Top 5: DC Superheroes Without Powers (Who Aren’t Batman)

The other day me and my schoolyard chums were talking about research into how geckos can walk up walls. This naturally led to wishing we could have gloves to let us wall-crawl like Spider-Man. Then, of course, we got into web-slinging, which was argued as not that useful in a place like Wyoming. So I mentioned that Batman has his grappling hooks and his cape can let him glide, so maybe that would be better. I was told that without powers, Batman is inferior to Spider-Man, which is a separate discussion entirely. What I’m building to is that one of the guys in that conversation asserted that “Batman and Iron Man are the only two superheroes without powers.” Obviously I took exception. Here are my top 5 from DC alone, not counting Batman.

5. Sandman

I figured the genesis of this list should include a Mystery Man, and who’s cooler than Wesley Dodds? He wants to fight crime so he puts on a sweet double breasted suit, trench coat, and fedora. He augments this ensemble with a gas mask and a gun that puts people to sleep. It’s a simple timeless look for a man who needs no powers to get the job done.


4. Oracle

I spend a lot of time at the computer. I’m even at one RIGHT NOW. So I have much love and respect for the info-mastery displayed by Barbara Gordon in her role as Oracle. I would love to have someone like her in my earpiece feeding me info as I went about my day. “Your shoelace is about to come untied, I saw it loosening on the satellite.”


3. Green Arrow

In the days before the New 52 I really had a soft spot for Oliver Queen. There’s something so pure about saying “let’s make Robin Hood” a modern-day superhero. It has the potential to fall so very flat (and at time has done just that) but the tenure of some great creative teams turned Ollie into a much more complex character than Robin Hood with Batman’s gadgets. Plus he still uses a longbow. Nobody uses those anymore, that’s just insane, but also very badass.


2. Steel

The thing I admired most about the introduction of Steel during the Death of Superman storyline is that he was the only Superman replacement that didn’t pretend to actually be Superman. I was actually a huge fan of the John Henry story growing up, and when I found out that a guy used his dual inspiration of old and new American myth to build a suit to fight street crime I was sold.  John Henry Irons is smart, strong, proud; and maintains a relationship with Superman himself that is unlike any other relationship Superman has with a “mere mortal.”  Plus who doesn’t love a hero with a hammer?


1. Nightwing

Dick Grayson takes the cake as un-powered heroes of the DCU for a few reasons. 1) He started when he was a kid, so not just without superpowers but without even facial hair, that takes some serious guts. 2) He has the respect and admiration of some of the most major superpowered players in the DCU, as well as the admiration of his own mentor, which is not an easy thing to get. 3) He smiles. He actually enjoys doing what he does, and can’t help but show it. 4) High collar v-neck and a ponytail. QED or, as I believe they say on the Internet, “Your argument is invalid.”


  1. Green Arrow would be at the top of my list. Never was a Nightwing fan. I do recognize that there are some really sucky Green Arrow comics out there.

    Does Marvel have more/better power-less superheroes?

    • Off the top of my head, much like this list, leaving Iron Man off:

      The Punisher
      Nick Fury
      Black Widow

      Also, no love for Ted Kord Blue Beetle? I love(d?) him!

    • I don’t think Nick Fury (classic Marvel, Ultimate might be non-powered) or Black Widow count. Since they were both active during WWII and the Cold War, they’ve had some kind of enhancement, right?

      Bucky (Winter Soldier) is close to non-powered, if you can overlook his bionic arm.

      But I think on the whole, Marvel has fewer non-powered heroes.

    • 5. Black Widow
      4. Moon Knight
      3. Winter Soldier (if Steel’s suit doesn’t count as a “power” I don’t think a bionic arm should)
      2. Nick Fury
      1. Hawkeye

    • They both have Infinity Formula to stop their aging and keep them in peak physical condition.

    • Moon Knight sometimes has powers depending on who is writing him. Black Widow and Nick Fury don’t really have powers beyond not aging. Captain America’s only power is he’s on really good steroids. Daredevil’s doesn’t really have powers either. His are just heightened senses.

  2. Batgirl
    Red Hood

    This is why I love the Bat Family more than any other family of comics. They don’t have super powers, just normal people out there fighting crime. Well, maybe not NORMAL, but you get what I’m puttin’ down. 😉

  3. No Ted Kord? For shame, Ryan. For shame.

    And how, how, HOW does DC keep screwing Green Arrow up so badly? It’s hard to be a fan.

  4. No complaints here. Special mention for Speedy / Mia Dearden?

  5. Sandman (Wesley Dodds) does have a power… Prophetic Dreams… So he wouldn’t really count. Adam Strange, Red Arrow, Red Hood, Huntress, Batwoman, Renee Montoya (The Question), could all be on this list, and some of which would be better than Steele….

    Oracle and Green Arrow should be at the top of this list, as Dick Grayson is just another Batman / Robin (and really, all the robins could be on this list, right?)

    • Agreed – there’s too many heroes that are just derivative of Batman – there’s no real distinction between Batman and Nightwing and any of the various Robins or Batgirls, Batwomen. Speedy/Red Arrow/Connor Green Arrow – are also for intents and purposes the same as Green Arrow.

