We all know and love Batman as the man who gave up his entire life for a crusade to save Gotham’s soul. He’s fought countless criminals and villains in order to see his vision for the dark city realized, and we love him all the more for it. Despite having no superpowers, Batman still manages to come out on top and perseveres through every trial that he faces.
But the question remains: how heroic is Batman? There’s no doubt that he’s helped save the world many times over, but in many instances, he’s been shown to go about it the wrong way. He’s hurt the people he cares about, he’s manipulated others to get his way, and yes, he’s killed many people to further his goals. While I’m not arguing whether Batman is a hero or not (because he is; there’s no doubt about that), it’s an interesting point to raise just how heroic he really is.
Over the years of Batman media, we get a clear sense of who the Dark Knight is. After comparing his personality and convictions with those of other super villains, I’ve reached a powerful conclusion: there are some villains who are more heroic than Batman. Here are 15 villains who are more heroic than Batman.
15. Doctor Octopus (Superior Spider-Man)
One of the most brutal deaths in comic history was when a dying Doctor Octopus switched minds with Peter Parker. Parker then died in Ock’s body, and the Doctor took over Parker’s body. However, something changed once Octavius became the new Peter Parker, as if there was some of the wall crawler’s conscience still left. Instead of choosing to destroy the world, Ock decided that he would become a new Spider-Man who was superior to Parker in every way. Taking the name Superior Spider-Man, Ock did everything he could to reach that goal.
He took to the city of New York, saving people and taking down villains. He did it so well that he was able to hide his true identity to many people, including the Avengers for a time. The longer he remained in Parker’s body, the more righteous he became, slowly going down the road of a hero over time. He wanted to do good, but in the end, Parker’s mind began to return. And in due time, Octavius gave up the Superior Spider-Man persona so that Peter could once again return to his body. Talk about the ultimate sacrifice.
Marvel is known for having villains who are constantly teetering on the edge of good and evil. Magneto is one of them. What makes him so unique is the fact that people can easily understand why he does what he does and where he’s coming from. His methods might be fairly unorthodox, but he has very logical reasoning. After being persecuted during his childhood in World War II, Magneto believed that people’s hatred of mutants would eventually lead to them being hunted. Because of this, Magneto felt that he had to protect mutant-kind by constantly pushing the humans back.
Of course, this idea was constantly opposed by Professor X, but Magneto’s desire to improve the life of mutants has placed him side by side with the X-Men more times than we can count, which is further proof that he’s a good man at heart. As a matter of fact, he sees many of Charles Xavier’s methods like mind controlling his students and making tough calls as immoral to some extent (and we have to agree). All that Magneto wants is for mutants to live free lives where they don’t suffer from scrutiny.
Fighting crime is not an easy job, but it’s one that many people have chosen to take. However, over the years, there are some who have come to the conclusion that their efforts were fruitless. No matter how hard they fought or how many criminals they took down, they saw that evil would always rise again. That was how the villain of the Watchmen comic, Ozymandias, saw things.
Ozymandias was once inspired to become a hero himself and took to the streets as a vigilante. Sometime during his adventures, however, he realized that it would never be enough to bring true peace to the world. He decided then that the only way to bring peace in the world was to unite them against a common enemy. That was when Ozymandias began hatching an idea to trick the human race into believing that aliens had invaded the Earth. It was a severe bout of deception, but it was ultimately for the good of humanity. He also preferred an intelligent and objective approach, having no desire to kill anybody. All that he wanted was to unite the world under one banner so that there wouldn’t have to be any more vigilantes or wars.
Believe it or not (I was pretty skeptical myself) Galactus isn’t as bad as you might think. While he’s often remembered as a colossal being that wants to devour Earth, understand that it’s not quite that clear. You see, Galactus is an entity that is bound to the universe. Because of his size and power, he gets hungry like the rest of us but requires a much larger meal to sustain him. In his case, he has to eat planets in order to survive. If he dies, then so does the universe.
However, this doesn’t mean that Galactus always feels enabled to eat whatever he likes. On the contrary, he actually wants to eat planets that are uninhabited. This is primarily why he keeps the Silver Surfer on hand. The cosmic surfer goes to each planet ahead of Galactus to see if it has life or not. If it doesn’t, then Galactus gladly devours it. That being said, the presence of life hasn’t always deterred the hungry giant, but he ultimately doesn’t want to bring about the extinction of humanity. I think it goes without saying that if Batman had that sort of power, then the circumstances would be much worse.
11. Loki (MCU)
Thor wasn’t a particularly excellent film, but there are a lot of reasons to go watch it again. The biggest one is the villain, Loki. In the movie, he works with Thor to stop the Jotuns and make Asgard a safer place. However, due to his brother’s arrogance, he knew that Asgard would be run into the ground. Because of this, he began manipulating people so that he could become the leader of the Golden City itself.
