Everyone makes mistakes, even superheroes. Since they’re generally risking their lives to save others, it would unfair to hold their failures against them. Nobody can save everybody all the time. That being said, there’s a difference between a hero making a mistake and a hero actually being the cause of a disaster. Usually, supervillains are the ones threatening the world, and when it comes down to it, all of the death and destruction falls on their shoulders. Sometimes, though, the hero makes a decision that is even worse than what the villains had planned. Or, the hero’s cockiness caused chaos. Sometimes, a hero just has a bad day and either becomes a villain or creates a whole new villain to threaten the world.
Writers love this trope, because it raises the stakes for the heroes. When they’re the cause, they have to fight even harder. The problem is what comes next. Comic books generally like to return to status quo, and that means that these mistakes or screw ups are essentially forgotten. Even if they have lingering effects, eventually everyone moves on and it seems like the world forgot that this person did something terrible that can’t ever really be forgiven.
15. CAPTAIN AMERICA
Steve Rogers has always been the moral backbone of the Marvel Universe, but that recently changed. After having the super soldier serum in his blood neutralized, Rogers was turned into an old man. His youth was restored in Captain America: Sam Wilson #7 (2016), by Nick Spencer and Daniel Acuna, thanks to Kobik, a sentient cosmic cube. Unfortunately, Kobik altered Steve’s memories to make him believe that he had secretly been a Hydra agent his entire life.
This led to Steve secretly leading Hydra’s take-over of the United States. While Rogers was brainwashed, he still decided to order several murders, including Rick Jones and having the city of Las Vegas destroyed. While Rogers’ memories were altered, it didn’t seem like anything else was. This was really Captain America, and even though the original returned, it’s clear there’s a darkness within him.
14. THE FLASH
Every hero has learned that messing with time travel comes with consequences, but no one more so than the Flash. During the events of Flashpoint (2011) by Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert, Flash wakes up in a dark alternate reality where he not only has no powers, but Atlantis and the Amazons have been fighting a bloody war which could destroy the Earth. This change in reality was caused by Flash traveling back in time and saving his mom from being murdered.
While it’s understandable that Flash would want to change this, the ramifications were huge and not worth the life of one woman. Flash should’ve known the dangers, but he still changed history. Even when he tried to change things back, reality was altered into the New 52 Universe, which might be the worst thing to ever happen to the DC Universe ever.
13. THE NEW WARRIORS
The New Warriors really blew it (literally) in Civil War (2006) by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven. The team of young heroes was starring in a reality show about their adventures, and had tracked a group of supervillains to Stamford, Connecticut. Rather than wait and try to lure the villains away from civilians, the team decided to showboat for the cameras and attack immediately. This resulted in Nitro blowing himself up, which reacted with Speedball’s powers and destroyed the town.
Most of the team was killed, except for Speedball. Since then, former members of the New Warriors have formed new versions of the team, even allowing Speedball back onto the roster. While it was eventually revealed that Nitro was powered up on drugs, the original team was still showboating and are responsible for hundreds of deaths. There’s no way to fix a legacy like that.
12. THE JUSTICE LEAGUE
Sometimes, heroes have to face horrific situations and make difficult decisions. While the Justice League usually serves as an inspiration for other heroes, there was one situation where they faltered. It was revealed during the events of Identity Crisis (2004) by Brad Meltzer and Rags Morales that members of the League had once used Zatanna’s magical powers to wipe the villainous Dr Light’s memories and change his personality to that of a buffoon (this happened after Light had assaulted Sue Dibny).
While using magic on the villain may have been understandable, it was also revealed that Batman had discovered the wipe while it was in progress and attempted to intervene. Zatanna wiped his memories as well. The ramifications of this led Batman to create Brother MK I satellite system, which caused havoc during Infinite Crisis (2005), all because the League played God with their teammate’s brain.
