5. Sins Past (August 2004 – January 2005)
Oh, Spider-Man fans… Why must Marvel continue to abuse you? Gwen Stacy, one of Spider-Man’s first girlfriends, was a fan favorite for decades. Her murder at the hands of the Green Goblin is said to have single-handedly ended the Silver Age of Comics. It was a tragic scene that helped define Spider-Man for a new generation. Even after Spidey hooked up with Mary Jane, there was still a massive amount of care and sympathy for Gwen, solidifying her status as one of the most-loved characters in the entire Marvel Universe. So, of course, Marvel decided that the best thing to do was to rewrite her past so that Norman Osborn, the Green Goblin, had slept with her. Oh, but he just didn’t sleep with her…he knocked her up with TWINS that she gave birth to in France. After deciding to come clean with Peter and raise the kids with him, Norman killed her. Why? So he could raise them himself! Because of Norman’s bizarre blood, the kids aged faster than normal so that they were full-grown adults before they reached 10 years old! What does Norman do with them? He makes them attack Spider-Man!
Sins Past single-handedly ruined the character of Gwen Stacy for untold numbers of fans. Her tragic and emotional death was cheapened for pure shock value. But this would not be the only time that Marvel would intentionally ruin or disgrace one of Spidey’s relationships with a loved one. We’ll get to THAT horrible story in a bit. Image from http://www.weeklycrisis.com/
4. Civil War (June 2006 – January 2007)
It started as a relatively good idea: a schism occurs in the superhero community when a group of heroes accidentally blow up a large part of Stamford, Connecticut during a fight, killing over 600 civilians, including 60 children. Heroes were faced with a daunting option: register their identities with the government and become federal employees in order to prevent such a calamity from happening again or face prosecution. Half of the community, led by Iron Man, advocated registration, believing it to be the moral and responsible solution. The other half, led by Captain America, believed that forced registration was a violation of their civil liberties and revealing their identities could put their friends and families at risk. It was a difficult and emotional issue for everybody involved.
There was no easy answer or solution to the problem… at least… there wasn’t until Iron Man and Mr. Fantastic created a robotic Thor clone which attacked the anti-registration camp, killing the superhero Goliath in the process. And then, instead of trying to persuade and convince the anti-registration people to register, Iron Man and his followers hunted them down like animals, arrested them, and threw them in an unbreakable prison in another dimension without a fair trial or due process. Not to mention that the pro-registration camp convinced Spider-Man to reveal his identity as Peter Parker publicly, leading to his Aunt May getting shot (which subsequently leads to the next entry on this list). As the icing on the cake, after Captain America heroically surrenders to prevent any more violence or bloodshed, he is shot and killed on the steps of a courthouse.
I can’t emphasize enough how badly Civil War was received and how it almost irrevocably damaged Marvel Comics. To this day, there are people who refuse to forgive Iron Man for his betrayal. What should have been an even-sided, philosophical, and heart-stirring storyline became mean-spirited, dark, and had characters that people had known and loved for decades turn on each other. The Marvel staff completely isolated their fans by taking Iron Man’s pro-registration side during the debate, alienating thousands of readers. For many, Civil War is also considered to be a turning point in Marvel’s history…and not a good one at that.
3. One More Day (November 2007 – January 2008)
Spider Man and Mary Jane Divorce Worst Marvel Comics
The Amazing Spider-Man #544, Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #24, The Sensational Spider-Man (vol. 2) #41, Amazing Spider- Man #545.
If I ranked this list in order of the most hated, most ill conceived, most badly written, and poorly received moment in Marvel history, One More Day would be on the top. There is NO competition. For those of you who don’t read comics, let me try and break this down for you. Anyone who has seen the Spider-Man movies knows that Spider-Man’s true love was Mary Jane Watson. It’s been that way for almost 4 decades. She was among the most beloved members of the Marvel universe for her personality, spunk, and everlasting devotion to her husband Peter Parker. The two had weathered countless storms together, yet had always come out stronger as a result. Their wedding was one of the biggest Marvel events in history. For years, Peter Parker and Mary Jane were THE comic book couple, probably only rivaled in popularity by Superman and Lois Lane in DC Comics.
