In the world of superheroes, the good guys are good and the bad guys are bad — mostly. While every hero or villain has dabbled on the opposite team, few have maintained their new alignments. After all, with great power comes great responsibility, but there’s always the chance that one false move could send you down a dark path or give you a chance to see the light. In the Marvel Universe, events like AXIS and Secret Wars have shaken the status quo, while plenty of Crises take their toll on the DC Universe every so often.
The heroes and villains on this list have stood their ground, at least in the universes where they’re residing, or at least for a lengthy amount of time. Recently, the stories of Secret Empire and Injustice: Gods Among Us have shown readers what the greatest of great can do when they’re given the keys to the dark side. But they also show us which baddies are willing to change course to save the very people they terrorize on a daily basis. (We’re looking at you, Loki and Harley Quinn). Here are eight heroes who’ve broken bad and seven villains that have seen the light.
15. BROKE BAD – SUPERMAN
Superman’s most notable stint as a baddie was in the Injustice: Gods Among Us video game, its prequel comic, sequel game and sequel comic. Of course, most of that evil was done in the first game’s comic, beginning with Superman punching through The Joker’s heart after the clown made Supes kill his wife, Lois Lane and unborn child. It was a tragic, chilling series of events, but it only sent Superman onto a darker and darker path.
Throughout Injustice, Superman ranges from fascist dictator to brutal murderer, teaming up with the likes of Sinestro and Black Adam while also killing heroes like Shazam and Green Arrow. It’s brutal and terribly hard to sit and read through, but it makes for some great storytelling. While Superman’s time as a bad guy wasn’t canon to the Prime DC Universe, it sure felt like it while reading.
14. SAW THE LIGHT – DOCTOR DOOM
Believe it or not, Doctor Doom is currently operating as a hero. Well, he’s still making some questionable decisions, but since returning from the events of Secret Wars, Victor Von Doom has seen the light — and taken up the mantle of Iron Man. In Infamous Iron Man, Doom is on a path of forgiveness, dealing with former enemies like Ben Grimm and new enemies like The Maker (AKA Reed Richards from the Ultimate Universe).
Doom as a good guy definitely takes some getting used to, but when you combine how great his Iron Man armor looks with his mystical prowess, you’ve got yourself a pretty powerful and equally concerning superhero. Still, we wonder, maybe Doom does have some ulterior motive? Until then, let’s just appreciate Doctor Doom, the Infamous Iron Man.
13. BROKE BAD – IRON MAN
Speaking of Iron Man, there was a time not too long ago when Tony Stark himself was operating on the other side of the law. Well, not so much the law as humanity. Sent to the dark side by the events of Avengers & X-Men: AXIS, Tony Stark opened up his mad genius mind to plenty of evil possibilities. During the course of his Superior Iron Man run, he invented an app that would allow people to become their best selves.
Now, this doesn’t mean morally, it means having diseases cured or physical attributes reconfigured. Sounds great? Well, then the free app locks and forces users to pay an insane amount of money per day, leading to an addiction of the masses. Oh, and he also cures Daredevil’s blindness, which kind of creates some issues for the Man Without Fear. Not cool, Tony. Not cool.
12. SAW THE LIGHT – SABRETOOTH
Sabretooth’s time on the side of the good guys is technically still canon, as the events of the aforementioned AXIS shocked him as well, and Victor Creed played a huge heroic part in the Marvel Universe following the death of Logan. While his heroic nature was quickly sullied by his natural stubbornness, he has yet to revert to his uncontrollable animal self.
This stint as a hero means he spent some time on the Uncanny Avengers team during Rick Remender’s run, and now regularly appears in X-Men comics, including Weapon X, a morally-ambiguous team consisting of Old Man Logan, Lady Deathstrike, Warpath and Domino. We’ve got to admit, it’s always cool to see a murderous maniac become a good guy, and Sabretooth’s newly-found heroic ways are not a bad way to do that.
