Top Ten Comic Book Geniuses

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There are plenty of characters in the world of DC and Marvel who have powers to punch through steel reinforced walls, read minds, and flybut what about good old ingenuity? How about the geniuses that help save the world or make it their life’s mission to destroy it? What is genius and what role does it play in a world of god-like abilities? Genius, as defined by Dictionary.com, is “an exceptional natural capacity of intellect, especially as shown in creative and original work in science, art, music, etc.” Listed below are ten geniuses of the Marvel and DC universes and what’s interesting here is that they are all white males. Although there are women and people of colour that are geniuses in these comics, they aren’t as well known as those below.

Lex Luthor 

(Supervillain – DC)

Lex Luthor. DC Comics.

Abusive parents drove Luthor to better himself, and the arrival of Superman presented him with further motivation to find better ways to defeat an alien he believes to be a danger to humanity. He often refers to himself as “the most dangerous mind on earth,” and his intellect has been quantified at level nine, according to DC’s categorization. Luthor’s genius extends to many different pursuits, from science to business.

 

Brainiac

(Supervillain – DC)

Brainiac. DC Comics.

The super intelligent alien known as Brainiac, boasts a level twelve intellect, the highest level on DC’s unofficial scale. He is capable of high level calculations and can easily comprehend advanced levels of mechanical engineering, bio-engineering, physics, and other theoretical and applied sciences, and is also knowledgeable in various alien technologies. Though he is regularly defeated by the lesser beings of earth, he often finds ways, even while incarcerated, of manipulating his captors into doing his bidding. He has had many incarnations over the years, but his genius remains constant.

 

Victor Von Doom

(Supervillain – Marvel)

Victor Von Doom. Doctor Doom. Marvel Comics.Dr. Doom is a self-taught sorcerer whose scientific genius helped him wage a one-man war in Latvia, where he now rules. His genius brought him attention from the United States and earned him a scholarship to the Empire State University, where he met and refused the company of Reed Richards. His intelligence is possibly only outshone by his incredible arrogance.

 

Tony Stark

(Avengers – Marvel)

Iron Man. Tony Stark. Marvel Comics.At a very young age, Stark showed an aptitude for the building and control of machines. He went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) at age fifteen for electrical engineering, and graduated with two master’s degrees by age nineteen. Unlike some of the other geniuses on this list, Tony has no interest in business, instead focusing on his inventions. When he was captured by terrorists and suffering from a life threatening wound, Stark, with the help of a captured physicist, created what would become the first Iron Man battlesuit.

Bruce Wayne 

(Justice League – DC)

Batman. DC Comics. Bruce Wayne.Considered The World’s Greatest Detective (at least in the DC universe), Bruce Wayne uses his I.Q, which is speculated to be well over 200, to thwart Gotham’s deadliest villains as the Batman. His intelligence also extends to his business acumen, and, despite his flighty playboy persona, he skillfully runs Wayne Enterprises with the help of trusted delegates, and designs many of the products and software used by both the company, and Batman himself.

 

Reed Richards

(Fantastic Four – Marvel)

Reed Richards. Mr Fantastic. Fantastic Four. Marvel ComicsA child prodigy, Richards was taking college-level courses by age fourteen, and went on to earn various degrees from four different universities. His desire to further space technology resulted in the successful launch of his own starship, accompanied by three of his friends. A cosmic ray accident caused the four to mutate and later become the Fantastic Four, led by Richards himself as Mr. Fantastic.

 

Henry McCoy

(X-Men/Avengers – Marvel)

Beast. Hank McCoy. Marvel Comics. X-Men. His physical form and abilities earn him the title of Beast, but Hank McCoy has always been a brilliant student. Teased for his appearance in normal schools, he quickly accepted Charles Xavier’s invitation to learn at his academy and went on to pursue a career in genetics. His current furry, blue appearance resulted from his discovery of a hormone that caused genetic mutation, which he tested on himself. He is considered one of the world’s experts in evolutionary biology, and his inventions have been instrumental in his work with the Avengers and X-Men.

 

Bruce Banner

(Avengers – Marvel)

Hulk. Bruce Banner. Marvel Comics.Bruce Banner is considered the foremost intellect in the field of radiationspecifically gamma radiation. That same gamma radiation, ironically, is what causes him to turn into the big, stupid, rage-filled Incredible Hulk, who is more interested in smashing things than solving scientific equations. Still, Banner fights on the side of good with both his muscles and his brain.

 

Henry Pym

(Avengers – Marvel)

Ant-Man. Hank Pim. Marvel Comics. A brilliant scientist, Pym discovered a process that used certain newly discovered subatomic particles (which he later dubbed “Pym Particles) to change his size. He created a formula and took on the role of Ant-Man, using the cybernetic helmet he designed that allows him to communicate with and study ants. His cybernetic research and inventions have made him an important asset to both the government and the Avengers. He is responsible for the creation of the robot known as Ultron-1.

 

Edward Nigma

(Supervillain – DC)

Riddler. Edward Nigma. DC Comics.Nigma’s intelligence found an outlet in puzzles of all kinds, which soon became an obsession fuelled by a compulsive need to tell the truth to avoid further beatings from his father. As a result, the Riddler now loves to test his intelligence against a worthy adversary: the Batman, and even adds elaborately designed death traps to his arsenal.

