Sometimes, an act grows stale and needs a radical change. Which characters could benefit from being the villain for a while?
It’s called the heel turn.
An old professional wrestling term, “turning heel” basically means a character changes from the baby-faced, rule-following boy scout to the dastardly villain. For decades, sports entertainment has used this method to give a wrestler a fresh start, propel a story, or just for a cheap pop from the crowd. The thing is, it sells, and fans love the unexpected swerve, and Marvel and DC could use a few heel turns themselves.
In many ways, the storytelling of comics and professional wrestling mirror one another. They’re both ongoing serials with continuing plot threads that can last for years. In other words, both formats are soap operas with more violence and spandex. Turning a “baby face” (aka, the hero) into a “heel” (the villain) is a classic formula that works wonders for an act that has grown stale. Hulk Hogan, the legendary WWF/WWE superhero, put the wrestling world on its ear when he “turned heel” in the mid-1990s, setting off an explosion that propelled the business to new heights.
Comic writers have used this trick themselves. Remember when Hal Jordan was infected by Parallax? Tony Stark was dangerously close to being the heel in the original comic version of Civil War. Then there was Captain Hydra, the alternate, evil version of Captain America in Secret Empire. For the most part, Immortal Hulk is equal parts, hero, and villain.
One of the most effective uses of the heel turn was done when Scarlet Witch unwittingly turned her powers on the Avengers, killing both Scott Lang and Hawkeye in the battle and later putting mutantdom on the endangered species list.
Which characters in Marvel and DC could use a heel turn? I don’t mean an alternate-reality version of a character, like Owl Man or Dark Beast from Age of Apocalypse, or mind control or any other cheap writer’s tool. These are the ones I feel need to go full-on bad in the regular continuity.
There are some characters who are innately good and wholesome, and that’s where they need to stay, like Superman and Captain America. They are the “baby faces” of the comic world, and that’s the role they need to serve. I’m leaning toward the ones who already have those villainous qualities to them who could benefit from a push toward the dark side.
Initially, Wolverine was meant to be a villain. Then he was plopped into the revamped X-Men, and he took off as a hero. Even then, there was always that villainous edge to him, like he enjoyed killing and would have no remorse in killing even his own teammates. That’s what made him so interesting in the 1970s and ‘80s. These days, we’ve gotten a kinder, and somewhat-gentler Wolverine. He and Cyclops don’t even have their rivalry anymore, and it’s taken away Wolverine’s cool edge. We need a sadistic, angry Wolverine who is serving his own needs rather than playing the role of a superhero.
Like Immortal Hulk, Frank Castle is a borderline villain already. Why not spice things up and let him go “full heel” and wage war on the Marvel Universe (and not in a Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe way)? Marvel had the tool in their hands when he wore the War Machine armor. That would have been a perfect way to have the Punisher battle the superheroes in a major crossover event that the publishers love so much.
I’ll back off my statement of everyone on the list going full-fledged heel, but Wonder Woman has a violent side to her that makes her great. After all, she did snap Maxwell Lord’s neck on live television without a tinge of guilt or remorse for her actions. That’s what I love about Diana Prince. It would be very interesting to see her head up a darker version of the Justice League (a-la Uncanny X-Force) with other take-no-prisoners members, such as Hawkman and Lobo. We did get a taste of Wonder Woman as the antagonist in Flashpoint, and she fit the role perfectly.
Although the original “doctor” of the mystic arts, Fate has been overshadowed by Marvel’s Doctor Strange.
He often doesn’t get the credit, but Doctor Fate may be one of the most powerful characters in all the DC Universe. He is so strong that he has even defeated the Spectre. With Superman prone to magic, he could prove to be a worthy opponent for the Man of Steel. What could make him more interesting would be a run as the villain. In the right creative hands, Doctor Fate could become DC’s answer to Scarlet Witch.
AND THE REST
Who else could use a push in the morally wrong direction? Give me your picks for other characters who could be more interesting as villains than heroes.