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A boy and his future self.

"A child is born to innocence. A child is drawn towards good. Why then do so many among us go so horribly wrong? What makes some walk the path of darkness, while others choose the light? Is it will? Is it destiny? Can we ever hope to understand the force that shapes the soul?"
Heroes
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Nobody is born evil (well, except maybe the Enfant Terrible). Something usually happened to push a villain down the path to villainy. And hey, mightn't that make an interesting story?

Thus, we have the Start of Darkness, an Origins Episode focusing on the main antagonist from the original story and how they got to that point.

This, naturally, is especially common with Fallen Heroes, who usually get a Downer Ending where they lose faith in themselves and/or humanity. This will be especially poignant if they Used to Be a Sweet Kid (see also: Freudian Excuse). They don't need to be though, they just need to have had a moment in their lives, where they didn't ruin lives and haven't yet made choices that hurt others. Details of a usually (but not always) Dark and Troubled Past may be revealed.

Keep in mind that the reasons aren't always good ones, if there is such a thing as a good reason for turning evil.

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Much of the plot is often a Foregone Conclusion, often ending in The Bad Guy Wins or Pyrrhic Villainy; many characters are Doomed by Canon, which may require a full Kill 'Em All to explain why they don't show up in the original work. May include a Bloodbath Villain Origin to signal the first emergence of the character's villainous side.

Badly executed, this can be a part of a Badass Decay.

Please note that this is about prequels and flashbacks that show a major villain's reasons for turning evil. If this is the subject of the main plot, you're watching a Protagonist Journey to Villain.

Subtrope of Face–Heel Turn, which is when a good guy turns bad. Compare Big Bad Slippage, where the Start of Darkness happens in the main story rather than in a prequel. Contrast Diabolus ex Nihilo, when the villain's backstory is pointedly left absent. See Ambiguous Start of Darkness for when it's unclear when it was.

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The Trope Namer is The Order of the Stick prequel Start of Darkness (see "Web Comics"), whose title is itself referring to the 1899 Joseph Conrad novel Heart of Darkness, which tells the story of the protagonist's journey down the Congo river to rescue the mysterious Mr. Kurtz, an experience that changed his entire outlook on life for the worse.

Needless to say, this being a Prequel trope: Spoilers Ahead!


Examples:

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    Audio Plays 
  • Yet another Start of Darkness for the Master in the Big Finish Doctor Who audio drama Master. Apparently, it all goes back to when he and the Doctor were at the Academy, and he killed an older boy who was tormenting them. This isn't what happened. The Doctor killed the boy and then made a deal with Death for the guilt to be transferred to his friend.
  • The spinoff audio drama series I, Davros shows the early life of everyone's favorite Dalek creating Mad Scientist. Interesting in that he isn't given any Freudian Excuse, and you don't gain any sympathy for him, just understanding.

    Comic Books 
  • X-Men:
    • Magneto has had a truly long and harrowing SOD that was revealed in snippets throughout the years following his debut. It would be truly over-the-top if everything about it wasn't mostly grounded in reality. It's also far too long to fully recount here, but let's just say that it isn't too surprising that someone who witnessed first hand the evils of Nazi Germany, the Holocaust (as a Jew not only sent to Auschwitz but forced to be a Sonderkommandonote ), the Soviet Union, and Red Scare-stricken America while losing his whole family, a girlfriend, a wife, and a daughter along the way as well as finding out he's a mutant in the Marvel Universe would end up a Well-Intentioned Extremist. And if that wasn't bad enough, he kept running into more Nazis during the postwar but pre-X-Men period when he and Charles Xavier became friends in Israel.
    • After decades of speculation, First X-Men showed readers Sabretooth's start of darkness. While Victor Creed was never that nice a guy, what finally pushed him over the edge into full-blown villain territory was the death of his girlfriend Holo. Holo was a member of a ragtag rebel band of mutants that Wolverine and Creed had put together, and after a while, Creed wanted the two to throw a Screw This, I'm Outta Here! before the final fight to keep Holo safe, but she would not have it. Sure enough, she dies. What probably made it worse is that, while she was dying, she used her powers to show Creed the life they could've had, with the two growing old and happy together, before cutting the illusion to reveal that she was in fact mortally wounded. Creed ends up blaming Logan, and to this day, makes it a tradition to kill any woman Logan is involved with.
    • Madelyne Pryor was originally a pilot who ran into Scott Summers after the death of Jean Grey, and caught his attention because she looked exactly like Jean. After a fairly long run with the X-Men and a stable relationship with Scott that resulted in the birth of Nathan Summers (a.k.a. Cable), Madelyne discovered two things in rapid succession that had a major effect on her; first, that she was a clone of Jean Grey created by Mr. Sinister to bear Scott's child so that he (Sinister) could have a weapon to defeat his nemesis Apocalypse, and second, that Jean was still alive and that Scott had left her to go find her and return to the X-Men. This was combined with her house being invaded by Sinister, her son being kidnapped, her being shot, and a dream that involved Scott stealing all of her facial features to create Jean, then leave with their baby, and leaving a faceless, mouthless Madelyne to walk through a desert until she ran into a demon that offered her a Deal with the Devil. Thinking (or hoping) that it was All Just a Dream, Madelyn agreed... and was promptly subjected to Demonic Possession, leading to the events of Inferno. Oh, and afterwards her son was sent into the future, and came back as an adult, meaning she missed most of his life. She never really recovered. Being resurrected by as a psychic vampire by an alternate counterpart of said son, Nate Grey, did not help.
    • Professor X has had problems with suppressing his emotions and ending up creating a Superpowered Evil Side, but the most famous instance, Onslaught, has his roots in Fatal Attractions, when Magneto was at his most violent, Illyana Rasputin "died" due to the Legacy Virus, and Colossus had a brief Heel–Face Turn as a result of the fight breaking out at Illyana's funeral. After Magneto rips out Wolverine's adamantium and nearly kills him doing so, Xavier had enough and Mind Rapes Magneto — but in the moment, a piece of Magneto's mind attached itself to Xavier's, causing the seed of what's become Onslaught. The final push for Onslaught came in the X-Men: Prime one-shot that restored things to normal after the Age of Apocalypse event, when a mutant was murdered by a mob right outside of Salem Center and Xavier in astral form was there to see it happen.
  • Arawn is a whole comic about how the titular protagonist became an Evil Overlord after his friends and family's betrayal and the loss of the women he loved.
  • The DC Comics storyline Armageddon 2001 had Matthew Ryder become the hero Waverider to go back to the past to hunt down the superhero who would turn evil, wipe out the heroes and take over the world. We later learn, in something of a Stable Time Loop, that Hank Hall, Hawk of Hawk and Dove, becomes Monarch after killing the original when he kills Dove.
  • Batman:
    • The Killing Joke has a Start of Darkness story for The Joker. Just one of several, in fact. Even in this story, he says that he remembers different versions of his "one bad day", but just one is presented in the flashbacks: he used to be an unsuccessful stand-up comedian struggling to support his pregnant wife. To get money for her sake, he agreed to take part in just one robbery, at a chemical factory he used to work at. His wife died suddenly in a freak accident, but his criminal accomplices wouldn't let him back out on the deal. Once they got to the factory, they found there were security guards that hadn't been there before, and the others got shot. Then Batman showed up and chased the future Joker, who fled by jumping into water that turned out to be chemically contaminated. When he got out and found he had been disfigured (or discolored), he finally snapped and went Laughing Mad.
    • Relatedly, and addressed in universe, Batman himself counts as he was confronted with the very same darkness most of his enemies had to face when his parents died. The darkness is always there, influencing everything Bruce does, but stays trapped behind iron discipline.
    • The issue "Mad Love" of The Batman Adventures is also partially a Start of Darkness story, this time for Harley Quinn. It explains who she was and how she ended up with the Joker.
    • The start of Knightfall shows Bane's evolution from a sweet innocent kid made to serve out his father's prison sentence from birth to the Man Who Broke the Bat.
  • Shazam!: Black Adam's turn to darkness was explored in a trip to the past. He used to be a champion to his people called Mighty Adam and was every bit the hero. Then a supervillain killed his family. He hasn't been the same since. History repeated itself in 52.
  • The gradually unfolding back story of Winnowill and Two-Edge rather took over the second major arc of ElfQuest. We got to see exactly how and why both ended up such raging twisties.
  • Fantastic Four, Annual #2, showed the Start of Darkness for Doctor Doom. Reprised in a mini in recent years called "Books of Doom", with added hardcore edge.
  • A large portion of Gold Digger's 75th issue was dedicated to Gina and company discovering the origins of both Alfred Peachbody (who was less noble in his beginnings) and Dreadwing, who fits this trope to an absolute T. Though Dreadwing's origins are detailed as mentioned above, it's further fleshed out in the Dreadwing's Myomior special, which is essentially Dreadwing's past narrated by himself. Arguably effective despite the repetition, as the unbiased depictions of events from earlier serve to highlight the twisted perspective Dreadwing views his past through. It manages to make him sympathetic and tragic, while simultaneously keeping him a Magnificent Bastard in the present.
  • Friday the 13th: Pamela's Tale by Wildstorm, as the name implies, is the story of Pamela Voorhees and how she came to become the first killer of the Friday the 13th franchise.
  • "Tales of the (X) Corps" strips in Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps show the Starts of Darkness of various Sinestro Corpsmen and Red Lanterns, as well as Agent Orange. Some of them have tragic pasts, others (including Larfleeze) just aren't very nice people.
    • All Red Lanterns have tragic backstories—at the very least they were betrayed by their fellow gangmembers—because the red power comes from rage, hate, and resentment.
  • The Judge Dredd supervillain Judge Death has his origin given in "Young Death — Boyhood of a Superfiend". This shows (with some incredibly black humour) how a nasty and psychopathic child develops into a monster that wipes out his whole world. Although, to be fair, the reoffending rate is to all intents and purposes negligible. Darkness hardly begins to describe it... it's one of those rare origin stories that serves to completely dehumanize a villain as opposed to adding a layer of tragedy. Death was always evil, even before he willingly threw away the last of his humanity.
  • The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck starts out with a innocent but hardy scottish lad by the name of Scrooge Mcduck, who sets out into the world for adventure and fortune to show the world what he could do... But as we both know, the Scrooge Mcduck we know are by no means innocent. The comic actually starts out as a traditional hero's journey, but just as our titular protagonist is at his strongest and most capable, he slips up, unknowingly creating a dark path that makes him into a villain, alienates his family and destroys the last parts of the innocent adventurer... Before a certain duck and his three nephews reminded him of his old days, of course.
  • My Friend Dahmer is about Jeffery Dahmer's high school years as recounted by a former classmate of his and deals with Dahmer's troubled home life as well as him struggling with being a gay necrophiliac, both of which would be contributing factors into him becoming the infamous cannibal serial killer that terrorized Milwaukee.
  • The My Little Pony comics' first annual details Sunset Shimmer's SOD, from her tutelage as Celestia's student, to her abandonment of the path of friendship for power.
    • The My Little Pony: FIENDship Is Magic line details how Big Bads King Sombra, Tirek, the Sirens, and Queen Chrysalis came to power. In Chrysalis' case, she makes it clear that there was never a time she wasn't evil.
      Queen Chrysalis: There is no story. I was born this way.
  • Purgatori: Originally a Egyptian slave named Sakkara, she caught the eye of Queen Ostraca and became her favorite concubine in her all-female Royal Harem. Unfortunately, political instability lead to Ostraca marrying her general Ramses to restore order in her kingdom on the condition that her entire harem was put to the sword. Sakkara became the sole survivor and ended up crossing paths with a Celtic vampire who offered to turn her to get revenge against her former lover. She accepted but unknown to either of them, she had the blood of fallen angels running through her which transformed her into a demonic vampire hybrid who returned to Egypt and massacred everyone at Ostraca's wedding - that is how Purgatori's reign of terror began.
  • Preacher:
    • The Saint of Killers miniseries, which explained how the titular killer became the Implacable Man he is in the series proper. When he first appears, we know he was already a killer in the Civil War, but not how he got that way. Part of the miniseries shows his softening and becoming a family man. However, after a delay due to ruffians led to his family dying of fever, he returned to his killing.
    • Herr Starr, the Big Bad, has his own issue of this, as well, showing how he rose to the position that readers see him in. He gets a Pet the Dog moment and a legitimate claim to having been a good guy at one point—and quickly shows the predilections that make him such an outstanding villain for the rest of the series.
  • The Flash: Reverse Flash: Rebirth tells the origin story of Professor Zoom, the Silver Age Evil Counterpart of the Flash. The story manages to showcase, via time travel, both what a nutter he was, and what a nutter he became. Long story short — he was a child of the Bad Future where The Earth Is Never Doomed, so he kind of started... acting out.
  • Star Wars Legends: While the Knights of the Old Republic comic series is mostly Zayne Carrick's story, in its background it deals with the Jedi duo of "the Revanchist" and Alek, showing their gradual transformation into the Darth Revan and Darth Malak we see in the game. In fact, this trope is so pervasive that Zayne himself and his Master Lucien were speculated to be a past version of every Sith Lord from the two games at some point. And everything was being set up by The Man Behind the Man for Lucien to become a new Sith Lord, even suggesting the name Darth Sion. But he refused the role.
  • Transformers:
    • In IDW's Transformers material, Megatron: Origin details the origins of... guess who. Well, in theory, at any rate. The story lacks an awful lot of context, and makes it look like Megatron just decided to start a war for the hell of it. Later stories gave him an actual origin: Megatron started off as a miner on a stratified Cybertron, writing poetry and political treatises on his off-hours, but generally being a quiet, harmless sort. Then, one day, while having a drink with his friend, two guards throw someone at their table just because the guy had knocked over their drinks. Megatron's buddy gets up and beats the crap out of them. Megatron gets arrested, and while in holding one of the police officers tries to beat him to death, apparently in revenge for the guys Megatron's friend hurt. This event causes Megatron to realise peaceful protest isn't going to cut it, and over the next several hundred years, he starts getting increasingly angry at the system, as his writings circle around Cybertron.
    • The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye has the Shadowplay arc, which is being told to a comatose Rung to help Jog his memory. It's about Orion Pax (Optimus Prime) fighting down the corrupt Pre-war senate who seek to kill a bunch of bots, with the help of a non-corrupt senator and ragtag police crew. At the very end of the arc it's revealed that it's the Senator's start of Darkness, taking the fall so Optimus and his partner get out, and having his emotions destroyed and appearance altered forever, and this was the story of how Shockwave came to be who he is now.
  • Thanos Rising shows how Thanos of Titan developed from a young mutant boy with purple skin into the Omnicidal Maniac Emperor Scientist he is in the present day. From the day he was born he starts seeing visions of Death who subtly manipulates him into becoming first a serial killer, then a space pirate, and finally a nihilistic mass murderer who ends up destroying his own homeworld, though it's left ambiguous whether this was truly Death or a figment of his imagination.
  • The prequel one-shot El Cazador: The Bloody Ballad of Blackjack Tom details the origin of the series Big Bad.
  • Battle Chasers: The last published issue begins Sebastius' flashback about his childhood idolizing his absent father, until his hero reveals feet of clay in two of the saddest ways possible:first, by having a child with another woman after leaving Sebastius and his mother behind. And then, by leading his men to slaughter everyone in Sebastius' village (including his mother), only sparing Sebastius to sell him as a slave (after taking the pendant that his mother orignally received from Aramus long ago — a pendant frighteningly like the one Gully keeps as a keepsake of her parents).
  • Superman
    • When he was a teenager, Pre-Crisis Lex Luthor was arrogant and glory-hungry but genuinely affable and well-meaning. He even befriended Superboy. However, when a fire destroyed his lab, Lex unjustly accused Superboy of starting the fire out of jealousy. From that point on, Lex started blaming everything bad happened to him on Superboy until he got obsessed with getting revenge on that "treacherous, glory-stealer alien who was ruining his life"... and the rest is history.
    • Since she was a child, Lucy Lane sought her father's approval and was jealous of her older sister Lois, who was clearly Sam's favorite. Determined to follow his footsteps after his apparent death, and feeling growing resentment towards Lois, Lucy joins the army. Shortly later Lucy finds out her father is alive and wants her help, and she has become so obsessed with getting "favorite daughter" status she's willing to do anything for him: becoming a voluntary guinea pig, murdering innocent people... anything. By the time Who is Superwoman? begins and Lucy is ordered to kill Supergirl, she's become a completely amoral psychopath.
    • In Injustice: Gods Among Us, Superman thrust his hand through the Joker's abdomen, after the Joker used kryptonite infused fear toxin, that he stole from Scarecrow, to trick him into killing Lois who was pregnant with their child, and who's death also triggered a nuke that destroyed Metropolis. Right there and there he formulated a plan that from now on any villain who causes trouble, rather than being locked up in jail, from which they would be released or escape from, they would be summarily executed by him or members of the Justice League, or villains who decided to join to avoid execution. After a falling out with Batman, Superman turns the Justice League and assorted villains into the One Earth Regime.
  • Blake and Mortimer: Princess Gita is completely heartbroken because of his father's lies. She thinks that Mortimer seduced her for a pastime and attempted to kill her to protect his eventual marriage (he never intended to marry Agatha) and fled to England. This lead to her attempting to murder Mortimer.

