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Adaptational Villainy / Comic Books

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  • Alan Moore is willing to use this trope when adapting pre-existing works:
  • In the The Mighty Thor comics, Loki is generally depicted as an evil god (though some individual writers have made him more of an Anti-Villain), but in the original Norse mythology he's a much more ambiguous figure, usually taking the role of The Trickster.
    • He himself noticed this and killed himself in the Siege to change. His success is... ambiguous, but he managed to not go back to straight up villainy for years until 2016 where he joined a team of Asgardian villains.
  • Batman and Red Hood are usually heroes. In Gotham City Garage, Bruce Wayne is Lex Luthor's chief enforcer and Jason Todd leads a road gang.
  • House of M:
    • Shang-Chi is the leader of a Chinatown street gang and seeks to rebuild his deceased father's criminal empire (in contrast to the mainline continuity, where he opposed his father's evil activities and thwarted them whenever possible). He eventually comes around, though, and acts as an ally to Luke Cage's Avengers.
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    • Thunderbird was already portrayed as a hothead in the mainstream X-Men comics, but this version of the character is a Rabid Cop and Fantastic Racist who hates humans. He's willing to go to extremely shady lengths to take down Luke Cage's Human Resistance Movement, including using Police Brutality, allying himself with a murderous gangster like The Kingpin, and even performing an outright purge of a human neighborhood. His actions eventually prove to be too much even for Magneto, who has him placed on unpaid suspension.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Played with in the case of the Greek gods and goddesses in the comic. A number of them started out as Lighter and Softer than they were in Greek Mythology. However, Ares, the God of War, is portrayed as so dangerous and Too Powerful to Live that Wonder Woman has to actually kill him in at least one adaptation. Ares in the Greek myths, although The Berserker and ironically a bit of a Dirty Coward, looked after his kids and was worshipped like the other gods. However, the more recent Wonder Woman stories have taken to portraying the pantheon as somewhere closer to what they were like in mythology.
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    • Since its change from Paradise Island to Themyscira the Amazon homeland has always had its share of misandrists and Straw Feminists, but their attitude gradually descended over the years from an isolationist community serving as a refuge for women, to having a few bad apples, to having a legit excuse for hating and fearing men (being the spirits of women who were murdered by abusive spouses), to the New 52, where they have truly become evil, raping and murdering men in order to reproduce and engaging in child slave trading. Most fans were furious. The New 52 explanation has been retconned away with DC Rebirth by revealing that everything Diana knew of them was actually a lie.
    • Heracles in the modern adaptation is portrayed as a villain who raped Hippolyta (instead of just seducing her). He becomes The Atoner, however.
    • Ironically, in the New 52 Wonder Woman series, Ares (only referred to as "War") is one of the few Olympians who isn't somewhat villainous. The most villainous of the Olympians is Apollo, one of the most noble Olympian gods in the original mythology.
    • Cottus, one of the Hekatonkheires, is a major enemy of Wonder Woman and a frighteningly powerful Person of Mass Destruction. In mythology, he and his brothers allied with the Olympians against the Titans and he was their jailer in Tartarus.
    • The New 52 version of Donna Troy was never Wonder Girl and was created as a murderous misandrist to lead the Amazons in slaughtering their male offspring. This change was undone in Wonder Woman (Rebirth) and Titans (Rebirth) where its revealed her mind was tampered with and her past as Wonder Girl did really occur.
    • In Wonder Woman (1987) Dr. Leslie Anderson spoke out against her friend Veronica Cale's questionable opinions, and once she realized her friend was a villain left to tell Wonder Woman what she'd learned and ally with her. In Wonder Woman (Rebirth) Cale is given much more sympathetic motivations so Dr. Anderson never leaves her side and dies fighting Wondy.
    • In The Legend of Wonder Woman Antiope is Spared by the Adaptation at the cost of becoming a villain instead of being the Amazon to lead those who could not accept the god's biased judgement of their actions in killing the men who drugged, raped and enslaved them and instead chose to remain mortal and abandon the gods like main DC counterpart.
  • Ultimate Marvel: Has its own page.
  • Similar to her Ultimate incarnation above, the Marvel 1602 version of Black Widow, turns out to be a reversal of her original counterpart, only in this case, she's a double agent for Count Otto von Doom.
    • There's also the 1602 version of Bruce Banner, who's presented as an Evil Chancellor with Undying Loyalty towards King James I and willingly assists in his goal of arresting Nick Fury and the "witchbreed" mutants for "treason." However, at the climax, he does risk his life to save Peter Parquaugh in a similar fashion to the way he became the Hulk in the original comics by saving Rick Jones.
