In the world of comics, super-teams are more often than not associated with superheroes. For whatever reason, heroes will almost always band together as a way to defeat even the toughest of enemies Justice League of America, Avengers, X-Men, Fantastic Four, Outsiders, and Teen Titans.
There are, however, instances where supervillains follow their heroic adversaries and form super-teams. They do this for a few reasons. First, as the saying goes, “the sum of the whole is greater than the individual parts.” Second, if caught, there is an opportunity for someone else to take the blame. And third, the feeling of being a part of something is always better than feeling alone.
Ok. Maybe the third one isn’t a very good reason but I’m sure you get the point. Aside from usually being unsuccessful, these teams all have one thing in common. They all have a leader. Granted, not all leaders are created equally but each has a leader nonetheless. Let’s take a look at our top 10 supervillains who lead teams.
10. Mockingbird – Secret Six
Although the Secret Six dates back to the 1960s, the team wouldn’t become noteworthy until the mid-2000s. When Gail Simone was tasked with updating the team, she changed them from a group of unknown heroes to a group of known supervillains. She brought in the likes of Deadshot, Catman, Rag Doll, Parademon, Cheshire, Fiddler, and Scandal Savage. Even with the dramatic lineup change between the 1960s and 2000s, one thing has remained constant. The group is always led by the mysterious Mockingbird.
The new version of the group proved to be very popular with readers. Gone were the campy and over-the-top superheroes that plagued the title. In its place stood a title filled with supervillains that littered the pages with blood, violence, and death.
9. Baron Zemo – Masters of Evil
Baron Zemo will appear twice on this supervillains who lead teams list. His first appearance comes as the leader of the Masters of Evil. The Masters of Evil first appeared back in 1964 and were created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee. The team was originally created as a foil to Captain America and his Avengers. Unlike many other teams who were haphazardly put together by villains, Zemo studied each of his opponents.
Once he knew their secrets, he enlisted the help of villains who could exploit them. These characters included Iron Man’s enemy, The Melter, Thor’s enemy, Radioactive Man, and Ant-Man, and Wasp’s Enemy, Black Knight. Although the Masters of Evil have never found a way to permanently destroy the Avengers, they have found a way to remain relevant for the better part of 50 years.
8. Lex Luthor – Injustice League
The world requires balance. It needs perfect harmony to remain at peace with itself. Hot vs Cold. Love vs Hate. Good vs Evil. Right vs Wrong. Perhaps more than any other publisher, DC Comics understands this.
DC Comics is home to some of the most well-known superheroes in existence. Batman. Superman. Wonder Woman. The Flash. Green Lantern. These characters are the embodiment of what it means to be good. Each has risked their life Time and again for the betterment of humankind. And each has one thing in common. Each belongs to the Justice League of America.
Keeping balance requires that there also be a group of villains who embody evil and hate. That team is the Injustice League and those villains are some of the vilest. Joker. Captain Cold. Deathstroke. Gorilla Grod. Cheetah. Black Manta. And their leader, Lex Luthor.
7. Red Skull – Hydra
While Hydra can be considered more of a terrorist-type organization, there’s no denying its importance in the Marvel Universe. Hydra first appeared in Strange Tales #135 and was created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee. The name Hydra refers to the mythical Lernaean Hydra and the group often references its resilience. In fact, their motto is “cut off one head and two more shall take its place”.
Hydra has been led by many different villains. Most notable of these are both Baron Von Strucker and the Red Skull. Under the Red Skull, Hydra served to push the Nazi agenda during World War 2. It commonly fought against the likes of Captain America and Bucky Barnes. Under Baron Von Strucker, the group began to push a Neo-Nazi agenda and transformed into a crime syndicate rather than remain a military operation.
6. Baron Zemo – Thunderbolts
Remember when I said that Baron Zemo would appear twice on this list of supervillains who lead teams? Well, here’s the second team he leads. The Onslaught event ended with the death of Captain America. Without Captain America, Baron Zemo found himself without purpose in life. Instead of continuing a life filled with crime, he found a new purpose in gaining immense power. To do this, he (with the help of Fixer) took his Masters of Evil and altered their appearances.
