I 110% love comic books. I learned to read with a copy of Batman: Year One, figured out my morality from back-issues of Spider-Man, and first approached being a writer by trying to make my own X-Men stories as a kid. They are monumentally important to me, as a form of communication and entertainment. But that doesn’t mean some aren’t terrible. There are plenty I hate for plenty of reasons, but none compare to these. The worst of the worst, the absolute apex of terrible writing, art, and social consciousness in comics. Here are the worst 15 comics ever published.
Note: I almost had the pretty damn indefensible Tarot: Witch Of The Black Rose on the list, but that comic has proven to have ten years of sheer creativity that I can’t argue. It’s all terrible and offensive and pretty sexist, but props to a decade of pure insanity.
15 Countdown To Final Crisis - Over A 1,000 Pages Of WTF
This comic is more here for the ambition and creativity that this horrible comic book managed to produce. But to be fair, it did have a whole host of writers and artists to add to the horrible mess that is this series. One issue released every week, drawing out the pacing for an entire year. The series centers around… well, a whole lot of people. The plot is scattershot, following a number of plot lines all across the DC universe without tying into one another. The cast goes all over the place, into different settings while trying to solve different problems, with the series losing track of the plot all over the place. We jump locations without warning, and never manage to tell a single good plot. The story is just crazy, always losing its momentum and going on weird tangents where Harley is brainwashed by Amazons for an issue and a half or alien worlds that make no sense.
14 All Star Batman & Robin - (Accidental) Comedy Gold
Frank Miller is rightfully considered one of the most iconic creators of comics, responsible for some of the most well-crafted comics of the 1980’s. And he’s also hasn’t made a good comic since 1994. One of the landmark mistakes of his career happened to be another take on Batman though, a more modern reboot of the character that is so hilariously over the top that it almost becomes funny again. Almost. This is a comic where Batman straight kidnaps the boy who will become Robin while fighting a neo-Nazi Joker. This is the comic where Batman sleeps with Black Canary in their costumes right after beating up ten bikers. This is the comic where Wonder Woman calls men “sperm banks” and Batman calls himself the “GD Batman”. As he’s kidnapping the child, to make him eat rats in a dark cave. This comic is ridiculous, and almost worth it for the sheer absurdities of it all.
13 Spider-Man: Sins Past
So. Yeah. This comic. Released in the mid-2000’s, Sins Past follows Spider-Man having to deal with the arrival of two super powered twins, who seem to have a personal vendetta against him. But when he finds out that one of them is the spitting image for his long dead girlfriend Gwen Stacy, he sets out to uncover the mystery. On top of the ugly art, the story takes a particularly gross turn when it’s revealed that the super powered twins are actually the children of Gwen, who aged at an expanded rate. It’s then revealed that they were the children of Gwen and Norman Osborn, the middle age father of her best friend and mortal enemy to Peter, Green Goblin. We even get a very unsettling sex sequence between Norman (and his creepy as hell O face) with Gwen, which is frightful for a whole lot of problems. The story climaxes with Peter fighting the two, resulting in an explosion that probably didn’t kill anyone, but no one wants to see them return. This comic is incredibly weird and gross and just all around horrible.
12 Justice League: Cry For Justice - The Time The Justice League Straight Tortured People
The Justice League comic where the heroes endorse torture! Recurring bad guy Prometheus – who has the ability to upload fighting styles directly into his mind – makes a real attempt on the lives of the team and their families. It’s a harsh comic, where super heroes try to be proactive. This includes getting a man who can shrink to atomic levels to go into people’s brains and stomp around for a bit. Which is incredibly harsh. And to make matters worse, their actions don’t even manage to save the day. In the end, Prometheus manages to blow up an entire city, murdering children on-panel. The final moments of the comic showcases Green Arrow walking up to the villain and putting an arrow into his brain. No resolution, no conversation, no nothing. He just walks into the man’s home and puts an arrow in his head. In a f’ing Justice League comic. It’s such a wrong minded comic.