    Fan Works 
  • The first two chapters, as well as a chunk of Chapter 11, essentially illustrate Count Logan's rise in The End of Ends.
  • In Guardians, Wizards, and Kung-Fu Fighters, Daolon Wong's is shown in Chapter 24. He was a student of one of China's premier Chi Masters during the early 16th century, until his ambition to gain more power drove him to study Dark Chi, which ultimately twisted his body and mind.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In Ace Combat: Wings of Unity, the Big Bad, Aurora Starlight, was intially a curious unicorn filly. When she heard about the alicorns and got additional information from Princess Celestia, things began to go downhill. Her attempts at gaining wings were met with Celestia's disapproval, she was banished from Equestria for life, because her experiments were perceived as dangerous. For the next 50 years, she was planning revenge against the princess she used to adore.
    • Aviators' "Ashes" describes how the MLP villains Discord and King Sombra became evil.
    • In Bride of Discord, Discord explains his backstory to Fluttershy, revealing that as a child, he was left as the Last of His Kind and when he tried to befriend ponies, he was ostracized by pony society for his appearacne, leading to him becoming a recluse living out in a cave. But Discord didn't become the fiend he was when her and her friends first met him, until Princess Celestia, after hearing of his great magical powers, came to him offering friendship and asking him to use his powers to help pony-kind, with Discord implying he developed a crush on her. But they quickly had a falling out after Discord's attempts at "helping" ended up just creating more problems, causing Celestia to snap at him. He did not take the one pony to offer him compassion in his life snapping at him well, at all.
    • Inner Demons: The original Queen of Darkness was an Alicorn named Midnight who was spawned in Tartarus, but upon seeing the light and beauty of Equestria, fell in love with it and eventually became its benevolent queen. Then the denizens of Tartarus tracked her down and demanded that she become their ruler and destroy Equestria. This caused Midnight's subjects to betray her, which in turn caused her to become the Queen of Darkness and try to destroy her former kingdom, until the pony who would become known a the Master of Harmony rose up against her and destroyed her with the Elements of Harmony. With her last breath, Midnight swore to return and have her revenge, and eventually she was reincarnated as Twilight Sparkle, who in turn was therefore destined from birth to become the next Queen of Darkness.
      • The sequels expanded on this a deal further. It turns out another reason Midnight fell was because after she rejected Tartarus, her subjects, egged on by a Stalker with a Crush, killed the pony she loved, and her former friend Vale turned on her for being a demon. Twilight Sparkle remembers some of this, and is still pissed off at Vale for it.
    • The Nuptialverse has "Metamorphosis", which explains the origins of Queen Chrysalis. She was originally one of Commander Hurricane's chief lieutenants, but her refusal to make peace with the other tribes and personal thirst for power led to her being kicked out. She then made a deal with Discord to gain great power, which he twisted to make her the first changeling and his dragon. She and the changelings were sealed with him when the Princesses defeated him, and then kept sealed by him upon his release to be set free as a backup plan in case he was defeated again. Of course, Chrysalis has no intention of continuing to serve him.
    • The Pony POV Series has the Origins arc, which shows the backstory of Celestia, Luna, and Discord, and therefore serves as the latter's Start Of Darkness. Discord was never quite right to begin with, as it's shown that the draconnequi were like the Shiva of The Multiverse, performing Cosmic Retcons in order to prevent worlds from ending, with Discord enjoying it far more than his siblings, who were only doing their jobs. That being said, in the grand scheme of things he was just a bully and a brat — until an act of defiance on Celestia's part triggered a series of events that not only led to Discord embracing his sadism, but began a war between the Alicorns and Draconnequi, during which he was further mentored in evil by the Fallen Alicorn Morning Star. When the war ended, Discord was reborn in Equestria as a mortal (along with Celestia and Luna) with no memory of his past existence, leading to him becoming an odd, but ultimately kind-hearted being... until his true personality resurfaced and consumed his good one. From that point on, he was the Big Bad from canon and the rest of the series. Oh, and bonus points, it's shown at the end of the arc that when the Princesses defeated and sealed him away, his last act was to plant the seeds of doubt that led to Luna becoming Nightmare Moon. So he's responsible for her Start Of Darkness too!
      • "Fading Futures" was a fan-made ending to the (at the time) unresolved Bad Future, that involved Twilight Sparkle becoming the vengeance-crazed Nightmare Purgatory and then having a Heel Realization. However, when the Bad Future was officially revisited in the Dark World Series, it was eventually revealed that the Greater-Scope Villain is Purgatory's evolved form Paradox, at which point Alexwarlorn (the primary author) released an altered version of "Fading Futures" called "A Fading Future", edited so that there was no Heel Realization and showed Purgatory/Paradox starting her revenge plan, making it a proper SOD.
      • Chrysalis' start of darkness is covered as an addendum during the short arc that followed the end of Dark World: back at the Dawn of Time, a younger and more Hot-Blooded Cadence became convinced that magic was inherently evil and tried to kill Amicitia (the Magician Alicorn) in order to prevent its existence. After Amicitia nearly killed Cadence in self defense, Cadence's Light of Existence went to live a mortal life to teach her how wrong she was, leaving behind her Shadow of Existence... which, against every rule of the POV universe, somehow clung to sentience and a sense of self through sheer force of will. Pandora was impressed enough by this that she helped the Shadow gain its own Light, turning it into Chrysalis, who was sent into the mortal world.
      • And then there's her Origins Episode, which shows her childhood after being reborn and how she eventually became Queen of the Changelings by killing their previous Queen, Cocoon.
    • The MLP fic Shadows provides one for King Sombra. He not only Used to Be a Sweet Kid (Celestia's, in fact), but he actually wasn't all that different from Twilight, being a kindhearted academic with a close-knit circle of friends. However, watching his father Star Swirl the Bearded grow old and die, he became terrified by the thought of death, and obsessed with achieving immortality. This obsession led to him driving away his friends, creating the Alicorn Amulet to try and boost his power to god-like levels, and ultimately his Moral Event Horizon crossing of conquering the Crystal Empire.
    • In Split Second (My Little Pony), Sparkle got her powers at age eight, discovered she could kill magically at nine, given a reason to dislike ponies at ten, created zombies by eleven, had her mentor die at twelve, ate her first soul at thirteen, and was abandoned (sort of) by her sister.
  • Pokémon Reset Bloodlines has several sidestories dedicated to this:
    • Twenty Gyarados Bill Gaiden tells the story about how the title character went from a simple crewman in a fishing boat to the terror of coastal Johto. It all started with his crewmen giving him a Magikarp as a mocking gift and comparing him to it, calling him the "Magikarp of humans". He took this to heart and decided that if he was the "Magikarp of humans", then he'd become the "Gyarados of humans" and ensure that nobody would ever laugh at him again. His rampages left such a mark in history, he was the reason why the six active Pokémon limit was established.
    • Sabrina Gaiden starts with her as a 10-year-old discovering her psychic powers for the first time. Her father convinces her of using her powers to help the townspeople, which she gladly does. However, as time goes, people begin to take advantage of her kindness, which coupled with the fact that everyone lacks motivation to try and achieve greatness ends up disgusting her, ultimately driving her to make them change through fear.
    • Mars Gaiden shows how she ended up joining Cyrus. After her parents died, she was taken in by her uncle and aunt, who abused her both physically and verbally. The only reason she put up with it was because of her friend Kibou, with whom she shared the dream of becoming a trainer one day. The story ends when Mars' uncle accidentally kills Kibou and plans to kill Mars and frame her for it, which causes her to snap and kill him and his wife in turn. This ultimately drives her to join Cyrus and eventually become her most loyal follower in Team Galactic.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica:
    • We also see this trope in another Madoka fanfic, Stars Above a crossover with Lucky Star. Homura first explains the Start Of Darkness of her timeline's Kagami in Chapter 3, but we see in happen via a Whole Episode Flashback in Chapter 9.
    • In the doujin, "I'm working at a mahou shoujo recruitment company, but I think I may be at my limit" by Momiji Mao (NSFW warning for ads, since the doujin in question is on Danbooru), Kyubey is a worker at a magical girl recruitment company and down on his luck, such that his boss is threatening to terminate him if he keeps dragging down the company. The only people who believe in him are his wife Kyuko, who is three months along with Kyubey's baby, and his work buddy Kyuzo, the only one in the workplace who knows he is trying his best. Bolstered by this, Kyubey works extra hard, even pulling all-nighters, and manages to get ten new magical girls into the fold. But then it's revealed that not only did Kyuzo screw Kyubey over by taking all the credit for his accomplishments, but when Kyubey calls Kyuzo up and demands an explanation for this shit, that's when he (and we) learn that this isn't even the half of how Kyuzo's betrayed him — Kyuzo is in bed with Kyuko when he gets the call, and it turns out that he's been banging her on the side for at least three months, because that kid that's three months along? It's not Kyubey's. With everything good in his life taken away from him in one fell swoop, Kyubey snaps and goes postal on everyone before burning his workplace down. He makes a resolution that the next time he meets someone, he should give them the same cruel lesson that he believes Kyuzo and everyone else were trying to teach him.
  • The Jackie Chan Adventures fic Queen of All Oni, is all about Jade's Queen persona re-emerging, and her desire for power driving her further into the realm of dark magic. And then an Evil Sorcerer kidnaps and tortures, the PTSD from which slowly drives her insane, until she snaps completely in the final chapters of the story.
  • The Arcos Special in Savior of Demons sees Frieza's entire origin story as a slow-burning buildup to something horrible that cements his canon persona and explains his hatred of Saiyans.
  • Shadows Awakening: Chapter 11 details The Phantom's origins — he was once a samurai named Kyosuke, who was the protege of the Emperor's High Shogun, but who grew unhappy with the fact that the Emperor is only ruler because of the supposed divine right of his ancestors, rather than any real power. Because of this, when he was sent to infiltrate the Brotherhood of Shadows (the dark wizards who created the Shadowkhan), they were able to convince him to join them, becoming their leader, the Dark Champion. He then led them on a conquest of Japan, until he was abandoned by Tarakudo, and struck down by his former master. With his dying breaths, his rage at Tarakudo's betrayal transformed his spirit into the Phantom.
  • In Superman fanfic Superman of 2499: The Great Confrontation, Adam Kent broke a crook's hand smilingly when he was training for becoming the next Superman. His father took him aside, reprimanded him and punished him by giving his brother the Superboy outfit for four months. Adam felt his own father had turned on him and taken his birthright away, and started developing his "I WILL have my way or else" mindset.
  • In Through a Diamond Sky, Clu is a Jerkass, but not the dog-kicker of the film. At the end of the story, he's turned the torture devices from the Resource Hog base into the "repurposing" racks and uses the captured Hogs as the first test subjects.
    • It's also the fact that he was jealous of his creator when it came to Jordan, saw that the Isos could reproduce, and saw Kevin and Jordan being in awe of the new Iso child. Having Tron blow off his fears and scold him didn't help.
  • There's a Tumblr roleplay that crosses over X-Men: First Class with the alluded-to-in-canon 1960s era of Watchmen, which means that Magneto and Mystique's fall to villainy is played out right alongside, and in some cases interactively with, Ozymandias and Rorschach's own slides into Anti-Villain status.
  • Transformers Mosaic: Gave one to Abraham Dante, in "Way to Fall." A man who sought Immortality and Power even at the cost of his own humanity. He made a deal with Skorponok for that immortality.
    "And so little by little the monster inside his soul would wake up. Little by little he would change his outer appearance to match what his soul had gotten dark with: rage, hate, and fear..."
    "That's the Story of a man... who wasn't."
  • The Shadow Queen's journey From Nobody to Nightmare is told in two non-consecutive chapters of Yu Gi Oh! The Thousand Year Door: Redux. The protagonists hear the first part in Chapter 36 from a descendent of a survivor of her atrocities, and the Queen herself decides to tell them the rest later, in Chapter 42. It's a long, sad, tragic story that started with a poor beggar being neglected, losing her two brothers, and ending up making a Deal with the Devil after falling into a Despair Event Horizon.
  • Prior to the start of Black Wings, Black Sails, William Laurence was just as he was in Temeraire canon- an honorable naval captain with a strong moral compass in the service of king and country. But the loss of his dragon and nearly being brought to partake in penal slavery, and being mutinied against over it, are what turn him over to fighting the slave trade through piracy.
  • In Which Guzma Is Frustrated is a prequel to Pokémon Sun and Moon about how Team Skull formed. It shows how and why Guzma became a criminal. After being frustrated that he couldn't become kahuna, he began acting out and bullying others.
  • In The Butcher Bird, Admiral Akainu of all people gets one of these in a side chapter, showing exactly what drove him to become such a fanatic.
  • In Shazam! fanfic Here There Be Monsters, Dr. Sivana's eldest son figures out his father's descent into villainy was a combination of his wife's death and being turned down by everyone when he tried to make money legitimately.
    How their father had managed to manufacture them, he had never been certain. He had reportedly given their mother a shot of something, with her concession, that would produce magnificent physical specimens in their offspring. Mom had agreed to it. After all, who doesn't want beautiful children? But Magnificus's birth had taxed her, and she never quite recovered from bearing Beautia. Within two months of the girl's birth, their mother was dead.
    He figured that had something to do with how his father turned out in later years. That, and the perpetual wall of NO his father had run into, every time he tried to sell his new theories of industry to the barons of commerce and manufacturing.
  • Flat Dreams is a Gravity Falls prequel fic written as a possible origin story for Bill Cipher. It is also a crossover- in this version, Bill is originally from Flatland.

