Marvel heroes break bad with super-villain mash-up covers this December

Marvel's Villains’ Reign variant covers
(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

This December, Marvel is mashing up some of its most iconic heroes and villains into funky new characters for a series of 'Villain's Reign' variant covers - and the pairings are a bit more surprising than combining the heroes with their traditional arch-enemies.

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Kicking off with eight covers, Marvel promises that more 'Villains Reign' variants - meaning more hero/villain mash-up art from some of the publisher's top artists - are on the way.

Though the concept of combining heroes and villains may seem like just a cool gimmick, Marvel actually ties the idea to writer Chip Zdarsky and artist Marco Checchetto's upcoming Devil's Reign limited series, in which Kingpin (featured on one of the 'Villains Reign' variants mashed-up with Hulk) sends his own personal version of the Thunderbolts after Matt Murdock and Elektra.

Appropriate to the theme, the Thunderbolts originally started out as a group of secret identities for the Masters of Evil, who were masquerading as heroes as part of a plan to take over the world.

Here's the list of variant covers, including the title on which they'll appear, the release date of the issue, the characters included in the mash-up, and of course, the artist of each cover:

  • Hulk #2 - Hulk as Kingpin by Pete Woods (December 1)
  • Thing #2 - Thing as Death by Dan Panosian (December 1)
  • Black Panther #2 - Black Panther as Sabretooth by Kael Ngu (December 8)
  • Amazing Spider-Man #82 - Mary Jane Watson as Nightmare by Joshua 'Sway' Swayby (December 15)
  • Avengers #51 - She-Hulk as Kraven the Hunter (December 15)
  • Captain America/Iron Man #2 - Captain America as Princess Python by Leinil Francis Yu (December 22)
  • Death of Doctor Strange # 4 - Doctor Strange as Ringmaster by Annie Wu (December 22)
  • Captain Marvel #35 - Captain Marvel as Mole Man by Todd Nauck (December 29)

Though Marvel has rarely been shy about mashing up its own characters with titles such as Infinity Warps, Deadpool the Duck, and many (many, many) more, the closest the publisher has come to actually pulling off something like the concept embodied in the variant covers was in 2014's Axis event, in which the mindsets of Marvel's heroes and villains were swapped, with the bad guys going good, and the good guys breaking bad.

Here's a gallery of all eight 'Villains Reign' covers released so far:

Marvel's 'Villains Reign' variant covers launch in December. Stay tuned to Newsarama for Marvel's full December 2021 solicitations, coming later this month.

Marvel Comics loves 'em its mash 'em ups. It's a creative tool the publisher revisits often as part of its mastery of what Stan Lee called the illusion of change

George Marston

I've been Newsarama's resident Marvel Comics expert and general comic book historian since 2011. I've also been the on-site reporter at most major comic conventions such as Comic-Con International: San Diego, New York Comic Con, and C2E2. Outside of comic journalism, I am the artist of many weird pictures, and the guitarist of many heavy riffs. (They/Them)