The DCAU was the premier comic cartoon universe of the 90s-2000s. With non-stop hits from Batman Beyond to Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, it was a golden age of emotionally gripping and thoroughly entertaining animation for fans of all ages.
Despite the episodic formula involving different sets of bad guys each week, none were greater than the nemeses of Superman and the rest of the Justice League: Lex Luthor and Darkseid. Here are 5 reasons why Lex Luthor was the best villain, and here are 5 reasons why Darkseid was more evil.
10 Lex Uses Public Opinion Against Superman
In whichever show and movie Superman appeared in, he was always beloved by the people. That is, except for the episode titled: Clash in Justice League Unlimited. In that episode, Lex manages to trick Superman into destroying a Kryptonite-powered device.
While Superman thought that it was a bomb, it was actually a power generator designed to give free electricity to residents of a low-income super-city Lex had created called Lexor City. When people, including Shazam, found out that the Man of Steel destroyed a city for the poor, they were less than enthused.
9 Darkseid Is As Strong As Superman
Superman is by and large the most powerful hero in the entire DCAU. Nobody has been more dominant than the Man of Steel… except for Darkseid. In a handful of episodes of Superman TAS, Justice League, and Justice League Unlimited, Darkseid defeated Superman. While their fight record head-to-head is tied at 2 wins apiece, nobody in the entire DCAU has been able to defeat Superman more than once, let alone have him suspended in a machine and paraded through town like a Roman Empire triumph. Not even the great Lex Luthor could do that…
8 Lex Manipulates Super-powered Beings
But Lex is more about brainpower than brawn. Most notably, Lex has used his genius to manipulate super-powered beings. Lex manipulated Bizarro, a disfigured clone of Superman that he created, and had him become his super-powered bodyguard towards the end of Justice League Unlimited.
He also manipulated A.M.A.Z.O, a super-powered nanotech android that could steal the powers of others and adapt. He even managed to turn the Justice League against Shazam and have him quit the league. In every turn, he used the naivete of super-powered beings to his advantage.
7 Darkseid Brainwashed Superman
However, nothing trumps Darkseid‘s brainwashing of Superman. In the Superman TAS arc Legacy, Darkseid not only managed to brainwash the Man of Steel he also had him think Darkseid was his father. He literally ‘sonned’ Superman, and then had him take over a planet or two. Eventually, he even tricked Superman into invading the Earth and beating up his cousin Supergirl. Lex could turn people against Superman, but he could never turn Superman against his own people!
6 Lex Pulled A Leadership Coup In The Legion Of Doom
The Legion of Doom was the evil equivalent of the Justice League in the DCAU. While it was initially created and led by Gorilla Grodd, Lex had other plans. Using his intelligence and cunning, Lex turned many of its members against Grodd, and held a coup d’etat. While Grodd had the amazing mental powers of psychic manipulation, Lex managed to not only turn it against Grodd and make him into a simple ape, he also removed his opposition to the leadership of the Legion.
5 Darkseid Owns An Entire Planet
Despite the powers of the Legion of Doom, one could easily argue that the power of the planet Apokolips is far greater. Not only are there legions of Parademons and tanks, but Darkseid also rules over great warriors like Kalibak, Steppenwolf, and Kanto as well as the Female Furies. Even Granny Goodness and Desaad have proven to be powerful lieutenants in Darkseid’s battles against Earth, and the power of Apokolips and its evil inventions have been used to defeat many of his enemies in the DCAU.
4 Lex Fused With Braniac
While Lex was only a man for most of the DCAU, his fusion with the super-computer Braniac made him into a God. Lex and Braniac started as two of Superman’s greatest foes: one his great foe on Earth, and the other the one his oldest foe from Krypton.
Their subsequent fusion led to an enemy that could not only disable most of the Justice League, but could simultaneously prepare the world for total annihilation as well. It took the Flash going so fast that he could vibrate all of Braniac off, and nearly end up in the Speed Force to defeat this fusion. And even then, Lex still had Braniac in his brain plotting and helping him.
3 Darkseid Took Over Braniac’s Programming
Prior to Lex’s great fusion with Braniac, the great computer behemoth had laid its eyes on Apokolips. However, Darkseid managed to manipulate Braniac into helping him manipulate Superman. Only when they double-crossed Superman did Darkseid triple-cross Braniac, using a special device to take over Braniac’s programming and turn him into his slave.
While Braniac protested with phrases like, “I have no desire to help you, but I am compelled to obey,” Darkseid used him and his thousands of drone copies to fight the Justice League, only to be thwarted by the league and Batman’s smashing which led to an improbable self-destruct sequence.
2 Lex Figured Out The Anti-Life Equation
Throughout Darkseid’s entire existence in the DCAU he has solely maintained the search of one thing and one thing only: the Anti-Life Equation. He literally mentions it every time one of his minions ask what they should do next. When Darkseid was on the cusp of destroying Superman and demolishing Earth, Lex appeared in front of him.
Ever snazzy in a suit and tie, he held the Anti-Life Equation, an equation so unfeasible that only a 12th-level intellect could begin to comprehend it. Lex did. Not only did he comprehend it, he used its power to take Darkseid and magically disappear, possibly to the Source Wall and beyond the dimensions of the DCAU.
1 Darkseid Actually Killed People In The Show
Despite all the amazing things that Lex managed to do, Darkseid still trumps him in the only true category of what makes a villain truly evil: Darkseid kills. It’s not to say that Lex isn’t a cold-blooded murderer, he has had his minions kill people in the past. But there’s just something about a villain using their super-powers to kill someone that really shows a dark side… pun intended.
Darkseid has used his vicious Omega Beams to zap and destroy countless good guys, but the most prominent murder took place in Superman TAS when he zapped Dan Turbin as he left the Earth, showing that of all the terrible things to do in a show, killing the cop-hero/comic relief is by far the most atrocious of sins.
In the DCAU, villains Lex Luthor & Darkseid were Superman's two best foes who challenged the whole Justice League. But who was the best villain?