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Best DC supervillains of all time

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In recent years, DC has become known for the iconic supervillains and baddies that populate its universe as much as its mythical heroes, with Superman and Batman sharing the spotlight with their nemeses such as Joker and Lex Luthor more and more.

DC's September 2021 solicitations show off a renewed focus on some classic villains, with Aquaman arch-foe Black Manta getting his own limited series for the first time, while also introducing some totally new villains as Infinite Frontier ramps up.

And looking ahead even further than that, DC is framing its spooky Halloween anthology special around Darkseid this October, with the aptly titled Are You Afraid of Darkseid? one-shot

With that on our minds, we're counting down the greatest DC villains of all time - including a few who may surprise you.

10. Anti-Monitor

Best DC supervillains: Anti-Monitor

(Image credit: DC Comics)

The Anti-Monitor is not a 'villain' in the traditional sense. 

He is simply a force of absolute destruction, driven by his very nature to destroy everything in his path, up to and including reality itself. 

While the Anti-Monitor has not appeared often, his arrival heralds something far more nightmarish than a simple global threat, for the Anti-Monitor signals the arrival of a Crisis between realities, a crucible of metaphysical proportions from which survival is, at best, an uncertain outcome.

The Anti-Monitor debuted as the reality-collapsing villain of Crisis on Infinite Earths, destroying all but one world of the DC Multiverse.

9. Captain Cold

Best DC supervillains: Captain Cold

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The leader of Flash's Rogues may not be the most vicious of the Scarlet Speedster's foes, but he is symbolic of an entire contingent of DC's villains. 

The ultimate everyman opportunist, Captain Cold is a scoundrel with a code of honor, one that has earned him the respect of many of his fellow villains, as well as a position at the top of the street thug hierarchy.

Fans will recognize Len Snart from CW's Flash, where he occupied a similar 'villain with a heart of gold' role, even into spin-off show DC's Legends of Tomorrow. 

But in comic books, Captain Cold has never made it out of true villainy, despite brushes with heroism and even a very brief stint on the Justice League prior to 'Rebirth' - though he's once again the leader of the Rogues.

8. Deathstroke

Best DC supervillains: Deathstroke

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Deathstroke has always straddled the line between hero and villain, even teaming with his arch-enemies the Teen Titans for a time in the old DCU. Though he's occasionally landed on the side of the angels, one thing continues to separate Deathstroke from being an out-and-out hero: his killer instinct.

Deathstroke is DC's ultimate assassin, a master killer with no remorse and no hesitation. He's also been a leading man for the last few years, headlining his own title - and inching ever closer to being a true anti-hero rather than a self-serving criminal.

But despite often fighting against some kind of greater evil, Deathstroke remains a cold-blooded assassin, capable of killing and exploiting any and everyone in his path. He had a cameo, played by Joe Mangianello, in Zack Snyder's Justice League.

7. Reverse Flash

Best DC supervillains: Reverse Flash

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Eobard Thawne is, in almost every way, the exact opposite of his pure-hearted nemesis Barry Allen. Vicious and determined, Thawne's goal is no less than the total erasure of the Flash and seeing the timeline of the DC Universe remade in his image.

Thawne is well known for having killed Barry Allen's mother (and framed his father for the crime) - a story that has become the set up for the Flash's translation into other media time and time again, and which led to the 'New 52' reboot of DC continuity in Flashpoint.

He also inspired a legacy villain who may be even worse in Hunter Zolomon (a.k.a. Zoom), an evil speedster from the future with a murderous streak who challenged Barry Allen's protege Wally West.

6. Brainiac

Best DC supervillains: Brainiac

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It would be easy to write Brainiac off as the ultimate expression of brains against Superman's brawn, but the real nature of their rivalry is far more sinister. 

Brainiac may be possessed of unparalleled intelligence, but what he truly represents to Superman - and to the DC Universe at large - is an utter lack of compassion. Alien to the point of being downright inhuman, calculating to the point of sheer ruthlessness, Brainiac has no care for any living thing in his quest for ultimate knowledge.

Brainiac set the stage for a major relaunch of DC's Justice League titles a few years ago by organizing a group of heroes and villains to fight an epic cosmic threat in the limited series No Justice - before dropping dead and leaving his team unprepared for the fight ahead in the series' first issue.

He was later rebuilt by the Lex Luthor's Legion of Doom, working alongside them for his own purposes in the lead up to the recent Dark Nights: Death Metal event.

