Nobody’s perfect, especially in the world of comics. Even the most trusted heroes cross the line, employing methods or exhibiting behavior more closely associated with the villains they are supposed to fight. Whether we agree with their motivations or not, there’s no denying that comic book fans love to see their heroes fall. There’s nothing like knocking our favorite heroes off of the pedestal upon which we had placed them, just so that we can witness their climb back to the top. With this list we’re not talking about the usual suspects like Wolverine or the Punisher, whose debatable crimefighting methods are well-documented.
Nor are we talking about villains who have temporarily switched allegiances and acted for the betterment of society for a brief time, like Magneto or Doctor Octopus. The heroes on this list are heroes we traditionally believe in, protectors of the innocent, who have perpetrated acts of evil on a scale typically reserved for their most nefarious foes. With books like Secret Empire exploring the depths to which even the most respected of heroes can sink to achieve their misguided goals, we thought it was time to compile a list of the most evil superheroes we could find.
SPOILER ALERT! Spoilers ahead for numerous stories published by Marvel and DC Comics.
15. THE AUTHORITY
In 1999, Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch’s The Authority exploded onto the comics scene, instantly raising the stakes of traditional superhero adventures. Featuring a team of ultra-powerful antiheroes led by Spirit of the 20th Century, Jenny Sparks, the Authority refused to pull their punches, taking an eye-for-an-eye approach to meting out justice that challenged our perceptions of what it meant to be a hero, while changing the way we experienced mainstream superhero comics.
Unlike conventional superhero teams such as the Justice League, the Authority willingly ignored the “no-killing” rule we’d all become accustomed to, reasoning that the only way to protect the world from the forces of darkness was to proactively eliminate their adversaries with brutal finality. Infamous for its widescreen depiction of ultra-violent superhero battles, The Authority helped set mainstream comics on a much darker, more violent path for the better part of a decade.
14. OMEGA MEN
When they first debuted in 1981, the Omega Men was a fairly traditional sci-fi epic chronicling the struggle of a band of freedom fighters to liberate the Vega system from the oppressive regime of the Citadel. The stakes were high but never so timely or final as those depicted by Tom King and Barnaby Bagenda, who put a disconcerting real-world spin on the Omega Men’s war versus the Citadel. King’s interpretation of the Omega Men blurred the line between revolutionary and terrorist.
In the first issue of their new series, the outlaws broadcasted their execution of White Lantern Kyle Rayner across the galaxy. Although the event was revealed to be a ruse, it highlighted the extreme lengths to which the Omega Men would go to liberate their people and set the tone for a series that explored the moral gray area between oppressor and victim with maturity and unflinching directness.
Lucas Bishop was a popular member of the X-Men, who hailed from a dystopian future in which mutants were hunted, branded and incarcerated in brutal concentration camps. Stranded in the past while hunting a time-hopping mutant named Fitzroy, Bishop joined the X-Men, hoping to prevent the existence of his bleak future. During “The Messiah Complex” storyline Bishop revealed just how dedicated he was to his core mission, when he attempted to kill the first mutant baby born since M-Day, who he believed would one day instigate the events that led to his aberrant timeline.
Betraying the X-Men, he seemingly murdered Professor X and embarked on a cross-time vendetta to kill the infant Hope Summers and her protector Cable. Along the way, he committed genocide on a massive scale, before being stranded in the future. Currently, Bishop is slated to appear in Astonishing X-Men, presumably hoping to atone for his past atrocities.
12. GREEN ARROW
For years, Oliver Queen acted as the conscience of the Justice League, preventing the team from overstepping their mandate and reminding them to never lose sight of the people they were supposed to be protecting. His liberal political views often conflicted with hardliners like Hawkman and Green Lantern but after the evil Prometheus’ mutilation of his former sidekick Roy Harper and his destruction of Star City (including Harper’s infant daughter, Lian), the Green Arrow decided to take matters into his own hands.
After a fruitless quest to find Prometheus in Justice League: Cry for Justice, Ollie finally tracks him down in his secret lair. Without a word, he unceremoniously puts an arrow through Prometheus’ forehead pinning him to the wall; noting that his quarry never understood that unlike his fellow Leaguers, he’s never really been a hero at heart but has always been a hunter.
