Superhero fans now seem to exist in two distinct categories, based around whether or not they're intimately familiar with several decades' worth of the source material. For example, there is loud outrage when Superman breaks a dude's neck or Batman shoots up a street full of bad guys, presumably from people whose knowledge of those characters only go back to movies by Richard Donner and Tim Burton. If you dig back through the comics, however, you find that the moral histories of all of your favorite characters are messy, to say the least:

The Justice League Covers Up A Rape (By Mind-Wiping Batman)

The DC Rape Coverup And 5 Other Horrendous Superhero Plots
DC Comics

DC's Justice League Of America consists of the cream of the DC universe crop -- Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and everyone else. As the name would suggest, the Justice League generally stands for justice and do-goodery, even if they do squabble amongst themselves and cover up the occasional rape.

Oh, yeah, that happened. In the 2004 Identity Crisis storyline, it's revealed that the villain Doctor Light once raped Sue Dibny, wife of the Elongated Man (DC's budget equivalent of Mr. Fantastic).

NICE TO SEE you. SUE. SUE. SUE, SUZY-Q.
DC Comics

With dialogue from the worst Hostess snack cakes comic ad ever imaginable.

Now, introducing a rape storyline into a superhero comic involving well-known, established characters is never a decision that should be made lightly. But in Identity Crisis, DC went one step further into ill-advised territory by having the Justice League decide that the best way to deal with this issue was to use the magical powers of the lesser-known League member, Zatanna, to erase his mind. Instead of, you know, taking him to prison or something.

WE VOTED TO HAVE ZATANNA CHANGE HIM. AS CARTER SAID AT THE TIME. WE 'CLEANED HIM UP A BIT.
DC Comics

They took away all of his rapist tendencies except for the facial hair.

Of course, the writers of Identity Crisis didn't completely lack self-awareness. When Batman finds out about what his colleagues are doing, he immediately becomes the lone voice of reason.

BCALE IT WMATE you BRUCE. you DOIN62 W GIN : DONT UNDER SFAND. CAME BACK R 410 AI'D *t AD TO CoE BACK. SET AND OCE WIM SAN T NOWE
DC Comics

What does Batman know about being ra- Oh.

So do the other heroes realize the error of their ways and relegate Doctor Light to the due process that makes American democracy great? Nah, they just decide to mind-wipe Batman as well, thus tying up the whole story into a neat little rape-apologist package.

The DC Rape Coverup And 5 Other Horrendous Superhero Plots
DC Comics

"Add in a memory of me beating him at Monopoly."
"Superman, I don't think we really-"
"Add it in."

Superman Kills Zod (And The Rest Of The Kryptonians)

FOR THAT YOU'RE RESPONSIBLE You FOR THE MUST DEATHS OF A DE! BILLION BEINES--
DC Comics

When Man Of Steel hit theatres, a lot of people were annoyed by Superman's callous murder of General Zod, an ending that seemed to fly in the face of everything the titular Man Of Steel stands for. Every Superman fan knows that the Last Son of Krypton's one unbreakable rule is that he never kills people.

You know, except when he does.

You see, in the comics, Superman totally does kill Zod. And unlike in the movie, Superman doesn't even really feel that bad about it. In a 1988 storyline, Superman battles Zod and his Kryptonian cronies, ultimately stripping them of their powers and locking them in a pocket universe once again. As usual, the villains vow revenge and promise to return to Earth one day.

Hamne yoU MAY YOU CANNOT yOu CANNOT HAVE eeel 70P US. EVEN RETURN LIS URPANERS. TO THE PHANRM SUPERMAN. BUT THOT ZONE! WILL AVAT YOU NOOTNES! WE WL FI
DC Comics

"When a comic book writer has no new ideas but deadline is in an hour ... we will be there."

But this time, Superman decides that he doesn't want to keep going through the same old bullshit over and over again so, with the inscrutable calmness of a serial murderer, he uncorks a canister of Kryptonite and fucking melts them with a wave of space radiation.

No! eeen NPYPEONOITE NO!
DC Comics

Oh, for the days when wrecking shitloads of cars was the biggest dick move of Superman's career.

