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Off THEIR Minds: Can Supervillains Truly Reform?

We've seen it happen in comics but how do creators really feel about it?

In order to have great comic book stories, you need great comic book villains. A common trend in comics is for a supervillain to see the error of their ways and suddenly they feel the need to reform. We've some some of the most evil and vile villains fight along side the heroes. This doesn't always last.Whatever reason or motivation that drove the villain to perform heroic deeds, it usually passes. The villain-turned nice will revert back to their villainous ways. We've seen the likes of Magneto, Sabretooth, Venom, Doctor Doom, Riddler and many others try to be heroes. Some, like Magneto, are still riding the hero train. The question is, can villains truly reform and become heroes for good?

We decided to ask some writers how they really feel on the matter. Check out what Peter David, Frank Quitely, J.T. Krul, Jeph Loeb, Sterling Gates, Joe Quesada and Judd Winick have to say.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you enjoy stories where villains try to be the hero or is it something that just won't stick?

92 Comments
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Posted by NightFang

I think it depends on the villain(s), I mean Joker and Mephisto will never change.

Posted by ComicMan24

@NightFang said:

I think it depends on the villain(s), I mean Joker and Mephisto will never change.

I have to agree with that.

Posted by leokearon

Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, Hawkeye, Wonderman, Emma Frost, The Changeling are all examples of villians reforming and sticking to it

Edited by darkrider

exactly joe quesad exactly you can't go back

Posted by FoxxFireArt

Emma Frost is one of my favorites. Just most writers can't seem to write her well. It's been going down hill since Fraction. I point to Piccolo and Vegeta. Two villains that became heroes. I could also point to Roberta from Black Lagoon.

Venom only became a good guy because he was popular, and they wanted to give him a series of his own. Since they didn't think they could have a killer as the protagonist. They created the 'lethal protector' idea. Just because a character is popular doesn't mean they should have their own series.

@darkrider:

That would actually require continuity meaning something.

Posted by mikethekiller

Didn't songbird reform?

Posted by HALLOWEENCATEXE

Well of they can G.

Clayface has blown to pieces and pulled himself back together many times, wokka,wokka!

Posted by chriconz123

Well, Black Adam did it for a while; and Sinestro's currently "reforming".

Posted by iLLituracy

Why is everyone so cynical...? Of course they can reform, why not?

Posted by quejibo

I think it depends on the circumstances.

Edited by thechessclub

@NightFang said:

I think it depends on the villain(s), I mean Joker and Mephisto will never change.

Joker has...for a few issues=P Arc was called Going Sane

http://www.comicvine.com/going-sane/39-55859/

Posted by Vance Astro

It depends on their reasoning for being villain. Some characters are just evil. Some character are only villains because of something that happened in their past or because they don't have any body to talk to them or really care about them and let them know what they could do with their powers. The problem is some characters have reasons for being villains that are hard for them to let go. Magneto for instance was a villain to the  X-Men because of his experiences in his youth and his difference in opinion over what cause mutants should be fighting for. If you look at all the  X-Men have been through in comparison to what they've done to change the relationship between them and humankind. It almost makes Magneto's position look justified. On the flip side of that you have characters like Bullseye who are basically playing a sadistic game with the hero. He has no real purpose in life other than to be a villain and I think those types of characters can't be reformed and even if they were...they've done so much wrong it's kind of hard to overlook no matter the character current attitude. I mean Bullseye has done some really f'd up things to Daredevil. Norman Osborn has done some really f'd up things to Spider-Man, The Joker has done some really f'd up things to Batman. It would be hard to now let these characters into the superhero community after they've done certain things.

Moderator
Posted by VladHc

@Vance Astro: I totally agree with you. My point exactly.

Posted by batkevin74

Supervillians can reform just as heroes can fall from grace. It depends on how well they're written as to whether it sticks. Good examples are Emma Frost who is now a bonafide good guy with an edge. Namor the troubled monarch who use to invade the surface world every 5 minutes. Maxima over at DC before the reboot.

What I'd like to see is more heroes fall from grace like Daredevil, but without the whole "oh a demon got him, so he's not responsible quick lets retcon". Image Daredevil slowly crossing the line...

Posted by Eyz

Awesome! Another OFF THEIR MINDS!

I missed those!

And a very interesting one at that :P

Edited by Oedipus_Rex

They can only stay reformed until the next 2-bit hack with a story idea turns them evil again.

(Too harsh?) o_O

Posted by johnnie619

It depens on who your talking about, its been said before but i mean if your just a straight uo bad guy like Bullseye then no i dont think you can not fully anyway if he did become a hero he would have to basicly save the world for all to be forgiven.

Joker well no i mean he's just to good of a bad guy to turn hero for good. (i did like Batman fighting side by side with him or what seemed to be him)

Magneto was a villain like Vance Astro said (because of his experiences in his youth and his difference in opinion over what cause mutants should be fighting for) he was fighting for what he thought was right just like the X - Men

Edited by MrGutts

This is a subject that we face in the real world and just like it today people are going to be on one side of the line or the other.

