Top 10: DC Rogues’ Galleries by Jerry Whitworth
A hero is only as good as the villains they face. Captain America and the Red Skull, Spider-Man and the Green Goblin, X-Men and Magneto, Fantastic Four and Dr. Doom, Iron Man and the Mandarin, Thor and Loki, Wolverine and Sabretooth, Hulk and the Leader, Daredevil and the Kingpin, Dr. Strange and Dormammu, Ghost Rider and Mephisto, Punisher and Jigsaw: good villains define great heroes. DC Comics quickly became the ground bed of superheroes following the popularity of Superman and equally gave rise to its share of memorable supervillains. Lets examine which rogues’ galleries are the best the multimedia brand has to offer.
Created by Gerry Conway and Al Milgrom and debuting in 1978, Firestorm was a gestalt being made up of physicist Dr. Martin Stein and teenager Ronnie Raymond. Subsequently, it was revealed Stein was a fire elemental and the mantle of Firestorm was passed to such beings including Mikhail Arkadin (Pozhar), Svarozhich, and Jason Rusch. Following the events of Flashpoint however, a whole slew of Nuclear Men arose including Helix, Firehawk, Hurricane, Rakshasi, and an unnamed Chinese hero. Hailing from neither the Golden or Silver Age, Firestorm developed an impressive gallery of foes. Several supervillain groups emerged: The Assassination Bureau lead by Breathtaker with his mercenaries Bazooka Joan, Incognito, Mindboggler, and Stratos, Dr. Heinrich Megala and his creations DataXen, Black Star, Relay, and Skull Crusher, as well as an unnamed team lead by Multiplex with Bolt, Hyena, Mindboggler, and Slipknot (post-Flashpoint, Multiplex lead Black Bison, Hyena, Killer Frost, Plastique, and Typhoon).
Firestorm developed an evil counterpart in Tokamak, a high ranking member of the 2000 Committee, an evil organization that tangled with Firestorm that used armored operatives known as the Enforcers. The likes of Shadowstorm, Deathstorm, Helix, Pozhar, Haji Al-Farishtaa, and the followers of Ashra Khan followed. Firestorm saw a personal foe come along in the Thinker Cliff Carmichael, a teenage rival turned supervillain. But the Nuclear Man’s nemesis has traditionally been the cryokinetic Killer Frost. Something of a mantle like Firestorm itself, several women emerged under the name including Crystal Frost, Louise Lincoln, and Caitlin Snow, the latter of which eventually reformed and joined the Justice League of America. Among others such as Candace Zither, Casey Krinsky, Zuggernaut, Stalnoivolk, Shango, Weasel, Sand Demon, Silver Deer, Parasite, Goldenrod, Bug & Byte, Sparx, Flying Dutchman, Venom, Trash, Silver Shade, and King Crusher, Firestorm’s relatively brief existence has brought many enemies.
9. JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA
The original superhero team, the Justice Society of America combined the likes of Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Atom, and others (Superman and Batman initially having honorary status) as a fighting force beginning in 1940. The premiere group of heroes, the Society initially combated forces associated with the Axis Powers and organized crime before facing the psionic threat of Brain Wave. This gave rise to the likes of the Wizard, Psycho-Pirate, Per Degaton, Ultra-Humanite, Wotan, and Ian Karkull before the Wizard brought together Brain Wave and Per Degaton along with foes of the Justice Society’s individual members in Vandal Savage, Gambler, and the Thinker to create the Injustice Society.
Growing and evolving over the years, even going by Injustice Unlimited for a time to face the Justice Society’s junior team Infinity, Inc., the Injustice Society was the prototype for the supervillain group. In time, foes of the Justice Society and Justice League aligned to become the Crime Champions thus beginning the annual team-up between the heroic groups that saw them share enemies. The modern era added Mordru, Johnny Sorrow, Black Adam, Roulette, Eclipso, Fourth Reich, and Gog to their rogues gallery. Following the events of Flashpoint, the Justice Society’s primary foe was Darkseid as Solomon Grundy, Wotan, and Ultra-Humanite emerged as secondary threats.
