No matter what you thought of Rogue One, it’s hard to deny that Darth Vader’s third act appearance in the finale isn’t destined to go down as one of the all-time great Star Wars moments. For a few minutes, Rogue One turns into a horror movie, with Vader looking every bit as terrifying as Freddy Kruger or Jason Voorhees as he cut through Rebel troops like a storm of evil. It was cool as hell, and it reinforced Vader’s place as one of pop culture’s premiere villains for a whole new generation.
But just because you’re a Sith Lord doesn’t mean you’re invincible, and the world of fantasy and sci-fi has more than one horrifying force of nature — especially within the comic book realm. Here’s a look at some bad guys from Marvel and DC Comics who could give Vader a run for his blackhearted money.
For the purposes of this list and in the interest of fairness, we left out some of the nigh-omnipotent big bads like Galactus, Thanos, and the Anti-Monitor. Sorry, Darkseids of the world, you’re just a bit obvious.
15. Poison Ivy
This is going to be controversial, because Dr. Pamela Isley has gotten her butt handed to her by people less competent than Darth Vader. But although Anakin Skywalker is more machine now than man, he is still at least partly man, and men are Poison Ivy’s specialty. Even if his crazy helmet has some sort of filter to keep Ivy’s pheromones out of his system, her little garden of horrors can overwhelm even the most powerful members of the JLA. Never forget that Poison Ivy once handed an L to Superman himself.
Of course, certain parts of this fight would come down to context. Are Vader and Ivy fighting on earth (which Ivy can literally wield as a weapon), or on the cold, sterile Death Star, where she’s significantly out of her element? You could argue that Vader could come out on top, given the right set of circumstances, but, all things being equal, this would be Ivy’s fight to lose. We’ll get to know a little more about Ivy herself in the recently announced Gotham City Sirens, where she’ll appear alongside Catwoman and Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn.
14. Dark Phoenix
You know what? Let’s just quote Wikipedia’s description of the Phoenix Force, because it’s awesome: the Phoenix Force is an “immortal and mutable manifestation of the prime universal force of life and passion. Born of the void between states of being, the Phoenix Force is a child of the universe.” It’s a lot like Star Wars‘ Force, come to think of it. Except instead of giving you some mind reading and telekinetic abilities, the Phoenix Force turns you into a fiery instrument of planetary genocide.
Once a decade or so, the Phoenix Force shows up in Marvel Comics to cause all sorts of problems for Earth’s heroes, most notably the X-Men. Jean Grey was most famously possessed by the Phoenix Force, and she used it to obliterate an entire planet. More recently, it took possession of Marvel’s premiere mutants and turned them into an evil and unstoppable fighting force. The combined might of all Earth’s desperate heroes was just barely enough to bring down a Phoenix Force-enhanced Cyclops. Darth Vader wouldn’t stand a chance.
Like so many other great comic book villains, this highly underrated DC big bad began his existence as a hero. Sinestro began his costumed career as a standout member of the Green Lantern Corps, but his obsession with preserving natural order eventually warped his mind. These days, he’s best known for being a constant thorn in the side of the Green Lantern, but he’s gone toe to toe with some of DC’s finest, giant purple/red forehead and all. He’s been the architect of some of the DC universe’s most dire catastrophes, and faced down tougher customers than Vader without blinking.
Sinestro’s yellow power ring is capable of creating any construct, just like a green power ring. If that was all Sinestro had going for him, Vader would have a good chance to take him on in a fair fight. But Sinestro has also reigned in Parallax, the living embodiment of fear, and now acts as its host. This gives him vast reserves of strength and power, and tips the scales decidedly in his favor.
If the only thing you know about Apocalypse came from this year’s X-Men: Apocalypse, you could be forgiven for thinking Apocalypse’s main power was giving very long speeches. And that’s a shame, because in the comics, En Saba Nur is one of the Earth’s most formidable threats. Widely recognized as the first mutant ever, he’s a power hungry tyrant from ancient Egypt that’s obsessed with reshaping earth’s populace into a Darwinian ideal. Flanked by his four horsemen (who we’d leave out of this fight, for fairness’ sake), he strikes a tremendously fearsome presence and has been one of the X-Men’s chief antagonists.
His powers have never been terribly well-defined (as X-Men scribe Frank Tieri once said: “his powers have always been sort of nebulous, but as long as he’s cutting through X-Men teams like Kirstie Alley through Sizzler, I don’t think the fans care“), but he’s able to control the molecular makeup of his body, rearranging his size and shape to anything of his choosing, along with reconfiguring his actual DNA to give himself any mutant power he chooses. He’s also been shown to have something called “technopathy”, allowing him to mentally interface with any piece of technology — which would be particularly unfortunate for Darth Vader.