You are going to have people who say ANYONE can reform, even the psychotic killers who have murdered hundreds of people and Others see that its a genetic disorder that can never change or reform.

You are going to have some cases that people can change, but some people are just hell bent on world/universe domination and anything standing in there way will be destroyed without even thinking twice about it.

Posted by Decept-O

Pretty cool, enjoyed the question and the answers from the creators, but I think Judd Winick said it best. What's the fun without super villains being well, villainy..or is that vanillay...or something......

Edited by NightwalkerRevan

I think allot of the time with villains reforming in comics you know most times even when it happens if will only be for a while, as there always seems inevitable pull to bring them back to their original ways. It's like with Magneto, every so often he has a change of heart or decides to try more of the X-Men way of sorting things out, but you know that the writers will eventually tire of writing him that way, and he will return to being an enemy of the X-Men eventually (unless the X-Men themselves were to change), and sometimes they do reform villains only to forget later this happened recasting them as villains again (this happened with a minor Wolvie enemy Roughhouse). I think generally writers like to write their villains as villains (though Emma Frost is currently proving to be an exception to this rule)

Posted by Mbecks14

I dont' like when established supervillains go good. Magneto and Dc. Doom? should NEVER be buddy buddy with the x-men or the FF except in extremely dire situations. They tried to kill eachother countless times, they cannot be friends.

Posted by PhoenixoftheTides

It depends: Has the villain killed many innocent people? If a super villain like Magneto reformed after committing mass atrocities on a whim in prior events, I wouldn't trust them. Ever. If he was truly reformed, for example, he should be serving humanity by working with Reed Richards, to develop new technologies that could benefit humanity at large. I think that's a better use for such a powerful villain than hanging out with a bunch of "heroes".

Emma Frost, on the other hand, has always been in it for personal gain and while she's had people killed, the impression we have is that those were competitors out to do the same to her. In many ways, she has less blood on her hand than Magneto does. She can be cold blooded but we never see her indulge in casual murder - she wouldn't want to get her cape dirty.

Posted by RedheadedAtrocitus

This reminds me of one of the more recent runs on Riddler that happened in between issues of Batman and Detective Comics immediately following the Infinite Crisis to about issue #699 of Batman, in that he went straight and became a legitimate private detective in Gotham. Riddler stayed legit for a while but by Batman #699 even he realized it was all for nothing trying to stay good and he eventually went back to his old ways. In answering this question then, yes they can reform and sometimes it can be a permanent transition. I don't think the question then should be so much that they can reform but rather how long CAN they stay reformed? Then of course there are ones like Emma Frost who have shown the test of time and continue to still be reformed. So again it really relates not to the possibility that supervillains can be truly reformed, but rather for how long they will remain that way. And in the end, perhaps Judd Winick had the right idea in asserting that it would be no fun for supervillains to go straight when really superheroes are only so good as their adversaries.

Posted by crowncoke

I have to agree with Vance. A villain can reform, but it depends on the reasons that he was a Villain in the first place. Take Sinestro as an example... His reasons to take the Yellow Ring were not evil as much as doing bad for a good reason (peace and justice). Did he fall from grace? Yes, but it does not mean he is irredeemable. The same can be said for Venom/Anti-Venom Eddie Brock. He was not perfect but not evil either, it was his jealousy that led him to slide into crime. Now others cannot reform because at the core they are evil... Dark Seid is the prime example of this. At the end of any story that has a villain reforming, readers will be asking if its for real or what the angle is. IF its truly reformation of the person then it starts slowly (mental changes, small behaviors in attitude or actions). As they re-evaluate what they do and who they are, they would begin to make changes... but that does not mean they would be able to totally leave that behind them (example Catwoman... she is still a thief no matter how much she cares for Batman).

Posted by EdwardWindsor

In my view its all down to the villian motivation. If they are just truely agenst of chaos and want to hrt people etc no. If they have moltives that can still be achived or perhpas altered then yeah they can certainly reform.

Posted by The_Peter_Cosmic

They clearly can, we just forget they were villains in the first place when they do it right. A lot of the X-characters have villainous pasts. For example Gambit worked for Mr. Sinister and led the Morlock massacre and Rogue was a villain until she absorbed Ms. Marvel's psyche, but those two characters have been good for so long that we don't even think of them as reformed.

Posted by musim

From a business/writing perspective I think a villain going back and forth is inevitable. Characters have to be dynamic to be relatable and super heroes need villains to punch.

From a not so cynical point of view, yes people can permanently change for the better but at the same time everyone screws up sometime.

Posted by kennybaese

It's weird seeing Tony sans beard.

