Adaptational Villainy

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Kaa in Disney's Jungle Book: a man-eating Smug Snake. Kaa in the original: a wise Mentor.
"As many people have noted throughout the years though, Disney has been rather...lax when it comes to adapting books and fairy tales into movies. This is understandable in some cases. Still, it can be a bit galling when one knows that the fire-breathing, demonic witch on the screen was a kindly old lady in the source material."

The villain of an adaptation or retelling of a story is a familiar character who wasn't as bad in the source material. Sure, they may have been annoying at times, or couldn't care less about the good guys, but they weren't evil. Maybe they were even an ally of the main characters who leaned a little too far on the Sliding Scale of Anti-Heroes, or a villain with standards or who was known to show a softer side. Maybe the character rubbed the heroes the wrong way, but never caused any real harm and was otherwise a decent person.

In any case, the character seriously Took a Level in Jerkass in the POV Sequel, The Movie, The Film of the Book, or any other re-imagining of the original material. Where he was simply a pest before (and never treated as anything worse than that), or even nice, he now kicks puppies for fun.

Adaptational Villainy can take several forms, depending on the adaptation and the character. The True Neutral figure is actively villainous instead of simply not caring or choosing not to get involved. An imposing and potentially dangerous, but ultimately helpful, ally may become an enemy instead. The Anti-Villain and Tragic Villain will probably lose most or all of their sympathetic side and have fewer, if any, nicer moments. This occasionally happens to characters who were explicit good guys in the source material, and if it does it's sometimes a Take That to an unpopular one or to make the character Darker and Edgier.

This is not always a bad thing, however, and indeed some iconic villains have come about in this way, although it will probably lead to accusations of Adaptation Decay or Character Derailment from purists. Unlike Ron the Death Eater, there is usually more justification for the change in the character. Sometimes Adaptational Villainy is a result of Composite Character - the composite mixes the harmless character and a more villainous one - or Adaptation Expansion, when there is no obvious villain in the original work, and a Ghost or another minor character gets the part. Sometimes it's to make the moral lines of an otherwise edgy story more clear or to simplify a complex character. A Perspective Flip often uses this deliberately to subvert the audience's expectations of who the hero and villain are. If the adaptation does well, the darker incarnation of the character may become more popular and eventually overshadow the original. This may happen for a variety of reasons.

It's not Adaptational Villainy if an entirely new character is created to be the villain. This trope only applies if the villain in question is recognizable from the original work, but was a more sympathetic or tragic figure, had some form of standards or was less menacing, had sympathetic moments, was strictly neutral, or wasn't evil at all.

This trope is Older Than Dirt, since this sometimes happened to religious or mythological figures who, over time, became more malicious then they were in the older versions of their myths due to displacement or conquest.

Compare Everybody Hates Hades, which is this trope applied to certain Dark Is Not Evil gods in mythology, and Historical Villain Upgrade, which is a variant for Real Life figures. Ron the Death Eater happens when a section of a fandom demonizes a character rather than one specific adaptation. Contrast Villain Decay, in which an established villainous character becomes less frightening or villainous over time and isn't taken as seriously by the heroes or the audience as a result. This trope is the opposite of Adaptational Heroism.

Examples of Adaptational Villainy include:

