The Wikipedia entry for Mister Terrific says this:

He is also known as the third smartest person in the world, and this notion now appears to be widespread within the DC Universe.

Note: The entry has subsequently changed to read

Holt is also known as the third smartest man on Earth.

Who are the first and second smartest?

  • Probably Batman and Superman, but I have no reference for this.
    – AncientSwordRage
    Apr 11, 2012 at 1:46
  • 1
    The Grand Intellect and Commander Keen. No wait, that's a different continuity.
    – b_jonas
    May 11, 2012 at 12:31
  • I think the hard part about answering this question is how are they measuring "smarts"? Is it based purely on IQ scores, or is it more subjective.
    – Monty129
    Mar 6, 2013 at 12:42
  • Bob Kane and Bill Finger.
    – Wad Cheber
    Jul 13, 2015 at 5:02
  • @AncientSwordRage Superman isn't human
    – user66716
    Jul 2, 2017 at 10:02

11 Answers 11


I don't think it's established for certain, but according to the Michael Holt entry on the DC Database

Holt has described himself as the third smartest person on Earth (presumably after Batman and Lex Luthor).

Barbara Gordon (Oracle) might also be able to claim one of the top two spots in the DCU. As Devon Sanders of Seven Hells! puts it:

Possessing a genius intellect, photographic memory and unparalleled knowledge of computers, she re-invented herself as the DCU's information broker Oracle.

She who controls the information, controls the world.

She's put herself in a position where Batman comes to her.

  • 5
    It's possible that Holt is simply being modest, or more interestingly, diverting attention from himself into the search for the two above him.
    – Martha F.
    Apr 12, 2012 at 15:00
  • I can believe Lex Luthor might be the smartest, but Batman (while often portrayed as a genius) is smarter than the meta human Mister Terrific? Jun 11, 2012 at 13:39
  • @JackBNimble is Michael Holt truly a Metahuman? I always thought his abilities where technology derived (being hidden from surveilance technology)
    – Monty129
    Mar 6, 2013 at 12:11
  • 3
    In regards to Barbara, information isn't the same as intelligence, Batman may come to her for info, but he would know what to do with it better than her. Granted, it also says she has a genius intellect, so I'm sure she's up there
    – childcat15
    Jul 31, 2014 at 20:31
  • Barbara Gordon is intelligent, but not smarter than Batman or Tim Drake. She is just skilled, and isn't known for detective or forensic knowledge for instance. As Oracle she is basically a good librarian with fictional hacking skills. Oct 10, 2014 at 15:15

Those two smartest people are Lex Luthor and Batman.

It was shown in last episode of Justice League Unlimited TV series. I have almost forgotten that, but as memory serves, Earth was under attack by Darkseid (thanks to @Beta for the name). The Justice League failed to kick his butt out of Earth. He was looking for the Anti-Life Equation (thanks to @Beta again for recalling that).

It was shown that the Anti-Life Equation could only be obtained from beyond the edge of the universe, but only by a person who has a level 12 intellect or above. Only Batman and Lex Luthor qualified. Finally, Lex Luthor obtained that and gave it to Darkseid.

  • The villain was Darkseid, the thing was the Anti-Life Equation, and it's not certain that Luthor really died. Oh, and he did it not so much to save the Earth and Superman, as for revenge.
    – Beta
    May 11, 2012 at 23:12
  • @Beta Thanks.. My memory served badly. :) May 12, 2012 at 4:19
  • @Beta Edited my answer to reflect them.. May 12, 2012 at 4:31
  • 6
    I watched the episode, there is nothing to suggest that Batman had the qualified intellect to achieve the anti-life equation. Also JLU tv is not comic canon. Jun 11, 2012 at 13:38
  • 3
    Jack B Nimble is correct, while Michael Holt does appear in Justice League Unlimited, the DCAU is a separate cannon from mainstream DC continuity (New52,Post Crisis, etc.)
    – Monty129
    Mar 6, 2013 at 12:08

Despero once said that Ted Cord's IQ (192) was second only to the Martian Manhunter. That's pretty canon. So on the earth, you've got:

  • Martian Manter
  • Blue Beetle
  • Mr. Terrific
  • Lex Luthor
  • Batman
  • Dr. Fate
  • Vandal Savage
  • The Question (Honorable Mention)

Not on the earth, I'd think other than god-like entities, Braniac would take the cake.

