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Start of Darkness

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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?"

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.


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.


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!


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Axis Powers Hetalia:
  • Berserk: The Golden Age Arc, which is canonically the third Arc in the manga but the first chronologically, serves as one for Griffith, who was previously seen once as Femto right before the arc started, and explains Anti-Hero Guts's motivations.
  • Black Lagoon: The episode "Two Father's Little Soldier Girls" contains a number of flashbacks to Balalaika's past detailing her childhood, service in Afghanistan, disillusionment with society and rise to power in Hotel Moscow.
  • Danganronpa 3: The Side:Despair portion of the series shows how the students of Class 77-B from Super Danganronpa 2 became Ultimate Despair. It also shows the transformation of protagonist Hajime Hinata into Izuru Kamukura.
  • Dragon Ball Super: Zamasu. While he never trusted or liked mortals, he wasn't actively against them or wanted to kill them. He just wanted to take a more direct approach when dealing with mortals who abused the gods' knowledge, instead of just watching and guiding. Things, however, went downhill the moment Present Zamasu meets Goku. Not only is Goku a mortal who is friendly with gods, but he is also more powerful than most gods outside of the Gods of Destruction. Once Zamasu gets into his mind that mortals are stupid and dangerous, everything else was confirmed bias.
  • Elfen Lied: Sure, brats. Go ahead, take the puppy of the shy, emotionally-repressed pink-haired girl with cute little horns, beat it to death and make her watchshe can't hurt you.
  • Fairy Tail: In chapter 436, we are given a look into Zeref's past, including the source of his "Instant Death" Radius. He was cursed by a god for trying to bring his dead little brother back to life. However, this was only the beginning. Later on, Mavis reveals when Zeref truly fell into the darkness: he fell in love with Mavis after he found out she had the same curse and she proposed that they give Eternal Love a shot. However, their first and only kiss kills her because his love for her is strong enough to empower his curse to take her supposedly immortal life. To have the only person who ever brought him happiness be so cruelly ripped away is what would finally break Zeref and cause a downward spiral that he would never get out of.
  • Fate/Zero is a story that's just as much about Kitisugu destroying himself as Kotomine Kirei turning into full-blown villainy. Despite a lifetime of priesthood, Kirei never found happiness without the suffering of others, and is painfully aware of it. Enter Gilgamesh, who gradually convinces him to embrace his true nature as a sadist.
  • Future Diary: Yuki used to be a sweet, shy boy living an unextraordinary life. However, once he obtains his Future Diary and meets Yuno, that sweet boy becomes a faded memory, especially after his mother dies. His morality begins to disappear as the show progresses and he comes to love the girl who has stalked him and killed several people.
  • Ga-Rei -Zero- is explicitly stated the Start Of Darkness of Yomi. Judging from what happen in the manga, this might also qualify as Kagura's Start Of Darkness.
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: One episode in the second season focuses entirely on Kuzes' past, showing what motivated him to fight on the behalf of the people, even against the state.
  • Guilty Crown: In episode 15, Shu of all people has one of these. Hare is killed right in front of him (in his arms) because of something stupid and selfish done by Souta and his friends in order to prevent the creation of the Void Ranking System. After her death Shu gets Dull Eyes of Unhappiness and mounts Inori and forcibly removes her Void and procedes to chillingly emotionlessly systemetically rip to pieces the mechs attacking them. He then proceeds to go hysterical and begin pounding Souta's face in before being dragged off by Yahiro. His next words, coming from Shu of all people, hit the characters(and the audience) pretty hard:
    Shu: "I was wrong. Kindness is pointless. We have to separate the good from the trash. I'm going to become king." Heil Mein Shurer
  • In Hellsing Ultimate it reveals that Alucard was raped by the Turks when they invaded his nation. While that didn't break him, it can be considered the first step in his path to becoming the ultimate vampire and most powerful being in this series as well as completely mad and battle-thirsty.
    • Another point could be how he became a vampire. Having waged war on the Ottoman Empire and having sacrificed everything, including his people and subjects for the glory and promise God would save them, he was captured and to be executed. Feeling betrayed, dark forces offered him power and by taking in blood, he turned his back on god and he became a vampire.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • A series of flashbacks taking place prior to the events of Stone Ocean act as this for Enrico Pucci and Weather Report. Specifically, the death of Perla Pucci was this, as her death caused the former to become the Well-Intentioned Knight Templar he is now, while the latter gained his hatred for humanity from the event.
    • While the manga goes with the idea that Dio Brando was born evil, the Over Heaven spin-off novel (a defictionalization of DIO's journal from Stone Ocean) goes into detail on his past and what made him who he is when the series starts. In the novel, Dio himself specifically sees the death of his mother as this, as it was her being worked to an early grave despite her kindness that led Dio to the conclusion that Virtue Is Weakness. Had she lived, Dio most likely wouldn't have become the vicious monster he is now.
  • Last Exile: Fam, the Silver Wing: Episode 11 shows the event that ended up shaping Luscinia Hafez into the series' Big Bad.
  • Mazinger Z: Dr. Hell's mind was already unstable and unsound due to his upbringing (he was abused by everybody when he was young, including his parents — particularly his mother, who often said she never wanted children and would be better off without him, and was not above hitting him for no reason). However, when he found out the woman he loved was in love with another man Juzo Kabuto, future builder of Mazinger-Z and Kouji's grandfather, he... flipped out and attempted to murder his perceived rival. Shortly after he tried helping someone... and he got the crap beaten out of him for it. Later he crawled back towards his home, bruised and blood-stained, muttering "Mediocre imbeciles! You don't deserve to be alive! One day I'll purge the world of all of you! And then everybody will kneel before me". When you heard his words and saw his utterly mad stare you realized he had snapped out completely and Dr. Hell had been born.
