The DC Universe is a scary place, possibly even scarier than Marvel’s. While it might be a universe where the Justice League usually saves the day and cheerful little super-dogs can survive planetary explosions, it’s also filled with dozens of maniacal alien warlords just looking to enslave the next planet they come across. Even on Earth, mass-murdering clowns and paid assassins take countless lives every year. That’s all dangerous enough, but living in DC also comes with additional threats that you can’t buy an insurance plan for: even if Batman saves you from a citywide attack by Ra’s al Ghul, you might very easily get erased from existence the next time that there’s a companywide reboot. Worse still, even if you make it through the next multiverse Crisis, there’s no guarantee that your spouse or kids will make it through with you.
The Justice League faces a lot of terrifying figures and many of them have equally terrifying body counts. Not that the Marvel Universe is any safer — in fact, we have a whole other list dedicated to their most trigger-happy supervillains coming— but on this side of the aisle, these are the 18 DC Villains with the Highest Body Counts.
Originally a lesser known Teen Titans villain, Slade Wilson is having a bit of a moment in the sun these days. After a successful starring role on Arrow, he’s now going to be coming to the big screen, facing off against Ben Affleck’s Dark Knight in the upcoming solo Batman movie. Though the plot of this movie is still under wraps, the parallels between Batman and Deathstroke are easy to see, and the two make an interesting comparison: like Bruce Wayne, Wilson is a highly-trained, brilliant operative, who even has his own trusted butler.
The big difference between the two is that Deathstroke gets paid to kill people. And he’s good at it. Scarily good. Often called the deadliest assassin in the world, Wilson has been racking up a bigger and bigger body count for decades, building up an unbeatable resume in his chosen profession. While Deathstroke isn’t usually one for massive acts of destruction, the long series of individual assassinations he’s carried out is nothing to shrug at.
Grodd, the psionic super-ape with genius intelligence and a predisposition for eating human brains, is ranked number 3 on the DC Universe’s “Most Wanted” list, and it’s easy to see why. As a super-intelligent gorilla enraged by the treatment that his species has suffered at the hands of humanity, Grodd has gone out of his way to menace the entire human race on numerous occasions, his sinister goals often running afoul of the Flash. On one occasion, he even goes so far to as travel back in time to the Cretaceous Period, not to hang out with dinosaurs, but in an attempt to destroy every trace of early mammals, thus wiping them from history. Luckily for mammals everywhere, this scheme is also foiled.
But not all of Grodd’s bloodshed has been stopped before lives were taken. When Grodd and his troops attack Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the results are brutal — and the intervention of the superpowered Ultramarine Corps make little difference. The floating city of Superbia, the floating city in the sky that the Corps call home, is also attacked in the rampage, and crashes back down to earth. This is one of the more devastating acts of terrorism in the DC universe, and the heroes were unable to stop it.
C’mon, this is probably the most obvious one on the list. When he’s not stuck in Arkham, or creating elaborate madhouses, or hanging around with Harley Quinn, the Joker arguably spends most of his time killing people — though really, all three of the above scenarios all tend to involve some degree of death and dismemberment as well.
The Joker is hard to predict. The inherent chaos of his philosophy means that everyone around him is constantly in danger, with even his loyal enforcers at risk of getting a knife in the gut if the Joker feels like it. Sometimes he uses machine guns, sometimes rocket launchers, sometimes wacky toys like electric buzzers or his “BANG!” toy gun… and sometimes he just poisons Gotham’s fish supply, making all of the fish look like him.
According to The Joker: Devil’s Advocate, the clown prince of crime has murdered over 2,000 people during his regular escapes from Arkham. That story was back in 1996, so it’s reasonable to say that the number has probably risen quite a bit since then.
15. Ra’s al Ghul
Of course, while the Joker gets all of the attention when it comes to killing frenzies, this guy has arguably made a bigger dent in the world’s population. Ra’s al Ghul, the Demon’s Head, has walked the Earth for centuries as the leader of the League of Assassins. While Ra’s might not be a chaotic lunatic like the regular Gotham City rogues that Batman tends to fight, his murders are often more massive in scale. His entire life’s purpose is to “purify” the Earth of all evil and create balance in the ecosystem, a goal that would require the deaths of a sizable portion of humanity. Luckily for us, he hasn’t yet crossed that finish line, and hopefully he never will.
Throughout his life, Ra’s and his League have burned cities to the ground, toppled civilizations, and released plagues upon humanity. Still, all of this pales in comparison to the widespread destruction that Ra’s wants to create, which he feels is the only solution to the world’s problems.
