Superheroes, some more than others, always toe a fine line of morality. Almost every superhero has either a tragic backstory accompanying him/her, or a particular driving force that allows them to be the epitome of all that is good in their world. What then distinguishes a regular person from a superhero, perhaps, more than their superpowers and their frankly awesome gadgetry and weaponry, is their ability to not ‘fall’ in the face of adverse situations, to fairly distinguish right from wrong. As mentioned earlier, it’s a thin line, but one that’s easily distinguishable for our superheroes. What happens though, when that line gets blurred? When our beloved superheroes finally cross over to the dark side? When saviours become tyrants?
Many a nemeses pry on the moral obligations of these heroes, continuously trying to fracture people’s beliefs in their icons. One thing with some of these superheroes is for sure though; you twist the origin tale a little and toy with the whole moral ambiguity conundrum, you will see, that all it might actually take is one bad day. Again, in the immortal words of the Joker, “You see, madness as you know, is like Gravity. All it takes is a little push!” foreshadowing the iconic fall of Gotham’s White Knight, Harvey Dent. In that light, for now, let’s take a look at some superheroes, who in an alternate universe would have made perfect villains, owing to that one bad day. And why not? After all there is something delectable and enduring about well carved out villains, isn’t there? Here is the list of 10 superheroes who would make perfect villains.
Etrigan the demon is one entry on this list that probably qualifies being a villain the most. Hell, he has the looks for it. (Zing!) Anyone unknown to the comic book history of Etrigan would most probably consider him a villain upon first viewing. The only reasons he has allied with heroes are the positive affiliations of his alter ego, Jason Blood. Other than that, he is a demon from hell who is superstrong and breathes fire. Point made!
9. John Constantine
The hellblazer isn’t actually a true blue hero to begin with. He is an antihero, but one who is well acquainted with the occult arts, and that already puts him ahead as a frontrunner in this category. John Constantine is probably the least “hero like” entry on our list, but that is what made him popular in the first place. He is one of the most powerful sorcerers in the DC universe, is extremely foul mouthed, a chain smoker, a savage talker, and mostly a cynical badass. Although he has been infrequently associated with Justice League Dark, he has an extensive circle of contacts that includes, but is not limited to vampires and all kinds of wretched monsters from hell. One thing that I can say for sure is this: If John Constantine were to become a villain, he would redefine cool as a more suave bad guy.
The Daredevil is easily the darkest character in the Marvel Comics universe, rivaled perhaps, only by Wolverine; blinded by radioactive exposure but gaining heightened senses and responses, spending his nights attending to the city’s sleaze. The 2015 Netflix series on the character has gone the brutal way, allowing Daredevil to go all R-rated on his enemies, providing some of the series’ most memorable, raw fight scenes. Despite the tragedy, Matt Murdock chose to become a lawyer, and fight crime in every way he could: as a man of the law by day, and as a hooded vigilante by night. But, Daredevil as a supremely trained killer and assassin would be severely cool to imagine. His overall dark persona is perfectly in keeping with the shades of villainy, making the “man without fear” the perfect pick for our superheroes-turned-villains category.
7. Martian Manhunter
The Martian Manhunter has been one of the foremost DC superheroes, and is also one of the founding members of the Justice League. However, to the human race, this martian protector has always been an outsider, much like Superman. In many story arcs and continuities, Martian Manhunter is the last survivor among his species. Twist the origins a little, and you have a man with powers almost at par with superman, including shape shifting, manipulation of matter, telekinesis, mind control and superhuman strength and defences among others. Notwithstanding his otherwise calm demeanour, even Superman reckons him as one of the strongest beings on the Earth. Having J’on J’onzz’s alter ego on the side of the villains would mean a full blown extra-terrestrial threat to Earth, the kind of threat that never fails to deliver an epic showdown.
The Asgardian demigod inspired from Norse mythology is arguably one of the strongest Avengers. Apart from having superhuman strength and defences, he also wields the superpowered hammer Mjolnir, that grants him abilities of flight and powers as the god of thunder. However, those familiar with Thor’s origin story, both in comics and on film, know Thor to be an arrogant god, who has also been banished to Earth multiple times by his father Odin, to be taught humility and nobility.
However, a reimagined character freed from Thor’s Norse mythology roots, wielding the same powers and about just as arrogant, would make for an excellent villain. Don’t believe me? There exists, in fact, Thor’s cybernetic clone, labelled ‘Dark Thor’ in some story arcs, who is identical to Thor and has the same powers, but manages to look delectably evil!