    Film — Animation 
  • Shown in a prologue in The Incredibles on how Mr. Incredible giving Buddy, his #1 fan, the cold shoulder eventually turned him into Syndrome.
  • In Kung Fu Panda, we get brief glimpses of Tai Lung's when Oogway refuses to give him the Dragon Scroll. Master Shifu was partly to blame for this as well, since he never properly disciplined Tai Lung, and instead continuously praised and encouraged him, which helped lead to his Face–Heel Turn.
  • A tie-in storybook based on Disney's The Lion King was actually about Scar's backstory which explains not only how and why he became the series' Big Bad, but also how and why he got his scar in the first place, as well as his real name.
  • Megamind narrates his own start of darkness being the villain to Metro Man back when they were school kids. Metro Man was adored by their classmates, but no matter what he tried, no one liked Megamind. So, he decided, since being bad seemed to be the ONE thing he was good at, he would BE as bad as he could be!
  • Randall in Monsters University starts to despise Sulley after Sulley accidentally humiliates Randall in the last round of the Scare Games.
  • Toy Story 3 gives us a flashback of Lotso-Huggin' Bear being accidentally abandoned in a field on a picnic, then replaced with an identical model. The flashback's narrator tells us "something snapped that day." That's when Lotso lost all trust in humans and started his path on the dark side, eventually becoming the evil ruler of the Sunnyside Daycare Center.
  • In Wreck-It Ralph, there was once a character named Turbo, protagonist of the racing game TurboTime, who loved the attention he got from gamers when they played his game. When a newer racing game, RoadBlasters, came to the arcade and took the gamers' attention away from him, he didn't take it well. He took it so poorly, in fact, that he left his own game and entered RoadBlasters in an attempt to sabotage it. He succeeded, at a price: both TurboTime and RoadBlasters were deemed permanently out-of-order, unplugged and removed from the arcade. Turbo's reckless actions were so shocking that a phrase was created to describe them: "going Turbo". It's actually through an explanation of the meaning of the phrase that the aforementioned events are shown in a flashback. It turns out that Turbo actually survived and went on to invade an even newer racing game by the name of Sugar Rush, forcing himself into the game with a disguise and a new name: "King Candy". Unfortunately, the game already had a playable royal by the name of Vanellope von Schweetz, but he soon fixed that little issue. ...So, yeah, he's definitely the Big Bad.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Disney Live-Action Remakes:
    • Maleficent has this happen to both the titular character and Stefan. Maleficent's is Stefan betraying her trust and cutting off her wings while Stefan's is more subtle: initially it was his ambition to become king that led him to betray Maleficent in the first place, but Maleficent vengefully cursing Aurora drove him into even further villainy and madness whilst trying to defy it.
    • Cruella follow the eponymous character from a young grifter Waiting for a Break in the ruthless world of fashion to a fur-obsessed criminal.
  • Dracula Untold explores the origin story of the man who became the legendary vampire, Count Dracula.
  • Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare has shades of this in the flashbacks of Freddy's memories when Maggie goes inside his head.
  • The flashbacks in The Godfather Part II show how Vito Corleone got to where we saw him in the first movie. When he's a little boy in Sicily, his family is killed by the mafia, and he has to be smuggled to America to avoid the same fate. He grows up to get married and work in a grocery store, apparently not planning on a criminal career, until he loses his job to the nephew of the local mafia boss and, around the same time, is lured into his first robbery by a friend. Later, when the aforementioned boss demands a cut of the proceeds from the friends' now brisk trade in stolen goods, Vito decides to kill him instead and effectively replaces him in the neighborhood. His evolution is complete when we see him travel to Sicily to avenge his family's murder. All of this is a parallel to his son's Protagonist Journey to Villain in the present-day parts of the film.
  • Iron Man 3 shows Killian's start of darkness after Tony doesn't meet him on the roof to talk about A.I.M. He looks over the edge and considers suicide, until he realises that no one even knows he's there.
  • James Bond:
    • Francisco Scaramanga of The Man with the Golden Gun tells his to Bond while watching a kickboxing match.
      Scaramanga: When I was a boy, I was brought up in a circus. My only real friend was a huge, magnificent, African bull elephant. One day, his handler mistreated him and he went berserk. Bleeding, dying, he came and found me, stood on one leg, his best trick, picked me up and put me on his back. The drunken handler came along and emptied his gun into his eye. I emptied my stage pistol into his! You see, Mr. Bond, I always thought I loved animals. Then I discovered that I enjoyed killing people even more.
    • Janus (aka Alec Trevelyan) from Goldeneye tells his to Bond in the statue park scene.
      Janus: We're both orphans, James. But where your parents had the luxury of dying in a climbing accident, mine survived the British betrayal and Stalin's execution squads... but my father couldn't let himself or my mother live with the shame of it. MI6 figured I was too young to remember... and in one of life's little ironies, the son went to work for the government whose betrayal caused the father to kill himself and his wife.
  • Joker (2019) details, as the title suggests, the origins of it version of The Joker, a man named Arthur Fleck who suffers from mental illness who's picked on by society and snaps after getting his stand-up mocked on National TV and learning his mother lied about him being Thomas Wayne's son, learned he was really adopted, and that his adopted mother let him be abused.
  • Saw has Jigsaw's origin story in Saw II before it's expanded on in Saw IV. Saw II is less of a sympathy play as while it gives a perfectly logical reason for Jigsaw's actions, it's still not rational enough to be sympathetic. Saw IV is a more conventional bid for sympathy, but it could also be viewed as simply setting up his state of mind for Saw II.
  • The 1951 Scrooge explores this during the Christmas Past sequence, more so than other adaptations of A Christmas Carol.
  • Split actually counts as one, when you take into account the film is set within the same universe as Unbreakable, thereby making the film a Super Villain Origin Story instead of a Super Hero one.
  • The Star Wars Prequel Trilogy is essentially a Start of Darkness for the whole franchise, showing how the Empire came to be and how Anakin transformed from an idealistic young Jedi and the prophecied Chosen One into the Emperor's brutal, mutilated enforcer Darth Vader. The films (and later Star Wars: The Clone Wars) show that his Fatal Flaw is ultimately that he cares too much about those close to him and is willing to get very violent very fast to protect them, even if it means destroying the Republic and the Jedi Order if it can earn him a chance to save his wife from potentially dying in childbirth, which makes him all the more vulnerable to Palpatine's corruption. His journey to the Dark Side truly begins in Attack of the Clones when he starts having visions of his mother Shmi in pain and goes to Tatooine to find her. He did... mere moments before she dies in his arms after who knows what kind of abuse at the hands of the Tusken Raiders who had captured her. Anakin then murdered every last living thing in that village—men, women, children, and animals—and burned it to the ground. He doesn't get his iconic black life support suit until the end of the next movie, but it's safe to say that this is when Darth Vader was born.
  • The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning is this for Leatherface.
  • X-Men: First Class: The film depicts Mystique as an insecure young woman looking for a purpose... and she finds it. Taken even further in X-Men: Days of Future Past, where she effectively becomes a Dark Action Girl. Xavier even states that her first deliberate murder of Bolivar Trask in the original timeline "is when Raven became Mystique."

