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Anime and Manga
- The plot of Tiger Mask centers around the illegal Tiger Cave that specializes in training wrestlers who are brutal even by heel standards, with the titular Tiger Mask being called as such for being their most promising student ever. And when he pulls a Heel–Face Turn, the Tiger Cave executives try to have him killed but ultimately can't stop many of the later Tiger Cave trainees from becoming baby faces too.
- YuYu Hakusho: Sensui is regarded as a prodigy among Spirit Detectives; he was killing spirits before he got the job. When he shows up as a villain he recruits other spiritually powerful people by his powerful personality. He's an Evil Counterpart to Yusuke himself.
- Sailor Galaxia in Sailor Moon, though in the anime it's explained because she simultaneously extracted her own star seed and absorbed elemental chaos. She just got corrupted in the manga. And she cast it out to protect it from Chaos.
- Orochimaru in Naruto: while lacking anything regarding morality, he certainly was considered one of the brightest minds of his generation. He pulled a Face–Heel Turn prior to the start of the story. Later on, Sasuke does the same thing.
- The anime delves a little more into Orochimaru's backstory, wherein he starts as an orphan, developing into an obsession with rebirth and a desire to overcome death. It even adds a small moment where old Orochi is there when Tsunade learns about her little brother's death.
- Itachi could be considered an inversion - in this case, The Paragon was the only one to not rebel.
- Itachi did, however, betray his own clan, the Uchiha, by being loyal to the Konoha government. As such, this is also an example of playing it straight, since the Uchiha considered Itachi to be their best.
- So what you're saying is Itachi likes to play it both ways. Since he's a Paragon to both sides of the conflict... No wonder he seemed like such a troubled guy in the flashbacks.
- And no wonder Sasuke doesn't get what he's trying to teach him...
- Nagato was seen as a Messianic Archetype but personal tragedy transformed him into a Dark Messiah. Hidden Rain and Konan followed him.
- Yomi from Ga-Rei -Zero-, thanks to Trauma Conga Line. The OP song is even titled "Paradise Lost".
- Kagura on the other hand doesn't rebel as much as she cracks under pressure, taking the world with her.
- In Saint Beast, Lucifer refuses to stay as number two and takes Gabriel to hell with him. History then repeats itself with Judas and Luca, their students, whose motives are better but who also fall from the highest rank to ruling hell.
- Sosuke Aizen from Bleach was once the greatest and most beloved of the Gotei 13 Captains. When he betrayed Soul Society he took two other captains with him and drove a lieutenant into a Heroic BSOD.
- Played straight when revealed, but subverted later with flash backs. He was evil before hand. He cultivated the paragon persona and reputation to throw people off his trail.
- Gunzou Chihaya from Arpeggio of Blue Steel. He was the second in his year of JMSDF cadets, but later rebelled and took a few of his fellow best students.
- Former Green Lantern Sinestro, the best and brightest Green Lantern who turned to evil. Where do you think the other yellow lanterns came from or why they invoke his name in their oath? Depending on the Writer he's a Well-Intentioned Extremist, with mixed results.
- Originally applied to Hal Jordan - Green Lantern of the Silver Age - who fell from grace during the 90's when the Guardians refused to give him enough power to restore his home town (which had just been destroyed in an unrelated Superman story arc). Jordan did not take this well and went on a killing spree of his fellow Lanterns to amass enough power to do so, becoming the villain known as Parallax.
- Depending on which Retcon you choose to believe, this may have happened to Xorn of the X-Men.
- Irredeemable is all about this. And with the rise of The Survivor, it appears to be doing it again.
- A'Sharad Hett, a Tusken Jedi in the Republic comic series, is considered one of the greatest Jedi of his generation, though he resents the status as it conflicts with Jedi ideals. Fast forward 150-some-odd years to Legacy, and he's become Darth Krayt, the Dark Lord of the Sith.
- Captain America, the most respected hero in the Marvel Universe, rebels against the US government in Civil War. Notable in that the majority of fans agreed with him and disliked his supposed Heel Realization.
