Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Top 10 Former Bad Guys Who Are Awesome As Good Guys

Heroes who have been villains at the start are among the deepest and most dynamic fictional characters ever.  Sometimes, there is still some moral ambiguity in them as they still struggle with doing heroic things – something opposite from their former nature.  Sometimes, they still carry some characteristics of their former villain selves that either help or hinder them in their new lives’ duties. Usually, former villains end up as an anti-hero instead of a straight-up hero when they switch allegiance to the good guys’ side, and since anti-heroes usually have more charm than heroes, we are greatly interested with this kind of characters.  Moreover, we find these characters more interesting because we are all suckers for good redemption stories.

There are plenty of such characters.  And it took some time of evaluating before I picked up my ten.  I chose the 10 that used to be significant villains.   Significant enough that it gave a great dramatic impact and delightful shock when they had a change of heart. 

In the year 2029, Machines had already taken over the world after an artificial intelligence network called Skynet was able to become self-aware.  Skynet catered in a nuclear holocaust to wipe out most of mankind.  The remnants of humanity are merely fighting a resistance battle against the reigning Machines.  This is the setting where the Terminators are created.  They are cyborgs – machine in interior, but with a human covering (earlier models mostly have the appearance of Arnold Schwarzenegger).   They are programmed to infiltrate the human resistance and commit assassination.  They are highly strong, adaptable and formidable.

In the first Terminator film, the Terminator (T-101 or T-800… I’m confused) was the antagonist.  He was sent back in time to kill Sarah Connor, who was going to be the mother of John Connor, the resistance leader of the future.  A human resistance fighter, Kyle Reese, was sent back in time as well by the human resistance to protect Sarah.  Eventually, Kyle and Sarah, in spite of the extreme difficulty of the task, were able to destroy the Terminator but with the cost of Kyle’s life.  Then in the second Terminator film, in a delightful twist, the Terminator is now the hero.  He was sent back in time to protect a young John Connor from a more advanced Terminator, the T-1000.   

Technically, the Terminator in the second film was different from the first film’s.  The first unit had been destroyed already at the first film.  This second one was of the same model (or if it was not, at least shared the same appearance) as the first but had been reprogrammed to protect young John.  Still, the essence of the character was the same.  And I found it awesome that the same badassery the Terminator exerted in attempting to kill Sarah in the first film, he now exerted in protecting young John and taking down the T-1000.  

Another Terminator – different unit, same model – was also the protector of John as a young adult in the third Terminator film.

As a villain, the Terminator was as emotionless, apathetic, and ruthless as a killing machine should be.  But as a hero, though he remains apathetic and cold, there is some tinge of humanity in him as he demonstrated some human strong will (or stubbornness) and some hint of sympathy for humans. 


Dinobot was a protagonist for most of Beast Wars.  But he was, at the first episode, part of the bad guys – the Predacons.  One episode might be not too long a time to appreciate a character changing sides, but it was enough for me with Dinobot.  Prior to watching the pilot, there were some promos.  And, from these, one can have some understanding of the basic premise.  Robots with animal disguises.  Mammals were the good guys, while dinosaurs and insects were the bad guys.  But, wait.  There’s a brief scene where a raptor was standing side by side with the good guys!  This made me really, really curious with that particular character.  Thus, jumpstarting my interest with Dinobot, who would become my most favorite Beast Wars character next to Rattrap. 

In the first episode, Dinobot challenges Megatron for leadership of the Predacons, but he was blasted away by Scorponok. Later on, he would find the Maximals’ camp and challenged Optimus Primal in a duel for leadership.  In the duel, Primal lost his footing, giving Dinobot the opportunity to easily defeat him, but he refused to do so because he deemed it dishonorable to win in such way.  From this, we see that though Dinobot had been with the bad guys, he is different from them because he is an honorable warrior.  The Predacons then made a surprise attack, interrupting further developments in the duel.  Optimus Primal would save Dinobot during the ambush, and from then on, Dinobot began fighting alongside the Maximals.

