Crapsack World: Comic Books
"The Streets are extended gutters and the gutters are full of blood and when the drains finally scab over, all the vermin will drown."
- In the Italian comic book Alan Ford by Max Bunker, the society of New York City is basically separated in two social classes (the rich and the poor), the city is ruled by three cheaters who look like pigs and pretty much every character outside of the titular protagonist Alan Ford and his companions of the TNT Group is either an asshole or a moron.
- Basin City a.k.a. Sin City is one of the darker examples of a Crapsack World. It's a crime-ridden hellhole where vicious gangsters rule the streets and scum prey on the innocent, the police range from incompetent to outright corrupt (they even have a death squad to deal with those who get too close to the real bastards behind it all), and even the heroes of the setting tend to be ruthless sociopaths.
- New Port City, the setting of the comic book Bomb Queen, is a criminal mecca where virtually every citizen is a crook, murderer, drug dealer, member of a hate group, or at the very least beats and/or rapes their children. Even people who were normal before they moved there turn evil. The city's dictator is a supervillainess with a sky-high approval rating. Superheroes are illegal. Throughout the city are designated crime zones where anything goes.
- The universe of Judge Dredd. After the Atomic War of 2070, most of the planet has been reduced to a radioactive wasteland populated by mutants, criminals, and exiles. Most of the remaining population has congregated into sprawling megacities, all of which are under martial law. And Mega-City-One itself certainly counts. 97% of the population is unemployed, there is a massive suicide and crime rate, and such harsh book laws that people can be arrested simply for the possibility that they might be hiding something. Mutants in the megacities live under a system of apartheid, with expulsion as the worst punishment possible. Insurgencies, attempted revolutions, and terrorist attacks are all disturbingly frequent.
The rest of the world isn't much better either. The Atlantic is severely polluted, the self-proclaimed Mongolian Free State is a safe haven for criminals, the Mediterranean coast has been ravaged by mutagens, two giant deserts have formed in Africa, and some places, such as Indonesia, are completely lawless. And Ireland has been transformed into a country-sized theme park. And then Judgement Day happened.
Deadworld, the home dimension of Judge Death, is by far the worst locale. Life itself is illegal, reducing the planet to basically a giant graveyard policed by four psychopathic undead Judges.
- San Futuro, the home city of Marshal Law, is a post-earthquake wreck largely populated with psychologically damaged war veterans, who also have superpowers.
- Almost any of the graphic novels of Alejandro Jodorowsky. The Metabarons is essentially one long Greek tragedy in space; Technopriests features game designers worshiping a monster whose purpose is to plunge the universe into a deep, inescapable depression; and Megalex features a polluted Earth where the inhabitants make endangered species extinct for fun.
- The setting of Mark Millar's Wanted plays with this: the villains who finally beat the heroes changed reality to make it a Crapsack World... in other words, ours.
- Except it's worse than our world, because it's our world secretly ruled by a conspiracy of supervillains, who can do everything they want, we have no power to change the situation and it wasn't always this way. At least our world isn't (I hope)
- And even worse, Wanted shares the world with two other comics - Chosen and The Unfunnies. So it means that The president of the United States is an Anti Christ and Satan is very real and actively trying to bring the Apocalypse and that people can enter the worlds they wrote by switching places with their characters, exposing completely innocent beings to general crappiness of their world.
- The City (it has no other name) and much of the planet, from what little is seen of it, of the series Transmetropolitan.
- Spider Jerusalem notes that it was even worse when he was a kid, though, and it seems like it's pretty good for the "haves". The "have-nots", on the other hand...
"The future is inherently a good thing. And we move into it one winter at a time. Things get better one winter at a time. So if you're going to celebrate something, then have a drink on this: the world is, generally and on balance, a better place to live this year than it was last year. ...For instance, I didn't have this gun last year." (The gun in question being a fully-automatic snowball gun.)
- The world of Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, especially as filtered through the eyes of its pessimistic main character.
- Just how much of a Crapsack World that Johnny the Homicidal Maniac takes place in is best exemplified in the sixth issue, which occurs after Johnny's "death" and takes place almost entirely in the afterlife. Johnny finds that Hell is almost the same as Earth, the only major difference being, as Johnny puts it, "At least on Earth there were nice people mixed in with the social maggots."
