On a consistent basis throughout comic book history, the greatest stories have revolved around fantastical supervillain plots in one form or another. It would be safe to say that the supervillain is the straw that stirs the drink. Without them, our hero has nothing to spur them forward, to truly challenge them to become better than they thought they were.
Everyone has their favorite story, and there’s never going to be a truly definitive list, but we’re going to give it our best shot. These are ranked based factors not just on sheer scale, ambition, sophistication, but on cruelty. Whether it’s on an intergalactic level, or whether it’s gritty and personal. These are the lowest of the low, the most diabolical and traumatizing of the bunch. Spoilers lie ahead as we jump right into our list of the 12 Most Diabolical Supervillain Plots Of All Time.
12. The Judas Contract (1984) – Deathstroke Picks Off The Teen Titans
The reason why this is on the list is because of all the audacious attempts to wipe out solar systems and conquer the world, this plot in particular counterbalances them all with it’s personal, grounded, and almost traumatizing elements. It stands to this day as one of the most devious campaigns by a super-villain yet. The Judas Contract illustrates why Deathstroke the Terminator isn’t just a master of hand-to-hand combat, but a master tactician as well.
It was a four-part storyline printed in issues #42-44 of Tales of the Teen Titans. It reached its conclusion in the 1984 Tales of the Teen Titans Annual. This plot in itself is established through a number of what seems to be unconnected subplots which end up being revealed to be a part of a grand scheme to destroy the Titans.
After Dick Grayson (Robin) and Wally West (Kid-Flash) retire from the team, the Titans are picked off one by one by Deathstroke thanks to information he received from one of their own members, Terra Markov. Robin is the only member to escape the trap set by Deathstroke. Dick Grayson is forced to come out of a short-lived retirement and makes his first appearance as Nightwing. Ultimately, the former Boy Wonder and Jericho save the Titans, but the stain that’s left on the team changes them for years to come.
11. Daredevil “Born Again” (1986) – Kingpin’s Methodical Plot Incrementally Breaks Down Murdock
Born Again is considered by many to be the pinnacle of Frank Miller’s run on Daredevil in the ’80s. The story starts off when Karen Page leaves Nelson & Murdock to pursue a career in acting. After some years of success, she falls into drug abuse and becomes a heroine addict. She then resorts to pornographic films to pay for her addiction. As an act of desperation, she sells Murdoch’s secret identity to drug dealers for a quick hit, information which ultimately lands in the lap of the Kingpin.
Over the next six months, the Kingpin uses that information to cause Matt Murdock’s life to fall apart bit by bit. The IRS freezes all of his accounts, the bank forecloses on his apartment, his girlfriend breaks up with him and starts dating his best friend Foggy Nelson, his credibility as a lawyer is destroyed when a police lieutenant perjures himself to say that Murdoch paid off witnesses in a court care; the hits just kept on coming. The entire story becomes a clinic in disintegrating and stripping away the character. Never has a supervillain been so successful in psychologically and emotionally destroying a super-hero, and we have hopes that the storyline could make its way into the third season of the highly successful Netflix series based on the Man Without Fear.
10. Dark Avengers/ Dark Reign (2009-2010) – Norman Osborn Runs the World
This is one of the direct consequences of the Secret Invasion by the Super-Skrulls, where Norman Osborn finds himself as the hero of the free world after saving the day during the Skrull invasion. With S.H.I.E.L.D. in shambles, Osborn leveraged his success to start a new agency called H.A.M.M.E.R. He also secretly organizes a cabal of supervillains, whose members include Dr.Doom, Loki, Kingpin, The White Queen, Namor, and The Hood, all of whom he kept in check with his “secret weapon.” He’s assisted in his effort by his appointed deputy director of H.A.M.M.E.R. — ex-S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, Victoria Hand.
Osborn even developed his own Avengers team with him as their leader, taking the place of Iron-Man as the Iron-Patriot. Members were secretly made up of various supervillains who posed as Marvel’s most celebrated heroes, as all of the Marvel superheroes were in hiding or underground. For a time in the Marvel Universe, Osborn was the most feared man on the planet. It says something when the likes of Dr.Doom and Loki are taking cues from you.
9. The Watchmen (1986) – Ozymandias Reshapes the World Order
The Watchmen miniseries written by Alan Moore is considered one of the greatest works of fiction in modern times— not just as a comic book, but generally as a work of literary art, winning the internationally honored Hugo Award in 1988.
Through his story, Moore explored the concept of the superhero and what it means to entrust one’s freedom to global custodians. “Who watches the Watchmen” is the recurring slogan that appears throughout the miniseries. Can we trust an unbounded steward to decide what’s best for the planet at large? That’s where one of their fellow heroes, Ozymandias comes into the picture.
