Like any storytelling medium, there are plenty of bad comic books out there. That’s just a fact of life. As a comic book fan, you probably own dozens of comics that just aren’t good. However, there are some books that have been released that go beyond “bad comics” and are actually embarrassing. These are the comics that, for one reason or another, you purchased and quickly hid away for fear that someone might actually see you reading them. You read these books and immediately feel dirty.
Some of the books on this list feature ridiculous amounts of questionable materials. Hey, no judgement if you like your comics to feature that sort of thing, but you definitely won’t display them on your bookshelf. There are some books featured here that everyone thought were going to be homeruns but ended up being disgraceful and disrespectful to the characters featured. There are even a few that are flat-out offensive, that at the time didn’t feel so bad. All these books have one thing in common – shame. It’s okay, this is a safe space. Let’s look under the bed and at the bottom of your sock drawer to highlight 16 comic series that were so scandalous you’re ashamed to own them.
16 LADY DEATH
Lady Death is the definition of cheesecake comics. The infamous series features the titular character barely dressed and routinely in compromising situations. Throughout the years, Lady Death covers showcase the character in various poses that are meant to titillate potential readers. Many of you probably remember the almost obscene promotional images seen in copies of Wizard Magazine.
But let’s be real, have you ever met anyone that collects Lady Death books? You wouldn’t even know it if you did. Lady Death has always been a popular character, but no one really talks about how great the comics are. No one admits to reading the series because they know that the average person, especially someone not familiar with comics, would look at these as “adult” entertainment, but with more blood and dead things. It may be unfair to say, but Lady Death will always be a series that people are ashamed to read.
Trouble was Marvel’s lame attempt to revitalize romance comics in the early-2000s. With the superstar team of Mark Millar and Terry Dodson, the series was controversial for all the wrong reasons. It featured really weird, and frankly, a little creepy, covers and a storyline that drastically changed the history of Marvel’s biggest hero. There’s a reason no one admits they own this, let alone read it.
Trouble told the story of May, Mary, Ben and Richard, several young people working through their summer vacation filled with relationship issues and drama. If those names sound familiar, they should. The characters featured correlate to Peter Parker’s Uncle, Aunt, Mom and Dad. Trouble became controversial, and then hated, when at the end it is revealed that May gave birth in secret to a baby named Peter, and then gave the kid to Mary to raise. So yeah, apparently Aunt May is really Mom. The series is actually worse than it sounds.
14 ALL-STAR BATMAN AND ROBIN
All-Star Batman and Robin was supposed to be the premiere Batman series when it started shipping in 2005. With the legendary artist and writer combo of Jim Lee and Frank Miller, the series was a no-brainer and should have been a massive hit. In fact, the first issue was indeed a huge hit with over 300,000 copies sold. Unfortunately, what started as a huge success ended up becoming one of the most controversial Batman stories to see print.
As seen in the image above, the series had an…interesting…take on the character of Batman. Miller’s characterization of Batman takes the brooding, dark hero to a whole different level. In All-Star, he’s just mean and horrible. He’s not a hero, whatsoever. Batman is depicted as incredibly violent and psychopathic. Not only that, but the dialogue between characters is laughably bad. The series lives in infamy, and while over 300,000 fans bought the first issue, we’re sure that there won’t be many who admit it.
13 BLACK WIDOW: PALE LITTLE SPIDER
The Marvel MAX line of comics is an interesting way of taking what were normally family-friendly heroes into darker, more adult territory. One of the characters that was put in decidedly adult situations was none other than Black Widow. Well, not the Black Widow that everyone knows and loves, played by Scarlett Johansson. This is the OTHER Black Widow. The blonde one.
Anyway, in Black Widow: Pale Little Spider, writer Greg Rucka and artist Igor Kordey put Yelena Belova, aka Black Widow, into the world of BDSM. Yes, there were plenty of comments in the story about Black Widow’s black leather outfit, among other parts of her physical appearance. The series features whips, chains, orgies and everything else you might expect. The Greg Horn covers don’t do much to hide the fact that this story is all about sexuality, either. While the storyline is actually interesting, if a little messed up, the series isn’t one that people proudly display on their bookshelves.
12 LOST GIRLS
There’s a fairly large portion of comic book fans that worship at the altar of Alan Moore. The legendary writer is responsible for some of the best comics of all time, including Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and his groundbreaking run on Swamp Thing. However, one of Moore’s lesser known works is what lands him on this list.
