With almost 80 years of comic book lore behind us, it's difficult to make a good original villain nowadays. What hasn't been done before? We've seen countless numbers of angry rich billionaires out for revenge or scientists who've been turned evil by their experiments (sometimes a little bit of both!) as well as crime bosses, cat burglars, and crazy serial killers. No matter the origin or no matter their mantra, chances are it's been done before.
One of the more typical ways to create a new baddie for a well-established superhero is to reveal that they have a clone, alternate-universe counterpart, or that their powers have somehow been copied by someone with nefarious intentions. Is it lazy? Yes. Is it effective? Also yes.
Some of these doppelgangers went on to become their respective hero's greatest nemesis, or at least a notable entry into their rogues gallery. Heck, some of them don't even try to pretend they're anything more than a mirror image of their enemy, using the exact same costume and name as their foe with only slight modifications!
Despite the lack of creativity that went into their development, these villains are anything but lame. Here are 16 Supervillains That Are Actually Just Superhero Doppelgangers.
Whether you love or hate the fact that Venom is getting his own film, sans Spider-Man, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who thinks the idea of a solo Venom movie is a bad one. Since his introduction in the early '90s, the duo of Eddie Brock and his alien symbiote have tormented Peter Parker, and the character has since become Spidey's (arguably) greatest nemesis. The symbiote itself has moved on to various different hosts in its existence, but it always manages to find its way back to Brock.
Cool as he may be, Venom is just a mirror image of Spider-Man. The villain was created that way intentionally; the symbiote was first attached to Peter and simply copied his powers when he went on to Brock. Even the character's design is the spitting image of Spider-Man's black costume minus the mouth!
Oddly enough, the organism's fusion with Brock is the only one that keeps Spidey's design. The subsequent hosts all had drastically different variations on the famous "white spider" and eyes.
Bizarro is everyone's favorite backwards-talking enemy of Superman. Unlike many of the Man of Steel's other foes, this guy often doesn't want to hurt anyone or do anything malicious. Instead, he is often duped into doing the dirty work of others thanks to his ridiculously low IQ or flies off the handle with a childish tantrum before he's stopped by Superman. Bizarro's origins almost aways paint him as a failed clone of Kal-El.
You can't get any more "doppelganger" than Bizarro. The villain is literally a funhouse mirror image of Kal-el: he hails from a planet called Htrae (Earth spelled backwards), speaks his sentences in reverse, and is grotesque. If that wasn't enough, the character has a weakness to blue Kryptonite and gets stronger when exposed to green Kryptonite. Even weirder is the fact that he boasts the powers of flame breath, freeze vision, and vacuum breath!
14 The Talons
Bat-fans everywhere have hailed Scott Snyder's run in the pages of Batman as one of the greatest to ever feature the Caped Crusader. Snyder has been the head writer for the character for six years now, but it all started back in 2011 with his Court of Owls story line. In this tale, we were introduced to the first of many of the writer's new villains, the Talons. This elite group of assassins did the work of Gotham's secret society, offing anyone who they saw as a threat to their existence. Naturally they saw the Dark Knight as one of these threats, and Batman barely escaped with his life after his encounter with the Talons.
If you stop and think about it, these guys are essentially just a bunch of evil Batmans. The members of the League of Shadows will typically wear standard ninja garb, but the Talons go all out to match their bosses' theme! They wear black full-body suits with a cowl made to look like the flying animal they're based off of. If that wasn't enough, they also have thematically-appropriate weapons that they use in place of any sort of superpowers. Convinced yet?
The origins of longtime X-Men villain Sabretooth are pretty murky, and have been retconned time and time again. Victor Creed originally started off as a simple serial killer without any sort of powers. He was then re-written to have been part of the same Weapon X program that created Wolverine and Deadpool. In X-Men Origins: Wolverine Fox went even further, making the villain Logan's half-brother. No matter his origin, one thing has remained consistent over the years: Sabretooth hates Wolverine!
Another thing that has remained consistent is the fact that Creed is little more than an evil version of Logan. They both have the same healing factor thanks to Weapon X. They both are scruffy-looking loners who are willing to commit unspeakable atrocities with their powers. Both Creed and Logan have superhuman scent receptors and claws. The only real difference between the two are their size and the type of claws they have!
12 Merlyn/Dark Archer
To be fair, it's not that difficult to copy the Green Arrow. Hell, the character himself is just a modern day knock-off of Robin Hood mixed with a little bit of Batman! There's a reason that Oliver Queen was never one of DC's flagship heroes. For most of the Silver Age he was just a version of the '66 Batman who used a bow and arrow instead of boomerangs. Seriously, there was an arrow cave and an arrow mobile at one point. Thankfully, the writers of the Bronze and Modern Ages were able to make Queen his own fleshed-out character.