Reverse-Flash (aka Zoom, aka Black Flash) is famous for having a convoluted backstory, which is pretty par for the course in the world of the Flash. Barry Allen and Wally West’s super fast time traversing hijinks have resulted in multiple characters from various realities and timestreams slipping in and out of DC Comics’ continuity.
For the purposes of this list though, we’re talking about the OG Reverse Flash: Eobard Thawne, the blackhearted rapscallion popularized by Tom Cavanaugh on The CW series, The Flash. Don’t let his truly terrible supervillain codename aside, Reverse Flash is a tough customer. Imbued with the same Speed Force that powers the Flash, Thawne can deliver a thousand punches to your skull faster than you can change your mind about fighting him.
Realistically speaking, there’s very little Darth Vader would be able to do against Thawne, since Reverse Flash could strip him of his lightsaber, his helmet, and his lungs before Vader has time to say “I am your father.”
Hela is the Asgardian goddess of death, so right there, Darth Vader has his work cut out for him. She’s a mystically powered immortal who has something called a “Hand of Glory” that allows her to charge her punch enough to kill even her fellow gods. For us mortals, her normal touch is enough to release you into death’s cold embrace. Oh, and she also has something called a “Nightsword.” No telling if it’s strong enough to cut through a lightsaber, but it can hold its own against Thor’s Mjolnir, so it’s no toy.
She’s also a world-class sorceress, who has held her own physically against numerous Asgardians at once, including Thor. Her Achilles’ heel is her cloak, without which half of her body withers under the millennia of age, so if Vader could separate her from her cape, he could win the fight. More powerful folks than him have tried and failed, though. We’ll see just how powerful Hela is when Cate Blanchett brings her to the screen in 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok.
Humanity, as a whole, is categorized in DC Comics as having a “6th level intellect.” Brainiac, by himself, has a twelfth level intellect. So, yeah, the entirety of human accomplishment and achievement just squeaks to being half as impressive as Brainiac, which is why he’s such a problem for Superman. He travels from planet to planet, shrinking cities and cultures so that he can store them on his ship, and then destroying whatever remains of the planet to ensure that he is the sole possessor of that world’s knowledge. Everyone has a hobby.
Darth Vader isn’t an idiot, but he’s not necessarily a genius. While he was apparently bright enough to build C-3PO as a child, let’s n0t overlook some red flags on his resume. Never forget that his invasion of Hoth was an unmitigated disaster that owed its spectacular failure to unforgivably poor strategy. If that is the extent of Vader’s strategic thinking, then he doesn’t stand a chance against Brainiac.
8. Black Adam
Black Adam is actually Theo Adam, the reincarnation of an ancient Egyptian who was gifted magical strength, speed, wisdom and lightning-based power. He’s been able to defeat the likes of Superman and Martian Manhunter, and has even held off the entirety of the Justice League all by himself on occasion. He’s a tough character, and has slowly climbed his way into the ranks of DC’s premiere villains (and lately, has been shown to have motivations a bit more complex than simple “villainy”).
The Force provides Darth Vader with similar enhancements as the power of Shazam does for Black Adam, but Vader would simply be outclassed in this match. Black Adam’s strength and speed have been boosted to god-like levels, and unless Vader was able to somehow choke him to death before Adam got within punching distance, it’s hard to see how he could come out on top in this matchup. We’ll find out more when the Shazam movie finally hits, in which Dwayne Johnson has been confirmed to play Black Adam.
Poor Annihilus. One of Marvel’s most fearsome villains, capable of creating headaches for some of the galaxy’s most powerful individuals, gifted with a “Cosmic Control Rod” that can manipulate matter on a molecular level…and he’s still a B-lister among Marvel’s villains, ranking somewhere below M.O.D.O.K. in terms of name recognition. Maybe it’s that he looks like a giant bug, maybe it’s that his name is so hard to spell we had to Google it each time we’ve written it in this article, but the guy just can’t catch a break. That doesn’t mean he couldn’t beat Darth Vader. He could.
In Marvel’s astonishing, galaxy-spanning space opera Annihilation, Annihilus was shown to be the architect behind a massive army that very nearly brought the universe to its knees and even managed to imprison the mighty Galactus for a spell. Such a feat takes a strategic mind, and Annihilus has strategy in spades. His Cosmic Control Rod would probably be enough to take Vader and his lightsaber on by themselves, but even if it wasn’t, Annihilus would likely be one step ahead Vader’s tactically.
We’ve already discussed how Hela could defeat Vader, and we’ve already gone into Poison Ivy’s chances of taking down the villainous Sith. Marvel’s Enchantress is essentially a combination of the two, wielding the mystical powers of the former and the loopy, man-baiting abilities of the latter. Enchantress’ real name is Amora, a famed goddess of Asgard whose proficiency in sorcery was rivaled only by being a total babe. She’s had it bad for Thor for several millennia now and has even bagged him a few times, but she’s always down for any general mischief.
