“All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy. That's how far the world is from where I am. Just one bad day.”
This quote from Batman: The Killing Joke says a lot about heroes or good people who go down a dark path. Sometimes, an event will happen in their lives that will irrevocably change them. Mostly, they can find the way to keep their wits and continue to fight the good fight. Heck, how has someone like Spider-Man not gone totally dark after what’s happened to him? Other times, they fall so far off the wagon, you wonder if they were even on the wagon to begin with. You’ll see this trope everywhere in movies, TV, books, and video games. So, here are some good characters that turned dark. They’re not necessarily in order either.
1. Anakin Skywalker (Star Wars)
That’s right, folks. One of the best villains in movie history was once one of the good guys. It always has to start like that, don’t it? Even though the prequels weren’t perfect, they and Star Wars: Clone Wars showed how a “mostly good” Jedi would go evil. Because of Palpatine’s influence and Anakin’s own fears, he became Darth Vader and helped tighten the Empire’s grip for years. I’ll touch on his ultimate end next time, though.
In the 90’s, big changes were being done on DC’s side. Superman died, Batman got broken, and Hal Jordan went crazy. During “Reign of the Supermen,” Coast City (Hal’s hometown) was destroyed by Mongol and Cyborg Superman. In an act of desperation, he tries to re-create the city using his ring, but the Guardians put a stop to that. Because of this, Hal loses it and goes into space to get all the power he can get. He ends up destroying the Green Lantern Corps, drains all the power from the Central Power Battery, and renames himself as Parallax. He was behind the event known as Zero Hour.
This is a controversial one. Heck, any story that handles a well-known superhero like this would be considered controversial. I definitely understand why Geoff Johns retconned the idea of Parallax in 2004. Still, I kind of like this version of Hal. It was actually my first viewing of Hal Jordan. I still remember picking up Zero Hour #1 and seeing him knock out Superman like it was nothing. At least Hal did come back the good side.
3. Dark Phoenix (X-Men)
Just about every member of the X-Men has went bad at one point. Still, I doubt any of them destroyed a solar system. During the early years of Chris Claremont’s run, Jean Grey received a power upgrade (eventually retconned to be a cosmic entity called the Phoenix Force) became the Phoenix. For a while, things were good and Jean had control of the power. Unfortunately, Jason Wyngarde (Mastermind) of the Hellfire Club used his powers to make Jean embrace her darker side. The power overwhelmed her and she became the Dark Phoenix.
Dark Phoenix went on a rampage and it ultimately ended up in the destruction of an inhabited galaxy. With the help of the X-Men, she was able to regain control, but the Shi’ar wanted her to answer for her crimes. A trial by combat ensued and it actually ended with Jean committing suicide in order to keep the Dark Phoenix from returning. This was one of the best storylines from that era and it is still a favorite of mine. Even though Marvel would eventually retcon all of this and bring Jean back, this was still a good story.
4. Angel (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
When Angel first appeared on BTVS, he was the vampire ally to the team and in love with Buffy. What the others didn’t know was that Angel had a dark past. When he was first bitten, he became the souless vampire known as Angelus and did some horrible things. Some gypsies put a curse on him that brought back his soul and that pushed him toward the becoming a better guy. The curse had another part, though. If he ever felt great pleasure, his dark side would come back. So, guess what happened in the second season? When that happened, he and other vampires went on rampage and almost destroyed the world. Even though Angel got his soul back, things weren’t really the same between him and the Scooby Gang.
5. Lex Luthor (Smallville and Superman in general)
Now, I know what you’re probably thinking. Lex Luthor was good? Yeah, kind of. In the Silver Age, he and Superboy were friends until some accident led Lex to villainy. On Smallville, Lex was pretty much in the morally gray area. He tried to be good, but his upbringing didn’t help him out. Plus, Clark was keeping his secret from him. To be fair to Clark, I couldn’t blame him. While Lex switiched back and forth between good and evil, he ultimately went dark when he killed his father, Lionel Luthor. Not only was his descent handled mostly well, Michael Rosenbaum played that role well.
6. Big Boss (The Metal Gear franchise)
When Metal Gear first hit shelves, Big Boss was pretty much the villain of the story. All we knew about him was that he was the father of Solid Snake. It was the later games that really fleshed out his backstory. We found out that he was known as Naked Snake and that he was a war hero. He saved lives and even got to keep a cold war from becoming a hot one twice. He wasn’t a fan of government though, so he went to establish his own nation: Outer Heaven. He also formed the Patriots with other allies. Let’s just say it got pretty complicated. If anything, he really straddled the lines between anti-hero and villain throughout his time.
7. Gaeta (Battlestar Galactica)
Gaeta was a supporting character on the rebooted Battlestar Galactica. He was one of the good ones. He served under Adama and he was Baltar’s President Aide/Undercover Resistance fighter on New Caprica. In the later seasons, he went through some major stuff. When Adama made some controversial decisions involving the Cylons, he teamed up with former terrorist-turned politician, Tom Zarek, and caused a mutiny. It was a pretty major shock if you followed Gaeta and those two pulled some messed up stunts. It was pretty interesting to see where that character would end up.
8. Michael Eddington (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)
Eddington was introduced in the third season as Starfleet’s security officer. He was mostly around in the background and pretty harmless. It wasn’t until the fourth season where he turned against Starfleet and joined the Maquis, a rebellion group in opposition against the Cardassians. Not only did he turn against Starfleet, he pulled the wool over Captain Sisko’s head. He even got Kassidy Yates, Sisko’s girlfriend, involved. While The Maquis may not be evil villains, they did tick off Sisko. Don’t tick off the Sisko because he’ll come after you and he did that with Eddington.
9. Harvey Dent (the Batman franchise)
District Attorney Harvey Dent was one of the good spots in Gotham City. He did his best to combat the crime and corruption in the city. Unfortunately, that crime came back to bite him in a major way. Whether he’s splashed in the face by a mob boss or is scarred thanks to an explosion, Dent got screwed big time and Batman couldn’t stop it. Because of the incident, Dent developed a mental disorder (or fell deeper into his hidden mental disorder) and became Two-Face. He’s one of the villains you kind of feel sorry for since he was one of the good guys.
10. Superman (Injustice and other stories)
Superman has had his brushes with his darker side but they’re usually only temporary. There’s mind control, brainwashing, and certain types of Kryptonite that can turn him dark. When it comes to non-continuity stories or alternate universes, the chains are off! We see this in stories like Superman: Red Son where he’s a communist dictator and Multiversity where he’s a Nazi dictator on an alternate Earth. Then, there are the Injustice video games and comics where Superman becomes a dictator after he kills the Joker for pretty much destroying his life. While I’m not necessarily a fan of seeing Superman go dark (it happens a lot more these days), it is interesting to see.
I think I’ll stop it there. There are other characters out there but these are the ones that really came to mind. If you have any others, let me know. So, since I looked at good guys gone bad, guess what’s coming next? Until then, Peace, God Bless, and be careful out there. A lot of stuff’s going on these days, so put that Tekken Training to use!