They say it’s good to be bad, and in the world of comic book characters, that can certainly be true. As Suicide Squad showed movie goers, villains can absolutely do good things in the world. Sure, heroic actions can’t erase a villain’s dark past, but it shows they can be capable of change. Or better yet, some villains aren’t even that bad to begin with, and have just been misunderstood because people don’t take the time to get to know them.
Without villains there’s no conflict, so we’re not hoping for every antagonist to turn nice all of a sudden. But sometimes it’s a fun surprise when it turns out a villain isn’t as bad as they seemed. You can’t judge a book by its cover, so leave aside your first impressions and give the “bad guys” a chance. Here are 15 Supervillains Who Are Very Nice Once You Get To Know Them.
When Venom was first introduced into the world of Marvel, it was as clear as day that he was simply meant to be an evil version of Spider-Man. From his more sinister-looking black suit, his predatory features, and his violent disposition, Venom was like a Spider-Man who had not followed Uncle Ben’s iconic advice. And for a time, Venom fit right into that mold of being little more than an evil counterpart.
Part of what changed the perception of Venom was simply that villains more evil than him came along. After Carnage was introduced, Venom really didn’t seem quite as bad by comparison. The biggest difference between the two symbiotes was that Carnage was bound to Cletus Kasady, someone who was a homicidal psychopath even before the symbiote.
Before becoming Venom, Eddie Brock wasn’t a terrible guy. And even in his new alien suit, Brock’s personality couldn’t just be erased. Eventually the morality in him began to gain control, and Venom became someone Spidey could turn to as an ally. Venom’s methods might be more brutal, but the man beneath the symbiote is far from beyond redemption.
Depending on the continuity, Catwoman is someone who has already fully transitioned over into a hero. She was more consistent in being a villain during her early years, but even then her crimes were more based on being a cat burglar than having any designs on destroying the world. Compared to most of Batman’s opponents, that already made her a downright pleasant individual. But over time she even started leaving behind her heists as she found a kinship with Bruce.
In some timelines, Bruce and Selina wind up married and having children together, and hints of that romance are at least present in pretty much any story involving the two characters now. Selina can still be a bit on the flaky side regarding when she actually is going to commit to being a hero, but she obviously cares about Bruce and the other members of the Bat family. She’s definitely someone with more good in her heart than most villains.
13. THE LIZARD
The Lizard is one Spider-Man villain whose nice side is pretty apparent. It’s just a shame most characters don’t get to see it since they’re too busy running away from his equally present monstrous side. Like a werewolf, Dr. Curt Connors is normally a kind, everyday human being, but then he’s also capable of transforming into a monster that strips him of his rational thought and turns him into a vicious creature.
Despite his villainous side, the Lizard is someone you could never argue in favor of killing, because there’s obviously a decent man in there capable of being rescued. Connors only turned into the Lizard because he was using reptile DNA to try and find a way to regrow limbs for people like himself. His evil side just came about when he was looking to help people. Connors is clearly a nice person who is as much a victim of his alter ego as the innocents his Lizard form attacks.
One of the most intriguing aspects about the characters of the X-Men franchise has always been how multi-layered they are. Even characters on the same side frequently disagree amongst themselves for some pretty good reasons, since so many of the mutants have made some morally questionable decisions. Oftentimes this isn’t because they enjoy making others suffer, but because they were placed in a tough situation with few good resolutions. That’s something Mystique knows well.
With a clearly non-human appearance, Mystique was never going to fit in amongst the world on her own. In the movies in particular, she took to hiding herself by disguising herself as something she wasn’t. Eventually she got tired of hiding, though, and just wanted to be herself. But in doing so, she became a target for humans to attack.
Mystique’s hatred for humans is understandable given how they force her to either live a lie, or be viewed as a freak. It’s something many of the X-Men can relate to, but Mystique can’t simply not use her powers to blend in. She’s just the opposite, instead needing to remain vigilant at all times to survive. But Mystique has shown those who accept the real her that there’s a sympathetic person beneath all the disguises she wears.
Though Spider-Man 3 is often derided for being cluttered with subplots and hampered with corny moments, the one aspect that did shine in the movie was the characterization of the Sandman. For years, Peter envisioned the man who killed his uncle as a cold-blooded criminal. That assumption filled Pete with bitterness and anger that turned him down a darker path. But while Flint Marko certainly is a criminal, it wasn’t feeding any bad habit in his life that led him to stealing.
We soon learn about Marko’s sick child, and that Flint is only risking his life to try and ensure his kid is able to continue having one. The Eddie Brock of the movie was portrayed as jealous and power hungry, which accordingly led to his death. The Sandman however never cared about such things. Marko is a clear example of a good man pulled into bad circumstances. In the world of comics, his good intentions even earned him a place on the Avengers at one point.