    • Let's say people had shunned him out of scorn before, but after that point they did it out of FEAR.
  • Monster: Despite the fact that Johan Liebert may as well have been born an Enfante Terrible with a destiny as a natural-born villain (to the point that he displays several characteristics associated with The Antichrist), the series is principally devoted to finding out what in particular set him on his life trajectory to be as evil as conceivably possible (not least by committing and/or inspiring others to commit a series of murders). In the final episode and the series' semi-sequel Another Monster, it is implied that pondering what his mother's reasoning and intentions for alternately rejecting either himself or his twin sister were when she was forced to give one of the children to Franz Bonaparta and Peter Čapek (compounded by the fact that the two were Half-Identical Twins that were also dressed seemingly indistinguishably), combined with internalizing all of the pain and fear that his sister experienced after she was the one taken away by Bonaparta and Čapek, and then being abandoned by their mother to live on their own, was what induced Johan to begin killing and manipulating others in earnest.
  • Muteki Kanban Musume, being a Deconstructive Parody of the Shōnen Fighting Series, has this in the short "Another Kanban Musume" : Megumi has an extended Flash Back when she tells the story of how in her childhood she tricked a teacher into teaching her under a Training from Hell how to gain Improbable Aiming Skills so Megumi can defend herself against Miki Onimaru. The parody here is that Megumi is not a Classic Villain nor is Miki The Hero. They both are only the Schoolyard Bully All Grown Up and The Rival to each other. The deconstruction is that this story is not about Improbable Aiming Skills, because Miki always manages to Dodge the Bullet. Megumi is really talking about how she realized that she was weaker than Miki, and how she renounced attacking her directly and resorted to lying and scheming to fight her… only Megumi doesn’t realize that, because she is a Hypocrite.
  • Naruto has done this with many antagonists so far, and attempts to justify the Uchiha examples, by claiming that their powers take hold of them because they love too much:
    • Deuteragonist Sasuke Uchiha witnessed his brother Itachi murder their parents, after murdering their entire clan. He then was subject to days of Mind Rape compressed into seconds, and a challenge to kill his brother when he's ready. None of this makes him "evil", so much as focused on killing his brother, a world-class criminal, on his own, having gone from a frendly outgoing boy to a brooding young man. He does start recovering when he meets up with Team 7, but his second encounter with Itachi not only undoes all the recovery he has been going through, but deal further damage to his sanity and doubts, leading him to fight his rival and protagonist Naruto out of fear he will be surpassed. This fragile state of mind means he's vulnerable to temptation; he then follows Orochimaru, the series' first Big Bad, to gain the power to beat Itachi. After the Time Skip and having become a colder person, he does finally defeat his brother... until the mysterious Tobi decides to reveal some secrets. He tells Sasuke the truth about Itachi's backstory, that it was the clan itself that was evil and Itachi was just following orders, he becomes seriously mentally imbalanced and unstable, playing into the hands of the new Big Bad manipulating him, Tobi, and he decides his best option is revenge on their entire home town. Only after learning more about everything, defeating the final Big Bad and one last battle with Naruto does he finally reach his end of the darkness.
    • Gaara grew up believing his mother named him as a curse against everyone else, for her having to die in childbirth. His father had warriors and himself to keep Gaara in line, because of the demon sealed within him, which would be unleashed if he lost control of his emotions or even slept. As a small child, he believed that there was only one person who loved him, his maternal uncle Yashamaru. The betrayal of Yashamaru transformed him from an attention-starved waif to a serial killer. He came around to the side of good once he realized what friendship was, long before any of the above was actually fixed, and years before it was all retconned to be a big misunderstanding, and his parents always loved him.
    • When Sasuke "defeated" Orochimaru the manga briefly touched on Orochimaru's past, while the anime expounded on it. His deepest dream was to live long enough to meet his parents when they were reincarnated. Years of war and loss turned him cold and bitter until only the dream of living forever remained.
    • Nagato lived in a state of constant war, as his homeland was the battleground for all the bigger countries' wars. For years, he was subtly manipulated by Tobi. Then, his parents were killed in front of him. Eventually, the death of his dear friend Yahiko and his subsequent crippling drove him to share his Pain with the rest of the world.
    • Kakuzu was imprisioned and punished for failing to kill the First Hokage. As a result he steals the elders hearts and runs away.
    • Kabuto grew up an orphan, but that didn't let him get down. However, he never really knew who he was meant to be. He was inspired to be a ninja by the first people to challenge him to grow in his natural talents, Orochimaru and Danzo. While on a mission for them, he was tricked by them into accidentally killing his foster mother, who in turn had failed to recognize him due to their brainwashing of her. After this happens he hits the Despair Event Horizon and Orochimaru was the only person around that was there for him at that point. He commits some good, and a lot of evil, actions for the rest of the series, but only comes into his own once Orochimaru dies and he no longer has any guidance or kindred spirit.
    • Obito Uchiha, after some subtle mental influencing by Madara, witnessed first-hand the death of his childhood crush at the hands of the friend who vowed to protect her and became convinced the world he lived in was hell. He then decided to accept Madara's plan to create a better world by killing or brainwashing everyone in the world.