- To be fair, this is Jhonen Vasquez... The filler strips were even greater offenders, with the tortured Fillerbunny and, worst if just because of it's purpose of being nothing other than a Crapsack World: Happy Noodle Boy. "It's quite popular with the homeless insane."
- Then there's Squee, where an entire universe seems to be acting its animosity out on one poor kid.
- Sam & Max live in this kind of world. Although it's downplayed in the animated series and the games, in the comic book it's much more evident. The titular characters seem constantly amused and delighted that they live in such a horrible world though, which stifles the more depressing and darker parts of this trope.
- Shakara takes place in a crapsack universe. In the past, the Shakara Federation ruled the galaxy with an iron fist, ruthlessly crushing dissent and forcing all other species and civilisation to conform to their own model. Eventually, Lara Procorpio released a genetic plague upon them, wiping out the entire species - at which point the alliance backing her started conquering the galaxies and spreading terror, chaos, and genocide across the stars. The last of the Shakara, a liquid being also called Shakara, lives only to see vengeance for its creators, which it accomplishes by committing xenocide on a scale that would be impressive in Warhammer 40,000 and only comes across as slightly sympathetic because its enemies are worse.
- There is another: The greatest shakara, the one who started the shakara federation is actually later revealed to be alive and untouched by the plague. he is also the one who is destroying every inhabited planet in the universe including gulp earth.
- New York City as presented in Watchmen is Crapsack on a level rivaled perhaps only by Taxi Driver. What's interesting is that the presence of superheroes actually caused it to become like that. It turns out that throughout the entire book Veidt has been manipulating things behind the scenes with the ultimate goal of subverting this trope and making the world a better place to live. The means with which he does this are questionable, however.
- The DCU's Earth-3, especially in the Earth 2 Graphic Novel. Evil is considered good, so Jeffrey Dahmer is president and people engage in recreational puppy kicking.
- Junessa from Gemini Storm is described like this. Ten years of monsters running around has caused decay and the streets aren't safe except for those accompanied by thirty guards. But if you're lucky enough to be employed by one of the rich families and are female, you're likely to get felt up because there are no cops to stop it.
- Darkseid's Apokolips is an Immutable Crapsack World. "Live for Darkseid! Die for Darkseid!"
- League of Extraordinary Gentlemen slips into this over the course of time, but it's pretty pronounced by the middle of Volume II.
- DC Comics' first Atari Force comic has one in its backstory. In the year 2005, Earth is ravaged by endless war and terror attacks, the United States has been shattered, the United Nations is dead, famine and disease are rampant, billions have already died, and a hemispheric drought has reduced the planet's arable land by a million acres. It's desperate enough that humanity's last hope is to send a team to travel across dimensions and try to find a new planet for everyone to colonize. What Do You Mean, It's for Kids?
- As if it really needed to be said, the setting of The Walking Dead is a really crappy place to live. Between the cannibalistic survivors who see you as little more than especially gullible prey, and Crazy Survivalists who will shoot you dead or rob you blind at gunpoint under the assumption that you'd do the same anyways, and that's ignoring the manipulative, dog-kicking dictators that have sprung up here and there, or the roving bands of raiders who are out to prove the aforementioned survivalists dead right. Oh, and also, there are zombies everywhere who naturally band together in ever-expanding, very sound-sensitive (easy on the guns!) groups, with all the usual baggage of infecting and killing a person with a single scratch.
- Nth Man: The Ultimate Ninja starts off in the middle of World War III, albeit a non-nuclear one fought with conventional weapons. It gets worse after a powerful telekinetic accidentally turns a biological weapon into a global mutagen instead.
- Featured prominently in Give Me Liberty, with inner-city ghettos turned into virtual prisons, fast-food restaurants waging war for farmland, and the Divided States of America on the verge of a fifteen-way civil war.
- In the Green Lantern books, Sinestro Corpsman Karu-Sil's homeworld of Graxos III is this. Every single animal has at least some appetite for meat, ranging from opportunistic scavengers to incredibly aggressive predators. Karu-Sil's family was killed by their neighbors so the neighbors could claim their food supplies, and after that, she was raised by a family of the aforementioned predators. The predators were a step up; the murder was considered normal behavior.
