A lot of supervillains, like superheroes, are defined by their powers. It’s easy to look at a one man army like Darkseid or Doomsday and spot the obvious threat. But it’s often the non-super powered villains that are the most dangerous. What exactly it is that makes these guys and gals so tough can vary. They can be lethal assassins, billionaires with a mad-on for the heroes, or just crazy clowns that want to watch the whole world burn in a blaze of chaos and laughter.
Whatever their motivations or origins, this list explores some of the most terrifying bad guys to ever go head to head with our favorite heroes, all without the luxury of superpowers. Believe us when we say, these guys might not have super powers, but you wouldn’t want to cross them on a dark night unless you had a certain Dark Knight backing you up that is. Even then, if you ever see them, run. Run as fast as you can.
Here’s our take on the 20 Most Dangerous Supervillains Without Any Powers At All.
20 Harley Quinn
Harleen Frances Quinzel was a psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum when she met the lunatic known as The Joker. She begins to treat him, but quickly falls madly in love with him, adopting his own brand of insanity. She takes the name Harley Quinn and dons a jester costume, becoming The Joker’s sidekick and partner in crime.
Harley goes on to befriend the villain Poison Ivy, who gives her a serum that increases Harley’s strength and agility, but these don’t approach superhuman levels. What makes her truly dangerous is her unpredictability. When facing a hero like Batman, her chaotic nature is her greatest strength, as he is unable to accurately predict her movements since they don’t follow a pattern.
Harley has been reinvented as an anti-hero in recent years and is fast becoming DC’s equivalent to Marvel’s Deadpool. She retains all of her wacky sense of humour and penchant for insane schemes, but now values human life and seeks to save people and not kill them. Whether or not this change is permanent remains to be seen, especially on the big screen.
Adrian Toomes was an electronics engineer who designed and built a revolutionary flight harness for simple commercial gain. When he discovered his business partner had been embezzling funds and his company was ruined, Adrian sought to use the harness for criminal enterprise instead.
Discovering that the harness had the unexpected side effect of granting the wearer enhanced strength, Toomes dubbed himself The Vulture and became an early enemy of Spider-Man. Despite being an old man, The Vulture is a remorseless killer and has no qualms with dropping his victims from great heights.
He has shown that he isn’t above getting others to do his dirty work either. He has recruited teens, and even young children, to steal for him. One of his teams were given harnesses similar to his own, but when Vulture discovered that they had kept some of the loot for themselves, he coldly deactivated their harness mid-flight, causing them to fall to their death.
Floyd Lawton grew up with his mother, abusive father, and his brother. He was especially close to the latter, and would do anything for him, including protecting him from their father. When Floyd’s father attacked his brother, he decided to end his assaults once and for all by shooting him with the family rifle. He missed, and accidentally killed his beloved brother instead.
The psychological impact of this event caused him to train constantly in an effort to “Never miss” again. He adopted the name Deadshot and initially appeared to be a hero, but secretly, he planned to replace Batman as Gotham’s number one hero and then secretly lead the criminal underworld.
After being defeated by Batman and being exposed as a villain, he began to use his skills as an expert shot as an assassin for hire. While he often claims to have never missed a shot, he doesn’t have any actual superpowers. He merely is a phenomenally good shot as well as an expert tactician. One of his defining traits, particularly as a member of the Suicide Squad, is a desire to die spectacularly. While he doesn’t especially want to kill himself, he doesn’t value his own life, making him impossible to threaten or intimidate.
Bullseye’s origins, and indeed his true name, have been disputed many times. He is a psychopath and pathological liar. In one version of his origin, he is a below average student living in a trailer park who kills his father at a young age by rigging a toy to kill him.
In another version of his origin, he was an expert marksman, trained by his father from a young age. He was also a gifted baseball pitcher and was offered a scholarship. He turned it down, choosing to play in the minor league. When he was called up into the majors he pitched a perfect game in front of a full-stadium. Bored by his success, he asked the coach to be pulled from the game but was refused, so he threw at the batter’s head, killing him instantly. He was charged with, and convicted of, manslaughter.