Anime and Manga

  • In The Movie for The Vision of Escaflowne, Folken is a psychotic Big Bad, while in the original series he was more of an Anti-Villain or a Dragon with an Agenda to the actual Big Bad, Emperor Dornkirk (who is absent from the movie altogether). In fact, in the series he eventually has a Heel Face Turn.
  • To a lesser extent, King Dedede of Kirby: Right Back at Ya!. While still rarely exceeding a petty comedic Jerkass, his anime counterpart has far fewer benevolent moments than that of the original games (where he serve as more of an Anti-Villain - he was known to occasionally team up with Kirby against a more serious threat, such as Zero or Nightmare) and usually plays the main antagonist of each episode.
  • Some of the Gym Leaders and Elite Four members in Pokémon. While most of them (with the exception of Giovanni) are basically good guys in the games - Lance and Lorelei even helping out the player character at key points - Lt. Surge, Koga, Sabrina, Agatha, Lorelei, Lance, Karen, Will and Pryce became villains in the manga adaptation Pokémon Special. To be fair, though, Pryce is a more sympathetic Anti-Villain, Lance is a Well-Intentioned Extremist, and most of the other characters listed reform later on, with the exception of Agatha.
    • This is utilized to a lesser extent with their anime counterparts. Sabrina is converted into something of a demonic witch who antagonizes Ash and co., while many others are egotistical Jerkasses that have a bigoted or bullying demeanor regarding how they handle Pokémon. Just about all of them make friends with the heroes in the end, however, similar to their manga counterparts (this is something of an important plot point early on, since more often Ash earns his first gym badges out of reformed kindness from the leaders rather than actually winning against them).
    • And occasionally some Pokémon themselves (particularly either Poison- or Dark- types), such as in the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games. In the games and anime, even Pokémon seen working for the antagonists aren't really evil, just doing their jobs.
  • Gendo Ikari from Neon Genesis Evangelion. In the anime, he is Ambiguously Evil and before his death he regrets having been a bad father to Shinji. In the manga adaptation, he is unquestionably evil and hates Shinji.
    • To a smaller extent, Kaworu. In the original anime, he was pretty nice (outside of, you know, being the seventeenth Angel). In the manga, he kick's a cat. This has been done to the point where fans have nicknamed him Evil Manga Kaworu.
  • In the My-HiME manga, the main antagonists of the first arc are Haruka and Yukino, the latter of whom is friends with Mai and Mikoto in the anime, and the otherwise heroic Akira assists them. By contrast, Shizuru never turns Psycho Lesbian, and Nao (reluctantly) helps the heroes after the teams merge.
  • In the Mai-Otome manga, Tomoe is Demoted to Extra and does not attempt to plot against Arika, and Nina never does a Face Heel Turn. On the opposite end, Sergey goes from a Punch Clock Villain who betrays the Big Bad for his daughter's sake to a Complete Monster Big Bad who is not related to Nina, biologically or otherwise.
  • In the 2003 Fullmetal Alchemist anime, Basque Grand was transformed from the Reasonable Authority Figure and Colonel Badass that he was in the manga into a Colonel Kilgore and General Ripper who just can't wait to commit some more genocide. Kimblee, while an awful person in the manga, had his negative qualities cranked Up to Eleven, and his good ones totally suppressed. Even Hohenheim, the Big Good in the manga, became a Retired Monster and utter Jerkass. However, all three of these cases were due to those characters not having been well established yet in the manga when the anime overtook it.
    • Particularly justified in the case of Basque Grand, since Hohenheim and Kimblee had the advantage of at least having brief appearances on screen in the manga before their introduction to the anime. Basque Grand was mentioned has having been killed off screen in the manga and nothing else, so the writers of the anime had literally nothing to go on with him besides his name, appearance, and occupation.
  • In the movie adaptation of Howl's Moving Castle, the main villain of the book, the Witch of the Waste, is downgraded and drained of power. Meanwhile, two of the book's nice characters, the kindly, motherly Mrs. Pentstemmon (who in the book is murdered by the Witch) and the absent and also kindly Wizard Suliman (who in the book is captured and cursed by the Witch) are combined into one character and made evil, the real villain of the movie.
  • Pokémon:
    • Sabrina is a good example. While she is a Strange Girl in Pokémon Red Blue and Yellow, she isn't malevolent or dangerous. The anime turns her malevolent, punishing those who challenge her by turning them into dolls. Other Gym Leaders, while not villains, are cast as egotistical jerks in the anime, Lt. Surge, Erika, and Skyla being good examples. Still, all of them (Sabrina included) made up with Ash in the end.
    • Some Pokemon show unusually violent tendencies as well. Neither Ash not Team Rocket ever seems to come upon a swarm of Beedrill that isn't hostile. Spearow and Fearow get this bad too. In the games, they are usually depicted as pragmatic Pokemon who flee from danger if they sense any, but in the anime, they seem malicious, prone to attack humans, and capable of holding long-standing grudges, most famously against Ash in the first episode and the incident which led to Pidgeotto's evolution into Pidgeot. There was one episode of Sun/Moon where a flock of them even attacked poor Nebby for no reason.

Comic Books

  • In the The Mighty Thor comics, Loki is generally depicted as an evil god (though some individual writers have made him more of an Anti-Villain), but in the original Norse mythology he's a much more ambiguous figure, usually taking the role of The Trickster.
  • Played with in the case of the Greek gods and goddesses in Wonder Woman. A number of them started out as Lighter and Softer than they were in Greek Mythology. However, Ares, the God of War, is portrayed as so dangerous and Too Powerful to Live that Wonder Woman has to actually kill him in at least one adaptation. Ares in the Greek myths, although The Berserker and ironically a bit of a Dirty Coward, looked after his kids and was worshipped like the other gods. However, the more recent Wonder Woman stories have taken to portraying the pantheon as somewhere closer to what they were like in mythology.
  • In Ultimate Fantastic Four, Reed Richards, a hero in the original comics, becomes a major villain.
    • This also happens to the the Hulk, Hank Pym, several X-Men, and the Black Widow, who become more villainous characters in the Ultimate Universe than their original incarnations were.
  • John Rockerduck is portrayed as a Corrupt Corporate Executive in several stories but he was by no means this or any other kind of villain in the only story his creator used him.
  • Chaos in Sonic the Comic. He is depicted as a monster with no sympathetic backstory, while in the games, all of his friends were massacred by a tribe.
  • The New 52 version of Silver Banshee is an inversion. Before the Continuity Reboot she was an out and out villainess, but the new version has been introduced as a very sympathetic character who seems set to be an outright heroine or at worst a Tragic Villain. Being Supergirl's only friend and having a supervillain father complicate things.

Fan Works

  • In Troop of Beasts [dead link], since Kakarot never hits his head, he never becomes the kind, happy Goku. After successfully killing Gohan (which he does while in full possession of his faculties, rather than after turning into an Oozaru), he slaughters everybody he comes across. Oh, and after forcing Colonel Violet to show how children are made, he starts violating huge numbers of women. Then, after the Red Ribbon Army is defeated, he becomes a warlord who subjugates many communities through brutal conquest. While he comes to deeply care for his family and those he calls friends and becomes more pleasant overall, he's still not a good guy by any stretch of the imagination.

