The 20 Greatest Cops in Comics

RoboCop? Forget him. Comics have been doing supercops since the Golden Age, and we count down the very best of the bunch!

Make no mistake, police and other members of the emergency services are the real super-heroes. They sacrifice every day to keep the populace safe from mayhem and evil. In the world of superheroes, sometimes, these brave men and women take a back seat to the guys and gals in capes and tights. But not all cops stand quietly aside and let the metahumans do the work. Oh no, these are the men and women that, in most cases, with just a badge and a gun, fight the good fight along ide monsters, gods, and gaudily dressed vigilantes. These are the greatest cops in comics.

20. Pow Wow SmithFirst appearance: Detective Comics  #151 (1949)Created by Don Cameron and Carmine Infantino

One of the earliest examples of diversity in comics, Ohiyesa Smith, nicknamed Pow Wow by the white citizenry he swore to protect, was first the deputy and ultimately, the sheriff of the small Western town of Elkhorn. The citizens of Elkhorn, despite the nickname they saddled Smith with, saw their sheriff as their equal, and in turn, Smith protected them from owlhoots and other threats to their well being. Smith had a sense of fairness and justice that served him and the people he protected well during his tenure as sheriff. When his people looked at him, they did not see red or white, they saw justice. An ancestor of Smith was introduced in Robin Annual #6, a modern day U.S. Marshall that followed in his ancestor’s footsteps. The legacy of Pow Wow Smith stretches centuries and stands for equality and justice, even if his nickname does make modern sensibilities cringe.

19. Liza WarnerFirst appearance: 1st Issue Special #4 (1975)Created by Robert Kanigher and John Rosenberger

Liza Warner, also known as Lady Cop, is not a well known character, but given a chance, she could have gone down in history as one of comic’s toughest and bravest cops. Liza only appeared once during the Bronze Age in her own try out in DC’s First issue Special. She may not be remembered as anything other than a footnote in DC history, but one read of her debut issue shows that this cop could have gone places. The story was mature and ahead of its time as Liza proved herself to be a capable and tough protagonist in a very dark world. In her only solo comic, Liza stopped an underage girl from being sexually assaulted, she helps a girl wield off a stalker, beats the poop out of a perp wielding a switchblade, helps a girl come to terms with an STD, saves a criminal from drowning, and does CPR to save a second victim, all before the six o’clock news. Liza not only had a good analytical mind, but she was every inch the public servant. Come to think of it, with her eidetic memory, forensic knowledge, and ability as a sniper, Liza would have made a hell of a TV cop if the fates spun different. A few years back, Liza made a return to glory in the pages of the All-New Atom, but that too did not last more than a blink of an eye. Liza is waiting for a revival, a forgotten cop from yesterday who deserves feature consideration.

18. The O’DaresFirst Appearance: Starman #1 (1994)Created by James Robinson and Tony Harris

For some, being a cop is a calling that once heard cannot be denied, for others, like the O’Dare family of Opal City, being a cop is an indelible part of their genetic makeup. One of the themes of James Robinson’s Starman was tradition. From the mantle of the Starman held by the members of the Knight family, to the villainous legacy of the Mist, Opal’s foundations were built on the back of these traditions. The O’Dare family holds the tradition of justice in Opal City, as generation after generation took up the shield to defend their beloved city from corruption. The O’Dares have been fighting beside Starman since World War II, acting as staunch allies to both Ted and Jack Knight. As the events of Starman unfolded, fans got to know many members of the O’Dare family who were willing to spill blood for their beloved city. There was Matt O’Dare, a reincarnation of an old west law man, Clarence O’Dare, the patriarch of the family and Opal’s brave commissioner, the quiet and stoic Mason O’Dare, and the brave Hope O’Dare, a woman beloved by sometimes villain sometimes hero, the Shade. There are always strange goings on in Opal City, but the residents can rest assured that alongside their Starman, there will always be the O’Dares to protect them.

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17. Savage DragonFirst Appearance: Megaton #3 (1986)Created by Erik Larsen

Created by Erik Larsen while the artist was in elementary school, Savage Dragon has been continuously published since the Image boom of the early ’90s. In the initial run of the series, before Dragon became a government sanctioned super-hero, Dragon chose to help his city by using his vast strength to become a police officer. Dragon used his authority and might to protect his adoptive city from an eclectic array of super-foes and monsters. Dragon could have been anything, but the green guy chose to wear the blue and become part of the world’s proudest profession. He may not walk a beat anymore, but the Dragon still has the soul of an honest cop.

