Characters with shifting allegiances are inherently more interesting than their counterparts that remain static on one side. The fact that you can’t guess what they’re going to do next means that every time you see them is a surprise. And when that character is also interesting and cool, it’s even better for the audience. There’s something about a rogue that switches sides as he/she sees fit that’s just appealing to many people. Maybe we enjoy seeing people truly shed morality and do what they want. Characters like Deadpool, Catwoman, John Constantine, and Punisher do what they want and you never know if they’re coming to help someone or defy them.
Slade Wilson, or Deathstroke as he’s better known, is one of the best known characters that fits this criteria. He’s a mercenary for hire (so he could be working for anyone) but he still has a code, meaning that he’s not above allying with the good guys. On top of his shifting allegiance, Slade is very cool with his unique armor, brutal yet efficient fighting style, iconic weapons, and callous attitude towards everyone. He’s become more and more prominent over the years and as he’s risen in prominence, he’s done more and more things of note in the DC Universe. Some of these things were heroic deeds, many were villainous deeds, and there’s some that have been truly unforgivable. Regardless of what side Deathstroke is on, and whether he's doing something good or inhumane, the one thing we can all agree on is just how compelling Slade Wilson is.
20 HEROIC: SAVED THE HUMAN RACE
This may be Deathstroke’s finest hour. In a world where the genetically created race, the Genetix, have taken over as the dominant species on Earth, Deathstroke is actually the only one fighting for the fate of humanity. In Deathstroke the Terminator Annual Vol 1 #3, Deathstroke is one of the few humans left alive and he’s determined to hunt the Genetix down.
On top of being a willing warrior for humanity, he also discovers a band of humans and defends them with his everything he has. It may have taken the end of the world as he knew it, but this was Deathstroke at his most unselfish.
19 VILLAINOUS: DEFEATED THE JUSTICE LEAGUE
There aren’t many people on Earth that can take on the Justice League and get so close to actually succeeding. Deathstroke can count himself among that number. Perhaps his greatest tool is his incredible mind that grants him mastery over tactics and allows him to think multiple steps ahead. In this fight, he stabbed the Flash, breaks Green Lantern’s fingers, makes Zatanna throw up, and that’s not all.
Slade had the League (minus the big three) beaten, and if it wasn’t for a sneak attack by Green Arrow, they would’ve lost. Dr. Light hired him to protect him and take down the League and that’s exactly what Slade, the world’s greatest mercenary, did.
18 HEROIC: SIDED WITH OLIVE AGAINST PROMETHEUS
Manu Bennett’s version of Deathstroke on Arrow not only served as the series’s best villain, but also its best anti-hero. In Arrow, Slade Wilson’s relationship with Oliver Queen was far more complicated than it was in the comics. On the show, the two of them forged a close friendship that was shattered by unfortunate circumstances which led to Slade becoming an outright villain.
However, Oliver’s decision to spare Slade after he defeated him gave Slade a chance to explore his more heroic side. When Oliver took on Adrian Chase, or Prometheus, their conflict culminated in a massive battle on Lian Yu where Oliver trusted Deathstroke to be on his side. Oliver’s trust was rewarded and Slade was integral in helping Oliver eventually triumph.
17 VILLAINOUS: TOOK OUT THE ATOM
Deathstroke is a contract mercenary, meaning that sometimes he takes out people that audiences know and love for money. One of the most iconic cases of him going through with this is when he went after the Ryan Choi version of the Atom on behalf of Choi’s arch enemy, Dwarfstar.
In one of the most brutal panels that Deathstroke has ever been a part of, viewers saw Slade and his team of evil Teen Titans put the Atom away for good and deliver his body to Dwarfstar in a matchbox. Though Slade is prone to violence such as this, it’s still distressing to see a superhero like the Atom just done away with like that.
16 HEROIC: FOUGHT ALONGSIDE THE TEEN TITANS
Many of the times that Deathstroke has been on the side of the heroes, it’s been so that he can help them fight a greater evil. This has even proven true for his greatest enemies: The Teen Titans.
In season 4 of Teen Titans, Trigon finally lays siege to planet Earth after years of laying the groundwork by tormenting Raven. During much of season 4, Deathstroke actually served as an agent of Trigon in exchange for being resurrected. But as soon as he was able to, Deathstroke betrayed Trigon and actually worked with the Titans to help them take him down.
15 VILLAINOUS: PUT KRYPTONITE IN HIS DAUGHTER’S EYE
Kryptonite isn’t only dangerous to Superman. The stone may zap Kal-El of his powers, but it’s also dangerously radioactive. There has been more than one case in where kryptonite has proven to be dangerous to humans after prolonged exposure. And there isn’t a more intimate exposure than having it in your eye socket.
