The 1990s were not great for comic book fans. It seemed that Marvel and DC Comics put making as much money as possible in front of putting out a good product and they chased away more fans than they gained. From overpriced comic books to ridiculous variant covers, both companies hit a slump that took them years to recover from. It also didn’t help that some of the top creators departed for Image and both Marvel and DC Comics tried to match the edgier product coming from their new rival. It is in this area that both companies made creative decisions that ruined some of their most beloved characters.
While Death of Superman was a huge moneymaker for DC Comics, it was also a huge mistake and hurt the company more than it helped it over time. Both Marvel and DC Comics chose to take on controversial directions for some of their most beloved characters, and it resulted in Marvel filing for bankruptcy in 1997 and DC Comics barely scraping by as comic book sales crashed by 2001. When looking at the era where comic books almost died, here is a look at 15 superheroes ruined in the '90s, in Marvel, DC Comics and the world of movies.
15 CAPTAIN AMERICA
Honestly, it isn’t so much Captain America himself that earns a spot on the list of the superheroes ruined by the '90s. It is more a case of how the returning artists designed Captain American that puts him squarely on this list. Yes, Captain America was once the scrawny Steve Rogers who received the super soldier serum to become a muscular superhero. However, when Rob Liefeld got ahold of Captain America, things got a bit ridiculous.
First, Liefeld and Jim Lee had achieved great success with Image, but the worst part of Image was the over-muscular, disproportioned superheroes. When Marvel hired Liefeld to help re-kickstart its properties, he brought that unrealistic style with him and then created the horrible Heroes Reborn storyline. Captain America is here as an example of that misstep.
Thor underwent a change to his character in the '90s that was a complete disaster. Instead of his iconic look as Thor, God of Thunder, Marvel chose to turn the superhero into a new character known as Thunderstrike. Instead of carrying the iconic Mjolnir with him, he used what looked like a mace. Of course, this wasn’t Odinson but was Eric Masterson, the man who replaced Donald Blake as Thor in 1989.
Maybe Thunderstrike was Marvel’s way of making sure that Eric’s version was different than the classic Thor. Whatever the reason, it was a colossal disappointment, and Masterson died in 1995, bringing back the original Thor. Of course, this return was a makeover disaster as the black latex and straps Thor returned with looked ridiculous. Luckily, the costume change only lasted four issues.
13 THE INVISIBLE WOMAN
In the ‘90s, Image not only made male heroes into ridiculously oversized caricatures but Rob Liefeld and company also made women into highly sexualized creations. Sadly, when Marvel was trying to improve its sales, the company chose to copy Image’s lead, including the mistakes that the company made. One of the characters that suffered the most in this endeavor was Sue Storm, the former Invisible Girl.
Changing her name from The Invisible Girl to the Invisible Woman was a nice progressive move. However, in 1992, the same year that Image debuted, Marvel also gave Sue a more progressive personality in all the wrong ways. Sue created a new costume that was highly sexualized and made sure that her new attitude was abrasive and abusive to everyone who cared about her. Marvel made this explainable by showing that Psycho-Man took control of Sue, but that brings out more significant problems with the story.
12 HAL JORDAN
Hal Jordan is the most iconic Green Lantern of all-time and if the '90s showed us anything, it is that he is also the most powerful Green Lantern in the world thanks to his strong will and determination. After the destruction of Coast City, Hal used his strong will and determination to try unsuccessfully to bring it back to life with his power ring – against all the rules of the Lantern Corps. Hal Jordan then became one of the deadliest villains in DC Comics history.
This story was a great idea, and Hal Jordan redeemed himself at the end. Plus, he was under the control of Parallax, explaining away his sins. However, fans at the time rebelled because this was one of the greatest heroes in DC Comics history that went evil. Some fans even sent death threats to the creators. On the positive side, Kyle Rayner became one of the most popular Green Lanterns of all-time thanks to Hal's meltdown.
