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Top 10 Darkest Superhero Storylines

VO: Adrian Sousa WRITTEN BY: Craig Butler

These storylines took superhero comics into dark territory. For this list, we’ll be looking at the most brutal, twisted, and shocking superhero storylines, from DC’s “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns” to Marvel’s “Wolverine: Old Man Logan” and more! Expect Spider-Man and Daredevil to also drop in for these bleak, dystopian tales. What do YOU think is the darkest superhero storyline? Let us know in the comments!

Check out the voting page for this list and add your picks: https://www.WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top+10+Darkest+Superhero+Storylines Special thanks to our user InsideADream for suggesting this idea!

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Transcript
Script written by Craig Butler

Top 10 Darkest Superhero Storylines


It’s always darkest before the dawn – and it doesn’t get much darker than this. Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Darkest Superhero Storylines.

For this list, we’re looking at superhero storylines that contain elements that are heavier and more brutal than what most comic books have to offer.

Think you know comics? Be sure to answer the trivia questions in between some of our entries. There’s three in total, and the answers will be revealed at the end of the video. How many can you get right?

#10: “Miracleman” (1982-89)


Miracleman, originally known as Marvelman, started out in the 1950s as a revised version of the original Captain Marvel for English audiences. In the 1980s, Alan Moore took this lighthearted superhero series and totally reinterpreted it. It turned out that Marvelman and his pals had been victims of a secret government project which had gone awry. By the time Moore was through, half of London had been destroyed in one of the most brutal, graphic depictions of what a genuine battle between superpowered beings would be like. Marvelman and friends end up conquering the world and reshaping it in their own image.

Alright, time for question #1:

What codename did Barbara Gordon adopt after her she was paralyzed by the Joker?

#9: “Identity Crisis” (2004)


Identity Crisis revolved around the brutal murder of Sue Dibny, wife of Ralph Dibny, the Elongated Man. During the course of the story, it’s revealed that Zatanna had erased the memories of villains on several occasions – and of Batman, as well. On one of those occasions, it was Dr. Light who had his memory erased after raping the now-deceased Sue Dibny. Sue’s murderer was eventually revealed to be Jean Loring, the Atom’s ex-wife, who accidentally murdered Sue in an attempt to get the Atom back. The tragedy of Ralph and Sue Dibny, symbols of the Silver Age’s optimism, was shocking, especially in a story colored by such dark revelations and unheroic behavior.

#8: “Wolverine: Old Man Logan” (2008-09)


Wolverine has often been grim and gritty, but never so much as in this bleak series. Set in a dark future, it finds an aged and embittered Wolverine living as one of the few surviving heroes in a world ruled by supervillains. Logan comes out of hiding to perform a job with Hawkeye – not for charitable reasons but because he needs the money. Suffice it to say things do not go well. As if the whole set-up isn’t dark enough, the series reveals that years ago Mysterio tricked Logan into murdering his friends and teammates. And as this series unfolds, Logan’s family is murdered and he himself is actually eaten by the Hulk - though not for long.

#7: “Emerald Twilight” (1994)


As one of the enduring beacons of the Silver Age, Hal Jordan was a symbol of heroic goodness for decades. This is what made the Emerald Twilight storyline so crushing. When Hal discovers that his beloved hometown has been utterly destroyed, his mind snaps - and in a big way. Reprimanded by the Guardians of the Universe for using his ring to try to comfort himself, he heads to their planet of Oa with vengeance on his mind. Along the way, he kills every other Green Lantern he encounters, as well as all the Guardians, save one. Jordan’s villainous rampage was intensely disturbing and it would take years for a retcon to save the character.

#6: “Kraven’s Last Hunt” (1987)


One of the finest Spider-Man stories of the 1980s, Kraven’s Last Hunt elevated a pretty silly supervillain to new heights. In the story, Kraven, who took hunting to an extreme, buried the web-slinger alive. He then made it his mission to prove he was better than Spider-Man dressing like the web-head and capturing the villain Vermin, whose defeat had previously required both Spider-Man and Captain America. Spider-Man eventually rises from his grave, but Kraven feels he has already proven he is the hero’s superior and unleashes Vermin as a distraction. While Spider-Man hunts Vermin, Kraven calmly chronicles his defeat of Spider-Man and contentedly kills himself. It’s super messed up, but an incredible story.

Okay, it’s time for question #2:

Marvel fan Randy Schueller submitted the idea for Spider-Man’s Black Suit in 1982. How much was he paid?

#5: “Daredevil: Born Again” (1986)


Honestly, Born Again would have been dark enough even if it had only focused on poor Karen Page. Daredevil’s ex-girlfriend, Karen had fallen on hard times and was living as a porn actress and a junkie. To get a heroin fix, she reveals Daredevil’s secret identity. That information eventually reaches the criminal mastermind the Kingpin – kicking off Daredevil’s descent into hell. He’s framed for paying off witnesses, his career is ruined, his apartment is firebombed and he’s left homeless and destitute. Frank Miller brilliantly but remorselessly pulls Daredevil to unprecedented depths – making his rise again all the more spectacular and amazing.

#4: “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns” (1986)


Miller sure had a knack for dark but brilliant stories. Considered by many the ultimate examination of Batman, “The Dark Knight Returns” finds the hero retired and depressed. With no Batman around for a decade, the criminal forces of Gotham have essentially taken over and the rot underlying Gotham has taken a firm hold. But with Batman finally motivated to return, a change is coming – one that will be accomplished through ruthless violence. The Dark Knight Returns is a gripping and at times repulsive story, one which celebrates Batman’s vigilante acts while simultaneously raising questions about his fascist tendencies. The sequences with Superman and the Joker are both truly unforgettable.

#3: “Batman: The Killing Joke” (1988)


Talk about a dark decade for Batman. In 1988, Alan Moore created a brilliant but controversial classic in The Killing Joke. The Joker believes that what separates sanity from insanity, or even good from evil, can be destroyed by the events of just one really bad day. He decides to test his theory by subjecting Commissioner Jim Gordon to a hellish trial. Kidnapping and stripping him, he then bombards him with nude images of his daughter Barbara, whom the Joker has shot and paralyzed. Undeniably powerful, the story has been criticized by many for its vicious treatment of Barbara Gordon. Even Moore has retroactively taken issue with his story, though it remains an essential Batman story.

#2: “Watchmen” (1986-87)


Another dark classic courtesy of Alan Moore, Watchmen forever changed comics. A deconstruction of the superhero genre set in an alternate Earth on the brink of nuclear war, Watchmen explores the rise and fall of the superhero. The presence of one hero in particular, the god-like Dr. Manhattan, is shown to have been pivotal in allowing the U.S. to win the Vietnam War and exacerbating tensions with the Soviet Union. In order to save the world, one of the superheroes hatches a plot that will cost countless lives. In this groundbreaking work, Moore forced readers to reevaluate the hero archetype, as well as the darkness in all of us.

Here’s the third and final question:

The heroes in Watchmen were originally going to be characters from what defunct comics publisher?

#1: “Ruins” (1995)


In the dystopian world of Ruins, as one character says, “everything that can go wrong will go wrong”. Writer Warren Ellis looked at the Marvel Universe and examined what might happen if all those events and experiments that created superheroes ended in tragedy instead. Gamma radiation made Bruce Banner into a mass of tumors. Peter Parker’s irradiated spider caused sickness. Professor X is President X, imprisoning and mutilating mutants. The Fantastic Four didn’t survive their initial space flight. The Silver Surfer went insane and the Avengers died trying to lead a secessionist movement. Ruins is relentless in its dark vision – and all the more powerful and unforgettable for that reason.
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