Deathstroke carved an eye out of Kryptonite for Rose Wilson, his daughter, to put in her eye socket in order for her to take on Superman. However, when she does go after him, Superman is more concerned for her safety than anything, and with good reason. Slade is well aware of Kryptonite’s effect on people yet he stuck it in her skull anyway.
14 HEROIC: JOINED THE INSURGENCY AGAINST SUPERMAN
This may be more of a revenge move but it was still a heroic one. In the Injustice universe, a plot by the Joker is enough to break Superman and turn him evil. He became a dictator to the entire world and used coercion and deadly force to make others submit to his Regime.
Deathstroke was forced into an early retirement due to his Regime. But when the Insurgency called upon him to help them topple Superman, he couldn’t jump at the opportunity soon enough to take down the rogue Kryptonian. He was captured, ironically, by Cyborg and Raven, but he is broken out and continues to aid the Insurgency in their war with the Regime.
13 VILLAINOUS: DROVE HIS DAUGHTER INSANE
Psychologically tormenting your own daughter is always villainous. Slade had his daughter, Rose, after a brief love affair with a woman he was hired to keep safe. After a long series of events, he finally finds out who she is but turns her away for her own safety.
Here’s where it gets a little darker. Soon after, he decides that he does want a relationship with her and hired his half-brother to take her and her family out in order to bring them closer together. Then he took her to bring her back to his lair, injected her with a serum that triggered psychosis, and tried to send her after Joseph, her half-brother. He even drove her to gouge out her own eye.
12 HEROIC: SERVED IN VIETNAM
Just because Deathstroke is a ruthless mercenary, people forget that he actually started out as a member of the United States Armed Forces. He joined the Army when he was only 16 in order to fight in the Vietnam War.
This may not absolve him of all of his sins, but it does show that he has done some heroic things in his past. It takes courage to fight in a war and he didn’t even have any enhanced abilities back then. So before you vilify Deathstroke for the countless atrocities he committed, be sure to thank him for his service to the US.
11 VILLAINOUS: WHAT HE DID TO BLÜDHAVEN
Deathstroke may be the arch-enemy to the Teen Titans, but if there was one person that he could consider his true nemesis, it would be Dick Grayson. Whether it was as Robin on the Teen Titans or as Nightwing in defense of Blüdhaven, Grayson has matched up with Slade Wilson constantly over the years. This vendetta can get truly dirty sometimes.
One of those times was when he dropped the radioactive supervillain, Chemo, into Blüdhaven and his radiation did massive amounts of damage to the city and its people. This was done 34 hours after a deal he made with Nightwing to stay out of Blüdhaven. He even admitted that he went against his code of honor like this simply because of Nightwing.
10 HEROIC: FOUGHT ALONGSIDE THE JUSTICE LEAGUE
"Dark Nights: Metal" was a recent DC crossover event that revealed the existence of a dark multiverse alongside the regular multiverse. Batman’s investigation into this event leads to him releasing seven extremely dangerous alternate universe versions of himself. These versions of Batman all have his cunning but also possess different superpowers as well.
On top of the Dark Knights, the League also faced an extradimensional dragon named Barbatos who planned to drag the Earth into the dark multiverse so that he could invade it. A threat this massive this required all hands on deck and that included Slade who partnered up with Aquaman to extract Nth metal from the planet’s core. Comics are crazy.
9 VILLAINOUS: ATTACKED THE TITANS IN THEIR CIVILIAN LIVES
“The Judas Contract” may feature Deathstroke’s most heinous attack against the Titans in their entire history. The storyline saw him training Terra, a young geokinetic, to infiltrate the Teen Titans and be his double agent. The deception worked perfectly and Deathstroke soon got everything he needed to catch the Titans off guard.
Deathstroke attacked each one of the Titans in their homes. He blew up Starfire, knocked out Wonder Girl, shorted out Cyborg’s circuits, and poisoned Changeling (Beast Boy for the uninitiated), and Terra took out Raven herself. A recently retired Dick Grayson was able to escape from Deathstroke but the rest of the Titans weren’t so lucky and they were assaulted when they least expected it.
8 HEROIC: RECRUITED A TEAM OF YOUNG HEROES
This may actually be the most that Deathstroke has done towards becoming a good guy. During the recent “Lazarus Contract” storyline, Slade stole Kid Flash’s speed so that he can travel back in time and prevent his son from passing away. The Titans are able to stop him, but their efforts leave Slade and Kid Flash trapped in the Speed Force. Wally is able to save both of them, but Slade emerges a changed man.
