So, Thanos, huh? He’s a tough one to characterize, isn’t he? The entire known universe has seen Avengers: Infinity War (the hype on these movies just gets bigger and bigger with each release), and many of us have many different opinions about its main antagonist, the Mad Titan.
He’s just… not as ‘classic villain’ as he could be. Evil cackles, sharks with frikkin’ laser beams, and lengthy exposition just aren’t him. In the movie, he was almost a sympathetic character, trying to do what was (in his own huge blue mind) the right thing. He even showed remorse, and lots of it too.
Let’s not think too deeply about all of this, though. Even with all of that said, he remains among the most formidable foes that the heroes of the MCU have fought to date. When it’s just you and a few of your buddies (until that whole thing in Wakanda) against the Guardians of the Galaxy, the Avengers, and all manner of superheroes besides, you’d better wield some serious firepower yourself.
All of which makes us wonder, just how does Thanos stack up in the pantheon of Marvel and DC villains? In the Infinity Gauntlet, he’s got one of the most powerful weapons in comic book history, but let’s try and put that aside a little for now. Let’s take a look at some comic book villains, such as Ego the Living Planet, Hela, and General Zod, who are super overpowered in their own right and could probably take down the big blue menace, given half a chance.
25 MARVEL: Malekith the Accursed
Dark Elves are a common people in fantasy tales. Whether it’s a movie, video game, book or TV series, if there are dragons and such roaming around, there are likely to be elves too.
Dark Elves aren’t always outright villainous, often leaning more towards the roguish side of things. Marvel’s Malekith the Accursed, though, is a couple of steps beyond ‘roguish’ on the bad guy scale.
In Thor: The Dark World, Malekith seeks to unleash the power of the Aether (one of the famous Infinity Stones) to plunge the Nine Realms into darkness. The strength of the elvish forces he commands is enhanced by a formidable weapon: Kurse Stones, which imbue the user with greatly heightened strength, agility and stamina.
The Kursed almost toppled the forces of Asgard, which is quite a feat.
24 MARVEL: Calvin Zabo
Calvin Zabo is one of those villains that will mean more to long-time comic book fans than the casual movie/Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Some of these guys are content to remain the nemesis of one particular superhero, while others are just too big to be limited to that.
Zabo (you may know him as Mr. Hyde) was created as a foe for Thor, but, as we’ve reported before, has since tangled with various other superheroes besides. He’s able to transform into a vast Hulk-like beast after ingesting a chemical mixture of his own design, and his absurd strength has only grown as that formula was improved.
23 DC: General Zod
Here’s the trouble with superheroes: they’ve got superpowers. They can fly, lift gigantic trucks with their pinkies, shoot lasers from their eyes… all of these things and more. How do you fight that? Their enemies are going to need superpowers of their own, or it’s going to be like bringing a toothpick to an intergalactic missile fight.
In short, for every Superman, there needs to be a General Zod. As a fellow Kryptonian, Zod has all the powers that his heroic caped-counterpart does, and battles between them are always melodramatic and explosive as a result. Superman is the very definition of power in the DC world, and the same holds true for Zod on the other side of the coin.
22 DC: The Joker
Now, the Joker’s power level is always a controversial topic. Much like his nemesis Batman, he doesn’t have any overt superpowers. The Clown Prince of Crime is a powerful, resourceful and inventive opponent, but is that all there is to the story? Not quite.
We know that the Joker boasts a complete toxin immunity, and it’s been suggested that he has toxic blood himself (the results of the experiments he performed on himself). Couple that with his nigh-superhuman resilience, and you’ve got an opponent whose powers you can never quite define but can never underestimate. We don’t quite know the extent of what he can do, and that’s exactly what Thanos should be so afraid of.
Besides which, do you remember the time he was able to take on all the powers of the formidable and otherworldly Mr. Mxyzyptlk, in the Emperor Joker story? The Mad Titan had better watch himself if he does that again.
21 MARVEL: The Destroyer
As we all know, comic book fans are a super zealous bunch. If you bring a character from page to screen and don’t do said character justice in the process, the fans are going to make darn sure that you know about it.
For some, Thor’s take on the Destroyer was one of the biggest disappointments of the MCU. This hulking suit of armor was created by Odin, and charged with defending the Asgardian vault and battling the Celestials. In the comics, its powers are almost limitless and it’s able to withstand just about any possible attack (reforming itself if it does happen to be damaged). As we’ve previously stated on CBR, “The Destroyer is powerful enough to destroy planets, transmute matter, and disintegrate virtually anything.”
