The world of DC Comics is filled with complex characters who face difficult choices and ethical dilemmas. Sometimes, even the most noble heroes can succumb to corruption and become villains. These arcs are some of the most compelling and thought-provoking in the DC Universe, as they force readers to confront the darker aspects of human nature. In this article, we’ll explore 10 of DC’s best corruption arcs where heroes turned villain, examining the motivations and consequences of these characters’ actions. From classic tales to modern retellings, these stories showcase the depth and complexity of the DC Universe and the human psyche.
10 of DC’s Best Corruption Arcs Where Heroes Turned Villain
For years, Hal Jordan was known as a charismatic and confident hero, exuding an air of boldness and self-assurance. However, his fate took a dark turn when he was accused of using his ring for personal gain by the Guardians, leading to their plans to reprimand him. This accusation triggered a dramatic shift in Hal’s behavior, causing him to become increasingly unstable. He eventually journeyed to Oa, where he committed a heinous act by killing most of the Green Lantern Corps. In a moment of immense power, Hal transformed into the formidable villain known as Parallax. Thankfully, Hal eventually returned to the side of good, and has since been a heroic figure since his comeback in the early 2000s.
After Dick Grayson’s departure, Batman chose Jason Todd to become the next Robin, despite his rebellious nature. However, Jason’s willingness to kill those he deemed deserving of it raised concerns for Batman, who tried to steer him away from his violent tendencies. Tragically, the Joker captured and killed Jason, leaving Batman to deal with the devastating loss.
Yet, Jason’s death was not the end of his story. He returned as the Red Hood, an anti-hero who operates according to his own goals and values, and is not afraid to fight other heroes if necessary. While Jason maintains a degree of respect for his former mentor, his relationship with Batman is strained due to their differing approaches to crime-fighting.
Despite Batman’s disapproval of Jason’s brutal methods, he still cares for him and acknowledges the pain and trauma that led him down this path. As the two continue to navigate their complicated dynamic, the Red Hood remains a complex and fascinating character in the DC Universe.
The Flashpoint narrative saw a surprising shift in Aquaman’s character, as he was depicted as a malevolent figure instead of his usual heroic persona. Unlike his upbringing in the human world, Aquaman was brought up amongst the Atlanteans and lacked a compassionate nature. He became the ruler of Atlantis, married Mera, but eventually began an affair with Wonder Woman, leading them to collaborate against the humans of the world. The situation escalated when Wonder Woman killed Mera, provoking Aquaman into starting a devastating war.
In a harrowing turn of events, Aquaman ended up causing the destruction of Western Europe, resulting in the loss of more than 60 million lives. To add to the horror, before his demise, Aquaman activated a destructive weapon to obliterate the world, ensuring that Wonder Woman’s triumph would be short-lived. This version of Aquaman was ruthless and showed no regard for humanity’s welfare or protection.
In the Flashpoint storyline, Wonder Woman, the powerful queen of the Amazons, is portrayed as a ruthless and sadistic leader. When confronted by Mera about her affair with Aquaman, Diana cruelly beheads her and wears her crown, sparking a devastating war. Alongside her Amazon army, she inflicts mass destruction and death upon millions of people. In the climactic battle, she forces Captain Thunder to revert back into the human children who make him up and then kills Billy Baston.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the only instance where Wonder Woman has taken on a villainous role. In the Injustice universe, she becomes one of the primary antagonists, supporting and encouraging Superman’s increasingly tyrannical actions. Her influence unwittingly corrupts the Man of Steel, leading him down a dark path that she ultimately chooses to remain by his side for.
The Batman Who Laughs comic showcases the terrifying potential of Batman as a villain, making his heroic persona all the more vital. In this alternate reality, Batman is infected with a toxin that slowly transforms him into a grotesque fusion of himself and the Joker. He mercilessly kills Nightwing, Batgirl, Red Hood, and Timothy Drake/Red Robin before transforming Damian with Joker Venom.
The Batman Who Laughs possesses both Bruce’s intelligence and strength and the Joker’s sadistic nature, making him an unstoppable force. He slaughters the Justice League and drives Superman and Supergirl insane with black kryptonite, forcing them to kill their families before succumbing to their own deaths. The nightmarish nature of this alternate Batman serves as a stark reminder of the importance of Batman’s heroic morality in the DC Universe.
Initially, Superboy-Prime, a Superman from another Earth, appeared to possess the same heroic qualities as his counterpart. However, following the annihilation of his own world, he lost his grip on sanity and was swayed by Alexander Luthor’s manipulations. The tragic turning point in Superboy-Prime’s descent into villainy was the slaying of the primary Superboy. He justified his actions based solely on his title as Superman and demonstrated no empathy towards those who dared to oppose him.
Despite being one of the strongest Green Lanterns and Hal Jordan’s mentor, Sinestro’s villainous nature has overshadowed his heroic past in the minds of some fans. His descent into darkness was triggered by his misuse of the power ring, leading him to become a ruthless dictator in his quest for protecting the world. As a result of his actions, he was banished to Qward, a planet inhabited by the Weaponers who despised Green Lanterns. Surprisingly, instead of seeking redemption, Sinestro joined forces with the Weaponers, and formed the Sinestro/Yellow Lantern Corps, emerging as one of the most formidable adversaries of the Green Lantern Corps.
While spending most of her time as a hero, Mary briefly became a villain due to her desperation to regain her powers after Shazam’s demise. However, after being bestowed with Black Adam’s powers, she fell prey to corruption and was easily swayed by the likes of Darkseid and Eclipso. She was even possessed by Desaad and fought for Darkseid during the Final Crisis event. Although Mary wasn’t the most heinous villain, her story arc during this period was particularly noteworthy. Fortunately, she was able to overcome this dark phase and return to her role as a hero, once again becoming an integral part of the Shazam family.
Initially, Terra appeared to be an excellent addition to the Teen Titans team. However, her promising debut came to an abrupt end when it was revealed that she was working as a double agent for Deathstroke, gathering sensitive information on the team. Beneath her seemingly charming facade, Terra had a twisted and narcissistic personality that revealed her true villainous nature. Fortunately, the comic book counterpart of Terra managed to redeem the character’s reputation to some extent. In the Teen Titans animated series, her portrayal as a tragic and sympathetic hero was a departure from her earlier depiction as a cold-hearted betrayer.
Witnessing the transformation of a hero such as Superman into a villain is a chilling and unsettling experience. At the outset of the Injustice series, he had everything a superhero could want: adoration from his fans, a loving marriage with Lois Lane, and a child on the way. However, tragedy strikes when he is unwittingly drugged by the Joker, leading to the accidental deaths of Lois and their unborn child, as well as the destruction of Metropolis through the activation of a nuclear weapon.
In a fit of uncontrollable fury, Superman takes the life of the Joker and subsequently establishes the One Earth Regime. Under his dictatorial rule, he dispatches nearly every villain on Earth, ruling through intimidation and fear. Anyone who dares to question his authority, such as Shazam in Injustice: Gods Among Us, meets a similarly brutal fate. Superman’s benevolent heroism is replaced by a malevolent villainy, fueled by his overwhelming sorrow and seething anger.