    • Madara Uchiha lived through a time of warfare, like everyone else in his generation. Then, thanks to his best friend's work, which he attempted to co-opt and sabotage, things started getting better and he mostly got over the wars, like everyone else in his generation. Then this one time, he didn't get to be the top boss of the country, after he eavesdropped on a private conversation between his best friend and his best friend's brother, where he found out that not everyone liked him, because he was such a bully to other people, his own family, and the people they were supposed to be courting as allies. So instead of being happy for his friend who did get the job (and apparently completely glossing over the fact that his friend wanted to name Madara as his successor), he used an ancient stone detailing the world's constantly warring history to assume said friend's system would fail and justify his becoming the Big Bad and trying to brainwash or kill everyone in the world, despite that in no way saying he in particular should take any action. Ladies and gentlemen, your final villain. Kind of. Madara and said best friend's brother both having serious paranoia issues that played off each other in the worst way certainly didn't help.
  • One Piece:
    • Chapter 0, a special tie-in to the tenth movie, One Piece Film: Strong World. In it, we see Shiki and Gold Roger's rivalry, as well as the Flying Pirate's escape from Impel Down and his preparing for the movie's plot. Interspersed are scenes of people throughout the world, reacting to both Roger's death and Shiki's escape.
    • To a lesser extent, the Fishman Island arc explains part of what made Arlong who he is.
  • Pokémon
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica:
    • Subverted in episode 10. It seems to be one of these for Homura, but instead, it ends up showing that she's far less villainous than she seems (all of her Anti-Hero antics are an attempt to prevent Madoka from dying and/or suffering a Fate Worse than Death). Played straight for Kyoko in episode 7.
    • Played straight, however, in Rebellion. Homura's infatuation with Madoka, causes her to trick her into appearing again, so she can steal her powers of godhood and become the devil. She does this to create a new perfect world where she believes Madoka will be happy (even though Madoka didn't want any of it) and will always be by her side.
    • The mobile app Magia Record reveals how Nagisa Momoe turned into the witch Charlotte, who famously and memeticially bit Mami's head off. Her magical girl idol and her mother were both murdered by a serial killer, and the resulting trauma caused her to witch out. It also doubles as a reveal for the identity and backstory of Urhmann, another witch whose identity was unknown to the fans until then.
  • Rave Master: Almost every villain gets at least a chapter for this. Some are a little sad, some will leave you temporarily cheering for the villain (until you remember that every single one aims to wipe out all life as we know it).
  • RahXephon: One episode presents the back-story of Makoto Isshiki, a cold-hearted seducer and major jerk to everyone else. It shows him as a cute and kind boy who just wanted to find his parents. Then, one day he admitted to himself what he really was, and his flashback ends with him getting an Important Haircut and taking on his nasty personality.
  • Romeo X Juliet practically drops it line for line with the episode "Darkness: The Origin", which gives Prince Montague a somewhat run-of-the-mill Freudian Excuse.
  • The Rozen Maiden Ouvertüre OVA explores the start of Suigintou's fierce rivalry with Shinku and the source of her massive inferiority complex that motivated her to become the first season's Big Bad.
  • 2007 adaptation of Skull Man features one for Black Ghost, Big Bad of Cyborg 009
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: The 8th and final Parallel Works video is one of these for Lordgenome.
  • Toriko: Midora starts to reminisce over his past during his battle with Ichiryu. The flashback chapters reveal how a nameless baby born to be fed to wild pigs eventually became one of the most powerful and dreaded beings on the planet.
  • The flashback arc in both incarnations of Trigun seems at first to be the background for the highly mysterious lead, but it's even more about the Start Of Darkness for the Big Bad, his Evil Twin. In the anime version, the kid was always somewhat touched in the head, and one abusive crewman, combined with the awareness that the human race destroyed the Earth and are now looking for a new planet, push his pragmatism into Kill All Humans territory. In the manga...he has much better reason.
    • His manga reason made Vash try to kill himself twice and laugh hysterically when he thought he'd accidentally killed Rem! And manga Knives Used to Be a Sweet Kid—more than Vash, even. Some of adult Vash's ideals are stuff Knives said as a kid.
    • Legato also gets one of these, in the manga. Unusually, it has a very upbeat ending — because psychotically serving an Omnicidal Maniac who doesn't really give a damn about you is so much better than being raped to death by the guy who owns you. Knives didn't just spare him, he even asked his name! And nameless-boy-who-would-become-Legato goes stumbling after him naked and weeping for joy.
    • Livio has one, too, although his is complicated by the fact that first he got a psychotic alternate personality, and then later he was acquired by the Eye of Michael and turned into a killing machine in his own right.
    • Anime Wolfwood also gets one. Manga Wolfwood just gets back story snippets. But because the anime is Lighter and Fluffier, Wolfwood's philosophical position has a lot less pull there, so he needs a more clear-cut 'reason' to think the way he does.
  • The Unlimited Hyoubu Kyousuke, episodes 7-8, for the Villain Protagonist, Kyousuke. Sort of a weird case because the flashback is almost entirely upbeat-ish; most of the tragic stuff is Time Skipped over. Only the final push where the captain shoots Kyousuke because he was supposedly going to destroy the world, but the assassination attempt fails to kill him and turns him evil, is actually shown.
  • Yu Yu Hakusho: the antagonists in seasons one and two are shown to have become villainous due to major psychological trauma leading to crises of faith in their formerly-held ideals (the massacre of Toguro's students by a youkai and Sensui's exposure to the depravity of humanity and then the Black Chapter tape). And in both cases enough self-hatred to stage really stupid, selfish Thanatos Gambits.

