in origin. Powers from six Egyptian Gods -- Shu, Heru, Amon, Zehuti, Aton and Mehen -- give him the skills to battle his enemies. In many ways, Black Adam’s abilities are equal to those of the Man of Steel. For starters, Black Adam does not require basic human sustenance for survival. He has super-speed and super-strength and harbors a genius-level intellect.
Black Adam’s abilities also include, but are not limited to: teleportation, trans-dimensional travel, immortality, and lightning manipulation. These powers have seen him destroy whole countries, taking thousands of lives at a time. Of course, various DC heroes are good for ending his reign of terror. However, sometimes, Black Adam’s reign is impactful, evidenced by the destruction he leaves in his wake.
Parallax is a being best described as fear incarnate, which, in the DC Universe, explains his color of yellow. But fear is not the sole weapon he wields. There are many abilities that Parallax harnesses, all of which shape him into one of DC’s more terrifying creatures. Mind control, hypnosis, immortality, the ability to project fear -- his list of powers is impressive. Parallax can alter reality, even time if he chooses. The ability he is most known for, of course, is possession.
The Green Lantern, Hal Jordan constitutes Parallax’s most notable victim. For years Parallax chipped away at the inner-workings of Hal’s mind, before finally taking over. This version of the character is responsible for Hal Jordan’s murderous rampage.
The power of Speedsters continuously evolves. Interestingly, every Speedster is unique in their various abilities. There are tricks Wally West can pull off that Barry Allen can’t and vice versa. Reverse-Flash is similar in this regard. For instance, not every Speedster can negate another’s connection to the Speed Force the way Reverse-Flash can. This ability enables him to strip away at his enemy’s powers. Obviously, this is in addition to his myriad other capabilities.
Time travel, super-speed, electrokinesis, and several other countless speed-related abilities make this character quite the powerhouse. His penchant for altering reality and selfishly changing lives also ensures him a spot among DC’s most formidable super-villains.
The God of War needs no introduction. As an Olympian God, his powers are insurmountable, his reach incredible. These are not meant as exaggerations either. Ares can travel through dimensions, wield untold amounts of magic, control fire, shape-shift, teleport, and project energy. This short list doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface, as he can also cast illusions, use the power of necromancy and much more.
Therefore, Ares’ power surpasses even that of Wonder Woman and Superman. Still, the God of War can be defeated by conventional means that are relative to a God. But even for Wonder Woman, Ares often proves a difficult combatant to fight against.
Any character that can both defeat and kill the Man of Steel is a character whose powers is otherworldly. Created on Krypton as a being capable of evolving to withstand death, Doomsday represents Superman’s perfect match in battle. Doomsday essentially acts as a giant wall of defense. Thus, he is invulnerable to most attacks, has strength that mirrors that of his nemesis, and has a healing factor.
In combat, he is nearly unstoppable. One example of this manifests in the villain’s ability to adapt to his opponent’s attack pattern. If he’s struck in a particular fashion, his body quickly adjusts to provide the appropriate defense. In short, Doomsday is not a foe many would want to face.
As the Lord of the Unliving, Nekron represents a physical embodiment of death on a cosmic scale. He’s an enigmatic figure in the DC Universe, who lords over a realm that souls are sent to before judgement. Details on how he gains such power remains mysterious, but his existence apparently predates life itself. Thus, it should come as no surprise that Nekron’s abilities are immense.
Nekron harnesses the power to control the dead, reanimate deceased beings, and take life with a touch of his hand. His potency isn’t limitless, though. Nekron cannot exist within the land of the living, hence his reliance on Black Hand during Blackest Night.
Braniac’s intelligence surpasses that of any other character in DC’s vast universe. He collects knowledge of all kinds ancient and modern. However, the Coluan’s most famous collection consists of worlds from throughout the universe. He also captures various types of alien species. Regardless of Braniac’s targeted obsession, his hunger for knowledge and power keeps him going.
His cybernetic form provides him with a host of abilities: enhanced strength and speed, immortality, self-regeneration, etc. Psychic powers are the key to his being a cosmic threat, though. With possession and telepathy at his disposal, Brainiac’s skillfulness of overtaking unsuspecting worlds isn’t shocking. Add in his ability to make copies of himself and it’s no wonder this Superman foe often turns into a problem that entire planets can hardly manage.
Prior to Crisis on Infinite Earths, the DC Universe’s heroes hadn’t faced anything as menacing as the Anti-Monitor. Very few characters have affected the DCU as powerfully since then, especially when considering the massive ways in which he shifted reality. Consuming universes isn’t the only terrifying attribute this character wields either. Some of Anti-Monitor’s lesser abilities can also be quite devastating.
In addition to altering reality, the Anti-Monitor is able to project, construct, and absorb energy. The latter ability allows him to destroy and consume universes. Meanwhile, the unstoppable force of his projected energy is what cost Supergirl her life during their battle with one another. Describing this Monitor as powerful seems a gross understatement.
Whether Darkseid is the most powerful being in the DC Universe is endlessly debated. On the surface, the Apokoliptan despot is unbeatable. However, where his desire to bring Earth under his rule is concerned, he consistently fails. If Superman doesn’t put a stop to his machinations, the League ensures his plans don’t take root. Still, his potency is nearly unmatched.
As a New God, Darkseid possesses the usual attributes of a super being. Which includes enhanced speed and strength, invulnerability, and immortality. Also of aid is the mysterious energy that constitutes the Omega Effect. The energy Darkseid produces allows him to travel the multiverse, cast omega beams, teleport, use telekinesis, and far too many other abilities to list. If there exists one DC villain worth being horrified of, it’s him.