DC Comics has an extensive number of heroes in its arsenal, many of which are recognizable worldwide. Some such heroes are synonymous with the DC brand -- Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, etc. Others, however, aren’t so fortunate as to be considered in the same league as them. Heroes that do not exactly fit alongside the A-listers -- Booster Gold, Zatanna, The Atom, etc. -- lack mention among the most famous, but are still relatively well known. Essentially, the B-list heroes are beloved characters that for one reason or another have yet to break into mainstream consciousness. But countless other heroes fail to get even a fraction of the attention they are owed in the comics and with notoriety from fans.
These powerful unsung heroes work just as hard as any of their fellow superheroes to save lives and strengthen the world’s defenses. They all rise to the occasion whenever necessary, often doing so without being prompted. As such, these characters are worthy of the recognition their more famous counterparts regularly receive. The first step, of course, is in acknowledging them and their heroics, which is what the following list intends to accomplish. Here are 15 of the most powerful characters DC refuses to utilize.
15 PHANTOM STRANGER
Phantom Stranger’s history in DC’s ever-expanding mythos is as long as it is complex. First appearing in a 1952 mini-series as the titular character, the mysterious hero was introduced as somewhat of an enigma. What he lacks in origins he more than makes up for with his abilities. The powers of the Phantom Stranger are magic in nature, as he is able to turn invisible, pause time, transform people and objects, and much more.
DC’s New 52 continuity takes the character in a shocking yet incredible direction, giving him a backstory wherein he’s Judas Iscariot -- the man who betrayed Jesus to the Sanhedrin for 30 pieces of silver. Given an opportunity to repent for his traitorous deed, he dons the robes of Jesus, which assign him special powers. Unfortunately, Phantom Stranger’s New 52 series was short-lived and he’s yet to appear in Rebirth.
14 LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES
New life is about to be breathed into the Legion of Super-Heroes as their introduction to the Arrowverse is impending, thanks to Supergirl season three preparing to introduce them. Details of their debut remain scarce; yet, their arrival will presumably be tied to Mon-El’s inevitable return. However, for some reason, the futuristic super-team hasn’t received much love in the comics of late.
Originally introduced in 1958 as time-traveling heroes from the 30th century, the team has a rotating roster of members that may or may not include Superboy depending on continuity. More importantly, though, is the team’s incredibly powerful skillset, as individuals and in a group. Characters like the speedster XS, Green Lantern Rond Vidar, Connor Kent and Saturn Girl make them formidable. Hopefully, this isn't lost on DC creatives; it'd be awesome to see the team reinvented for the Rebirth continuity.
13 AGENT LIBERTY
Plenty of heroes are defined by the superpowers they wield or the gadgets they utilize. Benjamin Lockwood, aka Agent Liberty, is no such character. Agent Liberty is an honor-bound individual who just so happens to be equipped with fancy gadgetry and a cool name. At first glance, he appears to be a combination of Commander Steel and Marvel’s Iron Fist. However, there is much more to the former CIA agent than meets the eye.
Agent Liberty’s expertise in espionage offers him an array of fascinating missions to undertake. His suit of armor is also nothing to scoff at, as it provides him a force-shield and the ability of flight for short periods of time. The character’s tenure as a hero and skilled agent was short-lived. Agent Liberty's investigation into Lex Luthor and General Lane resulted in his death in the "New Krypton" arc (2008-2009).
12 METAL MEN
Very little in DC’s history screams '60s science fiction quite like the Metal Men. The six beings were created by Dr. Will Magnus, whose design of artificial intelligence supplied them with human-like sentience. The team consists of Gold, Lead, Iron, Tin, Platinum and Mercury. Each of the Metal Men’s designs are based on the material for which they were named. In addition, their namesakes aid in defining their individual personalities; interestingly, the same can be said of each hero’s abilities. For instance, Mercury is typically the hot-head of the group and can reconstruct himself after melting.
The Metal Men have gone through a few retcons over the years. Usually they make guest appearances, the most notable being in The Brave and the Bold, Infinite Crisis, and Doom Patrol. During the New 52 continuity, the team briefly appears, but aren’t given much to do story-wise.
