A good villain requires two things. First, they need to provide a challenge for your hero; make them question their beliefs and what they stand for. And two, they need to garner sympathy or understanding from the audience. If your audience asks themselves, “Would I become a villain if I was pushed that far?” you’ve done an excellent job.
DC comics have created some of the most memorable villains, from manipulative psychopaths who love to play games with Batman to misunderstood geniuses who cracked under pressure. But, unfortunately, now and then, they come out with a villain that makes absolutely no sense and leaves you wondering who gave the green light for that character. Let’s look at some of the worst DC villains.
George “Digger” Harkness is a bit of a strange character concept. An Australian criminal who learned how to carve and throw boomerangs with accuracy to impress his absentee father in case he ever met him. His case isn’t really helped that he was made a villain of the fastest man alive.
He’s one of the worst DC villains for several reasons. First, he isn’t particularly smart and has landed himself in many difficult situations several times throughout the comics because of it. He’s no match for the Flash (Barry Allen). One of the most commendable things about him was that he could escape Kahndaq while the rest of his team couldn’t, for various reasons. When he was finally sent to Belle Reve Penitentiary, Amanda Waller selected him as a member of her Suicide Squad.
10. Crazy Quilt
Paul Dekker is a Batman villain. The painter was a crime lord and was driven insane after he went blind thanks to an attempt on his life gone sideways. He underwent experimental surgery and found himself only able to see disorienting bright colours.
Crazy Quilt is mostly useless. His plans to steal the colours from Gotham City were ruined when Robin realised he was using a water-soluble dye that was easily removed. As a result, he’s been defeated by the Boy Wonder several times and was eventually permanently blinded by him while still recovering from experimental eye surgery.
DC writers reimagined the character in the New 52, but it did nothing to help his status as one of the worst DC villains. Like previous versions of the character, he was obsessed with the idea of immortality, which was eventually his undoing. Crazy Quilt’s power comes from his helmet, which allows him to hypnotise his victims and even see.
9. Kite Man
Charles Brown is one of the worst DC villains. While his origin story adds something to the character, he is completely useless and doesn’t really do anything for the most part. During the Battle of Jokes and Riddles, Batman (Bruce Wayne) contacted Brown, who agreed to be a spy for him on the Joker’s side, officially joining the Joker’s side and taking the name Kite Man after an unfortunate incident with the Riddler and Brown’s son.
He gave up the quest for vengeance and has become nothing more than a petty criminal. He spends his time stealing jewellery and selling his kites to other criminals. He’s considered a joke by fans and by many DC characters and was one of the first villains Gotham Girl ever caught.
8. Clock King
Billy Tockman was once an engineer who worked at Queen Industries but was fired by Robert Queen, who he claims took advantage of his research and ruined his career. later in life, Tockman’s grudge fell to Oliver, and he became a villain to Green Arrow (and occasionally Batman).
His love for clocks extends to his outfits and weapons. He might be a genius who could predict people’s actions and invent a watch that could stop the wearer’s heart, but that doesn’t change his status as one of the worst DC villains. The cheesy name and poor character design don’t help his case much. His costumes value form over function (I will never know how a giant clockface seems like a good idea for a mask), and he’s been defeated many times. For example, Cat Woman once beat him because he wasn’t expecting her to crash through a window.
7. Ten-Eyed Man
Philip Reardon is the worst villain ever introduced in the DC comic books. He is a former soldier blinded in an accident and received experimental surgery connecting his optic nerves to his fingers. However, he managed to convince a doctor that sheltered him of his fingers’ supernatural sight when he predicted the location of Double X and later found Solomon Grundy.
Reardon is a relatively useless character. He claims he has magic, often performing rituals for various purposes, but this has never actually been proven. He has the strange ability to remove victims’ organs without causing injury or harm.
6. The Condiment King
Buddy Standler is one of the worst DC villains ever created. A joke both out- and in-universe, the Condiment King isn’t even really a villain. To get revenge on Standler for scoffing at him years ago, the Joker used Mad Hatter’s mind control technology to brainwash the comedian and turn him into a condiment-themed villain.
