In the never-ending struggle of good versus evil, an eternal balance must be constantly maintained… at least as far as fiction is concerned. Conflict is the essence of drama, so for every power-hungry evil genius, there must be a muscle-bound monosyllabic gun-toting hero with a mysterious past to foil his elaborate plans. But in this miasma of heroes and villains, it’s the mirror image counterparts that stand out; the evil versions of our favorite heroes, possessed of all the abilities and strengths, but without the things like a sense of responsibility or compassion to balance them out. In a heroes world there’s nothing more disconcerting than to watch a darker version of yourself; the villain you might have become had you made different choices, wreaking havoc on the populace…but darned if it doesn’t make for some awesome stories.
#1: The Doctor and The Master
“Laser Screwdriver. Who’d have sonic?”
The Doctor is a compassionate Timelord from the planet Gallifrey who thwarts monsters, aliens, gods, and demons through the use of his intelligence, an intrinsic knowledge of the workings of space/time, and a nifty sonic screwdriver. Throughout time and space, The Doctor has been plagued by his former best friend: a rival Timelord who became determined to utterly conquer all creation after staring into the “untempered schism” and going batpoop crazy.
Evenly matched in intelligence, determination and gadgets, these two enemies have battled across tesseracts, supernovas, nebulae and down the street from the Circle K. Along with the desire to control the universe, The Master’s primary driving force seems to be torturing his former friend. When he became desperate to prolong his life after squandering his 13 lifespans, it was The Doctor’s regenerations that he attempted to steal, despite having an entire planet of Timelords (and all their regenerations) at his disposal.
After the Time War and the destruction of his home planet, The Doctor spent many years thinking he alone was the only remaining Timelord. Imagine his surprise when the good-natured Professor Yana, a kindly old scientist at the end of the universe turned out to be none other than The Master, long hidden after retreating from the Time War and posing as a human. More of a match for The Doctor than ever after regenerating into John Simm, The Master became the Prime Minister of Great Britain, got married, and utilized his Laser Screwdriver to turn the The Doctor into a little wrinkled monkey-like homunculus.
He was ultimately defeated by The Doctor’s companion Martha Jones and shot down by his own wife, and then out of sheer spite didn’t regenerate to save his own life, leaving the Doctor as the “Last of the Timelords” once more.
#2: Spider-man and Venom
“We live for moments like these spider-man. Me…Eddie Brock beating you down like the week-kneed little boy you are and then leaving you here, broken and bloodied, knowing that anytime we want we can come back and do it again.”
Peter Parker has more than his fair share of problems. In point of fact, he’s probably the only guy in history whose life actually got worse when he got super powers. When you take the existence of Venom into account, you really have to wonder if all comic book writers don’t just loath not only Spider-man, but also everyone who happens to be standing close to him.
Eddie Brock had the all the powers, twice the strength and the added bonus of not setting off Peter’s spider-sense, due to being bonded with Spider-man’s costume from an alien world — a symbiote grafted to his nervous system and feeding off his adrenaline. Venom was the ultimate dark version of Spider-man in terms of powers, looks, and even in terms of personality. Venom had a twisted conscience providing a parallel to Spider-man’s “power and responsibility” schpiel, espousing a fanatical zeal to protect innocents… unless said innocents get in the way of his revenge. Eddie Brock and the Symbiote were permanently separated in recent years and the symbiote was inherited by Mac Gargan, AKA the Scorpion. Sometime later Eddie became a warped version his old self due to the remaining venom cells in his body and a touch from Mister Negative. He became Anti-venom, ironically becoming the new Venom’s arch enemy.
#3: Captain Marvel and Black Adam
“In every shape, color and size, for as long as time is marked, it will always be a world of dictators.”
The driving force behind the aggression of most mirror image arch enemies is the choices that each antagonist chooses to make. The evil counterpart made the wrong choices and now wields their weapons/powers/abilities against humankind, leaving the hero to think “there but for the grace of God go I”. The hero makes all the right choices, defending humankind and making themselves a constant reminder to the villain that they were ultimately too weak to rise above their situations.
This dichotomy has never been more clearly pronounced than in the acrimony between the two champions of the wizard Shazam. The first champion of the powerful wizard was imbued with his powers eight thousand years ago in ancient Egypt. His name was Teth Adam, and he was a servant to the pharaoh. It wasn’t long before he figured that since he had the super powers, HE should wear the daddy pants. He overthrew the pharaoh and assumed the throne. Many years later When Captain Marvel was chosen as Shazam’s latest avatar and shared his powers with Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel Jr. to form the Marvel Family (now on tour with Hannah Montana), Teth, now known as Black Adam devoted himself to becoming a thorn in their side.
Gifted with all the strength, speed and intelligence of the big red cheese, Black Adam proves a viable threat to Captain Marvel. It’s too bad most of the time he decided to just go straight and be a good guy. He’s gone from a supervillain to fighting alongside the JSA and most recently has assumed the throne of his ancestral home; the African (re: fictional) nation of Khandaq. Captain Marvel has successfully avoided any character development whatsoever…remaining a cheesy anachronism.
Black Adam also gets extra points for not having that little half-cape thing.
#4: The Flash and Zoom
“Do you not see what I’ve I’ve done? I’ve shifted you into REVERSE!”
For every super speedster that has worn the mantle of the The Flash, there has been a Reverse Flash. The first was Dr. Edward Clariss, a scientist who recreated the formula that gave Jay Garrick (you know, the original Flash with the plate on his head?) his powers. Fortunately for peace loving people everywhere, not so fortunately for Clariss, his formula turned out to be only temporary, allowing The Flash to soundly pwn him muchly.
The second Reverse Flash was Eobard Thawn, born in the 25st century with a name so horribly bad, his only allotted course was a life of crime. He used a machine to energize one of the Flash’s costumes, still awash with speed force energy so that whenever he wore it he had the Flash’s powers. He called himself Professor Zoom and became a perpetual thorn in the side of the latest Flash, Barry Allen (sans plate).
After Barry made us all love him just a little bit more by breaking Thawne’s freaking neck and after his apparent death during the Crisis on Infinite Retcons, Wally West became The Flash. A new Reverse Flash was sure to follow. Hunter Zolomon was a police profiler who became good friends with The Flash, right up until he was paralyzed from the waste down by a giant talking gorilla, which is the kind of thing that’s bound to happen when you hang around super heroes. When Flash refused to go back in time to keep the accident from happening, Zolomon continued on the road towards super villainy and broke into the Flash museum to use the cosmic treadmill himself. It blew up and Zolomon went nuts, but gained the ability to manipulate his own personal timeline effectively faking super speed. He called himself Zoom and targeted not The Flash, but his wife Linda. His reasoning was that a personal tragedy would make The Flash a better hero, proving that not only was he willing to target innocents but also that he wasn’t above using the flimsiest excuse ever to rationalize it.
#5: Buffy and Faith
Faith: “Well, look at you. All dressed up in big sister’s clothes.”
Buffy: “You told me I was just like you. That I was holding it in.”
Faith: “Ready to cut loose?”
Buffy: “Try me.”
Even before they became the bitterest of enemies, Buffy Summers and Faith Lehane were high school age girls, which gave them ninja-like levels of passive aggressive animosity unknown even to the most diabolical supervillain. When Faith first appeared and effortlessly insinuated herself into Buffy’s circle of friends (hereafter known as “the Scooby Gang” for those of you who have never watched Buffy and found this site accidentally), Buffy was suspicious of Faith’s reckless attitude and unchecked aggression.
Ultimately though, it was Faith’s jealousy of Buffy’s stability and relationships (topped off with an accidental murder), that led to her betrayal. She went to work for the Mayor of Sunnydale (re: evil sunshiny demon) and determined to kill the Slayer. Buffy then got her back by tricking Faith into revealing her true allegiance (with some help from Angel). So Faith shot angel in the chest with an arrow. Then Buffy stabbed her in the gut.
After waking up from a coma, Faith then switched bodies with Buffy and assumed her identity while Buffy was captured. She even slept with her then boyfriend Riley (re: *yawn*) while she was disguised as Buffy. When confronted with her own self (in the form of an escaped Buffy) she revealed her own self loathing by beating Buffy all the time screaming at her like she was Faith. Buffy then used the same talisman that caused the switch to put things right. Faith then walked the path of redemption, accepting the blame for her past crimes and yadda yadda yadda… blah blah blah. Don’t me wrong, I’m all about redemption, but let’s be honest, tell the truth and shame the devil. We like Buffy and Faith best when they’re wailing on each other.
#6: Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow
When GI Joe first made it’s debut as the single greatest cartoon of the eighties (outside of Transformers), not much was done with Snake Eyes, the silent masked soldier. Possibly because creators assumed that a ninja commando was just not interesting enough. But luckily, in the ensuing years someone in charge listened to the fans and so was developed one of the all time great grudge matches.
Snake Eyes was a wondering former soldier seeking meaning in life after the death of his parents and sister in a car accident. He found his way to the Arishkage Clan ninjutsu school, where he met Storm Shadow and his uncle, the Hard Master. The two trained together, even becoming sword brothers, but Storm Shadow’s jealousy over his own uncle viewing Snake Eyes as the worthier student ate away at his soul. So in a fit of drastic overreacting he hired Cobra to assassinate the Hard Master. The Arishkage was disbanded, Snake Eyes joined GI Joe, and Storm Shadow joined Cobra. The hostility between them is deep, though I maintain that they’re both so ticked off because even though they’re ninjas and masters of invisibility, Zartan is more stealthy with that whole chamelion thing his skin does.
The two are both masters of several martial arts and various weapon forms, making them equally matched and making bouts between them equally awesome.
#7: Captain Jack Harkness and Captain John Hart
“Ok, here’s what’s going to happen – everything you love, everything you treasure will die. I’m going to tear your world apart, Captain Jack Harkness. Piece by piece. Starting now. Maybe *now* you’ll want to spend some time with me.”
In the annals of all arch rivals, it’s not unheard of for two enemies to call a truce against a common foe, or for the villain to join the side of the angels, or even for the former adversaries to become friends. Research all you like, to your heart’s content for ages and even so, you’re unlikely to find any canonical instances of a super villain making out with his/her arch enemy. Meet Captain John Hart.
Hart was a rogue time agent and former partner of Jack’s (in *every* sense of the word), who had been through repeated rehabs for alcohol, drugs, sex, and murder addiction. It’s safe to say that none of the aforementioned rehabs stuck. When Captain John Hart made his first appearance, a bar-brawl ensued, followed by some intense second-basing, followed by drinks. After gaining Jack’s trust he managed to take out the entire Torchwood team (as in he incapacitated them, not took them out for cocktails) and tossed Jack off of a roof, assuming he’d killed him.
As any fans of the character know, Jack survived (mainly due to the whole immortality thing), and saved John’s life when his scheme to steal a diamond from a former lover backfired. He would go on to trap Jack and the entire team under the rubble of an abandoned building, bomb the living crap out of Cardiff, and bury Jack alive for 2000 years. Jack has yet to do anything in retaliation, possibly because he’s hoping for another make-out session. In addition to the pair’s fondness for period war clothes and similar time watches, John and Jack also share their pansexual preferences, making any meeting between them more than a little creepy. When it was revealed that Hart was under the control of Jack’s long lost brother, Gray, Jack let him go and he opted to wonder the world and see what was so great about the time period. It’s anybody’s guess who’s side he’ll be on when he appears again, but the odds are he’ll probably try to sleep with them.
#8: Green Lantern and Sinestro
“What do I want? I want to create a symbol of terror that will wash over the universe. I want that universe controlled with order. And I want all to realize that control comes not out of compassion, love, and hope–but out of fear! Fear leads all!”
Imagine a dying alien names you his successor as the keeper of peace in your sector of space and hands you the most powerful weapon on Earth, save one little proviso: It doesn’t work on anything yellow. Now imagine your arch-rival, the man sworn to ruin your life, and destroy all you hold dear wields a similar weapon… that makes things that are, you guessed it, yellow. One really is forced to wonder why Hal Jordan never took a look and the situation and called shenanigans, but instead he decided to just deal with it and brutally pwn Sinestro whenever he reared his gigantic purple head.
Once Sinestro was the single most highly decorated Green Lantern in the corp, due to the record of peace on his home planet of Korugar. It came to light, however that the reason Korugar was so peaceful was that Sinestro had basically conquered it. He was drummed out of the Green Lantern Corps, due to their “no purple headed despots” rule. Blaming the GL Corps in general and Hal Jordan in particular, Sinestro procured a yellow power ring and declared war. After a pretty distinguished career as a thorn in the side of Green Lantern, Sinestro was finally defeated by Jordan and imprisoned inside the Green Lantern’s power battery on Oa.
Strangely, at the time no one was heard to refer to the whole “put-the-super-villain-in-the-source-of-power-for-every-Green-Lantern-in-the-universe” plan as retarded, or more to the point, suicide. Sinestro awoke the fear entity Parallax, also imprisoned in the battery (seriously, guardians, you never heard of a jail cell?) and the enitity possessed Hal Jordan and caused him to get mideival on reality, breaking Sinestro’s neck in the process. Jordan was finally offed by every superhero ever, who were all of the opinion that they liked reality the way it was, but since there are no pearly gates in superhero heaven, only revolving glass doors, soon both Jordan and Sinestro were resurrected and inflicting power-ring flavored vengeance upon each other. Sinestro has one-upped the corp of late by starting his own “Sinestro Corps” consisting of cosmic bad guys wielding yellow power rings (that run on fear) to counter the green power rings (that run on willpower). Actually, recent writers have gone nuts with the power rings of late; introducing red power rings (that run on rage), blue rings (hope) and rainbow power rings that run on being *FABULOUS*!
#9: The Hulk and The Abomination
The Abomination: “Any last words?”
The Hulk: “HULK SMASH!”
They’re big, they’re green and when they get into it, it’s a good bet a few buildings are gonna come down. The real interesting thing about this particular set of brawling behemoths, though, lies not in their similarities but in their differences. Bruce Banner was a skinny nerdgeek with anger management issues. Emil Blonsky was a KGB spy from Yugoslavia. Who would have thought that a little thing like a gamma bomb would ever bring them together?
Some time after Bruce decided to relax in a nice warm gamma radiation bath and found that his temper tantrums now came with a property damage bill, Blonsky was dosed with the same radiation in an attempt to make him into a super being that could go toe to toe with The Hulk. It was a success. Blonsky became The Abomination, a creature with all the strength and regenerative capability of The Hulk, with the added bonus of maintaining his intelligence and self control. The only downside was the tiny, miniscule detail of not being able to revert back to human form (hey nothing’s perfect), and since eleven foot tall reptilian monsters with prehensile tails are kind of hard to snuggle with, Blonsky lost his wife as well. He blamed The Hulk and Bruce Banner for his misfortunes and tried again and again to best him in combat.
This proved unsuccessful as punching a creature that’s powered by rage can at best be described as counter-productive. He then went the sneaky route, slowly poisoning Bruce’s wife Betty with his own blood, the idea being that when Bruce saw the gamma radiation in her system, he would blame himself. The ruse was brought to light, however, and Bruce laid the ultimate low blow on Blonsky by forgiving him. If there’s one thing dark reflection super villains can’t stand, it’s being forgiven (see #’s 1 and 5 on this list).
#10: Darkwing Duck and Negaduck
Negaduck: “Ooh, Darkwing Duck! I’m so scared!”
Darkwing: “You should be!”
Negaduck: “I’m more afraid of early hair loss!”
It’s one thing to have an arch enemy who ‘s just like you in several respects. It’s another thing entirely when you’re arch enemy *is* you. Negadauck a chainsaw wielding psychopath, is actually Darkwing Duck from an alternate reality, one in which all good guys are villains and vice/versa. For everything that Darkwing Duck is, Negaduck is the opposite. This orange clad feathered foe found his way into Darkwing’s world and proceeded immediately to start trashing the place. He even formed the Fearsome Five, a team of super villains dedicated to crime and destroying Darkwing Duck. One would think that super villains would have trouble getting along but fear of Negaduck kept them all in line (which was a little odd, I mean if you were the Liquidator, whay would you be afraid of a chainsaw? I mean, you’re made of water). Darkwing in turn gathered the heroes of St. Canard and formed The Justice Ducks to combat this new threat. The funny thing is that this version of Negaduck wasn’t the first. The first Negaduck was a being made of particles of negative energy, separated from Darkwing after his good and bad sides were split. Ultimately a three-way showdown was going to appear in a later episode where the first Negadauck mutated off Darkwing’s body and attempted to kill both Darkwing AND Negaduck 2! Unfortunately the show was canceled after the third season and the episode was never realized.
So there you have it. Did we miss any mirror-image arch-enemies that totally should have been obvious? Let us know in the comments!
As a point of interest, penultimate means next to last. Unless of course you actually meant to say that Venom was the next to last dark version of Spider-man (which would beg the question who the last one is :P).
I have to disagree with you regarding Captain Marvel. While I’ll certainly agree that characters should develop over the years, every time DC does something with the character that isn’t an out-of-continuity story, they tend to mess things up by trying to make him “dark” and “edgy”. I mean, have you SEEN what they’re doing with him now? He’s a jerk! Is one pure-hearted Golden Age-style hero too much to ask for, DC?!
You know, considering the title, I was expecting more evil versions of the hero’s actual selves, such as through alternate universes or being split into two or something. Instead it was just the villains most similar to themselves. Really not the same thing.
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