The Justice League – DC’s premiere superhero team - generally features a handful of the universe’s most powerful heroes, with the likes of Superman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern on hand to defend the Earth against the forces of evil.
Quite often the League is met with villains who are worthy of their power - alien warlords and immortals and literal gods have all faced off with the Justice League. But just as often the Justice League is forced to tangle with bad guys who are decidedly punching above their weight class. This is really just an unfortunate reality when you have a group of heroes as powerful as the Justice League; there’s no way to throw equally powerful villains at them all the time without it being nonsensical.
And yet there are plenty of villains who are so embarrassingly inept, they really have no business getting within a mile of the Justice League. These are the bottom feeders that writers pull out when they’re out of ideas. There are a stunning number of these D-listers who have had the dubious honor of being unceremoniously walloped by Batman and friends.
These are the 8 Most Powerful (And 7 Lamest) Justice League Villains, Ranked.
15 POWERFUL – Vandal Savage
How do you take on a villain who is literally incapable of death? That’s the enigma at the heart of Vandal Savage, one of the oldest and most powerful characters in the DC Universe.
Savage began life as a prehistoric caveman in 50,000 BC, where he was bathed in the light of a mysterious meteorite that granted him both immortality and an evolutionary leap in intelligence. Savage used his newfound power to run roughshod over the planet, holding dark influence over most of history’s major societies.
Savage isn’t only one of the oldest villains within the DC Universe, but is one of the earliest characters published by the company, first menacing Green Lantern in 1943. Strangely, Savage has never gotten a live action adaptation worthy of him; his portrayal on Legends of Tomorrow was universally panned. It seems a no brainer he’ll eventually feature in DC’s cinematic universe.
14 LAME – Ultra-Humanite
On paper, the Ultra-Humanite should be an A-list villain. Debuting in the pages of Action Comics in 1939, the Ultra-Humanite was once Gerard Shugel, a brilliant, evil scientist who can transfer his brain to other bodies – most often a super strong mutated albino Gorilla – he’s a terrifying premise for a character, essentially a cross between Lex Luthor and Gorilla Grodd.
And yet he’s kind of a joke. His albino gorilla getup is deeply silly, and he never seems able to wield his considerable power in ways that make him feel worthy of the attention of characters like Superman and Batman. He’s a character who seems to just be waiting for a writer to properly utilize him, but after 78 years of mediocrity, maybe it’s time to give up hope.
13 POWERFUL – Amazo
Amazo is a bit like if Frankenstein and the Terminator had a very loud, very angry baby. Created by Professor Anthony Ivo in his pursuit of immortality, Amazo is an android designed to steal the powers of the Justice League. Imagine an unstoppable robot with The Flash’s speed, Superman’s strength, and Wonder Woman’s agility. He was one of the Justice League’s earliest adversaries, and has been one of its most enduring.
Perhaps the best version of Amazo was the version featured in the Justice League Unlimited cartoon. That version was created by Lex Luthor, and instead of his usual fantastical look, appeared as an unnervingly gray, featureless robot that very calmly and efficiently absorbed the heroes’ abilities, becoming progressively lethal in the process. With apologies to Ultron, he’s as nightmarish a robot as you’ll ever find in comics.
12 LAME – Kobra
Imagine if you took the listless terrorist plots of G.I. Joe’s Cobra Commander, added in Serpentor’s delusions of grandeur, and topped it off by misspelling their evil organization. The result would be Kobra.
Kobra is both the moniker of evil dope Jeffrey Franklin Burr and his terrorist organization which seeks to bring about the Kali Yuga, or “the age of chaos.”
Jeffrey had a twin brother, Jason, with whom he shared a psychic link. If one brother experienced pain, the other could feel it… which sounds a lot like G.I. Joe characters Tomax and Xamot, actually. There are bound to be some redeeming qualities about Kobra that aren’t poorly executed versions of things G.I. Joe has done better, but nothing is immediately coming to mind.
11 POWERFUL – Eclipso
Eclipso is a rogue elemental force in the DC Universe, the tangible Wrath of God and Angel of Vengeance that would be replaced by The Spectre after it turned evil.
