Marvel’s Ultimate universe is an interesting, confusing chapter in the history of comics. Originally intended as a new imagining of superhero origins for the twenty-first century, the Ultimate line quickly grew into an uncontrollable mess, as successive writers tried their hands at playing around with different characters, making stories darker and edgier than would be possible in the standard Marvel continuity.
Sometimes, a writer would produce something fantastic – Ultimate Spider-Man is most often held up as the pinnacle of the entire line of comics. At other times, though, creative decisions within these books stirred up significant controversy, as fans complained that the stories were butchering their favorite heroes, and taking away the classic charm of the Marvel universe.
This isn’t a list of the weirdest or the most bizarre things to happen in Ultimate comics, but instead, a look at some of the story points and individual moments that made fans take to the internet in protest, whatever the reason. These are the 16 Most WTF And Controversial Moments In The Ultimate Marvel Universe.
16. Iron Man’s Blue Goo
The Ultimate universe kicked off at a time when plenty of renowned writers from other media were making their first steps into comics. Joss Whedon was working on Uncanny X-Men, while Babylon 5 creator J Michael Strazinski was writing Amazing Spider-Man. As such, getting Orson Scott Card, the writer of cult favorite science fiction novel Ender’s Game, to write Ultimate Iron Man, seemed like a match made in heaven.
In practice, though, it turned out that Card had little interest in Tony Stark’s canonical origin, and wanted to mix some high concept sci-fi into the character’s story. Hence, we got a version of Iron Man who, due to a birth defect, lives in constant pain unless he’s coated in blue goo which also acts as the ultimate protective armor.
Fans weren’t thrilled at this massive departure to the Iron Man canon. It’d probably be impossible for a writer to get away with something like this today, during the height of Tony Stark’s fame, but even before the MCU kicked off, this seemed like too bizarre of a concept, and after Card stopped writing for the book, Iron Man’s blue goo superpowers were eventually retconned out of canon.
15. The Incredible Hulk Eats an Alien
The Ultimate version of The Incredible Hulk is not a particularly cheery book. The story doubles down on Bruce Banner’s fear, depression, and isolation from society, as he finds himself constantly on the run from government forces and unable to live a normal life.
None of this is a huge departure from the character’s classic story, of course, but in order to push the Ultimate book one step further, the story takes a particularly gross turn. During the Chitauri invasion of New York which went on to inspire the climactic final battle in The Avengers movie, Hulk does his heroic thing by wading into the fray, punching bad guys – and eating a Chitauri soldier.
Yes, apparently, this version of the Hulk is a cannibal. What makes this worse, though, is that upon returning to human form, Bruce Banner is shown to suffer from significant mental trauma from the experience, and is haunted by the experience for a long time afterwards. Fans were none too pleased with a Hulk story that got quite this grim and depressing.
14. The Blob Eats The Wasp
As weird as it may sound, the Hulk’s experience eating a Chitauri isn’t even the worst case of gratuitous, violent cannibalism in the Ultimate universe. During the Ultimatum storyline that was originally designed to end the Ultimate comics line, writers figured they could throw whatever they wanted into the stories, and plenty of characters die in a particularly gruesome fashion.
Nobody gets it worse than the Wasp, though, who is eaten by a hungry mutant Blob, shown gleefully chowing down on the Avenger’s gooey internal organs. This is perhaps one of the most enduring images when it comes to summing up the Ultimate universe’s failings, and fans were rightly outraged to see such a disgusting scene within the pages of the book.
If it’s any consolation, though, the Blob’s feast is cut short when an enraged Giant Man discovers him, picks him up, and gets revenge by biting his head off. Apparently, the Ultimate Hank Pym is happy to eat a human being as well, under the right circumstances.
13. Miles Morales
Now, let’s be clear – the introduction of Miles Morales is a great thing. One of the most interesting and engaging new comic book characters of recent years, Miles kicked off a series of diverse young heroes which Marvel has introduced to their books in order to help breathe fresh ideas into the medium of superhero comics.
That said, there are few comic character announcements that have generated as much hatred and anger as the successor to the Ultimate Spider-Man throne.
Many fans of Spider-Man were outraged to see anyone other than Peter Parker hold the mantle of the Friendly Neighborhood Web Head, and expressed their disapproval loudly and without hesitation.
