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Off My Mind: Supervillains Entering the Witness Protection Program

Is it possible for some villains to want to reform and can they live a normal life afterwards?

Everyone deserves a second chance. That can even apply to supervillains. We rarely hear of these super-powered bad guys receiving serious sentences. They don't get the death penalty regardless of how heinous their acts may be. Even the criminally insane like Joker or Norman Osborn are believed capable of being reformed. Supervillains, when caught, are either locked up in prisons or asylums in the hopes that someday, they'll get better.

Of course not all supervillains are insane. Some have just done bad things out of ignorance or desperation. There has been some villains that have changed their ways. These former villains have turned their backs on their former evil ways. Some have even sought further redemption by trying to become an actual hero.

Because some of the evil deeds they may have taken part in cannot be easily disregarded or forgotten, they may have only one choice left, turning in state's evidence and entering the Witness Protection Program. If the former villain qualifies to enter the program, can they begin a new life as an ordinary citizen and will their pasts allow them to live peacefully?

== TEASER ==

This is something that Ed Brubaker has explored a couple times. In the pages of INCOGNITO, we were introduced to Zack Overkill. Zack was a super-powered mercenary that testified against his powerful boss. In order to lead a normal life, he was required to take drugs on a regular basis which would suppress his superpowers. In his new life, he didn't have any qualifications other than work as a mail clerk in an office.

Overkill's mundane life didn't last long. He eventually found a way to get around the effects of the drugs the government required him to take. With the return of his powers, his location was soon discovered by his former allies and of course all hell broke loose.

In the pages of CAPTAIN AMERICA, there has been several former villains whose lives are now at risk. It might seem that supervillains have a great deal of motivation to constantly try to get away with their evil plans despite getting caught time and time again.

For some, they eventually get to the point where they have no other choice but to turn in evidence against their former employers or colleagues. Their attempt at entering the Witness Protection Program is ending with different results. Death.

There was a time when a killer Scourge made it his mission to wipe out the criminal element - permanently. With each death, he uttered the words, "Justice is served." The Scourge originally went after low-level villains, many who were practically a disgrace to other supervillains and their criminal ways were stopped with extreme prejudice.

This new Scourge (who isn't necessarily a new character) is still targeting villains, but these are villains who have tried to do the right thing. Their reasons may have been selfish but it was determined and agreed that whatever information they had to turn over was enough to grant them a new life of peace.

With all the technology and super-human abilities, the idea of a villain truly going into hiding doesn't seem likely. Even the highest classified information can be compromised. There are also those with telepathic abilities. A former villain may be able to change their identity on paper but they would still retain their unique brainwaves or thought patterns. The nature of their powers could also result in being discovered if a device was created that could track down any sort of emissions they might release.

Can a former supervillain enter the program and live a normal life? The answer is no. There are just too many factors that will prevent them from starting over. The former villain could become bored with a normal life. They are not used to working for a living. Being a supervillain was an attempt to get what they wanted in the easiest way possible. Those that were in deep with other supervillains will find it difficult to fully get away from their former partners or employers, especially if they turned in evidence against them.

This isn't to say that supervillains should give up the idea of trying to turn over a new leaf. It's just not going to be an easy task. Clearly if a person 'does the time,' they deserve a chance to start over. It's just that with all the technology and superpowers in comics, the chances of them vanishing or riding off into the sunset isn't going to be an easy task. Especially if they betray their former employers or partners. If anything, this should be a lesson to the young and impressionable villains. They need to think before they get in over they heads.

34 Comments Refresh
Posted by Inverno

I am I the only one in favor of beheading and setting villains bodies in fire? Will they should be given the same rights as normal people?

Posted by NightFang

@CaioTrubat: Death never works on the villains.

Edited by AmazingFantasy15

@CaioTrubat: Depends, if they have killed as many people as Joker and despite spending all that time in Arkham haven't reformed but just kept escaping and killing then it would be best if they were executed though not all super villains deserve death, some like the Rogues mostly just steal which is bad but doesn't deserve death.

Posted by Mr_riddler

That brings me memories about Catman.

Posted by Blood1991

If the punisher is aiming for them then protection is mandatory. I for one never think death is the best anwser. If prisons and jails acctually worked at reforming criminals I believe many would go onto lead normal lives. As for supervillains if they were all killed on sight we wouldn't have The Suicide Suad or the Thunderbolts.

Posted by TheGreyOutcastX


Posted by KainScion

i approve the punisher method

Posted by Cafeterialoca

Depending on the Super villain. Bullseye should have been killed outright. People like Diamondback should be given chances.

Posted by Eyz

I guess so~

Posted by Urthiln

I think villains should be put into a sort of mental institute where psychologists can work to cure them of their illness. Maybe make it on a small island that is within driving distance from the city so they are easy to transport. Make the place inescapable and then we can reform them! That could totally work without them breaking out or anything!

...wait a second....

Posted by BigBDawg

At least some supervillains have gone to reform, or had bad history then turned it around. Look at Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, Quicksilver, and Jacques Duquesne, the first Swordsman at Marvel, or Major Disaster at DC. Some ar ebeyond it though, but there is hope for some. But not everyone is worth it.

Posted by Sammo21

@NightFang: Tell that to stilt man :)

Edited by NightFang

@Sammo21 said:

@NightFang: Tell that to stilt man :)

Who was a joke and really didn't do any that bad.

Posted by evilvegeta74

Ask the Punisher, or tell it to Judge Dredd!

