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Unintentionally Unsympathetic / Comic Books

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  • The Avengers manage to catch this in Avengers vs. X-Men, thanks to a thorough distribution of Conflict Balls among characters normally much less dickish. The Phoenix is flying through space on direct course for Earth - and destroying every planet it comes across in the meantime, killing billions.
    • While the Avengers are trying to save billions of lives, the way they go about it makes them seem like a bunch of assholes. Wolverine gives the Avengers biased information that painted a terrible picture of both the Phoenix and Hope (as well as framing Scott as being still hung up on Jean's death), and later decides the only solution is to kill Hope, the innocent teenage girl. Captain America acts antagonistically, parking an army on the X-Men's front steps and demands they hand over Hope, who is Cyclops's granddaughter and essentially a messiah to them. Cap also refuses to even think about consulting them on how to deal with the Phoenix, despite the fact the X-Men, especially Scott, are the most experienced with it.
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    • When the Phoenix gets closer, Iron Man's technobabble weapon ends up splitting it, resulting in the Phoenix Five, five X-Men each empowered by a portion of the Phoenix.
    • The Avengers, who reason the P5 are dangerously unstable, decide to provoke said dangerously unstable demigods by taking Hope again. Since the P5's benign dictatorship basically takes place between issues, the reader sees the Phoenix stopped and the conflict ended, and then the Avengers immediately starting another conflict.
  • Was also a problem with Marvel's controversial Civil War where, depending on the writer, the level of sympathy one could feel for the characters at any given time wavered greatly. Sympathy for Iron Man in particular took a big hit when he and the other Pro-Registration Heroes started throwing the Anti-Registration Heroes into an extra-dimensional prison without trial(s). Again, all suffered due to the Idiot Plot and Jerkass Balls being tossed all around.
    • Came back in full force with the sequel between Carol Danvers, Tony Stark and The Inhumans, due to the fact that all three trying to act sympathetic in their causes between using and not using the Inhuman Ulysses, their actions tend to drive readers (and also drove Laura (X-23, now the "New Wolverine") and various junior Avengers who all were stuck in the middle of the chaos) away, tired of the in-fighting.
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  • This proved to be a huge problem with the character Magog in DC Comics. When introduced in Kingdom Come he was a caricature of the worst part of 90's heroes, and was fairly popular for it, as he seemed so pathetic and remorseful. When he was brought into the main DC Universe he was given a huge push and eventually added to the Justice Society of America and later given his own series. He was shown to be a war veteran with PTSD, but proved to be so unlikable and mean to his teammates that he was eventually killed off in Justice League: Generation Lost.
  • Justice League: The Rise of Arsenal: Ever since the events of Justice League: Cry for Justice, Roy Harper has lost his arm and his daughter, and the miniseries is about his efforts to come to terms with the pain of both. Yet DC managed to bungle one of the easiest ways to score sympathy for someone by having him conduct himself as a Jerkass in the worst way throughout. Donna Troy tried to gently explain that his grief was not an excuse for jerkassery, and he turned around and cast aspersions on her not being there when her son died and called her a bad mother; before that, Mia Drearden, the second Speedy, tried to apologise for his daughter dying when she was taking care of her before she died and all Roy did was lash out at and guilt-trip her further, reducing her to tears and having to be restrained from doing more. The fans might have forgiven him for those things if he hadn't acted like a complete tool the rest of the time as well, pushing away everyone who tried to console him, Wangsting that none of them understood his pain and turning to drugs and painkillers to fix all his problems rather than accept it from his friends. Instead he just turned most people off.
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  • Supergirl story arc Day of the Dollmaker was meant to make readers feel sorry for Catherine Grant, the Daily Planet journalist who spent one year carrying out a smear campaign against Supergirl. It was intended to remind us that Kara Zor-El behaved as a brat early on, and Cat, who had lost her son, hated starlets who waste their young lives. Trouble is, it was well-established that Cat was also motivated by petty reasons such like resentment -Supergirl accidentally got her right eye bruised as rescuing her once, and accidentally revealed Cat's boobs were fake, jealousy and a thirst for fame. In order to get even with Supergirl, Cat spent months obsessively spreading lies and slander, bad-mouthing Supergirl and complaining about her skirt's length. When she heard Kara's father had been murdered Cat couldn't care less. Her slandering pieces and interviews were taken advantage of by madmen who schemed and carried out a genocide. Even so Catherine didn't stop and even blackmailed Supergirl into helping her. When Supergirl called her out on her behavior, Cat Grant claimed her actions were fully justified and it was all Supergirl's blame anyway. Even after Supergirl saved her life, she was unable to apologize or acknowledge she made anything wrong, albeit she wrote an article stating Supergirl "might" deserve a second chance. It's real hard to feel sorry for her in such circumstances.
