Villains Turned Heroes: Ranking the Top 5

It’s Good to be Bad, but Better to be a Hero

Paarthurnax: “No day goes by where I am not tempted to return to my inborn nature. [in Draconic] Honor fighting the lure of power. [in English] What is better: to be born good, or to overcome your evil nature through great effort?

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Villains are always bad news. Murderers, thieves, rapists and others prowl city streets looking for victims. But could they be redeemed? Could a villain choose to join the side of the angels and work to atone? Their crimes may never be forgotten, but some bad guys become heroes.

There are many reasons a villain may become a hero. Perhaps a job went wrong and they join the heroes for protection. Maybe they crossed a line they held sacred, like hurting a child. For all we know, they were visited by three preachy ghosts one Christmas Eve. So who are the Top 5 Villains who became Heroes? Let’s find out!

#5 The Beetle

Played By: Mark C. Hanson and Fred Tatascoire

Jenkins: Maybe The Beetle could have stabbed him in the back, but MACH 1 couldn’t. This hero stuff, Meteorite. I’m starting to think… I think it might be contagious.

Spider-Man Team-Up #7

Some villains aren’t big name threats. They get pushed out of the limelight by the prim donnas and languish in obscurity, only being brought back for new heroes and villains to show their might by easily defeating them. Our first Villain turned Hero narrowly avoided that fate.

Abner Jenkins was a bored mechanic who was passed over for a promotion. He built a gliding suit of armor and set out to earn fame and fortune as The Beetle. The Beetle tried to build a rep by fighting the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man, but he always lost.

Nazi villain Baron Zemo recruited The Beetle into the Masters of Evil to fight The Avengers. Unfortunately for them, The Avengers were killed by another villain. Their teammate Goliath suggested that they take the Avengers’ place. The Masters of Evil agreed and debuted as The Thunderbolts, with Jenkins building a new armor dubbed MACH 1.

The Thunderbolts acted as fifth columnists, planning to destroy the superhero community from within. MACH 1 began questioning his allegiance when he saved Spider-Man and realized that he liked being a hero. MACH 1 convinced his teammates to join him and turn on Zemo. Jenkins reformed the Thunderbolts into Marvel’s answer to the Suicide Squad, a team of villains who perform heroics.

#4 Black Widow

Played by: Scarlet Johannson and and Laura Bailey

Black Widow:I’ve got red in my ledger, I’d like to wipe it out.

The Avengers (2012)

Spies are a strange breed. Yesterday’s ally is tomorrow’s enemy and vice versa. Sides are further muddied by double agents. Our next Villain turned Hero wreaked a lot of havoc before coming in from the cold.

Natasha Romanoff was inducted into The Red Room as a child. This Soviet super-soldier program trained her to become an unstoppable assassin. Natasha was codenamed the Black Widow and completed many missions to destabilize the Soviet Union’s enemies.  

Black Widow was assigned to steal a Stark Industries prototype while the Crimson Dynamo distracted Iron Man. She failed and went on the run, rightly fearing that her handlers would kill her. Black Widow tried the theft again with Hawkeye’s help, but was shot. Hawkeye rushed her to a hospital and convinced Black Widow to defect.

Want more intel on this Villain turned Hero? We’ve got the dossier in our Black Widow Backstory.

#3 Plastic Man

Played by: Michael Bell and Tom Kenny

Plastic Man:I was afraid the truth would come out sooner or later.
Chief Branner:You, of all people! How could you do such a thing?! The hero of American youth, the man I trusted, a common thief!
Plastic Man:Yes, I know it sounds like a new low in rats. I know I deserve the worst… but I hoped to somehow atone for those misguided deeds by fighting the very crimes I was once a part of.” 

Police Comics #26

You don’t need powers to be a villain. You can get pretty far with a good punch, gumption, and a gun. But sometimes a second chance comes along. Lucky for this villain turned hero, it came with a side order of superpowers.

