Superman is the superhero to end all superheroes. The best that humanity has to offer. The Big Blue Boy Scout. The living embodiment of truth, justice and the American way. All of which makes it kind of hard to catch him in the act of being anything other than, well, super. While Batman has more than his fair share of twisted moments, and Supergirl has had some horrible things happen to her, the Man of Steel has for the most part remained on the straight and narrow, consistently using his powers for good — even when he’s killing.
However, not all of Superman’s adventures have been sunshine and corn fields. While yes, most of Big Blue’s exploits are predictably righteous, his comics have been known to stray into the shocking, bizarre and downright offensive from time to time. He may not reach Dark Knight levels of messed up anytime soon, but there’s still enough incest, racism and mullets going around to keep us shaking our heads in super astonishment.
Here are the 15 Biggest WTF Moments In Superman Comics.
15. Superman Gets an Un-Super Makeover
In 1998, DC decided that after sixty years of being the most successful comic book character in history, Superman needed a change. So they resurrected a goofy one-off “imaginary story” that split the Man of Steel into two separate beings and gave it the ’90s touch, because when was that ever a bad idea? In the original story, a Red and Blue Superman together restore Krypton, solve all the world’s problems and figure out how to satisfy two women at once by divvying up Lana Lang and Lois Lane. The updated version on the other hand begins when Supes gets deprived of all solar energy and inexplicably develops the powers of lightning, requiring him to adopt a blue and white containment suit in a Krypton-shattering change that writers promised was “forever!”
Turns out forever is exactly one year. After Electric Blue gets split into ultra-nerdy Superman Blue and hotheaded Superman Red, and they spend months arguing over who’s the true Man of Steel, go on a litany of pointless exploits and have a creepy love triangle involving Lois, the whole thing was scrapped. Changing an iconic costume is one thing, but completely altering everything that established the character as the world’s most popular superhero is something else entirely. The eventual ensuing backlash from fans sent DC creatives scrambling to return Superman back to normal. Ultimately, the whole ordeal brought an end to Supes’ awkward phase following his death and capstoned comics in the ’90s, which were exemplified by gimmicky deaths, covers and costume changes.
14. The Mullet
No matter how super you are, mullets are never a good idea. (Unless you’re Patrick Swayze.) Which is probably why to this day, when we think of Superman rising from the dead, we primarily think of poor hair decisions. After the momentously popular release of The Death of Superman and an annoyingly short three month hiatus following his funeral, DC decided it needed to start making money again, so they brought back the character in a convoluted mess of faux-Supermen and regeneration matrices. As ridiculous as all that was, nothing could top the fact Superman was now sporting a full-on mullet. What’s worse, for some strange reason he decided to keep it. It was only until several years later when he was set to marry Lois, that Superman finally decided to cut it off. Thankfully, unlike the man himself, it has remained dead.
Or has it? Super-Mullet could very well be poised to make a triumphant return in the upcoming Justice League movie. If that happens, here’s hoping Henry Cavill can channel the Swayze and prevent his long locks from growing into something more than mere meme fodder. Probably not though. Mullets are the worst.
13. Superman Gains the Ability to Shoot Mini-Supermen Out of His Hands
Superman has some pretty awesome powers. But with over seven decades of tinkering, he’s also had his fair share of ridiculous ones, like shape-shifting, super-mathematics and the power to throw cellophane ‘S’ shields. One of his most bizarre (and that’s saying a lot) abilities dates way back to the ’50s, when he could literally shoot a tiny version of himself out of his hands.
Superman #125 starts with the Man of Steel getting blown up by a mysterious midget spaceship and having nearly all his conventional powers replaced with the greatest power of all – shooting rainbows from his hands. Somehow though, this inexplicably allows him to create a tiny proxy version of himself possessing all his powers.
But it doesn’t take long for Superman to get super jealous. So when a Kryptonite meteor shower heads for Metropolis, he decides to kill Super-Imp. The whole thing backfires when some crooks get their hands on the fallen Kryptonite and catapult it at Superman. Luckily, mini-Supes sacrifices himself by riding the rock into the sea. You would think Superman would feel like a huge jerk after all that, but nope, once mini-Supes is dead, full size Supes gets all his powers back and feels pretty good about it.
12. Gay Kryptonite
Ever heard of pink kryptonite? Yep, that’s a thing. It has the ability to turn any Kryptonian that crosses its path into an expert on male neckwear and interior design. Just kidding, it turns Superman super gay. It’s incredibly rare and offensive, having only ever been mentioned once in a single comic panel. If you have heard of it, it’s probably on account of the controversy it swirled up when the issue was first released in 2003. But then again, what change to Superman isn’t news these days?
