5 Superheroes Rendered Ridiculous by Gritty Reboots
Comic book characters get stale after a while. It's true, it happens. Peter Parker can't be an awkward high school student forever, right? We get that. We understand that, occasionally, the powers that be need to shake things up a little bit and change some stuff around to keep their characters fresh. Sometimes, like with the new gun-toting Captain America reboot, it's fucking awesome.
But other times, it's... well, this list.
Wonder Dog Goes on a Rampage (Teen Titans )
Equal parts Astro and Scooby Doo, Wonder Dog is the loyal, harmless sidekick to the Super Friends circa 1970.
"Let's slide Wonder Dog into a modern setting in Teen Titans. But let's make him edgy and tough, for teenagers! Scooby Doo is for babies!"
In case you're not immediately familiar with 1970s superheroes, we'll give you a crash course. The Super Friends were a conglomeration of superheroes and Wonder Dog was a dog. The poor man's Wonder Twins to Wonder Dog's poor man's Gleek came in the form of two kids named Marvin and Wendy, whose super powers included "taking care of Wonder Dog" and "not having any superpowers."
If the dog you're "taking care of" has superpowers, your only responsibility is cleaning up his shit.
Recently, the writers of Teen Titans decided to reintroduce Marvin and Wendy as the caretakers of the Titan's secret hideout: a giant building shaped like a T, (for "Titan." Or "Teen." Or "ReTarded."). Because no one wants to watch two irritating, non-fucking teenagers in a cartoon about superheroes, Wonder Dog was re-introduced as Marvin and Wendy's adorable pet.
Little known fact: "Muh muh" is the only sound one can make when faced with pants-shitting terror.
Now, if you compare this photo to the one above, clearly there are a few differences right off the bat. First, you can tell that Wendy's doing her nails differently, and that Marvin got rid of that awful haircut. Also, Wonder Dog turned into the Hound of the Fucking Baskervilles and ripped out Marvin's sternum, murdering him in the process. Apparently in this version, Wonder Dog was invented by an evil mastermind to use his adorable lovability to win his way into the hearts of the Teen Titans immediately before tearing them out.
This character reboot is a rare case that seems like it was brought on for absolutely no one. Who would want this? Nostalgia-loving fans of the original dog will be heartbroken to see a piece of their childhood distorted so profoundly, and the kids who actually read Teen Titans will be traumatized beyond pissing their pants. They'll have transcended straight on through to a new level of fear wherein they piss their own souls.
Why would anyone want that?
Santaman! (Superman: At Earths End)
Superman, arguably the most famous comic book character of all time, is an orphaned alien who stands for Truth, Justice and the American Way. He embodies an ideal man in his morals, dependability and convictions--the kind of person every American should strive to be like.
"It's the 90s and Superman's morals, dependability and convictions are starting to look dated. Let's sacrifice all of that for a badass and tough Superman that doesn't take any shit!"
The Bonus Plan:
"Also, let's give him a crazy beard so he looks like Santa!"
Oh, gosh, where to begin? Probably with the general creation of this story. As stated, it was the 90s when this comic was written. Alan Moore and Frank Miller's darker, grittier comics were already huge in America. Everyone was more inclined to damn The Man and less inclined to salute him, and so Superman's principles of justice and truth and whatnot were looking more and more old fashioned every day. Instead of stepping up to defend, you know, the law, the creators decided to toughen/crazy Superman up by moving him into the future. In a post-apocalyptic Gotham, where children are hunted by robots, Superman shows up angry and beardy and ready to fight. The robots were created by "The DNA Diktators," designed to wipe out the human race so we can start over. These Diktators have also taken to cloning the late Batman's DNA so, in addition to child-murdering robots, there are a bunch of evil Batman-clones flying around, and none of this is sitting too well with the newly re-vamped version of homeless Superman.
"A Superman," we wish he'd said.
So, Superman heads underground to track down the DNA Diktators and stop them, as the Man of Steel is wont to do. Spoiler alert: The DNA Diktators are twin clones of Hitler.
