Superheroes are the guardians of all that is good in the fictional comic book world. Their powers are magnified by their intentions to keep peace in the universe, a principal that is guided by their moral sense of obligation. However, when you boil down what they do and how they do it, are they always such an asset?
Whether it be creating weapons that slice, dice and obliterate the enemy in one fell swoop, or overpowering their foes with extreme strength, sometimes it is worth pointing out how dangerous these characters can be in a different context. One man’s hero is another’s villain and once the gauge has been switched, it is impossible to turn it back again.
DC and Marvel have made an honest attempt at exploring the gray area in these folk, a concept that has severely been lacking up until this point. Courtesy of the stellar Captain America: Civil War and the equally disappointing Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the filmmakers are striving to understand these complex people and more importantly, delve into the territory of repercussions where the death of thousands cannot be swept under the rug before a new movie hits the big screen.
2013’s Man of Steel was an exercise in showboating Superman’s incredible strength and powers, but what good is it when his refusal to turn himself in turns Metropolis into a glorified junkyard? Likewise for the Avengers during their trip to Sokovia, a location that is literally turned upside down in large part to Tony Stark’s own creation.
Superheroes will always be the beacons of light and justice, but they cannot be crusaders for good without applying them inwards every so often. Here are the 15 superheroes whose powers do more harm than good.
15. Black Canary
Developed back in 1947 for the Flash Comics series, Black Canary was a pioneer character for female heroines out there to illustrate that indeed, women can kick as much ass as any male hero going. The Green Arrow love interest, sidekick, and confidant has most notably been portrayed by Katie Cassidy who played Laurel Lance/Black Canary in CW’s Arrow, but it would be Juliana Harkavy as Dinah Drake who would eventually take over that mantle after her death in season 4 of the series.
For all her intentions, and good ones they are given her father Quentin Lance is a Starling City detective, the ultrasonic vibrations she screams is so severe it shatters glass and even some stronger steel materials. Combined with her martial arts background, this is quite the potent weapon but no one that comes into contact with her in this context leaves with anything less than a set of bloodied eardrums.
Swinging swords and stealing souls – just your average DC Comics superheroine. Katana is one of the more mysterious and low key players in the DCEU, only popping up when it is relevant for an ensemble extravaganza with the Suicide Squad or for a few cameos in the CW series Arrow. Played by Rila Fukushima on the small screen and Karen Fukuhara for Warner Brothers 2016 critical flop, Katana has emerged to affiliate with the Outsiders, Birds of Prey, Justice League and Suicide Squad when they need a bit of extra muscle.
Yet her origin story is a revelation as to the makings of the woman and the sword she possesses. Choosing Maseo Yamashiro as her lover and life partner, his brother Takeo would strike him down in a fit of rage and jealousy and by doing so, trapped his soul for eternity. There is a demonic element to Katana that goes beyond just killing her victims, confining them to an afterlife of horror. Not exactly a trait that does more good than harm.
If the qualification for doing more harm than good is a prerequisite that has to be obeyed 100%, then Logan is, without a doubt, a neat fit into this category. Hugh Jackman’s big screen persona showcased how frenetic and dangerous a mutant whose powers include six retractable claws can be, cutting and carving his way through the franchise with pure devastation.
The pitfalls of the character were given due recognition in the final installment Logan this year, portraying James Howlett at the end of his journey and yearning for an end to his pain and agony. Despite the differing interpretations in the comic books regarding his origin and death, the only redeeming feature about Wolverine is his loyalty to the X-Men in the knowledge that he will always struggle to fight the mental and physical demons he possesses. There are few greater superheroes ever created as for all his strength and healing, he is genuinely one of the more fragile individuals in the Marvel world because of his isolation and sense of loss.
12. Professor X
Professor Charles Xavier is not a character that should be criticized under any circumstances, with the elder statesman of the Marvel Universe acting as a conduit between the forces that be and the troubled mutants desperate to be accepted in society. Establishing Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters at the X-Mansion, the superhero played by Sir Patrick Stewart is a beloved figure on all accounts.
However, being the most powerful telepath of them all makes him a dangerous cocktail. As was seen in 2017’s Logan, his ailing abilities meant that anyone within a close radius to him during his seizure episodes would suffer terrible trauma and despite his good intentions, his mind-reading ability is nothing short of intrusive. Then there is his on again, off again with former BFF Magneto – a supervillain who continued to reap death and destruction across the globe and somehow Charles could never bring him to true justice.
