No comic book hero is worth his/her salt without a great villain. Where would Batman be without the Joker? Superman without Luthor? The Tick without Barry? Okay… so that last one was a bit of a stretch but you get the point. No matter how great a hero may be, make him square off with a lame villain and you get a forgettable comic. Anyone remember The Ten Eyed Man? Magpie? No? Didn’t think so, even though both of these “villains” have faced off against Batman, one of the most recognizable and popular heroes in the world.
So what makes a villain great or memorable? For me, it’s that they seem real and that they aren’t stereotypical “evil incarnate”. If I can relate to a villain’s reasoning on some level, it makes them that much more frightening and awesome to read. So, without further, ado… here are my top 10 comic book villains of all time.
10. The Governor
Philip Blake survived the initial zombie outbreak in Robert Kirkman’s ‘The Walking Dead’. Founding his own community within the zombie wasteland, Blake christened himself “The Governor” and ruled his slice of the world with what seemed like a fair and just hand. However, behind the scenes, The Governor was a hideous man who tortured and killed those who spoke against him and fed them to his daughter-turned-zombie. In the midst of a world in chaos, Blake was manipulative and vicious and only cared about protecting himself.
9. Lex Luthor
Lex Luthor has gone through many incarnations since his creation in 1940. He’s been a mad scientist, a corrupt businessman, a friend to Clark Kent in ‘Smallville’, and even President of the United States. However, the modern Luthor is a powerful businessman with a lot of technical genius who believes himself to be the hero. To Luthor, his arch-nemesis Superman is an alien who is holding humanity back from potential greatness because they have come to rely too much on his saving them whenever a great threat arrives. Luthor plans to save humanity but, to do that, he must first eliminate their weakness… Superman.
8. Saint of Killers
Hailing from the pages of Vertigo Comics’ ‘Preacher’ series, the Saint is a violent killer who tried to choose a more peaceful path dies and is so cold inside that he causes Hell to freeze over. In an effort to save the man (and get Hell back), the powers that be turn the man into the new Angel of Death and God’s right-hand soul collector. Dubbed the Saint of Killers, the man is now invincible (a nuclear bomb didn’t even singe him) and carries a pair of pistols that never miss or run out of ammo. He is an unstoppable killing machine that makes the Terminator look like a pre-school toy robot.
For a throw-away character that was supposed to have been killed off in after only his second comic book appearance, the Joker (real name unknown) took on a life of his own. He has since become the perfect anarchist madman genius to Batman’s dark control-freak character. Everything that Batman is, the Joker is his opposite. While Batman’s entire character centers around the night his parent’s were killed, the Joker has no real origin or rather, as the Joker puts it, he’d rather his origin be multiple-choice. He is unpredictable, has no regard for human life, and seems to exist only to torment the Batman. He is the epitome of chaos and death. So much so that even other villains are leery of working with the Joker for fear that he might find it amusing to turn on his own.
Ruler of the world of Apokolips, Darkseid murdered his own brother and mother in his rise to power. He is one of the most feared forces in all of the DC Universe. He is practically invincible, can eliminate or resurrect people at will with the “omega beam” that he fires from his eyes, and can teleport through both time and space. Darkseid is a virtual God who tried to bend the entire universe to his will by solving the “anti-life equation”. After being thwarted by Earth’s heroes, it remains to be seen where Darkseid will reveal himself in the DC Comics’ New 52.
After surviving terrors at the hands of the Nazi regime during World War II, Max Eisenhardt swore that those types of atrocities would never befall Earth’s mutants. Redubbing himself Magneto, Max believes that mutantkind (or “homo superior”) is the next step in human evolution and that mutants will one day inherit the Earth. Like any extremist revolutionary, Magneto’s approach to his goal is very often violent. Throughout the years, Magneto had clashed time and time again with the X-Men as he tries to establish a place for mutants to live outside of human interference.
4. Black Adam
Originally selected as Earth’s champion by the wizard Shazam, Teth-Adam was corrupted by his immense power and decided that he should rule the world. Renamed “Black Adam”, Teth was banished to an alternate reality. After eventually making his way back to Earth, he battled with Earth’s new champion, Captain Marvel, on many occasions before claiming his birth country of Kahndaq as his own. As ruler of Kahndaq, Black Adam violently protected his people. In defense of his country, Black Adam became sort of anti-hero and often teamed up with Earth’s heroes to defend the world. There is no word of Black Adam in the new DC Universe of New 52… yet.
3. Green Goblin (Norman Osborn)
Green Goblin has been the most painful thorn in Spider-Man’s side since he first appeared in 1964. The Goblin, both as his masked persona and as his alter ego Norman Osborn, have terrorized Peter Parker’s life on nearly every front. The Goblin killed Peter’s first girlfriend Gwen Stacy. Osborn’s stint as the Green Goblin led to his son Harry going mad and taking up the Goblin mantle. Without the Goblin mask, Norman Osborne has been a thorn in the side of nearly every hero in the Marvel Universe, most recently rising to power with the U.S. government to temporarily take command of S.H.E.I.L.D. from Tony Stark (Iron Man) and even going so far as to invade Thor’s godlike home of Asgard.
Originally hailed as the greatest Green Lantern, Sinestro was protector of sector 1417. In a misguided attempt to protect his home planet of Korugar, Sinestro decided that he could best protect his world if he ruled it as dictator. While training new Green Lantern recruit, Hal Jordan, Sinestro’s totalitarian methods were revealed. Sinestro was stripped of his power ring and banished to the antimatter universe. After escaping from the antimatter universe with his own version of a power ring, Sinestro became the Green Lantern’s greatest villain. He eventually founded the Sinestro Corps, his own team of lanterns powered by the yellow force of fear. After the recent Green Lantern War, Sinestro has been reinstated with the Green Lantern Corps and is currently protector of sector 2814, home to the planet Earth.
1. Doctor Doom
The ruler of his own country of Latveria, Victor Von Doom is one of the world’s foremost scientists and sorcerers. Originally, Doom clashed with his rival Reed Richards in the Fantastic Four. Over the years he has gone toe-to-toe with nearly all of Marvel’s heroes at one time or another. Doom has lived up to his namesake by defeating cosmic beings such as the Silver Surfer and the godlike Beyonder. His name has become one of the most feared names in Marvel villainy. Most recently Doom has put aside some of his old differences and actually teamed up with his ex-nemesis Reed Richards to join the most recent incarnation of the Fantastic Four… the Future Foundation. Whether that strenuous partnership will last remains to be seen.
Honorable mention: Brainiac, Doctor Sivana, Doomsday, Judge Death, Mr. Mxyzptlk, Ra’s Al Ghul, Shredder, Thanos and Two-Face