The heroes always have the best of intentions. Or at least they’re supposed to, right? Whether they’re saving kittens from trees, stopping bank robbers, or protecting the world from an intergalactic villain. They’re here to do good and they never stray from that. You have classic examples of this with characters like Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Superman, and even Captain America. Well, before he became Hydra, of course. They have truly done and seen it all, and continue to stand on the side of good.
Then there are others. Some characters who don’t like to follow the rules, who don’t like being the heroes. I’m talking, of course, about the bad guys and villains. There are so many classic comic book villains like the Joker, Green Goblin, Lex Luthor and oh so many more. But those guys happen to be pure evil. There are some who actually have the best of intentions, regardless of how they go about doing things. You may call them anti-villains.
Today these characters are going to get highlighted. There are characters on this list that have been villains while also playing the anti-hero role or even the anti-villain role. Let’s take a look at some of those colorful comic book characters from both DC and Marvel Comics and even some in between.
Hank Pym originally created Ultron based on Pym’s brain patterns, and as a way for the world to be a bit safer. Unfortunately, as we all know, anytime someone decides to create an autonomous robot, they eventually grow to destroy everything. Which is pretty much what happened with Ultron. This supervillain is one of the greatest adversaries of the Avengers. The character first appeared in Avengers #54 in 1968.
Ultron has good intentions, but in order to carry them out, he’ll have to kill a lot of people in order to do so. This was made very clear when the character was brought to life in Avengers: Age of Ultron, voiced by actor James Spader. The Avengers needed to be wiped out in order for the world to be a better place.
Flint Marko, aka Sandman, was just your typical thug turned villain in the beginning. He could turn into sand and even do some shape-shifting and became an annoyance for Spider-Man. But he wasn’t always on the side of evil. The character eventually bettered himself and got out of the crime business, after he realized that it was ultimately making him unhappy. At one point, he even fought alongside the Avengers.
Even in Sam Raimi‘s Spider-Man 3, Sandman was a criminal with good intentions. He was just trying to get some money to help his sick daughter. The character was portrayed by actor Thomas Haden Church. It turns out the dude had a heart of gold buried underneath all of that sand this whole time.
Slade Joseph Wilson, aka Deathstroke, is a fantastic villain. He’s been around since the 80s as an assassin and mercenary. Making his first appearance in The New Teen Titans (vol. 1) #2 in 1980. He started out being an archenemy of the Teen Titans and they didn’t have a whole lot of memorable villains before this. But Slade definitely left an impression when he first popped onto the scene.
The character eventually got his own solo series in the comics. This is when he started going in a different direction, morally speaking. He became less of an outright villain and more of an antihero. During this run of stories, Deathstroke had battles with DC’s greatest heroes and villains. He will be portrayed by Joe Manganiello in the upcoming Batman film.
Spider-Man has easily one of the best rogue’s gallery of villains, right next to Batman. Early on, he had a foe who happened to be a close friend, Curt Connors. Dr. Connors was a genetic biologist in the comics who researched the secrets of reptilian limb regeneration. He was partially doing this to find a way to regenerate his own right arm. But this, of course, caused him to transform into a violent monster.
The character was portrayed by Rhys Ifans in the 2012 film The Amazing Spider-Man. In the movie, Connors turns into a giant lizard and wants to do the same to other people in New York City. Ultimately, he views this as moving a step forward in our evolution. He doesn’t want to take over the world, rob banks or murder anybody. And in the comics, his connection back to his family really humanizes him.
11. Captain Cold
The Flash truly has an amazing rogues gallery of villains and baddies. One of the absolute best being Captain Cold, aka Leonard Snart. Making his first appearance, not in a Flash solo book, but in Showcase #8 in June of 1957. He’s a villain who happens to have a code of honor.
On the CW show Legends of Tomorrow, the character is portrayed by actor Wentworth Miller. Captain Cold started out as a villain on The Flash and was eventually brought over to the spinoff series. Even in live-action form, the character has been written to have some good intentions. After all, the guy did do some time traveling and ended up doing a lot of good. Even if his true villainy never really went away.
10. Baron Mordo
Now we step into the surreal world of magic. Doctor Strange has some pretty cool villains and enemies. One of his arch-enemies being Baron Mordo. The character was created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, first appearing in Strange Tales #111. Mordo would use darker arts than what Strange would use, and sometimes this would be to his advantage.
In the 2016 Doctor Strange film, the character of Baron Mordo was portrayed by actor Chiwetel Ejiofor. SPOILER ALERT for the film if you have not seen it. But he befriends and works with Stephen Strange in the beginning of the film. And by the end, he has turned his back and goes down a darker path. But his motivation for doing so, however, remains understandable. He is working towards what he believes is the overall good.
The character of Sinestro first appeared in Green Lantern (vol. 2) # 7 in August of 1961. Sinestro is one of the greatest villains of the Green Lanterns. But he wasn’t always on the side of bad. He used to be a Green Lantern himself. At one point, he began using the power of the Green Lantern to instil fear, instead of fighting against it. He was then banished to the antimatter universe as punishment. He came back with the power of the yellow ring, which represents fear, and sought revenge.