 

How do YOU define genius and how would your list look? Can you name any women or people of color who are geniuses in the MCU/DCU? Sound off in the comments section!

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About Author

Former senior editor for WWAC. BA in criminals (a minor in daydreams). Batman seeks her advice constantly. Bylines at Book Riot, Teen Vogue, Slate, The Toast and Hyperallergic.

15 Comments

  1. No women geniuses? I have to admit I am hard-pressed to think of any from comics, which is sad, but typical.

    Also, every single one of these geniuses is white (even if they are blue or green they are white). What about Amadeus Cho or Mr. Terrific?

    • Kayleigh Hearn on

      For female geniuses, I can think of Kitty Pryde, Valeria Richards, and probably Poison Ivy? But I think there’s still a big difference between how superhero comics regard their “male genius hero” characters and their female geniuses–like, I don’t think Kitty Pryde is going to be invited into the Illuminati any time soon.

    • Claire Napier on

      Unfortunately, like the article says, “Although there are women and people of colour that are geniuses in these comics, they aren’t as well known as those below.”

  2. I was reading through this list waiting for my favourite superhero genius to show up and she never did 🙁 Kitty Pryde! I would argue her genius revivals Hank.

    There’s also Poison Ivy and Oracle. I suppose you could debate whether they’re “genius” but they are both extremely intelligent – particularly in science and technology.

    • We reviewed several females who are considered extremely intelligent, but in terms of the characters that actually get the “genius” title and, in the case of DC, get ranked on the intellect meter, males seem to be the only ones who earn that consideration, according to their bios.

  3. I forgot about Valeria, though it says something that a child prodigy is a genius before any grown women are. . . she is more of a novelty than a representation of intellectual equity.

    I thought of Kitty, and she is certainly super smart, but is she ever depicted as you know SUPER smart, like the folks on this list are?

    A friend of mine proffered Ultimate Sue Richards as a genius, but never having read Ultimate FF, I can’t say.

  4. Oracle! Babs is definitely a genius, and reaches her maximum potential as Oracle. And I would take Bruce Wayne off the list, but that’s just me.

  5. Jamie Kingston on

    Kitty Pryde has on page been described as a genius.

    Oracle, to my knowledge, has not, but she’s a super hacker capable of hacking on par with Batman.

    Sue Storm is also up there in Reed’s ballpark with the smarts. Doesn’t she also have a doctorate?

  6. Barbara Gordon is easily as smart, if not more so, then the men on the list. And there’s Jane Foster – although I only know her from the movieverse.

    Both John Henry and Natasha Irons, depending on the universe of the comics you’re reading.

    Dr. Light. Rocket.

    And of course Mr Terrific – third most intelligent man in the world and all that.

  7. Michael Holt (Mr. Terrific): Third-smartest man in the DC Universe, immune to being detected by technology, able to connect and travel through multiple universes with science.

    Peter Parker is a verified super-genius in the Marvel Universe, on par (if not smarter than) Tony Stark, Reed Richards, Victor Von Doom, and Hank Pym. Discovered atomic particles more powerful than the Phoenix Force that were part of the creation of the universe, which are now dubbed Parker Particles.

    T’Challa (Black Panther): Polymath genius with eidetic memory. Combined alchemy with science to create a new science.

    Clark Kent (Superman): Mistakenly seen by non-fans as an invincible “overpowered god,” he’s pretty intelligent, gifted with the knowledge of the Kryptonian race, knowledge of sciences and technology throughout the universe, eidetic memory, and a gifted manipulator.

    Val-Zod, the man who recently became Superman of Earth-2 believes more in intellect than his own physical abilities, and like his New Earth counterpart, gifted with the knowledge of the Kryptonian race and various sciences and technologies on Earth.

    Curtis Metcalf (Hardware): One of the most brilliant minds of the Dakotaverse, a master of many sciences, including metalurgy, plasma technology, holographic tech, nanotechnology, computer science, and alien sciences. Literally created an armor suit out of scrap metal in a basement and combined it with Shell Forge, a plasticized metal shell that is breathable, nearly puncture-proof, shockproof, and impact-resistant.

    • I actually originally had Superman on the list, but as we were keeping it to ten people who are prominently and consistently identified as geniuses, we had to do some cutting. I didn’t consider Superman a genius until reading Red Son, and then wondered why he’s rarely identified as such.

      Your other additions to our list are great. Thanks!

  8. The article is horribly inaccurate. 1. The 3rd smartest man in the DC verse is Mr. Terrific, an African-American. 2. One of Marvel’s top five smartest heroes – is a black African, Black Panther, certainly smarter than Hank McCoy. 3. Victor Von Doom is a gypsy, so a member of a minority. 4. The 8th smartest brain in Marvel is Amadeus Cho, a Korean-American. And in Marvel, you can add Kitty Pryde, Deadly Nightshade, Alyssa Moy, and Valeria Richards as significantly intelligent women.

    • Thank you for the additions to the list, though we never declared this to be the complete list of geniuses in comics, just the most prominent, as noted in the piece: “Although there are women and people of colour that are geniuses in these comics, they aren’t as well known as those below.”