11. BROKE BAD – JASON TODD
Jason Todd has always been kind of a jerk. As a Robin, he was bullish and brash, but he was still a Robin, operating as a hero sidekick next to Bruce Wayne’s Batman. So color us all surprised when he returned, years after his death by the hands of the Joker, as a gruesome vigilante known as the Red Hood. Taking on a classic Joker persona, Todd brutalized the criminal minds of Gotham City, killing many of them, all in an attempt to do what Batman couldn’t do.
Does this make him a bad guy? Well, yeah, and during this time he was seen as a villain. Red Hood hated Batman for not saving him, but he also hated Gotham City and The Joker and all of the terrible things that come with that. Of course, things wouldn’t always run blood red for Jason Todd, which leads us to the next item on our list.
10. SAW THE LIGHT – JASON TODD
There it is, welcome home Jason! After Jason Todd’s return to Gotham City courtesy of the Lazarus Pit, he eventually made whatever sort of peace was possible with Batman and returned to the side of the heroes. Red Hood has twice had his own team of “heroes,” and while they’re not completely shy of killing some bad guys, they do still find their alignments sound, opting over time to incapacitate their enemies instead.
Allies like Bizarro, Artemis, Arsenal and Starfire headlined Red Hood’s more heroic adventures, and added plenty of emotional depth to the ex-Robin. Of course, Todd is still kind of jerk, but he’s a lovable member of the Bat Family who still comes to the aid of Batman, Nightwing and the others if they truly need it. Good on you, Red Hood. Good on you.
9. BROKE BAD – ANT-MAN (ERIC O’GRADY)
Eric O’Grady’s habits as a disrespectful womanizer didn’t pay him any favors during his career as Ant-Man. He had committed crimes, sure, but on multiple occasions he was offered the chance to prove himself to Hank Pym and earn the title and suit of Ant-Man. Unfortunately, that didn’t last long. But, it gets really complicated.
After a stint on the Secret Avengers and as a member of the Initiative, Eric O’Grady went out in a blaze of glory as a hero. But apparently he wasn’t dead, except that he was, and a Life Model Decoy had replaced him. This new “Eric O’Grady” tarnished his predecessor’s legacy and would eventually go on to become the evil Black Ant. He currently sits as a member of Hydra’s Avengers as part of Secret Empire.
8. SAW THE LIGHT – LEX LUTHOR
Some may not see Lex Luthor as evil, and Interestingly enough, Lex Luthor currently stands a hero in the Prime DC Universe, operating under his own Superman moniker following the death of the New 52’s Superman. Luthor’s take on the Big Blue Boy Scout is sort of a retrofit on his classic green and purple armor, the same armor he used during most of the New 52, Forever Evil and “The Darkseid War”, the latter of which made him a member of the Justice League.
In Rebirth, Lex has a red, blue and silver suit of armor, complete with a cape and big glowing “S” on the chest. He’s on the side of good, assisting the new Superman and his allies. So far, we haven’t heard much bad from Lex aside from an almost-pact with Ra’s Al Ghul in Trinity. Is this the new Lex? Maybe so.
7. BROKE BAD – HAL JORDAN
Some newer comic book fans might be surprised to learn that Green Lantern Hal Jordan was once a pretty evil dude. During “Emerald Twilight”, Jordan became the evil Parallax, threatening plenty of innocent life in the process. Jordan kind of goes made with power, trying to rebuild Coast City in his own perfect image after it was destroyed.
Jordan goes on a rampage, killing Sinestro and Kilowog, and forcing the Guardians to consolidate into Ganthet. It was a dark time for the Lantern Corps, and while Kyle Rayner plays a huge part in rebuilding after the events of “Emerald Twilight” and the death and return of Hal Jordan, it still left a bad taste in many mouths that Jordan had gone off the deep end.
6. SAW THE LIGHT – DEADPOOL
So, this one gets on a lot of original Deadpool fans, mostly because the once super-murderous assassin Merc with a Mouth was just that — a heartless mercenary who loved killing and shooting guns. And, well, he still loves those things, he just happens to be an Avenger, a father, a husband and a really funny dude. Deadpool was first introduced as a deadly bad guy, so to see such a turnaround can be shocking, but he’s actually a pretty good hero.
