Cain and Abel. Hamlet and Laertes. Your mom and that account on r/GoneWild that looks uncomfortably like her.
For as long as society has been stabbing each other, villains and vixens have vexed their more virtuous versions. When used sparingly, the evil twin tropeworks wonderfully, because they provide a foil for a hero’s highs, lows and limits. Comics, however, don’t use them sparingly, so pretty much every superhero has an evil twin, which run the gamut from amazing to… well, you’ll see. Spider-Man has many evil twins, but his most famous is Venom, who’s also the first evil twin to ever to get his own film (slithering into cinemas this week).
So let’s look at notable dark reflections of our favorite superheroes and see which other ones are worthy of being portrayed by Tom Hardy doing the accent of a Baltimore longshoreman who opens beer bottles with his teeth.
VENOM, aka Spider-Man, but, like, a dick
You can say Topher Grace wasn’t believably bulky as Venom in Spider-Man 3, but he certainly nailed the “insufferable version of Peter Parker” part. Eddie Brock (the human under the alien Venom symbiote) is everything ol’ Pete might have become without learning the lesson that with great power comes great responsibility: A selfish, vindictive lout who takes shortcuts. He’s even a plagiarist and paparazzo to Parker’s credible photojournalist.
Teaming up with Spider-Man’s discarded sentient costume (it’s complicated) to become Venom, they swung right to the top of the wall-crawler’s rogue’s gallery with schemes to humiliate him and also, like, eat his brains. Different jerks have worn the Venom suit since, but Brock’s the best iteration: A grade-A jerk. And cannibal. But mostly jerk.
CARNAGE, aka Spider-Man’s evil twin’s even eviler twin
It’s impossible to overstate the splash (of blood!) Cletus Kassidy made with his surprise first appearance. Venom was already at his peak, and suddenly his serial killer cellmate had a symbiote suit too (this time in red!) and was murdering everybody. Venom may be Peter Parker if he’d never had Uncle Ben, but Carnage is basically Venom as a Kiefer Sutherland character from the 1980s. Unfortunately, Marvel immediately drowned him in his own popularity with “Maximum Carnage,” a storyline with way too many issues but not enough plot. But he’s still around killing dudes because, well, he’s evil, isn’t he?
ZOOM, aka, the Flash on the W-Axis
Zoom is the second(ish) of many “Reverse Flashes,” but he’s got the coolest powers by far. See, your standard speedsters (Flash, Kid Flash, Impulse and all the other guys with super speed) travel the world in an XYZ graph, same as you or I. But Zoom’s superfeet carry him through time. It doesn’t matter how fast you can dash around the world, this guy literally runs down the clock. Five-star villain, would definitely be scared of again.
CATMAN, aka unscary Batman
Batman pretends to be a bored, rich guy. Catman is a bored rich guy who basically does everything Batman does, but evil (and one letter forward in the alphabet). He even drove a Catmobile and his cowl has adorable little cat ears! Like most wealthy people, he dabbled in crime, and his worst enemy is a socialist. (Remember when Green Arrow got sick of his shit and just shot him in the shoulder?) Reinventing himself once he hit rock-bottom Z-list status, the high-society doofus got a ninth life as a badass mercenary. It’s just like an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, only with animal-themed boomerangs.
PROMETHEUS, aka Batman as a one-hit wonder
Prometheus had early promise as the ultimate evil twin of Batman: While Bruce Wayne’s parents were killed by criminals, causing him to dedicate his life to justice, Prometheus’ parents were killed by cops, making him swear revenge on the entire justice system (or rather, Justice League). He fizzled after a splashy debut, however, since he lacked follow-through. And because he lost the fight due to Catwoman hitting him in the nuts with a bullwhip, which to be fair, might make more than a few men reconsider their lifestyle choices (and a few others pay extra for it).
RED HULK, aka, the Hulk but with a plan (an evil one!)
For the longest time, The Abomination was the Hulk’s evil twin. But in the end, a closer counterpart is the obsessed army general who, for decades, did battle with the gamma-powered monster. Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Rossdeliberately became Red Hulk to destroy the Green Hulk, because that’s how much he hates Hulks. Worst of all, he sacrificed his glorious mustache in the process. You played yourself, Ross.
BIZARRO, aka Superman after eight bong hits
An adorable screw up up from an entire society of screwups so hapless even their planet is square, he was actually more nuanced by his failure than the perfect but boring hero. This lumpy dolt wants to be Superman, but just can’t help wrecking everything. Just like you! We none of us am not Bizarro.