A lot happens in Supergirl #79. Current Supergirl Linda Danvers goes back in time to the Silver Age (long story) and ends up in an alternate Earth-One timeline where she eventually marries Superman and has his super baby. In between a deluge of gratuitous upskirt closeups and convoluted plot points involving the original Supergirl, the comic actually does a pretty good job satirizing the era, even giving nod to the Legion of Super-Pets and Superman’s giant key (not as dirty as it sounds). That’s when pink kryptonite makes its debut. Sadly, the whole scene comes off more as being in bad taste then a good natured spoof. But for those who’ve been patiently waiting for that Superman/Jimmy Olsen romance to bloom, step right up.
11. Superman Gets Spanked by His Daddy
The World’s Finest Comics are notorious for their campy hokum, which is to say they’re wonderful. They are perhaps best known for their string of crazy covers, especially in their early days. But often, the content inside was just as insane, and it appears if nothing else, these comics gave writers an outlet to do the things they always wanted guilt free, like have Batman slap Robin…or see Superman get spanked.
In issue #201, the evil magician Felix Faust pits Superman and Hal Jordan against one another in a contest to determine who shall protect Earth. In order to win they are told they must face their greatest fears. For the Green Lantern, this means a huge yellow snake. For Superman, this means having his father grow to gigantic proportions and abuse him. It’s reasonable that the Man of Steel’s greatest fear is not living up to his Kryptonian father’s expectations, but its weird he feels the need to be punished like a baby, and then wail as if he’s actually one. Superman eventually stops the beating by triumphantly proclaiming, “I refuse to be slapped around by my imagination.” But somehow that doesn’t seem like a victory.
10. Superman and Wonder Woman Murder Thousands by Having Sex
After the success of his critically acclaimed Dark Knight Returns, Frank Miller followed it up fifteen years later with The Dark Knight Strikes Again. Unable to live up to its Phantom Menace-levels of hype, most fans felt the second go-around was a bit of a letdown. An aimless story that looked as if it were colored by a four-year-old, many felt it mocked everything that made the original great. Suffice to say, this comic had its fair share of WTF moments. Perhaps the worst came when Superman and Wonder Woman almost started a world war by having sex.
After suffering a brutal beat down at the hands of Batman, Superman is feeling pretty useless. Wonder Woman flies in and knocks some sense into him, exclaiming, “Where is the man who stole my Amazon heart!” Naturally, they then have sex. As the Goddess of Truth and the Man of Steel soar into the stratosphere (literally) in a tangled mess of cape, the world begins to shake, the Richter Scale hits 7.8, a Hawaiian volcano erupts, and a hurricane hits the West Coast, presumably killing thousands. What’s more, unaware of the epic megabang taking place overhead, everyone down below thinks its a nuclear attack, and panic ensues. Meanwhile Supes and a very satisfied Wonder Woman (“Goodness, Mr. Kent, you could populate a planet.”) finish off in the ocean deep as a shark watches. Immediately afterwards, Wonder Woman reveals she’s already pregnant — and starving — so they go out for some gyros.
9. Superman Renounces His U.S. Citizenship, Kind Of
Chalk this one up to moments that weren’t really as effed up as everyone made them out to be. But at the time, thanks to the media’s overblown reporting and the Internet being the Internet, it seemed like a pretty big deal. When Superman declared he was going to renounce his U.S. citizenship in 2011’s Action Comics #900, everyone went bonkers — as if apple pie decided to become Russia’s favorite dessert or Babe Ruth’s birth certificate revealed he was actually Japanese.
We previously touched on a few important factors that Fox News and MSNBC left out of their Breaking News coverage. Mainly, “The Incident” was a 9-page backup story written by non-comic writer David Goyer (screenwriter of Batman v Superman) that was an afterthought to the issue’s main story and was never referenced again. The basic gist is this: Superman appears at a peace protest in Tehran, his actions are confused as representing the U.S., the President’s national security advisor gets pissed, and Supes says he’s going to renounce his citizenship (though we never actually see him go through with it) to show solidarity with the entire world. Makes sense for an immigrant from another planet. Ultimately though, the story falls flat and only proves shoehorning real world events into comics is never a good idea. Of course, seeing Superman proclaim, “the American way — it’s not enough anymore” is slightly jarring, particularly for a U.S. audience.
8. Superman Walks Across America
During a press conference to discuss how great he is, a distraught woman walks right up to Superman and slaps him in the face for not being there to save her dying husband from cancer. This is just too much for the Man of Steel to handle, so he goes for a long walk. Superman Grounded is what would happen if the Man of Tomorrow decided to stop flying around helping people and instead go on a walkabout across the United States. The story was intended to be a twelve-issue epic morality tale on heroism in America, but ended up a mishmash of nonsensical gobbedlygook involving child abuse, pick-up basketball, and Superman referring to himself as a modern day Thoreau.