Films -- Animated

  • One of the most famous examples is Kaa from The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling. In the book, he is a mentor and friend of Mowgli, helping to save him when he is kidnapped by monkeys and offering him advice for battle, indeed never harming or threatening him in any way. The other animals in the jungle respect and fear him for his wisdom and powers of hypnosis. In the Disney movie and its sequel, he is a cowardly, greedy villain who only sees Mowgli as potential food. Apparently it was thought by Disney that audiences wouldn't accept a snake as a heroic character. And in the sequel Kaa loses any menace he once had. The live-action remake of the movie portrayed him as a mindless monster who is used as a Shark Pool by King Louie against thieves (in the novel, incidentally, Kaa was the only animal that the monkeys were afraid of); this depiction draws on a different snake who appeared in The Second Jungle Book.
    • Speaking of The Jungle Book, Shere Khan himself is upgraded slightly with each Disney adaptation. In the books he was an antagonist, but represented as somewhat pitiful, is something of an arrogant fool, and is taken half-heartedly by a lot of residents of the jungle, including Bagheera. In the original Disney film, he is somewhat comedic and playful, but is genuinely feared and implied to be stronger than many animals put together. In Tale Spin, he is given a much more deathly serious and calculating demeanor, but also is rather affable and more of an Anti-Villain in many of his appearances, with a moral code that restrains his villainy. In the sequel to Disney's Jungle Book he is an out and out dark presence whose only goal is to rip Mowgli to shreds.
  • Jenner is quite the Complete Monster in the Don Bluth film The Secret of NIMH, what with destroying Mrs. Brisby's home and killing Nicodemus. However, in the book the film is based on, he is not nearly as villainous, but is a slightly more sympathetic and much less malicious Commander Contrarian who only appears through flashbacks and dies offstage.
    • In the (non-Bluth directed) sequel to the movie, Martin, a good guy in both the film and book, becomes a crazed villain (although as the result of brainwashing).
  • Ivan Sakharine in the Tintin comic The Secret of the Unicorn. While sinister-seeming and a nuisance, he isn't evil, and is victimized by the real villains, a pair of unscrupulous treasure hunters. He even gets an implied Pet the Dog moment - a cameo in Red Rackham's Treasure suggests that he offered his own Unicorn model for Captain Haddock's maritime gallery, and in turn Haddock seems to be on good enough terms with Sakharine to invite him to an exhibition there. In the movie based on the same comic, he is a much darker and more threatening character with a blood vendetta against Haddock's family who takes over the role of the comic's villains.
  • In Disney's Hercules, Hades is a Satan-like villain (again), intent on overthrowing Zeus and taking over Mount Olympus. In Greek Mythology, he was a neutral but just ruler of the dead and no worse than the other Greek gods. Hades had no antagonism towards Heracles, only meeting the hero when Heracles asked to borrow Cerberus for one of his twelve labors. Heracles's original divine enemy was Hera, his stepmother and Zeus's wife. As for overthrowing Zeus, Hades never tried that in the myths. While Hades did kidnap Persephone (with Zeus's permission), he was nowhere near as bad a husband as his brothers Zeus and Poseidon.
    • Inverted with Hera, however. In the movie, she is portrayed as Hercules's loving mother. In mythology, she was his main enemy, since he was the product of one of Zeus's "escapades".
  • The Sea Witch in the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale The Little Mermaid is a True Neutral character who shows no vindictive intentions toward the unnamed mermaid, only making the famous tongue-for-legs exchange, even warning the mermaid of the consequences of the transformation. She doesn't go back on the deal or interfere with her relationship with the prince until she is asked to by the mermaid's sisters, and even then only indirectly. In the Disney Animated Canon, she is named Ursula, is an out-and-out villain with a tendency toward Faustian deals, and gets in the way of Ariel's romance with Prince Eric far more than the character in the fairy tale did.
    • Ursula also takes the place of the princess who the prince eventually marries in the original, who is innocent in Andersen's fairy tale and genuinely loves him.
  • It may be surprising to learn that Archdeacon Claude Frollo of The Hunchback of Notre Dame was a more sympathetic character in the original novel by Victor Hugo. While driven to evil deeds later by his lust for Esmeralda, he willingly adopts and cares for Quasimodo, instead of threatening to throw him down a well as he did in the Disney version of the story. All while looking after his layabout of a brother, Jehan, and being orphaned himself to boot. He was also more tolerant of gypsies, asking only that they keep their activities away from the cathedral rather than actively hunting them down.
    • Inverted with Phoebus, however. In the book, he is a Jerkass and a Karma Houdini. In the movie, he is a much more sympathetic character who is Quasimodo's ally and marries Esmeralda in the end.
  • The Queen of Hearts is depicted as an Axe Crazy villainess in the Disney and Tim Burton adaptations of Alice in Wonderland. In the book by Lewis Carroll, while she does constantly order executions, the King quietly pardons everybody she sentences to death when she isn't looking and no real harm is done. She never notices this, and the inhabitants of Wonderland just choose to play along with her.
  • In the children's book The Brave Little Toaster, the new appliances in Rob's apartment are friendly and helpful to Toaster and the other older appliances, helping them find a new owner via a radio show, and feel guilty for their role in replacing still useful appliances. In the movie, they are arrogant and cruel to them, even tossing them into a dumpster out of jealousy.
  • The three witches in The Black Cauldron are grasping and sneaky, if not evil, characters who try and trick Taman into giving up a treasure for the cauldron. In the book, they are neutral figures who bend their own rules to help Taran and the others get rid of it.
  • Inverted in Rock-a-Doodle with Snipes the magpie. In Chantecler, the play which the movie is loosely based on, the Blackbird is a villainous character who plots to kill Chantecler. In the movie, his counterpart Snipes is a Jerkass, but is also one of Chaunticleer's allies and nowhere near as bad as the Blackbird in the play.
  • Both played straight and inverted in Shrek - Prince Charming, Little Red Riding Hood, and the Fairy Godmother are villains while The Big Bad Wolf is one of the heroes, along with traditionally villainous creatures like ogres and dragons.

Films -- Live-Action

  • In the original Land of the Lost TV show, Enik the Altrusian was gruff and somewhat self-centered, but was otherwise a good guy and helped the main characters when they needed it, in contrast to his more vicious Sleestak relatives. In the 2009 live-action movie, he is a Manipulative Bastard who wiped out his own people, tries to Take Over the World with an army of mind-controlled Sleestaks, and briefly tricks the main characters into helping him do so.
  • In the book 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke, HAL-9000 is a beautifully-defined and deeply sympathetic character who is so human that he develops a psychosis. The movie, deprived of the ability to use an Author Tract to make this clear, makes HAL seem far more monstrous than the original intent, and sadly the film is often cited as an example of A.I. Is a Crapshoot.
    • The movie of 2010: The Year We Make Contact sticks more closely to the book and redeems HAL, but of course it's often regarded as a very poor relation to the original movie.
  • Pius Thicknesse of the Harry Potter books is weak-willed and not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but isn't a villain until he is Brainwashed into becoming one by Voldemort through the Imperius Curse. He's presumably returned to normal after the war, although this isn't shown. In the film series, he is implied to have joined the Death Eaters of his own free will, as he doesn't display traits of characters under the Imperius Curse in the films and is more self-aware.
  • Hades in the Percy Jackson and The Olympians series is imposing and menacing, described as resembling every dictator in human history, but it turns out that he isn't one of the bad guys, and he eventually helps fight against the Titans while his son Nico becomes an important ally of the protagonists. Not so much in the movie.
  • Inverted in Street Fighter, where Balrog is a hero and a friend of Chun Li and E. Honda. Played straight with Dee-Jay and Zangief, who were portrayed as lackeys of M. Bison (although the latter does a Heel Face Turn at the end).
  • In the short story that It's a Wonderful Life is based on, "The Greatest Gift", Mr. Potter is only the owner of a photography studio and doesn't meet, much less cause problems for, George Bailey. In the movie, he is a corrupt slumlord, Jerkass, and all-around nasty piece of work who goes out of his way to make George's life a living hell (and almost drives him to suicide).
  • The movie version of The Dukes of Hazzard has Roscoe and Boss Hogg portrayed as traditional, competent evil guys instead of the goofball minor incompetents they usually were in the TV show. While they were corrupt, greedy jerks in the show, too, they were known to Pet the Dog on occasion, were relatively harmless villains, and had lines that they wouldn't cross - for example, Hogg hated violence and avoided physically harming people as part of his schemes.
  • In the book Jurassic Park, Gennaro the lawyer, while a bit of a Jerkass, is reasonably brave; he went on to punch out a Velociraptor and become The Lancer to Alan Grant (and survives), while fat Dennis Nedry was a programmer who got shortchanged by Hammond, which gives Nedry a more understandable, if not sympathetic, reason to betray him. In the film, Gennaro is a Dirty Coward who got eaten by a T-Rex while sitting on a toilet, and Dennis is essentially an unscrupulous backstabber who is open to bribes.
    • The movie version of Gennaro inherited all his worst traits (including his depraved cowardice and his violent death) from the character Regis, who only appeared in the novel, making him a Composite Character.
    • Hammond is an inversion. The movie version is a relatively decent man, while novel Hammond is more of a Jerkass (the above mentioned shortchanging of Nedry being one example of his jerkassery) with traits of Never My Fault, blaming everyone but himself (even his grandchildren) for everything going wrong in the end. Movie Hammond lives in the end, while novel Hammond suffers a Karmic Death when he is slowly devoured by a pack of Compies.
  • Played with in the case of Emperor Palpatine of Star Wars. The original novelizations portray him as an ineffective puppet ruler being manipulated by Corrupt Corporate Executives and other bad people. The original trilogy of films hint that Palpatine was likely only pretending to be a puppet, most obviously in Return of the Jedi. The Expanded Universe gave him some Bad Boss moments, such as dealing out an And I Must Scream punishment to the engineer who designed that air shaft on the Death Star. The prequel trilogy expands further on Palpatine's history, revealing that he is a Complete Monster and Manipulative Bastard who completed a 1000-year-plus Xanatos Gambit by the Sith to take over the galaxy and destroy the Jedi. This means that Palpatine as portrayed in the webcomic Darths and Droids reverted to his oldest characterization.
  • Scrappy-Doo in the Scooby Doo live-action movie. While previously an ally of the good guys (although disliked by a lot of fans), he has a Face Heel Turn and becomes the Big Bad, trying to kill Scooby and friends by sucking out their souls.
  • In the film version of The Last of the Mohicans, Duncan Heyward, although he has a Heroic Sacrifice, is significantly more of a jerk than the character in the book.
  • The movie version of Denethor of The Lord of the Rings has fewer redeeming features than his book counterpart, who leaned more as a Good Is Not Nice Anti-Hero until he went mad as a result of using Sauron's seeing-stone, which Sauron used to push him over the Despair Event Horizon.
    • The Palantir was not Sauron's. They all rightfully belonged to Arnor/Gondor. The problem came when Sauron took the one that had been in Minas Morgul (previously the Gondorian city Minas Ithil) after he conquered it and he ultimately used the link between the stones to deceive Denethor and eventually help break him.
    • It does the same to Saruman. The only people able to use the stones without going mad were Aragorn and Pippin. Aragorn was too powerful for Sauron to break and Pippin was... well, a Hobbit. Denethor was probably down the line of his corruption for the sake of story telling.
    • Faramir, although on the good side in both, is more antagonistic towards the hobbits in the film version of The Two Towers than he was in the book. He is also tempted by the Ring in the movie - in the book, he's Genre Savvy enough to know that anything made by Sauron is probably dangerous.
      • Word of God says it was because they didn't have enough time to do the complex character development that that scene would require to justify Faramir not trying to take the ring.
  • Jim Phelps in the first Mission Impossible movie. In the original series, he was a major protagonist.
  • Sentinel Prime, in his earliest appearances in the Transformers cartoons, was one of Optimus Prime's mentors and is usually depicted as a good guy. In Transformers: Dark of the Moon, however, he is the Big Bad and has no qualms about killing and enslaving humans to restore Cybertron.
    • Granted, this isn't the first time Sentinel's actions were morally reprehensible, but this is the first time that he's depicted as an outright villain.[1]
    • He was also originally planned to be Ultra Magnus, one of Optimus's closest friends in previous series, but Hasbro didn't want Ultra Magnus's name to be tarnished as a traitor, just like how they also didn't like the idea of making Rodimus a jerk.
  • In the famous movie Dracula, and many other adaptations after it, Renfield is a willing slave to Dracula. In the original book, while Renfield is under Dracula's control, he isn't so happy about it. He even tries to kill Dracula at one point, although unsuccessfully.
  • In the film adaptation of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the Whos are for the most part more materialistic and unsympathetic than they were in the book, in part to make the Grinch more sympathetic.
  • October Sky turns Homer's father into a Jerkass, presumably because there wouldn't really be a villain otherwise. In the book it was based on, his father is much nicer and more supportive of his rocketry work.
  • Inverted in Resident Evil Apocalypse, where Nicholai Ginovaef, the human antagonist in Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, became a good guy.
  • In Iron Man 3, the main villain is Aldrich Killian, a minor comics character who sold Extremis to criminals, felt bad about it, and shot himself in the head. The end. In this film, he's the founder of A.I.M. and infects himself with the virus in order to kill Tony. The official tie-in video game takes it a step further and turns him into that universe's M.O.D.O.K.
  • In Marvel comics, Psylocke, Spike, Multiple Man, and Quill are all allies of the X-Men. In X-Men: The Last Stand, all of them are members of Magneto's Brotherhood.
  • In Peter Jackson's The Hobbit the Master of Lake-town has been changed from a greedy, self-centered politician who does not figure much in the plot into an oppressive tyrant who would have already been deposed if not for the ordinary people not being allowed to bear arms.
  • In Spider-Man comics, Venom is often a villain, and sometimes a Nominal Hero, but he’s usually considered a tragic one in either instance - formerly a journalist, the biggest story of his career was a series of interviews with a man claiming to be the murderous Knight Templar serial killer, the Sin Eater, cumulating in Brock revealing the killer’s identity. As it turned out, the man was not the Sin Eater at all, just a “compulsive confessor”, which was proven when Spider-Man apprehended the true Sin Eater. The unintentionally-fraudulent story caused Brock to lose his job, his wife to divorce him, his father to disown him, and ruins his career, plunging him into madness. However, in Spider-Man 3, the plot does away with all of his sympathetic qualities - the event that ruins Brock’s career is when he purposely photoshops Spider-Man into a story to depict Spidey as a criminal, simply to get on J. Jonah Jameson’s good side. When Peter exposes the ruse, Jonah isn’t amused and fires Brock. Making it worse, Brock becomes Venom not when praying for forgiveness for contemplating suicide (as he does in the comic), but praying for God to smite Peter.


