Have you ever read a comic book you didn’t like? Of course you have. Everyone does if they stick around the fandom long enough. Maybe you reacted to the bad comic by venting about it online, or shrugging it off and not buying that book again. But then there are the comics that inspire more than mere negative feelings. These are the comic book moments so ridiculous, so out-of-character, so downright insulting that you close the book, put it away and resolve to never, ever think about it again. Sometimes the comic book industry helps with that by retconning certain characters or revelations out of existence. Retcons have always been a staple of the medium, but, well, sometimes you need a retcon more than other times.
Some of the examples below were retconned almost before the comic hit newsstands. For others, we all just agreed to pretend they were retconned because actually doing so wasn’t worth the effort. Regardless of the aftermath, we’re here to shine a light on those moments you’ve shoved to the deepest, most shadowed corners of your memory banks. Maybe we’ll even unearth a few moments you’ve never heard about and would have preferred remaining ignorant of. No need to thank us!
15. ALMOST INTEGRATED
The Legion of Superheroes is a group of 30th-century — or, later, 31st-century — teenage superheroes based in New Metropolis. For much of its early history, the team was also pretty darn white. It wasn’t until 1976 that a black hero, Tyroc, finally appeared in a Legion comic. Tyroc is a racial separatist who, along with every other 31st-century black person, lives on the island of Marzal, far away from white people. That’s, uh, a real interesting way to handle that situation, DC.
When the Legion shows up to try to help him, Tyroc tells them to get lost. Ultimately, they do, and thus ended the adventures of the first black Legionnaire. This was such a disastrous first attempt at diversity that Tyroc wouldn’t appear again for several decades.
14. THE MANY FACES OF KARA
Poor Supergirl. For a character with such a simple concept, she sure does get screwed around with a lot. Debuting as Superman’s kid cousin from Krypton in Action Comics #252, Supergirl has suffered numerous ill-advised, ill-received reboots over the years. The first occurred after Kara Zor-El’s death in Crisis on Infinite Earths, when a shapeshifting alien named Matrix took up the Supergirl mantle for a while.
DC followed this by having Matrix merge with human Linda Danvers, transforming them into an angel with fire powers. Makes sense.
Later, when Kara finally returned in Superman/Batman #8, she was an unlikable brat who may or may not have been tasked with killing Superman by her father, who may or may not have insisted she make the journey to Earth naked. Ew.
13. OH, BROTHER
Jason Todd, the second Robin, is most famous for being beaten to death by the Joker. As one might imagine, he had a rough time post-resurrection. After failing to murder his murderer, he apparently decided a rebranding was in order. The name Nightwing appealed to him and, uncaring of the fact that that name was already taken by someone, Jason adopted a costume identical to that of the other Nightwing.
He did not, however, adopt Dick Grayson’s morals. During Jason’s time as Nightwing, he slits throats, attacks Dick and generally behaves as un-Nightwing-like as possible. And then, because all this wasn’t enough, the storyline culminates in Jason becoming a Clayface-like tentacle monster. As the arc mercifully ended, Jason wrote to Dick assuring him that he was back to normal, and no one ever spoke of it again.
12. EVERYTHING IS AWFUL
Ah, Countdown To Final Crisis. What can we say about it that everyone else hasn’t already? It’s one of the most reviled series of the past 20 years, probably because it’s less a series and more a jumble of subplots that never quite came together.
The characters fared no better. If they weren’t outright turning evil for no reason, they were acting like jerks, also for no reason.
Highlights include Mary Marvel working for Darkseid, the Trickster turning out to be a homophobe, and Troia calling Red Hood the R word. Nothing and no one came out of Countdown looking good. Given that the series and its tie-ins encompassed roughly the entire DC Universe, this could have been disastrous. And yet, as soon as it was over, everyone just sort of agreed to pretend it never happened.