The junior Justice League of America, the Teen Titans began with the “fab foursome” Robin, Kid Flash, Aqualad, and Wonder Girl with Speedy joining not long after. Initially facing threats like Mr. Twister, Ding Dong Daddy, Mad Mod, and André LeBlanc, the group fell apart only to return together with the emergence of Raven. Facing the coming threat of the demonic conqueror of worlds Trigon, the demon’s daughter Raven organized a new team of Titans combining the old group with Cyborg, Starfire, and the Doom Patrol’s junior member Beast Boy under the new name Changeling.
The new Teen Titans faced greater foes than before, combating the likes of the H.I.V.E., Deathstroke the Terminator, Dr. Light and the Fearsome Five, Brother Blood, and Cheshire. The Titans’ members brought along their own demons when the Titans of Myth came for Wonder Girl, Brotherhood of Evil (nemeses of the Doom Patrol) for Changeling, and Blackfire for her sister Starfire. In the modern era, villain teams began to emerge to face the heroes such as Tartarus, Titans East, Terror Titans, Legion of Doom, Titans: Villains for Hire, and, post-Flashpoint, the agents of N.O.W.H.E.R.E. Arguably, however, the H.I.V.E. Five from the Teen Titans animated series with the Fearsome Five (mostly) as teenagers maybe the best known and regarded version of these teams. Speaking of that series, the original character Red X proved so popular, he recently transitioned to the comics (Cinderblock accomplished a similar feat earlier but to less fanfare).
Another team of teenage heroes, the Legion of Super-Heroes grew out of the adventures of Superboy to become one of DC’s most prominent brands. The Legion lives up to its name featuring dozens of members with the joke made by fans that creators would simply make up a super power and produce a Legionnaire up from there (and with characters like Matter-Eater Lad, Bouncing Boy, and virtually the entire Legion of Substitute Heroes, they might be on to something). As the first and best line of defense for the United Planets, the Legion often fought alien races such as the Khund and the Dominators (post-Zero Hour, there was also Daxam and the Blight). Singular foes like Roxxas, Starfinger, Computo, Dr. Regulus, Universo, Controller, Mordru, Leland McCauley, Black Mace, and Grimbor the Chainsman (post-Zero Hour, Composite Man as well) also came to trouble the organization. Threats of the past appeared with Lex Luthor, Brainiac (as Pulsar Stargrave), Ra’s al Ghul, and Vandal Savage (as Vandar the Stone) but undoubtedly the greatest of these elder evils was Darkseid in arguably the best known Legion story “The Great Darkness Saga.”
Likely, the Legion’s greatest opponents have been villainous groups such as the League of Super-Assassins and Justice League of Earth but two such entities stand out: the Fatal Five and the Legion of Super-Villains. The Five started out as the singular most dangerous villains in the galaxy assembled by the Legion to aid against the Controller’s Sun-Eater that threatened the Milky Way. Subsequently, they aligned to become one of the biggest and most consistent threats to trouble the Legion. The Legion of Super-Villains began its life as an evil counterpart to the LOSH with Cosmic King, Lightning Lord, and Saturn Queen recruited by Luthor to battle Superman. But moving forward, the group grew like the LOSH and eventually under Superman-Prime came to include almost every enemy of the heroes. Arguably the LOSH’s greatest foe is the Time Trapper, a malevolent being able to manipulate time whose identity is seemingly ever-changing (the latest known incarnation was Superman-Prime).
The Earth’s (and often the universe) premiere superhero team, the Justice League of America came together to combat the alien threat of the Appellaxians. Since then, aliens like Starro, Despero, Hyathis, Kanjar Ro, Queen Bee, Crime Syndicate, Martians, Starbreaker, Manhunters, Phantom Zone prisoners, Apokoliptians, Overmaster, Alien Alliance (Khund, Dominators, Thanagar, Daxam, Durla, Citadel, Psions, et al), Extremists, Eclipso, Neron, Solaris, Imperiex, Sinestro Corps, Black Lantern Corps, and Barbatos assaulted the Earth and met the League in battle. Home grown threats such as Amazo, Dr. Destiny, Amos Fortune, Felix Faust, Epoch the Lord of Time, Dr. Light, T.O. Morrow, Key, Royal Flush Gang, Shaggy Man, Construct, Cadre, Maxwell Lord, Monarch, Extant, Prometheus, Queen of Fables, and the League of Ancients also emerged. But likely the League’s greatest opponents has been alliances of their individual foes.