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe: John Rockerduck is portrayed as a Corrupt Corporate Executive in several stories but he was by no means this or any other kind of villain in the only story his creator Carl Barks used him in.
  • The New 52 (as with the Wonder Woman examples above, many of these were reversed by DC Rebirth):
    • Mr. Freeze, who has been revised to be less of an Anti-Villain. He's still out to cure his frozen wife Nora - but this is a lie. Nora was preserved long before Freeze was even born, he's just deluded himself into believing they're married as part of his obsession with cold. Of course, the antivillain version of Freeze in the first place was based off of his alternate portrayal in Batman: The Animated Series. The original Freeze, from the Silver Age, lacked any such humanizing qualities, being an unrepentant villain who uses a cold theme.
    • In Aquaman, Vulko has undergone a Face–Heel Turn, due to bitter exile.
    • The Creeper, formerly a Good Counterpart to The Joker as well as an alter ego of Jack Ryder, was brought back in Katana as an oni who seems to want to haunt Ryder.
    • In the original Batman comics, Francine Langstrom was the long-suffering wife of Kirk Langstrom/Man-Bat, whose occasional bouts of being She-Bat were either against her will or out of a desire to keep her family together, and she generally had more control than Kirk did. The New 52 version is an industrial spy who only married Kirk to steal the Man-Bat formula, and who based her own version of the serum on a vampire bat, making her much more vicious than Kirk is..
    • In the New 52 Teen Titans, Raven is a willing servant of her father, the demon Trigon, and is using the Titans as part of a thus-far undisclosed plan; Superboy is a living weapon who doesn't really "get" morality (and was later replaced by a full-blown murderous psychopath); Cassie/Wonder Girl is a thrill-seeking cat burglar; and Bart/Kid Flash is a former terrorist leader (albeit against a really horrible-seeming regime). Tim/Red Robin is a bit of a jerk as well.
    • In the original New Gods, the good gods of New Genesis were the creative free-will of chaos, and the evil gods of Apokolips were the stifling controlling forces of order. In the New 52 version (as seen in Infinity Man and the Forever People and Green Lantern: Godhead) they both represent order and control, with Highfather as a Well-Intentioned Extremist, who may be just as much a threat to humanity as Darkseid.
  • Geppetto and Goldilocks in Fables. In their respective stories, Geppetto is a benevolent, fatherly figure while Goldilocks is nothing more than a harmless, if annoying, intruder. In the comics, on the other hand:
    • Gepetto is "The Adversary", the vicious tyrant who has crushed thousands of fantasy worlds and murdered billions, all in the name of peace.
    • Goldilocks is a vicious rabble-rousing anarchist who stirs up revolution just for the fun of seeing people fighting.
    • Hansel, one of the protagonists of his fairy tale, grows up to become a sadistic witch-hunter and Fantastic Racist who, among other heinous acts, murders his own sister.
    • In Snow White's backstory, the seven dwarfs were abusers and rapists who treated her like a slave.
    • Dorothy Gale appears in the spin-off Cinderella: Fables Are Forever and is portrayed as a Psycho for Hire who considers her old friends expendable.
  • IDW Publishing has done this with quite a few characters in their take on the Transformers: Generation 1 mythos.
    • The Transformers: All Hail Megatron downplays this with a look into Prowl's character. While Prowl is normally a "good" if somewhat stuck-up bot of logic and intelligence, here he's more of a Well-Intentioned Extremist. He does numerous unethical things, like messing with minds and destroying evidence of Autobot war-crimes, all to preserve the dignity of their faction. He's also willing to deflect suspicion, blackmail, and conspire to make WMDs all for the sake of the Autobot cause. Prowl did suffer from a bit of Depending on the Writer though, as he was also written as a selfless good guy in The Transformers (IDW) while at the same time being a schemer in The Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers. He eventually reverted to an Unscrupulous Hero with The Transformers: Robots in Disguise.
    • Spike Witwicky in The Transformers is nothing like his G1 cartoon predecessor. While in the G1 cartoon, he is undoubtedly a good guy and aids the Autobots, in the comic, he is an utter jerk to many and has a more sinister, hidden goal for aiding the Autobots.
    • Overlord in Masterforce had him as a Proud Warrior Race Guy, and honorable enough to turn on his evil boss and help the heroes. His appearance in the Classics community had him as a straight up villain, and Decepticon conqueror. All of them pale in comparison to his appearance in The Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers (and later More Than Meets The Eye), where he is the Big Bad, and one of the most depraved Decepticons ever. He murders populations of creatures, pits Autobot prisoners against each other and his own troops for his amusement, and then executes all of them so they can't be rescued.
