There’s a place of moral ambiguity. It’s a medium where heroes can become villains, and where villains can become heroes. A type of storytelling where characters can switch allegiances and morality at the drop of a hat.
I’m speaking, of course, about professional wrestling, but the same is true in the world of comics. Comics characters sure do love to change sides. While this happens rarely (and usually temporarily) in the DC universe, in the Marvel U. comic characters go from bad guys to good guys or vice versa all the time. Heck, some characters seem to switch sides every month (looking at you, Magneto).
But sometimes, these changes actually stick, and former heroes become villains and ex-villains become heroes for good (so to speak). Today we’re looking at the latter — at Marvel bad guys who made a permanent switch to good (at least so far). By no means is this list comprehensive, so feel free to include your suggestions for entries #11 and up in the comments.
Rogue’s been a stalwart member of the X-Men for a while now, but in her first appearance in 1981’s Avengers Annual, she was explicitly evil, in that she was a member of Mystique’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. The things kids will do for their moms, huh? She absorbed Ms. Marvel’s powers and tried to murder her. Rogue made a few more appearances as an X-Men/Avengers villain before turning to Professor X to help her deal with the ever-louder voices in her head coming from people whose memories she absorbed. She’s been with the X-Men ever since.
9 and 8) Hawkeye and Black Widow
Believe it or not, two of this summer’s Avengers started out as Iron Man baddies. Natalia Romanova got her start as a Soviet spy who wanted to make that American metal man pay. She eventually defected to the United States. Clint Barton was less malevolent — his initial villainy was the result of a misunderstanding, and he eventually fell in with Black Widow because they thought she was hot. Everything got cleared up and he joined the “replacement” Avengers (the second-ever team) in 1965. Widow joined up the next year, after shaking off some brainwashing.
Before the merc-with-a-mouth had a dozen concurrently running titles, he was a pretty direct rip-off of Deathstroke from DC’s Teen Titans title (in fact, writer Fabian Nicieza named the character Wade Wilson as a nod to DC’s Slade Wilson). He was initially an antagonist who attacked the New Mutants, but as the ’90s did to many a character *cough*Punisher*cough*, Deadpool gained a following, started showing up in a ton of books and was carrying his own as a hero soon enough.
6) The Prowler
One of the many “angry unemployed” villains Spider-Man has encountered, Hobie Brown originally became The Prowler to steal stuff after getting fired from a window washing job. But Spider-Man gave him a talking to, he quit crime, and only prowled for good afterward.
5) Emma Frost
This is a weird one. Frost spent a bunch of years as the White Queen of the Hellfire Club, where she recruited mutants out from under Professor X (by basically hacking Cerebro), kidnapped Kitty Pryde multiple times, tortured other X-Men and had a near fight to the death with Jean Grey. It was only after the deaths of her students, the Hellions, that she told the Hellfire Club to go screw. Despite a few relapses (like killing her sister), Frost has remained more or less on the heroes side since, and is now Cyclops’ #1 boo.
After a stint hanging out with fellow supervillainesses Poundcakes, Titania and Letha in The Grapplers, a wrestling-lady-themed evil group, Songbird (then called Screaming Mimi) moved up to the big leagues and became a member of Baron Zemo’s Masters of Evil, the group that eventually became the Thunderbolts, a supervillain team posing as superheroes. But she came around to liking her superheroic persona (as did other members of the Thunderbolts, I should note), and according to Kurt Busiek and Carlos Pacheco’s Avengers Forever, is eventually going be an Avenger.
Michael Morbius may be a living vampire, but he isn’t a bad guy, you know? At least, that’s what every story with Morbius in it kind of is about. Even so, he has fought Spider-Man a bunch of times because he just can’t keep himself in check when it comes to drinkin’ that blood. However, recently, he seems to have figured some stuff out. Most recently, he helped cure the citizens of New York that time they all became spiders in the Spider Island arc. That was a nice thing to do.
Using his abilities to mimic the fighting styles and attacks of anyone, Taskmaster first used his abilities to steal stuff (kind of a running theme here), then opened a school for training supervillains. The Avengers didn’t like that too much, and shut him down, but he was back at it again soon enough, training U.S. Agent at the Red Skull’s request. He’d continue to do a lot of that stuff (and pose as superheroes) until he trained Agent X (believed at the time to be Deadpool) and eventually being the chief trainer for the 50-states Initiative. While he hasn’t been fully heroic all the time (he helped in the siege against Asgard), he most recently helped out Alpha Flight in Fear Itself, and if that isn’t a hero move, I don’t know what is.
Even when the Venom symbiote was attached to mostly-bad-guy Eddie Brock, it spent some time (which just happened to coincide with Venom’s own series in the mid-’90s) fighting crime. But now that it’s attached to military man Flash Thompson, the symbiote with a propensity to eat people (especially when it was bonded to the former Scorpion, Mac Gargan), is now a member of the Secret Avengers.