Over eight decades, DC Comics has racked up an impressive array of villains. The saying goes that you can measure the quality of a man, or superman, by his enemies. Naturally, the range of villainy faced by the heroes of the Multiverse is broad.
If you’re the Flash, you might foil a Rogue’s bank heist in the morning before stopping Professor Zoom’s breach of the Speed Force in the afternoon. It’s all in a day’s work, but some villains are more likely to stop a super-speedster in their tracks than others. At the top of the pile, the irrefutably evil villains are on a path that only goes one way. As Amanda Waller might say when describing her latest recruits to the Suicide Squad, the worst of the worst.
But her Suicide Squad’s too soft for this bunch. These are the real deal. The reason Superman wakes up every morning, Batman’s out every night, and Wonder Woman left Themyscira. There are terrible forces out there, and someone needs to stop them.
The latest DC crisis, the Dark Crisis, delves deeper than ever into the evil of the Multiverse, revealing hands that have been working against all that’s good for millennia. If you want to know who that might be, you’ll have to read on. We’re evil like that.
Here’s our ranking of the most evil DC villains.
10. Mr. Zsasz
Victor Zsasz has broken from comics to reach movies, TV shows, and video games, but he remains a lesser-known Gotham villain. That’s the way he’d like it if he cared. Zsasz is a psychopath dedicated to murder, or as he sees it, freeing his victims from the pointlessness of life. He emphasizes the point by rearranging his victims into lifelike poses.
Some writers have taken us inside this disturbing mind, showing how Zsasz is influenced by color and aura. Still, his indiscriminate killing makes him difficult to track, and he is one of the few villains Batman warns Robin to avoid. It’s hardly a saving grace that you know when you’ve found him – Zsasz records every one of his victims by etching number gates on his body.
It’s logic that manifests as evil in the various Brainiacs Superman has fought over the years. Some continuities blame this “twelfth-level intellect” for the destruction of Krypton, but it’s better known for its collection: shrinking and stealing cities — and their inhabitants — across the universe.
DC’s New 52 reset redeveloped Brainiac’s origin as a classic out-of-control scientist, bending morals as he became obsessed with saving planets. No villain is better suited to crisis resets – an evil that constantly iterates itself so that no defeat can be final. An evil living program that can transfer its consciousness, the Collector of Worlds, is utterly alien and terrifying.
Parallax is the immortal sworn enemy of the Guardians of the Universe. A yellow demon of pure fear, it’s fed on the emotions of the universe since the beginning of time. When imprisoned on the Guardian’s planet of Oa, it became the yellow impurity – a traditional vulnerability for the Green Lantern Corps.
Parallax is used to long games, like the years it spent breaking Hal Jordan’s self-confidence until the destruction of Coast City during The Reign of the Supermen arc pushed him over the edge. The corruption of Jordan was enough to trigger the Zero Hour crisis as the one-time hero attempted to restructure the universe. This immortal, living emotion is a self-fulfilling prophecy – the very existence of Parallax breeds the terror it feeds on.
You don’t need to imagine the wrath of God Incarnate – Eclipso is the embodiment of the Angel of Death. This is the force that unleashed the Great Flood and subsequent plagues of the Bible. Far creepier when consuming innocents like Atom’s vulnerable wife Jean Loring during Identity Crisis than when it possesses meta-heroes, at least you can recognize whoever he corrupts from the eclipse that falls over his victims.
Eclipso’s powers are brilliantly Golden Age. By looking through the Heart of Darkness gem, he emits dark light from his left eye and black light from his right. Neither are good. The overriding laws of the Presence — the analog of the creator God in DC Comics — may govern Eclipso, but those parameters make him all the more chilling.
The DC Multiverse is packed with demons, but few match Trigon – the father of Titan member Raven. He’s another villain described as the living embodiment of evil, but Trigon has a good claim. He killed everyone around him at birth, including his mother, and hasn’t stopped since.
Trigon’s purpose is to conquer and destroy everything, and although he’s overcome phenomenal forces like the Divine, it’s cost him the ability to leave his realm. If anything, that’s left him more insidious, calling followers, acolytes, and victims to him so they can spread his evil into the Multiverse from afar.
Doomsday was introduced for one purpose: the death of Superman. The full stony extent of Doomsday’s form, the DC Universe’s ultimate killing machine, is eye-catching, but his original bound form was even worse. It left no doubt he was a being of pure evil. Beating a path from his underground prison, one of his first acts was to crush a chirping bird in his hand with a snigger. Gulp.
Subsequent stories have added depth and backstory to this stony embodiment of raging evil. They’re entertaining but dilute the pure power of his first appearance and inexplicable, apparently motiveless fight to the death with the Man of Steel.
4. The Batman who Laughs
Joker would have made it this if a Clown Prince of Crime in the Dark Multiverse hadn’t realized his ultimate ambition. Joker has the mileage, but the Batman Who Laughs has the nihilistic achievements. He’s the worst-case scenario: A Bruce Wayne who finally killed the Joker, only to be transformed by a final potent dose of Joker venom. All the strategy and knowledge of Batman distorted by the Joker’s insanity.
This Darkest Knight has unleashed the dark Multiverse through two Metal Crises and has come close to breaking the Multiverse. The villain’s extraordinary medieval visor allows him to see the Dark while adding a dash of Cenobite and Judge Death that doesn’t harm his reputation. It’s all the worse knowing that a variant of Batman is under the savage costume.
The legendary ruler of the fiery world of Apokolips, Darkseid’s infamous quest is for the Anti-Life Equation, the code rumored to give any being control over the will of the universe. His goal is to subjugate everything, reforming it in his image. As such, he’s had a cold hand in or actively encouraged the worst cosmic atrocities and battles in the Multiverse.
Darkseid received a revised origin during the New 52, and it was suitably chilling. A farmer who took the journey to assassinate the gods that slept above mortals, it brought him closer to the origins of the Greek Gods of Mount Olympus. But Darkseid is a New God, the god of evil set in stone and a phenomenal opponent for the universe. When it comes to evil, Darkseid is.
Only the mother of the Anti-Monitor could knock the big bad of the Crisis on Infinite Earths off this list. Perpetua was the hidden darkness unleashed when the events of Dark Nights: Metal broke the Source Wall that kept the Multiverse safe from whatever lurked outside.
That was soon revealed to be the Multiverse’s original creator, Perpetua, a being from the dawn of time now obsessed with the destruction of everything. She reforged Lex Luthor into the Apex Predator and unleashed the Year of the Villain, but her influence had been felt before. During her lengthy imprisonment, her whisper was said to be behind much of the evil in the Multiverse.
1. The Great Darkness
An invention of Alan Moore, the Great Darkness, or Great Evil Beast, first appeared in the pages of Swamp Thing Volume 2 during the culmination of Crisis on Infinite Earths. It would be decades before we realized this is the ultimate bad of DC Comics. The embodiment of darkness in the omniverse, it sprang into existence when the Presence uttered four words: “Let there be light.”
The Dark Crisis of 2022 revealed this dark hand is behind all the woes of the DC Multiverse. It dispatched Anti-Monitor, Pariah, and Dr. Manhattan to trigger repeating Crises. It has launched endless attacks on the light of the Multiverse, but the Dark Crisis is its realization that superheroes are the problem. The shadow behind Perpetua and the Batman Who Laughs. The power that Darkseid envies. There’s no appeal to the source of all darkness.