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Evil Evolves

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"The Dark Arts are many, varied, ever-changing and eternal. Fighting them is like fighting a many-headed monster, which, each time a neck is severed, sprouts a head even fiercer and cleverer than before. You are fighting that which is unfixed, mutating, indestructible."
Professor Severus Snape, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

If the forces of evil didn't constantly mutate and get better at what they do (fight, steal, sabotage, blackmail, or whatever), the forces of good would've destroyed them eons ago. Simply put, evil, its shape, forms, powers and so on are dynamic, constantly changing and subject to survival of the fittest. This is what The Social Darwinist is talking about, and it's definitely what the Evilutionary Biologist is going to use against you. If you're lucky, they'll evolve according to a predictable pattern and you'll be able to anticipate any changes in tactics and equipment you'll need.

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Most bad guys are content to evolve by normal Darwinian means, but some guys like to eat things and absorb their DNA. Sometimes, there is an entire race of beings that can do this. And they all do. If you ever find a race like this, add them to the list of species that have gone extinct because of man by any means necessary. Trust us, no one will miss them.

While good guys in general view this as a cosmic cruelty, the hero with a Superpowered Evil Side will be thankful for this, as it will also make him subject to this evolution and therefore he will also constantly get stronger. However, that's not good news if your evil side is the type that tries to take over your mind.....

Sure, good will also change, but in a more 'upgrade' like fashion, giving the bad guys periods between upgrades, during which they have the edge.

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This trope presents an interesting inversion to the Sorting Algorithm of Evil. Compare Adaptive Ability, see also As Long as There is Evil. Contrast Evil Is Sterile.


Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Bleach: Hollows gain power by eating other hollows, and evolve through a distinct series of forms. Ichigo's inner hollow has also gotten more powerful between the instances we see him. Sosuke Aizen tried to weaponize this by fusing the Hogyoku to his chest and wishing it to evolve him into, as he put it, a "being that transcends Shinigami and Hollow". Fortunately, the Hogyoku didn't do what he thought it would.
  • Cells at Work!: In the flu arc influenza is depicted as a Zombie Apocalypse. Midway through the outbreak, the infected switch from Influenza-B (depicted as regular zombies) to Influenza-A, which sport a right arm mutated into a whip-like tentacle. Due to the T-cells' Crippling Overspecialization, this is a nasty problem.
  • D.Gray-Man: The Akuma have multiple evolutionary levels. The main character kills a level 1 Akuma in the first chapter. In an early arc two exorcists have trouble facing one level 2 Akuma. The heroes are now facing level 4 Akuma (albeit with difficulty). In the manga this is the explanation for the demons — they were creatures who absorbed other creatures, gaining more and more abilities while becoming more and more monstrous.
  • Dragon Ball: Frieza goes through three transformation sequences before reaching his ultimate form. Even then, he gets a power upgrade later on by becoming a cyborg, though this does surprisingly little good as he gets prompty curb stomped almost immediately afterward. On the absorption side of things, Cell and Buu (especially Buu) also qualify as this trope. Interestingly, in Buu's case, the last form fought was also its original one, making it an aversion, at least at the end.
  • Inuyasha: Naraku, the main villain, is constantly adding new demons to his body, which is the bodies of hundreds of demons thrown together in a blender and solidified.
  • Naruto:
    • While the Kyuubi isn't getting stronger, the seal holding him inside Naruto is getting weaker, and more and more tails pop out every time his power was used.
    • More overtly, there's the Juubi (Ten Tails). Before it is sealed into a Jinchūriki, it handily averts Bishounen Line, starting as a vaguely-humanoid statue before its awakening and becoming more monstrous and more destructive with each following transformation.
  • Tokyo Ghoul: Ordinary ghouls are dangerous enough that only the most badass humans wielding the bleeding edge technology weapons are able to stand against them. However, would one start to eat other ghouls bodies, they'd develop kakuja, an ability to form armor and enhance their already-existing biological weapons. It also makes them unable to control themselves until they'll eat enough ghoul meat to stabilize kakuja. Needless to say, besides one particular organization there are not that much people who like them among both humans and ghouls.

    Card Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering: The Phyrexians are constantly improving upon their mechanical fighters, and they recycle the flesh of fallen enemies to create new soldiers (called newts). You wouldn't even know that the first Phyrexian was a vanilla 0/3. New Phyrexia has moved past its original mono-black affinity and now has factions aligned with each of the colors. New Phyrexia now has a wider variety of abilities pertaining to each faction.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: The continual onslaught against the Worms served as a catalyst for their evolution, and new forms that could withstand the continual attacks began to appear as a result.