    Literature 
  • The Alchymist's Cat, a prequel to the Deptford Mice trilogy, reveals the origins of Big Bad Jupiter. He started out as an ordinary kitten called Leech in 17th century London, the runt of the litter who was mistreated by the evil alchemist who took them in. His brother Jupiter, on the other hand, was adored and became the alchemist's familiar. Leech grew envious of his brother's growing powers, and wished he could learn magic too, only to find out that just one in every family is allowed to use it. In the end, Leech kills Jupiter and assumes his identity, rising to power as a living God of Evil in the sewers.
  • In Dead Souls, Chichikov and Plyushkin started out as decent people, and there's a Cry for the Devil in revealing how both of them descended into what they are now.
  • Doctor Who Expanded Universe: The Doctor Who Missing Adventures novel The Dark Path tells how the Second Doctor sees his old friend Koschei become the Master, due to Love Makes You Evil. This may or may not be compatible with the Start of Darkness shown in "The Sound of Drums".
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Storm Front's villain, Victor Sells, was apparently once a normal family man... before he discovered his talent and began dabbling in Black Magic. Of course, his wife Monica is the one telling this and she's a victim of Domestic Abuse, so it should be taken with a grain of salt. Cold Days hints that his descent into darkness was caused by his infection with Nemesis.
    • Small Favor reveals the events that led to Marcone becoming the crime lord of Chicago. He used to be a minor criminal, but an innocent girl was shot in an attack meant for him. This motivated him to take over the criminal organisations and enforce standards on them, so that something like this would never happen again.
    • In Cold Days, Sarissa comments that Slate wasn't a bad person... until he accepted the Winter Mantle.
  • VC Andrews wrote a prequel to Flowers in the Attic called Garden of Shadows that helps explain the motivations and backstory of the Evil Matriarch Olivia Foxworth.
  • Hannibal Rising is a poorly-executed Start of darkness for Hannibal Lecter, giving him a Freudian Excuse for many of the things he's famous for, even though he explicitly stated in the first movie that there wasn't any past trauma behind his deviant behavior—making him yet another intellectual in blatant denial.

    Rather sadly, this was an enforced case—Hannibal's creator, Thomas Harris, wanted to leave him an enigma with no real reason behind his crimes, but he was flat-out told by his publishers that if he didn't write it, they'd find someone else to do so.
  • In Hart's Hope, a chapter is devoted to explaining how eventual Big Bad Princess Asineth is shaped by events ranging from someone else being punished for her disobedience, accidentally causing the execution of her father's favorite mistress, and being raped in public by her father's killer to cement his claim to the throne.
  • The House of Night: The plot of Neferet's Curse, which details how an innocent girl named Emily Wheiler grew up in 1893 and ended up broken and vengeful as a result of being abused and eventually raped by her own father. She ultimately changes her name to Neferet, upon becoming a vampire, and vows to never again be used by anyone.
  • The Jane Eyre prequel, The Wide Sargasso Sea, shows the early life of a character thought of as villainous, but ultimately revealing them as well-intentioned and victimized by others.
  • The Magic: The Gathering novel The Thran is this for Yawgmoth, showing him rise from an exiled doctor into becoming first dictator of Halcyon, and then the Big Bad God of Evil he's mostly known as. It is important to mention that Yawgmoth was originally exiled for a reason: he performed many unethical experiments on different species to see the results and was in exile for doing so.
  • The Crippled God in Malazan Book of the Fallen was just a foreign god who fell to earth as the result of a trap meant for Kallor. And went stark raving mad as a result of his torture and imprisonment in this foreign world. He is currently trying to destroy the world just so he can be free again.
  • Old Kingdom: Clariel: The Lost Abhorsen, prequel to the main trilogy, depicts how its title character was set on the path to becoming Chlorr of the Mask, an evil necromancer who served as one of the main villains of the second and third books.
  • The Princess Bride devotes self-titled sections to the two mercenary henchmen of Vizzini, "the Sicilian"; how the giant Fezzik was beaten by other children and pushed to fight professionally by his misguided parents into rings where audiences booed him when he won until he found someone who understood him... slightly better; how the swordsman Inigo Montoya saw his father killed in front of him, spent years training and searching and becoming gradually more lost in his cups until he was found in obscurity. How Vizzini himself became the man he is now is left to the imagination, given only a few lines with a broad picture that he knew he would have to rely on his mind rather than his physical power; though the reader may expect it, there is no "VIZZINI".
  • The origin of the Relativity villain Rune is spelled out in a story aptly named "Rune". He doesn't fight the heroes in this story, however, and they aren't even aware of him. Which means that the first time the heroes face Rune, it's in a story called "Rune Returns".
  • In Shadow of the Conqueror, Daylen Namaran was actually a very morally upright person before the aristocracy murdered his entire family, but after this he would become Dayless the Conqueror, one of the worst individuals that his world would ever see.
  • Fëanor of The Silmarillion has his over the course of several years due to a combination of manipulation, jealousy and anger issues, but the single defining moment is when he lets his anger and jealousy for his brother Fingolfin get the better of him and puts his sword to Fingolfin's chest and threatens to kill him.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire
    • Catelyn Stark's memories of her old friend Petyr Baelish are that of a sweet, romantic kid. Despite the fact that she was never interested in him that way, his romantic idealism spurred him on to duel her betrothed Brandon Stark for her hand, which resulted in Petyr nearly dying and getting sent packing back to his own poor home although that quite probably had more to do with the outcome of him being rejected and raped (whilst drunk and believing himself in bed with Cat, by her sister, Lysa, resulting in her pregnancy, which their father forces her to abort. In the present, Petyr is a full-on Magnificent Bastard and chessmaster, in control of both the Vale and Riverlands after having manipulated, married, and murdered Lysa, sparked the massive and destructive War of the Five Kings, and has taken on Cat's lookalike daughter Sansa, herself a Broken Bird, as both protegé and potential love interest.
    • Aerys II was always a crappy king. But his descent into unbridled Mad King territory began after an incident known as the Defiance Of Duskendale. When Aerys, ignoring all reason and council from his advisors, got himself captured for six months. By the time he was rescused, he'd gone full blown bonkers. It was also the start of his love of burning people alive, which became a favorite hobby of his.
  • The Star Trek: Destiny trilogy reveals the origins of the Borg Collective.
  • A minor example in the Star Trek: The Lost Era novel The Art of the Impossible. Corbin Entek, a Cardassian Obsidian Order villain from a highly popular episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, is a lowly junior probationist in this book, albeit a promising one. The novel features a sub-plot in which he settles into the Order and earns the admiration of Enabran Tain.
  • The Star Wars Legends have several examples:
    • Outbound Flight serves as a Start of Darkness of sorts for Grand Admiral Thrawn. Although he isn't exactly evil, it does explain why he took Palpatine's side. Eventually. Well, it introduces him to Darth Sidious and shows how perilously close he is to being exiled for his tactics. We know from the short story "Mist Encounter" that after he was exiled some Imperials found him and brought him back.
      • ''Outbound Flight" also shows the start of darkness for Jorus C'baoth, who fell to the dark side near the end of the novel and went insane. This would then lead to his clone, Joruus C'baoth, also being an insane dark-sided Force wielder.
    • The novel Dark Rendezvous has several flashback scenes that explore Count Dooku's past and gives him a very convincing SOD backstory.
    • The Han Solo Trilogy by A.C. Crispin features a character who appeared first in Dark Empire, the comic book series set years after the novels but released years earlier. In Dark Empire, readers learned that he was an old friend of Han's, and also that he was willing to throw away that friendship by leading Han into a trap just for the reward. Crispin shows us in her prequels what a good and heroic guy he used to be, and eventually what happened to change him: he was captured, tortured, and crippled for life.
    • Darth Plagueis is this for Palpatine, Dooku, and Nute Gunray. Though unlike the other two, Palpatine was evil from the beginning, and the book merely shows how he became a Sith.
  • Tortall Universe: The Numair Chronicles, while mainly being an interquel about Numair Salmalín, also shows how Ozorne Muhassin Tasikhe went from a "leftover prince" who was a personable, average student who only wanted to do mage-work with his best friends to the Evil Overlord Emperor Mage of Carthak seen in The Immortals.
  • The antagonist of Uarda, Paaker's, moral descent begins when he decides to use black magic to get back the girl he lost.
  • The fifth volume of The Unexplored Summon://Blood-Sign is this for the White Queen. It reveals that she wasn't initially evil, but childishly innocent, to the point of making a promise to never hurt anyone if it meant she could stay with Kyousuke. But because others tried to exploit her power by pretending to be Kyousuke, she was forced to break this promise.
  • The Warcraft novel Rise of the Horde, which details the fall from grace of the Eredar, along with the beginnings of the evil Horde in the first two games, as you might've guessed by the title, as well as the aptly-named Arthas: Rise of the Lich King.
  • Warhammer 40,000 novels:
    • The Blood Angels short story "Blood Debt" serves as one for Ramius Stele.
    • Thousand Sons serves as one (a REALLY tragic one) for the Thousand Sons, especially for Maginus the Red. Also confirms that the Blood Ravens are indeed descended from the Thousand Sons.
    • The entire Horus Heresy is one big Start of Darkness, only made worse by the Foregone Conclusion. Good luck getting attached to people you know are going to die and/or commit a sharp Face–Heel Turn.
  • Warriors: The Rise of Scourge. It turns out that Scourge was, at first, just a cute little kitten with a crappy childhood. Desperate to impress the world around him, he is driven to first scare a dog away, then eventually actually kill a cat to maintain his peers' respect, which he claims his Moral Event Horizon.
    • Brokenstar was bullied by his foster siblings and resented by his foster mother as a kit in Yellowfang's Secret. It's subverted, however, at his birth, when he is born with a look of rage and hatred on his tiny face.
  • Whateley Universe: A few full-length stories of this sort, as well as some shorter glimpses.
    • "Mimeographic" covers Mimeo's origin story. Interestingly (and possibly self-servingly), it mostly portrays him as a sort of higher-order Punch-Clock Villain, who just does it to finance his lavish lifestyle - he plans out heists in detail to minimize collateral damage, and tries to avoid fights with heroes until he's ready to get whatever Power Copying buffs he needs for the specific caper. We also get to see why he adopted his Thou Shalt Not Kill policy (beyond the obvious wanting to get rematches for more power-ups, that is).
    • In "Intervention", we get a "This Is Your Life" style look at the events that soured Tansy Walcutt into the Alpha Bitch Solange, as part of her Redemption Quest.
    • In "The Road to Whateley", part 3, we get some flashbacks which set up the conflict between the Witch Queen and her longtime rival Sycorax. It isn't really a full Start of Darkness for either of them, but it does give us the background of their feud.
  • Wisdom's Daughter: The Life and Love Story of She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed by H. Rider Haggard details the origins of Ayesha, the Big Bad of She.
  • Through excerpts from the novel Descarta is reading and Virgil's own flashbacks we see how Kalthused of Within Ruin went from hero to utterly corrupt.