Please note, this Enchantress is not to be confused with DC’s character of the same name; a character whose powers include — if Suicide Squad‘s version of events is to be believed — creating a beam of light strong enough to destroy the world using the power of dance. Pretty sure Vader could handle her.
Again, whether or not Darth Vader would be susceptible to Enchantress’ seductive charms is up for debate, but there’s little doubt that even his powers wouldn’t be able to match her Asgardian magic.
Kang is another Marvel villain with a backstory that’s just convoluted as all hell. That’ll happen when your signature move is time travel. Kang is from the 30th century, but he jumps all over the timestream, manipulating history and the future for his own nefarious ends. Most recently, he kidnapped Archangel’s twins and raised them in the future to come back and destroy the past. It was pretty confusing, yes, but it almost worked.
Being a master of time gives you access to some pretty nifty gadgets, like Kang’s armor, which makes Tony Stark’s Iron Man suit look about as advanced a paper bag with eyeholes cut into it. Kang’s well-versed in 30th century forms of combat, which makes him a fearsome opponent for even the likes of Captain America, and his suit gives him a sort of “technopathy,” which allows him to interface with other forms of technology. If that gives him power over Vader’s own suit, this fight would be over before it starts. There’s a reason they call this guy “the Conqueror.”
Loki is probably best known for being played by the internet’s boyfriend, Tom Hiddleston. He’s second best known for being Thor’s brother, and the master of all sorts of mayhem. If all you know of him is from the movies, you know Loki is one slippery SOB; strong enough to hold his own against Thor, but more dangerous when he’s using his mischievous trickery to hypnotize, manipulate, or just straight up gaslight his foes. His deviousness has brought all of Asgard to the brink of destruction plenty of times.
In the comics, he’s gone through some evolutions lately, having spent some time as both a woman and a younger, groovier version of himself. But in all his iterations, he’s still a serious threat, one so serious that it’s taken the combined might of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to bring him low. Vader’s mastery of the Dark Side is potent, but there’s just no ceiling on Loki’s mystical pranks.
This is an obvious one, but our list wouldn’t be complete without it. Magneto is one of Marvel’s finest creations, a bad guy who sort of has a point. He’s sick and tired of being treated like scum by humanity, and he’s decided to do something about it. That’s led to him being one of the most feared beings on earth, one whose mastery of magnetism is so complete that it sometimes seems that there’s very little he can’t do. It often takes the entirety of the X-Men squad to defeat Magneto, and even then, they’re not always enough.
Darth Vader is mostly machine, and machines bend to the will of the Master of Magnetism. Magneto is even capable of using his powers to rewire circuitry in robotics, reprogramming the Sentinels to hunt for humans instead of mutants. The Force would be an obstacle, to be sure, but what good is the Force if Magneto can crush Vader inside his own armor?
One of the rules of DC Comics is that if you ever see Wonder Woman having a bad day, there’s a good chance Circe is to blame. She’s one of Diana Prince’s chief villains, a fellow goddess gifted with all sorts of magical abilities, although her signature move is to turn men into various animals. She’s a Lokian prankster, fond of crafting games for Wonder Woman with bizarre stakes — like the time she transformed the Amazonian Queen Hipplyota into a meek, servile housewife and would not turn her back unless Wonder Woman could convince her to drink a strange potion. The Themysciran princess succeeded and Circe was true to her word. (There’s also an excellent episode of Justice League: Unlimited, in which Circe transforms Wonder Woman into a pig, and the only way to turn her back is for Batman to …nope, it’s too good to spoil. You’ll have to watch it for yourself.)
This might lead you believe that Circe is a bit annoying, but not dangerous. But then you remember that she’s also tried to have Wonder Woman killed, and pretty nearly succeeded. So, yeah, she’s tough to anticipate.
1. Doctor Doom
We saved this one for last, because it’s bound to be controversial. Doctor Doom and Darth Vader have a lot in common — a suspicious amount in common, if we’re being honest. George Lucas has never directly addressed the many rumors that Darth Vader was inspired by Doctor Doom, but the similarities are hard to miss. Beyond the aesthetic likeness, both are powerful sorcerer types who also rely on technology to achieve their grand ambitions. There’s also just that undefinable x factor of regal awesomeness to both. As evil as they are, you can’t help but feel their respective galaxies would be a little less cool without them in it.
But who would win in a fight? Would Vader’s lightsaber prowess and Dark Side steez be enough to overcome Doom’s mystical arts and scientific badassery? It would be a grim showdown, and you could make the case either way (as many Redditors have — feel free to read their debate, if you have a few days to spare), but for our money, Doom would pull ahead. His power and cunning would overwhelm Vader’s abilities. Doom makes it onto our list, by the fringe of his green cloak.
What other comic book supervillains do you think are capable of taking down the big bad of the Star Wars universe? Which of our picks do you think Vader would force choke into oblivion? Let us know in the comments.