Follow TV Tropes


Overshadowed By Controversy / Comic Books

Go To

    open/close all folders 

  • The Ant-Man comics have long lived under the specter of the time where the first Ant-Man, Hank Pym, hit his wife, Janet. What makes this frustrating for certain fans is that, while nobody defends the action itself, it was a one-time incident that was taken out of context and generally agreed to have been blown out of proportion,note  yet people will still jump into a conversation about Ant-Man with "He's a wife-beater!", even if the conversation is about one of the other Ant-Men, Scott Lang or Eric O'Grady. Not helping matters is the fact that the Ultimate Marvel version of Hank Pym actually was depicted in typically Darker and Edgier style as a full blown domestic abuser. Marvel editor Tom Brevoort would later explain that "Part of that is because that was the most interesting thing that had ever happened to that character, and so that really cemented it. Any number of creative teams since then have struggle mightily trying to get that moment to be overcome, including myself, and nobody’s been able to outperform the gravity of it". The Ant-Man films prevented the controversy by demoting Henry Pym to background character and starring Scott Lang instead. This Adaptation Displacement allowed the films to move past the baggage that came with him.
  • Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • Ken Penders, once acclaimed for his run, became overshadowed by the reports of his unprofessional behavior, most infamously claiming to be Ben Hearst's unofficial protégé when the latter had never even read the comic book, disagreeing with Karl Bollers over the direction of the comic, and criticizing his successor Ian Flynn in an interview while admitting that he never read a single issue by him. He would later become even more infamous for gaining copyright over all the characters, as well as the entire concept of a Sonic multiverse, he created for the series,note  advertising his Lara-Su Chronicles project, itself ill-regarded, before the trial was even over, and trying to use his position to make the comic be more in line with his idea. Because of this, the comic underwent a Cosmic Retcon, Sega issued a mandate preventing most of the comic's original characters from ever appearing again, and Penders himself became nothing more than a pariah among Sonic fans.
    • The Flynn penned storyline Mobius 25 Years Later, a follow up to the Penders storyline of the same name, contains a scene in which the protagonists find Rotor, who has been tortured by the Dark Legion. This wouldn't have been too infamous if the Word of Gay hadn't happened around that time, and had it not been implied that the Legion murdered Cobar, who Penders intended to be Rotor's boyfriend. Rotor being Demoted to Extra in the main series for a while didn't help. For what it's worth, Flynn wasn't aware of the intended relationship and has stated that had he known, he wouldn't have offed Cobar.
    • It's impossible to mention Sally's redesign in the comics without bringing up the fact that it was originally intended to be the result of Eggman reconstructing her roboticized body.
  • Armageddon 2001 is best remembered for the debacle when a spoiler leak revealed the solution to the story's big mystery, that the superhero who would turn evil in the future and conquer the world as the crossover's Big Bad, the Monarch, was Captain Atom, which caused DC to give the story a hasty mid-plot rewrite (making the character in question the original Hank Hall Hawk) that infamously made absolutely no sense, as Hawk and Dove had explicitly sated to have fought against the Monarch in every possible timeline in the interest of "preserving the surprise". DC then kept making things worse by trying to also work the intended ending into canon, completely ignoring that absolutely no one cared anymore and just wanted to move on.
  • Batman:
    • Bob Kane is the officially credited co-creator of Batman, but his work is almost impossible to discuss without bringing up the legal chicanery he used to swindle his partner, Bill Finger, out of all credits and royalties for the character, something that was only remedied in 2015, long after Finger's death. Kane was also deprecated for his derivative artistic style, which comics scholars note came from tracings and splicings of other comics and then changing the outline to match Batman, and in other cases paying ghost artists to work uncredited on his behalf, while he would pass their work off as his own. About the only thing comic historians are certain of is that he came up with the name "Bat-Man", but practically everything else that defined that character, his world, his supporting characters, and his Rogues Gallery, came from his collaborators, namely Finger, Jerry Robinson (the co-creator of The Joker), Gardner Fox, Dick Sprang and others. To his credit, he did start feeling guilty in his later years, and openly spoke about Finger's contributions after his death, but that didn't stop him from choosing a rather tacky gravestone all about how Batman was totally his creation.