- Tales of the Jedi has Exar Kun, one of the most impressive Jedi students of the age, who falls to the dark side and recruits many Jedi to his own cause. He then takes over the Sith, and proceeds to go after the Republic. (Granted, he was a Jerk Ass to start with, but he was still highly respected.)
- This trope is the focus of Bendis' Uncanny X-Men. Cyclops was once the leader of the X-Men, and so obsessively loyal to Xavier's dream that even the others considered him uptight. That was a long time ago, though, and now the group is split between those who despise Scott and those who followed him into rebellion. (A rebellion which began partly because Scott killed Xavier.)
- This is pointed out as one of the big differences between RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse and Canon!MLP. Celestia's transformation into the Tyrant Sun didn't drag all of Equestria into madness with her, but what it did do was hammer into the ponies' minds that anyone could turn evil. In canon, Luna was already kind of spooky, so her fall into evil isn't too surprising. But if you can't trust Celestia, the very personification of the life-giving Sun, then you can't completely trust anyone.
- In the theatrical cut only, Deckard in Blade Runner is allegedly the greatest Replicant killer around but becomes a Defector from Decadence by the end.
- Happens in the movie Gabriel, which is all too appropriate considering the movie is about angels and demons. Michael betrays his fellow angels and assumes the identity of the fallen angel Sammael with the intent of making the souls in the purgatory dimension they're fighting over into his own kingdom with which to battle Heaven and Hell.
- In the Star Wars movies:
- Count Dooku was Yoda's finest student and one of the greatest Jedi before his fall. As a Sith, he manipulated thousands of star systems into breaking off from the Galactic Republic, sparking the Separatist Crisis and the Clone Wars, which in turn sped the rise of the Galactic Empire. The trope is explored in the Clone Wars series, where we have sympathetic senators like Mina Bonteri who joined the Separatists for honest reasons.
- Subverted by Palpatine's rise to Emperor. He presented himself as a humble senator, reluctantly accepting ever greater emergency powers in troubled times; he created the Galactic Empire to general approval, and even swayed public opinion against the Jedi Order. Nobody but his apprentices knew that that he was Evil All Along and a tremendously powerful Sith lord to boot.
Padme: So this is how liberty dies... with thunderous applause.
- In First Knight, Malagant was one of the greatest of the Knights of the Round Table, but he grew dissatisfied when he found they didn't share his beliefs that the strong can do whatever they feel like and terrorize anyone weaker than them. He gathered followers and rebelled against King Arthur's rule.
- Inverted in Dragon Bones: Nobleman Haverness is the most honourable man known at court, and the most loyal subject of the king. However, the king is evil. When Haverness starts a revolution, all the people who had long waited for something like that to happen, follow him.
- The Silmarillion:
- Melkor was the greatest of the Valar, and when he fell, he dragged a number of the Maiar with him.
- Fëanor. The most gifted, talented and intelligent of all Noldor, who rebelled after the theft of the Silmarils, and drew the Noldor - the High Elves - with him from the Undying Lands to Beleriand, Middle-Earth, to wage war against Morgoth.
- For a nation-wide example, Númenor was the greatest of the nations of Men and specifically chosen by the Elves and Valar for nurturing (because the ancestors of the Númenóreans fought for them against Morgoth). Then the Númenóreans tried to take over Valinor under the mistaken belief it would make them immortal...
- This is something of a running theme in Tolkien. In The Lord of the Rings, Saruman was the leader of the wizards and widely considered the greatest among them, but was also the only known member of that order to become corrupted. He attempts to take Gandalf with him, but Gandalf sees through him; he still manages to turn his home of Isengard into a major stronghold of evil.
- Inverted in Caro King's Seven Sorcerers. The Bogeyman Skerridge is the paragon of evil, the best bogeyman in employ of Strood, and one of the most ruthless. Then he develops second thoughts, and rebels against Strood, causing many of Strood's servants to defect as well.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire, Mance Rayder was known as one of the greatest of the Night's Watch. He eventually grew dissatisfied with the restrictions imposed on the Black Brothers and deserted, becoming the King Beyond The Wall, the ruler of the Free Folk, who are the Night's Watch's main enemies. The Free Folk are made of many, many bickering tribes, but they chose Mance as their leader because he was able to unite them under a single cause.
