We know heroes by their deeds. And the greatest heroes are the ones whose legacies are as big as space and as enduring as the stars. Unfortunately, sometimes great deeds also include terrible actions.
Here are eight of your favorite epic heroes who have committed mass murder, or even genocide. Out-of-date spoilers ahead...
8. The Ghostbusters
In the animated series episode "Standing Room Only", ghosts on the run from Mee-Krah, a recently awakened ghost-eating monster, approach the Busters — begging to be trapped in exchange for sanctuary. It isn't long before every ghost in New York is waiting to be captured, and the Ghostbusters are struggling to keep up. When Mee-Krah's path of destruction threatens to destroy New York (the Sahara, Gobi Desert and Death Valley were the results of his past visits), Peter makes a startling suggestion: "Hey… Sparky feeds on ghosts, right? So, lets leave a trail of ghosts, and lead him out to sea." "Great idea!", replies Ray. Winston adds, "We sure have enough ghosts to go around." It's then Peter turns to Slimer, "You sure you want to go on this run, Spud?" and is answered with an enthusiastic, "Uh-huh, Uh-huh!"
At no point do any of the characters stop to question the morality of feeding frightened, trusting ghosts to an ancient, soul-devouring elemental, so Peter, Winston and Slimer depart in their private gyrocopter, the ECTO-2, releasing terrified, confused Class 5's from their traps and into the snapping jaws of Mee-Krah's death beyond death. Eventually, they're able to over-gorge the monster with a machine that absorbs spirit-energy, effectively killing Mee-Krah when it eats the ectoplasmic residue of 1612 ghosts simultaneously. (Which is, coincidentally, the same year Rubens completed his masterpiece, Massacre of the Innocents.) The episode ends with Peter offering this justification for ghostly genocide, "You can do anything, as long as you do it scientifically."
In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight comic book series, the consciousness of a new universe called Twilight imbues Angel with Superman-like powers. Twilight convinces Angel that in order to fulfill his destiny and save the world, he must kill as many potential Slayers as possible in a gambit to, essentially, antagonize Buffy into having time-travelling astro-sex with him. Their passion results in the creation of the paradise-like Twilight dimension, and heralds the destruction of the present universe. Angel tries to convince Buffy to stay in Twilight and rule, believing it morally wrong to be an absent God in a reality of his own making, but she declines, opting to rescue the present universe by destroying the "Seed of Wonder", the source of all Earthly magic. Twilight demands that Buffy and Angel finish what they started –- it possesses Angel and kills Giles.
On his own TV show, the question of whether Angel was truly a hero, or merely a very talented victim was one of the series major overarching themes. (He did spend two hundred years of immortality eating rats and riding on submarines, not even considering helping the helpless until it was pointed out to him.) Could the actions of a demon, being naturally evil, be compared to those of human beings, who have more or less a choice in their actions? As a human, Angel was a cruel and violent drunk and becoming a vampire ultimately made him a better man. Though to many, the season eight series and Angel's attempt at Slayer-cide provided the final nail in the coffin of Angel's character/crusade.
6. Judge Dredd
In the must-read "apocalypse war" story, Mega-City One is first torn apart by artificially induced "Block-Mania," and then invaded by Soviet Judges from East-Meg One. Almost the whole city is occupied, and the Sov Judges run over citizens in their massive rad-sweepers. So Judge Dredd and a hand-picked squad travel to East-Meg One, where they break into a missile silo and use it to nuke the entire Russian city. As the Sov Judges beg Dredd not to murder half a billion people, Dredd says, "Half my city is burnt to ashes by East-Meg missiles — and you're begging ME for mercy? Request denied." Later, the Soviets actually invite Dredd to kill their own War Marshall, as the only way to stop this war.