His incredible aim, and disregard for human life, drew the attention of the NSA, who recruited him as an assassin and provided him with further training. During a mission, he planned to betray the NSA and flee, but the mission was interfered with by the anti-hero known as The Punisher. Frank Castle killed everyone present, but was unable to hit Bullseye, who painted a target on his own head and mocked The Punisher before DEA agents arrived and ended the conflict. His next mission involved infiltrating The Kingpin’s criminal empire. He failed to achieve much as the Kingpin’s henchman, but did acquire his first costume and left to become a killer for hire.
Much of his origin may be fabricated, as Bullseye has proven to lie about anything and everything. What is generally accepted as fact is that he is a near-perfect marksman with firearms, bladed weapons, any other projectile, and even mundane objects such as pencils and playing cards.
16 The Riddler
The young Edward Nygma was obsessed with puzzles after cheating at a school test and being given a book about riddles as a reward. His obsession grew, as did his criminal behaviour, as he took a job in a carnival and delighted in cheating customers out of money. Growing bored with what he felt were inferior minds, he invented the persona of The Riddler and sought out Batman, believing him to be a worthy foe.
While intellectually a challenge for the Dark Knight, Nygma was nothing resembling a physical match for Gotham's favorite hero. He began to fade into obscurity, and The Flash at one point commented that the world must be coming to an end if you had trouble with The Riddler.
This changed when The Riddler deduced the secret identity of The Batman. He had used the Lazarus Pit of Ra’s Al Ghul to cure terminal cancer, and in doing so entered a fever state where Batman’s identity came to him. Teaming up with the villain known as Hush, The Riddler draws The Joker, Catwoman, Two-Face, Clayface, and several others into a conspiracy that causes Batman to nearly lose his mind. When Batman eventually learns who has been pulling his strings, he is shocked to learn it is Nygma. But the world's greatest detective turns the tables by stating that any leverage Nygma has over him is essentially worthless if he shares the information -- he won’t be special anymore.
15 Hugo Strange
Doctor Hugo Strange is a gifted, yet deeply disturbed psychiatrist who is assigned the task of assisting a specialist taskforce to bring down Batman. While brilliant in gaining insights into Batman’s motivations, he also becomes obsessed with him. Hugo begins to dress up as Batman in private and even frames Batman for a kidnapping in order to draw him out. He too deduces Batman’s identity, but is left with some doubts due to Batman’s actions, so keeps the information to himself.
His genius is not limited to psychiatry, and he begins to experiment in genetics in an illegal lab after he is fired from his position as a professor at Gotham State. He creates monstrous aberrations using Arkham Asylum inmates nobody will miss. He is defeated by Batman, but manages to evade and criminal culpability and begins to sell his services as a pseudo-celebrity on talk shows as an expert on the Caped Crusader.
He has cheated death numerous times, despite having no actual superpowers. His genius is as versatile as Batman’s own, making him one of the Dark Knight's most dangerous foes. One of his enduring traits is his sadistic nature and complete disregard for the feelings of others. He does however show the need to have his genius acknowledged, showing strong signs of being a textbook narcissist.
14 Black Mask
Roman Sionis was born to wealthy parents who were obsessed with their social status. They gave him little to no attention and were incredibly cold and unloving. Roman hated his parents, feeling that they were hypocrites for socializing with Thomas and Martha Wayne in public, but vocally despising them behind their backs. He came to resent their public “masks”.
After he fell in love with a working-class girl, his parents grew enraged and forced him to break it off. In retaliation, he burned down their home -- with them in it. Taking over the family business, he ran it into financial ruin as he lacked his father’s business acumen. He lost the company, and regrettably his fiancée, and found the company bailed out by childhood associate Bruce Wayne. Already unhinged by his failures, he was struck by lightning while visiting his parents grave, and Sionis took it as an omen and began to craft for himself a new identity.
The Black Mask became a brutal crime boss who would shoot his employees for merely looking at him in a way he didn’t like. His total disregard for the lives of others allowed him to rise to the very top of Gotham’s criminal underworld, where he unseated foes such as Penguin and Two-Face. He even hired The Joker to kill the Red Hood after Jason Todd returned from the grave, but found The Joker to be a bit too much for even him to handle.
13 Kraven the Hunter
Sergei Kravinoff was the son of a Russian aristocrat who escaped the decimation of Russian nobility during the February Revolution. He became a big game hunter and was obsessed with tackling the greatest beasts on the planet, often with his bare hands. He set his sights on Spider-Man but continued to underestimate his foe, and he was soundly defeated each time they clashed.