Dinobot proved himself to be a very invaluable comrade to the Maximals with his cunning, strength, battle skills, and knowledge about his former Predacon companions.  He showed throughout the show, that despite having Predacon origins, he is honorable and not treacherous.  Though he still finds himself at odds with the Maximal’s moral code sometimes, being an anti-hero with anti-hero mentality in the midst of heroes with hero mentalities. 

In his most heroic deed later on the show, he would sacrifice his life to protect ancestors of humankind from genocide at the hands of the Predacons.  He would singlehandedly beat them but would receive heavy damage, thus, causing his death.  His touching final words were, “Tell my tale to those who ask. Tell it truly, the ill deeds along with the good and let me be judged accordingly. The rest is silence.”


Dragon Ball Z has two interesting “villain-to-hero” characters in Piccolo and Vegeta.   Piccolo was first introduced as a demon (but later on, was revealed to be an alien from Namek) and a villain.  But later on, he would find himself joining Goku and friends in forming the Z Fighters, to fight bigger threats.  He would even become the trainer of Goku’s son, Gohan, and would develop such a strong bond with him that he would even be a greater father figure to him than Goku, the actual father.  He would even sacrifice his life to protect Gohan.  All this done by a “demon”.  Piccolo’s character development is very interesting indeed, but Vegeta’s is better.   

Dragon Ball Z has been around some time before I encountered it.  Thus, it was already established that Vegeta is going to join the Z Fighters.  With this being common knowledge, it lessens – if not totally obliterating – the impact of Vegeta’s transition from a major villain to a hero.  With this as factor, Vegeta is only number 8.  In fact, I even considered skipping Vegeta altogether in this list.  But Vegeta needs to be in this list.  Solely because – despite missing my top 10 favorite anime characters list – he is one of my favorite anime characters.    

Vegeta is extremely arrogant, hotheaded, overconfident, and full of bitterness.   He is very proud of his Saiyan heritage and has a superiority complex because of it.  When he was a villain, he was a ruthless killer and can massacre without batting an eye.  All the heinous things that Vegeta ever did can be traced to his obsession for power and his desire to have revenge on Frieza, who destroyed his homeworld.  He wants to be the most powerful warrior in the universe so he can defeat Frieza.  After suffering defeat at the hands of Frieza, before dying, Vegeta revealed to Goku that he blames Frieza for what he had become, giving him no choice but to be cruel and implied that he would have not been so if not for the bitterness, vengeance, and hate in his heart for Frieza. 

Vegeta would be resurrected by the Dragon Balls (along with other of Frieza’s victims) and from that point on, the character would soften up and would no longer desire conquering the universe, though he still retained his arrogance and obsession for becoming a powerful warrior, especially after he saw Goku turning into a Super Saiyan.  From then on, Vegeta would have some jealousy and animosity for Goku and his obsession would shift to becoming stronger in order to beat Goku (instead of becoming stronger to destroy Frieza and conquer the universe). 

Vegeta would become part of the Z Fighters.  But he remains arrogant and self-centered even when he’s now part of the good guys.  He still obsessed on becoming powerful and beating Goku.  Nonetheless, his change into a better and moral person was gradual.  He started to show signs of humility, fighting for noble reasons instead of for his own pride, and learning to care for others.  He would even start a family with Bulma, though Bulma and Vegeta’s relationship was like Vegeta’s moral journey: gradual and not immediate.        

