Adaptational Villainy Part I

Every so often, you'll see a character from a story of some kind or another who in a subsequent adaptation or alternate reality comes out looking a heck of a lot worse than they were in the original story. When this happens to also make the character a straight-up villain/antagonist, it means we've got a case of Adaptational Villainy. Now Adaptational Villainy comes in one of two forms:

1. Characters who were not villainous in the original story, but are in the adaptation.

2. Characters who ARE villainous in the original story, but are even worse in the adaptation. Examples of this include Bolivar Trask in Days of Future Past, Catwoman in most adaptations, Shredder in the 2003 cartoon, and so on and so forth.

And so with that out of the way, here is a list of examples of Adaptational Villainy. Note that I will not be including any real life examples or ones from Abrahamic Religions.

List items

  • In the V for Vendetta movie, where he's renamed Adam Sutler and is meant to be more akin to Adolf Hitler as opposed to the more sympathetic (but still villainous) figure he was in the comic.

  • In "Twisted, the Untold story of a Royal Vizier"

  • In the Elseworlds story "Green Lantern: Evil's Might", where he's a psychotic, treacherous, honor-less thug and one of the main villains in the story.

  • In the New 52, where he goes from being the only hero in the Crime Syndicate's world to being one of their members.

  • In Captain America the Winter Soldier, where he's a high-ranking member of Hydra.

  • I'm gonna argue she gets this in the Arrow/Flash continuity, which really plays up her ruthless and callous aspects and heavily downplays her more sympathetic ones. She almost never aids the heroes (whereas she did sometimes in both the comics and the DCAU) and unlike in the DCAU, there's no indication here that she's going to change her ways.

  • Sort of. In older DC comics the Amazons were usually emphasized as being fairly compassionate and benevolent, and stayed away from Man's World and also forbade men from being on the island because of how 1) The Amazons were the reincarnations (or something like that) of women who had been abused and mistreated by men, and 2) because men being on their island robbed them of their power. Subsequent depictions of them however, really play up their viciousness and misandry, and they even invaded Man's World in the critically panned story "Amazons Attack". They also fit this in the New 52 given how they go about keeping themselves populated and how they give their unwanted sons to Hephaestus in exchange for weapons and armor. They're kind of jerks now.

  • In the comics, Anarky is a well-intentioned extremist and also often times an Anti-Hero who even Batman does not consider to be a villain, just someone who goes too far in the pursuit of justice. In Beware the Batman on the other hand, he's a stand-in for the Joker and as such a shameless and unrepentant card-carrying villain who does what he does simply to torment Batman and to cause trouble. He could also be said to fit this in Arkham Origins, as in that game he never spends any time as a hero. Finally, his Arrow version looks to be heading in this direction as well.

  • In X-Men First Class, where she is only briefly affiliated with the X-Men and quickly leaves them for the Hellfire Club/Brotherhood.

  • Given that Anubis isn't really meant to be seen as a villainous figure in Egyptian Mythology, the fact he is almost invariably portrayed as one in other media is therefore noteworthy.

  • All of the main MLP characters get this treatment in various fan-fictions, parodies, memes, and the like, and Applejack is no exception. The most noteworthy case would probably be "Jappleack" from Hotdiggedydemon.

  • One of many Pokemon to be portrayed as a villain in media outside of the actual video games.

  • A serious case in Green Lantern the Animated Series where he is shown to be nothing more than a traditional cartoon villain and a hypocrite who indulges in the very kind of atrocities he condemns the Guardians for, such as destroying planets. Honestly this was my single biggest criticism of that show.

  • In the Shattered Glass reality

  • In the dreadful "Batman and Robin", where his sympathetic backstory (and all of his sympathetic traits, period) are removed in favor of turning him into a mindless brute incapable of human speech.

  • In Gotham, where she's a really screwed up (and badly written) kook who ultimately kills her own parents and then tries to murder Leslie Tompkins with a butcher knife before Leslie takes her out. Go Leslie.

  • In my Marvel Universe, where he never spends any time as a hero and dies a villain.

