One of the striking things about many DC comics heroes is how fine the line is between their good persona and supervillainy. From the grim streets of Gotham to the potential for a dominating Superman, even the brightest heroes could fall. And we love to see that happen.
Only recently we saw some fantastic canon alternate Batmen in the Dark Knights plot arc.
Add to that the many ways in which characters can be corrupted: power rings that feed negative emotions, to the Joker’s creepy Smylex toxins, to the rising of lost heroes as Black Lanterns. Finally, we have the many alternate universes full of evil versions of the superheroes. From crossovers to Bizzaro opposites, to the antimatter universe, there’s no shortage of evil counterparts.
While the DCEU has been criticized for its grim and sometimes literally colorless take on the characters, it still seems we have a taste for our heroes touched with villainy. Fan art fills in the gaps in some stories, or reimagines the superheroes as terrifying or strange heroes. With twisted origins and dark developments, the Justice League's members could all be evil. As the Joker told Batman, all it takes is one bad day to drive the sanest man to lunacy.
Here we have 20 of the most twisted fan takes on the DC universe's heroes as supervillains.
20 DEMONIC BATMAN
The Caped Crusader has always traded on superstitious fear to inspire terror in his opponents. He adopted the bat as his symbol for that exact reason. This supernatural and unsettling version of Batman by fear-sAs has no need to try to be scary. In fact, he would fit in well with the villainous Dark Knights. Batman is one of the most popular characters to spin into a dark version in fan art. Perhaps it is the grim and mad gallery of rogues who push him endlessly towards the abyss.
Batman seems to inspire writers to explore the idea that he who fights monsters must be careful not to become one.
This horrifying view of Batman as a demonic supervillain captures the dark gothic aesthetic that is key to the Dark Knight's look and feel, turning him into a Medieval terror on the streets today. With his cruel weapons and spiked armour, this is one villain you don't want to face. The demonic look also hides an interesting connection to one of the hero's ancestors. Batman shares similarities to the demonic terror of Victorian London, Spring-heeled Jack. While Jack was a scandalous cryptid, or demon, or acrobatic hoodlum, Batman did borrow his scary appearance and ability to disappear into the night.
19 A GAME OF BOWS
As an archery-themed hero, the Green Arrow is perfectly suited to Medieval mashups. This one, by the talented Kode Subject, makes Oliver Queen almost as royal as his surname suggests. Sitting on a version of the Iron Throne, it's hard not to see some resemblance between Oliver and the rich playboy Kingslayer, Jaime Lannister. Both begin their stories as indulged, rich young men who suffer and change.
The mashup also suggests Queen's political ambitions. He has served as the mayor of Starling City and his guiding principle is his desire to help people less fortunate than he is. To do so, he uses politics and vigilantism to their fullest. In a grim world like Westeros, though, it's doubtful those intentions would pan out.
George R.R. Martin's world, in the novels and Game of Thrones, revels in turning even the best of intentions towards villainy. Power corrupts and Oliver Queen would probably be no exception. Whether the throne is made of bows or swords, sitting on it is likely to turn any hero into a villain. It's also a nice throwback to the character's Medieval origin in Robin Hood. In Game of Thrones, too, we see outlaws that rob and attack the cruel and powerful, like Beric Dondarrion. And even those vigilantes fall into their own corruption, showing that the Green Arrow would certainly struggle to stay good in Westeros.
18 UNDEAD AQUAMAN
Aquaman has been the much maligned king of DC's Atlantis and the butt of many memes over the years. Despite being comparable in strength to Superman, and the leader of a technologically advanced and warlike nation, he has struggled to regain a foothold. His portrayal by the powerful Jason Momoa has helped a lot, but will it be enough to raise the character from the tomb of pop culture? Well, Kalkri has created a vision of an Aquaman literally raised from the grave. The zombie-like supervillain commands a host of the horrifying eels and anglerfish of the deep sea. This is an unsettling vision of the character turned to the worst evil, and it looks so good.