The story follows our heroes as they search for who’s responsible for the murder of the hero named the Comedian. It’s revealed that one of their finest, Adrian Veidt (Ozymandias), orchestrated a plot to sacrifice millions in order to force the Cold War powers to unite against a common foe that he’s established.
It wasn’t just the inhumanity that made his plot memorable, it was the execution. Furthermore, what’s truly chilling about his act is the strong argument behind it. One cannot help but entertain his deconstructive nature. Even the heroes of the story, whom we’ve come to connect with, are convinced that this is the way to go. Only the unhinged Rorschach refuses to stay silent about it. Ultimately, Veidt executes his plan, millions die, and his forecast of uniting the world against a common foe succeeds. But did the ends justify the means?
8. Flash: Rebirth (2010) – Professor Zoom Kills Flash’s Mother
Many DC readers, particularly fans of the Flash, should know how impactful the plot to kill the mother of the Scarlet Speedster (Barry Allen) is to the rest of the DC universe. It can be argued that no single plot by a super-villain against a hero has had a bigger impact on a history of the rest of the comic book universe.
Eobard Thawne is Barry Allen’s arch-nemesis who hails from the 25th Century. By creating a Negative Speed Force, Thawne travels back in time to torment the Flash in numerous ways. He breaks Barry’s arm in sixth grade, burns Barry’s childhood home down, kills Barry’s dog, in later years, he even kills his wife, Iris West.
But it’s Zoom’s attempt to kill Barry Allen’s mother and tamper with his life that reshapes Barry and the course of history. It becomes an integral element in his career as the Flash. Consequently, Barry’s attempt to stop Zoom from killing his mother ended up causing the Flashpoint storyline which in itself led to the New 52 universe, which was a transformation of the entire DC universe (something that’s been happening pretty often as of late).
7. The Secret Invasion (2008-2009) – The Skrulls Almost Topple Planet Earth
Since the Fantastic Four comic books back in 1962, the Skrulls have been perpetual adversaries of the planet Earth. They’ve devised numerous plans to infiltrate and or subjugate humanity, only to be thwarted time and time again by not only the heroes of our planet. No Skrull plot was executed as well as this, though.
Led by the Skrull ruler and Empress Veranke, the Skrulls abducted key superheroes and took part in a long, patient subversion and destabilization of the planet Earth. It was very nearly successful, but once the heroes took notice that Skrulls were inhabiting the Earth and posing as heroes, it started to fall apart. Despite being discovered and losing out to the world’s heroic champions again, they managed to destabilize the entire hero community, bring down S.H.I.E.L.D., and set the stage for Norman Osborn to take over for Nick Fury, starting H.A.M.M.E.R. and setting the stage for what would be called the Dark Reign era in Marvel Comics.
6. The Great Darkness Saga (1982) – Darkseid’s Race of Super-Powered Daxamites Almost Triumph
Darkseid is one of the most powerful and consistent sources of conflict for the DC Universe. It has taken the concerted efforts of DC’s greatest to stop him over the years, and The Great Darkness Saga is considered one of his best stories to date.
In the 30th century, servants of a mysterious master successfully steal various mystical items, while the master drains power from powerful League villains throughout the United Planets Confederation. With his newfound abilities, the Master (which is later revealed to be Darkseid) swaps his home world of Apokolips with another world named Daxam, switching their red sun into a yellow sun, giving billions of mind-controlled Daxamites the power of Mon-El (Superboy). He even reshapes the planet into his the shape of his head.
With billions answering to Darkseid, he becomes nigh-unstoppable. The Legion of Superheroes need to recruit their own army to stave off the accumulated forces of Darkseid, but after numerous defeats, they end up having to turn to the aid of a powerful being they hadn’t previously considered.
5. Age of Apocalypse (1995–1996) – Apocalypse Conquers Earth
Many X-Men fans are hoping to see some elements of the Age of Apocalypse storyline in the new movie X-Men: Apocalypse, the supervillain’s best-known tale. After Xavier’s son Legion travels back in time to kill Magneto for all the crimes he’s committed against humanity, he accidentally kills his father. This causes a ripple effect that changes the future of planet Earth, as Apocalypse accelerates his plan to take over the Earth by ten years after witnessing Xavier’s death.
Apocalypse achieves victory with his master plan, which is to recruit his four horsemen and a race of elite mutants against the rest of humanity, and he gains absolute dominion over Earth. The planet is broken into various quadrants, with the last remnants of the resistance coming out of parts of Europe and Northwest Africa. The mutant world is thrown upside down, where some of the villains are heroes and some heroes in our timeline are villains in this age. The final battle between the story’s main protagonist Magneto and Apocalypse is unforgettable.