  • Spider-Man:
    • Doctor Octopus is supposed to be the protagonist of Superior Spider-Man, being a Darker and Edgier Anti-Hero. To some he comes off as an Invincible Villain. Some of the fans despise him and the series for various different reasons. The behavior of Dan Slott has not helped in the slightest.
    • Carlie Cooper, Spider-Man's one time love interest, was featured in stories designed to make her seem similar to Spider-Man and therefore a more appropriate love interest and a better match for him as a person than Mary-Jane Watson. Unfortunately, it caused her to come across as selfish, entitled and self-centered, declaring that Peter couldn't possibly understand what she went through. Her attempts to be seen as a more appropriate match for Peter and a more sympathetic character ultimately made her into someone the audience couldn't stand.
    • Peter Parker/Spider-Man himself has also become this, mostly stemming from frustration from the controversial One More Day and Superior Spider-Man stories. Many argue that Spider-Man's new personality, coming as it does from external retcons makes him almost an entirely different character from the one planned by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee. The current Spiderman stories has Peter serving as a businessman and owner of his own industries which many argue, 1) undoes Peter's original Working-Class Hero appeal, 2) is unearned, since it came from Otto Octavious hijacking his body.
  • The dragon queen, T'mat from Gold Digger. Gold Digger operates on Rousseau Was Right and everyone is given a second chance. However, it's hard to sweep T'mat's actions under the rug. T'mat was tortured and raped by her former best friend Dreadwing during his rampage 1000 years ago and suffers from PSTD from the incident and sought revenge from two elves who inadvertently helped Dreadwing gain power and threatened death on anyone who tried to stop. This led her to have the elves captured and imprisoned for her to torment at her leisure. When the elves' friends came to rescue them, T'mat went on an assault of violence and murder, all the while ranting like a self-righteous maniac. It only ended because Summoner began to threaten revenge on her for killing Tirant and T'mat saw the error of her ways and was saved by the same elves she was trying to torture. Later, she would try and enslave Britanny for her power to paralyze Dreadwing and would injure a political leader in rage. Naturally, no one's shown any umbrage at her actions.
  • The Transformers: Robots in Disguise: Metalhawk was supposed to be written as Jerkass Has a Point by voicing the harm that the war caused to all the neutrals and to the planet itself. However many of his points went unchallenged by all but Prowl and eventually Prowl fell under mind control and purposefully tried to destabilize the political climate. Metalhawk continually tried scratching open the divides between factions, from accusing Bumblebee of murdering the Lost Light crew, to undercutting him at every turn. The result was Metalhawk trying to bring the population together under a peaceful rule, by insulting the factions, driving them further apart, and not bothering to see the other side of things.
    • Prior to him, the ongoing had Spike Witwicky, who was intended to be a badass soldier and prove that Muggles Do It Better by singlehandedly killing a dangerous Decepticon responsible for a lot of deaths. The problem was, he went about it in a patently sadistic way while breaking a mess of rules and regulations (including committing a war crime by executing a helpless opponent), and his attempted "The Reason You Suck" Speech was laden with hypocrisy. The fact that the apparent message was "the main focus of the franchise sucks compared to its most mundane element" didn't win him any favors, nor did the fact that the character he killed was a minor Ensemble Dark Horse who'd historically been Out of Focus. The result of the issue was making Spike so patently unsympathetic that pretty much every future writer treated the event as his Start of Darkness.