- Another historical example was Daemon Blackfyre, bastard son of Aegon the Unworthy and the causer of the so-called Blackfyre rebellion that tore Westeros in half. He was able to effectively contest for his trueborn brother Daeron's throne because he was seen as the greatest knight of his generation and given the Valyrian Steel sword Blackfyre by his father, whereas Daeron was a scholar with no warrior training.
Live Action TV
- In the TOS episode "Whom Gods Destroy", Starfleet's fleet commander, Captain Garth, was dismembered in an unspecific "accident" and restored to life by the aliens of Antos Four. The only piece they forgot to replace was his brain, and he tried to destroy the planet in a rampage (his crew refused to obey), restyling himself "Lord Garth of Izar".
- In Power Rangers S.P.D., A Squad, the top team of Rangers, join with Emperor Gruumm. The only explanation given for their decision is, in Red Ranger Charlie's words, "Everyone wants to be on a winning team."
- Makuta Teridax from BIONICLE was once the assigned protector of the island city Metru Nui, one of the most important places in his universe, a universe which he and his army once saved from ancient evil warlords. But owing to the Makuta race's powers being associated with darkness, and for doing tasks that most citizens took for granted (for example creating wildlife to preserve biodiversity, as opposed to performing heroic deed in public), they mostly got ignored by society, though still remained respected and thought of as protectors. Teridax, being fed up with this role, then turned into the story's Big Bad himself, taking all of his brethren with him — and executing or imprisoning those Makuta that didn't choose to follow.
Mythology and Religion
- The Bible:
- There's some confusion over whether or not this trope applies to the fallen angel Lucifer, who may or may not also be Satan. Some think that Lucifer was the greatest angel before he rebelled against God, but this is Word of Dante (or, rather, Word Of Milton) rather than Word Of God. In the actual text, Lucifer's rank is unmentioned, though no matter how you read the Bible he was no small fry on the Heavenly hierarchy.
- Averted with Archangel Michael, who is the greatest angel and The Paragon, and he never rebels against God.
- David is possibly a subversion when he was on the run from Saul, he pretended to serve the Philistines but was really attacking Israel's Enemies.
- Jack Pfefer in Illinois. A traveling promoter who helped launch the career of Buddy Rogers, who in turn brought an unprecedented amount of success to the Chicago territory when he was voted into an NWA World Heavyweight Championship match against Pat O'Connor in 1961. Not long after Pfefer was brought in and proceeded to run the territory in the ground by pushing poor man's versions of famous wrestlers, including what may have been a parody of one of the stars who helped the territory boom, "Bummy Rogers".
- In Warhammer Fantasy, the High Elven prince Malekith. Early in his life he was a paragon of virtue, an experienced and talented warrior and general, a philosopher, and a diplomat. He had the rare distinction (so rare that it made him almost unique) of being close friends with the Dwarfs, and was admired by pretty much everybody. Then, thanks in some part to an extremely ambitious and manipulative mother, he attempted to claim the Phoenix Crown and become king of the High Elves, but was deemed unworthy by the elven gods actually making that call, was horrifically burned in the process, and started a massive civil war over it. His followers became the Dark Elves.
- In Warhammer 40,000, Horus was the Warmaster of the Imperium and out of all the Primarchs, he was probably the one with the closest relation to the Emperor. He's also the person after which the Horus Heresy, the cataclysmic civil war that reduced the Imperium to the Crapsack state we all know and love, was named. Technically he wasn't the first Primarch to turn to Chaos (Lorgar turned before him, and orchestrated the corruption of Horus), but he was the one that caused half of the others to turn to his side and start the war.
- In a twist, Horus himself always considered Sanguinius to be the Paragon (and he was right). His fall was partly motivated by the feeling that he wasn't fit for the title of Warmaster with someone like that around.
- Lucifer in Demon: The Fallen was canonically the most powerful and wise of the Elohim, second only to God Herself. However, in this case, his "Face–Heel Turn" was not caused by suddenly growing evil but by him shifting priorities from loving God to loving humans, just as God ordered him in the first place. Of course, this being the World of Darkness, things get worse and Lucifer remains a Hero with Bad Publicity.
