Top 10 Most Controversial Superhero Stories

Written by Craig Butler Sometimes creators like to shake things up in a superhero’s life – often with results that don’t go down well with all their readers. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we're counting down the top 10 mostcontroversial superhero stories. For this list, we’re looking at stories which generated significant controversy due to their handling of a touchy subject or the manner in which characters were portrayed in the story.
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Top 10 Most Controversial Superhero Stories

Sometimes creators like to shake things up in a superhero’s life – often with results that don’t go down well with all their readers. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we're counting down the top 10 mostcontroversial superhero stories.

For this list, we’re looking at stories which generated significant controversy due to their handling of a touchy subject or the manner in which characters were portrayed in the story.

#10: The Death of Captain America (2007)


Nowadays, superheroes get killed off with regularity. And they rarely stay dead. Readers knew this back when the massive Marvel undertaking known as the Civil War killed off the star-spangled superman. Many felt that killing off a pop culture symbol of American patriotism while the country was engaged in a real war against Iraq was in poor taste. Add to it that it all came about because of Iron Man’s support of a registration law, and the death felt classically tragic. Sure, Cap came back to life a year or so later, but that didn’t stop fans from howling in rage – and from debating whether Marvel had gone too far this time.

#9: The Watchmen Prequels (2012)


Alan Moore’s original Watchmen series is one of the sparkling jewels in the comic world’s crown. Ardent fans consider it perfect and untouchable. So just imagine their outrage when DC announced it was releasing a series of prequels to the classic series. And doing so with neither the involvement nor the blessing of Moore, who had unceremoniously parted with them years earlier. The resulting books focused on many of the major characters from the series, filling in some details and fleshing out their origins. But, even with some fine individual issues, none of the prequels compared in quality to the original – making the whole exercise just seem like an easy way for DC to make some quick cash.

#8: The Female Thor (2014)


Everyone knows who Thor is, right? The Thunder God, the son of Odin, the goldilocks guy with the massive biceps. Easy to spot in any crowd. Sure, there have been periods when someone else may have taken on the Thor mantel – Beta Ray Bill, anyone? What about that time Thor was a Frog? Pass the mantle onto a woman however and boy were some fans up in arms. In 2014 Jane Foster, Thor’s on-and-off romantic interest took up the hammer – and was greeted with a vocal outcry. The new Thor series did very well however, both critically and commercially, so it seems that most fans were more than willing to accept this fresh approach.

#7: Lois Lane Goes Undercover as a Black Woman (1970)


When Lois Lane wants a story, she will stop at nothing to get it – as this 1970 story demonstrates. Published in the midst of DC’s “relevancy period,” it took a look at racial issues. Lois is assigned to do a story on Metropolis’ poor black neighborhood, but she feels shut out because of her race. She uses a machine to temporarily turn herself black and experience what discrimination feels like. Many readers at the time objected to an oversimplification of a complicated issue. Others resented any contact between the races, while still others felt that the issue implied simply being black was a problem. Suffice it to say this story managed to piss off everyone at once. Well done?

#6: Speedy Became a Junkie (1971)


DC’s relevancy period also affected the adventures of Green Lantern and Green Arrow series. The two-part “Snowbirds Don’t Fly” storyline was critically acclaimed and raised a huge ruckus for its depiction of drug abuse. What made it so shocking was that the abuser in this case was Speedy – Green Arrow’s ward. Although the writing is a bit preachy and makes drug recovery and rehabilitation seem easier than it actually is, the story still packs a punch – not least because of how it points up hypocrisy in Green Arrow’s character.

#5: Captain America is an Agent of HYDRA (2016)


In 2016, Marvel launched a new Captain America series with a first issue that generated tons of buzz – like from a hornet’s nest. Why? Because the end of issue #1 revealed that Steve Rogers, America’s true-blue ideal, was in fact an agent of the evil organization known as HYDRA. The mainsteam media literally lost it’s shit, accusing Marvel of betraying it’s longtime fans. Of course they all looked pretty silly just short time later when it was revealed that Cap's timeline was changed by Red Skull and the reality-warping cosmic cube. Love or hate this storyline all you want but HYDRA Cap doesn't replace the hero we all know and love.

#4: Rape of Nightwing (2004)


Rape of a man doesn’t get a lot of attention, which is one reason that this story really stands out. The heroine Tarantula has a crush on hunky Nightwing. After they have been battling the hard-to-defeat villain Bane for quite a while, Tarantula decides the easy way out is to kill the guy. While that murder, combined with intense weariness, puts Nightwing into a state of shock, it just makes Tarantula feel all kinds of crazy – and so she decides to just take Nightwing then and there. Despite the fact that he keeps saying “Don’t touch me.” Readers were outraged – some because of the rape, some because they claimed it couldn’t be rape. In either case, it got people talking.

#3: The First “Woman in a Refrigerator” (1994)


Nowadays, people are quick to point our female characters with over-sympfied roles. One of the turning point examples of this goes back to this 1994 Green Lantern story. Alexandra DeWitt was introduced as a new love interest for Green Lantern – but six issues later, she was callously killed and literally stuffed into a refrigerator. The phrase “women in refrigerators” was coined to describe female characters whose entire existence is intended to enable a male character to go through “man pain” – feelings of anguish, vengeance, anger, etc. DeWitt’s murder was such a blatant example of this that it took on a significance its creators could not have expected.

#2: The Joker Is Too Wild (1988)


The treatment of Barbara Gordon, aka Batgirl got a lot of attention when it made her the victim of one of Joker’s latest crimes. In order to try to “break” her father, Commissioner Jim Gordon, Joker kidnaps his daughter, Barbara. She is stripped, brutally beaten and shot – all for the sake of creating a spectacle. When the story was finally adapted into a movie in animated feature in 2016, DC tried to address the controversy by showing Barbra as the empowered Batgirl, but instead turned her into a shallow cliché. Opse.

Before we reveal our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:

The Bloody End of the Ultimate Universe (2009)

The Affair of the Scarlet Witch & Quicksilver (2008)

The Unrecognizable All-Star Batman (2005-08)

#1: Ms. Marvel’s Forced Pregnancy


In a 1980 Avengers storyline, Carol Danvers, aka Ms. Marvel, became pregnant, despite not having knowingly had sex with anyone. It turns out an asshole named Marcus had previously kidnapped Carol, warped her mind and manipulated her into having sex with him. That alone is strange, but not all that bad until Carol, now with full knowledge of the truth about her rape and forced pregnancy decides to stand by the guy! And the Avengers just go along with it! Outrage over the whole situation later lead to some convoluted plotlines attempting to rectify the whole situation, and things just got even more complicated for poor Danvers.
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