    Comic Books 
  • Marvel Universe: The Brood are giant wasp-like aliens. Their Queen lays eggs inside their victims, which keep their hosts alive until they hatch. When this happens, the host and the symbiote merge into a fully grown Brood with the host's special genetic abilities. The process is almost flawless, as the Queen was very surprised when Wolverine's Healing Factor kills the symbiote she implanted in him.
  • The DCU:
    • As a meta-example, many villains evolve throughout the decades to better reflect their adversaries and the time. Lex Luthor has gone from foreign dictator to insane scientist to politician to business man to reflect the changing views of society, and many of Batman's villains have ceased to be gimmicky tricksters and evolved into dark and insane psychopaths. In The Dark Knight, The Joker himself is described as a terrorist, playing on the recent fear of terrorism striking the west over the the last decade.
    • The Death of Superman: It's revealed that Doomsday has this as a superpower: he revives and evolves immune to anything that killed him before.
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    Fan Works 

    Film 
  • Batman Begins: Discussed when Jim Gordon mentions some of the advances Gotham's criminals have made to keep ahead of the police... and wonders what they'll become to counter Batman. He gets his answer one movie later.
  • In Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, the game morphs itself into a game cartridge when its latest potential victim ignores its board game form in favor of his gaming console.
  • Krampus: Implied. Along with versions of classic toys like a teddy bear, a jack in the box, and an angel doll, Krampus's helpers also include a modern-looking, electronic Killer Robot.
  • Pacific Rim: Kaijus adapt to counteract the Jaegers killing them, with each new kaiju to emerge from the rift being bigger, more intelligent and more dangerous than its predecessors, or sporting unique adaptions not seen on previous specimens.

    Literature 
  • Codex Alera: The Vord have an annoying habit of coming up with new forms to counter anything they're faced with.
  • Dreamers: The Vlagh is an insectoid Mother of a Thousand Young who is endlessly improving her designs, creating minions for specialized roles like infiltration and resolving weaknesses as she becomes aware of them. "Evil" being relative, since she's currently stuck in a wasteland and wants her children to enjoy the resources that those pesky humans have been hogging for themselves.
  • The Dresden Files: Older people and beings change less. Older wizards are more set in their ways, and the big supernatural baddies tend to be thoroughly old-school and anti change. As Harry explains to Butters when the ME finds "a knife wound, but bigger", the White Council is "old school. Really, really old school."
    • In the few aversions (Lara would be a monster/being aversion and Luccio is initially a partial aversion, but that turns out to be a big clue), it's always significant. Harry notes that he's often beat the monsters because he can change and they can't, and without that advantage...
    • Harry kills Duchess Arianna this way, as she couldn't adapt to the terms of the duel that limited her (otherwise very effective) tactics.
    • Not keeping up with things like GPS, gas stations (as combustible locations), kevlar, and other relatively mundane subjects have given Harry a vital edge on several occasions.
  • Harry Potter: Snape's introduction as a Defense against the Dark Arts professor refers to the Dark Arts as constantly evolving and adapting. As there are witches and wizards and the desire to do harm, there will always be just as much creativity into doing harm by experimenting with the laws of natures, exploring the limits of magic (which are only bound by the limits of mind) and inventing new spells as before. There is even an example of this in recent wizarding history. Before Voldemort came along, Grindelwald was considered the most dangerous wizard in existence (helped but not determined by the fact that he had the Elder Wand). In a way, the Dark Arts were like an Evil Power Vacuum, with a greater dark force replacing the one that fell and who took dark magic even further.
  • The Puppet Masters: The aliens are scary good at this. Since they can occupy and invade human minds, whatever adaptations humans make to combat them are quickly discovered, and the aliens immediately counter-adapt. It soon becomes clear that the more adaptable species is going to win, and the other is going to be extinguished.
  • Revenge of the Sith: In the novelization, Yoda's thoughts during his duel with Palpatine are shown to be his realisation that this is why the Sith have won; they had spent the last thousand years (starting with the institution of the Rule of Two) waiting and adapting to the changing Republic, until the moment was right to subtly install themselves in control, whereas the Jedi had not changed (and had probably become even more rigid in their conservatism and orthodoxy) and were essentially only suited for fighting the last war. This is why Yoda fled the battle and decided to do something more unconventional with regards to Luke.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who: The Krillitane absorb traits from species they conquer via DNA absorption.
  • Heroes: Sylar is obsessed with becoming the perfect being, which he seeks to accomplish by stealing abilities from other evolved humans.
  • Stargate SG-1: The Replicators do this several times through the series. When first encountered, they're just a Hive Mind of robotic bugs seeking out technology — dangerous, but not particularly ambitious. Later, they construct several human-form Replicators, which are made of nanites, capable of interfacing with human minds, much tougher to destroy, and much more forward-thinking. One of the human-forms, Fifth, begins developing human emotions as well, and develops a grudge against Carter and Earth and a desire to conquer the Milky Way. When the good guys attempt to evolve in turn — by developing a Wave-Motion Gun that destroys Replicators and leaves everything else intact — the Replicators reprogram themselves with an immunity.
  • Star Trek: The Borg build their entire existence around assimilating other species and adapting their biology and technology to improve themselves.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Evolution is fair part of the hat of the Tyranids. They evolve very rapidly, but there are special creatures called norn queens in the hive fleets, which (aside from controlling their reproductive processes) analyses the DNA of organisms from a recently consumed planet for useful adaptations to incorporate into the next generation of gruesome gribblies in the fleets production chambers. One notable incident is a minor fleet being halted over a Tau world because the Tau were doing exactly the same thing: studying the organisms brought to attack, and changing their loadouts to whatever worked best against it.
    • A good part of the Mechanicus believes that all knowledge was once held by mankind, and seeking to discover things on one's own instead of recreating it from Standard Template Constructs is heresy. The Dark Mechanicus are those who've fallen to Chaos and started experimenting, resulting in things like giant demonic centaur tanks with guns for heads.
    • There is a being that represents every sentient being's desire for things to change. That embodiment is Tzeentch, the ever-changing Chaos god of mutants, sorcerers, traitors and backstabbers and one of the greatest evils in a galaxy that has no shortage of evil. Ironically, he may also be a good part of the reason why Status Quo Is God, up until recently — he is fueled by the process of change as much as the result of it and for all his intricate schemes, all of them are doomed to fail because should one of them succeed, he may well go in a Puff of Logic.