- In the Nentir Vale setting for Dungeons & Dragons, Asmodeus was the greatest angel leading the strongest army in the war between the gods and the primordials. However, after a while he stopped caring about the innocents that got between him and the enemy, and after arguing with his boss about it, was cast down. He then took a rod crafted of pure evil and struck down his master with it, but in doing so was imprisoned within his master's domain for all time, transforming it into the Nine Hells.
- In Exalted, in a rare moment this was actually a good thing from the perspectives of most mortals. The Unconquered Sun was created by the the Ebon Dragon to be The Paragon of virtue, since the Ebon Dragon can only exist in contrast to someone else. Since he's the Anthropomorphic Personification of dickery, he needed someone utterly pure and good to exist to define himself against. Somehow, he didn't foresee the god he created to personify (among other things) valor and conviction deciding that he couldn't allow Creation to be ruled by the Ebon Dragon and his fellow Primordials. Since most of those Primordials at best considered mortals useful power sources and at worst free will a mistake to be rectified, its easy to see how the Unconquered Sun convinced most of humanity to join the rebellion.
- The Gates Of Hell and other material by Dicefreaks feature at least three examples. Apollyon, who either fell with the main group of Fallen Angels or long before, was displeased at the Heaven's half measures, and so came to view all of creation as flawed and unworthy of existence; Eblis, the strongest of angels, became too proud and now seeks the destruction of Heaven, and Beelzebub, who was always viewed as the most perfect of angels, came to believe he needs to correct all else to match his own perfection.
- Henry "Hotspur" in Henry IV part 1. Probably the greatest fighter in England, Hotspur and his father were on Henry IV's side in Richard II, but become disillusioned sometime between the events of the two plays and rebel against the king. Notably, King Henry thought of Hotspur as the son he should have had (his own son, Hal, is a listless drunkard— although this turns out to be a massive case of Obfuscating Stupidity).
- This seems to be a running theme in the Mega Man meta-series:
- The original series has Dr. Albert Wily, a genius roboticist. Appropriately enough, his own greatest creation in this series, Bass, rebels against him. Quite a bit, in fact.
- Mega Man X has Sigma, once the greatest Maverick Hunter and protector of humanity. However, despite the atrocities he commits, his inclusion here is debatable; he's as much a victim of The Virus as a willful rebel.
- Commander Elpizo in Mega Man Zero 2 goes from being the champion of the free Reploids to opposing them when he becomes a Well-Intentioned Extremist out to utterly destroy Neo Arcadia and everyone in it.
- In Injustice: Gods Among Us apparently Superman turning evil is the only thing it takes to make most significant DC heroes follow him; Batman being the only exception.
- Big Boss is the Deconstructor Fleet version of this and numerous other tropes. A few of the games' other antagonists probably count as well, at least the ones who weren't always acting as The Mole.
- Final Fantasy I, Garland is the top knight in Cornelia, but turns evil and kidnaps their princess.
- Crisis Core has Angeal, Genesis and Sephiroth, the top-ranking SOLDIERs of Shinra who are famed and idolized worldwide. By the time the game is over all three of them have gone insane and betrayed the company, though Angeal's turn to darkness is a bit more complicated then Genesis or Sephiroth's.
- In Final Fantasy X, Seymour is a high-ranking Maester in the Church of Yevon, proposes to the main heroine and is polite and helpful. He's also totally insane, wants to kill everyone in Spira, and made his entire race Always Chaotic Evil. However, turns out all of Yevon's leaders except for Kelk Ronso are corrupt, as the Church of Yevon is a Path of Inspiration.
- Kelk Ronso was also corrupt, just to a lesser extent. After all, he did knowingly allow dead people to rule.
- In Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy, Lightning gets back to Order's Sanctuary to report that Kain is going around killing his allies off, only to find out that the Warrior of Light not only is in on Kain's plan, he tries to finish Lightning off himself. Doubly effective since his fighting style actually is "Paragon". Subverted though in that he and Kain are Well Intentioned Extremists who believe they're doing the right thing, and after a What the Hell, Hero? speech for the two of them they come to their senses.
