If you walk into any comic book shop where superhero books are sold, you might hear customers hanging out in the store talking about how DC has the best superheroes, but Marvel Comics has the best supervillains…
Or wait a minute … is that the other way around?
Whichever way the old adage goes, DC is well represented when talking about the best supervillains in comics - including icons like Lex Luthor, the Joker, and the Penguin whose fame transcends the comic book page.
But among DC supervillains, who are the most dangerous? The most significant threats to the universe?
That's an altogether different equation. And it's one that may soon have to be reckoned with again in the wake of the current Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths event. The JLA are missing in action and presumed dead by the rest of the DC Universe at the hands of the villainous Pariah and his Dark Army.
For now, though, these are the most dangerous DC villains of all time.
Eclipso is one of the darkest figures in the DCU, coming straight out of biblical lore as God's right-hand man when it comes to vengeance. But when this supervillain went too far, he was cast out of God's good graces and left to cause even more harm. But he didn't start that way.
When he was introduced back in 1963, Eclipso was little more than a Jekyll-and-Hyde-type villain inhabiting the body of a scientist named Bruce Gordon. But in 1992, writers Robert Loren Fleming and Kieth Giffen transformed Eclipso into his modern demonic persona in the story Eclipso: The Darkness Within (opens in new tab). Now as the spirit of vengeance for God (yeah, that one), Eclipso took on all the big players and almost triumphed if not for his old host Gordon stepping in to stop him.
In the intervening years, Eclipso has been proven responsible for everything from Noah's Flood from the Bible, injuring an actual angel, possessing Superman and Jean Loring, and even planning to kill God in the Justice League of America book.
Though the character often changes forms - as is the nature of the entity known as Eclipso - the Black Diamond and its powers have remained a fairly steady presence in the DC Universe, even through the 'New 52' and 'Rebirth' eras.
9. Time Trapper
Known as one of the biggest of the big bads in the DCU, the Time Trapper is – as his name suggests – a time traveler and someone who uses that control of time for his own sinister purposes. Created back in 1964's Adventure Comics #317 (opens in new tab), the Time Trapper has been a major force in the DCU through events like Zero Hour (opens in new tab), Final Crisis (opens in new tab), and face-offs with Wonder Woman, the Legion of Super-Heroes, and more.
Based in a secret lair at the end of time itself, the Time Trapper's power is essentially mastery over time. He can stop, speed up, alter or even split time. In the past, he has even created his own pocket dimensions.
His true origins have been retconned numerous times, and the Time Trapper has had multiple backstories and identities (somewhat similar to Marvel's Kang the Conqueror). Over the years, the Time Trapper has been 'revealed' as the future self of Superboy-Prime, a version of Legionnaire Cosmic Boy, and even a sentient timeline.
You think Eclipso as God's agent of Vengeance is a big deal? Wait until you meet Nekron, the living embodiment of Death.
Created back in 1981's Tales of the Green Lantern Corps #2 (opens in new tab) by Mike Barr, Len Wein, and Joe Staton, Nekron was introduced as the ruler of an underworld dimension similar to Hell called the Dead Zone that acts as a purgatory for the recently departed before they reach their final destination.
Nekron reached his pinnacle in 2009, when he was revealed as the mastermind behind the Black Lanterns and the instigator of the Blackest Night (opens in new tab) event series. During that series, he took over the bodies of Superman, Wonder Woman, and a host of other heroes, and even resurrected a menagerie of dead heroes to fight in his army. Narrowly defeated, he arose once more in the final issues of Geoff Johns' Green Lantern comic when Hal Jordan briefly becomes a Black Lantern.
As far as powers go, Nekron can resurrect any deceased person and kill with a simple touch, and has far-reaching reality-warping powers. Writer Geoff Johns once described Nekron as "the most powerful dark force in the DC Universe," which is big given the others we have left to go on our list here.
Black Lanterns have recently played roles in Dark Nights: Death Metal and the Infinite Frontier event limited series.
7. Batman Who Laughs
In what will not be the only occurrence of this phenomenon on this list, our next entry is actually an alternate version of one of DC's greatest heroes - in this case, a terrifyingly twisted take on Batman.
Dubbed the Batman Who Laughs (thanks to his Jokerized demeanor), the villain was originally the Bruce Wayne/Batman of Earth-22 of the Dark Multiverse, itself a horrific reflection of the mainstream DC Multiverse. When he became 'Jokerized' after killing his world's Joker, the Batman Who Laughs went mad enough to rampage across the entirety of DC's existence seeking ultimate power.
And obtain it he did, in 2020's Dark Knights: Death Metal (opens in new tab) event, when merged with the body of an alternate Earth Bruce Wayne that became Watchmen's Doctor Manhatten, he almost destroyed all of reality as the omnipotent Darkest Knight.
The storyline once again rewrote the DC Multiverse - but thankfully, not in the image of the Batman Who Laughs/Darkest Knight, who was fortunately defeated.
Instead, DC's Multiverse has been reborn as an omniverse, encompassing all possible DC characters, worlds, universes, and timelines.
The original Batman Who Laughs recently resurfaced in the latest Batman/Fortnite crossover Foundation (opens in new tab), and its ending promised the DC Omniverse will be contending with his evil for years to come.
It's bad enough to be a dyed-in-the-wool villain, but it's even worse when you see one of your greatest heroes go to the dark side. But Superboy-Prime did just that.
