DC Comics is a major player in the comic book business and is the “home” of many famous comic book characters such as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, and many others. Throughout the rich and colorful history of DC Comics, a large number of characters have appeared in the stories published by them.
Here is a list of the 20 best DC Comics characters ever created. The main criterium is the quality of the character itself – including parameters such as character development, depth, popularity, consistency, etc. – and not such qualities as power, influence, or heroism. This list doesn’t care whether a character is a hero or a villain, it just cares how well the character was created and portrayed throughout the comic books.
We have the best that DC ever created and you can now relax and enjoy our list of the best DC characters of all time!
20. Harley Quinn
Alias: Harleen Frances Quinzel
Debut: “Joker’s Favor” (September 11, 1992)
Harley Quinn has become an icon of DC Comics in recent years, even more than she was at the time of her debut in Batman: The Animated Series. She is one of the rare examples of a TV character that made it into the mainstream comics, but not only that – she has become an indispensable member of DC’s roster and a character without who we couldn’t really imagine modern-day comics. It is certain that Harley has reached stardom and that is why we start off our list with her.
Alias: Selina Kyle
Debut: Batman #1 (1940)
Affiliation: Villain, Antihero
As far as Catwoman is concerned, her name has become a well-known brand within the DC Comics roster. Although she initially wasn’t even close to her modern-day form, Catwoman has become one of DC’s most important female characters.
She was initially closely connected to Batman, but she has since become a character in her own right and though she does still collaborate with Batman, we are happy to have had the opportunity to explore her solo adventures in the comics and in derivative media. This is why we have Catwoman on our list and why she is definitely among the best.
Alias: Slade Joseph Wilson
Debut: The New Teen Titans #2 (1980)
Deathstroke’s legacy among DC Comics fans is truly amazing. Although he isn’t really a totally innovative character – skilled martial artists and mercenaries aren’t really uncommon in the world of comics – his complex personality, as well as his brilliantly written origin story is what makes Deathstroke so popular.
He is more beloved than a lot of superheroes in DC’s slate and there is absolutely no doubt that he is one of the best-written characters in DC’s current roster, which is why he deserves a spot on our list.
17. Martian Manhunter
Alias: J’onn J’onzz
Debut: Detective Comics #225 (1955)
The Martian Manhunter is a very enigmatic character but nevertheless, his ideals and the values he represents have made him quite popular. A sage-like figure, J’onn J’onzz has evolved in DC’s stories and has – since his debut – become one of DC’s most popular superheroes and an irreplaceable member of the Justice League.
His background and personality are truly intriguing, but what makes him truly special is the combination of his enormous powers and his vast intellect. He truly understands the responsibilities he has as a superhero and his decision to protect humanity, although he usually has to hide from them, is the reason he is so beloved.
Alias: Thaal Sinestro
Debut: Green Lantern #7 (1961)
Affiliation: Villain (former Hero)
True heroes don’t usually become villains, but Thaal Sinestro is an exception. This guy was considered to be one of the best Green Lanterns in history. He was a skilled fighter, intelligent, wise, and loyal to the values embodied in the Green Lantern Corps. Still, at one point, he became corrupt and the power he attained became the reason for his downfall.
Upon returning, Sinestro became an embodiment of fear, the only thing that could annul the effects of a Green Lantern, thus becoming one of DC’s best villains. Sinestro is on this list because of the depth this character has and the quality of his story, as was consistently presented in the comic books themselves.
Debut: Warrior #1 (1982)
Alan Moore is known for creating truly majestic characters and majestic stories. V, from V for Vendetta, is a prime example of such character. He is in line with Moore’s usual characters – morally ambiguous, idealistic, mysterious, intriguing – and although he does use the wrong methods for the right causes, there is something in him for which he cannot hate him.
V is a freedom fighter, he upholds the right values and although he might be violent in his methods, the rationale of his behavior is so convincing that we cannot agree with him. V is a treasure among DC’s characters, especially since he’s not part of the house’s mainstream roster, and we absolutely had to put him here on this list.
Alias: Vril Dox
Debut: Action Comics #242 (1958)
Brainiac is a truly intriguing villain. His “quirk” of acquiring whole civilizations for his morbid collection is something that makes him truly unique among comic book villains. But, on top of that, he has a very complex backstory that makes his character interesting, rather than being blind and a slave of his obsessions.
Brainiac does have depth, and although he is a villain we cannot really relate with, he is a villain that we love to hate and is among the best that DC has to offer, and DC is well-known for having truly great supervillains. This is why we decided to include Brainiac on our list.
13. John Constantine
Debut: The Saga of Swamp Thing #37 (1985)
Ah, the sheer amount of fun we have reading (or watching) Constantine’s stories is a completely different level of entertainment. Another creation by Alan Moore, John Constantine is the ideal antihero for every type of fan. He is dark, he has a sarcastic approach, he is a drunk and curses a lot, but he’ll also do everything he can to protect people from the monsters he himself cannot get rid of.
