Everyone knows nothing makes a good hero like a great villain. Sherlock Holmes needed Moriarty, G.I. Joe needed Cobra, the rebels needed Darth Vader, etc. Nothing makes a story better quite like an interesting, intriguing, and yet hated adversary. Readers tend to flock to the villains they love to hate. The best villains bring something out of the hero that nobody else does, or force the hero to push themselves further than before to find a way to win.
We wanted to make a top 10 list, but that’s impossible. There are just too many good choices, and we couldn’t agree on any of it. So we increased the list, and increased it, and increased it (honestly we probably could have kept going, too). So, before it gets too out of hand, here are our choices for the 100 best villains in comics.
100. God (Preacher)
Real Name: God
First Appearance: Preacher #11 (1996)
Enemies: Genesis, Jesse Custer
“Tremble at the might of the loving God! Accept me as your savior or be damned!!” – God
The ultimate antagonist. How can you fight against the creator of all that is? Well, in the case of Jesse Custer, you use Genesis, the angel/demon hybrid inhabiting your body and giving you the word of God. Seems the good lord is actually quite scared of this power, and does some really shitty stuff to make sure Jesse can’t find him. Garth Ennis’ big G is kind of a dickwad.
Real Name: Galan
First Appearance: Fantastic Four #48 (1965)
Enemies: Fantastic Four, Morg, Annihilus
“You are not unlike an ant fighting the Sun.” – Galactus
Speaking of big G’s, there aren’t many bigger than Galactus! The last survivor of the previous universe, the being that was once called Galan now roams the spaceways searching for planets to feed on. Yeah, dude eats planets like M&M’s. He would have destroyed earth but for the efforts of the Fantastic Four (with assists from the Watcher and Galactus’ own herald: the Silver Surfer). While not necessarily a villain as he’s not really evil, per se, he still makes the list because of how straight up scary he is. If he were truly villainous nobody would stand a chance.
98. Knull (Venom)
Real Name: Knull
First Appearance: Venom (vol 4) #3 (2018)
“-I will finish what I began. I will rid my dark kingdom of this invasive light once and for all… and I will start with Earth.” – Knull
Before there was light, there was the void, and Knull was king. He created the alien race that came to be called the Klyntar, but are more commonly referred to as symbiotes- the most famous of which is Venom! When Carnage freed him from his prison in the events of the Absolute Carnage story, Knull made a bee-line for Earth and nearly conquered the whole thing. He would have (he smoked the X-Men, Avengers, FF, etc, killed the Sentry, and was beating the crap out of Thor and the Silver Surfer!), were it not for Eddie Brock and the Venom symbiote attacking him with the combo of Mjolnir and a sword made from the Silver Surfer’s board!
Real Name: Rudy Jones (there’s been a few)
First Appearance: Action Comics #340 (1966)
“Good to see you again, Superman – or should I say “Clark”? That’s right, Kent. I got your powers, I got your thoughts, and I got your secret.” – the Parasite
Depending on the version depicted- and there have been many- the Parasite can be one of the most terrifying villains in all of DC! He’s even able really put a fright into Superman, of all people! He was transformed into this energy leeching vampiric creature while working as a janitor at STAR Labs; the more energy he drains the stronger he gets, so when he’s faced with meta humans he becomes a serious problem!
96. Heat Wave
Real Name: Mick Rory
First Appearance: The Flash #140 (1963)
Enemies: The Flash
“More drinking, less feeling.” – Mick Rory
An arsonist villain with a severe case of pyromania, Heat Wave has become a fixture of the Rogues that regularly battle the Flash. His flame gun and other devices make him a real threat, but his mental illness is what really sets him apart. Were it not for the rogues, particularly Captain Cold, both Central and Keystone City could very well have burned to the ground by now! He might not be a huge threat to the Flashes on his own, but when he’s teamed with the Rogues your goose might be cooked!