During his long superhero career as Daredevil, Matt Murdock has known his fair share of tragedy. Thanks in large part to writers like Roger McKenzie and Frank Miller, Daredevil evolved into something of an antihero over the years, willing to use questionable tactics and increased levels of violence in his quest for justice. During McKenzie’s run he gave the Fixer a fatal heart attack and during Kevin Smith’s divisive “Guardian Devil” storyline, allowed a cancer-ridden Mysterio to commit suicide.
However, Daredevil’s most egregious acts occurred during the “Shadowland” crossover event. After assuming leadership of the Hand, Daredevil not only murders his long-time nemesis Bullseye in cold blood, he also attacks his fellow heroes, exhorting his ninja horde to use deadly force if necessary. Although it was later revealed Murdock was possessed by a demon, accounting for his strange behavior, he shouldn’t remain entirely blameless for his bloodthirsty actions.
10. BLACK BOLT
What would you do to save your people? What about your enemy’s son? If your name is Blackagar Boltagon, then you would do anything, up to and including detonating a Terrigen Bomb or two. During “War of Kings,” an Inhuman-led Kree Empire found themselves in an interstellar conflict with the rival Shi’ar Empire, Black Bolt’s insane brother Maximus used his mad genius to create the first Terrigen Bomb. Meant as a universal genetic leveler, Black Bolt detonated the bomb during his final battle with Vulcan and tore a hole in time and space.
If that wasn’t evil enough, Black Bolt detonated a second T-Bomb during “Infinity,” when Thanos attempted to force the Inhumans into handing over his illegitimate son Thane. Rather than give the child up, Black Bolt detonated the bomb sending the Terrigen Mists into Earth’s atmosphere, an act that would eventually lead to war between the Inhumans and the planet’s population of mutants.
9. JUSTICE LEAGUE
As DC Comics’ premiere superhero team, the Justice League is held to a higher moral standard than most other groups. It’s in the name, right? They stand for justice above all else. However, nobody’s perfect, a fact that became abundantly clear during Identity Crisis, which saw the League compromise its core values as they never had before. In one of the most controversial JLA stories in history, creators Brad Meltzer and Rags Morales uncorked a plot that would have fans debating its canonicity for years to come.
Featuring the deaths of several beloved characters such as Sue Dibney, Firestorm and Tim Drake’s dad, Identity Crisis exposed a Justice League willing to do whatever it took to protect their loved ones, even erase the memories of one their founding members, Batman. Meltzer and Morales illuminated a dark corner of the League’s history many fans wished had forever remained in shadow.
8. NICK FURY
In the pages of Original Sin, Jason Aaron and Mike Deodato delved into the secret history of the Marvel Universe, using the murder of Uatu the Watcher to destabilize Earth’s most valiant protectors. The repercussions of the crossover event are still felt to this day and precipitated drastic changes to the status quo of beloved heroes such as Thor and the Fantastic Four.
Exposed as the architect of not only the Watcher’s death but of the resulting chaos among Marvel’s pantheon, Nick Fury was revealed to be aging out as the 616’s appointed “Man on the Wall,” a role that necessitated the use of extreme force to protect the planet from the lethally strange. With the Infinity Formula burned out of his body and the Watcher’s arsenal of weapons in the hands of unknown villains, Fury formulated a desperate plan to recruit his replacement, ultimately costing him the trust of his former allies and his own life.
Back in the day, Batman wasn’t afraid to use lethal force and even carried a gun for a short time. He eventually evolved into a more honorable vigilante, refusing to kill his enemies for any reason. That doesn’t mean he can’t be an evil S.O.B. on occasion. During Mark Waid and Howard Porter’s JLA storyline “Tower of Babel,” the League was attacked by Ra’s al Ghul, who had stolen Batman’s secret superhero counter-measures.
Created in the event that the members of the League went rogue, Batman’s JLA Protocols were born out of his innate paranoia. His methods proved dangerously effective, setting the Martian Manhunter on fire, blinding Kyle Rayner and using Superman’s X-ray vision against him. It was a powerful reminder of Batman’s genius for tactics but also shoved a wedge between him and the rest of the League, who could no longer trust a member who so obviously had all of their numbers.
6. SQUADRON SUPREME
Like the Authority and the Justice League we saw in Meltzer and Morales Identity Crisis, Marvel’s Squadron Supreme is an extremely powerful team of superheroes, who are willing to do whatever it takes to protect their world. There have been numerous incarnations of the team over the years, most of which have employed questionable and even morally reprehensible tactics. The ‘80s version of the team instituted forced behavior modification on all supervillains, trampling on their basic civil rights in an effort to restore order to their unstable world.
