Superheroes are everywhere these days, and the DC Universe in particular is having a moment with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice right around the corner. With all the superhero movies and television shows popping up all the time, it’s easy to forget the plethora of superheroes relegated to comic book glory. The DCU is positively bursting with superpowered heroes, and while all superpowers can be great, it’s hard to deny that some are simply better than others. But with a world full of superheroes, how do you know which one is the most powerful?
In order to answer that question, we’ve crafted a list of the 12 Most Powerful DCU Superheroes. Note that we didn’t include any superheroes who appear only (or mainly) in the DC Vertigo Imprint. We also focused on the superheroes who most often engage in super-heroics. While the Source is basically the source of all that exists (and thus super powerful), the Source doesn’t actually get its hands dirty with the fighting and protecting business like our favorite men and women in tights.
A powerful sorcerer, Doctor Fate (aka Kent Nelson) hit the scene in 1940 with the secrets of the conversion of energy in matter and matter in energy. But his powers were eventually tweaked so that most of them came from the mystical Helmet of Fate. In addition to being immortal, he’s an accomplished sorcerer, able to astral project, travel through dimensions, and heal people.
His abilities at least match, if not surpass, most other magic users in the DCU. In a fight, he can cast a flame spell and generate a concentrated beam of pure magical energy. Unfortunately, he’s considerably less powerful without his helmet, though still immortal and invulnerable. Unlike some of the other superheroes on this list, Fate is weakened by the prolonged use of his powers, sometimes forcing him to the sidelines to restore his magical energy.
The Flash is the fastest man alive, able to tap into the Speed Force for near limitless power. While the Flash doesn’t have super-strength, his ability to use super-speed significantly increases the power behind his punches. He is able to move and react by the attosecond (one attosecond is to one second, what one second is to the age of the universe), making his super-speed almost immeasurable.
He can run across bodies of water, use the matter created by his speed to create solid objects, and phase through solid objects. Several different comic book characters have taken up the mantle of the Flash, starting with Jay Garrick. Barry Allen is the most well known, but his replacement, Wally West (originally Kid Flash) is arguably the most powerful since he is able to traverse time and dimensions with only his own powers. The Flash (played by Grant Gustin) is also the star of an eponymous TV series on CW, which we like quite a bit.
Zatanna debuted in 1964 and started out as a successful stage magician. She comes from a long lineage of magicians (including Nicholas Flamel and Nostradamus), which has made her one of the most powerful magicians in the DC Universe. She casts spells by speaking backwards in tribute to her magician father, but other than the need to speak or read, there seems to be little limit to her magical abilities.
Zatanna can stop time, move objects, teleport, shoot mystical energy, and create inanimate objects. But her most powerful ability let’s her alter reality. Not only can she read minds and erase the memories of her enemies (and friends), she can also manipulate reality to cause confusion and trauma. And, of course, she can also hold her own in a hand-to-hand fight thanks to her time spent training in the Justice League.
The Green Lantern Corps is an intergalactic police force to which the Green Lantern belongs – meaning his superpowered adventures take him to the ends of the universe. The Green Lantern’s power comes from his power ring, which uses his willpower to translates his ideas into physical objects and constructs. A construct can basically be anything, so the limit to Green Lantern’s power seems to be his own imagination. The power ring also allows the Green Lantern Corps to travel quickly across the universe, translate any language, and survive in any environment.
Hal Jordan was the first human Corps member, but not the only. Because their powers are tied to their individual ideas and willpowers, different Green Lanterns have showed various skill levels when it comes to constructs. For example, John Stewart was an architect, so his constructs were always well thought-out and among the most powerful. Kyle Rayner was an artist, so his constructs were very elaborate and artistic. Kyle also went onto command the entire emotional spectrum, becoming the White Lantern, with the extent of his powers still unknown. Ryan Reynolds already starred as Jordan in an ill-received adaptation of The Green Lantern, but there may be a reboot on the way.
Nathaniel Adam was just a United States Air Force officer until he participated in a military experiment that turned him into Captain Atom, reforming his body and turning him into an atomic-powered being. His metallic skin is tied to the Quantum Field, which allows him to absorb and manipulate energy. He can create basically anything his mind wishes, including a replica of Earth complete with life.
Captain Atom can absorb infinite amounts of energy and is able to later fire the energy as a simple blast. He can also detonate himself like a bomb and release huge amounts of energy at one time. His super-human strength even rivals Superman. In the New 52 Universe, his power is tied to tapping into the nuclear force instead of the Quantum Field.
Martian Manhunter hails from the planet Mars, but his origin story depends on the version you read. In the New 52 Universe, Martian Manhunter, originally J’onn J’onzz, traveled to Earth to undergo a Rite of Passage that would show him what it meant to be truly alone. But when he came back, his Martian home was burnt to ashes, and he was unable to telepathically connect to anyone from his race. In an earlier version, he spent years training as a Martian Manhunter (a sort of Martian peace keeper) that granted him combat and detective skills that he used in his superheroic work.