Not only did this comic decide to clone Hitler (twice), but they also decided to retcon American History by saying that these clones had been alive for hundreds of years and, as a result, WWII never officially ended.
It's actually sort of a powerful moment. Superman has a fairly strict no-killing policy, as that would interfere with his ironclad moral code, it's sort of what makes him who he is. On the other hand, it is the future and he's faced with two clones of arguably the most evil man on the planet, and also he has a beard. This is, we can say, the toughest and beardiest test of Superman's willpower. Will he stick to his code and turn the Hitlers over to the authorities to make sure that justice is done?
No. He finds the biggest most impractical gun in the world and shoots the piss out of them. Like, right out of them. And the shit frosting that tops off this abortion cake? He celebrates his victory against the Hitlers by retrieving Batman's corpse...
...and cremating himself.
Yep. No more Truth, Justice and the American way. The creators felt that Superman's moral, by-the-books boyscout routine was getting a little hokey, so they went ahead and violated everything that Superman stood for by having him grow a wicked beard, go shithouse-crazy on a couple of Hitlers and burn himself alive, and it was still one of the worst comics of all time.
Iron Man becomes Nazitron (Civil War)
Tony Stark, the brilliant billionaire, is also Iron Man, the invincible super hero, which makes him more likely to get ass than you on no less than two levels.
"Let's get Iron Man out of crimefighting and into ridiculous bureaucratic political bullshit!"
What, the plan didn't tip you off? Alright, then let's start at the beginning. Regular comic-readers already know what we're about to say: Iron Man (the movie) was the best thing to happen to Iron Man (the comic) ever. Ever. Robert Downey, Jr. is a suave, quick-witted and charming son of a bitch; the kind of guy it's impossible not to like, and he brought a lot of that to Iron Man. If you didn't know any better, you just might think that Tony Stark was a likable, lady-killing badass.
But you do know better, don't you Comic Book Nerd?
To the comic-reading audience, Iron Man was always sort of a massive tool; a bland billionaire who built a super-suit because one day he decided he was bored of just spending his days sitting atop a giant pile of money with many beautiful women. He was Batman without any of Batman's cool edge or interesting flaws or troubling homoerotic undertones. Sure, he had his alcoholism, but that just sort of enhanced his dickishness. The folks behind Marvel needed something more. So gradually, they started shifting Iron Man's priorities away from supervillains and towards international affairs. He held a political office, ignored supervillains and had entire comics where he just sat around talking to Professor X and Dr. Strange.
Stark's political arc hit a fever pitch in the Marvel crossover event Civil War, which involved a new law that required superheroes to register themselves, including their secret identities, or face the consequences. Iron Man, not content with the level of dickishness inherent to being born into wealth, decided to head up the task force charged with apprehending superheroes who refused to reveal their secret identities--willingly. He chased down his former friends and tried to arrest them on the grounds that they were bad for America even if the guy he was arresting was, for example, Captain America. But he didn't do it alone, he created and hired The Thunderbolts, a group that was exclusively made up of supervillains that lived in a hollowed out mountain with their own personal army. And since that wasn't nearly insane enough, he made Norman Osborn (the Green Goblin) their overseer. It went about as well as you would expect.
It gets worse. Once Tony and his army of hired supervillains rounded the heroes up, guess where he put them. Prison? No. Protection? Nope. He permanently interred them in an extra-dimensional concentration camp in "The Negative Zone," a dimension of infinite evil revolving around the Giant Vortex of Doom. No trial, no bail, no chance of ever leaving, which makes Iron Man sort of like Hitler, but in a giant metal suit.
And this comic was done because the old Iron Man was so bland and boring and, apparently, un-Hitler-like.
Geriatric Spiders and Poison Semen (Spider-Man: Reign)
Spider-Man is the witty, likable goofball that nerds everywhere can relate to. He's clumsy and has been dealt a few rough hands in his life, but he still fights the good fight with a smile on his perpetually young face.
