Superheroes exist to inspire. They inspire us to do good, to serve others, and make the world a better place. Despite the fact that we’ll never have the power to lift a building or bounce bullets off our chest, deep down we believe in the internal goodness of their character. They help us all believe in a better, brighter future. But not all futures are bright. In the world of comic books, even the noblest heroes can be corrupted and embrace destruction over time. When you have outstanding powers and abilities, the temptation to use those them for selfish gain, revenge, or other non-heroic reasons can become too great to wrangle. Relentless toil, giving in during the eternal struggle for justice, or a single heartbreaking moment can cause any good person to snap and unleash themselves on their family, friends, and the world at large.
Over the years, several heroes have showcased the darkest and most destructive sides of their personality in a dystopian timeline, an alternate future, or as a result of an inevitable truth. Take a look at some of the more impactful future versions of your favorite heroes that dropped the mantle of hero and took the titles of destroyer or tyrant.
20. THE MAESTRO
The Incredible Hulk’s “Future Imperfect” story arc takes place a hundred years into the future, wherein a nuclear war nearly destroyed all of humanity and took out its biggest heroes. In the aftermath, the Incredible Hulk was one of the few people that not only survived but thrived. The nuclear radiation his body absorbed increased not only the Hulk’s strength but his intellect as well. It also drove him insane. Renaming himself “The Maestro,” the Hulk carved his own merciless slice of heaven within the new hell on Earth.
The Maestro took down all the rest of the remaining heroes and emerged as the world’s supreme ruler.
He spends his days being served by the few remaining people on Earth and visiting his trophy room, which consists of iconic items such as Captain America’s shield, Dr. Strange’s cloak, and Wolverine’s adamantium skeleton. The only thing that toppled this intelligent brute was a time-traveling Rick Jones bringing the noble Hulk of the past to the future for a fist-to-fist self-reflection. However, the Maestro couldn’t be taken down by the Hulk alone, requiring the Hulk to take the Maestro back to the time of the first gamma radiation bomb testing. You know a tyrant is tough when it takes a Hulk and the Hulk’s explosive origin to stop him.
19. FRANKLIN RICHARDS
The son of both Sue Storm and Reed Richards was always a potential powerhouse, even as a kid. Young Franklin showcased potent telekinetic and telepathic abilities on top of being able to contort molecules to his whim. The Fantastic Four have their plates full trying to properly parent and guide Franklin to a path of heroism and responsibility. But they couldn’t fathom what the little boy would become.
In a probable future, an adult Franklin Richards was one of the few humans left to fight off an onslaught of Mad Celestials. Fully grown and fully powered, Franklin’s abilities were considered to be “Beyond Omega Classification” by the Celestials. In other words, Richards is so powerful that even gods couldn’t classify him. Franklin’s telepathic and telekinetic abilities allowed him unfettered access through time, the ability to warp reality, and even kill a Mad Celestial by himself. With the help of his younger self, Franklin can even summon Galactus himself to serve as his herald. You know that Reed and Sue had to give themselves a moment to take in the fact that their little boy would grow up to become a god-like being that can get a world-eater to do his bidding.
18. KINGDOM COME BATMAN
Mark Waid’s tale of a probable future for DC’s finest heroes showcased a newer, more brutal form of superhero for the world. The older Superman, Wonder Woman, and other stalwart DC heroes didn’t seem to care for the recklessness and violence displayed by their predecessors. These new kids need to be disciplined and shown the proper way to defend the weak in lieu of punishing the guilty. But how can this new generation be justifiably criticized? They probably learned their techniques from Batman.
The Bruce Wayne of this alternate future was just as ruthless and violent as the Dark Knight we read about today, but is somehow more vindictive.
This older Wayne may need an exoskeleton to walk after abusing his body from years and years of crime fighting, but that didn’t stop him from his quest for justice. Batman’s driven nature forced him to restore order in Gotham by building Batman-themed robots to enforce the law, monitoring them from the safety of the Bat Cave. While he is disillusioned by the heroics of the new generation, he turned Gotham City into a police state. He even built himself a powerful mechanical suit in case he needed to take matters into his own hands personally. No need to fear Big Brother, fear Big Batman.