Born to the name 'Clark Kent' on a parallel Earth that looks indistinguishable from our own mundane real world - down to Superman being a comic book character who inspired his parent's name choice - the events of 1985's Crisis on Infinite Earths (opens in new tab) revealed that he did indeed have powers akin to Superman's.
As it turns out, it wasn't just a clever name choice on his parents' part - Superboy-Prime was, in fact, a Kryptonian, something he discovered just as the Anti-Monitor erased his timeline.
Though the boy known as 'Clark Kent' became a version of Superboy down to his costume, he was embittered by the loss of everything he knew and resented his fate at the end of Crisis, being relegated to a pocket dimension alongside an elder version of Superman and Lois Lane, watching the DCU change around him.
This sent Superboy-Prime on a downward spiral of mayhem, murder, and even the re-writing of reality before his reign of terror came to an end.
In his last appearance in 2020's Dark Knights: Death Metal: The Secret Origin #1 (opens in new tab), he received something of a meta-redemption arc as part of the DC Universe reset Omniverse, but Superboy-Prime is only one writer's whim away from menacing the DC heroes again.
You might think a supervillain with no powers can't be that big of a threat - but obviously, you haven't met Prometheus.
Prometheus first appeared in 1998's New Year's Evil: Prometheus (opens in new tab) as a wide-eyed superhero fanboy who won a chance to be a member of the JLA for a day. But as the issue unfolds he reveals himself to be one of the most hellbent, determined, and deadly villains to be introduced in modern comics history.
His origin reads like a twisted version of Batman's, as the son of two small-time criminals whose death at the hands of law enforcement leads the young boy to grow up swearing vengeance against all forms of justice.
Though the most well-known Prometheus (whose real identity has not yet been revealed) was killed by the Green Arrow, another villain later took up his name and his place as one of DC's deadliest bad guys.
Who can turn one of DC's brightest heroes into one of the baddest villains ever? Who can be the secret ingredient to the success of one of the great superhero teams of all time? This guy.
Originally thought to be just the dark side of Hal Jordan's mind when he turned evil, 2004's Green Lantern: Rebirth (opens in new tab) revealed that Parallax was a parasitic entity that took over Jordan's body and drove him down that murderous path. Even more, it was revealed that the yellow-colored Parallax entity was also the source for the Green Lantern rings' long-time weakness to the color yellow due to Parallax's imprisonment in the Central Power Battery on Oa.
Parallax's powers are far-ranging and sometimes nebulous, including intense mind-control abilities that can bend even heavyweights like the Spectre, Batman, and Superman. He can also create constructs of yellow light akin to those of the Green Lanterns - supplying his power and mastery over fear to the Yellow Lantern Sinestro Corps.
Some villains come and go as they please in comics, appearing in conflicts big and small. But when characters like Anti-Monitor show up you know it's going to be a big deal.
Created back in 1985 by Marv Wolfman and George Perez, the Anti-Monitor was the primary antagonist for the revelatory limited series Crisis on Infinite Earths (opens in new tab), the first event to reshape DC's multiverse and kill off numerous characters, worlds, and timelines in the process.
The death toll Anti-Monitor has established during his decades-long run in the DC Universe, in which he has often shown up to rewrite and revamp the Multiverse, is positively frightening - with everyone from Supergirl, to Flash, down to the Crime Syndicate of America, Starman, Green Arrow, Robin, and even the Losers falling under his attacks.
Much like Thanos or Galactus over at Marvel, the Anti-Monitor can't be quantified as a villain for any one single hero or hero team; when he shows up, it's all hands on deck and then some.
2. Crime Syndicate
Originally introduced in 1964's Justice League of America #29 (opens in new tab), the Crime Syndicate of America marks one of DC's earliest experimentations with stories of its Multiverse, introducing the Crime Syndicate as the most powerful beings of Earth-3.
However, unlike their counterparts the Justice League, the Crime Syndicate comes from a world where everything is totally inverted - with the Syndicate acting as the villains and dictators of Earth-3.
As stated, all the members of the Crime Syndicate (whose roster has grown over the years) are dark, twisted takes on alternate versions of the Justice League, with similar powers and themes, but much more sinister motivations and origins.
The Crime Syndicate has been integral in many DC events over the years, with the core team of Ultraman, Power Ring, Johnny Quick, Owl-Man, and Superwoman remaining favorites of both fans and creators thanks to the way they turn classic DC archetypes on their heads.
In fact, the Crime Syndicate headlined their own 2021 title (opens in new tab) as part of DC's current 'Infinite Frontier' era.
Despite his seemingly small beginnings in 1970's Superman's Pal: Jimmy Olsen #134 (opens in new tab), Darkseid is far and above the biggest badass in the DC Universe - and he'll tell you so himself.
Created by Jack Kirby as part of his far-reaching 'Fourth World (opens in new tab)' mythos, Darkseid has grown from his humble beginnings to being one of the most recognizable faces of evil in all of superhero comics. One of the most powerful of the New Gods (the stars of the 'Fourth World Saga'), Darkseid is the unquestioned and unmerciful dictator of the planet Apokolips.
Though he was originally mostly confined to the stories of the 'Fourth World Saga,' in the late '70s and early '80s, Darkseid began branching out into the larger DC Universe, eventually becoming one of the publisher's top villains into TV and even movies, with his appearance in Zack Snyder's Justice League.
Darkseid recently leveled up into an amalgamation of all his versions over DC's various reboots and retcons, and he considers himself the best Darkseid ever - though he's recently been under the thrall of the malevolent cosmic force known as the Great Darkness.