While it may not reach the levels of insanity dished out by Neal Adams’ Batman Odyssey, it follows a similar dive-bomb by fundamentally misconstruing everything that made its title character great. In between pranking innocent people and pretentiously lecturing others, Superman goes around solving problems, usually by making them worse. Like when he uses heat vision to burn down a highly explosive meth lab and then asks a ten-year-old boy to give a message to the drug dealers for him. Or when he tries to convince a woman not to commit suicide by reminding her John Lennon is dead and then conveys this pearl on the meaning of life, “It’s not fair. But it’s not unfair either. It just….is.”
7. Lois Lane Turns into the Fattest Girl in Metropolis
The Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane series embodies pretty much everything that was wrong with middle class America in the ’50s and ’60s. And everything that was ridiculous about the Silver Age of comics. In a story from issue #5 entitled “The Fattest Girl in Metropolis”, Lois gets hit by a growth ray that makes her moderately overweight — an embarrassing condition that she spends the next 12 pages trying to hide from Superman for fear he won’t love her anymore.
It’s easy to say that a story like this was the byproduct of an oblivious era, but the fact somebody thought it okay, in any decade, is mind blowing. (Luckily today comics know better than to objectify women by reducing them to a given body type.) A few things that should’ve tipped everyone off that all this was terribly wrong: Having Lois buy her clothes from a place called the “Fat Girl’s Shoppe.” Referring to Lois as the “rotund reporter.” Having a man who can juggle planets with ease, express visible difficulty over holding Lois. Oh, and the worst part? Superman rigged the ray gun to make Lois overweight so he could use her to catch some crooks. Which means he was just going out of his way to be a prick when he knowingly called her “quite a load.” And just in case you had any inkling left that Silver Age Superman wasn’t a total dirtbag, he apologizes to Lois by saying, “I knew you wouldn’t consent if I told you, but it was for your own good.” Creepy.
6. Superman Turns Into Santa Claus and Fights Nazis with a Big Gun
You would think an Elseworlds story from 1995 about a post-apocalyptic future where Superman fights a pair of Hitler clones and an army of mutated Batmen would be awful. And you’d be right. After a nuclear holocaust destroys civilization two times over, Superman is left weakened from a lack of unfiltered sunlight, so he must turn to a comically massive quadruple barreled gatling gun “to finish World War II.” A little late Super Santa, but okay.
Filled with ridiculous characters and a silly plot, the comic misses the mark on every level. Not least of all in conveying the mixed message that guns are bad by having Superman use the biggest gun ever to kill Double Hitler. But how else is one to stop the DNA Diktators’ after they rob Bruce Wayne’s grave and use his dead body to create a monstrous Batman creature? Superman saves the day in the most violent of ways possible, but is fatally shot in the process. Instead of having his cyborg friend save him, he decides to kill himself in a huge bonfire while holding Batman’s mutilated corpse to prove the obvious point that everyone dies.
5. Lois Lane Turns Black, Offends Everyone
Because trying to turn Lois into the fattest human ever didn’t offend enough people, DC decided to turn her black in Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane #106. After visiting “Little Africa” for a story and finding no one wants to talk to her, Lois feels really bad for being singled out because of her skin color. Even a blind woman shuns her because Lois’ voice sounds white. Ouch. Being the no nonsense whitey reporter that she is, Lois decides the only way to make black people like her is to force Superman to use his molecular transmogrifier on her. Add in a couple Namibian tribal beads and presto, acceptance. Lois quickly receives “a lesson in the meaning of black” as people start staring at her like she’s a “freak”…. probably because she looks like she’s about to go on a lion hunt.
After Lois spends 24 hours moonlighting as a black woman, we get to the real crux of the matter — will Superman marry her? Superman avoids the question long enough for Lois’ face to melt off and return to her normal whiteness. We’re probably nitpicking here but we can’t help but laugh when after seeing this Superman replies, “Yes Lois! The effect didn’t last as long as I expected!” Are the exclamation points really necessary? In a single comic, Lois manages to make women, men, whites, blacks, superheroes and traditional African clothing all look bad. Bravo.
4. Comet the Super-Horse’s Relationship with Supergirl
Like Batgirl, Supergirl has a tendency to to find herself getting creeped on a lot by people, or in this case, a horse. Enter Comet the Super-Horse, a character who quickly became the focus of all Supergirl’s erotic fantasies. So things didn’t get weird, Comet was written as actually being a telepathic centaur trapped in a horses body. But the implications of how Supergirl met Comet in Action Comics #292 are still breathtakingly creepy. Basically, after his unfortunate transformation, Comet floats aimlessly around space until one day he spies a rocket pass by with a little baby girl inside. The horse is struck with the baby’s beauty and so follows her to Earth, where he watches the girl grow up and bides his time until he can infiltrate her dreams.
