-By Aaron Christensen-
Salt Lake Comic Con ranks the top 50 comic book villains.
Did your favorite make the list?
First appearance: The Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #6 (1963)
Dr. Curt Connors lost an arm while working as a military surgeon. His obsession with the regenerative capabilities of reptiles helps him regenerate his missing limb, but not without some unfortunate consequences. The serum he develops also turns him into the Lizard, one of Spider-Man’s long-time foes, and gives him the capability to mentally control all reptiles within a one-mile radius. Though the Lizard does some pretty despicable things, he constantly struggles between a desire to retain his human identity and reverting back to his evil, reptilian form. In some storylines, he occasionally helps Spider-Man; he saves Aunt May’s life at one point and also develops a formula that dissolve’s Rhino’s armor.
Other media: Lizard appears in the 2012 film “The Amazing Spider-Man” and is played by Rhys Ifans.
First appearance: The Amazing Spider-Man #4 (1963)
Flint Marko’s criminal career began when he became indebted to a local mob. Things spiraled downward from there, landing him in prison on several occasions. While imprisoned, Marko discovers an uncanny ability to escape his cell. After one escape, Marko flees to a nuclear testing site, where contact with radiation fuses sand particles to his body, changing his molecular structure and creating the shape-shifting Sandman – a popular Marvel villain who is also known for his appearance in “Spider-Man 3.” The Sandman has numerous encounters with Spider-Man, whose true identity he nearly exposes during a rooftop battle. The Sandman is also widely recognized for his time as a member of the Sinister Six. One notable highlight of his villainous career is one storyline where he bullies Peter Parker’s principal into giving him a high school diploma while holding several students hostage.
Interesting fact: At one point, Sandman received a presidential pardon for his crimes and briefly joined the Avengers.
48. The Winter Soldier
First appearance: Captain America Comics #1 (1941)
The Winter Soldier is a spin-off of a popular “Captain America” character who has recently risen to a heightened popularity, thanks to Marvel’s 2014 blockbuster “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” Trained and brainwashed over a 50-year period, the Winter Soldier becomes a Soviet assassin for Department X and is sent on many covert missions for Russia. Under the direction of his Soviet leaders, he kills several notable criminals, including Red Skull and Nomad, before facing off with Captain America.
Interesting fact: Previously presumed dead, the Winter Soldier was revived by the Soviets and brought back to life and given a cybernetic left arm. At the time of his revival, he had no memory of his past life and also knew how to speak four different languages.
First appearance: The Amazing Spider-Man #238 (1983)
Roderick Kingsley rises to prominence as a corporate leader who employs the help of criminal lackeys. One of his henchmen stumbles across the secret lair of the Green Goblin and divulges its location to Kingsley, who promptly kills him. Kingsley assumes the identity of Hobgoblin, though he notoriously frames Peter Parker’s high school classmate, Flash Thompson, leading many to believe that Thompson is the new Goblin. Kingsley is also known for blackmailing notable citizens like J. Jonah Jameson and Harry Osborn, and brainwashing a reporter named Ned Leeds.
Interesting fact: Hobgoblin was created, in part, because writers wanted Spider-Man to fight a character similar to the Green Goblin again, but did not want to involve Harry or Norman Osborn.
First appearance: The Amazing Spider-Man #2 (1963)
Adrian Toomes is an electronics engineer who develops a special, winged harness that allows him to fly. Toomes becomes known as the Vulture, a long-time nemesis of Spider-man and a member of the Sinister Six. One of the Vulture’s earliest acts as a villain is destroying the office of his business partner after Toomes finds out that he has lost his job. The Vulture generally commits petty crimes like bank robberies and jewel heists, but eventually becomes a powerful crime lord. In one storyline, he develops a device that temporarily restores his own youth while draining Spider-Man’s. He is also responsible for the death of Aunt May’s love interest, Nathan Lubensky.
Interesting fact: Constant exposure to chemicals needed for his flying apparatus eventually gives Vulture cancer.
45. Red Hood
First appearance: Detective Comics #168
Red Hood is portrayed in comics by several characters, including the Joker, but is most well-known for his alter-ego, a resurrected form of the former Robin, Jason Todd. In a main storyline, Red Hood (Todd) turns against Batman for not avenging his death at the hands of the Joker. He later finds the Joker and nearly beats him to death with a crowbar. Red Hood goes on to start a violent one-man war against Black Mask, in which he attempts to cleanse Gotham City of gangs and drug trafficking in an anti-heroic way.
Other media: Red Hood makes a brief appearance in the “Batman: Arkham Origins” video game.
