The shared CW superhero universe dubbed the Arrowverse certainly boasts its fair share of high-powered antagonists to round out each show. There’s Zoom, Deathstroke, Vandal Savage and (more recently) Metallo, just to name a few. All of these villains have used their abilities for nefarious ends, and raise the stakes even higher for their respective heroes.
Not all rogues however, need superpowers to be fearsome. Most of the hero shows balance all of the metahuman action out with plenty of non-meta baddies too. Some of these villains even manage to pose a bigger threat than their fellow powered rogues. We at CBR count down some of the best to fill the episodes across the Arrowverse and make our favorite heroes shake in their boots just a little bit.
15. AL CAPONE
As the ragtag team on “Legends of Tomorrow” tear across the timestream to fix aberrations, they come across some fairly rough characters from different times in history. Al Capone was one such rogue, as he was assisted by super-powered villains Reverse Flash and Damian Darhk to expand his criminal empire. The mobster played along with the Legion of Doom’s plans eagerly and faced down the team with nothing but a Tommy gun. He also very nearly put Professor Stein at the bottom of a pier with a new pair of cement shoes before the Legends put a stop to him.
Capone was cunning and ruthless, immediately taking to the future villains if it meant gaining more power in the criminal underworld. His appearance in the show might have been brief, but he was a villain that was plenty heartless and had one half of Firestorm at his complete mercy. Not too shabby for a 1920’s Chicago mobster.
Carrie Cutter began as a humble Star City police officer before she developed an unhealthy obsession with the vigilante. She would frequent crime scenes that he was involved in, practiced archery and even collect arrows he left behind. Things came to a head when Cutter took on the name of Cupid and began killing and kidnapping people, setting them up in elaborate schemes to get the Green Arrow’s attention. When the hero spurned her advances, she attempted to kill him by handcuffing him to a subway train track, but fortunately Oliver escaped and subdued her.
The Green Arrow might have inspired a number of rogues to start laying waste to Star City, but he certainly never expected this one. Cupid was unhealthy in her obsessions and didn’t care whose lives hung in the balance if it meant getting her love’s attention. She could best Arsenal in hand-to-hand combat and could rig any number of explosives for hostage situations. Cupid eventually got over Green Arrow, but that just made her an even more terrifying ex-girlfriend of sorts, one who eventually found her way on the Arrowverse equivalent of the Suicide Squad.
13. THE PIED PIPER
This rogue made his appearance on “The Flash” as a spurned prodigal son of Harrison Wells. Hartley Rathaway was a leading scientist at S.T.A.R. Labs when he was fired for trying to stop Wells from turning on the particle accelerator. Rathaway suffered head trauma that damaged his hearing, and vowed to get revenge. He plotted to kill Well’s “new pet” the Flash by hacking into S.T.A.R. Labs’ computers to get vital info on the hero. Hartley halfway destroyed a dam to draw out Barry and modified his handcrafted sonic gloves to shear the hero’s organs from the inside. All of this was a calculated plot to get revenge on Harrison Wells.
Despite his somewhat non-threatening appearance, Pied Piper is an incredibly dangerous foe. He used his intellectual skills to orchestrate his strategic imprisonment and used the information he gained in his battle against the Flash. Even when he was captured, he had several backup plans to ensure his escape later. Yes, his fate as a rogue was reversed by Flashpoint, but that doesn’t take away the powerful threat he posed to Barry in his original timeline.
12. THE CLOCK KING
William Tockman knew how to run crime on time. The rogue made a splash in Starling City as a heist strategist of sorts, orchestrating bank robberies down to the second. The Clock King ended up frying most of the computer systems in the Arrowcave when Felicity tried to trace him. Tockman also attempted to rob Oliver Queen himself and put a bullet in the hacker’s shoulder, but Smoake made his phone blow up in his pocket and stopped him. Sometime later, the Clock King held an entire police station full of people hostage in Central City, killing two officers before he was arrested again.
William Tockman was calculating and cold at best, unhinged at his worst. He wouldn’t think twice about eliminating anyone who would pose a delay to his plans. Tockman killed one of his hired robbers who disobeyed his orders, and nearly killed Eddie Thawne in his takeover of the Central City police department. The Clock King might not have been trained in combat, but his brains and sociopathic tendencies were more than enough to keep not one, but two cities on edge.
11. THE TIME MASTERS
The jerks of the timestream, a.k.a. the Time Masters. These fine folks were the collective of watchers who vowed to protect the timeline from any harm. Rip Hunter himself broke away from the Time Masters due to their immovable stance on letting Vandal Savage’s tyranny proceed, but the collective was actually in cahoots with the villain the entire time. This same group was responsible for kidnapping Mick Rory, brainwashing him to adopt a new identity as Chronos and releasing him as an assassin on the trail of the runaway Legends.
