Comic books are more popular than ever and with so many media options to see our super powered heroes and villains it is likely their popularity will only increase. And while the superheroes get the lion’s share of the attention, it is often a fact that the comic villains get a bigger spotlight than the heroes themselves. In a way, this makes sense as the villains are often more far more interesting than their good-two-shoes counterparts. So who are the “best” comic book villains? Well, this is a very subjective list but here is the criteria I used to build this list. How important the villain was in the life of “their” hero, how powerful were they (raw power and brain power), are they interesting to read about and how much to you love to hate them. In the end it came down to this: Would I want to read a story with this comic book villain if there were no heroes in the story. If the answer was yes, then they probably deserve to be on this list.
First Appearance: Amazing Spider-man #50, Marvel Comics
Wilson Fisk is a criminal mastermind who is involved in extensive illegal activities such as drug-running, smuggling, murder, and extortion. Despite this, he has no criminal record and an army of lawyers to keep it that way. He is a criminal financial strategist without parallel. Fisk has no superhuman powers, but the majority of his 400-plus pound bulk is solid muscle. He has battled heroes such as Captain America, Moon Knight and Daredevil, but his most despised antagonist has been Spider-Man. While you may not give the Kingpin his due, he has destroyed the life of Daredevil in a way few other heroes have been brought down. Recently he sparked the whole Spider-man New Day fiasco.
Most heinous crime: Ordered a hit on Spider-Man’s Aunt May.
First Appearance: Fantastic Four #48, Marvel Comics
Sole survivor of the universe existing before the Big Bang, Galactus is perhaps the most feared being in the cosmos. Considering he devours planets, he has killed more beings than any the villain on this list or even all combined on this list. Although some may consider him a “force of nature” and a natural part of the universal order, the fear he elicits easily ranks him in the top ten of villains.
Most heinous crime: He has tried to devour Earth many times and his most famous feeding came at the expense of the Skrull home world, leaving the planet a lifeless rock.
First Appearance: Iron Man #55, Marvel Comics
Considering he has courted death as his lover, that should give you an idea about how impressive he is as a villain. If only Death will do, you are setting your sights high (or low). What kind of gifts do you offer Death? A lifeless universe according to Thanos.
He has controlled some of the most power objects in the universe such as the Cosmic Cube and the Infinity Gems and became god-like himself. He has defeated Galactus to add to his legend.
Most heinous crime: His villainy was seen at an early age when he attacked his home world with nuclear weapons, killing thousands, including his own mother. Now that is cold.
First Appearance: Superman: The Man of Steel #17, DC Comics
Doomsday was created and evolved through cloning an infant and having it killed over and over again in one of the harshest habitats in existence, prehistoric Krypton. In other words, he was bred to be nasty.
Many may complain that Doomsday was a marketing ploy but you gotta give him his due becasue he did kill Superman and killing the Man of Steel has to count for something. If you are a one-trick pony, killing the greatest superhero in comic book history is certainly a good place to start. He also defeated the entire Just League, with one arm literally tied behind his back, before killing Superman.
Most heinous crime: He killed Superman. Really, he killed Superman.
6. Dr. Doom
First Appearance: Fantastic Four #5, Marvel Comics
Victor Von Doom suffered an accident that caused his face to be scarred. After this accident he made matters worse when he then attached a hot steel mask to his face, further scarring him, physically and mentally. That takes commitment.
He has controlled various forces of the universe, much like Thanos, such as the Power Cosmic which he stole from the Silver Surfer. He has also usurped the powers of Galactus and a all-powerful being, the Beyonder. In other words he is crafty and smart.
Most heinous crime: He actually sent Franklin Richards, the child of Reed and Sue Richards of the Fantastic Four, to Hell seeking to torment his parents
5. Green Goblin
First Appearance: Amazing Spider-man #14, Marvel Comics
While not one of my favorite villains, he did cause the 2nd most defining moment in the career of Spider-Man. He murdered Spider-Man’s girlfriend Gwen Stacey when he dropped her from Washington Bridge. He has caused Spider-Man more problems and heart-ache than any other villain and had knowledge of Spider-man’s secret identity as Peter Parker. Considered to be Spider-Man’s most dangerous villain the Green Goblin’s insanity and lust for revenge only makes him that much more deadly.