11 TOMORROW WOMAN
Few of Professor Ivo’s creations wind up being beneficial to those intending to do some good; the Professor’s responsible for Amazo, after all. However, evil didn’t win out when Ivo and T.O. Morrow built the android that would come to be known as Tomorrow Woman. She’s initially designed to infiltrate the Justice League as a hero, before destroying them from the inside out. Upon discovering her designated purpose, Tomorrow Woman reprograms her build. A hero, a powerful hero, is born.
With telekinesis, telepathy and a whole host of other superhuman abilities, Tomorrow Woman is invaluable to whichever cause she joins. A fleeting romance with Hourman and a stint as the Superman of an alternate timeline makes the character all the more intriguing. This intrigue, sadly, was not enough to see her return following the events of "Infinite Crisis".
10 FREEDOM FIGHTERS
The Freedom Fighters are a team of resistance fighters on an alternate world, Earth-X, where the Nazis won World War II. Led by Uncle Sam, the sometimes rotating cast of characters consists of The Ray, Doll Man, Black Condor, Human Bomb, Firebrand, Phantom Lady and others. Of course, given the nature of their mission, the Freedom Fighters are limited to what they can offer the DC Universe narratively.
Following a few guest appearances in Justice League books, the Freedom Fighters earned a standalone series in the mid-'70s that suffered cancellation before hitting its stride. After the events of "Infinite Crisis", the team’s explored through revamps and a number of new series. The New 52 iteration sees them genetically enhanced by Earth-X’s Dr. Sivana, but their place in Rebirth continuity is currently unknown. Fortunately, the Freedom Fighters will soon emerge once more thanks to the Arrowverse.
Rosabelle Mendez, or subject X-24/Pantha, made her first appearance in 1991 in a New Titans story, an incarnation of the teenage team of which she eventually gains membership. Because of mutations she undergoes as a Wildebeest Society experiment, Pantha is a mutant who never completely discovers her true origins. Questions of whether she was first woman or beast are not even made clear to her.
Since wildebeest DNA was spliced with her own, Pantha’s strength and abilities knows no bounds. After leaving the Titans, she occasionally teams with some of her former colleagues. Her arc ultimately meets an end during the events of "Infinite Crisis", where she's inadvertently beheaded. Pantha has a fleeting role during "Blackest Night", and sadly hasn’t returned in any of the recent continuity shifts.
8 MAX MERCURY
It is impossible to talk about powerhouses in the DC Universe without mentioning a speedster. Similar to Green Lanterns, they are inarguably one of the publisher’s most significant and rich creations. When discussing Speedsters in general, the usual suspects are never far from the forefront; characters like Barry Allen, Wally West, and Jay Garrick instantly come to mind. One figure in particular, though, seems to often escape mention, despite his significance to Flash lore -- Max Mercury.
The hero first appeared in 1940 under the moniker of Quicksilver; he later adopted the Max Mercury alias. Max is mostly a side character, helping fellow Speedsters when called upon and mentoring Bart Allen, a 30th Century descendant of Barry Allen. Max is equipped with familiar abilities, but his Speed Force connection edges on the spiritual, making his understanding of it incomparable to his counterparts. Unfortunately, he’s been gone for a while.
Introduced in All-Star Squadron in the '80s, Obsidian is a superhero with the ability to manipulate shadows… among other things. As the son of the Golden Age’s Green Lantern, Alan Scott, and the villain Thorn, Todd Rice was meant for great things. He and his twin sister, Jade, joined Infinity Inc., a team of heroes who shared one thing in common -- their familial ties to JSA members. Following the team’s disbandment, Obsidian’s homosexuality received exploration as he fell in love with fellow superhero, Nuklon.
Like others on this list, Obsidian’s abilities are incredible beyond measure. He flies, generates matter, sends and retrieves objects through shadows, and much more. His powers can wreck havoc on the mind as well; he’s able to lock someone in their nightmares with telepathic abilities that additionally grant him control over others. Obsidian was retconned in New 52, but has yet to appear in Rebirth.
Dive into the annals of DC history and you’re bound to find something odd, yet strangely awesome. This can be said of Steve Dayton, who jumps into the world of heroism, joining the Doom Patrol, not because it’s his moral duty, but because he’s trying to impress Elasti-Girl. Fortunately, it works out well and they adopt Beast Boy.