BLACK ADAM, aka Shazam’s evil twin, but who’s actually the original
Technically, Black Adam isn’t Shazam’s evil twin: Shazam is Adam’s extra-good twin. This Bronze Age badass debuted in 1942 and hasn’t stopped kicking ass with the power of Egyptian gods ever since. But he quickly turned murderous. His origin is basically “Superhero Scorpion King,” so it’s cool that Dwayne Johnson will (allegedly) be playing him in an upcoming movie. High marks for cool costume and moral complexity, too.
MERLYN, aka the one who tries to be Green Arrow’s evil twin but just sucks
Okay, this name is hogwash. He’s an archer! He doesn’t have magic arrows! Can you imagine how often he has to explain himself to magicians in the DC Universe? He could have called himself Robbing Hood or Arch-Enemy, but no, he had to go with his real name and just barely qualify as a Green Arrow foe because they’re both too pigheaded to use modern weaponry.
IRON PATRIOT, aka Iron Man with Halliburton stock
There’s an Iron Man foe for every political era. In the Cold War, Russia furnished Tony Stark with Titanium Man and Crimson Dynamo. But come the 21st century, the perfect enemy was us, so colossal hemorrhoid Norman Osborn (the former Green Goblin) literally wrapped himself in the flag to commit government-sanctioned crimes as Iron Patriot. An industrialist using Old Glory as armor for his horrible activities pretty much capstones the 2000s.
OCEAN MASTER, aka… a guy, we guess? Oh yeah, and Aquaman’s evil twin or something
Aquaman’s not boring because he talks to fish: He’s boring because his adventures occur in an impractical society full of awful people. Ocean Master is the leader Atlantis deserves, so why doesn’t Aquaman just let his half-brother take it over, and stay onshore eating johnnycakes? You can’t cook johnnycakes underwater. Anyway, now you know everything relevant about Ocean Master.
SABRETOOTH/DAKEN, aka Wolverine with daddy issues
Every one of Sabretooth’s costumes looks like a guy who starts bar fights for fun and who suddenly found himself — through a series of wacky misunderstandings — playing Mr. Mistoffelees in CATS. Daken, meanwhile, is Wolverine’s son, who looks like Wolverine if Wolverine’s superpower was headbutting people at music festivals. Both of them have posed as Wolverine at various times, but where Sabretooth is struggling toward relevance, Daken sucks so much his own father drowned him in two inches of water. Neither found what they were looking for by the time Wolverine died, so keep chasing that white whale, you losers!
CRIME SYNDICATE OF AMERICA, aka depressingly more realistic Justice League
The Republican Justice League come from an Earth that runs on hate and fear, where money is God, evil is good and criminals fill the government to protect their cronies from the consequences of their actions.
*sigh* They lose to the Justice League every time because they always kill or abandon their Martian Manhunter, and your league has no heart without a Martian Manhunter. Can you win without heart? I’ll let the trailer for 2003’s Biker Boyz answer that question:
DARK BEAST, aka Beast, but like, furrier
Another evil twin from an alternate earth. Look, Beast is a nice guy, but he’s been around for 50+ years and becoming a sadistic mad scientist is still the second-most interesting thing he’s ever done — which is even sadder when you realize number one is that time he befriended Emma Frost and even that is his second-most definitive friendship. He was born to play third fiddle in a band that doesn’t have a string section.
VENGEANCE, aka Ghost Rider intensified to ‘Warhammer’ levels
If you thought a flaming skeleton biker chain-whipping criminals to death was too restrained, well, Marvel added more spikes to him in the 1990s. Then they added tusks and MORE spikes AND a mohawk (which is also spikes), PLUS green flame AND twin sickles on his chain to have their Vengeance. If original Ghost Rider is a Ronnie James Dio song, Vengeance is Cannibal Corpse played backwards at double speed to a toddler till her nose bleeds.
SINESTRO, aka what if the devil were Green Lantern?
Sinestro’s the best villain in comics or get the hell off my lawn. I once wrote a term paper on him as an allegory for Lucifer based on Green Lantern: Emerald Dawn II, and got an A+. Now, I… well, I have a life, sort of, SHUT UP.
This lightbringer was cast down from the celestial Green Lantern Corps for the sin of pride in 1961, and has done more to keep the DC Universe interesting ever since than 60 percent of its editorial staff. He’s been blessed with a surprising amount of humanity to make him a like mind with Hal Jordan, which is why his fascist control freak side is such a scary reflection of the Guardians of the Universe. Yeah.
DOPPELGANGER, aka, he definitely resembles Spider-Man
The comic book version of Infinity War had Cthuloid pod people versions of Earth’s heroes who… Ugh, look, no matter how bad the movie reviews, at least Venom will never sink to this punching bag’s level.