- In some versions of Batman (especially those by Frank Miller) Gotham City is depicted as one of these, particularly in stories set early in Batman's career. It's often shown to be blighted by the worst in urban decay and crime, and it's often suggested that the entire police department is corrupt and venal apart from James Gordon. Several issues imply that evil and insanity are Inherent in the System and legends allude to an evil Bat-demon that has haunted the city (and especially Arkham Asylum) since its early days. Grant Morrisons Batman run suggests that the demon in question is actually a living embodiment of the evil Omega power of Darkseid, sent back in time as part of a convoluted scheme to kill Batman and destroy the Earth.; if not, then it just posed as it, implying the corruptive supernatural evil that plagues Gotham is still out there- that, or Gotham is just a Weirdness Magnet for maniacs and psychopaths.
- Gotham and Bludhaven can suck, but their status as the bottom of the barrel of DC's Earth cities is greatly exaggerated. The Question's Hub City is host to every urban city crapsack trope you can think of that's usually attributed to Gotham and Bludhaven, without there being a single positive thing about it such as Gotham's economy and industrial hotspot status. It's so bad, that by the end of the series The Question decides the best thing to do is give up and leave.
- Nightwing used to take place in Bludhaven, Gotham's sister city, which was, if possible, even worse. The corruption was so institutionalized that the clean cops were the ones that had to hide their actions. Sadly, just as things were starting to get better and the police department actually being cleaned up and turned honest, the entire city was nuked into a radioactive wasteland.
- The most infamous version is All-Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder where the superheroes are either sociopaths (Batman, Black Canary, Wonder Woman), future sociopaths (Batgirl, Robin), or morons (Superman, Green Lantern).
- The No Man's Land arc took the crapsack Gotham City and made it into a blighted, disease-ridden, quasi-apocalyptic hell hole where the villains far outnumbered the police. Then again, Gotham being Gotham, it's a wonder anybody noticed a difference.
- The Joker himself commented on Gotham's sheer horror with a single throwaway line in Tim Burton's Batman:
Harvey Dent: (on television) Together, we can make this city safe for decent people!
Joker: Decent people shouldn't live here. They'd be happier some place else.
- The DCU is one in the Flashpoint altered reality. To sum up: Kal-El never became Superman because after his ship crashed into Metropolis instead of Smallville (along with a meteor shower that wiped out the city), he was taken by the military and has spent his entire life being experimented on, as were Kara and Krypto when they arrived (unlike Kal, they didn't survive the experiments); Bruce Wayne died in place of his parents, causing his father to become a much more brutal Batman and his mother to become an even crazier version of The Joker; a Nazi remnant is in control of Brazil; Aquaman and Wonder Woman are at war, which has led to Britain being occupied by the Amazons and all of Western Europe being flooded; Grodd has conquered Africa and killed half the human population (and that's viewed as a background event); and meanwhile, the Black Lanterns and Manhunters are overrunning the Green Lanterns and destroying planets left and right. Needless to say, this is one of the crappiest worlds in comic book history, if not the crappiest of them all.
- The DCU may be considered this in general - not only is it the place Gotham, Bludhaven, Hub City and Apokolips exist, it's also the world where the worst criminals never face justice and even entire cities are constantly being destroyed by aliens and supervillains. That wouldn't be so bad, at least not much worse than the Marvel Universe, if it wasn't for Fridge Horror related to DC likenesses of Cosmic Retcons - you never know if tomorrow, you aren't going to wake up with your entire life or personality changed beyond recognition or won't wake up, as you don't exist and never existed at all, just because Superboy-Prime punched reality.
- And if you try to change anything, you'll become a Knight Templar and evil.
- The Wildstorm Universe wasn't ever a nice place to begin with, but at least there was some hope in it. Since the end of the world? Not so much. All cities have been completely leveled, superpowered beings rampage across the States, several of the most powerful people on the planet have gone insane, an army of the undead rises in Europe, the Wild CATS are fighting with Daemonities over the control of what's left of Los Angeles, there's a plague turning people into rampaging monsters spreading throughout Britain, The Authority is crippled, with most of members missing in action, depowered or unable to stay on Earth anymore, all places that are still decent are ruled by mad dictators and two extremely dangerous alien forces are preparing to invade the Earth.