16. Christian WalkerFirst appearance: Powers #1 (2000)Created by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming

Once a super-powered vigilante, Christian Walker now serves as Deena Pilgrim’s partner in their war on super criminals in the world of Powers. Walker is the strong right hand to Pilgrim’s brain, which is not to say that the former costumed hero is not a brilliant cop in his own right. For years, Walker did not use his powers to solve crimes; instead, he relied on the same detective skills as his fellow cops to bring down powered criminals. Walker’s origins stretch back to the Stone Age, as he received his powers when mankind was young. With Deena Pilgrim by his side, Walker has brought down many super-beings, even bona fide gods who dared to break the law in his city. Christian Walker brings thousands of years of experience to solve the crimes that no one else can handle. Being a super-hero is cool, but according to Walker, a man with millenniums of wisdom, being a cop is the most honorable path an individual can follow.

15. Jim HarperFirst appearance: Star-Spangled Comics #7 (1942)Created by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon

Possibly the first costumed cop in comics, Jim Harper was a beat cop who took it upon himself to protect the brave kids that comprised the Newsboy Legion on the mean streets of Suicide Slum. As the Guardian, Harper donned a blue uniform, a gold crash helmet, and a badge shaped shield in order to dispense justice on the hoods and skells of his city. The Newboys didn’t have much respect for beat cop Harper, but they adored and worshipped the Guardian. The Newsboy Legion and Guardian feature was one of the most energetic strips of the Golden Age; it was a place where the immortal duo of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby cut their teeth, honing the skills that would grow to redefine the medium many times over. The Guardian played a huge role in Jack Kirby’s return to DC in the 70s as clones of Harper and the Newsboys played a regular role in Kirby’s surrealistically fabulous run on Jimmy Olsen. In addition to his Bronze Age adventures, the Guardian was a member of the All-Star Squadron and was a major ally to Superman and Superboy during the 90s and early 2000s as the protector of Project Cadmus. The Guardian has gone through many iterations from super beat cop to clone protector of a secret think tank, but through it all, at his core, Jim Harper was all cop.

14. Dan TurpinFirst appearance: as Brooklyn, Detective Comics #64 (1942) as Dan Turpin, New Gods #5 (1971)Created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby

It can’t be easy to be a cop on the streets of Metropolis, with Superman’s foes constantly trying to match might with the Man of Steel, but Dan Turpin never flinched from any criminal whether it was a perp with a firearm or Doomsday himself. Maybe it’s because Turpin was once known as Brooklyn of the legendary Boy Commandos. As a boy soldier, Turpin saw the battlefield of World War II before he was old enough to shave. It was in an episode of Superman: The Animated Series where Turpin had his finest hour. In the two-part episode “Apokolips…Now,” Turpin, unarmed and without powers, faced down Darkseid with nothing but his righteous anger at the mad god’s actions. Darkseid killed Turpin in front of Superman’s eyes as an act of petty revenge after Superman and the New Gods had defeated the villain. Turpin’s death resonated throughout the series, providing an unusual sense of tragedy in a cartoon aimed at kids. But in the comics, Turpin still fought the good fought giving the Metropolis PD a human element no matter how unearthly the world of Superman got.

13. Jim CorriganFirst appearance: More Fun Comics #52 (1940)Created by Jerry Siegel and Bernard Baily

Conceived by Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel, the Spectre has been a DC icon since the earliest days of the Golden Age. The Spectre’s story goes back to biblical times, as the ghostly punisher of evil was literally God’s anger given form. The Spectre was the being that unleashed God’s anger against the Egyptians in the Old Testament and has been delivering God’s justice to sinners for millennia. Centuries later, when Officer Jim Corrigan was murdered in a mob hit, the Spectre was bonded to Corrigan’s soul. Now it was the heart of a cop that controlled the greatest power in the cosmos. Corrigan had to be sure that those the Spectre punished truly committed a crime, which took good, old-fashioned police work. Even though he was the most powerful being in the universe, at heart, Corrigan was still a cop constantly searching for justice. Throughout every age, the Spectre and Corrigan have starred in awesome stories that have combined detective work with the supernatural. From the Golden Age as a founding member of the Justice Society of America, to his Silver Age revival, to his amazingly violent, ground breaking run in Adventure Comics in the ’70s, to a solid run by Doug Moench in the 80s, to one of the best series of the 90s penned by John Ostrander with art by Tom Mandrake, the Spectre has been involved in some amazing features that have spanned time and space, But no matter where the Spectre went, no matter what age or dimension, and no matter who the Spectre has punished, beneath it all was the unbeating heart of a brave police officer.

