There are some fundamental things that set the DC Universe apart from other comic book properties or fictional worlds. The heroes— and often villains— of DC are among the most powerful ever created.
Even the lab accidents that grant super powers simply open a door to something bigger. DC is a universe of mythologies, some of them created by the writers to make each hero feel like the center of their own world, some of them very literal. Wonder Woman, for example, is tied to the center of Greek Mythology, even though she is a completely original character.
Because of this, many of the DC Universe heroes are considered to be fairly overpowered, and many of them are. Some of them are basically gods. However, then there are also the characters who fail to stack up and might fall pretty significantly short of the others.
Fans love to debate who the strongest hero or villain could be and who would win in a fight. But some of the facts behind these heroes and their powers might actually be surprising when examined.
Several DC heroes and villains are far weaker than they are made out to be. Even if their weaknesses are technically few, those weaknesses can be crippling. Other DC characters are much, much stronger than they’re given credit for, as we’ll be exploring in this list.
With that said, here are the 9 DC Characters Weaker Than Fans Think (And 8 Who Are Way Stronger).
17 Stronger: Wonder Woman
Wonder Woman has always been perceived as one of DC’s more capable heroes, but it really wasn’t until the new surge of popularity thanks to her feature film debut that people began to realize just how powerful she really is.
Strength-wise, she can go toe-to-toe with Superman. Even if she’s not quite at his level of raw power, she makes up for that in intense combat training and tactical thinking. Unlike Superman or Batman, she began her training in her youth.
Superman has often struggled to see himself as a fighter and Batman had to push himself as hard as possible to become one because it was so different from the way he was raised.
That’s not the case with Wonder Woman-- she is almost technically a goddess and both the movies and comics have finally begun making that as clear as possible.
16 Weaker: Booster Gold
It’s easy to forget that Booster Gold is not capable in every situation, mostly because of how often he insists that he can handle anything. Booster Gold carries himself with no small amount of swagger and tries to project an image of a perfect superhero. While he is more of a hero than some give him credit for, he’s pretty far from perfect.
Booster may be incredibly athletic, but he does not actually have any super powers. The super strength he uses comes from a power suit and he mostly operates on a wide array of gadgets and equipment in order to prove his ground as a super hero.
It’s enough the get the job done, but definitely keeps him from being one of the strongest in the DC Universe.
15 Stronger: Martian Manhunter
The Martian Manhunter is the last of the Green Martians and one of the most important and key members of the Justice League. People tend to forget just how powerful the Martian Manhunter truly is.
Not only is he incredibly strong and a capable fighter, but he’s also a strong telepath and one of the strongest shape-shifters as well. The Martian Manhunter has long been underestimated, but he’s proven himself again and again as one of the Justice League’s most valued members.
In fact, the Martian Manhunter has stood up to Superman on a physical level as well as Batman on a mental level, leaving him to be one of the best fighters the DC Universe has to offer. Even if he has his weaknesses, his level of power should never go unrecognized.
14 Weaker: The Joker
The Joker is a psychotic killer, that much is clear. He’s also an irreverent prankster. Part of what has made the Joker such a compelling villain over time is his unpredictability.
He might never present himself exactly the same way twice, and no one can ever be sure exactly what he’s going to do. It’s the anarchistic nature of the Joker, the fact that he can’t be bargained with, that his motives are never clearly defined, that make him such a threat.
However, when it comes down to it, he’s not actually that powerful. The Joker has no real combat training, he can’t take Batman or most any other hero in a physical fight.
The only reason he doesn’t wear an elaborate combat suit to make up for his physical weakness is because he ultimately doesn’t seem to care if he actually gets beaten to a pulp.
13 Stronger: Cyborg
When the Justice League movie was announced, many were completely willing to dismiss Cyborg out of hand. No one really got what he was doing there.
He wasn’t a founding member, had only been added to the main roster since the New 52 reboot of the title and was most commonly known as a member of the Teen Titans. However, the movie, despite whatever flaws, also did a good job of showing that Cyborg can actually be an incredibly valuable asset to the team.