    Live-Action TV 
  • While Angel gets plenty of flashbacks on his spin-off series, the season 1 episode "The Prodigal" specifically shows his human life and eventual siring from Darla. Speaking of Darla, she gets an episode like this to herself in season 2.
  • Better Call Saul explores how Saul Goodman and Mike Ehrmantraut started their criminal careers years before running into Walter White. Its predecessor Breaking Bad is NOT an example of this, since Walter White was not introduced in a previous series and is instead a straightforward Protagonist Journey to Villain.
    • A flashback finally explained why Mike Ehrmantraut "broke bad". His son, also a police officer, was reluctant to take bribes and was executed by his crooked partners. Mike murdered them in revenge, then became a criminal to earn enough money to support his widowed daughter-in-law and granddaughter.
    • A flashback seems to show the moment that set Jimmy on his path to immorality, when he watches a conman bilk his father out of some cash. Determined to be a wolf rather than a sheep, the young Jimmy steals money from his father's till for the first time.
  • On Boardwalk Empire Nucky Thompson's is giving Gillian over to The Commodore; it's mentioned a few times but season 5 really drives this trope home by having a series of flashbacks showing Nucky's life building up to this point.
  • In season 5 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Spike gets a Start of Darkness episode called "Fool for Love".
    • Then he gets another one in season 7, this time dealing with his relationship with his mother.
    • Anya got one in season 7, although it's revealed her base personality hasn't changed as much as you'd think.
    • The books and comic books have reenacted Drusilla's Start Of Darkness at least twice. Since it involved Angelus murdering her family and torturing/raping her until she lost her mind, this is usually done to elaborate on Angelus' guilt.
    • Drusilla got a flashback in "Becoming Part 2" as well as the episode "Dear Boy" on Angel showing her as a human the time Angel started stalking her.
    • Played for Laughs with the Trio, who get a ten-second flashback origin story. "You wanna team up and take over Sunnydale?"
  • Cobra Kai, the Distant Sequel to the 1980s The Karate Kid films, gives one to John Kreese, the Evil Mentor of the first film's Thug Dojo. A series of flashbacks during the third season shows that once upon a time Kreese was just another kid struggling under difficult circumstances much like the various protagonists of the films, (his mother had suffered from mental illness and then killed herself when he was young, he had to work menial jobs to make ends meet and was bullied by and alienated from his peers), and when he met a nice girl he decided that going into the Army was the best way to make something of himself. Then Kreese made the mistake of volunteering for a special forces unit led by a sadistic and ruthless captain who taught him martial arts and a "No Mercy" philosophy, Kreese's fiancee died in an accident while he was at war, and finally he was captured and tortured by the North Vietnamese troops, which included being put into death matches against other captured soldiers. By the time he's rescued from captivity, the sympathetic teenager we first saw has turned into a brutal, abusive, amoral, and deluded man.
  • The Cold Case episode "The Woods" explores the background of a Serial Killer who made his debut earlier in the season.
  • The Criminal Minds episode "No Way Out Part II: The Evilution of Frank" has the team delve into the past of Frank, who had appeared in a previous episode and was described by Gideon as "the most prolific serial killer ever".
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Master gets a some of this in "The Sound of Drums". It's revealed he was driven insane during an Rite of Passage on Gallifrey, involving staring into the Untempered Schism, a gap in the fabric of reality which exposes the time vortex. This then expanded upon in "The End of Time", where it turns out Rassilon, Lord President of Gallifrey during the last days of the Time War, retroactively drove the Master insane on his own command to establish him as a link between Gallifrey inside the time-locked Time War and the tangible universe outside it.
    • The 2012 Christmas Episode "The Snowmen" unexpectedly turned out to be an origin story for 1960s villain the Great Intelligence.
  • Get Shorty: A Flash Back toward the end of Season 1 reveals that Amara was sold as a teen to a cartel boss for four goats to be his bride, but she killed him before he could exercise his Marital Rape License. She would go on to become a cartel boss in her own right.
  • Goodbye My Princess: Cheng Yin becomes increasingly vengeful and cruel after he learns who killed his mother and Cheng Ji.
  • Gotham is actually as much a Start of Darkness story for much of Batman's Rogues Gallery as it is, an expanded Origin Story for Batman. The Riddler, Mr. Freeze, Firefly, the Executioner, the Red Hood gang, and Scarecrow have all undergone seminal villain-making experiences as of Season 4's premiere, and future Gallery members like Selina Kyle, Ivy, Tommy Elliot and Harvey Dent have made major or minor appearances. Several who were already villains (Cobblepot, Butch, the Electrocutioner) develop their characters and/or technology further towards their eventual personas. The Joker's start of darkness was teased with several fakeouts before settling on Jerimiah Velaska getting sprayed with psycho serum by his very Joker-like twin brother and becoming a very cold, calculating and ingenious version of the villain.
  • Heroes
    • The episode "Six Months Ago" shows how Sylar first killed a man and stole his power. Two seasons later, another flashback from the same moment in Villains expands the story and shows Elle and Noah Bennet are at least partially responsible for him becoming a serial killer. Especially since Elle stopped Sylar from committing suicide by hanging in the first place.
    • The Volume 2 story arcs in feudal Japan show the Start of Darkness for Adam Monroe, and some arcs in the axillary graphic novels show the background of characters like Thompson and Linderman.
    • In Volume 4, we also get the background for Angela Petrelli as well as the beginnings of The Company.
  • Holocaust has this for a major plot thread with Erik Dorff, initially a man of conscience who joins the SS at the urging of his opportunistic wife, is ordered to oversee a Nazi death camp and eventually slides into becoming a monster that only Heinrich Himmler could admire.
  • Barney in the first season episode "Game Night" of How I Met Your Mother. We learn how he evolved from a long-haired hippie guy into the Barnacle. Deconstructed, when we learn that a fair few of his issues stem from his crappy childhood, so this story, really, is about his tipping point.
  • Kamen Rider Ex-Aid: Dan Kuroto was a Child Prodigy game developer for GENM Corp., coming up with amazing ideas for brand new video games. Then one day, he got a letter from a little boy named Hojo Emu, who was so inspired by Kuroto's games that he came up with new ideas of games that he hoped Kuroto could develop. The idea that a child could even think of making games as good as him left Kuroto incensed, so much so that he decided to send a beta version of one game that he had been working on, albeit one infected with Bugster viruses, thus making Emu Patient Zero of the game disease epidemic.
    • The events of Zero Day were this to Taiga Hanaya/Kamen Rider Snipe. He was the first rider to fight the Bugster virus, but this was hopeles effort from the start as Kuroto had stacked the odds against him as much as possible, ultimately causing him to fail to save a patient and have all the blame pinned on him. Past the Despair Event Horizon he is a selfish jerk who doesn't care about anyone or anything past his goals. Kamen Rider Snipe: Episode ZERO shows the process in agonizing detail.
  • Liar: Andrew's is revealed to have been when he'd discovered another serial rapist. Instead of turning him in, he blackmailed the man for lessons about it, as he's fascinated by the idea of control over other people. He then becomes a serial rapist himself under the first man's tutelage.
  • Lost
    • The Season 3 episode "The Man Behind the Curtain" shows how Benjamin Linus initiated the Purge and became the leader of the Hostiles/Others, though he's more of an anti-hero than a villain.
    • One of the last episodes explains why the Man in Black is evil in a full-episode flashback (Jacob pushed him into the heart of the island and he popped out as a smoke monster).
  • Rumplestiltskin in Once Upon a Time: In order to prevent his son to be drafted into the ogre war, he gained magic powers by killing the Dark One.
    • "The Stable Boy" does this for Regina. Her ambitious and cold-blooded mother wanted her to marry up, but she was in love with a stable boy. When Snow White, then an innocent child, tried to help Regina by letting the ambitious mama know her stepmother-to-be was with the stable boy... Well, let's just say someone's True Love ended up dead, and Snow White ended up on the wrong end of a vendetta.
    • "The Miller's Daughter" showed how Cora became who she was. When she was a young woman, she was tripped by an immature Eva (Snow White's mother before she married Snow's father) who claimed Cora hurt her. The King of the land forced Cora to apologize on her knees or he wouldn't pay her for the flour. She would later use the emotions she felt here to channel her magic to spin gold.
    • "It's Not Easy Being Green" shows how Zelena discovered in the course of one day that she was adopted, her stepfather never loved her, her mother abandoned her at birth and she had a sister who got everything she never had. When she's passed over as Rumpelstiltskin's student, her envy corrupts her and turns her into the Wicked Witch of the West.
    • "The Snow Queen" shows how the eponymous girl became evil. Born as Princess Ingrid, she discovered her ice powers one day while protecting her two sisters. The powers grew as she got older and she opted to hide herself away to protect the kingdom. When she accidentally killed her sister Helga, her other sister Gerda trapped her in an urn and had all memories of her erased from the kingdom.
    • "Poor Unfortunate Soul" reveals that Ursula used to be a mermaid, forced to use her singing voice to sink ships by her father. She rejected him and transformed herself in the sea witch after Hook stole her singing voice, her only memory of her dead mother. Ironically this same episode combines this with a Heel–Face Turn, as Hook returns Ursula's voice and she reunites with her father.
    • Subverted in the episode "Sympathy For De Ville". Cruella is revealed to have been locked in an attic for years, seemingly under the thumb of an abusive Black Widow for a mother. However The Reveal is that Cruella was the murderess who killed her mother's three husbands—and it's implied that she had been evil all along. However the episode is still a straight example for Isaac—as meeting Cruella inspired him to use his powers to become a Reality Warper.
    • Inverted in episodes "Best Laid Plans" and "Unforgiven" which act as the opposite for Maleficent. Originally established as an evil sorceress, discovering she was about to become a mother and eventually getting separated from her child prompts a sort of Heel–Face Turn, showing her as a sympathetic character.
    • "Broken Kingdom" shows how King Arthur became a Knight Templar, due to his obsession with reforging Excalibur, which he sees as the only way he can truly rule his kingdom. This drove him utterly mad, as he was even willing to brainwash the woman he loved (and his whole kingdom, for that matter) and betray his best friend, in order to ensure his rule.
    • Mother Gothel had a horrifying one as well—she's a Plant Person, who as a young woman was curious about the human world and thought she'd made friends with a human noblewoman, only to have the noblewoman both humiliate her and recruit the local Anti-Magical Faction to find and eliminate the nymphs, leaving Gothel as the Last of Her Kind with a grudge against humanity itself.
    • In fact the only major villain not to have a Start of Darkness is Hades; we're told that the Underworld became a place of punishment instead of one of calm due to Hades' ambition and resentment, but he doesn't have any flashback episodes.
  • Person of Interest
    • For Carl Elias, it was his Mafia boss father killing his mother, and then trying to kill Elias.
    • For Samantha Groves (super-hacker "Root"), it was when her childhood friend Hanna was murdered and an adult she respected covered up for the killer. One of her first known forays into hacking was done to visit Laser-Guided Karma on the killer.
      • Notably, when Finch wonders what her start of darkness was, she chides him for his attempt at kitchen psychology and denies that anything happened to her to make her the way she is. Whether this means Hanna's death had no effect on her pre-existing tendencies or whether she denies the effects to establish a distance from a buried trauma or whether she just means that nothing happened to her is unknown.
    • For Peter Collier, it was having his brother detained without charges and Driven to Suicide because a man he knew from his Alcoholics Anonymous meetings resembled a terrorist recruiter, followed by the officials responsible never getting punished.
    • Greer was an up and coming MI6 agent until he learned that his immediate superior was a double agent who burned a close friend of his.
    • Dominic is unique among POI arc villains in that he doesn't have a Start of Darkness episode.
  • Preacher (2016):
    • Odin Quincannon is a coldhearted, borderline sociopathic businessman who can do pretty much whatever he wants (up to and including murder) in Annville courtesy of being practically the only employer in town. The episode "El Valero" eventually reveals what drove him to this — after the tragic deaths of his entire family in a cable car accident, he had a Freak Out and dismembered their bodies, finding that there was no difference between them and one of his cows, judging them as "just meat", and that the soul is a lie. This drives him to nihilistic atheism and madness, as he's determined to force everyone else to accept his own views.
    • A series of flashbacks throughout the first season chronicle the origins of the cowboy who will become the Saint of Killers that he himself is forced to relive in Hell. It sticks pretty close to the comic version.
  • Smallville is this for Lex Luthor. To be more accurate, season five, Lexmas. By Season 7 he's become the megalomaniac we all know.
  • Spartacus: Gods of the Arena shows how Batiatus and Lucretia's ambitions led them to compromise their morals and become the utterly corrupt Manipulative Bastards they are in Blood and Sand.
  • Season 1 of Carnivàle delves heavily into Brother Justin's Start Of Darkness,as he develops from a compassionate and deeply moral laypriest into (at the very least) an unrepentant demon. It doesn't help that this was his bloodline and his sister murdered a bunch of orphans to engineer a personal tragedy for him.
  • Teen Wolf has this with "Fury" for Matt, "Visionary" for Deucalion, and "The Overlooked" for The Darach, as well as season one for Peter Hale.
  • In Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, the two part episode "Today is the Day" does this for Jesse.
  • Timeless reveals right away in the pilot that the reason Garcia Flynn is trying to completely screw up history is something to do with Rittenhouse, but despite hints dropped here and there over the next several episodes, it's not until "The Watergate Tapes" that we find out exactly why. As a contractor for the NSA, Flynn noted several large money transfers between Rittenhouse and Mason Industries (to fund their Time Travel experiments). Four days after he reported this to his superiors, Flynn's wife and daughter were murdered by home invaders, while he barely escaped. And since he doesn't know who in Rittenhouse ordered the hit, he's just going to Ret-Gone them as a whole, even if it destroys the United States as we know it.
  • The episode "Katerina" of The Vampire Diaries delves into the history of the eponymous Magnificent Bitch.
  • Each of the Big Bads on Warehouse 13 get an episode (or details spread out over several episodes) explaining how they became the villains we know them as:
    • MacPherson used the Phoenix artifact to save his lover; by "dying" temporarily, he saw the afterlife, which from his point of view was nothing but darkness. He assumed this meant that there was nothing after life, and that all that matters is the now.
    • H. G. Wells lost her daughter, and started seeing only the worst in people; when she was de-Bronzed in the present, she saw things had only gotten worse and was pushed straight into Omnicidal Maniac territory.
    • Walter Sykes was corrupted as a child by an artifact that let him walk; when it was confiscated by Warehouse agents (specifically, Pete's mom), he became obsessed with getting it back and getting revenge on the Warehouse for taking it away.
    • Season 4 turns out to be one long SOD for Artie as his Enemy Within (manifesting as a hallucination of Brother Adrian) slowly consumes him.
  • Wentworth: In a series that acts as a reimagining/prequel to a show about a ruthless women's prison and the top dog that rules it, this is almost inevitable, but in Season 2 Episode 1 we finally see it. Bea overcomes her drug dependency, but takes a final sedative so she can visit her murdered daughter, Debbie, one last time in a hallucination. She says her goodbyes and assures Debbie that she has a new purpose now. Then she stares down Debbie's murderer as the warm light of the idyllic scene is replaced with the cold green-gray of prison and says, "I'm gonna kill the fucker."
  • Several non-consecutive episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess dealt with how Xena became the bloodthirsty warlord that she is trying to atone for.
    • There was also an episode detailing Callisto's rise.