Dr. Destiny initially made a habit of assembling the League’s foes into unnamed groups before gaining possession of the Dreamstone. The formation of the Crime Champions to trouble the Justice Society and Justice League opened the door for the Injustice Gang of the World, Anti-Justice League, Brotherhood of Crime, Secret Society of Super-Villains, Super Foes, Cold Warriors/Ice Pack, Injustice League, and the League Busters. However, likely the best known of these villain teams is the Legion of Doom. Originally the League of Evil until a rights issue emerged, the Legion of Doom first appeared in the animated series Challenge of the Super Friends. The group endured for years but outside of comics only for poor interpretations of the group to appear in print. 2018 finally saw a more accurate version of the Legion appear in the pages of Justice League.
Originally Alan Scott, a railroad engineer that discovered a lamp that gave him incredible powers, the Green Lantern fought the likes of Vandal Savage, Gambler, Solomon Grundy, Sportsmaster, Harlequin, and the Icicle. Years later, the Green Lantern was re-imagined as an intergalactic peace officer counting the likes of Hal Jordan, Guy Gardner, John Stewart, Kyle Rayner, Jade/Jennifer-Lynn Hayden (Scott’s daughter), Simon Baz, Jessica Cruz, and Sojourner Mullein among its number. New foes arose in the Invisible Destroyer, Hector Hammond, Sonar, Dr. Polaris, Tattooed Man, Shark, Black Hand, Goldface, Major Disaster, Major Force, Cyborg Superman, Effigy, and Nero from the Earth as the stars produced the Weaponers of Qward, Zamarons, Myrwhydden, Evil Star, Krona, Controllers, Appa Ali Apsa the Mad Guardian, Manhunters, Eclipso, Nekron, Spider Guild, T:D:H:D the MadGod, Legion, Mongul, Grayven, Fatality, Black Circle, Reach, Keepers, and Relic.
However, the Green Lantern Corps that drew its abilities from the use of power rings found its true foes in those that shared their power. The first and greatest was Sinestro who drew his energy from Parallax and formed the Sinestro Corps. Such led to the Star Sapphires and the Predator, Anti-Green Lantern Corps, Lord Malvolio of the Green Flame, Magaan Van’n Intraktus, Red Lantern Corps and the Butcher, Agent Orange/Larfleeze and Ophidian the Tempter, Black Lantern Corps, Phantom Lantern, and the Ultraviolet Corps and Umbrax.
Created for Fawcett Comics in 1939 by Bill Parker and C.C. Beck, homeless teenage orphan Billy Batson by reciting the name Shazam is transformed into the World’s Mightiest Mortal Captain Marvel. Empowered by the immortal elders Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury, Captain Marvel was chosen by the wizard Shazam to replace him as the Earth’s champion. During his early adventures, many memorable one-time or so foes like Black Adam, Ibac, Sabbac, Aunt Minerva, Mr. Atom, Mr. Banjo, Ebenezer Batson, Three Faces of Evil, Nippo, Evil Eye, Jeepers, Goat-Man, Mad Mummy, Arson Fiend, Niatpac Levram, Vampire Burglar, Space Ghoul, Night Owl, and Dr. Allirog appeared and were subsequently given a second (or more) life later. Captain Nazi, King Kull, Seven Deadly Enemies of Man, and Oggar became reoccurring threats for Marvel and his expanding Marvel Family.
Since the beginning, Dr. Sivana troubled the hero and grew to have his own family over time as his children Sivana Jr., Georgia, Magnificus, and Beautia joined his crusade (and other times, aligned with the Marvels). Sometimes, Sivana and his family even stole or copied the Marvels’ powers, the patriarch taking the name Captain Sivana and Black Sivana at different points. Black Adam also grew to have a family in wife Isis and brother-in-law Osiris. Others such as Blaze, Chained Lightning, Master Man, Lucifer, Darkling, and Sabina followed in the ensuing decades but arguably the Marvel Family’s greatest enemy is Mr. Mind. An alien worm, Mind forged an alliance across 87 worlds called the Monster Society of Evil which included the Crocodile Men of Punkus and the Axis powers on Earth. However, in what started as a massive bid to rule the galaxy lead to the Society largely becoming a rogues gallery exclusive to the Marvel Family, several aforementioned Marvel enemies joining its ranks.
