Supervillains are motivated by a wide variety of ideas, but morality is often a key part. However, some villains cannot truly understand the difference between good and evil. Some are blinded by a code, whether misguided or faulty, while others simply were born or created without that ability.
DC Comics has some of the most compelling antagonists in superhero fiction, from the galaxy-conquering Sinestro to the terrorizing Joker. These characters are not interesting because they are villains, but generally because they cannot understand why they are perceived as such. From mutated animals to idealistic terrorists, plenty of DC’s baddies cannot tell right from wrong.
10 Lex Luthor Is Too Self-Absorbed
Lex Luthor is the pinnacle of supervillainy. A genius inventor who wants nothing more than to rule the world, Lex Luthor has even sometimes succeeded in his quest. However, Lex Luthor is not motivated by a desire to do evil. Instead, it is one to do good, and that is precisely where he becomes confused.
Luthor sees people and things he cannot control, like Superman, as inherently threatening. His desire for security kicks into gear, and he goes on the offensive. Though brilliant, Luthor is too close-minded to be able to appreciate things he can’t control, unable to see their true nature.
9 Ocean Master Is Too Proud
Aquaman’s half-brother Orm may be notable for his violence, but the same can be said for his earnest desire to protect Atlantis. Ocean Master is a xenophobic, violent, warmonger who despises his half-brother and seeks to eradicate life on the surface. However, many of Ocean Master’s beliefs are held in hopes of helping others.
Orm’s quest for the Atlantean throne is partially selfish. Still, Ocean Master believes he deserves the throne because he can protect the underwater peoples of Atlantis better than anyone else, even when he finds himself battling its armies. His pride blinds him from the immorality of his actions.
8 Mister Mxyptlk Doesn’t Understand Human Values
Some villains have trouble with the concepts of good and evil because of their own minds. Mister Mxyzptlk, however, has trouble with good and evil because he is from a different dimension. The epic struggles of the DC Universe seem petty squabbles to the imp, meaning his actions often cause harm.
Mister Mxyzptlk’s immense power makes it hard for him to understand the implications of his actions. Even when he tries to do good, his power causes major unforeseen imbalances. Though more benign than many of DC’s villains, Mxyzptlk’s struggles nevertheless come from a wholly alien and equally dangerous understanding of the world.
7 Reverse-Flash Thinks Pain Is Positive
Among all of Flash’s rogues, it is those who go by the name “Reverse-Flash” who are known for his brutality. Hunter Zolomon (a.k.a. Zoom) is historically murderous like Eobard Thawne, but the former’s motives are less explicitly evil than the latter’s.
Still, that doesn’t make Zolomon any less dangerous. In his quest to make the Flash a better superhero, Zolomon has murdered, employed methods of temporal torture, and inflicted all manner of emotional and physical harm on civilians and heroes alike. Zoom believes he is making the world a better place by spreading this suffering, making his inability to understand morality clear.
6 Gorilla Grodd Is An Animal
While Reverse-Flash may be the nastiest of Flash’s foes, Gorilla Grodd is certainly the most ambitious. A sentient, psychic ape hailing from Gorilla City, Grodd seeks to conquer. His desire for power often makes him violent, but Grodd’s penchant for cruelty does not come from a place of true, deep-seated malevolence.
Instead, Gorilla Grodd’s lust for power comes from his animal instincts. A mutated ape, the violence he so readily employs is also evolved. Grodd acts like a silverback gorilla would, seeking to expand his strength while keeping his followers in line.
5 Sinestro Confuses Disorder With Evil
Before Hal Jordan, Thaal Sinestro was the greatest of the Green Lantern Corps. However, Sinestro was ejected from the group after the Guardians learned of his violent subjugation of his sector and home world. However, Sinestro did not believe what he had done was evil. Rather, he thought it was essential for order.
Sinestro (despite his name) is not an evil person. However, Sinestro is incapable of seeing the negative effects of his obsession with order as anything less than necessary. Sinestro sees chaos and evil as synonyms, and will do anything in his power to stomp the former out.
4 Ra’s Al Ghul Is Blinded By His Fanaticism
Ra’s al Ghul’s noble goal of saving the environment is thoroughly muddied by his desire to commit genocide as his means of doing so. Ghul believes his ends justify his ecofascist means, but this belief makes him incapable of any nuanced understanding of right and wrong.
Though the Demon’s Head has been honorable, heroic, and even kind, all his good actions are a facade. So, too, are his nefarious ones. Though he may not always show it, Ra’s al Ghul’s crusade against the forces of modernization drives him more than anything else. So long as an action may help this larger goal, Ghul will always see it as good.
3 Bizarro Can Only Engage With Opposites
Bizarro’s conundrums with morality have nothing to do with his personal views on the subject. Rather, it is Bizarro’s backwards origin that muddles his mind. Bizarro is traditionally a corrupted clone of Superman who always seeks to do the opposite of his genetic donor.
If Superman saves a falling plane, Bizarro will knock one out of the sky. This compulsion even is apparent in the character’s speech patterns: if Bizarro says “bad,” then he means “good.” Bizarro cannot understand good or evil. Instead, he can only understand opposites, and bases his life around that.
2 The Manhunters Glitched Out
The Manhunters were created by the Guardians of the Universe to keep peace and establish order, a precursor to the Green Lantern Corps. However, the Manhunters’ android minds glitched out, their programming shifting from “no evil escapes the Manhunters” to “no man escapes.” Ever since, they have stalked the cosmos.
The Manhunters used to be able to discern evil, but now are completely unable to engage with morality. The shift in their programming means they cannot question the ethics of what they are doing. The Manhunters will seek to pursue others and establish their reign, no matter the morals of it.
1 The Joker Just Wants A Laugh
Sometimes, the Joker is portrayed as maliciously evil. Other times, Joker is more of an ineffectual fop, or even a hero. What remains the same is that Joker is obsessed with the idea of jokes. Depending on his mood (or how he is written), the Clown Prince of Crime’s jokes range from squirting flowers to kidnapping babies.
Though the Joker’s actions certainly skew evil, the villain is more chasing a punchline than anything else. If the Joker thinks it is funny, he will do it. Ideas of good and evil may come into play in his actions, but the character is incapable of interacting with them in a meaningful way.
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