Some of the best comic book stories ever told see alternate futures, different timelines and wildly drastic reinterpretations of classic characters. But really they’re all excuses for writers and artists to create new versions of characters they love or put their own unique spin on them. It’s sometimes a chance to redefine a stalwart character or to expand on their mythology. And occasionally, these stories can help reboot an entire continuity. But most often, dark futuristic takes on characters make them increasingly powerful throughout the storyline. Vigilantes are given superpowers or a superheroes’ strength is doubled in a cyberpunk city.
But sometimes, these tales open up the option of weakening our favorite heroes whilst also raising the threats. An aging hero going up against a greater threat with a reduced set of powers can make for some truly phenomenal storytelling. Whether it’s their last ride and they’re heading towards their death or it reinvigorates their heroic beliefs, weakening a hero can actually be the right decision. We’re not saying that redefining a superhero can be the best idea, it sometimes strips away everything we love about a costumed savior. Here are eight dark future versions of superheroes that are more powerful (and seven that are weaker)!
15 MORE POWERFUL: KINGDOM COME WONDER WOMAN
Kingdom Come is one of the most redefining takes on the DC Universe there is. Set years in the future, the world is considerably more violent. And because of this, it turns the Justice League and some of the most recognizable heroes into hardened versions of themselves without compassion.
Wonder Woman is one of those heroes. Whilst she may have all the powers that the contemporary versions of Diana has, this one has years of experience but hasn’t slowed down with age like other heroes of the Kingdom Come timeline. She’s a ruthless warrior, and although her moral compass is slightly skewed, she’s still got her heart in the right place. She even managed to fix her relationship with Batman eventually. This Wonder Woman is a near Goddess in her own right.
14 WEAKER: SPIDER-MAN: REIGN
This is one of the most controversial Spider-Man stories, mainly because Mary Jane died from cancer after prolonged exposure to Spideys radioactive… fluids. Let’s leave that there. Anyway, Peter is an extremely old man in this story and constantly hallucinates seeing Mary Jane around him. He’s very weak, and although he does fight the ‘Sinner Six’ (older versions of the Sinister Six), he’s not the youthful superhero he once was.
He’s constantly getting beaten up or defeated by the Sinner Six. And although he usually finds a way around these battles to beat them, he does so painfully. The only way he actually manages to defeat them all is by blowing them up with detonators that had already been implanted in them by the Mayor. Sorry Pete, this series wasn’t your finest moment.
13 MORE POWERFUL: AGE OF ULTRON TONY STARK
The staple of Iron Man is that he keeps upgrading his suit. That’s his gimmick, seeing what suits he can conjure up or advanced technology he’s created to help other heroes. But what about when he experiments on himself, and takes it too far? During the “Age of Ultron” story, Wolverine landed in a future timeline where Morgan Le Fay took control over half of the Earth after a war between Asgard and Latveria.
But the heroes of the world are being led by a cyborg Tony Stark. He’s considerably older and scarred than the billionaire playboy philanthropist that we’re used to. He’s merely a head in a suit. It’s a step up from his usual suits, as he’s mounted multiple huge arc reactors into his body. But it’s quite sad that he has to literally become a robot to keep being Iron Man.
12 WEAKER: FLASHPOINT HAL JORDAN
When Barry Allen travelled back in time to save his mother, he wasn’t the only person that didn’t receive the superpowers we’re all familiar with. Hal Jordan’s origin still remains intact except for one thing: when Abin Sur crash lands, and Hal investigates, Cyborg intervenes and takes Abin Sur away for the U.S. Government. The ring doesn’t go to Hal and he doesn’t become a Green Lantern. Instead, he’s volunteered for the bombing run against New Themyscira.
His role was to fire the ‘Green Arrow’ nuclear missile at the Amazonians to wipe out the threat they held during the Amazon/Atlantean war. Unfortunately, alongside not having any powers, Hal had to plunge his plane into New Themyscira to detonate the bomb after his firing mechanism malfunctioned. He may not have been a superhero, but the Flashpoint Hal Jordan was still heroic.
