9. Gorilla Grodd: A super intelligent gorilla with fantastic mental powers and scientific acumen. Like Beppo, but evil, and able to be taken more seriously. A great villain. (And what is it with DC comics and super-powered primates? I could probably fill this list with the likes of Grodd and Beppo and Detective Chimp, not to mention JLApe…).
8. Flash (Wally West): To me, one of the best things DC has going for it over Marvel is the sense of legacy their characters have; some characters age (ever so slowly) or die (more often this is the case) so sidekicks/children/protégés/inspirationees take up the fallen mantle and continue the good fight. This is most prominent with the various Flashes, and Wally West was really the first sidekick to fully takeover for his fallen mentor, as after the death of the second Flash (Barry Allen, a legacy character in his own right) Wally gave up being Kid Flash to take over for his Uncle Barry. In turn, Wally then inspired his own sidekick Kid Flash (Bart Allen, the former Impulse) continuing the Flash legacy. Plus, there is something cool and iconic to the look and powers of the Flash, with the red suit highlighted by the yellow lightning bolts and a power that seems, on the surface, overly-simplistic: he just runs really, really fast. But somehow, he' still pretty cool.
7. Green Arrow (Oliver Queen): Originally a bland, poor man’s Batman, in the 70s Green Arrow grew a personality as a fiery liberal spewing leftist rhetoric and barbs as sharp as his arrowheads, determined to make the voice of the “little guy” heard in the (in his opinion) elitist Justice League, and often seen arguing with the more conservative Hawkman and wooing Black Canary. Since then, he’s become entrenched as a very appealing street-level character, fighting the good fight with little more than his cunning and skills (he was even mayor of his home city for a spell) and developing his own little legacy, with two different “Speedy” sidekicks and a son that took the name Green Arrow for awhile.
Also, something I criminally forgot to mention at first, Green Arrow's ward, the original Speedy, was famously a junkie. This is several kinds of awesome:
You kind of have to see it coming, though, don't you, when your sidekick is named "Speedy?"
6. Nightwing: The original Robin, Dick Grayson, Nightwing is another one of DCs legacy characters, one who decided to follow in his mentor’s footsteps, but with his own costumed identity (Nightwing, not a new Batman) and methods (he’s not as much of a dick).
5. Jimmy Olsen: Before reading the Showcase collection of old Jimmy Olsen stories, he may not have made this list (and certainly not as high) but even before experiencing those zany adventures, there was something appealing about Jimmy. He’s one of those characters with limitless potential ("news photographer/cub reporter with no powers, except that Superman is his best friend" is a great setup for a ton of stories) that has never really had that potential properly tapped. I like him for what he could be as much as what he is.
4. Superman: Superman appeals to me as much for what he represents thematically as for any specific story he’s appeared in. The kinds of stories you can tell with him are limitless. He is Moses-like (he escapes the destruction of his people in a small craft, raised by others as one of their own), Christ-like (sent by his father to Earth to save its people), God-like (determined to change the world through inspiration rather than through direct application of his incredible power) but he is also down-to-earth: he represents the American immigrant experience (a foreigner in a new land trying to make good), is raised in the “heartland”, more human than most, taught to uphold traditional values (“truth, justice, the American way”).
3. Darkseid: Darkseid just looks like a badass. He is my favorite character out of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World, a literal attempt to use superheroes to create a new mythology, and arguable DCs biggest, baddest villain.
2. Lex Luthor: I prefer the post-Crisis “legitimate businessman who’s also an evil genius, and hates Superman because he doesn’t trust him and because Superman supplanted him as the most powerful person in Metropolis” Luthor to the Silver Age “mad scientist, I hate Superman because he made me bald” Luthor. And the addition that the TV show Smallville made to their relationship (that Lex and Clark were friends before becoming enemies) was genius, and has since been added to the comic’s history.
I’ve also always had a mystifying fondness Kryptonite “power suit” Luthor introduced in the mid 80s
1. Batman: Come on, everyone loves Batman. He can be all things to all people. He can be a grim vigilante. A goofy super-hero. A campy pop icon. A noir detective. A hairy-chested love god. A team player. A solo act. A brooding urban legend. My favorite version of Batman? The “with enough planning, I can beat anyone, and I always have a plan. Also, I’m kind of a dick but deep down inside I care” Batman from the mid 90s to the mid 00s.