Who Has The Best Villains in Comics?

A hero is only as good as their villains. There are times when it’s great to see a hero beat down on some thugs and save the hapless civilian, but we all know that such tussles are beneath the abilities of the truly spectacular. And if we can agree that a hero is, at least in part, measured by his villains, it then becomes necessary to determine who in comics has the best villains with which to fight. We are nerds, people, if we don’t sort this out, well, there will be no consequences, but that’s hardly the point of a great nerd debate now is it?

Man in a suit is the biggest threat? I'm already bored.

First, we have to disqualify a few folks. I know, I hate to do it, but I don’t want anyone to think they were just ignored, it’s better that I explain just why they don’t even merit a place in the discussion. First out of the running is the big blue boy scout: Superman. Her’s as powerful as a hero can get, but his villains just…a aren’t. Yes, there is Lex Luthor, who is a fantastic foil for Supes, but this list is about having villains, not just villain. There’s also Braniac, but his portrayal is just too inconsistent to be considered one of the greats. After that you get Parasite? The Toyman? Mr. Mxyzptlk? I’m sorry I’m just not feeling it.

The same sort of principle applies to Captain America. He has one fantastic villain in the Red Skull, but beyond that not a lot. Sure he punched Hitler, but fortunately the Fuehrer isn’t much a threat these days.

Getting back to Superman, before you scream Darkseid at me, I want to point out that I would consider Darkseid as much a villain of the Justice League as I would Superman specifically, which brings me to my next point.

All I see are 5 teenagers trying to hurt a Holocaust survivor.

The X-Men and Magneto. Magneto is one of my favorite villains in all of comics, but I’m just going to go ahead and declare that this discussion is about individual heroes and not teams.So isn’t Professor X the hero to Magento’s villain, you might ask? I guess I just don’t consider Charles a proper superhero, maybe that says more about me than him, but that’s just how it is. (For another similar example see: Fantastic Four vs. Doctor Doom; I love Doom, but this isn’t a list for teams.)

Next I’d like to disqualify Wonder Woman, I know I’ve already knocked off two of the DC trinity (hint hint) but if you have god-level powers and you’re nemesis is an archaeologist with cheetah powers? You’re out. Sorry.

And finally for my disqualifications come Captains Marvel. That’s right, both of them. One is the magic equivalent of Superman augmented with a talking tiger and his villains are a parasite or a guy with the exact same powers as him. The other is a venerated hero in the Marvel universe who has one of the most poignant deaths yet to happen in 616, but who did he ever fight? Even his replacements have never had a cadre of baddies to be worth the legacy.

So who gets on my short list for the best? Well if you were paying attention I bet you could guess that Batman would make the shortlist. I don’t even know where to begin. Joker is the ultimate antithesis, and has been done in myriad ways all relevant commentary on the Dark Knight. Then there’s Two-Face who has the tantalizing possibility of redemption always just a coin flip away. Scarecrow, the Ventriloquist, Catwoman, Mr. Freeze, Penguin, Ra’s al Ghul, and the Riddler. This is a diverse list of adversaries that all bring different challenges to Bruce’s plate and comment on his character in different ways. It’s a tough list to top.

One of these is actually Clayface. Can you guess who?

But Spider-Man may just be able to. The crazy thing about Spider-Man is that most of the heroes I’ve listed so far have a clear prime nemesis. A singular character who is their main bad guy. Luthor, Red Skull, Joker, etc. Peter Parker doesn’t have that. You may have the knee-jerk reaction that Green Goblin deserves the spot, but is that really the case? Can you simply discount Doctor Octopus? Or the Lizard? Or Venom? These characters all share disparate yet personal connections with the web-slinger. And each have it in for him in their own unique ways. I’m not sure you can pin just one down as THE main villain. Add that to the fact that Spider-Mans rogues gallery is just so expansive, from a guy with a rhino suit to a living vampire to an old man with wings. Call it the old Parker luck, but I think Peter is a contender in this bout.

Pictured: Parker Luck.