With genius intellect and incredible wealth, Dayton invents a helmet that taps into his subdued telepathic powers; thus, Mento is born. The helmet grants him telepathy, telekinesis, and mind control. After the Doom Patrol is wiped out (barring Mento and Beast Boy), Mento’s mind deteriorates, a side effect of his overusing the helmet. This eventually leads to his villainous exploits; such a stint is arguably more interesting than his tenure as a hero. Neither of DC’s recent revamps adequately utilize Mento or the complexities that make him so fascinating.
5 TIM HUNTER
It’s fair to think of Tim Hunter as DC’s Harry Potter. However, Tim predates J.K. Rowling’s “Chosen One,” first appearing in the Neil Gaiman-helmed The Books of Magic in 1990. Tim’s history is long and intricate, his character remarkably detailed with development that makes one wonder why he isn’t at the forefront of the publisher’s catalogue alongside the likes of John Constantine, Zatanna, or Doctor Fate.
Apparently, Tim Hunter harbors great potential. This potential is so great, in fact, that many believe him to someday be worthy of the title as the greatest sorcerer of his time -- high honor, no doubt. Before any of what he wields is fully tapped, Tim faces a bevy of struggles that include: losing his power, regaining it, defeating formidable foes and sacrificing his soul to a demon. There are also multiple versions of Tim, none of which have been seen of late.
Sorcerers make for interesting heroes and villains, and DC never runs short of such beings. Ari’ahn, or, as he is better known, Arion, is a probably one of the oldest characters in DC canon, his heritage dating back to ancient Atlantis. Over 500 thousand years ago, Arion was born to Calculhah and Dark Majistra; both were Atlantean sorcerers, the latter, however, had a propensity for engaging in nefarious deeds. Sacrificing himself to save Atlantis would become but one step in Arion’s journey as a hero.
After returning to his bodily form thousands of years later, Arion’s mystical prowess proceeded to impress. The sorcerer primarily exerted his power to protect Atlantis, but a vision about Superman and an apocalyptic future on Earth put him at odds with the Man of Steel as "Infinite Crisis" events unfolded. Regrettably, the Atlantean powerhouse has since been fairly absent.
Though it’s gotten plenty of love lately, the dark side of DC’s vast universe sometimes feels as though it isn’t exactly a priority. Of course, the advent of Justice League Dark during the New 52 greatly improved upon this. However, the Constantine-led squad was not the first team designed to exclusively manage issues of the supernatural. The Hellenders are a little known band of demon hunters who work tirelessly to stop the damned from entering Earth’s realm, while also battling supernatural creatures who happen to crop up.
The team first appeared in Artemis: Requiem in the mid-1990s. Run by a peculiar individual named Nathaniel, the Hellenders typically work alongside government agencies. Members include a speedster named Pellmell, Requiem -- an Amazon, an android and several other weapon specialists and superbeings. They’ve only ever made a handful of appearances, none of which are recent.
2 RELOK HAG
Truth be told, this list could be filled with Green Lanterns, many of whom are far more fascinating than they are often given credit for being. Since the Lanterns remain one of DC’s most integral and awe-inspiring creations, their lore is perpetually expansive. This, of course, means that some characters and arcs get dropped to the wayside in favor of others; Relok Hag is one such Green Lantern.
Hailing from a species marred by devastation because of experiments conducted by the Dominators, the centaur-esque being Relok Hag first debuted in the Green Lantern books in 2006. While battling Parallax, Relok Hag and several dozen other Lanterns go missing and are presumed dead. Some are eventually revealed to have been held captive by the Manhunters. Relok Hag later joins the Alpha Lanterns, but he’s appeared infrequently ever since.
In 1983, The Brave and the Bold unleashed Prince Brion Markov of Markovia into the DC Universe. Courtesy of Dr. Helga Jace’s genius scientific discoveries, Markov adopts the role of Geo-Force, a superhero with Earth-like abilities. For instance, he’s a pyrokinetic, is capable of controlling gravity, and can manipulate the Earth to cause earthquakes and other nature-related incidents.
Markov’s purpose for wanting to garner these incredible powers is aimed at thwarting an invasion of Markovia, which was led by Baron Bedlam. Eventually, Geo-Force co-founds the Outsiders with Batman. His brief "Flashpoint" arc is the last that’s been seen of him in the comics, but a superhero he was not. Markov made a fleeting live-action appearance in Arrow’s first season as a scientist, developing Merlyn’s earthquake device before being murdered by the villain. It’s a shame so little is seen of him.
Which of these powerful characters would you like to see DC explore more seriously? Sound off in the comments!