DC Comics is home to some of the most powerful heroes to ever hit the colored page, but much like in the real world, absolute power can often corrupt absolutely. With intergalactic heroes and universal powerhouses like Superman, Green Lanterns, and even younger heroes like Terra and Jason Todd, there’s a vast wealth of corrupted power to choose from. While some heroes become corrupted by a quest for vengeance and others become corrupted by traumatic events or a quest for true order, it is the way these fallen heroes fall from grace, and the circumstances that finally manage to break the previously unbreakable that is truly interesting.
While Superboy-Prime really served as a vehicle to explore how the heroes of the DC Universe had changed over time, the young Clark Kent of Earth-Prime certainly managed to give himself a name as one of DC Comics mightiest villains. Superboy-Prime remains largely one of the most powerful iterations of Superman, and definitely the version of Superman with the largest body count. He has taken on entire teams of superheroes and come out without even a scratch. Typically, when Superboy-Prime is involving the question the heroes ask themselves isn’t so much “How do we defeat this guy?” but more, “How do we trap this guy someplace else?”
9 Hal Jordan
While there have been many Green Lanterns that have fallen to the call of the yellow rings, none have fallen as far or as spectacularly as Hal Jordan. After his hometown of Coast City is destroyed by Mongul and Hank Hanshaw while Hal is out Green Lanterning, Hal quickly begins to descend into madness. It is also later revealed the Hal is being controlled by the Emotional entity for fear itself, Parallax.
And while that may be a decent enough excuse for turning to the dark side, it doesn’t change the fact that he killed Kilowag, destroyed the Green Lantern Corps, and killed nearly all of the guardians.
8 Jason Todd
While Batman has mostly sort of stayed on the fence between hero and villain (with some exceptions, of course), Jason Todd has been much more fluid about whether or not he was a hero, villain, or something in-between. You’d think that taking a crowbar and a bomb to the face and body would be enough to keep this iteration of the boy wonder down, but as the folks of the iron islands might say, “What is dead may never die”. When Jason finds himself granted a second chance, he decides to do things a little differently this time around. Jason isn't hung up on the whole “No guns. No killing” nonsense that the Bat has got himself all twisted up in. To Jason, the only acceptable villain is a dead one.
7 The Comedian
When Alan Moore created The Watchmen, he created a series that would change to course of Comics as a whole. Using characters from Charleston Comics as a jumping-off point, Moore would build a darker and far more cynical world around his newly created heroes. One of whom, The Comedian, was about as corrupt and vile as one can get. Edward Blake is often seen using his mask and his strength to kill, maim, and (sexually) assault just about anyone he pleases. The Comedian quickly made a name for himself as a war hero during the Vietnam war, however, like many during those chaotic times, his actions weren’t nearly as heroic as the government may have civilians believe.
Yet another fallen hero from the dark and twisted mind of Alan Moore, Ozymandius is the man behind the events of Watchmen. The man is responsible for killing The Comedian. And least but not least, he’s just an all-around bad dude. Adrian Veidt looks down on the world around him, and all the people in it. He has truly bought into the title of “World’s Smartest Man” and by the end of the original series he makes a strong argument for why that is the case.
However, much like Thanos from the MCU, Veidt does not believe that a peaceful world comes without a bit of sacrifice.
Sinestro has been managing his own fear-based militia for a long time now. It’s sometimes hard to remember that before he gave in to his fear and the power that it granted him, he was fighting for the side of hope. When Hal Jordan was but a young pup in the Green Lantern Corps. Sinestro was the Clifford the big green dog of the galaxy. It’s not surprising that Sinestro has remained a piercing yellow thorn in the sides of every Green Lantern this side of MACS0647-JD.
4 Captain Marvel/ Shazam
Billy Batson and his alter ego Shazam (or Captain Marvel depending on who and when you ask) have been used and controlled to cause massive damage to the rest of the justice league several times. Mark Waid’s Kingdom Come comes to mind. More recently, however, with all the mess that has spewed forth after the events of Dark Nights: Metal, The Batman Who Laughs has managed to take Billy Batson, and much like he has done with many or the Justice League’s friends, turn him into an unholy nightmare.
DC fans have been watching Terra’s betrayal of the Teen Titans play out in one form or another for decades now. No matter how the circumstances change, no matter how long it’s been, the one thing that doesn’t change is just how much it hurts to see the young (supposed) hero fall from grace and play straight into the hands of Slade Wilson. While her reasons for joining the Titans may have been less than honorable, the impact and heartbreak left in her wake were nonetheless life-changing for many of the Titans.
Well, leading with a cliche like, “The bigger they are, the harder they fall” seems almost too much for Superman. He’s the standard. The boy scout. He’s the hero all other heroes look up to, aspire to be. With all that responsibility, however, there’s just no way around it. Supes is big, larger than life. And his fall from grace, well, that’s equally large. Superman was certainly never on to do anything half-assed. That damn Kent work-ethic. So during the events of Injustice, after being tricked into killing Lois and their unborn child, Superman goes full police state. Taking lives is no longer off the menu. Joker may not have broken the Bat, but some might say that his victory over Kal-El’s morality was a much greater wound.
Throughout the course of Batman’s long and battle-tested history, there have been times when he’s crossed the GCPD, the federal government, Superman, The Justice League and just about any organization that a hero of his status would typically align himself with. While all those separate instances go a long way towards painting the Dark Knight as a villain, more recently his checkered past and a trip to the dark multiverse have brought him much, much further into darkness. Along with the Batman Who Laughs, the Bat has been introduced to the darkest possible versions of himself, his worst nightmares thrust through him like a spear with a poison tip. Versions of Bruce Wayne that were unable to fight the darkness he works so hard to keep at bay. A Batman without control is no Batman at all.