And since I used the word “rogue” I may as well bring the Flash into this. Not only does the Flash have an excellent assortment of villains, but they’re freaking unionized! They all acknowledge that they’re rotten, and decide to team up and call themselves “the Rogues.” Sure, it’s on the nose, but it’s also quite effective. The other really cool thing about the Flash’s foes is the idea of legacy, which runs parallel to the hero, who also embraces the concept of passing the torch. This is the kind of epic and over-arching themes that I think can really only occur in serialized storytelling, which is in and of itself for why Flash could have the best villains in comics. Batman could be a prose hero and still make the list, Flash makes the list in part because of the medium in which we most readily read him.

Unions, am I right? #Touchdown

So those are my three top picks. Is this list complete? HECK NO! I’m sure I’ve discounted someone I shouldn’t have or completely ignored someone I should have venerated. This is what comments are for, just be nice lest you become my arch-nemesis in the process of telling me how dumb I am. Have at it!


Ryan Haupt is left-handed, so some might say he’s sinister. Participate in his plan for world domination by listening to the podcast Science… sort of.


  1. Publisher wide, DC wins, hands down IMO

  2. Those are the three immediate options definitely. I’d give the edge to Batman just because they so perfectly represent different psychological aspects of Batman.
    What about Invincible’s villains?

    • From Invincible, I don’t think outside Angstrom Levy and the Viltrumites there are any villains (so far) that are a real threat to Invincible, don’t get me wrong, I really like guys like Tether Tyrant but they just make the random appearance, get beaten, another guy shows up, repeat(Invincible still is my favorite super hero comic btw).

  3. Yeah, it’s a toss-up between Spidey and Batman. Most of their villains are both iconic and fun, and many of them have had great, interesting stories told about them.

    I might give the edge to Spidey. He’s got so many villains he can loan them out to be other heroes’ villains (Kingpin, Venom, Norman Osborne, etc.)!

  4. Batman has to win this hands down. Even if we have our own favourites, the Bat-Villians have broken into the mainstream like no other.

  5. I might say Green Lantern. Sinestro, Black Hand, and the different colored Corps. So many different types of enemies and ones that are in direct conflict with the skills of the Green Lanterns.

  6. Just like Captain Cold once said: “They say a hero is only as strong as his villains. Meaning the Flash is more powerful than the whole Justice League of America combined. ”
    My vote goes for the Rogues!

    • What’s great about the Rogues is that they’re a fraternity – and I mean that in the best possibly way (not the animal house, old school kind of way). It’s their actions together that make them so compelling. Individually, not so much.

  7. I’m going Spider-man. Consider this, he was an Avenger and in The Fantastic Four. That being said nearly every villain in the Marvel universe can be a Spider-man villain. I know its a stretch. Remember I stated to consider it.

  8. This Panel from AVX is extremely relevant to the argument that Spider-man has a great rouges gallery.


  9. Spider-man’s villains are my personal favorite with Batman’s as a very close second. These have to be the top 2, I can’t think of anyone else who has as many villainsor as many popular/important villains as these two…..this probably has a lot to do with why Spider-man and Batman are my two favorite characters.

  10. I think Spider-Man has the best villians, followed by Batman.

    The Fantastic Four have a lot of great villians as well.

  11. I have to go with Spidey on this one but only by a hair. The case has been made and I second it, Almost every one is Spidey’s villian. The only thing that makes a case for Batman is The Joker. Spidey doesnt have that A+ villian like Batman does but he has SO MANY (Sinister 6, Sinister 7, Sinister 12 lol)

  12. I think it has to go to Spider-man.
    His villains are so varied and interesting both in look and character definition.

    Maybe I am showing my age here but while Batman has great villains, I think that a big reason his get such recognition is the 60’s show. The acting of Cesar Romero, Frank Gorshin, Burgess Meredith, etc took those characters out of comics and almost make it hard to compare them to other characters.

  13. Batman, Spiderman.

  14. Batman takes the top spot for sure. After reading the Geoff Johns stories, I’d say Flash’s rogues take second, but I don’t read that much Spider-Man to make a very informed decision.