A second iteration of the character was Mitchell Mayo. Mayo allied himself with Penguin to help go after Harley Quinn but turned “legit” after all the villains were defeated and opened a restaurant on Coney Island. It didn’t take long for him to return to his life of crime. The only helpful thing about the condiment king would be spraying hot sauce in peoples’ eyes.
5. Rainbow Raider
From an early age, Roy G. Bivolo was a talented painter. Unfortunately, he was also colour-blind, so his determined father tried to create goggles that would allow Roy to see in full colour. Unfortunately, Roy didn’t receive the gift until his father passed away, and it didn’t quite do what it was supposed to.
Instead, they projected beams of light that could do everything from making him invisible to affecting someone’s emotions. Unable to pursue art, he instead turned to crime, using the goggles to work his way into Flash’s Rogue Gallery.
Despite being one of the worst DC villains, he was still revived as a Black Lantern during the events of Blackest Night. He briefly went as Chroma during the events of New 52 and was defeated by Gorilla Grodd after he asked to share control of the city.
His inability to stay alive makes Chang Tzu one of the worst DC villains. He has been blasted to pieced by several characters, including Will Magnus, Cassandra Cain, Power Girl and Wonder Woman, but he returns every single time.
Tzu established the Science Squad, who were responsible for bioengineering the Four Horsemen (immensely powerful beings) and was responsible for his own destruction when he took Will’s bipolar medication, as he believed it suppressed his creativity. Will unleashed miniature Metal Men on him and defeated Tzu using a partial wave gun.
This first event doubled as a means to free Black Adam, who Tzu had kidnapped and attempted to sell. He has multiple names and won’t hesitate to destroy anything that laughs at his name, even if they are one of his own guards. There is another version of the character referred to as Edgar Fullerton Yeung, and at this point, it feels like the character keeps being brought back so the writers can make terrible egg puns.
3. Blue Snowman
Byrna Brilyant is an old foe of Wonder Woman’s, a thief and a former member of the Ice Pack who battled various heroes throughout their tenure as a villain. The Washington, D.C. press named the mecha-suit after its powers and colour.
Brilyant had wired their brain into the cerebellum into the suit, so when Wonder Woman crashed the suit, their brain crashed with it. Only afterwards Diana realised a woman was inside the Blue Snowman. Wonder Woman has easily defeated the Blue Snowman several times and once did so with the help of Steve Trevor.
2. Hector Hammond
Hector Hammond is one of the villains of the Green Lantern Corps and one of the worst DC villains. He started as a petty criminal who happened upon a strange meteor in the woods. To test the meteor’s capabilities, he kidnapped four scientists. Exposing them to the radiation caused their intelligence to evolve, but their wills were sapped, and Hammond immediately took advantage of this, forcing them to build him new inventions.
He sold these, but Hal Jordan soon became aware of his activities and investigated what he was doing, suspecting that he was behind the four scientists’ kidnappings. Nevertheless, he easily defeated them and returned the four scientists (and his friend, whom he had used as bait) to their normal state.
Hammond managed to escape and decided to fully expose himself to the meteorite, which didn’t go too well for him. His brain grew exponentially, granting him immortality, telepathy and telekinesis. Unfortunately, he also became unable to speak or use his body, so he was trapped in a constant, motionless state, not something you really want to affect you for the rest of your immortal life.
Hammond has been regularly defeated by Hal Jordan, who manages to outsmart him despite his enhanced genius, and was once beaten by Dr Martin Stein. He did become more powerful when he swallowed the Power Battery of the Orange Lantern Corps and was possessed by Ophidian.
1. Polka Dot Man
The Snyderverse reintroduced fans to Polka-Dot Man in The Suicide Squad, and while the DCEU version of him was pretty funny, the comic book version had slightly different powers and was one of the worst DC villains.
Abner Krill was a minor villain whose polka-dots on his gimmicked costume concealed various weapons. He regularly battled Batman and Robin (Dick Grayson) early in their careers. However, during his first appearance in the comics, his ultimate downfall was not caused by Batman (although he had a large part in it), but by a young Robin who used braille on a note Polka-Dot Man forced him to send to Batman.