Vegeta would have his relapse to villainy when he was possessed by Babidi’s Majin mind control power.  Though, he would be able to fight off Babidi’s commands, Vegeta’s desire to fight and defeat Goku is too strong and wanted to try his new powers against him.  He would provoke Goku into fighting him by killing innocent people.  Goku and Majin Vegeta had an evenly-matched, glorious, and brutal combat, while the energy from their fight was being absorbed by Babidi to revive the slumbering Majin Buu.  After realizing that Majin Buu was released, Goku discontinued the fight with Vegeta and convinced him that they should go stop Majin Buu.  Majin Vegeta seemingly agreed, but when Goku turned his back, the former knocked the latter unconscious.  Vegeta wanted to redeem himself from the faults he had in the past by beating Majin Buu alone.  But no matter how much powerful Vegeta’s blows were, Majin Buu stood invincible.  And in a sequence that showed Vegeta finally showing that he had changed, after hugging and leaving final words to his son, Trunks, he decided to create a nuke-like explosion by self-destructing and destroying Majin Buu with him.  This heroic sacrifice, however, fails to completely destroy Buu.  Nonetheless, we finally saw a Vegeta who knows how to care for others and is ready to die for them.  A resurrected Vegeta would mastermind the defeat of Kid Buu later on.     


Gajeel was initially a villain on the manga/anime Fairy Tail.  He was a former member of Phantom Lord, and as an S-class mage for it, he spearheaded the war against Fairy Tail.  He was brutal and cruel, and doesn’t care about injuring anybody – regardless of being a female or an ally – if he or she is on his way.

Introduced as a very dark character, one wouldn’t expect Gajeel to become one of the good guys.  But after Phantom Lord was disbanded and Gajeel’s former co-guild member, Juvia, joined Fairy Tail, Makarov (guild master of Fairy Tail) offered Gajeel membership in his desire to guide the latter in the right path.  Gajeel would join Fairy Tail, and, unsurprisingly, he wasn’t welcomed initially by the other members because of the awful things he had done to Fairy Tail as a Phantom Lord member.  Aside from that, it was even implied that Gajeel hadn’t lost his evil ways at all and had only joined Fairy Tail so he can have his revenge on them when it was shown that he was serving as a spy for the dark guild Raven Tail.  Gajeel’s start as a Fairy Tail member had been very rocky indeed.  However, eventually, members would warm up to him as he showed great dedication to Fairy Tail and a sincere desire to have good comradeship with the others (though he said that he doesn’t need friends).  It was also revealed later on that Gajeel was working as a double agent for Makarov and wasn’t really betraying Fairy Tail. 

Gajeel’s character would lighten up after becoming one of the good guys.  He became good natured and showed a humorous side, though still remaining quick-tempered.  He learned to be extremely loyal to Fairy Tail and embraced the guild’s family philosophy.  He became very protective of his guildmates, especially to Levy (who he had attacked and tortured mercilessly when he was still a villain).   


The manga/anime Katekyo! Hitman Reborn has a knack of making former villains become allies of the protagonists.  And it is done in a way as mindblowingly unexpected as possible.  These villains, during their run as antagonists, are portrayed as very villainous – with no hint of friendliness or likability in them – that when they become protagonists, it will definitely give some shock.  Their strong personalities remain, but there is a strong sense of “lightening up” as well as a shedding off of their villainous flavor.

The first major antagonist of the series is Mukuro Rokudo, a very powerful illusionist.  He led his Kokuyo Gang against Tsunayoshi Sawada (the main protagonist) and his friends due to their hatred for the Mafia.  Mukuro’s aim – and he repeatedly claimed it is still his aim even when he became Tsuna’s ally – is to possess the body of Tsuna.   

Mukuro, despite having a playful smile on his face most of the time, is very apathetic and ruthless.  In fact, it seems he doesn’t even care for his subordinates (though, he actually does) since he refer to them as merely “toys” or “tools” to get his goals.  As an illusionist, he can create very realistic illusions that can greatly affect and damage his opponents.  Aside from the generic illusion-creating powers, he also possess a variety of powers initially (he will gain more abilities after becoming Vongola’s Mist Guardian) including mind control, body possession, and summoning deadly animals.    

After getting defeated by Tsuna, Mukuro and his subordinates were captured and imprisoned by the Vindice.   In a jail break from the Vindice Prison, Mukuro sacrificed himself as bait so that his subordinates can escape.  Mukuro, however, was thrown into the unbreakable lowest level cell.  This development showed that Mukuro does care for his comrades.  Later on, Tsuna’s father approached Mukuro and offered Vongola protection for his comrades, and in exchange, Mukuro should become the Mist Guardian for Tsuna’s Mafia Famiglia.  Mukuro agreed.

