Where would DC’s superheroes be without their villainous counterparts? From crazed psychopaths with no superpowers to god-like super beings who are capable of destroying entire galaxies, the DC universe just wouldn’t be the same without its gallery of weird and wonderful rogues.
10. The Rot
Few villains are as disgusting and disturbing as the Rot from the New 52’s Animal Man and Swamp Thing. The Rot is an elemental force which signifies death (the other two are green/plant life and red/animal life) and its presence is meant to maintain balance in the world of the living. However, when the Rot vies for complete power and targets all natural life, the elemental force spreads its powers of death and decay to truly horrific effect. Creating a base in its “Bone Kingdom”, the Rot causes mass panic as its corrupting influence takes over everything it touches. By far the most terrifying agents of the Rot are the Hunters Three; former avatars of the Red who have been taken over and turned into gross, decomposing creatures who are a mass of flailing muscles, sinews and exposed organs. The introduction of the Rot (and the subsequent Rotworld crossover) breathed new life into both Animal Man and Swamp Thing, and the horror-based antagonist was a truly different foe from the usual supervillains who grace the pages of DC Comics.
Former Green Lantern mentor turned villain Sinestro is one of the most intriguing characters in the DC Universe. Ousted from the Green Lantern Corps when his protégé Hal Jordan exposed him as a tyrannical dictator who attempted to preserve his sector as a utopia by ruling it with an iron fist, Sinestro was banished to the anti-world Qward as punishment. Sharing a mutual hatred for the Green Lantern Corps, Sinestro was able to ally himself with the Weaponers of Qward and they created him a yellow power ring to give him an advantage over the Green Lanterns. Sinestro later built his own Sinestro Corps; a band of sinister psychopaths capable of harnessing the power of fear. Sinestro’s ongoing battles with Hal Jordan has made for one of comic’s most interesting rivalries and, in one of the rare instances of a villain coming out on top, he completely destroyed Hal’s life when he managed to infect him with Parallax – the literal embodiment of fear.
Brainiac’s intellect is the perfect foil to Superman’s brawn. The alien android has almost unparalleled intelligence and advanced technology which he has used time and time again to fight the Man of Steel – usually in an attempt to literally steal entire cities from planets by shrinking them down and preserving them in small glass bottles. Brainiac does this so he can ultimately acquire all knowledge in the universe and his greatest ‘achievement’ was stealing Kandor, the capital city of Krypton, before the planet was destroyed. A fan-favourite who has thus far been curiously absent from Superman’s cinematic efforts, this unflinchingly cold and logical collector of worlds has long been one of Superman’s greatest foes.
Few villains come bigger and badder than the Anti-Monitor. Created alongside the birth of the multiverse, the Anti-Monitor is basically a massive existential threat who is obsessed with destroying universes and absorbing their positive matter. He has clashed with almost every superhero in the DC Universe and is probably one of the few villains capable of completely destroying the multiverse. His actions during the Crisis on Infinite Earths event was a defining moment in DC history and they drastically changed and defined the future of its comics.
6. Talia al Ghul
There’s no denying that Batman is forever being tormented by one of the best and most well-known assortment of villains in comic books, and he also happens to have his fair share of femme fatales thanks to the likes of Poison Ivy, Catwoman and Harley Quinn. However, none of them can hold a flame to Talia al Ghul. The daughter of Ra’s al Ghul and the leader of the League of Shadows, Talia has always been a much more complicated villain thanks to her undying love for the Dark Knight. Ra’s Al Ghul considered Batman to be the only man worthy of marrying his daughter and the pair’s rivalry has always been fuelled by mutual respect for each other – but this was one romantic entanglement which was never meant to be. Although Talia’s evildoings were mostly at the insistence of her father and she has even helped Batman on more than one occasion (she resurrected Jason Todd, the Robin killed by Joker, in a Lazarus Pit and attempted to nurse him back to health), she recently crossed the point of no return when she put a bounty on her and Batman’s son and launched an all-out attack on Gotham.
5. Professor Zoom
The Flash definitely has one of the most interesting and diverse rogue’s galleries. In fact, many of his most persistent foes like Captain Cold, Captain Boomerang, Mirror Master, the Trickster, etc, collectively name themselves ‘The Rogues’ and have formed a supervillain team-up in an attempt to combine their powers to bring down the red speedster. However, as creative and unique as these characters are, they’ve never managed to wreak as much havoc as Professor Zoom AKA Eobard Thawne. Thawne is one of several Reverse-Flash villains who has similar superspeed powers to the Flash himself. Barry Allen broke Thawne’s neck after he killed his wife and then attempted to do the same to his fiancée. However, when the villain was resurrected during the events of Rebirth, time-travelling Thawne manipulated the Flash so that he inadvertently completely changed the DC timeline and created the Flashpoint universe – and ultimately the New 52 – as a result.
4. Black Adam
Black Adam is one of the few villains who has actually managed to eclipse the popularity of their superhero counterpart. Once an Egyptian Prince who was given powers by the wizard Shazam so he could be a force for good, Black Adam was corrupted by the power and became a mad tyrant until he was depowered and trapped inside a mystical scarab necklace. Excavated and resurrected in modern day, Black Adam has always been a ruthless counterpart to his do-good arch nemesis. However, outside of the pages of Shazam he has been portrayed as a compelling, layered anti-hero who is capable of using his powers to become a saviour and protector rather than a mass murderer.
Joker is in many ways the complete antithesis to most comic book villains. Comic book fans don’t need to understand him and they don’t need to know his motivations or his agenda. Even the specifics of his origin story are hazy and incomplete. Nevertheless, this crazed clown has become one of comic’s most iconic and most popular characters. A true agent of chaos who creates mass panic and anarchy whenever he unleashes his insanity on Gotham, the Joker’s entire existence is the complete opposite to Batman’s. Yet Batman’s role as a superhero ultimately protects and provokes the Joker (and vice versa) and the dynamic between the two is one of comic’s weirdest – and most fascinating – balancing acts.
Darkseid has pretty much all the powers you’d expect from an alien, god-like supervillain. Ruler of the war planet Apokolips and fuelled by the Omega Source, Darkseid is super strong, immortal, invulnerable and has many energy and mind-based powers. He’s been a frequent antagonist of the Justice League since his introduction in Jack Kirby’s new Gods in the 1970s and he is one of the most powerful beings in the DC Universe. Although he is pretty much infinitely powerful, he doesn’t want to kill every living being – he wants to enslave and conquer. For years Darkseid sought out an Anti-Life Equation which has the power to grant him complete control and domination over any sentient being. His terrifying plan actually succeeded and he enslaved Earth during the events of Final Crisis, but the combined efforts of the Justice League managed to save the day. However, by that point Darkseid had already managed to do something which no other villain had ever done – kill Batman (well, kind of).
1. Lex Luthor
To say that Lex Luthor has a huge chip on his shoulder is something of an understatement. A genius and a self-made billionaire, Luthor’s world was changed forever by the arrival of the blue, red and yellow man from Krypton. Since then, he’s waged a constant, bitter feud with Superman in an effort to remove him from humanity’s future. This isn’t personal jealousy – Luthor is affronted by Superman on behalf of all of mankind. Luthor believes that all of humanity’s achievements (as well as his own, obviously) will forever be in the shadow of the Kryptonian superhero. Luthor is a multilayered villain whose perspective is actually somewhat relatable. Of course he takes his seething envy to extremes, but there is always a reason behind his motivations and he is the perfect contrast to one of DC’s most powerful and most iconic superheroes. The relationship between the two is one the best hero/villain dynamics in all comic books.