- The Authority sometimes run into places like this, like Sliding Albion, where human and aliens have lived peacefully since the 16th Century, but went on so many world wars that most of the civilization is destroyed, world is literally poisoned, both races are slowly dying, China has been turned into giant rape camp and all is ruled by mad dictator and mass murderer. Or alternate Earth where a maniac called Adolf X had lead to extermination of all non-black people on the planet and created fascist dictatorship. Or the Earth where life is controlled by an Eldritch Abomination, that feeds on our life energy, its whole presence causes general misery to some people and occasionally makes them commit suicide or other horrible acts. Other than that, it's a world exactly like ours.
- It is little wonder that the Marvel Universe is often considered one of these. There are very many villainous persons of mass destruction, world-threatening private militias, overlords with Joker Immunity; Multiple warmongering alien armadas; Hordes of eldritch abominations, demon lords, evil deities, or casually genocidal Omniscient Morality License cosmic entities, and an Easy Road to Hell allegedly awaits most of the inhabitants. The moral messages are recurrently troubling, lost, or broken. Nineties antiheroes, heroes with an F in good, Byronic heroes, and sociopathic heroes are very prevalent. Other defining tropes include: Gorn, Dysfunction Junction, Failure Is the Only Option, Status Quo Is God, Cosmic Horror Story, Black and Gray Morality, and Hope Spot. The overall atmosphere tends to be cynical and hopeless, with the futures uniformly shown as dystopian. Increasing from the The Dark Age of Comic Books, and onwards. However, it should be noted that just because the foundation is crapsack, not all books set within it need to be.
- In a crossover between Marvel's The Avengers and The Justice League of America of DC, the Avengers immediately suspect the JLA have mind-controlled the populace simply because they find that the people in the DC-verse actually seem to like and respect their metahuman heroes and costumed adventurers.
- To give one major example of what a Crapsack World Marvel is: a man once ran for the position of Senator of the United States with a campaign promoting the creation of an army of Humongous Mecha with genetic scanning capabilities who would tirelessly patrol the country and immediately attack anyone detected as bearing the "X-gene"; if the target fought hard enough, they would be killed, otherwise they would be beaten unconscious and hauled off to disturbingly Nazi-like internment camps for life imprisonment. People actually supported him in such numbers he almost became Senator.
- And then of course there's the Ultimate Universe, which has everything that sucks about the Marvel Universe, but with the added fact that when you die a horrible death, you won't get lucky in the cosmic scheme of things and be reborn.
- Ironically, Ultimate Spider-Man (whose life in the mainstream is pretty much suck) seems to be the one with the better life. Sure, his life problems are as bad as in the mainstream universe, if not worse, but the people seem more willing to believe that Spider-Man is a hero instead of going against him the very moment he makes a little mistake, and even when he dies, people actually mourn his death and remember him as a hero, and even take great offense to anyone who does something that could be considered a disrespect to his memory.
- It's lampshaded in Cataclysm by several characters. It's noted by people in the Ultimate Universe that despite it's flaws, the mainstream Marvel Universe isn't nearly as bad as the Ultimate one, and Galactus, the Big Bad of the piece notes that the Ultimate Universe seems "broken" compared to the one he originated from.
- The Marvel Zombies universe is even worse.
- The world of Ruins, an alternate universe Anti-Marvels. Wolverine is dying of adamantium poisoning, Bruce Banner is a mass of tumors, the X-Men have all been imprisoned and experimented on by President Xavier, and Nick Fury is a crazy survivalist who was taught cannibalism by Captain America. After Phil Sheldon has investigated all this, trying to find out what's wrong with the world, he dies of radiation poisoning, because he was bitten by one of the radioactive spiders Peter Parker deliberately released in the Daily Bugle building. Would you be surprised to learn it was written by Warren Ellis?