    • The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye does this to Star Saber. In the Victory cartoon, he is a squeaky-clean hero a la Optimus Prime. The IDW comic turns him into a religious fanatic who once called for an atheist Holocaust. He works for the Big Bad to bring about the end of all artificially-built Transformers, including his Good Counterpart, Dai Atlas, whom he had religious disagreements with. This is a carry-over from the author's days in the Transformers UK fandom, where his stories portrayed Star Saber as a fascist.
    • IDW's version of Rattrap, particularly in Windblade, but also present in Robots in Disguise. His Beast Wars counterpart was a Jerk with a Heart of Gold who could be counted on to do the right thing, albeit complaining all the while. IDW's version? A selfish, backstabbing, amoral creep who plays The Starscream to Starscream himself.
    • The Transformers: Punishment gave this treatment to Sandstorm. In the cartoon Sandstorm was a pacifist who's planet was dragged into the conflict. He was quick to befriend people and even palled around with the Decepticon traitor Octane for a time. Most comics place him as a member of the Wreckers, a crack team of Autobot elite soldiers; not a pacifist anymore but not a full on villain. In Punishment he's the Big Bad of the story; having finally snapped in the post war peace he becomes a serial killer hunting down Autobots and Decepticons accused of war crimes, including the Dinobots, and burning them to death.
    • Zig-Zagged with Getaway; he’s still an Autobot in this continuity and genuinely believes in the cause... it’s just that this version of him is also an amoral Knight Templar who’s willing to manipulate and kill others for the sake of the cause.
    • Subverted with Onyx Prime, who initially seems like he’s been reimagined as a Jerkass God, until it’s revealed that he’s actually Dead All Along. The real Onyx was good guy like usual, but was murdered and replaced by Shockwave in a Stable Time Loop.
    • Sentinel Prime is usually a Jerkass, but most versions (even the explicitly villainous one from the movies) would stop well short of the one in the IDW series, who wants to kill almost everyone on Cybertron for having the "wrong" altmode or coming from a colony or having a Decepticon badge.
  • Baron Karza in the Marvel Micronauts comic books is the Big Bad of the "Homeworld" sector of Microverse. The toy line gave little to no characterization of the various figures. In the toyline, he was described as the rival to Force Commander but he was also one of a number of assorted Magno figures of a similar theme. There were also other European release only characters such as Green Baron and King Atlas. All of these characters were lesser nobles under a figure named Red Falcon who was the right hand of an Emperor Megas. In the toyline, Karza seemed to be evil by default because of color coding and because Karza bore a passing resemblance to another armored villain from a then recent very popular space fantasy movie. But we don't know for sure if he was the worst of the worst, especially since Megas does an even better job at the passing resemblance.
  • Wonder Dog in Superfriends is a cute, Scooby-Doo-like mascot. Wonder Dog in the DC comics is a hellhound belonging to Ares' son who disguised himself as a normal dog, killed Marvin, and paralyzed Wendy, carrying out his master's desires to target Wonder Girl. He ended up getting killed by the Teen Titans in the end.
    • In his cameo in the Justice League episode "Ultimatum" he's portrayed similarly as a beast.
  • IDW's Star Trek: Countdown To Darkness, set in the Alternate Reality between Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Into Darkness features the new timeline's version of the original Enterprise's first captain in the prime reality, Robert April. He Face–Heel Turns into a rogue Anti-Villain, hijacking the new Enterprise in order to save an alien species from extinction.
  • Marvel Noir has some cases, most notably the X-Men, who, in this timeline, aren't mutants, but sociopaths– and Jean Grey killed Rogue. Professor X himself is the Big Bad of the sequel miniseries.
    • In Wolverine Noir, the Big Bad is Rose, from Wolvie's mini Origin.
    • In Spider-Man: Noir, Curt Connors is a Nazi-sympathetic scientist and assistant to Doctor Octopus who remorselessly experiments on humans, very different from his mainstream comics counterpart, who is generally a good guy when he isn't having Superpowered Evil Side issues.
  • In Threeboot Legion Of Superheroes, White Witch, Polar Boy and Chlorophyll Kid (as Plant Lad) are all members of the Wanderers, which is an antihero version of the Legion of Super-Villains, a bit like the Light Speed Vanguard in the cartoon. In the original continuity, White Witch is a Legionnaire, and Polar Boy and Chlorophyll Kid are founders of the Legion of Substitute Heroes.