11. John Constantine
The persona of John Constantine is a rare example of an antihero that ventures into truly dark territory with a sense of delight and anticipation. There is something quite disturbing about a man who relishes a dance with the devil.
In that sense, he is an extremely troubled individual whose ability to call upon the undead and encounter figures from hell itself is an explanation why his alter ego is Hellblazer. Such is his cunning instinct, Constantine works as a glorified con artist who would work as a dodgy car salesman if he didn’t have his scary abilities.
He has experience with manipulating Batman and Superman for his own gains and ever since his life-saving blood transfusion from the demon Nergal, he has been in debt to evil members of the DCEU.
The casting of Keanu Reeves in 2005’s rendition hit the tone of the world just right, but not the conflicted nature of the man himself to completely overlook his mischievous side. Matt Ryan’s portrayal for his short-lived NBC series would be a better attempt at including this aspect, eventually going on to feature in the expanded CW world alongside Arrow.
The son of Professor Charles Xavier and arguably the most powerful mutant in the existence of the X-Men world – not bad hey? The FX series might only be halfway through their pilot season in 2017, yet the character David Haller played by Beauty and the Beast star Dan Stevens is as unhinged as they come and because of this, he has the ability to wipe out an entire building or army of soldiers in one swoop.
What FX achieves so well is the overlapping themes with mental illness, a topic that fits in with Legion as he constantly battles a multiple personality disorder that has him calm and in control one minute, and flying upside down to kill antagonists the next.
While he is very much like his old man with pure intentions, Haller has no gauge over his powers and with an inability to control his stress and moments of rage and confusion, no one can predict what comes next. Neither can he – and that is the frightening part.
9. El Diablo
One gaze at the comic book depiction of El Diablo and it is clear that Suicide Squad ran with a very different interpretation of the DC character. First appearing in 1970’s All-Star Western edition, Diablo first went under the alias Lazarus Lane where he would work as a bank teller before being struck by lightning and taken in by a group of thieves. This is where he would adopt his vigilante persona that is interpreted in Spanish as “the devil.”
That straight down the line white man from the Old West with black hair and a neat black suit would transition into the token Hispanic showcased in Suicide Squad, played by Jay Hernandez. In this modern spin, El Diablo would have a tragic background where he killed his partner and young child in a fit of rage using his creation of fire through his fingertips, only to become a recluse before Amanda Waller places him in the middle of a deadly mission. His sacrifice would be the ultimate act of heroism, but the pain and heartache he caused cannot be overshadowed.
8. Drax the Destroyer
The clue really is in the name of this one. Drax the Destroyer is a weapon with legs as his strength and fighting ability is rarely matched in the Guardians of the Galaxy leg of the Marvel Universe. Perhaps his role is accentuated by the likes of Star-Lord, Gamora, Rocket Raccoon, Nebula and the cute and cuddly Baby Groot, but there is little denying how powerful and ruthless the character is.
Peter Quill discovered in the 2014 installment that being on Drax’s bad side is not where you want to be as the superhero did well to befriend the muscle man.
What makes Drax such a unique figure is that the creators have unashamedly made him a bit of an idiot with a limited capacity to understand the repercussions of his actions.
With his mental links to the supervillain Thanos, he has the capacity to be more of an asset than he lets on but because he is consumed by anger and a desire to rip his enemies to shreds, Drax is not the champion he could be.
Absorbing people’s life force to the point where they are put into a coma and possibly die is not an attribute that is overly appealing. Anne Marie’s gift is long considered a curse by the 17-year old as her inclusion into Xavier’s School for Gifted Children slowly but slowly changes her own opinion and self-esteem, as she develops a kinship with a fellow loner in Wolverine.
For all this upturn in her own mind, Rogue is a dangerous commodity with the powers to suck the life literally out of anyone she comes into contact with and although she can delve into their memories, the upside is far outweighed by the damage she can and does cause.
Magneto was almost successful in 2000’s X-Men by using Rogue as a conduit to mutate all the inhabitants of Liberty Island and while that plan was scuppered, she is a constant threat as much to the X-Men as she is to their enemies.
6. The Comedian
How this man can be considered a superhero is almost beyond the bounds of all logic – even in the context of characters that can destroy worlds and unleash unstoppable mind-control techniques on people.
Played by The Walking Dead star Jeffrey Dean Morgan in Watchman, a man who is accustomed at portraying individuals the audience loves to hate, the role of Edward Morgan Blake is as perverse as they come as the hired gun has links in the comic book series to John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, and Marilyn Monroe.
