Superheroes are supposed to be the epitome of excellence. Typically billed as the modern day myths, their purpose is to embody various aspects of virtue to best inspire readers. This usually ties into the hero’s national identity, as birthplace and upbringing are vital parts of a superhero’s origin. If you don’t believe us, just check out Superman: Red Son sometime and see how the iconic embodiment of the American dream was only a few thousand miles off from being a Communist enforcer. So along those lines, one of the biggest twists comics can throw at us is to have the hero betray their country of origin and turn their back on everything they were raised to believe in.
Predictably, this is a rare occurrence in comics. Bringing someone back from the dead is easy. Portraying someone as a hero when just two issues ago they were trying to blow up a national monument is a little harder. National pride and politics are a hot button subject today (as always), so when a hero turns on their homeland, it makes national headlines. With that in mind, we found 15 examples of heroes going Benedict Arnold on their homelands and betraying the very place they were born.
15. SILVER SURFER
The origin story that turns alien astronomer Norrin Radd into the cosmic Silver Surfer depicts him giving up his life to become the Herald of Galactus, the planet devourer. In exchange, Galactus promises not to eat his homeworld of Zenn-La. This noble sacrifice lasts through an undetermined amount of celestial meals before the Surfer reaches Earth, meets the Fantastic Four, and turns on his master.
Though he defeats Galactus and frees himself from the world-eater’s control, Galactus manages to trap Surfer on Earth and prevents him from returning home. This leads Surfer to a memorable run of comics where, among other things, he becomes a core member of the original Defenders. Eventually, Surfer is able to return to Zenn-La but finds it has been ravaged by Galactus. By regaining his nobility, Surfer doomed and betrayed his planet by reneging on his deal with Galactus.
14. NEGATIVE WOMAN
Lt. Col. Valentina Vostok has treachery literally written into her origin story. First appearing in Showcase #94 in 1977, Vostok was a Soviet Fighter pilot who stole a plane with the intention of defecting. When her plane crashed, her body was imbued with radioactive Negative Energy, transforming her into Negative Woman. Formally defecting to the United States, Vostok served for many years as a member of the Doom Patrol.
When she lost her powers, Vostok went on to work for the U.S. government as a secret operative, even serving as head of the Agency and a founding member of Checkmate. Despite being born a Russian and being trained by the Soviets, Vostok was an American at heart and her politics regularly brought her into conflict with the Russian hero Red Star.
13. BUCKY BARNES
In the early days of his conception as a character, Bucky was about as red, white, and blue as you could get, second only to his mentor, Captain America, in terms of pure patriotism. That is, until he was viciously maimed, presumed dead, and recovered by a Soviet submarine. Seeing the potential in the captured boy soldier, Soviet scientists ruthlessly brainwashed Barnes and fitted him with a powerful, cybernetic arm.
Dubbed ‘The Winter Soldier,’ Barnes spent decades as a Russian assassin and covert operative, cryogenically frozen between missions to slow his aging process. Though his past would eventually be revealed to him, the legacy of the Winter Soldier will always be that of a cold-blooded Soviet spy molded out of a spirited American icon and used to aim at his country of birth.
12. GREEN LANTERN
The Hal Jordan version of Green Lantern is perhaps the most famous. After inheriting the Power Ring previously worn by the downed alien Abin Sur, Hal becomes a member of the intergalactic peacekeeping corps and patrols his sector of space, specifically the Earth part of that space sector. However, Hal Jordan is a traitor. Not because he goes insane after his home of Coast City is destroyed and he goes on a rampage that sees him killing off a wide swath of fellow Green Lanterns and most of the Guardians of the Universe.
No, Hal Jordan is a traitor because he spent several years in outer space while maintaining a residence on Earth. That has to add up to a considerable amount of back taxes that Hal has never paid off. If Al Capone and Wesley Snipes can’t get away with tax evasion, Hal Jordan doesn’t have a prayer.