  15. I’d go Daredevil. I know there’s the knock that a lot of his villains were originally Spider-Man villains, but he really took them and made them his own. Bullseye is one of the best villains ever, and he’s flanked by Kingpin, Typhoid Mary, the Owl, the Hand, Mister Fear, and great sometimes-friend-sometimes-foes like Punisher and Elektra. Then you’ve got his classic “rogues” gallery with guys like Gladiator, Purple Man, the Matador, Stilt-Man, and Man-Bull. Even his one time encounters with guys like Nuke or Lady Bullseye are classic.

    • I thought the same thing. I put him as 4th because his villains are a little less mainstream but are still awesome! Bullseye and the Kingpin’s relationship with Matt is soooo interesting and complex. The Owl routinely gets his butt kicked which is fun, Mister Fear destroyed a huge part of his life and the having “sometimes foes” are pretty unique to Daredevil. Gladiator was made a sympathetic villain in Brubaker’s run, which I think are the best kind of villains.

      Daredevil has so many great villains… Maybe that’s why his life always sucks lol

    • I’d definitely go with Flash. Yeah Spider-Man’s is more varied and Batman’s is more intimidating, but if DC ever needed to show anyone they could do character-driven stories, read some of Geoff Johns’ Flash stories that focused on the Rogues. The whole idea of working class super villains who aren’t out to conquer the world or kill their enemies, but rather just pull off big robberies because normal life is too boring and pathetic is, as far as I’m concerned, one of the most realistic and sympathetic presentations of comic book characters in the history of the medium. I love Mr. Freeze, but he couldn’t hold a candle to Captain Cold (well, he couldn’t hold a candle any way because it’s too hot, but you get my point).

  16. the one advantage dc has over marvel other than the big two is its villains.

    • Really? DC has one good villian in Darkseid, and the Jaoker is pretty great, but only really against Batman. The rest? Not all that great.

      I’d take Doom, Magneto, Galactus, Loki, Mandarin, Mephisto, AIM, HYDRA, Namor, Red Skull, Ultron, and I haven’t gotten to B or C list yet anyday.

  17. Can’t argue with those 3. My top five in order would be:

    1. Batman
    2. Spiderman
    3. Flash
    4. Daredevil
    5. Captain America (kind of biased on this one).

  18. Batman – his villains seem so much more archetypal than others…

  19. I think popularity wise – Batman wins hands down. Batman’s villains are household names.

  20. i disagree with your opinion of superman’s rogue gallery. I feel while they are not in the same league as batman’s, spider-man’s, and the flash, they are hardly the worst group, they just need better representation. But i see plenty of potential.

    Superman’s rogues (or at least my personal favorites)

    The Big Three
    Lex Luthor, Brainiac, General Zod

    The Classic Rogues
    Metallo, Parasite, Bizarro, The Kryptonite Man, Toyman, The Prankster

    New Blood
    Livewire, Luminous, Silver Banshee, Manchester Black

    The Wild Card
    Mr. Mr. Mxyzptlk

    All of these guys are visually interesting, everyone of them has a story behind them. Now if only we can get somebody who understands this and we’ll be in business.

  21. Soooo, you want us to agree with what has been true pretty much forever? It hasn’t changed. These 3 have always had the best villains.

  22. I’ve had this argument a million times and Spider-man is hands down the winner Green Goblin is the ultimate villan he’s LEx Luthor and the Joker in one!!

  23. Marvel
    Fantastic Four


    Joker is probably the greatest comic book villain of all time. Don’t believe me? Count how many Jokers you see Oct 31, watch Nicholson or Ledger’s performance as the character or (re)read the Killing Joke and Death in the Family. It’s kind of not even close.

  24. Between Bats and Spidey, it’s gotta be Bats. Spidey’s are interesting, but the Batman rogues are as adaptable as him, and can easily flip from hilarious to terrifying, depending on the writer.

    I’d say Dr. Strange has a pretty awesome rogues gallery, battling the likes of Dormammu, Baron Mordo, Mephisto and Nightmare on a weekly basis. Dude keeps the universe from collapsing every day.

    I know I’ll be alone here, but the Red Panda (star of The Red Panda Adventures on Decoder Ring Theatre) has some amazing villains: Mad Monkey, Captain Clockwork, the Electric Eel, Mordriel the Malevolent, Jack Rabbit, Kid Chaos, Deadly Nightshade, the Crimson Death, the Genie, the Poet and the Golden Claw, just for starters. Seriously, do yourself a favor and give a listen.