It was already established before that Mukuro can possess somebody’s body and use it as a vessel to manifest his person.  But it was a surprise to discover that Mukuro can do this while locked up like this:
So, far away locked up in prison, he would share the position of Vongola Mist Guardian with Chrome Dokuro (who lacks internal organs and is dependent to Mukuro to create an illusion of internal organs for her), who he will possess and use as vessel when he is needed… or, rather, if he wants to. 

This development greatly blew me away.   That this powerful antagonist would become a subordinate to the main character! (Note: At the present, Mukuro is now free from his Vindice cell.  It’s not yet established if he would remain as Vongola Mist Guardian or Chrome will solely have the position.)

Mukuro maintains that his goals are still the same; however, he (with his gang) remains an ally and is un-hostile (even has some tinge of loyalty) to Tsuna and the Vongola.  

This was the first time that a main antagonist became an ally in Hitman Reborn.  But though this is the most dramatic “enemy-to-ally” development (and my most favorite), this isn’t the last (nor the most surprising). 

The second of such is with Xanxus, the leader of Varia.  Varia is Vongola’s elite independent assassination squad.  They won’t accept any mission that has a 90% chance of success, since they would only take missions that are said to be impossible for humans to accomplish.  Xanxus deemed himself worthy of becoming the 10th boss of Vongola, not Tsuna.  Thus, Xanxus challenged Tsuna for the Vongola throne.  The Varia members were initially more powerful than Tsuna and his Guardians.  But, in the end, they prevailed over Varia.    
Xanxus, along with the Varia, was oozing with infamy when he was an antagonist.  He was brutal, arrogant, devious, and ambitious.  His powerful abilities, similar to the 2nd boss of Vongola (Flame of Wrath) and 7th boss of Vongola (X-Guns), are very compatible with his personality.   

After their defeat, I presumed that if ever such a villainous bunch such as Varia comes back, they would remain villains. I was so wrong.  In the next arc they appeared on (Future Arc), they were allies of Tsuna and his Mafia Famiglia.  Xanxus claimed that in spite of internal conflicts within Vongola – between Tsuna’s faction and his – the Vongola Famiglia will be united against outside forces that dare to attack them.  This showed that Xanxus has fierce loyalty for the Vongola.     

From then on, like Mukuro, Xanxus would insist that his goals are still the same (i.e. taking control of Vongola and killing Tsuna) but, like Mukuro and his gang, Xanxus and Varia are currently allied to Tsuna and his Famiglia. The Varia, sans Xanxus, even attended Tsuna’s inheritance ceremony to become the 10th boss of Vongola and seemed to be in friendly terms with them.   

Still, the most surprising “enemy-to-ally” development is that of Byakuran, the villain of the Future Arc (Tsuna and friends were sent 10 years to the future).  Byakuran has a cheerful, playful disposition, but as a villain, he was cunning, cruel, and manipulative.  He managed to be in contact with all the Byakurans across the different parallel universes and he managed to conquer all timelines!  His goal was to possess the Ultimate Power, and part of his plans to achieve it was to exterminate the Vongola Famiglia and its allies and friends.  He also released a special radiation in the atmosphere to kill all Arcobalenos.  Indeed, he is so ruthless that he has no reservations in killing aplenty to get his goals.  Because of these things, it appears that Byakuran is an “ultimate villain” in Katekyo! Hitman Reborn with his schemes and goals in a higher league than what Mukuro and Xanxus ever had.     