First appearance: Detective Comics #40 (1940)
When B-list actor Basil Karlo’s horror film is scheduled for a remake, he assumes the identity of his character, “Clayface,” and kills the new cast and crew. To date, eight different villains succeed Karlo in the role of Clayface; all of them have been antagonists in Batman comics. Other “Clayfaces” possess the ability to shape-shift, melt their foes and suffocate enemies with clay.
Other media: Clayface is a villain in the “Batman: Arkham Asylum” and “Batman: Arkham City” video games.
First appearance: The Avengers #195 (1980)
Tony Masters is hired by HYDRA to train new recruits, among whom were Agent-X, Crossbones and Spider-Woman. During the popular “Civil War” storyline, Masters, under the alias of “Taskmaster,” he hunts heroes and villains that refuse to register under the Super-Human Registration Act. In other storylines, he also temporarily works as Norman Osborn’s personal black-ops team with Deadpool and has notable run-ins with Spider-Man and the Avengers.
Interesting fact: Tony Masters is in peak physical and mental condition – he becomes a star quarterback after watching one game of high school football and commits the fighting styles of many notable superheroes to memory.
42. The Governor
First appearance: The Walking Dead #27 (2006)
Brian Blake and his brother Phillip found the Woodbury community as a safe haven for survivors when they hear news of the undead uprising depicted in “The Walking Dead” comics. Brian, who later assumes the name “Phillip” after the death of his brother, appoints himself “Governor” of the community and is known for the brutal treatment of his opposition. The Governor chops up people he disagrees with, keeps their heads in jars and feeds their remains to his zombie daughter. After welcoming Rick Grimes and his band of survivors to Woodbury, he turns on the group and treats Michonne, in particular, in a very inhumane manner. He goes on to lead a murderous attack on Grimes’ prison refuge before meeting his ultimate demise.
Other media: The Governor is portrayed on AMC’s hit show, “The Walking Dead,” by an eye-patch sporting David Morrissey.
41. Victor Zsasz
First appearance: Batman: Shadow of the Bat #1 (1992)
Victor Zsasz is a serial killer present in several Batman comic books. Zsasz is known for grotesquely arranging the bodies of his victims in lifelike poses before they are found by Batman and the Gotham City police. Zsasz is recognized for his unique physical appearance – he makes a mark in his skin for every person that he kills and his body is nearly covered in scars. He attacks and hospitalizes Bruce Wayne’s butler, Alfred, and prematurely carves a mark into his skin representing Alfred’s death. Alfred does not die, however, and the botched murder drives the killer mad for years to come. Aside from his random, senseless murders, Zsasz initiates a riot at Arkham Asylum and takes time to organize an arena where children fight each other to the death like gladiators.
Other media: Zsasz is a prominent villain in recent Batman video games, including “Batman: Arkham Asylum,” and can be seen briefly as an inmate in the 2005 movie “Batman Begins.”
First appearance: The Amazing Spider-Man #344 (1991)
Carnage is the offspring of the same alien symbiote that created Venom. Serial killer Cletus Kasady absorbs the Carnage symbiote while spending time as a cellmate of Eddie Brock in prison. Despite possessing many similar attributes to Venom and Spider-Man, Carnage is much stronger than his nemeses. In fact, Spider-Man is forced to make a truce with Venom in order to defeat Carnage. The red menace once pushed his grandmother down the stairs and burned his orphanage to the ground. His calling card is rather disturbing, as well: he uses his own blood to write “Carnage rules” on the walls of each of his crime scenes.
Interesting fact: In one storyline, Carnage breaks a female super-villain named Shriek out of prison, starts a relationship with her and begins a “family” of super-villains.
First appearance: Batman #59 (1950)
When Deadshot first appeared in Gotham City, some thought that he would become the next great crime fighter. On the contrary, it is Deadshot’s goal to replace Batman and become king of the city’s crime-laden underworld. He works largely as an assassin-for-hire and displays impeccable marksmanship. Throughout his career, Deadshot accidentally kills his brother and works as a member of the Suicide Squad and Secret Six.
Interesting fact: Deadshot has reportedly only missed one shot – while aiming at Batman.
Other media: Deadshot appears in several side quests in the “Batman: Arkham” video game franchise.
38. William Stryker
First appearance: Marvel Graphic Novel #5 (1982)
When William Stryker discovers that his son is a mutant, he murders his entire family and even attempts to commit suicide. However, when the suicide attempt fails, Stryker is led to discover what he believes to be his true calling in life: to lead the war against mutants. Strkyer becomes a sort of televangelist who preaches hatred and bigotry to his followers and eventually founds a group called the Purifiers, whose goal was to exterminate all mutants. In one of his many battles with the X-Men, he kidnaps Professor X and attempts to use him to activate a machine that slaughters individuals with genetic abnormalities.
Other media: Stryker is most well-known for his appearances as an antagonist in the X-Men film franchise and his central role in 2003’s “X2.”