  • In Frankenstein's Monster, a POV Sequel to Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein, Captain Robert Walton is a Knight Templar who pursues the monster according to Victor's final wishes. In the original book, although Victor does make the same request, Walton feels some sympathy for the monster and allows it to leave his ship without a fight.
    • Victor Frankenstein himself gets this in many modern interpretations, in which he is a Mad Scientist, Card-Carrying Villain, or both. In the book, his mental instability isn't so obvious, and he is a significantly more complex character, more misguided and pathetic than villainous.
  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland:
    • The Queen of Hearts is clearly a mean woman and a blustering Jerkass type, but calling her "evil" might be stretching the definition a little; though she often calls for people to be beheaded, her husband secretly pardons most of the people she condemns, and the Gryphon tells Alice that, "It's all in [the Queen's] fancy, you know. They don't actually execute anyone." Nonetheless, you can be sure in almost any modern adaptation of the work or inspired story where Alice is portrayed as the protagonist, the Queen of Hearts (often conflated with the Red Queen) will be the villain, and portrayed as far more evil than Carroll could have ever imagined. One good example is the 1951 Disney version; Whereas the trial scene in the original book ends with her realizing that the Queen of Hearts' threat against her is empty and dismissing the Queen's court as a pack of playing cards, the Disney version of the Queen is portrayed as a genuine threat, and the trial ends with Alice running for her life from the Queen and her soldiers before waking up.
    • Then there's Tim Burton's movie and the popular video game. Then Queen of Hearts is a mad tyrant in the first, and an Eldritch Abomination in the second.
    • The Jabberwock is often both this and an Ascended Extra in such works, seeing as the evil beast wasn't even an antagonist for Alice in Through the Looking Glass, only appearing in the now-famous poem that she read. The poem became so popular that most modern adaptations include the creature as an adversary for Alice and the heroes in general.
  • Mr. Rochester is much less sympathetic in Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea than he is in Jane Eyre.
  • The Doctor Who Expanded Universe novel The Resurrection Casket is Treasure Island IN SPACE! Drel McCavity (the Squire Trelawney character) turns out to be a villain, but not quite as much of one as Salvo (the John Silver character) who's been "upgraded" to a Faux Affably Evil Complete Monster.
  • In the original story of Saint George and The Dragon and most reworkings of it, Saint George is the hero. For example, in The Reluctant Dragon, he becomes the title character's friend. In the Dragon Keepers series by Kate Kilmo, Saint George is a Villain with Good Publicity who enslaves magical creatures and drinks dragons' blood while the princess he saved is an evil witch. The dragon from the original tale tells his own side of the story, in which he was a benevolent sorcerer betrayed and killed by George.
  • Inverted in Myth-O-Mania - mostly with the help of Hades, encounters with famous monsters from Classical Mythology tend to be resolved peacefully, and many of them are friendly and misunderstood rather than evil. The Hydra becomes one of Hercules's True Companions, and killed humans with her poisonous breath by accident rather than malice. The Minotaur is a perfectly decent vegetarian whose human "sacrifices" are found alive and well, intended as wrestling partners instead of food, while the Calydonian Boar is a down-on-his-luck wrestler who just wants his job back.
  • In addition to many cases of Historical Villain Upgrade, Dante did this a lot in the Inferno section of The Divine Comedy. Many mythological figures like Jason, Achilles, Odysseus, and Diomedes, are suffering in Hell. Dante clearly had some ancestral bias against Greek heroes, seeing as he was Italian (read: Roman) and the Greeks were the victors in the Trojan War.

