Oh, c'mon, what's wrong with Hades? He's a pretty nice guy. Not his fault he drew the lot of being god of the dead... why is Hades always so evil in media? Why?
Death and the afterlife are scary. We fear death and what comes after because we simply can never know what will happen to us once it inevitably comes a knockin'.
So, by default, anything associated with death can't be good, right? And since Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work, a god who brings death must be an evil one, right?
Well, not always.
Many religions throughout history have produced deities who rule over and/or represent some aspect of death and are not portrayed as being malicious. They're not evil, they're just doing their job. Those dead souls won't collect themselves.
Of course, that doesn't stop some modern writers from looking upon these otherwise benign beings and seeing nothing but an easy villain for their mythology based opus. After all, who cares about accuracy? Viewers Are Morons after all, and most people see death as something to loathe and fear anyway, so half the work is already done! And then there is the whole Satan analogue; cultural myopia leads some in Christian-dominated America to expect that Hades is just the Greek version of the devil, when actually he's more of a cross between Saint Peter and God.
It's also quite possible that they simply didn't know better. Or were limited by time constraints and had to do something with what they had on the fly.
To put it simply, this trope is invoked whenever an author takes an otherwise benign or at least neutral death-related deity and makes them evil for whatever reason.
A Sub-Trope of Sadly Mythtaken and Demonization, and a form of Adaptational Villainy. Compare with Satanic Archetype and Hijacked by Jesus, when the similarities with Christianity are painfully obvious. Contrast with Don't Fear The Reaper. See Historical Villain Upgrade for when this is applied to historical rather than mythological figures. See also The Theme Park Version and occasionally Mythology Upgrade.
Named after the Greek God of the Underworld, Hades, who is often a victim of this in modern times.
Hades is a major antagonist in the Saint Seiya anime/manga series. He's portrayed as more mellow and melancholic than the likes of Poseidon or Ares, though — he seems to have become a villain because of his disappointment on mankind, whose sins just grow worse and whose respect and reverence for the gods is disappearing. That mythological bit about letting Orpheus and his beloved Eurydice go back to life just because he was touched by his music is present here.
He's the primary antagonist of the prequel, Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas. Or so it seemed until near the end, when it was revealed that his human host was simply pretending to have been possessed, while Hades was really still in deep slumber inside of his soul; Hades does awaken and takes over after said host's ultimate defeat, though.
Fun fact: Hercule was a name originally given to Mr. Satan by the French anime translation (Hercule is Hercules in french, amusingly enough), but it wasn't due to Bowdlerisation; rather, the name Satan was already taken, as they'd given it to Piccolo from his Big Bad days (when he was known as the "Great Demon King").
Sailor Saturn from Sailor Moon, the warrior of death and destruction, was greatly feared by the other Outer Senshi and declared the evil Apocalypse Maiden. That is, until they learned her true and good nature of her powers and her duty as the warrior of death and rebirth; to sweep away the dead and broken so that life can grow anew.
Averted in a Disney comic. Hades appears as a somewhat goofy and sympathetic character, whose relationship with Persephone has met a problematic stage and as a consequence the summer had extended and caused a global warming. Fortunately, Donald and his nephews fix their relationship and everything gets back to normal. In this comic Hades is also not portrayed as the demon like being he was on Disney's Hercules, but rather as one of the dog faced people that fill the Disney comics.
This is also the case of Hela, the Norse goddess of the dead (well, the dead who didn't die in heroic battle, anyway). Sometimes it is justified, as she on occasions took the role of a villain and tried to take over Valhalla, but it still doesn't justify the hatred she gets when she only tries to care for the souls under her charge.
Other Marvel characters subvert this. The Marvel universe contains the embodiment of Death, who is often depicted as True Neutral — she takes all life, good or bad (as she told Danielle Moonstar the Valkyrie, who said "you cause pain!" — "and end it."), though has ordered the deaths of billions just to take back the balance. There are also other "reapers" in the MU that aren't really evil, like Doorman from the Great Lakes Avengers.
The Sandman averts this, with a Perky Goth Death who is arguably Neutral Good (or a sunny True Neutral at worst). She used to be a lot more grim, but now that she spends one day per century as a mortal, she seems rather fond of people.
Except that the idea of the Sandman Death being the "Peaceful End" is not really Word of God, it was cooked up in one comic and then utterly denied elsewhere. A more complete view would seem to be that Death is, well, Death and the others are more specific entities associated with death.
Hades himself also shows up in the re-telling of the myth of Orpheus. He is presented as cold and uncaring and probably not a very nice deity, but he isn't directly evil. And in his defense, he had enough sympathy for Orpheus to let him take his dead wife from the Underworld (even if that didn't turn out so well in the end).
In the New 52Wonder Woman series, Hades is presented as kind of a dick, but not outright evil because he doesn't seem to honestly understand how his actions affect others. It's suggested that no one can love him because he himself can't understand what love actually is. This may change after an encounter with Eros' guns (which serve the same purpose as his bow and arrows in the old days).
In the dread My Immortal the "goffic" analogue of Sirius Black uses the nickname Hades. Much like all supposed "good guys", he is at best unsympathetic (plus his sadism). Given that the "goffs" are satanists, it implies that Hades is satanic. The fic is most likely a Stealth Parody of, among others, DarkFics.
Hades in the JLA Watchtower universe was first class. Yes, the whole thing was an Evil Plan to get Athena off the throne of Olympus; he believed that, as he was eldest of Chronus and Rhea, he should have been in charge anyway. His tactics during the plan were appalling, however. Mind-wiping and seducing Omen? Blatantly cheating during the Titans' challenge of his heroes versus them? Forcing Nightwing into a fight to the death and making sure Nightwing lost?! Killing Arsenalafter the Titans won despite the cheating, then sending in a Zombie Apocalypse as a last resort? Yeah, good thing he got his in the end...
Divine Blood inverts this. Hades is the only good one of the big three of the Greek gods.
Subverted in Princess of Themyscira. Hades shows up, but outright refuses to aid Ares in his plans, not even when offered a way to ensure he gets plenty of souls for his domain (stating that everyone ends up there eventually anyway). In fact, the only reason Ares gets any support from Tartarus is that Persephone tells him about the Alicorn Amulet's abilities, because she somehow thinks she's helping her husband out. As it turns out, she was helping — she was counting on Ares failing and ending up sealed in Tartarus at Hades will, something he's been trying to get done for a long time.
Heavily subverted in Hope Springs Eternal, which has Hades undergo Character Development to shift him closer to his mythological self. The "abduction" of Persephone is entirely consensual and his biggest failing is difficulty properly managing the Underworld.