The technology working within Cyborg is potentially limitless. He can create new weapons, he can speak to even some of the most advanced technology in the DC Universe, overtake any computer system he comes across. And those are only some of the reasons as to why he’s such an important hero in the DC pantheon.
12 Weaker: Lex Luthor
There’s no doubt that Lex Luthor is a genius. Even if his early days were fixated on cartoonish plots of world domination, he’s been rebooted time and again as a cold and calculating businessman.
He’s even been the President of the United States. However, Luthor is not by any means the most powerful villain and he is intimately aware of that fact. He is defined by his shortcomings.
That’s the very reason he would need such an elaborate battle costume in the first place. Lex hates Superman because he spent his life feeling powerless, and then here comes someone who actually has power and refuses to use it.
Even still, those weaknesses are what make him a compelling character and such a fascinating villain in the first place.
11 Stronger: Steppenwolf
Steppenwolf took a lot of flack as the somewhat lackluster villain of this past year’s Justice League. Many of the complaints centered around the fact that for the Justice League to come together on the big screen, finally, they would need to unite to combat a serious and deadly threat that would take all of them to defeat.
For many, Steppenwolf just simply didn’t fit the bill. And even in the movie itself, it felt clear that he was just a stepping stone to Darkseid.
That doesn’t change the fact that Steppenwolf is actually an incredibly strong villain in his own right. He may not be as powerful as Darkseid, but very few actually are.
Even someone approaching that level of power is definitely someone to be taken as a serious threat. Even if he was somewhat underutilized, the character is nonetheless a force to be reckoned with.
10 Weaker: Bane
Bane is without question one of Batman’s greatest adversaries. He’s the man that broke the Bat and he will always hold that title. Still, it’s precisely because of that honor and that claim to fame that he is often thought of as one of the most powerful villains DC has to offer, and that’s not the case.
Bane is a tactical genius and a physical powerhouse, but there are many characters who are stronger. More than that, however, Bane does not simply come by his strength naturally.
Bane, of course, draws much of his strength from the Venom solution pumping through his veins. Without it, there’s no doubt he would be a strong contender, but the differences would be vast.
He’s a character who tries to present himself as having no weaknesses, but that does not mean that the weaknesses aren’t actually there.
9 Stronger: Orion
Orion might not be the most recognizable name on this list, but he is easily one of the most powerful. As one of the New Gods, Orion has an incredible level of strength and speed, almost equal to that of his father Darkseid and to Superman as well.
He has a great amount of rage inside of him as well that can prove to be both a blessing and a curse. Orion has a tendency to become more destructive than he wants to be when the right buttons are pushed, but that’s worse for his enemies than it is for him.
Orion is also a conduit for an interdimensional energy known as the Astro Force. He can either use the ability as a weapon or as an astonishingly strong shield, such as when he used it to deflect Darkseid’s Omega Effect.
8 Weaker: Green Lantern
Whether they be Hal Jordan, Kyle Rayner, John Stewart or Guy Gardner, the human Green Lanterns have access to one of the most amazing powers in the universe. Whatever they can think of, they can use their ring to create.
Because of this, Green Lantern is often thought of as unstoppable when that really isn’t true. The way the energy of the Green Lantern works opens itself to serious weakness.
The power ring is based entirely on will. Superheroes, as evidenced by almost every single film adaptation, are a doubtful bunch. They’re not sure if they have what it takes inside to be the hero they need to be and those doubts only take new forms, they never really go away.
Green Lantern technically needs to always believe in himself just to get his powers to work. However, that’s still better than his early years, when he was vulnerable to the color yellow.
7 Stronger: Larfleeze
Also known as Agent Orange, Larfleeze is an Orange Lantern, as one might reasonably guess. He is in fact the primary holder of the orange light and does not willingly allow anyone to use it, though it is sometimes taken against his will to create new Orange Lanterns.
For a long time, though, he truly was the only one with access to its power, which made him an intense, obsessed and unpredictable opponent.
With his power ring, Larfleeze has access to all of the standard abilities of the other Lanterns. He can create constructs out of nothing, he can fly, the ring forms a protective armor around him.
However, he has another ability that they do not: Larfleeze can steal the identities of those he kills and create constructs based on them to serve in his Orange Lantern Corps.