    Music 

    Pro Wrestling 
  • There have been several in-character ones over the years. It can be argued that Randy Orton's slow descent from the suave Legend Killer to the sadistic Viper was a result of his ousting from Evolution, something he never got over. Evolution played a major part in Randy's character and actions, being the reason for his hatred for Triple H, extending all the way to 2009, four years after the stable had fully dissolved, and yet at the same time a blueprint for Randy's own power stable Legacy. It's also pointed to as the main reason why Randy had gone kayfabe-insane in 2009. The event had such an effect on him that one could argue that it defines his entire career. Only recently has he managed to get over it.
  • Half-jokingly, fans said that Ultimate Warrior's No-Sell to Triple H's Pedigree at WrestleMania 12 was the moment that Triple H decided that he will use his burial shovel to bury those that stand on his way to reach the top of the wrestling world.
  • Matt Hardy was never the same after his long-time girlfriend Lita cheated on him with his behind-the-scenes best friend Edge. There were a lot of moments beforehand that really pushed him close to the breaking point, but it was unquestionably this event that made sure there was no going back for him. What followed afterwards was a professional and personal breakdown that lasted several years, and even after getting his life back together, the emotional trauma had built up to levels that eventually culminated in the birth of "BROKEN" Matt Hardy.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The New World of Darkness games all have a mechanic that encourages this trope for players: as the players sin or make immoral or counterproductive choices, they "degenerate", making future choices of slightly greater depravity and further degeneration easier and more likely. Each degeneration can also give a character a minor derangement such as a phobia or narcissistic tendencies, which can force further sins even if the player doesn't want to do so.
    • Fits this trope because at the bottom of the scale the player becomes so irrationally self-centered and evil that they cannot be played and become an NPC. What kind of monster depends on the game: for mortals, you become a Serial Killer, werewolves become a movie-style wolf-man that hunts humans for fun, changelings become completely unable to tell imagination from reality ( And become True Fae if they're powerful enough), vampires become ravening blood-crazed beasts, and mages turn everything in their area of effect into a Cthulhu Mythos story.
      • In the fan game Genius: The Transgression, Genii have an alternate way of getting down to the bottom- failing Unmada checks. The first failure turns you into an Unmada, a Genius who has lost touch with real science and believes that his wonders are the true way the world works. Unmada aren't necessarily evil, but they are dangerous (One could, for example, see nothing wrong with Skynet's modus operandi), and if they fail a further Unmada check, they completely lose themselves to Inspiration and become Illuminated (completely alien and amoral intelligences), just the same as if they had fully bottomed out their Obligation. It's both easier and more common for a Genius to become Illuminated in this way.

