(Image credit: J. Scott Campbell (DC))
The female is more deadly than the male, and many of the most iconic villains in comic books offer proof to that old adage – including the 10 female supervillains on this list. The women on this list represent some of the most menacing, mercurial, and compelling baddies ever to cross paths with the world's greatest heroes -- even if some of them were, or later became, heroes themselves.
With the increasing profile many of these characters are experiencing from recent and upcoming appearances in film, cartoons, and resurgence in comic books, there's never been a more deadly collection of female villains prowling around the Marvel and DC universes.
10. Scandal Savage
The breakout character of Gail Simone's Secret Six, Scandal Savage has everything you want in a great supervillain. She's got an unimpeachable pedigree as the only acknowledged child of classic villain Vandal Savage, plus a great look, a distinct gimmick, and a vicious streak a mile wide.
Scandal would be higher on this list if she had operated on her own more often, but even as leader of the brutally bad-ass (and occasionally expendable) mercenaries the Secret Six, she's had some seriously cold-blooded moments.
She's been off the grid for, oh, two reboots now and counting - but we can't help but wish for a comeback sooner rather than later.
As one of Wonder Woman's greatest foes, different iterations of Cheetah have been around almost as long as the Amazon herself. Though numerous women, and even one man, have held the identity of the Cheetah at different points, it's the current Cheetah, Barbara Minerva, that has caused her the most problems.
Possessing the appearance and physical qualities of a cheetah thanks to a sinister ritual, Minerva has menaced Wonder Woman over and over again, coveting her beauty and golden lasso. She's been one of Diana's primary enemies since 2016's "Rebirth"
Cheetah will appear as one of the main villains of Wonder Woman 1984, played by Kristen Wiig.
8. Star Sapphire
Even though Carol Ferris, the most prominent Star Sapphire, has been more heroic than villainous for the last couple years, Star Sapphire's legacy as a villain goes back much farther than that... all the way to the 40s, when a slightly different Star Sapphire menaced Jay Garrick, the original Flash.
Star Sapphire is, however, best known as a Green Lantern villain. Originally, Hal Jordan's girlfriend Carol Ferris would take on the identity of Star Sapphire when she became possessed by a strange gem from outer space. Eventually, it was revealed that, like the Green Lanterns, the Star Sapphires comprise an entire corps of beings dedicated to the defense of true love.
Amora the Enchantress is an Asgardian sorceress, and one of Thor's oldest and most powerful foes. Enchantress uses her bewitching powers to try to entrap others into her service, though she just as often relies on her natural feminine wiles to accomplish the same thing, often using the infatuated Skurge, the Executioner as muscle to back up her schemes.
Though she was initially interested in seducing Thor, Enchantress's schemes quickly became more elaborate and ambitious, as she even joined Baron Zemo's original Masters of Evil and challenged the Avengers over and over in her quest for power. Most recently, she once again attacked Thor's human identity, Donald Blake, turning him into a replacement for the Executioner as her enforcer.
She hasn't made it to live-action just yet, but her sister Lorelei appeared in an episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. hinting at a long criminal history in cinematic Asgard, so there's a chance big sis could be out there - and of course, her companion/bodyguard Executioner appeared in Thor: Ragnarok, played by Karl Urban.
The unquestioned mistress of one of the largest sects of the terrorist organization Hydra, Viper, a.k.a. Madame Hydra is one of the most powerful, and evil women in the Marvel Universe. Though her only real power in comics could be considered her slowed aging process, her strength lies primarily in her formidable combat training, her charismatic leadership, and her ruthless conviction.
Though she has faced numerous heroes over the years, her primary enemies are usually Captain America and Wolverine, the latter of which she trained under the same master on the streets of the criminal island of Madripoor. In fact, her relationship with Wolverine was one of the focal points of the 2013 film The Wolverine.
5. Granny Goodness
Granny Goodness is one of the strangest villains you're likely to find on this, or any other list. Known for the brutal training she inflicts on Darkseid's soldiers, her slavish devotion to the ideals of Apokolips, and her imposing physique, Granny is one of the most unique and disturbing of Jack Kirby's New Gods.
Though she trains much of Darkseid's army, she is best known as the leader and trainer of his Female Furies, a group of elite women warriors that serve the will of Darkseid. Granny is also responsible for training former Female Fury Big Barda, who later helped Scott Free, a.k.a. Mr. Miracle escape from Apokolips, guaranteeing herself two formidable enemies for life.
4. Harley Quinn
Though she started as something of a sidekick for Batman's nemesis the Joker on Batman: The Animated Series, Harley Quinn became a breakout fan favorite, eventually crossing into comics. Despite her initial status as a supporting character, she quickly received her own series, and later a starring role in the Batman spin-off Gotham City Sirens.
So, what makes Harley so great? Initially, her popularity stemmed from Arleen Sorkin's hilarious and expressive performance, but it's the way the essence of the character has translated to comics that really makes Harley terrific; the fact that she evokes Batman's greatest nemesis while maintaining an attitude and style all her own.
Harley Quinn has become a mainstay of DC comics with multiple headlining series under her belt, and a current animated series on the DC Universe streaming service. She also took a starring role in this year's Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) film.
Mystique is best described as the ultimate femme fatale. A daring, competent, ruthless super-spy with the enchanting power to change her appearance and a natural gift for seduction to back it up, Mystique has long menaced the X-Men both on her own and as a member of several incarnations of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.
As with many mutants, she has a familial connection to the X-Men as the mother of Nightcrawler and the stepmother of Rogue. Though she did spend some time among the X-Men and working secretly for Professor X, she is best known as the leader of numerous groups of villainous mutants, as well as her core role in the X-Men film franchise.
2. Dark Phoenix
Though the Dark Phoenix can technically inhabit any host (as seen in 2012's Avengers vs. X-Men), its most iconic avatar was Jean Grey, one of the founding X-Men.
While her actual appearances are limited, the Dark Phoenix's impact on X-Men comics, and comics in general is almost immeasurable. As one of the first, and most prominent heroes to go inexorably to the dark side, Jean's time as the Dark Phoenix rocked the relatively static nature of superhero comics up until that point.
The Dark Phoenix's reign of terror culminated in the destruction of an entire solar system, leading Jean Grey, in a moment of clarity, to sacrifice herself to end the Dark Phoenix's hold on her, sparking a cycle of death and rebirth that still reverberates in comics. Recently, just the threat of the Dark Phoenix's return cause the Avengers and X-Men to go to war, resulting in Jean Grey's former husband, Cyclops, becoming possessed by the Dark Phoenix and killing his mentor, Professor Charles Xavier.
Dark Phoenix has made it to the big screen twice, including an eponymous 2019 film that put the capstone on Fox's X-Men films.
Sure, sure, she may be best known as more of an anti-hero these days, but it's inarguable that Catwoman's true nature is as a villain. She's not the kind of villain who embarks on a world-conquering, murderous conquest, but the kind who vexes her nemesis at every turn, going to unheard of lengths to get what she wants, and life live by her own rules.
Nearly as often an ally, or even a lover of Batman as much as his enemy, Catwoman still started her career as a jewel thief, brazenly robbing, and occasionally seducing Gotham City's wealthiest citizens.
In all of her numerous and popular incarnations, including her last live-action appearance in The Dark Knight Rises, she always starts at odds with Batman, only siding with him once he's given in to his obvious attraction to his true opposite number, but almost always returning to her old life when he's outlived his usefulness.
She even went so far as to leave him at the altar - though her future role as hero or villain is still playing out.
There aren't many characters who can say they're stronger willed than Batman, but it isn't Catwoman who compromises her principles in the name of love or, more accurately, lust.