    • Batgirl (2011) has developed a reputation for getting caught up in a controversy of some sort every other month, greatly overshadowing the actual content of the book itself. First there was controversy over the very premise of Barbara Gordon, a well-known disabled character no longer being disabled, which was seen as offensive, then there was controversy over one of the first villains being a guy who kills people that experienced miraculous recoveries, which was seen as insulting people who disliked the change, and the second creative team created outrage over the usage of an Unsettling Gender Reveal that was interpreted by some as transphobic. Toward the end of her run, writer Gail Simone was abruptly fired, only to quickly be re-hired, with little to no explanation in either case. Finally, it's been at the center of a massive debate about the role of social justice and feminism in fiction after a cover for the comic, which was confirmed by Word of God to have been a homage to The Killing Joke, was pulled by DC.
    • The miniseries Damned, intended to launch a "Black Label" sub-brand of DC for non-continuity, mature-reader, creator-driven works featuring their prominent characters, seems doomed to always be remembered simply for a single panel in its first issue of a depressed Bruce Wayne brooding in the dark Batcave while stark naked, with the outline of his batawang clearly visible. The penis was censored in its digital release, and DC quickly announced first that any future physical copies would be censored as well, and then that there would be no second printing, very much closing the barn door after the horse was out, and causing mayhem in comic shops and on auction sites as speculators tried to grab up every copy they could find of the instant "collectible". It didn't help that they explained the move as worry that the panel seemed designed solely to create controversy to no story purpose, which just got a lot of fans asking why they allowed it to be published at all. Moreover, there were reports that the furore would lead to increased corporate control over the content of all future works under the Black Label banner, which had been hyped specifically as "we'll let big-name creators do anything they want with no restrictions on content". There were further arguments over the announcement at much the same time that the collected edition of Batman: White Knight, to be published under the "Black Label" brand, would add in a previously-censored graphic sex scene between Jack Napier and Harleen Quinzel, with Harleen's bosom on clear display, which led to accusations of a sexist double standard between unsexualised male nudity and highly-sexualised female nudity.
  • The underground comic Boiled Angel is best known for the fact that creator Mike Diana was convicted of obscenity for publishing it.
  • Vertigo's Border Town by Eric M. Esquivel and Ramon Villalobos was met with acclaim from critics and readers, but then Esquivel began facing sexual assault allegations from toy creator Cynthia Naugle and several other women. Villalobos and colorist Tamra Bonvillain quit the book in support of those who were coming forward against Esquivel. Almost immediately Vertigo cancelled the book when the fourth issue had just come out, cancelling issues five and six which had already been solicited, and made all issues returnable.
  • Captain America:
    • During World War II, Cap's book acquired a spinoff called Young Allies, which focussed on Bucky Barnes leading a group of fellow teenagers to assist Cap and that war effort. The actual plots of these stories are largely long forgotten, but everyone sufficiently learned in comics history has heard of the character "Whitewash Jones," a member of the group who was essentially a ridiculous amalgamation of every possible racist stereotype of black people - huge eyes, huge lips, really stupid, loves watermelon, hates ghosts, and so on and on. When the Young Allies were revisited in the 2000s for a Milestone Celebration comic, this character was deemed so unsalvageable that the Golden Age comics were retconned in their entirety into in-universe propaganda cartoons Very Loosely Based on a True Story, and while "Whitewash" did exist, his real name was Washington Jones, he was a competent and intelligent member of the Air Force, and he hated how the character based on him was portrayed.
    • Rick Remender's run on Captain America is known primarily for the loads and loads of retcons to the accepted canon it had. First, there was Steve Rogers suddenly displaying some somewhat sexist behavior regarding Sharon Carter. Then there was Remender retconning his father, an Irish immigrant, into a stereotypically abusive drunk. Then, there was Sharon Carter being Stuffed into the Fridge in an Senseless Sacrifice and remembered only for her relationship with Steve. And finally, there was the relationship between Sam Wilson and Jet Black, Arnim Zola's daughter, who, despite having the body of a grown woman and running around in what can best be described as black electrical tape, is chronologically around five. The relationship was filled with Squick, and has never been mentioned again.