One day, Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada decided that he didn’t like the idea of Spider-Man being married. He believed that being single was essential to Spider-Man’s character (never mind the fact that he had been married to Mary Jane for almost TWENTY YEARS). So what did he do? He made Spider-Man make a deal with the Devil to trade his marriage to save the life of Aunt May who had been shot in the aftermath of Civil War. Let me say that again in case you didn’t grasp the infuriating implications of that last sentence. Spider-Man, one of the ultimate paragons of personal responsibility and righteousness in ALL of comics, made a deal… with the DEVIL! The deal was to sacrifice his MARRIAGE all so that he could save the life of his ELDERLY Aunt May. (Side Note: He had previously contacted Aunt May in the spirit world who told him to let her go since she was old, had a good life, and wanted Peter to be happy.)
It was almost universally panned by critics. The fan backlash was the stuff of legends. Joe Quesada became one of the most hated people in the industry, even getting booed off the stage at conventions. But one of the worst things about One More Day was that it was a key example of a disturbing trend among comic book companies: editors using their positions to ghostwrite their favorite comics. In fact, many of the entries on this list were the result of editorial mandates. Among them, One More Day reigns supreme. No comic company is perfect. Even their rival company, DC Comics, has their fair share of terrible moments (but that’s a list for another day…). But no matter what they do, they can take comfort in the fact that they didn’t put out One More Day. One More Day is the ultimate bad comic book moment.
2. Ultimates 3 (2008)
The Ultimate Marvel imprint, started in 2000, was intended to be a brand new Marvel Universe free from decades of comic continuity. It was designed as a starting point for new comic book readers who didn’t want to be bogged down or confused with story and character histories. Their main series included Ultimate versions of the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, and Spider-Man (easily the most popular and successful title from the Ultimate line). But the Ultimate Universe also had their own version of the Avengers known as the Ultimates. The Ultimates were the subjects of three short stand-alone series, creatively titled The Ultimates, The Ultimates 2, and The Ultimates 3. The first two were wild, run-away successes, reinventing their characters for a new generation and creating some of the most iconic moments of the new millennium (“Does this “A” look like it stands for France?). And then Ultimates 3 came along.
In an incredibly convoluted and confusing plot, the Scarlet Witch was assassinated, the Ultimates squared off with android duplicates of themselves, and Quicksilver was supposedly killed (more on that in the next entry). Oh… and somehow Doctor Doom was the genius behind it all. Sound cool? It isn’t. The entire series is plagued with horrible art, terrible writing, abysmal dialogue, and grotesque characterizations. Many people think of the Ultimates 3 as being the start of the downfall of the Ultimate Universe. But it would take our number one spot to finish the job.
1. Ultimatum (November 2008 – July 2009)
This is it, folks. This is widely considered to be THE event that killed the Ultimate Universe line. Think about that for a second…these five comics ended a ten year long comic book line. How? Let’s break it down:
Many of the Ultimates most beloved characters are killed off panel.
Half of the characters in the Ultimate Universe were killed, including, but not limited to: Daredevil, Cyclops, Doctor Doom, Doctor Strange, Emma Frost, Hank Pym, Juggernaut, Magneto, Professor X, Thor, Wasp, and Wolverine.
Over-the-top and offensive violence: the Wasp was cannibalized by the Blob, Magneto snaps Professor X’s neck, Madrox creates clones which he turns into suicide bombers, Wolverine has the adamantium stripped from his bones.
Scientific inaccuracies: Magneto reverses the Earth’s magnetic poles… no wait… the planet’s axis… no wait… the magnetic poles…. no wait… who cares? They’re the same thing, right?