Thirty-two years ago this month, Jean Grey finally overcame her own darker nature and overcame her Dark Phoenix persona thanks to the power of love and stuff.  It was a powerful moment (immediately followed by her committing heroic suicide as her horrified fiancee Cyclops looked on) and even the fact that backstory has been altered to where it was never actually Jean in the first place can’t kill the power of that moment.  Since then, many Marvel characters (and nearly all the X-Men) have had their “Dark Whomever” story, but each successive iteration seems to have resulted in diminishing returns, with Cyclops himself now in the throes of a Phoenix-inspired quasi-villain turn, something he, of all people, really should have seen coming.

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) embodies fire, ultimate power and life incarnate, asking: 
With the increased sophistication of story-telling and more realistic multi-dimensional characters, have we reached a point where “Good Guy Goes Bad” has lost it’s power?


About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.


  1. I read the Dark Phoenix saga as a teenager and the whole descent, redemption, and then death really had an impact on me. It was the first time I had seen any of that and I found it to be incredibly good story telling. I haven’t seen one since that had that kind of impact. I’m not sure if it is because of the repetition or less well done writing.

  2. Robert Hulshof-Schmidt on

    Short answer – no. Good storytelling can carry even the most tired themes. Bad storytelling can ruin even the most delightful. That said, the original Dark Phoenix saga is a high point in comic history that sets a bar most creators won’t meet (and that’s okay). Stories like that (like Miller’s Dark Knight, the Watchmen, and the Darkseid saga in the Legion) are special delights.

    The good-guy-gone-bad (or vice versa) is sadly one of three very tedious repeated plotlines lately, along with who’s-dead-this-week and hero-pitted-against-hero. The overuse of those themes gets in the way of my enjoying even decent storytelling.

  3. I agree with Robert. When it’s done as part of telling an epic story, it’s not overdone. But when it’s done as part of the usual monthly sludge pumped out by the big two, where you know by the end of the issue everything has to go back to where it started, then it’s overused and loses its impact. The two most powerful examples recently done: Superman vs. the Elite and Irredeemable.

  4. Modern writers seem to feel that good and evil are outdate concepts.

    For example Magneto isn’t a villian he’s just a man prepared to take extreme measures to see justice done. Cyclopes isn’t a hero he’s just a guy forced into action by curcumstances outside his control. Both of have supporters and critics how you would catagorise them realy just depends on which one has the best PR.

    It’s a style of story that alows more charcter exploration than the standard “Bwahaha! I am being evil now because I am evil.” Trope that was the norm back in the day and creates a world that readers feel more at home in. Personaly I think writers should exercise caution trying to paint four coloured heroes in shades of grey, it has produced some great storys but if no-one is ever truly damned then no-one is ever truly redeemed.

  5. I have to agree with Rob. There are just so many shades of grey now. Seems everyone wants to write that “Morality is just a point of view…” type of story.

  6. I think it is more or less depending how well the story is told. Shades of grey and multiple layers only means the storyteller has a little more of a difficult job making it pack the punch it used to. Even the shift of someone going from mere lawful good to lawful evil could be epic given the right creator behind it.

  7. I agree to an extent with Rob and Verse. A lot of morality comes across in shades of grey now. However I do wonder if it isn’t left up to the readers at times as to who the good guy and bad guys are, especially in the hero versus hero scenarios. For example, in the first few issues of AvX I would have said the X-Men were the villians. In Civil War I would have called Tony Stark the villian. Others would probably disagree with me and its our points of view that make it right or wrong. What does it say about the creators and the consumers of this medium when there is seldom a clear right or wrong?

    • Don’t get me wrong I like shades grey when they are well used.
      Civil War is a good example of moral uncertany enhancing a story, but for me it ultimatly falls flat because Captain America can’t not be a hero so Iron Man falls into being the villian by default. I supose the icons of the gold and silver age are always going to be a poor fit for that kind of story being essentialy hopeful with a clear moral outlook built in to their character.
      Some times I just miss the simplicty of a good guy punching a bad guy who is clearly bad.

  8. Yes, yes I thik it has.
    I can respect what all you other guys are saying. But apart from Irredeamable I never touch any of that “OOOh Im so mad at the universe”-storys.
    Give me Bad-guy-gone-good. There’s still some storys there.

  9. Yes and no is my answer.
    It really depends on the company. I believe that it has been beat to death with Joe Q constantly yelling DIE HORSE DIE!!! (As he beats the corpse) in the Marvel Universe. There are exceptions but unfortunately they are few and far between. Civil War particularly brought this on and as it has been said, the real battles are now Hero vs. Hero. When you consider some of the crossovers over the last few years, this is exactly what Superman and the others created the prison for in Kansas during Kingdom Come. A place to contain the “hero vs. hero” fighter who blurred the line too much between good and evil.
    In the playground of the other companies, I do not see it as often. While there are numerous cases, it does not seem the rule as opposed to the exception.

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