If Suicide Squad and The Thunderbolts show us anything, it’s that villains can make some pretty darn good heroes. But what if the good guys go bad? When Professor Xavier’s dark side became Onslaught, it took the whole Marvel universe to bring him down; Hal Jordan’s possession by Parallax had repercussions for the whole of the DC Universe.
When a good guy goes bad it’s terrible, but usually only temporary and their redemption becomes a massive part of their story. But what if they were bad guys to begin with? What if we reimagined some of our favourite heroes as the villains? If the best and brightest were the worst of the worst, and always had been, what could stand in their way?
This article looks at some of our favourite heroes and imagines what their respective worlds would look like if they had never become heroes, but villains instead.
Here’s 15 Superheroes We Would Rather Have As Villains
15. Jessica Jones
A contemporary of Peter Parker (Spider-Man) at Midtown High, Jessica Jones was involved in a car accident which killed her family. The vehicle had collided with a military convoy carrying radioactive material, causing Jessica to fall into a months-long coma but also granted her the superhuman powers of enhanced strength and durability as well as flight. When classmate Peter Parker sensed a kindred spirit in Jessica due to their shared tragedies, she lashed out in anger as she felt his gesture was more out of pity than anything else. When she witnessed Spider-Man battle the Sandman in a battle at Midtown High, she was inspired to become a Superhero known as Jewel. Her career derails when she encounters the villain Killgrave (or Kilgrave on the TV show), aka The Purple Man, who uses his powers to mentally dominate Jessica, and abuses her for months.
While she breaks free, and is healed by friends in the Avengers and the X-Men, she remains deeply troubled by her experiences, adopting the darker persona of Knightress. She remains a good guy, and eventually joins the New Avengers alongside her husband Luke Cage.
But what if she hadn’t been able to shake free of her demons? What if her story had been the origin of a supervillain? The loss of her family, and her abuse by Killgrave, could have easily caused her to develop an evil persona. What if during her period under the guise as Knightress she had instead of taking down the villain The Owl, she had joined him and eventually usurped his position as the head of a crime organisation? She came so close to becoming the most dangerous member of Spider-Man’s rogues gallery.
Looking at Victor Stone’s origin prior to becoming a Teen Titan, it’s hard to see how he didn’t become a super-villain in the first place. His parents used him as a test-subject for an intelligence enhancing project, causing his IQ to leap into the genius realm. When Victor learned of the manipulation, he became resentful towards them and began to abandon his studies in favour of spending time with his friend Ron Evers, who leads him down a far darker path.
While Evers becomes a terrorist, Victor doesn’t follow him this far and continues to live a normal life. When Victor is visiting his parents at S.T.A.R. labs, his father opens a dimensional portal which allows a monster to emerge and kills Victor’s mother and mauls Victor himself. When Victor awakens from a coma, he discovers that his father has replaced his missing and damaged body parts with conspicuous prosthetics.
Victor is incredibly depressed and wants to kill himself, feeling like his is now more machine than man. His girlfriend rejects him and he can no-longer participate in sports due to his disfigurements and his prosthetics giving him an advantage over the other athletes. When his friend Evers re-enters his life and tries to get him to engage in a terrorist attack on the U.N, Victor stops him and finds new purpose as a hero.
But should he have become a terrorist, his prosthetics would have made him a fearsome villain capable of both physical assaults on superheroes as well as cyber-terrorism due to his ability to hack into any computer system on Earth.
The Vision of the Marvel-616 continuity was conceived by the villain Ultron, and was intended to be a villain from the start. Soon after his creation, he was sent to the Avengers to lead them into a trap, with Ultron intending to destroy his own creator, Hank Pym. When the Vision encounters the Avengers and learns that his mind was patterned on the dead Simon Williams, Wonder Man, he betrays Ultron and joins the Avengers, becoming a hero.
Despite this, he has gone rogue on occasion and after an encounter with the villain Annihilus he became unbalanced and attempted to take over the world by controlling its computers.
