10 Superheroes That Rebelled Against Typecasting –
Pure of heart superheroes going up against bad to the bone villains has been part of comic book storylines since the medium began. More complex characters who operate within the grey area between good and evil have been around for what feels like eons too.
But it’s time to forget about those characters today, instead, let’s examine the times – and reasons why – the most heroic of superheroes crossed over to the dark side. Whether it be alternate realities, mind control, psychological breakdowns or just lust for revenge, these are the best times a superhero turned evil.
Movies, TV shows, video games and obviously comic books themselves have all been taken into account here to cover every base. Importantly, one-off brutal decisions from usually good heroes don’t count, instead only definitive arcs of villainy will make the cut.
Often this transformation reveals something hidden at the core of these heroes, and forces a new dynamic from those around them. After all, for all their sidekicks, allies and teammates, it’s not just a matter of trying to stop this newly turned foe, but understanding why they turned in the first place.
10. Hawkeye – Avengers Assemble
Technically Hawkeye is under Loki’s mind control rather than fully turning evil, but technicalities make up quite a few times good guys go bad, so it’s fair game here.
Although Hawkeye is introduced very briefly in Thor, we don’t really get much about him until Avengers. Therefore, for moviegoers who hadn’t read the comics, seeing Hawkeye as a baddie wouldn’t have been too shocking. For those who knew of his heroic deeds previously though, seeing him work with Loki added another layer to a story already rich with character development.
With the various types of arrowheads and the realistic limitations of archery, Hawkeye’s role in the first Avengers movie is arguably the best portrayal of an archer in film. His use of a USB arrow while working for Loki is brilliantly creative too.
A large reason of why this deserves to make the cut is how Black Widow plays off it, getting the drop on Loki as she begs for Barton to be spared. Good guys going bad are always best when they upend existing dynamics in some way.
The resolution of Widow slamming his head into a railing feels like a cop out to some, but it’s perfectly in-keeping with the movie’s tone.
9. Terra – The Judas Contract
Another technicality, Terra didn’t so much turn bad as she did stop acting good. However, she kept up appearances so well that it was a huge shock to both her teammates and the readers, it definitely felt like it was a hero turning into a villain rather than revealing her true nature.
While working with Robin, Kid Flash and Red Arrow, Terra looked to be firmly on the good guys’ side. However, it was discovered during The Judas Contract storyline that she was constantly sending information to Deathstroke the Terminator, including the team’s true identities, which eventually leads to Deathstroke picking them off one by one.
The Judas Contact also ties together several unrelated arcs in Teen Titans that showed Terra had been secretly sabotaging them all along. Co-creator George Perez apparently always intended her to be a mole, but because she appeared to be fighting the good fight for so long, it was a complete shock when the mask finally slipped.
Robin, at least, was able to get away from Deathstroke and ultimately become Nightwing, but Terra’s betrayal still rocked the Teen Titans to their core.
8. Wonder Woman – Flashpoint
The Flashpoint series features a whole host of changes from the regular DC canon, but without a doubt the biggest difference is Wonder Woman’s personality. From being a beacon of goodness in the ‘normal’ universe, in this reality she’s a tyrannical dictator ruling Themyscira and beyond with an iron fist.
She’s much darker in this reality than ever before, seducing Aquaman then chopping Mera’s head off when questioned about it. Clearly proud of her cruelty, Wonder Woman then sends Aquaman the head as a gift, kicking off a war between Atlantis and Themyscria.
As Aquaman floods Europe to claim it for Atlantis, Wonder Woman comes to Earth and takes the still dry parts of the continent for herself. When couples cheat, it often leads to people getting hurt, but this affair causes the death of 30 million people from Ireland to Russia and everywhere in between.
It’s not just Aquaman’s lover who suffers at Wonder Woman’s hand directly though – she also chokes Steve Trevor out with her bare hands. This reality’s Wonder Woman is so far removed that it hardly seems like her at all. Less her going bad than a new twist on the universe.
7. Spider-Man – The Black Costume Saga
We’ve all seen the Tobey Maguire emo dancing in Spider-Man 3, but the comic that inspired the third movie managed to show off the symbiote’s influence through less cringeworthy means.
The Secret Wars arc was one of the most ambitious Marvel crossovers when it ran in the eighties, and is still the benchmark for many fans. Spider-Man 3… not so much.
Although the symbiote had appeared in the Spider-Man universe just prior to Secret Wars, this was the storyline that actually explained its origin. Having opened a mysterious container, Peter unwittingly frees the symbiote and it immediately bonds with him, soon passing on to Eddie Brock and paving the way for Venom.
Mr Fantastic helps free Spider-Man of his bonds, but while he’s still one with the symbiote Peter is nasty and cruel, a far cry from his usual happy go lucky self.
While Spidey wasn’t a villain for all that long and didn’t do anything particularly heinous, he’s such a pure, innocent soul that it’s a big step away from his usual personality. That, plus the fact it makes him directly responsible for the creation of Venom, is enough to warrant its entry here.
6. Scarlet Witch – House Of M
Obviously, Scarlet Witch has an origin story as a villain, but since she then moves over to the good side, that’s not what we’re talking about here. Instead, this is focussed on Brian Michael Bendis’ alternate reality graphic novel House Of M.
In it, Scarlet Witch is being raised by her father Magneto and Professor X on the island on Genosha. However, she becomes increasingly stronger and breaks out of the control Professor X had placed on her, for the protection of herself and the safety of humanity.
Suddenly dealing with her full extent of her powers drives Wanda over the edge, and Earth’s mightiest heroes are left in an unenviable position; how do you deal with a mutant powerful enough to change reality when they plunge into insanity?
