Villains rarely perceive themselves to be in the wrong about anything. Some see their awful actions as necessary evils, others feel that the ends justify the means, and many others simply believe their might makes them right. Arguably the biggest difference between being a villain and being a hero is in whether their choices are being made for selfish gains or in service to the greater good.
Villains are often motivated by selfish desires, but sometimes, a villain can understand that helping others is better than merely going after what they want, when they want it. That understanding can put villains on the road to changing their ways – sometimes temporarily, sometimes permanently. Here, then, are 15 comic book supervillains who reformed, or at least joined the side of the good guys.
From the moment Stan Lee and Jack Kirby introduced him in “Uncanny X-Men” #1, Magneto has been their main adversary. However, his characterization has evolved as more secrets about his background were revealed. Magneto is a Holocaust survivor, whose parents and sister were killed before he himself was incarcerated in Auschwitz. His experiences there hardened his resolve to ensure mutants would never be persecuted by humans, by having mutants be the rulers of humanity. This view is significantly harsher than that of X-Men founder Charles Xavier, who strives for mutants to co-exist with humans.
After many battles against the X-Men, including in “Uncanny X-Men” #150 in which he nearly killed Kitty Pryde, Magneto’s views altered and he turned himself in to the World Court in 1987’s “The X-Men vs. The Avengers,” written by Roger Stern and drawn by Marc Silvestri (issue #4 by Tom DeFalco and Keith Pollard). But an attack during the trial injured Xavier, leading him to ask Magneto to take charge of the X-Men and the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters while he recovered. This was the first of several times Magneto was in charge of X-Men teams, although acceptance of him as a leader was slow in coming. More recently, he was the leader of a team of X-Men willing to do whatever it takes to protect mutants from harm.
William Baker had a rough upbringing, abandoned by his father and raised by his mother. He was bullied and became a bully himself, eventually turning to a life of crime. Jailed on Ryker’s Island, he escaped and fled to Savannah, Ga. In “Amazing Spider-Man” #4 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, a day at the beach went awry for Baker. The beach was near a nuclear reactor whose steam system exploded, dousing Baker in radiation. Afterward, Baker discovered he had bonded with the sand, and could alter his shape and density.
Taking the name Sandman, Baker clashed with Spider-Man, the Hulk and the Fantastic Four over the years, and also joined the Sinister Six and the Frightful Four. A partnership with Hydro-Man in “Amazing Spider-Man” #217-218, written by Denny O’Neil and drawn by John Romita Jr. and Jim Mooney, accidentally results in their merging into a mud monster. After they separate forms months later, Baker considers changing his ways. When The Thing came to capture him in “Marvel Two-in-One” #86, Baker declines to fight and the Thing lets him go. This leads to the Sandman becoming a freelance operative for mercenary Silver Sable and her Wild Pack, becoming a member of the Outlaws, a team of reformed Spider-Man villains, and even becoming a reserve Avenger.
13. WONDER MAN
The hero Wonder Man began his career with the Avengers with a mission to destroy them from within. First appearing in “Avengers” #9, written by Stan Lee and drawn by Jack Kirby and Chic Stone, Simon Williams inherited the family company, Williams Innovations, after his father’s death, and managed it — poorly — after his brother Eric refused to do so. The company soon failed against rivals such as Stark Industries. Williams, on Eric’s advice, embezzled money from the firm and invested it in shady businesses linked to the Maggia. He got caught and was convicted, and blamed Stark for his woes.
However, Baron Zemo and the Enchantress secured his release, offering Williams the chance to get revenge on Stark. Zemo experimented on Williams with an ionic ray device, giving him strength, durability and other powers. While up against the Avengers, Williams has a last-minute change of heart after luring the team into a trap, choosing to fight Zemo and the Enchantress, even risking death by going without Zemo’s treatments. Wonder Man was later revived and has served with the Avengers, the West Coast Avengers, Iron Man’s Force Works team and the Uncanny Avengers.