As we move forward through different eras, so too does society and culture. This means that the things that were acceptable back in the day would no longer be acceptable today. This has constantly been reflected in how we speak to one another and the activities we engage in. This has bled over into the stories we tell too. Think back to the themes and agendas that were portrayed back in the day, and compare them to how carefully we dodge issues now. There were direct references to politics, racism, and other various views.
Through the years, and more recently than you may expect, there have been several comics that shocked the world. When they were first released, they garnered a lot of negative reception because of some ideas they portrayed. If they were widely criticized back then for being so graphic, then we all know exactly how they’d be received today. Times are different and so are the comics being put out. Prepare for trouble as we bring up 15 controversial comic books that would be illegal by today’s standards. Naturally, we do have to warn you that some of the concepts introduced in these may offend you, so proceed at your own risk and from a historical perspective.
15. THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS
The Dark Knight Returns is one of the greatest Batman stories ever told. Seeing a torn-down Gotham that regressed back into a slum after the days of the Dark Knight were long over is perfectly bleak and engaging. Then you add darker versions of classic villains and older members of the Justice League, and you have a beautiful, yet brutal, story.
The problems come when you think about some of the other ideas brought into the narrative. For starters, there was a topless woman who had swastikas painted over her chest. That image alone would be enough to send the public into an uproar by today’s standards. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, as The Dark Knight Returns doesn’t hold back any of its punches.
14. AVENGERS #200
Of all the Avengers stories ever brought into the Marvel Universe, there are none more widely criticized than Avengers #200. This story involved Ms. Marvel going out with some strange guy who just so happened to be her future son. After they left, she was impregnated by him to give birth to himself because comics.
It’s not hard to imagine why this would be widely spoken against today, but it’s even more shocking to know that this actually got published when it first was released. Marvel was under a lot of scrutiny after it happened, so they later rectified their mistakes it in later issues of the series. Just imagine the kind of backlash they would’ve received if the comic had come out in the “All-New, All-Different” relaunch.
13. ELSEWORLDS 80-PAGE GIANT
“Elseworlds” was a brand that DC used to be able to tell stories that took place outside of the main continuity. This gave them freedom to explore all kinds of storylines. In one smart move, they decided to compile them all into a book titled Elseworlds 80-Page Giant. However, this collection contained one story that later caused the presses to stop printing the book.
This story involves a baby Superman being babysat on Earth. One scene shows the Baby of Steel in a microwave while it was on. While it won’t affect him, as he’s a Kryptonian, the image of a baby in a microwave at all was enough to cause a lot of controversy. Needless to say, it’s not the type of image that would be acceptable today, and DC would be better to move on to more serious matters.
12. NFL SUPERPRO #6
If you have any idea who the hero Superpro is, then we applaud you. For those of you that are a little more in the dark, it was a strange collaboration between Marvel Comics and the NFL to cash in on the hype of football and superheroes. Needless to say, it didn’t last too long, and this is one of the reasons why.
NFL Superpro #6 featured Superpro going about his regular superhero activities until a Native American woman became a figure skater after being exiled from her tribe. Then some villains dressed up as knock-off versions of the Native American tribe to kidnap her. It wasn’t long before the real Native Americans got a little upset and Marvel ended up recalling the issue. This is the sort of thing that wouldn’t even fly in 2017.
11. THE INCIDENT
Superman has always been a beacon of hope, truth, and the United States of America. However, there was a time where the last factor was no longer able to describe him. In Action Comics #900 (otherwise known as “The Incident”), Superman witnessed the government change their policy on foreigners. As a result, he renounced his citizenship and went back to being an illegal alien.
Many people took this as DC’s way of directly calling out the government, and you can imagine why that would be fairly controversial. We’re shocked that it even came out at that time, but there’s no denying that it would be pulled if it were released in today’s climate. Considering how emotionally charged any political discussion is these days, people have to tread the water carefully.
10. HOLY TERROR
Frank Millar isn’t off the hook yet, as he came out with another comic that really stretched the boundaries of storytelling, and not in a good way. Holy Terror stars a hero known as the Fixer (really subtle) and his war against Islamic terrorists as they attack Empire City. There is a host of problems with this premise alone.
Many who read the comic stated that it portrayed the Islam religion itself as an issue, which upset many people who prescribe to those beliefs. On top of that, it dealt with this issue very poorly, being extremely violent and controversial for the sake of being controversial. Stories like this need to add something to our thoughts about an idea, but Holy Terror only reaffirms a stereotype, which is something that wouldn’t be accepted today.
9. THE KILLING JOKE
The Killing Joke may be one of the greatest Batman comics of all time, but that doesn’t mean it was without its controversial moments (as Batman comics tend to be). It tells the origin of The Joker, but that’s not the reason it would get banned. The scene we’re talking about, as you probably already know, is when Joker comes to Barbara Gordon’s door and shoots her. After that, he undresses her and takes pictures of her body to forcibly show her father.
Do we even need to explain why this wouldn’t fly today? While, thematically, it provides a brilliant conflict, the matter at hand is way too graphic to be released in the public eye. We still love The Killing Joke, but there’s not a good chance that people would accept it now.