This doesn’t make him completely evil, though. Loki wanted to rule Asgard not because he desired power, but because he wanted better for the city he loved. This is so apparent if you watch the movie from Loki’s perspective. His brother is making all kinds of rash and hasty decisions that result in wars and people getting killed. Yet, Thor was still being given the throne despite his mistakes in life, and Loki wasn’t a fan of that. He continued contending with his brother, and as time went on, his desire to better Asgard slowly grew into a desire to control the world. He became much more sociopathic by the time The Avengers and Thor: The Dark World came around. Who knows what he’ll do in Thor: Ragnarok.
10. Doctor Doom
Coming from the Marvel Universe, not only is Doctor Doom one of the best comic book villains of all time, he’s also one of the noblest. Doctor Doom has a genuinely good vision for the world and wants to bring about peace. He leads his home country of Latveria not as a cruel dictator, but as someone who is purely concerned about its well-being and believes that he could improve it through leadership.
After succeeding with his own country, Doom wants to expand his perfect leadership to the entire world. While he might go about it the wrong way at times, you have to admit that it’s hard to ignore his results. He rescued his country from poverty and crime. Who’s to say that he wouldn’t be able to do that for the rest of the world? Doctor Doom is one of the most effective leaders ever put in a comic book, and there’s plenty of reason to feel that he has heroic intentions at heart. In contrast, Batman doesn’t think that far ahead and only functions in the present. He’d just rather beat criminals until he dies one day.
9. Ra’s al Ghul
You would think that someone in charge of an organization known as the League of Assassins would have all of the worst intentions in the world. That’s surprisingly not the case.
Ra’s al Ghul, the head of the League of Assassins, understands that the world is corrupt and simply refuses to sit on his hands. Every time an empire becomes too powerful, the League is there to take it down and knock people off of their high horses. The League remains an ever-present force of the DC Universe and has appeared over the centuries.
What’s surprising about him is that he seldom does anything to benefit himself. Ra’s al Ghul keeps track of world events in order to make sure that nobody too corrupt gets to be in charge. Despite contending with Batman on several occasions, Ra’s has helped the Dark Knight multiple times. The entire reason Jason Todd was brought back from the dead was because Ra’s threw him into the Lazarus Pit. It’s clear that Ra’s is a powerful man of honor and will respect those who deserve it. He operates on a moral code, which is more than we can say for Batman at times.
8. Lex Luthor
Just because he’s the archenemy of Superman, one of the purest heroes ever created, doesn’t mean that he himself doesn’t have good intentions. I’ll say that this largely depends on which version of Lex Luthor you’re referring to. There have been times when he’s been a corporate monster, interested only in increasing his profit no matter who gets in his way. Other times, that’s not necessarily the case.
While he’s no hero by any means, Lex Luthor has actually operated for the benefit of mankind. Even when he’s pulling the strings for a sinister plan, he’s crafty enough to supply the world with more energy, better supplies, and more. To put things in perspective, when other threats come to Earth, Lex Luthor has often found himself siding with the Justice League in order to deal with it. Even in the Injustice series, Lex Luthor was a double agent who secretly worked for Batman’s Insurgency. You know what we would like to see Batman do more often? Use all of his money to benefit those in need rather than feed his desire to beat the crap out of people. The only difference is that he tries not to kill.
7. Poison Ivy
This point might be a little “Green Party” for some tastes, but at the end of the day, it is a valid argument.
Pamela Isley was a brilliant botanist who became enamored with all plant life as she began to understand it. This made her not only a much more effective scientist, but also an avid protector of all things green. However, after being injected with some deadly plant poison, everything changed: instead of dying, Pamela developed an immunity to all plant poisons and a connection to every living plant in the world.
Taking the name “Poison Ivy,” Pamela became an even greater advocate for all things green and was willing to go to extremes to protect them. She resorts to crime only when this is necessary in order to protect the plants. When all is said and done, Poison Ivy knows the value of these organisms and knows that if they’re treated poorly, the entire world could pay the price. While she mostly thinks about the plants rather than the people involved, you have to give her some props for working toward the benefit of the Earth. That’s someone who’s thinking big picture.
6. Eobard Thawne (Arrowverse)
Before I continue, I’ll admit that Eobard Thawne is one of the most frustratingly sinister villains of the Arrowverse. He killed Barry’s mom and terrorized the Legends for an entire season. However, with every villain, there comes a big question: if they were to beat the hero, what would they do with that power? In the case of Thawne, we got an answer in this past season of Legends of Tomorrow. Thawne and the other members of the Legion of Doom nabbed the Spear of Destiny and rewrote reality.