It’s funny to think just how opposed so many comics book fans were to Miles Morales when he was first announced – especially considering how popular the character has become in the years since. With the Ultimate comics range entirely concluded, Ultimate Spider-Man is one of the only enduring elements of these books that made the jump into the main Marvel continuity, and it’s safe to say that the entire Marvel line is stronger as a result.
12. Fantastic Four Introduce Marvel Zombies
For around a decade, zombies were everywhere in popular culture. Every movie, video game, and comic book featured undead monsters in some form or other – a trend which can still be seen in the modern day with the continued popularity of The Walking Dead and Call of Duty’s bonus games.
Marvel comics did not escape the initial burst of zombie popularity unscathed, with a range of Marvel Zombies comics that stretched over years, with more and more superhero blood and guts appearing in each issue.
This all originated, though, in an issue of Ultimate Fantastic Four, in which Reed Richards is contacted by a version of himself from another dimension who turns out to be infected with a zombie virus. At the time, this felt like a significant departure from the book’s general content – Ultimate Fantastic Four is, for the most part, one of the more child-friendly series under the Ultimate banner, so seeing the book go from dealing with a spaceship named “Awesome” to the gruesome, gory deaths of blood-encrusted zombies raised more than a few eyebrows.
11. The Many Deaths of Spider-Man
Brian Michael Bendis’ The Death of Spider-Man is a run of Ultimate comics which is controversial for a number of reasons.
Firstly, it’s not even the first time that Peter Parker “dies” in the Ultimate universe. The final issue of Ultimate Spider-Man following Ultimatum shows Peter’s family grieving for him after he’s beaten by the Hulk and left for dead under a pile of rubble. There’s even a Requiem comic which shows various characters mourning following his death, before, in the final panel, it’s revealed that – psych! Peter is still alive.
Then came The Death of Spider-Man, in which Peter’s longtime enemy, the Green Goblin, is resurrected without explanation, just for long enough to blow Peter up. And so, Peter “dies” yet again, and Miles Morales takes over as Spider-Man.
Except, just when this new status quo starts to feel normal, psych! Peter shows up again, acting like a jerk and stealing his old web shooters off Miles Morales. It seems that Brian Michael Bendis simply couldn’t commit to killing off this character, and fans got very tired of seeing Ultimate Peter Parker rise from the dead every couple of years.
10. Venom is a Cure for Cancer
In fairness to the challenge of Venom, the alien symbiote doesn’t always fit within different Spider-Man stories. In Spider-Man 3, it’s strange that aliens are introduced in a very offhand manner when all other threats in the series have been the result of scientific experimentation.
Perhaps that’s what convinced Brian Michael Bendis to try and make the Ultimate comics version of Venom a product of human technology, rather than extra-terrestrial intervention – even if aliens were already very well established within the Ultimate universe at the time.
For whatever reason, it was decided that this new approach to Venom would be the creation of Peter Parker’s father, as a prototype cure for cancer.
Fans weren’t exactly thrilled to see Venom’s origin reworked in this way – not least because of the offense that this caused to genuine cancer victims, but also because it’s hard to imagine how a cure for cancer could end up turning into a sentient evil monster that eats people for power. Because you can’t go ten minutes in the Ultimate universe without someone eating someone else, apparently.
9. Magneto Snaps Professor X’s Neck
One of the things that has always made the X-Men story so enjoyable is the constant battle of wits between frenemies Professor X and Magneto. Two friends whose political view differ extremely, the pair have always cared deeply for each other despite often being forced to fight to achieve their own worldview.
One of the best moments of X-Men: the Last Stand is watching a distraught Magneto singing Charles Xavier’s praises after his death, and nobody will be able to forget the pair’s deaths in Days of Future Past as they spend their final moments holding hands.
This solidarity of friendship despite opposing world views is why Professor X’s death in Ultimatum seems so out of place. Sure, the big, world-changing event that’s causing earthquakes and tidal waves is all Magneto’s fault, but fans were still shocked to read about the leader of the Brotherhood of Mutants snapping his old friend’s neck and discarding him like a piece of trash.
8. Doctor Doom’s Name
If the Fantastic Four movies have taught us anything (aside from the fact that Fox can’t be trusted with the team’s movie rights) it’s that fans will not accept any attempted change to the character of Victor von Doom. Whether he’s a wealthy businessman or a computer hacker, it doesn’t matter – fans of Marvel’s First Family will be furious if Doctor Doom isn’t an iron-clad ruler of a geographically vague Eastern European country.