After Tsuna (with his friends) was transported to the future, he and his allies would eventually beat Byakuran and his Six Funeral Wreaths (all ended up getting killed).  With Byakuran dead, I never expected his return.  But return he did.  In his first appearance after the Future Arc, he was seen healing Tsuna’s Rain Guardian, Yamamoto.  Later, it was revealed that the present’s Byakuran and his Six Funeral Wreaths are actually all alive, since those that died in the events of the Future Arc belonged in a future alternate timeline.   This was a surprise already.  But more surprising was how Byakuran (after shown to be seemingly being in good terms with Yuni, considering that Byakuran was Yuni’s enemy in the Future Arc) offered to ally himself with Tsuna!  I – along with Tsuna and friends – was verily suspicious of Byakuran since he was an extremely major villain.  But it was established later on that this Byakuran indeed had a sincere change of heart.  Mindblowing!  Mukuro and Xanxus, as villainous as they can be, were never portrayed as being such merciless, mass-killing, evil schemer for world domination as Byakuran.  But here is Byakuran now, like the major antagonists Mukuro and Xanxus before him, being more supportive to the good guys.

These three major antagonists in the past are now currently significant allies of Tsuna.  Not only they answered to Tsuna’s requests, but they are now currently also working together!

Indeed, it’s not unlikely for anime villains becoming allies of the main character/s during its story’s run, but Hitman Reborn expertly presented its arcs’ villains with the appearance of pure evilness that one would never expect they would  ever become part of the good guys.  It was done so well that I was surprised by this “enemy-to-ally” developments three times.  

The precise ranking here is in the order of Xanxus (no. 6), Byakuran (no. 5), and Mukuro (no. 4).      


General Thunderbolt Ross has been an iconic Hulk antagonist throughout comic book history.  But he was never really a super villain.  He merely believes he is doing his duty to his country by destroying a major threat like the Hulk.  This is a valid reason, in a way, though misleadingly motivated.  However, his obsession to destroy the Hulk made him blinded by his rage, leading him to use brutal and unethical methods. 

He only became a straight-up super villain when he became the Red Hulk.  It happens that Ross, despite his hate for the Hulk, is envious of the brute power that the Hulk possesses.  Thus, when offered to become Red Hulk by the Intelligencia, Ross jumped into the opportunity so that he would be able to combat the Hulk head-to-head.  Initially, the identity of the Red Hulk was a secret to the comic book readers and characters.  No one knows who the Red Hulk is for most of his run as a supervillain. 

Red Hulk is one heck of a badass supervillain.  The Hulk and other heroes always had a tough time in fighting him.  Not only does he have the same brutish strength the Hulk has but his intelligence remains when in Red Hulk form, therefore, making him a lethal combination of brains and brawns.  He is also more aggressive and dangerous than the Hulk since the Red Hulk lusts for power and has no problem with taking life.  Aside from that, he also possesses the power to absorb energies and power to enhance his own, and to emit heat energy from his eyes.  Unlike the Hulk, who grows stronger and stronger as he gets angrier, the Red Hulk’s strength level is consistent (thus he is weaker than a very enraged Hulk in terms of physical strength) but the heat energy he emits grows hotter and hotter whenever he gets angrier instead.  This heat can scorch everything the Red Hulk touches and, at high levels, it would appear that the he is covered in flames.  However, the downside to this powerful ability is that the Red Hulk can overheat which causes heat exhaustion.  His energy absorption ability also has a downside since it burns out his ability to return to human form.

Eventually, the Hulk would defeat Red Hulk, leading to his imprisonment.  Once Ross regained his sanity back, Steve Rogers (Captain America), at the request of Bruce Banner (alter-ego of the Hulk), offered him redemption by asking him to join the Avengers.  He accepted, and though his teammates didn’t trust him, they do have great faith in their leader, Captain America, that his membership to the Avengers was not protested. 

The Red Hulk received mixed reception from comic book fans.  Some liked him, some didn’t.  I’m –obviously – part of those that adored the Red Hulk and his character development.  He’s one good piece of redemption story in comic books.  As an Avenger, he proved to be a very invaluable and powerful ally.  In fact, I believe he is a better fit for the Avengers than the Hulk himself.  The Hulk was never a team player.  While the Red Hulk – retaining the intelligence of General Ross – is a calculative, smart, and tactical combatant and leader.   Thus, he is a better team player than the Hulk because of his experience as a soldier.  Moreover, sans Captain America, the Red Hulk is the best man to manage a group of superheroes to execute harmoniously with efficient, calculated military precision:

I am not saying that the Red Hulk is more interesting than the Hulk.  No.  But I believe that the Red Hulk is one of the best characters Marvel created in the 21st century, if not the best.  


