Dork Age / Marvel

  • Speedball, a Fun Personified character who, after causingnote  a disaster that killed 600 people and going slightly nuts, renamed himself "Penance" and donned an iron-maiden-like costume that somehow activated his powers via pain and injury. Fans knew this "secret identity" the moment it came out, which, when coupled with the totally cheesy new outfit and the change of a cheerful character, put Bleedball firmly in the Dork Age the moment he returned. This was acknowledged, unsurprisingly, in a Squirrel Girl appearance where she points out all the flaws in this. Superheroes indirectly causing the deaths of people isn't a new occurrence, and, as revealed in another book, he himself wasn't even actually responsible for it. Penance responded to this by banging his head against a wall and snarling "You don't get it! I'm deep now!" Both Squirrel Girl and the fans had the same reaction. Speedball eventually came out of his Emo Teen phase. In his own miniseries, he tracked down the supervillain truly responsible for the disaster and locked him in his spiky suit so that he feels the pain of all the deaths he caused. That, and he's going through therapy with Doc Samson over in Thunderbolts. However, in Avengers Academy he is revealed to still be cutting himself with Penance's helmet. He claims it is because that is the only way for him to use his more powerful, Penance-based powers. It is left up to the reader to decide if that is true or not.
    • The recent Nova series seems to have completely and utterly dumped all of this in favor of the completely goofy Speedball we all know and love.
  • The Punisher
    • In The Punisher: Purgatory, Frank was turned from a mafia-hunting anti-hero into a supernatural force of vengeance on a path to redemption to be able to rejoin his family in heaven. This was undone with a Handwave by later writer Garth Ennis in his "Welcome Back, Frank" storyline.
      • A subtle nod to the Heavenly Enforcer period appeared in a volume two Thunderbolts issue, after Deadpool acquires an angel feather while in Mephisto's hell it heals Punisher from fatal injuries he'd received while he was still on Earth. Deadpool asks how someone so non-Heavenly as Punisher could possibly have anyone in Heaven interested in him (to paraphrase) only for Punisher to blow him off with a "don't want to talk about it".
    • Likewise Franken-Castle will be remembered fondly as a brief period of lunacy in Frank's life. There's no way the powers that be intended for a magic/SCIENCE half-robot Frankenstein's Monster Punisher to be a new cutting edge status quo. Even in the Heroic Age.
      • These days Franken-Castle exists only as an AU Punisher from a Monster Mash universe. He is part of the Avengers there (which also include monster forms of other heroes who had them in the mainstream 'verse in the past, like werewolf Captain America - see below - and vampire Wolverine). They only appeared briefly to tangle with the regular New Avengers and were offed unceremoniously.
    • John Ostrander's oft-forgotten run had Frank become the head of a Mafia family before things turned into an X-Men story that happened to star the Punisher, with Frank being roped into helping X-Cutioner and S.H.I.E.L.D. rescue an activist from the latest incarnation of the Mutant Liberation Front (here a false flag group backed by Humanity's Last Stand). The final issue had Frank incur amnesia, leading to the aforementioned Purgatory.
  • The Clone Saga in the Spider-Man titles was so maligned that fans nearly went into apoplexy when a version was announced for Ultimate Spider-Man. Basically, they tried to replace Peter Parker with a Suspiciously Similar Substitute because they thought that a married superhero couldn't sell and fans went livid with rage every time they tried to kill off his wife (you'd think this would clue them in that they might be wrong, but noooooo). But at the last second, they chickened out because Peter Parker had become too synonymous with Spider-Man to turn him into a Legacy Character franchise and the whole thing became a muddled mess. The fact that they kept on drawing out the story to try to sell more crossovers and tie-ins didn't help, either.
    • However, the Ultimate Marvel version of the Clone Saga has been much better received.
    • Marvel revisited the Clone Saga in a six-issue miniseries, penned by original architects Howard Mackie and Tom DeFalco, which was much more in line with the original idea, and has a much happier Everybody Lives ending.
    • And speaking of Spidey, by all means, let us (not) forget One More Day, another attempt to abort the marriage (by now twenty years strong), this time by Deal with the Devil. In fairness, only the relationship mess is the Dork Age; other changes from the accompanying retool tend to be judged more fairly. This is probably because a lot of the stuff implemented post-One More Day could have easily been implemented regardless of whether or not the protagonist was married, leaving a lot of people scratching their heads as to why the thing was necessary in the first place.
