I bet you thought this series was done, huh? Nope, I’ve just been too busy to create a post worth publishing. I’m still active in the comic book community, though, and I’ve been itching to get back to this guide. Sorry for such a long wait!
To compliment my DC Heroes Guide, I decided to create a primer for the antagonists as well. After all, a protagonist can’t truly be a hero without an adversary or two. That’s the beauty of comics. For every superhero, there are at least four or five villains that try to thwart the hero’s do-gooder nature. Some of the most infamous villains have come out of the DC Universe, whether you realize it or not.
Considering there are quite a few villains out there, I narrowed it down to these 10 based on popularity and ubiquity. I tried to find a villain that fought against at least one DC hero so that there would be a level playing field. Please note that these are general story descriptions of each character (unless otherwise noted). So, here’s my Beginner’s Guide installment of DC villains!
Lex Luthor has a long and varied past in the DC Universe, but he’s primarily known to be the arch-nemesis of Superman. First appearing in Action Comics #23, Luthor has most notably been a pseudo mad scientist. With a sky high IQ, Lex Luthor made a name for himself in the comics as a scientific genius with a dislike for otherworldly beings (a.k.a. Supes). He and Lex Luthor have scuffled time and again, with Luthor gaining power in various ways throughout the past 75 years. He’s been a businessman (CEO of LexCorp), a politician, and even the president of the USA. Luthor has taken each role in an obsessive effort to destroy Superman; of course, Superman usually comes out on top.
Easily recognizable by the bug-eye mask and dive suit, Black Manta is the sworn enemy of Aquaman. In his earliest appearances, Black Manta became reviled by Aquaman due to an incident where Black Manta tried to destroy Atlantis, and kidnapped Aquaboy (Aquaman’s son). In other origin stories from the Prime Earth plot, Black Manta was involved in the death of Tom Curry, Aquaman’s adoptive father. Hellbent on vengeance, Aquaman sought out and accidentally murdered Black Manta’s father. Either way, the two don’t like each other. Apart from being the arch-nemesis of Aquaman, Black Manta is a skilled diver, fighter, and is capable of shooting fiery energy blasts from his special dive suit.
Perhaps the most recognizable comic book villain, the Joker has cemented himself as the diabolical Clown Prince of Crime. From comic appearances, to television and movies, the Joker has gotten around ever since his incarnation in 1940. Mainly depicted as a sociopath, the Joker is cunning and malicious, responsible for paralyzing Barbara Gordon (Batgirl) and killing Jason Todd (Robin 2). Though the origins of the Joker–and even his real name–are questionable, one thing remains certain: his clown-like demeanor and psychological warfare are nothing to laugh at. The Joker has many recognizable characteristics and traits, including his signature green hair and purple suit, his red-lip smile, and his maniacal laughter. There’s a reason why he’s plagued Batman and Gotham for all these years, and he’s not stopping any time soon.
Sinestro is an alien being from the planet Korugar, who was once a Green Lantern alongside Hal Jordan. Sinestro was later discharged from the Green Lantern Corps after Jordan blew the whistle on Sinestro, who once held peaceful guard over his designated sector, but later turned ruthless. Enraged, Sinestro formed his own group he dubbed the Sinestro Corps, which utilizes yellow fear energy to uphold Sinestro’s high—and dangerous—standards. With the same powers as those that wield the Green Lantern power ring, Sinestro is also fiercely intelligent and cunning. Sinestro is instantly recognizable due to his often bright yellow suit, and near magenta skin.
The Cheetah is an adversary of Wonder Woman, and has had a similarly rich and storied past. The role of Cheetah has been assumed by several different people, from the original Priscilla Rich to Sebastian Ballesteros, who was the first male Cheetah. The Cheetah’s origin story varies depending on who takes the form of the ferocious feline, but this villain usually comes about by magic (with the exception of Priscilla Rich and later her niece, Debbie Downs, who donned a custom costume made from a cheetah’s skin). Whoever takes up the mantle of The Cheetah usually becomes a humanoid cat creature. No matter how the character is created, they are a usually very dangerous, possessing the same abilities as the namesake suggests.
Leonard Snart donned the moniker of “Captain Cold” after he made the decision to stop The Flash once and for all. After stealing a freeze gun, which can chill anything and anyone, Snart became one of The Flash’s most dangerous foes. Abiding by a strong, self-imposed code of conduct, Captain Cold has been striking bone-chilling terror to the citizens of Central City since the Silver Age. Captain Cold is also the leader of the Rogues, a gang of villains against The Flash. He’s also been a member of the Suicide Squad, and formed a stolen item recovery service with his sister, Golden Glider.
Fellow Kryptonian, General Zod (or Zod) is another enemy of Supes. Once a great military leader on Krypton, Zod was later banished after making plans to take over the plant of Krypton. He was sent to the Phantom Zone (a dimension where Kryptonian prisoners are sent), and ultimately survived the destruction of his home planet. When his time was done in the Phantom Zone, Zod emerged, seeking vengeance on the remaining son of Krypton: Superman. With the same powers as the Man of Steel, General Zod is also a fierce military leader–basically someone you hope doesn’t have a chip on their shoulder.
Dr. Harleen Quinzel was once a psychiatrist in Gotham, until a chance encounter with the Joker while working at Arkham Asylum turned into a tortured romance. Wooed by the Joker, Dr. Quinzel fell madly in love–emphasis on madly–with the Joker, busted him out of Arkham, and started living her life as Harley Quinn. Along with using wacky weapons and donning a clown-like costume, Harley Quinn is also a skilled gymnast, meaning that she can scale a building or flip away from danger. In some origin stories, the character of Harley Quinn was born in a similar way as the Joker: via a dip into a vat of chemical waste. In other origin stories, she simply begins to dress up as her alter ego. Whatever the case, Harley Quinn is one of the most popular DC characters, and has been making waves since her first appearance in Batman: The Animated Series.
The Reverse Flash is the arch-nemesis of the Flash, who possesses similar powers as Barry Allen. Born in the 25th Century, Eobard Thawne idolized the Flash as a kid, but soon realized that his own destiny was intertwined with his hero. As he grew up, Thawne became more mad, and eventually figured out how to unlock the powers of the Flash. Thawne thus became Reverse-Flash. Able to travel through time, the Reverse Flash has made it his mission to torment his heroic counterpart. Though he cannot kill the Flash, he will still show up to cause havoc for the Scarlet Speedster. Reverse Flash first appeared in 1963, donning the signature speed suit that the Flash wears, only in yellow with red accents.
Catwoman is another well-known Batman character, and just as recognizable as the Joker and Harley Quinn. Though her alignment as a villain wanes from time to time, she’s still a skilled cat burglar and heist master. In a good majority of Batman or Catwoman stories since 1940, Selina Kyle is the woman behind the cat mask. Kyle was orphaned as a young child, and grew up on the streets of Gotham. Supremely streetwise, Kyle kept herself and other orphans alive through stealing. When she grew up, she used these same skills to become the infamous Catwoman. Not only is she extremely agile and street savvy, she also plays the role of vigilante. Her and Batman’s paths often cross, and the two have had an off and on romance for years. Catwoman is quite the interesting character, to say the least, who sees the world in “shades of gray” rather than black and white.
Who’s your favorite villain? What would you like to see next in this series? Let me know in the comments below so we can nerd out!
Life was meant to be lived nerdily, so what are you waiting for?