Needless to say, the Time Masters were a bunch of hypocritical buffoons who believed their ideals were the only right way to view things. They assisted Savage in amassing his power and turned a blind eye to his many atrocities because it would bolster them further down the line. None of them harbored any real powers outside of their Oculus, which they used to ignore their vows of protection, instead choosing to manipulate the timeline to their will. They might not have been powered, but the Time Masters were fearsome in their poisonous influence across the timestream.
Lonnie Machin had all the makings on another uninteresting mob thug before a garish facial injury at the hands of Speedy sent him spiraling downward. Machin’s disfigurement pushed his already cracked psyche over the edge, and he took on the persona of Anarky. Committed to striking back at his former boss Damian Darhk, Lonnie held Darhk’s family hostage before the Green Arrow stopped him. Anarky reappeared at underground H.I.V.E. facility Tevat Noah, tampering with its life support systems, killing Ruvé Darhk and causing the whole place to be destroyed.
Machin’s greatest power lies in his insanity. After his injury, he felt he was reborn into something better than himself. He has no care for human life or collateral damage, but in fact revels in it. Even when Green Arrow attempts to smack him around for information, Machin claims to enjoy it. Much like his namesake, Lonnie enjoyed creating chaos and could never be bullied or bargained with. That alone made him a dangerous rogue, as no one ever knew what he would try next.
9. TOBIAS CHURCH
Even though Prometheus has since taken center stage for the villain role in “Arrow” as of late (the jury is still out on the extent of his abilities), Tobias Church kicked off season five as a scheming thug ready to brutalize his way through Star City. Church came onto the scene prepped for a takeover. He fooled all of the major gang players to meet up and summarily had them all executed, thus eliminating his competition. Tobias staged bold attacks against Star City police and kidnapped and tortured Mad Dog for more information on the emerald archer.
Despite having a brief run on the show, Church was a force to be reckoned with. He was savvy in positioning himself as the foremost gangster in his new home and completely unafraid to fight the vigilante himself. Tobias was of imposing stature and used brass knuckles in every punch up, ensuring that his enemies didn’t escape without several marks to show for it. Church made his presence felt in Star City, leaving many scars on the vigilantes and the town in his wake.
Floyd Lawton was a mercenary with a heck of a reputation. The assassin-for-hire had already racked up hundreds of kills before having a near fatal run-in with the Green Arrow. After losing his eye to the emerald archer, Deadshot took on odd-jobs for the Triads before being conscripted into an A.R.G.U.S. task force to perform various missions. Lawton was also responsible for the death of John Diggle’s brother, Andy (who was later revealed to be very much alive), which the former viciously hated him for. Deadshot met his untimely end while setting off a bomb to cover his task force’s escape during a mission.
Lawton’s ability as a marksman was simply unmatched, and losing his eye only seemed to make him more dangerous. He was a strategic assassin that managed to take successful shots at a number of heroes and villains. Deadshot came incredibly close to killing Oliver with one of his poisoned bullets and even riddled Malcolm Merlyn with a few rounds. Sure, the two may have survived, but they certainly have a few scars as mementos for it.
Huntress made a splash on the vigilante scene for a time alongside Green Arrow before it was revealed that her intentions were less than noble. Daughter of Star City mobster Frank Bertinelli, Helena took on the Huntress identity as a means of disguising herself while she dismantled her father’s illegal operations from the outside. She sought vengeance against her parent for killing her fiancé. After her first attempt was snubbed, Helena later took a police station hostage and nearly killed Black Canary during the holdup. Frank Bertinelli was eventually killed by a S.W.A.T. commander and Huntress was arrested.
Helena simply wanted to murder her father and was willing to do so by any means necessary. She had little regard for the lives of petty criminals working for Frank, and would kill them without remorse. Her ability with a crossbow was unmatched and she was adept at hand-to-hand fighting as she ended her fight with Sara Lance by booting the hero out of a window. Helena’s blind vengeance made her a dangerous element, and there’s no telling what the future will bring for her after she was cheated out of her kill.
6. COUNT VERTIGO
This rogue had already begun to tighten his grip on Starling City by the time Oliver came around. The Count was a well-known drug dealer pushing his illicit narcotic known as Vertigo on the streets. The stimulant is powerful, racking up dozens of overdoses which the Count deems as his victims. In a drug bust gone wrong, Oliver gets injected by the dealer and suffers a painful overdose that he barely survives. The Count is eventually undone by his own product, as the Green Arrow overpowers him and injects him with the drug to enact vengeance.
The Count was certainly not your average drug dealer. He amassed his operation in order to cripple the inhabitants of the city. The scary thing is that he seemed to largely enjoy seeing people suffer at the hands of his drug. The Count took this as far as injecting an underling dealer and watched as the man took his own life right before the rogue’s eyes. He might not have been a trained assassin or sharpshooter, but the Count’s drugs and taste for human suffering was enough to merit the emerald archer’s fear for more than a moment.