Imprisoned by God in a giant black diamond called the heart of darkness, Eclipso has had many hosts; the first was Bruce Gordon, with whom the entity had a contentious relationship, as Gordon did not wish to carry out Eclipso’s dark mission.
It would later inhabit Alex Montez, an ally of the Justice Society of America who believed he could control the power through the channeling of his personal hatred. He was tragically incorrect, resulting in his lover’s death and his own suicide.
One of the more memorable hosts was Jean Loring, the estranged wife of Ray Palmer who shockingly murdered Sue Dibny in the Identity Crisis miniseries. Her insanity was a good match for the entity, and she wound up causing the Spectre plenty of headaches during the Infinite Crisis event series.
10 LAME – The Key
The Key is not the worst concept for a villain. He is a brilliant chemist who uses drugs to alter the minds of his enemies. He’s used those drugs in the past to control the Justice League, and even concocted a drug that allowed him to trigger hallucinations that he was able to manipulate. The Key is, ostensibly, a very powerful villain and not to be taken lightly.
But it’s really difficult to take him seriously when he dispenses these lethal toxins with a gun shaped like a giant key. There’s clearly a certain suspension of disbelief required in a world where people are terrified of a man dressed up like a bat, but a guy shooting mind-altering drugs at people with a gigantic door key is simply a bridge too far.
9 POWERFUL – Doomsday
No other recent comic book villain is as recognizable as Doomsday. Since debuting in 1993, Doomsday has been an unstoppable force of evil nature. In some ways he was similar to The Dark Knight’s version of the Joker; there was no origin or backstory to explore – Doomsday simply arrived on Earth and starting destroying everything in his path.
While Doomsday is rightly remembered for his role in Superman’s shocking death, he'd actually spent the previous handful of issues tearing a hole through the Justice League, an early indicator of his unbridled power. That era of the League wasn’t exactly stacked with heavyweights, but Doomsday made short work of the heroes who took him on before Superman made his heroic sacrifice.
8 LAME – The Royal Flush Gang
The Joker set a pretty high standard for playing card related villains in the DC Universe, but The Royal Flush Gang doesn’t even come close to living up to that standard. Several different iterations of the group have existed over the years - each consisting of a King, Queen, Jack, Ten, and Ace.
Despite the relatively high concept and flashy costumes, the Royal Flush Gang are generally low-rent thugs, essentially mediocre bank robbers dressed up like Katy Perry backup dancers. In the modern age they’re almost always used as a secondary, easily dispatched threat.
Perhaps their most memorable modern appearance was in Infinite Crisis, where the Joker brutally murdered them all after being rejected by the Secret Society of Super-Villains. Being reduced to the Joker’s stress ball is about all the Royal Flush Gang deserves.
7 POWERFUL – The Crime Syndicate
There is no shortage of evil alternate universe versions of heroic characters. Star Trek famously has the mirror universe, where there’s nothing more nefarious than a goatee. There are several versions of this trope across DC’s vast multiverse, but the best is the Crime Syndicate of America, the evil version of the Justice League.
The Crime Syndicate includes Ultraman (an evil Superman from a Kryton that never exploded), Superwoman (a Wonder Woman who killed all the Amazons), and Owlman (Thomas Wayne Jr., the amoral brother of the murdered Bruce Wayne).
The team has gone through several iterations over the years, but they’re generally utilized in big, event stories, as they always pose a threat serious enough to threaten the Justice League’s world. Geoff Johns recently used them as the main antagonists of the Forever Evil crossover event, where they attempted to conquer Earth in the absence of the Justice League.
6 LAME – Doctor Light
Doctor Light has the distinction of being lousy in two distinct ways. Arthur Light was initially presented as a decidedly minor threat; a deeply incompetent villain who eventually was too impotent to really be taken seriously by the Justice League and was pawned off as a villain for the Teen Titans. This version was forgettable, but mostly inoffensive.
That all changed with Identity Crisis. The 2005 event book revealed that Doctor Light used to be a brilliant, sadistic monster who assaulted Elongated Man’s wife, Sue Dibny. The Justice League made the morally compromising decision to alter Light’s brain through Zatanna’s powers to make him less awful. The procedure didn’t go as planned, and Light ended up partially lobotomized, resulting in his established role as a lightweight bad guy.