First appearance: The X-Men #12 (1965)
Relying on his brute strength, the multitude of crimes and widespread destruction caused by the Juggernaut are a constant thorn in the side of the X-Men. The Juggernaut’s penchant for demolition earns him a spot as one of the mutants’ memorable enemies.
Other media: His character appears in “X-Men: The Last Stand” and one of his infamous lines became a popular internet meme.
Interesting fact: Juggernaut is the step-brother of Charles Xavier.
First appearance: Fantastic Four #19 (1963) – as Rama-Tut; Avengers #8 (1964) – as Kang the Conqueror
When Nathaniel Richards grows tired of living in the present, he decides to master the art of time travel. Under the name of “Kang,” Richards begins traveling back in time to usurp knowledge and technology from other civilizations. While visiting ancient Egypt, he climbs the political ladder and becomes a pharaoh named Rama-Tut. In another arc, he also convinces the original Avengers into traveling forward in time to fight the present-day Avengers. Kang also has high-profile battles with the Fantastic Four and Dr. Strange.
Interesting fact: Kang is a distant relative of Reed Richards of the original Fantastic Four.
First appearance: The X-Men #14 (1965)
One of the most iconic symbols of the anti-mutant movement, Sentinels are known for their massive role in the “Days of Future Past” story arc. Sentinels are tasked with two main jobs: track down mutants and create more Sentinels. In the bleak “DoFP” comics, Sentinels either lock mutants up in Holocaust-style internment camps or murder them.
Other media: The 20-foot robots are featured prominently in 2014’s hit movie “X-Men: Days of Future Past” as the brain-children of Bolivar Trask.
Interesting fact: At one point, Magneto re-programs Sentinels to capture humans.
First appearance: Superboy #68 (1958)
As his name suggests, Bizarro is one strange fellow. One of his main desires in life is to do everything backwards or to create opposition in all things. Bizarro is first created as an imperfect duplicate of Superboy and was later recreated by Lex Luthor as a Superman clone. In comics, Bizarro often clashes with the Man of Steel, but also appears in alternate storylines as a hero. In one popular arc, Bizarro falls in love with Lois Lane, later creating Bizarro-Lois. He also creates and rules a backwards Earth called “Bizarro World.”
Interesting fact: Bizarro’s weakness is blue Kryptonite.
33. Harley Quinn
First appearance: Batman: The Animated Series (1992), Harley Quinn #1 (1999)
While working as a psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum, Harleen Quinzel falls in love with one of the prison’s most notorious criminals – the Joker. She becomes sympathetic for him and helps him escape the asylum, voluntarily accepting a life of crime and becoming the Clown Prince’s most loyal sidekick and accomplice. She is fiercely loyal to him and will go to any means to gain his approval. Later on in her line of comics, she becomes a member of the Suicide Squad.
Interesting fact: Harley Quinn was first introduced on television in 1992 on “Batman: The Animated Series,” but her wild popularity eventually convinced DC writers to pull the Harley Quinn character into their mainstream comics, as well. She gained her own line of comic books seven years later in 1999.
Other media: Harley is one of the many villains featured in the “Batman: Arkham” video game series.
First appearance: Iron Fist #14 (1977)
Depending on which timeline you’re following, Victor Creed may or may not be related to Wolverine, but, despite possessing similar powers and characteristics – right own to his adamantium-coated bones – there are some distinct differences between these two mutants. Like Wolverine, Sabretooth is a subject of the Weapon X project and is capable of self-healing. But unlike Wolverine, Sabretooth accepts and embraces his animalistic qualities, making him a force to be reckoned with in many of the X-Men comics. The beast’s resume also includes attacking Charles Xavier on several occasions, healing his own broken back and killing his own brother over a piece of pie.
Other media: Sabretooth is a popular villain in X-Men television shows and video games and is also portrayed in the X-Men movie franchise by Tyler Mane and Liev Schreiber.
31. Poison Ivy
First appearance: Batman #181 (1966)
Poison Ivy is arguably one of the most recognizable and popular female villains in all of comics, but, despite her alluring appearance – and much like the plant she is named after – those foolish enough to mess around with her end up paying a painful price in the end. Ivy transforms an uninhabited Caribbean island into a tropical paradise and infamously holds all of Gotham City hostage with gigantic plants. Her storied history with the Caped Crusader includes an incident where Batman is injected with a venom that affects his political interests and a story arc where Poison Ivy brainwashes Superman into attempting to kill the Dark Knight.
Other media: Poison Ivy appears in the 1997 movie “Batman & Robin” and in numerous “Batman” video games.
Interesting fact: Ivy forms a criminal alliance called the Gotham City Sirens with Catwoman and Harley Quinn.