5. THE TRICKSTER (JAMES JESSE)
Detective Joe West said it himself: the Trickster is one of the most dangerous villains to ever hit Central City. Hinged on creating chaos and mayhem wherever he can, James Jesse cut a swath of terror through the town during his heyday and even from behind bars. In one plot, Jesse poisoned an entire mayoral fundraiser in order to demand their money in exchange for an antidote. He also teamed up briefly with Captain Cold and Mark Mardon, in which the Trickster posed as a mall Santa and distributed bombs in the forms of presents to kids. Jesse held the city hostage in order to get Flash’s cooperation in being killed.
While his tactics are somewhat roundabout, the Trickster cannot be faulted for valuing a good scheme for terrorizing Central City citizens. As many villains are content to quickly end innocent lives, James Jesse likes to savor the panic he creates in people. His manic mind for concocting schemes that blindside law enforcement agencies is impressive, as is his ability to rig up various death traps for his many victims. Sure, his plots may be kooky, but they’ve certainly had plenty of people and heroes gripped with fear.
4. CAPTAIN BOOMERANG
A surviving member of Task Force X, Digger Harkness entered the Arrowverse bent on getting revenge on Lyla Michaels for trying to kill him. Harkness begins murdering A.R.G.U.S. agents left and right in his bid to reach the director, and very nearly succeeds in ending her life. The Flash and Green Arrow team up against this boomerang-wielding assassin. The duo and their teams have to scramble to disarm lethal bombs planted by Boomerang around the city, but finally put him away for good in the end.
Harkness was positively lethal in his run on the show. His razor sharp boomerangs brutally planted themselves in a number of poor folks in both Central and Star City. He killed without remorse and no one was safe from his ire. Harkness was smart enough to think a few steps ahead of the vigilantes and launched a surprise attack on the vulnerable Arrowcave, where he seriously wounded Lyla. His planting of bombs around town is just further proof of his strategic savvy, as he attempted to ensure the heroes would be too busy to stop him. Harkness was a force to be reckoned with that even two heroes found difficult to capture.
3. MALCOM MERLYN
A dark archer in stark contrast to the Green Arrow, Malcolm Merlyn arrived on the scene as a cold, calculating businessman by day and vicious assassin by night. Merlyn was the head of The Tempest organization, a collective dedicated to cleaning out the crime-ridden Glades by means of a concentrated and devastating earthquake. He was partially successful but was defeated by Oliver Queen. Merlyn has since done quite a bit such as becoming the leader of the League of Assassins and joining the Legion of Doom.
Merlyn posed a truly lethal threat to Oliver time and time again. A skilled archer and trained assassin, Malcolm can hold his own in a fight with the younger hero no problem. He amasses influence with a number of underground organizations and various rogues, making his villainous reach seemingly endless. Malcolm doesn’t let emotions get in the way either, as he treated both of his children with emotional distance, likely to prevent feeling bad about using them in schemes later. Merlyn might not be the most physically imposing rogue on this list, but he’s tenacious and patient; a deadly combination if given enough time.
2. LEWIS SNART
Captain Cold may like to dance in the gray area between rogue and hero, but his father is firmly planted on the side of villainy. Formerly a corrupt police officer turned two-bit thief, Lewis Snart took a revolving door in and out of Iron Heights for a number of years. He escaped jail and kidnapped his daughter Lisa, using her as a hostage in exchange for Leonard’s cooperation in a jewel heist. Fearing for his sister’s life, Cold agrees to carry out the job. Cisco works to save Lisa and when he does, Lewis meets the business end of Leonard’s cold gun.
There’s no arguing it: Lewis Snart is a downright fearsome dude. He had no qualms about gunning down innocent bystanders who got in the way of his job (and if it weren’t for Barry’s intervention, he would have amassed a much higher body count). Lewis knew how to manipulate Leonard into helping him, all too eager to threaten the life of his own daughter without the slightest trace of a bluff. Lewis might have been old, but he certainly knew how to make even Captain Cold shiver in fear.
1. RA’S AL GHUL
The Demon’s Head himself, Ra’s al Ghul waged a terrible war when Oliver refused to his offer to be his heir. Ra’s had nearly killed the emerald archer in combat and upon his survival, wished for Queen to succeed him as leader of the League of Assassins. Ra’s eventually compels Oliver to join the group, then wages war on Star City to completely destroy it. His assassins cause plenty of damage, but the rogue was killed by Oliver in a final showdown.
Now Ra’s may have access to the Lazarus pit in the Arrowverse, but it didn’t amplify his abilities at all. The spring only healed the rogue. It was his combat, strategic and intellectual prowess that helped him become such a fearsome villain. Ra’s is still human in the end and remains formidable on his own. He dismantled the Green Arrow identity and his team to further push the hero in joining him. Ra’s was undoubtedly one of the more manipulative villains Oliver has come up against and his legacy continues to dog the hero to this day.
Let us know in the comments which Arrowverse supervillain you find is the most fearsome!
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