The Disney animated movie Hercules casts Hades as the villain, probably the most well-known example of this trope. This portrayal, in addition to some of the other liberties taken with the myth, meant that the movie had to be marketed as Beyond the Myth of Heracles in Greece to avoid a national backlash, which... didn't exactly work. However, due to how funny and genuinelylikeable Disney Hades is, you probably won't find any viewers (Greek Mythology buffs excepted) who hate Hades, except for being That One Boss in Kingdom Hearts.
The Princess and the Frog has the evil Hollywood Voodoo doctor Facilier sell his soul to a group of evil spirits referred to as his "friends on the other side". No actual Loa are named (and blasphemed), but it's far from a balanced portrayal of any vodou entity. Though it might count as a slightly exaggerated portrayal of petro ghede.
Although they also have Mama Odie, a good voodoo priestess. She also has a pet snake named Juju, which would be considered good in voodoo even as it defies the usual Reptiles Are Abhorrent rule of Disney films (twice even, as the alligator character is also unambiguously a good guy).
And to be fair the spirits Facilier is affiliated with are not portrayed as exactly evil outright, just very dark, and the reason why he suffers their wrath in the end was because he was unable to fulfill his end of the bargain with them.
Fantasia: Chernabog was a black god, but wasn't evil as a pre-christian slavic deity. Subverted as Walt said he was meant to be Satan anyway, just like he was demonized after the spread of Christianity. Though we don't really know enough about Chernobog to say whether he was or wasn't evil, it's certain he wasn't a giant Satanic figure who called up the spirits of the damned. Then again, Disney pulled the name Chernabog right out of their ass because the Satan figure in the film caused so much controversy. Yeesh.
Disney may have gotten the idea from Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe, in which the "witch Ulrica" calls upon "Zernebock" to give the villains their comeuppance. (She isn't very nice either.)
Films — Live-Action
Drive Angry has an excellent subversion. There's a Satanist cult behind most of the film's events, and the Accountant encounters one of them left alive after the hero's rampage through their 'church.' The Accountant makes it clear that, from his personal interactions with Satan, he's a well-read and rather pleasant guy. He made a foolish mistake eons ago, and has spent the entire time since then stuck as the warden to the worst prison in the universe. And what really ticks him off is having to watch people on Earth commit atrocities and claim that he had a hand in them.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom states Kali to be "The Goddess Of Death" and shows her followers acting like satanic cultists. The Hindu God Of Death is actually Yama, but Kali and her consort Shiva are also associated with death and change. Though she has violent qualities, particularly in her battle against Raktavija, Kali is considered a benevolent goddess by mainstream Hinduism. The villains of the film, however, are (very loosely) based on Thuggee cults, who did place Kali as their patron goddess.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Kali is the "the goddess of death" in one scene, though this may have been an example of the trope being played with, as Mina suggests that by worshiping a goddess of destruction (or, incorrectly, of death) that Nemo is untrustworthy and possibly evil. However, a Victorian educated woman would have had little understanding of Hindu deities, and the whole scene served to illustrate that the team misunderstood and distrusted each other.
The Movie of Percy Jackson and the Olympians threw out the book's original plot (which actually had Hades played right) and instead slapped together some tripe about Hades being the Big Bad. They even gave him the ability to turn into a huge demonic entity, complete with flames.
The Mummy Returns: Anubis receives similar treatment, being responsible for providing a murderous army of jackal-headed warriors to the Scorpion King in exchange for his soul. Considering Anubis was a chiefly neutral deity whose main job was to guide and protect the dead, this seemed rather contrary to his purpose.
This is made stranger by the fact that Anubis aided the hero's in the first first film by making Imhotep mortal when summoned. He actually does this again during The Mummy Returns when he evens the playing field for the final showdown. It seems the film makers were aware of his actual role in mythology, alluded to it and then ignored it when it suited the plot.
Seeing as the trilogy draws thematic inspiration from old pulp stories that used Egypt and its mythology as adventure fodder, it's possible that the mistake was a deliberate attempt to emulate the typical mistakes of those stories.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Hades is the prime suspect of the theft of the master bolt in order to overthrow the gods. It turns out to be a subversion. It's not him; he thinks it was Percy and only wants the bolt so he can return it, along with his stolen helmet. The real thief? Ares, being manipulated by Luke, being manipulated by Kronos. Humorously, this version of Hades mentions on his profile page on the official Percy Jackson site that Disney's Hercules is one of his favorite films. He even claims to like being portrayed as the bad guy for the movie; his only gripe was the blue flaming hair. (It's possible he's being sarcastic.) Percy even starts to feel a little bad for him as he sees him as the Olympian Black Sheep due to his job as lord of the dead, pointing out their treatment of him would make anyone bitter.
Averted by Lord Dunsany in The Gods of Pegana. Mung, the god of death, is an implacable force of nature who is genuinely perplexed at the way people fear him. He asks one man, "Were the forty million years before thy coming intolerable to thee? Not less tolerable to thee shall be the forty million years to come!"
Utterly averted by the Myth-O-Mania books, in which Hades is the main character and portrayed as decent, sensible, and one of the smartest gods, choosing the Underworld as a way to avoid Zeus, who is a Small Name, Big EgoJerk Ass who takes credit for everything and became King of the Gods by cheating at cards. Zeus even created an in-universe example of this trope when he claimed that Persephone only became Hades' queen because he kidnapped her, when actually she hitched a ride on Hades' chariot while escaping her overprotective mother.
Watership Down: The Black Rabbit of Inlé: he is not actively malevolent, being neutral and a servant of the rabbit analogue of God (who incidentally happens to be good), but nobody likes him because of his job as an entity responsible for death.
In Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain the Big Bad is Lord Arawn, whose goal is to take over the world. The books are based on Welsh mythology, in which Arawn isn't that bad a guy. However, Alexander does note this change in character in his introduction...he just decided to make Arawn the villain anyway.
Averted in Neil Gaiman's American Gods, in which Anubis ("Mr. Jacquel") is among the more pleasant and helpful deities that Shadow encounters, and works alongside Thoth ("Mr. Ibis") as a small-town funeral director. In an inversion, Czernobog is depicted as a Boisterous Bruiser who is a little hardcore, but not that bad.
Played a little straighter with another death-associated god, Odin, aka Mr. Wednesday, who's a genuineschemingbastard and one of the main villains, along with his friend Loki Liesmith.
Averted in the Dark Hunter book "Acheron". Hades seems to be one of the few gods who pities Acheron and leaves him be when Acheron dies and appears in the Underworld.
