EVERYONE'S THE HERO OF THEIR OWN STORY1 of 12
Supervillains turned heroes are all the rage in comic books right now – just look at Venom’s popularity.
But sometimes those bad-guys-gone-good go bad again (and back and forth and so on) – so much you may need a scorecard to keep track of who’s with who.
One of those turncoats is Emma Frost – a prominent X-villain who became a prominent X-Man, and has gone back and forth since. Thankfully, this week’s X-Men Black: Emma Frost one-shot aims to resolve all that.
In honor of Emma finding herself again, we’re counting down the best villains-turned-heroes of all time.
DEATHSTROKE THE TERMINATOR2 of 12
Fans who never read comic book in the early '90s are now saying, "WHAT?!" But it's true. When he was introduced in New Teen Titans #2, Slade Wilson has a fairly straightforward villain. His son, the Ravager, had a contract from HIVE to kill the Teen Titans, but he died. Slade took over for his son, becoming an implacable antagonist for the heroes. Then, something strange happened. Every time he appeared, Deathstroke gained more depth. By the time of "The Judas Contract," he was in fact a sympathetic villain as we saw what he'd gone through (still a villain though; sex with minors is bad!).
When the Wildebeest Society kidnapped the Titans at the outset of "Titans Hunt," Slade crossed the line to hero by joining Steve Dayton in the efforts to track them down. Unfortunately, that adventure ended in Slade being forced to kill his son, Jericho. Although he still tried to tread the side of angels for a while, he eventually slid back into full-on villainy. Still, a lot of us remember when Slade was the guy that came to find the Titans and try to save the day.
In recent years, Deathstroke has primarily been a protagonist and leading man in his own series, and he reportedly has a feature film in the works.
POISON IVY3 of 12
For fans who only know Poison Ivy from movies or television, it might be shocking to learn that one of Batman's biggest rogues has turned over a new leaf. But as the plant-themed character matured over the years and environmentalism has been shown in a new light, Pamela Isley has grown in comic books to be a hero - while occasionally falling back to old tricks, depending on the situation.
2016's Poison Ivy: Cycle of Life and Death re-positioned her as a botanical hero - even embracing motherhood with two plant-human hybrids she calls Rose and Hazel. This turn to the good guys continues in Batgirl and All-Star Batman issues, even becoming an associate member of Birds of Prey during "Rebirth."
This turn however has had some missteps - a more villainous Ivy appeared in Damage and Tom King's current Batman run. Ivy was last seen being inducted as a patient of the metahuman rehabilitation facility known as the Sanctuary, and is a key player in Heroes In Crisis (drawn, coincidentally, by Clay Mann - who illustrated her 2016 heroic limited series).
Both Gail Simone and Stjepan Sejic have openly mentioned intentions to write the character in her own series in the future, but it is unknown if those will take root at DC.
BLACK WIDOW4 of 12
When she first appeared in comic books, Black Widow was the worst kind of villain ever: a Russian spy!
Yep, the Cold War was on and beautiful Russian spies were on the prowl, stealing industrial secrets and turning our circus performers into villains! Eventually, though, after clashing with the likes of Iron Man, the Widow began to pull away from her spymasters and behave more and more like a super-heroine.
Over time, Black Widow joined the Avengers, even ascending at one point to the leader of the team. She's worked for S.H.I.E.L.D. and the U.S. government, and has often been a member of any given squad of the Avengers, and has even been the lead in her own title.
She's also the Marvel Cinematic Universe's top female hero, with a director recently hired to helm her solo film. Who says there are no opportunities in America these days?
ROGUE5 of 12
Raised by Mystique and brought into the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, Rogue started out bad in big way: by thrashing the Avengers. After ambushing Ms. Marvel (which resulted in Rogue permanently gaining her super-strength, flight, and memories), Rogue went on to steal power from Thor and open a huge can of whoop-ass on the Avengers. The full membership of both teams clashed during a prison-break, and it was extremely close. In fact, the Avengers didn't so much win as Rogue split.
Later, Rogue's powers started to slip from her control, driving her insane; she turned to Professor X for help. Resented by the X-Men at first, Rogue proved herself first by saving Wolverine in Japan, then time and again in battle.
Rogue later became an X-team leader, and one of their most trusted members. Now, she's elevated her status in the Marvel Universe even further leading the title Mr. and Mrs. X alongside her new husband Gambit.
EMMA FROST6 of 12
(White) Queen of the X-Men franchise, Emma Frost made her mark as part of the Hellfire Club, that fetishistic group of mutants that tried to corrupt Jean Grey. Again and again, whether as part of the Club or leader of the young trainees, the Hellions, Emma clashed with the X-Men. Over time, Frost, through various circumstances, found herself drawn into the X-Men's fold.
