I got the idea to compile this list of greatest comic book villains of all time after a recent conversation with my brother. He had just watched Thor 2: The Dark World and was trying to tell me how Loki wasn’t an exciting villain. So, needlessly to say I had to set the record straight and give him a lesson on one of the greatest villains in comic history. Fortunately for all you readers out there, this lesson helped fuel my desire to compile this list of comics’ greatest villains. However, a few precursors before we begin: I constructed the list only using DC and Marvel characters; although the likes of Ozymandis (Watchmen) and the Governor (The Walking Dead) would likely be appropriate additions to this list, don’t expect to see them here. I also rated each villain on specific criteria to help with a fairer rating process. The criteria was based on the characters’ existence in the comic universe (age), their megalomaniac tendencies, their sinister level (characters they have killed and overall apathy towards life) and novelty points for their arch-nemesis(es) – after all, sometimes the hero makes the villain. The rating criteria will be graded on a scale of 0-5, zero being the lowest and five being the highest of course.
Editor’s Note: There will be spoilers, but that doesn’t mean you can’t stick around if you haven’t read every comic book ever. It only means that if you want to avoid spoilers, you should skip the villains with which you’re unfamiliar.
On the cuff villains (honorable mention): Thanos (Marvel Universe), Reverse Flash (DC), Dark Phoenix (Marvel) , Ra’s al Ghul (DC), Lex Luthor(DC)
10) Black Manta (DC) – 10 (Age-4, Megalomaniac-1, Sinister Level- 4, Arch-Nemesis-1)
Black Manta opens the list largely because he’s been Aquaman’s only foe and the only reason to acknowledge Aquaman’s existence. It is fair to say that having an unfavorable hero as his rival hurts Black Manta’s ranking on this list. None the less, the fact that Black Manta killed Aquaman’s son without any remorse has helped him break into the top ten. Add in the fact that Aquaman’s recent New 52 success is in large part due to the villainous nature of the sea-assassin from Baltimore.
9) Carnage (Marvel) – 12 (Age-2, Megalomaniac-1, Sinister Level-5, Arch-Nemesis-4)
Cletus Kasady may be one of the wickedest villains Marvel has ever created. Any comic fan growing up in 90’s will always hold the homicidal maniac in high regards as one of Spider-Man’s most lethal villains. He’s a relatively young villain in regards to the rest of the company appearing here, but there’s no denying his place on this list.
8) Magneto (Marvel) – 15 (Age-5, Megalomaniac-3, Sinister Level-2, Arch-Nemesis-5)
This may surprise a few to see the X-Men’s main foe so low on the list; but despite everything, Magneto really only lands on this list because he has been around since Uncanny X-Men #1, creating havoc for the mutant heroes. He’s never truly been a megalomaniac nor has he ever truly killed any heroes or characters of significance. Sure he ripped Wolverine’s adamantium out of his body; but considering Magneto has only ever pushed the boundaries of being an over-the-top villain, he has never truly embodied the sinister nature of one.
7) Red Skull (Marvel) – 15 (Age-5, Megalomaniac-5, Sinister Level-2, Arch-Nemesis-3)
Red Skull is another member of Marvel’s Old Guard. Like Magneto, he makes the list largely in part to longevity. Red Skull is Captain America’s deadliest foe, but he finds himself ranked low largely because Red Skull has never truly killed any important persons. He’s had his hands in some ingenious plots, but aside from side-kicks and by-standers he’s never taken that next step. However, he still has one of the most menacing faces in all of comics, and that has to count for something. Plus he is a Nazi.
6) Sinestro (DC) – 15 (Age-4, Megalomaniac-4, Sinister Level-3, Arch-Nemesis-4)
Sinestro is another underrated DC villain and Hal Jordan’s main antagonist. He not only killed a Guardian (a big violation of the Lantern Corps. mores), but he also created his own group of fear-producing lanterns known as the Sinestro Corps. He has never truly been a household comic name, but one cannot discredit the power of fear and the raw sinister nature Sinestro brings to the table.