11 Nemesis - What If Batman Was Evil (And Also Horrible)?
Mark Millar is the ultimate mixed bag of comic book writers. He’s been responsible for some fantastic looks at famous superheroes (His runs on Superman Adventures and Wolverine are legit amazing comics), engrossing original ideas (Huck and Juniper’s Legacy have both been wonderful), and even some of the more iconic moments and stories of the last twenty years of comics (this is the guy who wrote the comic version of Civil War). He’s also responsible for some truly horrifying and dark takes on the genre, none more so needless or juvenile as Nemesis. The story centers around the aforementioned Nemesis, basically Batman if he was Joker kinds of evil, and his mission to sow chaos and hate. It’s a mean spirited book that goes far beyond the basic lines of decency. It includes a sequence where Nemesis artificially inseminates a girl with her brother’s samples and somehow rigs a bomb to explode if an abortion is attempted. It’s awful for the sake of awful, with dark and violent routines done for no real reason.
10 The Death Of Superman - The Michael Bay Movie Of Comic Books
Ladies, gentlemen, and those who don’t choose to self-identify, I present to you: The Michael Bay of comics. In the early 90’s, DC announced the Death Of Superman, a titanic historic fight comic that would finally pit Superman against something he couldn’t just be stronger than. The story centered around a monster only known as Doomsday tearing it’s way through the United States, despite the best efforts of the Justice League and the US military. It all builds to a head when Superman and Doomsday go head to head in the middle of Metropolis (an early forbearer of the kind of destruction that Man of Steel would feature), and the two literally punch each other to death. There’s no thought or strategy or emotion in this comic, save the tear-jerky moments where Superman can’t save a child from Doomsday or Lois crying out over Superman’s body. The entire comic is fight scene, the equivalent of a Transformers movie that throws out all the motivation and plot in lieu of some good old fashioned punch-explosions. It’s a well-constructed comic, but also just such an incredibly dumb comic that I can’t help but hate it – especially because it was one of the most successful single issues of all time, because it had Death Of Superman on the cover.
9 Rawhide Kid - The Gay Cowboy Book That's Nothing But Gay Jokes
Comics, as with most popular culture, can sometimes have some glaring black spots in their cataloge. Marvel had the weird gender dynamics of the 1980’s, and this was eventually followed by a period of just straight homophobic jokes in the early 2000’s. “Being Gay” was a punchline in those days for a number of books, far outweighing the few positive characters and stories addressing those issues. It never became as ugly as Rawhide Kid though, which is an entire miniseries of bad gay jokes. What could have been a progressive and impressive western tale with a LGBTQ hero was turned into the most offensive episode of a sitcom. The Rawhide Kid is portrayed as a foppish cowboy, creating the worst stereotype of a gay man in the process. He’s catty with women over their appearances, he walks around in chaps (and nothing else) because he likes the feeling of the wind on “cheeks”, and generally every bad 90’s gay best friend character. With just over a decade of retrospection, the comic has not aged well. It’s become an example of the kind of offensive material that used to appear all over the industry even just a few years ago.
8 Batman: The Widning Gyre - Kevin Smith's Batman Is Abusive, Weird, And Not Good At Being Batman
Kevin Smith – director of 90’s cult films like Clerks and Dogma – is a famous comic book fan. His passion for it has helped lead to a popular podcast and even his own reality show focusing on fans. He’s even gotten to work for both Marvel and DC comics… and unfortunately, he’s not all that great at it. But his lowest moment comes his one of his Batman stories, Batman: The Widening Gyre. The book centers around a new superhero who’s come to Gotham, and he’s instantly the best thing ever and Batman’s new best friend. Yeah. It’s essentially fan fiction that DC actually published. Things are complicated when Batman’s ex, Silver St. Cloud, returns to Wayne Manor in an attempt to get back together following the death of her husband. That’s just weird as hell. The book plays out more like a silly stoner version of a dramatic Batman comic, reaching for dramatic highs but forgetting to actually have the plot justify the events. This is a Batman comic where Poison Ivy actually shows up and does him with marijuana in the first issue. This is the comic where everyone is able to fool or beat Batman, showcasing a Batman who’s actually really terrible at being Batman. That’s never the place you want to be in.