Live-Action TV

  • In Forrest Wilson's Super Gran books, the character Tub, while initially a somewhat reluctant henchman to Campbell, becomes a good guy in later books following a Heel Face Turn. In the TV show, he is a Card-Carrying Villain who goes along with Campbell's plans unquestioningly.
  • In the Sky 1 adaptation of Treasure Island, the real villain isn't the Affably Evil Silver; it's Squire Trelawney, who plots to cheat Jim and Dr Livesey out of their share of the treasure, arranges for Mrs Hawkins to be thrown out of the inn while they're away, has Mr Arrow executed, and eventually suffers a Karmic Death by diving after the treasure when Jim throws it overboard. Not much like the excitable but well-meaning "most liberal of men" in the book.
    • Tom Redruth, Trelawney's gamekeeper, gets this, too - in the book, he is an elderly man who accompanies Trelawney to the island and is killed by the mutineers. In the series, he is Trelawney's vicious enforcer back in England.
  • The television adaptation of the Sharpe novel Sharpe's Battle was written before the novel had been finished, resulting in a vastly different second half. So while Lord Kiely gets a much more sympathetic treatment in the adaptation and dies a heroic death (rather than blowing his brains out on realising he's a bit rubbish), Spear Carrier Guardsman O'Rourke, whose main contribution in the novel is to say his name when Sharpe asks him, gets turned into a Turncoat who kills a couple of likeable characters mostly because they're there.
  • The Worst Witch TV series inverted this a lot, coupling with Adaptation Expansion. Miss Bat and Miss Drill each made one appearance in the original books and were implied to be rather strict and unkind teachers. In the TV series however they are both much nicer and are more likely to help the girls with whatever problems they have. Drucilla in the books is also the right hand girl to Alpha Bitch Ethel Hallow but gets a Heel Face Turn towards the end of the series. Even Ethel is hinted to not be that bad and helps the girls out a few times, something she certainly didn't do in the books. Miss Hardbroom is also much less of a Sadist Teacher than she is in the books.
  • Game of Thrones has a particularly aggravating one with Doreah. In the book, she dies crossing the desert, loyal to Daenerys to the end. In the show, she survives the desert, only to happily betray Daenerys, with the line "He said you would never leave the city alive" being our only hint to her motivation. The sheer pointlessness of it (she ends up just as dead, with no other impact on the story) is really galling.
    • Joffery technically counts. He was, indeed, one of the most sadistic monsters on the show, but in this version, it was Littlefinger, not Joffery, who planned and engineered the attack on Bran.
  • Doctor Who combined this Trope with Weaponized Landmark in the Series 7 episode "The Angels Take Manhattan", where the Statue of Liberty (usually seen as a benign symbol) becomes one of the dreaded Weeping Angels in an Alternate Timeline.


  • Mordred in Arthurian legend went from playing a small but important role as the killer of Arthur (and something of a Worthy Opponent) to becoming Arthur's evil illegitimate son who was connected to Morgan le Fay. In his earliest appearances, it isn't clear whether Mordred and Arthur were enemies at all.
    • Morgan le Fay herself was, in her earliest incarnations, a healer who helped Arthur by preserving his immortality, not the evil witch seen in later versions of the story.
  • Odysseus, while respected by many of his enemies for his cunning and tactical skills in Greek Mythology, was viewed as a liar and a cheat by the Romans (such as Virgil), who treated him as a pure villain and placed far less emphasis on his good characteristics. In The Divine Comedy, Dante placed Ulysses in the hell of evil counselors.
  • Set in Egyptian Mythology, although he feuded with Horus after killing Osiris, was originally the protector of Re from the evil serpent Apep and worshipped in his own right. After Egypt was split between the Upper and Lower Kingdoms, he became an evil god in Lower Egypt and his positive aspects were handed over to other deities. His worship as the god of foreigners almost entirely stopped after the Hyksos invaded Egypt.
  • Loki of Norse mythology, while always a trickster, steadily becomes more and more of a bad guy throughout the different stories. Some of this is assumed to be because of Christian influence.


