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Classic Supervillains Who Aren't Even Villains Anymore

September 8, 2020 3.0k votes 533 voters 67.2k views14 items

List RulesVote up the characters who've been good so long they've lost their villain credentials.

Comic book readers have witnessed Batman and the Joker team up - or Daredevil and the Kingpin fighting back-to-back - more than enough times to recognize the temporary villain-turned-hero trope when they see it. Usually, such superpowered shifts of heart are short-lived and plot-driven, but there is a sizable collection of villains who turned good and made it stick - so much so that still calling them supervillains is a misnomer.

Every superhero breaks bad at one point or another and, like clockwork, they eventually return to their altruistic ways. But evil-doers generally have a more compelling reason to cross over to the other side of the moral divide, and that makes it all the more possible for them to fully transition from villain to hero, as a select handful of classic antagonists have already done. 

  • The Venom symbiote itself has had several brushes with altruism since making the journey to the mainstream Marvel Earth. First, it swung around with Spider-Man for a while, and later it bonded with Flash Thompson to become Agent Venom and joined the Guardians of the Galaxy. But its most famous wearer, Eddie Brock, has traditionally been portrayed as morally ambiguous, if not outright psychotic.

    As Venom, Brock’s primary motivation was always getting revenge on Peter Parker, something that meshed well with his alien suit’s violent tendencies. Even his initial attempts at heroism in Lethal Protector were sketchy and occasionally resulted in Venom literally biting the heads off of bad guys.

    Several life events, however, including a lengthy separation from the symbiote and the discovery of an estranged son, have conspired to put Brock on the path to righteousness, and he’s dragged his gooey partner right along with him. Heck, these days he’s even willing to team up with Spider-Man.

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    Hardly a villain?
  • A proud eco-terrorist who has always valued the rights of plants over the rights of people, Pamela Isley certainly has a unique moral compass. In her role as Poison Ivy, she’s brought humanity to the brink of extinction more times than most supervillains, and yet she’s never really done so for malevolent reasons. These days, her altruistic streak shines through more often than not.

    After spending time as a genuine do-gooder with the Birds of Prey and sparking a romance with Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy went right back to villainy, but only in the name of saving the world. She used her control of plant-life and the spores they emit to take control of humankind and bend it to her eco-friendly will - only to be talked out of it by Harley and Batman, and convinced to forge a better future in a less forceful way. 

    Currently, she’s in therapy, figuring out a way to do exactly that. 

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  • J. Jonah Jameson was never a supervillain. For one, there’s nothing superpowered about him, and for another, he’s only rarely given in to outright evil acts on a handful of occasions - such as the creation of the Scorpion - and always with deep regret. With that being said, he’s also made Spider-Man’s life a living hell via decades of raking his name through the mud, which more than qualifies him as a genuine antagonist.

    But a rapid series of life events changed Jameson, and the course of his relationship with the wallcrawler, forever. He lost the Daily Bugle, became the Mayor of New York, and then lost that gig too - along with his wife, Marla. Meanwhile, his own father, John Jameson Sr., met and married Peter Parker’s Aunt May, making Jonah and Peter a set of adult step-brothers.

    Following John Sr.’s passing, Peter decided to unmask in front of Jonah, letting him in on the secret that his new sibling was also his greatest rival. Rather than react with anger, however, Jameson has since become one of Spider-Man’s biggest supporters - even starting a podcast to extol the virtues of the guy he used to call a “menace.”

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  • When Emma Frost first encountered the X-Men, she did so as a member of the villainous Hellfire Club - an organization that she would eventually rise to the top of as its White Queen. Following the first of many Club failures to defeat the X-Men, Frost employed an entirely different tactic to one-up her mutant rivals: starting her own school for gifted youngsters and recruiting as many “Hellions” away from Charles Xavier as possible.

    However, though Frost’s academy was founded with ill intentions, the act of taking responsibility for a cadre of children changed her for the better. This face-turn, however, would have tragic consequences when most of Frost’s young charges were dispatched by the time-traveling Trevor Fitzroy. Understanding her genuine grief, Xavier reached out to Frost and offered her the headmaster position at a new school, which she accepted and eventually parlayed into a full-time roster spot with the X-Men.

    From there, Frost romanced Cyclops, gained five clone daughters, and became a founding member of the first mutant government of Krakoa. These days, she’s even willing to team up with Jean Grey - her former rival in every sense of the word.

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    Hardly a villain?