14. Lex Luthor
Despite the fact that he’s supposed to be a successful businessman, a former President of the United States — and most recently, Superman — Lex Luthor has proven on numerous occasions to be more than a little bit shady. Though Lex himself would argue that he’s the hero of the story, protecting our species from an alien invader that could ruin humanity, Lex’s flippant disregard for human life certainly makes his case a bit suspect.
During the Our Worlds at War event, which occurs during Lex’s tenure as U.S. President, an alien invasion led by the entropy-powered Imperiex batters the world. The invasion begins when Topeka, Kansas is devastated, along with a handful of other Earth cities. As President, Luthor successfully leads the superheroes and the U.S. Army in defeating Imperiex, and he wins widespread acclaim for saving the Earth. However, it is revealed that Lex actually was fully aware of the alien attack long before it happened. He actually allowed Topeka to get hit by the invaders, without alerting any of Earth’s heroes about the impending crisis, so that when he did fight back, he would forever be etched in history as the fearless leader who protected the world in its hour of greatest need. Lex’s presidency, which predictably eventually ends in scandal, is perhaps a scary hint at what happens when egotistical businessmen get into powerful political positions.
There’s a reason that Watchmen is the seminal classic of comic books, and it’s not just the terrific artwork, Rorschach’s monologues, or Doctor Manhattan’s philosophical voyage on Mars. No, what makes Watchmen truly unforgettable is the subversive quality of its climax: an ending where the villain is one of the supposed heroes, and before the other heroes can stop him, he gets away with it.
Adrien Veidt, AKA Ozymandias, known as the smartest man on the planet, is one of the foremost “superhero” vigilantes on the planet. Two years before the Keene Act bans costumed crimefighters, Veidt predicts that the public will turn against them, so he retires early, taking advantage of his superheroic career by marketing it to the fullest extent. Though Veidt becomes famous for his humanitarian works, he secretly uses his profits to fund his grand plan: the massive devastation of New York City by a seemingly alien invader, an event that he is sure will save the world from nuclear devastation by uniting everyone against a common foe. The heroes of Watchmen are unable to stop Veidt in time, and millions are killed in New York.
Jade Nguyen comes from terrible beginnings. Despite being the biological daughter of a senator named Robert Pullman, Jade was sold into slavery at an early age, only freeing herself as a teenager by killing her master. Soon after, she became a guerilla fighter and then a mercenary, often coming into conflict with the Teen Titans. The antagonism between her and the team is forever altered when she and Roy Harper, AKA Arsenal, fall into each other’s arms, and even have a child together.
What earns Jade a spot on this list, however, is the fact that she committed an act of genocide. After saving Deathstroke’s life and working with him to steal an array of nuclear bombs from Russia, Jade then attempts to blackmail the world powers. In order to demonstrate her seriousness, she makes a point to nuke the country of Qurac, a Middle Eastern nation that has been a stronghold for terrorist groups. Jade expects her actions to secretly be praised by Western nations, but she is instead attacked, and later sentenced to life imprisonment.
11. Superman (in Injustice)
No, this isn’t a statement on the whole collateral damage argument regarding Man of Steel, or on Superman killing General Zod — which, for the record, did happen in the comics — but rather, it’s directly connected to the Injustice storyline, which depicts an alternate version of Earth that is governed by a totalitarian Superman. Big Blue Boy Scouts don’t turn into tyrannical dictators overnight, and Superman’s conversion is actually caused by his first act of mass murder, though it’s not an intentional one.
What happens is that the Joker douses Superman with fear gas, causing him to hallucinate that his pregnant wife Lois Lane is actually Doomsday. Unsurprisingly, Kal-El is terrified to see the being that once killed him, so he quickly flies Doomsday up, up, and out of Earth’s atmosphere… only for the hallucination to wear off, whereupon he realizes that he’s just killed his wife and unborn son. That’d be bad enough, but the Joker has also synced a nuclear bomb to Lois’s heartbeat, so that when she dies, the entirety of Metropolis gets leveled.