First appearance: Detective Comics #58 (1941)
When Oswald Cobblepot isn’t busy dabbling in politics or running Gotham City’s popular restaurant and club The Iceberg Lounge, he can usually be found committing burglaries of important (and often bird-related) artifacts. From a young age, Cobblepot is teased for his odd physical appearance and love for birds, and resentment toward those childhood bullies motivates him to become one of Gotham’s greatest crime lords – the Penguin. Aside from his hobby of heisting, he is also a well-known racketeer who often sells weapons and the services of criminals to other super-villains in hopes of taking down Batman and Robin.
Other media: He is portrayed in film by Burgess Meredith in 1966’s “Batman” and Danny DeVito in the 1992 movie “Batman Returns.”
First appearance: New Teen Titans #2 (1980)
Slade Wilson is regarded as one of the top assassins in all of DC Comics – and his history of freelance sharpshooting certainly backs up that reputation. Slade, the one-eyed villain who is known by those unlucky enough to have met him as “Deathstroke,” is a master of weaponry and is equally proficient in hand-to-hand combat, making him a dangerous adversary for many opponents in the DC Universe. In his most popular arcs, Deathstroke can be found working for the League of Assassins, spending time as a bodyguard against the Justice League, leading the Suicide Squad and battling the Teen Titans.
Other media: Actor Manu Bennett portrays Deathstroke on the CW’s hit show, “Arrow.” The character is also found in video games like “Injustice: Gods Among Us” and “Batman: Arkham Origins.”
Interesting fact: Initially, Deathstroke declined a contract to kill the Teen Titans, but he later changed his mind after his son, the Ravager, died after having tried to do so.
28. General Zod
First appearance: Adventure Comics #283 (1961)
General Zod, a former leader of Krypton’s military, is exiled from the planet after leading a rebellion against the government and slaughtering members of the Kryptonian Council. Zod and two others eventually escape from their prison in the Phantom Zone and Zod vows to make Jor-El and his son, Kal-El (Superman), kneel before him.
Other media: Zod is the one of the main villains in the original “Superman” movie franchise, having been portrayed by Terrence Stamp in the 1980 film, “Superman II.” He is also the antagonist of 2013’s “Man of Steel,” played by Michael Shannon.
Interesting fact: In one storyline, Zod is the Superman of a peaceful planet called Earth-15.
First appearance: Detective Comics #66 (1942)
Gotham City District Attorney Harvey Dent’s life takes a drastic turn for the worse when he has acid thrown on him, grotesquely scarring the left side of his face. The accident drives Dent mad and he subsequently becomes Two-Face – a criminal obsessed with playing the odds. Dent’s new alter-ego adopts a life of crime and he and his two-sided coin deal swift justice to a number of Gotham City victims. In “The Long Halloween” arc, Two-Face frees most of the criminals at Arkham Asylum based on the results of a coin flip.
Other media: He is portrayed by Tommy Lee Jones in “Batman Forever” (1995) and Aaron Eckhart in Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy.
Interesting fact: Comic writers have portrayed Two-Face’s obsession with duality and fate as the result of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and multiple personality disorder.
First appearance: Green Lantern #1 (1967)
Sinestro is originally one of the finest officers in the Green Lantern Corps., but is ultimately corrupted by power and greed. When Hal Jordan (the Green Lantern) and the Guardians of the Universe discover Sinestro’s evil past, he is put on trial for his crimes and banned from the Green Lanterns. He later forms the Sinestro Corps. and begins the Sinestro Corps. War. In recent storylines, he obtains possession of the fear entity known as the Parallax.
Other media: Sinestro appears in the 2011 film “Green Lantern” in a time before he is excommunicated from the Green Lantern Corps.
First appearance: Superman: The Man of Steel #17 (1991)
Doomsday is the result of years of trial-and-error research that sought to create sustainable life on Krypton. After more than 10 years of experiments, Doomsday develops an immunity to Krypton’s poisonous atmosphere. As the creature grows, he develops a hatred for all living things and kills every animal on the planet. His ability to adapt and evolve to his surroundings lead to several epic battles against powerful opponents like the legendary Darkseid, but Doomsday will always be remembered as the villain who “killed” Superman.
24. Dark Phoenix
First appearance: The X-Men #129 (1980)
In one of the most tragic arcs in Marvel Comics, readers witness the fall of Jean Grey, as she transforms into an evil, deadly version of her “Phoenix” persona. Following an intense battle with a villain named Mastermind, Jean unintentionally taps into her full telepathic potential and renames herself “Dark Phoenix.” Her power quickly becomes overwhelming and, as she battles with the X-Men (and her newfound dual personality), she drains the D’Bari star of its energy, creating a supernova that destroys an entire planet.
Other media: Several controversial parts of the “Dark Phoenix” storyline are depicted in 2006’s Hollywood blockbuster “X-Men: The Last Stand.”