Averted by Piers Anthony in On A Pale Horse, in which Death/Thanatos is not only a human being tapped to fulfill a necessary duty, but is actually the protagonist and one of the nicest characters in the Incarnations series.
The Silmarillion: Played around with with Mandos. While he's completely in line with the will of Eru Ilśvatar (like the rest of the Valar), he tends to be a little harsh regarding the interpretation, something of a "devil's advocate".
Mandos is a fairly standard "grim, gloomy, fatalistic, but not that bad of a sort" death god, and is portrayed as being strict but not malicious, and he can be moved to show mercy. Morgoth, Middle-Earth's actual God of Evil, is also associated with death, but he's more accurately the god of the fear of death (among other things), rather than death itself. Indeed, natural death is called the "Gift of Men" and is supposed to be a blessing—as the Elves would tell you immortality isn't all it's cracked up to be. The most effective way Morgoth- and later, Sauron- has of getting humans into trouble is to inspire them to aspire to actual immortality. It's always going to end badly.
Death isn't even really his thing per se (though he does live where the Elves wind up when they die). His actual "hat" is to speak prophesy; it's implied that unlike most of the Ainur, he was paying attention during the Music, so he knows all things that have happened or are going to happen, though he keeps his mouth shut about the future unless Manwė asks him.
In Mort when Death is testing out the pleasures of being human, he allows himself to get drunk at which point he starts drunkenly moping about how everyone hates him and he has no friends. Death is portrayed as being incredibly lonely.
Even in the first two books (The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic), Death never really manages to seem outright evil. He's considerably less of a sympathetic character than he is in the later books, though.
Reaper Man (which sums up the attitude of the series in general with the quote "What can the harvest hope for, if not for the care of the reaper man?") gives us our old familiar buddy Death, and the new non-anthropomorphic Death that the Auditors prefer. The new Death plays the trope absolutely straight.
Interestingly, the New Death is pretty tightly allegorized with an early model of a combine harvester, giving the novel a fairly unusual Luddite feel, especially with shopping malls being anthropomorphized as literal parasites in the novel's parallel plot. Unusual for the Discworld, where progress towards a modern-looking world is generally taken as a neutral fact of life, with both benefits and drawbacks.
Averted in A Tangled Web, a short story set in the Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms series by Mercedes Lackey. Hades is simply in love with Persephone, who loves him right back, and when Brunhilde is kidnapped instead of Persephone, he does his best to make her comfortable and help her get back to Leopold. He also helps devise the tests (with Hecate, also portrayed in a more positive light than usual) to get Leopold the immortality that Brunhilde has requested as her reward/compensation for everything that went down in Hades' realm.
The protagonist of Provost's Dog, Beka, even works for the Black God on occasion, and it is mentioned several time that he is actually more merciful and honest than the gods of life.
The Graveyard Hag, a death goddess in Carthak, is also fairly helpful to Daine in Emperor Mage, though she's still a fairly creepy goddess—she is the Black God's daughter.
Deconstructed in Flavia Bujor's The Prophecy of the Stones where Death, who is actually quite lovely, gets tired of being hated and quits. We are told this is not the first time it has happened.
Subverted in the Shadowmarch series; the god Kernios is a pretty blatant counterpart to Hades (he's a god of death, darkness, and the underworld, and his brothers are a sky god and a sea god to boot) and it's heavily hinted throughout the books that he's the mysterious supernatural entity who is manipulating the mortal villains. Nope- Kernios is in hibernation and has been for millennia. The Big Bad is Zosim the trickster god, who'd been impersonating him.
Averted in The Goddess Test series; Hades (known as Henry) is neutral and hardworking as the god of the dead, and Persephone was initially his willing wife. In the series, Hera is the antagonist, not Hades. While the series twists some mythological details, it is a case of Artistic License, and the differences are acknowledged and addressed by the characters.
The last book of the Dreamland Chronicles trilogy subverts this; Hades is the only decent god. While the rest of the pantheons are preparing for an interfaith war, Hades is trying to get back his rightful throne from a usurper who has upset the balance of life and death. He deals fairly and honestly with the heroes to get their help.
In A Song of Ice and Fire the Faith of the Seven has the Stranger as one of their deities. The Stranger represents death and the unknown, and it's considered bad luck to mention him. While most regard him with fear, he isn't considered evil, and he's even occasionally prayed to. The Silent Sisters, caretakers of the dead, are sworn to his service.
In The House on Hackman Hill, Anubis is portrayed as a monster who mummifies people alive and threatens the main characters.
In Skin Game, the 15th book of The Dresden Files, this trope is averted. Hades is one of the good guys who turns out to be partially pulling the strings in order to help the series' Myth Arc. His positive qualities are listed in full and he's one of the most friendly Gods of any religion to Harry in the entire series.
Gets lampshaded when Harry points out that while there are plenty of stories of other Olympians doing petty or selfish things (like Zeus turning into a bull to seduce a woman), Hades tended to be portrayed as the fair and just ruler of the afterlife. The worst story he can come up with is the kidnapping of Persephone, which Hades himself says isn't true; according to him Persephone came with him willingly and Demeter, suffering from "empty nest syndrome", blew it all out of proportion.
There are plenty of evil gods in Everworld, but probably the worst for sheer Nightmare Fuel is Hel, Norse goddess of death.
Partially subverted in The Reynard Cycle. The lunar deity Wulf is a trickster figure, as well as a god of death, and he is admired for being cunning. One of his schemes even led to the creation of humanity, and people raise a toast to him whenever they sit down to a drink or a meal . . . But it's also believed that his motivation for doing so was so that he could inflict suffering on the human race in order to amuse himself, and that speaking his name draws his attention, so most people avoid mentioning him directly, calling him The Watcher.
Rome: An enraged Lucius Vorenus shouts, "I am a son of Hades!" The line works on modern audiences because it sounds like he's calling himself the son of Satan, ie a horrible, monstrous person. However, the line also works from a Roman perspective, since Hades/Pluto/Dis is a rather grim god, and screaming that you're his son would make you sound like a lunatic with a death wish.
Though Pluto/Hades wasn't an evil deity per se, but invoking his name was an extreme taboo, only done when swearing an unbreakable oath. Vorenus declares himself utterly relentless and merciless, as well as desperate enough to call upon the Stygian deity.
Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess: Completely averted. Hades is one of the nicest gods in the pantheon, and except for that one early bit with Persephone, tries to help out his nephew when he shows up to turn those revolving doors. It's just, well, there are rules to follow. They also show that the underworld is not the equivalent of the Christian Hell. Yes, souls are being tortured, but if they truly repent, then they will be sent to the Elysian Fields instead, which is their version of Paradise. This is shown to happen to Iolaus' father, whose soul admits to his son that he was wrong in focusing on his military career instead of his family. Hades, who is present, immediately offers to transfer him to the Elysian Fields.
Interestingly enough, in Xena: Warrior Princess it is the god Dionysus who gets this treatment. In Classical mythology he's the god of wine, intoxication and excess (and a bit of a douche with a chip on his shoulder, like all Greek Gods) but in the TV series he's clearly a devil (red skin, horns and everything) whose worshippers are clearly vampires.
Even Ares and Aphrodite, both of whom are more consistently placed in antagonistic roles, tend to avert this. The former tends to come off as somewhat villainous not so much because he's evil as it is because his plans often come into conflict with Xena, while the latter is depicted more like a spoiled schoolgirl who abuses her divine powers to get her way.
They both also soften as the series goes on. Ares begins Hercules as a borderline Eldritch Abomination and ends Xena a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, and you'll forget Aphrodite could even be borderline villainous by the end (the worst thing she did was trying to break up a marriage that would have ended a war because the alliance would mean a temple or two of hers got demolished.
The necessity of Ares is also explored on the two occasions that he loses his powers. The first time, people go mad with violence because without a god to rule over war, humans' violent impulses ran wild. (This also means that everyone slaughtering everyone until the world is a graveyard - the kind of thing you'd think Ares would like - is in fact something he wants to avoid.) The second time, Aphrodite was starting to go nuts; war must balance love.
Charmed never used Hades (except for a rather dishonorable mention as the father of the demon Nikos in the novel), but Hecate, another underworld god(dess), came off particularly badly, being turned into a demon. (Way to go, have witches fight the matron of witches.) Yama also got this treatment, becoming the amoral gatekeeper of Chinese hell who tried to snatch whatever spirits were not "properly buried" and drag them to hell, regardless of whether they were good or evil.
The Angel of Death on the other hand, is portrayed more or less sympathetically, especially during his first appearance. He does his job in ensuring that everyone dies at the appropriate time. If somebody who must die does not, it will cause the natural flow of death to halt and put the entire world in chaos.
Mostly averted with Osiris. Sure, resurrecting Buffy involved a dark, creepy ritual involving baby deer's blood and vomiting up snakes, but Osiris himself doesn't seem like such a bad guy in his brief on-screen appearance. Just a bit of a stickler for rules.
Smallville, on the other hand, did an episode where Lois got possessed by Isis and tried to bring Osiris back into the world — which, despite him being the just ruler of the dead, was treated as a very bad thing.
Although it wasn't a very bad thing because Osiris himself was bad, it was a very bad thing bercause calling him up would bring the Underworld into the real world.
In the Greek Myths spin-off of Jim Henson's The Story Teller, Hades is presented as a bitter being.
In the televison version of The Nine Lives of Chloe King the Jackals are a rival race to the Mai and are the children of Anubis just as the Mai are the children of Bast. They are described as mindless killing machines who reek of rotting flesh. On the other hand this description is given by the Mai and should be taken with a grain of salt. When actually encountered the Jackals are nasty but not as one dimensionally as described and there's at least one sympathetically portrayed one.
While Disney did go a bit over the top, Hades was not a favorite god of the Greeks, who didn't even like to say his name and would avert their eyes when sacrificing to him. He was said to "enrich himself with our sighs and our tears" by Sophocles. In Homer's Iliad, Agamemnon described him saying "Hades who is utterly unyielding—and hence he is, of all gods, the one most hateful to mankind." While he was not considered out-and-out evil, being a death god put the kibosh on his ever getting that popular.
Classical opinions of Hades were quite diverse. Hellenic poetry depicts him in negative terms, but orphic hymns treated him cordially, if not as gloriously as Zeus. Pythagorean thought depicted him as a very relevant and high god (on par with Zeus, far more so than Poseidon), while rural peoples either appreciated his bounty, reviled him, or used macabre rituals to kill their enemies. Hades was a fairly complex god as far as opinions went, so saying he was "evil" is an extremely asinine thing to say.
In addition, to Pythagorean shamanism, Hades is pretty on par with Zeus in the celestial hierarchy, being one of the four gods associated with classical elements (the exact one is a riddle, but it is speculated to be either Fire, Earth or Air, the latter based on the classical Greek association of the soul with Air).
To add to the modern confusion regarding how classical Greeks viewed Hades, his wife Persephone was the goddess of springtime. Persephone lived for half the year with Demeter, and helped crops grow during the spring, but during thehe other half of the year, Persephone was with Hades (who had abducted and tricked her into eating the food of Hades) and Demeter caused summer in her despair.note The summertime is oppressively hot in Greece, while the winter is pleasantly cool and still agriculturally productive. The details of the story changed while explaining it to people from further north, who were used to the summer being only mildly hot and winter being cold and dead. So, yeah, Greece does not have much to like him for, climatologically speaking.
Disney didn't exactly start making him outright evil - you can really blame Medieval Christians for their common practice of demonizing pagan deities. Hades had his name lent to Hell, while aspects of Pan were put into the Devil himself.
Some other common "demons", such as Baal, Dagon and Beelzebub, were demonizations of Semitic deities. Beelzebub and Ba'al were both corruptions of the same god, in fact! Dagon's demonization is a fair bit more recent, and comes from the pen of H.P. Lovecraft, who made him into one of the Eldritch Abominations of the Cthulhu Mythos.
Dagon, as the god of the Philistines, doesn't come across too well in the Bible itself either, though he isn't really "demonized" since that would require depicting him as something more than a figment of the Philistines' imagination.
Egyptian Mythology presents two good examples in the form of Seth, god of the desert. The portrayal of Seth as a demonic figure was actually a political response to the unification of the Upper and Lower Kingdoms. As the Upper Kingdom, represented by Seth, resisted the union their patron's name was smeared and his darker aspects were emphasized in later myths; this is what inspired modern depictions. However, while Seth was jealous of his brother Osiris's position and a harbinger of doom with no love for humans, he would help the other gods and play a key role in defeating Apophis, the actual devil-equivalent. This makes him one of the earliest mythological Anti-Heroes.
Anubis, god of the embalming and the general preparation of dead bodies, has also gotten the Villain Ball more often in the recent years. Considering his position as a neutral entity interested only in ensuring proper administration of the deceased, this is completely out of character.