Rather than administering a few quick neck-snaps, Superman offers a throwaway line about this being the hardest thing he's ever had to do, and then stands there with a distinct lack of anguish as his enemies slowly and painfully fall to their knees and die, begging for their lives. Zaora, the female villain, even offers herself as a sex slave with her final breath, in a desperate abandonment of dignity and pretense. Superman reacts to this as if she offered him a shitty baseball card trade.

SUPERMAN... T WILL... BE SUC AS... OUR... SLAVE... YOUNEVER... PLEASE.. SPARE ME AND I WILL... OREANED.. I WBLL Do ANE CHCIN VOLL THINS! PLEARUIRES..
DC Comics

"Like you ever could've competed with the Hand Of Steel, anyway."

Say what you will about Zack Snyder, but at least his Superman never tortured a woman to death.

Marvel's Ultimates Universe Turns Everyone In The Marvel Universe Into Maniacs

The DC Rape Coverup And 5 Other Horrendous Superhero Plots
Marvel Comics

In 2000, Marvel decided that its comics were a little too family-friendly, and lacked the kind of gritty ultraviolence that audiences really craved. The result was the Ultimate Universe, a branch off of the regular Marvel headliners that "matured" the comics with gore and incest subplots. You know, all the things that sophisticated adult readers enjoy.

The series concluded in 2009 with the Ultimatum storyline, which begins with Magneto committing genocide, and only gets darker from there. By the end of the series, half of the characters in the Marvel universe have been violently murdered. And because Ultimatum wasn't interested in doing anything by half measures, this killing spree includes giant fat mutant Texan the Blob eating the Avengers' Wasp. We don't mean he accidentally swallows the Wasp whole while she's tiny -- he tears her stomach open with his teeth like a goddamned velociraptor.

4FES E CHCKN
Marvel Comics

It can be said, without hyperbole, that this is the most hideous panel
in the history of popular comics, if for no other reason than the Blob's unsightly shoulder acne.

In the end, it's discovered that Doctor Doom is the one behind Magneto's rampage and the ensuing carnage. Ben Grimm, the Fantastic Four's Thing, travels to Doom's fortress in order to give him a stern talking-to. And by "stern talking-to," we mean the ever-lovin' blue-eyed Thing crushes Doom's head like an overripe melon.

TH5 S AY HOMEL LFAE NOu or I WILL DESTRON VOU DEED DOESNT HVE THE STOMACH FORT BUT VA NDTTA PAN FOR MHAT YOU DID O0 EVERYTHING THAT MAPPENTD. v4s AL Y
Marvel Comics

He then super taps on Namor's fish tank and flushes the corpse down the toilet.

Needless to say, Ultimatum was met with pretty mixed reviews. The Ultimate Universe limped along for a few more years before being abandoned in 2015, but not before retconning Doom's death by revealing that the person whose head was squashed was actually Sue Storm's mom in disguise. This is apparently the one aspect of comics that Marvel didn't think was too childish for the Ultimates.

Iron Man Poisons San Francisco And Defrauds Its Citizens

The DC Rape Coverup And 5 Other Horrendous Superhero Plots
Marvel Comics

Iron Man is an asshole. It's one of the three defining aspects of his personality, the other two being alcoholism and punching (which, if we're being honest, are just degrees of being an asshole). In the Superior Iron Man series, Marvel decided to take Tony Stark's assholery to its only logical conclusion -- he designs a "freemium" phone app.

The storyline has Stark travel to The City By The Bay, where he decides to contaminate the water supply with the Extremis virus, which gives people Wolverine-like healing abilities. Then he lies and tells everyone that their newfound health is due to a free phone app he designed. Once the population is addicted, he announces that it was only a free trial and forces everyone to pay an ongoing daily fee of $99.99. Because Tony Stark didn't get to be a billionaire by giving stuff away.

T FASE EXTREMIS 3.0 ) FBIE TRUAL PERO OVER O/ER DALLT RENEWEALE $99.99 ITS CON
Marvel Comics

Leave it to a genius playboy philanthropist to out-Kim a Kardashian.

