One thing that's always in demand for great superheroes is great supervillains - and when it comes to supervillains, some of the best/worst (depending on your perspective) is the deadly female supervillains that have populated comics for decades.
In comic books, female villains are some of the most popular characters on the page, with characters like Catwoman, Harley Quinn, and Mystique often crossing back and forth and blurring the line between 'hero' and 'villain' thanks to their popularity as protagonists.
On that note, we're counting down the best female supervillains of all time!
10. Scandal Savage
One of the breakout characters of Gail Simone's Secret Six (opens in new tab), Scandal Savage has everything you want in a great supervillain. She's got an unimpeachable pedigree as the only acknowledged child of classic villain Vandal Savage, plus a great look, a distinct gimmick, and a vicious streak a mile wide.
Scandal would be higher on this list if she had operated on her own more often, but even as the leader of the brutally bad-ass (and occasionally expendable) mercenaries the Secret Six, she's had some seriously cold-blooded moments.
She's been mostly off the grid for, oh, two reboots now and counting - but we can't help but wish for a substantial comeback sooner rather than later.
As one of Wonder Woman's greatest foes, different iterations of Cheetah have been around almost as long as the Amazon herself.
Though numerous women, and even one man, have held the identity of the Cheetah at different points, it's the current Cheetah, Barbara Minerva, that has caused her the most problems.
Possessing the appearance and physical qualities of a cheetah thanks to a sinister ritual, Minerva has menaced Wonder Woman over and over again, coveting her beauty and golden lasso.
She's been one of Diana's primary enemies since 2016's Wonder Woman: Rebirth (opens in new tab), which helped redefine her origin and powers.
Cheetah appeared as one of the main villains of Wonder Woman 1984, played by Kristen Wiig.
8. Star Sapphire
Even though Carol Ferris, the most prominent Star Sapphire, has been more heroic than villainous for the last couple of years, Star Sapphire's legacy as a villain goes back much farther than that... all the way to the '40s, when a slightly different Star Sapphire menaced Jay Garrick, the original Flash.
Star Sapphire is, however, best known as a Green Lantern villain. Originally, Hal Jordan's girlfriend Carol Ferris would take on the identity of Star Sapphire when she became possessed by a strange gem from outer space.
Eventually, during the story Green Lantern Corps: Sins of the Star Sapphire (opens in new tab), it was revealed that, like the Green Lanterns, the Star Sapphires comprise an entire corps of beings dedicated to the defense of true love.
Amora the Enchantress is an Asgardian sorceress, and one of Thor's oldest and most powerful foes. Enchantress uses her bewitching powers to try to entrap others into her service, though she just as often relies on her natural feminine wiles to accomplish the same thing, often using the infatuated Skurge, the Executioner as muscle to back up her schemes.
Though she was initially interested in seducing Thor, Enchantress's schemes quickly became more elaborate and ambitious, as she even joined Baron Zemo's original Masters of Evil in Avengers #9 (opens in new tab), and challenged the Avengers over and over in her quest for power.
She hasn't made it to live-action just yet, but her successor Sylvie, heir to the Asgardian magic of the Enchantress, was adapted into the MCU in Loki.
The unquestioned mistress of one of the largest sects of the terrorist organization Hydra, Viper, a.k.a. Madame Hydra is one of the most powerful, and evil women in the Marvel Universe.
Though her only real power in comics could be considered her slowed aging process, her strength lies primarily in her formidable combat training, her charismatic leadership, and her ruthless conviction.
Though she has faced numerous heroes over the years, her primary enemies are usually Captain America and Wolverine, the latter of which she trained under the same master on the streets of the criminal island of Madripoor.
In fact, her relationship with Wolverine was one of the focal points of the 2013 film The Wolverine (opens in new tab).
5. Granny Goodness
Granny Goodness is one of the most unique (and terrifying) villains you're likely to find on this or any other list.
Known for the brutal training she inflicts on Darkseid's soldiers, her slavish devotion to the ideals of Apokolips, and her imposing physique, Granny is one of the most unique and disturbing of New Gods, introduced in Jack Kirby's Fourth World (opens in new tab) saga.
Though she trains much of Darkseid's army, she is best known as the leader and trainer of his Female Furies, a group of elite women warriors that serve the will of Darkseid.
