12. SUPER PATRIOT / U.S. AGENT
First seen in “Captain America” #323, written by Mark Gruenwald and drawn by Paul Neary and John Beatty, John Walker grew up idolizing notions of patriotism, glory and the Vietnam War sacrifice of his brother Mike, a helicopter pilot. Walker enlisted in the U.S. Army himself, but the war ended before he ever saw combat, frustrating his desire to become a hero. Afterward, he underwent the Power Broker’s strength augmentation process and opted to join the Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation to pay for the treatments.
However, promoter Ethan Thurm steered him in another direction: becoming a motivational speaker. As the Super-Patriot, Walker spoke before rallies around the country, claiming to represent America’s “true ideals” and disparaging Captain America as dated and out of touch. Without Walker’s knowledge, Thurm staged an attack on Walker at a New York rally to bolster his image, leading to him confronting Captain America himself. Later, after Steve Rogers resigned as Captain America rather than follow orders from the Commission on Superhuman Activities in “Captain America” #332, Walker was recruited to be the new Captain America. After a rocky tenure, Walker was fired and became U.S. Agent.
11. MAX DAMAGE
In “Irredeemable” and its companion series “Incorruptible,” writer Mark Waid explored heroism and villainy by having the world’s foremost superhero and supervillain change outlooks. “Irredeemable” followed the dark path taken by the Plutonian after his mind snaps and he unleashes his destructive powers on millions of people, his friends and teammates on the slightest whim.
In “Incorruptible” #3 and #4, drawn by Jean Diaz and Berlardino Brabo, Plutonian’s No. 1 opponent, Max Damage, has an epiphany when he attempts his own worst feat of mayhem. Damage attempts to unleash a plague that would have killed billions of people, out of jealousy that they can feel the physical world while he cannot. Damage is super-strong and impervious to harm, with his abilities increasing the longer he stays awake and resetting when he succumbs to sleep deprivation. Damage is surprised that Plutonian doesn’t stop him from opening the plague container, instead incinerating all witnesses and dismissing Damage with a glance. With that, Damage chooses to be the hero and defender that Plutonian had stopped being.