"Let's fast forward to when Spider-Man is 60-years-old, so we can watch him fight crime as an old man after he's already retired from being a superhero. We'll set it in a bleak, ruined, twisted version of New York. It'll sort of be like Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, except it will also be exactly like that."
Here's what happens in a typical Spider-Man comic: Goofy-yet-lovable Peter Parker dresses in bright red tights, fights similarly ridiculous-looking villains and suffers from a genetic condition that forces him to make retarded quips and jokes every five seconds.
Now, here's what happens in Reign: Peter Parker wakes up, vomits, cries, hallucinates and gets fired from his job as a florist. No more humor, no more trademark witty mid-battle banter. Why? Because he's old and miserable. Why is he miserable? Because he killed Mary Jane with his radioactive semen.
Now, there's nothing wrong with dark and gritty superhero stories, we love The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen. But when you take the humor and heart away from Spider-Man and stick him in a terrifyingly grim future that finds him heartbroken, you take away everything that attracted Spider-Man readers in the first place. And, sure, guilt has been a hallmark in the Spider-Man comics forever, but when you have a comic where Parker accidentally fucks Mary Jane to death, you've officially crossed the line. At some point, you're straight up torturing Peter Parker. No one wants to watch a bitter, depressed old Spider-Man humorlessly fight bad guys in a perpetual state of mourning. If Spider-Man fans wanted to read The Punisher, then they would read The Punisher.
Still not convinced that Reign is the worst and weirdest thing to happen to Spider-Man? A little girl gets needlessly and viciously murdered by the police and, at one point, Spider-Man is carried to a cemetery by the robotic arms of the now-deceased Dr. Octopus (while the corpse is still fucking attached).
How about now?
Robbie Baldwin goes from Zany Teen-Wonder to Psychotic Masochist (Civil War, Again)
Speedball was a corny, forgettable young superhero who ran with the New Warriors and looked like an idiot. He was invented in the 80s (it was a weird time for all of us). Kids liked him.
"Does Speedball have any fans? Let's piss them way the hell off."
Speedball (Robbie Baldwin) was never the most captivating character--he was a science nerd who was in an extra-dimensional accident that gave him the semi-useful ability to run around real fast and bounce off of things--but he gained some fans with his youthful arrogance as he bounced from comic series to comic series. He was like a fluffier Spider-man, appealing to a young generation of comics readers. Then, the Civil War epic-Marvel-Comics-Holy-Shit-Event happened, and everything changed. While starring in a reality series about superheroes, the cocky Speedball rushed into battle against enemies he didn't quite understand, just so he could impress the fans at home. One thing led to another and, long story short, one of the villains blew up an entire school's worth of children. Speedball was the only one left alive and, as you'd expect, he felt a bit of guilt.
Instead of channeling his guilt into rigorous training, like Batman, or witty one-liners, like Spider-Man, Speedball decided to build a new suit and become Penance.
What's special about Baldwin's new suit is the fact that there are hundreds of tiny, sharp spikes built inside the costume, so they're constantly stabbing Baldwin whenever he moves, or breathes or exists or whatever. This works out OK, though. Apparently, a weird side of effect of "accidentally blowing up a shitload of kids" is that it shifts your superpowers; Penance can only use his powers when he's in horrible, horrible agony--so everybody wins, except Baldwin, who incidentally loses... constantly.
Yeah, look at that. That's the same guy from before. That's Speedball. He used to run around and shoot "energy bubbles" at bad guys. A wacky, cornball superhero who, let's face it, existed solely to sell comic books to little kids, was transformed overnight into a pointy, screaming lunatic who is constantly bleeding from hundreds of holes all over his body. Also, is this the best lesson to teach kids? When Spider-Man felt guilty, he decided to man up and knock off the selfishness with that whole "great power/great responsibility" thing. What's Penance's lesson? "Don't worry, kids. If you make a mistake, it's nothing that can't be easily remedied by a simple dose of ritualistic bleeding. Follow your dreams!"
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