    • You are not alone. I’ve only been listening to Decoder Ring Theatre since January, but the Mad Monkey has become my all time favorite super villain. Other great Red Panda villains include Von Schlitz and Professor Zombie. I look more forward to the Red Panda (and Black Jack Justice) each month than any comic book these days. Side note – my youngest son is dressing as the Red Panda for Halloween this year.

  25. I know you DQ’d them, but the Fantastic Four win with Doom alone. None are greater than Doom.

  26. Joker > Green Goblin
    Two Face Mysterio
    Poison Ivy < Venom
    Penguin < Kingpin
    Killer Kroc < The Lizard
    Riddler The Rhino
    Clayface Black Cat

    I could probably keep going. I think that Batman may have better villains in some case. But as a collection of villains, I think it has to be Spider-Man. Although, both Batman and Spider-Man have very similar villains in more ways than one.

  27. Spidey.

  28. Great Article but I have to disagree on one point. Captain Marvel may have one of the greatest central antagonists in all of comics, Thanos. And unlike Darkseid there is a much more personal interaction between these two. (Read: Starlin’s Cosmic cube saga, Death of Captain Marvel, and the recent Thanos Imperative storyline.) As you said one villian does not make a gallery so Marvel should be excluded, but it has to be pointed out.

    Also Nitro started Civil War and he was another of Marvel’s villians.

  29. It’s gotta be Spidey, especially after they did the revamp of the villains.

    1. Green Goblin
    2. Doc Ock
    3. Venom
    4. Kingpin
    5. Lizard
    6. Kraven the Hunter
    7. Sandman
    8. Electro
    9. Vulture
    10. Mysterio
    11. Rhino
    12. Hobgoblin
    13. Chameleon
    14. Jackal
    15. Hammerhead/Morbius/Mr. Negative/Carnage/So many more I’m just tired of typing.

    As far as the top 5 go it’s close for bats and he may even have the number 1 villain of all time butttt Spider-Man’s list of villains is far superior and in a lot of cases a bit more interesting.

  30. growing up for me it was all Spiderman’s villains…but as i have gotten older, it is clearly Batman’s villains that win out..true its a close one..but if you really put both group of villians in a fight to the death fight club…in the end the Joker will win, and team Batman ‘s villains standtall.. cause that Joker..He crazyyyyyyyy.

  31. My personal favorite solo hero rogues galleries…

    Spider-Man (Green Goblin, Mysterio, Sandman, Rhino, Chameleon, Kraven, Vulture, Hobgoblin, Doc Ock, Lizard, Vermin, Venom, Carnage, Jackal…)
    Batman (Joker, Two-Face, Penguin, Riddler, Scar-Face, Killer Croc, Clayface, Ras Al-Ghul, Mr. Freeze, Man-Bat…)
    Captain America (Red Skull, Sin, Crossbones, Bartoc ze Leaper, Viper/Madam Hydra, Dr Faustus, Arnim Zola, both Baron Zemo’s, Machinesmith, Serpent Society, Madcap, crazy 50’s Cap…)

  32. I think we need a separate article for which TEAM has the best villians (my money is on The Avengers…)

  33. I gotta go with Batman. His villains are more iconic and, as another poster wrote, different “psychological aspects of Batman.” You don’t get that depth with the Spidey villains, they are just criminals.

    • I wouldn’t say “just criminal.” a lot of them are scientists, just like peter, who were caught in an experiment gone wrong, just like peter. Villains like the Green Goblin, Dr. Octopus, the Lizard, Morbius and even Swarm exist to show that Peter’s use of his power and his genius sets him apart from other people in similar circumstances.

  34. It’s easily Batman. How is this even a question? Spider-Man is at least a contender, but no one’s villains translate into different eras, themes, and media the way Batman’s do.

  35. I think you give it to Batman’s baddies, with Spidey’s coming in 2nd. Batman’s villains are, as others have said, archetypal and extremely versatile. With a few exceptions–Venom, Osborn, Doc Ock–Spidey’s rouges gallery’s strength is variety, not necessarily quality. For every lame-o Killer Moth Batman has, Spidey has 2 Typefaces and Vermins.