Of course, none of this has much to do with crimefighting so much as, well, felony extortion. Which is why Daredevil tries to kick Stark's head in when he discovers the plot. Daredevil, of course, is both a superhero and a lawyer, so he knows some illegal bullshit when he sees it.

The DC Rape Coverup And 5 Other Horrendous Superhero Plots
Marvel Comics

"Here's the phone, turn yourself in."
"That's not the phone."
"..."

Still convinced that he's somehow in the right here, Stark retaliates by infecting Daredevil with the virus, which restores Daredevil's sight. The cure is only temporary, but Stark wants Daredevil to see what a great thing he's doing. He even promises to waive the exorbitant charge, because he's such a nice guy.

I TALLOORD A STRAIN OF EXTREMIS TO TEMPORARLY SEND A SIGNAL THROUGH YOUR OCULAR NERVES AND RFDUCF THF SCARRING ON YOUR RETINAS. I WON'T Me LAST LONG.
Marvel Comics

"And did you steal my glasses too?!"

Unfortunately for Stark, Daredevil isn't so easily bribed, and promises to shut down Stark's operation anyway. So Stark resorts to his Plan B -- tying Daredevil down and giving him an electric shock lobotomy to make him forget the entire thing. Just to recap, Iron Man is a Silver Age comic superhero, and a founding member of the Avengers, who is now electrocuting his blind friend's brain so that he may continue to extort people with a bogus smartphone app.

BUT YOU STARKI CAN'T STOP THIS SFE THF BIGGER WHATEVER PICTURE. THIS IS. JUST- SHHHH MIK. WERE GOING TO START NAARCH! OVFR DEET IT's OKAY, MATT
Marvel Comics

"'See the big picture', get it? Cause you're blind ... Fuck you, that's gold."

It all winds up with Matt waking up in the hospital, confused and unable to remember why he's there. Stark magnanimously offers to pay his hospital bill and strolls on out.

I'LL LEAVE you TO IT. THE SPECIALISTS TELL ME THAT WITH A BRAIN INJURY LIKE THIS. youtl NEED TO BE CLOSELY MONITORED AND SDEND AT LFAST A FEW WEEKS IN
Marvel Comics

The only thing missing from the last panel is for Stark to look directly at the reader and wink while a laugh track plays.

Superboy Murders Bizarro For No Reason

The DC Rape Coverup And 5 Other Horrendous Superhero Plots
DC Comics

Bizarro is one of the more, well, bizarre characters of the DC comics universe. He's basically the evil, mirror-image version of Superman, his whole shtick being that he speaks in reverse and always says the opposite of what he means which, in addition to defining his character, makes him completely impossible to be around. In recent years, he's been seen hanging out with other mirror-universe villains like "Batzarro" and "Bizarro Flash," the latter of which's superpower is extraordinary slowness. Writing Bizarro characters is apparently what DC does on weeks when they're short-staffed.

Anyway, when Bizarro was first introduced in 1958, he wasn't a villain. In Superboy #68, a throwaway character named Professor Dalton invents a cloning ray for thin plot-forwarding reasons. Predictably, the device malfunctions, and winds up creating Bizarro.

ER... NOT QUITE! IT'S HARDLY, SUPERBOY AN IMPERFECT REMEMBER. IT'S MADE DUPLICATE, JUST OF NON-LIVING LIKE THE RADIUM MATTER! WEILL AND JEWEL! THIS DE
DC Comics

"You are uncomfortably at ease with random corpses popping up in your lab."
"Yes ... my lab ..."

But rather than an evil mirror version of Superboy, the original Bizarro was just a pathetic simpleton driven to chronic depression by his own existential crisis. After escaping the lab, he lives a short, Frankenstein-inspired life, rejected by everyone he meets, including the people who he thinks are his parents.

DON'T CALL ME MOM! SHE HATE ME TO0?.. I... I DON'T KNOW WHO.. MY OWN MOM?... SHE OR WHAT you ARE TURN ME AWAy BUT PLEASE GO. SOB! PLEASE. GASP!E
DC Comics

"Would it help if Bizarro call you 'Martha'?"