    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 provides the trope image, and has 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.
  • 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 dies. 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.

  • 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 disaproval, 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 is one for Twilight Sparkle, but the Queen of Darkness' legacy is revealed to go back further than that. 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!
      • We get to see Diamond Tiara's Start of Darkness occur as the story progresses, with the primary Break the Cutie process happening during the Mind Games arc. By the time it's done, Discord's succeeded in breaking her so fully that she goes Nightmare and becomes his Dragon.
      • "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, 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.

    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 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 trilogy of Star Wars prequels, showing how the Empire was formed and how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader. Specifically, Anakin's journey to the Dark Side began in Attack of the Clones, when he started having visions of his mother Shmi in pain and went to Tatooine to find her. He did... mere moments before she died after who knows what kind of abuse at the hands of the Tusken Raiders. Anakin then murdered every last living thing in that village—men, women, children, and animals—and burned it to the ground. This would instill a desire within him to seek power at any cost in order to protect those he still loved, which made him vulnerable to Palpatine's corruption.
  • 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."

  • 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.
  • In 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.
  • 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:
    • A flashback finally explained why Mike Ehrmantraut of Breaking Bad "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?"
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.


    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.

  • 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...

    Video Games 
  • Metal Gear's entire prequel sub-series dedicated to the story of how the Big Bad of the first two games, Big Boss, became the war mongering mercenary who was willing threaten the world with nuclear weapons:
  • The Jetstream DLC of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, which is set before the events of the original game. shows how "Jetstream" Sam Rodriguez ended up involved with Desperado.
  • This occurs in the backstory of Fallout 4 for the Institute. Having sequestered themselves far below the Commonwealth for roughly a century while working on creating Ridiculously Human Robots to help rebuild civilization with, they were already pretty distrusted and regarded with suspicion by the residents of the Wasteland above, many of whom saw their offers of We Can Rule Together as Schmuck Bait. Eventually, the Institute decided to help the Commonwealth as a gesture of good will by secretly organizing the Commonwealth Provisional Government, an alliance of like-minded representatives of various settlements from across the Commonwealth that would come together and help organize the beginnings of a new society (similar to the creation of the New California Republic in Fallout 2). Unfortunately, unlike the historical Constitutional Congress they were based on, the members of the CPG were never able to come to a consensus and killed each other - leaving only the Institute's representative the Sole Survivor of the shootout. The Institute was then promptly blamed by the rest of the Commonwealth for their chance at a new society getting smashed to pieces. This set the Institute on their dark path to villainy, with them now regarding the Commonwealth as a lost cause full of unkempt savages only worthy of being used as tools in their quest to create a world that won't fall victim to Atomic Hate.
  • Super Robot Wars Original Generation Gaiden features the Start of Darkness of one of MX's Big Bad Albero Esto. It was only mentioned several times in MX, but in OG Gaiden, it's... rather full-blown and detailed.
  • Sengoku Basara 2 Heroes features a Gaiden story for Maeda Keiji, which in fact was a Start of Darkness for a villain in the actual game, Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Hideyoshi starts out as a normal man, joining Keiji in pranks here and there, until he encounters Matsunaga Hisahide, who proceeds to humiliate him, and this causes him to become drunk with power, leaving Keiji and doing a lot of atrocities later on.
  • The Mass Effect novel Revelation serves as a Start of Darkness for Saren, showing how he came to be the villain in the videogame... though in the novel itself, he's already an extreme Knight Templar.
  • About one third of Crisis Core is spent on telling us how Sephiroth became the Magnificent Bastard and One-Winged Angel he is in Final Fantasy VII. Including remaking Cloud's flashback scenes from the original game to the actual moment he snapped, also a Start Of Darkness in their own right. This took advantage of advances in animation and allowed for Cloud's serious amnesia problem. (Also the Epileptic Trees spawned when he had dialogue right for a scene he was not actually present for. Some fans believe his delusion of Zack-ness was largely caused by some kind of Hojo-induced memory transfer.)
    • The game proved that he didn't suffer a sudden sanity loss, but rather more of a long line of betrayals that started as early as Gast's death and ended with the very facts of his own existence, which overall is both more believable (even allowing for Jenova's clear ability to mess with his brain) and more tragic. Due to Crisis Core we know that he had lost absolutely everything by the time this happened.
