You know, it’d be easy to say that all superheroes are the nicest, sweetest beacons of hope out there, right? Well, turns out some of them are complete and total jerks, despite the fact they save lives on a daily basis. On the flip side, some heroes are surprisingly nice for being so morally ambiguous, with their brainwashing, killer assassin trainings or general distaste for humanity.
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Some answer to a higher power of order or chaos, while others just do what they need to to fulfill their own selfish needs. Sure, there have been heroes known to jump back and forth, straddling the line between hero and villain, jerk and genuine. Heck, characters like Loki, Sabretooth and Namor have flipped and flopped while the Supermen and Wonder Women have been pretty mean in some takes on the characters, but these 15 stay the line, for the most part, of jerk or nice. Take a look.
15. JERK – AQUAMAN
The King of Atlantis, Arthur Curry, is seen by some as a gentle ruler, shaped by the human world and displaced as an outsider in his underwater kingdom. Turns out that may actually take a hit on your ego and turn you into a total jerk. Whether it’s in his comics, DC animated shows or movies, Aquaman has shown on numerous occasions that he’s a not-so-nice guy, abusing his powers, his allies and enemies weaknesses, or just being outright insulting.
Take for example this clip from Justice League Unlimited where Aquaman is playing a game of chess with Hawkgirl and becomes increasingly impatient, sexist and chauvinist throughout. After the match (which he wins, and won’t let you forget it), he is unhappy with Hawkgirl’s response, so he flips the table in anger and throws one final insult. Not so nice, huh Aquaman? Then there was that time he hoarded a bunch of fish for a pair of fishermen to go and kill, without skill or tactic, something that may seem completely out of character for a hero who cares so much about the sea.
14. NICE – DEADPOOL
Sure, at the time of his comic conception, Deadpool was an assassin, bounty hunter and killing machine. His insane healing factor and weapon proficiencies led him to be known as one of the deadliest warriors in the Marvel universe, but the Merc With a Mouth is actually a really nice guy — and his life is packed with proof that he’s a softie.
Deadpool’s been shown to be in love multiple times, and in one more recent arc, teamed up with Weapon X pals Captain America and Wolverine to liberate an experiment camp, where we learned Deadpool had a child, Ellie, and held the truth from her so she could live a normal life. In an even more recent stint, Deadpool was part of the Uncanny Avengers team, funding the team from his own merchandising sales. Let’s just hope his current status as an Agent of Hydra is just a ploy, because we’ll be heartbroken if it’s not.
13. JERK – DOCTOR FATE
Privy to keeping order in the universe, Doctor Fate is, for the most part, a pretty good superhero. He’s insanely powerful, a champion of mystic powers and he looks really, really cool. Unfortunately, Doctor Fate can be a bit of a jerk. In the Injustice: Gods Among Us comic, he’s seen breaking the bonds of order to save a dying Dinah Lance in an effort to reunite her with Oliver Queen, well, a Queen from another universe. Sounds kind of amazing, right? Well…
In Injustice 2, our first introduction to the now-playable character of Doctor Fate has him basically showing up to fight Black Canary and Oliver Queen, despite having previously saved them and then brought them back to the main universe to help save the world. It feels a bit disjointed, having Fate basically rescind his just-made offer, and overall doesn’t add much to the mostly stellar story of Injustice 2. Look, Fate, we get the order versus chaos stuff, just make sure you’re cool with your own choices before bringing others into it.
12. NICE – MIDNIGHTER
For someone as insanely powerful as Midnighter, we’d expect him to rain down hell on all that look at him funny. And while the villains of Wild Storm and the DC Universe have gotten their fair share of assess kicked by Midnighter, he’s actually a really nice guy. Despite his power of being able to see all possible outcomes (courtesy of a computer brain), insane weapons proficiency and pseudo-teleportation abilities, Midnight tries his best to be tame when in the presence of allies, especially those with a no-kill rule like Dick Grayson or Batman.
Then there’s the recent Midnighter & Apollo mini series, which has Midnighter fighting through the depths of hell all to save the man he loves. That’s a pretty major thing to do, challenging the very concept of death itself and taking your fight to the devil and his thousands of minions. I won’t spoil it, but despite being a super nice guy, Midnighter is still terribly brutal. It’s just, you know, reserved for those he thinks deserve it.
11. JERK – MAGIK
While not a jerk in a traditional sense, Magik has shown on numerous occasions to be brutally honest and standoffish when it comes to helping out her current and former allies. Sure, Illyana will go to bat for her brother, Colossus, and plenty of the mainstay X-Men, but with her mystic abilities, her Soulsword-wielding and inter-dimensional teleportation capabilities, she could probably help out a lot more.