With their appearances changed, the once villains suddenly appeared more heroic. Appearing more heroic allowed the team to gain the trust of the public. To make their appearance more believable, he and his Masters of Evil began doing battle with known villains, Arnim-Zola, Mad Thinker, and others. Eventually, the public became aware of the rouse and the individual members of the Thunderbolts turned against Zemo.
5. Sebastian Shaw/Emma Frost – Hellfire Club
Different from most other supervillain teams, the Hellfire Club doesn’t consist of low-level villains who can’t hack it on their own. Instead, it’s made up of high-ranking aristocrats who are completely capable of being on their own.
Each member of the Hellfire Club takes on a chess-type role. The most important members of the group, like chess, are the King and Queen. The two villains most associated with being the King and Queen of the group are Emma Frost and Sebastian Shaw. Alongside a few others, the Frost and Shaw-led group was instrumental in Jean Grey’s bonding with the Phoenix Force and her subsequent transformation into the Dark Phoenix.I have a very soft spot in my heart for the Hellfire Club. Not only did they introduce the world to Emma Frost, but it was also during their first run that Kitty Pryde debuted.
4. Sinestro – Sinestro Corps
“In blackest day, in brightest night, beware your fears made into light, let those who try to stop what’s right, burn like my power… Sinestro’s might!”
Just like the Injustice League was made to counteract the Justice League, the Sinestro Corps was created as a foil to the Green Lantern Corps. Whereas the Green Lantern’s power is based on the green electromagnetic emotional spectrum for will, the Sinestro Corps is based on the yellow emotional electromagnetic spectrum or fear.
The Sinestro Corps is lead by Sinestro. Before he was removed as a Green Lantern, Sinestro was considered one of the greatest Green Lanterns in history. As a former member, Sinestro possesses an intimate knowledge of his former team and uses it to his advantage wherever he can. This alone makes Sinestro and his Sinestro Corps as deadly as any on this list of supervillains who lead teams.
3. Dr. Octopus – Sinister Six
Arguably, Spider-Man has one of/if not the greatest rogues gallery in all of comics. The only hero who could rival him is Batman. Batman, however, isn’t a Marvel character. He’s DC. Unable to come to terms with his constant defeat, Dr. Octopus enlists the help of every known supervillain who has battled Spider-Man. Unfortunately, not all answered his call.
The villains that do (Kraven the Hunter, Electro, Mysterio, Vulture, and Sandman) struggle to come together as a team and instead bicker amongst themselves. Worse yet, none of them are willing to give up the honor of destroying Spider-Man. As a result, each battles the wallcrawler alone and none succeed. Like most other supervillain teams whose leader doesn’t change, nearly every iteration of the Sinister Six reports to the same leader…Dr. Octopus.
2. League of Assassins – Ra’s al Ghul
If you’ve read my article on why I think Ra’s al Ghul is Batman’s greatest enemy, you also know something about the League of Assassins. If you haven’t, let me tell you a little something about them.
The League of Assassins is a group of highly trained martial artists whose entire reason for being can be summed up in two words…world preservation. Their leader, Ra’s al Ghul is hellbent on destroying humanity so the environment around them can survive.
Living for as many years as he has, Ra’s has grown tired of the destruction caused by humans. He lived through the Industrial Age… the age when humans began taking in excess from the environment. He watched as trees were cut down, buildings erected, and clouds of smoke littered the airways. Due to this, he began despising humans. He wanted to live in a world of natural beauty and not one that humans were creating. In short, the League of Assassins was a mechanism created by Ra’s to help the world not just survive, but thrive.
1. Magneto – Brotherhood of Evil Mutants
When it comes to the X-Men, there isn’t a villain more synonymous with the team than Magneto. When it comes to a team Magneto’s associated with, there isn’t a team more synonymous than the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.
The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants first appeared inside the pages of X-Men #4. They were created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee. Although the original incarnation included Magneto, Toad, Scarlet Witch, and Quicksilver, over the years the team has undergone multiple changes. These changes include adding characters like Mystique, Sabretooth, Pyro, Juggernaut, and Blob.
Through all of the lineup changes, one thing has always remained the same…Magneto leads them. This happens for two very important reasons. First, he’s easily the most powerful. Second, there isn’t a villain alive who would dare challenge him for the title of leader.