12. Renee MontoyaFirst appearance Batman #475 (1992)Created by Sean Catherine Derek, Laren Bright, and Mitch Brian

Renee Montoya was originally created for Batman: the Animated Series, but when DC heard about this brilliant and beautiful police woman, they preemptively introduced her in the pages of Batman. Since then, DC has created some amazing stories using this non-powered, brave police lady, both in Batman’s myriad titles and as one of the protagonists in arguably the greatest super-hero themed cop comic ever, Gotham Central. Renee was able to hunt down and defeat Two Face and survive the fallout of her forced outing. She may have survived, but Renee did not escape the events of Gotham Central mentally unscathed which began her on a quest for salvation that led her to becoming the second person to wear the faceless mask of the Question. At her core though, Renee was first and foremost a cop, a go to officer for Commissioner Gordon and a woman that had won the respect of Batman. 

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11. Deena PilgrimFirst appearance: Powers #1 (2000)Created by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming

In the world of Powers, the police have to deal with unthinkable crimes perpetrated by beings with godlike abilities on a seemingly daily basis. Deena Pilgrim doesn’t blink when confronted with gods, monsters, vigilantes, super-villains, or any of the depraved meta-humans that inhabit the world of Powers, she just coldly stares them down armed only with her gun and her potty mouth. Deena gives fans an entry point to the Powers universe and her friendship with her partner, the super-powered Christian Walker, has become the stuff of modern comic legend. No matter how fantastic the stories get, Deena always uses classic police work to solve even the most mind blowing cases. Deena deals with inhuman crime, but she is utterly and tragically human in every way. Whether she was solving the murder of Retro Girl, keeping her immortal partner grounded, or just trying to solve insane gods going to war in the modern day, Deena survives through a cop’s instinct and toughness. No matter the crime, no matter how powerful the crook, Deena is waiting with to slap her cuffs on any perpetrator stupid enough to commit a crime on her beat.

10. Jean DeWolffFirst appearance: Marvel Team-Up #48 (1976)Created by Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema

Sadly, the most enduring thing about this top cop was her murder, but before Captain Jean DeWolff became the victim of the Sin Eater, she was one of Spider-Man’s greatest allies against crime. At first DeWolff was antagonistic towards Spider-Man, but the two crime smashers soon gained a mutual respect. DeWolff was a throwback, a lover of 30s clothes and cars, her flair for the anachronistic was only outshined but her need to administer justice. DeWolff never shied away from crimes involving super-criminals and was always the first into the fray whether the perp was wielding a death ray or a switchblade. Her murder was one of the most tragic events in Marvel history as Spider-Man not only lost a friend and confidant but the world lost a believer and defender of truth and justice forever.

9. Maggie SawyerFirst appearance: Superman #4 (1987)Created by John Byrne

It takes a special type of cop to survive the mean streets of Gotham City and Metropolis, but that is exactly what Maggie Sawyer has done in her amazing career in law enforcement. Sawyer was a police captain during Superman’s early days in Metropolis. She was the loyal boss and ally to Dan Turpin and did not shy away from the action even when things got cosmic. Turpin fell in love with Maggie because of her classic beauty and her bravery, but he was surprised to learn that Maggie was a lesbian. This new aspect to Maggie’s character was almost unheard of in the mid ’80s, but Maggie broke new grounds of diversity in her early appearances. When she was transferred to Gotham City, Maggie picked up where she left off, never flinching even when going toe-to-toe with the Joker. In Metropolis, Maggie forged a physical relationship with Kate Kane, also known as Batwoman. Maggie has been a lover and ally to Batwoman, proving her loyalty and acumen every month in Kathy’s solo title. Do not define Sawyer as a lesbian, or a woman, or anything else, because this brave ally of the World’s Finest heroes should only be defined as her abilities as a police officer.