  36. Spider-Man wins!
    Batman has the joker, but the question is about villains.

  37. I’d have to give the nod to Batman, for all the reasons listed above. The Batman/Joker dynamic is (IMO) the greatest hero/villain pairing in comics, & quite possibly fiction. That said, I have a real soft spot for Silver Surfer/Mephisto.

  38. Spiderman hands down. my favorite spidey foes are the obscure ones like foreigner and solo

  39. I like the competition that Wolverine finds himself up against regularly. Sabertooth, Omega Red, Apocalypse, and Silver Samurai. I guess some of these would be marvel villains specifically, but Wolverine always has badass fights against them. Plus, he gets to do battle with The Hulk fairly often. He also had quite the dust up with Magneto.

  40. In terms of variety, Batman has the strongest rogues gallery bar none. Each with such strong, rich motifs and agendas. There are maniacs like Mad Hatter and the Ventriloquist to bruisers like Croc and more competent masterminds like Ra’s. And then you have the ultimate villain in the Joker.

    I used to consider Spider-Man’s rogues as on par with Batman’s, but after reviewing the latest Spider-Man movie I realized that far too many of Spidey’s enemies are mad scientists. They’re handled better in comics than in the films, but when it comes down to it, Spider-Man’s personal tragedies are always more compelling than the villains he faces. They’re either thugs or scientists that have come so unglued they don’t register as competent. There’s fun to be had, but it rarely gets as cerebral as a great Batman conflict.

  41. Avatar photo PymSlap (@alaska_nebraska) says:

    I’m looking for a good Poison Ivy tale.

    • I’ve been waiting for years to find a good Poison Ivy story. Sadly, my favorite Ivy is from “The Batman” animated series, I don’t know that I’ve ever read a truly good comic story with her in it.

    • In No Mans Land, there are a few issues with Ivy, that I really enjoyed.

    • Avatar photo PymSlap (@alaska_nebraska) says:

      Cool, man! Ivy’s on the cover of Swamp Thing this week. It’s precisely the type of guest-appearance I wanted.

  42. The villains of the Fantastic Four and Avengers (Dr. Doom, Kang, Ultron, etc.) are pretty good, as are the X-Men.

    I think the reason that Spidey, Flash, and Batman stand out so much is that their villains are so well tailored to their style and story. There is an internal logic, a coherence to the villains that works as a group. Also, they have comparable power levels to their hero.

  43. Fantastic Four wins for me because of the sheer diversity. Whereas Batman has street-level psychopaths and Spider-man has accident-prone furries, the FF have *adjusts glasses*

    Dr. Doom (Despot, Magical Scientist)
    Galactus (Space god)
    Namor (Monarch, adulterer)
    Wizard (mad scientist)
    Psycho-Man (microscopic robot)
    Mole Man (creepy monster master)
    Skulls (alien frogmen)

    And a lot of the classic FF villains became great heroes in their owe right such as the Inhumans, Black Panther and Silver Surfer.

    • Annihilus (anti-matter insect god)
      Puppet Master (just kidding, he’s a shit villain)
      Evil Reeds (because Reed is the biggest dick of all)

    • I will always love Spider-Man comics, but Batman’s villains are the best of all time. The argument isn’t that they are the best because they’ve been in so many movies, tv shows, etc. and are known the world over. The argument is that they have achieved this super-saturation in popular culture BECAUSE they are the best.

  44. Best hero has the best villains – Spider-man

    Best team has best villains – FF

    DC’s villains are mostly lame, even Batman’s. You might like them better, but seriously…

  45. Actually surprised no one has mentioned Green Lantern. Sinestro is basically Space Hitler. Then there is Cyborg Superman, Black Hand, Hector Hammond, The Weaponers of Qward, Star Sapphire, Krona, the Red Lantern Corps, and Mongul. Some pretty great villains there.

    • Sinestro is not space Hitler. At least not in modern times, I can’t speak for back in the day as I’ve never read old GL. Sinestro is one of the most interesting & multi-faceted characters in comics right now.