10. POISON IVY
Pamela Isley, better known by her criminal alias Poison Ivy, has no doubt committed some horrible acts. Her obsession with plant life reaches the point to where she often cares more about vegetation than humans. Anyone who is a danger to Ivy’s plants is in danger from Ivy herself, because she will viciously defend them. And Ivy has used her plants to dabble in some atrocities ranging from poisoning people, mind-controlling them, and even creating a sentient plant fed by the flesh of humans. Ivy might look like a temptress type, but she can also become extremely dangerous.
Yet looking past Ivy’s actions, her motives are pretty intriguing. It seems clear from her ability to control them that Ivy’s plants have some level of sentience. Since she’s able to communicate with plants, it’s understandable why she’d get so angry over people carelessly destroying them just because they can’t speak with plants too.
Plus it’s not like Ivy is totally careless towards humans. She’s joined with heroes like the Birds of Prey to help fight crime. And she was also very supportive of Harley Quinn during her years of abuse at the hands of the Joker. Ivy encouraged Harley to leave the situation, leading to the two becoming partners, friends, and even lovers.
Since Bizarro is just an opposite version of Superman, obviously the aspect of him that immediately gains attention is how he lacks Clark’s moral side. Superman is pretty much a boy scout with unimaginable power. So naturally it’s Bizzaro’s place to be an embodiment of that same power used for destructive purposes. He even goes so far as to destroy his own world once before ending his own life. Bizarro takes his role of being opposed to Superman very seriously, and that’s actually what makes him not such a bad guy.
Bizarro is just a failed version of Superman, perpetually aspiring to live up to the original. He’s not evil out of intent, but because it’s his role in life to be a contrarian to Superman. It’s not as if that side of Bizarro manifests in an inherently evil way. He even does things as harmless as speaking in opposites just to be different than Clark. But at the end of the day, Bizarro does want to be a hero, and has even fought for good on occasion. He’s not someone with hunger for power or destruction; he’s just a simple-minded villain who is forced to obey some convoluted logic.
Magneto is pretty much the most iconic villain of the X-Men franchise, remembered for his opposition to his on-and-off friend Charles Xavier, and the battles that ensue between the two as a result. Of the two leaders, Xavier is definitely the more peaceable, preaching a philosophy of tranquil coexistence with humans. Magneto, on the other hand, often seeks for mutants to dominate the world and shove humans out of power.
Though Magneto’s stance is more militant, it’s hard to blame him for his fear of humans. Stories about his past have revealed how he suffered at the hands of Nazis in his youth, and how he was persecuted by humans due to his powers. So he knows quite well what it’s like to live under oppression and has no desire to continue doing so based on another part of his heritage. Anyone can sympathize with that, and Magneto just wants other mutants to be free of such fears as well. Magneto has even fought alongside the X-Men numerous times, so it’s just philosophical differences that lead to him being in conflict with Xavier.
The nice side of Two-Face is pretty clear for all to see: it’s the side of him that isn’t the mutilated mobster. Unfortunately, ever since his disfigurement, Harvey Dent has almost totally left that better half of himself behind. People like Batman believe that good side is still in there, capable of being redeemed, but it’s pretty hard to find behind the hardened exterior of the gangster that Harvey has become.
The thing that makes Two-Face so tragic is that we were introduced to him before he became corrupted. We saw his good side quite well, and knew what an ambitious, just man Harvey Dent aspired to be. It’s probably too late for Harvey to be the politician who rids Gotham of its criminals, but maybe thanks to his former friendship with Bruce Wayne, Harvey could be restored to the good man we have all seen he’s capable of being.
6. PIED PIPER
Like Catwoman, Pied Piper is someone whose shift away from villainy has nearly become so complete that it’s almost hard to classify him as a villain anymore. But he does still get the occasional return to his evil ways, so clearly the world hasn’t forgotten his past. He uses sound as a weapon against his adversaries, an attack he developed while coping with being deaf.
The meaning of his name was obviously related to his choice of weapon initially, but eventually he lived up to the title in a different way. As time went on, Pied Piper became a leader for the less fortunate of the world, seeking to guide them to something better. He also became a representative for real-life people when his character was revealed to be gay.
The Flash TV show retold his villainous history from this angle, having him lash out as a result of being a target of homophobia before the Flash intervenes. Piper’s morality could still be portrayed either way, depending on the story, but his potential for good has clearly been demonstrated.