8. ULTIMATES 3
Ultimates 3 as a whole isn’t deserving of this list — it’s the little pieces that make it stand out in our minds. The one moment, in particular, is when the Avengers are getting ready for the day and Scarlet Witch walks out in a provocative outfit. When Captain America asks her to change to set the example, Quicksilver threatens to kill him in a heartbeat. After being painfully naive, it’s explained to Cap that the twin siblings are actually in a romantic relationship.
The idea of an inappropriate relationship is screwed up enough, but having it take place between two prominent siblings is even more shocking. The Ultimate comics ended up being all shock factor and no substance, so it’s easy to see that Ultimates 3 would be “illegal” today.
7. SUPERMAN’S GIRLFRIEND, LOIS LANE
For a long time, the DC writers wondered how to make Lois Lane a more relevant and deeper character than the girl who kept getting saved by her superpowered alien boyfriend. That’s when they came up with Superman’s Girlfriend, Lois Lane. The series started out with Metropolis through her eyes and her many attempts to marry Superman. But following a brief period of normalcy, things started getting really weird.
Lois ended up dabbling in magic for whatever reason, and even figured out a way to become a black woman. Slowly, the series became more about political issues and less about the character of Lois Lane herself. There was a lot of controversy surrounding this comic run, and DC has since forgotten about Superman’s Girlfriend, Lois Lane.
6. WORLD’S FINEST #14
As society changes, so does how we view certain things. Take the cover of World’s Finest #14 for example. It depicts Robin, Superman, and Batman standing over a lake where a bunch of young boys are skinny dipping. Back when it came out, nobody thought anything of it. However, if it were to release today, there would be a massive uproar.
Implications are heavy in our culture today. Kids are encouraged more than ever to not talk to strangers and not trust anyone. Everything we do is heavily scrutinized so that when something dodgy comes up, people know to respond to it. Love it or hate it, that’s how our society works. Unfortunately, in the case of World’s Finest #14, that means that it would have to be pulled from the shelves.
5. THE DARK KNIGHT STRIKES AGAIN
After Frank Millar’s amazing success with Batman: Year One and The Dark Knight Returns, it was time for him to follow-up the latter with The Dark Knight Strikes Again. Set three years after its predecessor, it features Batman’s army slowly growing as he tries to further save the world from darker threats and the government itself.
The problem here is that The Dark Knight Strikes Again had a bit more adult themes than it needed. It got to the point where many events felt shoehorned in for the sake of being controversial, like Wonder Woman and Superman having an intimate moment and causing all kinds of natural disasters as a result. There wasn’t as much care with this story and it was widely criticized and panned.
4. IDENTITY CRISIS
Identity Crisis is an interesting Justice League story. It opens with the murder of Elongated Man’s wife, and things get a bit more serious from there. As the various heroes begin narrowing down suspects, they keep coming back to Doctor Light. That’s when Green Arrow reveals that Doctor Light had previously sexually assaulted Elongated Man’s wife in the past.
Rape is a difficult subject to tackle, and it’s one that requires the utmost care. By inserting this into the story, it doesn’t add anything to it. We already know that Doctor Light is responsible for the murder, and the writers could’ve left it at that. Had it come out in today’s time, we’d be getting a whole lot of different opinions, most of them negative, and all of them strong.
3. CAPTAIN AMERICA #1
When comics were first starting out, many writers used them as an outlet for propaganda. Take Captain America #1, for example. It’s clear the kind of message Marvel was trying to send here, but that cover is what really brought it to the forefront. The image of Cap socking old Adolf Hitler on the jaw has become iconic if not controversial.
There’s something about depicting Hitler and the Nazis today that motivates people to not do it at all. After all, World War II was a troubling time for many countries. Back in that time, Hitler and Germany were the enemy, so comics like Captain America #1 were able to slip on by. Now that the world has changed, it wouldn’t exactly go under the radar once again.
2. NIGHTWING #93
Nightwing is Batman’s most powerful ward, but things took a much darker turn in Nightwing #93. In this story, Nightwing was fighting a villain known as Blockbuster. Yet, the seductive Tarantula decided that she wanted to impress the hero of Bludhaven by killing the bad guy herself. She succeeded and then wanted to celebrate with Grayson.
This is where things get creepy. Nightwing is exhausted from his wounds and battling and is laying on a rooftop. Tarantula then gets on top of him and proceeds to “take advantage” of the situation. Any portrayal of rape like this is widely criticized no matter where you release it, and this is another story that would be done away with because of it. Some have said they don’t believe that it’s rape, but Nightwing mutters “Don’t touch me” any moment he can get the opportunity. You decide for yourself.
Jessica Jones was a name that no one recognized until the show of the same name debuted on Netflix under the show name. Those who knew the comics were surprised to see that this bad-mouthed heroine was getting her own TV show. The reality is that Alias deals with many adult themes and ideas that it’s a wonder they got it published when they did.
Alias features Jessica Jones getting kidnapped by the Purple Man and abused in all kinds of ways. It’s extremely graphic, extremely violent and extremely vulgar. Marvel leaves nothing to the imagination, and if it had been published today, it would’ve had to be modified for more suitable audiences. That or everyone on Tumblr would’ve loved and raved about it for months.
Which of these comics is the most controversial to you? Let us know in the comments!
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