First appearance: Action Comics #242 (1958)
Brainiac is an alien genius from the planet Colu. His main crimes include shrinking various cities across the galaxy, including Clark Kent’s earthly home of Metropolis and Krypton’s two largest populations: Kandor and Kryptonopolis. After collecting the shrunken cities, Brainiac assimilates the knowledge and power of the civilizations, eventually acquiring a twelfth-level intellect and a hyper-advanced technology.
Other media: Brainiac’s long-standing rivalry with Superman spans from comic books to video games to television. He is the main antagonist of “DC Universe Online” and also appears in 21 episodes of “Smallville.”
First appearance: Daredevil #131 (1976)
Simply put, Bullseye, who is arguably Marvel’s top marksman, just likes to kill people. While regularly appearing as one of Daredevil’s deadliest foes, Bullseye also spends stints with Norman Osborn’s Thunderbolts squad and the Dark Avengers, and kills Daredevil’s girlfriend, Karen Page. Perhaps his most nefarious act, however, is impaling Elektra with her own weapon.
Other media: Bullseye is portrayed by Colin Farrell in the 2003 film “Daredevil.”
First appearance: The Amazing Spider-Man #50 (1967)
Wilson Fisk possesses no real super-powers, but is one of Marvel’s most wicked and authoritative leaders. “Kingpin,” as he comes to be known, is the leader of all street crime, drug trafficking and weapon sales in New York and is even appointed as the Supreme HYDRA in Las Vegas in one storyline. His reputation for leadership and organization practically precedes him and his physical prowess is surprising, as well. He also has control over trained assassins like Elektra and Bullseye and, though he has some impressive battles with Spider-Man, transforms into one of Daredevil’s most compelling adversaries.
First appearance: Detective Comics #140 (1948)
Edward Nygma’s extreme fascination with mental dexterity leads to the creation of one of Gotham’s most famous baddies: the Riddler. The Riddler often uses puzzles to forewarn Batman of his future crimes by sending riddles to him in advance. His oddball personality and over-the-top sense of style further set this villain apart from his many criminal colleagues. The Riddler has often been found in cahoots with other nefarious villains like the Joker, Clayface, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, Scarecrow and Killer Croc.
Other media: The Riddler is a popular character in “Batman: The Animated Series” and also appears as an antagonist in the “Arkham” video game franchise, among other video games. He is eccentrically portrayed by Jim Carrey in the 1995 film “Batman Forever.”
Interesting fact: Riddler has an extreme case of obsessive-compulsive disorder, which habitually affects the way he commits a crime.
First appearance: Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #134 (1970)
Darkseid is the ruler of the war planet, Apokolips. He earns the nickname “The God of Evil” by striving to conquer the universe – and he gets very close to doing so on many occasions, overtaking several worlds along the way. Darkseid wages significant battles against heroes like Superman and the New Gods, and his battle with Highfather leads to the destruction of an entire planet. One of Darkseid’s greatest accomplishments is solving the Anti-Life Equation, which gives him complete control over the thoughts and emotions of all living beings.
First appearance: The Amazing Spider-Man #199 (1988)
When an alien symbiote bonds with Spider-Man’s suit during a war on Battleworld, it creates a new super-villain named Venom. The extra-terrestrial substance later occupies other hosts, including Eddie Brock, Ms. Marvel and Red Hulk. Eddie Brock is Venom’s most well-known alter-ego and, as a contemporary of Peter Parker, Venom is one of the few people who knows the true identity of Spider-Man. Throughout many comics, Venom repeatedly tries to kill Spider-Man, Peter Parker and his family.
Other media: Venom appears as one of the major villains in “Spider-man 3,” which was released in 2007, and is one of the most popular Spider-Man villains of all time.
First appearance: Ms. Marvel #16 (1978)
Mystique, the shape-shifting assassin, is one of the X-Men’s primary foes in comic books and other media. Born Raven Darkholme, Mystique has a dark and mysterious past, which produces strong emotions of anger, bitterness and mistrust, which often boil to the surface of her personality. In the popular “Days of Future Past” storyline, Mystique attempts to assassinate Senator Robert Kelly in order to shut down the impending Sentinel program. She is the founder of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and is often shown as a close ally and accomplice of Magneto.
Other media: Her character is portrayed in the X-Men film franchise by Rebecca Romijn (“X-Men,” “X2,” “X-Men: The Last Stand”) and Jennifer Lawrence (“X-Men: First Class,” “X-Men: Days of Future Past”).
Interesting fact: Mystique is the biological mother of another popular mutant: Nightcrawler.