The Comedian alias is a clear contradiction as the nihilist is driven by greed with a sick desire to inflict violence. Yet all of that is forgotten because he was a crucial member of the Minutemen whose intentions were pure, so he gets a pass on all counts. Go figure.
A giant green man who smashes things with his fists – you know, a superhero! The character that evolved from Bruce Banner’s accident at the hands of gamma radiation exposure is one of the most iconic names across either Marvel or DC.
However, neither Marvel, Walt Disney nor any studio for that matter, have been able to make a successful movie for the Hulk with attempts by Eric Bana in 2003 and Edward Norton in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk. He would be recast and rebooted for a third time in quick succession for 2012’s The Avengers thanks to Mark Ruffalo, but maybe the issues the filmmakers have experienced with the character speak volumes about his capacity to hold a motion picture.
There are only so many ways they can illustrate a monstrous creature that goes green and angry without it becoming a caricature.
Given Hulk’s upcoming battle with the God of Thunder in the upcoming blockbuster Thor: Ragnarok, it is evident that no one likes Banner when he’s angry – even counting his fellow warriors for justice.
Scott Summers acted as the pain in Wolverine’s backside throughout their joint adventures with the X-Men in the comic book and movie world, but there was always respect on both sides of the fence.
Played by James Marsden from 2000 to 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand, Cyclops would eventually be killed by his lover Jean Grey when she evolves into the evil Phoenix persona. Summers would be one of the few who graduated with aplomb from Charles Xavier’s school to be a trusted confidant of Professor X very early on.
He even guided James Howlett into the group despite his reluctance to do so, but in spite of the trust heaped upon him, there was always the risk of Cyclops being manipulated or compromised when his energy blasts emanating from his eyes would be cut loose. Like any of the mutants or superheroes who were out to save the world – their powers are brilliant when they are harnessed for good. But once that scenario is flipped, all hell is unleashed.
3. Jean Grey
A virtuous superhero who would eventually transform into one of the most powerful supervillains in the X-Men world. The love interest of Cyclops and Wolverine was arguably underutilized in the motion picture trilogy until X-Men: The Last Stand where the Dark Phoenix took over and she became the antagonist of the piece.
Ranked as a Class 5 mutant courtesy of her telekinetic and telepathic abilities of limitless range, Grey was a beloved member of the X-Men as she was most synonymous for her caring and nurturing nature.
This contrasted quickly when she would evolve into the Dark Phoenix, possessed by the alternate personality she tried and failed to suppress. Fans were left disappointed that the 2006 film used the concluding scenes as an end point, as the Dark Phoenix was an element of the comics that was worthy of its own series.
2. Dr. Manhattan
Dr. Manhattan is an incredibly intriguing being who can virtually achieve anything he so desires. The DC character was originally a nuclear physicist in 1959 called Dr. Jonathan Osterman until a certain accident turned him into an all-seeing, all-conquering superhero.
Named after the Manhattan Project, the man played by Billy Crudup in Watchmen works as an agent of the United States government and because of which, his actions and intentions are always compromised for the “greater good.” Dr. Manhattan is the greatest of contradictions because for all his powers, including teleportation, invulnerability, dimension travel, superhuman strength and more, he does not relate to humans whatsoever.
There is a strong degree of apathy to the being which creates a huge paradox. If he can’t appreciate or understand the value of human life, how can he do his all to protect it, particularly when the US army have him as their glorified weapon?
1. Tony Stark/Iron Man
Think about this for a moment. Tony Stark’s creations have wielded nothing but pure destruction, chaos, and death. Wherever the brilliant innovator, socialite and lady’s man ends up, there is inevitable conflict and much of it has come at his own hand. In 2008’s opening MCU installment Iron Man, the Stark Industries head was attacked by a convoy that carried one of his branded rocket-propelled grenades. This revealed how a group of terrorists in the Middle East managed to access the weaponry for their own gains.
Fast forward to Iron Man 2 and Stark’s rival Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) uses technology inspired by Stark Industries to use against the billionaire playboy courtesy of Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke). To make matters worse, Robert Downey Jr.’s character was the individual responsible for creating the “Ultron” defense program in The Avengers: Age of Ultron – a decision that backfired to the point where Sokovia is completely destroyed.
This would have serious repercussions for Captain America: Civil War, a title that featured Helmut Zemo (Daniel Bruhl) pitting the superheroes against each other.
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