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Top 10 DC Storylines That Crossed The Line

VO: Adrian Sousa WRITTEN BY: Craig Butler
Sure, sometimes comic creators make poor choices – but what were they thinking when they made these? Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 DC storylines that crossed the line. For this list, we’re looking at instances in DC Comics in which the storyline just went too far or characters involved acted in ways that just weren’t acceptable.

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Sure, sometimes comic creators make poor choices – but what were they thinking when they made these? Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 DC storylines that crossed the line.

For this list, we’re looking at instances in DC Comics in which the storyline just went too far or characters involved acted in ways that just weren’t acceptable.

#10: Star City is Destroyed

Superhero comics have to find a way to pack drama into their stories, something that is hard to do when dealing with people of exceptional powers and abilities. One way to do this is to create widespread destruction, while another is to bring devastation to the lives of ordinary people around a character. Cry for Justice did both, arranging for the destruction of Star City, home to the Green Arrow family. Millions of people died so our heroes could experience tragic and dramatic loss. One of those killed was Lian Harper, the young daughter of hero Red Arrow, whose grief pushed him far over the deep end. Both the mass destruction and the death of Lian felt manipulative, and Lian’s death especially seemed cruel and unnecessary.

#9: Batman Burns Bad Guys, Sleeps with Black Canary

Frank Miller is well-known for pushing against boundaries, and this is one instance where he simply went too far. The entire All-Star Batman and Robin series has been criticized for its extremes, but the seventh issue provided an excellent case in point. Miller’s Batman is unrelenting in his contempt for criminals. So much so that he douses a bunch of thugs with bleach and then sets them on fire. Not satisfied with that, he continues to fight them. All of which makes Black Canary, who is watching nearby, so turned on that she and Batman decide to satisfy their animal urges right then and there. Creepy, sadistic and more than a little gross.

#8: Lois Lane Changes Race to Get a Story

In the context of its time, this story was well-intentioned, as Lois Lane uses a machine – the kind only found in comic books – to temporarily change from her appearance to pass as an African American woman. Viewed today, decades past its first appearance, it comes across as unintentionally condescending. More problematically, Lois comes across as putting her own career and self-promotion ahead of the story. It would have made better sense to offer an African-American female journalist the chance to write from her perspective. Its good intentions aside, the story feels hackneyed and exploitive nowadays.

#7: Deathstroke Beds a 15-Year-Old

“The Judas Contract” was one of the best storylines of the 1980s and a defining moment for the New Teen Titans. During the course of this story, it was revealed that new member Terra was actually a spy, working with the Titans’ arch enemy Deathstroke. That was all well and good. Not so well and good, however, was discovering that the relationship between Terra and Deathstroke seems to have been romantic. Since Terra was only 15 years old at the time, that puts a different spin on things. Even more disturbing is that it feels like the creators seemed to take the underage business in stride as if it were not that big a deal. Trust us, it is.

#6: Lois and Lana Try to Brainwash Baby Superman

Far too many Silver Age Superman stories involved Lois Lane and Lana Lang competing for Superman’s affections in a way that modern readers find demeaning. Too often these ladies’ lives seem to revolve around nothing more than attaining Superman’s love. Worse, their rivalry often goes too far – as in this example form 1965. Somehow, Superman has been transformed into a toddler and Lois and Lana need to take care of him. Their tender caring includes each of them trying to brainwash him so that when he returns to normal, he will marry them. It turns out that this was actually a super baby from another dimension – but it doesn’t make their attempted manipulation and exploitation of him any more acceptable.

#5: Green Lantern Dates a Teenager

It’s bad enough when a villain like Deathstroke takes a sexual interest in an underage girl; it’s even worse when a superhero does it. But that’s what happened with Green Lantern Hal Jordan. Arisia, a teen-aged Green Lantern from another planet, clearly had a schoolgirl crush on Hal. Hal, being a seemingly sensible adult, told her that a romantic relationship between them would be inappropriate given her age. As a result, she changed herself physically from a teenager into a grown woman. Hal then reciprocated her romantic feelings for him. It seems her power ring had responded to her subconscious wish to be a woman – but the fact remains, despite her physical appearance, she was still 13 years old.

#4: Tarantula Rapes Nightwing

Like Nightwing, Tarantula sought to fight crime – but she was more ruthless in her methods and believed in killing her opponents if necessary. This went against Nightwing's core beliefs, but after an especially draining battle with the villain Blockbuster, he allowed Tarantula to kill his enemy. Fatigued from the battle and wracked with guilt, Nightwing fell into a catatonic state. Seizing her opportunity, Tarantula took advantage of his breakdown and raped Nightwing. It’s true that this action revealed a great deal about Tarantula – but it caused an uproar in the fandom, to say the least.

#3: Sue Dibny’s Fate

Was there ever a cuter comics couple than Ralph and Sue Dibny? The Elongated Man and his beloved wife were never superstars, but they were treasured for their lightheartedness and their picture of domestic bliss. Who knew Sue was headed for tragedy? During the Identity crisis storyline, Sue was found brutally murdered, with her grisly charred corpse all that remained of the lovable Sue. Worse, it was later revealed that she had been viciously raped by the second-rate villain Dr. Light. And her murderer turned out to be Jean Loring, the ex-lover of the Atom. Sue’s death turned out to just be a way for Jean to get her man back. Going too far? We think so.

#2: Barbara Gordon’s Abuse by the Joker

Speaking of going too far inevitably brings up The Killing Joke. On the one hand, Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s graphic novel is a brilliant distillation of the mind of the Joker and a compelling read. On the other hand, the manner in which Barbara Gordon is treated is truly reprehensible. In order to torture Commissioner Jim Gordon, Joker brutally shoots his daughter in the spine, paralyzing her. He then strips her naked and takes pictures of her. Does he do more? Some readers believed the Joker also raped the helpless former Batgirl. Whether he did or not, the senseless brutality visited upon her was simply too much for many readers – even fans of the comic.

#1: Green Lantern’s Girlfriend is “Fridged”

After doing his usual hero thing of saving lives, Green Lantern Kyle Rayner returned to his home, ready to spend a little alone time with his girlfriend Alex. Unfortunately, he found that Alex had been killed by one of his villains and stuffed into his refrigerator. This coldblooded murder set off a huge outcry. It seemed that Alex had really been created just so she could be killed – in other words, the woman was treated as a way for the male lead to experience pain. The issue of how women are treated in storytelling spread far beyond the comics industry. The term “fridged” was coined to refer to any incidences of a female character being killed just so a male character could wallow in his grief.

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