The other week I wrote up my Top 5 DC Heroes without Powers (who aren’t Batman). But I realized during this exercise that the two biggest bads of the DCU are also without powers. This, obviously, has yielded a list, and to keep it interesting, I’ll be avoiding Messer’s Joker and Luthor.
5. The Riddler
I wanted to include Edward Nigma because even though on the surface he’s very similar to the Joker, he’s managed to assert himself as a villain in his own right. I think part of this must be due to the amazing portrayal of the character by Frank Gorshin during the 1960’s. I honestly think he might have been my favorite bad guy in the show, even outshining the mustache that could be plainly seen through Cesar Romero’s makeup. In the comics they’ve done their best to rationalize his compulsion through elaborate back-stories involving father issues and puzzle solving, but at the end of the day I like the purity of the idea that a scrawny nerd just wants to prove he’s smarter than the great detective, and what other way to do that than with an overly elaborate crime and riddle?
It’s often argued that the Flash has the best rogue’s gallery in comics. Not to put too fine a point on it, they even took to calling themselves the Rogues. However, I’m not sure Captain Boomerang is the best example when trotting out this particular argument. Yet here he is on this list; not because he’s the best, far from it, but because he is ridiculous. I could see how a guy like Digger Harkness might make a good villain for Green Arrow, but the Flash is a founding member of the Justice League and by all means out of the Captain’s weight class. That being said, I kind of like the guy. He’s malleable enough to be interesting, sometimes cast as the dashing rogue, while in others he’s shown as the sad-sack over the hill loser. If you’re still not convinced, I suggest going and listening to a few episodes of Tom vs. The Flash as proof of Captain Boomerang’s glory.
3. Dr. Sivana
I couldn’t write a list on villains without powers without including at least one oversized brain into the mix. DC actually has quite a number of brainy villains; so many that they made a story line out of having them on all an island during 52, so it was hard to pick just one. I went Dr. Sivana because of how much he has in common with another bald mad scientist that wasn’t included on this list. Sivana is bald, brilliant, and fights against the world’s mightiest mortal Captain Marvel Shazam. He’s even the one who started calling him the “Big Red Cheese,” which may be the most lasting impact he’s yet had against his foe. Furthermore, he’s the originator of the phrase “Curses, foiled again!” which is pretty iconic in its own right. Anyone who self-describes as a mad scientist and tries to take on a magical being with the power of the gods deserves some recognition.
2. Captain Cold
Another captain AND another Flash rogue?! That’s right. Len Snart is the kind of criminal comics need more of. He’s tough, smart (but not too smart), and knows his limitations. He’s not out for world domination, he’s out to make a few bucks, hang out with his buds, and meet some women. And even though he’s working class, why not do all that with some flare? Got himself a cold gun, tossed on a parka, and some eskimo goggles and it’s off to the races! I love how Cold keeps the other rogues in line, and goes toe-to-toe with the Flash without actually hating the guy. That takes class, and it earns him a number 2 spot.
One thing that makes a villain great is an element of tragedy, and few can top the story of Harvey Dent. He may have been the closest thing Bruce Wayne had as a true and equal friend, but then it all fell apart. The best thing about Two-Face is that he could actually become a good guy at any moment, an idea I believe should be credited to Greg Rucka. He said, and I’m paraphrasing, that it’s possibly, however unlikely, that the coin will always land on the side of good, and that Harvey could keep doing the right thing over and over again. I know that it’s easy to spot a human-generated string of heads and tails precisely because humans don’t put in long enough strings of one or the other, e.g. you’d put only 3 or 4 heads in a row, but a truly random sample would likely have more if it was long enough. That tantalizing possibility for redemption keeps the character fresh. Batman is driven by his desire to help everyone, even his villains, and to have it all rely on odds and probability must be infuriating to the extreme. “At least chaos is fair.”