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Heroic heel turns often have expiration dates

By Staff | Jun 29, 2016

If you haven’t heard the hubbub about “Steve Rogers: Captain America” #1 or had it revealed to you in your Facebook trending feed like me, this article will contain spoilers.

For many the cat’s been let out of the bag that at the end of said issue, Captain America uttered the phrase that sent chills down the spines of Marvel fandom and America in general: “Greedo shot first.”

Oops. I mean, “Hail Hydra.”

Some people mistakenly assumed this meant the man who represents everything to which our nation aspires has been a secret Nazi for 75 years. But despite connections to that regime, Hydra in the comics has tended to be more of a generic bad-guy organization, kind of like Cobra, than purveyors of a particular ideology.

By the time you read this, issue 2 will have hit the stands, and Marvel editor Tom Brevoort has indicated a lot will be explained therein. My money’s on time travel and/or a cosmic cube.

That suggests to me that Cap won’t be on the dark side for long. I don’t think anyone believes he was going to stay there permanently.

Heroes and villains often shift sides in comics. If the villains are popular enough to carry their own titles, sometimes they stay on the (relatively) good side, a la Deadpool and Venom. Heck, Magneto’s still at least 51 percent good now, right?

The opposite rarely lasts as long, at least for Marvel and DC.

The biggest superhero heel turn of all time was probably Hal Jordan losing it after the destruction of Coast City and wiping out most of the Green Lantern Corps. But he gradually edged back toward a white hat, even spending time as the Spectre before DC revealed the entity Parallax had corrupted him and Hal was restored as the premiere GL in “Green Lantern: Rebirth.”

The closest I could remember to the recent insinuation that Cap is, and always has been, a Hydra sleeper was the ’90s Avengers story “The Crossing,” when the team learned Iron Man had been working for Kang most of his superheroing career and he offed several C-list teammates. Stark was replaced briefly by his teenage self before the Onslaught event allowed writers to hit reset.

Second Robin Jason Todd was troubled even as Batman’s sidekick and so unpopular that he died as a result of fans’ telephone votes rather than a Joker bomb. He came back from the grave as a Punisher-esque vigilante called the Red Hood and even worked with his former mentor’s rogues gallery. But Jason eventually softened his stance and rejoined the Bat-family, albeit as the cousin who is sneaking drinks from a flask and occasionally killing a bad guy.

Sentry succumbed to his inner demons, but the Void was arguably the more powerful entity from the start.

Disregarding Omni-Man from “Invincible” and the Plutonian from “Irredeemable” because they were part of specific stories rather than decades of continuity, I had a hard time coming up with good guys who broken bad and stayed that way.

Sentry succumbed to his inner demons, but the Void was arguably the more powerful entity from the start.

Cyclops went bad as “Avengers vs. X-Men” wore on, but he kind of leaned heroic going into “Secret Wars” before apparently dying off-panel between that series and Marvel’s subsequent relaunch.

Maxwell Lord was a relatively comedic character in the ’80s Justice League run by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire. In the run-up to DC’s “Infinite Crisis,” he was revealed to be the mastermind behind the Brother Eye and O.M.A.C. projects and murdered Blue Beetle Ted Kord. Despite a brief stint as a White Lantern, he stayed bad right up to the New 52.

Evan Bevins is the writer of the webcomic “Support Group,” www.supportgroupcomic.com