10 Gruesomely Worst Superhero Relationships In Comics Pt 2


Supergirl and Comet the Wonder Horse

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Okay, here we go… so, in Action Comics #311, Supergirl’s pet superhorse Comet… um, yeah, that was a thing, just – just go along with it – well, Comet got jealous of Kara being with a human, controversially, so it had Circe turn it into a human without powers.  The two very nearly hooked up, with them kissing and very nearly falling in love or something.

It’s creepy as hell, and though one could argue that Comet is sentient and at least turned into the human, it still really feels like Supergirl nearly banged a horse.  The whole thing reads like a 13-year-old girl’s fantasy, but it wasn’t.  This was a story written by a grown-ass man who apparently didn’t know any better, and even by Golden Age comic standards, this was weird, creepy, and one of those things best forgotten.  You could argue this was written for children but this is not the sort of content that should be shown to children… or anyone, for that matter!

The whole notion, and Comet, would eventually go to the wayside and thankfully the plotline was dropped about as quickly and arbitrarily as it had appeared.  Comet would later go on to be re-imagined in the 90s as a jockey revived as a cybernetic horse of some kind that fused with a bisexual comedienne and became and Angel of Love and WHAT THE HELL?  Is that true?  Oh my god, we need to move on…



Sue and Ralph Dibney/Jean Loring and Ray Palmer

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So here we have two relationships that really started out fine.  Ralph Dibney was a superhero called the Elongated Man, and with his wife Sue they often worked together to solve crimes.  No big deal, and, in fact, they were one of the superheroes to ever marry in comic book history, so that’s neat.  Ralph even won an award as a character in 1961.

Meanwhile, Ray Palmer and Jean Loring had dated for a while in the Silver Age before marrying and ultimately, divorcing.  I actually like that, as it is one of the few examples of a couple splitting up in comics without resorting to death or contrived nonsense.

This was all perfectly fine, and though these four were never the most popular characters, only appearing sporadically and never being a huge part of DC.  So far, so good.  It all changed in 2004, with the miniseries Identity Crisis.  Now, if you aren’t familiar with this event, well, it’s bad.  It’s really poorly written, and to me represents a failed attempt by DC to tackle mature themes and just didn’t work for me.  Some people like it BUT I AM NOT ONE OF THEM.

The story behind Sue in Identity Crisis reveals that she was raped by Dr. Light and the DC heroes all agreed to just sort of wipe the whole thing from the villain’s memory, turning him into the buffoon that he was in the comics up until this story.  The whole thing was actually a red herring to the real killer, Jean Loring, ex-wife of the Atom, who killed Ray because she went crazy for some reason and somehow was able to do all these things even through she’s basically just a regular lawyer.

Look, I understand some people like this story, and that’s fine.  But I hate it, and the way this story used these two relationships and the very concept of rape to push it’s own mediocre story was rather frustrating.  There are a lot of good comics out there that deal with rape or even use it as a plot point that do it in a mature and thoughtful fashion.  Identity Crisis is not one of them, and handles the whole issue with the tact and grace of a bulldozer.  What’s worse is that it not only made these characters look bad, it kind of bled into the entire superhero community.  Someone was lobotimised while another person had their mind wiped, and Sue was retconned into having this trauma happen to her but was never given the chance to confront or deal with this terrible thing, instead just never mentioning it and being fine with Dr. Light being made into a goofy villain instead of, like, going to jail?  I guess?  I still don’t understand why the Justice League bothered to solve this issue with mind control.  It makes the heroes look bad on a level far beyond moral ambiguitiy.  The villains of Identity Crisis thus become not Jean Loring or Doctor Light, but characters like Green Lantern, the Atom, and Green Arrow who let this sort of thing happen under their direct and wilful decision making.

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To me, this is a special level of poison.  Sue Dibney suddenly felt like another woman in a refrigerator, while Jean Loring, for no good reason, became an insane murderer, eventually possessed by Eclipso before being killed off-panel.  Oh, and Ralph died at some point in all of this, too, but at least all of this gave him something interesting to do in the actually good story known as 52.  Regardless, these characters and their relationships were torn down in a misguided attempt to be more like Marvel, who at the time were producing content like Civil War.  Instead Identity Crisis went so overboard that the entire superhero community came off as utterly monstrous and these relationships were never able to fully recover.