- There is also the Cancerverse, in which a pack of Eldritch Abominations had killed Death, so life runs rampant, nothing can die and all living beings have been corrupted and often turned into monstrous versions of themselves and cosmic beings have been murdered and turned into weapons of mass destruction.
- The Bad Future of Old Man Logan counts: it's several decades since the villains seized control of the world, all but destroying it in the process, with most heroes dead or corrupt or just given up. The fact that The Incredible Hulk has gone mad and become one of the warlords, leading a vast brood of inbred redneck offspring who have inherited weaker versions of his powers, with the whole twisted clan being avid cannibals, is just one aspect of what makes this world so crapsack.
- During "Dead-End Kids", the Runaways ended up in New York City in 1907. Child labor is rampant and often occurs in unsafe work environments, child rape is technically legal if the rapist and the victim are married, lesbianism is considered either sinful or a sign of mental illness (and even suspected lesbians can get harassed by the police), and the closest available approximation to the Avengers is a gang of racist religiously-devout assholes who see no problem with killing people for "wickedness"... or just for being Chinese. As Molly Hayes put it, "1907 is ass."
- The Age of Apocalypse. Holy crap. The first we see of it, Bishop is climbing a literal mountain of corpses. It goes downhill from there.
- V for Vendetta: It's a post-nuclear wasteland, the second coming of the Nazis has taken power over Britain, and the only person who dares to stand up to them is an apparently insane terrorist who wants to replace them with... nothing (Anarchism). The characters themselves point out they would be better off dead. They really mean it.
- Who said Anarchism is something bad?
- V didn't want Anarchism, just revenge. He may have used philosophical anarchist ideals to justify his actions, but his real goal was his vendetta itself. Which, you have to recall, meant toppling the last surviving human society in a depopulated world...
- Season Eight of Buffy the Vampire Slayer makes the 'verse into pretty much an immutable Crapsack World: Buffy's empowerment of the potential Slayers achieved nothing good, the new generation Slayers die like flies, in horrible ways, and the empowerment somehow caused a near-destruction of the universe that was only averted by banishing the good magical entities from it or depowering them and leaving the usually-irredeemably evil ones still present and in force.
- Chaos Comics would win any comic-book crapsack contest. Let's see...the entire eastern United States is overrun with zombies controlled by a sadistic mass murderer, with the survivors barely scraping together a society as cities and towns are picked off one by one; said sadistic mass murderer has managed to hijack nuclear bombs and nuke a few world cities; vampires, werewolves, and sorcerers are real and are mostly unchecked; Hell is also real and apparently most people go there; and Heaven is run by angels who are indifferent to humanity and aren't even powerful enough to stop Lucifer from messing with their plans including the Rapture. Oh, and God is real too, but has abandoned the universe.
- Pick just about any of the Porn with Plot comics by Milo Manara; chances are it takes place in a Crapsack World. It's played for titillation and sometimes for laughs, but there is no such thing as a good, honest or decent person in these worlds; everyone is a corrupt, selfish Jerk Ass and the few who have any kind of redeeming qualities tend to end up either as Butt Monkeys, as victims of rape and/or violence, or Taking A Level In Jerkass by the end of the story — sometimes all three.
- Luther Arkwright: The primary parallel of the main story arc, 00.72.87, is dominated by ruthless dictatorial great powers all out to dominate the lesser powers and wreck the other great powers. Then it got worse in Heart of Empire.
What I saw was genocide, torture, rape and summary execution. Whole cities razed, whole countries crushed beneath the tracks of our ironclad dreadnoughts and bombed into submission by our skyships.
- Résurrection in Requiem Chevalier Vampire is a very Crapsack world.
- Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog was already pretty bad as it had been built off of Sonic Sat AM, but the Time Skip afterwards made things worse and, had the comic not been Screwed by the Lawyers and forced to do a Cosmic Reboot years later, things could have kept going that way.
- Idées Noires: Perhaps the best example. All the gags in this comic strip are Black Comedy about stuff that worry and depress most people: suicide, fear of world war, fear of the bomb, fear of nuclear power, fear of epidemics, ... but also fantastical After the End jokes, Take That comedy aimed at hunters, the death penalty and jokes about bizarre monsters.