Top 10 Marvel Moments That Made Fans Rage Quit
Superheroes have their pitfalls. Some are forgivable. Others are just unsightly.
Comic book fans know what they like—and this is not it! Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the "Top 10 Marvel Moments That Made Fans Rage Quit."
For this list, we’ll be looking at the most cringe-worthy, frustrating, insulting, or otherwise unwelcome moments in Marvel comics. Please note that we’ll be focusing on moments that turned readers off at the time of publication, not moments that have aged poorly or been retroactively criticized. We’re not saying that these moments were universally reviled, just that a sizable portion of readers made their displeasure be known.
The Great Lake Avengers and its members are outsiders—both within the world of the comics and from an editorial standpoint. Often mocked or dismissed by their peers, the GLA also bucks the general tone of Marvel comics by going for a humorous, light-hearted style. Be that as it may, they’ve developed quite the following—especially Squirrel Girl. Despite seemingly silly powers and innocent demeanor, she’s ironically beaten opponents who seem way above her weight class. This has usually been played for laughs, but when she bested the Mad Titan Thanos in 2006, it was a little too far for some readers, who felt that it trivialized the iconic villain. She also took down MODOK in the same issue.
Comic book characters are often illustrated as idealized versions of the human form—often exaggerated to a ridiculous, anatomically impossible degree. For some readers, these sexy images are part of the appeal of the medium. So in the early 90s, Marvel gave the people what they wanted with the Marvel Swimsuit Specials. They featured many of fan-favorite characters, scantily clad and posing seductively in a classic pin-up fashion. We suspect that many fans drooled over Rogue and Storm, but when the largely male 90s readership encountered the Punisher in a skull speedo or Namor in a clamshell thong… they were less enthused. It’s all in good fun, but those are hard images to get out of your head… especially that Ghost Rider spread...
We can only imagine how tempting it must be for comic book writers to shake up the history of a character they’ve been charged with writing. The thing is… with great power comes great responsibility—namely the responsibility to think ahead about how the readership is going to respond. In 2007, Jeph Loeb introduced Romulus, an apparent millennia old figure who had allegedly orchestrated everything in Wolverine’s life. It’s revealed to Logan that he’s not even a mutant, but a member of the Lupine species, which evolved not from simians, like humans, but canines. Many fans hated the implications of both revelations. Thankfully, it was retconned after just a few years, dismissed as lies and manipulation.
It’s hard to pinpoint one exact moment when readers turned on Spider-Man’s infamous clone saga. Spectacular Spider-Man #226 is a strong contender with Peter Parker being revealed as the clone, and that shameful panel when Peter hits Mary Jane. Then there was the seemingly endless parade of clones, including Ben, Kaine, Guardian, Jack, AND Spidercide. As the convoluted story arc dragged on from 1994 to 1996, there were countless narrative choices, revelations, and fakeouts to frustrate readers, while some fans simply grew weary of Marvel’s refusal to tie things up in a reasonable amount of time. Major comic events and arcs always serve to increase sales, but rarely are they so transparently or artificially prolonged in the name of profit.
Not to be confused with NBC miniseries, Heroes Reborn was a crossover that ran from 1996 to 1997, spinning out of the events of the Onslaught storyline. As any comic book fan collecting at the time will attest, the 90s was a dark decade for the industry, both literally and figuratively. The doom, gloom, and grittiness were off the freaking charts. And so Marvel decided to do a large scale reboot, reinventing their most beloved characters to fit the times. The makeovers were bad enough, but they actually outsourced the work to Image comics founders, including the much-maligned Rob Liefeld. Fans were divided, to say the least, and many consider it to be a low point for the company creatively.
The Ultimate Universe was honestly a much bigger success than most people would have or could have predicted. During its heyday, it gave us the excellent Ultimate Spider-Man series, which genuinely attracted a whole new generation of readers to the medium. Sadly, not everything was so well-executed. We get that this universe was envisioned as a safe space for writers to take risks with iconic characters, but we’re not sure if incest is what the people were clamoring for. Remember, this was before Game of Thrones. A weirdly intimate relationship was established between twins Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver in this universe, and in Ultimates 3 all subtlety was thrown out the window. Yuck.
Honestly, this reveal makes the whole “Wolverine is a dog-man” retcon look like a crowd pleaser. What in the history of comic books made anyone think that this was a good idea? If there’s one hero that people hold sacred, it’s Captain America. He doesn’t go bad. He doesn’t betray people. Even when given a hard choice, he remains a pillar of morality. We get the need to generate headlines and counteract dwindling sales with must-read events, but this was seen as insulting to Cap’s legacy—a clear exercise in shock value. In these modern times, seeing the sentinel of liberty turned into a terrorist was a step too far, and the community was vocal in their disapproval.
The majority of modern day comic book readers are teens and adults, meaning that some sexual content is totally acceptable—but keep it in good taste. Much like the twincest depicted in Ultimates 3, the revelation of an affair between Norman Osborn and Gwen Stacy was met with revulsion. The age gap was bad enough, but this revelation tainted a beloved character. Stacy’s relationship with Peter is one of the most important in comic books, and her tragic death plays a major role in shaping Spider-Man. By revisiting one of Spidey’s most pivotal moments, Sins Past established itself as one of Marvel’s worst. The fact that affair resulted in children only added insult to injury.
Remember when we were talking about the missteps of the Ultimate Marvel line? This is one of the major ones. Or rather a collection of them. As discussed, part of the fun with this separate Marvel universe was that it allowed the writers to craft stories with real stakes and consequences. A death, if well-executed like that of Peter Parker, can make for a moving moment that goes down in comic book history. Massacring a laundry list of characters in cruel, grotesque, and unusual fashion, self-sabotaging your successful universe? Not so much. Dozens of characters were killed, including MAJOR players like Cyclops, Thor, Magneto, Daredevil, Wolverine, Hank Pym, and more. That’s how you ruin a good thing.
You knew this was coming. Honestly, if you told us in 2005 after the conclusion of Sins Past that something worse awaited Spider-Man, we likely would respond with the word “impossible.” But we’d be wrong. You’d think that writer J. Michael Straczynski would have been banned from all things Spidey, but instead, he followed up Sins Past by co-writing this widely despised 2007 story, which will forever live on in infamy. Going against character, Peter makes a deal with Mephisto—a literal devil—in order to save Aunt May and hide his secret identity anew. The cost? His marriage with Mary Jane, their future child, and the immeasurable other changes that surely result from altering history. Yeah… fans raged, alright.