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Harsher In Hindsight / Comic Books

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  • In an issue of Uncanny X-Men from 1984, we get a flashback (-forward?) to Rachel Summers' Crapsack World of her Days of Future Past, where it's revealed that among the other actions to happen in the war against the mutants, someone destroyed the World Trade Center with a bomb (one panel shows the Twin Towers in ruins). Unthinkable in 1986, but cringe-inducing after 1993 and absolutely eerie after 2001. Bear in mind that, if not for Comic-Book Time, 2001 would likely be the actual year that the World Trade Center was destroyed in Rachel's timeline.
    • Similarly, one issue of Wolverine's own comic book featured an enemy flying a plane into him. While he was standing on top of the World Trade Center.
  • After Ozymandias detonates his psychic squid in Watchmen, an airship can be seen crashed into the side of a New York skyscraper.
  • G.I. Joe: In an issue of the Marvel series the Joes go against a Middle-Eastern dictator that commanded an army of radical zealots and was backed by a Terror group. Twenty years later America went to war against several Middle-East countries ruled by dictators backed by zealots with ties to terrorist groups.
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  • On the subject of 9/11, the Transformers Marvel Comics featured Galvatron visiting an alternate universe, where New York had been devastated and Rodimus Prime's corpse was strung up between the smoking stumps of the Twin Towers.
  • More fun with 9/11 in the 1995 Marvel Comics tie-in novel Spider-Man: The Octopus Agenda by Diane Duane: the book's climax features Spidey's attempts to foil the plans of Doctor Octopus, who's planted a bomb in the World Trade Center.
    • There was also the Spider-Man/X-Force crossover where the Juggernaut destroyed one of the twin towers in the course of his brawl with the heroes.
  • Supergirl:
    • In Action Comics #275, Supergirl dreams that Superman never turned up and she lived her cousin's life. In Elseworld's Finest: Supergirl & Batgirl, written 37 years after, Superman never turned up and Supergirl was the world's greatest hero... because Lex Luthor found Kal-El's rocket and murdered the baby.
    • Demon Spawn stated that Kara had an internal death wish. It was written by Marv Wolfman, who fourteen years later wrote Crisis on Infinite Earths #7, where Supergirl made an Heroic Sacrifice to save The Multiverse.
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    • The cover of Adventure Comics #383 (1969) has Supergirl turned into a ghost and trapped in an alternate universe where no one knows she's alive... Flash-forward to the Post-Crisis universe where no one remembers Kara Zor-El ever existed and she's merely an invisible spirit (until the appearance of the Post-Crisis Supergirl).
  • Superman:
    • Quite a bit about Our Worlds at War after 9/11:
      • An issue sent The DCU into a panic, when the LexCorp Towers (Metropolis' version of the Twin Towers) were shown to be in a state of near total collapse after being hit by an alien spaceship. The day that comic was due to hit newstands? September 12, 2001. DC assured retailers that they would be allowed a no-fault return for the issue, given the situation, and encouraged them to make use of it. Few, apparently, did.
      • It's worse than that the issue, taking place after a global invasion, had several pictures of buildings in ruins... Near the picture of the LexCorp building was one of the ACTUAL twin towers, with blast holes at roughly the SAME place as where the planes had hit in real life!
      • Additionally, Superman himself took to wearing a darker costume with a red and black version of the "S"-shield to mourn and honor the dead, and many people wore black after 9-11 in remembrance of the attacks.
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  • But topping them all would have to be Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller. Published in 1986, the story involves Two-Face plotting to blow up "The Twin Towers" in Gotham. Luckily, he's stopped by Batman. Shortly thereafter, an electromagnetic pulse caused by the detonation of a powerful nuclear warhead in the western hemisphere knocks out all power to seemingly the entirety of America. A 747 then falls out of the sky and crashes into the Twin Towers, blowing them up and setting all of Gotham on fire.