The icon that popularized the superhero, Superman is one of the longest lived costumed heroes in existence. Originally facing gangsters, mad scientists, corrupt public figures, fifth columnists, and assorted crooks, the Man of Steel found bizarre, dangerous foes in the Ultra-Humanite, Luthor, Archer, Puzzler, Prankster, Funny Face, Toyman, Tycoon of Crime, and Mr. Mxyzptlk. By the early 1950s, the style of adventures Superman experienced changed so much that retroactively, it was assigned to an alternate universe (Earth-1) with a greater emphasis on science fiction. These new rogues (some with old names to new faces) included Lex Luthor, Mr. Mxyzptlk, Brainiac, Titano, Kryptonite Man, Metallo, Bizarro, Parasite, Amalak, Morgan Edge, Bruno Mannheim, Dabney Donovan, Terra-Man, Toyman, Atomic Skull, Solomon Grundy, Master Jailer, Mongul, Lord Satanis and Syrene, and Colonel Future. Bizarro gave way to a whole race with Bizarro World where the Earth was copied in his image to include alternate versions of the Superman Family, Justice League of America, and Legion of Super-Heroes (as well as Mxyzptlk, Luthor, Amazo, and the Joker) while Bizarro started a family with Bizarro Lois Lane. Lex Luthor in similar fashion came to rule an alien world he dubbed Lexor where he married a native named Tharla who changed her name to Ardora and bore him a son.
Superman’s own race came to visit upon him as enemies with the revelation of the Phantom Zone leading the likes of General Zod, Dr. Xadu, Jax-Ur, Professor Va-Kox, Quex-Ul, Kru-El, Nam-Ek, Faora Hu-Ul, Az-Rel, and Nadira to battle him. Similarly, so did the Bottle City of Kandor emerge where Superman posed as the Batman-inspired Nightwing (though, the likes of Lesla-Lar and the Black Flame troubled Supergirl, instead). In addition to Kryptonians, Superman found issue with the New Gods of Apokolips, specifically Darkseid and his elite. The modern age expanded Superman’s vast array of enemies further adding Bloodsport, Silver Banshee, Barrage, Zaora, Cyborg Superman, Lord Satanus, Doomsday, Conduit, Contessa Erica Alexandra Del Portenza and the Agenda, Magog, Riot, Livewire, Rock, Baud, Gog, Dominus, Hope and Mercy, Imperiex, Manchester Black, Brainiac 13, Preus, Equus, Ruin, Subjekt-17, Khyber, Ursa, Non, Squad K, H’el, Blanque, and the Eradicator. Just as Captain Marvel acquired the Monster Society of Evil as his own private team of villains, the Superman Revenge Squad evolved from aliens from the planet Wexr II to eventually featuring his most dangerous enemies post-Infinite Crisis lead by Lex Luthor.
Like in how the Green Lantern was there at the beginning of the popularization of the superhero and exploded in size, the Flash accomplished this feat even sooner. Jay Garrick was a college student working in a laboratory where following a freak accident with hard water vapor, he gained the power of super speed and became the hero the Flash. In this role, he fought the Shade, Rag Doll, Thinker, Turtle, Thorn, Fiddler, and another speedster in the Rival. Just as Alan Scott gave way to Hal Jordan, Garrick begat Barry Allen who jump started the second age of superheroes. Carmine Infantino, co-creator of the Allen Flash with Robert Kanigher, alleged his design grew from an inspiration of Captain Marvel he dubbed Captain Whiz and his enemies were the Colors of Evil. Where the Flash was primarily red, Captains Cold and Boomerang were blue, Mirror Master was orange, Gorilla Grodd was purple, Abra Kadabra and Heat Wave were white, Reverse-Flash was yellow, and the Trickster was a veritable rainbow. Infantino seemed to have a particular fascination with green using it as the primary color for Turtle Man, Mr. Element (later Dr. Alchemy), Pied Piper, Weather Wizard, and the Top. Likely inspired by Dick Tracy whose foes were depicted on the rogues’ gallery, the Colors of Evil instead became the Rogues’ Gallery, or Rogues for short. The Rogues are notable in that it popularized a villain team battling a single hero. Prominent villains Golden Glider, Clive Yorkin, Rainbow Raider, Big Sir, and the Cobalt Blue legacy emerged before the death of Barry Allen saw Wally West take up the mantle of Flash.
