Even before the current boom of superhero movies, Batman and Superman were household names. Kids of all ages thrilled to the adventures of these and other heroes in the DC Universe, stories about costumed crusaders with outrageous abilities. Readers accept some degree of outlandish unreality in these tales, but if they started to dig a little deeper, they’d soon find characters much weirder than a rich guy who dresses up like a bat or an alien baby raised on a Kansas farm.
These characters below stand out as oddballs even in a where tough guys wear their underwear on the outside, making superheroes that much more strange and spectacular. Meet the weirdest DC Universe characters.
1. Matter-Eater Lad
Tenzil Kem can chew and digest any material, a quality shared by every inhabitant of his home planet Bismoll. But only Tenzil decided to use that trait to fight injustice, joining the intergalactic teens in the Legion of Superheroes as Matter-Eater Lad. His power may not be as flashy as those of his teammates (many of whom have their own odd abilities, as will soon become clear) but Matter-Eater Lad has chewed his way out of more than one trap.
2. Arm-Fall-Off Boy
Here’s a hero even too strange for the Legion of Super-Heroes. Arm-Fall-Off Boy came to the Legion headquarters during a membership drive and hoped to impress them with his ability to remove his arms and use them as clubs against enemies. The Legionnaires passed on his application, but Arm-Fall-Off Boy lived in the memory of comic book fans everywhere, even making his big screen debut in The Suicide Squad, albeit under the name TDK, The Dismemberment Kid.
3. Ten-Eyed Man
Believe it or not, the Ten-Eyed Man doesn’t make this list because he has ten eyes. He makes the list because he has no eyes in his head and one eye on each finger. When former forces soldier Philip Reardon lost his eyesight in a heist, he blamed Batman for the mishap. So what does Reardon do as soon as he gets his vision back, through an experimental procedure to grow eyes on his fingers? He goes and fights the Batman. Needless to say, it didn’t work out well for him.
4. Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man
The Doom Patrol may be the strangest heroes in DC Comics history, so it stands to reason that they would battle equally oddball baddies. That’s certainly the case for Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man, one of the team’s first antagonists, and one of the weirdest DC characters. A rival of Doom Patrol founder Niles Caulder, Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man came to be when an experiment gave him the ability to turn any part of his body into, everyone guessed it, an animal or a vegetable or a mineral. For some reason, the villain keeps his body in the most outrageous form, with a Tyrannosaurus Rex protruding from one side of his body and arms and legs made of tree branches.
5. Polka Dot Man
Like Arm-Fall-Off Boy, the Polka Dot Man has moved into the big time, thanks to David Dastmalchian’s portrayal of the character in The Suicide Squad. But the version of Polka-Dot Man who debuted in 1962’s Detective Comics #300 somehow out-wierds his big-screen counterpart. Abner Krill took on his mottled evil identity for no other reason than to match wits with Batman, hoping to catch the Dark Knight’s attention by committing crimes themed around pink and green dots. Eventually, his Polka-Dot weapons grew more dangerous, including buzz-saw and incendiary versions. But even then, Polka Dot Man never grew less ridiculous; he's still among the weirdest DC Universe characters.
6. Red Bee
After Superman made his debut in 1938’s Action Comics #1, National Comics (which would later take the name DC Comics) grew desperate for more heroes, willing to commission even terrible ideas. Thus, Hit Comics #1 introduced Richard Raleigh aka the Red Bee, a man in a poofy red blouse with sheer sleeves, who fought Nazis with his trained bees and a stinger gun. Righteous as his cause may be, Red Bee never earned the respect of readers or creators, usually appearing only as an obscure joke, save for the occasional foolhardy attempt to reboot the Red Bee as a cool, modern hero.
7. Infectious Lass
Drura Sehpt hails from the planet Somahtur, the home of all manner of bacteria. Blessed with a good heart and a desire to help, Drura and her host of bacteria took the name Infectious Lass and attempted to join the Legion of Super-Heroes (of course!). Sadly, Infectious Lass didn’t make the cut, as her ability to spread disease immobilized her teammates and adversaries alike. But that power did impress the Legion of Substitute Heroes, a team of also-rans who never let their limited abilities prevent them from doing the right thing. So Infectious Lass continues fighting the good fight, one runny nose at a time.
