Who are the smartest Humans in the DC Universe after Lex Luthor?
#1 is no sweat. Who are #2 and #3? Is there a list?
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In the DC Universe under most canon and under most continuities, the smartest man on the DC Earth is Lex Luthor. Everything else after that has some kind of caveat which makes it hard to determine who number two might be, or if it even matters.
- Luthor is arguably one of the most intelligent, scientifically gifted, creative engineers and businessmen on the planet. He runs his company Lex Corp, is one of its chief scientists, runs an entire wing himself maintaining samples of alien technology from all over the DC Universe and reverse-engineering it as fast as he can.
- In addition, in most continuities, in his spare time, he creates all of his own anti-Superman technology. Engineers may fabricate his work, but he does his own design and his own prototyping of new equipment. Impatient, he may do his own testing as well, in the field.
Lex Luthor’s position as the DC Earth’s premiere intellect is never in doubt.
Whose intellect is listed after his is a much more challenging question.
The DC Universe has any number of high-IQ, physically-adept, technologically capable individuals scattered through out, each a specialist in their field and this specialty is rarely encroached upon. However, few have the polymath-like nature of someone like Lex Luthor.
Some of the more notable geniuses include:
- Dr. William Magus: the brilliant robotics expert and Elementical genius. Doctor Magnus was a student of super-villain T.O. Morrow (another genius robotics engineer and AI programmer) and became the world’s foremost authority on the new science of Elementics, a synthesis of chemistry and robotics.
- Doctor Magnus developed the Responsometer, a miniature supercomputer capable of animating humanoid robots capable of independent thought, initiative, and emotions. The Metal Men were able to imitate the elemental properties of their signature metal. The Metal Men consist of six other robots Gold, Platinum, Mercury, Iron, Tin and Lead.
- Oracle: (retconned) formerly Barbara Gordon, computer systems expert, expert systems hacker, and information broker to the Justice League and the Batman Family. Oracle is no ordinary superhacker, she managed to break into the Pentagon, the Department of Extranormal Operations and almost every other secret government super-agency using that information to help protect citizens through her connections with the superhero community. While her intellect was directed through computer systems, she had few peers, with or without superhuman abilities.
- Mr. Terrific: Michael Holt tends to get rated at the third slot in the DC Universe as an all around polymath-like intellect. If you can build it, Holt probably already has. In the overall DC Universe, his visible accomplishments have been limited but his time with the Justice Society of America showed his most effective accomplishments.
- Holt was physically adept, having been an Olympic athlete, mentally and scientifically adept, mastering a wide array of science disciplines (fourteen Ph.Ds at last count) and having vast range of experience in scientific application of computer technology, cybernetic systems, and various mechanical engineering disciplines.
- Ted Kord: The second Blue Beetle — Another hero who managed the physical, mental and scientific aspects of a superheroic scientist as well as managed to keep a personal life on top of everything else. Kord was smart, funny, capable and well-adjusted for a member of the superhero-set having created all of his own technology since he was unable to unlock the powers of the Blue Beetle scarab left to him. Kord created vehicles, weapons, armor and numerous gadgets during his career.
- Ray Palmer: The Atom discovered the size-altering technology he created studying an interstellar fragment of alien origin. Palmer was also a specialist in the study of metahuman physiologies having served as the JLA medical consultant.
- John Henry Irons: A scientifically-skilled engineer who created and reverse-engineered alien technology from a dozen worlds during the Pre-Flashpoint DC Universe. Dr. Irons created one of Superman’s most sophisticated fortresses and acted as Superman’s engineer and scientific partner when cases required scientific specialties. Irons also worked as a member of the Justice League and their lead technological engineer. (Superman: Man of Steel #100; 2000)
- Barry Allen: While his later incarnations have not had the intellectual chops of his earliest appearances, Barry Allen is a forensic scientist and inventor of some regard having created the Cosmic Treadmill (a time travel devices which relied on the Flash’s vibrational powers to operate), and his molecular compression mist which shrank his costume into his ring.
There are many others. One day I may try and produce an exhaustive list of DC’s geniuses and maybe even rate them. But the person who tends to get the nod for the second smartest man in the DC Universe, in my view, shouldn’t.
Many writers want to make Batman the second smartest individual in the DC Universe. Okay, in this picture, while riding the Mobius Chair, he was possibly the smartest man in the Universe but normally, he shouldn’t be.
- Bruce Wayne: Batman is not the scientific genius most of the people on this list are. Yes, he has scientific acumen, but in comparison to most of the science types on this list he would come in dead last. He hires smart people to help him develop what he needs more often than not.
- His true ability lies in the breadth of his other talents spread across the physical, mental, intellectual realms. Batman is a peak physical combatant. At the level where he would be ranked in the top ten or eleven Humans on the entire planet. By itself this is a form of physical genius not met by any of the others on this list.
- Batman also has a degree of focus and intellectual agility met by very few people on this list. His understanding of economic engines makes it possible for him to see business motivations almost no one except Lex Luthor can see. It also makes him capable of deducing the motivations of most of his villainous counterparts such as the Joker or the Riddler and stopping their criminal activities.
- Batman is a tactical genius. Because of his physical vulnerability, comparatively speaking on most battlefields where metahumans are engaged, Batman’s only advantage is his ability to see, interpret and deduce the outcome of interactions between metahumans. His ability to do this nearly instantly and almost always be correct makes him one of the defacto team leaders on the Justice League.
- Batman shouldn’t be the second smartest man in the DC Universe. Technically, his scientific acumen keeps him out of that group. But outside of the accomplishments of scientific capacity, Batman’s tactical, social, economic and physical capacities rate him as one of the most capable Humans on the planet.
In a conflict with any of the other geniuses on this list, even with all of their creations, I would put my money on Batman because he is the most likely of them to think of something the other guy didn’t. And exploit that weakness. Effectively. Perhaps this is why people want to make him the second smartest man on DC’s Earth.
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Thaddeus Howze is an award-winning essayist, author and journalist for various online publications, anthologies and websites which fancy themselves having discriminating tastes in speculative fiction, non-fiction journalism and critical thinking.
Thaddeus is a writer/editor in his guise as the Answer-Man with Krypton Radio and the Good Men Project. He also co-founded Future SF Magazine, right here on Medium and blows the doors off the Nerdist’s comic commentary when he writes on superheroes Quora.com.
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