While Aquaman may be more famous for riding giant seahorses, the sea is full of horrifying and dangerous creatures, from sharks to eels and more. Basically anything from the twilight zone down would make the perfect accompaniment to an undead villanous tyrant of the deep ocean. The DC comics universe hasn't shied away from bringing characters back as undead supervillains. The famous Blackest Night event focused on the many, many deceased heroes back as Black Lanterns who set off to destroy all life.
17 TRULY, THE MAN OF STEEL
To the last son of Krypton, our world is "a world made of cardboard". Superman's strength, speed, and terrifying power allow him to defend the Earth, but all it takes is a look at the destructive and evil General Zod to see how different things could be. Were it not for Superman's moral compass and Batman's prepared stash of Kryptonite in case of emergency, Superman could easily have been DC's most dangerous supervillain.
This picture by AlienTan gives us a look into a mech-suited tyrannical Superman. Metropolis collapses in the background, including Clark Kent's old workplace The Daily Planet. Smouldering in the foreground is a green lantern ring and the defeated Batman's cowl. Aquaman's trident is abandoned behind the Kryptonian. In other words, Earth would have no hope at all, except maybe Wonder Woman.
It looks almost as if this could be part of the Injustice games' story arc. The games and their tie-in media imagine a world where Superman has fallen to become a ruthless global dictator. Crushed by grief and guilt, the superhero has wiped crime out including the King of Crime, the Joker himself. The incredibly popular fighting games pit other heroes against this most dangerous of supervillains.
16 QUEEN OF THE AMAZONS
Princess Diana of Themyscira is a complex character, balancing a desire for peace and diplomacy with her heritage and training as a formidable Amazon warrior. She is a powerful superhero in her own right, boasting immortality, flight and extreme martial skill. Her mother, Queen Hippolyta, is equally powerful and perhaps even more torn. In fact, she served as Wonder Woman for a time to atone for her past mistakes and understand her daughter.
Diana has usually shown great restraint, only resorting to lethal force on a handful of occasions when there were no other options. Her mother, however, shifts widely from incarnation to incarnation. Sometimes she is a peacful ruler, others she's a fierce embodiment of the warrior tradition of the Amazons. Jokerisdaking gives us a terrifying view of Hippolyta given over to the desire for conflict. In a tribute to Marvel's Horsemen of Apocalypse, here we see Hippolyta has the embodiment of war.
Hippolyta boasts a wide range of powers, some shared with her daughter. She is a skilled fighter, boasts superhuman speed, strength and reflexes, strong leadership and strategic thinking, and powerful divine magic which she usually uses to heal and restore. Turned to a supervillain, these powers could hold terrible potential for destruction.
15 ANTI-HERO ARROW
The line between vigilante and supervillain is not a broad one. It is a challenge that a number of DC's heroes have to face, including the Green Arrow. Juggling his wealthy socialite side with his arrow firing night time persona brings Oliver Queen into conflict with the law as much as it does with the villains of Starling City. His traumatic past also threatens to catch up with him. A darker version of Queen's hooded heroism looks out from this picture by norbface.
In comics and on TV we have seen Oliver struggle to keep his crusade for justice non-lethal and a different world view could easily turn him into a nearly villainous anti-hero.
In his early years as a vigilante, Queen was more interested in thrill-seeking than in justice. Fortunately, in the canon Queen is driven by a very strong sense of justice and social responsibility. This keeps him doing right both as a vigilante and in his civilian identity. That said, he has used lethal force at least 17 times in the comics, showing the Emerald Archer could easily fall become a grizzled antihero given the wrong circumstances. Another archer gives us a look at how a traumatised Queen could have become a supervillain. The Dark Archer Merlyn is the Green Arrow's nemesis and parallels him in more than just weaponry. In his comics and TV universe incarnations, he shows the lethal potential an archer with Queen's skills could have.