7 Spider-Man: One More Day - Wherein Spider-Man Makes A Deal With The Actual For Real Devil
So, okay, comics are weird. And one of the oddest constants of major superhero comics is the habit for the creators to find a way to essentially retcon the events of stories they don’t care for and return the comics to the status quo. Following Civil War, Spider-Man’s life had been radically altered, to the point where he could never go back to the feel and tone of the old comics: He was married to Mary Jane, he had publicly revealed his identity during the course of Civil War, and was now on the run. In the ensuing chaos, Aunt May was shot, and left in critical condition. After none of the other super scientists of the universe (who have built mechs out of scraps, dimensional portals out of reality, and literally brought people back to life before) can’t figure out how to save Aunt May from a bullet wound, Peter and MJ are approached by the Devil. Like, seriously. The actual capital-D Devil. Called Mephisto, he offered to restore Aunt May to life and even make Peter’s identity a secret again. All he wants in return is their marriage. Seriously, that’s all he asks for, for all that – and Spider-Man, that paragon of righteousness, that hero who knows the true meaning of sacrifice, does it. He makes a literal deal with the LITERAL Devil. The comic ends with MJ out of the book, and Peter getting to be single again and go back to old school Spider-Man, and all it took was a satanic pact.
6 Marville - The Most Confusing Comic You've Never Heard Of
Of all the comics on this list, this might be the most baffling one of the lot. See, in the early 2000’s, Marvel ran a promotion called “U-Decide” where three books were competing for readers. The book with the most readers would keep running. The eventual winner was Peter David’s Captain Marvel (which was not starring Carol Danvers but Genis-Vell, a weirdo alien who went nuts). It went against Ultimate Adventures (an extended and offensive “Batman is gay” joke that’s more weird than anything else) and this, a nominally satirical look at politics and the comic industry. It follows Kal-AOL Turner – seriously – as he travels back from the year 5002 to become a super hero. But he sucks at it, so he uses the time machine to go back to creation – again, seriously – and talk to God. Kal returns to release a friggin’ comic book detailing the lessons he learnt. But, twist ending! The in-comic comic flops because it doesn’t have any action or adventure in it. Just like this comic did upon release, as people weren’t super drawn to Iron Man almost using racial epithets and Rush Limbaugh shooting Black Panther. This comic is just so confusing, on so many levels. And it doesn’t help that it features creepy softcore porn covers of women in lingerie or swimwear who then aren’t in the comic at all. Yeah. That happened. No one wants to talk about it, but I remember you doing that Marvel, and that was weird.
5 X-Men: Holy War - The Book That Opens With Teenagers Being Crucified, And It Only Gets Worse From There
This comic was in-part created by Chuck Austen, a writer who you’ll see again on this list, trust me. And among X-Men fans, he’s usually held up as one of the worst things to ever happen to the franchise. For an idea of the kind of stories he was creating, let’s look at Holy War, which literally opens with a bunch of teenagers crucified on the front lawn of the X-Mansion. From there, the team traces a mysterious conspiracy within the Church to - I shit you not – install Nightcrawler as the new Pope, reveal his demonic appearance, cause mass hysteria, and then use communion wafers that make people explode to trick the world into thinking the Rapture has happened. Seriously, that all for real happens in this book. This is the book where there are throwaway lines about Mutants not being able to contract AIDS (?) and where the climax of the book reveals that the villain was a nun who was raped and thrown out of the Church so she decided to get revenge with exploding communion wafers (?!?). And the crazy part? Not his worst X-Men story!