Sue, Ralph, and Jean would return in Blackest Night to ruin the Atom’s day and torment a bunch of other heroes, which didn’t really help matters, but the damage was already long done, regardless.  The whole thing has left a bad taste in many a fan’s mouth and the fact that they took these perfectly good characters and relationships, and tainted them so horribly with content this toxic, really makes for some of the worst and most degraded relationships in the world of superhero comics.



The Parker Family (Trouble)

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Uh-oh, here comes Trouble!  No, seriously, this is one of the worst things I have ever read.  We are really in the thick of things now, and if you haven’t heard of this miniseries, well, I’m just going to warn you, some things can’t be unseen, guys.

So Trouble is a series that goes into what Aunt May, Uncle Ben, and Peter Parker’s parents Mary and Richard got up to into their youths.  And it turns out that Aunt May sleeps with Peter’s dad, gets pregnant, and, to avoid the ire of her fundamentalist parents, arranges things so that Mary Parker will raise the kid with Richard and they start a family together, telling nobody and adopting the baby, Peter, as their own.

Yep, that’s right.  According to this comic, Aunt May is actually Peter’s mom.  And while it would be one thing to do this, I mean, it flies in the face of fundamental aspects of Spider-Man’s history, but if Marvel wanted to do this, fine, but this miniseries also happens to be complete garbage. While the art is actually fantastic, the comic feels like an outright attempt to make you like Aunt May, Uncle Ben, and Peter’s parents less, using Spider-Man callbacks and references in these weird, gross ways.  The writing is just awful, with poorly written characters, a story that feels out of place with the time period it’s supposed to take place in and the themes of Spider-Man in general, and once again we have a plot dealing with mature ideas like abortion, suicide, and sex with a level of sophistication I would expect out of a child.

That child’s name is Mark Millar, by the way, the only writer who actually has two entries on this list.  It’s not surprising that this guy would have recurring problems with sexuality in his writing that represent the worst of the worst in comics, I mean, have you read Nemesis?  It is a little disappointing, though, as there are plenty of comics written by him I do actually like.  Yet we can’t ignore that he has real stinkers in his bibliography, too, and Trouble is a solid example of one of the worst.

This was apparently an attempt to get girls interested in Marvel comics.  A laughable notion, given the final product and the fact that as much as I like some of Mark Millar’s stories, he is perhaps the last contemporary, established comic book writer on the planet I would pick to reach a female audience.  Trouble isn’t for girls, and it definitely isn’t for Spider-Man fans.  I don’t really think it is for anyone.  The Parker family presented in this story are cruel, mean, and selfish.  They couldn’t be farther from the versions we know and love, and represent two of the worst relationships to ever show themselves in anything resembling a Spider-Man comic.  Sadly, there’s one very notable exception, and it is…



Norman Osborne and Gwen Stacy

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So yeah, I’m guessing most comic fans in the know probably expected this one to show up somewhere.  A few of you are probably wondering if this really happened.  Sadly, it very much did.  In 2004 Marvel published a story called Sins Past, where it was revealed that Norman Osborne impregnated Gwen Stacy with twins, who she secretly gave birth to in France before her death in New York.  Already, this is enough to earn this a spot here on the list.

Originally Spider-Man’s writer at the time J. Michael Straczynski wanted to have the twins be Peter’s kids before Marvel’s editors shut that idea down, so I put most of this blame on them.  Straczynski at least wanted to correct this terrible mistake during One More Day, but, again, Marvel’s editors didn’t allow it.  This is all part of the crime scene that is Marvel’s editorial board during this era of Spider-Man, and boy, does this one just sort of bum me out.

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As anyone can tell you, this story does a real disservice to Gwen Stacey’s character.  It’s so obvious of a betrayal and counter to the character and the idea behind her and her death that most fans, and even Marvel itself, generally prefer to pretend this never happened.  I mean, why would she even want to sleep with someone like Norman Osborne?  It just makes no sense.  Sins Past and by association this relationship remain infamous for just being one of the most lousiest, sleaziest, and back-handed moments in Spider-Man history.  Why Marvel can’t just leave The Night Gwen Stacy Died alone is beyond me.  One could argue they were running out of ideas but Spider-Man is so broad and has so many directions it could go I would counter this was just a real lack of creativity on the part of Marvel, and, as much as I like the guy, Straczynski, too.  At least he was willing to take his share of the responsibility for all of this and tried to fix things.