95. Lady Deathstrike
Real Name: Yuriko Oyama
First Appearance: Daredevil #197 (1983) as Yuriko, Alpha Flight #33 (1986) as Deathstrike
Enemies: Wolverine, the X-Men
“I have been cheated of my birthright… my human essence and now… my just and long-awaited revenge — but I will not be cheated of my honor gaijin dog!” – Lady Deathstrike
The daughter of the man that created the process to bind the metal adamantium to bone (sorry, Wolverine), this lady is 10 pounds of crazy in a 2 pound bag. Convinced Wolverine was created by her father’s process (bingo) she led an attack on him in Canada but was thwarted. Wanting to get the abilities to kill the Wolverine, she allowed Spyral and her body shoppe to turn her into a cyborg, and one of the single most dangerous individuals on the planet! If she weren’t bad enough, she is often accompanied by the Reavers, a gang of cyborgs with a mad-on for mutants, many forced into this new fate due to injuries obtained from trying to fight Wolverine! Her fingers can extend into giant claws that she loooooves to get all stabby with, and her arms can even be elongated! You don’t take the name Deathstrike unless you can back it up, and she sure can, and then some!
Real Name: John Corben
First Appearance: Action Comics #252 (1959)
“What’s the matter? A little meteor rock got you down? Who knew the mighty Goliath could be taken down with a simple stone?” – Metallo
Like many DC characters that have been around a while, there have been multiple versions of old metal head, but the most famous of them is the John Corben one, which was featured in the Bruce Timm Superman: The Animated Series and in some DC animated features. A former Daily Planet reporter (who has the hots for Lois Lane) who was nearly killed in an accident, he was ‘saved’ when his brain was transplanted into a cyborg body, powered by green kryptonite!
If you know your Superman, you know that green kryptonite is one of the very few things in the universe that can actually kill the man of steel, so Metallo, as you can imagine, is no joke! His mere presence means possible death for Superman, which is not something many can lay claim to.
Real Name: Despero
First Appearance: Justice League of America #1 (1960)
Enemies: Justice League
“The conquest begins now! Emblazon my word and will across the cosmos!” – Despero
One of the Justice League’s greatest adversaries, Despero has undergone many changes over the years. Traditionally he does not appear as he does above; he is normally very thin and has a rather large fin on his head. There was a time in the early 21st century when he was depicted as a much more physical presence (as seen above from the excellent JLA/JSA: Virtue & Vice), but really, he doesn’t need the brawn. Despero is one of the most powerful and cunning telepaths in the entire universe! The third eye on his face grants him telepathy- which he often uses for mind control and illusion crafting- and telekinesis- which he uses to smack people around.
The guy’s been around since Justice League of America issue ONE and is still standing after numerous clashes with the League, and that’s gotta count for something.
Real Name: Ares / War
First Appearance: Wonder Woman #1 (1942)
Enemies: Amazons, Wonder Woman
“I am not the god of war, Diana. I am the god of truth!” – Ares, the God of War
Ripped straight from the ancient Greek myths, Ares, the Olympian “God of War” is arguably Wonder Woman’s most powerful foe! As the brother of Zeus, Ares is essentially Diana’s uncle. He has taken many forms and has even masqueraded as an ally, but ultimately Ares’s treachery knows no bounds. His singular purpose is to sow discord and chaos in the world of man, and has steadily grown more and more powerful over the last century as armed conflicts around the world continue to fuel him.
91. Mr. Freeze
Real Name: Dr. Victor Fries
First Appearance: Batman #121 (1959 – as “Mr. Zero”)
Enemies: Batman, Robin
“This is how I’ll remember you; surrounded by winter, forever young, forever beautiful. Rest well, my love. The monster who took you from me will soon learn that revenge is a dish…best served cold.” – Mr. Freeze
Although he began life as a cheesy, throwaway, ice-themed villain in the 50’s (originally called “Mr. Zero”), Mr. Freeze has since become one of Batman’s most sympathetic villains, thanks in a large part to Bruce Timm and Paul Dini’s Emmy award-winning episode of Batman: The Animated Series, “Heart of Ice”, which reworked the character’s origin as a tragic love story. After his wife contracted a terminal illness, Dr. Victor Fries had her cryogenically frozen while he searched for a cure, but after a lab accident, he is now forced to wear a containment suit, because his body can only survive in sub-zero temperatures! Pushed to desperation courtesy of a greedy businessman, “Mr. Freeze” used his genius to develop a prototype ‘ice gun’ and other cryogenic weaponry in order to wage a ‘cold war’ against the corrupt corporations of Gotham and will stop at nothing to save his wife, Nora.
It’s just unfortunate that we got the campiest version of the character possible with 1997’s “Batman and Robin” thanks to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Joel Schumacher… *sigh*
Next up: Join us for part 2 of our countdown as we tackle Granny Goodness, Mirror Master, and more! Also check out our Top 100 Heroes countdown!