    Video Games 
  • Body Harvest: The Bugs invade Earth four times over a hundred-year-period, facing the time-traveling human super soldier Adam Drake five times. In each new time period their forces have mutated to become more developed and stronger than in previous eras despite their failure to harvest enough human DNA.
  • Dragon Quest IV: Psaro uses the secret of evolution changing his body to be like Estark and gain more power.
  • Gemcraft: The Demons start out as merely annoying, but as you clear more sectors they gain abilities such as attacking your orb directly, slowing down your spells' recharge time, spawning and reinforcing monsters, and so on. They even retain all of their abilities if you meet one by replaying a previous level.
  • Overlord: This trope is central to the mythology of the series. As Gnarl tends to point out, "Evil always finds a way."
  • Resident Evil: The constantly evolving enemies are a trademark of the games, probably best reflected by the boss of Resident Evil 2, the G-Mutant, aka Birkin. Every time you defeat him he just evolves into his next form, so you have to "kill" him about a half dozen times in just as many forms.
  • Spyro: Year of the Dragon: The Sorceress' plans to get rid of Spyro get increasingly devious, from sending increasingly bigger and deadlier monsters at him to attempting to destroy the eggs just so he can't save all of them to having a factory created to make an army of robot bugs just to get rid of Sparx so Spyro will lack protection.
  • Starcraft: Fittingly for a race inspired by the Tyranids, the Zerg are constantly enhancing their abilities and expanding their ranks via the DNA of other races.
  • Star Ocean: The Last Hope: The Grigori advance evolution in order to create a singularity. One of their targets, the Cardianon, evolved from lizard beasts to a space-faring race in only 200 years, at the cost of being obligatorily Always Chaotic Evil because they never developed a full conscience.
  • Warning Forever has an enemy ship that constantly grows according to how you destroyed it last time. Attacked from behind? It grows more armor on its back. Attacked from the side? Same thing. Hit it from a blind spot? It grows a missile launcher. And it never ends.
  • X-Men 2: Clone Wars: The Brain Child clone boss morphs from its default form into one of the common enemies into one of the tougher enemies, and then into a hideous living tank that Turns Red and chases the player all around the screen.

    Western Animation 
  • Jackie Chan Adventures: This principle is stated at the end of the first season, when Uncle explains that destroying one evil will allow a stronger one to come into the world. This may be why most evil beings are sealed away instead of simply being killed off.
  • Legion of Super-Heroes: After his apparent death, Brainiac takes on a new, seemingly partially organic form and proclaims that "evil does not die. It evolves."
  • Wolverine and the X-Men: The Sentinels in the Bad Future have apparently come down with a case of jealousy toward their Mutant enemies, and have begun trying to copy their powers. The only examples seen are one Sentinel using telekinesis, and a whole line of Sentinels based on Wolverine, healing factor included.

    Real Life 
  • Crackers. Every time companies come out with new ways to prevent theft, the crackers just try again and get sneakier.
  • All serious criminals are like this. Gangs, conmen, forgers, embezzelers, launderers and so on. As the police learn new ways to track, stop and prevent their activities they learn a dozen new tricks.

 
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