Kraven consumes a mystical potion which slows his aging, giving him the appearance of a man in his prime despite being close to a century old. The potion also gives him peak human physical strength and agility, but not quite at superhuman levels. Kraven’s greatest strengths are his tactical mind and his tenacity. While he isn’t as strong as the creatures, or heroes, he hunts, he often sets elaborate traps for them or uses decoys and distractions to give him a clear advantage.
While he died during the events of Kraven’s Last Hunt, he was subsequently resurrected and has since become much more psychopathic and dangerous. He was able to defeat Kaine, a clone of Spider-Man who's even stronger than the web-slinger himself.
12 The Red Hood
While the Red Hood has been many people over the years, including The Joker, possibly the definitive Red Hood is Jason Todd, the former Robin and sidekick to Batman.
Jason was the second Robin, who took the role when the original Boy Wonder, Dick Grayson, began to move on with his life and became the hero Nightwing. Jason was less of an acrobat but more of a brawler, and he brought a different edge to the role. He was ultimately unprepared to take on the mantle, though, eventually allowing into the hands of The Joker. The Dark Knight' archenemy kidnapped him and beat him to a bloody pulp with a crowbar, then left him for dead amongst a pile of explosives. After they detonated, Batman found his broken body in the wreckage and Jason was presumed dead for years.
Years later, a new force entered Gotham using the identity of the Red Hood. It is later discovered that due to Superboy-Prime altering the timeline, Jason returned to life. Jason made his way back into Gotham as the Red Hood and began to take apart the criminal underworld using tactics more brutal than Batman would ever use.
While walking the line between villain and anti-hero ever since, the Red Hood is lethal not just due to the skills he developed under Batman’s tutelage and since as a criminal, but due to his expert knowledge of how Batman operates. He walks the line so well that he understands both criminals and heroes better than most understand themselves.
Nothing is known of Arcade’s true origin, besides that he was born to a wealthy family and killed his father to inherit his fortune. Even these facts are disputed though, as Arcade is a master manipulator and may have crafted this story himself.
He dresses in a comedic fashion and appears to be a harmless prankster, but in reality he is an evil genius and hitman of the highest order. He either lures his prey into his underground lair, known as Murderworld, or kidnaps them and allows them to awaken there. His hideout is decorated in bright colors and appears to be a childish funhouse, but it is loaded with lethal and sadistic traps, capable of killing even super powered individuals. Despite the lethality of each of his traps, he always leaves a small chance of survival in order to keep his games interesting for his own sick amusement.
He is also a genius in the manufacture of robotics and has created robot doubles of himself and his associates, as well as powerful killing machines capable of killing superhuman prey.
A former friend and ally of Jim Gordon and Batman, Harvey Dent was a successful District Attorney dedicated to helping rid Gotham City of its criminal element. He was driven to insanity after a mob boss threw acid in his face, causing him to develop dissociative identity disorder as well as schizophrenia and obsessive compulsive disorder. He became obsessed with chance and fate, compulsively making his decisions via a coin toss as a result.
Prior to the incident that caused his insanity, Dent had received training from Batman in various detective skills as well as Kung Fu. Since his criminal side surfaced, he has undergone significant training via Deathstroke when Two-Face hired him to enhance his skills in firearms.
While a proficient fighter and marksman, Two-Face’s skills as a criminal mastermind make him truly dangerous. He is more than willing to destroy whole sections of the city in order to maintain control over his territory.
Slade Wilson enlisted in the Army at age sixteen as was quickly assessed as being a fantastic physical specimen, so he was taken aside for additional special forces training. He was given a special formula which enhanced him further, and his speed strength and agility were all brought up to the peak of human potential. His mind was pushed to a level where he can process tactical information at near superhuman speeds, giving him a massive edge in combat.
When he left the Army, he became a mercenary for hire and saw combat in numerous hot-zones. When his son was captured, Slade rescued him but could not prevent his son’s vocal chords being cut, rendering the boy mute. When Slade’s wife discovered that Slade had put their son in danger, she stabbed him in the face, causing his trademark scar and missing eye. Slade adopted the name Deathstroke, and made no secret of his injury, even going so far as to paint half his mask black.