Unfortunately the lack of interest in the character meant that he has a terrible rogues gallery; it's so bad, in fact, that many of his "greatest enemies" come from the pages of another comic! One of the few that originated in Green Arrow was Merlyn (aka the Dark Archer), the man from whom Oliver learned his own archery skills. Merlyn wore a black version of Arrow's costume and uses his own brand of trick arrows to carry out his dirty deeds.
"Hold up," you may protest, "Ragnarok is a clone of Thor. Of course he's going to be a doppelganger!" This may be true, but we're going to include this one on the account of a technicality... Ragnarok isn't a direct clone of the Asgardian Avenger. Instead, he is a cyborg that bears a striking resemblance to the Avenger thanks to a strand of the God of Thunder's hair giving him similar DNA.
In reality, Ragnarok is about as far from the Mighty Thor as you can get in terms of personality and power level. The real Thor is able to take on the Hulk without even breaking a sweat. Meanwhile his doppelganger gets taken out by the likes of Hercules and Iron Fist. He also gets totally obliterated when he tries to go up against the real God of Thunder. He may look the part, but Ragnarok is a clone just about in name only.
10 Black Adam
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is still waiting with bated breath to get his opportunity to play Black Adam in the DCEU. The company has already announced that the part is his, but they are struggling to find a way to bring him into the lore naturally. Shazam! still doesn't have a director or star, and the idea of the character appearing in Man of Steel 2 was shot down fairly quickly. We don't know about you, but we're stoked to finally see DC's villain/anti-hero on the big screen!
Undoubtedly one of DC's reservations about using Adam in Shazam! is the fact that the evil doppelganger has been done to death already in superhero films. Teth-Adam is an ancient Egyptian who was deemed worthy of Shazam's powers before he got a thirst for power and tried to take over the world. This means that he and Captain Marvel's powers are exactly the same. They also wear the exact same costume; the only way to tell the two apart is Black Adam's pointy ears and their costume color.
9 General Zod
Isn't it strange that one of Superman's greatest enemies is just a plain ol' army general? Well... an army general from Krypton, but still! Zod is normally portrayed as a ruthless Kryptonian warlord who went rogue after serving in the planet's military. In Man of Steel, Zod was the leader of an attempted military coup as well as the assailant of Jor-El. Everyone remembers this guy's most famous quote: "Kneel before Zod."
But what makes General Zod so special? He is a carbon copy of Superman, just a little bit older. Due to their shared Kryptonian DNA the pair have the exact same power set. Man of Steel even goes so far as to give him a black, capeless version of the Superman suit underneath his battle armor.
Remember the villain in The Incredible Hulk? Don't worry, Marvel seems to have forgotten as well! Despite receiving above-average reviews, the second entry into the MCU didn't really go anywhere; Bruce Banner was recast, Betsy Ross is AWOL, and both the Abomination and the Leader are nowhere to be found. The only thing that seems to have carried over was the existence of Thunderbolt Ross!
In both the original comics and the MCU, the Abomination started out as a regular man who injected himself with even more gamma radiation than Bruce Banner. Is he big? Check. Is he green? Check. Does he lack the ability to speak coherent sentences? Check. Naked other than a pair of shorts? Check!
In fact, the only difference between the two seems to be the Abomination's more bony appearance and (in the comics) amphibian-like ears.
7 The Crime Syndicate of America
You knew this one was going to be on here. Just look at that picture above and tell us that you can't identify the Crime Syndicate's heroic counterparts. The villainous team first appeared in the pages of Justice League of America in the 1960s as one of the many alternate versions of the League who lived on different "Earths." On Earth Three, the Crime Syndicate wreaked havoc unopposed.
Each member of the team is the doppelganger of one of our favorite DC heroes. Instead of Superman, there's Ultraman. In place of Wonder Woman, there is Superwoman. Power Ring holds Green Lantern's spot, while Owlman and Johnny Quick replace Batman and the Flash, respectively.
Though it would be easy to just discount these villains as exact replicas of DC's greatest heroes, they each have enough differences to make them stand on their own (Johnny Quick is tech-based, Power Ring gets his powers from ancient magic, etc.)
6 Baron Mordo
Brought to life by the charismatic Chiwetel Ejiofor in last year's Doctor Strange, Baron Mordo is the Sorcerer Supreme's greatest rival next to Dormammu. The MCU changed up his backstory a little; in the original comics Strange was the direct cause of Mordo's fall. The two were rival students of the Ancient One before the Baron tried to kill their master and take the title for himself. Strange foiled his plot and Mordo swore to get revenge on the Doctor.
