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The most powerful DC heroes ranked

How powerful is any particular superhero? Well, you can weigh their godlike accomplishments and argue how they measure up against those of their colleagues. You can look at role playing game statistics and fictional reference books like DC's mid-'80s series Who's Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe. But at the end of the day, the only real answer to the power level of any given hero is how strong the writers have chosen to make them in any particular comic book, movie, television show, or other media. 

Even the question of who could beat up who isn't really a definitive gauge of their power. After all, time and again, Batman — in spite of having no super powers of his own — has proven capable of holding his own against, or even defeating, some of the most titanic heroes and villains in the DC Universe. But physically, he's less powerful than many of DC's weakest heroes.

Still, the pantheon of DC heroes includes a hierarchy that's clearer in some points than others, and we can make some educated guesses. On one end of the spectrum, there are heroes who are barely distinguishable from gods in their might, and on the other, there are champions who could destroy a few planets in the morning and be home before dinner got cold. Here are our picks for the mightiest heroes of DC, ranked from least to most powerful. 

Damage is a DC hero who lives up to his name

Ethan Avery is an American soldier who volunteers for a program that allows him to transform into the Hulk-like creature Damage for one hour a day. For much of his series, Damage finds himself locking horns with other DC heroes, and the confrontations show just how staggeringly powerful the man-monster is. 

In 2018's Damage #2, Amanda Waller sends the Suicide Squad to stop Damageand in spite of a roster including heavy hitters like Solomon Grundy and Giganta, Damage tears through them. He punches right through the massive hand of Giganta and proves too powerful for the power-sucking Parasite to drain without overloading himself. Wonder Woman relieves the Squad, and Damage fights her to a standstill. Communicating with the Justice League toward the end of Damage #3, Wonder Woman shocks Superman when she says of Damage, "Never have I encountered strength like that." The League gets its own shot later in the series with Damage #11 when, among other things, Damage proves to be able to easily rip through the constructs Green Lantern creates with his power ring. The issue leads into a cover-to-cover battle with Superman in Damage #12, which ends with Deadman interrupting the fight by possessing Damage. 

He isn't the most well-known DC hero, and he's one of the newest, but Damage would clearly deserve a higher spot on this list if it weren't for the fact that his power can only manifest for a single hour per day. 

Shazam has power to spare

Shazam, the powerful alter-ego of the young Billy Batson, is said to possess the greatest attributes of powerful and revered figures. In fact, the name "Shazam" comes from the list of biblical and mythic characters from whom his powers are culled — Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury. Whether he's literally meant to get his powers from these beings or if their names are used symbolically all depends on who's writing him, but regardless, he lives up to the hype. 

Ever since his creation, Shazam has been criticized as a Superman clone, to the point that National Comics (who would later become DC Comics) sued Fawcett Comics — Shazam's first home — over the similarities. Fittingly, Shazam's battles with the Man of Steel reveal just how powerful he is. 

One of the most famous examples is in the classic 1996 mini-series Kingdom Come in which a manipulated Shazam comes close to killing Superman. Less well-known but perhaps even more impressive is 1999's JLA #29 in which Shazam's "strength of Hercules" takes Superman out in two punches. To be fair, it's a surprise attack, and as Shazam says, "I got lucky. And he's vulnerable to magic." But still, the list of people who can KO Superman in two hits under any circumstances is pretty short. 

Shazam would probably earn a higher spot on this ranking, but his underaged alter-ego can at times be a critical vulnerability. 

Wonder Woman is a fierce, unyielding warrior

Gal Gadot's movie version of Wonder Woman is one of the most powerful superheroes we've seen on the big screen in recent years. Regardless, the comic book version kicks it even harder

Considering 2017's Wonder Woman ends with the titular hero defeating the war god Ares, it may not surprise you to learn just how often the Wonder Woman of the comics is forced to endure abuse from the gods. The king of the gods, Zeus himself, blasts Diana with one lightning bolt after another in 1987's Wonder Woman #10 when she refuses his demands of "communion with the flesh," but she survives the cruel onslaught. It isn't the last time her powers save her from assaults from Zeus and the other gods, and she knocks Zeus on his rear end in 2009's Wonder Woman #33. She's gone toe-to-toe with the most powerful heroes and villains of DC Comics, almost always giving as good as she gets. In 1999's JLA/Titans #3, with nothing more than her strength and speed, she single-handedly stops a massive asteroid from crashing into Earth. 

While she isn't the most powerful DC hero, Wonder Woman's tenacity and skill make her a deadly foe to just about anyone. 