    • His Start Of Darkness could be pinned at conception, at the moment he broke, or just described as 'his whole damn life.' The man was born one of Hojo's experiments. Their suffering has been unquestioned more or less since Hojo was introduced. Though he still had just enough innocence left during that fateful practice duel that events afterward could almost be labeled 'Break the Cutie'.
  • Prince Luca Blight from Suikoden II had his after his family was ambushed by bandits in one of their official travels. He and his father managed to escape, but his mother wasn't so lucky. Luca wanted to go back for her but his father said that he couldn't risk his life as the King. His mother was rescued shortly after, but she didn't return to the castle. Several months later, Luca managed to find out where she was and quickly escaped from the castle in order to meet her. He had a arduous journey, and a man took his horse in exchange for a pear and some water (Luca didn't want to eat the wild berries or drink the muddy water he found in the way). Upon finally meeting his mother, she started to scream and rip her hair out when Luca came close. One of their aids explained that she was brutally raped by the bandits and got pregnant, as well as going completely insane and unable to stand near men. Luca then snapped. He went back to the castle, but not before meeting the man who took his horse, who he murdered with joy. He was also lucky enough to find a small village along the way, and found that the bandits, as well as his mother's rapist, were sheltered in a house there. He stormed inside the hut and caught everyone off-guard, murdering everyone. When he found the rapist, he tortured and killed him gruesomely. When he returned to the castle, two things were permanently scarred on his mind: the disgust for people and the pleasure he got when killing. Thus, Luca Blight was born, a monster who causes a war for the sole reason of having an excuse to kill people by the thousands.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
  • Kagetsu Tohya fleshes out Michael Roa Valdamjong's start of darkness with the Crimson Moon and Drinking, Dreaming Moon scenarios. Roa actually wanted to achieve immortality because he fell in love with Arcueid and wanted to be with her for eternity, but mistook that feeling for hatred and thought he wanted to torment her for eternity.
    • Araya wants to take over Ryougi's body because he wants to reach Akasha, so all the meaningless deaths would at least have a reason and cease to be meaningless. ect.
  • In Live A Live, the hidden Medieval Chapter explains just who and what "Odio" is, and what made him into the demon of hatred influencing the various end bosses. It starts the young, heroic, Knight in Shining Armor Oersted on a fairly formula "Save the princess from a demon" plot, but... well, to say it all goes to hell about halfway through would be an understatement. By chapter's end, everyone in the kingdom believes Oersted to be the real demon (over something that was an accident, not that they saw that part of it), everyone who believed in him is either dead, or being "protected" from him, his best friend is revealed to be the one who ruined his life, and the princess declares her own hatred for him after he duels said traitorous friend to the death, and then commits suicide. Oersted is left with absolutely nothing. He then proceeds to just plain snap, and decides that if the world is so insistent that he is a demon, then a demon is exactly what he will be.
  • DragonFable's Fire War is a Start Of Darkness for Drakonnan. Once Yulgar's apprentice, Konnan called upon the hero to stop the rampage of the red dragon Akriloth upon his home village. But despite the hero's best efforts and the powers of the hero's recently acquired dragon, they were no match for Akriloth and the power of the Fire Orb. Akriloth, instead of finishing the hero, sadistically made them watch as he burned the village to the ground, killing Konnan's family. Konnan blamed the hero for failing to save them and when the evil pyromancer Xan got his hooks into him, this would turn into a desire for revenge that would soon threaten the entire land of Lore.
  • In the 1st Degree has James Tobin charged with grand theft and murder. There are indications in the interrogation tapes that the chain of events leading up to the events in the game go back to when Tobin and his wife Helen divorced. He apparently took it hard and just went on a steady downward spiral after that.
  • Baten Kaitos Origins shows how Geldoblame came to be in control of The Empire, and how he went from Verus' prissy Yes-Man to a megalomaniacal Evil Overlord.
  • As seen in a flashback, the death of Sophia in Xenogears was the Start Of Darkness for Krelian and Grahf.
  • Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles provides such a story for Jack Krauser. During a mission working alongside Leon, Krauser suffered an injury that crippled his left arm and effectively ended his illustrious military career. After witnessing how the virus healed Manuela and gave her incredible power, Krauser decided to seek out Wesker in hopes of regaining everything he'd lost.
  • Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance gives us the Start Of Darkness for series Big Bad Xehanort. What drove this man down his path of villainy? His Heartless went back in time and showed his younger self all of the evil acts he would do, even bringing him to the future to help them out. Even though he would forget what he saw and do, the actions he would take are now engraved in his heart. Xehanort isn't just happy messing around with the heroes- even his youth is fair game!
    • Double Subverted in Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep. Master Xehanort orchestrated a series of events on Terra that almost mirrored Anakin Skywalker's descent into darkness, including the murder of Terra's mentor, Master Eraqus. Despite this, however, Terra never fell completely, and Eraqus' death only prompted him to get his act together and finally point his darkness and rage at the right person: Xehanort himself. Unfortunately, in the process, Terra's darkness ends up weakening his heart, allowing Xehanort to casually commit Grand Theft Me on him, resulting in the man we knew as Xehanort in the later games.