  • The Wizard in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, although he becomes one of Dorothy's friends, isn't nice in his early appearances (after all, he did have Ozma kidnapped to prevent her from interfering with his takeover of Oz). However, in the Perspective Flip Wicked - both the original book and the musical - he is much worse. The musical version is only a little more sympathetic than the Complete Monster book version, who doesn't shy from personally murdering the Ozma Regent, violently suppressing Animal protesters, and attempting to exterminate the Quadlings just to get at the rubies on their land.
    • It's sort of half-way in the musical, the Wizard is sort of a Well-Intentioned Extremist who is puppeteered by Madame Morrible and generally seems to want the best for Oz, as long as he remains its leader.
  • While he doesn't become evil, Raoul becomes a drunken mess in Love Never Dies, Andrew Lloyd Webber's sequel to The Phantom of the Opera, while he was one of the noblest characters in both the theater adaptation and the original book.
    • Meg Giry, on the other hand, plays this much more dramatically. She goes insane and kills Christine, her friend in the original.

Video Games

  • In Double Dragon, Jimmy Lee went from being the Player 2 character in the arcade version, helping his brother Billy defeat the Black Warriors, to being the true leader of the gang in the NES version due to the removal of the co-op mode. Whereas the arcade version only has the battle between the Lee brothers occur if both players completed the game together, the NES version simply has Jimmy show up to fight his brother after Machine Gun Willy (the arcade version's final boss) is defeated. Strangely, the NES versions of both sequels feature Jimmy as Player 2 once again and don't even acknowledge his role as a bad guy in the first NES game.
  • Smithers robs a jewelry store in The Simpsons arcade game, a far contrast to his soft-spoken character on the show.
  • The Ringmaster in Disney's Disney's Villains' Revenge.
  • Darkrai is portrayed as a Dark Is Not Evil Pokemon in the Pokémon games, hiding itself away voluntarily to try and prevent its power to trap other creatures in nightmares from afflicting others. In the Mystery Dungeon series, it is a much more malicious character who plots to plunge the world into eternal darkness For the Evulz. However, this Darkrai eventually loses its memory and can be recruited postgame.
  • The Simpsons Mobile Arcade Game; Many characters who are simply jerks in the cartoon are bosses trying to impede Homer, such as Chief Wiggum, Mayor Quimby, Jimmy Freedman (aka The Pimple Faced Kid), Kent Brockman, Krusty, and more.
  • Unlike his comic book counterpart who would rather control New York than destroy it, Kingpin in Spider-Man vs. the Kingpin is cut from an entirely different cloth. Instead of the de-facto top dog of NYC's criminal underground, he's practically a Bond villain who seeks to nuke the city as part of his greater plan to take over the world, and will happily force Spider-Man to watch as he dunks Mary Jane in a vat of acid in one of the game's bad endings.
  • Mysterio tends to bounce between being an ineffective goofball and a genuinely terrifying lunatic depending on who's writing him in the comics, but he's a full-on Omnicidal Maniac in Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions who's willing to destroy the multiverse itself so he can reshape it into something that's more to his liking.
  • Hammerhead was always a bad guy in the original Spider-Man comics, but he was no worse than your average mobster and had his fair share of redeeming qualities, such as being against hurting women and children. His incarnation in the PS4 Spider-Man game, however, is a nasty piece of work. Not only does he happily subject Yuri Watanabe to emotional torture and have Silver Sable physically tortured by his men, but he's a prolific cop killer, tries to execute his rival Maggia dons by drowning them in cement, and couldn't care less that arming his men with Sable International's dangerous tech will kill plenty of innocent civilians caught in the crossfire of his brutal turf wars.
  • Aran Ryan is this in the Wii version of Punch Out. When he appears in Super Punch Out, he fights perfectly clean; even when the game is analyzed using the rules of the Association of Boxing Commissions and Combat Sports, he doesn't cheat at all. In the Wii game, however, he is a blatant cheater, and worse than any other opponent, going so far as to put horseshoes in his gloves and using one of them like a flail.