    • The retool itself, Brand New Day, zigzags this in that some aspects of it were hated (new love interests, inferior villains, weird plot developments, the Spider-Totem plot getting set aside, needless darkness) while others were liked and kept around (the Sinister Six getting revamps, Mr. Negative). Dan Slott being brought on as main writer pulled the book out of this uneven period, but Slott's run suffered its own brief Dork Age; the Spider-Verse event, which attempted to revisit the Spider-Totem idea with terrible results.
    • Superior Spider-Man was better-received than some of the others, but there was still a sense that Dan Slott was hyping a Creator's Pet and wasn't able to sell his intended message properly, in particular his complete inability to make the "Superior" Spider-Man's execution of a villain come across as heroic (especially the character was praised in-universe for it, which did not really line up with previous expectations of how a Hero with Bad Publicity Jumping Off the Slippery Slope would look). This left a lot of fans counting the days until Spidey went back to the status quo ante.
  • Every Incredible Hulk issue with the Red Hulk. First, it leads off from the well-written and epic (albeit misleading in its title) World War Hulk, where the green giant finally received some Character Development, in the arc prior leading it all the more meaningful what happens and its ultimate climax. And out of nowhere, this asshole of an Evil Counterpart comes, trounces every one of the Marvel heavyweights, including the Hulk and even when a hyped rematch is given, he is downed by a single punch. Made worse by writer Jeph Loeb's constant teasing on the true identity of Red Hulk, which many fans can assure you that they've stopped caring past Hulk #3, and the fact he's written to be everything the Hulk isn't. Apparently, Loeb seems to think this equates to using the Hulk's infinite potential for power, write it in that crimson counterfeit, and use it for him randomly appearing to beat up everyone and laugh about it. It has recently gotten better however. First, Greg Pak is back writing Incredible Hulk, so fans can now go there. Also, since the Code Red arc, Red Hulk has become less of a Villain Sue. Mainly because Code Red and then Fall of the Hulks (co-written with Pak) actually had a plot and we learned more about Rulk (he was finally identified as Thunderbolt Ross - someone who had been explicitly ruled out earlier in the story). It also helps he's no longer fighting people at random. Getting a decent writer has also helped a lot.
  • In the 1970s, Marvel rebooted literally the entire universe to turn Doctor Strange into a more conventional superhero with a spandex outfit, secret identity, crossovers, and energy-blasting powers. The change was very unpopular and soon dropped, though the character makes occasional rueful references to it.
    • Early in the story, he was wearing a stupid mask for like ten issues or so (#177). This was a setup for an impostor Doctor Strange, but the entire storyline was kinda odd, because it was never firmly established what would possess him to wear this in the first place. Also, there's apparently a whole bunch of odd looks for Doctor Strange.
    • In the mid '90s, he was changed into a young, long-haired business executive who didn't have any of his previous supporting cast with him.
  • In the 1990s Avengers: The Crossing, it was revealed that Iron Man had been brainwashed into secretly working for Kang the Conqueror, years earlier. The Avengers defeated him with the help of his teenaged self, who remained in the present to become the new Iron Man. The "Teen Tony" story was undone by Heroes Reborn, and the years of brainwashing was retconned into months in Avengers Forever. However, he has since entered a new Dork Age, along with most other characters directly involved in Civil War, becoming a Jerkass Villain with Good Publicity that the writers insist should be treated as a hero. However, the multitude of different titles involved, as well as numerous cases of a Writer on Board depicted Stark and the pro-Registration side as incredibly negative. Plus, Stark did genuinely feel pretty bad about all the stuff he did during the war.
    • Much of Civil War resulted in Dork Ages for other characters too, mainly because the idea of a Super Registration Act has always been derided by all Marvel superheroes, and therefore the segregation of characters into their opposing positions was pretty much at random, since none of them had ever shown pro-reg sympathies before. This caused many changes for many of the pro-reg heroes throughout the event. For example, Reed Richards was inexplicably shoehorned into the pro-reg side despite the fact that when an SHRA back in the early '90s was debated, he single-handedly torpedoed it with an issue-long Character Filibuster explaining (and demonstrating) to Congress just how stupid, dangerous, and ineffective their idea was, and had not so much as wavered from his opposing position since.
      • There was an issue of Fantastic Four that explained that Reed Richards had just worked out a reliable way to scientifically predict likely future events based on historical trends, and discovered that without something along the lines of a Super Registration Act the most likely future would be a horrible one for the entire world. It was an obvious patch job on the character and his actions, but it was accepted, since fans just wanted to move past it as quickly as possible and forget it happened.