Posted by Kairan1979

What about supervillains who can't go to witness protection because they have unique appearance that can't be hidden by the fake beard and sunglasses? For example, Steeljack from Astro City comic books. He honestly tried to turn a new leaf - but it's not as easy as he thought. And not because of the other supervillains or vigilantes trying to kill him.

Let's face the facts - NOBODY expects supervillains to reform.

Posted by Sammo21

@NightFang: Except when he tried to kill foggy nelson or except when he attempted kidnapping. He may have been a joke but that doesn't mean he wasn't a dirtbag none the less.

Posted by Inverno

@NightFang said:

@CaioTrubat: Death never works on the villains.

Correction: implicit deaths like explosions and falling of cliffs doesn't work on villains.

Edited by BlueLantern1995
@KainScion said:

i approve the punisher method

Who gave him the right? If the government( despite their many faults) said he could then by all means...This is taking the law into his own hands and is MURDER...and unacceptable, Wolverine doesn't kill his enemies that I know of though if he does it is due to fan mail.
Personally I think that certain ones can join the witness protection program...ones that aren't killers, psychopaths or other such beings. Common criminals like thieves sure.
Posted by Miss_Garrick

@Kairan1979: That's one of my favorite Astro city stories!

Posted by Miss_Garrick

I think if the villian is genuine in their intentions, they should be allowed the same chance as real people. On the other hand, Joker, Luthor, Osborn and villians like them, death row or life imprisonment. Whichever you prefer.

Posted by PurpleFeather738

@KainScion: I completely agree! I still have no idea why all superheroes don't do that(except for Batman).

Posted by abeyance

I think it should be a case by case thing. You have villains like the Juggernaut, Mr.Freeze, Magneto, and a few other villains that turned evil due to some tragic event. So far Juggernaut has done good since his reformation. Villains like the Joker, Lex Luthor, Apocalypse, Darkseid are all set in their ways and will never change. Those are the type of villains that should be trapped forever somewhere or killed, then follow them to hell and kill their soul so they can be revived.

Posted by RedheadedAtrocitus

Any villain who has to face the possibility of entering WitSec is pretty much at the end of their road I say. Its darn near impossible for them to try and assume a new identity due to the fact that the urge to get back into the life of crime is too irresistible...and coupled with the fact that its either accept that or face vengeance from their former bosses/partners in crime shows that they have not much else to really look forward to. If they can be reformed, all the more power to them. Otherwise, and if you will pardon the pun, they are just the walking dead from there on out until either they fall back into the line of crime or get killed.

Posted by crazed_h3ro

@TheGreyOutcastX: I agree with this 100% if it is a natural cause of Death, let it happen! Why would you try to save a man/woman that cause so much death, and injoys it? and would not stop if given the chance.

Posted by mtrakos

I never understood that. Constantly locking up Osborn and bullseye, you would have thought some black ops part of SHIELD woulda said "enough" and took them out.

Posted by etamogrey77

i agree with this that some lesser villains can be reformed e.g. magneto,quicksilver,Juggernaut and the rouges(possibly) can be reformed guys like osborn and joker deserve the death penalty but maybe luthor is different i mean he never has stolen anything or killed anyone(directly by his hand)and theres almost never any proof of his wrong doing so it makes sense that hes been handeled differently

Posted by Necrotic_Lycanthrope

Witness Protection in comics is only good for The Punisher to track and find ex-villains to kill. 
Ex. Code Red when Red Hulk bribes The Punisher with a list of villain in Wit Pro in order to get him on his team.

Posted by lykopis

Witness Protection Programs in comics are used as plot devices. A way to return back to the fold all those nasty super villains by ensuring the program's failure. If writers really wanted to get rid of them all they have to do is show the villain defeated and never mention him again - or have a little side story about how they moved on and saw the error in their ways. Or take a look at what happened to Magneto. And Emma Frost and to a lesser extent, Rogue. Its all under the control of the creators and story-tellers.

It's the writers who bring the super villains back (repeatedly) because just like the heroes we love, there are bad guys who we love to hate. I am sure if a gifted writer wanted to write a story about true rehabilitation or at least, inescapable incarceration, it can be done --- this is the land of make-believe so anything goes. Creating new villains to replace defeated ones creates the task of developing reader engagement when familiar villains already have that in spades.

It's always difficult to apply real world ethics to the fictional world. Whatever sells is what is going to happen, over and over and over again.

My fingers are crossed that Magneto fails at being a good guy soon. That's a juicy story just bursting at the seams to happen. In true comic style.

Posted by Ellocobruja

If they prove they are ready to tun over a new leaf in most cases why not.

Posted by VercingetorixTheGreat

Punishers method is realistic but his rogue galleries suffer for it. Batman has such a great rogue gallery because he doesn't kill them.

Posted by PhoenixoftheTides

@Ellocobruja said:

If they prove they are ready to tun over a new leaf in most cases why not.

Agreed. But then again, this all hinges on establishing these "villains" as characters, and not stock villains. You'd be more willing to think a former super villain might want to turn over a new leaf if they weren't homicidal or ridiculously successful.

Posted by acer51

@BlueLantern1995 said:

@KainScion said:
Wolverine doesn't kill his enemies that I know of though if he does it is due to fan mail.

Have you read X-Force? there's an entire title Dedicated to Wolverine slaughtering people.

Posted by KidSupreme

Its kinda an interesting idea

Posted by Paracelsus

The trouble is: NO aspect of Witsec is beyond compromise, if Soviet defectors and Mafia turncoats(and more recently one presumes Al Qaeda terrorists) are actively pursued by their former confreres( who can offer large bounties for their heads), then the price for a wanted supervillain by their former bosses or colleagues is likely to be astromonical- enough to tempt even those of high integrity)!