  • In Injustice Gods Among Us, where he's a member of the Regime, though that being said he is one of the more reluctant members of the fascist organization and ultimately turns his back on it to become a hero again. Still fits this though due to spending some time as a villain.

  • In Frank Miller's two turds "All-Star Batman and Robin" and "The Dark Knight Strikes Again", where he's re-imagined into an abusive and sadistic psychopath who I am extremely hesitant to call any kind of hero. He could also be said to fit this in "Superdickery", as most of the times he shows up in that he's portrayed as an accomplice to Superman's crimes and also a dangerously repressed closet pedophile who is WAY too into his sidekick. Yet another example of this is Batman as he is in "Red Rain", where he becomes a murderous nosferatu.

  • In "Teen Titans Go!" where he is often lazy, obnoxious, insensitive, and at times downright cruel and sadistic.

  • In "Justice League: Gods and Monsters", where she participates in the Red Wedding-esque massacre.

  • In Kingdom Come, where he's gone cuckoo and has a fight with Superman before redeeming himself. Also in Injustice Gods Among Us where he's a member of the Regime, though having said that he's also by far the nicest and most moral one.

  • In Young Justice, where he attempts to destroy the Earth at the end of the second season in a spiteful "If we can't have it, no one can" type gesture.

  • Much like her DC counterpart, Black Cat is often portrayed as being solely villainous in many adaptations, rather than the sometimes villain, sometimes anti-hero that she is in 616. More specific examples of this would include the Amazing Spider-Man video games, the Marvel Adventures comics, and (arguably) Spider-Man Web of Shadows. All this being said, the 616 version has recently devolved into a character who is way more villainous than she's ever been previously, but then that's bad writing for you.

  • Big time in the Ultimate Marvel Universe. For a full explanation as to why, see my Complete Monsters and Died in Disgrace lists.

  • In Green Lantern the Animated Series where she lacks her comic book counterpart's sympathetic backstory and never spends any time working with the heroes.

  • In the X-Men Days of Future Past movie where he never redeems himself, as opposed to the 616 version, who ultimately realized he was wrong and died helping the X-Men stop the original Sentinels.

  • In Green Lantern First Flight, where she turns out to be in league with Sinestro.

  • The Angry Video Game Nerd version

  • Besides Colonel America from Marvel Zombies, there's also one alternate reality where he's (rather blasphemously) a member of Hydra as Captain Hydra. Yeah.

  • The parody of him seen in Disaster Movie known as Jack Swallows.

  • In Justice League Doom, Batman the Brave and the Bold, and the DCAU, where she is strictly villainous and never spends any time as a hero, also not having the backstory of her mainstream counterpart.

  • One of the most common examples of this along with Hades and Frankenstein's Monster. Poor Selina is almost never portrayed as even remotely heroic in most adaptations, and time and again is portrayed as just another Batman villain. More specific examples of this include (but are not limited to): Batman Returns, the so-campy-it-hurts Adam West Batman show, Injustice Gods Among Us, Lego Batman, and the DCAU.

  • The infamous Disney version, who happens to be in running for the most downright evil villain that company has ever made.

  • In Injustice Gods Among Us and Teen Titans Go!

  • In the revised timeline and Mortal Kombat Legacy where after being turned into a cyborg he has yet to overcome his programming and become good again.

  • In Injustice Gods Among Us where he's turned into one serious little scumbag who kills Dick Grayson, betrays and condemns his father, is a total hypocrite, and turns into a sadistic and bloodthirsty Nightwing in service to the fascist New Regime. He also fits this in my DC Universe where he also turns into a more violent and brutal Nightwing and a major enemy of his sister Helena Wayne.

  • A version of him seen in Exiles who was a hitman in his world rather than a superhero. Also in the world where Gwen Stacy became Spider-Woman, where he's shown to be working for the Kingpin.

  • Hailing from the Age of Apocalypse reality, this version of Beast stands in stark contrast to the lovable blue furball of 616 and is instead a sadistic servant of Apocalypse who is eerily similar to real life villain Josef Mengele.

