In the DCU, there is no bigger bad than Darkseid. Before him, DC had a big, sprawling, comprehensive universe, but little that tied it all together. Darkseid was the uniting factor; the broad view of the company line was no longer just a grouping of funny pages, but something mythic. All myths need their devil, and Darkseid was DC's.
Despite the name, Darkseid's not purely evil. He is a creature that is neither good or evil, he simply is. He carries out his affairs in a way that he believes best for the universe. His desire is peace through order, and order requires absolute control and a healthy dose of suffering. Darkseid is implicit in the universe; he's razed entire worlds on a whim because they held an answer to the Anti-Life Equation or they represented an obstacle. In short, he’s terrifying, and yet he’s still not the scariest creature the DCU has to offer.
From beings more powerful and unimaginable to the evil that might just live next door, we’ve put together a list of the 15 DC Villains Much Scarier than Darkseid.
15 The Anti-Monitor
The Anti-Monitor is the only thing in the DCU that could be more powerful and more dangerous than Darkseid. The giant, universe eating Galactus rip-off — look, Thanos is a Darkseid rip-off, it happens — is responsible for the deaths of Supergirl (very sad) and Barry Allen (less sad, Wally’s cooler). The impact the character has had immense, in that he’s only made a handful of appearances since premiering in 1985. Each time it has taken a combined effort of many superheroes and villains to stop him, and each time, headline-grabbing deaths have followed him.
However, if you want to understand just how scary The Anti-Monitor can be, you don’t have to look further than his debut in Crisis on Infinite Earths where, as stated, he not only killed Supergirl and the Flash, but he destroyed an infinity of universes, eliminating that multi-universal concept that had been a cornerstone of the DCU for decades. In just that story alone, his body count became higher than any villain in DC Comics combined -- including Darkseid.
14 James Gordon, Jr.
Sometimes you don’t need superpowers to be a creep. The unassuming son of Commissioner Gordon has been one of the most effective villains to hit the pages of DC Comics in recent years. James is calm and placid, betraying no emotion, and charming just enough to get his way. He also started killing when he was a little boy, murdering his sister’s friend over a lapse in manners (Hannibal Lecter would approve). Also, like Hannibal, James kept a victim of his in a basement for weeks, slowly torturing and amputating limbs until he got bored and left him for dead.
He succeeded in dosing hundreds of infants with a drug that would affect their brain chemistry, possibly creating more psychopaths just like him. Why? Because the idea made him laugh. He wanted to spite Dick Grayson who believed that people are generally good. Well, in a few years, thanks to James, many more won’t be. Worst of all, James is a glasses wearer, which only serves to up his creep factor.
13 The Joker
The Joker is one of the most obvious “scary” characters in the DCU; he vacations in Arkham Asylum, for god’s sake. That he has no specific motive, no specific targets, and no specific method of murder makes him the ultimate boogeyman. The fact that he’s human (ignoring that awful immortality twist in Endgame) makes him that much more real than Darkseid and many of the others on this list. The Joker could be anybody -- as the fiend himself says, “All it takes is one bad day.”
The Clown Prince of Crime killed Jason Todd, crippled Barbara Gordon, and amputated Alfred’s hand. He cut his own face off for no reason other than “the lulz.” Arguably, the thing that makes him the most terrifying guy around is his adaptability. He holds his own in the gritty underbelly of Gotham and against the sleek futurism of Metropolis and Superman.
When it comes to criminal potential, you don’t have a better example than Emperor Joker, where the Thin White Duke of Death tricked Mr. Mxyzptlk into giving him omnipotent, god-like powers. He then remade the world in his own image, and committed daily holocausts just to bring everyone back and start all over.
He’s called the Jester of Genocide. Did you expect anything different?
12 Mirror Master
Before finding Sam Scudder’s old equipment, Evan McCullough was a zilch with a bad haircut and a coke problem. After becoming Mirror Master, he simply had a much cooler way of doing coke. Also, he had access to anyplace that had a reflective surface.
He was obsessed with finding his old girlfriend Emilia, who was terrified of him. So much so that she lived as a hermit for years, never going outside, living instead in a dark house with all windows and mirrors covered. No TV, little water; nothing that could possibly be used as a portal for him to see her through.
Mirror Master’s equipment lets him use a dimensional rift to look through anything with a reflective surface. That means, if he wanted, he could be the best spy, thief, or assassin on the planet. There is no limit to where he can go, what he could do, and how he can escape. With Mirror Master around, there’s no such thing as privacy or safety. He’s everywhere. McCullough’s drug addiction keeps him from experimenting too heavily with the Mirror Master equipment, in a strange case of cocaine actually saving lives. Yay?
Well, the cross section of comic book readers and germaphobes are going to be triggered beyond reason. Despotellis is a sentient microscopic virus and a member of the Sinestro Corps. Capable of infecting any living biological organism, Despotellis can kill within minutes of infection thanks to its self-replicating properties, and it leaves no traces of itself behind. It has wiped out entire sectors of the universe, infected the sentient planet Mogo, and has made Green Lanterns kill themselves.