Constantine’s story is deep with the right dose of tragedy and darkness, his personality absolutely amazing and we had no doubts that the guy would land a spot on our list; it was only a question of which one.
Alias: Eobard Thawne
Debut: The Flash #139 (1963)
Whatever name you pick for him – Eobard Thawne, Reverse-Flash, or Professor Zoom – this guy is always one of the most epic characters DC has ever created. The complete opposite of Flash, Thawne is a supervillain that is unique in so many ways.
He has been part and even had a role in the development of some of DC’s major narrative arcs, such as Flashpoint or Rebirth, and has managed to become much more than just a Speedster villain – he has become one with the Speed Force, he has become energy.
His backstory is also interesting and as it got darker with the years, Thawne became more and more interesting; there is absolutely no doubt that his modern-day iteration deserved a spot on our list.
11. Green Lantern (Hal Jordan)
Alias: Hal Jordan
Debut: Showcase #22 (1959)
Hal Jordan is by far the best-known and most popular Green Lantern. Although he has had quite interesting colleagues and successors, it is Hal Jordan that is the true embodiment of the Green Lantern Corps for comic book fans. He does have a somewhat typical superhero personality and a somewhat atypical origin story, but Hal Jordan’s later adventures as the Green Lantern are what makes him so special.
His character has evolved in many different ways, he has gone from being a superhero to a mad villain, but he would always go back to the ideals and values he usually represented. He is a member of the Justice League and a character we always love to see, which is why he is on this list.
Debut: The Sandman #1 (1989)
As far as Neil Gaiman’s Sandman is concerned, it is undoubtedly one of the best comic books ever written. The depths with which Gaiman approached his characters and their stories are absolutely amazing, and all of that has made The Sandman a literary masterpiece.
Dream is the protagonist of the series and a character whose evolution is truly mesmerizing, as is he himself. Despite being an Endless, Dream is very authentic and his development is similar to that of all humans in the way that Gaiman analyzes, through his godly persona, issues and topics that “haunt” regular human beings.
The precision of Gaiman’s ideas is truly amazing and there is absolutely no doubt that Dream had to land a spot on our list.
Alias: Walter Joseph Kovacs
Debut: Watchmen #1 (1986)
Although he represents values that aren’t really held in high regard, Rorschach is one of the best comic book characters ever. There is deep and disturbing psychology behind his personality and he is, in a way, a less maniacal version of Joker’s “one bad day” theory embodied.
A man on the brink of a breakdown, Walter Kovacs witnessed the brutal murder of an innocent child and it drove him over the edge. He did not go mad, but he became ruthless. His moral absolutism might not reflect the actual state of our society, as there are grey areas, and his right-wing ideology is certainly nothing one should laud, but you’ve got to admire his persistence and his strength, the firmness of his ideological views and the fact that, despite all of his faulty views, Rorschach fights for justice and for good.
He is a bit radical in his methods, but Rorschach has humanity in mind when he does what he does. Whether you agree with him or not, the man chose to die for his ideals and that is certainly good enough to land a high spot on our list.
8. Dr. Manhattan
Alias: Jonathan “Jon” Osterman
Debut: Watchmen #1 (1986)
Affiliation: Hero, Neutral
Another one of Alan Moore’s masterpieces, Doctor Manhattan has been mentioned on this site on several occasions, mostly as the most powerful fictional character ever created. Still, in this context, he is not the best, but he is undoubtedly among the best.
What is most interesting about Dr. Manhattan is not his might – although he can do practically anything he wants – but rather his mind and the psychology behind the character. He is a human being who became god in the most literal possible sense of the word.
He is a being that had to dehumanize himself, that had to destroy everything he was, in order to become something more. He surpassed the limits of human knowledge and perception, becoming an omniscient and omnipotent being, and the process of him coping with these issues was masterfully written by Moore.
On one hand, he yearns for his human side, but on the other, he is aware that there is little human left in him. His further evolution in the Doomsday Clock narrative was likewise brilliant, as it showed him reconciling with his human side and humanity. There is no doubt that Dr. Manhattan deserved a spot on this list.
7. Lex Luthor
Alias: Alexander Luthor
Debut: Action Comics #23 (1940)
Time after time, Lex Luthor has managed to cause trouble to Superman and the rest of the DC superheroes. His genius-level intellect and vast resources make him a formidable foe. Basically, Lex Luthor is to Superman, what Joker is to Batman – an archenemy.
Debut: Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #134 (1970)
Among the greatest comic book supervillains of all time, Darkseid is a character that inspires both fear and admiration. Although his backstory isn’t really that unique – a commoner who rises to the rank of a tyrant is a common plot element – Darkseid is quite special in so many ways, even if we disregard the fact that there exists a “True Form” of him more dangerous than everything we’ve seen so far.