17. INJUSTICE SUPERMAN
Superman is the goodliest good guy that ever was good. For many children and adults alike he is the pinnacle example of not just super-heroism, but general heroism as a whole. That’s why the tyrannical Superman showcased in the Injustice series is so heartbreakingly terrifying. In an alternate, not-too-distant future, the Joker fooled Superman into thinking that he was fighting Doomsday using some of the Scarecrow’s fear gas. Superman thought he was taking Doomsday into space but in reality, he was battling his beloved Lois Lane — who was pregnant with his child. As soon as Lois’ heart stopped, it triggered a nuclear bomb that the Joker set up in Metropolis that killed millions of citizens. Superman lost his city, lost his love, and lost his child. It’s no wonder he snapped.
Superman’s rage and sorrow overwhelmed him, causing him to renounce his code against killing and fully using his powers to instill order to the world. His first act was to viciously kill the Joker by simply punching through his torso. Sides were drawn, with several members of the Justice League were coaxed or willingly joined Superman in his quest of law and control. While it took an unfathomable loss for him to turn evil, absolute power corrupted Superman, absolutely.
16. FLASHPOINT WONDER WOMAN
When Barry Allen went back in time to stop his mother’s murder, he couldn’t have imagined how he would have impacted the world at large. During the “Flashpoint” story, many of Earth’s heroes turned towards the dark and tore the world asunder. One of the more prominent changes as a result of the Flash’s time-traveling actions was Wonder Woman’s transformation from a defender of humanity to a conqueror of mankind. Princess Diana of Themyscira was set to wed Arthur Curry in a political wedding to unite the Amazons with the Atlanteans. However, when Queen Hippolyta was killed on her wedding day, the Atlanteans were blamed.
Enraged, Wonder Woman picked up a helmet and armed herself for battle.
The murder of Queen Hippolyta kickstarted a war between Wonder Woman and the Amazons with Aquaman and his subjects, with Europe suffering as their battleground. The actions of the vicious Queen Diana and her Female Furies killed 12 million people in Western Europe, allowing them to take over the United Kingdom and rename it “New Themyscira.” While Diana has been known to bloody her hands if absolutely necessary, she never displayed an outright disregard towards humanity and use her powers in the name of conquest.
15. DARK BEAST
The “Age of Apocalypse” story showed many of Marvel’s mutants in disarray and on different factions in a dystopian future. Even one of the noblest X-Men in the 616-present would become a ruthless scientist within Apocalypse’s reign. This is the path the Dark Beast has taken. While still brimming with the scientific genius of the Hank McCoy we all know and love, this Beast from a different timeline has no regard for ethics. McCoy delighted in torturing his test subjects as he played God with genetic experiments in order to breed more powerful mutants to serve under Mr. Sinister and Apocalypse, including the heinous Infinite Soldiers. He even experimented on himself in order to achieve a more beastly appearance and enhance his mutant abilities.
Dark Beast is unique in that he is one of the few alternate universe versions of heroes to cross over into the main Marvel 616 continuity. When the dark reign of Apocalypse was coming to an end, Dark Beast sneaked onto a transporter that took him to the center of the M’Kraan Crystal, allowing him to travel to the past. He not only was a threat to one timeline but has created chaos in two timelines.
When the Titans Tomorrow version of Tim Drake took the mantle of Batman, he was ultimately defeated by his younger Robin self. However, he did get the opportunity to go to the past in a twisted attempt to save the world. By using Hypertime, the older Tim Drake goes back to prevent a possible catastrophe from taking place. Jonathan Kent and Damian Wayne, the current day Superboy and Robin, will grow up and take the mantles of their fathers. After the two get into a quarrel, Jonathan loses control of his powers and kills millions of innocent people. Tim Drake went back in time knowing full well what he had to do in order to prevent the ghastly future ahead.
After arriving from the future to the present day, Drake dons a new costume with a cloaking device.
He abandons the “Robin” moniker and goes with the name “Savior” in order to kill the young Jonathan to prevent that future from taking place. If Damian stands in his way, he would kill him as well, without hesitation. Tim is so driven in his quest that he even loses a hand to Hypertime and keeps going in a misguided attempt to play hero using Machiavellian methods.
13. THE DEMIURGE
Billy Kaplan, aka Wiccan, is a powerful and kind member of the Young Avengers squad, but he is prophesied to become a dark and terrible power that needs to be stopped sometime in the future. The possible son of the Scarlet Witch is supposedly destined to become the Demiurge, a sentient lifeforce that is foreseen to become an omnipotent being of immense power. This prophecy was revealed by Loki, who tried to cajole and manipulate events to allow the prophecy to come true in an attempt to increase his own power. That, like many of Loki’s schemes, failed.
However, later in the Young Avengers run, Wiccan gets his body invaded by a Lovecraftian Old God named Moridun. While Billy was able to expel Moridun from his physical form, it left enough of a mark that Billy decided to go by the codename Demiurge. It was then that Avengers of the future went back in time to the present to show Billy that Moridun was still infected within his mind. The future Avengers revealed that Demiurge was just a shell for Moridun’s sentience to live, thrive, and conquer. This intervention prevented the prophecy from going into fruition… at least, for now.
The Runaways’ entire existence is to battle against the crimes of their parents and prevent themselves from becoming as bad as they are. Victor Mancha is no different. For the longest time, Victor didn’t know that he was the “son” of the ruthless AI known as Ultron. Who can blame him? Biologically, he is virtually human! It wasn’t until an adult Gertrude Yorke from the future appeared with a message to the young present-day Runaways to intervene and prevent Victor from becoming Victorious, a nearly unstoppable supervillain that kills off the Avengers.
After the Runaways kidnapped then befriended him, Victor found out about his patronage and the dark destiny that awaited.
Victor would become one of the more valued members of the Runaways and Avengers A.I. to help fight off his latent evil programming and change the future, but he never felt more relieved than when the Vision’s wife, Virginia, ripped out his heart and killed him. He can’t become Victorious in the future if he is dead in the now. While his friend Chase succeeded in bringing Victor back to life, Victor chooses to play dead for the time being in an attempt to “figure things out” regarding his haunting future.
11. WEAPON OMEGA
“Age of Apocalypse” led to several mutants choosing different sides in this alternate timeline, but while Logan fought the good fight as an X-Man under Magneto’s leadership, he would eventually fight Apocalypse with Jean Grey as a two-person squad. While alliances were made and broken over time, eventually Apocalypse’s reign would end. That’s when the spaceship showed up in Manhattan. Logan and a squad of X-Men investigated the ship and found that it belonged to a group of Celestials who had come to judge the planet. If deemed unworthy, the Celestials planned on eradicating the entire planet. Logan offered himself up to the Celestials in an attempt to prevent them from judging and destroying the Earth. Logan’s gamble worked… kind of.
The Celestials augmented Logan’s physiology to ascend him into a god-like being with powers that rivaled Apocalypse’s. Now calling himself “Weapon Omega,” Logan’s mind became warped and twisted. He instituted a worldwide culling at the hands of the genetically enhanced warriors that were at his command. With his plans to reshape the world into a powerful image, Weapon Omega was truly the Heir of Apocalypse and conflict on the Earth would continue, thanks to this evil future version of a hero we all know and (normally) love.
10. KANG THE CONQUEROR
This entry is unique in that longtime comic book readers were introduced into the evil future version of a hero before the present-day do-gooder. Kang the Conqueror is a villain from the future that frequently goes back in time to battle the Avengers and attempt a global takeover. Even when he fails, his still manages to return again and again from various points in his timeline to fight the Avengers.
But it turns out that Kang actually started out as a member of the superhero team, the Young Avengers.
While Nathaniel Richards, aka Iron Lad, was marked as the Iron Man-type fill-in for the Young Avengers, it was revealed that he is actually the young Kang the Conqueror. Richards was visited by his older self, who had revealed his future as Kang in an attempt to kickstart his path of conquest. It backfired. The young Richards traveled back in time to the present day Marvel Universe to fight his destiny. Sadly, it seems like Iron Lad’s fight against his future is a losing battle. While Richards attempts to go into the timestream and undo the damage his future self commits, he still appears to grow into the once and future Kang.
9. LORD DRAKKON
In the original Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, Tommy Oliver was first introduced as the mysterious Green Ranger but ends up fighting Rita Repulsa’s brainwashing and eventually joins the Ranger team. He would not only become a valued member of the team but arguably the greatest of all the Power Rangers. But what if he never took the offer to join the Power Rangers team? What if he resumed his tyrannical path? This possible future is explored in the Boom! comic book based on the martial arts TV franchise.
In the comic, instead of taking the Red Ranger’s offer to join the Power Rangers, Tommy fled and ended up back into Rita’s thrall. After hearing Rita tell the story of another great ruler known as Drakkon, Tommy took on the Drakkon name and began his conquest of Earth as a new evil White Ranger. Under Rita’s influence, Lord Drakkon would conquer the world one city at a time and ultimately defeat Zordon and the Power Rangers for good. But Lord Drakkon is no puppet. After successfully defeating the Rangers in his timeline, Tommy killed Rita. While he conquered Earth in Rita’s name, in the end, Lord Drakkon answered to no one.
8. OLD MAN BANNER
The alternate future of “Old Man Logan” is incredibly bleak. While this version of Banner started off as a hero, at some point he joined in with the villains in their killing spree of all of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. What causes this change is unknown, but it is speculated that the radiation he absorbed from an atomic bomb blast alternated his personality to that of a cruel, brutal behemoth with no moral code. In any case, it led to the Hulk becoming a half-Maestro/half-hillbilly landlord. After the massacre of Marvel’s heroes, Banner ruled California with a giant, green clenched fist. He renamed the state to “Hulkland” and proceeded to have children with his cousin, She-Hulk.
Their children would collect “protection money,” collect rent, and overall terrorize the masses as the Hulk Gang.
Banner’s biggest mistake was picking a fight with Logan by killing his family. While the Jade Jim-Bob redneck could easily overpower the older Logan and consume him, his hubris got him killed. Wolverine was able to heal within the Hulk’s belly, later carving himself out and killing Banner. Luckily for Logan, while this Hulk is smarter than the heroic one, it didn’t mean that he matched the genius of the 616 Banner.
7. THE TITANS OF TOMORROW
The youthful Teen Titans are supposed to bring hope and levity in their fight against crime. While not everything is rosy in the lives of the young heroes, it is still far from being bleak and they uphold a pretty high standard. This future version of the team, known as the Titans of Tomorrow, can show just how dark and brutal adulthood can be. In Geoff Johns and Mike McKone’s “Titans Tomorrow” storyline in Teen Titans, the young group of heroes miscalculate a time jump back from the 31st century to their own time and end up 10 years into their future.
The Teen Titans are mortified and terrified at how casually fascist and brutal their future counterparts were. After failing to persuade the teens to accept their adulthood fates, the adult Titans planned on wiping the brains of their younger counterparts in order to preserve their timeline. After defeating the militant Titans with the help of the idealistic Titans East, the youngsters concluded that they should probably break up the group after seeing what their future would become. However, they found out that the break-up and the “Crisis” is what led to the violent, jaded adult Titans in the first place.
6. EMPEROR AQUAMAN
Not only did Diana get medieval during the “Flashpoint” story, Arthur Curry — er, Orin became more violent and tyrannical in this bleak future caused by Barry Allen, as well. In the alternate future of “Flashpoint”, Orin was raised primarily in Atlantis, never quite learning the concept of compassion from his human father. This hardened Orin’s heart and made his personality a bit more militant than his Arthur Curry counterpart in the normal timeline. After saving Princess Diana from a sea creature, Aquaman became smitten, fell in love, and was set to marry Wonder Woman to unite Atlantis with Themyscira. However, after Wonder Woman’s mother was killed on their wedding day, the marriage was off and war was declared between the Atlanteans and the Amazons.
Orin would later marry Mera, but she was later take out by Wonder Woman’s Amazon soldiers.
This fueled the war between the two nations that would wreak havoc on Western Europe. Orin’s actions led to the majority of Western Europe to sink into the ocean when 60 million people in an attempt to sink New Themyscira into the sea. The Emperor of the Seas not only had control over sea life but held humanity hostage in a clenched, vengeful fist.
Marvel’s space Jesus and all-around power player Adam Warlock is so integral to the Marvel Universe that he three incarnations of an evil-future self. The first Magus appears as an older version of Adam Warlock that travels to the past and rules a theocratical empire known as the Universal Church of Truth. The older Warlock attempted to guide his younger self on a path to become the Magus that stood before him, but the young Warlock eradicated this Magus and his timeline with the help of Thanos.
The second Magus appeared after Warlock used the Infinity Gauntlet to expel good and evil from his soul, which accidentally took corporeal form. Warlock’s evil nature names itself Magus and attempts to take the Infinity Gauntlet for his own nefarious means. Luckily, Warlock was able to lock Magus into the Soul Gem but that didn’t stop him for long. Magus eventually was able to escape the Soul Gem as an immaterial entity that could become tangible when it absorbed the life energy of others. However, this Magus would become immaterial permanently after a battle against Genis-Vell. The third Magus appeared after Warlock attempted to fix the space-time continuum. This created another alternate future wherein this Magus is killed by the evil Lord Mar-Vell and is resurrected as a child by the Universal Church of Truth. This Magus would attempt to collect all the Infinity Stones to destroy the universe, but his mission cut short when Hank Pym/Ultron ambushed him over the Soul Stone.