  • In Noob, the comic version of Donteuil in regards to the webseries one. When that fact that Fantöm's avatar was illegally enhanced gets revealed in the webseries, Judge Dead is the one who decides to blame the whole thing on its Locked Out of the Loop victim. A couple of webseries scenes give the impression that Donteuil has a My God, What Have I Done? feeling towards the victim in question and it's via Donteuil that the audience eventually finds out that the victim's situation isn't as bad as it first looked. In the comic, Donteuil seems to be the one who decided to pull the "blame the victim" move, while the "situation not as bad as it first looked" reveal comes from a Fictional Document that gets no mention in the webseries, provided by someone else than Donteuil.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (IDW) 2014 Holiday Equestria Girls Special, the Cutie Mark Crusaders hit this big time as the human version of "Ponyville Confidential" turns quite dark as this version of their gossip column, Anon-A-Miss, was done not out of being blackmailed, but because Applebloom grew jealous of Applejack's time with Sunset Shimmer and the others followed along with her.
  • The Greater-Scope Villain in Nextwave is Devil Dinosaur. Usually a heroic character, he's now an Omnicidal Maniac in charge of a massive terrorist organization, killed and ate his partner Moon Boy (who is also abusive here), and he can also speak. When the events of Nextwave became part of mainstream Marvel continuity, they were both naturally revealed to be evil clones. All Played for Laughs, of course.
  • The Multiversity:
  • Played With in Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam: when Freddy first shows up, he blames Captain Marvel for his disability and originally gains superpowers as Black Adam's sidekick. Of course, within a few issues he realizes that was a bad idea and defects for the Marvel Family.
  • In Superman Family Adventures, Lor-Zod was raised by his villainous parents and works with them. In pre-Flashpoint mainstream comics he gets adopted by Superman and Lois Lane, renamed "Chris Kent" and becomes a superhero himself. Superman (Rebirth) makes the SFA version canon.
  • Supergirl: Supergirl's father Zor-El was a decent, nice person and a good father in the original pre-Crisis continuity. Post-Crisis he was briefly portrayed as a paranoid lunatic defined by his jealousy of Jor-El, who turned Kara into a weapon, but that got retconned as a halucination. In the New 52 universe and Supergirl (Rebirth) he took part in the creation of world-killing biological weapons and became the villainous Cyborg Superman.
  • Jem and the Holograms: Zig-zagged with Clash. She outright tries to murder Jem (or at least seriously hurt her). In the cartoon she never did anything besides try and get her band embarrassed or make them fail. Even The Misfits don't want to discuss what Clash did. However, outside of that, she's not violent or any meaner than usual.
  • Afterlife with Archie:
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics):
    • Sonic the Comic:
      • Chaos, who is depicted as a transformed and already villainous Drakon Prosecutor with no sympathetic backstory or clear motivation. In Sonic Adventure, he is a mutated Chao who was previously peaceful, only turning violent when all of his Chao friends were massacred by the Knuckles Tribe, under the leadership of Chief Pachacamac. Tikal the Echidna, who Chaos tortures in the comic, was his friend in the game, and the two leave in peace after Chaos is calmed down.
      • Robotnik himself, while still maintaining some of his comical pathos from the games, is far more evil and void of redeeming aspects, gaining a similar dictator role as his Sonic the Hedgehog (SatAM) and Underground counterpart, then he becomes even worse than his game incarnation by trying to destroy Mobius outright.
      • Super Sonic is a psychopath - in the games, he was an alternate form of Sonic as opposed to a full-blown Split Personality (and a nasty one at that).
  • Laff-A-Lympics: Dread Baron was already a villain in the cartoon but he never tried to double-cross any of his own teammates there. In "The Meet at Mount Ono", when he finds out the Laff-a-Lympic officials placed a chest full of money at the top of the titular mount to be shared among the members of the team that wins the climbing contest, he tries to take the money for himself and isn't above endangering the life of the Rotten athlete originally chosen to represent his team during the contest.
  • Many of the Marvel characters unambiguously on the side of good that were featured in Ruins who weren't killed by the accidents that gave them their powers are portrayed in a far more sinister light, the most jarring examples including Professor X being a corrupt President of the United States who imprisons and mutilates mutants rather than the benevolent leader of the X-Men and Captain America's ally Nomad being a Nazi sympathizer.
  • In The Flash: Rebirth, Professor Zoom is delighted to learn that one of the differences between the history of this Flash and the one he's familiar with is that Barry's future children, Don and Dawn, become villains because he was never there for them. In the previous continuity, they were the heroic Tornado Twins.