Once finally together, Comet obsesses over hooking up with Supergirl. Through several convoluted means, he eventually gets his wish by getting turned into a human rodeo performer known as “Bronco Bill.” Supergirl somehow finds him and both their dreams finally come true. Twice. Sure these dalliances could be written off as harmless Silver Age fun, but the image of Supergirl riding Comet bareback in a miniskirt knowing all this is quite unsettling. Then again, horsies!
3. Superman Films a Porno with His Friend’s Wife
You can understand why DC might think combining the words Superman and porno would be a huge hit. But there’s just something inherently off putting about a story where a villain named Sleez hypno-roofies the Man of Steel into creating a sex tape with his friend’s wife so he can make some extra cash.
It’s around this time that Darkseid breaks into Mister Miracle’s house to drink all his brandy and hand him a VHS tape of his wife, Big Barda, doing porn in a sewer. Mister Miracle rushes to save her, though not before a gang of hobos light him on fire and throw him in a river. Meanwhile, Sleez and his fellow classy porn producer try to film the team-up of Big Barda with the Man of Steel, but luckily for Mister Miracle, Superman sucks at shooting adult fare. Superman’s “moral fibre” causes him to resist Sleez’s influence just long enough for Mister Miracle to break up the lovefest. When asked to explain himself to Mister Miracle, Superman’s only reply is, “my actions were well-intentioned.” Classic.
It’s safe to say that no one was particularly excited about Action Comics #593. We hope.
2. Superman Fantasizes About Hooking Up With Supergirl
Action Comics #289 is the empowering story of when the most powerful girl in the universe uses all her abilities to find Superman a wife. It all begins when Supergirl, in a bid for Sidekick of the Year, gets worried Superman will end up alone forever. So she tricks him into going back in time with her (because they can do that now) to meet Helen of Troy. That backfires when, after fighting a minotaur and saving a unicorn, Supergirl pisses off Helen. She then tries their luck 1,000 years in the future, but when she cajoles Supes into making out with a married woman and her husband shows up, Superman makes a run for it. Appreciative of her efforts, Superman tells Supergirl he’ll never marry because he’s just too busy superheroing, but we soon learn the real reason. He secretly wants to be with Supergirl. Who’s 16 by the way. And his cousin.
Superman being the outstanding, albeit creepy, Man of Steel that he is, let’s it go at that, right? Nope. He then rambles on how it’s a shame Kryptonian law doesn’t allow cousins to get married, all the while telling Supergirl “I want you” with his eyes. This gives Supergirl the brilliant idea to find an exact duplicate of herself, only older and on another planet. Superman thinks this is a great idea and immediately starts macking all over legal Supergirl. Finally finding someone he can make a porno with who isn’t married, he starts planning a future with his new paramour, only it turns out she can’t survive on Earth, so see ya. In the end, there’s a lot of crying, Supergirl flies off to ruin someone else’s life, and Superman is left wondering if fate is just telling him to hook up with his cousin already.
1. Superman Cries After Watching Alien Space Slugs Have Sex
World’s Finest Comics #289 is so horrific it ranks as both Superman and Batman’s biggest WTF moments. We’ll save you the sappy details but basically, the Man of Steel invites the Dark Knight over to the Fortress of Solitude to talk about how sad they are. They share their “naked feelings” and hold hands for awhile. That’s when the space slugs show up.
A meteorite crashes nearby which turns out to be a spacecraft filled with long hairy alien slug tentacles that survive by feeding off the feelings of others. One thing leads to another, and the space slugs end up spraying a congealed aura of glowing force all over the two superheroes to suck them of their emotions. Wanting to get in on the action, another meteor spacecraft soon appears. Once the second craft arrives on the scene and sees their brethren, they all immediately start sticking their tentacles into one another in a disturbing mating ritual. Batman and Superman stand back and quietly watch.
When the alien orgy finishes an hour later, the slugs celebrate by growing additional massive hairy offshoots. Ignoring this disgusting transformation entirely, Batman and Superman have a casual conversation with them. Turns out rather than drain all the emotions of Earth, the aliens have decided to kill themselves on the spot. The two superheroes try to stop them, but before they get the chance, the aliens vaporize into a pile of sparkling dust, leaving Superman and Batman with nothing to do but cry. And then hug. Over the ashes of the dead alien race. Amidst their own congealed auras of emotion. Which feel warm. W in T holy F?
Please don’t tell us you have any worse moments than what just happened. If you do though, you should probably let us know in the comments.
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