Had Vision stayed a villain, it’s likely that Ultron would have succeeded in his plans to defeat the Avengers and the rest of the world. His synthetic brain is at least as efficient as Ultron’s own, and his form has proven to be one of the most powerful in the Marvel Universe.
What makes his potential for villainy even greater than Ultron’s, though, is that his mind is patterned on that of a human. While Ultron’s mind has elements of his creator Hank Pym, he has chosen to be a colder and more logical being. Vision has the capacity to be more human, and therefore more evil and cruel.
Beast, aka Henry McCoy, is a founding member of The X-Men as well as an Avenger. He is also a highly respected scientist, with specialities in biochemistry and genetics as well as virology. He is one of Marvel’s smartest superheroes, despite his animal form. Despite being obviously different from birth – his father had been irradiated in a nuclear accident before Hank was conceived – Beast led a normal happy childhood growing up on his parent’s farm and becoming a high school football star as well as a genius.
Beast would make an amazing villain. His increasingly animalistic form, coupled with his genius could easily put him in arch-villain territory. Unlike some others on this list, The Beast does have an evil doppelganger in the form of the Dark Beast, a refugee from the so-called Age of Apocalypse timeline.
The Dark Beast had a similar origin but was taken in by the rise of Apocalypse and allowed to use his genius for evil. He became twisted by the world as it got progressively darker, his own experiments reflected this as he developed the genetically engineered “Infinites” for Apocalypse to use as foot soldiers.
11. The Human Torch
Like the rest of the Fantastic Four, Johnny Storm gained his superpowers due to exposure to Cosmic Rays in space while using an experimental spaceship designed by Reed Richards. He opted to become a hero and use his powers for good. While The Human Torch is a quintessential hero, with little in his character or history to suggest he’d ever become a villain, his power set alone would make him an ideal villain.
His power does more than surround him with flames and allow him to fly; the temperature he reaches when at his maximum nova-flame approaches the power of the sun and risks igniting the atmosphere of the planet. he could have easily returned to Earth and seen the value of using his powers for evil, as many others have done when discovering great power at their fingertips. Had he done so, he’d be incredibly fearsome. He’s essentially a walking inferno capable of incinerating a hero with little more than a thought. As a bad guy, he could be more than a mere arsonist, he could be a walking force of nature that only the most powerful of Marvel’s heroes could stand against. Which makes it even more of a pity that the FF have become increasingly irrelevant in recent years.
The Punisher is a full-tilt anti-hero anyway. He has one foot in the light, and the other in the shadows at all times. While he doesn’t commit crimes for personal gain or power like a true villain, his willingness to inflict lethal, even sadistic, force keep him from ever being a hero either.
But, reimagined as a true villain, we’d love Frank Castle as an avatar for a cosmic force for chaos or vengeance. His take-no-prisoners approach to dishing out “justice” would be great if it was adapted to serve as a ruthless crime boss too. He could even be both, with an origin as a former soldier-turned crime boss who serves a demonic force bent on power and corruption.
Frank Castle of course would be the first to stand against a guy like that, but his skill set means that if he did become a bad guy, he’d be oh-so good at it! Few of Marvel’s bad guys are as lethal or use real-world weapons and tactics to fight the heroes, with most preferring to use gimmicks and themed weapons to define them. Frank’s love of an Uzi 9mm and rocket launchers, with a private army behind him, all with skulls on their chests, would make for a fantastic, if dreadful, crime wave hitting the streets.
Before Twilight, Vampires were generally the bad guys in fiction. One of the few exceptions to this rule was Blade. The man that would become Blade was born in 1929 in London, England. His mother, a prostitute, was in labour when she developed complications. The doctor who came to help was in fact a vampire named Deacon Frost. Frost fed upon Blade’s mother during the birth and passed along some aspects of vampirism to her child, including a longer lifespan and supernatural senses. He also has the ability to withstand sunlight, which is lethal to most vampires. Blade grew up as an orphan until he met Jamal Afari, who was a musician and vampire hunter. Afari trained the young man how to hunt vampires and stoked the flames of his heroic nature.
