Follow TV Tropes


Audience Alienating Premise / Comic Books

Go To

Audience-Alienating Premises in comic books.

  • Any case of a superhero becoming a Legacy Character has the potential to be this. Essentially, the writer is asking the reader to forget about the hero they've followed and become attached to and instead read about some new guy who may only be tangentially related to the original hero. If the writer can't do enough to make the readers care about the new character quickly, people will turn away because they see no reason to follow the story if the protagonist they cared about is gone. Examples of Affirmative Action Legacy have this even worse, as they are frequently accused of being a Creator's Pet so that the writer can show off how progressive they are, whether or not that is the case.
  • Advertisement:
  • Branching off from the first point, practically every superhero has become a "Legacy" character by this point, and this can lead to instances of characters with already-beloved or appreciated gimmicks being shoehorned into another identity for the name recognition (and sales). This can also have the effect of "reducing" other roles or making them arbitrarily subordinate to the "Legacy" of another.
  • Attempts to combine highbrow literature with hardcore porn comics tend to fall under this trope. Audiences generally approach each genre with entirely different expectations and purposes in mind. Two examples are Gilbert Hernandez's Birdland, a satire of Wilhelm Reich's disputed orgone energy theory, and Alan Moore's and Melinda Gebbie's Lost Girls, featuring Alice from Alice in Wonderland, Dorothy from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and Wendy from Peter Pan.

  • Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld:
    • A Magical Girl maxiseries created during the early '80s? It didn't stand a chance, so DC Comics killed the series by making the main character evil and blowing up her homeworld. Of course, if they had the foresight to allow the property to live until the '90s, they could have had a hot product on their hands.
    • Relaunched in 2012 as the lead feature of Sword Of Sorcery, written by Christy Marx, the woman behind Jem. The comic again failed to find an audience and was cancelled with Issue #8 in early 2013. While the relaunch had some potential going for it, it also ran into a number of the same roadblocks — for a comic that was being promoted with kid-friendly shorts on Cartoon Network's DC Nation, it went for more of a "Game of Thrones with magical gem powers" vibe and featured an attempted gang rape in its first issue.
    • Advertisement:
    • Amethyst had a sort of crossover in the second series. Cue very surprised looks from readers wondering why a character from a "comic for little girls" was doing in the pages of Dr. Fate. (Turns out Amy is a Lord of Order. Yes, you read that right.)
  • Barbara Slate's Angel Love series folded after eight issues and a special. Its cute cartoonish artwork and style of writing clashed with the subjects it was dealing with: drug use, abortion, critical illnesses, and incest.
  • Archie Comics:
  • Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • Archie Comic's Sonic the Hedgehog similarly crossed over with Image Comics in a Sonic Super Special issue, due to then-series writer Ken Penders' brief involvement with Image and professional friendship with Jim Valentino. The sight of Sonic and the Freedom Fighters fighting a dimension-hopping baddie with such Image characters as Shadowhawk and Savage Dragon (Spawn only showing up in two shamelessly deceptive panels) would've been hard enough to swallow, but when the crux of the plot revolves around a team of X-Men ripoffs called the Lost Onesnote  and would crash-and-burn after one issue, audiences were left confused and unsatisfied as Penders' Creator's Pet Knuckles would render the whole thing moot with Chaos powers in the end anyways.
    • Penders also penned an earlier special which was packaged as Sonic Live!. Its lead story is a cringe-worthy piece where Sonic meets up with two real-world childrennote  and fight alternate Robotniks while learning he's a fictional character created by a random staff artist on behalf of a couple of white SEGA executives. Or in other words, it was an Indecisive Parody of Last Action Hero with Sonic and guest-stars the writer's family.
  • Avengers Arena: Taking cult favorite teenage heroes (including members of Runaways and Avengers Academy) and putting them in a The Hunger Games/Battle Royale scenario played completely straight, so as to prop up Smug Snake gimmick villain Arcade as a legitimate threat (twenty years too late), by having a lot of teenagers die. The amount of vitriol it generated before and during its release is rather amazing. The sequel, by the same writer, had the surviving kids infiltrating the Masters of Evil with the book's premise being that one of them will turn evil. It sold so poorly that it was cancelled after 10 issues (the story was planned for at least 12).
  • The 2015 Batman Beyond comic. It stars an adult Tim Drake (who took over after a time-traveling Terry McGinnis was killed) as a Fish out of Temporal Water in a post-apocalyptic world where Gotham is the only remnant of human civilization. It's not clear who the comic was intended, as it has little in common with any previous iteration of Batman Beyond, and the Tim Drake featured is very different from his prior characterizations.
  • Batman: Fortunate Son is a story about the Dark Knight taking on the evils of Rock & Roll. The comic was released in The '90s, long after such an idea became downright laughable.
  • Chick Tracts are meant to appeal to people other than evangelical Protestants. However, the target audience is automatically alienated by the central messages (promoting religious fundamentalism, decrying the "evil" of the Catholic Church, comparing people who think Evolution is a sound theory to Nazis, etc.), while people who would agree with them don't bother reading them because the tracts are not meant for them.
  • Fury (MAX) was part of the Marvel MAX line and featured a Darker and Edgier and Bloodier and Gorier story of Fury looking at his last days as an agent of a post-Cold War era S.H.I.E.L.D. that presented Fury as a Blood Knight. Most notably, the detractors of this included Fury co-creator Stan Lee and actor George Clooney, who was in talks to play Fury in a movie when the series was released, and dropped out precisely because of it, both men expressing disgust at the series' graphic scenes, including Fury disemboweling Big Bad Rudi Gagarin and strangling him with his own intestines.
  • Robert Kirkman's The Irredeemable Ant-Man: according to Kirkman, the idea was to have the protagonist start out as a cowardly jerk and evolve into a real hero over time. Unfortunately, the comic put extremely heavy emphasis on how much of a jerk the new Ant-Man was while failing to play up his Hidden Heart of Gold; Marvel's advertising didn't help, selling the comic with the tagline "The World's Most Unlikable Superhero". Non-fans of Ant-Man were driven away, while Ant-Man fans left out of disgust at the thought of such a douche taking over the title. Evangeline Lilly read the series as research for the Ant-Man movie and publicly dismissed it as "crap".
  • This may have been part of the reason Gail Simone's The Movement didn't last very long despite good reviews. A comic series about a group of morally dodgy protagonists becoming vigilantes, who are also completely new characters and thus don't have previously built audience love to carry them. It was also very politicized which is a frequent turn-off for some comic readers. Simone herself has commented that, in hindsight, the book was a very difficult concept to sell and was lucky to get as far as it did.
  • Jonathan Hickman's run on New Avengers struggles with this; since Grey and Gray Morality and heroes being forced to do morally questionable things is a major theme, it's developed a reputation as being little more than an ongoing series of displays of how morally bankrupt the protagonists are. Only so many people can enjoy seeing beloved heroes like Black Panther and Mr. Fantastic acting like super villains. While the book sold fairly well, it was arguably more due to its place as a cornerstone of the highly-publicized Secret Wars (2015) crossover than of the characters or story. A big part of the problem is that other groups aside from the protagonists are depicted as coming up with solutions to the story's big conflict that don't involve doing horribly immoral things. This has created an awkward situation where people like Doctor Doom are seen by fans as doing a better job at being heroes than the actual heroes.
