6THE JUSTICE SOCIETY
Before there was the Justice League, there was the Justice Society of America, the superhero team of the Golden Age made up of heroes such as the Spectre, Sandman, Atom, Flash and Green Lantern. They worked together to fight crime, but during World War II, the comics sent them out to fight on the battlefields. Sadly, the Justice Society's adventures were colored by the propaganda of the time, specifically against the Japanese.
In All-Star Comics #12, the Justice Society went up against the Black Dragon Society, a group of Japanese saboteurs who tried to steal American weaponry. The comic made no distinction between Japanese Americans and invading Japanese, and the Society tended to throw around the slur "Jap" a lot during their battle. It's a stain on the history of a noble group of heroes.
In 1986's Watchmen (Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons), Captain Metropolis was a minor character who helped form the original superhero group, the Minutemen. Later on, in the '60s, he tried to organize the other heroes into a group he called the Crimebusters. The meeting ended in disaster, and Captain Metropolis faded from the story.
His character was fleshed out more in Before Watchmen: Minutemen by Darwyn Cooke in 2012. Metropolis was a retired Marine who used his wealth to become a superhero, but he had a lot of skeletons in his closet, starting with his homosexuality. He was also a racist who was described in the original Watchmen as having made negative comments about black and Hispanic Americans. He's apparently meant to question the racist tone of Golden Age comics of the time.
For most of his time in comics, Captain Boomerang was a supervillain. As a member of Flash's Rogues, he became a gimmicky Australian criminal whose trademark was a variety of trick boomerangs he could throw. At one point, he even gained the ability to throw himself like a boomerang, so you'd be forgiven for not taking him seriously. That's why his time on Suicide Squad transformed him into an antihero.
In exchange for pardoning his crimes, Captain Boomerang became a government agent sent on dangerous missions. He wasn't that successful as a hero, but became known more for how he disrupted the team. Besides his cowardly and back-stabbing nature, his racism came out as he kept calling African-American team member Bronze Tiger an "Abo," which is a slur for aboriginals in Australia.
In 2006's The Boys #3 (Garth Ennis, Darick Robertson), a team of CIA operatives worked together to stop rogue superheroes and one of the worst was the Homelander. The Homelander was an allegedly patriotic superhero, one of the most powerful on Earth. Along with his team called the Seven, the Homelander was outwardly a loyal and noble defender of justice, but was secretly a megalomaniac who took advantage of others for his own gain.
One of the Seven's worst failures was during September 11, when the team tried to stop the terrorist attack. Instead, one African-American member of the Seven codenamed the Deep caused one of the planes to crash and destroy the Brooklyn Bridge. In frustration, the Homelander hurled racial slurs at him, showing that the Homelander cared less about people than his image.
In the original series, Marvelman was a thinly-veiled rip-off of Captain Marvel about a young man who could transform into a superhero by calling out the word "kimota." By his side were the Marvelman Family that included a young boy named Kid Marvelman. In 1982, Alan Moore worked with Garry Leach to revive the characters in a revisionist story that turned Marvelman and Kid Marvelman (later renamed Miracleman and Kid Miracleman for copyright reasons) into a reluctant superhero and a psychotic supervillain.
In the new series, Kid Miracleman had spent years growing in power and also hatred for others, especially Miracleman. When he unleashed his power, he also unleashed racism while calling a black hero the N-word. Considering he also turned all of London into a slaughterhouse, racism isn't Kid Miracleman's worst trait, but it's worth mentioning.
For a long time in comics, there was an open hostility towards the idea of noble heroes. In their place, comics became about antiheroes who brutally murdered criminals. They were the exact opposite of Superman, which is probably why DC decided to put Superman up against the Elite, a team of superheroes who looked down on him with scorn. Their leader was known as Manchester Black.
First seen in Action Comics #775 (Joe Kelly, Doug Mahnke), Manchester Black was a powerful telekinetic who believed letting criminals live was a waste of time. He and his other team members led a brutal campaign to wipe out evil, one which Superman argued was overkill. Manchester Black was also prone to using racial humor about black and Asian people, but insisted it was okay because he claimed to be part black and Asian himself.
Which superhero were you surprised to see on this list? Let us know in the comments!