4. Wanted (2003-2004) – The Fraternity Takes Over
If you’re thinking of the 2008 movie Wanted, then clear your mind and wipe that slate clean. The film is in no way similar to the dystopian classic that proved to be an unexpected hit during its limited run.
This is one list entry that contains not the diabolical devices of one particular villain, but of an organization of villains who successfully pull off a plan so pervasive that the world is reshaped entirely, after a culling of the globes superheroes. Tired of being defeated and constantly jailed, the world’s supervillains put aside their petty differences and orchestrate a war against the heroes. A bloody war ensued, and the villains found themselves victorious. Using magic and advanced tech, the cabal erased the world’s memory of all superheroes and villains. What was left was fractured memories which were sparked by comic books and other media. The surviving heroes thought they were once actors who portrayed superheroes at one time.
The secret society of supervillains split the world into various republics. Infighting within the Fraternity ensues in this story, and their recruitment of a young prospect plays a pivotal role in the power-structure, yet their will remains absolute. While the film adaptation was a respectable effort, it pales in comparison.
3. Infinity Gauntlet (1991) – Thanos Wields Omnipotent Power
The Infinity Gauntlet storyline is pretty popular among Marvel fans, and we’ve of course seen the groundwork being laid for a cinematic adaptation over the last few years. The story follows the Mad Titan himself, Thanos, after he’s collected all six of the Infinity Gems (as they are called in the original comic book story). He wields his power cosmic by creating a floating shrine for himself, and he wipes out half the galaxy to impress Death, who witnesses it all unfold. Thanos takes on the most powerful heroes from the Marvel Universe at once, and in another attempt to gain her affection, he depowers himself just enough to give the heroes a fighting chance. Despite this, they’re no match for Thanos, and most of them perish in the struggle.
Despite this, Thanos leaves himself vulnerable just enough for all of his plans to spiral out of his grasp. Despite his loss, the effects of Infinity Gauntlet storyline reverberated, and it also cemented Thanos in his place as one of Marvel’s ultimate villains.
2. Secret Wars (2015) – Dr. Doom Steals The Power From The Beyonders
Within the Marvel Universe, Dr. Doom has ascended to the singular status of the ultimate bad guy as a borderline demigod. His various, hyper-ambitious plans to rule the planet, then the universe, left an inexpungible mark on the Marvel world.
One such plot takes place in the Secret Wars (2015) miniseries. It’s hard to imagine Doom accomplishing anything to match what he did in the first Secret Wars story, but in this latest Secret Wars story, he outdoes himself in every way imaginable.
As a group of cosmic beings called the Beyonders begin to collapse the multiverse and all the diverging realities, Dr. Doom manages to place himself in an opportune position to outmaneuver the cosmic beings and wrest control of multiverse as it’s new God and ruler supreme. He creates his own cosmic dominion and a planet (Battleworld) where he becomes the justifiably feared God-Emperor. Doom steals Reed Richard’s family and bride in Sue Storm herself.
1. Crisis On Infinite Earths (1985-1986) – Anti-Monitor’s Attempt to Destroy The DC Multiverse
Millions of years ago, a scientist named Krona performed a forbidden experiment to learn about the nature of the universe, but by witnessing its birth, he caused a fracture of the singularity. Parallel dimensions (including an anti-matter universe) were born and two beings, the Monitor, and his opposite, the Anti-Monitor, were also born.
Anti-Monitor promptly conquered his anti-matter universe and sought to expand his power. He became aware of his alternate self in the other dimension, and the two fought each other for a million years to a stalemate, leaving each other inanimate for nine billion years.
In modern times, another scientist named Pariah sought to view the universe’s birth and brought them both back. The reanimated Anti-Monitor destroyed and absorbed Pariah’s Earth and Galaxy. The supervillain took over planet Qward and reestablished an army that terrorized and conquered various planets before destroying them. He then released an antimatter wave, destroying and absorbing many positive-matter universes, growing stronger as his counterpart grew weaker.
The Monitor countered by recruiting heroes and villains from alternate dimensions to oppose the Anti-Monitor. It took the combined might of eight dimensions of DC heroes to stop him. What followed was a series of battles across multiple dimensions throughout space and time to finally defeat The Anti-Monitor. The multiverse collapsed, the antimatter verse was no more, and several noteable characters died. DC would never be the same after this historic epic crossover event, which is an absolute must-read for any comic fan.
So what do you all think? Do you think that we’ve missed some major plots in comic books lore? Where there any particular agendas that we missed? Agree or disagree, let us know what you think in the comments!