5. DOCTOR OCTOPUS
There’s no doubt about it, Otto Octavius has been an evil person for a long time. Even with whatever backstory you might look into for him, there’s no misunderstanding when it comes to his crimes. He’s been one of Spider-Man’s most troublesome rivals, leading the iconic Sinister Six, and unleashing multiple plans over the years to kill as many people as possible. If Doc Ock’s legacy were only examined using the first few decades of his existence, you’d have a hard time finding anything redeemable about him.
However, as we said at the start of this list, some villains do change. And Otto’s change came about during what should have been his biggest triumph: when he swapped minds with Peter Parker, trapping Peter in Otto’s dying body, while Otto took control of Peter’s body and became Spider-Man. But Peter’s influence on Otto drove the doctor to want to better himself and become a hero. Otto’s methods as Spider-Man were more violent, but he constantly struggled against the remnants of Peter’s soul trying to sway him towards good.
Finally left with no choice but to concede that the world needed the true Spider-Man, Otto did the kindest thing of his life and sacrificed himself so Peter could reclaim his body. Doctor Octopus grew to realize the victory he sought held no satisfaction, and forfeited everything to give the world its hero back.
You certainly wouldn’t expect the literal God of War to be a nice guy. It’s kind of in his title that he’s a guy who should enjoy the world being in chaos. But as the Hades of Disney’s Hercules demonstrates, even gods who represent the darker aspects of life can still be charming and helpful when the mood takes them. It’s no secret that Ares has clashed with Wonder Woman on plenty of occasions, and is even one of the Amazon’s biggest enemies. But he has also been one of her strongest allies.
Many of Wonder Woman’s abilities are god-given, so she has always had the favor of deities. Though Ares might reap the benefits of the world’s naturally combative ways, even he has seen the necessity for Diana’s intervention at times. In recent years Ares even became a mentor to the modern Wonder Woman, guiding and educating her. And when Wonder Woman inadvertently killed Ares, she gained his powers and responsibilities as the new Goddess of War. It just goes to show that the ominous title doesn’t automatically make someone a bad person.
3. HARLEY QUINN
There’s no doubt this third member of the Gotham City Sirens has done some horrible things over the years. For a long time she was the biggest fan girl of the Joker, so with someone like that as her mentor, she obviously was getting involved in some twisted activities. Even after splitting off from that bad relationship, she continued to do some pretty horrible stuff, like sending out bombs disguised as handheld video games to children and then detonating them.
People can change, though, and Harley has evolved a lot in recent years. Her disassociation from the Joker has been a big positive for her, leading her into stories that are less psychotically evil, and more zany fun. While her steady membership in the lineup of the Suicide Squad has further pushed her more into the territory of an anti-hero rather than a villain. Harley still has the capacity for evil, but she’s a villain you get the sense could be right on the cusp of changing sides, even showing compassion for her allies and innocent lives nowadays.
When you destroy a large chunk of the world’s population, it’ll take some pretty strong reasoning to argue that you should still be considered a good person. And many would argue Ozymandias had logic on his side, using a manufactured catastrophe to unite the world and avert the start of World War III. Are you a person who believes the ends justify the means, and that some short term sacrifices are worth a long term good? Rorschach didn’t, though his own morals were also pretty questionable.
The rest of the Watchmen, though? All of the other members were willing to preserve Ozymandias’ lie since to dispel it meant bringing more destruction to the world. Whether you agree with his methods or not, you can’t argue that Ozymandias brought peace to the Earth. His intentions were clearly good, and it’s not like he enjoyed the damage he did either. In the comics, Ozymandias clearly agonized over his decision. The only reason he did it was because he saw no alternative for helping the world. That doesn’t make what he did any less horrific, but his reasoning wasn’t that of some sadistic monster.
Galactus might just be the most powerful supervillain in this list; obviously more of a threat to the universe than characters the likes of Venom or Two-Face could ever hope to be. Only Galactus has been around since before the Earth, and has devoured more planets than the residents of the Marvel universe even knew existed. With that kind of power, and knowing Galactus is fully willing to wipe out entire worlds to satisfy his hunger, he looks to be a pretty evil being.
Yet despite the obvious destructive potential of Galactus, he’s really not a monster. He’s described more as a force of nature, like a tsunami or an earthquake. The difference is Galactus has the sentience to decide what he wants to destroy, and he has enough of a conscience to try not to harm people with his actions. Galactus does his best to only consume uninhabited planets, and even keeps on heralds like the Silver Surfer to warn worlds of his coming. Sure, Galactus has inevitably committed genocide when he couldn’t find any planets without people on them, but as Snickers has taught us, people just aren’t themselves when they’re hungry.
Which villains do you think aren’t as bad as everyone says they are? Tell us which bad guys you think are just misunderstood in the comments!