- Larry Foulke, alias Solo-Wing Pixy, in Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War starts off as the Number Two in the best squadron of the entire Allied air force, but eventually grows disillusioned with the Allied strategy (his own Belkan heritage probably helps) and joins the terrorist organization A World With No Boundaries, eventually facing off against his former flight lead. Needless to say, that fight is so epic, they made an entire extra level just for the two of them.
- Saren Arterius in Mass Effect was considered one of the best Spectres before his Face–Heel Turn, and ends up dragging an Asari Matriarch, her commando team, and a large collection of corporate assets and various mercenary bands with him to help an abusive precursor destroy galactic society. It also makes the council and the other Spectres very reluctant to chase him down.
- Played with in Mass Effect 2, as while Commander Shepard can still be the Paragon, during the two years they were dead, they were subject to a massive smear campaign by the Council. Without being able to count on any official support to thwart the Collector's attacks, Shepard is forced to work with Cerberus, which unfortunately only solidifies the growing belief that they've gone rogue.
- Further compounded in the Arrival DLC, where Shepard is forced to detonate a Mass Relay and wipe out an inhabited star system to prevent the Reapers from gaining a beachhead. This leads to Shepard starting Mass Effect 3 in custody and about to be put on trial for War Crimes against the Batarians, when the Reapers finally invade Earth. Suffice to say, Shepard is quickly exonerated of their crimes and pressed back into service.
- In the Back Story of Knights of the Old Republic, Revan was an immensely gifted and charismatic jedi, who (along with his sidekick Alek who would face the same fate) inspired a number of others to join him in fighting the Mandalorians against the wishes of the Jedi Council. That was still rebellious action for a good cause, but the next thing you know, he had turned to the Dark Side, reforming the Sith order and trying to take over the Republic.
- In Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, the Exile, a Magnetic Hero if ever there were one, can become a Sith Lord. Depending on the strength of her relationships, she will drag her companions' alignment down too.
- The canonical light-sided Exile plays even more heavily with this trope. Despite breaking away from the Jedi to join Revan in fighting the Mandalorians and being responsible for ending the war by detonating a superweapon over Malachor V, they remained on the light-side and were the only one to return to face punishment from the Jedi Council after the end of the war. Furthermore, while the Exile accepted responsibility for disobeying the Council and being sentenced to exile, they refused to accept that they were wrong to stop the Mandalorians from taking over the galaxy and when asked to turn over their lightsaber, defiantly buried it into the stone in the middle of the Council Chambers before storming out.
- This trope has been so common in the Republic's early history that the Disciple comments that the Jedi teachings must have some kind of fundamental flaw, because it keeps happening. Remember that this is barely half a century after Exar Kun's war.
- Dragon Age: Origins gives us Teyrn Loghain, the kings commander and Fereldens national hero for driving out the Orlesians despite being a mere peasant. He goes on to abandon his king to his fate, the son of the man he fought beside during the war against Orlais, before usurping the throne and throwing Ferelden into chaos at the worst possible time. He did, however, truly believe he was right and that his detractors were wrong.
- A somewhat literal example lies in the story of Branka, the dwarf Paragon whose obsession with the Anvil of the Void led her to commit unforgivable atrocities. Although it is implied that she was a pretty bad person long before she found the Anvil. The Anvil just helped things along.
- The Dwarf Noble is another example of this. Due to being more popular than their elder sibling and heir-apparent, Trian, the Dwarf Noble was heavily pipped by the Assembly to be the child of King Endrin most likely to ascend to the throne of Orzammar after his death. Due to the machinations of their younger bother Bhelen however, the Dwarf Noble is either tricked into killing Trian directly or framed for his murder, earning them exile and certain death in the Deep Roads. Even after returning to Orzammar as a Grey Warden, the Dwarf Noble is derided as a kinslayer.
- Several sources cite Carmen Sandiego as one of these, having once been the best Acme agent in the world before growing bored with it and deciding becoming the criminals she was assigned to catch would be more of a challenge.
- In Star Wars: The Old Republic, this happens with Havoc Squad. It can also happen to Republic player characters who turn to the dark side.
- Republic players on Nar Shaddaa are sent into Shadow Town, an Imperial prison for war criminals, to free a legendary Jedi by the name of Ako Domi. Guess what they find.