    • Nick Spencer's run on Captain America, immediately following Remender's, rapidly became infamous for the frequency with which it was caught up in controversy. It began when the first issue of the run ended with the out-of-nowhere reveal that Captain America had been a sleeper agent for the Neo-Nazi terrorist group HYDRA his entire career, which garnered an overwhelmingly negative reception, due to the fact that Captain America was a character created by two Jewish men to oppose fascism. Spencer insisted that the revelation was true and not a Cosmic Retcon, only to reveal in the next issue that yes, it was very much the the result of a Cosmic Retcon,note  leading to Spencer being attacked once again for lying about it. Subsequent issues also built up a reputation for Spencer unsubtly inserting his politics and/or swipes at critics, the latter of which he also did on Twitter. Also, on Twitter, Spencer condemned the viral video of a bystander punching a Neo-Nazi in the face during an interview on the basis that all violence is wrong, which was retweeted by the Neo-Nazi in question, further ruining his reputation. Later on, Marvel would try to distance HYDRA from Nazis, which fell flat on its face due to not only the organization's origins in the comics, but also due to said origin being followed to the letter in the very well-known Marvel Cinematic Universe. This led to mockery from all sides. And then, the Secret Empire event happened, wherein Steve is found worthy of wielding Thor's hammer, which many found to be insulting, especially given that the original Thor, who's displayed much more heroic traits than HYDRA Cap, was still unable to wield it.note 
  • C. B. Cebulski's ascent to the position of Editor in Chief at Marvel Comics has been overshadowed by the revelation that a whole string of comics written by "Akira Yoshida", a supposed Japanese writer whom he had supposedly recruited in the early 2000s, were in fact written by him.
  • Robert Crumb has drawn a lot of stories that really pushed the boundaries of social taboos. Some of them frequently turn up in analysis about the freedom of speech because they are extremely offensive to women and African Americans.

  • The long and acclaimed career of Peter David, known for his work on The Incredible Hulk and X-Factor, was briefly tarnished in October 2016 when he gave a lengthy rant against Romani people in front of a large crowd at New York Comic Con. Most people forgave him after he apologized and it turned out that he'd been repeating misinformation that had been given to him by a racist convention liaison person in Eastern Europe.
  • Dreamwave, publisher of the Transformers Generation One comics of the mid-2000s, is remembered far more for its shady business practices (not paying numerous employees being one of the most known claims) and controversial bankruptcy than for any of the stories it told. The stories themselves fell into disdain with many future series, IDW in particular, outshining them easily and much more attention is paid to the infamous art flaws than any of the positives.
  • Identity Crisis is probably best known for the fact that it included an extremely graphic rape scene between super-villain Dr. Light and Sue Dibny, the wife of Ralph Dibny aka Elongated Man (while no genitals were shown, pretty much every image that could imply a rape was) and a general sense that it caused The DCU to slip into an annoying period of Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy for a while. The actual plot is an almost totally mundane murder mystery, and the rape is a Red Herring.note 

  • Jeph Loeb's decades-long career was overshadowed by a highly visible Creator Breakdown he underwent in the late 2000s following the sudden death of his son. Not only did the overall quality of his writing take a hit during this period, but his stories would frequently deal with disturbing topics such as incest and display a level of violence unusual for the superhero genre. In particular, he wrote The Ultimates 3, which was not up to the quality of the first two miniseries written by Mark Millar. It was followed by Ultimatum, a Crisis Crossover that killed half the cast of the Ultimate Marvel universe, mostly in gruesome ways. He has written several other comics: The Long Halloween (two Eisner Awards), Dark Victory (one Eisner Award), Superman for All Seasons (two Eisner nominations, one Wizard Fan Award), Batman: Hush, Fallen Son: The Death of Captain America, etc. He also created the characters X-Man, Red Hulk, Sam Alexander and Jimmy Hudson, all of who, although divisive, have been fairly prominent at times. And even in the Ultimate line, he also wrote follow-up work such as New Ultimates. Still, for many fans he's the one who ruined the Ultimate line with Ultimatum, and nothing else. Eventually, he decided to work in TV full-time.
  • Metaphase was a thoroughly inoffensive independent comic book about the adventures of a Superman expy as he tries to raise a son with Down syndrome who develops powers of his own. And then its publisher, Alterna Comics, tried to declare a stance of neutrality in the ComicsGate controversy. Creator Chip Reece does not agree with the ComicsGate movement and publicly announced that he would remove Metaphase from Alterna's lineup. Consequently, a lot of Alterna's fans have accused him of betraying the publisher and have vowed not to buy any of his future works or recommend Metaphase to their friends. Reece has mostly taken this in stride, instead choosing to throw his support behind Superb, another series featuring a protagonist with Down syndrome.
  • Volume 94 of the manga-esque version of Monica's Gang received a lot of attention in Brazil due the main character, Monica, saying, "My body, my rules" during a discussion concerning dental braces. Some alt-right groups only spread the panel where Monica said "My body, my rules" on social media, which caused them to accuse the comic of spreading feminist ideas. As a result, the writer of the story was harassed on her personal Facebook page. In the end, the official Monica's Gang Facebook page made a statement explaining the situation which dissolved the controversy.
