There have been some great comic book moments over the years that will forever be remembered as high points in the industry. These are not those moments. These moments are what happens when sales drop, franchises fizzle, and ideas run dry. These are the worst of the worst, the ones that leave the best of us shaking our head in utter bafflement.
We’ve all been there. We pick up the latest issue of our favorite comic or finally get to that one issue everyone’s been waiting for only to open the book and… wait what?! From disastrous retcons to senseless deaths and offensive plots, you never know when it’s going to happen, but when it does, it’s safe to say your comic reading days will never be the same. We’ve already seen some of the more bizarre occasions from the likes of Superman and Batman, but there are plenty others that have left us questioning what it means to be a hero.
Here the 16 Most WTF Moments in Superhero Comics.
15. Tony Stark Gets Domestically Abused by His Armor
Tony Stark – genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist. And domestic abuse victim? Yes, the events that started in 2000’s Iron Man #26 (and lasted five issues!) are just as weird as they sound. Iron Man’s latest armor gains sentience and promptly falls in love with its maker. Realizing this, the amor tries to convince Tony life will be all around better once he is “inside it.” But after the suit kills Whiplash and threatens Tony’s girlfriend, Tony straps on an older Iron Man suit to take it down. Feeling that Tony is cheating with another armor, the suit kidnaps him to a deserted island, ties Tony near-naked to a tree, and basically reenacts 50 Shades of Grey.
As Tony is tortured, the sentient suit demands his creator admit his love for it. The suit then apologizes, expressing its love for him instead. One thing ridiculously leads to another; the armor beats Tony some more, Tony has a well-timed heart attack, and the armor valiantly sacrifices itself by ripping out its own mechanical heart and replacing it with Tony’s faulty one. Somehow this works (because love trumps all, even science). Instead of celebrating his freedom, Tony desperately tries to save the suit’s life, begging, “let me get back inside you.” An all-around sad day for Marvel comics and Tony Stark.
14. Professor X Mind Melds with a Pigeon
Charles Xavier has his fair share of WTF moments, like when he killed his twin in the womb. But when Professor X is not using his telepathic mutant gifts to exact his own twisted views of righteousness on the world, he’s using them to fight crime in the most ridiculous of ways.
During X-Men Legacy #211, Professor X (who’s walking now) is about to get into a car when he senses a sniper nearby. So naturally he enters the mind of a nearby pigeon to look through its eyes and spot the sniper, then mind controls an entire flock to swarm the gunman, throwing off his aim long enough for Xavier to drive away safely. While this may not be on par with the animal abuse Hulk regularly smashes out, it’s an odd ruse given the Professor’s far greater intellect. This is demonstrated by the fact that Xavier admits he should be ashamed of what he’s doing and probably come up with better tactics. Chuck might be one of the few superheroes who can talk to wildlife, but he sure finds lame ways to use that awesome ability. Guess not everyone can be as cool as Squirrel Girl. (But more on her in a moment.)
13. Marvel’s Swimsuit Specials
Before the advent of the Internet, the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition was all the rage. Never one to miss the bandwagon, Marvel thought it would be a genius idea to try and capture some of that magic. After all, pretty much every heroine, villainess, or female love interest was wearing some sort of skimpy outfit at that time, so why not own up to it and publish a comic blatantly focusing on the fact. Oh, but it wasn’t exploitative at all because they also decided to include men. Is there anything creepier than seeing Namor emerge from the ocean wearing nothing but a tiny shell over his loins? Or more disturbing then the Punisher proudly displaying his skull?
Each of these comics, which were released every year between ’91 and ’95, actually contained thinly veiled plot lines. Like the one from 1993 where a troll uses the Infinity Gems to whisk everyone in Marvel away on vacation to Monster Island. Looking back now, it’s astonishing how raunchy these drawings, and the people drawing them, were. Like when Dr. Doom played with a blow-up doll. Or when two men provide the Wasp with an up-close observation while she straddles… Colossus? And why does Rogue look like an aged Baywatch star who’s smoked one too many cigarettes? You gotta give Marvel credit for somehow managing to out sleaze both Playboy and Hustler combined.