- Garret from Thief was seen as the most promising Keeper acolyte of his generation. Naturally, he decided he'd rather use those skills for his own sake rather than the balance. Despite this he remains a (very reluctant) ally of the Keepers, which means they permit his freelance life because he keeps preserving the balance (unwillingly) at the cost of some nobles losing some gold every now and again. However, when interpreter Caduca is murdered in Deadly Shadows and Garret is pinned with the blame, the Keeper organisation essentially tears itself into pieces because so many within the organisation refuse to believe he did it. Ironically, he becomes the last true Keeper after he destroys Glyph magic.
- Super Robot Wars Original Generation subverts and later inverts this with Bian Zoldark. Originally one of The Federation best researchers and leaders, he went rogue along with many of their best pilots to form the Divine Crusaders and attempted a take-over. As it turns out though, he was actually more of a Well-Intentioned Extremist Anti-Villain who wanted to make sure Humanity had capable protectors against the Alien Invaders, whether it was his own team or anyone who managed to beat them. However, after he was killed by the Steel Dragon Battalion, most of his subordinates that don't join the Heroes suffer severe Motive Decay, forming the Neo-Divine Crusaders and later the Gaia Sabers and have remained a long-standing problem for the Heroes ever since.
- Garrosh Hellscream in World of Warcraft was viewed as the epitome of what a true Orc warchief should be: Cunning, brutal, aggressive, but not needlessly cruel. He loved the Horde and hated their enemies, but over time he began to believe that the Horde's purpose had been corrupted by the other races and Thrall's peace-making. When he descended into villainy many Orcs followed because they believed he still embodied those traits they admired.
- In Starcraft, Aldaris accuses Tassadar of being that. Of course, toward the end even he was forced to admit a mistake.
- The set-up for Halo 5: Guardians involves Master Chief and his Spartan Team going AWOL a personal mission against both the UNSC's and ONI's orders. ONI responds by declaring all of them traitors and sending Fireteam Osiris to arrest them. Downplayed though, as neither side is being particularly malicious (though ONI is, as usual, morally grey at best) and it's more that Chief doesn't trust anyone but himself to handle the Guardian threat especially since Cortana is behind it.
- Alpha in the Men in Black Animated Series was once The Men in Black's greatest agent, but went bad when he started adding alien parts to his body in a bid for power and immortality.
- Kyodai Ken in Batman: The Animated Series.
- In Codename: Kids Next Door, Numbuh 274 was The Ace of the organization. Then he frames our heroes (because Growing Up Sucks for the KND, and he's trying to hide the news of his thirteenth birthday) and very quickly becomes a recurring villain once the Revealing Cover-Up blows up in his face. Until it's revealed near the end that he was a Reverse Mole. However, he still plays this trope straight to an extent in that he genuinely hated Numbuh 1 because he was the better fighter.
- Deconstructed in ThunderCats (2011) with the character of Grune, who always wanted to rebel and become his kingdom's usurper due to his limitless ambition, and realized that becoming a paragon by rapidly working his way up the military ladder to General was the best way to succeed.
- Parodied in Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness where it turns out that, in each incarnation of the Furious Five, the strongest member has ALWAYS turned evil. This causes Po to worry that he's going to turn evil; and leaving to prevent himself from hurting anyone. Then he remembers he's not actually one of the Furious Five, and jokingly suggests that everyone should be more worried about Tigress instead.
- From The Life and Times of Juniper Lee, there was Kai Yee. Kai Yee was said to be the greatest Te Xuan Ze who ever lived and was renowned for his unparalleled skill and sense of duty towards maintaining the balance of magic. As a result of a seemingly endless life of battle, he decided to attempt to become a Magical Elder to control magic itself in order to better combat its forces. For his insubordination, he was sealed away in stone until he was later released and sealed away again by one of his successors, Juniper Lee.
- Inverted in Ever After High. The main conflict is initiated when Raven (one of the few genuinely feared 'villains', who is destined to become an Evil Sorceress of unparalleled power) decides not to follow her destiny. After she proclaims this publicly, about half the student body note follow her lead. The Headmaster's greatest concern is not that Raven is talking rebellion, but that people are listening to her.