Just because you don't have powers doesn't mean you can't be a superhero. In fact, some of DC's greatest, most iconic superheroes are mere humans. Sure, they generally have some super advantages, like an inexhaustible fortune, a convenient cave hidden beneath their house or a hi-tech arsenal. But underneath it all, they're just as squishy and mortal as the rest of us, if in better shape. And yet they still managed to make a name for themselves as superheroes, even as they worked alongside beings who could benchpress a tank. That takes a lot of guts, and we're going to honor them by giving them a list all to themselves. No superpowers allowed here! Just a celebration of the non-powered heroes who have thrown logic to the wind and decided that they, too, could be super.
This list starts off with some of the lesser non-powered heroes. They did some good work, and they get an E for effort, but they were never quite able to parlay their talents into a long-term career. From there, we work our way up to the legends who redefined what it meant to be a superhero. Some of our picks are fairly predictable, but hopefully we can introduce you to a few new heroes as well. In any event, all twenty of the heroes on this list have done what few others dared to attempt. We wouldn't recommend trying to imitate them in real life, but it's perfectly safe to live vicariously through them from the safety of your living room!
Adrian Chase came from a good family and had the best of intentions, but that didn't save him from a brief, painful life. As a lawyer, he worked with the New Teen Titans for a time, doing whatever he could to bring down the New York mob. Robin disapproved of the way Adrian flagrantly flouted the law. Rather than listening to the sensible young man in hot pants, Adrian kept on going.
In retaliation, the mob took away Adrian's wife and children. It was then that he took the name Vigilante and devoted himself to avenging his family. Vigilante's methods only got more brutal from that point. Finally, feeling guilty over his many merciless acts, and ended himself.
19 RED TORNADO
Before Dr. T.O. Morrow created the android Red Tornado, that name belonged to the ultimate mama bear, Abigail "Ma" Hunkel. A seemingly ordinary housewife and mother, Ma donned a pair of red longjohns and a pot for a mask in order to protect her kids from mobsters.
From there, Ma became an honorary member of the Justice Society. Now she is technically retired from heroics and mostly hangs out at JSA headquarters as the caretaker of the team museum. She will still jump into the fray if necessary, though, and her heroics inspired her granddaughter, Maxine, to join the Justice Society as Cyclone.
Mal Duncan's superhero career started when he became good friends with the Teen Titans, he even helped them on a few missions. But unlike his buddies, Mal had neither powers nor a costume. Then his future girlfriend, Karen Beecher, invented Gabriel's Horn, which can open portals to other dimensions. Taking inspiration from the horn, Mal got himself a costume and began going by the codename Herald.
Later on, Herald did develop superpowers of a sort. A freak accident forced him to replace his vocal cords with a hi-tech voice box that has much the same powers as did Gabriel's Horn. Mal now goes by the name Vox.
17 BLACK CANARY
The more famous Black Canary, Dinah Lance, has superpowers to fall back on in addition to her martial arts prowess. Her mother, Dinah Drake, had only her fists and a blonde wig. The daughter of a Gotham City detective, Dinah was determined to do her part to keep the world safe.
Black Canary flew solo before making her mark with the Justice Society. She was such an inspiration that her daughter couldn't resist following in her footsteps. While Dinah Senior wasn't initially pleased about Dinah Junior's decision to take up the Black Canary mantle, the two reconciled just before the elder Dinah passed away.
Roy Harper always showed a talent for archery, even as a child. This made him the perfect candidate to be Green Arrow's first and most famous sidekick. Unfortunately, Green Arrow proved a less-than-attentive mentor. Feeling neglected, the teenaged Roy turned to substance abuse. When Green Arrow found out, he unhelpfully threw Roy out of the house.
With Black Canary's help, Roy overcame his addiction and grew into a relatively stable, responsible young hero named Arsenal. More recent comics have seen fit to put him through the ringer again, though, so he's had it rough in the past few years. First he lost his daughter and his arm, and now he's a victim of the incident at Sanctuary. Ouch.