  • A 1995 Judge Dredd arc had Dredd travel back in time to prevent an alien disease from spreading. To do this, he had to blow up a plane...over New 2001. The twin towers are visible in the background as the plane crashes into the river. The scene was even on the front cover with the caption "Airport 2001".
    • In a one-off story from 1978, a criminal demonstrates his power by causing the World Trade Center to collapse. Ouch.
  • V for Vendetta features a pedophile priest. Already creepy at the time, it takes on a whole new layer of uncomfortableness with the Catholic child molestation scandals that have broken out since. There have been accusations for centuries, which probably inspired the character, but they really hit broad public awareness in The '90s.
  • The scenes in Uncanny X-Men #101 where the space shuttle breaks up on re-entry and crashes in New York and the similar sequence from the 1990s' Spider-Man: The Animated Series were intended to be merely dramatic when they were created, but some find it difficult to watch them without thinking of the Columbia tragedy. The Spider-Man episode is the most similar to the real disaster, which makes it REALLY creepy.
  • An in-universe example (or in-multiverse, anyway) from an issue of the early 80's Marvel Star Trek comic, where the Enterprise is on a mission to help evacuate a world that's about to die:
    Kirk: But, these people will have lost their world! Imagine how they feel!
    Spock: times like this I am most thankful that a Vulcan cannot!
  • One Wonder Woman comic had a fake newspaper on its cover with headlines proclaiming Wonder Woman's death and referred to her as Princess Diana. Guess who died a week later.
  • There's a late 70's issue of Marvel Two-In-One where the World Trade Center catches fire.
  • The Batman storyline A Lonely Place of Dying has a scene where Two-Face almost decides to blow up the twin towers just to piss the Dark Knight off. This is made worse by Bruce Wayne simultaneously considering holding a massive charity event there to provoke him into attacking.
  • Another 9/11 one: The Big Book Of The '70s (published in 2000) had a section on the rise of terrorism, which ended with the first WTC bombing.
  • One Nintendo Comics System issue from 1990 had an establishing shot of the Twin Towers with a dark cloud looming above.
  • On the penultimate pages of Transmetropolitan, Spider Jerusalem puts a cigarette in his mouth for One Last Smoke, draws a handgun, puts it under his chin, and it turns out to be a lighter. Sad part? Three years later, Spider's inspiration, Hunter S. Thompson, did the exact same thing...except the gun was real.
  • One of the very first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Mirage) comics had the bad guy threatening to collapse the Twin Towers if he wasn't paid a ransom of thousand of dollars. A new re-print, which had a note at the very edge of the paper "(Remember this comic was released a long time before 9/11)"
  • An in-universe example for the Marvel Universe. One issue of the late 90s Captain America comic had Cap foiling a plot by a Skrull to impersonate him and cause widespread chaos in the United States. What does he say upon defeating the Skrull?:
    Cap: Next time, take over a planet without me on it.
    • Cue 2008's Secret Invasion, in which the Skrulls do take over the planet without Cap on it, as he had been supposedly dead at the time.
  • In Ultimate X-Men, mutants are more discriminated than ever before and can be held without a trial even if they didn't do anything wrong, and you can even legally kill them. At the time when it was written, it was meant to show how Ultimate Marvel is different from Earth-616. And then the National Defense Authorization Act came.
  • The Gamebooks Role-Playing Game You Are Maggie Thatcher was a Character Exaggeration of the much-reviled prime minister, and yet the whole thing did not look all too implausible in real life. For example, one of the options was to privatize the police force, which David Cameron actually proposed years later.