In Old Testament Apocrypha the Archangel Ramiel is described as the Archangel that watches over the dead. In the Books of Enoch(considered among the oldest of the Apocrypha) he joins Semjāzā and later Satanael in their Angelic rebellion as the only Archangel of the group(Satan serves as the usurper of the rebellion while Semjāzā serves as the founding leader). What's more it's implied in second book of Enoch that Ramiel's own rebellious actions(due to Pride which implies that he's the Leviathan who's "king of all who are proud") led to the founding of the rebellion making him the Man Behind the Man to Semjāzā(who'd later get hijacked by Satan once he learned of the rebellion). Samael the Archangel of Death itself had no part in these rebellions.
Some mythologists actually theorize that Loki, the default Big Bad of Norse Mythology, got hit with this as soon as Vikings started embracing Christianity - unfortunately, this was around the same time the Vikings started writing down their mythology.
His daughter Hel, who is actually the goddess of death, was probably victim of this. Older myths tend to depict her as a serene guide to the other world for departed souls who had died from natural cause. Demonization of pagan deities by the Christians made her an hideous hag preparing an army of the dead for her father. And, similarly to Hades, can you guess where the word Hell comes from?
Baldrs Draumar pretty much shows her welcoming Baldr with a feast, and some have theorised that this is a surviving depiction of what Hel was like before demonisation. Older sources also don't speak of Helheim in particularly negative terms, implying that it wasn't that awful.
An odd case of aversion in traditional Chinese religion. The Chinese afterlife is called Diyu and you are interviewed by the higher powers before they allow you in heaven. If you fail, you will have to go through a maze to exonerate yourself of sin. There's an apocryphal story about Christian missionaries trying to convince the Chinese that they will go to Hell if they don't convert. The response the Chinese gave was "that's what you call it?" So while Diyu got a scary name like Hell attached to it (see Hell bank note), it's not necessarily an eternity of hellfire and brimstone making this a failed attempt at Demonization.
Hades wears lots of intimidating spikes and routinely blows out fire but is usually a Face on the US Indy scene. His opponents usually try to convince cheering audiences that he's Obviously Evil to no avail.
In WWE, Kali appears as "The Great Khali" (spelled with a silent "h" and pronounced "kah-LEE" rather than "KAH-lee," perhaps to play off contemporary fears of Arab terrorists, a theory strengthened by the fact that his original manager, Khosrow Daivari, was Middle Eastern). Khali is a cruel Punjabi giant portrayed by Indian actor and wrestler Dalip Singh Rana. Other than being Indian, having (relatively) dark skin, and sticking out his long tongue once in a mockery of The Undertaker, the wrestling "Khali" really bears no relation to the goddess he's named after, and has in fact undergone two Heel Face Turns in the course of his career. So, Quadruple Subversion?
The 3rd edition splatbook Deities & Demigods lists Hades as Neutral Evil largely so they could give him levels in the assassin Prestige Class. The book specifically notes that he isn't actively hostile or vicious, and that he mostly just is; everyone dies eventually, and someone has to run the afterlife. Anubis on the other hand was listed as Lawful Neutral. Hel, of course, gets the "evil" treatment (and one that affects her personality more, likeky due to her being half rotting corpse), despite being by far the least antagonistic of Loki's children in the original myths.
Averted back in second edition Planescape, where Hades' realm, Hades, is certainly not in a nice place, but Hades himself is depicted pretty much as a cynical version of his Greek Myth self. Hades is Lawful Neutral. Hecate, however, abandons her mythologic role as a complex goddess and falls more in line with Shakespeare's vision of her in The Scottish Play.
Nearly every deity of death and/or the underworlds in that book is Lawful Neutral or Neutral Evil (mostly the latter). The big exception is Osiris, who's listed as Lawful Good. In various other books, the deity of death tends to be Lawful Neutral instead, and there tends to be a different underworld for each alignment.
Sadly, played very straight in 5th edition, where the lack of a Death domain in the Player's Handbook (it's instead found in the Dungeon Master's Guide) is explicitly handwaved with the "fact" that most Death gods are evil and so most Clerics with the Death domain will be villains. It does mention that it's possible for Death Clerics who aren't evil, specifically citing Anubisnote here portrayed as the Lawful Neutral God of the Underworld and Nephthysnote here portrayed as the Chaotic God Goddess of Mourning of the Egyptian pantheon, who contrast Set,note here portrayed as a very stereotypical Chaotic Evil God of Murder as reasons why, but it's only mentioned in passing.
Scion: Utterly averted — Hades is presented as he is in the myths - probably the only level-headed person in the Dodekatheon. Aside from mild tendencies towards greed and irritation at being a "dwarf planet", he's an all right guy. Among the Pesedjet, Osiris looks after his subjects, taking care of them, but is also someone who can tell you up front he's a manipulator, and still get you to go along with him because he seems so good and wise, while Anubis is a dedicated worker who hates being disappointed by his compatriots. Then there's Baron Samedi of the Loa, who's the ultimate party creature, living (un)life to excess. On the other hand, Miclantehcuhtli of the Atzlanti is portrayed as being evil in a spiteful, petty bureaucrat sort of way; Hel of the Norse Aesir is cold, cruel and unfeeling, and the Ragnarok supplement mocks players who want to make her happy through the power of true love (although it does leave open the possibility); and Izanami of the Amatsukami torments other gods and Scions for being unable to save her from her tortured and rotten state as ruler of the Japanese underworld. All of these are pretty close to their respective myths, no less. White Wolf likes to do the research.
Somewhat. Getting into the various little inaccuracies of Scion's depictions of certain gods can cover a lot more than this trope, but Mictlantecuhtli wasn't evil at all. He was very terrifying in appearance, sure, but he was really just a grump that took his job VERY seriously. That job being keeping living people out of Mictlan and making sure dead people stayed in it.
Of the non-core pantheons, Manannan mac Lir of the Tuatha de Dannan is a psychopomp, a quick-thinking trickster and seducer, while the Morrigan is seer, warrior and death-queen, a fearsome figure even to her fellow gods, but not unsympathetic; the Celestial Bureaucracy's Yanluo is a compassionate figure, who seeks to help the dead work through their sins; and of the Hindu Devas, Yama is a dispassionate judge who lacks a sense of humour, Kali is a fierce, terrifying change-agent, a necessary part of the cycle, and Shiva is a dancer, a nightmare, a destroyer and an ascetic mystic by turns.
The Fighting Fantasy universe has Death as the ultimate God of Evil, with his brothers Disease and Decay just a step behind him in power.
