Everybody Wants to Rule the World: 10 Superheroes Who Tried

<i>By <a href=http://www.twitter.com/graemem>Graeme McMillan, Newsarama Contributor</a></i> As John Lennon once sang, "Well, you know, we all want to change the world." But doing so is much easier if you have some superpowers on your side. <p>For years, comics have demonstrated that while people with incredible abilities <em>can</em> effect massive social and cultural upheaval on the world at large, it usually works out pretty badly for everyone involved even if things are going well for Cyclops, Emma Frost, Namor, Colossus and Magik as of this week's <b>Avengers vs. X-Men #6</b>. <p>I hope you're reading this, Phoenix Five, because here are 10 superheroes who tried to actually make the world "better" and entirely failed. <p><i>Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's <a href=http://www.facebook.com/Newsarama><b>FACEBOOK</b></a> and <a href=http://twitter.com/newsarama><b>TWITTER</b></a>!</i> <p> <p>


Does Magneto deserve to be on this list? It depends on where you fall on the "Is he a flawed hero, or a redeemed villain, or somewhere in between" question <a href=http://marvel.com/comic_books/series/14683/magneto_not_a_hero_2011_-_present>we know where Marvel stands on that one</a>, of course (although, considering what actually happened in that series, you could make the argument that the title was sarcastic) but there's no denying that, even <em>after</em> Magneto reformed the first time, he's kept being drawn back to that whole "Mutant Supemacy" thing, even going so far as to attempt to change the polarity of the Earth's poles to make it happen before retcons and Xorns swept that idea under the carpet. <p>Now, he's on the side of the guys with the cosmic powers but will that be a good thing, in the end?


Most people consider Superman to be the ultimate agent of the status quo, and for good reason; if one superhero stands for keeping everything just the way you like it, thanks very much, it's the Man of Steel. <p>But as the 1990s drew to a close, Superman seemed to finally realize that everything would be so much better if he was in charge, and made moves to become King of The World, as <a href=http://superman.wikia.com/wiki/Superman:_King_of_the_World>the 1999 one-shot that finished the storyline</a> called him. Of course, it turned out to be someone <em>pretending</em> to be Superman in the end, but still, now that the idea is in his head...


Thanks to the time-traveling manipulations of both Waverider and Monarch (who was a different Monarch, but also the same Monarch, and... it's confusing, just go with it), Hawk of "& Dove" fame cracked after witnessing the death of his second partner, and decided that he needed to make the world a better place... preferably by using an Iron Man-esque suit of armor to become a dictator who crushed free will in order to ensure that no-one would ever get hurt ever again. <p>It was a crazy scheme, made even crazier by the behind the scenes happenings that changed Monarch's secret identity from the planned Captain Atom to Hawk at the last minute, and one that of course! doesn't even matter anymore after The New 52 ensured that no-one ever need think of <em>Armageddon 2001</em> ever again.


Along similar lines, the character that ended up ensuring that Extant wouldn't get his worldwide dictatorship after all didn't do it out of the good of his heart no, Hal Jordan at the time was <em>another</em> hero driven insane by grief (this time, over the destruction of all of Coast City by the Cyborg Superman) who'd decided that everything would be okay if only he was in charge and could control the natural flow of events. <p>He meant that literally, too; Jordan even destroyed reality in order to re-create the universe in his image, just to ensure that everyone would end up with happier, safer lives. Instead, the big bang that he was partially responsible for the heroes who'd gathered to stop him in the 1994 <em>Zero Hour</em> mini-series also had some culpability would result in a mind-wiping Justice League, a raped Sue Dibny and all manner of tragedies even darker than anything he'd come from. Good work, Hal.


Everyone's favorite robotic Avenger yaah, like Captain America isn't really a Life Model Decoy by this point. We all saw him <em>shot dead</em>, after all spent part of his 1980s finding himself joined to an alien supercomputer called ISAAC (It stood for Integral Synaptic Anti-Anioinic Computer, and had once belonged to the Eternals of Titan), leading to a period where it seemed like a really good idea to take over the world and assume command of every automated system on the planet, just to ensure that everything would run smoothly. <p>These days, such an idea seems laughable as we all know, the Internet keeps <em>anything</eM> from running smoothly but at the time, it was dangerous enough to ensure that Earth's Mightiest Heroes had to step in to stop things.


On the one hand, Tony Stark's response to the Stamford, Connecticut tragedy showed a pro-active superhero trying to keep America safe. On the other, he kind of created a fascistic environment that would rather jail opponents than engage them in any kind of conversation about the issues... and in a weird quasi-alien prison that existed in another dimension, too. <p>It could also be pointed out that, by creating such a paranoid Police State, he also enabled the transition from the entirely peaceful-and-never-shady-at-all-honest S.H.I.E.L.D. to Norman Osborn's apparently-very-different-but-it's-not-clear-why-other-than-the-name H.A.M.M.E.R., but that might be over-egging the argument pudding. Still: Tony, you were less of a public menace when you were drunk and in charge of a walking robotic death machine, and that's really saying something.


What's that you say? Faking an alien invasion as a way to create world unity and prevent the cold war from erupting into a nuclear showdown, in the process killing untold hundreds who you see as acceptable collateral damage considering the millions whose lives you'll be saving, <em>isn't</em> a workable idea? That there are not only scientists whose wish to analyze the squid you've dumped on New York who'll discover the truth, thereby creating even more paranoia between nations, but also a diary from a former colleague lying <em>even as you read this</em> in the in-tray of an off-center political publication that could blow the whole thing wide open? <p>Well, that's just too bad. Because Ozymandias did it 35 minutes ago.


And then there are the superheroes who actually <em>manage</em> to change the world. As Mark Gruenwald's classic 1985 miniseries demonstrates, the bizarro JLA's "Utopia Program" put the team in charge of the United States, instituting "behavior modification" for criminals, introducing technology to resurrect the dead and, in a low-key addition to such sweeping changes, installing a stricter gun control law throughout the land. <p>Everything went wrong, of course; former member Nighthawk confronted the team and made them realize that they had merely become dictators of a soulless totalitarian state, and they disband... accidentally creating an opportunity for corporate America to start brainwashing citizens into becoming better consumers. Clearly, the problem that ruined everything was that stricter gun control law.


The Authority finally started to live up to their name in the wake of the 2004 <em>Coup D'Etat</em> miniseries that placed the team as benevolent dictators of the USA (Just like the Squadron Supreme!). <p>As citizens protest against their new rulers, however, it soon became clear that superheroes even 21st century superheroes like these frowning former Stormwatch members weren't really cut out for the cruel, violent world of politics and governance. The plot to undermine them and force them out of office almost came as a relief to the team, and allowed them to spend more time doing what they really loved: Kicking ass, taking names and partying as often as possible in between.


Finally, Alan Moore's <em>Miracleman</em> allowed its title character to achieve his goal of making the world a better place... and then demonstrated that "better" was, of course, an entirely subjective view. <p>By the time the series drifted into publishing limbo, Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham had taken over, but the world was still essentially in what was being called "the Age of Miracles," with the impossible becoming real on a regular basis and society beginning to crumble at the edges in the face of what was to some, perfection. <p>For those who think that <em>Avengers vs. X-Men</em>'s Phoenix Five are only doing good work or, alternatively, ultimately agents of evil, corrupted by the Phoenix Force it's worth considering the example that <em>Miracleman</em> demonstrated so ably: Bad things can happen by accident, the result of people doing things for the best reasons they can imagine.

Everybody Wants to Rule the World: 10 Superheroes Who Tried

Date: 20 June 2012 Time: 07:51 PM ET