This is what made the final battle of Thor such an anti-climax, with our hero able to destroy the legendary Destroyer by himself. Nevertheless, in the comics, this thing is capable of so much more.
20 MARVEL: Hela
In this rundown, as we’ve already stated, it’s important to remember that Thanos wasn’t always able to just snap his fingers and reduce foes to a sad little heap of dust bunnies on the carpet. Sometimes, you need to take that newfangled Infinity Gauntlet out of the equation and look at these villains on their own merits.
That being the case, Hela vs Thanos would be one heck of a battle to watch. These two have been responsible for some of the most dramatic setpieces in the MCU (Hela catching Thor’s beloved Mjolnir and crushing it in one hand was just jaw-dropping), and it would be fantastic to see them go head-to-head.
19 MARVEL: Venom
Venom is another character who’s always been pretty darn hard to pin down. The symbiote’s powers have waxed and waned, been embellished and altered across its various appearances, making it tough to define exactly what it’s capable of in any one instance.
In its most recent movie appearance, Venom was part of a wise-cracking, buddy movie double act with Tom Hardy. We did get a glimpse of how threatening and oppressive a force Venom can be, however. How would the symbiote fare against the Mad Titan? It’s tough to say. Venom does have some very well-defined weakness to exploit, but it keeps coming back and back and back despite them.
It’d be quite the spectacle, that’s for sure.
18 MARVEL: Killmonger
Much like Thanos himself, Erik Killmonger is quite the complex character. It’s always great to see a villain who doesn’t take the one-dimensional I’m evil and I like it megalomania route.
In Black Panther, Killmonger was portrayed by Michael B. Jordan, who did a fantastic job of relaying this. The character has a certain menace and malevolence about him, for sure, but in the end, he’s fighting for his right to the throne. As Shrek would tell you, there are a lot of layers to this onion.
What Killmonger does do, however, is take the popular route of adapting and matching the hero’s own suit/powers. He and Black Panther were evenly matched, at the end of the day, and Black Panther is often regarded as one of the most powerful Marvel heroes. How would he have fared against Thanos one-on-one? That’s an interesting one.
17 MARVEL: Corvus Glaive
As we’ve already seen, the Destroyer was a bit of a disappointment in the MCU. In the comics, it’s feared and respected as a force that even the best don’t tangle with, but its big movie debut was short-lived. Yes, it had the opposite of plot armor against it (they’ve got to try and cut the running time of these movies down somehow), but still.
Another MCU character that didn’t quite get to live up to their potential was Corvus Glaive. Yes, we saw him go toe-to-toe with Captain America and Vision, but the showcase was cut very short. In the comics, though, he’s rendered immortal by his connection to his mighty glaive (which can cut through any known substance in the universe). Couple that with his formidable fighting skills, and there’s a whole lot of potential here.
16 MARVEL: Ultron
Here’s a tricky question: Was Ultron a disappointment in Avengers: Age of Ultron, or was he not? That’s a bit of a grey area, really. On the one hand, he just exuded malice for every second he spent on screen, and was presented as one of the most intimidating villains the MCU had seen up to that point.
On the other, he spent more time popping between his ‘clones’ and allowing Wanda Maximoff to mess with the Avengers than he did battling them himself.
The Ultron of the comic books was refined again and again, tangling with just about everybody along the way. If the ‘bot tapped into its true potential, who knows what it could do?
15 DC: Deathstroke
If you’re acquainted with the way that Marvel and DC do things, you’ll definitely be aware that Deadpool was heavily inspired by Deathstroke. Slade Wilson the Terminator and Wade Wilson the… well, Deadpool, are super similar.
They’re similar in the snarky mercenary sense, for one thing. The origins of Deathstroke’s powers also lie in odd experimentation on his body, for another. That’s some very familiar dress sense they have, too. The thing about Slade, though, is that he’s a little untested power-wise. We haven’t seen much of him in action in the DCEU and can only look to his feats in comic book history for guidance.
Again like Deadpool, though, it’s the enigmatic nature of his abilities that is his strongest asset. What is he truly capable of? We can’t quite say, and that’s the most frightening thing of all.
14 MARVEL: Surtur
Ah, yes. When it comes to big bads, the Marvel universe is chock full of worthy villains. Not just ones with a lot of fancy technology, weaponry, and Scrooge McDuck levels of cash, but ones that are huge in stature.