But what if Blade had never received this guidance? What if instead of meeting Jamal Afari, and later the Nightstalkers, he had encountered Dracula as a young man? In the Marvel continuity, by the time Blade meets Dracula he is already an accomplished vampire hunter, but if Dracula had met him as a young man in need of a father figure, Blade could have turned out very differently. Instead of the noble Blade we know, we could get a brutal killing machine who is a denizen of the night, intent on killing humans in the name of his master, Dracula.
8. Martian Manhunter
While the tragic origins of the Martian Manhunter vary depending on the continuity, he’s generally considered to be the last of his race, living among humans. His loneliness and melancholia make him the outsider of the group, whether he’s with the JLA or Stormwatch.
What would make him an excellent villain is his awesome power-set. He’s a telepathic shapeshifter with flight and super strength; even Superman called him “The most powerful being on the face of the Earth.” While his physical power means that few heroes could defeat him – indeed Superman would probably need backup – it’s his telepathic and shapeshifting powers that make him the greatest threat. The ability to infiltrate the top tier of government in disguise, while stealing information from the minds of his victims could make J’onn J’onzz both a living weapon and the perfect spy.
Like Superman, the Martian Manhunter is on the side of the angels despite not truly being one of us. Should he have come to Earth as a force for evil, he would have made an amazing villain and one that could have been Superman’s greatest enemy.
Hawkman is a character with multiple origins depending on the timeline or universe. In one, he is an ancient prince of Egypt, reincarnated many times; in another he is an Alien from Thandagar called Katar Hol who uses the alias Carter Hall. Regardless of his origins, he remains a fearsome warrior who uses wings crafted from “Nth Metal” enabling him to defy gravity and which also grants him enhanced strength and durability.
What would make Hawkman such a great villain is his experience. As Carter Hall, he has lived countless lifetimes and as such is a brilliant tactician and leader. During the Public Enemies storyline, it was Hawkman that was selected by his peers to confront Batman as they believed him to be his intellectual equal as well as being more powerful physically. While Batman did outsmart him, Carter’s skills with archaic weapons such as swords, maces and shields, coupled with his skills as a marksman with futuristic laser weapons, make him a lethal enemy.
Essentially, he’s the mind of a genius with the physical characteristics of a tank and given the mercurial nature of his origins, it’s entirely possible he will be reimagined as a villain before long. Given his quick temper, strong views and staunch conservativism coupled with the savage barbarism of his earlier incarnations, it could come sooner than you think…
6. Iron Man
Iron Man is the “genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist” who was wounded while visiting one of his facilities near a warzone (retcons have placed the incident as being Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf, and Afghanistan). Captured by enemy forces, he is forced to produce weapons but instead uses the meagre resources to craft the first version of the Iron Man armor to affect his escape. When he returns to the U.S he develops greater and greater technologies and becomes a respected hero and leading Avenger.
What if his trauma coupled with his business acumen and genius had made him a villain? What if he used the Iron Man to dominate instead of liberate? With the resources he has at hand he could be the Marvel Universe equivalent to Lex Luthor, a genius who has few scruples, and even less regard for the well-being of others. His mind has generally worked out all the angles; it may only be a matter of time before he decides that he, and only he, is capable of leading the world. If the other heroes stand in his way, he may become an arch-villain after all…
When Matt Murdock was a young boy, he saved the life of an elderly man who was crossing the street and was nearly killed by oncoming traffic. A van carrying toxic materials crashed to avoid them and spilled its cargo, causing young Matt to be blinded. The accident gave Matt heightened senses to help him compensate and he became an excellent martial arts student, despite his disability. Later, tragedy struck again when Matt’s father, a boxer, refused to throw a fight and was gunned down. This caused Matt to develop a deep sense of justice and he fought for what is right by day as a lawyer, and by night as the costumed hero Daredevil.