Wally West inherited his predecessor’s rogues and gained new ones in a new Mirror Master, Trickster, Mr. Element, Captain Boomerang, and the Rainbow Raiders as well as Colonel Computron, Eradicator, Vandal Savage, Kilg%re, Chillblaine, Combine, Kobra, Folded Man, Replicant, Plunder, Brother Grimm, Magenta, Cicada, Tar Pit, Murmur, Blacksmith, Fallout, Girder, Double Down, Zoom, Peek-a-Boo, and Spin. Where Jay Garrick has the Rival and Barry Allen the Reverse-Flash, West had the Speed Demon only to give way to a deluge of speedster foes. Red Trinity, Blue Trinity, Savitar, Black Flash, Inertia, Reverse-Flash II, Future Flash, Godspeed, Negative Flash, and Red Death all followed. With Barry Allen’s resurrection, even more notable criminals arose with the Top of the Renegades, Mob Rule, Turbine, Papercut, Bloodwork, Black Hole, and Psych.
The most recognizable and commercially successful superhero on Earth, Batman is a brand nearly independent of DC Comics where even his enemies are the stars of their own comics, television series, and films. Created in the image of the pulp, radio, and comic strip heroes that predated comic books, Batman, like Superman, originally fought gangsters and mad scientists with some of his earliest notable rogues being Dr. Death, Monk, and Hugo Strange. Everything changed, however, with the introduction of the Joker. A costumed criminal, the Joker proved to be wildly popular that similarly grew to become his own brand. The character popularized costumed villains which not only proliferated within Batman’s titles but across the comic book industry. Within the Bat-books specifically, the likes of Catwoman, Clayface, Scarecrow, Penguin, Two-Face, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, Crime Doctor, Cavalier, Crazy Quilt, Riddler, Mad Hatter, Tiger Shark, Deadshot, Killer Moth, Firefly, Mad Hatter II, Professor Milo, Signalman, Terrible Trio, Calendar Man, Dr. Double X, Mr. Zero/Freeze, Kite Man, Clayface II, Mr. Polka-Dot/Polka-Dot Man, Catman, Getaway Genius, Blockbuster, Cluemaster, Lord Death Man, Poison Ivy, Dr. Tzin-Tzin, Spellbinder, Copperhead, Sensei, League of Assassins, Man-Bat, Ten-Eyed Man, Ra’s al Ghul, Spook, Sterling Silversmith, Captain Stingaree, Black Spider, Calculator, Dr. Phosphorus, Quakemaster, Kobra, Solomon Grundy, Clayface III, Gentleman Ghost, Maxie Zeus, Electrocutioner, Killer Croc, Night-Slayer, Nocturna, and the Wrath followed.
When the Crisis on Infinite Earths reset the multiverse into a single universe, it was an opportunity for Batman to get a face lift. Even prior to the event, characters like Clayface III, Electrocutioner, Croc, and the Wrath returned to some of the Dark Knight’s darker earlier roots and went even darker still. New foes matching this deeper shade arose in Black Mask, Film Freak, Carmine “The Roman” Falcone, Ventriloquist, KGBeast, Deacon Blackfire, Cornelius Stirk, Abattoir, Lynx, King Snake, Mr. Zsasz, Amygdala, Benedict Asp, Bane, Harley Quinn, Gunhawk, Steeljacket, Silver Monkey, Lock-Up, Gearhead, David Cain, Orca, Zeiss, Hush, Charlatan, Great White Shark, Jane Doe, Humpty Dumpty, Nyssa Raatko, Condiment King, Prometheus, Jezebel Jet, Dr. Hurt, Ventriloquist II, Flamingo, Professor Pyg, Black Glove, Carpenter, Club of Villains, Circus of Strange, Heretic, Leviathan, James Gordon Jr., Dollmaker, Nobody, White Rabbit, Mr. Toxic, Court of Owls, Emperor Blackgate, Mr. Bloom, Punchline, Phantasm, and the Gardener. So many enemies, it’s enough for several worlds. And yet, an entire Dark Multiverse of evil Batmen has emerged. Lead by the Bat-God Barbatos who enlisted the Batman Who Laughs, a Batman infected by the Joker’s madness, to destroy the multiverse, a Bat-army arose around the Dark Knights, evil Batmen based on the Justice League.
Honorable mentions: Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Supergirl, Hawkman, Green Arrow, Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, Outsiders, Atom, and Plastic Man.