Posted by vandinejd_1991

I think it depends on the hatred of the villain towards the hero. Joker, Green Goblin, Lex Luthor, Doctor Doom, and Sabertooth completely hate their enemies and will most likely not reform unless they defeat their enemy once and for all. I don't think Magneto really hates the X-men as much as they completely disagree on the issue of relations with humans. As for Venom I don't think he hates Spiderman as much as Norman Osborn or Carnage do so that's why in the past Spidey and Venom have been able to work together. Lastly, all Riddler wants to do is outsmart Batman not kill him like the Joker or Two-Face- when he realizes that he cannot outsmart him I think that's what led to his reformation.

Posted by GothamRed

The supergirl poster behind sterling was kind of distracting, and a bit scary.

SUPERGIRL IS WATCHING, SHE'S ALWAYS WATCHING!!!!

Edited by Cafeterialoca

THUNDERBOLTS!!! THUNDERBOLTS!!!

DOES NO ONE HERE READ THE THUNDERBOLTS?! GOD! You people make me SOOOOO angry! Songbird is the biggest example of reformed villain ever! Just, UGGGH!!!!!

Posted by Pistolwhip1

Not every Villian can. I know that many people on different forums wanted Superboy Prime to be reformed, not sure how that would occur.

Posted by G-Man

@Cafeterialoca: You watched the video, right? That's what Loeb mentioned.

Posted by Cafeterialoca

@G-Man: Yeah, I saw that. It just irritates me that more people don't know about that team. I'm also an EXTREMELY huge Songbird fan, and get rather irritated when she is overlooked.

Posted by doordoor123

That Quesada bit was brilliant.

Posted by G-Man

@Cafeterialoca: Songbird is great. But am I the only one that wants her to grow her hair out again? And for some stupid reason, I haven't read the last couple issues of Thunderbolts.

Posted by Xenozoic Shaman

Anything is possible with enough puppies, as the front page image for this can attest to. Those puppies have met their Doom!!

Alright, I apologize for that. :P

Seriously, though... Yes, they can, but it's not up to them, but the needs of the story and the writers.

Posted by InnerVenom123

@doordoor123 said:

That Quesada bit was brilliant.

This.

Posted by G-Man

@InnerVenom123 said:

@doordoor123 said:

That Quesada bit was brilliant.

This.

Everyone's entitled to their opinion but it kinda irks me when people make personal attacks against creators. I've seen Quesada, Loeb and others get them. I love doing these videos because the creators are so extremely cool to take the time to talk to us and share their thoughts. You can sort of look at interviews as a way for them to sell whatever they're working on but these are done just for fun. Everytime me or Sara have spoken to Quesada, he's been a blast.

Posted by InnerVenom123

@G-Man said:

@InnerVenom123 said:

@doordoor123 said:

That Quesada bit was brilliant.

This.

Everyone's entitled to their opinion but it kinda irks me when people make personal attacks against creators. I've seen Quesada, Loeb and others get them. I love doing these videos because the creators are so extremely cool to take the time to talk to us and share their thoughts. You can sort of look at interviews as a way for them to sell whatever they're working on but these are done just for fun. Everytime me or Sara have spoken to Quesada, he's been a blast.

I didn't mean it as an attack. I just thought him saying that was funny.

Posted by Kairan1979

The arc about Steeljack in Astro City comic books shows the difficulties of villain who really tries to reform.

Posted by -Vigil-

This got me mad at Judd Winick. I would LOVE it if reformed supervillains STAYED good these days.

Posted by KainScion

@NightFang: you're putting joker and mephisto in the same league??!?! SO WRONG!!

Posted by NightFang

@KainScion said:

@NightFang: you're putting joker and mephisto in the same league??!?! SO WRONG!!

You're right Joker is way better then Mephisto.

Posted by doordoor123

@G-Man said:

@InnerVenom123 said:

@doordoor123 said:

That Quesada bit was brilliant.

This.

Everyone's entitled to their opinion but it kinda irks me when people make personal attacks against creators. I've seen Quesada, Loeb and others get them. I love doing these videos because the creators are so extremely cool to take the time to talk to us and share their thoughts. You can sort of look at interviews as a way for them to sell whatever they're working on but these are done just for fun. Everytime me or Sara have spoken to Quesada, he's been a blast.

I don't really have anything against Quesada himself. I enjoy some of the work that he's done. Its the management part that I don't like about him. Ever since he's been promoted, I've been slowly inching away from Marvel. Im now completely out of Marvel. Which is sad because I really want to like Marvel.

Otherwise I feel the same way. Jeph can actually do some good work. He just lacks creativity sometimes.

As someone who has been turned off by Quesada's management I think that little segment was brilliant. Not to say that I don't think he is a good artist and all around fun person.

Posted by G-Man

@InnerVenom123: No no, I totally get that. It was funny. He doesn't have to take himself seriously and that's what's great. I wanted to, along with you two, point out that there is more to him than the few negative remarks I've seen.

Posted by cosmo111687

With puppies, anything is possible.

Posted by G-Man

Puppies AND rainbows make everything happy!

Posted by Namor1987

Ask Songbird

Posted by HunterGP02

Well, I was really looking forward to Batman Europa, which would have addressed that, but alas we may never see it...

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