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Top 10 Comic Book Anti-Villains

VO: Adrian Sousa WRITTEN BY: Trevor J Fonvergne
There’s more to these villains that pure evil. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 comic book anti-villains. For this list, we’re looking at comic book characters traditionally labeled as villains, but who may have more humanizing qualities or goals. To be clear, in the case of villains, their characterization can vary depending on the writer, so they may be full-on villains in some instances, but show a bit more humanity in others.
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There’s more to these villains that pure evil. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 comic book anti-villains.

For this list, we’re looking at comic book characters traditionally labeled as villains, but who may have more humanizing qualities or goals. To be clear, in the case of villains, their characterization can vary depending on the writer, so they may be full-on villains in some instances, but show a bit more humanity in others.

#10: Ozymandias


“Watchmen”’s Adrian Veidt is the self-proclaimed “smartest man on earth”, and took up the mantle of Ozymandias to protect the citizens of Earth. After superheroism became illegal, he became a philanthropist and used his wealth to help people. Though it doesn’t seem like he’d have the makings of a villain, it turns out that he was behind the murders that set the plot in motion. His plan was to unite the world, on the brink of World War III, by faking an alien invasion that would kill millions. Though his methods were extreme, he was successful in preventing civilization’s downfall. Was it worth it? Well, that unanswerable question is part of what makes “Watchmen” so great, and what makes Ozymandias such a compelling villain.

#9: Lizard


Dr. Curt Connors is a surgeon who worked on the battlefield, saving the lives of countless GIs. He lost his arm in the process, which is what motivated him to create a serum from reptile DNA that could help him regrow it. Unfortunately, this had the consequence of turning him into the Lizard, a dangerous reptilian monster that Spider-Man has had to find the cure for countless times. Still, when Connors isn’t in Lizard form, he’s a family man who’s made a career out of helping people, including some of our favorite Marvel heroes. That being said, the whole lizard monster thing is still kind of a problem for the people of New York.

#8: Black Adam


Black Adam was introduced as the archenemy of Shazam, an ancient entity emboldened with the powers of six gods. His power went to his head, causing him to become corrupt, but since his inception, he’s wavered between an infamous villain and unscrupulous hero. He’s on a team all of his own, siding with whoever will help him reach his goals. Though he does ultimately overtake his homeland of Kahndaq, he proves himself a good leader who cares about his people, cutthroat though he may be. Undeniably badass and occasionally noble, he’s never to be trusted, but always an intriguing personality.

#7: Ocean Master


Ocean Master, also known as Orm Marius, is the half-brother of Aquaman and sometimes king of Atlantis. Orm was eventually reimagined as a more sympathetic character. As the king of Atlantis, he is a ruler who truly cares about his people, and most of his goals stem from his desire to keep his civilization prosperous and safe. Though his misguided hatred of the surface world has led him to some dark places, he usually returns to relative sanity, almost always thanks to the help of his brother. And can we really blame him for hating the surface dwellers for polluting the sea?

#6: Harley Quinn


Once a psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum, Dr. Harleen Quinzel was assigned to the Joker. Though her villain career began as essentially a female version of the Joker, her popularity led to her becoming a much more well-rounded character. Her moral outlook has grown to be more complex, dishing out her unique brand of justice…when she feels like it, that is. Some of her most humanizing moments involve her friendship and later relationship with Poison Ivy and beating the living snot out of her abusive ex. Still, she’s one of the craziest ladies in all of Gotham, and despite all of her nicer tendencies, she still lives to create chaos.

#5: Doctor Doom


Though most iterations of Dr. Doom portray him as, well, rather... doomful, though many writers have imagined him as a much more tragic figure. Despite his crimes, he’s done some positive things with his powers and intelligence, including disposing of and replacing Prince Zorba, a ruler who drove his home country of Latveria to ruin. He even takes up the mantle of Iron Man for a brief period while Tony Stark was in a coma after the events of Civil War II. On the other hand, he did sacrifice the love of his life so that he could turn her skin into magical armor. Yeesh, makes it kind of hard to root for the guy.

#4: Ra’s al Ghul


Just as Batman protects the people of Gotham with a strict code of honor, as does Ra’s al Ghul strive for his idea of balance. One of the most complex villains in Batman’s rogues' gallery, they show of respect for each other, despite their major ideological differences. Ra’s is the leader of the League of Assassins, and he’s been honing his skills for centuries due to reincarnation via the Lazarus Pits. He sees himself as a hero, with the goal of saving the world from its population by wiping out most of humanity. While his intentions and motivations are understandable, that doesn’t negate the fact that he’s a ruthless killer.

#3: Venom


Like Harley Quinn, Venom debuted as one of Spider-Man’s greatest foes, but his popularity led to a series of solo comics. Both the Venom Symbiote and Eddie Brock want revenge on Spider-Man, but they know that Carnage, a symbiote born from Venom, is an even greater threat. When it comes to others of his kind, Venom turns out to be a relatively good guy by comparison and protects the world from the other, more malevolent symbiotes. Venom isn’t even above saving his arch-enemy, as the creature does once Peter Parker separates himself from it in its first appearance. His ways are violent and brutal, but we can count our blessings that he’s not all bad.

#2: Catwoman


Though Selina Kyle is now typically portrayed as mostly heroic, she was much more foe than friend to Batman in her early years. A jewel thief, she commits crimes for her own gain, but sometimes for others, as long as the price is right. However, she tries to make sure no one is harmed in her capers, though if they are, it’s no skin off her nose. Her rough exterior is contrasted by her pesky sense of good, which keeps her from crossing the line. She’s one of the rare characters who’s just as compelling as a villain as she is a hero, managing to never betray the core of what makes her Catwoman.

#1: Magneto


Widely regarded as one of comics’ greatest villains, Magneto, as a Jewish boy, lived through the horrors of World War II, which would go on to shape his pessimistic worldview. In stark contrast to his peaceful frienemy Charles Xavier, he’s ruthless in his quest to protect mutants from meeting a similar fate. His villainous acts stem from legitimately good intentions, and there’s a poetic irony to his transformation into that which he spent his life trying to defeat. He’s one of the most complex and nuanced characters to grace the pages of comic books, and writers have been unafraid to allow the character to grow and mature, making him truly dynamic.
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