Orion is the doom of Darkseid

Orion — New God and gruff, rude son of Darkseid — has long been considered one of the strongest heroes in the DC Comics' pantheon. During his brief time with the Justice League in the late '90s, Orion proved himself to possess might comparable to that of Wonder Woman and Superman, but with fewer manners and a lot more ferocity. 

More than perhaps any other event in the history of comics, 2008's Countdown #2 proved the space-faring Orion deserved a spot on the short list of the company's mightiest protagonists. Orion interrupts a battle between his uber-villain father Darkseid and a super-powered Jimmy Olsen to take care of his father once and for all. Father and son wage an epic battle while the Justice League watches, and Orion not only defeats a villain most DC heroes couldn't survive, he rips Darkseid's fiery heart out of his chest. 

But we're talking about comics, and Darkseid has a particularly weird history on the page, so he soon returns, of course. Still, give credit where credit is due. Anyone who can defeat Darkseid one-on-one, much less kill him, deserves a respectful spot on this list no matter how much of a jerk he can be at times or how many revolving doors are installed in the morgues of DC.

Superman and Supergirl are humanity's powerful protectors

Yeah, so it's possible you've heard of Superman? Maybe? The Man of Steel was never quite as powerful as he used to be after the game-changing 1985-86 line-wide event Crisis on Infinite Earths, but he's still largely seen as the indisputable alpha male of DC Comics' heroes. He's laid low angels and gods, he's on the short list of heroes who've beaten the tar out of Darkseid in a one-on-one fight, and he's the hallmark all other DC heroes are measured against. 

Supergirl isn't quite as celebrated as her cousin, but she's proven herself to be just as powerful and — in some media — sometimes even more powerful. In the second season finale of CW's Supergirl, Melissa Benoist's Supergirl knocks out a mind-controlled Superman (played by Tyler Hoechlin). In the Crisis on Infinite Earths comics, it's Supergirl who defeats the villainous Anti-Monitor and dies in the process. In 2005's Supergirl #1, she KO's strongman Solomon Grundy with a single punch and saves the super-team the Justice Society of America from the villain in the process. 

With comparable powers and long lists of Herculean feats, Superman and Supergirl are both the kinds of heroes who make all the other heroes sigh with relief when they finally arrive.

Lobo is the Main Man

You may find it tough to swallow calling the alien bounty hunter Lobo a hero, and we'd be hard-pressed to blame you. Lobo is usually, at best, an anti-hero, and he sometimes goes for pure villainy. But at the same time he's found himself allied with the heroes of DC at times, including when he was recruited into the Justice League in the 2017-18 volume of Justice League of America

Part of the proof of Lobo's power is the fact that he's one of the only surviving members of the Czarnian race because he killed the rest of his people for fun. In the few instances when he's discovered a survivor — like his half-Czarnian daughter Crush from Teen Titans — he drops whatever he's doing to kill them. He's gone toe-to-toe with Superman a number of times, proving himself at least the Kryptonian's equal, if not more. In 1990's Adventures of Superman #464, a drunk Lobo travels to the Fortress of Solitude to prove himself Superman's better, and the Man of Steel ends the fight by faking his death and hiding until Lobo leaves.

If an enemy does somehow manage to injure Lobo, it usually doesn't matter. The Main Man has regeneration powers that make Wolverine's healing factor look like a band-aid. In the second season of the Syfy series Krypton (which was sadly cancelled), Lobo physically regenerates after literally blowing his own head off.

There isn't much Martian Manhunter can't do

J'onn J'onzz, aka the Martian Manhunter, famously has one of the easiest vulnerabilities to exploit — a weakness to fire. In spite of that Achilles' heel, he's one of DC's mightiest and most versatile heroes. 

While perhaps not quite as fast or strong, Martian Manhunter shares a lot of powers with his colleague Superman. He can fly, he's super strong, super durable, and super fast. At the same time, there's a lot J'onzz can do that Superman can't. He can change his shape to appear as just about any kind of living thing, he can turn invisible, and he can phase his body through solid objects a la Kitty Pryde of the X-Men. Perhaps most significant, the Martian is a powerful psychic who often keeps the rest of the Justice League in touch with one another across the globe telepathically. 

A perfect example of just how formidable this unique collection of powers makes him appears in the 2000 original graphic novel JLA: Earth 2. When the Crime Syndicate of America — another Earth's evil version of the Justice League — comes to the prime DC Earth to wreak havoc, J'onzz effortlessly takes out Ultraman, the CSA's version of Superman. J'onzz tells him, "I can modify my molecular structure to any thought you form. This is not combat; you were already beaten the moment you chose to engage me." The moment can't help but make you wonder if J'onzz could handle Ultraman's more heroic counterpart just as easily.