  46. The Flash has my personal favorite villains, but trying to look at it objectively, I would say Batman. I also think Superman’s non-Luthor villains are quite underrated

  47. The Flash wins, and here’s why: I’d read a series about the Rogues on their own, but Bats’ and Spidey’s villains are only interesting then they’re up against the hero.

  48. Why is two face half dressed up as spider-man?

  49. This has me thinking about what non-Marvel or DC book has the best villains. What comes to mind are “Bone,” “Hellboy,” “The Boys,” “Savage Dragon,” “Walking Dead,” “Invincible,” “The Maxx,” and “Spawn” (even though they’re really dumb, I still remember a ton of them, probably because of the action figures).

  50. I am amazed no one has said Iron Man. Iron Man has just as vast of a Rogues gallery as Spidey or Bats and far more powerful then The Flash’s Rogues. You have Manadrin, Stane, Crimson Dynamo, Blizzard, Living Lazer, Whiplash, Fin Fang Foom, Grey Gargoyle, Iron Monger, Radioactive Man, Titaninum Man, and many more. He’s Rogues may not be as cool as Batman’s but I have to say they are way better then at least The Flash.

  51. Your disqualification “rules” are a little wonky to me, because A.) I’m not sure why teams don’t count, and B.) it seems like you’re disqualifying people just to avoid having to criticize a stable of villains. “Hey, don’t you like so-and-so’s villains?” “Oh, yes, I do, quite a bit! But see, they just don’t meet the criteria!” Own your opinions, man! Own your opinions!

    That said, I’d go with Batman. Then Spidey. Then the X-Men.

  52. I always thought Batman’s villains were kind of over-rated. A lot of them are the same, just with a different gimmick. One is a petty thief who is obsessed with riddles. one is a petty thief who is obsessed with clocks. One is a petty thief who is obsessed with Louis Gossett, Jr. movies. One is a petty thief who is obsessed with the color Burnt Sienna. Whatever. That being said, Joker is great, as is Scarecrow.

    As far as single heroes go, i think the Flash has the best villains. And not just the Rogues. Zoom is bad ass. And who is cooler than GORILLA GRODD???? NOBODY!

    As far as teams go, I think the Fantastic Four has the most underrated rogues gallery in comics. People jump to Doom right away, but they have so many other great villains. The Wizard, with or without his latest version of the Frightful Four. The Skrulls. Galactus. Annihilus. Namor (off and on.) The Puppet Master. The Psycho Man. Diablo. The Hulk (off and on.) Kang. the Impossible Man (off and on.) The Mad Thinker. The Mole Man. Red host and the Super-Apes. Not to mention whatever wacked out aliens or inter-dimensional beings they come across. Love, love, love the FF villains.

  53. I would have to say Batman. Many of Batmans villains have great stories of their own, they don’t even have Batman in it. Look at Azzarellos joker, or Penguin pain and prejudice. Or Scott Snyders recent annual for mr freeze. These characters can fill their own stories without a hero quite well. Aside from Luthor, Dr. Doom, Sinestro, Magneto, Red Skull, and Darkseid, how many other villains can even say that. Spiderman doesn’t even have one villain like that in his gallery (Then again maybe Remender proved me wrong with the Venom run he did). Nor does the flash. Both their rogues galleries rely entirely on the hero.

  54. Personally, I don’t think he has the best. But, I think the argument could be made for Wolverine. Maybe his rogues re too much X Men baddies. Omega Red, Sabretooth, Mystique, Silver Samurai, and let’s not forget RAZOR FIST!

  55. now i want a weekly feature called rogues gallery, every week pictures of a different characters rogue gallery.

  56. if it were avengers vs justice league rogue gallery who would you pick. my answer is based on the cartoon and the weirdos in the swamp with the base that looked like darth vader designed it. its just iconic.

  57. I’m not a big Superman fan, but um, Doomsday (who may have been created JUST to kill him for a couple issues but that is exactly what Bane was for Batman back in the early 90’s) outmatches Big Blue for power and on his first outing cripples half the Justice League AND kills the Man of Steel.

    Add Lex Luthor, the Parasite, Bizzaro and most of the rest of the DCU wouldn’t be able to handle the power levels of Supe’s Rogue’s Gallery.