  • One More Day: To sum it up: Marvel's "Most Responsible Hero" loses his very aged mother-figure, and discovers that he can't fix it. He makes the responsible decision and gets his beloved wife to agree to delete their entire marriage (complete with unborn child), via an under-examined deal with the most deceitful and evil Reality Warper he can find.
  • Power Pack (the original 1980s comic): Kid heroes, except that, instead of featuring wacky antics and dumb adult villains, the theme was played totally straight. The story took itself seriously (not only was the comic pretty dark at times, but the kids were even featured in the X-Men's Mutant Massacre crossover, which was every bit as dark as it sounds), but many people wrote it off because it was about kids. Most adult comic readers dismissed it out of hand because they assumed a story about children would just be wacky and stupid, and kids who wanted to see wacky antics probably ended up disappointed. It's no coincidence that most of the letters to the editor came from adults, with only the occasional 12-year-old, who were surprised at the quality of the storytelling.
  • As the title may indicate The Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe has the Punisher indiscriminately murder every superhuman in the Marvel universe. It's unlikely that many people would want to see Frank Castle slaughter their favorite superheroes, and even if you agree with writer Garth Ennis' bias against superheroes, you're likely going to see the Punisher as Unintentionally Unsympathetic for killing heroes who had nothing to do with his family's death.
  • A similar issue plagued the first arc of the Terry Moore-led reboot of Runaways. The extremely cartoonish art by Humberto Ramos suggested that it was aimed at younger teens, which repelled longtime fans, but the not-so-kid-friendly storyline — involving Karolina being accused of complicity in the destruction of Majesdane, and ending with Xavin impersonating her and handing themselves over to her accusers — didn't really bring in many younger readers, and may have helped lead to the series' cancellation a year later.
  • Creator Brian K. Vaughan has quite candidly admitted that this trope was a major fear of his when he was first writing Saga as it's an original, non-superhero, anti-war Planetary Romance Science Fantasy — but one that is absolutely for adults — featuring a non-white married couple as the leads, gory violence, and an abundance of graphic space alien sex. Not to mention how Fiona Staples' bright, colorful stylized artwork (the same she uses for Archie Comics (2015)!) seems to fit better with a series much brighter and happier than it actually is. Ultimately, however, the trope was triumphantly averted, when Saga garnered massive critical acclaim and became one of the best-selling ongoing series of the 2010s.
  • The second volume of Secret Avengers ended up as something like this. The premise is that SHIELD forms its own team of Avengers, but to keep them from revealing their secrets, they undergo a mindwipe after their missions, which was off-putting due to the grey morality of such a tactic and apparent attempts to amp the feel of the MCU with the book's promotional material. Still, the series found a small audience thanks to the fact it explored the moral implications of the concept, had a quirky sense of humor, used underused-though-well liked characters War Machine, Quake, Mockingbird, and Taskmaster, and had generally good writing. The series ended after 16 issues so the writer could move onto Avengers World.
    • The third volume qualifies even more: it dropped the above-mentioned characters, with the art and tone of the comic shifting to what seemed to be a lazy ripoff of Matt Fraction's Hawkeye ongoing. Many fans dropped the book, and it was cancelled after 15 issues.
  • Dan Jurgens' Teen Titans series from 1996 which replaced all of the cast members from New Teen Titans with new characters and inexplicably turned The Atom into a teenager.
  • Trouble was universally condemned upon release. Among the reasons as such include being advertised as a romance comic despite not really being one, but the biggest one being its ties to the Spider-Man franchise: namely being about the adventures of teenaged versions of Peter Parker's parents, Uncle Ben, and Aunt May and the attempt to retcon that May was really Peter's birth mother. It was so reviled that it's not canon to either the classic or Ultimate Marvel universes.
  • Wacky Raceland, the Darker and Edgier reimagining of Hanna-Barbera's Wacky Races. Take a classic light-hearted cartoon about racers with their distinctive motifs running through different rallies around America and turn it into a Mad Max-inspired post-apocalyptic setting where every type of calamity happened and littered with mutants and eldritch abominations. Despite the title trying to ride on Rule of Cool, the concept was never going to be easy to sell and predictably the comic went under after just six issues.
  • There was an X-Men miniseries called The First X-Men that turned a lot of people, especially those who don't like Wolverine, off by attempting to retcon that he, and not Professor Xavier, was the first person to found a mutant superhero team (and even worse, that the Professor was a self-hating mutant during that time). Critics generally found it an utterly bizarre vanity project for writer Neal Adams, while fans felt it was a (bad) attempt to cash in on the last two X-Men films by combining their premises together, and it's never been mentioned since. The irony is that Adams has stated at signings that he hated working on it, as it was heavily subject to Editorial Mandates and Vetos.
  • Yeah! by Peter Bagge and Gilbert Hernandez is a girls' comic about three girls in a rock band who are trying to make it big but can only get fans in outer space, and was intended to resemble the girls' comics of the sixties. It is also to comic book fans what a disco album by Iron Maiden would be to a music fan: it doesn't contain any of the stuff that they like, and it belongs to a genre that's been dead for decades. Despite some good writing and nice artwork, the comic was cancelled after only nine poorly-selling issues.


Example of: