Warning: Major spoilers regarding recent Marvel comic continuity!
The comic book community was rocked to the core last week after Marvel made the perception-shattering decision to reveal Steve Rogers, A.K.A. Captain America—the human embodiment of the stars and stripes—as a Hydra agent.
With the release of Captain America: Steve Rogers No. 1 came the revelation that one of, arguably the most inherently good character ever created by Marvel, was indeed a bad guy all along.
Even the real-life Cap, actor Chris Evans, couldn't get along with the news:
By altering a character as iconic as Captain America, Marvel have made the decision to take an entire line of comics in a drastically different direction, however temporary it may be. In fact, some are already making their case as to what Marvel's ruse may be and how Rogers will in fact return to his "normal self" before long.
Seldom has there been such an influential shift in dynamic for one character, but there are previous examples of big-time comic players making the switch from face to heel or vice-versa.
Such is the extent of Magneto's once evil-doer ways, we as readers can still never feel truly secure in the knowledge the X-Men's once-greatest nemesis is truly a good guy.
For years, the Master of Magnetism tormented Professor Charles Xavier's star pupils in the most maniacal of ways until performing a complete 180-degree turn.
It was during the 1980s that Max Eisenhardt, A.K.A. Magnus, A.K.A. Erik Lehnsherr, actually came full circle and served as headmaster of Xavier's School for Gifted Children. This was after his much more sinister school counterpart, the Brotherhood of Mutants, engaged in many a feud with the X-Men.
Magneto has always thought of the preservation of mutants first and everything else after that, but over the decades, his character has grown to show more compassion than those black-and-white values used to allow.
Without spoiling his recent comic activity from Secret Wars and beyond too much, let's just say the Magneto of today is much more accustomed to making sacrifices for others, and not just himself.
2. Hal Jordan (Green Lantern)
Once the esteemed protector of Coast City, Hal Jordan—regarded by many as the best of Earth's Green Lanterns—once descended into evil after his hometown was obliterated by Mongul.
During 1994's Emerald Twilight story arc, Jordan mourns the loss of Coast City's seven million inhabitants by doing what any insane Green Lantern would do—recreating the entire town, and its people, in the form of near-sentient light constructs.
This selfish use of his power ring angered the Guardians of the Green Lantern Corps, leading Jordan to attack Oa, absorbing the power of the central battery, killing several Green Lanterns along the way and stealing their power rings.
From this, Hal takes on the guise of Parallax, an entity powered by fear, and although Jordan would come to redeem himself as a hero, he was once very, very bad.
3. Nick Fury
Marvel fans may well think of former S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury as something of an anti-hero, always willing to put feelings to one side in favour of what he feels is right and just.
This aspect of his character was on full display more so in the story arc Original Sin than anywhere else, where he infamously killed Uatu the Watcher in cold blood.
Fury, Earth's previous Man On The Wall—a sort of omniscient protector—slaughtered the silent (and loveable) Uatu so he could take the Watcher's all-seeing eye and prevent his impending doom, seemingly under the belief that without his protection, Earth was fated to fall.
Throughout the Original Sin storyline, Fury secretly kills a list of characters, battling friend and foe alike, all while the Infinity Formula running through his veins runs dry and causes him to age rapidly.
The Marvel veteran ultimately finds Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier, to be his heir as "The Man On The Wall"—one of his goals all along—while he takes Uatu's place as "The Unseen."
All's well that ends well.
4. Jason Todd (Robin/Red Hood)
Of course the fallen Boy Wonder was destined to take his spot on a list of good-guys-turned-bad, owing to the fact his fall from grace is one of the most well-chronicled in DC Comics history.
Jason Todd was a beloved character to many and arguably the most adored Robin of them all, but he was brutally killed off in 1988's famous A Death in the Family story arc.
The Joker beat Todd to a pulp with a crowbar before the caped kid failed to escape the detonation of a time-bomb, a fate decided upon by DC readers via a phone-in vote.
Todd would eventually have his revenge, however, and made his return to the pages almost two decades later as the Red Hood, a cold and broken version of Batman's former apprentice.
One could debate Red Hood has never shown himself to be truly rotten to the core, but he certainly hands out vigilante justice in a way that can no longer be deemed "good," willing to maim and kill how he sees fit in order to exact his brand of justice.
5. Adrian Alexander Veidt (Ozymandias)
Author's Note: If you haven't read or seen Watchmen, I implore you to do so before reading this section.
Alan Moore's Watchmen has recently become infinitely more relevant to the DC Comics universe after the launch of DC Rebirth revealed Dr. Manhattan was actually responsible for creating the last decade of DCU history.
Of all Watchmen characters, Ozymandias may be regarded as the most intriguing for a comic adaptation, largely due to his monumental "WTF" twist in Moore's 1986-87 graphic novel.
The character of Adrian Alexander Veidt captures the crux of the story and all the socio-economic, political and philosophical questions Watchmen so expertly poses.
What would you sacrifice to create world peace? Does power corrupt? Can a man walk around in purple and gold spandex and still look cool all the while?
Ozymandias broaches all these topics and even pulls off the unthinkable while enacting his master plan to effectively "reboot" Earth: He outsmarts the all-powerful Dr. Manhattan. Like so:
His enthralling story is the equivalent of Batman not only fighting Superman, but using his genius intellect to ignite a new vision for the planet of what he decides is fit.
And the best part about Ozymandias' villainous turn? It's so complex and opinion-splitting, one wouldn't be blamed for viewing him as either the world's greatest evil or its heralded saviour.