11. THE FIRST BAT IN SPACE
The Comics Code Authority was founded in 1954. It forced comics publishers to adhere to a set of guidelines so draconian that the industry almost didn’t survive. No blood, no disrespecting authority, no needless violence…how could anyone create a decent superhero comic in such an atmosphere?
If you’re Batman, you stop fighting gangsters, pack up your bat-spaceship and head for the stars. Many of the Caped Crusader’s adventures during this time involved aliens or tackily dressed Batmen from the future. On the plus side, it was this goofy, lighthearted take on the Dark Knight that led to the smash hit ’60s TV show. And Batman has gotten more serious again since then, so it all worked out well. Now we have extra versions of Batman to love!
10. OUT WITH THE NEW, IN WITH THE OLD (PART ONE)
While Ray Palmer took some time off to mourn the events of Identity Crisis, Dr. Ryan Choi filled the Atom’s tiny shoes. He did a good job of it, too. But then a new book, Titans: Villains for Hire, debuted, and DC decided the best way to promote the book was with a shocking, high-profile death. They chose Choi as their sacrificial lamb, and Deathstroke the Terminator stabbed him to death in the first issue.
Fueling the controversy was the fact that Ray is white and Ryan is one of DC’s vanishingly few prominent Asian characters.
Killing off a character of color in favor of a Caucasian character that most younger fans had no emotional attachment to didn’t sit well. Fortunately, no one stays dead for long in comics, and Ryan is fine now.
9. GIRL POWER
What if, rather than being an Amazonian princess with awesome weapons, Diana was an ordinary mortal who ran a dress shop and used karate to fight crime? That probably sounds silly to most of us. But in the late ’60s, DC figured that an unpowered female hero would attract more female readers. Rather than creating such a heroine from scratch, they just rejiggered Wonder Woman a bit.
In Wonder Woman #179, Queen Hippolyta announces the Amazons must leave Earth. Diana, rather than abandon her boyfriend, stays on Earth, even though that means sacrificing her powers, seemingly forever. Diana begins training with I-Ching, who is every Asian martial arts teacher from every movie you’ve ever seen, to hone her fighting skills. You’d think the Amazons would have taught her to fight, at least. Ironically, female readers — the ones DC hoped to impress — were the most irritated by “the new Wonder Woman.”
8. STANDING ON HER OWN TWO FEET
One of The Killing Joke‘s most controversial moments came when Barbara Gordon, the longtime Batgirl, was brutally attacked by the Joker, leaving her paraplegic. But in the years that followed, Barbara reinvented herself as the Oracle, a hacker who provided vital information to other heroes and led her own team, the Birds of Prey. She became a role model, proving that disabled people can be awesome superheroes too.
So needless to say, fans were a touch peeved when Barbara was surgically cured of her paralysis and started wearing her old purple tights again.
7. STAR-FIRED UP
Few aspects of the New 52 reboot made the internet lose its collective mind as much as Starfire’s reinvention. Where before Starfire was friendly and empathetic, she now couldn’t recognize even her oldest and dearest friends. And where before she was a loving, sensual person, she now saw humans as interchangeable and only cared about whether or not they’d sleep with her.
Not helping the situation was the infamous splash panels in Red Hood and the Outlaws. In them, Starfire appears in various skimpy, almost translucent bikinis while striking poses for no good reason. Fans cried foul, viewing the changes as a betrayal of the character. When Starfire got her own book in 2015, she much more closely resembled her old self. Also, she wore clothes.
6. THE BLACKHAWKS SUIT UP
When DC bought some of Quality Comics’ properties in the late ’50s, Blackhawk was among the most prominent of their newly acquired titles. Blackhawk, about a band of World War II fighter pilots, had been around since 1941. By the time DC got their hands on them, of course, the war was long since over and war comics were on the decline. DC reasonably decided a reboot was in order.
Unreasonably, they tried turning the Blackhawks into superheroes.