8. Harvey BullockFirst appearance: Detective Comics #441 (1974)Created by Archie Goodwin and Howard Chaykin

He may not look like much, but don’t judge Gotham City Detective Harvey Bullock by his jiggly blubber or the gravy stains on his wrinkled shirt. Bullock is brilliant crime solver that is perfect for the mean streets of Gotham. At first a foil to Batman, Bullock has become an important part of the Dark Knight’s war on crime. It isn’t an uncommon sight to see Bullock, when James Gordon is elsewhere, shine the Bat Signal to call Gotham’s protector. For decades Bullock has been using his keen observational skills and analytical mind to solve the most confounding crimes Gotham has to offer. Not many men can eat a bucket of fried chicken and solve one of the Riddler’s clues, but Bullock can and does on a regular basis. Bullock has become Jim Gordon’s go to guy, an incorruptible force for good, and one of Gotham’s most honorable cops. Not bad for a guy who looks like a pile of laundry. Bullock may spend half his paycheck at Gotham Donuts, but his Sam Spade like mind and morally upright spirit make Bullock one of the greatest cops in comics. Bullock is a great and honest counterpoint to the more reserved Jim Gordon, and the corpulent crime solver never flinches, even in the face of Gotham’s more dastardly and monstrous rogues.

7. Psi-Judge AndersonFirst appearance: 2000 AD #150 (1980)Created by John Wagner and Brian Bolland

Any cop that can keep up, survive, and thrive while riding shotgun with Judge Dredd (more on him later) deserves a place on this list. Psi-Judge Anderson has the advantage of having precognitive and telepathic abilities, but her greatest asset is her sense of fairness and keen mind that makes her one of Mega City’s finest. Anderson has won the respect and admiration of the toughest cop Mega City has ever seen, the man called Dredd, and has become the stern disciplinarian’s main confidant and, dare we say it, friend. In her first outing as Dredd’s partner, Anderson helped him defeat Judge Death and his group of undead Dark Judges. It was Mega City’s darkest hour but Anderson helped Dredd win the day. Anderson has starred in a number of her own titles, using her vast mental powers and a cop’s instinct to solve crimes in an unforgiving future dystopia. Make no mistake, she may not look as tough or imposing as Dredd, but she is the law.

6. Hawkman and HawkgirlFirst appearance: The Brave and the Bold #34 (1961)Created by Gardner Fox and Joe Kubert

They might not have been human, but they were all cop. Katar and Shayera Hol came to Earth from their native Thanagar in pursuit of a fleeing convict. The alien duo have many advance weapons to assist them on their intergalactic beat, but it is there cop’s instincts that set them apart as heroes. The pair never considered themselves superheroes; they were cops doing a job to keep a planet that wasn’t theirs safe. This magnanimous sense of right and wrong brought the two into the superhero community and eventually into the Justice League as the Earth’s superheroes were proud to rub soldiers with police officers as dedicated as Thanagar’s Winged Wonders. Hawkman and Hawkwoman solved many crimes on Earth, and no matter where a criminal ran, even to other galaxies, these two cops were hot on their trail proving that justice knows no boundaries.

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5. Barry AllenFirst appearance: Showcase #4 (1956)Created by Robert Kanigher, John Broome, and Carmine Infantino

Before he gained the super speed of the Flash, making Barry Allen one of the greatest superheroes the world had ever seen, he was already a hero, using his singular abilities as a brilliant forensic scientist to bring criminals to justice. Before the fateful chemical bath that changed the world and kicked off DC’s Silver Age, Barry Allen was solving crimes and doing his part to make Central City a safer place. Yeah, he was a bit absent minded and late for everything, but that was only because the dedicated police scientist spent endless hours poring over finger prints, hair fibers, and other evidence that would put law breakers behind bars. His job wasn’t glamorous, but Barry did it happily, trying to solve every crime he could…including the unsolved the murder of his own mother. Barry Allen became one of the greatest heroes of the DC Universe and a founding member of the Justice League because it wasn’t just his powers or abilities that made him a hero, it was his sense of justice and fairness and a willingness do to whatever it took to make sure justice was served. Ideas he learned as a police officer.