When Venom first arrived, it was as a costume that Peter Parker thought he could control mentally. However, when Parker realized that a Symbiote was actually the one controlling him, he was able to free himself from it. Venom then found someone who hated Peter Parker as much as it did and joined forces with Eddie Brock. The best thing is that Venom was an anti-hero that was only a villain because it hated Spider-Man.
Sadly, a familiar name on the list of people who ruined superheroes in the '90s, Rob Liefeld was mostly responsible for ruining Venom when he helped turn Spider-Man comics into the Venom and Carnage show. In contrast, Carnage was stronger than Venom, a sociopath, and a real villain. As a result, the arrival of Carnage neutered Venom and, mixed with the overuse of the characters, ruined Venom in the '90s.
Comic books are not the only thing that ruined superheroes in the 90s. When it comes to Batgirl, the movie Batman & Robin ruined her character many years after DC Comics humiliated her on its pages. Batgirl was once one of the most important female characters in DC Comics. Then, the company had The Joker shoot and paralyze her, and Barbara Gordon became another example of Women in Refrigerators. Barbara Gordon was saved in the comics when she became Oracle and was an essential player in DC Comics for years.
Warner Bros. was not finished embarrassing Batgirl. They introduced her in Batman & Robin and decided to make her Alfred’s niece instead of Commissioner Gordon’s daughter. They gave the part to Alicia Silverstone and made her a complete ditz, most likely going off of her popular character from Clueless. It is shocking that Batgirl ever amounted to anything in DC Comics again.
Lobo was a minor character introduced in 1983 in DC Comics and wasn’t that offensive. However, Lobo became one of the most significant problems with the '90s comic book era. Of course, thanks to Image, both Marvel Comics and DC Comics wanted to get grim and violent. Lobo fit that ideal perfectly, and the only reason that he stands out from the rest was that he was more of a parody of the masculinity, but the humor grew old quickly.
Lobo was a mixture of Wolverine and Punisher with a mix of Cable. Very similar to Deadpool in Marvel, Lobo was an antihero that cracked jokes and cracked skulls. Fans loved him, so DC Comics kept pushing the boundaries further and further until Lobo became what he was trying to parody in the first place.
8 IRON MAN
Remember when the Internet went nuts because Marvel Comics revealed that Steve Rogers was a HYDRA agent his entire life and was never the hero that Marvel Comics portrayed him as? Of course, that was not what happened, and it was all part of a larger storyline. This exact situation happened before in the '90s with Tony Stark and Iron Man, but that time it proved to be factual. In the big crossover series, The Crossing, Marvel revealed that Stark was a villain and had worked for Kang for years.
The worst part of this story is that, unlike Captain America, it wasn’t a twist. Tony Stark was working for Kang for years, which means that one of Marvel’s greatest heroes was always a double agent. The story also made Tony Stark a murderer. Then, the entire thing ended with Tony Stark returning as a teenager, continuing the embarrassing treatment of Iron Man in the '90s.
One of the more significant twists in DC Comics in the '90s came when Bane broke Bruce Wayne’s back in 1993. It took Wayne out of action for over a year, and an assassin named Azrael took over the role of Batman at this time. Before he became Batman, Azrael was a villain, and then DC Comics struggled to use him as a hero in the Batman comics. However, that wasn’t exactly what happened as Azrael ignored the most prominent rule Batman has – Azrael killed villains.
It made sense because Bruce Wayne needed a reason to come back to take over the mantle of Batman once again and it was to stop the reign of terror of Azrael, who was sullying the Batman name. However, at the end of the day, it also ruined the Batman character for a long time.
6 PROFESSOR X
Onslaught damaged the already untrustworthy character of Professor Charles Xavier. Anyone who has read X-Men comics over the years should know by now that Professor X will do anything and betray anyone to ensure that his will is done. However, the '90s showed how powerful Professor X is and that he could have hurt a lot more people than he already had over his X-Men run.
