The world of DC Comics is populated by a wide variety of heroes and villains, whose abilities range from feeble mortals to god-like beings from beyond the stars. Sometimes, even the weakest of villains can get an upgrade, occasionally developing abilities that make them almost unbeatable. These upgrades are sometimes accompanied by the heroes gaining an upgrade, finally meeting their match or even being overpowered, forcing them to use their intellect.

The villains of the DC universe have been on a path towards greater power for decades, with the Golden Age starting with muted abilities, and each era upgrading these powers. Some villains began as common mortals and have been given immense abilities in years since, even to the point of some bad guys moving on to different heroes who can match them. Seeing unlikely villains gain these incredible powers has led to some of DC's most epic sagas.

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10 Floronic Man

The Floronic Man standing in a field grinning

Jason Woodrue has been a DC villain since the Silver Age. His earlier stories saw him use the name "Plant Master," when he was primarily a foe of Flash and Atom. However, his involvement in the story of Swamp Thing was when he ascended to his most powerful.

The Floronic Man was created when Jason Woodrue consumed the plant-based organs of Swamp Thing, acquiring powers of the Green. Later, he became a Swamp Thing himself, taking over as the Avatar of the Green in the absence of Alec Holland. When it comes to DC villains, he's ascended to one of the most powerful positions in the universe, with vast control over the natural world.

9 Black Sivana/Sivana Family

Black Sivana clutching a rod with a lightning bolt on top of it

Doctor Sivana has been one of Shazam's greatest villains since the Golden Age, being the hero's inverse in almost every way. One of the many schemes of the feeble scientist has been to acquire the power of Shazam for himself, something he's been successful in more than once.

The two best examples of the villain acquiring the power were when he became Black Sivana by merging with Black Adam, and the creation of the Sivana Family. These feats remain some of the villain's greatest accomplishments, though, predictably, Shazam defeated him in the end.

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8 Anton Arcane

DC's Anton Arcane as he transforms

When he was first introduced to Swamp Thing, Anton Arcane was a darker take on Victor Frankenstein, an evil magician and scientist who created monstrous "UnMen." Initially, he was a feeble old man who sought to transplant his mind into the Swamp Thing body, casting a spell that restored Alec Holland's human form. However, the hero didn't allow it, and fought — and seemingly killed — Arcane.

During the New 52, Arcane was reintroduced as the Rot counterpart to Swamp Thing, and had the ability to manipulate and create rot, decay and death within living beings. He had finally gained the power he so desperately wanted, and made for a formidable match for Swamp Thing.

7 Wade Eiling

Amanda Waller, General Wade Eiling

General Wade Eiling began his time in comics as an antagonistic general of the US military, one who was fiercely opposed to the JLA. After discovering he suffered from an inoperable brain tumor, Eiling had his brain transplanted into the body of a dead and shaved shaggy man, becoming a super villain and attacking the League.

Wade Eiling turned into a monster who could pose a physical challenge to even Superman, and he took on several Leaguers at once. Thanks to his monstrous body, the villain had all the invulnerabilities of Superman, with enhanced regenerative abilities, super strength and enhanced speed.

6 Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy sits on a throne as Queen Ivy

Debuting in the colorful and campy Silver Age of DC, Poison Ivy began as a plant-themed villain who used her understanding of botany to manipulate the minds of people. However, as her origins were retold, she was reimagined as a fellow being of the Green, the same force that powers Swamp Thing.

Poison Ivy went from being a street level master crook with a powerful understanding of botany to an avatar of nature itself. Stories have shown her ability to manipulate the natural world to the point of effectively conjuring entire forests and jungles from nowhere.

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5 Maxwell Lord

DCEU and DC Comics maxwell lord

Maxwell Lord was originally a Justice League ally and benefactor, but he later became one of Wonder Woman's greatest enemies. Though he began as a powerless, ordinary business mogul, he later developed telepathic powers, where he could influence the minds of others.

As time passed, Lord's powers increased greatly to the point where he could fully control the minds of heroes as powerful as even Superman himself. When he returned from the dead in Blackest Night, he demonstrated his greatest feat of power when he erased Earth's memories of his criminal activities.

4 Deathstroke/The Great Darkness

Mutated Deathstroke monster grabs Nightwing

By no means is Deathstroke a weak villain but, when measured against the average DC superhero, ranks in the lower rungs of characters. That changed in Joshua Williamson and Daniel Sampere's Dark Crisis On Infinite Earths, when he became possessed by the Great Darkness.

The possession caused Deathstroke to mutate into a Doomsday-style monster, putting him on par with the strength of the entire Justice League. Though it was the Great Darkness at the helm, it was by far the most powerful Deathstroke has ever been, and required Black Adam sharing his power for the heroes to be triumphant.

3 Emperor Joker

Emperor Joker sits on his throne with Harley Quinn at his side in DC Comics

The "Emperor Joker" storyline is iconic in the villain's history. The story follows a world in which Joker obtained fifth-dimensional, reality warping powers, conquered the world and kept killing and reviving Batman for entertainment. In this world, the villain could change just about anything in reality as he saw fit.

Emperor Joker was faced by Superman, who sought to save the universe from his nihilistic, chaotic use of his imp powers. With all reality at his whim, Joker had never been as powerful as when he gained Mxyzptlk's abilities, and it required the mental abilities of the Man of Steel to save the world.

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2 Batman Who Laughs

image of Doctor Manhattan and Batman Who Laughs

Very few villains have had as dramatic a power upgrade as Batman Who Laughs. Though he did have a specialized helmet that gave him the ability to see different universes, the villain wasn't originally any more powerful than Batman and Joker. He had the tactical skills and strength of Batman, but nothing like what he gained later.

During Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's Dark Nights: Death Metal, Batman Who Laughs merged with an alternate Bruce Wayne who had the powers of Doctor Manhattan. This allowed him to ascend to virtual godhood and threaten the multiverse itself with destruction.

1 Apex Lex & Omega Luthor

Apex Predator Lex Luthor from DC Comics fighting the Justice League

Lex Luthor has had several upgrades throughout his history, but two ascensions stand out: Apex Lex and "Omega" Luthor. During the New 52, Luthor experienced his first bout with godhood when he acquired Darkseid's Omega force, and became the latest ruler of Apokolips in his stead.

Apex Lex was later created when Luthor had his DNA merged with Martian physiology, so that he could become the champion of the Sixth Dimensional goddess, Perpetua. Luthor traveled the world, upgrading the abilities of his fellow villains to prepare them for a final battle with the Justice League.