It was an ugly story, and one thing I think people overlook is that as bad a treatment as this was for Gwen’s character, it didn’t make Norman Osborne look much better, either.  Look, I could be wrong, but I always kind of liked Gwen’s death because it felt so random and incidental.  Norman recovered from amnesia, became the Green Goblin again, and, knowing Spider-Man is Peter Parker, kidnapped Gwen and threw her off a bridge.  It’s a brutal and important moment in Spider-Man’s history, and the second real death that left him devastated.

What works for it, in my view, is that Norman didn’t really have anything against Gwen, he just used her as a tool to get at Spider-Man.  It works better to me that the two don’t have this weird, complicated relationship prior to this.  It makes the Goblin more menacing if it were just kind of a random act of violence.  He didn’t care about Gwen or who she was, it was all just a means to victory, as far as Norman was concerned.

Having this weird, unnecessary scheme and relationship with Gwen makes Norman more like his modern depictions which are, in my opinion, less interesting.  He was more fun when he was just a dude in a suit messing around with things than the one who’s always behind the most convoluted and insane plans in Spider-Man’s life.  Sins Past felt more in line with the Norman behind Clone Saga than The Night Gwen Stacy Died, and that’s not good, and while the damage to Gwen’s character was worse, when it comes right down to it, no character was done any favours by this story and relationship.  We only lost something with this one.



Ms. Marvel and her son

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I am disturbed as some of you might be that incest is a bit of a recurring theme on this list, but, well, that’s hardly my fault, is it?  In 1980 writer David Michelinie and then editor-in-chief were working on Avengers #200.  It was a big landmark issue for the series, so they wanted a story that would be considered worthy of such a big part in Avengers history.  And what did they go with?

Well the issue starts off with Ms. Marvel mysteriously becoming pregnant and instantly giving birth.  The baby grows up, practically overnight, and instantly falls in love with his mother.  It turns out Carol was impregnated by this boy, named Marcus, who is like, some weird, trans-dimensional being, and now he’s in love with her.  He then kidnaps Carol, and, using mind control devices, forces her to have sex with him.  Against her will.

Now under the influence of Marcus, Carol agrees to go with him into this Limbo rift thing where they will live out the rest of their lives together, and what do the Avengers think?  Oh, they’re cool with it.  They don’t even try to stop her.

So, uh, this winds up being the weirdest, worst, and most messed up relationships out there in comic book history, and I think it’s pretty self-evident why that is.  What is most alarming is the way the comic book treats the whole thing.  It makes it very clear this is a rape.  Controlling somebody’s mind and forcing them to have sex with you would be rape, yet the comic treats this as almost romantic, as if there is nothing is wrong with what’s happening here.  It’s a weird story baffling in it’s implication and design, and it’s really disappointing to know that Jim Shooter had a hand in executing this story.

The only apparently sane person working with the company at the time, Chris Claremont, saw this, and, appropriately outraged over this behaviour, wrote a comic a year later depicting Carol’s return and very much acknowledging that the Avengers just let her be kidnapped and raped by an alien entity.  Taken in by the X-Men, Professor Xavier saved and protected her from Marcus’ influence (thus ensuring this sort of thing could never happen again), only for the Avengers to show up, as if nothing happened, and wanting her back on their team.

What Carol said next I will repeat here because it is simply too good not to:

“My mistake was trusting you.  After a trauma like mine, it’s easy to wallow in bitterness and self-pity, but both grief and… guilt… have to be faced, dealt with, exorcised.  There’s more – there has to be more – to being heroes than simply defeating villains.  You have a role, a purpose, far greater than yourselves.  You have to set examples, lead the way.  You represent what we should be.  What we dream of becoming, not what we are.  You screwed up, Avengers.  That’s human.  What is also human is the ability to learn from these mistakes.  To grow.  To mature.”

Damn Chris Claremont.  You know when the best X-Men writer ever chews you out for your story, you done screwed up.  I think he nicely summarizes what’s wrong with this relationship and what is so terrible about this story, but I also like how he leaves the Avengers, and, by proxy, the creators of this story room to own up to their mistakes and do better in the future.  That’s a nice touch and learn Marvel did.  Never again did Carol Danvers do anything questionable and… oh, right… never mind…

This disaster of a relationship has become notorious among fans and I think really represents the worst of the worst to me.  But maybe it doesn’t to you!  Let me know which relationships you think are the worst in the comments section below!

NEXT:  10 New 52 Comics RANKED!!!

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