  • The question pertains to humans though, so J'onn and Braniac wouldn't count. Also Ted Cord's intelligence depends on who's writing him. During the Giffen/McGuire/DeMattis era Justice League he was depicted as intelligent but not any more than Maxwell Lord
    – Monty129
    May 17, 2013 at 9:35
  • I would add Amazo to that list since you mentioned Braniac Oct 1, 2015 at 23:18

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.

enter image description here

  • 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.

enter image description here

  • 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)

enter image description here

  • 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 the smartest man in the Universe but normally, he shouldn't be.

enter image description here

  • 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.

  • 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.

See my essay on: Who's the most intelligent being in the DC Universe (Quora)

  • I've heard it said that Batman is a scientist. Jul 4, 2017 at 3:42
  • I've heard that too. But I tend to discount it. Batman strikes me more as a polymath, a sythesist who learns what he wants, when he wants and only what he needs to solve the problems at hand. When he needs unique knowledge, he will do just like everyone else when they are out of their league, hire a specialist. Being Batman he has access to some of the worlds most talented scientists and engineers. And can call a few off world as well. See: Rann, Thanagar. Jul 4, 2017 at 9:46

Lex Luthor the self styled "Greatest criminal mind of all time!" would easily take the top spot. He is often shown to be more intelligent than any other human, and even more so than some super intelligent extraterrestrials.

As for the second there are several characters who could lay claim:

Brain, perenial thorn in the Doom Patrol's side has pulled off "Perfect Crimes" on several occasions.

Barbara Gordon in her pre-New 52 Oracle persona, as stated by Bill the Lizard, definetly quallifies.

Noah Kuttler aka the Calculator is the villanous counterpart to Oracle and could also qualify.

Lastly a tie between two masters of deductive reasoning and latteral thinking; the Riddler is often stated to be Batman's most intelligent adversary. Ralph Dibny has been shown to be a detective with an intellect to rival that of Batman.


Batman said that Tim Drake is just as intelligent, if not more intelligent than himself. Sorry if this complicates things.

  • 1
    Hello ! Can you precise in what continuity did Batman say this ? At what moment... ?
    – Kalissar
    Jul 9, 2013 at 8:06
  • 2
    Actually what he said was that Tim would be a better detective than he ever could be one day. I remember this, I believe it was from one of the War Games issues.
    – Monty129
    Jul 9, 2013 at 9:39

If I had to guess, I would assert that it is Luthor and the original Mr. Terriffic, or Luthor and Superman, depending on continuity.

People assert Batman as one of the smartest, but he generally doesn't display his intelligence on the scale of Lex Luthor. Generally getting into things like space travel and cybernetics much later than Luthor or even Superman.

  • Superman isn't a human though. The question pertains to humans. Also, Superman is usually depicted as having an above average intelligence, but not since his pre-crisis days has he ever shown anything that would be considered "super intelligence"
    – Monty129
    Oct 10, 2014 at 16:00
  • Humans are mentioned in the question, but yeah Superman generally isn't human in the strictest sense. However, Superman has an army of androids he presumably built himself, a technological fortress that he maintains, and is a notorious polyglot. If your are including genetically compatible people, he's one of the most intelligent, easily. Oct 10, 2014 at 17:43

Well isn't Terry Sloane smarter than Michael Holt? So that would leave either Lex Luthor or Bruce Wayne. I would assume those are the 4 smartest human beings in the DC Universe.


Really depends on what kind of smarts you are talking about. If you are asking who is the smartest fighter, then probably batman and tim would be at the top of DC pre 52. Terrific has shown a lot of shortsightedness and lack of awareness, but he is without a doubt one of the brightest minds on the universe. And despite this he got fooled by windows ME.

So i guess what im saying is "smart about what?"


I say it's not Batman and Lex Luthor, but Braniac and The atom are the first and second smartest.

  • 2
    Can you back that up with references to source material? Also, OP is asking about the smartest people on Earth, which Brainiac usually isn't.
    – Politank-Z
    Jul 17, 2017 at 7:02

Totally Brainiac and Brainiac 5, brainiac 5 have a 12th level intellect and exist the rumor that the only one smarter could be brainiac, but is no sure

  • 1
    '...in the world', the question asked.
    – Solemnity
    Mar 6, 2013 at 5:35

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.