15 GREEN ARROW
Since his first appearance in More Fun Comics #73 in 1941, Green Arrow has gone from being a bland Batman knockoff to a unique hero who is known almost as much for his big mouth as he is for shooting arrows. He spent a good chunk of the '70s clashing with Green Lantern over politics, and he's still out there getting on his fellow heroes' nerves to this day.
Oliver Queen is not the only hero to use the name Green Arrow. His son, Connor Hawke, took over the role when Ollie was presumed gone. But while Connor has a healing factor, Oliver just has his bow and arrows, and that's why he's on this list.
14 LADY BLACKHAWK
Zinda Blake started out as a pilot for the famous Blackhawks, an otherwise all-male group of World War II fighter pilots. She has no powers, but she can fly any craft you put her in and is pretty great with firearms, too. And yet many saw her as just a propaganda opportunity. They slapped her face on recruitment posters and ignored her real talents.
Since being stranded in the 21st century, Zinda has made her own way as a superheroine. Along the way, she has teamed up with various super-groups, including the Birds of Prey. Fun-loving yet formidable, Zinda is one non-powered superhero that you don't want to annoy.
Helena Bertinelli was born into a prominent Gotham crime family, but she decided at a young age that she wanted nothing to do with a life of crime. She learned how to use her signature weapon, the crossbow, as a teen bent on revenge against the mobsters who took her parents from her. Since then, Helena has fought on the side of the angels, although her methods are occasionally slightly dubious.
The Huntress semi-frequently teams up with the Bat-family and Oracle's Birds of Prey, though she has a tendency to clash with them whenever she does. She's really more of a loner and isn't great at sharing feelings. Come to think of it, that makes her a perfect Bat after all.
This one might be a bit of a cheat, since Kate Spencer does have a super-suit that grants her enhanced strength and durability. However, Kate herself, unlike the rest of her family, has no inherent superpowers. Instead, she uses martial arts and her own stubbornness to fight crime.
But what prompted her to don a costume in the first place? Originally, Kate was just a prosecutor. But after watching too many supervillains get off scot-free, she came to believe that the law wasn't tough enough to properly deal with them. Thus did the most recent Manhunter hit the streets to seek justice.
Pro boxer Ted Grant was really great at one thing: punching people. When he was falsely accused of multiple crimes, he decided to put those punching skills to use to clear his name. Even after successfully capturing the real crooks, Ted kept on fighting crime as Wildcat.
And that's how it was for most of Wildcat's history: he was just a dude in cat pajamas who could hit really hard. But more recently, to explain how a guy who was alive during World War II is still so young and healthy, DC did give him superpowers: slowed aging and the ability to recover from fatal injuries.
10 BLUE BEETLE
Ted Kord was inspired to become a hero by his mentor Dan Garrett, the first Blue Beetle. Dan's superhero moniker was inspired by a blue scarab he found while rooting around an ancient Egyptian tomb. Ted couldn't quite figure out how the scarab worked, but he was determined to honor his mentor's legacy by being a hero, powers or no powers.
Ted is often remembered as a goofball, particularly in terms of his misadventures with best buddy Booster Gold. But that doesn't cancel out Ted's status as a bonafide tech genius who ran his own company, Kord Enterprises, and created all of his crime-fighting gadgets himself.
9 THE QUESTION
The original Question was Vic Sage, a detective who employed a special faceless mask to protect his identity and freak people out. When he learned he had terminal cancer, Vic chose Gotham detective Renee Montoya to be his successor. Neither Vic nor Renee had powers. Their track records prove that neither of them need powers to be awesome.
Renee's long experience with the Gotham City Police Department served her well when she made the transition to superheroing. She is often associated with the Batman Family, at least in part because Batwoman is her ex-girlfriend, but she can get along just fine on her own.
8 RICHARD DRAGON
Born with the much less cool name of Richard Drakunovski, the future Mr. Dragon was an ordinary thief who made the stupid yet fortuitous decision to rob O-Sensei, a famous martial artist. O-Sensei trained young Richard until he was among the greatest martial artists on Earth.