16. Ra’s al Ghul
First appearance: Batman #232 (1971)
Ra’s al Ghul’s ultimate goal is the betterment and perfection of the world. – and he strives to achieve that world peace through acts of terrorism. He believes that Batman is defending a corrupt world and, as such, declares the Dark Knight to be his mortal enemy. Ra’s is several centuries old; the use of Lazarus Pits help him maintain youth and immortality. During that extensive life, he creates several anti-crime organizations, including The Demon and The League of Assassins, and defeats the Justice League after discovering Batman’s notes, detailing each hero’s weakness. In his “Road Home” storyline, he threatens to reveal Batman’s true identity and kills Vicki Vale.
Other media: He is portrayed in Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy by Liam Neeson and can also be found in a significant role in the video game “Batman: Arkham City.”
Interesting fact: Ra’s al Ghul’s name means “the demon’s head” in Arabic.
First appearance: World’s Finest Comics #3 (1941)
Jonathan Crane is fired from his job as a professor when he fires a gun in class while teaching about the psychology of fear. He takes his extensive knowledge and understanding of fear and becomes a villain known as “The Scarecrow,” often being referred to as the “Master of Fear.” His origins are expounded upon in the “Batman/Scarecrow” arc, which detail his rough childhood and his rocky relationship with his grandmother, who he eventually kills. Crane uses a hallucinogenic gas to literally scare his victims to death – something which gives him great pleasure. He often “practices” on his patients, notably killing one of them. He is one of Batman’s first and oldest enemies and it has been revealed that the Dark Knight is Scarecrow’s only fear.
Other media: Crane is portrayed in Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy by Cillian Murphy and is featured in a prominent role in the “Arkham” video game series.
First appearance: Batman: Vengeance of Bane #1 (1993)
Spending his entire childhood in the dungeons of the Peña Duro prison helped Bane grow to peak physical form before he ever stepped foot in Gotham City. Bane is depicted as a sort of super-soldier with strength-enhancing Venom flowing through his veins, making him a murderous mountain of a man. From his time as the most-feared inmate and “king” of Peña Duro to an occasion where he broke down the walls of Arkham Asylum and let its prisoners roam free, Bane is one of the most notorious villains to grace the streets of Gotham. He is most well-known for a story arc where he breaks Batman’s back.
Other media: Bane is most well-known for Tom Hardy’s performance in “The Dark Knight Rises” and also makes a brief appearance in the 1997 film “Batman & Robin.”
13. Red Skull
First appearance: Captain America Comics #7 (1941)
Johann Schmidt was frequently bullied as a child in wartime Germany and grew up with a deep hatred for other people. Forced to join the Nazi Party and tutored under the dictatorial reign of Adolf Hitler, Schmidt quickly becomes the second most-powerful man in all of Germany, adopting Hitler’s Nazi-style ideals and the ultimate goal of world domination. Donning a crimson mask that instills fear in those that opposed him, Schmidt becomes known as the Red Skull. Red Skull leads several attempts to rule the world, partners with A.I.M. (a splinter group of HYDRA) and gains control of the mythical Cosmic Cube, which grants him tremendous power. A storyline where Red Skull kills Captain America is thought to be, by some, one of the darkest chapters in Marvel history.
Other media: Hugo Weaving assumes the role of Schmidt and Red Skull in 2011’s “Captain America: The First Avenger,” a film whose repercussions drastically alter the landscape of the modern Marvel Cinematic Universe.
First appearance: Iron Man #55 (1973)
Thanos was subjected to the Deviant gene at the time of his birth, which made him the equivalent of a mutant on his home planet of Titan. This gene gives Thanos superior size and strength in comparison with his peers, along with the ability to manipulate cosmic energy. He is shunned and feared by other Titans and his life of solace earns him the nickname “The Mad Titan.” His forbidden romance with and, essentially, worship of Mistress Death leads Thanos to a life of darkness – and an obsession with death, in general – which features rampant destruction across multiple universes, the near-destruction of his home planet and several attempts to conquer Earth. One of Thanos’ greatest quests is his pursuit of the Infinity Gauntlet – his most prized possession – which he successfully wields in several popular story arcs. The Gauntlet gives him unlimited power and a god-like reputation.
Other media: Thanos is first introduced to the Marvel Cinematic Universe during a quick cameo appearance in the post-scenes credit for “The Avengers” in 2012. He also appears as a villain in 2014’s “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
First appearance: Batman #1 (1940)
Gotham City’s most notorious cat-burglar is one of the few women to claim she had an actual romantic relationship with Bruce Wayne. Selena Kyle’s transient childhood is mainly spent in between orphanages and juvenile detention centers and, as time goes on, crime continues to occupy a large majority of her life. She buys a cat costume to symbolize her chosen profession and overhears officers refer to her as “The Catwoman.” The name sticks and Selina plunges yet further into her obsession with stealing. She constantly breaks the law and defies authority and is willing to play any side of a given situation. Her perpetual teetering between heroine and villainess, combined with her intimate relationship with Bruce Wayne, make her a compelling character and, arguably, the most popular female villain in all of comics.
