Superheroes Gone Bad
We always like to picture our superheroes as stalwart defenders of truth, justice, and the American way. But things are not always so simple as years of fighting the good fight has led to many caped crusaders succumbing to the evil they battled and embraced their inner darkness. Here are some of the biggest moments in comics when superheroes went bad.
Green Lantern: For years Hal Jordan built a reputation as the greatest of the Green Lanterns. His cocky roguish attitude gave him the courage to persist in the face of any threat. That was until the threat hit his home of Coast City. In the classic arc Emerald Twilight, Jordan’s attempts to use his powers to recreate the city proved fruitless and added with that the admonishment from the Guardians for his misuse of the power ring, finally caused the hero to snap. Green Lantern goes on a rampage where he slaughters his fellow Ring Slingers and adopts the new name of Parallax. As Parallax, Jordan becomes one of the greatest threats in the DC Universe, especially when he tries to remake the universe in the crossover Zero Hour. Green Lantern eventually began a road to redemption in Final Night where he gave his life to save the world and after a stint as the Spectre has returned to being the hero he once was.
Omni-Man: On the surface the heroic Omni-Man was a beacon of hope for humanity. Coming from a distant world Omni-Man assimilated onto earth. Under his alter ego of Nolan Grayson he was a devoted husband and father who was training his son who was forging his own heroic identity as Invincible. As a superhero, Omni-Man was held as the leader for all other heroes to look up to. This meant readers were shocked to their core, when the hero revealed he was not sent to earth to save it, but to conquer it for the Viltrumite Empire. He betrayed and murdered his allies on the superhero team the Guardians of the Globe. When his own son tries to stop him, Omni-Man beats Invincible close to death before leaving the planet.
Jean Grey: One of the charter members of the X-Men, Jean Grey’s abilities made her susceptible to an intergalactic entity after a mission to space. The powerful Phoenix Force takes over Jean amplifying her powers and donning a new green costume. After an encounter with the Hellfire Club, the Phoenix, now the Dark Phoenix, releases it’s full potential and wipes out an entire alien world making Jean a fugitive of the Shi’ar Empire. As the X-Men try to defend one of their own against the extraterrestrial forces, the Dark Phoenix begins to make it’s presence known once more, forcing Jean to end her own life rather than risk further destruction. Marvel made a mandate that the popular superhero would remain dead unless there was an off chance they could absolve her of the crimes committed as the Dark Phoenix. It was not until a young Kurt Busiek came up with the idea that the Phoenix had merely taken the appearance and personality of Jean and that the actual character was safe in a cocoon under the sea.
The Flash: For many of us comic fans this one still hurts (and quite a few of us have already agreed to forget it ever happened). In the secretive Sanctuary, heroes from all over the world have the opportunity to mentally, emotionally, and spiritually heal from the inevitable hardships this line of work takes. However one fateful day the peace of this place was shattered and a number of heroes were left dead and culprit was someone from their own ranks. Wally West, who just a short while ago reentered the DC Universe to reestablish hope in optimism, had been the one responsible. Having lost his family to the meddling of Dr. Manhattan, the Flash grew increasingly desperate in trying to regain them and accidentally killed a number of his fellow superheroes. Despite trying to utilize time travel to cover his tracks, his crimes were discovered by Booster Gold and Harley Quinn. For many readers the Wally incarnation of the Flash is a beloved favorite and to see this happen as a way for DC’s editorial staff to symbolically kill the fan favorite Rebirth relaunch has definitely soured the feelings of many towards the publisher.
Captain America: This is another one which happened all too recently. When Steve Rogers recovered from the Iron Nail’s attack which took him out of commission, things initially looked bright. But the final page of Steve Rogers Captain America #1 featured the star-spangled hero saying something which chilled people the world over “Hail Hydra”. Thus began to unfold the scheme wherein, Captain America had been operating for years as a double agent of HYDRA and was orchestrating a plot to take control of the country. Everything came to a head in the event Secret Empire, while many in the superhero community united against their newly despotic friend, there was still a lingering doubt that someone who had been so stalwart and heroic could do this. While the finale showed us that this was actually a Captain America from an alternate timeline who had been behind everything, it still served to tarnish his heroic legacy.
Red Hood: For many years Jason Todd was remembered as the worst Robin ever. He was such an unpopular character that DC Comics allowed the fans to decide if he lived or died at the hands of the Joker and he did not survive. Flash forward several years and a new vigilante has appeared in Gotham utilizing deadly tactics and calling himself by the Joker’s old mantle as Red Hood. As much as Batman tried to convince himself otherwise, it was in fact his former protégé Jason Todd who was under the hood. Having been resurrected from the dead, Todd has set out on a war path through Gotham City. Despite Batman’s repeated attempts to appeal to his former partner’s good side, Jason felt betrayed that his former mentor did not avenge him by killing the Joker. Currently Jason Todd has taken on more of role of an antihero though he holds a status of the black sheep of the Batman Family.
Alex Wilder: From the cult favorite comic Runaways, Alex Wilder lacked the powers and abilities of his teammates, but his incredible intellect saw him propelled into the team’s leadership role. From the very start, Alex was the one who united the Runaways upon discovering their respective parents were actually member of an evil faction known as the Pride. Though he was respected and looked up to by his teammates, the teen tended to be emotionally distant from the rest of the Runaways (despite a relationship with Staff of One-wielder Nico) as he unraveled the secrets of the Pride. However during the climatic fight between the heroes and the monster their parents served, the teen genius revealed that all along he had been a traitor all along. Though he fell during that battle he has been resurrected (as comic characters tend to do) where continues to plot and scheme and use his ties to the Runaways against them.