When it comes to comic book super powers, brains are every bit as handy as brawn — but props to those who have both. From cosmic powers of superhuman intelligence, to good old fashioned book smarts, there are plenty of comic book characters that prove the powers of the mind can be just as effective as any other super power.
There are always the old fallbacks like our good pals Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark, but Ironman and the “World’s Greatest Detective” himself are far from the best of the best when it comes to super smarts. From near god-like obscurities like the High Evolutionary to the more forgettable guys like Calculator, genius intellects for both heroes and villains alike create some of the most clever story lines in all of comic history. There are even some characters you might never have known to possess super smarts all along; you can’t really blame someone on the fringes of comic book culture if they didn’t realize that the hulking ape beast, Gorilla Grodd, is actually a genius advanced weapons manufacturer.
As one of Superman’s greatest enemies, Brainiac boasts a “12th-level intellect,” allowing unparalleled calculation abilities, enhanced memory, and advanced understanding of mechanical engineering, bio-engineering, physics, and other theoretical and applied sciences. For comparison, the population of 20th century Earth as a whole constitutes a 6th-Level intelligence and the population of 31st century Earth as a whole is a 9th-Level intelligence.
Reed Richards, despite his physical powers, considers his mind his most invaluable asset. In fact, he’s been known to use his stretching powers to increase the size of his brain in times of need. In the comics Richards is an accomplished theoretician, and is noted for his breakthroughs in the fields of space, time, and extra-dimensional travel, biochemistry, robotics, computer science, munitions, and more.
In fact, the Fantastic Four is largely financed by his own valuable patents.
Doctor Victor von Doom is the main antagonist of the Fantastic Four comics, and considered to be one of the Marvel Universe’s most intelligent minds. From the invention of his Doombots to developing his powerful suit of armor, Dr. Doom constantly uses his intellect to outwit the Fantastic Four.
Lex Luthor is Superman’s greatest adversary and considered the most intelligent human in the DC Universe. With his genius level of intelligence, he has mastered nearly every known form of science, including space and extra dimensional travel, biochemistry, computer science, robotics, munitions, transportation, holography, energy generation, spectral analysis, and more.
Tony Stark is by a mile one of the most intelligent forces in the Marvel Universe. He’s an inventive genius, and has specialized expertise in electrical and mechanical engineering, mathematics, physics, chemistry, and computer science – just look at his Iron Man suits and try to explain how it wouldn’t take a genius to build those.
Similar to Bruce Wayne in the DC Universe, Stark is a billionaire who utilizes his company, Stark Industries, to his advantage for vigilantism.
In the DC Universe, Batman is considered the world’s greatest detective, and able to solve practically any crime. While Bruce Wayne has no actual super powers, he boasts a genius intellect and is a noted polymath. It also doesn’t hurt that Wayne’s near inexhaustible wealth grants him access to scores of advanced technology, and as a scientist, he is able to freely modify this tech to his advantage.
He’s a giant blue, hulking, hairy, red-eyed… well… beast. But Hank McCoy is also one of the most intelligent beings in the Marvel Universe. He’s the X-Men’s dedicated doctor, and an instructor at the Xavier Institute who also found the cure for the Legacy Virus in multiple X-Men story lines.
Professor Charles Xavier is the founder and leader of the X-Men, a world renowned geneticist, and the inventor of Cerebro, a device he uses to telepathically scan the world for mutants. Largely considered the one of the most powerful telepaths in the Marvel Universe, he is able to perceive the thoughts of others or project his own thoughts to great distances — in one case across the entire planet.
He’s the definition of the type of guy you really don’t want to challenge to a game of “Pick a Number Between One and a Billion.”
Ant-Man (Henry Pym)
Ant Man is the man. He’s a scientific genius who discovered subatomic “Pym particles” which enable mass to be depleted or gained from an alternate dimension. Basically, he can change his size or the size of other beings or objects at will. Oh, and he also created Ultron. Sick resume, bro.
While the Hulk more or less goes mentally apeshit when transformed, his mild mannered alter ego, Bruce Banner, is the world’s leading expert of gamma radiation, and a modest genius amongst his super-powered allies.
Yes, yes… Dr. Strange is more or less a magician. And while he uses his mysticism to kick ass all up and down the Marvel Universe, did you know he’s also a skilled neurosurgeon? Operating on brains isn’t exactly a skill you just pick up. Props to Strange for his mind and his slight of hand.
While never considered a “genius” by the standards of other intellectual powerhouses in the Marvel Universe, Peter Parker was always academically gifted with expertise in fields like applied science, chemistry, physics, and biology. That’s saying a lot for a snotty high school kid. Even more impressive, however, is Parker’s intellectual prowess once he’s bitten by the spider and becomes Spiderman.
While the live action films depict Spiderman as having the ability to shoot webbing out of his wrists, comic book canon actually holds that his web-slinging abilities come from mechanical web shooters he developed himself.
Doc Ock was actually a pretty good guy. Hell, even Mr. Fantastic called on him to help out when the Invisible Woman was experiencing some pregnancy complications. Unfortunately, he became obsessive with his work in atomic physics, and eventually (like all decent baddies) ended up evil as a result of an experiment gone awry.
In the Watchmen comics, Ozymandias is deemed “the smartest man in the world.” He used his intelligence to build a massive criminal empire (under the facade of a legitimate one) that ended up a global threat through his exploitation of technology and genetic alteration.
Otherwise known as Herbert Wyndham, High Evolutionary started out as a student at Oxford in the 1930s. And we all know Oxford is so easy to get into. So there’s that right off the bat. He later began experimenting with genetic manipulation and became obsessed with the idea of using his inventions to evolve a better world at any cost.
As Batman’s most intelligent adversary and all around pain in the ass, Dr. Edward Nigma (get it?) is one of the most iconic supervillans in the DC Universe. He constantly devises and decodes puzzles and riddles to foil the Dark Knight, and is a highly cunning criminal strategist.
Most notably, he successfully lured Batman and Robin into numerous puzzling death traps that put not only their physical prowess but intellectual abilities to the ultimate test.
Like the X-Men’s Beast, Gorilla Grodd proves that giant, hairy ape creatures can still outwit even the best. He’s a scientific genius who essentially ran Gorilla City with his mastery of advanced technology and powerful inventions. And no, we’re not talking about banana-firing bazookas or some other apish joke weaponry.
He’s one of Superman’s most formidable adversaries, thanks mostly to his telekinetic abilities and barbaric strength.
Thanos is one of the most imposing enemies in the Marvel Universe, thanks largely in part to his superior intellect. He possesses many abilities common to the other Eternals, but amplified to a higher degree through his own modifications and powers.
He’s a genius in practically all fields of advanced science, and often produces his own technology, which far exceeds contemporary Earth science.
Otherwise known as Batgirl and Oracle, Gordon boasts a genius level of intellect and a photographic memory. Similar to Batman, she employs a variety of self made technology to aid her in her vigilantism, and is considered to be the most intelligent character operating out of Gotham City.
Dr. Curt Connors
Poor Curt. Driven to obsession by the desire to regenerate a missing limb, he got in a little over his head and ended up a giant lizard monster. You know, like you do. But while we all know that feel, Dr. Connors was a decorated intellectual from the get-go, and one of the world’s foremost authorities on genetic biology.