Although his first self-titled comic was called Richard Dragon, Kung-Fu Fighter, he is proficient at many different martial arts styles. In more recent years, Richard Dragon has taken over O-Sensei's role as teacher and trained several people on this list, including Batman. His only weakness is his tendency to fall into the white savior trope.
After losing her husband and children to a jealous ex-boyfriend, Tatsu Yamashiro devoted her life to developing her already impressive martial arts skills. By the time she finished training, Tatsu had taken the self-explanatory codename Katana.
Katana put her skills to use as a member of the Outsiders and, later, the Birds of Prey. Her weapon of choice is the Soultaker, which stores the souls of everyone it takes out. But Katana doesn't need a magic blade to make her point with criminals. Even in recent cartoon adaptations where Katana was de-aged to a teenager, she's still a force to be reckoned with.
6 MISTER TERRIFIC
There have been two Mister Terrifics, both of whom would qualify for this list, but we're going to focus on the second one, Michael Holt. Holt doesn't have powers, of course, but his ability to pick up new skills is practically superhuman. He's just naturally amazing at everything he tries, hence the name "Mister Terrific." Rather than being a snob about it, he lives by a very simple code: "fair play."
Holt followed in his predecessor's footsteps by joining the Justice Society. His most famous creation is probably the T-spheres, which are flying metal balls that can do everything from record conversations to explode.
5 KARATE KID
Like his fellow members of the Legion of Super-Heroes, Val Armorr has a Flight Ring. But beyond that, all he has to rely on in a fight is his superior martial arts training. Karate Kid is an expert in every martial art style ever created, and since he's from the 31st century, that includes martial arts that haven't been invented yet. He's so good at what he does that Batman had to resort to cheating to beat him.
Karate Kid was ignobly written off in Countdown to Final Crisis, but we prefer to remember him as he was in better stories: a valiant fighter who once sacrificed everything to save innocents and the woman he loved.
Nightwing is Batman's first and arguably greatest protege. As a child, Dick Grayson swore a candlelight oath to devote himself to fighting crime. For years, he kept that vow as Robin the Boy Wonder, Batman's loyal if occasionally overenthusiastic sidekick.When Dick grew up and and moved to the city of Bludhaven, he refused to give up crime-fighting and reinvented himself as the solo hero Nightwing.
There is occasionally some friction between the Dark Knight and his former ward, mostly just because they have such different outlooks on life. Nevertheless, the love between them is genuine, as evidenced by the fact that Bruce officially adopted Dick in Gotham Knights #17.
When Kathy Kane first appeared in the '50s, Batman and Robin treated her as little more than an irritating, unqualified tagalong. That assessment isn't entirely fair, but Batwoman hardly cut an intimidating figure. Fighting crime with a giant purse full of cosmetic-themed crime-fighting equipment, she was very much a product of her time.
Batwoman might have remained a giggle-worthy footnote forever if DC hadn't decided to revamp her. In 2006, Kathy, rechristened Kate, exploded back into comics with a new outfit and a new backstory. Now a lesbian who once served in the military, the new Batwoman can go toe-to-toe with any villain, powered or otherwise.
Barbara Gordon began her superhero career as Batgirl. Although Batman initially inspired her to don the cape and cowl, she wasn't inextricably tied to him the way Robin was, and she flew solo more often than not. After an attack by the Joker left her paraplegic, Barbara set about reinventing herself. Taking the name Oracle, she set up shop as the superhero community's premier hacker.
Oracle's new mission was to provide other heroes with critical information on everything from the identities of sketchy business owners to what a suspect had for breakfast. Along the way, she also organized her own super-team, the all-female Birds of Prey.
Yeah, you all knew this was coming. As DC's second-ever superhero and the first superhero without powers, Batman is the quintessential non-powered hero. From the moment he saw his parents gunned down, Bruce Wayne vowed to become a force for good in his troubled hometown of Gotham City. He has succeeded beyond all reasonable expectations.
In addition to guarding Gotham against dozens of the world's most twisted supervillains, Batman has inspired many of the other non-powered heroes on this list and more besides. No other non-powered hero has made such an impact, either in the comic book world or in the real world.