Recently in the MCU, Surtur is just about the biggest and best we’ve seen. Not only does this fiery demon wield the legendary Twilight Sword, but he was the only being capable of defeating Hela. Thor and Loki had to resurrect the demon and allow Ragnarok – the destruction of Asgard – to take place, with Surtur tearing the realm apart (and Hela with it).
What do you think, Thanos? Could you take him?
13 MARVEL: Ego, The Living Planet
So, yes. Surtur is, whichever way you slice it, a darn big adversary. He’s one of those personalities that just instantly grabs everybody’s attention whenever he enters a room. Because he’s about 100 feet tall and on fire.
What is he not, though? A big old living planet, that’s what. In that regard, Ego, The Living Planet probably bests even Surtur.
It was a surprising twist for Ego to turn out to be a villain. Throughout much of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the all-powerful Celestial tried to present himself as a benevolent being. Later, we learn the truth: he’s trying to spread ‘seeds’ of himself throughout the universe, reforming it in his own image.
Thanos’s goals are similar, in terms of making the galaxy more ‘pleasing’ for themselves, but who would win out in a battle?
12 MARVEL: Kurse (Algrim The Strong)
Earlier in this rundown, we reminded ourselves of the sorry events of Thor: The Dark World. The Kurse Stones, some of the most dangerous artifacts in Marvel history, were used by the Dark Elf legions to transform themselves into the Kursed, warriors of dramatically-heightened strength, stamina, and physical ability (in exchange for a swift demise shortly afterward).
Malekith the Accursed was the leader of the Dark Elves, but his trusted lieutenant Algrim the Strong was perhaps even more fearsome in battle. He was the last of his kind to become one of the Kursed, and on doing so, had such combat prowess that he brought down Loki and had a chance to finish Thor as well. Considering how close Thor came to defeating Thanos (eventually), what would this mean for Kurse himself?
11 DC: El Diablo
When it comes to movies, there’s no effect quite as dramatic as flames. Huge, dramatic explosions are the hallmark of action movies everywhere, and that’s a concept that translates well from comic pages to the big screen.
Is the vast, looming beast that is Surtur wasn’t enough for you, how about DC’s own resident flaming fiend?
Well, the name El Diablo says it all, really. Throughout his ensemble movie, El Diablo is clearly pulling his punches when he uses his powers, afraid of what happens if he truly loses control. At one stage, though, he’s forced to surrender to that, and his true form is clearly capable of tangling with the formidable Incubus.
10 MARVEL: Galactus
As of right now, Galactus is yet to make an impression on the MCU. They’ve got to work a starring antagonist role for him in somewhere, though, because… dang.
Now, the late great Stan Lee was a Marvel man through and through, as we know. If you had any comic book questions, he was the ultimate authority. When asked who the most powerful character in the Marvel universe was, what was his answer? “Probably Galactus.”
A cosmic being of nigh-limitless power, Galactus consumes whole worlds as hors d'oeuvres. What do you think of that, Thanos? Stan Lee’s personal pick surely has this one, gauntlet or no gauntlet.
9 MARVEL: Ronan The Accuser
Now, you might be thinking that this is a bit of a step down. From Galactus, the unstoppable eater of worlds, to Ronan, the villain everybody forgot about from the original Guardians of the Galaxy? Something’s gone a little wrong here.
Granted, you’re probably right there. Galactus is a hard act for anybody to follow in a list, after all. You don’t want to sleep on Ronan the Accuser, however, because he’s one powerful foe (as the Guardians discovered).
Yes, he was one of Thanos’s underlings, but Ronan had a power that his master did not: the Cosmi-Rod (or Universal Weapon). This formidable war hammer delivered concussive blasts, but also had a range of powers including flight and changing the structure of matter. It also boasted a built-in mechanism to ensure that nobody but Ronan (and other Kree public accusers) could use it. All other holders would be dealt a powerful shock.
8 MARVEL: Dormammu
When we first meet Stephen Strange in 2016’s Doctor Strange, the MCU is in full origin story mode. As such, we get to see him first start to get to grips with sorcery, first take up the mantle of Doctor Strange.
We also get to see his first encounter with Dormammu, at a time when he was woefully unprepared to deal with an enemy of that caliber.
Dormammu is a vast, ancient entity from a higher dimension. It boasts unimaginable power, from teleportation to necromancy. In The Amazing Spider-Man v2, it’s explained that Dormammu is a foe that “at full power, no one could stand against.”
Good luck, Thanos.