    • The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye gave a pretty big redemption arc to Megatron, which unfortunately suffers from this quite a bit. He's given one hell of a Freudian Excuse as to why he turned out the way he was, and he does at times show efforts to change as a person - but the problem is, the narrative also establishes him much too heavily as having been a monstrously horrible person after that excuse, and enjoyed every minute of it, and the characters and narrative are much too accepting of his turnaround. One issue would have a character be treated as firmly in the wrong for refusing to admit that Megatron turned over a new leaf, and another would have the revelation that the Decepticons had explicitly Nazi-style death camps. It seems to treat his actions in the war as some kind of moment of rage or a point where he was at his worst, but he was like that for millennia, and when he's claimed "I would happily wade across a river of corpses, chest-deep in rust and grease and engine oil, just to crush the spark of the last Autobot standing", it becomes pretty hard to take it seriously that he's genuinely shocked and horrified at all the people he's killed.
      • The Deceptions as a whole could be considered this in the post-war era. Many stories try to show they had become marginalized but after the aforementioned death camps, numerous genocides and the fact that many of them still hold on to these ideals even after their defeat (even the "nicer" members like Fulcrum harbor genocidal bigotry towards organics) and still blame the autobots, it's very hard to sympathise with them. There's also the fact it tries to show they were Not So Different to the autobots but that falls flat when any shady thing done by the autobots pales when compared to the decepticon's war crimes, the fact that many autobots came from the same lower class backgrounds yet didn't become the same way certainly doesn't help matters.
  • The deer from The Root Of The Problem of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (IDW), despite losing their home to a genuinely evil construction company, garnered close to zero sympathy from the audience as their means of fighting back was unleashing all Hell on towns and cities full of ponies that had absolutely nothing to do with the company (while inexplicably leaving the company and construction site itself completely unmolested). Some fans were actually cheering on the construction company believing at this point that the deer deserve to lose their home, and even those who are still on the side of the deer hoped it at least ended with them learning the aesop. It doesn't.
    • Apple Bloom and the Crusaders from Equestria Girls: Holiday Special is supposed to come as sympathetic due to the former feeling left out by her older sister who has been hanging out with Sunset Shimmer more than her. However the problem is that Apple Bloom comes off as instead being a jealous brat with what she, Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo do is borderline cyberbullying and identity theft by creating the "Anon-A-Miss" account on social media and using it to leak everyones' secrets online and frame Sunset for it. This not only leads to everyone in the school, including the Human Five, to turn on Sunset but pretty much drives her into a depression which in real-life cases has led to victims committing suicide. The fact that they get off without much repercussions sounds unfair given that the police normally would get involved in cyber crimes of this scale. While it's true the comic is aimed towards children, the themes within said story are quite heavy.
  • Teen Titans:
    • Deathstroke's mercenary team of Titans were described by writer Eric Wallace as being bad people, but it's clear that the majority of the team was supposed to be seen as tragic and sympathetic due to their horrible backstories and the recent series of traumas that pushed them into the team. This included Cheshire and Tattooed Man losing their respective child, Osiris being haunted by the man he accidentally killed to protect his sister, and the years of sexual abuse and Survivor's Guilt Cinder suffered from. However, any sympathy these characters might have gained was instantly crushed by the team's first actual appearance when they brutally slaughtered Ryan Choi, followed by Osiris's gradual transformation into a self-centered brat and Cinder stupidly letting a serial child rapist free because she rushed her attempt to murder him. The only member of the team who managed to retain any sense of sympathy from fans was Roy Harper, who was not a part of Ryan's death and had the distinction of being manipulated by both Deathstroke and Cheshire. It helps that readers were still majorly pissed off at how poorly Roy was being handled after Justice League: Cry for Justice and Rise of Arsenal.
    • Another Titans example would have to be Cassandra Sandsmark and Tim Drake during the "One Year Later" storylines. Understandably the two are still reeling from Superboy's death, but Cassandra began to sorely grate the nerves of the readers because she Took a Level in Jerkass and became an insufferable, bitter asshole. Tim came across as more sympathetic in his grief especially since the writers were deliberately ignoring parts of his backstory (like the stepmother who was nowhere to be found after his dad died), but then he became involved in a Wangst fueled on/off relationship with Cassandra that ultimately went nowhere. But what ultimately made the two unsympathetic was their constant zigzagging with Rose Wilson in the Titans, either accepting her as one of their own or viewing her as the team's token psycho and badmouthing her behind her back. In fact, Rose left the team and briefly allied herself with the new Clock King when she heard Tim and Cass profess she was a lost cause. This is all despite knowing very well that Rose's Face–Heel Turn was not of her choosing, but because her father pumped her full of drugs and drove her insane
    • Yet another would be in the New 52. In an incident that was obviously supposed to garner sympathy for the character, Bunker used his psionic bricks to slam an Ungrateful Bastard against a brick wall, because said bastard was ungrateful for being saved by Bunker and Beast Boy, because they "looked like a bunch of..." While Bunker was pissed that he was going to use a homophobic slur (Bunker is gay himself), literally nothing implies he was. So instead of Bunker attacking someone over a slur, which still would've been a little much, he's attacking a guy over something he didn't even do, with no implication that he was going to do it.
