There are always conversations about who's the strongest superhero or who's the fastest superhero, but the smartest superheroes aren’t discussed much. Who are the super geniuses who tower above all the other super geniuses? Let's talk about it.
Disclaimer: Like all of these lists, this really depends on a bunch of at least somewhat arbitrary variables, so your opinions may differ.
Top 10 Smartest Superheroes
Here is a quick list of the smartest superheroes, with details and reasons why down below.
- Mr. Fantastic (Reed Richards)
- Brainiac 5
- 3. Batman (Bruce Wayne)
- Mr. Terrific (Michael Holt)
- Iron Man (Tony Stark)
- Batgirl/Oracle (Barbara Gordon)
- The Beast
- Black Panther
- The Atom (Ray Palmer)
10. The Atom (Ray Palmer)
Ray Palmer ain't no shrinking violet. He's an adventurer into fields too small to be of concern to most people.
Palmer was lucky enough to discover a piece of white dwarf star material that made things shrink. So naturally, he did what any scientist would do. Methodically researched it…Oh? What's that? No, he strapped it, untested, to his body like a belt, and decided to punch criminals in the throat? Ah, I see. That is very different.
But speaking of jumping into things without thinking about potential drastic consequences later on, Ray would soon marry Jean Loring. Y'know, Jean Loring, the wife turned ex-wife turned murderer turned Eclipso? That Jean Loring? Honestly, that relationship is why Atom isn't in a better position on this list. It was a very dumb decision. In earnest. Palmer, however, was one of the first-ever Justice Leaguers to be added after the initial team.
He also specialized in exploring the depths of the microverse, which you gotta be pretty smart to do.
I've never been a huge Inhumans fan. They're like, fine, I guess. But they're no X-Men. However, I always thought Karnak was pretty cool.
First, he has complete control over his body's autonomic responses which, as I remember from the AP Biology class I took, are your body's automated processes like breathing (sometimes) and digestion (always). I'm pretty sure that's right. But if it's not, I dunno, this is a comic book movie news web site. If you're expecting me to teach you biology, we should both be disappointed.
Anyway, Karnak's intelligence is nearly unmatched. His special skill involves the ability to analyze anything in front of him and find its flaw. It is, to put it bluntly, cool as hell. And as one of the regular Inhumans, he gets a lot of chances to shine as one of the most combat-focused members of the team. But again, when your team leader's main method of attack is "a very stern talking-to", someone has to do the actual ass-kicking.
Karnak is a brilliant analyst. In fact, he’s one of the best in that field.
8. Black Panther
With a movie coming up, it's about time we finally started discussing how smart T'Challa is.
The ruler of Wakanda, the Black Panther grew up surrounded by crazy future tech. This would give anyone a leg up in the smart-people race. But Panther was no slouch. He worked his ass off to get a PhD from Oxford, and used his eidetic memory and his skills as a polymath to become a force to be reckoned with.
In the Marvel Universe, he’s recognized as one of earth's eight smartest people, which, in a world that includes a dude who keeps building giant suits of murder armor by himself and a dude who spends his free time exploring the far reaches of reality, isn't bad. T'Challa often gets stuck playing Warrior King or Africa-Batman, but he rarely gets to be just a really smart guy. But when he does, he always shines.
Panther was among those invited to the first meeting of the Illuminati, and he was the only one smart enough to go, "Nuh-uh, this is a bad idea. I’m going home." So, y'know, he might at least be the person in the Marvel Universe with the most common sense.
7. The Beast
Hank McCoy is pretty goshdarn smart.
In fact, he's pretty much the poster boy for smart X-Men. I mean, yeah, Professor X is pretty smart, but he's telepathic, and that's just cheating. McCoy got smart through study and hard work. Born and raised in Illinois, Hank grew up with his mutation of very large hands and feet that gave him slightly enhanced strength and VERY enhanced agility. These powers made him an all state football star. But he was also brilliant.
Hank loved studying as much as he loved sports. Find another mutant who can do both. But Hank eventually was found by Professor Charles Xavier, and was inducted into the X-Men, where he'd become a part of the famous First Class. He nursed a crush for Jean Grey for some time, but moved on around the time he made what can only be described as a horrible mistake. You see, Hank started experimenting with the gene that creates mutations. It…uh…it turned him into a monster. Like a blue wolfman? But more catlike?
Horrifying. But also horrifyingly smart.
6. Batgirl/Oracle (Barbara Gordon)
Resilient, fun, and brilliant, Barbara Gordon had everything.
When Barbara's parents were killed, her Uncle Jim adopted her, and she moved in with him in Gotham City. Babs was obsessed with superheroes, especially Gotham's own Batman. Using her photographic memory, she picked up skills in detective work and martial arts, seemingly intending to become a police officer like her uncle.