Shortly after this, Deathstroke formed his own team of young heroes to mentor and serve as another heroic team. Nobody knows if this turn will last, but it’ll certainly be interesting to see Deathstroke take a turn like this.
7 VILLAINOUS: TRIED TO SELL WATER FROM THE LAZARUS PIT
Deathstroke works for profit. He may have a code, but he’s still a hired gun and he does what he does so that he can get paid. So when a man like that comes across access to waters from the mythical rejuvenating Lazarus Pit, he is poised to turn it into a business opportunity.
In Son of Batman, Deathstroke manages to defeat Ra’s al Ghul and gains control of his Lazarus pit. Imagine what waters from the Lazarus pit could do in the wrong hands: The Joker with actual immortality or Lex Luthor with a way to heal from any injury. The possibilities are endless and terrifying.
6 HEROIC: FOUGHT AGAINST A MAD TITAN
No, not Thanos. In a story from Deathstroke’s recent comic book run, Slade crosses paths with Superman and Wonder Woman when he takes a contract from Hephaestus to take out Lapetus, a powerful Greek Titan gone mad. He was given an extremely powerful sword called the Godkiller in order to complete this contract.
He did battle with Superman and Wonder Woman while he possessed the Godkiller, but he actually told both of them several times that he did not want to fight them. In the end, they all allied against Lapetus who was indiscriminately taking out Amazons. Deathstroke struck the final blow against the mad Titan in one of his more heroic battles.
5 VILLAINOUS: WHAT HE DID TO MOIRA QUEEN
Deathstroke was the best villain on the best season of Arrow. His season 2 arc saw him go on a warpath to ruin Oliver’s life after the serum that enhanced him warped his mind. In service of this goal, Slade terminated Oliver’s mother right in front of him and his sister.
This cemented Deathstroke’s status as Oliver’s best antagonist. He was such an unstoppable force of nature that Oliver couldn’t stop him without resorting to trickery. The audience had become invested in two seasons of watching Moira Queen making tough decisions for the sake of her children and then trying to claw her way out of the muck. To end her was a bold move that truly raised the stakes of Oliver’s war with Slade.
4 HEROIC: TOOK DOWN A CRIMINAL ORGANIZATION
After Deathstroke helped Oliver fight defeat Prometheus and his allies on Arrow, Oliver let him go free in order to find his son. This quest led him to the criminal organization: The Jackals and their leader Joe Wilson, Deathstroke’s missing son.
But despite Slade’s desire to reunite with his son and the guilt he felt for the way he left things between the two of them, he still took down Joe and the Jackals. He even dueled his own son and defeated him, sparing his life. This was the right thing to do and, Deathstroke did it even though it was against his best interest.
3 VILLAINOUS: BETTING HIS SON’S LIFE
Ego has caused more than its fair share of passings over the years, but when your child is in danger, usually you can put everything aside if it means keeping your kid safe. But Deathstroke seemingly didn’t understand that aspect of fatherhood.
Early on in Deathstroke’s career, his son was taken by the mercenary, Jackal, in an effort to coerce him into revealing who hired him. Deathstroke refused due of his code. He believed that he was fast enough to disarm Jackal before Joseph came to harm -- he was wrong. Joseph was left mute forever as a result of his father’s actions. But apparently, to Deathstroke, his code mattered more and his ego enabled this terrible decision.
2 HEROIC: TOOK OUT HIS SON TO SAVE THE WORLD
While terminating your son is never a good thing, sometimes it’s the heroic thing to do. Jericho, or Joseph Wilson, was Slade’s kind-hearted son with the ability to possess others via eye contact. Because of this ability, he was susceptible to supernatural possession and soon fell prey to souls of Azarath who latched onto him in an effort to escape into Earth.
The souls drove Jericho insane and gave him incredible powers and, as he was losing control, Slade made the tough choice and took out his own son. Though Slade may seem heartless, this act truly hurt him. But it was the noble thing to do as the whole world was at risk and Joseph was begging to be stopped.
1 UNFORGIVABLE: HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH TERRA
We think everyone knew this was coming. The mortally wounding of beloved characters may make you a monster, but doing something like this makes you despicable.
"The Judas Contract" may be the most popular Teen Titans storyline of all time, and with good reason. This story saw the Titans get close to Tara Markov, or Terra, a new geokinetic Titan. And by the time it was revealed that she was a double agent for Deathstroke the entire time, the entire Titans had been captured, hurt, and confused. To further complicate matters Terra was involved with Deathstroke in more than one way and he manipulated her the entire time.