Well, we say “tried,” but it’s pretty clear that the Blackhawk creative team had thrown in the towel by this point. The poor Blackhawks got stuck with codenames so lazy — including the Leaper, the Weapons Master and the Listener — that their costumes almost look inspired by comparison. DC reversed the changes just in time for them to cancel the book.
5. STARTING FROM SCRATCH
When his hometown of Coast City was destroyed, Hal Jordan’s response was somewhat less than optimal. He lost every one of his marbles and murdered the entire Green Lantern Corps, which he had served with for years. Hal then became the villain Parallax. He came back to his senses just long enough to redeem himself by dying to save Earth’s sun from destruction in Final Night.
From the ashes of the Green Lantern Corps rose Kyle Rayner. He became the universe’s sole Lantern and tried to repair the Corp’s damaged reputation. Rayner proved popular with fans, but Hal Jordan’s abrupt descent into supervillainy still bothered many long-time readers. DC finally patched up the situation by absolving Hal of responsibility for the Green Lantern massacre and resurrecting him, first as the Spectre and then as Green Lantern. Because that ended so well last time.
4. LOBO’S FACELIFT
Lobo is a space assassin, which is a cool enough concept that you’d think it wouldn’t need tweaking. But during 2011’s New 52 reboot, everyone got a makeover, whether the fans wanted them to or not. The results of and reactions to this company-wide revamp were inevitably mixed.
It’s generally agreed, however, that Lobo got the short end of the stick.
Among his fans, Lobo is popular for being an outrageous — and outrageously violent — parody of every action hero ever. So what did the New 52 do with him? Turn him into every action hero ever. This included a makeover that took Lobo from a chalk-faced, wild-maned, Wolverine-esque figure to a generic pretty boy with no resemblance to Lobo whatsoever. Fans were not amused, and when original flavor Lobo returned, neither was he.
3. MISSING: SASHA MARTENS AND WILEY WOLVERMAN
Hawk and Dove have gone through multiple incarnations over the years, some popular and some not. The most poorly received pair was Sasha Martens and Wiley Wolverman. Previous and subsequent Hawks and Doves got strength and endurance directly from the Lords of Chaos and Order. Sasha and Wiley had sonic screams and bird-like wings. Close enough?
Wiley and Sasha took over as Dove and Hawk at a time when the original pair, Hank and Don Hall, and the second Dove, Dawn Granger, were all dead. Hank and Dawn have since been resurrected and have become Hawk and Dove again. Wiley and Sasha were a little less lucky. They last appeared around 2000 and then dropped off the map entirely. So if you see them, give a shout, will you? Odds are somebody must be missing them.
2. TEEN TITAN, GO
Wolfman and Pérez’s Teen Titans reboot was one of DC’s most popular titles at the time, and it is still regarded as classic, must-read material today. But not everything about the book is remembered positively. One of the series’ most notable failures was the introduction of Danny Chase, a teenager with telekinetic powers and no tact or empathy whatsoever. Danny’s main problem was that he thought himself superior to the other characters — characters that readers actually liked. The crowning moment of obnoxiousness came after Jason Todd’s death.
After carelessly blurting the news to Jason’s brother, Dick Grayson, Danny shrugs off the tragedy and essentially tells Dick to get over it.
1. OUT WITH THE NEW, IN WITH THE OLD (PART TWO)
Resurrections are a fact of life in the DC Universe, but Barry Allen was one character who seemed destined to stay dead. His death was the gold standard of heroic sacrifices, and Wally West had established himself as a worthy and beloved successor to the Flash legacy. So fans were puzzled when, in 2011, Barry barged his way back to life and became the Flash again. Poor Wally ended up getting erased from existence. Nice going, Barry.
Making things more complicated was the appearance of a new Wally West, a black teen with a grudge against the Flash. Then we learned the black Wally wasn’t the “real” one, even though his name really is Wally West, and that the white Wally has been stuck in the Speed Force all this time. So we now have two Wally Wests and one Barry Allen running around. Good luck sorting through this mess.
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