One of the most interesting things about the ongoing lifespan of comic book continuity is that there’s a very fluid nature between the heroes and the villains. Admittedly, some characters never changes allegiances throughout their run, but some of the most just and evil characters have completely gone in the opposite direction after certain major events.
The fact that characters can shift back and forth between whether they’re heroes or villains is what makes comics so much fun, but it’s even more exciting when these turns happen in a significant way. For instance, the Avengers are a group of some of the most trusted superheroes on the planet. The team has a roving roster of members and while the prospect of former villains becoming members seems ludicrous, it’s happened on more than a few occasions. Accordingly, Here Are 20 Avengers Everyone Forgets Started As Villains.
Deadpool is most commonly seen as a sarcastic, fourth-wall breaking anti-hero, but before the character had his own series of comics or a fancy feature film franchise, his mutant career started as an intimidating villain. As Deadpool’s image has evolved through the decades, he’s steadily been seen more of a good guy. He still typically plays by his own rules, but post-Secret Wars he’s eventually offered an invitation into the Avengers Unity Division (also known as the Uncanny Avengers), showing how far he’s come.
Vision’s time as a villain is incredibly brief, but it’s something that constantly worries the synthezoid and there’s always the possibility that a switch could take place. The main element of scrutiny here is that Vision is created by Ultron and he has a chip in him that allows him to take control and steal information. Even though Vision nearly immediately rebels to assist the Avengers, it’s still a danger. Not only does Vision assist the main branch of the Avengers, but he’s also a crucial tier of the West Coast Avengers.
The Avengers’ most “ordinary” member is now one of the best archers in the Marvel universe and a great source of humanity to the team. The bulk of Hawkeye’s run may be as a hero and mentor, but he actually enters in Tales of Suspense as an unintentional villain. Hawkeye’s caught at a robbery at the wrong time and gets caught up in Black Widow’s allure and villainous ways. Since his heart is never really in the evil business, it doesn’t take long for him to actually switch over to the Avengers.
Rogue is a pivotal member of the X-Men, but she actually starts her comics career as a villain to the heroes and a part of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Rogue maintains her evil ways and it’s not until she goes through a major character change courtesy of absorbing Carol Danvers’ abilities and essence that she finally joins the X-Men. Rogue does important work for the team, but following the demise of Xavier she decides to move over to the Uncanny Avengers and help out there to carry on his message.
Robert Reynolds, Sentry’s alter ego, has a pretty raw lot. Sentry is an incredibly powerful hero, but Reynolds also houses an alternate dark personality, the Void, that is a malevolent villain. This Jekyll/Hyde effect makes things very complicated for Reynolds, not to mention that he houses a number of mental illnesses. Even though the Void component of Reynolds is a major caveat, Sentry joined the Mighty Avengers post-Civil War, as well as the Dark Avengers.
Spider-Woman was technically a villain in the past, but it’s not exactly her fault. She’s one of the many characters that have been brainwashed by HYDRA and the guilt from these past actions has been enough to set her straight. Additionally, Spider-Woman was impersonated by the Skrull Queen, Veranke, during the events of “Secret Invasion,” which adds even more complications to her character. Spider-Woman, both as Jessica Drew and the Veranke version, have served temporary positions on the Avengers.
14 Black Widow
Thanks to the Avengers films, Black Widow’s legacy as a hero and crucial member of the team is clear, but even in the MCU Natasha Romanova enters as a villain. Another victim of circumstance and heavy conditioning, Black Widow begins as a ground foe for the like of Iron Man. Although she may rebuke her initial invitation to the Avengers due to SHIELD commitments, she later becomes a valued member of the team.
Sam Wilson is one of Steve Rogers’ greatest allies and oldest friends, but they originally meet under less than ideal circumstances. During the beginning of Falcon’s comics run, he’s used as a pawn of the Red Skull who’s turned him into a criminal under the persona, “Snap” Wilson. Rogers’ breaks free Wilson of Skull’s hold and from that point on he’s one of the good guys. Not only does Falcon gain access to the Avengers, but he’s made the replacement Captain America when Steve needs to step down.
12 Wonder Man
Simon Williams, also known as Wonder Man, is one of the earliest antagonists of the Avengers. Wonder Man is fairly basic in terms of motivations and powers and he’s no longer a major player in the Marvel Universe. However, back in the ‘80s, Wonder Man was given probationary status in the Avengers and would also go on to be one the founding members of the West Cost Avengers, too.
Aquatic legend, Namor the Sub-Mariner, is one of Marvel’s very first super-powered characters and his first appearances painted him as a villain. Namor’s motivations revolve around Atlantis and if you’re an enemy to it, then you’re an enemy to him. Namor is primarily an antagonist for the Fantastic Four, but his motivations remain fluid. Namor has done plenty to assist both good and evil forces, but he becomes enough of an asset that he’s eventually asked to join the Avengers.