Most heinous crime: Killed Gwen Stacey in front of Spider-Man.
First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #300, Marvel Comics
Venom is actually a team-up between two beings, one an alien and one a human, who both hate Peter Parker/Spider-Man intensely. Venom is an alien symbiote that has bonded with a number of different hosts who all share its hatred, most notable Eddie Brock.
Venom has all the powers of Spider-Man but does not trigger Spider-Man’s early warning abilities, his spider sense, which gives him a crucial advantage over Spider-Man. Venom also has knowledge of Spidey’s secret identity and kidnapped Peter’s parents in an effort to lure him into trap. Although he has had a tendency to fight for good by protecting the innocent he started out as a villain and always comes back to his evil-doing roots. His extreme popularity guarantees him a place on this list.
Most heinous crime: Pushed Spider-Man in front of a train and turned Peter Parker into a ultra-violent vigilante while trying to bond with him.
First Appearance: Uncanny X-men #1, Marvel Comics
One of the first mutants to appear on the planet and also one of the most dangerous, Magneto has deemed that mutants or homo-superiors are homo sapiens’ successors as rulers of the planet. He is more than willing to sacrifice every human to achieve his ultimate goal of mutant domination on Earth.
His control of all magnetic forces him a good shot at this, especially when he leads his team of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants or any army of misguided mutants. Not letting his past friendship with Charles Xavier get in the way, he has attacked the X-men throughout their history and knows their strengths and weaknesses.
Most heinous crime: He ripped Wolverine’s adamantium metal skeleton from his body and physically reduced the X-men to the level of a two-year old while leaving their minds in tact. Oh, and he killed Jean Grey.
First Appearance: Batman #1, DC Comics
Update: Also read our list of the top 10 best Joker stories.
The maniacal Joker is Batman’s most dangerous foe. Unpredictable, murderous and surprisingly cunning, the Joker is a threat to all human life. Heath Ledger commented on his role, describing his character, the Joker as a “psychopathic, mass-murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy.”
While Joker is a skilled inventor and chemist, the reason he is on this list is due to his purely evil actions spurred by his insanity. Nothing is beyond him and no life holds any value in his warped reality. With a maniacal intensity his focus is usually on destroying Batman while having a laugh doing it. Killing innocents isn’t only his plan, it is his desire.
His most heinous crime: He is a mass murderer killing hundreds of people. He killed the 2nd Robin, Jason Todd, Sarah Essen (Commissioner Gordon’s second wife), and crippled Batgirl.
1. Lex Luthor
First Appearance: Action Comics #23, DC Comics
Lex Luthor may be one of the most gifted persons alive in every facet of his life, but he is also a sociopath without regard for the suffering of others. His hatred for the Man of Steel drives him and makes him Superman’s greatest foe.
Becoming President of the United States and knowing that Kryptonite is the one weakness of Superman has given Lex advantages when trying to destroy Clark Kent’s alter ego. Lex’s disregard for everyone, believing himself superior to all others, has placed him at the top of the list. It has to be noted that he is more intelligent than Superman and has often out-smarted him. Add to the fact that nothing is too low or too vile for him, he has an advantage over the moral limitations of Superman. Being calculating, cool and a master manipulator puts Lex at the top of the comic book villain list.
Most heinous crime: Lex activated a “Doomsday Plan” to destroy Metropolis and burned the city to the ground killing thousands. He also had an affair Perry White’s wife, fathering a child.
There were many honorable mentions such as Doctor Octopus, Dark Phoenix, Sinestro and Apocalypse. Do you think any other comic book villains were overlooked? (Editors note: Red Skull and Darkseid deserve at least honorable mention.)