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Isn’t being a superhero supposed to be fun? Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the "Top 10 Most Disturbing Moments in DC Comics."
For this list, we’re looking at the darkest, most disturbing moments from the history of DC Comics. Don’t let the bright colors fool you: life in the DC Universe can be pretty rough.
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#10: The Joker Wears His Own Severed Face
You don’t get to be the Clown Prince of Crime by being stable and well-adjusted, but this shocking new look is extreme even for Mister J. After being captured by Batman and sent to Arkham for the millionth time, the Joker had a villain known as the Dollmaker remove his face. After escaping and vanishing for a year, the arch-villain re-emerged, stealing his preserved face from the Gotham Police Department and crudely re-attaching it, giving him a horrifying and grizzly new look to reflect his new, more aggressive and bloodthirsty style. And trust us when we say that the Joker deciding he’s been too soft is almost scarier than his new look.
#9: Superman & Big Barda (Almost) Make a Porno
With a few exceptions, the denizens of Apokalipse are a nasty bunch, and the aptly named Sleez is bad even by their standards. Reveling in depravity, he eventually got to be too disturbing even for Darkseid, who exiled him to Earth. There he managed to trap and brainwash Superman and Big Barda and nearly succeeded in forcing them to make a sex tape he could sell on the black market. Thankfully, Big Barda’s husband Mister Miracle intervened and stopped Sleez before it was all too late. Putting aside the extremely clumsy way the story handles sexual assault and other topics, this is one dark and messed-up story.
#8: Hal Jordan & Arisia
Hal Jordan, one of Earth’s many Green Lanterns, is known for being a bit of a playboy, and one relationship, in particular, is rather infamous. Initially appearing as Hal’s teenaged sidekick, the young alien named Arisia developed a crush on the older hero as they shared adventure and excitement as members of the Green Lantern Corps. But when Arisia revealed her feelings, Hal turned her down because of her age. Arisia then subconsciously used her power ring to cause her body to age, eventually leading to her and Hal becoming a couple in spite of the fact that she was still underage. Come on, DC, that’s just weird.
#7: Nightwing is Sexually Assaulted
The subject of male sexual assault is one that very, very few pieces of media have tried to address in any way, and those attempts that have been made haven’t tackled the issue very well. Take, for example, the time that Nightwing, the former Robin, was sexually assaulted by the vigilante Tarantula. After Nightwing suffered a nervous breakdown and entered a near catatonic state, Tarantula forced herself on him. The details are left to the imagination, thankfully. In theory, this scene could have been used to address the issue, but instead, the scene is mostly played for shock value and has rarely been brought up since.
#6: Rorschach Murders the Child Killer
Alan Moore’s seminal graphic novel isn’t short on dark and disturbing moments, like the infamous scene where so-called superhero The Comedian sexually assaults the original Silk Spectre. But even more graphic is the flashback scene in which the vigilante Rorschach recounts his brutal murder of a child killer, an event which ultimately turned him into a more merciless vigilante. While investigating the young girl’s disappearance, Rorschach discovers that the man had fed her to his dogs. Rorschach proceeds to kill the dogs and burn the house down, but not before chaining the man to a stove and leaving a hacksaw for him to sever his own hand off to free himself.
#5: The Death of Aquababy
Most of the time, the death of infants and young children is off-limits, being considered too shocking and taboo for all but the darkest storylines. But that didn’t stop DC writers from giving Aquaman’s infant son Arthur Jr the ax in a story that forever changed the aquatic hero. After being kidnapped by Aquaman’s arch-enemy Black Manta, poor baby Arthur was killed by asphyxiation, drowning on dry land where his Atlantean biology left him vulnerable. This tragic event destroyed the marriage of Aquaman and his wife Mera and setting the hero down a darker path. Even today, few stories have dared to go this dark again when it comes to children.
#4: The Assault of Sue Dibny
The “Identity Crisis” storyline, a DC miniseries written by politic thriller novelist Brad Meltzer, saw the Justice League face one of their darkest periods ever when it was revealed that several members had secretly used magic to erase the memories of several individuals. One of these was the villain Doctor Light, following an incident in which he sexually assaulted Sue Dibny, the wife of Justice League member The Elongated Man. It’s a notoriously dark storyline full of twists and turns that shaped the DC Universe for years after, sending the once shining and optimistic heroes of the DC Universe into new and often depressing territory.
#3: Jason Todd’s Death
Still one of the darkest chapters in Batman’s history, this tragic storyline is made even darker when you learn the story behind it. After being brutally beaten by The Joker and left to die, the fate of Jason Todd, the second Robin, was left up to readers to decide. Would the Boy Wonder perish, or live to fight another day? Fans could vote via a telephone hotline, and the votes to end Todd’s life narrowly won out. This massive loss would become one of the cornerstones of Batman’s saga, even when Todd inevitably rose from the grave years later. This one’s on you, comic book readers!
#2: The Killing Joke
And speaking of heinous acts committed by The Joker, who could forget his infamous acts in The Killing Joke, the landmark story in which the sadistic villain shot, paralyzed and assaulted Barbara Gordon. Appearing seemingly nowhere at her home, Joker shot batgirl in an act that would leave her paralyzed. He then proceeded to strip her naked and photograph her, all to prove to her father that anyone can be driven mad by one bad day. The storyline’s use of sexual assault has been rightly criticized in the decades, and it remains an infamous storyline among not just the Batman mythos, but the DC universe at large.
#1: The Fridging of Alexandra DeWitt
Being the significant other of a superhero tends to be pretty hazardous, as this list itself has demonstrated. But it wasn’t until this incident that the phenomenon of female characters in comics getting killed off took on a new name. After Green Lantern Kyle Rayner's girlfriend Alexandra was killed, dismembered and stuffed in a fridge, writer Gail Simone began a running list of female characters who met similar fates. These women, who were killed not as a logical conclusion to their own story, but as a component of their male counterpart’s story, became known as Women in Fridges, a trope that unfortunately continues to this very day.