Top Villains – Superman & Batman

A friend wrote me:

we are having a very intellectual and insane debate here and I would like you input on it. The two questions we are trying to determine are Who are the top ten Batman villians, and why. And the top ten Superman villian, and why. we are basing our stuff more so from the comics than the other genres but they play a little factor in them. And knowing you I thought you would be a good source to go to about this.

Since I’m in need of a blog topic, I’m going to answer this in a very public, worldwide manner.  However, since top 10 is kind of hard (around #7 you start getting into dork territory) I’m going to go with the top 5.

Superman
(master list)

  1. No contest – Luthor.  He’s the arch-villain.  He has the longest time in fighting Supes, he usually runs some of the more dastardly schemes, covering both the quantity and quality standards of villainy.  He has a lot of “versions” running around (tv, movie, comic, game, etc) but what’s always the same is: if Superman is there, Luthor is there.  I mean just look at how long his entry is!
  2. Brianiac – Not as old as Luthor but definitely one of Supes’ oldest villains.  His exact origins are pretty convoluted, leading most adaptions of Superman to simplify it: he’s a computer with technology as powerful as Superman’s natural abilities.  His schemes are frequently more memorable but he hasn’t really broken out into the public consciousness like Luthor.
  3. Doomsday – Although he’s been overused especially of late, Doomsday makes up for the lack of quantity of his appearances by the sheer quality of good stories he’s been in: he killed (or very nearly) Superman.  Combined with a very memorable design and he’s now become as near a permanent appearance in Superman adaptions as Luthor.  Even the TV show Smallville felt the need to add him in for a season.  Even years later, his first appearance and defeat of the Man of Steel is chilling.
  4. Darkseid – The most contentious nominee as some might argue that he’s not a Superman villain as much of a DC Universe villain.  Still, he pops up most frequently and has fought most often against the Metropolis Marvel so I’m counting him.  While in theory Darkseid should be #1 on this list, his execution frequently leaves something to be desired.  Probably the biggest problem with Darkseid is the Millions is a Statistic trope.  Darkseid’s evil is generally painted as so great and immense, we the readers can’t really comprehend it.  The villains offend us more because their evil has affected us on a much more personal level.
  5. Parasite, Mongul (tie) – These villains all show up from time to time but rarely have the long, drawn out story arcs that the more popular ones do.  Usually if Superman needs a temporary scuffle or “speed bump” in a story, you’ll see one of these show up.  They’re a bit more like graduated henchmen then pure villains but appear often enough to earn some recognition.

Honorable mention: Bizarro, Mxyzptlk – These two only get a mention because they’re not always villains.  They’re usually more fun than they are outright opponents, teasing the Man of Steel rather than fighting him – in a lot of incarnations, Bizarro wants to BE Superman.  So, worth remembering, but whether they are villains is up to the judges.

Batman
(master list)

  1. Even less debatable than Superman’s – Joker.  He was there for issue 1.  Take away the Joker, you take away Batman (and visa versa).  For anyone to even question or argue this point is to reveal themselves as crazier than Joker himself.  It’s even the first test of alien impostors (pod people think Batman’s greatest foe is Spider-man – run this test if you are ever suspicious).
  2. Two-face – Slightly edges out the others for his personal connections to the Bat.  Often a friend of Bruce Wayne or a shining hope for Gotham City, Harvey Dent’s fall into villainy remains one of Bruce’s worst losses in his fight against crime.  He might not be as flash as Joker or others in his execution, but his battles against Batman always have a personal undercurrent to them.
  3. Ra’s al Ghul – While Joker is – in many ways – the exact opposite of Batman, Ra’s is the flip side of Batman: as smart as him with just as many – if not more – resources at his command.
  4. Harley Quinn – Yeah she should probably count under the Joker, but what can you say about character so memorable she jumped from a TV show into the comics and immense popularity?  She’s not even really a challenge for Batman, but she’s just so damn fun and a delight when she appears that the fans can’t get enough of her.
  5. Bane – Similar to Doomsday, in that his repeated later appearances have worn down his effectiveness, Bane nonetheless remains in the top 5 for the high quality of his best appearance – Breaking Batman, literally.  Don’t let some of his other appearances fool you – Bane is nearly as smart as he is strong and got a bit lucky in his attack on Bruce Wayne.

Honorable mention: Catwoman, Riddler – Catwoman’s always been more of Batman’s lover than his opponent, though they have fought enough for her to be worth at least a mention.  Meanwhile the Riddler straddles the line between joke and true threat, depending on the writer and the circumstances, his failed attempts large enough to keep him from the finals.  On top of that, he seems to have recently begun reforming his life, though time will tell whether that change stays or expires.

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4 thoughts on “Top Villains – Superman & Batman

  1. I….can’t argue with any of those. I personally would put Darkseid above Doomsday, but I’m more a cartoon fan than a comic fan.

    Harley for Nolan’s new villain!

  2. Nice list. Not too many surprises or arguments to be made, except with Harley Quinn. True, she’s a great character, but I wouldn’t classify her as a villain per se. She’s more of a sidekick, usually does nothing without the Joker. That’s like calling Robin one of the top 5 superheroes of all time.

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