4. Rick GrimesFirst appearance: The Walking Dead #1 (2003)Created by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard

He’s the thin blue line protecting a group of haggard survivors in the post-zombie apocalypse; he’s a man that wears his badge and his gun proudly even in the face of the end. He is Rick Grimes and the sheer unlikelihood of his survival makes him one of the greatest cops in comics. When readers first met Rick, he almost makes the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty. Rick is shot by a fleeing criminal, leaving his son Carl almost fatherless. Rick wakes up in a hospital to find a very different world, and a legend is born. Rick never hesitates in the face of the unthinkable, even in the hospital, hurt, confused, and alone, he looks for people to help, to serve, to protect. Rick is every inch the policeman as he tries to make his way through a world gone insane. Before the Walkers, Rick was a small town cop, not a storied detective; he barely ever had to draw his gun. Now, in a world that has descended into sheer insanity, Rick has become a capable protector of his band of survivors. Grimes can be looked at as the last cop on Earth, and he still serves proudly.

3. Judge DreddFirst appearance: 2000 AD #2 (1977)Created by John Wagner, Carlos Ezquerra, and Pat Mills

The cop with the toughest beat in comics, Judge Dredd must protect Mega City 1 from monsters, mutants, mayhem, and murderers of every sort the hellish future has to offer. Dredd is the only cop on the list that has a song about him written by Anthrax, so that automatically propels him to the top. Dredd is not only a cop but he is also judge, jury, and executioner of the perps he comes in contact with. Dredd is either throwing criminals, if they’re lucky, into an Iso Cube, or giving them the business end of his Lawgiver. Either way, it’s Dredd’s sworn duty to protect his city from lawlessness. The square jawed law man is as by the book as they come. To Dredd, law is a religion and criminals are heretics. With Psi-Judge Anderson at his side, Dredd lives to protect and serve, and god help anyone who defies the law, because (say it with us) Dredd is the law.

2. Jim GordonFirst appearance: Detective Comics #27 (1939)Created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane

Batman’s greatest weapon in his war on crime is an honest cop named Jim Gordon. Gordon has the same dedication to justice as the Dark Knight, but Gordon doesn’t have the same athleticism, high tech weaponry, or support on his side that Batman does. Gordon just has his service revolver, a cop’s instinct, and a stout heart. Gordon has been fighting the good fight for as long as Batman and has faced down all of Gotham’s assorted monsters and killers and never blinked. With Batman’s help, Jim Gordon cleaned up Gotham’s police department and has become a symbol for justice just as powerful as his caped ally. In order to complete his mission, Batman needs Gordon, making Gordon one of the most important figures in Bruce Wayne’s life. Gordon’s sense of justice and duty was passed down to his daughter who went on to become an iconic superhero in her own right. No matter what iteration of Batman or what era, Gordon has always been there acting as Batman’s greatest asset and the embodiment of everything a good cop should stand for.

1. Dick TracyFirst Appearance: Dick Tracy Strip Debut October 4, 1931Created by Chester Gould

The four color cop that started it all! Before any of the other cops on this list, there was Dick Tracy. Tracy was created by cartoonist Chester Gould as a reaction to the rampant corruption and urban decay of Depression-era America. Tracy was a pure spirit, a modern day paladin tasked with protecting the purity of society. Tracy was not a handsome man, his square jaw, broken nose, and beady eyes contrasting with his shining spirit, but this cop didn’t need leading man looks to put a hurting on crime. If Tracy saw corruption, he broke its jaw, if he saw an innocent threatened; he risked life and limb to save the day. Tracy was the simplest form of hero, an honorable man that used every weapon in his power to fight for justice. Tracy set the standard for every cop, vigilante, and protector that followed in his footsteps. His use of cutting edge, almost sci-fi tech served as the inspiration for Batman, James Bond, and so many more. Dick Tracy was the first comic hero to have a true rogues gallery, a series of deformed creeps that thought to taint the city in their own image, but not on Tracy’s watch as wherever crime reared its ugly head, there was Tracy, fists swinging, guns blazing, to get the job done. Dick Tracy was the first, and he will always be comic’s greatest cop.

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