11 MORE POWERFUL: KINGDOM COME SUPERMAN
In the Kingdom Come timeline, The Joker orchestrated a gas attack that caused the death of Lois Lane and the rest of the staff at the Daily Planet. Luckily, Superman was able to get to her before she died and asked him not to kill the villain, and retain his moral compass. Something he kept up before another hero killed the Joker.
This Superman is one completely disenfranchised with humanity. We all know that Kal-El is incredibly powerful, but there’s something that stops him from unleashing his true strength, his morals and beliefs. But when those beliefs are compromised, he becomes a truly vicious hero. Suddenly, he’s not concerned with the safety of villains when he defeats them. He even decides to build a prison to house them all. This is a Superman with an unwavering ruthless sense of justice.
10 WEAKER: BRUCE WAYNE BATMAN BEYOND
Batman Beyond mainly focuses on Terry McGinnis as the successor to the Batman legacy, but he only does so because Bruce Wayne has become old and weak in his war against crime. The opening episode of the series showed Bruce having a heart attack in the middle of a fight, and he had to use a gun. Breaking his one rule.
Sure, Bruce only used it as a deterrent and didn’t actually shoot it -- but it was enough to make him hang up the cowl for good. It’s kind of sad seeing Bruce so beaten by his own morals and his own body, but at least he can be the eyes and ears on Neo-Gotham for Terry when he’s out on patrol. He might not be Batman anymore, but he’s still incredibly resourceful.
9 MORE POWERFUL: CAPTAIN AMERICA 2099
Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will know that Captain America nearly managed to lift Mjolnir, but in the comics he’s done so on several occasions. One of those times existed in the future, Marvel 2099 style. This far stronger version of Cap only made a single appearance, during Marvel 2099: Manifest Destiny.
He was brought to Alchemax after being frozen in a war that brought the heroic age to an end. Cap assembled a new team of heroes in the future, whilst also wielding Thor’s Hammer. This meant he had all of the usual Super Soldier Serum powers combined with Thor’s flight, weather powers and the strength of a literal god. He also wore an extremely goofy Americanized version of Thor’s outfit, but let’s not dwell on that.
8 WEAKER: FLASHPOINT BARRY ALLEN
Most comic book fans will know of Flashpoint, where Barry Allen travels back in time to stop his mother from being murdered. It kickstarted The New 52 and is even tying into DC Rebirth with the explanation being that Doctor Manhattan played with time at the end of Flashpoint. But when Barry Allen stopped her death and woke up in the future again, he had no powers whatsoever.
He was the clumsy CSI technician that we’re all familiar with, but without the superhero alter-ego. Sure, he had his mother back with him, but the world was worse for her existence. It’s one of the most heartbreaking stories because he realizes that the world needs The Flash more than it needs his mother. It’s a story that we’ve seen adapted into The Flash TV show. Whereas Ezra Miller’s version has a Flashpoint film in development.
7 MORE POWERFUL: NIGHTWING: THE NEW ORDER
"Nightwing: the New Order" is a relatively new story in DC Comics -- it only just finished. But it sees a world nearly void of superheroes after superpowers are banned. They’re banned after a war between heroes and villains erupted in Metropolis, killing thousands. After Batman’s death, Nightwing used a device that depowered the world superhero/supervillain communities.
He was then put in charge of the Crusaders, a Government task force that hunted down superpowered fugitives. Quite simply, Nightwing had to push his character in an entirely new direction that puts him at odds with the rest of his old teammates. He shows an incredibly amount of durability to go through with all of this. He brought about an entirely new world. It’s only when his son, Jake, starts exhibiting superpowers that he regrets his actions.
6 WEAKER: FLASHPOINT SUPERMAN
Barry Allen’s reality altering actions certainly had an effect on the most popular superheroes. Instead of crash-landing in Kansas and being raised by Martha and Jonathan Kent -- the Flashpoint timeline saw Superman crash into Metropolis and be raised in a lab by the U.S. Military. They were experimenting on Kal-El to find a way of creating super soldiers.