12. The Joker Eats All of China
We expect the Joker to act crazy. That’s why he deserves a WTF list all his own. And while the events of 2008’s Joker graphic novel are probably his worst, given he rapes the wife of one of his henchmen, does unspeakable things to a photo of a man’s daughter, and skins a strip club owner alive, they don’t really fit here. For one, that’s not a superhero comic. And two, that story’s character doesn’t really feel like the Joker and, even if it does to some, his actions aren’t all that unbelievable once the initial shock value wears off. But one thing that we don’t ever expect from the Joker is for him to eat an entire population.
In 2000’s Emperor Joker, the Clown Prince tricks Mister Mxyzptlk into giving him 99% of the 4th dimensional imp’s powers. If you’re unfamiliar with the character of Mxyzptlk, that’s a lot. Joker uses this power to form a new world order in his image. In between repeatedly killing Batman on a daily basis and beating Superman with a chicken, he decides to eat the entire Republic of China for no particular reason. Usually his villainous exploits remain local to Gotham City, with the occasional Lois Lane murder and Iranian ambassadorship thrown in for good measure. So why Joker felt the need to specifically eat over a billion Asian people, and why DC writers felt the need to go to such lengths just to make a bad Peking Duck joke, is beyond us.
11. Lois Lane and Lana Lang Brainwash a Baby Into Marrying Them
What would this list be without at least one entry from the Silver Age? While pretty much anything from that period could be considered a WTF moment, the story from Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane #57 is particularly noteworthy. After years of going to extremely insane lengths to win Superman’s affections, Lois Lane and Lana Lang devise their creepiest ploy yet when they try to brainwash the Man of Steel into loving them – as a baby.
After Superman decides to conduct youth-restoring experiments on himself and apparently gets turned into a toddler, the girls take advantage by turning Superbaby into their own personal Manchurian Candidate. This includes conditioning the infant to propose, kiss them, and allow each of them to take turns spanking him. When a grown Superman shows up the next day unaffected by all their weird hypnosis, Lois and Lana are pissed. Utterly flabbergasted, Supes tries to figure out what’s going on and soon realizes Superbaby was from a parallel world and coincidentally undergoing similar experiments. Then, it turns out the brainwashing did in fact work because we see parallel Superman, now aged normally, getting married to both of the girls on his world, where bigamy is legal. Throw in a gorilla and this could easily be the most Silver Age story of all time.
10. Nightwing Gets Raped
Nonconsensual sex as a plot device is never a good idea. Turns out that was one rule writer Devin Grayson completely ignored when penning Nightwing #93. Surrounding that issue, Gotham crime fighter and onetime Robin, Dick Grayson, has been training the up-and-coming heroine Tarantula in the ways of superheroing. After watching her mentor kick the crap out of Gotham’s scum for awhile, Tarantula (AKA Catalina Flores) gets turned on big time. And then rapes him.
Nightwing is doing battle with one of his greatest foes, Blockbuster. Eventually Tarantula arrives on the scene wielding a gun. Realizing Blockbuster won’t stop until he’s killed everyone Nightwing holds dear, the former Boy Wonder lets Tarantula put a bullet in the guy’s head. Exhausted from the physical and mental trauma of what just went down, Nightwing stumbles out onto a rainy rooftop and collapses. Spotting her window of opportunity, Tarantula climbs on top of him, lets her hair down and, despite Nightwing’s feeble protests to stop, has sex with him amidst the soothing sounds of her Spanglish. The fact the scene was drawn in a way to make it seem like an important moment only makes it all the more appalling.
9. The Punisher “Turns Black”
Superhero comics have a shameful history of dealing with race. Like the time Superman turned Lois Lane black so she could infiltrate Little Africa or the time Hulk wore blackface so he could play minor league baseball. Right up there alongside those unfortunate creative decisions is the time the Punisher underwent cosmetic surgery to go into hiding as a black man affter escaping prison.
We first meet “Frank Rook” in Punisher #59 as part of 1991’s The Final Days storyline. While incarcerated, Frank Castle gets beaten to a bloody pulp by a group of inmates. After escaping he turns to a former plastic surgeon-turned-junkie prostitute to make him unrecognizable. Obviously the best way to do this is by turning him into a black man. What ensues are several extremely racist vignettes posing as social commentary that involve Punisher getting pulled over by the police, beaten by the police, and killing South Side drug dealers after teaming up with Marvel’s original black superhero, Luke Cage. And if you’re wondering how the Punisher’s days as a “brother” end, three issues later the story comes to a riveting conclusion in the regrettably titled, Fade… to White.