  • Ultimatum, The Ultimates 3 and New Ultimates were already considered as a Dork Age, to the point some people have tried to tie them into the same "Loebverse". How do you treat a well-respected Alternate Continuity that caused one of the biggest shake-ups to the comic industry in the last decade, and has produced three well-written and top-selling series (Ultimate X-Men, Ultimate Spider-Man, Ultimate Fantastic Four)? Simple. Hire the ill-regarded Jeph Loeb, have him assume writing duties for your big event series, and kill off two-thirds of the superheroes in said universe as a ploy to increase readership. Out-of-character moments, gratuitous violence, strange plot twists and a total lack of respect for the Ultimate superheroes were just the start of the problems with this series. Ultimatum was so poorly received that, over the course of its run, over 25,000 people stopped buying it. Marvel acknowledged this by resetting the entire franchise, canceling the three aforementioned series and hoping no one would notice that they shot themselves in the foot.
    • What Loeb did to Hawkeye is nothing short of a travesty. Fortunately appointing Jonathan Hickman as writer of The Ultimates and Ultimate Hawkeye seems to have drawn a line under all this.
  • X-Men
    • The majority of Chuck Austen's run on Uncanny X-Men, which fell into Canon Discontinuity almost immediately after the author left the series, especially in regards to the changes he made to Nightcrawler's personality and background. First he's involved in a plot by religious fanatics to make the demon-looking mutant the friggin' Pope, then the poor teleporter finds out that his real father is actually a demonic mutant named Azazel, and at the end of the story Nightcrawler gains a few half-brothers who are promptly never seen again.
    • Matt Fraction's run on Uncanny X-Men is pretty hated by all but his most die-hard fans for many reasons. The "Utopia" storyline, which brought all the X-Men to an island in San Francisco, trying way too hard to be cool, and overall aimlessness, since it essentially was just padding time until the next big X-event. Kieron Gillen's run is seen as a massive improvement.
    • There is a overwhelming consensus that the period in which The Inhumans started to rise in prominence in the Marvel Universe is a Dork Age, as it had negative effect on the X-Men. The short version is that the cinematic rights of the X-Men franchise (along with the Fantastic Four) lay with 20th Century Fox as opposed to Disney/Marvel Studios. During this period there was as significant slowdown in X-Men related merchandise being made, the X-Men stopped appearing regularly in promotions for Marvel, and comics-wise their standing in the Marvel Universe plummeted, further cemented after Secret Wars (2015) in which mutantkind was under threat of extinction and mutants were hated and feared more than ever — again. The fans had enough and after a few noteworthy events; namely the split of Marvel Studios from Marvel Entertainment, the wild success of Deadpool, the failure of the Inhumans push along with their planned Marvel Cinematic Universe movie being downgraded to a TV show, and Marvel Entertainment and 20th Century Fox working together to make X-Men TV shows, the comics were relaunched in 2017 with a renewed focus on the team being heroes.
  • There's a time in the '90s when Captain America suffered seizures because the Super Soldier formula in his body was breaking down. He became so paralyzed that he could barely even talk, relying on armor just to move. He ended up being cured by the Red Skull, of all people. People tried to forget about it.
    • Cap dropping his identity and adopting the name "Nomad" after becoming disillusioned with America just because of the actions of one person (an expy of Richard Nixon who was secretly the leader of a domestic terrorist group). Also costume change was a sort of isolated mini-Dork Age within the plotline. However, much like Knightfall, this was intentional on the part of the writers.
    • Nick Spencer's Captain America was declared as such from day one. See Broken Base.
  • Howard Mackie's Mutant X (not the TV show). And arguably his run on X-Factor leading up to it.
  • The Mighty Thor had the Thunderstrike period (Thor bonded to a single dad who ended up being given the powers of Thor and impersonated Thor before adopting the Thunderstrike name) and the first half of the Dan Jurgens Thor run, which had Thor bonded to a dead paramedic Loki killed. Ironically, Thunderstrike (when he was spun-off into his own book) was more popular than Thor himself in terms of sales. So Marvel made the brain dead decision to kill Thunderstrike off and cancel his book, under the belief that it would fix Thor's bad sales. Which it didn't.
    • Toss in Warren Ellis's run; Thor loses all of his powers and is living with Enchantress as a couple. So bad it was that other writers outright ignored Ellis's depowering in the pages of Avengers and Incredible Hulk.
  • The Shanna the She-Devil comics by Frank Cho are widely despised by fans of the original character. Cho tried to cover himself by saying that his Shanna was a completely original character after savaging the original character concept and promising "no stupid animal rights or environmental message" as well as "... action, suspense, humor, violence, nudity, and a whole lot of jiggling...".
  • There was a period where the Avengers were all wearing matching leather bomber jackets. It gave the team a unified look, but when you've got the Black Knight wearing the jacket over chain mail, or Sersi wearing it over her green one-piece-bathing-suit outfit, it looks really weird.