He became a joke to the other villains in Gotham City, especially after Robin once tracked him with a leopard. Then, during Final Crisis, he joined a gang of other costumed misfits.
The Worst Villains Introduced in the DC Extended Universe
3. Maxwell Lord
In the comics, Maxwell Lord is incredibly powerful and one of the DC universe’s best villains. He can mentally control his victims and has a great hunger for power. He was a very ambitious man, and with the help of an alien computer possessed by Kilg%re, he set about creating a peacekeeping organisation to dominate the world. He funded the formation of the Justice League International, meanwhile using them to gain intel on the weaknesses of other superheroes. With his knowledge, he was able to subdue the hero community to the point that Wonder Woman had to defeat him for the greater good of humanity. He is a formidable opponent in the comics. Unfortunately, we cannot say the same for his big-screen debut in Wonder Woman 1984. Pedro Pascal’s Maxwell Lord is the worst villain the DC Extended Universe ever gave us.
Wonder Woman 1984 reduced the character to an eccentric and greedy entrepreneur. He ran around granting people’s wishes and cursing them in return to feel powerful and, at one point, restore his health; otherwise, he seems to be doing it solely to cause chaos. Fortunately, Diana defeats him. Instead, she uses the Lasso of Truth to show him unhappy memories from his childhood and his son, who is desperately searching for his father amidst the chaos of the world.
2. Black Manta
Black Manta has got one of the saddest backstories in the DC Universe. He was a child with autism who loved to play by the sea. He was kidnapped by pirates when he was still very young and was forced to work on their ship for an unknown amount of time.
During his time on the ship, he spotted Aquaman swimming among the dolphins and tried to signal to him, but Arthur Curry didn’t see him. Finally, realising help was not coming for him, Manta managed to defeat one of the pirates. At that moment, he swore revenge upon Aquaman and the entire sea and became determined to become its master. He finally took on the name Black Manta after he escaped the mental institution he was put into and led his armies in a conflict against the sea, making himself a force to be reckoned with.
Aquaman almost defeated Manta but decided it wasn’t worth compromising his ideals and instead had Manta arrested. Manta is a formidable opponent and is one of Aquaman’s most lethal villains. Recent portrayals of the character altered his story slightly, but the worst, by far, has been the DCEU.
In Aquaman, Black Manta is a pirate alongside his father, who he loses in a battle with Arthur Curry. So he swears vengeance against the Atlantean and gets help from the Ocean Master to acquire advanced technology that will give him a chance against his enemy. He doesn’t even really get a chance to battle Arthur a second time before he’s promptly knocked out of the brawl. It’s one of the most anti-climatic and disappointing moments of the film.
1. The Joker
Jared Leto’s Joker is a sore point for many fans of the DCEU. The Joker is meant to be one of the most terrifying characters in the DC universe. He regularly torments the citizens of Gotham for fun, has mortally wounded and paralysed a Robin or two and peeled the skin off his own face so he could wear it as a mask. Every actor that has been the Joker has performed memorably, except for Leto, who most fans found annoying and utterly unnecessary to the film.
The Joker is a serial criminal and a madman who remorselessly manipulates people to do his bidding and considers tormenting Batman one of the most outstanding achievements of his life, going as far as starting a conflict with the Riddler over who would get to destroy them. Leto’s Joker doesn’t even come close to this. Sure, he’s a tattooed freak that manages to manipulate Harley and ruin her life, but otherwise, he doesn’t have much going for him. He’s more irritating than terrifying, and his laugh is just ridiculous. It’s an unfortunate portrayal of a very formidable character that no Gotham citizen would want to meet, even on a good night.
Hannah Lieberum is, first and foremost, a geek with a passion for writing. Her love for reading, from the classics through to sci-fi, often needs her to focus and overanalyse the narrative of films and games, while her love for art allows her to see the beauty in unexpected shots. An excellent backstory will always win her over, and she will never pass up the opportunity to sit back, relax and watch Star Trek while petting her permanently grumpy cat.