  • An in-universe one DC one: Issues #20-#21 of the New Teen Titans comic (May-June 1986). The Titans were (temporarily) mostly broken up after incidents involving or happening roughly around the time of Crisis on Infinite Earths. Wonder Girl, who is left in charge with an empty nest, calls in Aqualad, a newly-minted Flash, a Hawk without Dove, Jason-Robin and Speedy. At the request of King Faraday, they help to protect a peace conference which is being threatened by Cheshire. This was where it was discovered Speedy and Cheshire had a child together. Issue #21 closes on some supposed to be heart-warming reconciliations between Terry Long and Wonder Girl and also Speedy and Cheshire, including him getting to hold his daughter for the first time. Also, Wally getting to explain his new role as The Flash to his hero-avoidant then-girlfriend Francis Kane. Now, look at these events through the lens of:
    • Speedy and Wally West still apparently have strong feelings for Wonder Girl, well after their teen romance fizzled according to later comics. Oh and Lian is killed when Prometheus destroys Star City and chops off Speedy's arm too.
    • King Faraday being the (possibly mind-controlled) villain, Gamemaster.
    • Wally-Flash being erased from existence by Barry Allen as a result of Flashpoint, made worse by the fact that when fighting a deranged Reverse Flash (who had a breakdown and literally thought of himself as Barry Allen) cursing Wally and leaving him to die out of anger over how everyone loved Wally more as Flash and was furious at how fast he was forgotten
    • Jason Todd being the voice of reason among his older, more experienced peers and then not receiving a statue in the memorial hall upon his death for this and the work to free Raven as if they were embarrassed.
    • Having Speedy, Wonder Girl and Flash return to Cheshire, Terry Long and Francis Kane with the idea that this is a relief to them. All three of these couples later go nuclear, one of them literally.
    • Having Hank Hall (Hawk) be a nearly-murderous bastard as a hero, when later he becomes the JSA villain Extant, who slaughtered half of the team.
  • Batman's origin story will now qualify as such. In most mediums, his parents were shot by Joe Chill outside of a movie theater (or in the case of The Dark Knight Trilogy, an opera theater). Let's just say there are roughly 7 times as many Martha and Thomas Waynes dead now after the showing of The Dark Knight Rises, when the premiere at Aurora Colorado had a madman shooting and killing as many as 14 people as they were leaving the premiere.
    • Similarly to the aforementioned scenes in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns involving Gotham's Twin Tower, a scene in Returns featured a gunman shooting people at a movie theater.
  • In the only Captain Electron comic, the titular hero is called to rush to Manhattan while in the middle of a separate "computer science" mission. When he arrives in New York, he finds a plane...buried halfway in the Chrysler Building.
  • The Avengers #111, 1973. Magneto had captured the X-Men and several Avengers, turning them into People Puppets. Only 3 Avengers were still free, Thor, The Vision and Black Panther. So sure about his strength in numbers over the Avengers, and with the Scarlet Witch dancing under his control, he said "But they are decimated, Piper - DECIMATED!" (bolded in the original). He would surely come to regret those words: in House of M the Scarlet Witch, mad and with reality warping powers, turned all mutants except 192 into normal people without powers, including Magneto. The name of the near-extinction of mutants? "Decimation".
    • There's also the fact he had Wanda dancing for his amusement; given her choice of outfits and the way everyone used to react to her, this was probably for his own tiltilation. Bare in mind, a few years later, Magneto would discover that Wanda is, in fact, his daughter.
  • Speaking of which, New Mutants #42 had a scene where Cannonball was told by his mother that his little brother Josh would "wither and die" if he ever had to leave Kentucky to attend the Xavier Institute like Cannonball did. Years later, Josh actually did end up attending the Xavier Institute, where he was Killed Off for Real in the aftermath of the aforementioned Decimation storyline.
  • In-Universe example: The 2002 Spider-Man storyline Death in the Family has a scene where Spidey walks in on the Green Goblin using dolls to re-create the death of Gwen Stacy Spaceballs-style while implying that Gwen was on the bridge because she was sexually attracted to Norman Osborn. Later, the 2004 storyline Past Sins revealed that Gwen did indeed sleep with Osborn before her death, resulting in twins Gabriel and Sarah.
  • The Marvel Civil War was painfully cringe-worthy to begin with. Now, let's just say that it starts with a disturbed individual attacking an elementary school in Connecticut and leave it at that.