They’re also not exactly pleased if you try to change Doctor Doom’s name. Call him Victor van Damme, as he’s known in the Ultimate Fantastic Four comics, and fans will complain loudly. This is partially because the name change feels entirely unnecessary, and also because, if anything the name van Damme, with all its Jean Claud connotations, feels if anything sillier than the villain’s original name.
Here’s hoping that if we ever do get a version of the Fantastic Four in a movie again, the production team will have learned their lesson and will call the character Victor von Doom, as Stan Lee would no doubt prefer.
7. Ultimate Captain America is a Nationalist
Hydra brainwashing aside, Captain America is one of those iconic pop-culture characters who always does the right thing. You know where you stand with Cap – he’s polite, kind, accepting of others’ differences, and always tries to do the right thing. More than a symbol of national pride, he’s a gold standard in tolerance and love that citizens of America – and citizens of plenty of other nations around the world – aspire to achieve.
For this reason, it’s utterly bizarre to see Captain America verbally attack the French, accusing them of surrendering too easily in battle. At one point, Ultimate Steve Rogeres utters the immortal line: “Surrender??!! You think this letter on my head stands for France?” and fans were furious.
The problem here was twofold – firstly, this line seemed entirely out of character for Cap, and felt to fans at the time like an attempt to simply make the character feel grittier. Secondly, with America’s occupation of Iraq ongoing at the time, this felt like a deeply political statement of accusation against the French, who’d refused to get involved in conflict, and who were experiencing a lot of backlash from Americans as a result. Anti-war protestors around the world were less than pleased to see such a powerful American cultural icon taking a side in the ongoing debate of the legality of the Iraq War.
6. Ultimate Adventures Parodies Batman (Poorly)
Marvel and DC have a friendly rivalry that stretches back decades. By this point, most comics writers and artists have worked for both companies, and there’s no real animosity between the two comics publishers (although their movie studios are decidedly more hostile towards each other).
That said, Marvel has never been above sending a pot-shot or two at their Distinguished Competition, poking fun at the publisher behind Batman and Superman whenever they get the chance. Just recently, a Marvel comic was published that shows Miles Morales and Gwen Stacy making a brief stopover in the DC universe, before complaining that it smells funny, and hopping into another dimension.
Sometimes, these moments of gentle ribbing don’t go over all that well. Emerging from the Nineties and a time when Marvel and DC were willing to work together on crossover books, comics ended up in a situation where Marvel’s parodies of DC properties were beginning to really annoy comics fans – from Marville, which parodied the then-popular Smallville television series, to Ultimate Adventures, which many fans hold up as the worst Batman parody of all time.
There’s not much to say about the comic itself, apart from its lack of quality. A not-Batman hero, named Hawk-Owl, the Midnight Avenger, teams up with Woody (the book’s answer to Robin) to fight crime. The result is uninspired, unfunny, and generally not that enjoyable.
Since the conclusion of Ultimate Adventures’ six issue run, only one comic has ever mentioned these characters again, and it seems that Marvel would really love for its readers to forget this bad parody ever existed.
5. Reed Richard Becomes a Supervillain
With an opportunity to explore new ground with classic characters, some Ultimate comics writers got understandably carried away. But among all the changes made to Marvel superheroes, none has proved quite so divisive as the fate of Ultimate Reed Richards.
Zombies and Doctor Doom’s name change aside, Ultimate Fantastic Four sticks relatively close to the standard team dynamic within the group of heroes – Reed and Sue are romantically linked, Ben and Johnny are constantly squabbling, and together the group explores the multiverse.
Then, following the events of Ultimatum, Reed Richards turns into a murderous supervillain. Not a lot of explanation is given as to what causes his to snap and turn evil, but the reasoning he gives is primarily that he stops caring about the world after his marriage proposal to Sue is rejected.
Calling himself The Maker, Reed does a lot of very nasty things which feel completely out of character based on everything in previous Ultimate Fantastic Four stories, leading fans to grow very tired of the sensationalist attempt to liven up the comics series.
4. Deadpool’s Plastic Head
Among all the Marvel characters that appear across the Ultimate comics range, no character is quite such a departure from his standard appearance than Deadpool.