Sinestro will do whatever he feels is necessary for what he believes is the greater good, and has done so throughout the comics many times. You could describe him as a bit of a tragic villain, as well as an anti-hero at certain points.
Adrian Alexander Veidt, aka Ozymandias. Deemed “the smartest man in the world” by many, Ozymandias appeared to be a hero on the surface, but deep down, he qualifies as a villain. He had the best of good intentions. He was part of the Watchmen because he wanted to help make the world into a better place. But he was willing to do whatever was necessary to achieve that goal, even if it meant killing tons of innocent people.
In the 2009 film Watchmen, the character of Ozymandias/Adrian Veidt was portrayed by Matthew Goode. At the end of the film, Ozymandias carries out an evil plan much like he did in the original novel written by Alan Moore. And he actually gets away with it, but in his mind, it was all for the greater good of humanity.
7. Red Hood
The Red Hood is an interesting character. It’s actually Jason Todd underneath the hood, who was the second Robin after Richard “Dick” Grayson. He appeared in Batman #357, then made his debut as the new Robin in Batman #366. For 1988’s “Batman: A Death in the Family” storyline, DC Comics held a telephone poll to determine whether or not the character would die at the hands of the Joker. Fans voted for him to die.
Years later, Judd Winick brought the character back to life. The Red Hood was revealed to be Jason Todd in Batman #638. And he certainly did not come back as a hero. In fact, he was still trying to clean up the streets of Gotham. He was just much more violent than Batman was willing to be, and wasn’t afraid to kill.
6. Mr. Freeze
The character of Mr. Freeze is one that is pretty tragic. He didn’t always have this much depth, however. When he was first created, he was a supervillain with a bit of a gimmick, what with this freeze ray and all. In fact, when Bob Kane, David Wood, and Sheldon Moldoff first created the character, he was known as Mr. Zero, not Mr. Freeze.
Things for the character took a turn once Paul Dini got a hold of him for Batman: The Animated Series. This iteration of the character became much more sympathetic and tragic. It turns out he wasn’t doing terrible things just to do them, but to help his dying wife. It’s an understandable circumstance, but that doesn’t stop Batman from continuously taking him down.
Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman, is an incredibly important character in the Batman lore and rogues gallery. She isn’t an outright hero, nor is she an evil villain, but indeed something in between those two things. She was originally created to simply be a cat burglar, who would grow to have an on-again, off-again romantic relationship with Batman. He would often try to pull her to the side of good, but she would always go back to her thieving ways.
In that way, she continues to remain independent and morally dubious. Even if she’s done bad things, she’s had justifiable reasons for doing so. In her own solo series, Catwoman has been portrayed as somewhat of an antiheroine. Whatever her intentions are, they’re not pure evil.
4. Black Adam
Black Adam was created by Otto Binder and C. C. Beck in 1945 and made his first appearance in The Marvel Family # 1. He was originally going to be a one-shot villain for the first issue, but he was brought back after DC Comics first licensed and then acquired the character. Teth-Adam, formerly known as Mighty and now Black Adam, can be considered both a villain and an anti-hero. Of course, he naturally started out as a villain, going up against Captain Marvel/Shazam.
But he has definitely tried to redeem himself at one point in the comics. The character is apparently going to be getting his own solo movie, which will star Dwayne Johnson as Black Adam. In the DCEU, he will certainly be more than just a villain.
3. Amanda Waller
Anyone who has been reading DC comics since the mid-80s is very familiar with the character of Amanda Waller. As the former Director of ARGUS, short for Advanced Research Group Uniting Super-Humans, Waller has good intentions. The greater good of humanity and all of that jazz. But how she goes about getting her way is pretty morally ambiguous, sometimes just downright cold-blooded.
In the DC Extended Universe, the character was brought to life by actress Viola Davis in Suicide Squad. In that film, the character of Amanda Waller is definitely played up to be a pretty questionable individual. Waller had a personality that one could describe as sociopathic and is willing to murder innocent people if it is absolutely necessary.
2. Doctor Octopus
Doctor Octopus is an interesting character to have on this list. Of course, he was originally created to be a villain of Spider-Man and ended up being one of his absolute best. They would spend decades trying to foil one another’s plans and end up in countless battles. But in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2, for example, he was written as a villain who ended up redeeming himself by the end of the film.
The Superior Spider-Man also featured Dr. Octopus as a man trying to redeem himself. Otto Octavius had taken over Peter Parker’s body, after allowing Peter to die in Octavius’ body. However, Otto was being affected by Peter’s memories. He was determined to be a better Spider-Man than Peter ever was, and a better man than himself.
Magneto is probably the best example of a super-villain who has good intentions. He certainly means well, he only wants to protect his people, his fellow mutants. And he is willing to do whatever it takes to achieve that goal. He’s not pure evil because he does have a genuine love for his own kind. This is something that has been deeply embedded into the character since day one.
The character has been portrayed in live-action films by two different actors: Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbender. Both have portrayed Magneto as kind of a tragic character. He’s switched back and forth between being the villain of the movie, to being an ally to the X-Men. And that matches up with how he is written in the comics, helping solidify his #1 spot on our list.