The Freedom City setting for Mutants & Masterminds has Hades as a criminal mastermind trying to extend his reach on Earth, complete with an invasion by the forces of Tartarus back in the Silver Age. For bonus point, Baron Samedi is also a douchenozzle in setting, though that may have something to do with his choice of mount.
Palladium's Rifts is particularly bad about this. Here's a breakdown by pantheon:
Aztec: Predictably, the cultural Values Dissonance wreaks havoc. With the exception of Quetzalcoatl and his pal/sidekick Xolotl, the entire pantheon is made up of bastards and a few gods who feel they don't have a choice in following them. Mictlan, the lord of the dead (well, it's actually the name of the underworld, but by this point, who cares, right?) deserves special mention, as it's the Eldritch Abomination co-ruler of Hades (the place, which is crawling with a bunch of demon races; Hades the god rules another chunk of it) with fellow abomination Modeus.
Sumero-Babylonian: Apsu (an obscure water god mentionned in the Enuma Elish as Tiamat's husband) is a titanic, even-more-overpowered-than-usual Eldritch Abominationsealed just prior to the gods' rebellion; Ereshkigal (goddess of the dead) and her husband Nergal (god of the sun and destruction; both rule over the underworld) are secretly but gleefully on Apsu and Tiamat's side and wait for the moment when they can rejoin them and destroy the rest of the pantheon.
Egyptian: Anubis is The Dragon within the Pantheon of Taut (the "evil" half of the pantheon, led by Set), who for lack of other evil forces besides Apep/Apophis had to be filled with other rather ridiculous choices such as Anhur (who's there mostly because of Honor Before Reason), Bes (who supposedly became an evil psycho long ago for... some reason), and Amon (who's now a woman who became evil and ugly "just because").
Greek: Ironically, Hades gets off the easiest, coming off mostly as a JerkassKnight Templar; Ares is a bullying jerk, but that's the same as in actual myth. Hera is a Soap Opera-style Queen Bitch who's finally gone insane from Zeus' philandering, and is actively fomenting strife between Olympus and other pantheons, as well as thinking about freeing the Titans. The Titans themselves are either Eldritch or Humanoid Abominations - Cronos is a black blob of eyes and tentacles who created the first olympian gods as edible power batteries, and Hecate, while more or less human in appearance, is a ruthless power-hungry pragmatist who's mercenary enough to deal with the Splugorth (a whole species of eldritch abominations whose hat is being Corrupt Corporate Executive imperialistic slave-traders).
Norse: Mostly untouched (Loki's a bad guy), but Hel (goddess of the dishonorable dead)'s bad side is turned Up to Eleven: She's an Ax-CrazyOmnicidal Maniac who wants to ally herself with the Mechanoids (who are borderline Dalek expies) to exterminate all humanoid life in The Multiverse.
Chinese: The Yama Kings (all of them) have come through the Rifts with armies of demons to carve up most of China into their personal little kingdoms, and each is a Hell on Earth of a different flavor (or flavors - the Chinese have a lot of hells), so so they're probably not nice people.
Maya: Barely touched upon, but all we see (the lords of the underworld of Xibalba and bat-god Camazotz) are demon lords.
And then there's a bunch of pretenders and impostors passing themselves for existing legitimate gods, usually for less-than-virtuous reasons, many of whom are actually Eldritch Abominations (notice another pattern?)
Averted in the Theros cycle of Magic: The Gathering. Erebos, the stand-in for Hades/Pluto/Erebus, is the god of (among other things) many unpleasant things like envy, bitterness, misfortune, and misery. Nonetheless he is a Benevolent Boss to both charges and his followers, indeed he seems to be the nicest of the Theros gods. While none of the other gods seem to care about their worshipers Erebos at least empathizes with the desire for acceptance. His only flaws usually stem from his tunnel vision regarding potential escapees; You're dead, dammit, and you don't get to Screw Destiny by returning to life.
Tabletop Game/Champions is actually pretty scrupulous about this. In the fourth edition there was a sourcebook for the Greek gods, and it specifically said Hades isn't evil and really only concerned with running the underworld. We also got a 40's villain called the Doberman who was given immortality by Anubis, but Anubis's real reasoning for doing so was giving new heroes an easy villain to hone their skills on. Fifth edition onward gave us the villain Anubis, but he's actually an agent of Set. For some reason.
Even in the play's storyline, this trope is played with- Papa Ge is implied to just do his job and isn't entirely evil. He even hangs out with the three other gods like good friends.
And Papa Ge was gentle, as he carried her to shore...
Especially when you consider that the main plot boils down to a bet over whether love or death is more powerful, and Papa Ge doesn't really do anything besides offer the main character the option of choosing death. Add to that the fact that it's somewhat implied in some productions that Erzulie, the goddess of love, more or less used her powers to make Timone (the main character) fall in love with somebody unsuitable (an affair that can only logically end in pain for somebody), plus the other gods' general manipulation (which boils down to "it's fun to play with humans") and you get a case of all four being Jerkass Gods at worst and operating under Blue and Orange Morality at best.
In Hadestown, Hades is depicted as a welfare capitalist, with all the false promises (to the dead in general, and Eurydice in particular) that entails.
Parodied in Jacques Offenbach's Orphée aux Enfers (Orpheus in the Underworld). Although the operetta plays with the Mephistophelian on a few occasions, Pluton is portrayed more as a lovable lech who is in many ways more sympathetic than big hypocrite Jupiter. Also the Underworld is shown to be much more of a fun place than stolid Olympus.
In case you didn't know, the characteristic piece of music associated with the "Can-Can" dance is from this piece (it's formally called the Galop Infernal).
In Sarah Rahl's Eurydice, the Ruler of the Underworld is portrayed as an unpleasant literal Man Child and stalker who coerces Eurydice to wipe her memory in the waters of Lethe. Persephone is not present in the play.
Subverted in the God of War series, where Hades is no more evil than the other gods of Olympus despite his demonic appearance. However, it's played straight in the manual, which describes him as "a greedy god who is greatly concerned with increasing his subjects." In the sequels, he is finally motivated to kill Kratos out of revenge for his niece (Athena), brother (Poseidon) and wife (Persephone), thus making his actions at least understandable.
The subversion is undone in the PSP title Ghost Of Sparta, where Thanatos, a death god whose existence is said to preempt that of Olympus, is a right bastard, who goes to significant lengths to keep Kratos from finding his brother, and when that fails kills Deimos, and constantly mocks Kratos the entire boss fight. This implies that Hades is not so much the god of death as he is of the afterlife (which was his actual role in Greek Mythology).