  • An alternate version of Mr. Fantastic that's pretty darn nuts, and also doing to alternate versions of himself and the FF what Morlun is currently doing to versions of Spider-Man in Spider-Verse.

  • In Pokemon Mystery Dungeon, where he's re-imagined into the ultimate evil, or something along those lines.

  • While Deadpool did start out as a villain in 616 and even now is no saint, in the Ultimate Marvel Universe he is a far more sadistic and sinister individual who hunts and kills Mutants on live TV just for being Mutants. Also his very ill-conceived appearance in X-Men Origins Wolverine and arguably also his (much better) appearance in Hulk Vs. Wolverine, as in both he never spends any real time as an anti-hero. I would argue he gets this in the awful Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon as well.

  • A minor case in Batman Gotham Knight. While Deadshot is always very much a villain, his mainstream version at least has a sympathetic and tragic backstory, and even the blatantly homicidal version of him in Secret Six is not wholly evil. In Gotham Knight though, he lacks this sympathetic backstory and also has no daughter to care about like he does in Arrow and the Arkhamverse. He also happens to be more of a coward in that animated film, meekly begging Batman not to kill him after he's defeated.

  • As Slade in the Teen Titans cartoon where he's a sadistic and sociopathic card-carrying villain who doesn't even have mainstream Deathstroke's somewhat sympathetic backstory, or for that matter any family to care for.

  • One of many Pokemon to be portrayed as a villain in media outside of the actual video games.

  • In the critically mauled live action GI Joe movie, where he lacks the moral standards and restraint that his original comic version had. Even his relationship with the Baroness seems to be more lust rather than genuine love.

  • As Robin in "Teen Titans Go!" where he's a sadistic, egomaniacal, and abusive control freak of a leader, and also in the so-bad-it-hurts "The Dark Knight Strikes Again" by Frank Miller.

  • While he is a villain in his native cartoon, the kinds of grotesque and malicious parodies the MLP characters frequently get subjected to have included versions of Discord significantly worse than the one in the actual show, who has also spent time as a good guy.

  • In those god awful Fantastic Four films. So, so bad...

  • In Spider-Man Noir where he lacks any of his other main version's sympathetic traits and is instead a Nazi scientist who tortures, enslaves, and brainwashes African Americans. Yeah.

  • In "Avengers Assemble", where he's just as much of a villain as all the other members of the Squadron Supreme. However, it's not clear which version of Doctor Spectrum it actually is (much like his DC counterpart, there have been several).

  • In Wolverine and the X-Men where she's a member of the Brotherhood rather than an Anti-Hero.

  • In Iron Man 3 where he directly founds AIM and is a wholly evil and sadistic supervillain with a laughably weak reason for being a bad guy. And I suppose if you count it, his appearance in Lego Marvel Superheroes, especially since that version of him is based off of his MCU version.

  • In Spider-Man 3, where he is the single most unsympathetic villain in the entire movie trilogy. Even prior to becoming a villain he's portrayed as obnoxious, egotistical, and someone who's willing to lie and publish a false story just to get himself ahead. Also his pursuing a woman who is clearly not interested in him and acting as though she's "his girl" and outright admitting near the end of the movie that he "likes being bad" in contrast to his more self-righteous and anti-heroic 616 version. Other versions of Eddie Brock/Venom also tend to depict him as wholly villainous with no Anti-Hero moments, as opposed to 616 Eddie who often acted in an Anti-Hero capacity (and still does, I might add).

  • In the Count of Monte Cristo Anime, where he's a straight up villain.

  • In the Ultimate Marvel Universe. While Elektra did start out as a villain in 616 and occasionally backslides into villainy now and again, the Ultimate Marvel version is consistently villainous and also much more openly selfish and sadistic.

  • In the X-Men movie universe, where she is strictly villainous and never spends any time as a hero.

  • In the revised timeline, as he has yet to turn away from Shao Kahn and become good like he did in the original timeline. He also fits this in both Mortal Kombat Annihilation and Mortal Kombat Legacy, brief as his appearances in those two live action adaptations are.

  • Marvel Zombies versions, who actually get renamed "The Frightful Four". Ironic, given that that's the name of a group of their enemies in 616...