  • My Little Pony Annual 2014 was dead on arrival the instant someone noticed a cameo appearance by an Original Character created by an extremely controversial Big Name Fan. The entire story and plot was instantly forgotten in favor of intense arguing, debates, Flame Wars, and even calling for the writer to be fired. The writer and IDW still take flak for it, and the majority of the fanbase only knows that issue as "the one that caused all the arguing".
  • It's not every day that a controversy is large enough to cancel a work a mere day after its announcement, but that's exactly what happened when Marvel Comics unveiled a new Science Hero team, N.G.E.N., at New York Comic Con 2017. The issue? The team was sponsored by Northrop Grumman, a defense contractor notorious for corruption and war profiteering, and the deal was accompanied by a series of ads attempting to sell careers in the arms industry to children by equating them with working for Iron Man.note  The deal was widely lambasted as tasteless, with respected writer G. Willow Wilson threatening to quit if it went through. As a result, the agreement with Northrop Grumman was quietly pulled mere hours after its formal announcement.
  • The underground bondage comic Nights of Horror is known for two things - one, the fact that it was deemed legally obscene by the state of New York, and two, the fact that it was drawn by Joe Shuster, the legendary co-creator of Superman.
  • Devin Grayson's run on Nightwing infamously had the eponymous character get raped by a female Anti-Hero named Tarantula. It was somewhat awkward, and became infinitely more so after Grayson asserted that what she wrote was not rape, but rather just "non-consensual sex". The scene and the bizarre statement explaining it are now what the run and, to some extent, Grayson herself are predominantly known for, and usually the zenith of any discussion regarding either of them.

  • Psylocke of the X-Men gets this quite a bit, to the point that it's almost overshadowed her character. First appearing as a Caucasian woman, Betsy Braddock's mind would eventually be transferred into the body of a Japanese woman. An assassin with a penchant for katanas, Psylocke is now well-known for her use of a katana, being a Ms. Fanservice and for being one of the few prominent Asian superheroines from Marvel... except that she wasn't born Asian. The loads of implications concerning her Race Lift and the sheer Squick of it to some has followed the character ever since and frequently comes up when she's discussed; not helping matters is that Psylocke herself has accepted it. For this reason, Marvel briefly began to promote her as a British-Japanese heroine while ignoring her convoluted backstory, before finally undoing the bodyswap after almost thirty years.
  • Joe Quesada, Marvel's Editor-in-Chief for the entirety of the 2000s, is rarely remembered for anything other than his mandating the creation of the infamous 2007 Spider-Man story arc One More Day, which saw Peter Parker make a deal with Mephisto to save Aunt May's life, in exchange for removing his marriage to Mary Jane Watson that, in real life, lasted 30 years. His more positive traits, such as his role in getting the company out of its late-90s bankruptcy and his legitimate talent at art, for which he's won awards, are either forgotten or considered overridden by his reputation as a stuck-in-the-past Obstructive Bureaucrat thanks to that story.
  • Rat Queens saw its popularity evaporate almost overnight after artist and co-creator Roc Upchurch was arrested for domestic violence. While Upchurch was fired and replaced very soon afterwards, he still receives royalties for sales of any issue or trade in which his art appears, which has made many of the series' fans hesitant about continuing to buy them. Further controversy arose after Tess Fowler, the third artist to handle the book, and the only woman involved with it, was fired. Kurtis Wiebe insists that she was let go so that he could put the book on hiatus and figure out what he wants to do with it, but Fowler has claimed that Wiebe fired her because he was planning to bring back Upchurch, which doesn't seem to have been the case.
  • The short-lived Spider-Man spin-off Slingers is probably best remembered for having "internal variants" in its first issue, where, in order to drive up sales, Marvel expected people to buy four copies, with each copy showing the events of the first issue from a different character's perspective. Needless to say, this did not result in increased sales, and the series was cancelled after a year.
  • Dan Slott's run on Spider-Man, once considered the best run in years, has been overshadowed by the antics of Slott himself, who has become known for teasing, debating, and quite occasionally even outright insulting fans online.
  • The original Supergirl's first Post-Crisis solo book suffered from this at the beginning, when DC's attempts to turn the Girl of Steel into a Darker and Edgier character and the overly sexualized artwork were more talked about than the stories themselves, and writer Joe Kelly's reaction to fan criticism was writing the infamous issue #18, a blatant Take That, Critics! to Supergirl long-time fans and readers unhappy with the book's direction. Joe Kelly and editor Eddie Berganza were out of the book shortly afterwards, and the next writers corrected course, but the damage was already done and Supergirl wasn't a best-selling book anymore in spite of the vastly improved storytelling, characterization and art.