Emma Frost pitches murder, whereas Captain America advises trying to contain her powers again. Before they can do anything though, Scarlet Witch’s psychotic break fractures reality and gives rise to the House Of M.
In this new world, mutants rule humans with Magneto as their overlord. Only Wolverine even knows this is a figment of Wanda’s imagination, and must convince others to help him set reality right.
5. Captain America – Secret Empire
Secret Empire is one of the more controversial comic book arcs of recent times, working off a simple idea: what if Captain America was a Hydra agent?
Steve Rogers hasn’t actually been a Hydra sleeper agent all this time, however thanks to Kobik’s manipulation of his memories, he thinks he has been. It begins with him trapping Captain Marvel and the Guardians outside of the Earth’s atmosphere before declaring his allegiance and ruling over the planet like a proper tyrant.
A Tony Stark-led group of heroes try to discover the truth of Cap’s turn to the dark side, because they know that the real Steve Rogers would not – could not – be a traitor.
It’s this, ultimately, that makes this storyline so compelling. There’s always some intrigue when a recognisable good guy turns bad, but Secret Empire does much more than that – it challenges a fundamental part of Captain America’s existence.
Since his creation, he has been a symbol not so much of America but of American ideals – loyalty, truth, justice. Whether modern day America still represents those goals is up for debate, and Secret Empire held up a metaphorical mirror for them. By changing what Captain America is, they remind you of what he’s meant to be.
4. Angel – Archangel
Angel is one of the more interesting X-Men in the comics, but a bit like Emma Frost is yet to have a truly compelling portrayal on the big screen. While Angel had a superfluous bit part in The Last Stand, it’s particularly disappointing that his arc in Apocalypse fell short, considering his evolution into Archangel and a Horseman Of The Apocalypse is one of the best stories X-Men has produced.
Angel’s famous wings become gangrenous and are amputated against his wishes, leaving him horribly depressed. Following this, Apocalypse offers to restore the wings, providing Angel serves as his Horseman Of Death.
It takes numerous experiments and medication to cause Angel’s wings to return. It leads to massive psychological changes, as well as the physical differences of blue skin, metallic wings and the ability to shoot projectile feathers. These changes are most interesting because they transform the peripheral details of Angel while keeping his core the same.
Seeing that he’s the same Angel underneath, Iceman fakes his death at the character’s hands to try and shock his system into rejecting the influence of Apocalypse. It works, but Angel still decides to go his own way for a while, no longer trusting himself as a hero.
3. Jason Todd – Red Hood
Jason Todd was the second boy to take up the mantle of Robin, following Dick Grayson’s graduation to Nightwing. Todd though is a more troubled and violent sidekick; Batman’s first encounter with him is actually when he tries to steal the tyres from the Batmobile.
Despite Bruce’s teachings, this aggressive streak continues within Jason resulting in Batman suspending his training. Todd uses this time to track down his biological mother, but soon after meeting her has to shield her from an attack by Joker and ends up mortally wounded.
He dies in Batman’s arms but following a chain of events involving Superboy Prime, Talia Al Ghul and the Lazarus Pit, Jason Todd is brought back to life, determined to take revenge on Joker.
It’s not that he becomes an out and out villain, necessarily, but it’s a complete 180 on Batman’s teachings. He’s essentially DC’s equivalent of the Punisher, handing out brutal death to the criminals he sees as most deserving.
In recent years, he’s mended his relationship with Batman somewhat, even wearing the Bat symbol and using his guns to wound more than kill. However, he’s still an outlaw and much closer to the mentality of a villain than a hero.
2. Jean Grey – Dark Phoenix
Some doubts still remain over whether Game of Thrones actress Sophie Turner can put in a strong enough performance to carry a blockbuster, but if they follow the Dark Phoenix storyline from the comics, Fox certainly won’t have to worry about the quality of the plot.
As one of the quintessential comic book storylines of all time, Dark Phoenix represents one of the most iconic times a hero broke bad. The only reason it has to settle for silver is because it’s so well known, Dark Phoenix is now an indelible part of Jean Grey’s identity.
It features Jean, already a strong and competent mutant, being struck by a solar flare and having her true potential unleashed. This turns her into one of the most powerful beings in existence, and corruption soon follows.
The storyline features several dark turns, eventually causing Jean to have a split personality; Dark Phoenix representing her most primal, violent urges. Professor X is able to control it, only slightly, but trauma often causes it to re-emerge.
As an inescapable part of her, Dark Phoenix essentially lies dormant within her by the end of the saga, constantly bubbling under the surface.
1. Superman – Injustice
As a bastion of goodness throughout most of his comic book life, Superman takes the cake for just how shocking it was to see him turn bad. Considering his killing of Zod to stop his destruction in Man of Steel was controversial despite being justifiable, Injustice: Gods Amongst Us saw Kal-El take on a truly unhinged persona.
It begins when he’s tricked by Joker into killing both Lois Lane and her unborn child. This also leads to Joker detonating a nuclear bomb and Superman then takes bloody revenge, murdering the Clown Prince in reply. All this leads to Superman deciding the world would be better off under his control rather than just his protection, and so enacts a planetary-wide dictatorship.
Superman leads a cult of other heroes who take control of the Earth by force, with Wonder Woman, Cyborg and Robin as his underlings and Batman leading the rebellion along with Catwoman, Black Canary and a host of other heroes.
Often in fighting games the narrative takes a backseat. It’s perfectly possible to ignore it all the same in Injustice, but there’s a meaty story mode for those who want to explore it, with a compelling arc that sees one of comic books’ most famous good guys turn bad in a big way.