But, what if his experiences had caused him to become bitter? What if instead of being trained by Stick and the Chaste, he had been recruited by The Hand and trained as one of their elite assassins? A man without fear would make a perfect assassin and while few would suspect a blind man of being a superhero, fewer still would suspect him of being a villain.
4. Doctor Strange
While Doctor Strange has, at times, dallied with darker magic, he hasn’t ever become a true bad-guy. But given his enormous power levels, few in the Marvel Universe could stand against him if he did.
While the upcoming Doctor Strange movie looks set to be reasonably faithful to the source material, what if the greatest mystic of his time was actually evil? Instead of Steven Strange learning the ways of mysticism from the Ancient One and becoming the Sorcerer Supreme, dedicated to defending our realm from mystical threats, what if he became corrupted and power hungry like Doctor Doom?
Had he returned to the west after studying in Tibet and set his mind on world domination, who could have stood against him? Should he have become a bad guy, he could easily become a world-ending threat. It would take a minimum of Thor and a host of magical allies to hold back the mystical energies Doctor Strange has at his disposal; only Loki could truly surpass him.
3. Professor X
While Professor Xavier is generally considered a hero, he’s actually done some pretty bad things over the years. Not only did his dark side merge with Magneto’s to become the psychic entity known as Onslaught, his dark persona once attacked the X-Men years before just prior to the Phoenix’s arrival on Earth for the first time in the modern era. Not only that, he had an inappropriate crush on Jean Grey in the early years of the X-Men which was just creepy.
Even worse than the Onslaught incident, which was only partially his fault, was the time the original X-Men were captured by Krakoa and he sent a team of untrained mutants to rescue them. The new team, including Cyclops’ brother, Vulcan, were seemingly killed. Instead of admitting what he had done, Xavier erased the details of the incident from the minds of everyone involved. While he claimed he did it to spare Cyclops further pain, it was in part to maintain his guise as a good guy.
Had he been a bad guy from the start, it’s possible Magneto would have seen past his own pain and rage to have stood against him. With their roles reversed, it could have been Magneto who formed the X-Men as he had in the Age of Apocalypse but instead of Apocalypse, it could have been a malevolent Xavier he opposed.
While only a Beta-class mutant, Wolverine has proven to be very hard to kill. Coupled with his training, indomitable will, and Adamantium skeleton and claws, he’s a living weapon and a near immortal one at that. Wolverine’s heroic nature has survived various mind-wipes and mental manipulations from foes such as Doctor Cornelius and Apocalypse, but what if he’d been a bad guy all along? What if he’d become a serial killer with the desire to become ever more brutal?
While we’ve seen Wolverine go bad during the Enemy of the State storyline, it was in the form of mind control by the Hand, rather than Wolverine’s own dark side. But given a life so mired in tragedy and pain, it wouldn’t have taken much for Wolverine to have become more like his nemesis Sabretooth, a violent killer with a thirst for killing.
It’s almost inevitable that Batman would be the number one entry on this list. He’s a billionaire who dresses like a bat and spends his time beating people to a pulp. If he wasn’t so good, he’d be great at being bad.
His origins are so well-known, it’s almost ridiculous to write them here, but just in case you didn’t know, young Bruce Wayne is visiting the movies with his wealthy parents one evening when they are mugged. His parents are both shot and killed in the encounter, leaving the boy to grow up an orphan, raised by the family butler. He spends the rest of his life training in martial arts, criminology, forensics, and engineering. He hones himself into a weapon and seeks to dispense justice by battling the criminal element as a symbol.
But, given the tragedy he faced as a child, and his willingness to embrace the darkness, it wouldn’t have taken much for him to become a villain. Had Alfred been a harsh disciplinarian, or an abusing presence, young Bruce could have taken the Batman persona to its darkest edge and become as dark a presence in Gotham as the Joker or Penguin.
Got a favourite hero you think would make a great villain? Tell us about it in the comments!