There’s no good version of Doctor Light, but it’s safe to say that version is the most horrifying, and one of the darker chapters in DC’s history.
5 POWERFUL – Starro
The first villain the Justice League ever faced, Starro is still a worthy threat almost 60 years later. A parasitic alien conqueror that looks like a gigantic starfish, Starro spreads like a plague, taking psychic control of a planet’s population by attaching spore clones of itself to their faces. It’s a decidedly disturbing image, invoking both the facehuggers from Alien and the Borg from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Starro has returned multiple times, always with some new ingenious plan to spread and assimilate cultures, and even once attempted to assimilate the Justice League members in a wider effort to conquer more planets.
Strangely, Starro has never had a major adaptation, only appearing in minor cameos in shows like Arrow and Young Justice. The Justice League’s original foe seems like an obvious candidate for a creepy, horror influenced adaptation.
4 LAME – Prometheus
A villain called Prometheus actually ended up being pretty compelling in Arrow’s fifth season. That version of the character bears absolutely no resemblance to the horror show featured in the infamous mini-series Justice League: Cry For Justice. In Cry For Justice, a faction of the Justice League – led by Hal Jordan and Green Arrow – decide to take a more proactive, brutal approach to crime fighting in the wake of Martian Manhunter’s death.
Their first target is Prometheus, who ends up becoming the sort of irredeemably, cartoonishly evil character that has plagued the grimmer corners of superhero comics.
Prometheus decides to essentially destroy Green Arrow’s life for the fun of it, hacking off Roy Harper’s arm, leveling Star City, and killing Lian Harper, Roy’s daughter, essentially Oliver’s granddaughter. The story ends with Oliver murdering Prometheus, one final spit in the eye to Green Arrow fans who saw the character’s world decimated for cynical shock value.
3 POWERFUL – The Anti-Monitor
In the DC Universe, there’s really no threat quite as dire as the Anti-Monitor (well, maybe one, but we’ll get to him in a minute). An elemental force of anti-matter, the Anti-Monitor is awakened from a nine billion year slumber during the events of the classic event series Crisis on Infinite Earths, where he begins consuming realities in the multiverse to gain greater power.
His benevolent counterpart, The Monitor, assembles DC’s greatest heroes to stop him from destroying all of reality. They eventually do succeed, but at great cost, as both Barry Allen and Supergirl perish in the battle, and the nature of the multiverse is fundamentally altered. There really aren’t many villains who possess the sheer power of the Anti-Monitor, and his attempt to conquer all of reality was one of the defining moments in DC’s history.
2 LAME – Neron
Neron really should be a great villain. He was created by writer Mark Waid and artist Howard Porter, two of DC’s most celebrated creators. He’s an incredibly powerful demon from Hell, playing into biblical archetypes in much the same ways that characters like The Spectre and Eclipso do so effectively. He looks pretty menacing, give or take his era appropriate blonde mullet.
And yet Neron is an absolute bore. Introduced in 1995, he was positioned as having been an integral part of DC’s world from the very beginning, with obnoxious attempts to build him up by retconning a relationship between him and Vandal Savage.
It’s pretty telling that the character has languished in obscurity after being introduced as a demon lord of Hell with almost unimaginable power. Unbridled, limitless power is no guaranteed fix for a dull character.
1 POWERFUL – Darkseid
The list of ultimate evil in the DC Universe begins and ends with the Lord of Apokolips. Originally created as a character in Jack Kirby’s New Gods series, Darkseid would eventually become a primary villain for both Superman and the Justice League, intent on finding the Anti-Life Equation and ending all free will in the universe.
A disturbingly cold being, Darkseid isn’t really driven by any sort of personal trauma, though the story of his family drama with Orion and Mister Miracle is operatic in scope. Darkseid simply believes it is his destiny to decimate the universe and rule over the remains. His powers are godlike; he’s thrown Kryptonians like rag dolls and crushed Green Lantern rings with his bare hands.
Darkseid is the most serious threat the Justice League has ever taken on, and it’s hard to imagine they’ve faced him for the final time.
Which Justice League villain do you think is strongest? Let us know in the comments!
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