Professor X wiped a lot of character’s minds in comics, on television and in movies over the years. However, in the '90s, he wiped Magneto’s mind, and on this occasion, it caused Magneto’s emotions to flood into Professor X, the psionic backlash of which gave birth to Onslaught. Onslaught controlled Professor X for a time, before breaking free and killing The Avengers and Fantastic Four. If anything, the '90s proved how dangerous and ultimately untrustworthy Professor X is.
The '90s were terrible for The Punisher. Honestly, the Punisher that people fell in love with was the antihero that killed mob bosses and serial killers. However, things changed in the '90s and Punisher started hunting down regular bad guys that didn’t deserve to die. He also ended up teaming with other heroes one too many times so what made him different actually watered him down. That wasn’t the crime that ruined him in the '90s.
Punisher committed suicide, and his family's guardian angel saved him from going to hell and brought him back to Earth as an Avenging Angel with guns from Heaven, and a new goal to redeem himself. Thank God that Garth Ennis took over and saved The Punisher from this embarrassing storyline continuing for long.
The Death of Superman was one of the best-selling comic books of all-time. However, after that event, DC Comics had four different Supermen show up to take his place and then brought Superman back from the dead. Not only did Superman return from the dead, but he came back with a mullet. His costume also changed to a one-piece black leotard with a chrome "S" on the front, though only for a short time, before he finally went back to the original blue and red.
DC Comics continued to try to ruin the character when 1997 rolled around, turning him into the electric blue Superman. Superman lost the classic powers he derived from the sun and developed energy-based abilities instead. It also included a new costume with the new powers. The changes were just another over bloated Superman storyline that thankfully only lasted for one year.
Two words will explain how Marvel Comics ruined Spider-Man in the '90s -- Clone Saga. Yes, the worst crime committed against any superhero in the '90s came when Marvel ruined Spider-Man and almost destroyed one of its most popular franchise heroes. Maybe if the Clone Saga had lasted for a shorter period, as was planned, it might be forgiven. Instead, the Clone Saga continued for two years, with over 100 comic issues, and destroyed almost everything about Spider-Man.
This story goes back to 1975 with Jackal and the original clone storyline. However, in a story that looked like Peter Parker destroyed his clone, it turns out that the Spider-Man that had lived in Marvel for two decades was the clone. For two years, Marvel developed an overcomplicated story and committed the worst crime in comic book history by completely messing with the continuity of Spider-Man.
2 DOCTOR FATE
How does a company ruin a character that is more of a side favorite than a major superstar? Just look at the case of Doctor Fate. In DC Comics history, there might not be a superhero as overpowered as Doctor Fate. Whoever wears the Helmet of Fate gains access to the most powerful magical energies in the universe. As a character, Doctor Fate is a powerful, respected and revered hero by his contemporaries at DC.
In 1994, DC Comics did the unthinkable. The company stripped the Helmet of Fate away from the hero, eliminated the magic, and gave him some weapons to use instead. DC Comics explained this by having the amulet explode, bestowing the powers of Doctor Fate onto Jared Stevens. He melted down the helmet and made a dagger and throwing stars out of the metal. Thankfully, Jared was dead and gone by the end of the century.
1 GUY GARDNER
For a short time, there wasn’t a more popular Green Lantern than Guy Gardner. He didn’t have the stoic arrogance of Hal Jordan, instead injecting some humor and edginess into the GL franchise. Of course, over time, he was never as successful as Jordan, John Stewart or Kyle Rayner. However, when it came time for DC Comics to try to make edgier characters in the ‘90s, Guy Gardner was the perfect character to try and update.
DC Comics failed miserably in this endeavor. Instead of improving Gardner, the company made him a joke. He lost his Green Lantern ring and instead the company gave him body paint and tattoos, along with a new powerset that seemed at ill-odds with the character. It also turned out that Gardner was part alien. He took the name Warrior and started using bladed weapons and guns instead of his power ring, another ridiculous answer from DC Comics to match up with Image-style edgy comics.
Which of these '90s changes do you think was the worst? Let us know in the comments!