The majority of DC Comics superheroes put the safety of others first, but some heroes like Red Hood and even Batman walk a fine line between heroism and ruthlessness. DC heroes can turn violent and let the end of the goal of stopping the villain overshadow their vows to protect innocent people.
Self-proclaimed heroes like Peacmaker and The Specter pursue their own justice, becoming anti-heroes and showing little compassion for the people they save. Appearing cold and heartless, these DC heroes use any tools necessary to get the job done and often strike fear into the hearts of the people they try to save.
10/10 Jonah Hex
First Appearance: All-Star Western Vol. 2 #10 (1972) by John Albano & Tony DeZuniga
In many iterations, Jonah Hex exists in the Wild West of the DC Universe. While heroes of the modern age must abide by modern laws, Jonah Hex lives in a far more lawless land, in need of a faster, more ruthless form of justice. Jonah lets his guns do the talking.
For today’s bystanders, Hex is a stone cold gunslinger. Honestly, Jonah is just a man who travels with a code of honor and usually tries to help those who can’t help themselves. His rugged appearance, dangerous setting and pessimistic attitude make him a rather cold DC hero.
First Appearance: Watchmen #1 (1986) directed by Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons & John Higgins
Based on DC’s question, Rorschach debuted Alan Moores Guardian graphic novel before officially making the jump to DC’s main continuity in doomsday clock by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank. Rorschach is one of DC’s greatest anti-heroes. He shows little remorse for the people he saves and even less for the people he defeats.
Rorschach is a brutal fighter and formidable detective. He seeks the truth and will do anything to get it, including sacrificing his own life so that the truth may stand.
8/10 Red Riding Hood
First Appearance: Batman #357 (1983) directed by Gerry Conway, Don Newton, Alfredo Alcala & Adrienne Roy
Dick Grayson set a pretty high bar for each subsequent Robin. Unfortunately, Jason Todd was the successor to the world’s first Robin, and the Robin is considered by many fans to be their favorite. Unlike Dick, Jason had a rough upbringing and almost fell into a life of crime if Batman hadn’t intervened.
After the Joker murdered him, Jason returned as the Red Hood, a violent criminal intent on killing Gotham’s villains rather than simply arresting them. Red Hood eventually joined Batman’s allies, but Jason still acts like the most ruthless member of the bat family.
7/10 Great Barda
First Appearance: Mister Miracle #4 (1971) by Jack Kirby & Vince Colletta
Big Barda and Mister Miracle are one of DC Comics’ greatest couples, but the two are actually quite different. They share many terrible experiences and developed a bond while fleeing Apokolips to wage war against Darkseid. While Mister Miracle is a showman with skills in escape and manual dexterity, Big Barda is a warrior.
Barda was trained by Granny Goodness in Darkseid’s Female Furies. Despite fighting for good after escaping captivity, she is still an extremely violent, brutal combatant who has no problem killing an enemy she believes deserves death.
First Appearance: Green Lantern Corps #201 (1986) by Steve Englehart, Joe Staton, Mark Farmer & Carl Gafford
After Hal Jordan returned and helped revitalize the Green Lantern Corps Green Lantern: Rebirth, Kilowog helped train the majority of the new Lanterns. Hal is a cocky, skilled Green Lantern, John Stewart is a commanding leader, and Kyle Rayner is creative, but Kilowog can be downright ruthless and cold, even towards his fellow Lanterns.
There is no Green Lantern better suited to training new members. Kilowog has fought alongside the greatest Green Lanterns for decades, and he knows just how dangerous being a Lantern can be. He must be cold and merciless towards new recruits to ensure their safety.
5/10 wonder woman
First Appearance: All-Star Comics #8 (1942) by William Moulton Marston & Harry G. Peter
Wonder Woman proved how ruthless she could be when she snapped Maxwell Lord in front of DC’s neck Infinite Crisis Event. She has proven it over and over again. While Superman is DC’s pathfinder, Wonder Woman is its greatest champion. Diana grew up on an island of powerful goddesses and warriors.
Her New 52 characterization was far more deadly and cold-hearted than previous iterations. She first swung her sword and later asked questions. Wonder Woman knows how implacable gods can be, and she can be just as implacable towards her enemies.
First Appearance: Detective Comics #27 (1939) by Bill Finger & Bob Kane
Batman never wants to take a life because he doesn’t want to cross that line and end up like one of the criminals he has locked up in Arkham Asylum. However, while Batman is cool and composed and can be quite cold and intimidating even for the people he saves.
Batman will be merciless when the world depends on him. He developed a set of fail-safe measures in JLA: Tower of Babel should any member of the Justice League defect. In books like poison and All Star Batman and Robin the Wonder BoyBatman acted as chaotically and ruthlessly as some of his villains.
First Appearance: New Gods #1 (1971) by Jack Kirby & Vince Colletta
Orion and Scott Free were traded at birth to keep the peace between New Genesis and Apokolips, two warring planets filled with new gods. Orion is Darkseid’s biological son, but he grew up fighting for Highfather. Unfortunately, Orion possesses many of Darkseid’s traits, including his rage and pugnacity.
Orion is a powerful but dangerous tool. Orion succeeded Darkseid rich come and Tom Kings Mr Miracle limited series, acquisition of Apokolips. Orion frequently works with Superman and Justice League and behaves incredibly aggressive and ruthless in comparison.
First Appearance: Fightin’ 5 #40 (1966) directed by Joe Gill & Pat Boyette
Peacemaker debuted in the 1960s, but the violent DC hero gained a lot of traction after John Cena played the character The Suicide Squad and the peacemaker Live-action TV series on HBO Max. Peacemaker thinks he’s an altruistic, patriotic hero like Captain America, but his actions say otherwise.
Peacemaker lives up to his name in the most ironic of ways: he hurts and kills others to maintain what he believes to be peace. He calls himself a hero, but he’s a DC anti-hero at best, and his role in Suicide Squad should prove his direction.
1/10 The ghost
First Appearance: More Fun Comics #52 (1940) by Jerry Siegel & Bernard Baily
The Specter is one of the most powerful forces in the DC Universe, acting as the hand of God, bringing justice and judging those who have committed sin. The Specter usually assumes a human host to ground itself. The Specter is a cold, calculating, heartless hunter of justice.
Though he debuted as a DC hero of the Golden Age, the Specter has since evolved into a natural force with a neutral bias. The Specter often punishes people in horrific ways, forcing the Justice League to intervene, proving that the Specter is certainly one of DC’s most ruthless heroes.
NEXT: 10 Greatest DC Heroes Who Aren’t Humans, ranked