Take for example a recent issue of Secret Warriors, the new series spinning out of Marvel’s Secret Empire event. In it, the Inhuman squad of Quake, Inferno, Ms. Marvel, Moon Girl (and Devil Dinosaur) and Karnak journey to the island of New Tian to seek out help from the secluded X-Men. Almost immediately, Magik and Boom Boom start bullying the squad, making quips about them returning home where they belong. Well, home is also where Captain America’s Hydra forces are rounding up Inhumans in camps. For a figure of the mutant plight, that totally wasn’t cool, Magik.
10. NICE – GREEN LANTERN (KYLE RAYNER)
Ah, Kyle Rayner, the most morally-sound of the human Green Lanterns. He’s had a rough life. From finding his girlfriend Alex terribly mutilated in an apartment, to slugging it with The Omega Men, to apparently dying after coming face-to-face with visions of his past and the Black Lanterns in Blackest Night, he returned as the all-powerful White Lantern, basically changing the shape of the comics DC Universe forever. With his new ring, he was able to master the emotional spectrum, taking control of will, hope, fear and everything in between.
On multiple occasions, Kyle is shown to be the biggest pacifist of the Green Lantern Corps, opting for skill and strategy over brute force and pure willpower. His want for peace showed in 2015’s Omega Men, where he led (albeit not wanting to) an interstellar resistance against a brutal war profiteer, saving billions and billions of lives in the process. Recently, he’s lost his White Lantern ring, returned to the Green Lantern Corps and was tasked with helping train Simon Baz, something he did with style, grace and overt compassion.
9. JERK – NAMOR
Namor, like DC’s Aquaman, is the king of skating by on his “good” deeds. Namor was a member of Captain America’s original Invaders, he’s been a part of a handful of Avengers and Defenders squads and he’s more or less saved the world a handful of times. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make you immune to being a self-obsessed jerk. In 2015’s Secret Wars, Namor was more than a vocal proponent of taking out the worlds that were not his own, and he even expressed his want for the Infinity Gauntlet in the event’s climax, finding himself allied with Thanos at times.
Even recently, Namor is shown to be a quickly quieted voice to the Hydra regime of Secret Empire, and while there’s still a chance the Sub-Mariner could be playing the long game, turning away two of his closest friends in favor of allying with his other close friend (who happens to be a super-fascist now) isn’t the nicest of things to do. Sure, it may be for your people, but when they’re done with the surface world, they’ll come for you too. Happens every time.
8. NICE – SUPERGIRL
While many see Superman as the big blue boy scout of all that is good in the world, we’re willing to bet Supergirl could give him a run for his money. Unlike Clark Kent, Supergirl grew up on Krypton, and she was completely aware of the grim reality of her world when she was sent into space with her cousin. Sure, she didn’t show up on Earth until much later (thanks to botched space travel), but she seemed to integrate just as well, if not better than Superman.
The most recent example of her niceness comes from Supergirl: Being Super, a currently running mini series that retells a lot of Supergirl’s story, but perfectly illustrates her power struggles as a child. In one issue, she is unable to save a friend from dying, though she does save a handful of others. This event shakes Kara Zor-El to her core, and while her parents just want to help, she knows it’s a journey she has to take on her own. The human portrayal of Supergirl goes a long way to proving her perfect character.
7. JERK – EMMA FROST
OK, so Emma Frost is mostly a villain. But, for the sake of this argument, we have to look at her current persona, one that involves corruption, greed, love (!) and death. After the events of Avengers Vs. X-Men, Emma Frost takes a more hands-on approach with the mutant revolution, helping to make Cyclops the face of it, despite the hit it takes on Cyclops’ character. Well, that and what happened at the end of AvX.
Jump forward a couple of years where we learn the truth about Scott Summers in Inhumans vs. X-Men and Death of X, in which we saw Cyclops fall victim to the dreaded Terrigen poisoning the mutants had tried so desperately to stop. It’s here we learn that Emma Frost was essentially puppeteering Scott to force her agenda on a war with the Inhumans. While Scott had died tragically behind closed doors, she had made it appear that Cyclops had been killed by Black Bolt and exaggerated conflict between the two powered groups. What a jerk move, Emma.
6. NICE – DEADMAN
Deadman, despite being, well, eternally dead, has shown on numerous occasions that he is one of the most caring powers in the DC Universe. After losing his life during a trapeze performance (during which he was murdered), Boston Brand is given powers to roam the Earth, using his newfound abilities to bring justice to the world of man. He learns the truth of while he was killed and this leads to a thankfulness that carries him through events like Brightest Day, where he’s shown just how valuable life is.
In the Injustice: Gods of Among Us comics, Deadman even goes so far as to give up his own ghoul-like powers to Nightwing, after Dick Grayson is tragically and accidentally killed by his former ally Damian Wayne. It’s a sad turn of events, but goes again to show to compassion of Boston Brand. In his most recent appearance, Brand helps a lost spirit ascend to the afterlife by solving a generations-old murder. Talk about a tale of good deeds.
5. JERK – BATMAN
Oh, Batman. Now, Bruce Wayne has done a lot of great things in his life. He’s fostered children, given to charity, saved Gotham City and the world from genocidal maniacs, and that’s as both Bruce Wayne and Batman. Unfortunately, it seems like stockpiling all of these good deeds has let some of them fall by the wayside. And there are a few ways we could look at this.
Take Alfred, for example, basically Bruce’s foster dad. Despite Bruce’s obvious love for Alfred, he tends to disobey him a lot, and this lands Alfred in a whole mess of danger, like when he got his hand cut off in Snyder and Capullo’s Batman run. Then there’s his Robins: Dick, Jason, Tim and his own son, Damian. Dick is an obvious golden child, but he continues to be cast in Batman’s shadow, despite having been Batman himself. Jason was killed because Batman hadn’t killed the Joker (which is fine, and also since Jason approached the situation alone), but then Bruce goes and replaces Jason with Tim… eventually. Then there’s Damian, who he didn’t know existed until he did, and while he’s still technically Robin, Batman now adventures with Duke Thomas and not his son. Weird.
4. NICE – VENOM
Before you freak out wondering if this was a typo, it wasn’t. Venom, under the command of Flash Thompson, became a gleaming light of hope for the alien symbiote as it transitioned from murderous serial killing machine to Agent Venom, an Avenger, member of the Circle of Four and a Guardian of the Galaxy. Thompson’s tattered past, recovery from alcoholism and military career took him on some ups and downs, but he always had someone else in mind when he went to war, whether it was with boots on the ground or searching for the power cosmic.
He’s protected alien races from slavery and destruction, prevented New York City from becoming permanently spider-powered and broke bread with his ill father day’s before his passing, despite his abusive and alcoholic rage-filled past. We have to admit, we’re a little sad that Thompson isn’t with the symbiote anymore, but we can only hope they’ll be reunited eventually.
3. JERK – IRON MAN
Iron Man is, of course, the billionaire, playboy philanthropist that you hear so much about, but he can also be a total jerk. In the films, we see him cast aside almost all of his personal relationships, from his relationship (both romantic and professional) with Pepper Potts, to his bodyguard Happy Hogan and his best friend James Rhodes. In the comics, the same holds true.
In Civil War, he came to blows with Captain America over something that affected the lives of many, but he focused so hard on his closed-mindedness that it cost him one of his oldest allies. Then, in Civil War II, despite being on the “right” side, his approach was misinformed, reckless and kind of ridiculous. Throwing kids into a war they didn’t belong in was one thing, but being stubborn enough to take on cosmic power is another. These may be more recent examples, but Tony is like Bruce Wayne in that regard. You can do all the good in the world, but it doesn’t matter if you just keep to yourself.
2. NICE – MS.MARVEL (KAMALA KHAN)
To say Ms. Marvel is one of the “nicest” heroes in comics would be an understatement. Kamala Khan and her superhero alter ego are a shining light of all that is good in the world, and her deeds done in Jersey City and abroad not only speak for themselves, but ripple through the entire Marvel Universe on a regular basis.
Ms. Marvel’s experience on the “nice” scale comes from her care for her family, despite her obvious defection, her love for her friends and their livelihoods, something she prioritizes even at the cost of her own (see: her best friend Bruno in the days before Secret Wars), and her natural ability to lead with humility (see: Champions and All-New All-Different Avengers). We can all learn a little bit from the Inhuman of Jersey City, and we’ll be that much better for it. Plus, she’s best friends with Lockjaw the teleporting Inhuman dog, how can you not love that?
1. JERK – CONSTANTINE
OK, so John Constantine does have a few redeeming qualities. He’s super powerful, has one of the coolest, yet simple costumes in comics and he doesn’t come through — some of the time. Unfortunately, those who have worked with Constantine are aware that he isn’t all the dependable, he’s crude, he’s a chainsmoker and hanging out with him has a high chance of getting you killed.
You’ll be lucky to find a page of the Hellblazer without an expletive in it, or one without a side character explaining to another side character why they really shouldn’t be hanging around Constantine. Even his closest allies from Justice League Dark can’t totally speak to his character. Zatanna has a history of being on-again, off-again with him, Swamp Thing trusts him but it’s cost the green a handful of times and Frankenstein has lost a limb or two at the beckoned call of John Constantine. It’s always a rocky relationship with him, but he’s awfully charming, isn’t he?
That rounds out our list, do you think we were too harsh on any of these heroes?
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