In Immortal Throne, the expansion to Titan Quest, Hades is cast as the villain. The reason being that after the connection between the godly realms and earth was severed in the first game and Typhon was destroyed, Zeus decided that the Olympian gods would take this as an opportunity to depart from the world and leave humans to their own affairs as they had proven themselves capable of such. Hades went rogue, formed a demon army, and started to assault the overworld, and it was the lot of the player to put an end to Hades, of whom Zeus had predicted his actions and actually set the player on the right path to deal with him.
While Hades can be considered the main antagonist of the myth of Orpheus, it was largely because dead people aren't supposed to come back to life. However, in The Battle of Olympus, he had Orpheus's love interest killed so that he could marry her, justifying the subsequent beating administered by the player.
Kingdom Hearts, being based of Disney Animated Canon, also cast Hades as a villain. Oddly enough, he and Captain Hook were the only Disney villains to not fall into darkness. It's worth noting that this version of Hades is more of a Jerk Ass than anything, his only real reason for joining Maleficent's entourage is to get rid of Hercules.
Does Hades really even NEED to fall into darkness? He's a god who's already dark enough as it is.
In the city-building game Zeus, this trope is averted. Any Greek God can be built a temple to (sometimes you have to do so just to keep away another one that's pissed off at you), and that includes Hades. In-game he can defeat any god that attacks your city save Zeus and Poseidon, and the game recognizes Hades is more than just the lord of the dead; he's also the god in charge of everything within the earth itself, including mineral wealth, an often-overlooked aspect in modern times. In this game, he rewards you with infinite silver veins that spawn around his temple and occasionally grants you the blessing of additional cash. He also lets his pet Cerberus guard your city as a bonus.
That's not to say he would always be a good guy. Depending on your city's interaction with the immortals, Hades could very well end up sending Cerberus to attack you, or even pay you a visit himself. If he visits not only does he shut down your metal-working industry, he also takes a substantial chunk of your population back to the Underworld with him.
In all of the Might and Magic games, whenever your party dies, you get a chilling but well-intentioned speech from Death itself, who chides you that your time in the land of the living is not done, and sends you back... but not before warning you that "... but I am quite sure that we will meet again."
Battlezone (the 1998 game, not the 1980s classic) implies that the mythical Hades was inspired by an evil, violent faction of Ancient Astronauts.
Izanami is revealed to be a villain in Persona 4. Somewhat appropriate in that she is kind of a villain in Shinto myth.
It's also hard to tell whether this character is particularly good or evil, as the reason behind everything is that Izanami is testing humanity to grant it's apparent wish depending on who wins: Adachi (Emptiness), Nametame (Despair) or the protagonist (Hope). When the protagonist wins and defeats her, Izanami accepts her defeat and congratulates him.
Meanwhile, Persona 3 has a rather interesting take on the trope. While Death is responsible for causing The End of the World as We Know It, it's not actually a malevolent being, as seen with Pharos and Ryoji. Nyx will only initiate the Fall as long as people keep wishing for death.
S/he doesn't want to. S/he was content with sleeping away until a bunch of Death Seekers in the Kirijo Group wanted to end the world. Only the Heroic Sacrifice of Yukari's father and the Main Character buys enough time for humanity to get its shit together.
Averted in Persona 2 - Hades is the Ultimate Persona of one of the characters.
Played with in Age of Mythology. While some of the villains will choose to worship him early in the campaign, Hades himself never shows up. Also the real villains are Poseidon, who actually did try to overthrow Zeus in the myths, and Kronos.
Kid Icarus has Pluton, an invincible and incredibly annoying ogre thief, whose name is the original Greek spelling for Pluto (Ploutōn). The Grim Reaper (shortened to Reaper) and the God of Revenge are also enemies.
In Kid Icarus: Uprising, Hades makes his debut as the true leader of the Underworld Army. Thanatos, the actual god of Death, shows up as well, but Hades manages to both outrank and out-evil Thanatos. His only motivation for anything he does in the game is to cause death and destruction to expand his realm.
Shin Megami TenseiDevil Survivor has Yama, Buddhist judge of the underworld, making a contract with one of the people inside the Tokyo Lockdown. He reveals himself to be a Hanging Judge to whom All Crimes Are Equal (and death being the only sentence). To be fair, though, we only see him interact with people guilty of crimes like murder, abuse of authority and similar — he ignores the party, who are not guilty of anything, until you attack him.
An in-universe example actually happens in Pokémon: While Darkrai is normally portrayed as a rather decent creature despite having a bad reputation due to its tendency to create nightmares (it only does this if threatened in any way; the anime actually averted this by making one such member of this species the hero of one of its films), in the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon Explorers games, he's the Big Bad, and is pure evil. He even tries to kill the main characters over the course of the games!
The Atari game Riddle of the Sphinx featured Anubis as the main enemy. You know, Anubis, the kindly, jackal headed god of the newly dead who just wants to get you to the Land of the Dead safely. It's made even more glaring given the fact that Egyptian Mythology already had a sort of Satan figure in Set, the fratricidal god of the Underworld.
Averted with online game Poptropica: On the Greek Mythology-themed Mythology Island, the Big Bad is Zeus, a power-hungry jerk who tricks you into helping him conquer the world. Hades is benevolent god who, along with Poseidon, helps you defeat him. The Underworld is certainly not a pretty place though.
In Too Human, a Cyber Punk adaptation of Norse Mythology, Hel is a Mad Scientist who cybernetically reanimates the corpses of the dishonored dead that she is entrusted with as cannon fodder, including Baldur's beloved wife, and is loyal to her father Loki.
Referenced, but averted in Maximo: Ghosts to Glory. Maximo is cautious and suspicious of Death at first, but Death is a cheerful and pleasant - if morbid - fellow, who just wants to restore the balance of life and death. In the sequel, he and Maximo are traveling buddies, and we see how carefully and sweetly he tends to a lost soul that had been stolen from the underworld.
Averted in Touhou. The judge of the afterlife, Eiki Shiki, is actually one of the few unambiguously Lawful Good characters, and spends her free time correcting people's behaviours so they won't go to Hell when they die. Although she loves lecturing a bit too much, making her actually not that well-liked. In fact, despite being the Final Boss of Phantasmagoria of Flower View, she doesn't have any hand in the incident, and you only fight her because the heroine is getting tired of being lectured.
The actual culprit is her underling Komachi the Shinigami. However, it's not because Komachi is evil, but because she's slacking off in her job ferrying the ghosts across the Sanzu River, causing the ghosts to possess flowers and causing the flower outbreak. Otherwise, she's actually a cheerful and energetic person.