8. Green Lantern’s Girlfriend Gets Fridged
Next up is a moment so sexist and uncalled for it created that its own comic book trope. After Hal Jordan turned evil and wiped out nearly every other Green Lantern in existence, there wasn’t a lot going on for the sole survivor, Kyle Rayner. So to rectify that, DC’s writers decided to stuff his girlfriend in a refrigerator.
The events of Green Lantern #54 are no less shocking today than they were back in 1994. After a long day of galaxy saving, Kyle comes home to the apartment he shares with girlfriend Alex DeWitt. He finds a lovely note to look in the fridge, only to discover her chopped up corpse unceremoniously shoved inside. Surprise!
DC creatives got what they wanted, a screwed up superhero and renewed attention. They also got a whole lot of backlash and the term “women in refrigerators” referencing the needless victimization of a female to further a male character’s plot. It probably didn’t help either that the woman-murdering villain who brought this all about went by the name “Major Force.”
7. Gwen Stacy Cheats on Spider-Man with Green Goblin
Speaking of superhero girlfriends being murdered, none are more famous than Gwen Stacy. Though unlike the “fridging” above, when Gwen died in Amazing Spider-Man #121, it was a well-told story that resonated with fans for years. So that’s why Marvel later decided to crap all over it by revealing Green Goblin’s true motives for killing Gwen in 2004’s Sins Past.
During his run with the character, writer J. Michael Straczynski originally wanted Gwen and Peter to have kids. But because editorial decided this would age Spider-Man too much, they came up with the far more ridiculous plot that Gwen cheated on him with Norman Osborn, AKA Green Goblin, and got knocked up with twins. After Obsorn finds out, she’s going to come clean, he kills Gwen and trains their illegitimate children as Spidey-assassins, who by 10-years-old reach full adulthood on account of his bizarre Green Goblin-y blood. Like we said, ridiculous. But not only did the writers cheapen Gwen’s tragic death and turn her into a third-rate hussy, they also gave us the unforgettable image of what it’s like to have sex with Tommy Lee Jones.
6. Green Lantern Hooks Up with a 13-Year-Old
Though comics seemingly have no trepidation about turning to rape, incest and murder to boost sales, pedophilia is one topic its superheroes thankfully don’t dabble in too often. Which makes Hal Jordan’s open relationship with a 13-year-old member of the Green Lantern Corps even more shocking.
It all started innocently enough. Arisia was an alien helping to protect Earth and who just so happened to form a crush on her older 3o-ish teammate, as young teenage girls often do. Being the righteous dude that he is though, Hal gently rebukes her advances. Then things take an immediate turn towards the creepy when heartbroken Arisia uses her power ring to transform her body into that of a grown woman. At first Hal holds his ground, but this lasts all of three pages.
As the rest of the team walks in, we discover the two of them going at it. No one’s okay with this, but Hal ignores the other Green Lantern’s protests and instead starts dating Arisia. This amazingly lasts for almost two years despite the fact she is still mentally and emotionally a teenage girl. What’s worse is that Hal often acknowledges this, usually when naked in bed with her, but still just keeps on keepin’ on. In the end, it’s Arisia who cuts things off because she grows up and Hal is still the same old scumbag.
5. Elongated Man’s Wife Gets Sexually Assaulted and Murdered Just Because
And now for the most “Women in Refrigerators”-y story ever told. But first, some backstory: Elongated Man has always been a kind of joke character, particularly as a member of the Justice League. However when 2004’s Identity Crisis rolled around, he becomes the center of an all-too-serious tale that tragically involved his wife, Sue Dibny.
The storyline starts off with Sue, who’s pregnant, being brutally murdered. What follows is a Watchmen rip-off murder mystery to try and find her killer that subsequently reveals the deepest, darkest secrets of the Justice League. The worst of it involves the up-until-that-point moronic supervillain Doctor Light infiltrating the League’s space headquarters and raping Elongated Man’s wife. Even if the opening murder held some sort of merit as a central plot point, the subsequent reveal of sexual assault was entirely unnecessary any way you look at it. Oh, and as for Sue’s murderer? It turned out to be the Atom’s girlfriend who, in a desperate attempt to get him to spend time with her, killed her. So to summarize, a woman needlessly kills another woman to get the attention of a man. And that second woman is also unnecessarily revealed to have been raped. Wow…
4. Squirrel Girl Defeats Thanos
The fact someone named Squirrel Girl is a superhero at all is a WTF in its own right. So why not double down on the fun and make her one of the strongest superheroes ever? (Don’t believe us, just check out her official power stats.) Though anyone who thinks Squirrel Girl is a joke better not say so in earshot of her fluffy tailed friend.