Because both characters are the understudy of the Ancient One, they have very similar powers. Like, literally anything that Strange can do, Mordo can do just as well. However, the Baron was training with his master for years before Steven Strange came around. This means that he has even more knowledge of magic and is not above dabbling in the powers of the Dark Dimension.
5 Trick Shot
Is anyone else dying for some sort of Hawkeye show or movie? Jeremy Renner's interpretation of the character is probably the most underrated performance in the entire MCU. It's a shame that he only gets to flex his muscles whenever there's an Avengers-level emergency. We'd love to see Renner going up against villains like Trick Shot and other street-level threats in his own adventures!
Introduced in the late '80s, Buck Chisholm is one of Hawkeye's biggest rivals as well as his former mentor (wait, didn't we do this already?).
As a young boy, Clint Barton learned everything he knew from Chisholm, a circus performer specializing in archery. The man eventually tried to lure Clint into a life of crime, but when their first robbery went awry and Barton allowed himself to be caught, Chisholm turned on him. He took up the name Trick Shot and became a mercenary for hire.
There seems to be no difference between the two characters; they wear the exact same colors, have the same outfit, and share the exact same skill set!
4 Just about every Iron Man Villain
Iron Man is notorious for having one of the worst rogues galleries in all of comics. Who could forget villains like Atom Smasher or the Crimson Dynamo? Doesn't the sheer gravitas of a name like the Living Laser make you quiver in fear? Yeah, aside from the Mandarin and Obidiah Stane, Tony Stark doesn't have any true "great villains."
Maybe it's because they all try to be direct copies of Iron Man? Seriously, both Iron Man and Iron Man 2 ended with Tony facing off against guys in a giant suit of armor powered by the same technology that powered himself.
The Melter? A suit of armor that shoots hot lasers. Crimson Dynamo? Russian dude with a suit of armor. Even when the MCU tried to incorporate Whiplash (one of Iron Man's only non-armored villains) they gave him a suit of cybernetic armor! If you ever want a good laugh, look up a list of Iron Man villains and try to find a decent one without any sort of Stark Tech enhancements.
3 Black Beetle
Surprisingly, Black Beetle is more of a Booster Gold villain than he is a Blue Beetle enemy. He first appeared to Booster Gold from the future, urging him to go back in time and save Ted Kord from his terrible fate at the hands of Maxwell Lord. However, the hero discovers that doing this sets into motion an alternate dystopian timeline in which Black Beetle wouldn't have lost his true love to the current Blue Beetle. Of course, Ted makes the ultimate sacrifice and returns back to the Infinite Crisis timeline to set things right.
Black Beetle is literally just a color swap of Blue Beetle. There's no denying it whatsoever! He uses black energy (instead of blue energy) to attack his enemies and has the same time-traveling capabilities that allowed the Blue Beetle to go on his adventures with Booster Gold all through the years. Not to mention, the armor is 100% the same.
Is there a better friend to foe tale in the comic book world than that of Sinestro? Born on a far-off planet, the character was an archaeologist specializing in lost civilizations before he had a Green Lantern ring bestowed upon him. As a member of the Green Lantern Corps, he was assigned to be the mentor for Hal Jordan or Earth. However, Sinestro's methods of policing were too harsh for the corps, and they banished him to the antimatter universe. Here he created a ring of power out of the Yellow Light of Fear, and the rest is history.
But let's step back here a second... Sinestro is just a Green Lantern gone bad. There's nothing special about his ring other than its power source (fear instead of willpower). It still does the same sort of things that a green ring allows a Green Lantern to do. Also, it gives him the slight advantage over his enemies, considering how vulnerable they are to the color yellow. Now that we mention it, doesn't Green Lantern technically have a doppelganger for every color of the color spectrum?
1 Reverse Flash
Reverse Flash is more of a title than it is a singular character. Five different men have donned the name as they took on the likes of Jay Garrick, Barry Allen, and Wally West across the decades. The villain has also had different villain monikers; Professor Zoom, Inertia, and the Rival are all lumped under the wide umbrella of "Reverse Flashes." The character is one of the Flash's greatest enemies, on top of being one of DC's fastest characters. Currently, three iterations of the character have appeared in the Arrowverse on the hit CW show The Flash.
They didn't even try to hide the fact that this guy is a direct copy of his hero. His name is "Reverse Flash" for crying out loud! He gets his powers from the "Negative" Speed Force. His costume is literally just the Flash's with the colors reversed! There's your standard copycat villains, and then there's the Reverse Flash.
What do you think of our list? Are we being too harsh on some of these guys? Any doppelganger villains that we've missed? Let us know in the comments below!