Other media: Catwoman is been portrayed in film by Michelle Pheiffer (“Batman Returns”) and Anne Hathaway (“The Dark Knight Rises”).
First appearance: Avengers #54 (1968)
When Hank Pym creates Ultron as a ground-breaking form of artificial intelligence, Pym has no idea how powerful his robot would eventually become. Ultron rebels against his programming and becomes one of the most dangerous and intelligent entities in all of Marvel Comics. Ultron’s android-like nature allows him to upgrade and improve his abilities, with each version becoming stronger and smarter than its predecessor. Ultron appears in more than a dozen different forms! He tangles with many of Marvel’s greatest heroes, including Vision, Daredevil, Wolverine and, most notably, the Avengers. He organizes the Masters of Evil, slaughters the Eastern European country of Slorenia and finally achieves world domination in his “Age of Ulton” arc. A movie of the same title is scheduled to introduce Ultron to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2015 as a sequel to “The Avengers.”
9. Doctor Octopus
First appearance: The Amazing Spider-Man #3 (1963)
Dr. Otto Octavius devoted his life to science at an early age. But one day when an experiment goes terribly wrong, he finds himself fused to a tentacle-like apparatus. From that point on, armed with gigantic metal limbs and newfound telepathy, Octavius becomes known as Doctor Octopus – one of Spider-Man’s longest-established rivals. Doc Ock organizes the Sinister Six and is a member of the Masters of Evil, leads an assault on the Black Cat, causes the death of Gwen Stacy’s father and even attempts to marry Aunt May! In one of his most humiliating acts, evil genius slaps the web-slinger in the face with his human hand before throwing him out a window.
Interesting fact: In May 2014, IGN.com ranked Alfred Molina’s take on Doctor Octopus in 2004’s “Spider-Man 2” as their #1 Spider-Man movie villain.
8. Doctor Doom
First appearance: Fantastic Four #5 (1962)
Victor von Doom was a schoolmate and contemporary of Reed Richards at Empire State University. After a botched lab experiment leaves von Doom with a gruesomely scarred face, he is expelled from school and left to his own devices. Donning a metal mask to hide his disfiguration, he adopts the identity of Doctor Doom – an overwhelmingly powerful sorcerer. Throughout his history, the Monarch of Latveria duels with his former classmate, Richards, and the Fantastic Four, and is widely regarded as their greatest nemesis. Among other despicable deeds, Doom tries to shrink the Fantastic Four, aligns with Loki in an attempt to steal Thor’s hammer, absorbs the powers of characters like Galactus and the Beyonder, and even battles his way out of Hell.
Interesting fact: Doctor Doom was one of the inspirations for the character of Star Wars villain Darth Vader.
First appearance: Fantastic Four #48 (1966)
Galactus is a former scientist who is the only known survivor of the Big Bang. Having survived the catastrophe, he discovers that he possesses nearly unlimited power. The power grows to be so strong, in fact, that Galactus has to create a body suit capable of containing it. The power, it turns out, can only be sustained by consuming entire planets. With an entire army of heralds (including the Silver Surfer) at his side, Galactus often fights the Fantastic Four and also does battle with Thanos during The Mad Titan’s quest for the Infinity Gauntlet. His insatiable hunger and strange dietary plan earn Galactus the nickname “The Devourer of Worlds” and a reputation as one of the most powerful super-villains of all time.
First appearance: Journey into Mystery #85 (1962)
As an adopted son of Odin, Loki is raised in a constant state of jealousy, overshadowed by his brother, Thor. His study of Asgardian science and magic help Loki become a powerful sorcerer and shape-shifter. He frequently utilizes those skills to maintain an upper hand on his enemies. Throughout many storylines, Loki tries to usurp the throne of Asgard by attempting to murder his own adoptive family. His constant search for power eventually helps Loki obtain six of the seven Infinity Stones. His anger and hatred of the God of Thunder causes many problems in Asgard and other universes, eventually leading to the creation of the Avengers.
Other media: While Loki has always been a beloved character on paper, Tom Hiddleston’s wildly successful roles in the “Thor” and “Avengers” movies have helped Loki resurface as one of the most popular comic book characters of the new millennium.
Interesting fact: Loki possesses a dagger which is equal to Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir.