Her initial crossover really took hold when she became one of the headmasters for Generation X. That didn't end quite so well. However, Emma would eventually make her way to the main X-Men team. Much angst followed, as Emma became a disruptive presence in the already strained relationship of Cyclops and Jean Grey. When Jean died (again), she gave a psychic boost/blessing to the budding romance between Scott and Emma.
Emma was firmly entrenched with the X-team on Utopia for years, and even after Avengers vs. X-Men and her time as part of the Phoenix Five, she stayed part of his crew.
Emma turned back to villainy somewhat after Cyclops' death in Death of X, but as always she exists in shades of grey - a perspective writer Leah Williams says she'll reconcile in the upcoming X-Men Black: Emma Frost one-shot.
CATWOMAN7 of 12
Even though she was never the most deadly of Batman's enemies, Catwoman was quite clearly a thief. Her criminal nature always seemed to win out, even if it looked like her heart belonged to the Bat. Over time, Catwoman began to slip more and more to the side of angels. At one point, the vile Dr. Moon used mind-control to regress her into a full-on criminal.
Since then, Selina has asserted herself over and over. Though she still steals and doesn't much mind if she breaks the law, she's always willing to do something that helps out the members of the Batman family. Since the return of Bruce Wayne, Selina's been seen helping Batman Incorporated more than once, notably upon Bruce's trip to Japan.
Selina and Bruce Wayne were recently engaged until Selina decided to call off their wedding at the last minute. Time will tell what that means for her career as a hero (or villain).
OTTO OCTAVIUS8 of 12
Doctor Octopus - the Superior Spider-Man. Did the villain formerly known as Otto Octavius really go good? Or was he just affected (or is that infected) by Peter Parker's memories, experiences, and general moral center?
He certainly did some good as the Superior Spider-Man, continuing to serve with the Avengers (for the most part) throughout the year-plus that he inhabited Peter's body, although his methods were certainly questionable.
So what makes a hero: deeds or motivations? Maybe what has been driving Otto this whole time was a selfish narcissistic drive to one-up Peter to become the "superior" hero (the ultimate revenge), but if he managed to perform some heroic acts along the way, and perhaps... perhaps ... came away changed by the experience, shouldn't that count, at least a little?
It seems Otto's turn was not to stick, however, as he was resurrected in a new body during "The Clone Conspiracy," joining Hydra as the Superior Octopus. Despite an apparent heroic turn, the Superior Spider-Man will return in a new series later this year.
HAWKEYE9 of 12
U.S.A.! U.S.A.! See? Commie circus-performer corruption need not last forever! Though he did the bidding of the Black Widow as a criminal, Hawkeye got the chance to reform in a big way.
Along with fellow malcontents Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye joined the Avengers in #16 of the original series. Under the command of Captain America, Hawkeye blossomed as both a hero and a human being. Over time, despite his sharp tongue, Hawkeye became respected enough to lead the West Coast branch of the Avengers, and he even tried keeping the Thunderbolts on the straight and narrow as their leader.
MAGNETO10 of 12
Magneto remains one of the most complex characters around. Initially coming off as a madman that believed in the inherent superiority of mutants, Magneto found depth over time as we learned about his tragic past. For years, Magneto committed acts of terrorism and murder in the name of mutant supremacy. However, after standing trial in Paris, Magneto was convinced by a (at the time) dying Professor X to join his students in their cause of equality.
Magneto took over the teaching of the New Mutants and joined the X-Men, but the good times didn't last long. A cycle of attack, defeat, deaths and returns followed for the next several years. Most recently, Magneto returned and essentially kneeled to Cyclops as the superior leader, citing Utopia as the ultimate example of Cyclops succeeding in a better way than Magneto's own failures. To seal his commitment, Magneto used his powers to bring Kitty Pryde, lost in space, back to Earth.
Magneto continued to side with Cyclops even after the events of Avengers vs. X-Men, but with Cyclops dead Magneto took over leadership of the young time-displaced X-Men in X-Men Blue - that is until recently, when he apparently swung back towards evil.
LEX LUTHOR11 of 12
Lex Luthor is Superman's arch-enemy, and one of the top villains of the DC Universe, but in his mind, he's always been the hero of the story, trying to protect humanity even if it means eliminating their greatest protector to do so.
Despite the selfish means he uses, Lex feels he's truly a hero at heart, so it's no surprise that he's gone to the side of the angels a few times. Most recently, he joined the Justice League after helping take down the Crime Syndicate in Forever Evil, and after nearly attaining godlike power in "Darkseid War," Lex donned a Superman-inspired version of his old power armor, which he used in Action Comics as one of the heroes of Metropolis.
However, the pendulum has swung back the other way, with Luthor now leaning heavily into villainy as the leader of a new Legion of Doom.
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