Most notably, the virus traveled to Earth under Sinestro’s orders to kill Kyle Rayner’s mother, either because he hates Kyle or because it would give them something to talk about at the next work function. Small talk can be so tedious.
The only known cure is Leezle Pon, a sentient smallpox virus who happens to be a member of the Green Lantern Corps (naturally). Of course, since there’s only one Leezle Pon, a giant universe, and no way to track where Despotellis has been or will be, the chances of ever being cured in enough time is infinitesimal. This thing's as skin-crawling as they come.
10 Black Mask
Black Mask is a two-dimensional character, and somehow that works for him. Roman Sionis is a sadist. Outside of a gig as a mobster, the only job open for him would be meter attendant.
Easily the most straightforward of Batman’s villains, Mask is also the only one to ever out-pimp-suit the Joker. Oh, and he’s the only other bad guy to kill a Robin, having infamously torturing the fifteen-year-old Stephanie Brown for days on end before she died.
Subtlety and patience aren’t exactly his strong suits, but his brutality allowed him to obtain and retain complete control over the city for years. For a spell, Black Mask became the sole crime boss in Gotham City, something no criminal was ever able to accomplish. Afterward, he entered into a war with Catwoman, in which Black Mask kidnapped Selina’s sister, made her eat her husband’s eyes, then carved a note into Slam Bradley’s chest goading Catwoman to come find him.
If the medieval torture chamber and the ghoulish death-mask burned onto his skin weren’t enough to scare the hell out of you, it’s the fact that in every situation he finds himself in, Sionis is nonchalant, pleasant, even. He jokes around. Granted, the jokes are darker than his mask, but it’s easy to find him likable, if only for a second...before you remember the cannibalism.
When you’re a fear entity, there’s a good chance people find you terrifying. Parallax is an alien bug thing that is the embodiment of fear. He can possess your body without you knowing it (which for some reason gives you a Paulie Walnuts dye-job) and was, until recently, entirely impervious to any Green Lantern attacks.
Most of all, he was able to make the greatest Lantern of them all—Hal Jordan—feel fear, which led to his possession by Parallax, a dark period that lasted for years. He then wiped out the Guardians of the Universe, thousands of Green Lanterns, beat up the Justice League, and nearly destroyed the planet Earth. All so he could feed on the fear.
For the better part of a decade, there would be no Green Lantern Corps because of him, causing turmoil and wars throughout the universe with no police force to protect it. Parallax just became more powerful. Even after the GLC was restored and he imprisoned, there’s still no way to kill him. If there’s fear, Parallax will always live.
Superman once said that there are five people in the world he’d never want to fight, and that Martian Manhunter was at the top of that list. Well, Ma’alefa’ak (or Malefic) is J'onn J'onzz’s evil older brother. Same powers, and less of a vulnerability to fire.
Malefic was essentially born without a conscience. He was incredibly powerful and spiteful. He mind-raped J’onn’s wife, and was made into a social pariah on their home planet. In response, he wiped out the entire race, leaving only his brother alive to bear witness.
Long thought dead, Malefic eventually showed up on Earth and, using his shapeshifting abilities, ruined Martian Manhunter’s reputation and nearly killed the Justice League. He felt J’onn was beginning to move on with his life, and couldn’t let that stand.
Malefic is a genocidal psychopath who's stronger than Superman, has virtually no weaknesses, a bevy of powers, and plenty of time on his hands. He also dresses like a homeless person for reasons that are never explained. Why would someone bother wearing clothes if they’re just going to be in tatters like that? It’s maddening.
Eclipso was the original incarnation of God’s wrath, but he was replaced by the Spectre because he was a little too good at his job. Think about that for a second. The Spectre, who isn’t exactly known for moderation and compassion, was considered the better option. The deaths of the first-born sons? His idea. And he’s the moderate choice!
Eclipso was responsible for Noah’s Flood, has incalculable power bestowed upon him by God, as well as the abilities to control the weather and alter reality. When not enacting chaos, Eclipso enjoys long walks on the beach, drowning the world in eternal darkness, and eating pizza with a knife and fork.
What gives him an added edge (as if he needed it) is his ability to possess multiple people at once, gaining their knowledge and abilities. For him, the entire planet is an army for the taking. He has, on several occasions, managed not only to defeat the Justice League, but take control of them as well.
For Eclipso, the only thing worth doing is corrupting the souls of the living. He’d actually make good friends with our next entry.
When you’re called “The Lord of Lies”, you’re probably not one of the good guys. Neron’s one of the oldest demons in hell. He had a former working relationship with Vandal Savage, the world’s oldest living human. Neron’s specialty is wish-fulfillment: in return for your soul, he’ll grant you whatever you want. Of course, there’s the usual careful-what-you-wish-for twists, but Neron’s just one of those lucky guys that loves his job and doesn’t mind coming up with the sort of cruel and ironic punishments that go with it.
