The DC and Marvel universes are always packed full of exciting twists and turns. While the typical story follows superheroes saving the day, not every story follows this formula. Perhaps the most compelling stories are those whose characters are not who they seem to be, ultimately taking the audience by surprise.
One of the best examples of these exciting plot twists is when villains abandon their wicked ways to assist the good guys in saving the world. While some (now) superheroes are infamous for their formerly evil ways, not all heroes are known for their past. It may be shocking to learn that some of DC’s and Marvel’s most beloved heroes were initially characterised as supervillains.
From Humiliation to Admiration: Hawkeye
Now one of the most predominant Avengers in the Marvel franchise, Hawkeye was around long before the dramatic special effects of today’s movies.
Stan Lee created Hawkeye in the ’60s while Don Heck worked on the illustration. They initially named Him as Clinton Francis Barton. He first appeared in the Marvel Universe as a villain in Tales of Suspense (#57). After facing the humiliation of an unimpressed crowd, Hawkeye becomes upset and jealous of Tony Stark.
Hawkeye would soon meet the infamous Black Widow, marking the beginning of his (short) villainous career. It would be one year later in 1965 that Hawkeye or Clint Barton would abandon a life of crime to join the Avengers.
Defectively Good: Black Widow
Although the Black Widow was responsible for Hawkeye’s tread a dangerous path, she too would change her ways and turn into a Marvel superhero.
Starting life as an orphan, the Black Widow led a life of despair, broken relationships, and war. The KGB used her to become a sleeper agent with superhuman strength and powers. During this time, she earned her infamous name, Black Widow.
Several heroes played an integral role in defecting the Russian agent, causing her to join the Avengers force. It was Captain America who persuaded her to turn over a new leaf. Ultimately, many consider Hawkeye to have the most significant influence on her path to redemption.
A Happy Accident: Plastic Man
Plastic Man is one of DC Comics’ more obscure superheroes. Nevertheless, this shape-shifting good guy is one of the most humorous DC characters — what with all the puns and cheeky remarks in his comic book dialogues!
Before becoming Plastic Man, Patrick “Eel” O’Brian was not a model citizen. Far from a criminal mastermind, Eel was a petty criminal completing heists and other relatively basic criminal behaviour.
While this behaviour is far from being a supervillain, it is still a far cry from the moral stature of other DC superheroes such as Superman. Eel’s moral transformation came almost simultaneously with his physical transformation. During a robbery gone wrong, Eel found himself covered in chemicals. These chemicals transformed him into an extremely elastic being that could stretch into any shape. Following the accident, Monks took Eel in and imposed their virtues upon him, causing him to become the altruistic superhero Plastic Man.
Nemesis or Ally: Catwoman
Catwoman is another infamous DC character. Going by the name Selina Kyle, Catwoman was introduced as “the Cat” in the Batman comic book series.
Intertwined with Batman in Gotham City, Catwoman has had a tumultuous relationship with the vigilante hero of the night. She spent many years as an accomplished burglar and jewel thief herself. However, she is often portrayed as an ally to Batman in innumerable scenarios. Some attribute her heroic actions to self-interest, others find that her romantic ties with Batman fuel her desire to do good. Either way, Catwoman is a complex DC character that often straddles the line between good and evil.
Marvel and DC comics both have their fair share of twists and turns. While some heroes can be caught conspiring villainous acts, it is far more common for the villains to become superheroes.
From love inspiring redemption to freak accidents nearly forcing a change of lifestyle, each former villain has their own path to reformation.
What’s more interesting is both Marvel’s and DC’s take on the ability of a villain to change their ways. While some former villains often carry the burden of their pasts, others find their crimes erased by their new heroic image. This can leave many fans to wonder, “What goes on in the heart and mind of a Superhero?”