But because he wasn’t exposed to sunlight and was kept indoors all the time, Superman was incredibly thin and not the Olympian-like figure that we’re all familiar with. He only had some of his powers because he was taught by another person being experimented on. Eventually, he was freed from his cell, but he didn’t last long in the outside world. Barry quickly managed to change the timeline once again in hopes of correcting everything.
5 MORE POWERFUL: MAESTRO HULK
One hundred years into the future, planet Earth has been decimated by nuclear war. The radiation left behind from the bombs bled into the hulk and enhanced his already incredible strength. It not only increased his powers, but it also pushed his intellect further. He created his own civilization -- ironically called Dystopia.
It was all put in jeopardy when a time travelling Rick Jones landed in the future and stumbled across Maestro and his city. He and a few other rebels brought the Hulk into the future and pitted the two Hulks against each other. And although Maestro kept beating the younger Hulk at first, he managed to defeat him by sending him back in time to the testing of the Gamma atomic bomb. Even though he managed to regenerate, the younger Hulk struggled to bury Maestro in a landslide.
4 WEAKER: HOUSE OF M CAPTAIN AMERICA
In “House of M” Wanda Maximoff changes reality after suffering a mental breakdown. The world is changed into one ruled by mutants. Every hero and villain's entire lives are changed, and not always for the better. Captain America is an old man living alone after he and Peggy Carter divorced.
He was never frozen and brought into the present day, instead he quit being Captain America after World War Two when asked to testify against mutants. This leads him to enroll as an astronaut and ends up being the first man on the moon rather than Neil Armstrong. And although the Super Soldier Serum hadn’t completely faded away, Cap no longer had the strength, endurance and speed that he once had. He was an old man, alone.
3 MORE POWERFUL: THE FUTURE FLASH
We’re not talking about the complicated time remnant version of Barry Allen from the last season of The Flash, but the one from The New 52. This version is heartbroken over the death of Wally West and tells a crippled Iris West that he’s going to fix it all. He travels back in time with the intention of killing everyone who contributed to his death. Barry becomes increasingly dangerous, like when he phases through Grodd with an explosive that kills him.
He faces off against the new Reverse-Flash, Daniel West. Before he can cause the accident that would kill Wally, The Flash rips off Daniel’s head. Ouch. But in doing so, he ends up fighting the present version of Barry and Wally. Leading to accidentally killing Wally and sealing his past self in the speedforce. He’s so powerful, he ended up causing the very thing he wanted to prevent.
2 WEAKER: OLD MAN HAWKEYE
“Old Man Logan” was an incredible story. Seen as a final ride for the mutant, we were introduced to an America that had been decimated by villains. He convinces Logan to accompany him on a roadtrip to deliver some Super Soldier Serum to a resistance hoping to form a new team of Avengers. He needs someone to be his eyes because the archer has gone blind.
It’s quite a hindrance to the master bowman, but Logan manages to be his bodyguard. That is until it’s revealed that the ‘resistance’ are actually S.H.I.E.L.D. agents for the Red Skull. One of them, Tobias, shoots Hawkeye, killing him. Whilst he was never the most powerful out of the Avengers, it’s a shame to see him wiped out so quickly. Hopefully his own solo series, Old Man Hawkeye makes up for it.
1 MORE POWERFUL: DARK KNIGHTS: METAL
When DC revealed that their next big event would introduce a whole team of evil Batmen, our interest peaked. What could make Batman turn? These evil Batman have taken on a trait from each member of the Justice League. There’s The Drowned, a female version of Bruce Wayne combined with Aquaman. She wears a leather combination of the classic cowl and Aquaman’s outfit. Then there’s the Devastator, a Batman who combined himself with Doomsday.
The Murder Machine is a malevolent combination of Alfred’s consciousness, Batman and Cyborg. Oh. The Red Death is Bruce imbued with the Speedforce. The Dawnbreaker is Batman using a Green Lantern ring given to him after his parents’ death. Whilst the Merciless is Batman wearing Ares’ helmet after the death of Wonder Woman. And The Batman Who Laughs? Bruce killed the Joker, who had a toxin in his heart that transforms Batman INTO THE JOKER. Crazy.