“Eel” O’Brian was an infamous gangster. While robbing a chemical plant, he was shot by security, exposed to strange chemicals, and abandoned by his crew. Eel escaped before passing out and woke up in the care of a monk. The monk had sensed Eel’s potential to become a hero and offered him a chance at a new life. Even more shocking, Eel learned that the chemical exposure gave him the ability to shapeshift.

Eel became a hero called Plastic Man. His new powers altered his mind, causing him to become comedic and laid-back instead of the bitter criminal that he was. Plastic Man joined the Justice League, who were willing to overlook his past and help him atone.

He may be a goofball, but don’t underestimate Plastic Man. He has all of Eel’s criminal skills, the most powerful shapeshifting abilities on Earth, and is immortal. It’s telling that Batman’s contingency plan for Plastic Man returning to villainy is “hope it doesn’t happen.”

#2 Rogue

Played by: Anna Paquin and Mehgan Black

Rogue:You knew what would happen next! Ah had Ms. Marvel’s super strength and ability ta’ fly permanently, but that wasn’t all! Ah also had her mind trapped inside me. That’s when the spells started.
Ms. Marvel Hallucination:You stole my powers! YOU STOLE MY LIFE!

X-Men: the Animated Series “A Rogue’s Tale” (Season 2, Episode 9)

Once a villain has been a hero long enough, many adaptations will ignore their previous crimes. There may be an occasional reference , but otherwise, they were always heroes. But those secrets rarely stay buried, a lesson our penultimate villain turned hero knows well.

Rogue was a teenage runaway who developed the ability to drain powers and memories from anyone she touched. She was taken in by Mystique, a shapeshifting terrorist who groomed her to join The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.  Rogue fought The X-Men and Avengers, but her life changed when she grabbed Ms. Marvel for too long and permanently copied her powers.

Rogue didn’t know that imprints of her victims remained in her mind. Ms. Marvel’s imprint was too strong to suppress and began haunting her. Desperate to quiet the specter, she sought out Professor X and begged for his help. He was able to suppress the imprint and Rogue joined the X-Men in gratitude.

The X-Men were reluctant to accept Rogue, but came around after she saved them multiple times. She has since become one of the team’s most consistent members, made amends with Ms. Marvel (after literally getting punched to the moon by her), and fought The Brotherhood alongside the Avengers.

#1 Venom

Played by: Tom Hardy and Topher Grace

Venom: We will be your friend, and more! From this day forward, all innocents can consider themselves under our protection! And whoever would dare do them harm will answer to… VENOM!” 

Venom: Lethal Protector #6

Just because a villain becomes a hero doesn’t mean they’ll always stay on the straight and narrow. Some villains switch sides at the drop of a hat, but usually wind up on the side of the angels. That’s the case for our last villain turned hero.

Eddie Brock was a journalist who had a legendary run of bad luck. He interviewed a serial killer called The Sin-Eater and published an expose, but learned that the person he talked with was a serial confessor. Spider-Man eventually caught the real killer, but the mistake ruined Eddie’s life and left him contemplating suicide. That’s when he discovered an alien symbiote.

The symbiote bonded with Eddie and gave him the powers of its previous host, Spider-Man. Eddie chose the name Venom for their alter ego, and they began hunting Spider-Man. After several close calls, Spider-Man brokered a truce when he saved Eddie’s ex-wife from collapsing debris.

Venom left New York for San Francisco to become a vigilante. He was still violent and constantly threatened to eat his enemies’ brains, but Venom settled into the role of a “Lethal Protector.” Or as most people would call it, a 90’s anti-hero. Venom occasionally gets lured back to villainy by the Symbiote’s needs or his own hang-ups, but villains are never safe from this hero.

Want to know more about our number one? Check out the Venom Backstory. Don’t worry, he checked his sources before publishing it this time.

Who is your favorite villain who became a superhero? Is there one better than these? Tell us in the comments.

Image: Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) in Marvel Studios’ BLACK WIDOW, in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access. Photo by Jay Maidment. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

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