11. RED HULK
General Thaddeus ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross was a proud serviceman who fought for the liberty of his country from a young age, rising through the ranks of the military based on legitimate proficiency as a solider and leader. However, his later obsession with finding and killing the Hulk caused him to make a secret alliance with known criminals MODOK and Abomination. He was dishonorably discharged when his desperate assassination attempt was made public and, after pulling a gun on his daughter’s wedding party, was taken into psychiatric care.
Not long after, the figure of the Red Hulk began popping up. For a time, his identity was secret and he set about assaulting heroes, assassinating villains, and generally associating with villainous organizations. It was only much later that it was revealed the rampaging Red Hulk was actually Ross, controlled and transformed by AIM.
As a Norse god, Thor dosen’t have a home country as much as he has an entire home dimension. He hails from the mystical world of Asgard, which serves as his home base and also his most common battle cry. However, the peace of the gods’ realm clashes with Thor’s spartan nature, causing him to occasionally lash out. His various crimes against the realm of the gods range from starting a war with the Frost Giants to starting a bar brawl.
Eventually, his father Odin banished him to Earth to learn humility. Odin’s punishment may have been over-effective though, as even when his powers and memory were returned to him, Thor actively chose to remain on Earth and serve as a hero to the people there. Even when his father went missing, Thor declined to return to Asgard to lead its people, almost as if renouncing his Asgardian citizenship.
9. SECRET AVENGERS
Marvel’s Civil War event was a landmark for the company and some of the in-universe ramifications are still being felt ten or so years later. The basic conflict boiled down between two groups of superheroes, one in favor of government registration and superhero regulation and one against. The anti-registration faction, led by Captain America himself, eventually became the Secret Avengers, still fighting crime while also evading the pro-registration contingent led by Iron Man.
Though their arguments were justified and most of the Anti-Registration movement meant well in their protest of the Superhuman Registration Act, the fact of the matter is that they were working against their own government and committing crimes in the eyes of their country. Sorry Cap, but this all seems like pretty high treason.
8. BLACK WIDOW
Perhaps the most famous character to be born out of Cold War-era Russia, Natalia Romanova a.k.a. Natasha Romanoff was a valuable Soviet asset and operative for decades. Trained in assassination and ballet by the Red Room Academy, she may not have been the first or last to hold the Black Widow mantle but she was definitively the most proficient. When she discovered that nearly every aspect of her life had been manufactured by her superiors, she quickly defected to the United States where she began her career as a criminal.
Over time, she morphed from villain to anti-hero and finally to full-blown hero, occasionally teaming up with the likes of Hawkeye, Daredevil, the Avengers, and S.H.E.I.L.D. To this day she remains a critical part of Marvel’s hero lineup, serving as one of the most popular characters in the MCU and a character who can kill but still maintain ‘good-guy’ status.
Terra is one of the most iconic comic book traitors in the history of the industry. The story in which she unveils her double-agent status is even called “The Judas Contract”. However, one of her more overlooked betrayals is against her homeland of Markovia. Born as an illegitimate child of the Markovian royal family, Terra was sent to America to prevent a scandal.
When she was offered a chance to return to her family, she declined and chose a life as a mercenary, which eventually led to her teaming with Deathstroke and planning a crusade against the Teen Titans. This refusal to acknowledge her Markovian heritage as well as working against the peaceful ideology of her homeland certainly qualifies Terra as a traitor in multiple senses.
6. ALEX WILDER
As the surprise mole in the young Runaways group, Alex Wilder cemented his place as an absolute rat bastard in Marvel canon. However, his treachery extends much further than that. After betraying his friends and siding with his murderous parents, Alex reveals that his overall plan is to help them entreat ancient gods called the Gibborim to wipe out the human race. Last we checked, that constitutes as a war crime against everyone, including the United States.