But Barbara had a different plan. Annoyed at her dad, Babs decided to show up at a costume party dressed as Batgirl, her own feminized version of Batman. When she got there, however, Killer Moth was terrorizing the party. Which, I mean, duh. You hold a masquerade ball for the police in Gotham City, you’re lucky the only supervillain who shows up is Killer Moth.
But Barbara kicked KM's butt, and claimed her new career as one of Batman's best sidekicks. I would argue the best, but that's not what this list is for.
5. Iron Man (Tony Stark)
Yes, yes, of course. Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, is one of the smartest people in comic books.
Born to a SHIELD Agent and a HYDRA double agent, Tony Stark was abandoned, only to be adopted by rich industrialist Howard Stark and his wife Maria. His newborn brother Arno suffered from a fatal illness brought on by Howard’s attempt to prevent an alien robot known as X51 from turning him into a bio-weapon, so Tony grew up as an only child. Look, recent writers really liked to tell supercomplicated stories about Tony Stark's birth, okay? It's a lot of retconning.
Anyhoo, Tony would eventually take over his father's company and become a preening egotistical jerkface, a trait that would make him infamous. Eventually, he was blown up in Korea/Vietnam/Afghanistan/Jesus Christ, pick a country, and went on to become the Iron Man.
His brilliance and tech genius would make him the Marvel Universe's resident smart guy who isn't also busy all the time with his family.
4. Mr. Terrific (Michael Holt)
In a competition for smartest man on earth, bronze ain't bad. Michael Holt is notably the third-smartest man in the DC Universe (at least, in the present day time period).
After Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor, the enforcer of Fair Play clocks in at third. Michael was a child prodigy with an aptitude for brilliance who mastered multiple skill sets and claimed 14 PhDs. Dude collected doctorates like they were Pokemon cards. He started a tech firm and won a gold medal in the Olympic decathlon.
Tragically, Holt lost his wife and older brother in a car accident, and he began to contemplate suicide. The Spectre intervened, and inspired him to instead use his life to help others as the new Mr. Terrific.
In spite of this experience, Holt remained a devout atheist. Look, in the real world, your religious beliefs are up to you. But in the DC Universe, Michael Holt literally met the agent of God's vengeance – a ninety-foot-tall ghost man with torture powers – and was still like, "Nah, I'm not convinced." At that point, it's almost respectable.
3. Batman (Bruce Wayne)
I mean, duuuuuhhhhhhh. No, he's not in the top two; those spots are reserved for people whose brilliance could be used to remake the universe if they so choose. But Batman is as smart as you can possibly be without reaching that level.
Bruce Wayne spent his entire life and a lot of his rich-boy money traveling the globe learning as much as he could about everything. Science, philosophy, art, martial arts, everything you need to learn to be a Batman, he learned it.
I mean, the dude is the world's greatest detective, his acuity is spot on, and his mental abilities are unparalleled. I mean, he's Batman.
He's a powerless man in Zorro cosplay who stands toe-to-toe with the most powerful men and women on the face of the Earth. And we all believe it makes sense, because he's friggin' Batman, and he's smart as all hell.
2. Brainiac 5
Querl Dox of Colu is trying to redeem a legacy of evil. And he's doing it with the most brilliant mind in history.
To give you an example, most Earthlings are said to be sixth-level intellects. Most Coluans are tenth level. Brainiac 5 is a twelve.
Living in the far future, the Legion of Super Heroes recruited Brainy to help them with their hero-ing mission. And he did, giving them all the technology they needed for their fight against crime. The Flight Ring, the Time Bubble, all the classic Legion of Super Heroes iconography was invented by Brainiac 5 while he was bored.
He invented COMPUTO, which wasn't a good invention because it was an evil murder robot. But it was a smart one. He's also matched wits with his evil ancestor before, showing that he's the more evolved and smarter of the two. He managed to be smart enough to take a legacy of evil and turn it around, and that's pretty impressive.
1. Mr. Fantastic (Reed Richards)
There's no question about who deserves this top spot.
Reed Richards isn't just "built a robot suit" smart or "wins every combat encounter" smart. No, he's "could reinvent the way the universe works before breakfast" smart. Reed is a scientist who deals with the unknown mysteries of comic book science every single day, and he does it with style. The guy is brilliant in a way that's downright scary.
There's a reason one of the greatest threats to the Ultimate Universe was a Reed Richards turning evil. And that was the ultimate one, not even the fully intelligent Marvel Universe Proper one. The next closest we got to that was when another universe's Reed Richards decided he wanted to spread this new zombie virus he'd seen. And then he conquered the earth with super zombies. Really, we're all just glad our Reed Richards uses his genius for heroism. Because the alternative would be very bad, indeed.
Aaaaaaaand there you go. Ten superheroes who are smarter than me or you. Very good brain boys abound on this list, and we are very, very proud of them.