Everybody loves a good hero and a worthy villain. The eternal confrontation between good and evil will always be compelling. A change of sides from either party can sometimes be equally compelling, but not every character is suited for such harsh change. In comics, these types of changes are difficult to pull off. Fan acceptance plays a large part in the ultimate outcome for any character’s turn. One of the most common questions for average movie fans regarding Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was “why are they fighting each other? Aren’t they both good guys?”
It was more of a complaint than a question. The thought of one of them being a a bad guy was more of an annoyance rather than an interesting premise. Fans of the seminal The Dark Knight Returns were far more accepting of the Batman vs Superman rivalry because of the set up to the battle. If you write a good story with good motivations, then chances are you’ll make a character’s harsh turn feel less harsh and, ultimately, make it work.
Let’s take a look at some of the more notable character turns in our list of 8 Superheroes Who Turned Into Supervillains ( 7 Villains Who Went Good).
15. HERO TURNED VILLAIN: BUCKY BARNES
The revelation that Bucky Barnes was indeed, the villainous Winter Soldier was a shocker for most everybody reading Captain America in 2005. Bucky was Cap’s World War II sidekick and was thought to have perished.
After years of supposed death, writer Ed Brubaker decided to bring Bucky back as a brainwashed spy known as the Winter Soldier. Bucky went from being an idealistic flag-bearing hero to a cold and calculating assassin. It was a stark change, but one that fans seemed to embrace thanks to the masterful storytelling of Ed Brubaker.
The MCU ended up telling the story of Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier, but with a few tweaks along the way. The results were again, impressive and embraced by most fans. Thanks to Cap, Winter Soldier would again fight on the side of good.
14. VILLAIN TURNED HERO: SINESTRO
One of Green Lantern’s most popular villains actually originally stated off as a hero. For a time, Sinestro was one of the finest Green Lanterns to ever wield a ring until his eventual turn into a full-on villain. It wasn’t until DC’s New 52 that Sinestro became a Green Lantern again. It was a bold move that saw Sinestro reacquire a Green Latnern ring, but it paid off thanks to the seeds Geoff Johns had planted before.
Sinestro has always had a love-hate relationship with the Guardians/Green Lantern Corps as a whole but no one can deny his ambition to be something more than just a hero. He sought to change things on a grand scale for better or for worse. It’s this way of thinking that always drives him away from being a true superhero. Sinestro’s frustration for authority often leads to him screwing things up for himself.
13. HERO TURNED VILLAIN: JASON TODD (ROBIN)
Jason Todd’s journey is very similar to Bucky Barnes. Both of these young men served as sidekicks to their mentors and both shared the same grisly fate. Jason Todd was brutally killed by the Joker in the late 1980s. That event scarred Batman deeply; he called Jason “his greatest failure.”
In the Under The Red Hood storyline, Jason Todd returns from the dead and takes on a new alias, the Red Hood. Jason has become far more brutal and violent than ever, and he sets his sights on cleaning up Gotham by whatever means necessary. This pits him against Batman in what ends up being a very emotional and climatic showdown, and at the center of it all is the Joker.
This popular stor line pleased most fans and made a rather unlikable character likable. No easy feat.
12. VILLAIN TURNED HERO: ROGUE
A lot of newer X-Men fans often forget that Rogue initially started off as a villain. Mystique was Rogue’s adopted mother and it was she who was responsible for many of Rogue’s most criminal acts. Mystique inevitably convinces her to join the Brotherhood of Mutants and it goes downhill for poor Rogue. She tangles with the X-Men and the Avengers on a few occasions but her worst act has to be against Carol Danvers, aka Ms. Marvel.
Rogue and Mystique carefully plan an attack on Ms. Marvel that ends up draining her of all her powers. Rogue tosses Ms. Marvel off a bridge, leaving her for dead. Yeah, it’s pretty bad.
Danvers’ consciousness ends up being too much for Rogue to handle, which eventually leads her to Charles Xavier and the X-Men. She stays on as an X-Men in the hopes of making amends from her past.