Doctor Fate is more than just a magician

DC's Doctor Fate is often compared to Marvel's Doctor Strange, though in many ways, the comparison doesn't fit. Both are powerful sorcerers, but unlike Strange, Fate isn't limited to his spells. Whoever's found wearing the artifacts of Doctor Fate — and they've changed hands numerous times over the years — takes on the power of Nabu. Nabu was a godlike being once known as one of the Lords of Order, and he ultimately transfers his immense power into Fate's helmet. So while the wielder of the helmet does gain access to a long list of magic spells, they also enjoy formidable physical and psychic abilities. Doctor Fate is super strong, telekinetic, telepathic, and he can fly. He can also blast opponents with fire and lightning without access to any extra witchcraft. 

Beyond the powers granted by the helmet, Doctor Fate wields powerful spells. With his magic, Fate has traveled through time, raised the dead, and stepped between dimensions. We haven't even mention that Doctor Fate's connection to the world of magic grants him access to, and knowledge about, the kind of Elder beings and gods who can cause so much trouble in DC's vast, complex multiverse. Considering even powerhouses like Superman are vulnerable to magic, there are few heroes in DC's comics who would want to get on Fate's bad side. 

The Phantom Stranger is a DC hero with immense power

The Phantom Stranger is one of DC Comics' most mysterious figures. He often prefers to steer other heroes towards specific important goals rather than getting directly involved. A perfect example is in the character's only live-action appearance so far, when he was played by Macon Blair in the short-lived DC Universe Swamp Thing series. What little is known about his origin has changed multiple times over the years. In some versions, he's said to be an angel cast out of Heaven for refusing to take a side in Lucifer's rebellion against God, and in a more recent origin story, it's implied he's Judas — the disciple of Jesus who betrayed him to the Romans — cursed to walk the Earth forever to atone for his betrayal.

Whoever the Phantom Stranger is, he's not only one of DC's most powerful heroes, but one of its most powerful beings. He's been shown to be able to manipulate time, travel across great distances without any kind of external aid, fire blasts of intense power at his enemies, and to see ghosts and other things invisible to most mortals. Perhaps the biggest indicator of his power is the fact that he's often forced into direct conflict with the Spectre, and he's often proven to be the only single hero able to hold his own against the vengeful spirit. 

The Spectre is the wrath of God

The Spectre is a cosmic entity who, in his most recent incarnations, is the physical embodiment of the wrath of God. Unlike many superheroes, the Spectre doesn't stop himself from more lethal measures and usually kills his victims in ways fitting to their crimes. However, the cosmic being needs a human host to act. For many years, the host was Jimmy Corrigan, and Hal Jordan of Green Lantern fame took up the mantle for a long time, as well. 

There's no true limit to the Spectre's powers, except that he can only do what's necessary for any particular mission. If claiming vengeance means growing to the size of a giant or traveling through time or other dimensions, he can do it. For example in 1999's JLA #31, he punishes the former superhero Triumph for his "cold heart" by turning the fallen hero's body to ice. But he couldn't just go around turning people to ice for no reason.

Unfortunately, this near-omnipotence is part of what makes the Spectre a problem so often. One of the more famous examples is from 1993's Spectre #13, when he judged the entire fictional nation of Vlatava guilty of ethnic cleansing and wiped out the entire country. In more recent years, the Spectre sparked 2005's Day of Vengeance event, when the manipulative Eclipso convinced him all magic in reality must be annihilated. Among other things, the Spectre destroyed the Rock of Eternity, the source of Shazam's powers. 

Doctor Manhattan is a DC hero who's basically a god

In both Watchmen and Doomsday Clock, Doctor Manhattan proves capable of just about anything. He brushes aside a massive gathering of Justice Leaguers in Doomsday Clock #9, and to anyone who's familiar with Watchmen, that shouldn't be a surprise. In the original comic, Manhattan can grow taller than mountains, survives being ripped apart molecule-by-molecule, makes huge gatherings of protesters disappear with a thought, and kills criminals by bursting their heads into bloodless clouds of vapor by simply pointing at them. We see him capable of similar feats in the 2019 HBO Watchmen miniseries. 

And it's this power that can make Doctor Manhattan so frustrating. As many characters point out in the HBO series, Manhattan could've changed the world for the better on a global scale, but he doesn't. Ironically, in spite of his power, Manhattan is trapped by it. Along with his abilities, Manhattan experiences time in a nonlinear fashion. He experiences the present, past, and future all at once. So if you were to ask him, for example, why he doesn't wipe out global hunger with the flick of his wrist, he would likely tell you that — because he already knows the future — he doesn't wipe out hunger because he doesn't wipe out hunger. The idea that he could change the future he already experiences never seems to occur to him.