While he’s never outright called the Devil, given his claims about “having brought the first couple together” and references to his age, there’s the possibility that he is the Fallen One. Of course, you know...Lord of Lies and everything.
Whether in hell or on Earth, Neron is practically invincible, and has yet to be bested in a fight. Even Midnighter tried and failed, and he always found a way to punch his problems away! The only way to beat Neron is to offer him a better deal and swindle him before he swindles you, which, given how long he's been in business, isn't easy.
5 Peter Grimm
No, he’s not the dad from Family Guy. Imagine being able to perfectly relive a moment in time, like Cicero or Proust. Now imagine that instead of it being a happy memory, it’s your greatest fear playing in a loop until you die of terror, a heart attack, or you kill yourself. That’s what Peter Grimm can do to you with a touch. Add to that Grimm’s incredible fighting capabilities, unusually high threshold for pain, and absolute sadism, you have one of the worst villains in TAO’s organization (more on him shortly).
How a room reacts to you is a good indication of how you’re perceived. When he enters a supervillain bar, everyone gets quiet. A supervillain bar. Where everyone is at the very least a mass murderer, where everyone has ridiculous powers that allows them to unleash all sorts of evil. They all shut up when he came in. Not out of respect, but out of fear. After all, he just needs to shake your hand, and you could be watching Family Guy until your brain explodes.
We all have that one friend we’re going to hell for. If you meet TAO (Tactical Augmented Organism), you will go to hell for him, but he won’t be your friend. Grown to be the perfect weapon in the war against supervillains, he decided to become a supervillain instead (better HMO).
TAO is incredibly intelligent, manipulative, and developed mind control capabilities through his voice. He’s a master of human psychology, allowing him to predict his opponents' movements, reactions, and motives just from a brief meeting. He once reduced Fuji to a catatonic state after a single conversation, which either means he’s very powerful or couldn’t stop talking about being vegan.
Even though he became the leader of every crime syndicate on the planet, TAO was never interested in power. He just likes to manipulate people. Play with their lives. He knows he’s the smartest man on the planet, and he just likes to burn the ants with a magnifying glass.
Flash fact: if you type Zoom into a Google search bar, it will auto-finish some options for you, the most popular being “Zoom Wally fanfiction.” It’s like looking inside the Ark of the Covenant.
Obtaining powers — like Lasik, it’s partially covered by insurance — Hunter Zolomon became Zoom. He believed Wally West didn’t understand tragedy, never having experienced one; if he had, then he would have helped Zoom go back in time to unscrew Hunter’s life. Thing is, the Flash knows that mucking about with time is never a good idea. Barry Allen gave time an enema and it created the New 52!
So, in order to make Wally a better hero, he decided to visit tragedy on the Flash. He caused Wally’s wife, Linda Park, to miscarry their twins. Zoom is delusional, extremely powerful, and has no conscience. What makes him truly scary isn’t that he believes he’s one of the good guys, it’s that he believes he’s helping.
If you’re in need of a babysitter, or don’t feel like ever sleeping again, check out Sinestro Corps member Kryb. In order to instill the maximum levels of fear, she targets Green Lantern members who have recently had children. Kryb will secrete a poisonous liquid from her breasts to subdue the parents, and have them watch with their dying breaths as she takes their children and tosses them into her crib-like hunchback, claiming she will raise them as her own as orphans of the Green Lantern Corps.
Kryb is also known to perform forced cesareans to obtain a child (for the freshness?), and has kidnapped dozens of children in her short time in the Sinestro Corps. Not even the Zamaron brainwashing/rehabilitation technique has worked on her.
Most disturbing of all (besides the breast milk poison, that is) is that Kryb is not only willing to die to protect her ill-gotten brood, but it’s never revealed why she has the fixation she does. The mystery that surrounds her is pure nightmare fuel.
1 Mr. Mxyzptlk
Sure, he looks like a moron, and his name is the noise you make during a stroke, but Mr. Mxyzptlk is an incredible threat. His reality-warping powers are drawn from, and only limited by, imagination. While usually only portrayed as a pestering imp, Mxy’s potential is enough to warrant his addition to the list. Of course, you needn’t look further than the seminal Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? story arc for evidence.
In this story, Mxy’s had enough of Superman making a fool of him all these years (apparently, it was Superman who forced him to wear that hat. Who knew?) so he put together a plan. He revealed Clark Kent’s identity and brought together all the Man of Steel’s allies and enemies to wipe them out. Lex, Brainiac, Lana, Jimmy, Krypto, and Bizarro are all killed by the imp.
Mxy proved he was Superman’s greatest enemy, and in showing the upper limits of his powers, he forced Superman to kill him to save Lois, gaining a moral victory over Supes as well. Of course, if you want something more overt, check out the aforementioned Emperor Joker, where the Clown Prince uses his powers to skin Batman every single day. Fun!
Who is your favorite DC Comics villain? Let us know in the comments!