Peter Quill’s made his mistakes over the years, but there’s one that should haunt him forever. After the first Annihilation War, where Star-Lord helped Nova defeat Annihilus, Quill found himself helping the Kree empire rebuild. In Annihilation: Conquest Prologue (2007) by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning and Mike Perkins, Quill greets a group of Spaceknights and helps them integrate their programming with the Kree defense systems. Of course, this ends up being a trap, as the Spaceknights have been infected by the Phalanx, who are being led by Ultron.
By bypassing the defense systems, the Phalanx are able to conquer the Kree Empire within a matter of weeks. This was the start of the second Annihilation War, and countless lives were lost. While Quill was tricked by the Spaceknights, he still bears responsibility. His carelessness caused way too much destruction and unbalanced the intergalactic economy for years to come.
10. JOHN STEWART
There’s nothing worse than overconfidence, which is something John Stewart learned the hard way. During Cosmic Odyssey (1988) by Jim Starlin and Mike Mignola, it’s revealed that the Anti-Life Equation is a living thing, and the entire universe is in peril. John Stewart and Martian Manhunter are sent to protect the planet Xanshi. They develop an Anti-Life Catcher, which is of course, quickly destroyed.
Stewart demonstrates his confidence by sending Martian Manhunter away and plans on using his ring to disable a bomb that will destroy the planet. Unfortunately, the bomb is yellow, which makes it invulnerable to Green Lantern rings. The planet is destroyed, and Martian Manhunter tells Stewart that he’ll never forgive him for letting his arrogance cause the tragedy. Yeah, and neither should anyone else.
9. HANK PYM
Despite being a founding Avenger, Hank Pym has often seemed to have an inferiority complex. That’s probably because even though Hank is a hero, he’s also responsible for creating one of the worst villains in the Marvel Universe. Ultron, who first appeared in Avengers #54 (1968) by Roy Thomas and Sal Buscema, has killed countless people, including the entire population of Slorenia.
There was also the time that Hank, suffering from a mental breakdown, built a robot to attack the Avengers while suspended from the team. Pym hoped to defeat the robot and prove his worthiness to the team, but the plan didn’t work out the way that he was hoping. Hank keeps trying to redeem himself, but considering that he’s currently merged with Ultron, it’s unlikely that will happen anytime soon.
Batman doesn’t kill. It’s how he rises above the enemies that he fights. The problem is, when dealing with mass murderers like the Joker, killing doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. The Joker is an unrepentant killer, and as long as he is alive, more people will die. Still, Batman refuses to break his rule, even to the point where he once revived a dead Joker.
During the miniseries Joker: Last Laugh (2001) by Chuck Dixon, Joker discovers that he’s dying, so he unleashes his Joker venom across the globe. The story ends with Nightwing accidentally beating the Joker to death. Batman has the villain resuscitated, because of his “no killing” rule, even though it seems like this time, it would’ve been ok to make an exception.
7. WOLVERINE AND SUE STORM
Wolverine has led a pretty dark life, so it’s not surprising to see him on this list. Sue Storm, on the other hand, has mostly done the right thing. In fact, if she hadn’t helped Wolverine literally break time during Age of Ultron (2013) by Brian Michael Bendis, she wouldn’t be here at all. After Ultron successfully defeated the heroes and began wiping out humanity, Wolverine and Sue Storm travelled to the past to erase the robot from ever being built.
Logan accomplishes this by killing Hank Pym, but that only creates a darker timeline, so the two of them go back again have Hank program a kill code into Ultron’s system. By jumping around the timestream and continuously messing with it, however, time briefly broke and all of existence was almost wiped out. Killing Hank Pym was obviously a bad idea, but it actually turned out to be catastrophic.
6. HAL JORDAN
The best thing to ever happen to Hal Jordan was the creation of the concept known as “retconning.” It’s what turned him from a homicidal maniac to the victim of a fear entity. During the Reign of the Supermen (1992), Hal’s home of Coast City was destroyed by the Cyborg Superman. It’s understandable that Hal would be upset, his reaction went way overboard. He went crazy and after being busted for using his ring for personal reasons, he started killing Green Lanterns and collecting their rings.