14 THE ROBIN THAT FELL
It has always been the Joker's aim to prove that anyone can be pushed to become a supervillain. His usual targets are those closest to Batman in an attempt to get into the head of the caped crusader himself. TheFearMaster (an appropriate name) gives us a view of a broken Robin, turned ominously to the Joker's side. Turning Batman's sidekick into a servant of his most iconic villain is a stroke of genius.
This is one that has a lot of DC universe precedent. The second Robin, Jason Todd, seemed to fall at the hands of the Joker, only to be resurrected as the vigilante Red Hood. In a take inspired by the comics story, the Batman Beyond movie Return of the Joker, the Joker captured and brainwashed Tim Drake's Robin into a twisted 'son' for Harley and himself.
Clearly, it is dangerous to be Robin in any Batman universe. The various ways Batman has lost sidekicks to the Joker drive Bruce Wayne's development and struggle to include others in his crusade. This picture of a Robin fallen so completely would fit in easily with these themes, and this incarnation would make a formidable and personal foe for Batman to face.
13 VAMPIRE BATMAN
A bat-like creature of the night that strikes terror into the heart as it swoops from above. If the concept was applied directly to a villain instead of a superhero, a vampire would be the perfect fit. Batman's design specifically draws on our cultural fear of bats, and baked into that is their association with vampires. This picture by DarkMatteria really hammers that home. This is also something that's a fairly plausible comics twist. Vampires are certainly part of the wider DC universe and Batman has taken down his fair share of fangs in the past. In fact, one of his earliest run ins with vampires was in 1939, in Batman vs the Vampire.
During the Elseworlds run of alternative stories, Batman also comes face to face with Dracula in a trilogy of stories. The plot inspired the 2005 animated The Batman vs Dracula move. In the comics trilogy's first climax, Dracula manages to turn Batman before the superhero can stake him. In that story Batman tries to do good, even as a vampire, but he struggles with his urge to attack the living and ends up turning the Joker in a fit of rage.
DarkMatteria's picture reminds is of the dark current Batman's inspiration draws from.
12 DEMONIC RAVEN
It doesn't take much looking to tell Raven has a troubled history touched by darkness. The brooding member of the Teen Titans counts a demonic entity, Trigon, as her father. Trigon, a red-skinned demon, is counted as one of the most powerful villains in the DC universe. Raven learned to control her dark side and emotions from the pacifist mystic Azar. They feared strong emotion could allow Trigon control over his daughter, turning her into a powerful supervillain.
Over the years, her father's influence has often corrupted Raven. In some cases he has possessed her outright, while in others her own innate evil rises to take control of her mind. The Teen Titans have found many ways to protect or redeem her, though this doesn't last for very long.
Raven's power set includes her ability to sense the emotions of others, and the ability to project a raven-shaped soul self. While she often uses this to astrally project or teleport, it can also envelop and subdue an opponent. One of her most demonic gifts is the power to induce the deadly sin of pride into any human. This is something she shares with the rest of Trigon's evil brood, as each can instill a different deadly sin.
11 RED HOOD, RED LANTERN
This is a perfect fit that DC has yet to really capitalise on. Thankfully, lots of fan art has imagined the tortured anti-hero Jason Todd as a wrathful Red Lantern. This is just one excellent example, by vgmondo. In his surprise return in Under The Hood, Jason Todd took up a role as a brutal vigilante called the Red Hood. He shared none of Batman's qualms about using firearms to take out criminals. His anger would certainly fuel him as a Red Lantern.
The Red Lantern corps is a group that taps into primal hatred, which would totally fit Red Hood.
