DC Comics Handled (Pre-Internet) Spoilers Embarrassingly Poorly
We are now officially at that time of the year when a bunch of people awkwardly get together to make stilted conversation and pretend they like each other: yes, we're talking about The CW's annual DC superhero show crossover:
This year's event is called "Armageddon" and has nothing to do with DC Comics' Armageddon 2001 crossover series published in 1991, but let's go ahead and use that as an excuse to talk about the embarrassing behind-the-scenes mess surrounding that comic anyway.
See, Armageddon 2001 had a pretty dramatic premise: a being called Waverider travels from the future to find out which of today's ("today" being 1991) superheroes will kill all the others and turn into a tyrant called Monarch in 2001 (because that was just a cool-sounding year before, you know). Any DC superhero could be the future traitor ... except for Superman, Batman, or Wonder Woman, obviously, because they make DC too much money. But any of the others was a realistic possibility.
Over the next several months, Waverider went around touching as many DC heroes as he could to merge with their timelines and find out what they'd be up to in the year 2001. What this serial groper didn't know at first was that he was only seeing possible futures (hence why Superman is being killed by Batman in one flash-forward and being sworn-in as U.S. president in another). The only heroes who were ruled out as Monarch in all possible futures were DC's foremost will-they-won't-they superhero couple, Hawk and Dove. Waverider says: "No matter the future ... they fought him, never became him." And not only do they fight Monarch, but they hook up and have a daughter who is destined to end him.
DC's original plan was for Monarch to be Justice League member Captain Atom, who is basically Watchmen's Dr. Manhattan but less powerful and not as fond of public exhibitionism. The whole story was planned to lead up to this revelation -- Waverider's final stop before the end of the crossover was Justice League Europe Annual #2, which ended with Captain Atom being touched. The only problem was that a lot of readers figured out the ending before time, mainly because 1) they knew Cap's comic was getting canceled soon, and 2) a 1-900 phone line that gave out fun facts about DC straight up said, "Captain Atom is Monarch" to anyone who called. Yes, before the world wide web and social media, you had to pay for the privilege of having some jackass spoil your favorite series.
When DC found out that their shocking ending wasn't so shocking anymore, they panicked and looked at the lowest-selling comic taking part in the crossover ... which happened to be Hawk & Dove. Even though they'd specifically ruled out both of them from being Monarch, DC hastily rewrote the end of the series so that Hawk kills Dove, goes crazy, and decides he might as well kill everyone else too. On top of being a cheap move, this makes that panel up there of Monarch hitting on Hawk's (read: his own) daughter pretty disturbing.
Hawk/Monarch stayed a villain for over a decade until other writers attempted to fix the contradictions by revealing that Dawn's murder was an illusion created by a future wizard. She didn't die, she was merely sent into a magic coma and impregnated by a mind-controlled Hawk, which is ... better? Meanwhile, Captain Atom was turned into the murderous new Monarch in 2006, but it was only a phase, and his buddies forgave him when he decided to be good again. So, yeah, we can see why The CW looked at this storyline and went, "Haha, nope, doing something completely different instead."
Top image: DC Comics