7 MARVEL: Abomination
Earlier in this list, we met Calvin Zabo, the nefarious Mr. Hyde. His party trick is transforming into a great, slavering beast, which is a pretty neat party trick to have.
Next up, we’ve got Emil Blonsky, a very similar villain who’s just perfect as a foil for the Hulk. After all, how do you compete with a being as powerful as Bruce Banner and his alter ego? By developing one of your own, that’s how.
The Abomination came into being after Blonsky deliberately exposed himself to gamma radiation, seeking super-strength of his own. Stan Lee’s directions for the artist were to make him “bigger and stronger than the Hulk,” which says a lot about the sorts of feats the character will be capable of.
6 DC: Enchantress
With the barnstorming success of the Avengers movies, DC clearly had to come up with something to compete. That’s right, friends, it was time for a few ensemble movies.
These movies have had their upsides (Jason Momoa as Aquaman, for instance, and Will Smith as Deadshot), but lots of critics and fans would tell you that they haven’t really held a candle to Marvel’s own efforts.
Perhaps the standout moment from Suicide Squad was the Enchantress’s rise. Always a formidable opponent, this powerful sorceress has the ability to warp reality, teleport, manipulate the elements, and even animate the Great Sphinx and make it attack visitors. Not the most practical of abilities, that last one, but it shows the broad range of talents the Enchantress possesses.
5 MARVEL: Doctor Doom
Ah, yes, here he is, friends. This is the big one. When it comes to classic comic book villains, Doctor Doom is right up there with the most iconic of them.
Victor Von Doom began life as a nemesis of the Fantastic Four, way back in the early sixties. In his time, though, he’s taken on the Avengers too (although who hasn’t at this point?).
As is always the case with these long-running characters, his superpowers have changed a lot since he was first introduced. Over the years, he’s been seen to create energy beams, control electricity, ‘steal’ the powers of other beings for himself, summon hordes of demons, transfer his consciousness into others… there’s not a lot left that this guy can’t do.
4 MARVEL: Magneto
Speaking of classic Marvel villains, here comes the man who wears the most fashionable super-ensemble in comic books (come on, that red and purple outfit is 100% on fleek, whatever that means): the mighty Magneto.
To be fair, Magneto is one of those villains who never quite decided whether villainy was for him. Over his long run, he’s served with the X-Men and he’s fought against them. He’s been on Professor X’s side and he’s been staunchly opposed to him.
Still, that’s what being multi-faceted is all about. Whichever side Magneto decides to be on at that moment, he’s a powerful ally to have. His abilities revolve around the manipulation of metal and have been shown to be effective on an incredible range of objects. From the sub-atomic level to taking control of huge meteorites, there’s nothing he can’t do.
3 DC: Doomsday
Now, it’s not easy to be an arch-enemy of Superman. The Son of Krypton tends to be the character who comes to mind first when the question of strongest superheroes is brought up, after all.
As we saw with General Zod, then, Superman’s enemies tend to be a cut above.
Comic fans in the know will probably tell you that the greatest foe he’s ever fought would be the monstrous Doomsday. In story arc The [Demise] of Superman, Doomsday actually took him down (supposedly permanently), a feat that no other being has really accomplished since (not even Ben Affleck with his little hunk of Kryptonite on a stick).
Doomsday is known as the Ultimate, and it’s definitely earned the moniker.
2 MARVEL: Aldrich Killian
This is a bit of a complicated one. In the comic books, as we reported on CBR, Killian is just a scientist. He’s one of the creators of the Extremis virus, but isn’t seen to actually infect himself with it.
Iron Man 3’s Killian, on the other hand, is one of the greatest threats Iron Man has ever faced. Under the effects of Extremis, he had drastically enhanced strength and agility, and the ability to use blasts of elemental energy. He’s able to tear right through the Iron Man suits, exposing the sweet, juicy Robert Downey Jr center.
1 DC: Ares
So, here we are. It’s been a wild ride through some of the most powerful beings that Marvel and DC alike have to offer, and we’ve arrived at being who, like Thor, is inspired by the mythological gods.
Here in the real world, Ares is remembered as the Greek god of war. The DC comics Ares wasn’t often a combatant himself, but subtly encouraged humanity to pursue their own inclination for war, for his own ends.
When he did hop into battle himself (in Wonder Woman), he struggled to utilize his full potential. He drew on the energy of conflict around him to become more powerful. As a result, the true limits of his power are tough to gauge, which is what makes him one of the greatest threats of all.