    • An update for Kingdom Hears Union χ titled Kingdom Hearts Dark Road follows Young Xehanort as a playable protagonist, back when he was still a friend of Eraqus'.
  • Injustice: Gods Among Us:
    • We learn that the Injustice-verse Superman started his takeover of the world after the Joker tricked him into killing Lois and his unborn child by taking them up to space without a suit because he was under the effect of a Kryptonite-induced fear toxin that made Superman hallucinate that she was Doomsday. Lois' death triggered the hidden Dead Man's Switch in her to set off a nuke and blow up Metropolis. The Joker then successfully goaded Superman into murdering him, something that he was never able to do with Batman.
    • Injustice Steve Trevor was a Nazi spy who almost tricked Wonder Woman into surrendering the Amazons' Lasso of Hestia. His deception broke Diana's idealism and shaped her into the despicable Blood Knight she is today.
  • In Ravenmark: Scourge of Estellion, Livia Cassianus finds out that the late Emperor Sergius Corvius has always intended for her to inherit the Obsidian Perch (i.e. the throne of the Empire of Estellion). Before that, Livia falls in love with young Calius Septim. In the final cutscene, Calius gives his life to save Livia from the Big Bad pulling a Taking You with Me. Livia herself is scarred by the flamesoul explosion. At Calius's grave, Livia vows to remake the Empire into something new, claiming that traitors must be rooted out, and the blood of the fallen must be repaid. The description of the sequel Ravenmark: Mercenaries claims that six years have passed since then, and that the land is still reeling from the rule of the "Scarlet Empress".
  • Castlevania
    • Lament of Innocence is the origin of the series' version of Dracula. the once-noble Mathias Cronqvist, after the death of his wife, arranged for his friend Leon Belmont's fiancée to die as well as part of plan that ultimately gained him two immensely powerful stones, allowing him to literally master Death and become the lord of darkness, causing Leon and his descendants to declare eternal war upon him.
    • The series reboot Lords of Shadow provides an alternate start of darkness: Gabriel Belmont, after learning that he is responsible for the death of his wife, that he cannot resurrect her using the magic mask as he has been led to believe, and that Satan has been using him to spearhead a war against God, begins on a path that leads to him becoming Dracula himself. Forcefully injecting himself With Great Power Comes Great Insanity to prevent another demon from retrieving it made things even worse - and it's implied that the demon in question is Lucifer.
  • Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! deals with Handsome Jack's rise to power and how he went from someone with legitimately heroic aspirations to the power-hungry and delusional villain of Borderlands 2. However, Borderlands 3 reveals in a side-mission the true start. After learning his daughter Angel manifested Siren powers and fearing she would be a target for anyone who would want her for themselves, she was eventually kidnapped in front of him and his wife by a bandit named Grogmouth. A scared Angel accidentally activated her abilities and took control of Grogmouth's turrets, firing wildly at everything. Not only does the bandit get killed, but so does Jack's wife/Angel's mother accidentally. This drives Jack clear over the Despair Event Horizon and Jumping Off the Slippery Slope in the process. He locks Angel (a child no less!) in a solitary chamber "for her own good", only to later decide to use her powers to his own benefit, starts the events of the first Borderlands in the process and rises up the ranks of Hyperion as seen in the Pre-Sequel.
  • In Sonic Adventure 2, Maria's death at the hands of G.U.N. was this to Shadow and was his main motivation for wanting to destroy the Earth. Though subverted once he remembers Maria asked him to protect the Earth, not destroy it.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics has the Chapter 1 "The meager". The entire chapter is a flashback that shows both Delita and Wiegraf starts of darkness, both triggered by the murders of their respective sisters.
  • Ace Attorney: A variation given he was already a hard-ass to begin with, but Gyakuten Kenji 2 explains in more detail how Manfred von Karma turned from a "mere" Jerkass to a full-blown villain who murdered Gregory Edgeworth for tarnishing his perfect win record. This was also the start for Miles, as Manfred took him in shortly thereafter and began to instill his "win at all costs" mentality in him.
  • Completing single-player in War of the Monsters unlocks a small cutscene that shows how the Kaiju you played as came to be (except for the unlockable monsters, where you get a "making of" video instead).
  • Phase 10: The Wicker Bride of Splatterhouse (2010) gives one for the game's antagonist, Dr. West. His wife was burned inside of a wicker man by the townsfolk a few hundred years ago then you show up to kill her, as a result of a Stable Time Loop.
  • The "Harbingers: Gul'dan" video released before the World of Warcraft expansion Legion details how Gul'dan became a power-hungry servant of demons after having been cast out from his birth village for being crippled.
  • Each of the killers in Dead by Daylight has an origin story that is only explained on the official website.
    • The Trapper was a loyal worker on his father's estate, but after his father's mental health degraded to the point of ordering him to massacre the rest of the workers, he in turn snapped and murdered his father, which earned him a spot in The Entity's ranks.
    • The Wraith was a crusher operator at an auto chop-shop, but after learning that the main purpose of his job was actually to perform hits on people who were trapped inside the cars, he went mad, killed his boss in the same way he murdered all his other victims, then ripped out his head and spine, which he now uses as his primary weapon.