10. Black Adam
Shazam‘s archenemy is Black Adam, his counterpart, powered by Egyptian gods, who is set to be played by Dwayne Johnson in 2019. Coming from a tortured background, Black Adam has seen the people closest to him die — either at his hands, or because of his actions — and killed many others, yet he’s not a maniacal despot. Black Adam tries to avoid innocent death, and believes that his ends justify his ruthless means. He’s even saved the world a few times
But at the same time, it’s important to point out that Black Adam has been responsible for some pretty catastrophic situations that were entirely his fault. After becoming enraged by his family’s murder, Black Adam went on a rampage, attacking China, Australia, Egypt, and Italy, and then murdering millions of people in the fictional country of Bialya. Though sometimes portrayed as more of an antihero than a villain, we can’t forget that Black Adam has serious blood on his hands.
This prehistoric, beastly creature has murdered many more people than just the Man of Steel. Doomsday’s ability to recover from any injury or death, each time becoming more powerful and resistant than the last, means that he’s been around a long time, and his early days as a brutal genetic experiment on Krypton have hardwired him to hate all forms of life.
While Doomsday causes a lot of citywide devastation during his time on Earth, our world is nonetheless saved by Superman’s intervention. Otherwise, it’s highly likely that Doomsday’s rampage may have made the entire world uninhabitable, killing our entire population. After all, that’s what he did to the world of Bylon 4, when he poisoned the planet’s atmosphere. He also destroyed the planet Calaton and a sizeable portion of the planet Khundia, as well as slaughtering thousands of Green Lanterns. And these are just the worlds that we know about.
The extraterrestrial android known as Brainiac has seen a lot of incarnations over the years, but this villain has commonly been depicted as a collector, going from world to world, capturing each world’s biggest city, shrinking it, and imprisoning all of its structures and inhabitants inside bottles. Brainiac does this for the sake of knowledge, so that he can deeply study each civilization he comes across. However, once he has removed a city, Brainiac then usually proceeds to destroy the world it came from, no doubt killing millions (or billions).
Superman: The Animated Series actually places much of the blame for Krypton’s destruction on Brainiac’s head. In the series, Brainiac is the hyper-intelligent supercomputer at the heart of Kryptonian society, running the planet’s day-to-day operations. When Jor-El informs Brainiac of the planet’s impending destruction, the computer quickly decides that there is no time to save the world, so it instead shoots down Jor-El’s theory, and then privately saves itself before Krypton explodes.
Without a doubt, one of the biggest and most controversial DC storylines of the 1990s was Emerald Twilight, the tale that saw Coast City, the hometown of Earth’s Green Lantern Hal Jordan, reduced to rubble by Mongul. Hal, understandably, is grief-stricken and driven to the brink of sanity, forming ring-created duplicates of his city, family, and friends that he can talk to in order to deal with his agony. The Guardians admonish him for this, and Hal responds by flying to Oa, renaming himself Parallax, killing all of the Guardians, and destroying the Green Lantern Corps.
Later on, it is revealed that Parallax is actually an ancient parasitic entity that possessed Hal in this moment of crisis. Born in the early moments of the universe, Parallax is the living embodiment of fear, and for untold millennia it went from world to world, using its emotional influence to crush entire civilizations into dust. The Guardians were able to trap Parallax within Oa’s Central Power Battery, where it was reason for the “yellow impurity” within each Green Lantern’s ring, up until the day it escaped and infected Hal Jordan’s mind.
Though the destruction of Coast City was one of the alien warlord Mongul’s most infamous acts, it’s far from the only evil thing he’s done. Mongel is first introduced as the dictator of Warworld, which he rules with an iron fist. As a ruler, Mongul has conquered and destroyed many worlds. He’s responsible for countless deaths and crushing hundreds of cultures beneath the never-ending engine of Warworld. He’s easily one of the most savage dictators in the DC Universe.
To entertain his subjects on Warworld (and himself), Mongel kidnaps powerful beings from across the universe and forces them to engage in gladiatorial fights to the death. This continues, claiming thousands of lives, until he attempts to use Superman as a combatant, leading to the Man of Steel unseating Mongul from power. Mongul later has a son, also named Mongul, who proves to be as violent, prideful, and megalomaniacal as his father.
First introduced by Jack Kirby in 1970, Darkseid was created to be an extraterrestrial Adolf Hitler: a fascist warlord clad in leather jackboots, whom works to indoctrinate the children of his society, Apokolips, into loyal servants of his militant lifestyle. As a ruler, Darkseid is unforgiving, ruthless, and willing to trample over any world that gets in his way. Darkseid’s ultimate goal is to eliminate free will from the universe, and reshape all societies to his whims. As the dictator of his people, Darkseid has waged war against the planet New Genesis, invaded Themyscira, and crushed numerous worlds with Apokolips’s might.