  • A staple of DC Comics' Hanna-Barbera Beyond line, since the franchise is basically grimmer takes on old Hanna-Barbera properties. To wit:
  • In The Dark Tower novels, John Farson is an ambiguous figure who never appears on the page. He's responsible for the destruction of Gilead... but his numerous followers call him The Good Man, and for all we know he may have had legitimate grievances with the gunslingers. In the comics, we actually get to see him, and he's a psychopathic tyrant who decapitates prisoners to play baseball with their heads.
  • Amalgam Universe:
    • Cable and Manhunter are both heroes in their respective universes, but become the villainous mercenary Wired.
    • Deathlok (a cyborg who, in every iteration, wishes to break free of his killing machine programming) and Jason Todd (the then-thought-dead Robin, whose Red Hood Anti-Villain days wouldn't be for another nine years) are merged into a ruthless cyborg HYDRA agent.
    • Mr. Freeze lacks the redeeming qualities he has in the comics, due to being merged with Nazi scientist Wolfgang von Strucker.
  • The basic theme of Michael Cray is Cray hunting down the Wild Storm universe counterparts of the Justice League, who are all complete monsters. Oliver Queen became obsessed with survival on the island and now hunts people to see if they deserve to live; Barry Allen is a paranoid lunatic with a Split Personality who uses his Super Speed to murder anyone working to develop Artificial Intelligence; Arthur Curry is a mutant fish monster and lawyer-friendly equivalent of Dagon; John Constantine is a sociopathic dark wizard and even more of a prick than his mainstream equivalent; and Diana Prince is a Corrupt Corporate Executive and religious zealot planning to unleash the Old Gods on the world who gets her powers from LexCorp experimental super-steroids.
  • The Heroes Reborn version of Mantis retroactively counts as this, as while it was reflective of her status in The Crossing as someone who decided to join Kang, Crossing!Mantis was revealed to be a Space Phantom and not the real Mantis in Avengers Forever.
  • Spider-Men II picks up where the original left in regards to Peter finding out about Miles Morales's counterpart in the mainline universe—a friend and former ally of The Kingpin back before Fisk did his coup against Don Rigoletto.
  • Pre-Crisis Superman comics would see Morgan Edge as a ruthless businessman, but was overall a Benevolent Boss to his employees, though a clone impersonating him did have ties to Intergang and Darkseid. Post-Crisis, Edge was a Corrupt Corporate Executive with genuine ties to Intergang.
  • Batman: Thrillkiller:
    • Two-Face in the mainstream continuity was ultimately a tragic figure who was constantly trying and failing to reform. His counterpart Duell is a Dirty Cop racketeer who ends up becoming Bianca Steeplechase's first Dragon and has zero redeeming qualities.
    • Killer Croc may be a violent criminal, but he's never been the bodyguard to a Nazi.
    • At the time of the comic's release, Harley Quinn was still a villain and Joker's gleeful sidekick in the mainstream continuity, but her tragic elements are omitted in this canon.
  • Batman: Damned, a sequel to the Joker comic, reveals the nastiest depiction of Bruce Wayne's family this side of the Telltale Games adaptation. Thomas Wayne is a shameless philanderer who picks up women in young Bruce's presence and threatens to divorce Martha when she confronts him on it. Martha, in response, hires a hitman to have Thomas assassinated so she can get the Wayne fortune before the divorce is finalized - the implication being that the hitman was Joe Chill. No wonder Batman is even more messed up here than his mainstream depiction.
  • Catwoman: Guardian of Gotham: In a world where Catwoman and Batman have switched places, with the former becoming a vigilante superhero after her wealthy parents were killed, you'd think Batman would be a mere Gentleman Thief who often flirts with the female protagonist... he's more of a deranged Serial Killer who murders the Joker in his first scene before offing the rest of Catwoman's Rogues Gallery to prevent them from stealing his spotlight. He's also revealed to be the one to have killed Selina Kyle's parents For the Evulz. The whole Dating Catwoman angle is invoked when Bruce seduces and marries Selina, then murders her best friend before trying to kill her as well.
  • Vampirella:
    • Very explicitely Pantha in the 2018 run (although she never was a nice kitty in the first place).
    • Vampirella herself in more... non-legit... works, where she usually is an evil vampire rather than a Friendly Neighborhood Vampire. (Probably not a good example, as this more falls under Critical Research Failure or even Couldn't Care Less.)
  • Muppet Sherlock Holmes gives this treatment to Irene Adler (portrayed by Miss Piggy), who at the end of the series is revealed to actually be the adopted sister of Professor Moriarty (portrayed by Uncle Deadly) conspiring with her brother to do away with Sherlock Holmes (portrayed by Gonzo).
  • G.I. Joe: Reloaded had Duke turn out to be a traitor planted into the Joes by Cobra.

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