Web Originals

Western Animation

  • In the Sonic the Hedgehog games, and most cartoon adaptations, Dr. "Eggman" Robotnik is villainous, but with a highly affable and clownish demeanor, and in some cases leans into Anti-Villain territory. The Robotnik of Sonic Sat AM and Sonic Underground, however, is a monstrous (and far less humorous) dictator that not only has taken over most of the planet, but thrives almost lustfully on having any remaining civilians painfully robotocized. This depiction is drifted in and out for both comic adaptations (although they refer to his more petty, comical personality a lot more).
    • Inverted in Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, where Robotnik is instead portrayed as an oafish, cowardly buffoon who does nothing but get kicked around by not only Sonic and Tails, but also his own cronies Scratch and Grounder as well.
  • In the song Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer, Cousin Mel is mentioned a grand total of once, playing cards with Grandpa after Grandma's death. In the Christmas Special based on the song, she is a Christmas-hating Gold Digger and wannabe Corrupt Corporate Executive who sings one of the oddest Villain Songs ever written.
  • In the book Cranberry Christmas, Cyrus Grape is a curmudgeonly old man who refuses to let anyone skate on his pond, but gets his comeuppance when Mr. Whiskers finds a deed that proves the lake is actually on his property. In the animated special, Cyrus is a much more active antagonist, sneaking around and messing up Mr. Whiskers's house in order to keep Mr. Whiskers from finding that deed (whereas in the book he had no idea it existed).
  • Transformers Animated actually did this to the character Waspinator from Beast Wars. While Beast Wars Waspinator is portrayed as the lovable Butt Monkey who does nothing but get kicked around by other characters (though he does manage to injure the occasional Maximal, usually not by accident), Animated Waspinator, now renamed Wasp, is downright terrifying, and wants to get revenge on everyone who abused him.
  • Captain Hook of Peter Pan, while usually depicted as a Laughably Evil and relatively mild villain (particularly in the Disney adaptation), is genuinely sinister in Peter Pan and The Pirates. Despite a Freudian Excuse and occasional sympathetic moments, this version of Hook is by far the darkest portrayal of the character.
  • Inverted in Young Justice, where Artemis is a heroine.
  • Rampage, a minor heroine from Superman Post-Crisis comics, is turned into a villain in Justice League Unlimited.
  • Tublat the gorilla from Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs. In Disney's The Legend of Tarzan, his character is merged rather confusingly with another, Kerchak. Since Disney decided to make their version of Kerchak (who is ironically more similar to Burroughs's Tublat in personality) more sympathetic, as a consequence they ended up making their version of Tublat more sinister, like the novel's Kerchak.
  • In the TV show Mega Man, Proto Man is one of the major villains. In the games, while he did work for Dr. Wily at first, he had a Heel Face Turn and became an ally to Mega Man, if a distant one.
  • In the Spider-Man comics Silver Sable is an anti-heroic mercenary. While she sometimes fights Spider-Man, they usually team up to fight the real villain. In The Spectacular Spider-Man, Silver Sable is a Mafia Princess and a straight up villain, since she's the daughter of the mob boss Silvermane in the show.
    • Word of God says that had the show continued, she would have evolved into her usual anti-heroic persona.
  • Anubis is a villain in the TV show Mummies Alive, when he was actually a good god in Egyptian Mythology who guarded and protected the dead. Set is also seen with Anubis, while Set disowned him in the myths for siding with Horus.
    • Ammit, on the other hand, is portrayed as a pet of the Big Bad. In Egyptian mythology she was a neutral enforcer of order and punisher of evil, although this quality made her feared by the ancient Egyptians.
  • The Street Fighter animated series made Zangief into one of M. Bison's lackeys, despite the fact that Zangief actually opposed Shadaloo in the games.
  • In Wolverine and the X-Men, Magneto's children - Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, and Polaris (who were all somewhat quick to abandon him in the comics) - are supporters of his, each of whom have attacked the X-Men (if we're counting the time Polaris attacked Professor X). At the end of the show, Scarlet Witch and Polaris turn against him, but Quicksilver stays on his side. Which is strange, considering how he got along worst with Magneto out of all of them.
    • Oh, and Gambit, you know, the X-Man? He's a member of the Thieves' Guild who only cares about the money, to the point where he'll steal a weapon for the MRD, who he knows will use it against mutants, his own kind, for money. Man, what a Jerkass.
    • Another good guy, Multiple Man, works for Sinister.
  • From The Smurfs:
    • In the original version of "King Smurf", Brainy was not the eponymous villain as he was in the cartoon. Rather this role was taken up by an unnamed smurf. Brainy was, in fact, a member of the faction that opposed King Smurf.
    • More a case of "Not the Hero By Adaptation", Brainy's role in "The Weather Smurfing Machine". In the original, he was the one who saved the day by tying his kite to the out-of-control Machine in order to draw lighting to it and blow it to pieces. In the animated version, Handy thinks this up, crafting the kite from Brainy's umbrella. Whether this change of plot was good or not is debatable; one could say that forcing Handy to destroy his own machine was a nice touch.
  • Harley Quinn is a character who has gone all the way up and down the Sliding Scale of Anti-Villains, often into true villain territory, but most of the time, she’s regarded as a tragic figure corrupted by the Joker, who in New 52, went so far as to dunk her in the same vat of chemicals that drove him mad. In the 2019 series, however, this origin is changed. Harley’s backstory reveals that she was likely Evil All Along, having been a Yandere towards a boy as early as age 11 (having spent time in juvie for it) and possibly having killed her Alpha Bitch rival in high school. This is finally cinched by Repressed Memories that shows the Joker did not push her into that vat of chemicals - she willingly jumped in, and later rationalized that Joker pushed her in to absolve herself of any responsibility for it. This revelation causes Harley to embrace her dark side and plot to outshine the Joker in notoriety, which has been a major part of the ongoing plot.
  • Professor Piddy P. Poopypants from Captain Underpants: The Epic First Movie. In the original book, he seems to be a somewhat decent fellow until he snaps after George and Harold write a comic book that makes his Unfortunate Name the butt of a lot of jokes. In a lot of ways, his anger could even be justified; after all, he didn't choose such a ridiculous name, even if silly names are common in New Swissland. In the movie, however (where his name is stated to be P.P. Diarrheastein Poopypants Esquire, making it even more ridiculous) he really isn’t a nice guy to begin with. The movie portrays him as selfish and egotistical, not even interested in reforming (something he does in the original story) and flat-out rejecting the heroes’ attempts to make peace.
  • From Justice League: Gods and Monsters:[2]
    • Doc Magnus and the Metal Men are the main antagonists in the initial movie.
    • Zigzagged with Batman. He is the Token Evil Teammate among the heroes here, being a vampire who will not hesitate to kill criminals. However, this version of Batman is not Bruce Wayne, but Kirk Langstrom, (as in the Man-Bat in the mainstream comic) so he can also count as Adaptational Heroism.
    • Highfather is just as treacherous as Darkseid is in the mainstream universe, if not moreso.
    • Dear lord, Harley Quinn. Clearly the most evil version of Harley to date, she's a chainsaw wielding Serial Killer who keeps the rotting corpses of her family like trophies. Even worse, the Joker is nowhere to be seen, implying she wound up like this on her own.
  1. Though, there were plans that, in season 4 of Transformers Animated, Sentinel would have taken a possibly much more antagonistic role.
  2. Designed as a Darker and Edgier alternate universe to begin with, so these are far from the only changes to mainstream versions.