He single-handedly wiped out the Green Lantern Corps, leaving only the inexperienced Kyle Rayner as the last Lantern. It wasn’t until years later in Green Lantern: Rebirth (2004) when it was revealed that Hal had been infected by Parallax, the yellow fear entity. As it was originally written, however, Hal Jordan was a murderer and one of the universe’s worst supervillains.
5. PROFESSOR X
Everyone turned against Cyclops for killing Charles Xavier (granted, while possessed by the Phoenix Force), but Cyclops might have been doing the world a favor. Whether it was erasing all memories of a team of young mutants he sent to their deaths in Deadly Genesis (2005) by Ed Brubaker or discovering that the Danger Room had become sentient, but keeping that a secret from the rest of the X-Men during Joss Whedon’s run on Astonishing X-Men, Xavier’s done some terrible things.
The worst, however, would be when Xavier used his powers to shut down Magneto’s brain (who had just been grievously wounded by Wolverine) in X-Men #25 (1993) by Fabian Nicieza and Andy Kubert. A piece of Magneto’s consciousness made its way to Xavier’s brain, creating Onslaught, who would go on to nearly end the world (and temporarily kill the Avengers and Fantastic Four).
4. SUPERMAN – KINGDOM COME
While there have been plenty of realities that have shown Superman going crazy after some terrible event, Kingdom Come (1996) by Mark Waid and Alex Ross shows the hero at his darkest. Like the other Supermen, this version suffered a terrible tragedy when the Joker killed everyone at the Daily Planet. Unlike those other evil versions, this isn’t what drove Clark to darkness. He instead retired, and a new generation of heroes rose up.
These metahumans were more reckless than their predecessors, however, and it’s only after a fight leads to a huge explosion that irradiates the midwest of America that Superman returns. This version is much more authoritarian and ends up causing a war between the metahumans, which almost annihilates the planet. By the end of the story, Clark is acting like his old self again, which is great, but he still made some pretty bad decisions.
3. THE SCARLET WITCH
The Avengers served as the Earth’s mightiest heroes from 1963 until 2004, when the team disbanded during Avengers Disassembled by Brian Bendis and David Finch. After a series of tragedies struck the team, during which Avengers like Hawkeye, Scott Lang and the Vision were killed (all of whom were eventually retconned or brought back to life), the heroes discovered that the Scarlet Witch had gone crazy and was altering reality, creating these disasters.
At the end of the storyline, she was taken to Genosha by her father, Magneto, where she temporarily received treatment from Professor X. This didn’t work, and she ended up creating the House of M reality, which ended with her depowering almost all of Earth’s mutants. The ramifications of these events were felt for years to come, and the Scarlet Witch should probably be monitored from now on.
After having his back broken by Bane during the Knightfall story line (1993), Bruce Wayne chose Jean Paul Valley to take up the mantle of Batman. This was an odd choice considering that Valley, also known as the costumed vigilante Azrael, had recently discovered that he had been subconsciously trained to be an assassin, which gave violent urges to kill. This, quite obviously, led to Valley making some terrible decisions as Batman.
More brutal than Bruce, Valley truly crossed the line while facing off against Abattoir. The killer had taken a hostage and was holding him in an unknown location. Valley, however, allowed Abattoir to die, which meant no one could find this prisoner, essentially killing him too. Killing bad guys is one thing, but heroes generally agree that hostages should be saved.
1. TONY STARK
As a billionaire inventor and futurist, Tony Stark has often struggled with balancing what he views the logical choice to be with morality. One of the worst examples of this was when he (along with Hank Pym and Reed Richards) cloned Thor during Civil War (2006) by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven. The thunder god had recently gone missing when Asgard went through a Ragnarok cycle, but Tony needed Thor’s power on his team. So, using hair he collected from one of Thor’s earliest meetings with the Avengers, he built himself an Asgardian.
While the result looked like Thor and had his strength, he was a sadistic killer, and murdered the hero Bill Foster during his first mission in Civil War (2006) #4. Tony, too blinded by his vision to anticipate the consequences, created a violent killer with the power of a god. Not cool.
Do you agree, or do you think we should just move on? Is there someone that we missed? Let us know in the comments!
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