Back in 2006, Moore released Lost Girls. The premise is pretty interesting, to say the least. Adult versions of Alice, Dorothy and Wendy, from classic fairy tales, come together during World War 1 and tell each other saucy stories from their lives. As you might imagine from that plot, the comic series was incredibly explicit and showed depictions of assault and underage promiscuity. The book was controversial upon its release, with many retailers refusing to carry it. Lost Girls is definitely not a book you’d want to lend to friends and relatives.
11 RAWHIDE KID
The Marvel MAX reboot of Rawhide Kid from the early-2000s seemed ground-breaking and socially conscious when it was released, but now is just dated and clearly offensive. Taking an old western character and rebooting him as a gay man dealing with the misogyny and violence of the Old West seems great in principle. Unfortunately, it was handled with the grace of a sledgehammer.
Written by Ron Zimmerman, who used to be part of the Howard Stern Radio Show (just to give some context), the Rawhide Kid reboot from 2003 relied so heavily on innuendo that it distracted from what could have and should have been a great comic series. With the way society has changed in just the last 15 years, there’s no way Marvel would release this series today. And there’s definitely no way that anyone would admit to owning it.
Artist Jim Balent is probably a name you recognize from his longtime run on DC’s Catwoman series in the mid-to-late-'90s. He’s responsible for the era of Catwoman comics where the character is dressed in her all-purple outfit with thigh-high leather boots, where the costume seemed impossibly fitted to her as if it was sprayed on. However, his long run on Catwoman ended when Balent left DC to start his own company and release Tarot: With of the Black Rose.
You wouldn’t be wrong to describe Tarot as a series dealing with high fantasy mixed with Wiccan history and practices. Balent worked hard on making sure that actual Wiccans were consulted and used for back matter in the issues. However, all this hard work is overshadowed by the gratuitous nudity throughout the comic series. There’s also the fact that every female character is drawn with just the smallest amount of fabric covering their naughty bits as possible. Talk to a reader of the series and they’ll probably give the old “I read it for the articles” excuse. That is, if they actually admit to owning the series.
9 CHUCK AUSTEN’S UNCANNY X-MEN
Longtime fans of the X-Men, we’re sorry to have to do this, but we need to remind everyone of the Chuck Austen run on Uncanny X-Men. While Grant Morrison was killing it over on New X-Men, Uncanny was in the controversial hands of writer Chuck Austen. Admittedly, the X-Men books are soap operas, but Austen turned Uncanny into the cheesiest, sleaziest soap opera ever.
The series featured gems such as Angel having intercourse with a much younger woman... while flying… and while the girl’s family watched from the ground. That’s the level of insanity we’re dealing with here. There were also revelations like the ham-fisted reveal of Nightcrawler’s backstory, linking him to a group of demon mutants led by his father, a Satan-wannabe. Austen’s Uncanny X-Men also featured a love story that involved Havoc, who was in a coma, and his nurse. The series is looked at as one of the worst runs in X-Men history, but there are thousands and thousands of fans, like us, who faithfully bought each issue.
8 BOMB QUEEN
First, it’s important to explain that Bomb Queen firmly sits in the realm of satire and parody. It’s just that the series takes superhero comic book tropes, douses them in crudeness and lights the whole thing on fire in a blaze of salacious outfits, violence, and off-color humor. While there are plenty of people who love that brand of storytelling, Bomb Queen isn’t for everyone, and there’s a good amount of readers that probably read the comic in the comfort of their home, and not in public places.
Honestly, there aren’t many images and covers from the series that we’re allowed to show on CBR, but as you can see in the above example, Bomb Queen has never shied away from scandal and controversy. Proudly using President Barack Obama’s head as strategically-placed censorship, the series revels in pushing people’s buttons.
Ultimatum was supposed to be unlike any other event in Marvel history. Taking place in the Ultimate Universe, where “dead means dead” and anything can happen, the stakes had never been higher for some of Marvel’s most famous characters. Unfortunately, the series was just shock value for the sake of shock value, featuring some of the gratuitous deaths and the craziest things you’ll ever see in the Marvel Universe.
You wouldn’t be blamed for owning this series. Upon first reading it, you might have actually enjoyed it because it was just so nuts. However, with the benefit of hindsight, we can look back and really see Ultimatum for what it is – garbage. The series decided to replace good storytelling with shocking events, such as the most famous scene featuring The Blob literally eating The Wasp, telling Hawkeye she “tastes like chicken.” Now, when comic fans discuss the series, most will look at it with disdain. But you’re not fooling anyone, you definitely bought Ultimatum.