During the most recent Secret Wars event, a new Squadron comprised of orphaned heroes from across Marvel’s shattered multiverse teamed up to instill law and order in the 616 by any means necessary. To this end, they destroyed the city of Atlantis after its ill-fated war with Wakanda and executed Namor the Submariner after he destroyed entire universes to preserve his own.
5. JOHN CONSTANTINE
Most of the time, John Constantine has the best interests of the world at heart. It’s just that his own interests usually come first. This was especially true in his first ongoing series published by Vertigo, which saw John willingly sacrifice his friends and loved ones for his own selfish needs. The infamous Newcastle Incident is a great example of Constantine’s heightened sense of self-preservation but no other storyline exposes the working class mage’s talent for manipulation than Swamp Thing’s “American Gothic” epic.
In a séance designed to forestall the escalation of a supernatural war between Ultimate Light and Ultimate Darkness, Constantine willingly pushes outclassed sorcerers such as Sargon and Zatara to sacrifice their lives. Haunted by the ghosts of all those he has killed or sacrificed for his own gain over the years, Constantine continues to put himself before others even after his return to the mainstream DC Universe.
4. THE ILLUMINATI
The Illuminati is a clandestine think tank of the Marvel Universe’s most influential power players. Throughout several incarnations they dedicated their vast resources to protecting the Earth from the shadows, often using drastic measures to combat planetary threats. The original roster included Reed Richards, Charles Xavier, Black Panther, Black Bolt, Namor and Doctor Strange.
It was this iteration who exiled the Hulk from Earth and later caused the death of his wife and unborn son, precipitating the events of “World War Hulk.” The Illuminati were later responsible for killing most of the Great Society, a team of heroes trying to prevent the destruction of their universe. The group also engineered universal W.M.D.s, desperate to save the 616 from the multiversal incursions that led into Secret Wars. Although they never used the weapons, Namor got his hands on one and didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger, resulting in the deaths of billions.
There are few characters who have undergone such a drastic evolution as Scott Summers. A founding member of the X-Men, Cyclops began his career as an optimistic, if serious, young man who believed in Charles Xavier’s dream of peaceful coexistence between mutants and the rest of humanity. However, several events such as M-Day, the revelation of a third Summers brother and emergence of a so-called mutant messiah contributed to Cyclops becoming more militaristic.
While possessed by the Phoenix Force, Cyclops waged war on the Avengers and eventually transformed into Dark Phoenix, murdering his mentor Professor X. After a period of incarceration, he embarked on a quest to restore the world’s faith in mutants, until he succumbed to M-Pox prior to the X-Men’s war with the Inhumans. Considered by mutants to be a revolutionary and by humanity to be a terrorist, there can be no doubt that Cyclops is one of comics’ most polarizing characters.
Namor the Submariner has been one of the most controversial figures in comics, ever since his creation by Bill Everett in the Golden Age of Comics. A Prince of Atlantis above all else, his actions, though often evil on the surface are rooted in his deep love of his people. This doesn’t excuse his countless acts of aggression and outright murder in his on-again, off-again war with the surface world.
After killing entire universes, waging war on Wakanda and flooding numerous coastal cities over the years, his body count dwarfs that of many traditional villains such as Doctor Doom and Magneto. Although his people consider him a beloved leader and fierce protector, much of the rest of the world, including his oldest allies such as Captain America and the original Human Torch, have come to view him as a dangerous mass-murderer, willing to use terror and violence to achieve his ends.
1. CAPTAIN AMERICA
Here’s the entry we never thought we’d have to write. The shocking revelation of Captain America as a lifelong Hydra sleeper agent just about blew up the whole freaking Internet when it first dropped in 2016. Even though the ongoing storyline stems from yet another Cosmic Cube reality rewrite, there can be no denying the depths of Cap’s betrayal.
From his sentencing Captain Marvel and the Ultimates to all-but certain death outside of Earth’s Planetary Shield to the recent public execution of his former sidekick Rick Jones, Cap has shown he is capable of some of the most ruthless, cold-blooded acts in the history of the Marvel Universe. Nothing short of another complete reality overwrite will exonerate him from his despicable behavior and even then, the damage done to Marvel’s most beloved hero may be beyond repair in the eyes of his legions of fans.
Who’s the evilest hero of all? Let us know in the Comments!