So it wasn’t enough for Alex just to hurt the ones he cared for, he intended to deny an entire dominant species. Apparently he adheres to the ideology of ‘go big or go home.’ Fortunately his plot failed and he spent a few years in limbo before being released back into the world. But rehabilitation didn’t keep with him and he soon became a rising New York crime boss.
Brock Rumlow began his career as a street thug in New York, living the American dream through theft, intimidation, and cheating. And it was all downhill from there. While he never worked on the side of the angels, he would eventually abandon not only his name, but his American identity. Joining up with Red Skull and Hydra, Rumlow transformed over several years from a paid mercenary helping the fascist offshoot for money to a devoted Neo-Nazi with sincere respect and admiration for the cause.
He even became a pariah among his fellow villains due to his fanatic skinhead worldview. In terms of betraying one’s homeland, adapting the ideology of its political opposite and worst enemy has to be one of the most straightforward methods possible. And considering his rap sheet included mass murder, kidnapping, and drug running before he became a Nazi, he certainly earns his place on this list.
Yup. The most universally recognizable symbol of America’s melting pot mentality, billed as fighting for “truth, justice, and the American way” once betrayed America. Following the “Grounded” storyline, wherein Superman took an extended walk across America to better connect with humanity, the Man of Steel renounced his American citizenship. His reasoning was that he was tired of being construed as an American icon and wanted his actions, however benign or politically motivated, to be his own and not misinterpreted as the will of American politicians.
Still, this was a drastic separation between an icon and the very thing he symbolized. It’s not an outright attack against his homeland, but Superman’s disassociation with America almost feels like a more personal, intimate insult. The whole “Grounded” story was retconned before it had even ended, but the stinging loss of Superman’s allegiance still had an impact on readers.
3. ULTIMATE ANT-MAN
Including anyone from Marvel’s Ultimate Universe feels like cheating as the entire Ultimate experiment seems to be asking the question “what if our favorite superheroes were actually temperamental jerks?” However, the Earth 1610 version of Hank Pym stands out as particularly heinous. After becoming a social pariah for his continuous habit of domestic abuse, he lent his technology to the Liberators, a group of supervillains backed by foreign governments who invade America.
Pym built an army of Ultron robots for the invading forces as revenge against a society that had rightfully ostracized him for his actions. It was later revealed that he’d done it as a way to gain the Liberators’ trust and betray them from within, but if he’d really planned that from the beginning, it couldn’t have hurt to tell anyone, would it?
2. HAWKMAN & HAWKGIRL
The original Silver Age versions of DC’s doomed lovers were alien police officers from the Planet Thanagar who took a sabbatical on Earth. Donning their respective mantles, they acted as vigilantes to study human crime-fighting methods. During their time on earth, Thanagar’s peaceful scientific society had become an imperial, militaristic dictatorship with its sights set on Earth. During the invasion, the Hawks felt disenfranchised and alienated from their own people.
They definitively sided with Earth and fought against the invading forces. While fortunate for the people of earth, the alien officers found themselves exiled from their homeworld and ostracized by everyone they’d known and loved. In a way, their subsequent dependence on one another to preserve their Thanagarian way of life only deepened their already solid relationship.
1. CAPTAIN AMERICA
Yeah, you all saw this one coming. The physical embodiment of pure patriotism not only revealed himself to be a deep-cover Hydra agent but turned out to always have been a traitor. The logistics of this have been debated to death, from the in-universe consequences of this reveal to the significance of making a character created by Jewish refugees specifically to punch Hitler in the face an actual Nazi.
The explanation for this massive twist that is the foundation of Secret Empire is that apparently Captain America was originally a fervent Hydra leader who helped the Axis win WWII but well-timed handling of the reality-warping Cosmic Cube rewrote history so that Steve Rogers was an American hero instead, thus changing the course of the war. Because comics. But in terms of most shocking comic book betrayals, nothing even comes close to this.
Did we miss an other Marvel turncoat? Hit up the comments section and let us know!
- Ad Free Browsing
- Over 10,000 Videos!
- All in 1 Access
- Join For Free!