In the Ultimate universe, there is no Merc with a Mouth. Wadey Wilson doesn’t spend his time quipping and breaking the fourth wall, obsessed with chimichangas or quoting pop-culture references. Instead, he’s a human supremacist mercenary who hunts mutants on live television. He’s grim, angry, and incredibly serious.
What’s more, he doesn’t have a face. Going one step further than the classic scarred Deadpool, the Ultimate version of the character has no skin, and is missing parts of his skull, so his head is instead encased in a clear plastic case, similar to the kind you have on your smartphone.
Thankfully, this bizarro Deadpool only makes a brief appearance in the comics, and is ultimately killed by the classic Deadpool in a dimension-hopping event that features a whole host of different Wade Wilsons battling together.
3. Ultimates 3’s Iron Man Sex Tape
There’s no single moment in Ultimates 3 that annoyed fans the most at the time. A miniseries rather than a single issue, the entirely of the book has gone down in history as the moment that the Ultimate universe first began to wane in quality, as cracks appeared on the surface of the universe which hinted at how bad the series’ grimdark leaning would get.
A departure from the tone of the first two Ultimates miniseries, the third installment is filled with significantly more blood and guts than anything that had been seen in an Ultimate comic before. Characters swear more (although it’s censored), and the tone feels far more serious and less lighthearted than fans deem necessary.
Perhaps most egregious, though, is the in-story publication of a sex tape made by Iron Man and Black Widow, which causes controversy for the team. Fans felt that this concept really went too far, and weren’t thrilled about the way that various comic panels show off stills from the tape.
The miniseries was universally panned upon its release, but the damage was done, as other elements of the Ultimate universe followed suit, getting more and more gritty and gruesome, in spite of fan protests.
2. Wolverine Tries To Sleep With Mary Jane
Perhaps the biggest problem that comes with trying to make a comic book universe feel more adult, is that it eventually gets stuffed with awkward sex scenes and gratuitous nudity.
Even the primarily family-friendly books within the Ultimate comics range have fallen into this trap at times. One particularly egregious story arc in Ultimate Spider-Man sees Peter Parker and Wolverine swap bodies, after Logan makes unwanted sexual advances on Jean Grey and she uses his psychic powers to punish him.
It only gets worse from here, folks. These comics are so bad that even the writer Brian Michael Bendis apologizes for them within the books themselves – this story never seemed like a good idea.
Wolverine quickly discovers that Spider-Man’s life has its drawbacks, but that it also has some perks, in the form of Peter’s teenage girlfriend, Mary Jane. Greeted by MJ, Wolverine realizes that he can get away with a lot while trapped in Spidey’s body, and while we don’t see what exactly he attempts, after the pair have swapped bodies back, Mary Jane later asks Peter that he not try it again until they’re older.
1. Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver’s Incestuous Relationship
Sex is a subject which has stirred up more than a few controversies within the Ultimate Marvel universe. While a sex tape and body-swapping statutory hijinks managed to turn a few heads, though, no controversial issues from the Ultimate universe gained quite as much attention as Wanda and Pietr Maximoff’s incestuous relationship.
Only shown in shadows in an issue of Ultimate X-Men, this bizarre twist on a pair of classic characters raised more than a few eyebrows at the time. Fans wondered whether it was really necessary for writer Mark Millar to pair the two characters together, and questioned that this twist added anything new to the story.
Perhaps the biggest problem that this has caused is the continued ramifications for Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver in other stories. The pair of characters can’t so much as look at each other now without fans accusing the writers of returning to the incest plot point from Ultimate X-Men. When Avengers: Age of Ultron was released, showing Wanda crying at her brother’s death, fans were quick to remember that in one continuity, the pair are romantically linked, miring the movie in confusion regardless of whether the claimed subtext is actually present.
In the years since it began, the Ultimate comics range has proven anything but ultimate. Stretching on for well over a decade, and surviving multiple attempts from writers to shut it down, many of the unique characters and stories that this alternate Marvel universe has created have proven more enduring than anybody thought possible.
It’s a shame, then, that as long as characters like Miles Morales swing across the skyline of Earth-616, comics cans won’t ever be able to forget the time his original universe featured cannibalism, incest, and racism. These controversies spoil the memory of a series of stories that were, for the most part, genuinely enjoyable – as long as they weren’t written in an attempt to appeal edgy and cool.
If there’s a lesson to be learned from the Ultimate universe, it’s this: no matter what happens in comics, it’s impossible to keep a single continuity simple when multiple writers are working on it at the same time.