4. FUTURE FLASH
Barry Allen has been the crux over the several Crises and is a lynchpin that keeps many heroes heroic. The Flash is widely considered as one of the more incorruptible heroes in the DC Universe. However, it appears that will change over time. The Flash that exists 20 years into Barry Allen’s future hopes to rectify a mistake, but crosses lines that the current day Flash would never speed past. Wracked with guilt over the death of Wally West, the Future Flash goes on a killing spree on his Rogues in an attempt to make things right. After killing Gorilla Grodd by phasing a bomb into his head, the Future Flash goes back in time to prevent Wally’s untimely death, believing that it will avert his nightmarish future.
The Future Flash ultimately succeeds in saving Wally and killing off many of his Rogues in the process but ends up failing overall. After Wally witnesses the Future Flash killing the Reverse-Flash, he tries to prevent the Future Flash from killing his past self in order to seal a tear in the Speed Force. The battle between the Future Flash and Wally/Barry still led to Wally’s demise. By trying to fix his mistakes through murder, the Future Flash just created even more destruction.
3. CYBORG SUPERGIRL
At some point in the future, Kara Zor-El will leave the Justice League United and join a different group of heroes known as the Wanderers. She will fall in love with one of the members on her team, Captain Comet, and would accomplish great things as a defender of the weak and a promoter of truth and justice. Supergirl will have a great life filled with love and adventure. Or not. Tragically, this Supergirl will fall into a trap set up by Hank Henshaw, otherwise known as The Cyborg Superman. Henshaw would transform Supergirl into a cyborg and have her mind reprogrammed. On top her immense power and strength as a Kryptonian, Supergirl’s abilities were further enhanced by her cybernetics, making her one of the most powerful beings alive.
Going by the name “Herald Two,” the Cyborg Supergirl would serve under Brainiac until she and the Cyborg Superman rebelled.
Striking out on their own, the two cyborgs experimented with several different alien species in order to create a perfect race of creatures. While the Cyborg Supergirl would be eventually freed of her cybernetic conditioning and regain her memories, she still has to live with all the pain and torture she caused throughout the cosmos.
2. VIRTUALLY EVERY ALTERNATE INVINCIBLE
Mark Grayson is a good and effective hero. Using his superior strength, speed, and flying ability, Mark is able to successfully defend the Earth and right wrongs as the hero known as Invincible. However, that’s because Mark went against his father’s wishes for global conquest and against the very nature of the Viltrumite Empire, an alien race from beyond the stars. Mark decided to fight on the side of Earth and freedom which was crucial for mankind’s survival. In other timelines, that’s not always the case.
During the “Invincible War”, this timeline’s Mark Grayson had to fight off an onslaught of versions of himself from other timelines that didn’t share his values and didn’t like to fight fair. Over 16 different Mark Graysons appeared to wreak havoc, kill, destroy, and take over our Mark Grayson’s Earth. Luckily, our Invincible prevailed with help from allies such as Tech Jacket and Atom Eve, but not without a heavy cost of life and millions of dollars worth of damages worldwide. Most comic stories feature a hero from another time becoming a villain as the anomaly. In the case of Invincible, our Mark Grayson’s goodness is the unusual occurrence based off all the other timelines he exists in.
1. THE BATMAN WHO LAUGHS
Bruce Wayne has always had a darkness within him, but his discernment and discipline often allow him to reign it in to prevent himself from going too far. Bruce Waynes from other possible futures and timelines aren’t as lucky. In Dark Nights: Metal, the entire Justice League has to fend off and fight several different Batmen from other timelines such as The Red Death, The Murder Machine, and The Merciless who have all teamed up.
However, as destructive as those Batmen were, they wouldn’t be united without the scariest Batman of them all, The Batman Who Laughs.
In an alternate timeline, the Joker killed off all of Batman’s rogues gallery, murdered Jim Gordon, and set up rows of families ready to be murdered as the Joker administers his toxin to the surviving children. This enraged Batman so much that he broke the Joker’s neck and killed him. But this didn’t lead to peace. The Joker had a new strain of toxin built in his heart, set to release the moment he died. This toxin infected Batman and his mind, making him more and more like the Joker. The newly Jokerized Batman was able to kill off his Bat Family and the Justice League, bringing mindless chaos to his world and ready to bring that chaos to other timelines.
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