    • Jason’s not on the list. He’s a loser.

      I support Ryan’s decision to include Nightwing. For all the reason he mentioned, as well as the ability to successfully step out of his mentor’s shadow (which makes him the opposite of “just another Batman”), which was incredibly important for both fictional character legacies and comics history in general.

    • Of course there are similarities, since they were all trained by Batman to one degree or another. But I don’t think it’s fair to say they’re just derivative of Batman.

      Part of Dick Grayson’s recent run as Batman highlighted how he’s different from Bruce. He’s more of an acrobat in his approach to combat, not as reliant on brute force. And between Robins, Tim Drake is definitely a better detective/tactician than Dick Grayson. I’m not familiar with Jason Todd, but I’d say his willingness to use lethal force sets him apart. And Damien is arguably the most capable for his age and the most resistant to teamwork.

      On the Batgirl side, Barbara was always Oracle to me so I can’t speak to her, but Cass Cain brought an almost-superhuman combat ability to the role, whereas Stephanie Brown succeeded more from hard work and willpower.

    • @Mart8El Well I’ll be damned. I knew Sandy Hawkins had that power, I had no idea it came from Dodds. Whoops.

    • +1 to everything KenOchalek said.

  6. What about Hawkeye? or is he too similar to Green Arrow?!

  7. Is the Green Lantern ring considered a superpower? He has an object that allows him to have power, but if he takes the ring off, he’s just a normal person. Wheras Superman, Aquaman, The Flash etc have powers that are a part of them on a more physical level. I kind feel that is a “superpower” vs those that have powerful accessories.

  8. Tim Drake

  9. I’d agree that tech can mimic superpowers in someone like Steel and kind of skews the category of “superpowerless heros”. (and nightwing being Batman in a different universe, kind of disqualifies him)

    Ted Kord used about as much tech as Nite Owl (They seem to have many parallels actually).

    But, if your looking for a man who succeeds against evil with only his wits, fedora and tranchcoat, look no further than Vic Sage. His stories combined ingenius detective work, realistic but impressive fights and -at times- crippling paranoia.
    His lighter incarnation in the Justice League cartoon is really enjoyable as well. I can’t wait to see the original Question return to comics!

    • I’m no historian, but I’m pretty sure Nite Owl was written as an analog to Blue Beetle, much like Dr. Manhattan was to Captain Atom, as both were Charlton Comics characters that DC was originally going to let Alan Moore use.

  10. I definitely would have thrown Vic Sage on this list. It’s cool to see Wesely Dodds on here. Just reread the his Sand and Stars arc in Starman. Oh yeah…why no Starman?

  11. I miss Ollie Queen. Can we get an in-continuity book starring pre-N52 Green Arrow, Tim Drake, and Wally West stuck in the old universe and coming to the new in an effort to repair it? I know it makes no sense, but I can dream.

    • I second that, Red Robin’s costume was sweet and was happy to see it in Gates of Gotham and I’m still hoping they use that version of Tim Drake in Earth-2 or one of Grant Morrison’s Multiverse’s like they used him as a future character in KIngdom Come, Elseworlds or not, that story trickled into JSA. Green Arrow was entirely better pre new52, costume design during Brightest Day run was perfect. We can hope and won’t be surprised if they do pop up the way I wanna see em.

  12. The Question
    Red Hood
    Rip Hunter
    Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth

  13. Wildcat!!

  14. Blue Beetle (Ted Kord). Hawkman, since he technically has no powers. Oh, and Adam Strange. If this list included all of DC and not just the DCU, I’d pick Rorschach as #1.

    • I’d say Hawkman falls into the same category as Green Lantern (and on the Marvel side, Iron Man, etc.). He’s just a dude, sure. But he’s a dude with some serious accessories.

  15. No Booster Gold? Blasphemy!

  16. What about John Constantine? Is being a bastard considered a super power?

    • He’s a tricky one. John’s constantly being referred to as having extraordinary gifts when it comes to spellcasting. But really, it’s his natural ability to con and weasel his way out of every sticky situation that makes him so special. Does having an uncanny, almost artistic grip on magic qualify as “powers”? I dunno. Good one.

    • I think Constantine has definitely elevated bastard-ness to superpowered levels

    • @wheelhands

      Yeah, I know he has a natural talent for spell casting, but the spells he does re ones that technically nobody with the knowledge needed could do (from the few hell blazer stories I have read, nyway.) Michael Jordan had natural athletic ability, but I wouldn’t call him a super powered being. It’s kind of a fine line, but I tend to place Constantine on the non-powered side of things, but I guess it could go either way.

  17. This get’s kinda interesting when you think of all the aliens, atlanteans, and amazons in DC. Do any of the really have powers or just different biology? Then most of the rest of them are regular people w/ awesome weapons. While on the marvel side almost everyone had some sort of accident/ event to make them become super people.

  18. Rorschach would be on my list.

  19. Harley Quinn and The Joker..enough said lol

  20. Ted Kord deserves mention but I’m happy with the list…..I noticed mention of Marvels non-powered characters, technically Nova would be a non-super powered cause is powers lie with worldmind and technology or am I wrong, how does he become a human rocket?