Fortunately, the twisted former Robin has never fallen under the influence of a red power ring. Other heroes, like Supergirl, Mera, and even Hal Jordan, have borne the hateful rings. These power rings alter the makeup of the user's blood, which they use to power their burning energy blasts. Strangely, Jason's own fate in the DC universe was a result of fans' dislike of the character. Batman's editor in 1986, Dennis O'Neil, said in an interview that fans "did hate him" for replacing Dick Grason's Robin. Fans voted not to save Todd in a public event, although since then reports suggest that the votes may not have been entirely fair. A computer was allegedly set up to repeatedly dial to vote against saving Jason Todd. With a narrow margin once the votes were tallied, O'Neil says that if the reports are true, this person was essentially responsible for Jason's demise.
10 HYDRA OF STEEL
It isn't often that DC and Marvel allow their characters to cross into each other's worlds. Fan artists have no fears, though, and bring the worlds together in unexpected ways. Here we have a most terrifying prospect: the Man of Steel twisted to the ends of Marvel's tyrannical Hydra, created by MrVideo-VidMan. In fact, one of the alternate reality versions of Superman would fit perfectly with the Nazi-offshoot organisation. Earth-10, which was part of the 2017 Arrowverse crossover event Crisis on Earth-X, is a version of Earth where Hitler has taken over the world and twisted familiar heroes to his hateful ideology. There are two different versions of this Superman, one the classic Aryan and the other closer to the more familiar Superman, called Overman.
Superman's values have always been Truth, Justice, and the American way. This is what always invites comic artists and writers, as well as fan artists, to reimagined the character from different cultural perspectives. From the Soviet-aligned Superman of Red Son, to Overman, to this picture of Superman turned Hydra Supervillain, they force us to consider the ways the character is influenced by his history.
Just as Overman comes to doubt his values when he uncovers the horrors committed by the Nazis, we can use different takes on Supes to consider his role in the world. Alternate versions of Superman, and reimaginings like the grim DCEU version, show the potential he could have to dominate and control, and ask questions about the ideologies he serves.
9 AQUAMAN'S CALL OF CTHULHU
This piece of fan art by MK01 has done the rounds as an Aquaman meme for a long time. It's highly meme-worthy, with Aquaman both a campy cartoon character and a commander of Cthulhu. It's nice to see the much maligned hero get his own back by summoning a Great Old One. His powers do include communication with all marine life, of course.
If the mythos created by H. P. Lovecraft shows anything, it's that these ancient beings bow to no-one. They are madness inducing nightmares beyond any control. His cultists can, at best, pray for a swifter end than the rest of the world when Cthulhu awakens in R'lyeh. If Aquaman ever did summon the squidlike eldritch horror, it would plunge him to the depths of villainy. Rather than laugh at this picture, perhaps we should fear it.
While Cthluhu himself doesn't feature in DC comics, the world built by Lovecraft did lend the comics some names. Gotham's Arkham Asylum is a nod to the fictional county where Lovecraft's famos story Color Out of Space was set. Given the madness contained in the asyulm, the name is very appropriate. In an Elseworld's story called The Doom that Came to Gotham, Batman battled a number of Lovecraftian horrors.
8 YELLOW LANTERN BATMAN
Batman and fear go hand in hand. He chose his bat emblem not only because his enemies would fear it, but to channel his own fear of the animal. When he tried on Hal Jordan's green power ring, he realised he wasn't ready to part with his inner darkness and fears regarding his parents. Fortunately this exposure protects Batman when he encounters a yellow power ring, preventing him from joining the Sinestro Corps of Yellow Lanterns. This version of a Yellow Lantern Batman comes from JSenior.
This one shows us a Batman given over to the power of fear, all in the style of Batman's animated series.
It's a great blend of Batman's conventional colors and the sinister look of a Yellow Lantern. The Yellow Lanterns rely on fear to power their weapons, which is why they sought Batman in the first place. Batman embracing his fearsome and fearful sides would make him a powerful character and threaten to tip him over into villainy. In Forever Evil, he tries on another yellow power ring, and Sinestro berates him for holding back. Batman was unwilling to embrace his own fears wholly. This allows him to stay a superhero, but denies him the phenomenal power of the ring.
7 ZATANNA QUINN
Harley Quinn is an endless favorite for cosplay and fan art. Fans can't get enough of the unstable villain turned anti-hero, whose antics and complex relationship to the joker are a goldmine of reimagining. Of course, this extends to mashing up Harley with other DC characters. Here we have a version of Zatanna driven to join the Harley Quinn Joker, by HaryuDanto. She has traded in her famous magician's outfit for one more in keeping with Harley's gang, who are the stars of a spin off series in the comics.
Of course there's an obvious link between the clown-inspired villain and the magical superhero. Zatanna is a stage magician as well as a superhero, which means the big-top style of Harley Quinn translates easily to her. The playing card motif lightly suggests her skill as a card reader.
Zatanna also has a wide range of mental powers, allowing her to erase or modify the memories of others, which she has used on Batman and Catwoman. Using these powers has often pushed Zatanna into morally grey areas, influencing others against their will and undermining their trust in her. As a villain, these powers would make her a valuable ally to Harley Quinn, who was a trained psychologist at Arkham Asylum.
6 HAWKGIRL VENOMIZED
Hawkgirl and her fated partner Hawkman have a very complicated backstory, which either pegs them as ancient Egyptians or aliens from the planet Thanagar. Regardless, both versions use an extra-terrestrial substance, called the Nth Metal as a source of power. Hawkgirl's mace is made from the substance, and her Nth metal belt has gravity-defying powers.
Her unearthly powers and origin make for an interesting Marvel crossover in this picture by cric. We see Hawkgirl falling under the power of the Venom symbiote, another alien entity active on Earth. The symbiote is initially a villainous presence but has since become something of an antihero. The bond here makes for a scary prospect, combining the strength and flight of Hawkgirl with the symbiote's power to extend its biomass and spider-sense.
There is something interesting in the combination of the Venom symbiote, which bonds in complex ways with its host, and the complicated nature of Hawkgirl's existence.
The original Hawkgirl, Shiera Sanders Hall, was a reincarnation of her ancient ancestor. The spirit of this Golden Age Hawkgirl went on to possess the body of her cousin Kendra after she took her own life. The strange and complex relationship between Kendra and Shiera would make for an interesting interplay with the alien mind of the symbiote, which must also possess a host.
5 TYRANT MERA
The Queen of Atlantis is as powerful as she is complex. Mera is an Atlantean from the exiled penal colony Xebel, which lies behind a portal in the Bermuda Triangle. She came to Atlantis to wreak vengeance upon its king, but instead fell in love with Aquaman and rules by his side. This troubled beginning hangs over their relationship. On a number of occasions, especially after the loss of their son, Mera has railed against her husband and his people. During the Blackest Night story event she became a Red Lantern, impressing even Atrocitus with her rage.
In the Flashpoint story arc and related animated series, we saw an alternate universe where Wonder Woman takes out Mera. Arkenstellar presents a gruesome alternate take on the moment. Mera, like her husband, is a powerful Atlantean and could hold her own in a fight. Arkenstellar shows the Queen of Atlantis in full fury.
With a body conditioned to survive the deepest oceans, Mera packs a punch. She also has advanced hydrokinesis, which doubles as a power over ice. With these abilities she could easily become a terrifying dictator at the head of the armies of either Atlantis or Xebel. Like her husband, what makes her dangerous is the mighty army she could raise.
4 BATMAN BEYOND MECHANIZED
Batman Beyond served as a continuation of the other Batman Animated series, and also took the tone in a darker direction. Inspired by the grittiness of cyberpunk, we were treated to a neon lit and grungy Neo-Gotham protected by Terry McGinnis. The series looked at the use of technology to perpetrate and fight crime.
This version of the show's black and red Batsuit comes from Jared Krichevsky. Instead of the sleek black shadow of the cartoon, here we have a mechanical nightmare that looks more like a robot than a person. The design certainly looks more in keeping with a grim anti-hero, in keeping with the cyberpunk tone of the show. Terry isn't squeaky clean either, having had a stint in juvenile hall from his days as a street thug. The gang leader. Charlie Bigelow went to prison, but did not reform in the same way Terry did. The picture above could well belong to an alternate version of Terry who never quite renounced his darker side.
The show constantly pushed the boundaries of what the network was willing to risk in an animated show. This included dealing with violent teenagers in the wake of Columbine, which had resulted in edits to the dark Batman Beyond movie Return of the Joker.
3 POWER GIRL COBRA
In an alternate universe where DC Comics got the rights to more than just two issues of G.I. Joe, a crossover would mash the evil Cobra organisation with DC's memorable collection of supervillains. While this never happened for us, EryckWebbGraphics has given us Power Girl and a slew of other heroes reimagined as Cobra soldiers.
Cobra's global villainy translates easily into the world of costumed crime fighters. The rights to comic book incarnations have gone to many different companies, with Marvel, Devil's Due and IDW being the longest running. In all that time, there hasn't been a mainstream comics crossover.
Power Girl is a formidable superhero, as a Kryptonian from an alternate Earth. As a counterpart to Supergirl, she shares her powers and abilities but is often portrayed as more mature and experienced. She has the power of flight, super speed and strength, and laser eyes. An interesting feature that would make her a challenge as a supervillain would be her invulnerability to some kinds of kryptonite. She originally comes from Earth-2's Krypton equivalent, and this alternate dimension origin means some of Earth's kryptonite has no effect on her. Fortunately she seems never to have slipped from heroism in the comics.
2 DARK SUPERGIRL
With the immense power granted by our sun, any Kryptonian on earth could have devestating potential if they chose to become a supervillain. While Superman is often a prime choice to look at the danger that could pose, his cousin would pose just as much of a threat.
Kara Zor-El, fortunately, shares her cousin's sense of right and wrong as well as his powers. But if she chose to follow the path of violence like Zod and other evil Kyrptonians, she might look like this picture by hanzozuken. Trading in the classic blue and red for black and silver, she is a vision of the conquering Kryptonian villain.
This design not far from the evil Earth-X version of Supergirl from the CW series.
Her evil counterpart, known as Overgirl, has taken up the ruthless SS logo in deep red over black, but the effect is similar to this picture. The rage in her eyes in this piece of fan art is a reminder that she hasn't always been good in the comics. Supergirl had a stint as a Red Lantern, and the universe felt her wrath as she took off with the power of the red power ring. This gives just a glimpse into the danger she would pose if she chose to be evil.
1 ORACLE TURNED HARLEY
Barbara Gordon is a fan favorite member of the Bat-family, and one with a truly horrific past. In the acclaimed but problematic The Killing Joke and its animated adaptation, she suffers terrible treatment at the Joker's hands as part of the villain's attempt to drive her father insane. Later comics gave her some agency again as Oracle, many of Batgirl's fans are still upset at her use for what may have been mere shock value. As Oracle, Barbara Gordon did become a rare example of a superhero living with disability in comics.
Mashing her trauma up with psychiatrist Harleen Quinzel, HaryuDanto suggests an even more terrifying alternative path. While in this version the approach the Joker takes to undermine Commissioner Gordon has not physically affected Barbara, it seems she has fallen into a similar psychosis to Harley Quinn.
While Barbara Gordon was Batgirl, she has faced the Joker's on-and-off-again romantic partner Harley a number of times. In many ways, the two are clear opposites with Harley relying more on her combat skills and weaponry while Batgirl and Oracle are more renowned for their intellect and technological gadgets. If Batgirl or Oracle were to join Harley Quinn or the Joker, her intelligence coupled with their villainous madness would be a dangerous combination.
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