DC’s gritty take on the comic landscape has provided a perfect canvas for memorable, ruthless super-villains. In DC Comics Super-Villains: The Complete Visual History, we shine a spotlight on the baddies of the DC Universe, from popular villains like the Joker to more obscure evildoers like Doctor Psycho.
Although DC’s super-villains are self-interested, they don’t always work alone. Sometimes a villain’s interests aligns with another villain’s plan — following the old trope, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Some of the biggest threats to the Justice League have been formations of DC super-villain teams, like the Legion of Doom and the Crime Syndicate of America. Three of Gotham City’s most infamous super-villains have teamed up in the 2009-2011 comic series, Gotham City Sirens. Written by Paul Dini with art by Guillem March, this series focuses on Catwoman, Harley Quinn, and Poison Ivy as they live and work by their own agendas.
The comic series, with its mix of humor and action, has been well received by fans. It has been reported that Warner Brothers is interested in a live-action film of the series, tapping David Ayer (director of Training Day and Suicide Squad), Margot Robbie (Suicide Squad), and Paul Dini (comic book writer of Gotham City Sirens).
One of DC’s “gray” characters, Catwoman—aka Selina Kyle—has always been portrayed as an “Anti-Heroine,” rather than a super-villain. Her motivation comes purely from the thrill of the chase. Catwoman is one of the oldest Batman characters to maintain a consistent presence in the DC Universe. Her first comic appearance dates back to 1940, in the first issue of the standalone Batman series.
Due to the character’s long history, Catwoman’s origin story has been told many times, in drastically different ways. Some of her notable origins include beginnings as an amnesic flight attendant who turns to a life of crime after surviving a plane crash; as the wife of an abusive husband who has to steal her own jewelry back; and as a cat-loving dominatrix inspired by Batman to become a leather-wearing cat burglar. Although Catwoman’s origins have changed over the years, her signature qualities remain the same: her cat-like physical ability, cunning nature, and pain-inducing bullwhip.
The first character to hold down the Joker, Harley Quinn has become a fan favorite since her introduction in Bruce Timm’s classic Batman: The Animated Series. Harley was one of the only characters with television origins to find popularity in the comics. Her quirky, fun-loving attitude and style have become a cosplay staple at conventions all around the globe. Harley Quinn may have been introduced as a love interest for the Joker, but has since become a notable DC villain in her own right.
Dr. Harleen Quinzel was as a psychiatric intern at Arkham Asylum. While conducting research on subjects in the asylum, the doctor quickly became fascinated with one subject: the Joker. Fascination turned into infatuation, eventually leading her to aid the madman in his breakout. After Harleen Quinzel was convicted, she escaped the confines of prison and transformed into the iconic Clown Princess of Crime, Harley Quinn.
Every rose has its thorn, and Poison Ivy has a deadly kiss. Poison Ivy was introduced to the DC Universe in the 1966 comic Batman #181, and has become a noteworthy member of the Dark Knight’s Rogues Gallery.
Poison Ivy has had many origin stories since her inception, but one of the most popular ones stems from her work. Dr. Pamela Isley was a botanist living in Seattle. Blinded by her passion for her work, she volunteered as a test subject for an experiment that involved the injection of multiple poisons. After dying and being revived several times, Pamela emerged with toxin immunity and a hunger for vengeance. Just like the plants she studied, Poison Ivy’s powers grew over time. Along with her garden of weaponry, she has her staple kiss of death, and skin that can exude a toxin to put her enemies in a spellbound state.
Poison Ivy has appeared in many Batman feature films and animated series. In all of her appearances, her passion for environmentalism, control over plant-life, and deadly touch always remain intact.
The Gotham City Sirens are loaded with personality and charisma, but they’re only one part of the larger DC Universe. DC’s list of super-villains consists of a variety of uniquely nefarious characters, from highly trained, money-hungry mercenaries to hyper-intelligent gorillas who want to rule the world. Read character profiles for more than 70 villains in DC Super-Villains: The Complete Visual History, featuring a foreword by filmmaker and comic book writer Kevin Smith.