If you’re a comic book fan that was collecting during the 1990s, you are probably well-aware of creator Rob Liefeld’s love of pouches, guns and weirdly proportioned characters. His crimes against anatomy are well-documented all over the internet, with his portrayal of females getting the most notoriety. If you want to relive Liefeld at his best (or worst, depending on your definition), look no further than Avengelyne.
Just doing a quick Google search of Avengelyne art will show you that Liefeld was definitely trying to sell the book based on two things, neither of which we can mention here, but they are anatomical. However, Avengelyne went one step further by actually using suggestive real-life women on the covers. That’s right, if you collected the series back in the day, there’s a high probability that at least a few of those covers looked more like a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue and less like a superhero comic.
You know how awkward it is when someone tells a joke that they think is really funny but it’s actually not funny at all? That’s the feeling you get after you read Marville. Written by then-Marvel VP Bill Jemas, Marville started as a bet (as all classic stories do, right?) with writer Peter David about which series would do better sales, Marville or a rebooted Captain Marvel. Obviously, Captain Marvel won, but the unfortunate side-effect is that comic book fans were conned into buying Marville.
Marville is supposedly a satirical look at the comic book industry, featuring parodies of famous heroes and public figures. It also featured little short stories with Marvel’s famous characters but in National Lampoon-esque scenarios. Well, except the jokes were horrible. Most awkward of all, and the reason no one will ever admit to reading or owning this series, were the horribly sexist covers featuring a scantily-clad (or nude, in some instances) redhead drawn by Greg Horn.
4 HOLY TERROR
When you read Frank Miller’s Holy Terror, it’s hard to imagine that this was ever supposed to be a Batman story. Originally titled Holy Terror, Batman!, the series was going to show Batman’s attempt to fight the war on terror. Eventually, Miller and DC decided it was best to not associate Batman with the book, and Miller released it independently, with a new character, The Fixer, replacing Bruce Wayne.
There’s no denying that Miller is a legend, but Holy Terror might be his low-point. The series takes a vigilante character and his young protégé and has them brutally kill terrorists. That wouldn’t be so bad if they weren’t also saying racist jokes as they did it. Holy Terror also does a great job of painting everyone in the Middle East and all Muslims as horrible people. People bought the book because of the creator and the interesting premise, but now, they most likely buried it at the bottom of some random box in the attic... or the trash.
3 IDENTITY CRISIS
Identity Crisis was hailed as a great achievement when it was released in 2004. The series, written by Brad Meltzer with art by Rags Morales, was incredibly popular and set the stage for superhero comics for the next 10 years. But looking back at it now, Identity Crisis is incredibly controversial and fans are quickly disavowing the series.
The series is often pointed at as the beginning of the recent dark ages of superheroes. It features DC heroes discussing how far is too far to go with criminals, with the idea of erasing minds being used. The real controversy surrounding the series is the depiction of sexual assault. The series was the beginning of a wave of comics from DC and Marvel that tackled these types of situations and showcased a darker side to heroes. It wasn’t until recently that both companies have backed off this trend and gone back to lighter tones in their books.
2 THE DARK KNIGHT STRIKES AGAIN
The Dark Knight Returns is perhaps the greatest Batman story ever told. Frank Miller reached legendary status when that series was released, by showcasing a version of Batman that fans had never seen before. To say Miller’s return, almost 20 years later, in The Dark Knight Strikes Again was highly anticipated is a gross understatement. Unfortunately, TDKSA might go down in history as one of the worst Batman stories ever told.
We get it, we were suckered into buying this comic, also. How could you pass up Frank Miller’s sequel to The Dark Knight Returns? But wow, was that series embarrassing! Almost immediately upon release, fans were upset by Miller’s writing and art style. The once-fresh writing in TDKR was replaced by corny, incomprehensible dialogue. The art looked rushed, and let’s not even talk about the coloring. Ultimately, most fans are correct in pretending the series never existed.
1 MARVEL SWIMSUIT SERIES
The Marvel Swimsuit Specials have a special place in comic book history. With the success of Sports Illustrated’s annual Swimsuit Issue, Marvel decided to jump on the bandwagon and release its own version, with 100% less real people and 100% more fictional people. The result is a comic book that leads to incredibly strange scenes.
Where else would you see the West Coast Avengers going against the regular Avengers in a game of half-naked tug of war? Oh yeah, and why does Iron Man have swim trunks over his suit? However, these were popular issues. Marvel released multiple Swimsuit Specials, so there had to be plenty of people buying the comics. They must all be hidden in the dark depths of people’s collections, never to be seen again.