As his name suggests, Ragman wears a costume made of patches stitched together, giving him a disheveled and frayed look. Anyone tempted to snicker at Ragman’s tattered appearance will stifle that chuckle when they learn how those rags convey powers. Rory Reagan wears the Suit of Souls, a raiment in which every patch holds the spirit of a condemned person. In exchange for a chance at redemption, these spirits lend their abilities or knowledge to Rory to help him fight crime. Somehow, this dark backstory combines with an unsightly costume to make Ragman a singular superhero.
9. Bouncing Boy
When thirsty Earthling Chuck Taine needed a drink, he reached for a bottle of his favorite soda pop. However, he grabbed an experimental plastic serum instead, granting him the power to inflate his body into a giant rubber ball and bounce his way to victory. Most readers have probably guessed that Chuck used this power to join the Legion of Super-heroes as the battling Bouncing Boy. Unlike most of the other names on this list, Bouncing Boy served with distinction, eventually training the next generation of heroes while enjoying domestic life with his wife Luornu Durgo, the Triplicate Girl.
10. The Ultra-Humanite
The Ultra-Humanite is the first supervillain in DC history, a Superman enemy who resembles, but predates, Lex Luthor. As a mad scientist, the Ultra-Humanite plauged Superman with many inventions and schemes. When his body grew too weak, he found another host, placing his brain into that of a mighty albino ape. In this new form, the Ultra-Humanite continues his evil crusade as a giant ape with a pulsating brain and red lederhosen, challenging the Man of Steel’s invincibility against silly-looking bad guys.
11. Detective Chimp
For years, Bobo the Chimp worked as a circus attraction, forced to perform deductive tricks for heckling crowds. Eventually, Bobo grew tired of the exploitation and went into business for himself, using his mighty intellect to solve crimes as Detective Chimp. The stint at the circus gave Detective Chimp a thick skin, so he knows how to shrug off the insults of those who underestimate him. But to those who look past his diminutive frame, Detective Chimp is a sleuth on the level of Batman, one of the greatest intellects in the DC Universe.
12. Brother Power the Geek
In 1940, writer Joe Simon teamed with artist Jack Kirby to create the patriotic paragon Captain America. Twenty years later, Simon was on much shakier ground when he created Brother Power the Geek for DC Comics. A counter-culture take on the Frankenstein story, Brother Power is a mannequin given life through a hippie’s sacrifice. He shambled through a few psychedelic adventures before being pushed into the background, waiting in the wings until the right writer figures out what to do with this misfit monster.
In theory, the intergalactic police force called the Green Lantern Corps should have the most diverse lineup in comic book history. And yet, most of its membership is humanoid, containing multiple Earthlings. Fortunately, Mogo bucks that trend by giving us an unusual Lantern in the form of a sentient planet. Wearing a ring that stretches around its circumference, Mogo responds to galactic threats within its orbit. In truth, few writers have figured out exactly how to depict Mogo in battle, but that’s part of what makes Mogo one of DC’s best weirdos.
14. Danny the Street
Danny the Street is exactly what he sounds like: a living city street. With the ability to manifest any building or attribute he needs, Danny joined the Doom Patrol, often serving as the team’s refuge. Over the years, Danny has been reduced to a brick and taken the form of an ambulance in a continuing journey of self-determination. No matter how Danny defines himself, he remains a hero, using his amazing powers to make things better for everyone, weird or otherwise.
15. Flex Mentallo
Danny often works alongside Flex Mentallo, a fellow member of the Doom Patrol. Writer Grant Morrison and artist Frank Quitely modeled Flex Mentallo after Charles Atlas, a muscleman who for years hawked an exercise program in ads printed within comic books. Decked in a leopard print onesie, Mentallo may have bulging muscles, but he does not often use them for physical feats. Instead, Mentallo can change reality by flexing his muscles, a power granted to him by his role as the Hero of the Beach.
Dogwelder came into being when someone challenged writer Garth Ennis to come up with a name dumber than Green Lantern. He won the bet with the name Dogwelder, but he and no other writer have figured out what to do with the character. As a member of the off-beat team Section Eight, Dogwelder fights crime by living up to his name: finding bad guys and welding dogs onto their bodies. No one has been able to explain how that trick stops crime, but Dogwelder didn’t take that name so he could explain himself.