As if wielding the armies of Apokolips hasn’t already caused enough destruction, many have also fallen at Darkseid’s own hands. Aside from possessing super strength and invulnerability on the same level as Superman, Darkseid also wields the horrifyingly power of the Omega Beams. This energy, which can be released from either his hands or his eyes, immediately erases all living organisms from existence; only a few beings in history have ever proven resistant to it.
There’s really no wonder that Ares, one of Wonder Woman‘s foremost adversaries, is on this list, since he’s exactly who he says he is: the God of War. Considering how much bloodshed has been caused by all of the wars through history, it would be fair to say that Ares’s body count is pretty far up there. Because the power of the Gods is faith-based, with a God growing stronger the more that he or she is worshipped, Ares is driven by a desire for infinite conflict; if wars were to cease, he would no longer exist. This has resulted in the former father of the Gods, Zeus, becoming less powerful over time, while Ares, Athena, and Aphrodite have only become stronger in the last few decades.
Ares has been responsible for numerous deaths throughout history and, after Wonder Woman’s arrival, has nearly started WWIII, entered the business scene as a developer of high-tech weaponry for criminal gangs, and taken over Hades. After his death, he appears to Wonder Woman as a vision from the afterlife, revealing that he is being eternally tormented by everyone who has ever died in Earth’s wars.
Originally from Maltus, the planet where the Guardians also originated, Krona is a scientist enamored with the creation of the universe. Despite warnings that viewing the Big Bang will cause catastrophe, Krona nonetheless finds a way to go back and see the universe’s beginning… but his intervention, which causes his machine to explode, results in the entire universe shattering. This is the event that creates the multiverse as we know it, spawning infinite parallel realities, but also creating evil forces that will prove to be the multiverse’s undoing. It’s due to Krona that the Anti-Monitor exists (another character whom we’ll come back to in a minute). As a form of punishment, Krona is transformed by the guardians into listless energy, doomed to inhabit the universe without purpose or meaning.
But in present times, he strikes back.
Despite having witnessed the birth of creation, Krona still desperately desires to understand it, like the scientist he once was. In his attempts to piece together the secrets of the universe, Krona starts obliterating entire universes from existence, eventually bringing him to the Marvel Universe — yes, you read that right — where he makes a deal with the Grandmaster (a character set to be played by Jeff Goldblum in Thor: Ragnarok) that results in an epic crossover between the Avengers and the Justice League.
2. Superboy Prime
This version of Kal-El, born on a parallel Earth (Earth-Prime) in which all of the other superheroes are nothing but comic book characters printed by DC Comics, was forced to endure a tragedy beyond human comprehension when his entire universe was wiped out of existence during the Crisis on Infinite Earths. The conclusion of the story sees Superboy-Prime placed in a Paradise dimension, but he grows restless, wanting to be the Superman that he feels he is destined to be. Superboy begins punching the barriers of reality itself, thus explaining the numerous retcons, changes, and resurrections throughout DC’s tangled Post-Crisis history.
Though these reality punches are certainly responsible for many deaths, Superboy-Prime takes it a step further when he makes it through the barrier. He crashes the planets Rann and Thanagar together, destroying Thanagar’s entire ecosystem. This event causes the Rann/Thanagar war, producing even more casualties. His actions later cause multiple universes to collapse and merge, and he singlehandedly obliterates the entire Earth-51 universe. He also kills a whole bunch of Green Lanterns, kills the Post-Crisis Superboy… the list goes on.
But when it comes to universe-ending calamities, multiverse destruction, and the extinction of all life everywhere, there’s really nobody who compares to the blue-armored bad guy with the glowing eyes. Since the Anti-Monitor made his debut in Crisis on Infinite Earths, the biggest comic book crossover of all time, his impact on the DC Multiverse is truly incomparable: from Post-Crisis DC to the New 52 to Rebirth, everything we know today, as opposed to in the Pre-Crisis DC, is the direct result of the Anti-Monitor’s destructive ways.
Formed when Krona accidentally created the multiverse, the Anti-Monitor is the force of nature that begins destroying entire universes with his anti-matter cannon, making them fade away in a burst of white. He’s incredibly successful in doing this, destroying an infinite number of Earths, and leaving only five left. The Anti-Monitor may have succeeded in destroying these five universes, and thus destroying the entirety of creation, leaving nothing but his own antimatter universe, were it not for the heroes of all of DC’s multiple universes banding together to stop him. Still, the many worlds that no longer exist because of the Anti-Monitor’s destructive impulses can never be brought back to life.