The Marvel Universe is a web of stories that stretches back across 80 years. Its open-ended nature can pose a problem for creators. How many times can the X-Men defeat Magneto before it gets stale? How many times can Doctor Doom try to conquer the world before readers feel like they’ve seen it before? How do you craft a really satisfying character arc if said character arc can’t ever really end?
That’s one explanation for an interesting phenomenon: Given enough years, and enough appearances, almost every major Marvel villain has become — or at least tried his or her hand at — being a Marvel hero. While a few Marvel baddies have remained unredeemed (so far), many of the company’s top antagonists have, over time, become its biggest protagonists. Some eventually returned to their nefarious ways, but others have remained heroes, headlining comics and even a couple movies and TV shows. (You wouldn’t have a Black Widow film or a Hawkeye TV show without this phenomenon.)
See the list of 20 examples below for a small sample of what we mean. And this list is only sure to grow thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the way its interpretations of classic Marvel characters tend to become dominant over time. (See: Nick Fury looking like Samuel L. Jackson, or Hawkeye preferring tactical gear over purple and blue Spandex.) It’s good to be bad, but at Marvel it’s often better (at least for sales) to be good.
Marvel Villains Who Became Heroes
These characters were introduced in Marvel Comics as villains. But that didn’t last.