Magic has long been a staple of the DC Comics universe, and many heroes have used it as the source of their powers. The person who really codified magic in DC Comics was Alan Moore, who helped link together all of the disparate magic-using superheroes during his run on Swamp Thing. This series helped form the Vertigo imprint, which is the label DC uses for comics with adult content. Vertigo would become the home of many magic-based series (such as Hellblazer).
Magic would take center stage again during the Day of Vengeance event, when The Spectre almost destroyed all of the sources of magic in the world. This led to the birth of a new age of magic, reshuffling all of the established laws regarding it. DC would also create teams such as the Shadowpact and the Sentinels of Magic, groups that would deal with arcane threats to the Earth.
With so many powerful wizards and witches to choose from, the time has come to choose the most powerful magic users in DC Comics. From the most famous of the Amazons, to God's representative on Earth (when it comes to ass-kicking), here are DC's fifteen most powerful magic-using superheroes.
15 Wonder Woman
The reason Wonder Woman ranks so low on this list is due to her reliance on magical items, rather than using magic itself. She wields a magic sword, forged by the god Hephaestus, that can cut through anything. She wears the Aegis of Athena (her bracelets) that can deflect pretty much any attack or projectile, and she possesses the Lariat of Hestia (the Lasso of Truth), that forces anyone bound by it to speak the truth. Wonder Woman's tiara also has magical properties, as it protects her from telepathic attacks, whilst occasionally acting as a boomerang.
One question that has come up a lot over the years is whether or not Wonder Woman could beat Superman in a fight. Obviously, this depends on who is writing the comic at the time (as readers of the terrible DC vs. Marvel can attest, where Wonder Woman was beaten by Storm of the X-Men). If it came down to a straight punching match, then Supes would likely come out on top, but you have to take Superman's weaknesses into account. After Kryptonite, Superman's other biggest vulnerability is magic. With her magical weapons in tow, Wonder Woman would cream Superman in a fight, as she lacks any similar weakness of her own. In fact, the two have squared off on more than one occasion in the comics, and the Amazonian princess has come out on top more often than not.
14 John Constantine
John Constantine first appeared during Alan Moore's legendary run on Swamp Thing, where he was portrayed as a wisecracking British magician who was manipulating Swamp Thing into opposing the wicked Brujeria cult. During the Crisis on Infinite Earths event, the Brujeria cult attempted to destroy reality by restoring the darkness from before existence. With the aid of Constantine, Swamp Thing, Etrigan the Demon, and the Phantom Stranger, the Brujeria were defeated.
After the success of Swamp Thing, John Constantine got his own series named Hellblazer. He has since become a recurring feature in the DC Universe, and was popular enough to get his own film adaptation starring Keanu Reeves (which had almost nothing to do with the comics) and a short-lived TV show that was beloved by DC fans.
Originally born in Liverpool, John Constantine moved to London in his teens to learn more about magic. The exact range of his powers, as you might expect, usually depends on the writer. He has been showing using pretty much every magical discipline at some point or another, with varying degrees of effectiveness. What makes Constantine such a dangerous foe is not sorcery, but his intelligence. He is a man who fights with cunning and smarts, not a magic wand.
Due to the presence of Batman and his extended cast, the city of Gotham doesn't really need any more costumed superheros. The Bat Family is a pretty widely-known bunch, but did you know that Gotham City actually has its own non-Batman related magical defender known as the Ragman? He is one of only a handful of Jewish superheroes, and is often considered to be a more "street level" equivalent to the Spectre (more on him later).
Rory Regan possesses a cloak that is made from hundred of rags, and each of the rags is actually the soul of a person who got away with evil deeds. It's his mission to find those who have escaped justice, and to absorb their soul into his cloak. By acting as the source of his power, the souls are offered a chance at redemption. He's essentially a magical version of Dexter.
Since Ragman's powers come from his cloak, he can draw on the physical attributes of the souls he has collected, which allows him to increase his strength and speed by a factor of hundreds. The souls can also take damage in his place, allowing him to avoid fatal wounds (so long as he has enough souls in his cloak). Ragman can also absorb evil souls, but only if they have escaped justice and not served any penance. Once a soul has been used enough times, it is considered to have made up for its crimes, and is allowed to pass on to the afterlife.
12 Jakeem Thunder
In Flash Comics #1 (released in 1940), a new hero was introduced named Johnny Thunder. Unlike most other superpowered good guys, he was just an ordinary man, albeit one who used the power of a Genie named Thunderbolt to fight crime. He would go on to join the original Justice Society of America.
Due to his declining health, Johnny Thunder sealed the Genie away in a pen, which ended up in the possession of a street kid named Jakeeem, who would go on to inherit the Genie and its power. He would become a valued member of the current iteration of the Justice Society (along with his best pal, Stargirl), and would prove instrumental in defeating the Black Lanterns during Blackest Night.
In his earlier incarnations, the Genie -- the source of Jakeem Thunder's power -- could do almost anything if commanded through a wish. After the events of Day of Vengeance (when The Spectre forced the creation of a new age of magic), the Genie was weakened significantly, and had to follow a new set of rules and limitations. Even with the incredible amount of magical power held within a wish, the Genie was nor forced to deal with the sort of restrictions you'd encounter from a particularly vindictive Dungeons & Dragons DM. The Genie has also been known to take wishes too literally, and as such, the wishes he grants often cause more trouble than they solve.
In 2002, DC Comics ran an event known as Power Surge that was intended to introduce a new team of heroes into continuity. This team was known as the Power Company, and they were to be "superheroes for hire", who would offer their services to the highest bidder. (Sound familiar?) While the team was never popular, a few of the members went on to find success in other titles; as was the case with Witchfire.
Rebecca Corsairs was a beautiful model, a talented actress & singer, and of course, a powerful witch. We can guess from this origin story that she was also bitten by a radioactive fan fiction writer (wink). Originally, she joined the Power Company in an effort to become more famous. After they disbanded, Witchfire would go on to be one of the mages who attempted to stop The Spectre during the Day of Vengeance event.
Through the use of a spell book, Witchfire learned how to use a wide array of magical spells. The one she uses the most revolves around pyrokinesis -- the ability to create and control fire. Witchfire's flames were magical in nature, and are much more powerful as a result.
10 Sargon The Sorcerer
Despite looking like Carnac the Magnificent, Sargon the Sorcerer is one of the oldest and most powerful mages in all of DC Comics.
In All-American Comics #26 (released in 1941), Sargon the Sorcerer was first introduced. He posed as a stage magician in order to disguise his use of real magic whilst fighting crime. He would also occasionally appear as a villain, depending on the writer (which was retconned into being an effect of the Ruby of Life). In his latest incarnation, the new Sargon has several pieces of the broken Ruby lodged into his chest, which provide him with his power. He later sacrificed himself during the Reign in Hell event, in order to save the lives of Blue Devil and Zatanna.
The Ruby of Life, from which Sargon's power originates, gives the wearer total control over anything they touch. If you touched a person, then it would act as a mind control spell. If it was a non-living substance (like stone or water), then it can be reshaped upon command.
9 Silver Sorceress
Marvel and DC have been known to create characters that are either homages or outright parodies of their competition. Marvel's Squadron Supreme are an obvious reference to the Justice League of America, for example. DC have done the same, of course, as was the case with the Champions of Angor, a team that was a homage to The Avengers.
The Champions of Angor consisted of four members, Wandjina (Thor), Blue Jay (Yellowjacket), Jack. B. Quick (Quicksilver -- no, not that one), and the Silver Sorceress, who was meant to be a homage of the Scarlet Witch. They initially fought against the Justice League, but the two teams quickly realized that they were on the same side.
Silver Sorceress would later return and become a member of the Justice League. She would sacrifice her life to stop an evil being known as the Dreamslayer (who himself was a homage to Dormammu, the enemy of Doctor Strange). The Silver Sorceress has yet to return, despite the numerous continuity reboots that have happened since her death.
The magic wielded by Silver Sorceress was described as "Hex-Power" (another Scarlet Witch reference). It manifested itself as the power of flight and the ability to create magical constructs, similar to a Green Lantern's ring.
Raven is one of the most prominent members of the Teen Titans. She was born from a demon father and a human mother, a union which provided her with a ton of magical power (and angst). Raven formed the New Teen Titans in order to stop her father, Trigon, from invading Earth. While they succeeded, they came into conflict with Trigon many times again in the future, as he attempted to repossess his daughter.
Like the rest of the Teen Titans (with the exception of Robin, who was always a prominent fixture in DC lore), Raven became a lot more popular after the success of the animated Teen Titans series on Cartoon Network. Tara Strong's performance as Raven is what most people think of when it comes to that character, rather than her 30+ years of comic history.
Raven is an Empath, and can read/change the emotions of others. While that might not seem like the best ability to have during a fight, Raven also possesses shadow manipulation. Through the use of magic, Raven can make shadows rise up and attack her foes. She can also absorb part of someone else's wound, in order to make it magically heal faster. The Teen Titans cartoon also depicted her as a witch capable of incredibly powerful telekinetic feats.
7 Etrigan The Demon
Despite the fact that he is a demon who lives in Hell, Etrigan has been moonlighting as a superhero for over forty years now. Created by Jack Kirby in 1972, Etrigan is a demon who was bound to the soul of Jason Blood, a knight who served King Arthur. Due to this bonding, Jason is now immortal, and still lives on in the modern world. If Jason recites a certain poem, he will transform into Etrigan, and gain all of the powers of an arch-demon.
In terms of physical strength, Etrigan has traded blows with Superman and Wonder Woman in the past. Due to his magical nature, he can quickly heal wounds, shoot Hellfire from his body, and absorbs pain as if it were pleasure.
Etrigan was further fleshed out during Alan Moore's run on Swamp Thing. He would be established as a "Rhymer" class of demon -- one who can only speak in rhymes. This aspect of the character actually depends on the writer, as some of them are too lazy to come up with any rhyming dialogue. Make no mistake though; if he were to appear in the upcoming Dark Universe live-action film (and he's a good bet to), he'll be dropping his fair share of limericks.
6 Alan Scott (The Original Green Lantern)
When people think of the Green Lantern, they will most likely associate the name with either Hal Jordan or Kyle Rayner (depending on what era of GL comics they're most familiar with), or John Stewart (if they are fans of the Justice League cartoon). The Green Lanterns are an intergalactic peace keeping force who use the power of their rings to travel across the void of space, fighting evil wherever it may appear.
Before the Green Lantern Corps was ever introduced, however, there existed an unrelated hero on Earth who bore the same name. In All American Comics #16 (released in 1940), Alan Scott forged a powerful ring from a meteorite, one that needed recharging once every 24 hours from a magical lantern. He became the superhero known as the Green Lantern, and used the considerable power of his ring to battle evil.
The magical Green Lantern ring has very similar powers to the later ones forged on Oa. In some ways, Alan Scott's ring is even more powerful than those of the later Green Lanterns. His ring actually allows him to phase through solid objects. This neat little trick is off-set, however, by a significant weakness: Alan Scott's ring cannot affect anything made from wood. The later Green Lanterns had a similar weakness to things that were yellow, but that was eventually (and thankfully) written out of continuity.
Just because you know how to use real magic, doesn't mean you should neglect sleight-of-hand or traditional stage illusions. No one knows this better than Zatanna, the woman who never lets her tenure as a member of the Justice League interfere with her magic shows.
Unlike most magic users in DC Comics, Zatanna inherited her abilities, and was never formally trained in the arcane arts. Zatanna's magical ability revolves around saying commands backwards, which makes them happen in real life. For example, if she said "Ti Pord", you would drop anything you were holding. The weakness of this ability is that Zatanna needs to be able to say the words -- and for them to be heard. If she is gagged or trapped underwater, then her powers will not work.
Zatanna's magical ability became the focal point of the controversial DC series Identity Crisis, where it was revealed that Zatanna had been using her magic to "mind-wipe" the enemies of the Justice League. This was to protect the secret identities of the superheroes that had been learned by villains. It was also revealed that she had used this power on Batman before he discovered what she was up to.
4 Captain Marvel
Billy Batson is a young boy who gains tremendous power when he says the word "Shazam". Magical lightning strikes him from the sky, turning him into the superhero, Captain Marvel.
Captain Marvel was created by Fawcett Comics in 1939. He soon became more popular than even Superman himself, as his comics actually outsold the Man of Steel's during the 1940s. DC Comics successfully sued Fawcett for character infringement, however, forcing the company to go out of business. DC would later acquire the rights to all of the Fawcett characters, and would integrate them into the DC universe.
The magical word "Shazam" is an acronym for Captain Marvel's powers. He has the wisdom of Solomon (which grants him super-intelligence), the strength of Hercules (super-strength), the stamina of Atlas (super-resilience), the power of Zeus (his magical lightning), the courage of Achilles (immunity to fear), and the speed of Mercury (super-speed and flight).
Due to their shared history, writers love to create scenarios where Captain Marvel and Superman fight (despite them both being heroes). This even happened in an episode of Justice League Unlimited. While the two are shown to be evenly matched when it comes to strength and other physical attributes, Captain Marvel holds a massive advantage over Superman. Magic is the Man of Steels's 2nd greatest weakness (after Krytonite), which makes Captain Marvel one of the few heroes who can legitimately take Superman down in a fight.
3 The Phantom Stranger
When offered a place in the Justice League, most people tend to give a pretty straightforward yes or no answer. The Phantom Stranger left without giving an answer, though he's considered by many to be a quasi-member of the team. When it comes to mysterious behavior, this is the least head-scratching of the Phantom Stranger's unexplained actions.
Appearing in many different titles since the 1950s, the Phantom Stranger is a recurring supernatural-themed hero. He usually acts as an adviser or guide to other heroes, and rarely engages in conflict personally. When a new crisis threatens to destroy to the universe, the Phantom Stranger is usually the first to know about it.
This particular hero has never been given a concrete origin story, though DC once released an issue of Secret Origins that gave several possible backstories for the character. The one that is most popular with fans is the one written by Alan Moore, "Footsteps", in which it is revealed that when Lucifer led an uprising against God, one angel would not choose between the two sides. After the conflict had ended, God tore off the angel's wings, and condemned him to forever walk the Earth.
While the exact nature of the Phantom's Strangers magical powers have never been clearly defined, he has one very important ability that makes him a formidable foe: his omniscience. The Phantom Stranger appears to possess powerful clairvoyance; he knows everything that is happening, and knows exactly when to show up when he is needed. He may not be much of a decision-maker, but he's incredibly powerful nonetheless.
2 Doctor Fate
Before we begin, let's clear something up right away. You might be looking at the name and thinking "Is this guy a rip-off of Doctor Strange?"
Nope. Doctor Fate first appeared in More Fun Comics #55, released in 1940. Doctor Strange first appeared in Strange Tales #110, which came out over two decades later.
Doctor Fate is a mantle that has been passed on to several individuals over the years. The original Doctor Fate was Kent Nelson, a man who found the tomb of the sorcerer Nabu the Wise, and was instructed in the ways of magic. Nelson returned to America and became a magic-using superhero, one who would go on to become one of the founding members of the Justice Society of America.
One of the powers granted to Doctor Fate is immortality; from the point when they took on the mantle, the man or woman inside the Helmet of Fate ceases to age. Doctor Fate has a huge range of magical powers, including flight, super-strength, telepathy, phasing through walls, and firing bolts of energy. In short, he is one of the most powerful heroes in the DC Comics universe.
1 The Spectre
When police officer Jim Corrigan is murdered by thugs, he's turned away from the afterlife and ordered to return to Earth as the representative of God's vengeance. After getting revenge on his killers, Jim Corrigan became The Spectre, one of the most feared superheroes of all time.
Being the avatar of God's vengeance comes with a great deal of power, obviously. The Spectre is practically a demigod; through the use of magic, he can perform almost any feat. This is limited by requiring a host (like Jim Corrigan, or later, Hal Jordan) to fully use his power. His only weaknesses are other forms of magic -- and stepping outside of his remit as an avenging angel (which can lead to divine punishment).
One of the biggest factors in putting The Spectre at the top of this list is the 2005 series Day of Vengeance. During Infinite Crisis, several miniseries ran that showed various battles raging across the world. In Day of Vengeance, it is revealed that The Spectre (who is now without a host) is tricked into thinking magic is the source of all evil. The Spectre subsequently goes on a rampage across the world, hunting down and murdering every witch or wizard he could find. It took an alliance of every other magic-using hero & villain left alive to stop him.
Who do you think is DC's most powerful magic-user? Let us know in the comments.