11. HERO TURNED VILLAIN: BRUCE BANNER/HULK
The Hulk was always labeled a monster and, no matter what he did, he was always perceived a threat. Still, he had a heart of gold and always seemed to want to do the right thing and help those in need. Hulk’s helping would often lead to a lot of destroying, which wasn’t always in the best interest of everyone else.
Tony Stark, Reed Richards, and co. finally decided that it would be best to ship off the Hulk to an uninhabited planet after one last mission. There’s gratitude for you. Things don’t go as planned and the result is the awesome Planet Hulk story line.
Hulk ends up taking control of the planet and its entire army. He sets a course for Earth and exacts his revenge on all those who wronged him. Hulk was ultimately stopped, but only with help from Sentry.
10. VILLAIN TURNED HERO: EMMA FROST
Once a valuable member of the evil Hellfire Club, the White Queen traded sides and joined the X-Men and became Cyclops’ lover, much to the chagrin of a few X-Men members – namely Wolverine. You’d think he’d be happy that Cyclops got over Jean Grey.
After so many years of fighting against the X-Men, it’s still a bit weird to see Emma Frost going into battle alongside the heroic mutants. It turns out that Emma is actually a pretty gifted teacher and has become an integral part in helping to train up and coming mutants. But she still has a bit of her devilish roots in her. After all, she did win Cyclops heart by engaging in a telepathic affair with him while he was still with Jean Grey. She may not be a supervillain anymore, but she you could argue that she’s a homewrecker.
9. HERO TURNED VILLAIN: DAREDEVIL
Fans always wondered how far writers could push Daredevil before he snapped. He’s been through a lot, arguably more than any other superhero. Throughout it all he never crossed the line into full-on villainy, let alone murder. That all changed in the Shadowland mini series.
Daredevil decides to take control of the Hand and use them for his own gains. His first order of business is to deal with Bullseye permanently, which he does. Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and others bore witness to the event and start to distance themselves from Daredevil. The death of Bullseye only breeds more hunger for power for Daredevil, and he claims that anyone who opposes him will be considered an enemy.
It’s a divisive story that was sort of retconned in order to make Daredevil seem more sympathetic. This is comics, after all.
8. VILLAIN TURNED HERO: DEATHSTROKE
Slade Wilson, aka Deathstroke, made his debut in the pages of Teen Titans. He was their most notable adversary and, arguably, their largest threat. DC quickly recognized the character’s immense popularity and requested that Slade get his own series and start acting more heroic. His change wasn’t totally out of left field, though, as creators Marv Wolfman and George Perez did a good job of building his eventual turn. For a time Deathstroke ended up fighting alongside the Teen Titans and was a part of the Panic in The Sky event in the ’90s.
You know that you’ve crossed over to hero territory when Superman doesn’t mind working with you. As time went on, fans grew to miss the cold-blooded mercenary who was a thorn in any superhero’s side. Ultimately, Deathstroke became a villain again and all was well in the universe once more.
7. HERO TURNED VILLAIN: OZYMANDIAS
Watchmen is one of the greatest comic book series ever written. It’s remembered fondly for many great moments in the story, and Ozymandias’s evil turn was one of those. In the world of Watchmen, Ozymandias was a superhero who garnered immense respect. He was that world’s smartest man and he had the means and ambition to be its greatest man as well. Picture a cross between Batman and Lex Luthor, with a dash of Tony Stark.
Not only was Ozymandias responsible for the story’s main murder mystery, he was responsible for one of the most shocking endings of all time. He willfully allowed and facilitated the death of millions to “save” billions. No matter how you slice it, Ozymandias did a terrible thing which puts him well into the territory of sheer villainy. It remains to be seen how large a part he will play in the ongoing maxi series Doomsday Clock.
6. VILLAIN TURNED HERO: CATWOMAN
Considered a villain for most of her history, Catwoman always teetered on the edge of anti-hero. You never quite knew what she was going to do, but self-preservation usually came first. She has had her share of heroic moments but she always stuck to her status quo.
Writer Tom King has given Catwoman a new outlook on life and a new purpose, thanks to her engagement with Batman. Yes, Batman and Catwoman are set to be married. Don’t think that being Batman’s wife will be easy for Selina Kyle. She’s already had to start cleaning up her act and Batman will undoubtedly need her to choose the side of good if they are to marry and stay married.