His appearance, his ideology and the ruthlessness of his conquests, along with the fact that he has absolutely no other motivation but to satisfy his own megalomaniac needs, are all elements that make Darkseid so important and that justify our decision to put him so high up on our list.
Debut: Batman #1 (1940)
Whether you take the campy version from the Golden Age or the modern, I-Cut-Off-My-Own-Face-And-Wore-It-As-A-Mask iteration, Joker is one of the best and scariest comic book supervillains ever created. There is, in fact, no other comic book supervillain that matches him when it comes to the level of depravity of some of his crimes.
Joker is an absolute genius and as much as he scares the sh*it out of us, we also love him for what he is – and he is completely unique. The darkness behind his personality, the depth of his madness, and the genius of his twisted mind make Joker so dangerous, and if you add to that the fact that we know practically nothing about his past except that the guy who became the Joker had “one bad day”, you get a character that every author would want to use in their stories.
Joker just offers us so much, both horrible and brilliant, and that is why we commence our top five with him.
4. Wonder Woman
Alias: Diana of Themyscira / Diana Prince
Debut: All Star Comics #8 (1941)
The highest-ranked female character on our list, Wonder Woman has done so much for the evolution of DC Comics. Not only is she a fan favorite and the strongest female superhero in DC’s slate, but she also helped redefine – through her own evolution as a comic book character – the role of female characters in superhero comics, while also being an inspiration for real-life women.
In-universe, she is a founding member of the Justice League and one of Earth’s best-known protectors, a character so powerful that she was even able to stand her ground against powerful enemies such as Darkseid. Wonder Woman, like every person, has her flaws, but she is a truly great character and it was absolutely amazing to see her evolve from somewhat of an object in her early appearances to a powerful and empowering female character.
Since she is one of the big three of DC Comics’ superheroes, we had to give her such a high spot on our list of DC’s best characters.
3. The Flash (Barry Allen)
Alias: Bartholomew Henry “Barry” Allen
Debut: Showcase #4 (1956)
The best-known and most popular iteration of the Flash character, Barry Allen is a beloved character that has done so much for DC Comics. Much like Eobard Thawne, whom we have talked about already, Barry Allen is essential to the evolution of DC Comics since the 1990s, but in a heroic, rather than a villainous role.
He has played an important role in almost all major DC crossover events since Crisis on Infinite Earths, including Blackest Night, Flashpoint, Convergence, and DC Rebirth, and his return – after years of absence – was hailed by comic book fans around the world. It is fair to say that modern DC Comics would not be as it is without Barry Allen.
On top of that, Barry Allen is a really cool guy. He has a great backstory, he has ideals he fights for, he is quite likable and very funny, which is why fans love him so much. His importance for the development of DC’s modern stories is why we put him in front of Wonder Woman and gave him a spot in the top three.
Alias: Kal-El / Clark Joseph Kent
Debut: Action Comics #1 (1938)
It is really difficult to overstate Superman’s importance for the whole superhero genre; the guy is practically a synonym for a Superhero. Superman paved the way for modern American superhero comics and his Golden Age iteration was what actually attracted readers towards superhero comics back during the 1940s.
Still, Superman has undergone an evolution just like all the characters from that period, with his origins becoming deeper and darker, and his character more layered and more complex. Today, Superman is much more than just a caped pretty boy with powers, he is a symbol and a character that merits a very detailed analysis, which is not something we’re going to do here.
Superman is a truly brilliant and important character, a character that embodies the right values and embodies the whole concept of superheroism in a certain way. His pivotal role in the evolution of the genre is unprecedented in the history of superhero comic books and that is why we have him – although it was expected in a way – a spot in our top three.
Why the second one? Well, because there is a guy who’s just a bit more awesome than Superman and you can probably guess who it is.
Alias: Bruce Wayne
Debut: Detective Comics #27 (1939)
“I’m Batman” is probably one of the most famous lines associated with comic book superheroes. And this guy really is the Batman, a character whose lore and background are so awesome that he rightfully beat every other character on this list to be the best DC Comics character of all time.
We could write a whole essay on just how and why Batman is that awesome, but we assume that you know most of the stuff by now. Batman is, himself, truly great and unique in a lot of ways, certainly very different from other mainstream superheroes. During the 1980s, it was him – through his stories – that redefined superhero comics and started the Modern Age. His lore is absolutely brilliant and he probably has the best rogues gallery of all comic book heroes.
Still, what really makes Batman so special is the psychology behind the character and the issues tackled by the authors. Batman offers a lot, both for authors and readers, there is a lot to analyze and explore, probably more than with any other superhero. These are all reasons why Batman is better than other characters and why we have put him on top of our list.