Come to think of it, an origin story as tragic as that of Victor Stone, and why he didn’t tip over to the dark side becomes an interesting topic of discussion. In the new 52 continuity, Victor’s origin story is summed up in the following phrases: A strained relationship with his father, a freak life-threatening accident that changed everything, upon waking up from which, Victor finds most of his body parts replaced by cybernetic prosthetics and enhancements from a mother box. Not only does that drastically alter what he looked like, it also took away any semblance that he would have had of leading a normal life. Accompanied with the tragic backstory, Cyborg’s abilities as a literally walking supercomputer and his connections to Apokoliptian tech owing to the motherbox infusion would make him a formidable foe, especially in today’s times where virtually everything you can think of can be controlled with computers. Coupled with that, Victor already possessed a genius level intellect prior to his transformation into Cyborg. Add some advanced weaponry with plasma cannons and you are good to go.
Dr. Bruce Banner’s alter ego is a ticking time bomb. The Hulk has, on more occasions than one, run into conflict with our superheroes on account of his uncontrollable rage, and caused immense destruction to life and property. In fact, the scenario is so plausible that recent films starring the Hulk have toyed with the idea of having an insubordinate Hulk square off with the Avengers, most notably in the two ‘Avengers’ films. The fact that Banner’s Hulk personality is as resentful of his human form, as Banner is of the giant green monster, further pushes the character’s uncertainty. If we let the uncertainty tip a little to the dark side, it is known that the Hulk has the capability to level entire cities in one go. The Hulk persona is mostly bulletproof, and prone to virtually all ballistic ammunition, possessing physical strength that rivals even that of a God like Thor, and is often regarded as a mindless, uncontainable force of destruction when angered beyond control. Go figure.
Remember a scene in the third act of ‘Batman V Superman’, when Luthor reveals his true intentions and Clark confronts Lois on the ground before flying off to fight the Batman? “No one stays good in this world”, he says. That right there defines Snyder’s somewhat dour take on the Man of Steel. There have, in fact, been multiple incarnations of an evil Superman, most iconic among them being the one from the ‘Injustice’ storyline, where Superman turns into a tyrant following the loss of Lois and his unborn child.
Let’s face it, Superman IS the embodiment of all things merry, foremost among them being Hope. With his powers, he is practically a God. There, however, seems to be this fascination with the ‘fall’ associated with a Godlike superhero. After all, it is the fall of the most idealistic that hits the hardest. All said and done, the earthlings of the DCverse are sure lucky to have Superman on their side.
Tragic backstory: Check. Lost people he loved: Check. Brooding and Violent: Check! The Wolverine is one of those superheroes who continually rise up even if the world continues doing wrongs to them. The Weapon X program, that gave Wolverine his adamantium claws, was an attempt to weaponise Logan, and frankly, that’s what he has always been regarded as by everybody before Professor X took him under his wing: a weapon, an animal. As we have seen in ‘Logan’, and countless other comics, the Wolverine (both as himself and his evil clone, X-23) can be a brutal killing machine. Coupled with that, his ability to heal and recoup from fatal injuries adds to his assets. Put on the opposite side, he will be a formidable foe and force to reckon with for the X-Men, no doubt about that. Don’t tell me you would not be scared of a brute man, the size of a beast, wielding metal claws, should he appear in front of you one day!
He has gone rogue on multiple occasions, but that was either via manipulation or mind control. That being said, he could have easily sided with the Brotherhood, preaching mutant superiority, given how often the humans have always tried to inflict harm upon him; or simply puffing a cigar and sipping bear in some bar, not giving a f**k about either side, but proving menacing and lethal should someone dare cross paths with him!
There is no other superhero with more shades of grey than The Dark Knight himself. It would then seem plausible enough to imagine a scenario, wherein the event that shaped Bruce’s life and inspired him to take up the mantle against fighting crime, that of the murder of his parents, could have actually made him develop a hateful and cynical view of the world, and Batman could have easily been the complete antithesis of what he is. Remember, a time above and a time before, diamond absolutes, and what falls is fallen? The closest brush to this vision we have seen on celluloid is Ben Affleck’s brooding take on Batman. He has lost so much during his 20 year crime fighting tenure in Gotham that he just refuses to show any restraint, branding criminals, beating them to pulp mercilessly and straight out blowing them up using cannons and guns. While it’s a somewhat flawed vision, it also felt something that a man so brought down by the wrongs done to him would do.
Read More: Best Female Superheroes