He has the abilities common to all Martians, including telepathy, flight, super-speed, and super-strength. He is said to be one of the strongest beings on Earth, comparable to the likes of Superman. Working with Superman and Wonder Woman, J’onzz helped move the entire planet Earth at one point. He has complete control over his molecular structure and is able to increase his size, which supplements his strength.
Billy Batson started as a normal boy, but the wizard Shazam granted him the powers of the elders due to Billy’s altruism and optimism. Whenever Billy spoke the word SHAZAM! aloud, he would gain the powers of Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury. In a flash of lightning, he changed from adolescent boy into an adult superhero. Originally known as Captain Marvel (short for Captain Marvelous), the superhero is presently referred to as Shazam, due to confusion with another, Marvel-owned Captain Marvel.
Thanks to the power of Hercules, Shazam has the superhuman strength of the strongest god. Because he is so strong, he often restrains himself to just enough power to do the job, so the upper limits of his strength are unknown. Many think his strength at least rivals Superman’s, if not surpasses it. He also does not need to sleep or eat when in superhero form, and he never tires. His speed, which he gets from Mercury, rivals that of the Flash and surpasses that of Superman.
The Phantom Stranger, despite his immense power, remains a mysterious figure in the DCU, with several different origin stories and little known truth about his powers. It is said that his magical prowess is near limitless, but it hasn’t specifically been defined. He can create energy bolts, travel through dimensions, and dispel magic. He is also omniscient. There is nothing in the DCU that Phantom Stranger doesn’t know.
His power is limited by the fact that he cannot directly interfere with a crisis and must only guide other heroes. While he has also appeared in DC’s Vertigo imprint, he is firmly established in the DC Universe. He’s worked directly with the Justice League and several other mystic heroes, including Zatanna, in order to stop looming threats.
Arguably one of the most recognizable DC superheroes, Superman is also one of the most powerful. He made his DC comic debut in 1938 and received his self-titled comic just one year later. Since he is from the plant Krypton, he is imbued with the ability to absorb and store energy from yellow stars, including the Earth’s sun, which gives him his incredible superpowers.
Known for his super-strength and flight, it’s almost harder to come up with a superpower that Superman doesn’t have. In some iterations, he’s even been known to have super-weaving powers. But more importantly, most other DC characters consider Superman’s strength as almost unparalleled on Earth. While he’s generally considered slower than the Flash, he’s also super quick, especially during flight, where he can move at superluminal speeds while in space.
Superman’s cousin, Kara Zor-El, debuted in 1959 as Superman’s female sidekick, but Supergirl quickly came into her own as a character. Throughout the years, many iterations of the character have appeared, including Linda Danvers and Cir-El, but Kara was the first and is also the current one. Like Superman, she hails from Krypton and thus shares many of the same powers with her cousin: flight; heat vision; x-ray vision; and more.
She also has super-human strength like Superman, with some villains even calling her stronger than her cousin. And since Superman hold his powers in check, it’s hard to tell who’s really stronger: him, or his cousin, Supergirl.
Wonder Woman is not only one of the very first female superheroes (premiering in 1941), she is also one of the longest continuously published comic book characters. Born Diana of Themyscira, she’s a warrior princess of the Amazons, who has been blessed by the Greek gods or is of divine ancestry (depending on the version you’re reading).
Her upbringing with the Amazons ensured she’d gain tremendous martial arts skills, which was aided when Ares the God of War himself offered to train her. In addition to being considered one of the best melee fighters on the planet, she has superhuman strength that rivals Superman and Supergirl. Her indestructible Bracelets of Victory actually limit her power, which protects her opponents. She can also keep up with the Flash in a race and fly as fast as Superman. Plus, she’s able to control and telepathically communicate with all the world’s soldiers, which seems pretty powerful to us. She’ll be getting her own feature film in 2017, starring Gal Gadot.
Basically an aspect of God himself, Spectre is a cosmic entity that is the physical embodiment of God’s vengeance on Earth. He first appeared in 1940, and since then he has used several characters as his host, including former Green Lantern Hal Jordan. Because he’s a servant of God, his powers seem nearly limitless, second only to the Presence (which is basically the DC Universe god).
He is said to be capable of any feat he can imagine. He can warp reality and control time. He is immortal, though he can be injured or slain by powerful magic or advanced enough technology. But Spectre is prone to being tricked, which often results in mistakes and harm to the innocent, making him feel a little more like a villain sometimes.
That’s our list for the most powerful DCU superheroes. Did we miss anyone? Who do you think is the most powerful? Let us know in the comments!