6 Weaker: Harley Quinn
Thanks to the success of Suicide Squad, Harley Quinn is more popular than ever before. Going from a sidekick, an outright villain, a person battling serious abuse until eventually being rebranded as DC’s Deadpool, Harley is someone who only ever feels half-present in the moment and that aloofness gives her a definite edge.
Because she never really seems to care what happens to her, she projects an appearance of serious power and skill.
That lack of fear is definitely one of her biggest gifts, as is the fact that she is way, way more intelligent than she typically lets on. However, she is a completely untrained fighter, she has no real superpowers to speak of.
Harley is at her most effective when she stays in the background and waits for the right opportunity to strike, because she can’t take on many people by herself without magical or technological assistance.
5 Stronger: Plastic Man
Plastic Man is often thought of as a joke, thanks largely to the way he dresses and the fact that he genuinely does treat himself as a joke a good chunk of the time. However, characters with the ability to stretch are often truly powerful, and of them, Plastic Man is one of the absolute strongest.
Not only can he stretch to an impressive distance, he has control over his mass and density. He can shrink himself, he’s beyond supernaturally flexible. Plastic Man can even use his abilities to shape-shift.
Plastic Man can heal or regenerate lost or damaged tissue. He is immune to telepathy because his brain is so malleable that it’s basically impossible to hear what he’s thinking. It’s also incredibly possible that he is an immortal as he has at least been proven to live for thousands of years without showing any signs of aging.
4 Weaker: Batman
It’s a meme that there is absolutely no one who could beat Batman. People love to think of Batman as someone who is prepared for any situation, no matter how absurd.
Some of this thinking has often led Batman to become less of a character and more of an plot device, a way to get the heroes of the Justice League out of any situation.
Every time this happens, it takes away from the thing that made Batman so endearing in the first place: the fact that in this world of alien beings and godlike heroes, he is just a guy.
Batman is an incredibly gifted fighter, a genius, has an unending amount of weapons at his disposal and the money to make as many more as he needs. But under all that training, there’s still a frightened and vulnerable kid. The comics don’t downplay this fact and are often best when they embrace it.
3 Stronger: Aquaman
Aquaman has been the butt of the DC joke for such a long time. Thankfully, that’s beginning to subside after his scene-stealing role in Justice League.
He has the ability to communicate with sea life, ranging from schools of fish to giant sharks, even some genuine sea monsters. Because Aquaman can thrive in truly harsh underwater environments, he has a number of other abilities.
He has superhuman strength and a degree of invulnerability, can leap up to six miles. One of the biggest displays of his power was lifting a Soviet submarine from the ocean floor and tossing it out of the water, all using only his own physical strength. Aquaman is also superhumanly fast in the water, able to swim up to roughly 7,000 mph.
2 Weaker: Superman
Superman is the ultimate superhero. He’s the best of the best and everyone loves to talk about how overpowered he is. People often say that they can’t relate to Superman, that they don’t care about him because he’s simply too powerful.
Nothing can defeat him, so what are the stakes? However, that’s not really the case. There’s no question that he is powerful, but he’s also not without his weaknesses. First and foremost, there’s kryptonite. It might be a very specific weakness, but it’s one that appears to be overabundant in the DC Universe.
Superman also has no defenses against magic, leading supernatural characters to often get the better of him. Most of all, Superman’s powers are all derived from this solar system’s yellow sun. If he is somehow cut off from the sun, his powers disappear completely.
1 Stronger: Swamp Thing
While fans recognize Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing as one of the most seminal comic book runs of the last forty years, many still see him as the star of two 1980s B-Movies. Some think of the schlocky live-action TV show or the failed cartoon. But Swamp Thing is one of the DC Universe’s most intriguing and truly powerful characters.
This character is essentially the living embodiment of the Earth itself. Swamp Thing can be completely destroyed and come back from virtually nothing. He can teleport, increase or decrease in size, his body is totally malleable.
He can not only heal himself, but heal others as well. Even though he is not always prone to aggressive displays of strength, Swamp Thing is actually one of the physically strongest characters in the DC Universe.
Can you think of any other DC characters who are either way stronger (or weaker) than most fans think? Sound off in the comment section!