Granny is also responsible for training former Female Fury Big Barda, who later helped Scott Free, a.k.a. Mr. Miracle escape from Apokolips, guaranteeing herself two formidable enemies for life - or death, as Barda and Scott were depicted as killing Granny in Tom King and Mitch Gerads' Mister Miracle (opens in new tab) limited series.
She had a brief live-action cameo in Zack Snyder's Justice League.
4. Harley Quinn
Though she started as something of a sidekick for Batman's nemesis the Joker on Batman: The Animated Series (opens in new tab), Harley Quinn became a breakout fan favorite, eventually crossing into comics. Despite her initial status as a supporting character, she quickly received her own Harley Quinn (opens in new tab) ongoing series, and later a starring role in the Batman spin-off Gotham City Sirens (opens in new tab).
So, what makes Harley so great? Initially, her popularity stemmed from Arleen Sorkin's hilarious and expressive performance, but it's the way the essence of the character has translated to comics that really makes Harley terrific; the fact that she evokes Batman's greatest nemesis while maintaining an attitude and style all her own.
Harley Quinn has become a mainstay of DC comic books with multiple headlining series under her belt, and a current animated series on the DC Universe streaming service. She also took a starring role in 2020's Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (opens in new tab) film.
Though she's still quite villainous in some media, the core comic book Harley Quinn is on a current path of redemption following the Batman: Joker War (opens in new tab) story.
Mystique is best described as the ultimate femme fatale.
A daring, competent, ruthless super-spy with the enchanting power to change her appearance and a natural gift for seduction to back it up, Mystique has long menaced the X-Men both on her own and as a member of several incarnations of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.
As with many mutants, she has a familial connection to the X-Men as the mother of Nightcrawler and the stepmother of Rogue.
Though she did spend some time among the X-Men and working secretly for Professor X, she is best known as the leader of numerous groups of villainous mutants, as well as her core role in the X-Men (opens in new tab) film franchise.
She also headed up her own Mystique (opens in new tab) ongoing series in the mid-'00s.
Mystique has recently been working alongside the X-Men as an operative of Krakoa - but her relationship with the team and her more traditionally heroic counterparts has recently been heavily strained following the events of Inferno (opens in new tab).
2. Dark Phoenix
Though the Dark Phoenix can technically inhabit any host (as seen in 2012's Avengers vs. X-Men (opens in new tab)), its most iconic avatar was Jean Grey, one of the founding X-Men.
While her actual appearances are limited (with her greatest story undoubtedly being Uncanny X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga (opens in new tab)), the Dark Phoenix's impact on X-Men comics and comics, in general, is almost immeasurable. As one of the first, and most prominent heroes to go inexorably to the dark side, Jean's time as the Dark Phoenix rocked the relatively static nature of superhero comics up until that point.
The Dark Phoenix's reign of terror culminated in the destruction of an entire solar system, leading Jean Grey, in a moment of clarity, to sacrifice herself to end the Dark Phoenix's hold on her, sparking a cycle of death and rebirth that still reverberates in comics.
A new Phoenix host was just named in Avengers: Enter the Phoenix (opens in new tab), in which Echo took on the mantle - and the Phoenix Force itself told Thor that she is his mother.
Dark Phoenix (opens in new tab) has made it to the big screen twice, including an eponymous 2019 film that put the capstone on Fox's X-Men films.
Sure, sure, she may be best known as more of an anti-hero these days, but Catwoman began as a villain. And, on a metaphorical level, isn't perfectly straddling the line of villain and hero, lithely stepping into either role as needed, the perfect embodiment of the fickle nature of a cat?
Catwoman's not the kind of villain who embarks on a world-conquering, murderous conquest, but the kind who vexes her nemesis at every turn, going to unheard-of lengths to get what she wants, and life live by her own rules.
Nearly as often an ally or even a lover of Batman as much as his enemy, Catwoman still started her career as a jewel thief, brazenly robbing, and occasionally seducing Gotham City's wealthiest citizens.
In all of her numerous and popular incarnations, including her last live-action appearance in The Dark Knight Rises (opens in new tab), she always starts at odds with Batman, only siding with him once he's given in to his obvious attraction to his true opposite number, but almost always returning to her old life when he's outlived his usefulness.
She even went so far as to leave him at the altar in Batman #50 (opens in new tab) - though her future role as hero or villain is still playing out in the current Batman/Catwoman (opens in new tab) limited series which continues the saga of their romance.
There aren't many characters who can say they're stronger-willed than Batman, but it isn't Catwoman who compromises her principles in the name of love or, more accurately, lust.