5. Ra's al Ghul

Best DC supervillains: Ra's al Ghul

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There are other villains who might better fit the role of Batman's thematic opposite, but it is Ra's al Ghul who is the Caped Crusader's true equal. 

Immortal, ancient, and cunning, Ra's is the leader of the League of Assassins, and a manipulator of the highest caliber. While Ra's has most often dealt with Batman, both in manipulating Batman into providing DNA for his daughter Talia's cloned son Damian and in attempting to destroy Gotham, he has also proved a threat to the entire world.

Still, Ra's is not above aligning himself with heroes when they align with his own goals, such as when he teamed with Batman to rescue Damian from Apokolips.

4. Sinestro

Best DC supervillains: Sinestro

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'In blackest day, in brightest night, beware your fears made into light!'

Sinestro is a megalomaniac of the highest order, abusing his power as a Green Lantern to enslave his homeworld of Korugar even before falling from the Green Lantern Corps in disgrace. 

Wielding the power of fear through his yellow power ring, Sinestro has returned to the Green Lanterns from time to time, but always returns to his own Sinestro Corps, a conglomerate of beings dedicated to spreading terror and ruin throughout the universe.

3. Darkseid

Best DC supervillains: Darkseid

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Darkseid is, perhaps, DC's ultimate expression of evil. Obsessed with his quest for the Anti-Life Equation, the mad god and lord of Apokolips is possessed of power beyond measure, and a contempt for all whom he sees as beneath his strength. 

In the decades since Jack Kirby created him, Darkseid has squared off countless times against his enemies on New Genesis, and gone toe-to-toe with Superman again and again. At the start of the 'New 52,' Darkseid singlehandedly fought the entire Justice League to a standstill. Darkseid was also the main villain of 'Darkseid War,' which closed the book on the 'New 52.'

He's remained one of DC's most iconic villains, with his profile only growing in recent years - including appearing as one of the central villains in Zack Snyder's Justice League.

2. Joker

Best DC supervillains: Joker

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Madness. Chaos. Mayhem. These are the facets of Joker's fractured personality.

While some of the Batman's enemies have grown into their more recent, deadly incarnations out of somewhat silly origins, the Joker has always been a murderous agent of anarchy. 

Considered Batman's greatest enemy and opposite number, Joker has also challenged the entire DC Universe singlehandedly, both by seizing the power of Mxyzptlk, and more recently seemingly dying alongside Batman – before both apparently returned.

But it's not his occasional forays into global villainy that make Joker one of the most feared and effective villains in comics. It's his willingness to go farther, to strike deeper, and to succumb to absolute evil more than anyone other mortal in the DC Universe.

The Clown Prince of Crime has his own recently launched ongoing title from Batman writer James Tynion IV.

If you're looking for where to start reading Joker comic books, here are the best Joker stories of all time.

1. Lex Luthor

Best DC supervillains: Lex Luthor

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And so we've arrived at the top of the list. 

Honestly, who else could have filled this slot but the de facto leader and occasional organizer of DC's villains, Superman's greatest rival, Lex Luthor? 

Whether he is filling the role of a ruthless politician and corrupt businessman, an infuriatingly untouchable mad scientist, or an out and out mega-powered menace, Luthor owns a confidence and an intellect rivaled by none.

But Luthor's greatest strength is also his greatest weakness: his absolute and utter selfishness. Where a noble man would selflessly use Luthor's gifts to better mankind, Luthor uses his assets to benefit himself at all times, only aiding the world when doing so aligns with his personal goals. 

Luthor is a member of the new DC Universe super team called the Totality, a sort of DCU star chamber of superheroes and supervillains that is described as "a shield protecting our world from future threats, manned by its greatest minds."

Its members include Hawkgirl, Mr. Terrific, Martian Manhunter, Talia ah Ghul, Vandal Savage, and Lex Luthor - a team that spans a wide swath of motivations and moralities.

The Totality will feature prominently in an Infinite Frontier limited series that launches in June.

George Marston

I've been Newsarama's resident Marvel Comics expert and general comic book historian since 2011. I've also been the on-site reporter at most major comic conventions such as Comic-Con International: San Diego, New York Comic Con, and C2E2. Outside of comic journalism, I am the artist of many weird pictures, and the guitarist of many heavy riffs. (They/Them)