The Top 10 Most Influential Comic Book Vigilantes

The Punisher is one of the most notable comic book vigilantes

With the buzz in the air over The Batman, everything connected to the Caped Crusader is blowing up on the Internet, including comic book vigilantes. Any topic from obscure trivia about Batman to where to find the most current cosplay fatigues to resemble the long arm of the law in the form of a vicious clothesline. What makes Bruce Wayne a hero has piqued curiosity tremendously among fans of all ages. Yet, look back at the one fact flying under the radar–being a vigilante is on the illegal side of things.

If there is concern about what qualifies someone to become a “vigilante,” it’s simple. When a person is hell-bent on going outside the law to enforce it, we have a problem. And yet, there is something a little admirable about it. Taking the law into your hands to avenge a crime sustain criminal dealings even though the person isn’t a police officer shows vehement passion. And fans appreciate the attitude and skill it takes to avenge a society because of the actions of a few.

So, as the world gets all lathered up in the gloomy suds of Gotham, let’s investigate the comics for people who have each considered themselves “Vengeance.” Oh, in the face of Peacemaker hype, just because your name is “Vigilante” doesn’t mean you make the Top 10. Vengeance is a crucial motivator and characteristic for our superheroes. It propels them and defines them. If not for these ten, we might not have this as a valid aspect of a hero or villain. Considering pop culture, comic popularity, influence, and imagination, these folks below are the Top 10.

These are the Top 10 comic book vigilantes in history.

10. Jonah Hex

Jonah Hex is one of the forgotten comic book vigilantes
Credit: Tony DeZuniga/John Albano (DC Comics)

The Old West was full of ruthless killers, courageous lawmen, and some sandpaper-tough people who took the law into their own hands. From that aesthetic, DC Comics gave us Jonah Hex. Here’s a kid raised by a drunk father who abused Jonah on the regular, and when he was bored, Jonah was sold to the Apache tribe when he was only 13. Jonah Hex became like The Punisher on horseback–he’s the most renowned bounty hunter in the Wild West.

The movie should have been so much better than it turned out. The script, make-up, and overall story sucked out loud. If we saw the genuine Jonah Hex in action, it would have been violent, bloodletting, and almost cathartic for anyone with no powers–just hatred for bad people. The only ironic thing about Jonah’s code of honor is that there is no honor, only justice done his way–up close, personal, and full of smoke.

9. Luke Cage

Luke Cage was an unforgettable comic book vigilante
Credit: Roy Thomas/George Tuska/John Romita Sr./Archie Goodwin (Marvel)

Unfortunately, Luke Cage is one of the overlooked superheroes in the world of Marvel. And then came Cheo Hodari Coker, who made an incredibly realistic visage of what the bulletproof comic book vigilante would be like on the actual streets of Harlem. Mike Colter personified everything Luke Cage was to the world. Seriously, the soundtrack by Ali Shaheed Muhammad (of A Tribe Called Quest fame) was incredible. And so, dope!

Of course, the TV series on Netflix deserved much better. Cottonmouth (Mahershala Ali) died too soon, and the way Season 2 ended, you knew Coker was going to make Season 3 a triumph. Imagine having a canvas of an adamantium skeleton with mutant-like strength. Now put all of that on the streets of Harlem. This Hero for Hire was destined for the MCU because he made being a vigilante so cool.

8. Huntress

Credit: Paul Levitz/Joey Cavalieri/Joe Staton (DC Comics)

This woman had to be on a list of the best comic book vigilantes–it’s in her blood. Helena Bertinelli. She was born into Gotham’s most notorious mafia families, which is why when she was kidnapped at age 6, a character named Huntress was bound to be born. At that time, she was tortured and brutally sexually assaulted. After all that, she witnessed the hit that wiped out her entire family.

There is no code with her, only wrath and vendetta. She has no problem killing whoever gets in her way. Helena may decide to use her bare hands to open a can of whoop @$$ on her foes, or she could determine an arrow from her lethal crossbow is more fitting. She has a dark story, but that only fuels her fire to eradicate Gotham of evil. As Helena has said, “There comes the point when the hunted becomes the Huntress.” 

7. Moon Knight

Moon Knight is one of the greatest comic book vigilantes ever
Credit: Doug Moench/Don Perlin (Marvel)

This guy is a different kind of vigilante because he’s immortal and derives his power from the Egyptian deity, Khonshu. He has all the fun tools as Batman, all the stealth of Spider-Man, and the straight-up rage as The Punisher. While he was focused on local city crime, Marc Spector enjoyed the literal fight against corruption. However, he looks forward to searching for some real baddies across the universe.

See also
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What makes this vigilante even more unpredictable — and something better in the Disney+ series — is that he has dissociative identity disorder. One of his primary personas is a billionaire named Steven Grant. Imagine Marc Spector laundering money to allow Grant to do whatever he can to maul the criminal. Then, a cab driver called Jake Lockley and an enigmatic killer named Mr. Knight. He is four vigilantes in one–and they all like to hurt people.