  • The Titans tie-in to Brightest Day was considered a pretty bad comic to begin with, but the only thing anyone remembers about it is that it contained the gruesome death of Ryan Choi, The Atom and one of DC's few non-Captain Ethnic Asian heroes. The firestorm the death ignited was so big mainstream news sources covered it, and while Ryan has since returned (indeed, it was revealed he never completely died at all) it's still remembered as a crowning example of how not to kill a character.
  • The first two Tintin stories, Tintin in the Land of the Soviets and Tintin in Africa are both controversial to this day.
    • The first is essentially an Anvilicious anti-Soviet, anti-Communist propaganda piece that even Hergé saw as an Old Shame and refused to have updated, colorized or even reprinted.
    • The second has been updated (notably by removing scenes where Tintin makes huge inroads into Congolese wildlife), colorized and reprinted, but has gained more controversy since the 1960s because of the outdated colonial times imagery and offensive depictions of native Africans, who are portrayed as childlike.
    • A similar thing happened with The Shooting Star, which was made during the Nazi occupation and features a banker with a big bulbous nose as the villain, who not only looks a lot like a stereotypical Jew, but also has a Jewish sounding name Bohlwinkel. Hergé denied that this was intentional and claimed the name was just a Marollian note  name for "candystore". He was actually surprised that it was a Jewish surname too. The original story had the banker being American too, which was changed in the reprints to the fictional state Sao Rico. There was also a minor scene poking fun at two rabbis, gloating over the fact that the world will end because then they wouldn't have to pay their debts off, which was also removed.
  • Transformers IDW has a character who revolves around this — Arcee. Simon Furman, a well-respected writer known for his extensive Transformers work, has... interesting ideas regarding the gender of Cybertronians and has twice in his career attempted to "justify" female Transformers. The first attempt was bad enough and a blatant Take That! at anyone wanting female Transformers, but in the then newly malleable IDW continuity which he had full control over for a few years, he felt the need to justify Arcee being female. Furman views Cybertronians as an asexually-reproducing race without gender who use masculine pronouns for convenience's sake when interacting with species with genders — something that doesn't fly right with many to begin with — and that Arcee used to be just like that, but was experimented on and given a forced gender reassignment, and this experiment turned her into a bloodthirsty psychopath. Needless to say, many were concerned what this story was saying about gender and transgender issues, as well as why it was so... weird. Eventually this was retconned away by later writers, and it was established that female Transformers do exist — and all new Transformers universes after said story have made female Cybertronians commonplace — but the damage was done and followed the comic version of Arcee until the continuity's end.
  • Uncanny Avengers and its writer, the until-then-highly-regarded Rick Remender, fell victim to this. The book was intended to be an anti-racism story showing mutants and humans working together for tolerance, but unfortunately, a very badly worded Character Filibuster in the fifth issue lent the impression that the message was "Minorities need to give up their culture and assimilate to be accepted." When criticized on Twitter for this scene, Remender responded with a strange, angry outburst that infamously included a Suicide Dare. He apologized the following day, but the damage was done, and Marvel proceeded to greatly de-emphasize the book in its marketing. Reflective reviews generally see it as a So Okay, It's Average series at best, with extremely confused politics.
  • Artist Ethan Van Sciver, perhaps best known for illustrating much of Geoff Johns' famous Green Lantern run including the acclaimed Sinestro Corps War story arc, saw much of his fan goodwill evaporate when he made a series of tweets expressing homophobic and antisemitic opinions, as well as possible sympathy for hate groups. He further damaged his reputation when he tried to claim that the late Darwyn Cooke would have supported him, earning a stinging rebuke from Cooke's widow and just about everyone else in the industry. Since then he has openly become a member of the notorious "alt-right" political movement, and in doing so burned virtually every remaining bridge he had outside of it.
  • X-Men: Gold has been consumed by controversy since its very first issue when Indonesian comic artist Ardian Syaf's was found to have inserted Indonesian memes used to express sympathy with Islamic fundamentalism, quotes that can possibly be related to anti-Christian/anti-Judaism sentiment, and alt-right politics. Because of this, Marvel terminated his contract. Everything else about the comic such as the plot seems secondary, since the controversy is the only thing most people discuss about it. What made it worse is that Marvel had announced that they would tone down the political elements in their comics with X-Men: Gold and Blue being used as an example of a superhero title that would avoid this.


Example of: