Let’s be clear: nearly every member of the Justice League is smart in their own way. While we don’t imagine Wonder Woman conducts an IQ test of every new teammate before they get their membership card, monogrammed robe, and complimentary coupons, the vast majority of Justice League members have exhibited an uncommon level of intelligence at some point in their crimefighting careers. Besides, intelligence is such a complicated concept that it’s fairly easy to argue the superior intellect of any Justice League member so long as you focus on one definition of the term.
Now that we have that peaceful reminder of the subjectivity of the word smart out of the way, let’s talk about the actual smartest members of the Justice League. Yes, while intelligence may be complicated, sometimes, there are heroes that are so overwhelmingly smart that they manage to set themselves apart even from a pack of incredibly intelligent peers. What makes these heroes the smartest of them all? Things like multiple Ph.Ds, the patent on some otherworldly inventions, the ability to access an entire universe of knowledge, and good old-fashioned deductive reasoning. You know, the usual stuff.
These are the 15 Smartest Members Of The Justice League.
15 The Flash (Barry Allen)
The argument for Barry Allen’s overall intelligence requires you to go beyond the way he is sometimes portrayed. For obvious reasons, some writers tend to focus on the fact that The Flash is so fast that he’s able to perform seemingly impossible feats that are impressive even when weighed against the accomplishments of other superheroes. When you can do things like move so fast that you disobey the laws of time, your ability to solve tricky Sodoku puzzles isn’t really a superpower priority.
Yet, Allen has always been intelligent. As a human, he was a very successful criminal investigator who used detective skills, science, and general intellect to catch criminals. As The Flash, his intelligence was increased by his brain's new ability to operate at a supercharged level. The implication has always been that Allen can go toe-to-toe with all but DC’s most elite thinkers, should the situation call for it.
14 Blue Beetle (Ted Kord)
Sometimes, ordinary people in comics become extraordinary thanks to a series of otherworldly occurrences. Peter Parker, for instance, was just a fairly unimpressive young man who was turned into one of the world’s greatest heroes thanks to the bite of a radioactive spider. Other times, an already incredible individual may simply decide to parlay their already considerable abilities into a crime fighting career. Ted Kord is an example of that latter.
Prior to becoming the Blue Beetle, Mr. Kord was a genius inventor and an incredible athlete. While Kord was never blessed with the bite of a radioactive spider or any other similar superpower-granting circumstances, his ability to create incredible devices – many of which are decidedly bug themed – was so great that he was eventually allowed to join the most powerful group of DC crime fighters ever assembled. While Kord’s skills are admittedly surpassed by an individual who will appear later on this list, he’s still one of the League’s brightest minds.
13 Elongated Man
Elongated Man doesn’t get enough love. On the surface, he appears to be just another stretchy superhero who can reach the items atop of tall shelves with the greatest of ease. Any fears regarding the depth of the character are seemingly confirmed once you realize that he got his powers from drinking a spiked version of a popular soda. Hey, they can’t all be Superman.
Elongated Man is actually more interesting than he may initially appear to be, however. In fact, there’s a strong argument to be made that he’s just a step or two below Batman on the list of DC’s greatest detectives. He has the ability to think about things in an incredibly logical fashion, which more often than not allows him to arrive at complex solutions faster than The Flash can arrive at the end of a hallway. He’s also a pretty respectable chemist, which we hear is a profession that requires a few IQ points.
12 Green Lantern/Ion (Kyle Rayner)
Intelligence in the real world can often be hard to properly define. Intelligence in the world of comics, meanwhile, is sometimes downright impossible to define. When you’re dealing with a group of fictional superbeings who all supposedly possess some level of incredible intellect, you sometimes have to dig a little deeper in order to identify the qualities which separate the smartest from their still-very-smart counterparts.
The argument for Kyle Rayner as one of the Justice League’s smartest members begins by appreciating his imagination. Rayner had always been praised for his way above average creativity, and his ability to think outside the box reached an entirely new level once he bonded with the Ion symbiont. At that time, Rayner’s incredible imagination allowed him to essentially bend reality to his will. Even though he didn't remain in this omnipotent state, it was heavily suggested that only someone with the intellect of Rayner could have achieved this state in the first place.
Arguing the intelligence of Superman is actually more difficult than you might think it would be. While it’s heavily implied that Superman is incredibly bright because he’s typically portrayed as being good at everything, the considerable strength of his other abilities makes it so that he doesn’t often need to rely on his intellect alone. There’s also the matter of his arch-nemesis being a world-class intellectual who can sometimes make Supes seem like a simpleton in comparison.
All that said, there’s little doubt that Superman is among the most intelligent of the Justice League members. He’s been shown performing impressive feats of human intellect, such as speed reading through entire tomes in a matter of moments, but the best argument for his overall intelligence is the resources he has available to him. The Fortress of Solitude contains nearly all knowledge in the known universe, and Superman has spent years engrossing himself in its offerings.
10 Red Tornado
Do androids have something of an unfair advantage in the whole “intelligent superheroes” debate? After all, if you program a computer to contain all known knowledge in the universe, would you then consider it to be intelligent? It’s a reasonable debate that does require you to really pick and choose the androids – or pseudo androids – which must be considered among the most intelligent of DC characters. By any measure, however, Red Tornado must be considered among the best and brightest of the Justice League.
Red Tornado’s most showy abilities usually involve the way he is able to manipulate weather patterns and out-muscle many of the most dangerous bad guys. However, this human and android combination often achieves his greatest victories through his incredible intelligence. Whether he’s accessing a large database of general knowledge or performing a complex hack in order to defeat his foes, Red Tornado’s rare ability to combine superpowers and genius intellect makes him one of the Justice League’s finest thinkers.
Speaking of man and machine combinations, we finally come to Cyborg. Born the son of two scientists who treated their son like a glorified lab rat, Victor Stone was a bright one long before he became Cyborg or joined the Justice League. At the time, however, he wasn’t really interested in pursuing the possibilities his intellect afforded him. He was much more interested in upsetting his parents by engaging in activities that they didn’t approve of. His rebellious instincts did eventually lead him to greatness, however, when a lab accident forced his parents to turn him into Cyborg in order to save his life.
Once that happened, Stone achieved a level of intelligence only possible in the world of comics. Along with his inherent abilities to perform complicated tasks and employ incredible deductive reasoning, Stone’s prosthetics granted him the ability to essentially tap into any known knowledge bases and absorb the information they contain. His intellectual abilities are near limitless.
8 Mister Miracle
Along with being a Justice League member, Mister Miracle (aka Scott Free) is a member of the race known as the New Gods. For all intents and purposes, the New Gods are…well…gods. This means that Free is essentially immortal, incredibly strong, an uncommonly proficient fighter, and an all-around capable operative that can perform any number of seemingly impossible feats. (Hence the name.)
It also means he’s quite the genius. On a base level, Scott Free possesses an inhuman level of intellect that allows him to perform mundane acts of genius such as complicated chemistry and the creation of seemingly impossible inventions. However, Free’s god status affords him a certain level of intelligence that most superheroes could never hope to achieve. He possesses an almost complete knowledge of the universe, and his dealings essentially make him a walking encyclopedia for subjects relating to life and everything. This combination of traditional intelligence and supernatural smarts makes Miracle a nearly omnipotent being.
7 Captain Comet
The story of how Adam Blake became Captain Comet is a strangely familiar one. Blake was born the simple son of a farming couple who lived somewhere in the generic American Midwest. One evening, a comet passed over their rural home and granted Blake incredible powers that he would become aware of as he grew older. The combination of his discovered powers would eventually lead to many naming Blake the pinnacle of human evolution.
Of all of Captain Comet’s powers, none are more impressive than his staggering intelligence. Along with a genius level I.Q. that may very well rank among the Justice League’s highest, Comet’s mental attributes allow him to perform various telekinetic feats. While telekinesis and intelligence are not necessarily linked together, Captain Comet’s brainpower is often cited as the source of his most impressive attributes. Without it, he would never be able to properly understand the minds he reads or accurately "see" things that occur beyond his range of vision.
6 Barbara Gordon
In some ways, Barbara Gordon is even smarter than Bruce Wayne. Since she was young, Barbara showed an unusual interest in things like technological invention and science. It’s suspected that she possesses a true photographic memory, and it’s fairly well-known that her general computer and hacking skills surpass Batman’s. Whether she's Batgirl, Oracle, or just plain Barbara, young Ms. Gordon’s incredible intelligence has made her an unshakable example of how brainpower is often the best superpower of them all.
There are reasons Bruce Wayne might rank ahead of her in overall intelligence, but they take nothing away from the fact that Barabra Gordon is more often than not the smartest person at the Justice League table. She’s essentially become the living knowledge center for the DC universe’s heroes, and she’s the absolute best information resource the Justice League have at their disposal.
5 Ray Palmer
Technically speaking, Ray Palmer is a superhero because he has the ability to shrink himself down to an incredibly small size while still maintaining an incredible amount of strength. Palmer gained this ability by accident when he discovered that the lens he crafted from the mass of a white dwarf star allows him to shrink objects down to a molecular size. While the device comes with some significant drawbacks, Palmer stumbles upon a solution which allows him to use it safely upon himself and become the superhero known as The Atom.
Honestly, though, it’s Palmer’s intellect that sets him apart. While his shrinking ability comes into play more often than you might expect, Palmer typically relies on his own brilliance to find a way to use this very specific superpower to save the day. It’s Palmer’s ability to understand why his abilities function as they do that allows him to properly use them to their full extent.
4 Lex Luthor
Following a series of incidents involving an interstellar entity and a group known as the Crime Syndicate, Lex Luthor was able to talk his way into the Justice League by arguing that the League needed him to better understand the greater evil that now threatened Earth. This shocking turn of events was really just the latest in a long line of incidents that prove that Lex Luthor is indeed one of the smartest characters in the entirety of comics, much less the Justice League.
In fact, the reason that Luthor is typically seen as Superman’s greatest villain is because he’s one of the only baddies that truly recognizes where he stands in regard to the Last Son of Krypton. While he'll never manage to out-muscle the Man of Steel, thanks to the hero's considerable physical abilities, he is more than capable of outsmarting Superman’s more-than-respectable (see #11 on our list) intellect. Time and time again, Luthor has gotten the better of the Man of Steel by using his incredible knowledge of science, robotics, computers, mutations, and good old-fashioned human nature to stay one step ahead of the mighty do-gooder.
3 Mister Terrific
Mister Terrific was originally a member of the Justice Society of America, but since that group was grandfathered into the Justice League, we’ll let it slide. Besides, how can you ignore someone like Mister Terrific? If his name didn’t give it away, the guy is pretty much terrific at everything. Need someone to throw a perfect roundhouse kick? Call Mr. Terrific. Is a stealth expert with incredible athleticism the only man for the job? Call Mr. Terrific. He’s like the superhero you pretended to be when you were a child.
Terrific’s most notable attribute, however, has always been his intelligence. Before he decided to become a superhero, Terrific was just a man known as Michael Holt, whose incredible intellect eventually led to him acquiring an astounding 14 Ph.Ds in various fields, as well as a small fortune. He’s something of an intellectual sponge who is able to quickly absorb and master even the most complicated of tasks in an instant. He’s even been referred to as the third smartest man on Earth in D.C. cannon.
2 Martian Manhunter
For years, Martian Manhunter was seen as a lesser member of the DC universe in general. Early takes on the character presented him as a fairly underdeveloped extraterrestrial that possessed some well above-average detective skills and a few superhuman abilities. Over the years, though, writers began to explore the unique capabilities and characteristics of Manhunter in order to make him a more rounded and unique overall character. In the process, Manhunter eventually became perhaps the most intelligent member of the Justice League.
Manhunter’s overall intellect is bolstered by his knowledge of some of the furthest reaches of the universe. He’s always able to expertly weigh in on nearly any region or aspect of the known and unknown corners of existence. Most importantly, his considerable detective skills allow him to deduce the nature of any calamity that presents itself and contribute an expert opinion on the matter. Because of this, the Justice League often turns to Manhunter to see what it is they should do next.
1 Batman (Bruce Wayne)
Bruce Wayne has never been the strongest man in the Justice League. Not even close. Superman could lift him up and toss him into the sun if the mood struck him. He’s never been the fastest hero either. The Flash could run around the world three times before Wayne even realizes that the two are racing. You could even make the argument that he’s not the best inventor or detective. Yet, it’s hard to deny that Batman is the smartest superhero of them all, whether they’re in the Justice League or not.
While Wayne may not possesses an inherent knowledge base that includes all things that are or will forever be, he is one of the only superheroes whose street smarts equal his book smarts. Wayne employs a superhuman level of intelligence in the Batcave where he utilizes his skills as a scientist, inventor, and detective to formulate a plan of attack, and he uses them on the streets where his ability to think at a genius level on his feet allows him to modify that plan of attack in complex ways as needed. He’s always been a shining example of several forms of intellect, and that was before he got his hands on the Mobius Chair, which granted him access to the entirety of the New Gods' knowledge of the universe. There's no telling how intelligent he is now, but it feels safe to say that his brainpower rises above the rest.
Did we forget any of the brightest members of the Justice League? Disagree with our rankings? Let us know in the comments.