There’s no other X-Men villain that is more iconic than Magneto.  Even in the movie, he was the hands down choice to become the main villain.  Magneto, with his unlimited control of all forms of magnetism, is one of the most powerful mutants in the world, making him a very dangerous adversary to the X-Men.  But, nowadays?  He is the right-hand man of Cyclops, leader of a more expanded X-Men. 

Magneto was a firm believer of mutant superiority.  Thus, he aimed to lead mutants to take over the world.  This made him at odds with his former bestfriend, Charles Xavier (Prof. X), who – in contrast with Magneto’s vision – dreams of a peaceful co-existence between mutants and humans.  This is the central reason why Magneto and his followers have been for a long time locked in battle with Prof. X and the X-Men. 

But after the results of M-Day (where most mutants lost their powers, including Magneto, though he was able to regain it), Magneto decided to re-evaluate his methods and make peace and team-up with Cyclops and the X-Men.  He stated that he admires Cyclops for making all mutants stand united, something that he and Prof. X failed to accomplish.  Magneto believed that joining the X-Men is the best way to save mutant kind.  From then on, Magneto seemed to have a change of heart, and became a loyal member to the X-Men.  Despite being more powerful to Cyclops, he readily accepted being his subordinate. 

Really mindblowing how the most prominent X-Men villain would eventually become an X-Man himself.  And I really love seeing Cyclops looking like a swag mafia boss with Magneto and Emma Frost (who, let me point out, I feel strongly as a better, more interesting love interest for Cyclops than Jean Grey) always by his side.  

Also, it’s amusing when this happened before the X-Men started clashing with the Avengers:     
All made possible because Magneto is now reformed.

Comic books are like professional wrestling, it isn’t unlikely for characters to switch sides and then switch sides again.  Over and over again.  Magneto had become an ally to the X-Men for several times already in the past, but would always return back to his villainous ways.  But, this time, I’m really hoping Magneto will stay as an X-Man for good. 

Venom is one of my most favorite comic book characters.  When he was bonded with Eddie Brock (and, later, Marc Gargan), he was a premium Spidey supervillain and a murderous vigilante.  I am fond of the character already as it was.  But more so with these recent developments on Venom: he has a cooler look (but can still revert to his monstrous appearance), he has guns, and now an Avenger!!!

Flash Thompson (Peter Parker’s buddy) became the new Venom host when he signed in on Project Rebirth, which intended to use the Venom symbiote (after being taken away from Marc Gargan after his capture) for the government’s black ops missions.  Flash lost both his legs in the war in Iraq, but the Venom symbiote provided legs for him as well as the usual Venom powers (enhanced strength, agility, speed, reflexes, and durability; ability to change form and appearance; limited shape-shifting) which include Spider-Man-copied powers (web-slinging, wall crawling, etc.).  However, Flash can only bind with the symbiote for a maximum of 48 hours, and need to be separated from it after that duration or else the symbiote would completely gain control of him.   Whenever the symbiote takes over, Flash goes berserk, reverting to the original monstrous Venom appearance. 

Captain America, being head of the nation’s security, decided to shut down Project Rebirth and confiscate the symbiote from Flash.  But Flash went AWOL with the Venom symbiote.  He needed the Venum symbiote to do a mission for Jack O’Lantern, or else, he’ll kill Betty (Flash’s girlfriend) and his family.  Red Hulk was sent by Captain America to capture Venom. 

After Venom was brought in, Captain America, aware of Flash’s heroic deeds, decided to allow Flash to continue as Venom under his supervision and made him a member of the Secret Avengers – the Avengers’ black ops team. 

I really, really like this new Venom.  I like him more than the Eddie Brock Venom.  And I wish this present version of Venom would remain as the status quo forever.    

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