    Toys 
  • The BIONICLE web-serial Mutran Chronicles and a scene from the book Swamp of Secrets reveal just why the formerly benevolent Brotherhood of Makuta turned against the Matoran Universe—it was because the peoples of the universe all attributed their efforts to preserve the balance of things to Mata Nui, and shunned them for being affiliated with the element of shadow. They got fed up with this. The comic Rise and Fall of the Skrall also details why the titular race wanted to overrun the desert region of Bara Magna along with its locals—they were driven out of their home-realm by robot assassins, and needed the space to fight back. Although it's to be assumed that being mean has always been their way.
  • Beast Wars: Uprising: The story "Identity Politics" is one for Scorponok, and Megatron. The former starts off as a senior worker at a refinery, and the latter a good-natured, approachable administrator who's even willing to talk with Maximals (a rarity in the stratified Cybertron). Then Megatron's boss shafts him to further his own political career, Scorponok makes a casual comment about finding a stash of energon of their own, and it all snowballs from there...

    Visual Novels 
  • Fate/Zero is mostly a retelling of the Fourth Grail War, making it the prequel of Fate/stay night. In it, Kotomine is still more or less a good guy, though all his mental issues are still present. While the war is going on and Servants are going down, Gilgamesh is needling Kotomine towards realizing what he is and descending into villainy.
  • About one-third of the Matsuribayashi chapter of Higurashi: When They Cry is spent giving Nurse Takano one of these.
    • Shion gets one herself during the Meakashi chapter (takes about 2 episodes in the anime, culminating with the "distinguishment" incident). The events are implied to happen in multiple arcs (having taken place one year before the story begins, but whether the events "detonate" depends on the arc) with clear exceptions like Saikoroshi-hen where Shion stayed at St Lucia to support her sister as much as possible from far away.

    Web Animation 
  • Red vs. Blue:
    • The Project Freelancer Saga is essentially this for Maine, and a downplayed version for Carolina and Washington (who become Anti-Heroes, but not completely evil). Past Maine was ruthless in combat, but still a loyal teammate who saved Wash, Carolina and York from a collapsing building. As the flashbacks continue, he goes mute and gets Sigma to compensate. Sigma becomes interested in metastability and brainwashed Maine to help him, eventually turning him into the Meta, arc villain of The Recollection. Carolina was Freelancer's top operative, but being constantly shown up by Tex wore on her and made her temper worse and worse. After finding out the full story behind Project Freelancer, she became bitter and driven to vengeance, uncaring of even her own team. Wash was the adorable Butt-Monkey of his team, but then he had Epsilon implanted, which gave him all the memories of the Director's crimes and a second-hand mental breakdown, leading to the cold and vengeful character who debuted in season 6.
    • Season 15 has the Desert Gulch Chronicles flashbacks, which detail the time when the Blues and Reds were in the same situation as the Reds and Blues — playing Capture the Flag in a box canyon in the middle of nowhere. One member of the Blue Team, Mark Temple, was childhood friends with Biff, a member of the Red Team. They were even about to try to get Biff medically discharged so he could return to his girlfriend, but before they could do that, Agents Carolina and Texas were sent down for a battle. In the battle, Tex accidentally killed Biff. She and Carolina left the gulch and never thought of it again... but Temple had just lost his best friend, and the revelation that Biff had died for nothing more than a training exercise (and the UNSC had voluntarily given them up for it) broke him. He eventually started tracking down and killing Freelancers (even ones who had nothing to do with what happened) with the rest of the Blues and Reds, and plotted to destroy the UNSC.
  • RWBY:
    • The Character Trailer for Volume 6 shows the trajectory of Adam Taurus, from his earliest days as a violent pro-Faunus activist to his actions during the show, being a villainous anti-human that partakes in genocides.
    • The Volume 6 episode "The Lost Fable" reveals how Salem transformed from being an ordinary woman into Remnant's Ancient Evil. Imprisoned her entire life by her abusive father she was unable to cope with the death of Ozma, her saviour and lover. Punished with Complete Immortality for trying to trick the gods into resurrecting him, her vengeance destroys humanity, and she ends up corrupted after trying to kill herself in the divine Pools of Annihilation. After the gods resurrect Ozma to try and redeem the reborn humanity, the lovers clash over Salem's destructive urges, accidentally killing their four daughters and locking them into a bitter Forever War for the fate of humanity.
    • The Volume 8 episode "Midnight" reveals how Cinder Fall became a sadistic villain. Adopted and raised by a cruel Atlesian hotelier and her daughters, Cinder is worked, starved and tortured as a child-slave. A local Huntsman sympathises with her, secretly training her to become a Huntress so she can escape when she comes of age. Unfortunately, the years of endless abuse eventually catch up to Cinder when she snaps and kills her adoptive family; once her mentor tries arresting her, she also kills him. Now she's obsessed with becoming strong, powerful and feared and treats others as her abusive step-mother once treated her.
  • Super Mario Bros. Z features a prologue where Metal Sonic becomes the deadly Mecha Sonic... and proceeds to destroy all of Mobius and kill all of Sonic's friends.

    Webcomics 
  • In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, Fructose Riboflavin has been the greatest criminal in the Nemesite Empire for the better part of two thousand years. But he Used to Be a Sweet Kid. Then his dad died...
  • MAG-ISA: The villains in this comic had miserable lives before they became villains.
  • The Trope Namer — admittedly more recent than most of the other examples here, but it's still a pretty cool title — is Start of Darkness, prequel to The Order of the Stick detailing Evil Overlord Xykon and his Dragon Redcloak's past. Xykon, unlike most, is astonishingly evil from the get-go. We get to see him become more evil... but more importantly, a lot more competent. Redcloak is a whole other story.

    The comic's author and illustrator, Rich Burlew, said in the Introduction that the greatest challenge of Start of Darkness was to tell Xykon's backstory without making him even slightly sympathetic. He solves this problem by making Xykon's every appearance push him farther beyond the Moral Event Horizon.
    Burlew: ... [Xykon]'s completely and wholly unapologetically evil, but more to the point, he's kind of a dick.
    • The very first page of the book might have been teasing at it: Xykon is shown as someone who might come off as sympathetic for the first three or so panels, but revealed to be already evil before the page is over—at the age of four. And yet, Burlew does give him one simple human, if not quite redeeming, quality that makes his final descent, if not sympathetic, at least understandable. After being turned into an undead creature, he loses his ability to enjoy simple pleasures such as the taste of coffee. And then brutally murders the diner waitress because of it.
    • Burlew makes a point of not giving away Belkar's backstory in On the Origins of PCs (and the Belkar backstory comic for Kickstarter donors) for similar reasons, wanting the character to remain completely, unapologetically and unmistakably evil. Although, also to keep him funny. Evil isn't funny when it has a tragic backstory, just pitiable. Belkar does end up revealing a sob story in his childhood in the main comic... Entirely made up, it turns out, spun in order to gain roleplaying XPnote . Word of God, as stated in On the Origins of PCs, is that this is to represent how some players create elaborate backstories for their characters complete with family and previous obligations and some... don't.
  • In Act 6 of Homestuck we learn Lord English's origin. He was a boy called Caliborn who dropped himself in a "dead" session of Sburb (the Absurdly High-Stakes Game the characters are playing) than slowly worked to become more and more powerful until he ultimately became a full-blown Eldritch Abomination. Also subverted in that we learn he was a scumbag even before he became Lord English. If anything he simply transformed himself from a Harmless Villain into The Juggernaut.
  • The flashback chapters of Evil Plan show how Stanley turned from an idealistic inventor into Urbane City's first super villain. He found out his accountants were selling his inventions to super villains, he gained telekenesis via a self-experiment and accidentally killed his best friend trying to recreate it. The final scraps of his spirit crushed by trying to earn an honest buck as a bank teller, from there on he turned his company into a legitimate front, started building super gadgets, hired some minions and an engineer, opening the doors to the main story.
  • In El Goonish Shive, Part 1 of the arc Sister 3 is Pandora's backstory showing how the premature death of her husband started her down the path toward With Great Power Comes Great Insanity.

    Web Original 
  • The Spoony Experiment spoofs this in its April Fools Day review of the original Final Fantasy. The Spoony One was driven insane trying to comprehend the game's time travel plot and became determined to invent his own method of time travel to stop the series from being made, ultimately causing his own time paradox by his future self appearing and presenting him with the technology fully formed. Along with a rather neat bit of acting, with Noah making a seamless transition from Spoony to Insano before our eyes.
  • The version two finale of Mega64 reveals how Dr. Poque became the Mad Scientist he is today.
  • Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog has several prequel comics which describe how and why Dr. Horrible decided to try to become a villain in the first place. The show itself is a Protagonist Journey to Villain.
  • Interlude 19 of Worm follows Emma Barnes transition from an ordinary high school student to a ruthless bully determined to destroy Taylor's life.
    • The first eight arcs of the story can be considered one for Taylor.
  • From Killerbunnies, we have Genevieve, a sixty-nine-year-old bitter, manipulative, and foul tempered rabbit, who is a Black Widow, however, according to her backstory, her start of darkness came when she found out her first husband, Malcolm, was having an affair and, in her fit of upset, she poisoned him, leading for her continuous kill up to six husbands afterwards.
  • Thanks to Ascended Fanon, Team Four Star's Let's Play of Dragon Ball Xenoverse is this - their character Dumplin, after ascending to the position of Demon God by killing Demigra and honing his powers, becomes/became Mr. Popo as he is in Dragon Ball Z Abridged.
    • Happens in-universe in Dragon Ball Z Abridged, when a reporter asks Cell where he came from. Cell proceeds to recount the entire story of Dragon Ball up to that point (offscreen, thankfully).
    Cell: Let me weave you the tale of my origins. Though I must preface it by saying it does drag on in places, so I'll try to cut down on the Filler. It all begins, as many stories do, with a girl shooting a young boy in the face...