Thanatos is a demon lord in Panel de Pon but there is a subversion here, he was a fake.
Sphinx And The Cursed Mummy averts the common trend seen in many of the Egyptian-based works above by making Anubis one of Sphinx's allies, and Set the main villain.
While Queen Odette, ruler of the Underworld in Odin Sphere isn't directly based on a real mythological figure, she's still treated as the Designated Villain. Despite her sadistic tendencies, she still makes it clear that everyone needs to stop traipsing in and out of her domain and stealing her magic crystals to make Psyphers, which pervert the natural order of life, and to try and bring people back to life. If everyone would just stay out of the Underworld, they'd never even have to deal with her. In fact, when she's finally Killed Off for Real, it allows King Gallon, who she's kept locked up this whole time for being too big a threat, to take over the Underworld in her place and try to reap the souls of every living being in Erion in one of the biggest Nice Job Breaking It, Hero moments of the game.
Smite features various Gods from various mythologies, and yet managed to have aversions, subversions and examples. Gods relating to death and underworld such as Hades, Anubis and Hel are treated with Dark Is Not Evil treatment, they may be scary but they're just doing their jobs in managing the dead (though Hel has a severe case of Split Personality, which was probably a good compilation of the aforementioned 'Serene Hel' and 'Demonized-By-Pagans Hel' in the Mythology section). Thanatos is kind of a subversion, because while he's out to reap the souls of every Gods that turns out he dislikes, he has a good reason for it: He's The Grim Reaper, Gods being immortal is an insult to his job and philosophy of 'All beings will die one day', but in terms of taking the souls of mortals, it's just a daily job he does with no complains or extra enthusiasm (although kind of bored since it poses no challenge). Loki, however, plays it straight, being one of the more Obviously Evil Gods whose purpose to kill the Gods is merely For the Evulz.
Gunnerkrigg Court gives us a few different soul collectors and versions of "death" that correspond to various religions and myths. All of them seem quite nice and enjoy conversation with mortals who can see them.
Jack, the assigned Grim Reaper, really doesn't like his job of (among with a whole list of other things) ripping lovers apart.
So far largely averted in Olympus Overdrive. Max does consider Hades a bit of a jerk at first, but that's just because Hades doesn't know how to deal with people very well. Comments by the other gods suggest he's always been a bit of a loner, but this isn't portrayed as a negative thing.
Largely averted in the Whateley Universe: Stygian, who apparently is the incarnation of the god Hades, isn't a bad guy. He's just so depressed that he's willing to do anything if it will kill him. Hekate, on the other hand, is a mutant who really earns her rep as ruthlessly evil.
Note that, while Stygian is the real deal, Hekate is not actually the diety. Just a mutant who took the name.
In Deathigner, all death deities aside from the titular, pacifist protagonist are depicted as assholes at best, and as murdering monsters at worst.
Subverted in the Wonder Woman animated film. Hades looks like he's agreeing to free Ares so the restored god of war can kill, well, everyone, on Earth and provide Hades with their souls, but it turns out there's only one soul Hades is really interested in, revealed when his Evil Plan comes to fruition.
His evilness is up for debate. Sure he was a bit of a dick but he did put one of the worst psychopaths ever on a permanent lockdown and well... Ares and his son deserved it.
Ares himself gets a case of this, just substitute "death" with "war". Back in ancient times, war was a necessity and was not really considered as "evil". Though accurate to the myths, as most Greeks (Spartans aside) had much nicer things to say about Hades than Ares, whom they considered at best terrifying.
Played straight in Justice League, where Hades might as well be Satan, and is possibly Wonder Woman's father.
Subverted in a later episode when it is revealed he never wanted to leave Tartarus in the first place, he just wanted Diana's mother. When he is rescued from a usurper due to the Balance being disturbed, he comments on it when Diana frees him.
Diana: "If it were up to me, you would stay here. But even here there must be balance."
Hades: "Nobody ever appreciates your work until you're gone..."
Mighty Max had an episode where a snake monster is trying to summon Kali, but she's only evil under his mind control. Once Max snaps her out of it (using an idol of Shiva, another Dark Is Not Evil god, she deals with the snake monster for them and leaves.
In the movie Hercules, Hades was the Big Bad, despite Hera being the one who tried to kill Hercules in the original myths. Unrelatedly, all of the characters except Hercules are referred to by their original Greek names... except "Bacchus" and "Cupid" if you count the Animated Series but that's neither here nor there.
Disney's done this trope waaaaaay back in the past: the 1934 Silly SymphonyThe Goddess of Spring is a retelling of the Persephone myth, and Hades looks like a proper Mephistophelean stage devil. You can watch it here for now.
Though while Hades visually looks like a Christian demon, his behavior is arguably much less evil. After seeing that there's no way for him to make Persephone happy, he unconditionally releases her.
And continuing Disney uses of this trope, you have the granddaddy of them all: Chernobog from the "Night on Bald Mountain" segment of Fantasia. Whatever he was in slavic myth, it certainly wasn't a nightmarish mountain-sized Satanexpy.
Subverted in the TV series Class of the Titans. While Hades is kind of...swishy (and purple-skinned), he still is a pretty decent guy who is in a loving relationship with Persephone.
Thanatos (who is the greek god of death), Hades's subordinate, is sometimes used as a villain, but on these occasions he usually turns out to be mind-controlled by Kronos. He is otherwise a kindly bespectacled old man - who can transform into a boney horror with wings. He is pretty neutral towards the heroes, but does seem to enjoy his job too much...
Averted in Gargoyles with Anubis (voiced by Tony Jay), who turns out to not be a bad guy. He just is there to maintain balance in the world. The episode "Grief" deals with the Emir trying to force Anubis to resurrect his dead son.
Played straight in Mummies Alive!, in which Anubis is a dim-witted villain who works alongside Set. In mythology, Set disowned him, since Anubis chose to side with Horus and helped Isis mummify Osiris and restore him.
The Watership Down animated series, unlike the source material, pulls this with the Black Rabbit of Inle. When he starts appearing in season three, he glows red and vanishes in a burst of flames.
Regular Show portrays Death himself as a Bad Ass biker who always goes by his word. However, he's a bit of a Jerk Ass and sometimes a cheater in sports (using his powers to try to win a Bowling Tournament despite the rules saying no powers). But he's also solidly a good guy, having came to the aid of the Park several times over and is rather amicable with Mordecai and Rigby, especially since they're the only babysitter's who've consistently been able to put his son, Thomas, to sleep at the end of Death's and his wife's dates. The only person he doesn't seem to like is Muscle Man.