The only friend he's able to make is a blind girl who can't see the Euclidean geometric diagram that passes for his face. Which would almost be a bittersweet ending to the tragedy of his life, if it weren't for the fact that the entire time that Bizarro is trying to find his place in the world, Superboy is out there trying to brainstorm ways to destroy him, because Superboy has confused "not technically alive" with "doesn't deserve to exist."

Eventually, Superboy decides that the fragments of the machine that created Bizarro should have the same effect on Bizarro that Kryptonite has on Superboy, because comic book logic. During the final "confrontation," such as it is, Bizarro doesn't even try to fight back -- he placidly accepts his fate as Superboy calmly explains how he's not a real person with real feelings, and thus deserves death. You may recognize this as a phrase from Hitler's personal stationery.

PResENTLY, AS SUPERBOY SPEEDS 7O MEET BIZARRO IN MELISA'S GARDEN... YOU... YoU SORRY, BIZARRO... I HAVE GOING TO KILL ME? TO DESTROY YOU WITH THIS WEL
DC Comics

"Life is Bizarro's Hell. Death bring Bizarro sweet peace he so craves."

Bizarro's death resulted in the blind girl getting her sight back, for no reason except that, again, this is comic logic. Superboy has a momentary spark of self-reflection, where he muses whether it was right to murder the sad, harmless Bizarro for the crime of existing.

The DC Rape Coverup And 5 Other Horrendous Superhero Plots
DC Comics

Literally one issue later, he sacrifices a Robot Him to defeat some baddie-of-the-week, so ... Yes, totally right, apparently.

Then, in true heroic fashion, Superboy applies no lesson from this experience to his life and never thinks about it again.

Black Panther Is Withholding The Cure For Cancer

Even CHOUGH IC IS KrtLinG M1E.
Marvel Comics

For those of you who somehow missed his butthole-detonating introduction into the Marvel Cinematic Universe this past summer, Black Panther is the king and protector of the fictional African nation of Wakanda. He's also the sometimes lover, and former husband, of X-Men's Storm, which means every world-threatening conflict adds an extra layer of stress for the two of them.

you SHOULDIVE TOLD ME you YOU STUBBORN. WERE HARBORING A SIXTEEN- PIGHEADED YEAR-OLD GIRL WITH THE MAN. POWER TO BLOW UP PLANETS. THI4 15 EXACTLY WHY
Marvel Comics

Their last marriage counselor tried to get them to communicate via hand puppets
and was struck by lightning seventeen times.

Wakanda is a nation that is technologically advanced even beyond the western world. A recent Black Panther storyline, penned by Reginald Hudlin, highlighted the technological superiority of Wakanda by revealing that the nation's top minds actually know the cure for cancer -- and they're not sharing it.

WE HAUE SEABCHED EVERYWHERE. THEN FOM LANGLEY VIRGINIA WANT TO JOHANNESRLIRG. SOUITH THE DNA EROM AFRICA ONLY DID HE HIS ASHES DISAPPEAR AETER THE NO
Marvel Comics

Not pancreatic, breast, or colon cancer. Just, cancer. All the cancer.

Apparently, the West doesn't deserve to know how to cure cancer because they still sell cigarettes. Furthermore, Black Panther and the Wakandan council are convinced that, if they did share the cure for cancer with the rest of the world, America would just weaponize it somehow. Though we're not sure how "curing cancer" can be converted into a weapon unless the cure is administered via machine gun.

The DC Rape Coverup And 5 Other Horrendous Superhero Plots
Marvel Comics

Nothing says "spiritual maturity" like denying people the cure
to the most devastating disease in history because they aren't on your level.

This is made even worse by the fact that several superheroic allies of Black Panther are currently suffering from terminal cancer, including Captain Marvel and the current Thor, Jane Foster. Essentially, members of his superhero softball team are dying of cancer, and he's keeping the cure from them because they didn't throw in for a tip the last time they all went out for drinks. Here's hoping you manage to defeat Thanos before half the team succumbs to chemotherapy side effects, you dick.

Tara Marie writes about comics here, on Twitter, and other places.

For more superheroes that acted like real big jerks, check out The 6 Most Sadistic Superhero Revenge Schemes Of All Time and The 7 Biggest Dick Moves In The History Of Superheroes.

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