Just ask Dr. Doom. Or Mandarin. Or Terrax. Or M.O.D.O.K. We could go on. She’s made a career of stomping some of Marvel’s deadliest super villains. Though while her humiliating defeat of Victor von Doom might have put her on the map, it’s the time Squirrel Girl took down the Mad Titan that really blew our minds.
In GLX-MAS #1, Squirrel Girl runs into Thanos trying to conquer the universe (again). We don’t actually see how she defeats him, but we all know what happened. Sure this might have been a non-canon parody comic but it doesn’t make ol’ Purple Puss’ ass kicking any less crazy. Even the Pet Avengers needed the Infinity Gems to stop Thanos. But not Tippy-Toe. Suffice to say, there are some animals out there Batman should never try to beat up.
3. Blob Eats the Wasp, Gets Eaten Himself
The five-issue run of 2009’s Ultimatum literally ripped Marvel’s ten-year-old Ultimates universe to shreds . Cities were leveled, fan-favorite characters were killed off-panel, and beloved heroes were brutally murdered. Encapsulating the worst of all it had to offer was the death of the Wasp.
After drowning off-panel in a tsunami that devastates New York City, a dead Wasp is laying amidst the ruins when the Blob stumbles upon her. The Blob is best known for possessing the superpower of being fat. In the Ultimates universe he’s even fatter, which apparently means he’s also more evil. For no real apparent reason other than the implications of his fatness, Blob starts chowing down on Wasp’s remains.
It’s as violent as fridging gets, only this time it wasn’t even done for the benefit of plot development. It wasn’t done for any reason at all, other than to show a really fat mutant cannibalize a dead woman. And then give her husband, Hank Pym, a reason to flip out as Giant Man and bite the Blob’s head off. Overall, Ultimatum is routinely criticized as a low point in comics.– and for good reason, considering its entire premise revolves around watching people get distastefully slaughtered.
2. The Twincestuous Relationship Between Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch
Whether in the comics or movies, the mutant twins Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver have had a tough go of it. On the drawn page, they grew up not knowing their father, only to later find out he was Magneto. On the big screen, they were the diabolical test subjects of renegade Nazis, only later to become the pawns of a deranged robot. No matter what the medium, at least they always had each other.
But because no one in comics should ever find happiness in anything, The Ultimates 3 turned their brotherly-sisterly love into a non-canonical perverted plot twist. Though, to be fair, long before that, there were implications the Maximoff twins were closer than nature would want them. Luckily, we were always spared the gross details.
Ultimates writer Jeph Loeb however took it upon himself to fill in the gaps. We’ll cut right to the chase: they have sex with each other. A lot. And everyone around them knows and are horrified by it. If that’s not bad enough, it’s hinted at that Wolverine is actually their real father, and at one point secretly watches his children have sex from behind some bushes.
1. Captain Marvel is impregnated by her own son
Are you excited about the upcoming Captain Marvel movie? We are. Especially since it means young girls everywhere will finally have a major female Marvel superhero they can relate to. Or at least we hope. Which means the filmmakers would be very wise to steer clear of the plot line of The Avengers #200.
There’s probably a lot of things you don’t know about Carol Danvers, but even the most die-hard fans have likely forced themselves to forget the time Captain Marvel was raped by her own son. This horrifying tale plays out as follows: One morning Ms. Marvel wakes to find herself pregnant. Three days later, baby Marcus is born. A few days after that he is miraculously fully grown. Now able to talk, Marcus tells his mom that the reason she was pregnant in the first place was because he impregnated her… with himself.
It’s all quite confusing but apparently with the help of William Shakespeare, Marcus, who was trapped in Limbo, kidnapped and “seduced” Carol into giving birth to him on Earth. Most disturbing of all, Captain Marvel reveals she enjoyed their unnatural hook-up and decides to enter into an ongoing romantic relationship with her son. Because this was so awful, Marvel immediately distanced themselves from the story, and Carol Danvers, once Marvel’s flagship female superhero, didn’t appear in comics for several years to avoid all mention of the incident. Another proud day for feminism.
Are there any effed up moments we missed? We’d love to hear all about them in the comments. (We think.)