  • This is the problem with The Inhumans, especially in the All-New, All-Different Marvel era that sees them at odds with the X-Men due to the Terrigen Mists.
    • We're supposed to be sympathetic to the Inhumans because the Terrigen Mists are what activates the powers of Inhumans and losing the mist essentially means no unawakened Inhuman can get their powers. However, the mists are killing mutants who happen to get caught in its path at worse, giving them a disease and sterilising them at best, and the mutants are left trying to figure out a way to solve this problem before they go extinct. Instead of trying to help the mutants contain the clouds safely or get rid of them, the Inhumans Royal Family actually does their best to keep the mist clouds alive, guns ready to shoot down anyone who tries to interfere, citing cultural genocide (as opposed to the cloud's straight-up genocide of mutants). Even more so, this is all the fault of Inhumans member, Black Bolt, due to the events of Infinity, where he released said cloud on the world — previously, Terrigenesis was a coming of age ritual performed in an isolated chamber. Why this can't be how it is again is unaddressed, and that the cloud isn't a part of Inhuman culture, merely a changed version of the Terrigenesis ritual, is also not addressed. In a nutshell: the Inhumans are not only not helping to resolve the problem which they caused in the first place, they're canonically willing to attack people for fixing the problem. You really have to ask just what exactly makes these guys the heroes in the first place.
    • Two things suck even more sympathy points away from the Inhumans. One: there have been ways of activating Inhuman powers without the Terrigen Mists for some time now. Two: in the tie-in issue of Deadpool and the Mercs For Money, it's proven that the Inhumans value the Terrigen Mists over other races' lives, as an alternate future showed that the Inhumans declared open war with the Mutants for the latter committing the crime of... successfully altering the chemical makeup of the Terrigen Mists so that they harm neither mutants nor humans, but still activate Inhuman powers.
    • Even prior to this storyline, the Inhumans have long been considered among the hardest Marvel characters to take seriously as protagonists, as they're members of a classist and elitist absolute monarchy that practices eugenics and for a significant portion of their history even owned slaves, and when they were made to abolish slavery, they... just stuffed the slave race into a ghetto and hoped they didn't complain.
  • Bruno Carrelli in Ms. Marvel (2014)'s tie-in to Civil War II. At the end of the crossover, Bruno, furious at Kamala over how her interactions with her heroes lead him to losing the use of his left hand and all sorts college-related awards, ends his friendship with his childhood friend and decides to take up a scholarship at the only place that would take him, over in Wakanda. While this is tragic, the problem was that the situation that landed him there was his own fault - he attempted to bust out a friend who was unreasonably detained and the bomb he built and he armed blew up in his face. A friend who was going to be released the very next day, which meant that, had Bruno succeeded, he would have been in even more trouble. And he blames Kamala for all of this because she didn't want to help him break the law. Compounding on this is the fact that he turned and left his girlfriend, Mike, which hurt her even more adds on to the lack of sympathy.
  • The Punisher became this in the notoriously polarizing one-shot The Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe. His backstory is changed so that his family is inadvertently killed by the Avengers and the X-Men during a fight with the Skrulls and the Brood in order to give a plausible motive for him to go along with following the orders of Kesselring and his organization of people unintentionally harmed by superheroes to kill all superhumans, plus he is wracked with guilt after he kills Daredevil and discovers him to be his friend Matt Murdock, but all of this is offset by the fact that he blindly goes about murdering hero and villain alike without once considering that the heroes' harmful actions toward civilians were not deliberate or that the heroes have loved ones of their own.
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