5) Green Goblin (Marvel) – 16 (Age-5, Megalomaniac-3, Sinister Level-3, Arch-Nemesis-5)
If you don’t already know “the big spoiler” for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 movie (most people, especially comic people, do), you’ll definitely want to skip this one!
Norman Osborn falls into that category of the villain making the hero and rightfully opens our top five. He is more insane than power-hungry; but when he kills Gwen Stacy, I believe he makes Peter Parker. In a sense, he’s landing so high on this list because without that story arc, I don’t believe Spider-Man would be such a compelling and dynamic hero.
4) Loki (Marvel) – 17 (Age-4, Megalomaniac-5, Sinister Level-4, Arch-Nemesis-4)
I know Loki has received an absurd amount of new fans hopping on the Tom Hiddleston bandwagon, but make no mistake: Loki–not pretty boy Hiddleston–is a badass villain. Take away his cinema persona and Loki is an enterprising bad guy, who despite being the God of Mischief, routinely has to re-invent himself. Similar to The Prince of Crime, Loki uses his sinister intellect to outsmart heroes like his brother, Thor. It is his ability to keep heroes guessing and the fact that adversaries never give him enough credit, but instead somehow forget or convey the “he’ll never be able to manage that” attitude, that heroes neglect Loki and he consequently remains an underestimated threat. Add in the fact that his desire to rule over Asgard led him to murder his own adopted family without a care in the world, and Loki deserves every bit of evil credit. He has earned it.
3) Darkseid (DC) – 17 (Age-3, Megalomaniac-5, Sinister Level-5, Arch-Nemesis-4)
The ruler of Apokolips and a consistent pest for the Justice League members sees himself break into the top three because of his desire for galactic domination. Darkseid rules over his world like a dictator from Hell and could be argued as the most powerful villain in the DC Universe. Add in the fact that he killed Batman, and one can understand why the immortal genius, Darkseid, holds the bronze medal for greatest villains.
2) Dr. Doom (Marvel) – 18 (Age-5, Megalomaniac-5, Sinister Level-4, Arch-Nemesis-4)
Victor Von Doom is the ruler of Latveria and easily one of the best villains that either Marvel or DC has ever created. Dr. Doom’s quest for power is un-matched. He literally took over a country, built a massive castle in his image, created an army of Doombots, and did I mention his ego is the definition of megalomaniac? In addition to his vanity, Dr. Doom was never shy about killing heroes or characters; he killed his one true love, just to harvest a dark, majestic energy source. Anyone who consistently thwarts Iron Man and the Fantastic Four, and makes Joseph Stalin look like a democratic dictator deserves to be the #1 runner-up on this list.
1) The Joker (DC) – 18 (Age-5, Megalomaniac-3, Sinister Level-5, Arch-Nemesis-5)
Despite sharing the same score as Dr. Doom, the Prince of Crime is easily the greatest villain of all time. I believe any comic fan’s knee-jerk reaction to such a list would be to expect to see The Joker atop the list. The Joker is Batman’s greatest advisory and probably the most psychotic. The Joker kills for fun; he takes a certain level of pleasure out of doing so. Most notably was when he killed Jason Todd, and that’s not to mention that he paralyzes Barbara Gordon in an attempt to break Batman and Commissioner Gordon’s spirit. The man’s profession is crime and murder… What more can you want from the greatest villain of all time?
Thoughts? Agree or disagree? Who’d we leave out? We want to know!
This post is brought to you Nerdy Minds Magazine and The Drunken Nerd. Stay tuned to Nerdy Minds on Facebook and @NerdyMindsMag on Twitter for even more nerdy news, deals, top 10s, reviews, and interviews (etc.) coming soon! You can even subscribe to have each new post delivered straight to your inbox; simply scroll to the bottom of the page (yes, all the way down) and opt in (it’s easy and totally worth it so you’ll never miss another post)! And we won’t totally hate it if you share/tweet/stumble/tumble/pin/post to Reddit (etc.) our stuff (it helps keep us on the web, so thank you in advance)! If you’d like to write something to have published on our site or if you’d like to see us cover something specific, you’re encouraged to take a quick look around to see if we’ve done it already…then contact us with your ideas! We’d love to hear from you!