17. Leezle Pon
Leezle Pon is the opposite of Mogo. Where the living planet is the largest member of the Green Lantern Corp, Leezle Pon is the smallest member, a sentient smallpox virus. While some may question the wisdom of trying to make a hero out of a disease that has killed millions, that conflict aligns Leezle Pon with more traditional superheroes. His is a redemption arc, one virus doing his best to atone for the destruction wrought by others like him.
18. The Weird
The Weird didn’t come to Earth to call himself the Weird. Rather, that name came from members of the Justice League, who didn’t know what to make of a human corpse emitting strange energy. Before coming to Earth, the Weird existed in an alternate dimension inhabited by energy beings called Zarolatts, who were oppressed by the evil Macrolatts. Taking the body of a deceased human, the Weird gathered the Justice League to help him deflect the Macrolatt invasion, becoming a recurring character in cosmic DC stories. But, hey, people call him “the Weird.” How could he not be one of the weirdest DC Universe characters?
19. Mister Mind
Shazam, aka Mr. Marvel, aka the adult superhero alter-ego of little boy Billy Batson, has powers that equal those of Superman. And yet, one of his most deadly enemies is a little green worm with coke-bottle glasses. Meet Mister Mind, a super-intelligent worm from Venus. Although Mister Mind does have some telepathy and can spin indestructible silk, he rarely engages in physical combat. Instead, he’s a master manipulator, using his cunning to complicate Shazam’s life and to plan attacks from his team, the Monster Society of Evil.
20. B’Wana Beast
After leaving his life of privilege in the U.S., Mike Maxwell devoted himself to protecting the environment by becoming a ranger at an animal reserve along the Zambezi. After exposure to ancient minerals, Maxwell gained the usual hero abilities of strength and speed. However, it wasn’t until he was given a mystical helmet that Maxwell took the name B’Wana Beast, gaining the powers to speak with animals and, more importantly, to create Chimeras by mixing creatures into singular and often disturbing-looking beasts.
Batman has some of the best villains in comic book history, but not all of them live up to the standard set by the Penguin or the Joker. Take Kite-Man, a man who robs high-rise buildings by gliding through windows wearing a green costume with giant wings on the back. In recent years, writer Tom King has fleshed out Kite-Man, making him into a three-dimensional person with believable motivations. Still, even as a fully realized person with complex motivations, Kite-Man is still a guy who fights Batman by dressing up like a children’s toy.
22. The Calculator
Over the past two decades, the Calculator has ruined the lives of DC’s most powerful superheroes. He operates as an information broker, learning the secrets heroes try so hard to keep and selling them off to the highest bidders. But before that, during the first decades after his introduction, the Calculator wore a purple suit with giant number buttons on the front. He used that suit to commit number-based crimes, stymying Batman and Robin with the power of long division. The new version might be scarier, but the earlier version is more fun.
23. Space Cabbie
Longtime comic book readers may wonder how all those people in outer space find their way around. After all, outer space is very big and hard to navigate. Those who don’t have their own powers or spaceships rely on people like the Space Cabbie. A good-natured guy with a yellow vessel and a smart checkered suit, the Space Cabbie doesn’t just move people from planet to planet, he also keeps his ear to the galactic ground, providing important information to spacefaring heroes who need a tip.
Supervillains have long represented social ills, so there’s nothing inherently wrong with integrating illegal drugs into a bad guy’s backstory. But Snowflame gets his powers from irradiated cocaine, giving him an outrageous attitude and a red leotard, which clashes with his mane of white hair. Snowflame came from the minds of Steve Englehart and Cary Bates, well-meaning creators who wanted to use their medium to dissuade kids from drug use. But Snowflame goes so far off the deep end that no one can hear the message over the sound of their laughter.
25. The Black Racer
Nobody has ever had the imagination to match Jack Kirby, the artist who created most of the original Marvel heroes and the Fourth World of DC Comics. And yet, one cannot help but think that Kirby settled for his first draft when he came up with the Black Racer, the personification of Death in the New Gods of the Fourth World. Kirby wrote haunting monologues for the Black Racer and portrayed him as a figure forever moving across the universe, collecting the souls of those who pass. And yet, Kirby drew the Black Racer as an African American man, wearing a bright red get-up and a pair of snow skis.