On the regular, Deadpool thwarts some of the biggest bads out there, and he occasionally stops his (now-ex?) wife from unleashing the monsters of the underworld on New York City. Currently, he’s aligned with Hydra Cap, but only to protect his daughter. Plus, we’re sure he’s got something up his sleeve. If that doesn’t scream chaotic good, we’re not sure what does.
5. BROKE BAD – CYCLOPS
Scott Summers turn as a bad guy could mostly be attributed to his short time with the Phoenix Force, his murder of his mentor, Professor X and the influence from Emma Frost. Cyclops, following the events of Avengers VS. X-Men, became a Magneto-like figure to a new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. He jetted around the world with his crew, finding new mutants to train and preparing for the inevitability of war.
His passion for peace often led him to hurt innocents, or at least threaten it. His image was further tainted when he was depicted as a fascistic mutant leader, one that would rather war with the Inhumans than find a compromise. Of course, a lot of that was Emma Frost, but Scott was of mostly sound mind and body, so we can’t let her take all of the blame.
4. SAW THE LIGHT – CLAYFACE
In a more recent turn of events, longtime Batman baddie Basil Karlo, also known as Clayface, has joined the Bat Family. In the Rebirth–era Detective Comics, Karlo is part of an elite team made up of Batwoman, Batwing, Orphan and Batman himself. Karlo’s time on the team has been eye-opening, as Clayface has been an integral part of the squad in key scenarios, often providing armor and search-and-rescue support to allies and citizens.
So far, things are looking good. Karlo, outside of his Clayface persona (since he’s got it mostly under control), is trying to get back into acting, and his arc as a man with love lost and a collection of regrets resonates extremely well. It’s a level of personality a character like Karlo hasn’t had before, and if it took him being a hero for that to come out, than he is more than welcome to stick around.
3. BROKE BAD – JEAN GREY
So, maybe the power of the Phoenix isn’t a good thing? But we knew that already. After merging with the Phoenix and a stint with the Hellfire Club, Jean Grey broke bad, unleashed the Dark Phoenix and raised hell on the Marvel Universe. As part of “The Dark Phoenix Saga”, Jean Grey spent some time in space, committed genocide, came to blows with the Shi-ar Empire and eventually returned to Earth to fight and defeat a whole swarm of X-Men.
The Phoenix has long been regarded as one of the biggest bads in the Marvel Universe, its power combined with the omega level intellect of Jean Grey spelt certain disaster, and it led the newly crowned villain to sacrifice herself (in a moment of internal clarity), stopping the Dark Phoenix while also killing the original Jean Grey.
2. SAW THE LIGHT – BLACK WIDOW
At her start, Black Widow was a brainwashed Russian assassin with the skills and training of the most experienced soldier. Of course, once the good guys helped her clear her programming and cure the fallout from a good brainwashing, she became one of the greatest heroes in the Marvel Universe. No longer was she a secret mole for Russia, but a figurehead for The Avengers.
And Natasha Romanoff is aware of her past, and her career as a hero — even to this day — is full of ways for her to repent on her former infamy. Yet the past still comes back to bite, and her time in the Red Room is often a plot point, but Black Widow’s heroism makes her a natural leader and one of the strongest heroes. Hell, she’s helping to lead the resistance again Secret Empire‘s Captain America. Speaking of which…
1. BROKE BAD – CAPTAIN AMERICA
You all saw this coming, right? In the current comics, Captain America is the Supreme Leader of Hydra, a fascist dictator who betrayed the trust of a nation and waged war on modern civilization. Captain America is now the epitome of evil. According to Nick Spencer, he’s not a clone and he’s not brainwashed. His past has been rewritten by the Cosmic Cube and he is out to purify the world in the name of Hydra.
It’s engrossing and terribly evil. Captain America, the Marvel Universe’s beacon of hope, is now their worst nightmare. Sure, this one probably won’t be permanent, but we’re interested to see how even the most skilled of writers can bring Steve Rogers back from the brink. Until then, we’ll just keep reading.
Did we omit any flip-floppers from our list? Let us know in the comments below!
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