10 Quicksilver And Scarlet Witch
Both Scarlet Witch and her brother, Quicksilver, are introduced as members of Magneto’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. The two are an incredible team and both boast absurdly powerful abilities. Scarlet Witch has gone on to become one of the most important players in all of the Marvel Universe. While both received their due in Avengers: Age of Ultron, they also have both served on the Avengers Unity Division and various other factions of the team.
Sabretooth is arguably Wolverine’s most storied foe, but in spite of how he’s consistently a thorn in the side of the X-Men, he later undergoes a rather revelatory change. Due to a wonky side effect in the events of the “AXIS” storyline, Xavier inadvertently casts a “moral inversion” that makes many villains act justly and does the opposite to some superheroes. Sabretooth undergoes this shift and is recruited by Steve Rogers to help fix this mess, but after the dust settles, Sabretooth remains loyal and joins the Avengers Unity Division to further help.
The Marvel Comics take on the villain, Yellowjacket, is much more complex than what’s brought to the MCU with the Darren Cross version of the character. Various Yellowjackets have appeared to plague Ant-Man’s efforts, but Rita DeMara is the second take on the character and she’s a very reluctant supervillain. DeMara meets her end by Tony Stark, but after the great help that she provides the East Coast Avengers, she’s made an honorary member.
7 Superior Octopus
The saga of Doctor Octopus’ efforts to take over Peter Parker’s body is a long and complicated one that involves transferred consciousness and a whole lot of cloning. The events result in Doctor Octopus, once again, back in his own body, but now operating under the upgraded moniker of the Superior Octopus. Originally a Spider-Man villain, the Superior Octopus slowly shifts his strengths towards heroics. During the events of the Secret Empire, HYDRA’s regime forms their own Avengers with Superior Octopus as the leader of the squad.
6 Red Hulk
General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross is the biggest Hulk hater in existence. Ross becomes obsessed and he makes it his life’s work to take down the green creature, whatever the cost. It’s perhaps darkly ironic that Ross becomes a Hulk of his own so he’s better able to bring the pain to his rival. Red Hulk is still largely a Hulk antagonist, but when the Avengers get in over their head with a battle against The Hood, Rogers recruits Red Hulk to lend a giant hand.
5 The Winter Soldier
Bucky Barnes is one of the most compelling members of Steve Rogers’ rogues gallery. He’s a character that’s brainwashed into a life of crime and he’s had his life stolen away from him just as much as Steve has had a friend ripped away. Bucky Barnes eventually gets his head straight and turns the Winter Soldier into a fighter for good, but he also experiences a run as Captain America. It’s during this time that Bucky joins the New Avengers to help fight against whatever comes next.
Sandman is one of the more consistent career criminals that get in Spider-Man’s way. Sandman’s Flint Marko never aims his sights too high, but his evil ways are still enough to have The Thing of all people have an intervention of sorts with the villain. Sandman turns his life around and progressively helps out Spider-Man in more substantial ways. This all culminates in Avengers #329 when not only does Sandman receive a Presidential pardon, but Steve Rogers also gives him admission to the Avengers.
Elektra is a formidable assassin with a sometimes nebulous alliance in the Marvel universe. She’s often an antagonist to Daredevil and a weapon of The Hand, but she’s just as often Daredevil’s lover and fighting the good fight. Elektra further makes her claim as one of the good guys when she’s made a member of the recent Savage Avengers (along with the Punisher, Venom, and Conan the Barbarbian).
2 Doctor Doom
Doctor Doom is easily one of the largest threats in the Marvel Universe, but with his intelligence and power also comes a complicated character that’s gone through several changes of heart. Magneto recruits Doctor Doom with a bunch of other villains to help take down the threat of Red Skull. So impressed, Steve Rogers later reassembles the same team as the Astonishing Avengers to help him handle a problem with the core Avengers.
Venom is one of Spider-Man’s most infamous villains and the many symbiotes that he brings along with him irrevocably changed the Marvel Universe. Venom has had various hosts through the years, but after he bonds with a paraplegic Flash Thompson, Agent Venom is born and the character receives a rebranding as a hero. Venom’s unique skill set makes him a valuable ally and he occupies a spot on not only the Secret Avengers, but is also briefly one of the Guardians of the Galaxy.
These are all of the major Marvel villains that go on to become Avengers that we could put together, but it’s far from everyone. Sound off over your favorite villains-turned-heroes in the comments below.
Sources: Marvel.com, SuperheroHype.com, NewsARama.com, CBR.com