    Western Animation 
  • The Dr. Robotnik of Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog has his origin told in the episode "Best Hedgehog" as a high school student expelled because he tried to kill a romantic rival with a robotic snake to woo a girl he liked. He made sure that rival was his first prisoner.
  • Adventure Time:
    • In the episode "Holly Jolly Secrets Part II", we learn the Ice King's start. He used to be a human named Simon from before The Great Mushroom War who bought a crown while on a trip with his fiancee Betty, whom he called "Princess." When he put on the crown he blacked out and when he came to his fiancee had left him (But, turns out she did love him and through time-travel, the main cast brought her into the future). Throughout the video he made you see him slowly morphing into his current form, wishing that whoever finds it to watch over him until he can figure out how to break the curse. It's really hard not to feel sorry for the guy after that.
    • The episode "Princess Cookie" was an episode all about this. Baby-Snaps the cookie is seen taking hostages and trying to steal the crown of Princess Bubblegum. Then, we learn of his past: he was an orphan living in a terrible orphanage, and one day, Princess Bubblegum showed up to read to the kids and cheer them up. The princess put Baby-Snaps on her lap and asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. He jollily said: "I want to be a princess like YOU!" And the princess giggled innocently. That was the start of darkness for poor Baby-Snaps, who went on to threaten people with violence, take hostages, and attempt suicide, and end up in a mental hospital.
  • "The Last Tough Customer" on Arthur shows Molly's in The Teaser: when she was in maybe kindergarten or first grade, a couple of older kids teased her about her poofy hair. She took out her hairbands, letting her hair fall across her eyes, and became a bully.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender has one of these. "The Storm", aside from telling how Aang ended up frozen in an iceberg, gives us how Prince Zuko got his scar and banishment; he spoke out against a general who believed We Have Reserves, but because it wasn't his place to speak out, he had shown disrespect, and the Fire Lord declared a duel to resolve the matter. Zuko accepted, thinking he'd fight the general, but because it happened in the Fire Lord's war room, it was the Fire Lord he'd disrespected. Zuko couldn't fight his father, and begged forgiveness. Instead, he got a fireball to the face and an exile that would not be lifted until he found the Avatar, considered a Snipe Hunt at the time.
  • Batman: The Animated Series
    • There is such an episode with the Riddler, wherein he creates a computer game that makes millions but is then fired by his publisher so that, as according to his contract with them, he doesn't get anything from it. And so becomes the Riddler in his attempt to punish his old boss. Notable in that this is one of the few episodes where the Villain of the Week escapes, unharmed and untouched. He was never there to be caught. At the ending, where the wealthy businessman is headed to bed. Shaking in terror all the way, he locks the multiple locks on his door, climbs into bed with a double-barreled shotgun, and cringes in paranoia.
    • The show is also credited with Mr. Freeze's backstory, who up to that point was just a cold-themed villain who turned up occasionally. The cartoon turned him into an Anti-Villain Woobie.
    • Temple Fugate, a Schedule Fanatic, decided to take a break from that schedule at the suggestion of then-Counselor Hill and things went horribly wrong, costing him a court case. Temple snapped and vowed revenge on Hill, now Gotham's mayor, becoming the episode's titular villain, the Clock King. He orchestrates a smear campaign against Mayor Hill as a prelude to kidnapping him and putting him in a Death Trap
      • Temple Fugate’s case is a bit of a Deconstructive Parody of this trope; Temple had No Social Skills and was a Mean Boss long before the fateful day he took Hill’s advice. Even when confronted with the fact that Hill meant him no harm, Temple reconstructs this trope when he refuses to admit he's taken his obsession too far, being a Schedule Fanatic, being punctual is the only thing he cares for.
      Batman: Give it up, Fugate! Hill committed no crime against you!
      Clock King: He did worse! He made me late!
    • The tie-in comic book for the series described (but did not show) one for Arnold Wesker, a.k.a. The Ventriloquist. The Ventriloquist tells Batman that he was actually born into a mob family and was encouraged by his mother not to allow himself to drift into a life of crime like the rest of the family had done. Arnold promised her he'd do this... but then his mother was killed one night by a bullet meant for his father, and Arnold felt that he had to avenge her. Even after becoming a gangster, he still kept a framed photo of his mother on his person at all times—until Scarface, in a fit of jealousy (because the Ventriloquist had been keeping company with other puppets in an attempt to distance himself from Scarface), tore up the photo, causing Arnold Wesker's mind to snap for good.
  • BoJack Horseman: It's long been obvious that a large part of the titular character's issues came from the abuse suffered at the hands of his resentful and bitter parents Beatrice and Butterscotch, who play a sort of Greater-Scope Villain to his issues. Season 4 greatly expands their own backstories, particularly Beatrice's, showing that Beatrice Used to Be a Sweet Kid up until her happy family broke apart after her brother's death in World War II, which caused her mother to go insane with grief and get lobotomized, after which Beatrice underwent a traumatic bout with Scarlet Fever and had to deal with being raised by her abusive and sexist father. This drove her into the arms of charming amateur writer Butterscotch, but a surprise pregnancy ensued, causing them to move to San Francisco, where their lack of money and Butterscotch's failed attempts at achieving success with his writing make them grow bitter towards each other and little BoJack, whom they would use as an outlet for their issues.
  • The Boondocks episode "The Color Ruckus" shows the events in the life of Uncle Ruckus (no relation) that lead him to becoming a Boomerang Bigot; his father Mister was monstrously abusive and beat his sons for basically any reason, with Ruckus getting the worst treatment. This, combined with the stories his caucasian-idolizing mother told him to comfort him, led to Ruckus inventing a ridiculous backstory for himself about being an abandoned white child with "reverse vitalargo" because he couldnt deal with being his fathers biological son. Ironically, the episode ALSO shows how his father got that way; a lifetime of abuse heaped on him by both his horrid bitch of a mother, and a parade of abusive white employers (Mister having been around during the worst of the Jim Crow era.)
  • In Darkwing Duck, an episode is dedicated to the origin story of Reginald Bushroot, and how he became a villain.
  • DuckTales (2017):
    • "The Ballad of Duke Baloney!" features the origin story of Scrooge's fierce business rival Flintheart Glomgold. In his youth he was a South African shoe-shine boy named Duke Baloney, and Scrooge offered to give him his own #1 Dime in hopes of inspiring him. However, Duke took it as an insult that the richest duck in the world would short-change him and, after stealing a money clip containing a million dollars in cash, vowed to get even by becoming the new richest duck in the world. The newly-christened Flintheart Glomgold became determined to out-do Scrooge in everything, including being Scottish, which is why he adopted a Scottish persona.
    • "The Duck Knight Returns!" does this for Negaduck. Jim Starling was the actor for the Darkwing Duck TV series in-universe. However, when a movie was being made, the decision was made to replace him with a new actor. Being a tad egotistical, he went crazy and attempted to take over the movie and kill his replacement. The end result lead to set exploding and Jim, believing that it was all the replacement's fault, embraced his evil side. Oh, and the replacement? A young Drake Mallard, who is convinced by Launchpad to be the real Darkwing Duck.
  • In The Fairly Oddparents episode "The Secret Orgin of Denzel Crocker," it is explained how Crocker became obsessed with fairies and why he's so bitter toward his students and life. It's due to Timmy accidentally costing him his fairies (ironically Cosmo and Wanda in the 70s) when he travels back in time to discover what made Crocker so bitter. Naturally, Crocker doesnt remember this but before his memories were erased, he had time to scribble down "fairy godparents exist" on a magic detector he managed to hide, leading to his lifelong obsession with proving their existance.
  • The main purpose of the four-part Gargoyles episode "City of Stone" is to provide a framing story for one of these for Demona and Macbeth.
  • Skeletor got one in He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2002). Turns out he was a powerful wizard trained by Hordak who wasen't completely bad (or at least not crazy). Then his face got flash fried off. After seeing that he has a skull for a face now, he completely lost it. The scene where his sanity finally snaps can scare someone as he starts laughing into the sky like the god damned Joker.
  • The Moral Orel episode "Passing" for Clay Puppington. We see him as a child, when he discovers that his mother miscarried ten times before he was born, he becomes upset and briefly fakes his own death which causes his mother to have a heart attack and die. This puts him at a distance with his father, who Clay intentionally tries to provoke into hitting him so he'll be "worth it."
  • In an alternate universe in Justice League, President Lex Luthor had Flash executed, and then taunted Superman about the fact that, since Superman historically wouldn't kill or otherwise do anything more than have him incarcerated, he would basically get away with it, as always. This prompted Superman to cross the line and kill him, thereby starting the Justice League on the path to becoming the Justice Lords.
  • The Powerpuff Girls: Mojo Jojo's origin was intially revealed in the episode "Mr. Mojo's Rising". As Jojo, he was once Professor Utonium's unruly pet monkey, but was ignored when the Powerpuff Girls were created (to which he learned he played a part of in the end). This would lead him into becoming the supervillain we all know. The story and trope were further expanded in The Powerpuff Girls Movie.
    • Mojo's telling of the origin paints him as someone who might come off as sympathetic but Utonium reveals that Mojo was just as unsympathetic when he was Jojo. In fact, Mojo may actually be more likable and sympathetic as a supervillain than he ever was when he was just a normal monkey.
  • While Samurai Jack's first episode explains the basic premise behind Aku, the episode "The Birth of Evil" tells his exact origins as a castaway shred of an Ultimate Evil which the Gods fought among the stars.
  • Parodied in The Simpsons episode "The Seemingly Never-Ending Story". In Moe's story-within-the-story, it's revealed that Springfield's recidivist criminal Snake Jailbird used to be an Adventure Archaeologist until he came into Moe's Tavern. After Moe steals his Mayan coins, Snake declares "I'll take my revenge on society — by which, I mean convenience stores."
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars shows the events that made Anakin Skywalker a hero of the Clone Wars. But sprinkled throughout are moments foreshadowing his fall to the Dark Side. More than once, he Force-chokes his enemies to save Ahsoka or Padmé's lives. His trust in his master is shaken when Obi-Wan fakes his own death and does not tell Anakin. And his faith in the Jedi Council is shattered when they turn their backs on Ahsoka.
  • Tangled: The Series gives us alchemist Varian, who has one of these in "Queen For a Day" after his father is encased in a combination of his own mixtures and the black spikes popping up around Corona. As a direct result of Rapunzel's reluctant refusal to help Varian due to the kingdom facing an Endless Winter, his optimism is replaced with hardened cynicism and he goes from happy, eager-to-help child to one of the series' darkest villains.
  • The Transformers Animated episode "Along Came A Spider", where we find that Blackarachnia's hatred against Autobots began when Optimus Prime and his friend Sentinel accidentally left her behind on an alien planet inhabited by spiders. While still inside the caves, Blackarachnia is accidentally mutated into a technorganic spider, causing her to join the Decepticons as revenge for Optimus and Sentinel's betrayal.
  • The Venture Bros. offers a Start of Darkness for Phantom Limb in "The Invisible Hand of Fate". At one time he was a Mad Scientist in the dotty/well meaning sense, and chivalrous enough to turn down future-Mrs-the-Monarch's sex-for-grades proposition. Long story short, both he and Billy Quizboy were victims in a Gambit Pileup.
  • Wakfu:
    • "The Legend of Goultard" reveals how Goultard became a demonic berserker in the game. He was originally a brave and mighty hero who had a good life with a wife and three children. Then a villain named Katar kidnapped them to lure Goultard into a fight. Goultard tracks him down and is horrified when he discovers that Katar has already murdered his entire family. After a brutal No-Holds-Barred Beatdown, the defeated Katar explains that he did this to free himself from the demon inside him by presenting it with a tastier target. The demon is drawn to Goultard's hate and fury and possesses him. Goultard finishes off Katar and eventually becomes an immortal demonic warrior who rules over a realm of madness and horror. Though in the series proper, he is eventually freed of the demon but retains the immortality and becomes Sadlygrove's mentor.
    • "Noximilien" shows how Nox, the Big Bad of the main series' first season, became such a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds. Essentially, the discovery of the Eliacube — an extremely powerful Amplifier Artifact (and, unfortunately, Artifact of Doom)—and Noximilien's subsequent obsession over it led him to neglect his family, which resulted in their loss. He did not take this well. At all.
  • Nerissa of W.I.T.C.H. gets one for both her comic and cartoon selves, both the same: a leader of her generation's Guardians, the Oracle feared she was becoming too attached to the Heart of Candracar and gave it to her friend Cassidy. When Nerissa demanded it back and Cassidy refused, Nerissa slew her in misguided rage.

 
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Alternative Title(s): Start Of Darkness Prequel

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From Bobby Best to Bobby Worst

Episode 3 of "Blame The Hero" reveals that he has a doozy of one: from his father being a dick who pretended they weren't related at his elementary school- even joining in when other kids would bully him in gym class- to said bullying to Bryce stabbing her heart out in front of him and murdering his father in vengeance after Bobby understandably throws up on and shatters her heart-literally.

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