  • Heroes Reborn was a really bad attempt by Marvel to make their characters into really 90's superheroes by killing them off and having them be remade in a pocket dimension. They farmed out the work to other popular writers at the time, including Rob Liefeld, resulting in some bizarre changes to the characters, like Captain America being brainwashed by SHIELD to be used as a superweapon in various wars and turning into a Jerkass Designated Hero, the Hulk being accidentally created by Iron Man, Hawkeye becoming The Faceless assassin, and Thor becoming a Dumb Muscle Berserker. Liefeld's changes were mercifully fixed by virtue of him abandoning his Avenger's story due to money issues and being replaced Walt Simonson after issue #7, resulting in five actually good issues which removed a lot of the more stupid elements. After a year they were returned to the normal Marvel Universe with their original backstories more or less intact, with the whole thing swept under the rug. The only positive was it retconned out Evil Iron Man, Teen Tony, and the mutant version of The Wasp, making it the sole thing from being worse than The Crossing.
    • Some fans have even theorized that it was a Springtime for Hitler scheme, with Marvel trying to completely jettison the Dark Age by showing the entire fanbase just how utterly incompetent the so-called superstar writers truly were. The Avengers run right afterward was a heavy Reconstruction by Kurt Busiek, which quickly wound up being considered one of the best runs of the franchise's history.
  • Fantastic Four had its period in the 90's where Tom DeFalco served as writer. Several changes occurred during this time that the readers hated, such as Mr. Fantastic getting killed off, the Human Torch's marriage getting retconned into having his wife be a Skrull the whole time, the Thing getting his face mutilated by Wolverine, and the Invisible Woman switching to a Stripperific outfit.
  • At one point, Marvel launched a dramatic Re Tool of the flagging X-Force, turning it into X-Statix. The resulting comic was a minor hit, turning the dated group of Nineties Anti Heroes into a fairly contemporary book that offered a fairly fresh take on mutant culture while satirizing celebrity culture. Unfortunately, it also caused Marvel to assume that what had worked once would work again, and they attempted to do similarly "contemporary" retools of several other books in their lineup... none of which actually worked. Reimagining the heroic New Warriors into a bunch of fame-hungry reality TV stars proved so unpopular that the retooled team was killed off in its entirety in Civil War, but at least they managed to maintain some of their usual cast and premise. You couldn't say for Thunderbolts, which ditched the entire original team and went from a comic about a group of former villains seeking redemption to a comic about an underground fight club.
  • Ms. Marvel (2014) goes into this with her entry into Civil War II. The Fun Personified character was tossed headlong into the storyline by having Carol Danvers convince her to join her in utilizing the Inhuman Ulysses in stopping crimes before they started, only for it to ruin her home life and even get dragged into the gruesome death of Bruce Banner at Hawkeye's hands. The storyline ends with poor Kamala not only suffering a Broken Pedestal moment with Carol, but also losing the friendship of her best friend Bruno, who terminated it because he got himself injured in trying to free a friend who would have gotten out on his own the very next day. Notably, sales for the title plummeted badly because of it.
  • The aftermath of Secret Wars sent many Marvel titles into a commercial and critical downturn so large and so sudden it's been covered on non-comics news sources. Among the points of contention, there was a massively failed attempt to boost The Inhumans to an A-List franchise to promote their upcoming film, which was widely derided, rumored to have been the result of interference from executives from outside the company's creative sector, and quickly backpedaled on when the movie was scrapped and replaced by a TV series; a long series of interconnected Crisis Crossovers (Civil War II, Inhumans vs. X-Men, Secret Empire) that were very commonly seen as aggravatingly bleak and depressing and in possession of highly questionable messages; and a marketing scheme whereby most titles are reset to issue #1 every year, a formula that proved successful with Marvel NOW! but in the ensuing years has left many fans feeling extremely confused. Also not helping matters was the fact that this period coincided with revelations of a large number of personal controversies, scandals, and acts of No Such Thing as Bad Publicity among the company's employees, including but not limited to CEO Ike Perlmutter being outed as a close friend of Donald Trump and donating nearly a million dollars to his Presidential campaign, respected longtime writers Peter David and Mark Waid respectively revealing himself to be a racist towards Romani people and expressing a desire to physically assault a critic (the backlash against which resulted in Waid shutting down his Twitter account), and numerous other writers and editors including Dan Slott and the aforementioned Nick Spencer getting into frequent fights with fans on social media. Only time will tell if Marvel Legacy manages to serve as a Win Back the Crowd moment in order to end the Dork Age in vein of DC Comics ending the New 52 Dork Age with DC Rebirth or not.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/DorkAge/Marvel