Their new relationship has changed both characters greatly – none more than Selina Kyle – but one has to wonder… Will she stay on the side of good for long?
5. HERO TURNED VILLAIN: CAPTAIN AMERICA
“Hail Hydra.” Never has that declaration angered comic fans more than when it was uttered by Captain America. It still leaves a bitter taste when many fans speak about it today.
Writer Nick Spencer wove a convoluted tale detailing that Steve Rogers had actually been a secret Hydra Agent all along. Sure, it was later discovered that Steve had his memories of Hydra implanted by Kobik, but that still didn’t sit well with fans. Perhaps it’s because, somewhere deep in Steve, he supports Hydra’s agenda. It’s a running theory that new writer Mark Waid will have to confirm or squash on his run.
These days the idealistic and heroic Cap is back but his turn to the “dark side” left a mark that won’t soon be forgotten, no matter how hard fans try.
4. VILLAIN TURNED HERO: VENOM/ EDDIE BROCK
Venom, aka Eddie Brock, was one of the best villains that Spider-Man ever faced, but he became the victim of his own popularity. Much like Deathstroke, Venom began popping up everywhere and Marvel editorial started pushing him towards heroism more and more. He became an anti-hero for a good chunk of the ’90s. The mega crossover event Maximum Carnage pretty much cemented his turn in the eyes of many die-hard fans.
The younger readership seemed content as they couldn’t get enough of Venom. Eddie Brock’s allegiances would shift as the years wore on and he wasn’t even the only person to host the symbiote. The dark psychological nature of Eddie Brock and the symbiote is more naturally tailored to villainy and it’s hard to deny how cool a villain Venom can be.
3. HERO TURNED VILLAIN: SUPERMAN
Injustice gave curious fans the chance to see what Superman would look like if he snapped, and the result was frighting. Pushed to the edge by none other than the Joker, Superman slowly descends into madness. It’s an idea that was always toyed with whenever anyone would complain, “why doesn’t Superman kill anyone?”
Writer Tom Taylor wrote an exceptional story that pits Superman against Batman in a seesaw affair. For most of the story, you’ll probably side with Superman but as he becomes more unhinged and ultimately irredeemable you begin to see why, as is often the case, Batman is right. it’s uncomfortable to see Superman be as brutal as he is in this story but it’s also somewhat awesome. Things get crazier and crazier with each passing installment and, by the end, you might be left wondering how Superman could be so far gone.
2. VILLAIN TURNED HERO: LEX LUTHOR
We move from Superman onto his arch nemesis, Lex Luthor. Luthor has always been a thorn in the side of many superheroes aside from just Superman. No matter what incarnation, Luthor has always been the gold standard for villainy – until his heroic turn that started during the New 52. Luthor’s turn as a hero really started in the pages of Forever Evil and has carried on in the pages of Action Comics to this day.
During that time Lex has joined the Justice League, built a new Watchtower, saved the world, and even saved the man he sought to kill all these years: Superman. Of course, not everyone welcomed Luthor with open arms. Superman and Batman kept a close watch on Lex, expecting him to show his true colors, but he never did. Lex even went on to become Earth’s Superman for a brief period of time. Talk about irony!
1. HERO TURNED VILLAIN: GREEN LANTERN/ HAL JORDAN
One of the most controversial evil turns has got to be Hal Jordan’s. During the Emerald Twilight saga, his city is destroyed by the villain Mongul while Hal is off-world. He leaves close to seven million people dead, including Hal’s loved ones.
Hal comes back to Earth, enraged, and takes care of Mongul. In his grief he creates a fake city out of his power ring until it can no longer be sustained. The Guardians summon Jordan and berate him for using his powers for personal gain. Jordan loses it, consumes all of their energy projection and becomes mad with power. He assumes control of the central power battery, kills the Guardians, Sinestro, and Kilowog.
After he assumes the alias of Parallax, he attempts to rewrite history. It takes nearly the entire DC universe to stop him.
It took a long time before Hal could be redeemed for his actions.
Which other supervillains and superheroes have switched sides? Let us know in the comments!