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Top 10 Most Controversial Comic Book Moments

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Written by Michael Wynands They may be works of fiction, but when they go to dark or taboo places… the world takes notice. Welcome to Watchmojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Most Controversial Comic Book Moments. For this list, we’re looking at moments from the pages of major comic books that readers never saw coming and couldn’t stop talking about, for better or worse, due to the nature of the subject matter that these moments addressed. Have an idea you want to see made into a WatchMojo video? Check out our suggest page at http://WatchMojo.comsuggest and submit your idea.
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They may be works of fiction, but when they go to dark or taboo places… the world takes notice. Welcome to Watchmojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Most Controversial Comic Book Moments.

For this list, we’re looking at moments from the pages of major comic books that readers never saw coming and couldn’t stop talking about, for better or worse, due to the nature of the subject matter that these moments addressed.

#10: Norman Osborn Fathers Twins With Gwen Stacy

There’s nothing more tragic than the death of a superhero’s long-term love interest. Actually… you know what? Scratch that. There’s nothing more tragic than digging up that character to be used as twisted plot device. Various clones of Gwen had already been seen in the clone saga, but in “Sins Past,” the original Gwen was revealed to have been having an affair with none other than Spider-Man’s archnemesis, Norman Osborn, aka the Green Goblin. As if this memory-tarnishing reveal wasn’t bad enough, we also learned that they had twins. In one moment, writer J. Michael Straczynski undercut Peter Parker’s second most formative moment, the death of his girlfriend, by retroactively making it a lover’s quarrel.

#9: Speedball Turns into Penance

Civil War was controversial in a number of ways,, but the fun-loving happy-go-lucky b-lister known as Speedball was at the very heart of the event that kicked it off. He and his fellow publicity-hungry New Warriors, as part of their reality show, confronted a villain known as Nitro, and the conflict ended with the death of 612 people - 60 of whom are school children. As one of the only survivors, Speedball, who had been an upbeat character since his introduction in Spider-Man in 1988, was transformed into the sadist superhero Penance. Robbie went some seriously dark places out of guilt, so dark that Fabian Nicieza and Dan Slott actually satirized the transformation in the Deadpool/Great Lakes Initiative Summer Special.

#8: Speedy’s Heroin Addiction

Speaking of taking light-hearted characters to dark places… how about this little doozy of a cover? An award-winning story arc released in the beginning of the 1970s, when the American heroin epidemic was in full-swing, this tale of addiction showed that not even a member of the Teen Titans like Roy Harper was immune to the temptations of vice. For readers at the time though… it was a pretty tough pill to swallow. Not only was it heavy subject matter, but Green Arrow’s response made it that much heavier - the father figure essentially assaults his drug-dependent ward before throwing him out. Roy would recover, but this moment would continue to define the character moving forward.

#7: One More Day

Poor Spidey… he’s really been through the ringer over the years. It’s tough to keep a character, who is defined by his youth, relevant for decades. After Sins Past and similarly odd and damaging additions to the mythos of Peter Parker, a reset wasn’t necessarily a bad thing… but the way in which the writers went about it, was a controversial one to say the least. Eternal optimist and do-gooder Peter Parker made a LITERAL deal with the devil. His marriage to Mary Jane Watson? Gone! The whole him revealing his identity to the public thing? Forgotten! Somehow… Sins Past survived, because THAT’s what people wanted to keep. Suffice to say, “One More Day” was poorly received.

#6: The Rape Of Ms. Marvel

Note to any aspiring comic book writers out there - rape is still rape, even when you dress it up with sci-fi concepts. It’s not that comic books can’t address issues of sexual violence… it’s just that they need to be handled with care. And in this case, the general consensus is that Ms. Marvel was not only used within the context of the storyline by Marcus, who used a device to “bend her will” - but used by the writers as well. The arc reduced this powerful character to the role of victim, and muddied the waters by making “seduction” a part of it rather than labelling it what it was - sexual assault.

#5: Alexandra DeWitt’s Demise

Speaking of the mistreatment of women in comics… let’s take a look at this much-maligned moment from the pages of Green Lantern. Alex DeWitt was a journalist and photographer and one time girlfriend of Kyle Rayner. When he was chosen to be the next Green Lantern, the two reconnected and she helped him get started as a superhero. Just six issues after her introduction however, she was strangled by the villain known as Major Force, and unceremoniously stuffed into a refrigerator for Kyle to find. It’s something out of a horror movie, not a comic book, and the brutal reduction of this character to plot device has become the go-to example of how women should NOT be treated in comics.

#4: The Ultimate Twincest

The Ultimate Universe was always intended as a safe space to take risks and explore alternate storylines for some of Marvel’s biggest characters, but an incestuous relationship between twins Wanda and Pietro Lensherr aka Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, wasn’t exactly what readers had in mind. From day one, they seemed too close for comfort, but in The Ultimates 3, it was made explicit when Wolverine recounted the time he caught the two of them together. Yikes.

#3: The Death Of Jason Todd

Alex DeWitt is the gold standard of how female characters should not be killed off as plot devices. Jason Todd… is arguably the male equivalent. Everything about this moment in comic book history was brutal. Within the world of Batman, the death of Robin was unfathomable. Had this death come about organically it would have made headlines, but this wasn’t a carefully planned death. Jason’s fate was the result of a vote by the readership, who had to phone in to pass their judgement. The fans voted, and Jason got the crowbar. A blatant marketing stunt? Yes - and undeniably one of the most controversial moments in comic book history.

#2: The Rape of Sue Dibny by Dr. Light

The Rape of Carol Danvers is Marvel’s cross to bear, but DC’s use of rape is even harder to handle. This moment from Identity Crisis is widely cited as one of the most questionable editorial decisions in the history of comics. The arc begins with Sue Dibny’s death, and, by working through events of the past, goes on to reveal, in a scene that pulls no punches, that she had previously been raped by Dr. Light. What’s perhaps most upsetting is the fact that she was seemingly selected because of her b-list status, alongside her husband, the Elongated Man. She was made the central figure of this story, and for many, it was the ultimate objectification.

#1: Joker’s Attack of Barbara Gordon

It’s considered one of the most important Batman stories ever told, but it’s also arguably the MOST controversial. The crippling of Batgirl would’ve been a big moment even had it happened in costume, but many took issue with the fact that it was done to her as Barbara Gordon, reducing her worth to that of a prop in Joker’s attempt to get at commissioner Gordon and, by extension, Batman. After shooting her, he stripped her naked and photographed her to torture her father. Joker didn’t even know she was Batgirl, she was just a means to an end, and that has earned the Eisner Award-winning story plenty of retrospective criticism, even from the creator himself, Alan Moore.
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