DC Comics is home to myriad superheroes and villains, including many of the most iconic characters to grace the comic book page. However, even within that vast universe of mythic figures, a few heroes soar above the rest, whether owing to their compelling backstories, visually interesting powers, or — in most cases — a combination of the two.
So let’s take a look at our definitive list of the top 12 DC superheroes.
As half of the Dynamic Duo, Dick Grayson began as Batman’s sidekick but broke out of his Boy Wonder binds to become a bona fide DC superhero in his own right. Nightwing uses the lessons he learned from his brooding mentor — minus the darkness, plus a glimmer of hope — to take down DC’s villains. He is the kinder, gentler Batman.
Like his fellow DC superheroes Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson, Billy Batson lost his parents when he was a child. Their untimely demise sent him on a righteous path to an ancient wizard, Shazam. The wizard bestowed the boy with the power to transform himself into an adult superhero of the same name by summoning a magic lightning bolt with one word: “Shazam!”
When he first appeared in Whiz Comics No. 2 in 1940, Shazam outsold Batman and Superman, The New York Times reported. His popularity led to an eponymous 1974 live-action TV series, a 2019 Hollywood blockbuster, and its 2023 follow-up, Shazam! Fury of the Gods
10. Booster Gold
Booster Gold doesn’t have the name recognition of his Justice League contemporaries, but he’s no less important (and awesome), hence his inclusion on our DC heroes list. His comic series infuses much-needed comedy into the otherwise grim DC canon, as a time traveler from the future using his advanced technology to become a celebrity superhero.
A few years ago, Warner Bros. even had plans for a standalone movie that many theorized would be DC’s answer to Marvel’s wildly popular Guardians of the Galaxy saga. But so far, nothing has materialized. Film writer Zack Stentz told The Fanboy Podcast in 2019 that the script is complete, but he’s waiting for the studio to make the next move.
9. Green Arrow
Much in the same way Marvel entrusted the future of its fledgling streaming universe to Daredevil, DC tagged the Green Arrow to launch its TV empire on The CW. The move paid off in spades, featuring the green-hooded archer in all his broody glory.
Originally, DC was content to have him basically act as a Batman clone who used a bow and arrow. But in the years since his creation, Green Arrow has taken on a personality of his own, pushing the Justice League into a progressive, forward-thinking mindset.
8. John Constantine
As the gatekeeper for all things supernatural, John Constantine plays an integral role among the DC superheroes. The skilled magician and resident demon-fighter leads the “Dark” iteration of the Justice League and is known for his trademark brown trenchcoat, snarky quips, and frequent chainsmoking.
He wonderfully embodies the seedy underbelly of DC’s superhero world, protecting the planet from the spawn of Hell itself.
Aquaman’s powers may not always be useful in a land-based battle, but there’s no denying his importance in the larger DC universe. As the King of the Seven Seas, he shoulders great responsibility while watching over all the creatures of our planet’s oceans.
And Aquaman got even cooler when resident Hollywood badass Jason Momoa played the hero in the 2018 movie of the same name.
6. Martian Manhunter
A strong argument can be made for why Martian Manhunter is the most powerful hero in the Justice League. Possessing a wide range of psychic, physical, and sensory abilities, he’s a valuable ally among DC heroes. Beyond that, he also acts as an intriguing foil for Superman, as a fellow alien forced to watch his society come crumbling down around him.
You can see him on The CW’s Supergirl, a live-action depiction he rightly deserves.
5. Wonder Woman
Probably the most famous female comic book hero, Wonder Woman was the only member of the DC Comics “Trinity” — alongside Superman and Batman — to never star in her own film. But that changed when Gal Gadot portrayed the character in the standalone blockbuster Wonder Woman.
Considering she is as powerful as Superman, Wonder Woman — whose origin story is steeped in Greek mythology — deserves to be as popular as her male counterparts. Given her 2017 film and 2020 follow-up, Wonder Woman 1984, casual fans finally learned how fascinating a figure she really is.
4. Green Lantern
Don’t let that 2011 Ryan Reynolds film fool you. Green Lantern may have yet to be effectively translated to live-action, but the character has a long-standing history as one of DC’s most powerful heroes.
Like the Flash, numerous men have wielded the magical ring that is the signature of the intergalactic law enforcement group the Green Lantern Corps. However, all have proven to be strong additions to comic book lore — from Hal Jordan to John Stewart. It appears to be just a matter of time until the character’s name and the imaginative source of his powers finally achieve redemption in the eyes of casual superhero fans unfamiliar with his many successful appearances in comics and animated adaptations.
The Flash may not have the same marquee value among non–comic book readers, but the character is catching up with his fellow Justice League members fast (after all, he is the fastest man alive). Often depicted as more fun and relaxed than most other top DC heroes, the character has long been a staple of the comics and finally broken into the mainstream, thanks to the hit series on The CW.
Flash has also undergone loads of evolution over the years, with different men donning the suit. Regardless of which version of the character appears, the Flash is always a highlight, and his world — which frequently dabbles in time travel — never fails to create new and surprising stories.
Undoubtedly one of the most popular heroes of all time, Batman serves as the perfect counterpoint to Superman in the comic books, offering a conflicted sense of darkness and brooding commitment in place of the Man of Steel’s clear view of the planet he serves.
Classic works like The Dark Knight Returns and The Killing Joke perfectly capture how morally complex and endlessly thrilling Batman’s world can be, thanks in part to his stunning rogues’ gallery of memorable foes.
The Caped Crusader has also seen financial success, with his theatrical releases collectively raking in $2.4 billion to date, Box Office Mojo reports.
Perhaps the most recognizable superhero ever created, Superman is probably also the one responsible for the explosion of the genre, as he predates virtually all of the heroes we love today.
A paragon of truth and justice, the strongest DC character is known for his unyielding sense of righteousness. And although he has largely been difficult to capture on the big screen — at least since Christopher Reeve donned the red cape — even fans who criticized Man of Steel continue to stand by the last son of Krypton, whose tragic origin has yielded many epic comic book tales over the years.
Additional reporting by Nick Cannata-Bowman.
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