ByKit Simpson Browne, writer at
Writer-at-large. Bad jokes aplenty. Can be gently prodded on Twitter at @kitsb1
Kit Simpson Browne

Now, despite the recent arrival of (moderately incompetent professional burglar) Ant-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the vast majority of the superheroes we've seen on the big screen thus far have never strayed too far from the straight and narrow.

Sure, Iron Man may have been an arms dealer, but in the eyes of the law, he was completely legit, much as Thor may technically be an illegal immigrant (what are the emigration restrictions on Asgardians, incidentally?) but isn't likely to get kicked out by Donald Trump any time soon.

In the comic books, on the other hand:

A Whole Lot of Superheroes (That You Wouldn't Expect) Started Out as Criminals...

Including a surprisingly large number of Avengers - and a couple of fan-favorite X-Men. Here, then, are 10 of the most notable villains turned heroes in Marvel history:

First up?

10. Black Widow

That's right - while the MCU's Black Widow may refer to her dark past a lot, in the comics, we saw it right from the get-go - with Natasha, as a Russian spy, proving a formidable opponent for Iron Man in her first few appearances.

She soon changed her ways, however, and quit spying for the Russians in favor of...spying for S.H.I.E.L.D. (and joining the Avengers)...

9. Hawkeye

Even br'er Hawkeye - who in the movies comes across as a (snarky) goody-two-shoes - had a dark past in the comics, with the Black Widow recruiting him early on to assist her in her dastardly schemes. He soon switched sides, however, and became one of the longest serving Avengers...

8. Wolverine

We often think of Wolverine as a noble, albeit flawed, hero who just so happens to be a highly trained killer - which is certainly true. Over the years, though, he's also been a smuggler, a fixer, a rum-runner during prohibition and, of course, a professional assassin.

He still rocked that white suit, though...

7. Gambit

A man with a more villainous past than most, Gambit has not only worked for the eminently evil Mr. Sinister, but also spent most of his formative years as a professional thief (and long-standing member of the Thieves' Guild)...

Mon dieu!

6. Rogue

Perhaps that shared background in crime is why Gambit has always had such an appeal to Rogue - seeing as she very much started out her comic book life as an out-and-out villain, working alongside her foster mother Mystique in the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.

She even wound up all but killing Ms. Marvel at one point, permanently stealing both her powers...and her entire personality...

5. Black Panther

Now, this one depends a little more on how you look at it, but when T'Challa first joined the Avengers, he technically did so in order to spy on them for his home nation of Wakanda. Sure, he meant the U.S. no harm, but there's still arguably a fine line between his actions and those of the far-more-initially-villainous-seeming Black Widow...

4. Luke Cage

While Luke Cage may have done time for a crime he didn't commit, he was originally a small-time street thug and general hoodlum, who dreamt of moving all the way up to professional racketeer. His time in prison solidified his growing desire to reform, however - though he still ultimately broke out of jail, remaining on the lam for several years.

3. The Falcon

If you're starting to notice a pattern here, it's not too surprising - Marvel's non-white characters got a pretty raw deal in the '60s and '70s. In Sam 'The Falcon' Wilson's case, that meant his origin story involved him becoming a street thug and pimp by the name of 'Snap' Wilson...

Thankfully, the MCU managed to avoid that one entirely, though...

2. Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch

For Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, supervillainy may never have come all that naturally - they were pretty much dragooned into joining The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants by the man they believed to be their father, Magneto - but since they soon switched sides and became heroes, their youthful indiscretions have largely been forgotten anyway...

1. Captain America

Now, technically this one's cheating a little - since the original (and on-screen) Cap, Steve Rodgers, has always kept his nose cleaner than a floor spot-mopped by the Hulk. Bucky Barnes, however - who took over after Cap for a while back in the 2000s - had a far more checkered past. After all, he was an assassin for most of the 20th Century, even if he didn't know too much about it...

What do you reckon, though?


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