Because Thawne was the one who orchestrated the whole thing, he was the one who had the most effect on this new reality. Instead of being a powerful villain, Thawne was a leading scientist who actually stopped horrible situations like world hunger. Instead of taking the time to destroy the world once and for all, Thawne actually made it better. Contrast that with many of the mistakes the heroes were making, such as Barry creating Flashpoint and Oliver bringing the Bratva to Star City. In the end of it all, Thawne was more heroic when given the opportunity to create his own reality.
If there’s one hero that we can easily have empathy for, it’s Bizarro. This clone of Superman is so misguided that he believes that he’s the Man of Steel. Little does he know that he’s extremely messed up in the head, which necessitates Superman to come and stop him on a few occasions. The entire time events like this occur, Bizarro doesn’t know what’s happening. He’s confused as to why Superman is fighting him and only fights back as a method of self-defense, believing that Clark Kent is a villain.
At the end of the day, Bizarro does do bad things and brings harm to people, but that’s not because he wants to. In his heart, he wants to be a hero and believes that his actions are for the good of humanity. He’s a gentle soul and doesn’t want to hurt anybody. He just wants to live life and find meaning. It’s only an unfortunate coincidence that he hurts others and gets dealt with by Superman and the Justice League at times. Nonetheless, Bizarro is still a villain, but his gentle nature and desire to do good definitely put him above the morally gray Dark Knight.
Another villain straight out of the Batman universe, Catwoman is arguably more heroic than the Dark Knight. This one will take a bit of explaining, so stay with me.
Throughout Batman’s adventures, he tries to save Gotham. However, he does things his way all the time. Regardless of whether or not he has other people fighting alongside him, it’s his way or the highway. He feels that everything he does is the most efficient way and always acts accordingly. He never budges or changes his mind, and that’s mostly proven by the Robins that have left the Batcave.
Now, take Catwoman. She’s a thief, yes, but only steals what she needs to (sometimes not, but you get the picture). However, there are times when Batman will come to her for help or something happens in Gotham that’s unusually disastrous. It’s in these moments that Catwoman goes against her ideals and her way of living for the greater good. She behaves contrary to her nature because there’s a greater calling. Changing one’s ways is more than Batman will likely ever do, as his experiences have created a stubborn and bossy vigilante.
3. Dark Phoenix
Jean Grey met the Phoenix Force at a very young age. While this supplied her with truly amazing powers, it led to her becoming one of the strongest supervillains of the Marvel Universe. What makes the Dark Phoenix Saga more tragic is the fact that the Dark Phoenix is constantly at war with herself. Jean Grey is constantly battling with the Phoenix Force over the control of her mind. From that point on, any terrible thing that she does isn’t by her own will. She’s being forced into it.
Jean Grey still exists deep inside and always strives to do right by the world and the X-Men in general. Yet the power of the Phoenix Force was consuming her. Because of this, she begged Wolverine to do what nobody else could and stab her. She perceived that to be the only way that the Phoenix Force would be stopped and chose to sacrifice her life to save everyone on the planet. As you all know by this point, Logan had no other choice than to comply with her request. Expect to see this moment portrayed again on the big screen.
2. Yokai (Big Hero 6)
Big Hero 6 really came out of nowhere. Disney took one of the most obscure Marvel comics and turned it into a fun animation film that’s separate from the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In that movie, the villain they had to fight was a man in a Kabuki mask named Yokai. This bad guy didn’t have any powers but instead stole Hiro’s nanobots in order to create a weapon that would help him achieve his goal.
What was his goal, you ask? To save his daughter. Yokai’s daughter was in a teleportation experiment conducted by another scientist. When it malfunctioned, she was caught in a separate dimension for a long amount of time. Yokai then decided that he would do whatever it took to re-open the portal and save his daughter. Unfortunately, he eventually lost sight of his goal and wanted revenge instead. But the moment he knew he could get his daughter back, his entire world changed. It’s one of the few examples of how grief can force a character to take extreme actions. In this right, Yokai was a perfect counterpart to Hiro having to deal with the death of his brother.
1. Mr. Freeze
As any Batman fan knows, there are a lot of villains who aren’t evil just so they can get a chance to twirl their mustaches. There are many who have heroic intentions — they just don’t have the means to acquire what they need. Imagine if Batman didn’t have the money to get all of his equipment… would he then steal what he needed?
This is just a roundabout way of proving that Mr. Freeze is heroic at heart. After his wife was diagnosed with a disease that would eventually kill her, he placed her in cryogenic slumber until he could figure out a cure. Unfortunately for him, the materials he needs to cure her are locked behind state-of-the-art science facilities. He often breaks in to get what he wants. This often puts him face to face with Batman, but it’s even hard for the Dark Knight to take him down at times knowing that he just wants to save the woman he loves. Mr. Freeze is willing to go to any lengths for his wife, and considering the vows two people make at a wedding, can you really blame him? He sacrificed everything to try and save his wife.