4 Avengers #200 - The Rape Of Ms. Marvel Is Legit Horrifying
I’ve talked about this comic before. I’ve talked about this comic a lot. And I don’t care, it’s that horrifying. The story centers around the then Ms. Marvel and current Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers. She’s hit with a sudden pregnancy, and by sudden I mean it’s three days later after she never had sex, and she’s going into labour. Carol raves and rants the baby isn’t hers, but her teammates ignore her cries for help. The baby proves to be even more unnatural than they expected, as he ages and grows into an adult man almost immediately. He then falls in love with his mother, and explains that he is Marcus – an inter-dimensional being trapped in Limbo. To escape, he captures a woman, uses a for real mind control device to make her complacent, impregnates her with himself, then sends her back to reality. That woman was Carol Danvers. But instead of fighting the monster who also raped their friend and ally, the Avengers hang back for a bit. And then Carol comes in, singing a new tune and speechifying about how much she loves Marcus and she wants to go to another dimension with him. And the Avengers, after hearing how their friend got sci-fi roofied and raped, do nothing. That’s how the Avengers celebrated 200 issues – saying rape sure is fine so long as the person being mind controlled seems happy. 80’s Marvel had it’s high points, but when it was problematic it was capital-P Problematic.
3 Identity Crisis - When Rape, Murder, and Lobotomies Became Tropes In Stories About People In Spandex Punching Evil People In Spandex
The comic that introduced an entire age of rape and extreme violence to super hero comics. Identity Crisis centers around a murder mystery that envelops the entire DC universe and reveals long lost secrets of the Justice League. This is an ugly book, even if the art is actually really strong. It’s the content of the story, where rape is used as a motivation tool for the (male) heroes while never addressing the effect on the person who was actually hurt. It’s a book that uses murder, threats, and insanity for cheap twists instead of actually addressing them and dealing with the fallout of those realities. It’s a comic where the heroes all hate one another, and snark or threaten each other instead of actually being, you know, super heroes. It’s a flawed attempt to add a layer of reality to super hero comics, and it fails in being anything other than a confusing slog.
2 Holy Terror - What If Batman Was Like, Ungodly Racist?
What began as a Batman miniseries by Frank Miller, creator of some of the most iconic Batman comics of all time, ended up morphing into something else entirely different – to the point where it had to be edited into something different and independent to ever see print. Holy Terror turned out to be an incredibly racist story, a weird adventure story where The Fixer (who’s basically Frank Miller Batman) heads into war against terrorists after an expy of the 9/11 attacks take place in his home city. It’s an incredibly dour book, endorsing an “eye for eye” mentality and having The Fixer commit vicious attacks on stereotypical caricatures of Muslims. It’s vicious, and adds nothing new to the conversation except a scared and vicious tone. It’s a brutal story, and a fully racist story, even beyond the treatment of Muslims. It even includes a few panels of former President Barack Obama that starts as a political cartoon and turns into a racist picture as the story progresses.
1 X-Men: The Draco - Just The Worst, You Guys - The Literal Worst
This might be the comic that hurts me the most, you guys. This is the comic that shakes everything to my core, because I LOVE the X-Men… and this comic does its level headed best to ruin them. The story centers on Nightcrawler, who’s one of the best characters in the franchise. He’s the entire mission statement of the series, in a nutshell. He’s a guy who looks like a demon, but in reality is a kind, funny, suave, and devout man. He’s a man, through and through, and we should judge him based on the actions of his soul, not the way he looks. Only, no, wait, turns out he’s actually the son of a demon who teleports to Earth all the time to try and open the gates of hell I think? The X-Men are forced to go fight him, where it comes out that both demons and angels in general are actually Mutants (seriously) caused by a rapist demon (seriously) and that a great war is coming between them and someone, we don't find out. This comic is mean, this comic is ugly (the Phillip Tan art doesn’t do it any favors), this comic is offensive, and this comic is all around bad. This is the book where Iceman explodes out of a person, and makes a bad pee gag. This comic takes the thesis of X-Men, and makes it not count. It tries to ruin X-Men, and super heroes as a whole. I hate this comic with all my being, you guys. ALL OF IT.