6. Red Hood

Credit: Bob Kane/Bill Finger/Jerry Robinson (DC Comics)

Being deadly and lethal is just part of the job to Jason Todd. When he was a Robin, he was fierce. Now that he is under that red hood, shrouded in mystery, he’s even more dangerous. Having those “six-shooters” by his side, Jason whets his appetite to destroy the Gotham underground with a bloodlust rarely topped by anyone. That may have to do with the fact that he was worm bait as Robin, but the guy has resurrected from that, so Bat Persona does him some personal justice.

Although still considered a member of the “Batman family,” Jason Todd has no problem being a misanthrope and dark soul living his worst life on his own. He personifies “The Walking Dead,” because as Robin, he died. Six months later (imagine how ripe he was), Talia Al Ghul drags his carcass to the Lazarus Pit to bring his health back up to 100. It worked, and Jason eventually joined the League of Assassins to mosey down to Gotham for some fatal justice.

5. Daredevil

daredevil is one of the great comic book vigilantes
Credit: Stan Lee/Jack Kirby/Kieron Gillen/Marco Checchetto (Marvel)

If you are a fan of our Top 10 lists, you will see this guy again soon as we look at the top martial artists in any multiverse. And that’s what makes Daredevil one of the novel comic book vigilantes ever–he’s blind, but his sharp, super sense of hearing makes the Spidey Sense look like homely goosebumps. Matt Murdock fights the Hand, and all that implies, and no one can run fast enough for him to catch.

To make Matthew a double threat of vigilantism, don’t forget he also fights crime on his day job as an attorney. There isn’t one moment of his life where Daredevil isn’t after the scum of Hell’s Kitchen. And whether he is trying to fix Gotham as a lawyer or save it as one of the baddest comic book vigilantes of all time, at least he is doing something. This is comic’s guardian devil, and we love him for it.

4. Rorschach

Rorschach is possibly one of the best known comic book vigilantes
Credit: Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons (DC Comics)

There are three types of Watchmen fans in the world–those who saw the Zack Snyder amazeballs film, those who saw that and was inspired to watch the HBO Max series, and those who didn’t need to see them understand how great Alan Moore’s historical graphic novel is among all comics. If ever there was a detective gone too far, it’s Rorschach. To make his way of life even more impressive, he has no powers other than the pantyhose on his face changing patterns all the time.

However, the guy has more willpower and determination than Hal Jordan. Nothing stops this guy–not even the bad guys in his city roaming the midnight streets. The closer he gets to solving a crime, the more visceral emotions take over. And dude has a temper, so if ne’er-do-wells don’t show remorse, they don’t stand a chance. That temper plagues Rorschach because it tends to darken his soul. If you know his story, you know he was sent to prison. And you can only imagine how his temper and willpower helped him there.

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3. Spider-Man

spider-man will always be one of the top comic book vigilantes
Credit: Stan Lee/Steve Ditko (Marvel)

Peter Parker may be a sweetheart, but with all the skill he possesses to avenge his uncle’s death, he is feared by all. Think about how Peter Parker discovered Spider-Man–he put fear in what people already fear. He has superhuman strength, speed, and senses–and the man is still in high school. He is, by all definitions, a vigilante in its purest sense. It doesn’t matter that his villains have more power or guile to kill. What matters is that Peter has a big brain and heart underneath that webby fit.

The strange note about Peter is that he was hailed as a hero, but he is still breaking the law regularly. But if he didn’t face Green Goblin, Doc Ock, and the Vulture? Spider-Man is an iconic character not because of the law in his hands but because he gives the law an additional reach. He doesn’t do any of it for the police; rather, the greater good. If something needs to be done and eradicated, this kid puts down his schoolbooks and gets to work.

2. The Punisher

how is the punisher not one of the most important comic book vigilantes
Credit: Gerry Conway/John Romita Sr./Ross Andru (Marvel)

Much like The Batman, we know Frank Castle does not have superpowers, only a super lousy temper. But ever since his wife and kid were murdered, that temper has escalated to a sense of rage that no one can equal. He is a one-person mobile war zone as both Marine and man. You can’t stop Frank. And good luck trying because if he can get a hand on you, the guy would rather tear an appendage clean out of the socket than just let go.

No power and no tool belt. Frank Castle is 100% any guy out there and undoubtedly the most realistic character among all comic book vigilantes. It’s his mean streak and ability to take any pain into a Flinstone chewable that makes him so dangerous. If you get on The Punisher’s wrong side, you will end up having only one side–face down, in the dirt, and usually gurgling your blood. Yes, it’s violent. Have you read the comic? Have you seen the TV series? This man is all about that life.

1. Batman

batman is without doubt the most important comic book vigilantes
Credit: Bob Kane/Bill Finger (DC Comics)

No way numbers 1 and 2 will satisfy everyone but make no mistake, those two are the top two. And who else would the other one be–easily the most notable and notorious one of the comic book vigilantes. His wealth, skill, and insight make him anyone’s worst nightmare. Bruce Wayne will make one more potent if the baddies have a widget. This is a man who got into crime-fighting because of his parents’ deaths.

Batman wreaks havoc on the Gotham underworld by sheer grit and determination alone. He is the most celebrated, popular, and feared vigilante to over lace up his boots. He is both brain and brawn and has been known to use both to get what he wants. No other comic book vigilantes have a more convincing and lauded origin than Bruce Wayne. He is justice. He is vengeance, and the nerd community loves–or fears–him for it.

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