    • The Hillbilly was hated by his parents since birth because of his physical deformity, and they locked him away in a room where the only contact he had with the outside world was being fed through a hole in the wall. Eventually, he escaped, murdering his parents and all of the animals on their farm.
    • The Nurse had a good life and promising future, until her lumberjack husband died in a work accident, forcing her to take a job at Crotus Prenn Asylum to make ends meet. After spending two decades surrounded by insane people, she finally went insane herself, massacring all of the patients in the middle of the night.
    • The Shape is, well...Micheal Myers.
    • The Hag lived in a quiet, friendly town. when the hag, formerly known as Lisa Sherwood, lost her footing and struck her head, slipping in and out of consciousness because of a sudden storm, she found herself captured by cannibals, when she finally escaped she proceeded to devour her kidnappers.
  • The manuals for the Disciples series detail the backstory, including the Start of Darkness for the two evil deities of the setting (as opposed to just Jerkass Gods). Bethrezen started out as the Highfather's favorite angel, to whom the Highfather gave the power to create. Bethrezen then made Nevendaar (the game world) and asked other deities to fill it with life, himself creating humans. Then Bethrezen asked the other angels to watch over the world and went to get the Highfather to show him his creation. The jealous angels messed with the mortal races, so by the time the Highfather arrived to see Nevendaar, the world was afire with war and destruction. Outraged at Bethrezen, the Highfather entombed him within the molten core of his own creation for all eternity. After millennia in the core, Bethrezen grew bitter at the Highfather and the mortal races, becoming the setting's Devil and creating the Legions of the Damned as his army. The demonic legions burst onto the surface in the elven woods, sending the elves running for the hills, which happened to be in dwarven territory. Assuming the elves were invading, the dwarves attacked them. The elven gods Gallean and Solonielle confronted the dwarven god Wotan and demanded that he punish his children for the unprovoked attack. Enraged, Wotan killed Gallean and threw his heart at the sun. Solonielle managed to jump and catch the heart, but her flesh was burned off. The grief, the desire for vengeance, and the pain warped Solonielle into the fleshless goddess Mortis, whoc slaughtered an entire people and raised them up as her Undead Hordes.
  • A good chunk of the plot of Tales of Zestiria revolves around the main party to hunt down the Earthen Historia so as to watch past events, specifically those revolving around the Lord of Calamity Heldalf.
  • Tales of Berseria follows in the footsteps of above (not surprising since it's a prequel) as during the massive Wham Episode the truth of how the Big Bad became how he is is revealed by the Earthen Historia. In a somewhat meta fashion, due to the Historical Villain Upgrade that Velvet goes through in-universe (as the first one to hold the title of Lord of Calamity) the prologue of the game counts as this, showing what broke the sweet village girl she was before the Advent.
  • Diablo III: Reaper of Souls spends quite a bit of lore explaining how Adria became a heartless betrayer and agent of Diablo, as well as the fall of both Urzael and Malthael himself.
  • Issue #10 of The Secret World prompts the players to investigate the chain of events that led to the creation of the Black Signal, concluding with a full-blown Start Of Darkness in "Nightmare In The Dream Palace." Turns out that the seemingly omniscient voice of the Filth was once a social misfit and outcast by the name of John Copley, who ended up joining the Fear Nothing Foundation in a desperate attempt to find friends; the cult exploited this by providing him with friends and even a girlfriend to lust over, eventually sending him on a night on the town that ended with him experiencing a vision of the Dreamers. With John well and truly indoctrinated, the FNF employed him as a suicide bomber and charged him with delivering the Message to Orochi Tower... but John didn't die when he detonated. Instead, he became something else.
  • A series of side quests and cutscenes in Final Fantasy XIV show the origin of Edda Blackbosom: she was initially Edda Pureheart, a slightly inept Conjurer who was the Butt-Monkey of the team of adventurers, including her fiance, a Gladiator named Avere. However, while exploring the Tam-Tara Dungeon, Avere's decision to charge forward without help lead to him losing his head. Her teammates put the blame squarely on her shoulders as they broke apart and, after you give her a pep talk, she seems determined to start things anew. However, the grief of her fiance's death and a run in with a mysterious figure would lead her to turn to necromancy and turn evil.
  • The Kiwami remake of Yakuza 1 adds in additional cutscenes that deal with Akira Nishikiyama's descent into villainy during the 10-year timeskip that happens between the prologue and the first chapter, where his failed attempts to save his sister as well being constantly disrespected and being under Kiryu's shadow led to him becoming an ambitious crimelord who serves as the central antagonist of the game.
  • After the reveal of Scott Shelby being the Origami Killer in Heavy Rain, you're treated to a flashback to his childhood where his brother is stuck in a pipe and is drowning from the rising rainwater. Their abusive alcoholic father refuses to budge, causing the sibling in the pipe to drown while his last words to his brother is "Don't forget about me, Scotty." From that moment on, Scott never forgave his father. By the time he becomes an adult, he goes on a kidnapping spree by capturing young boys and forcing their fathers to go through a series of trials to prove that they're willing to sacrifice anything to save their sons. If the fathers fail to reach their sons in time, the kids drown inside a well when the heavy rain floods it.