First appearance: X-Factor #6 (1986)
Born in ancient Egypt around the year 3,000 B.C., Apocalypse is regarded as one of the first mutants and has the nickname “En Sabah Nur” (“The First One”). His firm belief that only the strongest should survive and his obsession with the survival of the fittest prompt him to wipe out any societies that he deems as being “too weak.” Through the use of time travel, his quest for global conquest spans many centuries and leads to the downfall of numerous civilizations. Apocalypse possesses celestial powers that grant him nearly unlimited physical strength, complete molecular control of his body and the ability to draw in energy from other dimensions. During frequent battles with the X-Men, Bishop, Stryfe and Cable become some of Apocalypse’s noteworthy rivals. In another popular story, Apocalypse recruits the Four Horsemen, who help him form one of the most formidable groups of mutants in X-Men history.
Interesting fact: Apocalypse is briefly shown in the post-credits scene for “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” The Four Horsemen can vaguely be seen in the distance as thousands of workers bow to Apocalypse, chanting, “En Sabah Nur.”
4. Green Goblin/Norman Osborn
First appearance: The Amazing Spider-Man #14 (1964)
Spider-Man’s most commonly recognized nemesis is the double-edged sword of Norman Osborn and his alter-ego, the Green Goblin. Spidey and the Green Goblin have a unique relationship, as Norman Osborn is the father of Peter Parker’s best friend, Harry. Osborn’s status as the web-slinger’s top foe is solidified when the Green Goblin kills Peter’s girlfriend, Gwen Stacy. Additionally, he fakes the death of Aunt May and his son, Harry; uses his vast fortune to create an enormous network of organized crime; and is the first villain to uncover Spider-Man’s secret identity. Osborn’s split personality eventually drives him insane, creating in him an unstable mindset that is bent on the destruction of Spider-Man. During his treacherous reign, Osborn uses his wicked persona to organize villainous groups like H.A.M.M.E.R. and the Thunderbolts – all in the name of arachnophobia.
Other media: Norman Osborn is most memorably portrayed by Willem Dafoe in Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” trilogy.
3. Lex Luthor
First appearance: Action Comics #23 (1940)
Known as one of the most powerful and influential characters in all of comics, Lex Luthor proves to be a worthy adversary for the Man of Steel time and time again. The bald-headed businessman has an unquenchable thirst for power and an eternal hatred for Superman, a hero he views as an “alien menace.” The Metropolis Mogul often uses his political influence, along with terrorism and his fascination with Kryptonite, as a means of achieving world domination. Luthor is eventually elected president of the United States, making him the most powerful man in America. After assuming office, he forges ties to many dangerous nations such as Atlantis, Russia and Apokolips, and aligns himself with several of Superman’s most powerful opponents, including Brainiac and Doomsday. The lethal combination of bureaucratic know-how, evil genius and a brains-over-brawn mentality makes Lex Luthor the greatest of Superman’s adversaries.
Other media: Lex Luthor has been portrayed in film and on television by several actors, including Gene Hackman, Kevin Spacey, John Shea and Michael Rosenbaum.
First appearance: X-Men #1 (1963)
Although Magneto’s tragic backstory as a Holocaust survivor may earn him sympathy from many readers, the tyrannical reign of the Master of Magnetism undoubtedly makes him one of the most evil characters in all of comics. Magneto constantly draws upon the pent-up resentment and anger he developed as a child to punish and persecute humans and the mutants who oppose him. Magneto is a zealot for mutant rights and will go to any extent to take out his aggression on lesser-evolved enemies in his violent war against humanity. Additionally, his involvement with the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and a long-standing rivalry with his friend, Charles Xavier, continue to drive many X-Men storylines to this day. His mutant skill set makes him a nearly unstoppable foe for Professor X and Wolverine, in particular – his signature helmet protects his mind from telepathy and his ability to manipulate metal leads to one particular arc where he rips Wolverine’s adamantium claws from his body.
Other media: Magneto is featured prominently in many TV shows and video games, but is known by most moviegoers for Sir Ian McKellan’s role in X-Men movies.
First appearance: Batman #1 (1940)
Whether portrayed as a jester, a stand-up comedian, or maniacal terrorist, one thing has remained constant in Joker storylines: his mindless love of violence and mayhem. He doesn’t have a plan or an agenda – he just loves making a mess of things. This delirious fascination with anarchy constantly intertwines the paths of the Clown Prince of Crime and his arch-nemesis, Batman. In many aspects, the Joker and the World’s Greatest Detective exist because of each other. The Joker makes his way into many major Gotham City stories, paralyzing Barbara Gordon, killing Commissioner Gordon’s second wife and murdering Jason Todd, who succeeded Dick Grayson as Robin. His epic duels with Batman, morbid sense of humor and outrageous physical appearance make him the literal face of chaos – the most recognizable, popular and iconic super-villain in comic book history.
Other media: The Joker makes frequent appearances as the preeminent Gotham City antagonist in animated and live-action TV shows and has central roles in most Batman video games, but is most prominently known for his appearances on the big screen. He was famously portrayed in classic roles by Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson and the late Heath Ledger.