  • In Batman Arkham Origins. Now granted, he was already a pretty bad guy in the DCAU where he callously shuts down Fries' project to save his wife's life. But in Arkham Origins, he not only endangers Nora Fries' life, he outright blackmails Victor Fries into working for him, is involved in arms dealing, and at the end of the DLC tries to beat Mr. Freeze to death with a lead pipe.

  • In the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films, where we never see him grow out of his role as "The bully", much less see him as Agent Venom, though in fairness to the latter that concept hadn't been introduced yet. I would also say he fits this in the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon to a degree. Even granting that he does eventually become Agent Venom there, initially he is portrayed as being even more despicable than he normally is during his bully years, outright leaving Peter to be killed by Venom at one point. But in fairness, that's a terrible cartoon.

  • You'd think her being super nice and innocent even by the standards of her world would make Fluttershy exempt from the Adaptational Villainy the ponies get in many parodies and memes. You'd be wrong.

  • Any and all depictions of him where he is portrayed as evil or villainous, because in the original novel by Mary Shelly Frankenstein's Monster is actually quite sophisticated and intelligent, only ever becoming deliberately violent when people go out of their way to provoke him. Really in the original novel it is Doctor Frankenstein himself who is the real villain, not his creation. Almost no adaptations of the story reflect this however.

  • In Shrek, where he, along with the other Merry Men, are more thugs than noble outlaws.

  • In the Ultimate Marvel Universe, where he's re-imagined into a fleet of callous alien invaders who are motivated to destroy other world's and species because of warped supremacist views, rather than 616 Galactus' doing it to keep himself alive.

  • In Wolverine and the X-Men and my Marvel Universe, as in both he's a self-centered thief and con artist who very clearly only cares about himself and is even willing to betray and hurt his own fellow Mutants for money.

  • Possibly and arguably in the Disney Continuity. The Legends Continuity actually gave Grievous a somewhat sympathetic backstory, including the fact that the Separatists have basically "altered" him so that he can't choose to NOT be evil. However, in the Disney Continuity, this backstory is not part of the canon, and there there isn't any indication that Grievous is not evil by choice, nor does he have any sympathetic reason for being so.

  • This is an interesting case, in that whether or not it happens is entirely up to the player. In the novels, Geralt is at least sporadically heroic and has some sympathetic qualities. However, if a player so desires, they can choose to make Geralt a good deal more nasty in the games. It is an RPG after all.

  • While he's always a villain, the version of him seen in the Pokemon Manga is noticeably even more brutal and nasty then in the video games and cartoons.

  • Marvel Zombies version, who is also one of the few zombies to never overcome his hunger, in turn necessitating his death.

  • In my DC Universe where he becomes a Red Lantern early on and stays as one, even becoming a member of my DCU's Legion of Doom. And even prior to becoming a Red Lantern he was kind of a jerk.

  • In Kid Icarus, God of War, The Clash of the Titans/Wrath of the Titans movies, the DC Universe (including the DCAU), the Marvel Universe, the Disney film...really, Hades just gets this a lot period.

  • In "Injustice Gods Among Us" where he's a coward who comes to serve as one of Superman's chief lapdogs during the latter's descent into fascist oppression. He also fits this in the Elseworlds story "Green Lantern: Evil's Might" on the account of being a bit of a misogynist and also a corrupt cop who throws his lot in with the bad guys for the sake of keeping Carol Ferris under his thumb.

  • In both Marvel Zombies and the Ultimate Marvel Universe. In the former, he's one of the main leaders of the main group of heroes turned zombies and is one of the last to overcome his hunger. In the latter he's a consistent and brutal spouse/girlfriend abuser (as opposed to 616 where he hit her once and regretted it afterwards) and also helped an army of superpowered terrorists invade the country. So basically, all of his negative qualities were amplified and he was turned into a scumbag who I consider Doctor Doom to be more sympathetic than.

  • In "Justice League: Gods and Monsters", where she's even more twisted and messed up than ever before, and also doesn't even have any kind of backstory or "reason" for her depravity and horror-movie esque cruelty.