  • In the last issue of Brian K. Vaughan's run on Runaways, the entire creative team wonders what will happen with the characters in the next ten years. One of the comments mentioned they'll probably be all dead. Near the team's tenth anniversary, two of the characters are in book dedicated solely to killing teenage superheroes.
    • And then came Secret Wars (2015), where Earth-616 was destroyed, and so far, from the Runaways, only Nico and Molly have been confirmed to have survived.
    • The arc that introduces Victor has Nico vowing to rip his damn heart out if it ever appears that he's going to become Victorious. Fast forward to 2016, where Victor is murdered by Virginia Vision, who rips his heart out after he accidentally kills her son. His last thought is that at least he never became Victorious.
      • And then the third issue of the new Runaways has Chase accidentally activating Victorious during an attempt to revive Victor.
  • The 1990-91 Foolkiller limited series climaxed during the summer of 1991 around the same time that Jeffrey Dahmer was arrested and his long killing spree revealed. Although readers knew who the Foolkiller was all the time, this is when the general public and his former friends and acquaintances learn of his identity on the news.
  • The end of Kick-Ass Volume 1, where Chris sets up his Avenging the Villain story-line by quoting The Joker, with volume 2 crossing the Moral Event Horizon by causing a mass shoot-out in a suburban area. The Aurora Theater shootings make this uncomfortable to some. The fact that he started with a group of children makes it even worse after the Newtown shootings.
  • Elvis Shrugged: In the story, the record business has collapsed due to so many quality musicians leaving, causing record sales to plummet. This was published in 1993, prior to the debut of the World Wide Web and, later, the rise of Napster and iTunes, which would cause the sales of actual CDs to plummet, not due to a significant change in what was popular, but because it was easier and cheaper.
  • In issue 24 of Justice League International, the amusing storyline was about getting Martian Manhunter to quit his addiction on Oreos. To do this, he separated the embodiment of those desires from his body which then jumped from member to member of the team to reveal their darkest desires in an amusing way. Then the craving embodiment lands on Maxwell Lord, who then proclaims that he wants everyone to do what he says all the time.... yeah. It kind of explains why he went off the deep end prior to Infinite Crisis years before the storyline was even made.
  • My Little Pony: FIENDship Is Magic:
  • The ending to the Adventure Time Graphic Novels Volume 1: Playing With Fire has Finn and Flame Princess confessing their love towards one another, even sharing a kiss like they are a happy couple. Cue Frost & Fire where Finn Took a Level in Jerkass and through his manipulations and some predictions, Finn and Flame Princess broke up and Finn has since became estranged from her as a result.
  • May 6-7, 2016 were not good days for War Machine in any medium. The former saw the release of Captain America: Civil War, which saw him crippled following a stray blast from The Vision damaging his armor and the latter saw the release of the Free Comic Book Day special that kick starts Civil War II with his death by Thanos being what set things off.
  • Cataclysm: The Ultimates' Last Stand features the heroes of the Ultimate Marvel universe trying to stop Galactus after he appeared in their universe following the events of Age of Ultron and a plot point shows Ultimate!Reed Richards seeing his mainstream counterpart's daughter, resolving to save the world. What caused the story to fall into this trope of the double whammy of Ultimate!Reed being a villain in Jonathan Hickman's Avengers (and revealed to have lied about reforming) and and the events of Secret Wars (2015), which would see the destruction of the Ultimate Universe, meaning the heroes only delayed the inevitable.
  • A major subplot of Dark Victory was Carmine Falcone's son, Mario, trying to reform the family and legitimize it. Several comics before New 52 followed up on his fate after the miniseries and revealed that after his breakdown at the end, he became the new head of the Falcone family, becoming every bit the criminal his father and sister were.
  • The Dallas sniper attack occurred while Nighthawk Vol. 2 was in the midst of a storyline involving a black psychotic who was killing whites for crimes against blacks. The second issue (released about two weeks before the shooting) ended with the murderer setting his sights on the police after hearing a newscast about a white officer who was found not guilty of killing an unarmed black youth.
