Superheroes are often portrayed as larger than life icons of everything good that regular people should look up to and aspire to be. However, writers have made often made a point of showing that these heroes are real people underneath their costumes, and that they can make mistakes. Sometimes this leads to heroes becoming villains themselves. To celebrate the home release of X-Men: Dark Phoenix and Jean Grey’s journey to the dark side, here are five other heroes who went bad.
Warren Worthington III/Angel
Another of the X-Men who became a villain, Angel was one of the original five members of the team, and was a hero for decades. During a crossover event called Mutant Massacre, Warren was tortured and his wings mutilated, leaving him unable to fly. Following this he was captured by the mutant Apocalypse, who offered to restore his wings if he served him. Warren was experimented upon, and given organic metal wings. The experiments also turned his skin blue, and resulted in an extremely aggressive personality. He became the villain Archangel. Over the years Warren has been able to regain his normal personality and appearance, but Archangel lurks beneath the surface, occasionally breaking free and turning him into a cold blooded killer, and villain, more than once.
Clark Kent/Superboy Prime
The DC Comics multiverse was very complicated, and was streamlined a lot during the event Crisis On Infinite Earths, where a number of other universes were destroyed. One of these worlds was Earth Prime, where superheroes only existed in comics. In this universe a young boy named Clark Kent discovered that he was just like the Superman of comics, and had amazing powers. Unfortunately, during the events of the crisis he lost his world, and ended up trapped in a pocket dimension.
In this dimension he could see into the main DC Universe, and he didn’t like what was happening there. He felt that his sacrifice during the Crisis has been for nothing, and literally punched his way through the dimensional barriers into Earth-One. He helped to instigate the Infinite Crisis and murdered several heroes in the process, including members of the Teen Titans, Justice Society of America, and the Doom Patrol.
Eventually imprisoned by the Guardians of the Universe inside a red sun, and watched over by dozens of Green Lanterns at all times, he broke free and took part in the Sinestro Corps War, where he continued his bloody rampage. Superboy Prime made the ultimate sacrifice to save all of creation, and it ended up twisting him into the very thing he hated the most. He remains one of the deadliest threats within the DC Universe.
Steve Rogers/Captain America
Captain America is one of those heroes who comes to mind as being truly noble. He was made to fight Nazis, has stood up for the downtrodden, and is generally seen as one of the all time good guys. So it’s understandable that fans lost their shit when it was revealed that he was actually working for the Nazi organisation Hydra the whole time when he declared ‘Hail Hydra’.
The comic event Secret Empire revealed that Steve Rogers, who had recently been made young again following his rapid ageing, had been altered in more than one way. It turned out that his arch villain Red Skull had made it so that Cap’s memories were altered, making him believe that he was a Hydra agent.
Whilst this was only a temporary change to the character, and he was soon returned to normal, it was a big moment for comic readers. The incorruptible Steve Rogers had been corrupted, and for some fans this was a storyline too far, and a lot of people took to social media to condemn making the character a Nazi, even temporarily, especially as his creators were Jewish. This storyline was given a slight nod in Avengers: Endgame when Cap uses the phrase ‘Hail Hydra’.
Jean Paul Valley/Batman
During the 1990s Batman was put through one of his toughest storylines in Knightfall, where his back was broken by the villain Bane. Unable to carry on as Batman, Bruce requested that another vigilante, Jean Paul Valley, take on the mantle for him. Jean Paul was the hero Azrael, a former assassin for The Order of Saint Dumas.
When he became Batman, Jean Paul was a lot more aggressive than Bruce, and used a new set of weapons in his mission. He eventually goes on to create a whole suit of armour that’s reminiscent of his Azrael persona, and tells Robin to get lost. This is all thanks to the brainwashing that he was put through by The Order. When he eventually starts letting people die Bruce thinks enough is enough and becomes Batman once again, battling Jean Paul for the mantle. Jean Paul is broken free of his brainwashing and becomes a hero once again, but will always be remembered for that time Batman went bad.
Hal Jordan/Green Lantern
Often referred to as ‘The Greatest Green Lantern’, Hal Jordan was one of the best heroes Earth had to offer until his hometown was destroyed by the villain Mongul, killing millions. Blaming himself for not being strong enough to stop it, or to bring everyone back, Hal gave into his fear and became possessed by the entity Parallax, the embodiment of fear. Parallax travels to Oa, the home of the Green Lanterns, and kills several key members of the organisation, before killing the Guardians of the Universe.
He would reappear a number of times over the years, once trying to wipe out all of time, but eventually Hal was able to break through the evil personality and save Earth by giving his life to reignite the sun. Thanks to it being comics, Hal didn’t stay dead, and is now back being a hero. What makes his story stand out, however, is that it wasn’t revealed that he was possessed for more than a decade and fans were left to believe that everything he did as Parallax was by his own choice.