  • In my Marvel Universe where his reasons for being evil are weaker, and he in turn becomes more evil than he normally is when acting as a villain, honestly coming to resemble his father more and being by and large a wholly evil character, just like his father usually is.

  • In God of War III

  • Also in God of War III

  • In God of War III and also the DC Universe, where he raped several Amazons (including Wonder Woman's mother) and is usually portrayed as a Wonder Woman villain. However, the writers tried to get him into an at least semi-heroic role by having it be revealed that he was being controlled/influenced by Hera at the time and thus was not in full control of himself. Even so, he spent time as a villain.

  • In God of War III (notice a pattern?)

  • In "Justice League: Gods and Monsters", where he orchestrates a blatant Red Wedding-esque massacre of the Apokolips New Gods, who in this continuity were open to peace through marriage. But for Highfather, who personally murders Darkseid and Orion, that wasn't good enough.

  • Several times as a matter of fact, more specifically the Ultimate Marvel Universe, Marvel Zombies, and especially in Old Man Logan. The 1602 version of Bruce Banner was a pretty bad guy too, before ironically his transformation into the Hulk caused him to become better then he had been before.

  • In Puss In Boots, where he's cast as the main villain. That said, he does end up redeeming himself, but still.

  • In Beware the Batman. While he remains a sympathetic anti-villain, he is still more violent and vindictive than his mainstream counterpart, who preferred to be left alone and would only become violent if bothered. Honestly it's very difficult to even call his mainstream version a villain at all.

  • In Arrow, where she's a psychopathic mass murderer so hellbent on getting petty revenge on her father that she doesn't care who she has to torture, threaten, or kill to get it. Though that said as of her most recent appearance she seems to finally be coming to her senses and moving past her sadistic and bloodthirsty past now that her father is finally dead.

  • In my Marvel Universe, where he's a dedicated servant of Harry Osborn/New Goblin, as well as an arrogant sadist, a criminal, a would-be assassin, a rapist...to be fair though, that's a different character as Hybrid. The Scott Washington of my world is as heroic as he's ever been in 616.

  • In Avengers Assemble, where he's a psychotic spoiled brat who destroyed his original planet essentially for rejecting him. Now, the mainstream Hyperion isn't exactly the nicest dude in the world, but he's still better than his animated counterpart.

  • In God of War II

  • In "Fables", where he goes from being a neurotic victim of a sadistic headless horseman to a seriously bad dude.

  • Given the insane number of times Les Miserables has been adapted, this was probably inevitable. Because he is the main antagonist, many adaptations of Les Miserables go out of their way to portray him as a more ruthlessly brutal, cruel, and evil individual, as opposed to the more sympathetic antagonist he is in the original novel.

  • In an alternate reality where she's Madame Hydra and has taken over America along with Wolverine. Yeah. And of course, the Marvel Zombies version would also count for this...

  • The Marvel Zombies version, and also an alternate version of him from the pages of Exiles where he became Emperor-for-life and essentially an even nastier version of Doctor Doom.

  • In "The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel"

  • In Mortal Kombat Annihilation, where, nice redesign aside, she's more of a villain than the generally heroic character she is in the games.

  • Many adaptations of Sherlock Holmes portray Moriary as a Complete Monster, even though in the original novels his villainy is more ambiguous, largely because in the books we never even actually SEE Moriarty. We only hear Holmes talk about him and SAY he's doing certain things.

  • In the Arkhamverse, where in-between his tenure as Robin and being the morally gray Anti-Hero Red Hood, he functions as more of a traditional (if not still sympathetic backstory-wise) villain in the Arkham Knight.

  • In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where he's a Hydra stooge.

  • In the Ultimate Marvel Universe where she's secretly a flunky to the Kingpin and (this is really, really, really, really, really gross) his lover. Yeah...I think I'm gonna need a shower after typing that...

  • In my Marvel Universe, where her hatred of Spider-Man causes her to become an outright supervillain with an axe to grind.

  • The downright psychotic and megalomaniacal version of him seen in "JLA: The Nail".