  • Issue #7 of Paper Girls (published in July 2016, just months before the US Presidential Election that year) features a discussion as to whether or not Hillary Clinton —a woman— could be elected president in modern-day America. Flash forward to November... she wasn't elected.
  • Part of Chaos! Comics character Chastity's backstory was being molested as a child by her father. Justiniano, the artist for Theatre of Pain, the miniseries that detailed her backstory, was arrested for possession of child pornography.
  • Identity Crisis:
    • All those stories from the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s in which the heroes use super-hypnosis and magic rings and so on to alter the villains' minds or remove knowledge of their secret identities from others read very differently given the revelations of this series. So does Doctor Light's time as an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain.
    • Justice League of America volume 1, #122 gets hit especially hard: it's a story that explains how the Leaguers decided to reveal their identities to one another, after Doctor Light uses "Amnesium" to scramble their knowledge of their alter egos, learn their secrets, and nearly kill them all. In the end, Light is mindwiped with the Amnesium to remove his ill-gotten knowledge. The story's title? "The Great Identity Crisis."
    • An earlier event, the more nostalgic Silver Age series of "skip week" specials, also has a group of villains learning the Justice Leaguers' secrets... and in the end, Hawkman uses some Thanagarian technology to remove this knowledge from their minds, with the sanction of Superman and Batman. The whole thing is played as a Reset Button style happy ending. The Silver Age: Justice League chapter also contains a scene in which Doctor Light rejects Catwoman's advances, stating that he "has always been more interested in test tubes and Bunsen burners than the fairer sex."
    • The whole reveal that Dr. Light raped Sue, given that Jeremy Piven, who voiced the Elongated Man in Justice League Unlimited, has been accused of sexual assault. Likewise, Green Arrow's involvement in this mind wipe after he was voiced by Chris Hardwick on The Batman, given Chloe Dykstra published an essay that inferred that Hardwick was abusive to her, including sexual abuse.
  • Batman & Captain America has an famous moment where the The Joker terminates his alliance with the Red Skull upon learning the Skull wasn't faking being a Nazi (the trope image of Even Evil Has Standards). Naturally, after the Skull caused a Cosmic Retcon to turn Steve into everything he's sworn to fought against in Captain America: Steve Rogers and Secret Empire, fans took to pointing out that, until the latter's end saw the return of the true Steve Rogers, Marvel's paragon had less morals that the man who crippled Barbara Gordon, tortured Commissioner Gordon, and killed Jason Todd and Sarah Essen.
  • Ultimate Spider-Man:
    • Back in the early nineties, one of the most famous songs by Italian band 883note  was titled "Hanno Ucciso L'Uomo Ragno", which is Italian for "They Killed Spider-Man". Fast-forward by twenty-years-or-so.
    • In "Cats and Queens", the focus of MJ's story was her wanting to run away from home so she and Peter could be married, with him saying he'll always be there for her. Also in the same arc, Black Cat tells him he'll have seven years bad luck. This was in 2004...
      • Similarly, every time the subject of sex came up between Peter and MJ, they resolve to "wait until they're older".
    • At July 2005's San Diego Comic Con, in response to the question the Ultimate & 616 universes crossing over, Joe Quesada stated that he'd rather close down one universe than have them cross over because it meant they were officially out of ideas. Fast forward to 2012, and Marvel announced that they will be having 616!Peter crossing over to the Ultimate universe to meet Miles. Then the 2015 Secret Wars event came along and both worlds — along with the rest of The Multiverse — get destroyed. At the end of the event, Mr. Fantastic starts rebuilding the multiverse, but for two years, it appeared that the Ultimate Universe was gone for good (with Ultimate characters such as Miles and the Maker now living in the Marvel Universe)... until Spider-Men II revealed that the Ultimate Universe is back as well.