While an expert soldier, Deathstroke also employs numerous non-conventional weapons and tactics to battle his enemies. He is an expert in all forms of armed and unarmed combat and wears a suit of armor in battle that can withstand even superhuman blows. An awesome all-around character, we're keeping our fingers firmly crossed that he'll pop up in Suicide Squad 2.
Angry at the death of his elder brother, Oroku Saki joined the Foot Clan and trained to be a ninja. Fast becoming one of their most lethal fighters, he was chosen to lead the American branch of the clan and became a crime lord. His empire included drugs, gun-running, kidnapping, extortion and numerous other criminal activities.
Shredder is usually depicted as having a genius-level intellect and being adept in planning complex criminal activities. While often the genius pulling the strings, he is also the most lethal member of the Foot Clan and usually seen in his metal armor, adorned with multiple bladed weapons.
Despite having no superhuman powers, he has been known to be capable of engaging all four of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in battle all on his own. He usually even wins those brawls, despite their greater numbers and enhanced strength. While the Turtle’s mentor Splinter is often seen as the Shredder’s equal, when the two meet in single combat, it is usually Shredder who has the upper hand due to his killer instinct and superior weaponry.
Despite his bulky appearance, Wilson Fisk has no superhuman powers. His mass, often mistaken for fat, is incredibly dense muscle and he trains in various martial arts, including Judo, daily.
Bullied as a child for his size, Wilson Fisk began to train physically and coerced his former bullies into joining his gang. He quickly gained the attention of a local crime boss who hired him as a bodyguard. Underestimated by those around him, Wilson quickly learned all he could about the criminal underworld before killing and replacing his employer.
When he first encountered Spider-Man, he was seen as a simple crime-boss, but quickly began to use more outlandish schemes in a more typical supervillain manner. Subsequent encounters with Spider-Man and Daredevil have seen him become the definitive cold-blooded killer who orders the deaths of his enemies as casually as he orders a steak.
While he has no superpowers, he has fought superpowered foes hand to hand and often held his own very well, though he tends to employ super human, or highly skilled, assassins and bodyguards to do his dirty work for him. His criminal genius has often seen him maintain a distance from his illegal activities, keeping him one step ahead of the law.
The original Mysterio, Quinten Beck, was a skilled visual effects supervisor and stuntman in Hollywood. His dreams of making it as an actor failed, and he grew bitter towards the industry. Deciding his skills would be more profitable as a villain, he set up the identity of Mysterio and set out to use his abilities to make an illicit fortune.
Quinten encounters Spider-Man when he frames the hero for a burglary he committed. Spider-Man clears his name, and gives the police enough evidence to convict Quinten for the crime. This earns Spider-Man the lifelong enmity of the villain. He joins Doctor Octopus’ Sinister Six, but is defeated as both part of the team and in subsequent schemes as a solo villain.
Turning his attentions to the hero Daredevil, Mysterio plots his greatest evil act. He drugs Daredevil and makes him believe that he is going insane. Daredevil nearly kills an innocent baby after being convinced that the child is the Antichrist. Daredevil’s will proves stronger than expected, however, and he beats the villain to a pulp.
While often seen as a B-list villain, Mysterio possesses the skills set necessary to defeat even the most powerful physical foes by messing with their perceptions. His greatest weakness has always been a lack of originality, ripping off the schemes of other villains only to be thwarted. Should he overcome this, he could be seen as a primary antagonist of Marvel’s heroes.
5 Ra's al Ghul
Ra's al Ghul is one of Batman’s greatest and most enduring foes. Depending on the story, Ra's al Ghul is depicted as being anywhere between 450 and 700 years old, and was born to a group of nomads somewhere in Arabia. Gifted with an incredible intellect, he abandoned his tribe and began living in a city where he could access more knowledge and train as a researcher and physician.
When he was tasked with saving the life of a dying prince, he discovered the secrets of the Lazarus Pit and saved the prince’s life. The prince was driven mad by the side-effects of the pit though, and he kills al Ghul’s wife, Sora. The Sultan, unwilling to believe his son is guilty of the crime, blames Ra’s and punishes him by imprisoning him with the corpse of his wife. Freed by someone he had helped earlier, Ra's al Ghul takes revenge on the Sultan and destroys his city.
Using the Lazarus Pit to maintain his youth, Ra's al Ghul spends centuries amassing both financial and political power. He has studied extensively in multiple sciences and his detective skills are at least equal to Batman’s. His skills with weaponry are almost unmatched due to the many years he has had to train with them. With all that experience under his belt, few can match him but he considers the Dark Knight to be not only a worthy foe, but his ideal succesor.
4 The Red Skull
The young Johann Schmitt was working as a bellhop in a hotel when he first met Adolf Hitler. Sensing something inherently evil in the young boy, Hitler took him as a protégé. Excelling in his new position, he was given a uniform with a terrifying red mask and was named The Red Skull for the first time.
Hitler would appoint the Skull as the head of Nazi terrorist and espionage activities. Captain America was sent to defeat him and the two would clash throughout the war. When seemingly defeated for good shortly before the end of WWII, he was merely put into suspended animation where he would remain for decades. The Red Skull would be found and revived by A.I.M, which he quickly subverts to his will and sets out to restore his vision for a modern world ruled by fascist ideals.
Considered to be one of the most despicable and evil forces in the Marvel universe, the Red Skull values nobody but himself. His use of poisons and toxins to kill people have often resulted in them gaining an appearance akin to the Red Skull’s own immediately prior to their death.
During a Marvel/DC crossover, the Joker even exclaimed that he wouldn’t work with the Red Skull as he might be a lunatic, but he was an AMERICAN lunatic.
Despite the best efforts of Batman, the true origins of the madman known as the Joker remain a mystery. In one version he is a failed comedian who is forced into a life of crime, in another he is a willing criminal. When asked about his past he merely shrugs and claims that if he has to have an origin, it may as well be multiple choice.
Like Harley Quinn, the Joker’s greatest weapon is his unpredictability. He follows no pattern nor does he have an overall goal. While the Batman has proven to be able to beat him senseless time and again, the Joker doesn’t care and isn’t afraid to be broken physically by the Dark Knight. His utter disregard for his own life or that of anyone else’s makes him lethal in the extreme, and his body-count is in the thousands (and the millions in some alternate continuities).
While he may not have the power to destroy the planet, many of his schemes have shown that without Batman’s intervention, he may well have destroyed Gotham many times over.
2 Lex Luthor
While the Man of Steel may have the power to level a city, his greatest enemy is a human with no superpowers. Lex Luthor is far from ordinary, however, as he may well be the smartest man in the world. He is a billionaire businessman and a philanthropist who has donated millions to many good causes in Metropolis and beyond. His public image is that of a great man, but he is secretly a megalomaniac with designs on ridding the world of super beings and ruling over all of humanity. Due to his carefully crafted image, few are aware of his true nature.
Lex’s greatest achievement came when he entered politics and became the President of the United States. After circumventing the legal system and being exonerated of his previous crimes, he rose to power after the events of No Man’s Land and won a landslide election. He also turned a blind eye to an alien invasion so that he could be seen as a great wartime president once he mobilized earth’s super humans to beat back the threat. He commits various crimes while in office, but manages to hide them from the public. His time in office is eventually brought to a premature close by the World's Finest (Batman and Supes), but his villainous days are far from over. Or are they?
While he considers himself to be a hero, the watchman known as Ozymandias is one of the most dangerous men to ever walk the Earth. Adrian Veidt was a genius from childhood. He deliberately decided to hide this and achieved only average grades throughout school. When his parents died he inherited a vast fortune, but choosing to achieve things on his own, he gave all the money to charity.
Becoming a superhero vigilante, Veidt gains a reputation as the smartest man in the world. However, the changes in the public perceptions of vigilantes encourages Veidt to disclose his identity and retire, while also marketing his image and gaining a large fortune from it. Despite gaining a reputation as an ethical man and a great humanitarian, he began a secret project to unite mankind by killing millions of the world's citizens, believing that it would prevent a true nuclear Armageddon that he viewed as an inevitability. In doing, so he turned against his friends and allies, causing the deaths of several pawns and killing his former comrade, The Comedian. In the end, his former friends were forced to concede that his scheme, while diabolical and involved lying to the world, would probably save the world.
While many of the villains on this list are undoubtedly evil, there’s nothing more dangerous than a man that believes himself to be the hero.
While the heavy-hitters might make the biggest and best battle scenes, these guys can be just as dangerous. Any thoughts to share? Let us know in the comments section!