    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 happen in every arc (having taken place one year before the story begins, but whether the events "detonate" depends on the arc.

    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 Adorkable 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, 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 Lost Fable": Salem had at least three. Having been sheltered her entire life by her abusive father, she struggled to cope with the death of Ozma, the only person who loved her and treated her kindly, and attempted to seek the Gods to revive him. When she tried to trick them into doing so, she almost succeeded until they figured out what she was up to, leading to them punishing her with immortality so that she'd never see Ozma again. Upon realizing that the Gods were fallible if they were able to tricked and argued amongst themselves, she rallied humanity to Rage Against the Heavens... only for the Gods to wipe them out and leave her in the aftermath. When she tried to kill herself by jumping into the Gods' pool of Grimm, figuring that it would be the only thing capable of killing her, she became a literal avatar of darkness that not even her revived husband or their children could Morality Chain down.
  • 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.

  • 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 XP. 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 Sinfest, we get Baby Blue's unhappy past. (We see nothing of why she got those F's.)
  • 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.
  • This is Schtein's whole arc in String Theory.
  • In El Goonish Shive, Part 1 of the arc Sister 3 is Pandora's backstory.

    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 a on 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". 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 adorkable blacksmith Varian, who has one of these in "Princess 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.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Start Of Darkness Prequel


Mojo Jojo's origin

Mojo Jojo was originally Professor Utonium's lab assistant, Jojo, until the blast from Chemical X that created the girls mutated his brain and gave him a high IQ, and his jealousy toward the girls made him become the supervillain chimp he is today.

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