    • Every discussion anyone ever has about Peter's future now that we know his eventual fate. And then shot to pieces after the reveal that he came back to life.
    • Early in 2003, the original Venom arc was published, which revealed in the Ultimate universe, the Venom suit was originally developed as a means to cure cancer. Fall of the same year, Paul Jenkins's first arc on the second volume of Spectacular Spider-Man revealed that one of the reasons the Venom symbiote was drawn to mainline!Eddie was because he had cancer.
  • A 1994 Public Service Announcement comic, Captain America Goes to War Against Drugs, was an Anvilicious anti-drug story involving villains who got their powers from drugs and an alien plot to conquer Earth by getting its populace addicted to drugs. The story's writer, George Caragonne, later became addicted to cocaine and committed suicide.
  • During Heroes Reborn, an LMD of Nick Fury controlled by the Sons of the Serpents told a series of lies to Captain America and Bill Clinton that said the government originally put Steve in cyrogenic suspension because he'd objected to the Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and in the decades since before the "present day", would revive Steve and brainwash him to serve in The Korean War and The Vietnam War only to put him back on ice when the brainwashing started to wear off. "Ice", a story so reviled, it was it was stricken from canon, attempted to retcon that Steve in the main Marvel Universe was really put on ice by the government for objecting to the atomic bombs and his memories of a fight with Heinrich Zemo were falsified, and Bucky Barnes's return revealed that the Soviet Union got ahold of Bucky and subjected him to brainwashing, cyrogenically freezing him and thawing him out to carry out missions for them.
  • Fatal Attractions saw Professor X mindwipe Magneto is retailiation for Magneto ripping out Wolverine's adamantium—which is also the moment Onslaught was born, at Magneto's dark side lashed out and attached itself to Xavier's.
  • In the Elseworld trilogy Batman Vampire, the second book sees were-cat Selina Kyle sacrifice herself to save the now-vampire Batman from a wooden crossbow bolt fired by the Joker. Not only does her loss deprive Batman of the only person who could help him control his ever-growing thirst for blood, but the third novel in the trilogy reveals that staking on its own doesn't kill vampires for good; if Selina had let the Joker shoot Batman, she could have taken taken out the Joker, removed the arrow from Batman's heart, and everything would have been fine.
  • Star Trek: Early Voyages: In "The Fallen, Part One", which was published in 1997, the World Trade Center can be prominently seen in the New York City skyline in 2254.
  • A driving force of Nick Fury's actions in the Fury MAX miniseries are the fact that he has run out of wars to fight and must scrounge for armed conflict (like being loaned out to the DEA to bring down drug manufacturers). He is desperate to have some sort of battle to fight to escape from his crummy domestic life. The first issue came out in November 2001 but it was clearly written before 9/11. Within a few months Fury would have his war.
  • Grant Morrison's JLA:
    • Towards the end, Batman kicks Huntress off the JLA when he stops her from killing Prometheus. Given what happens in Justice League: Cry for Justice, perhaps Bruce should've let Helena do the then-still dead Oliver Queen, Roy and Lian Harper, and Stay City a favor by offing Prometheus.
    • The first arc ended with the White Martians getting mindwiped into thinking they're normal humans with no pushback by the League or readers—nearly seven years before Identity Crisis raised the ethical questions of this and shown many in the League to be strongly against this.
  • Zero Hour!:
    • In a case of Older Than They Think, the alternate Batgirl seen throughout came from a world where the Joker killed Commissioner Gordon rather than cripple her—and where she and Bruce were lovers. Not only would Batman Beyond and the animated version of The Killing Joke would make this a part of their main versions of Bruce and Barbara—but Mainstream DCU!Bruce's reaction to this news mirrored the fans' own shock and disgust.
    • A second Batman-themed alternate reality would see Bruce killed, not Thomas and Martha—which would happen again with Flashpoint, only with Thomas and Martha respectively becoming that universe's version of Batman and the Joker.


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