Steve Rogers has somehow been a sleeper agent for the villainous Hydra since he was a child??! Nick Spencer, the current writer of the comic book Captain America: Steve Rogers, has certainly courted controversy over the past few weeks!
We’ve yet to see how this story will pan out, since many have assumed that he has been brainwashed, replaced, or is acting as a double agent. But fans have nonetheless balked at the idea that The Star Spangled Man With A Plan could have been a member of the Nazi-esque Hydra all along, especially since he has fought them countless times.
With over 50+ years of good, bad and downright weird storylines, it’s still too early to say whether it will turn into one of Cap’s most memorable stories or one of his most hated- but heck, at least Spencer tried. Some gimmicks and ideas in comics started out as bizarre notions and turned into some of the best plots ever! Take The Winter Solider arc, which resurrected a character that no one had dared to bring back to life beforehand, and look how that turned out!
Indeed, in such a vast and frankly bizarre universe as Marvel’s, there are bound to be missteps, and whilst Cap has had several – he did go undercover as an old lady, and later became a werewolf after all- I doubt that they quite match the insanity of several of Spider-Man’s stories.
Yup, Marvel’s flagship character has been tinkered with quite a bit over the years, and though he still remains one of our all-time favorite heroes, many of his fans have been shocked and appalled by the various twists and turns in his thrilling tales, be it the smallest of phrases or the largest of retcons.
Spider-senses a-tingling? So they should be!
Scroll on down to see a collection of some of Spidey’s most risible and reviled story lines ever!
7. The Spider-Mobile - Betrayed (1974)
Boy, you said it Spidey. The writers of our wall-crawling hero have never shied away from crafting light-hearted entertainment, but this is a bit too contrived and twee for our liking. Needing money for rent and expenses, Spidey and the Human Torch agree to construct a specialized car (which can drive up walls, I must add), so that he can advertise Corona Motors’ new engine.
The story was obviously a gimmick to sell tie-in merchandise, but we’re still left wondering why Marvel couldn’t have come up with a better vehicle for Spider-Man. A car is such a massive downgrade for a hero who can swing above the traffic! I mean, seriously, it’s as silly as Superman deciding to travel by scooter when he can fly!
Apart from its upgraded resurrection in Dan Slott's recent comics, the Spider-Mobile is mainly the butt of jokes, with writers openly mocking it to this day.
6. Spider-Man: Reign (2006-2007)
The premise of this story is essentially The Dark Knight Returns, but with a friendly neighborhood twist. Actually scratch that, it ain't so friendly! In a tightly controlled New York, an aged Spidey is forced out of retirement to right the wrongs of society.
It’s got a very heavy post-9/11 flavour and contains some odd moments (Spider-Man emerging from his wife’s coffin singing his own theme tune, anyone?) though I do have to say that it isn’t as bad as everyone makes it out to be.
The premise is good, and it’s got some solid dialogue and artwork. Plus, it’s saddening to see such an alone and broken version of Peter Parker, because we always hoped that things would work out for him. The emphasis on his guilt-ridden, emotional state following the death of Mary Jane is to be applauded.
However, the panel below is a very big step too far, and the reason for her death is a little bit...well, see for yourself...
OH DEAR LORD!! What should be tragic is instead darkly funny, with the emphasis on EVERY FLUID ensuring that you know just which one the writers are talking about. It could have been implied in a much more tasteful way, but as it stands, that’s just too much information there Pete.
5. The Man-Spider - Disassembled (2004)
Someone at Marvel clearly likes David Cronenberg's The Fly a bit too much, because the company seem to have a weird obsession with transforming Spidey into some variant of the Man-Spider.
He’s previously grown six arms when he tried to get rid of his powers, been mutated when he came into contact with powerful spores and had visions of becoming a massive spider when he was dead in The Other. But none of these cases are as weird as what happens in the Disassembled story line.
Here Adriana Soria, in her guise of "The Queen," essentially prefers insects and wants to kill all humans except those who have the, ahem, “insect gene.” This obviously puts Spider-Man in the firing line and she kisses him, passing on an enzyme which changes him into a massive spider. However, in a climatic moment, the Man-Spider dies, giving birth to...a naked...adult Peter Parker? And he now shoots organic webs?
Clearly, Marvel were wanting to tie the Sam Raimi movies even closer to the comics, adopting organic web-shooters over the traditional mechanical ones... but there are surely better ways to do it than this! Indeed, The Other story line - which is fairly similar - has its problems, but its writing and methodology are the superior of the two arcs by far.
Even so, that doesn't excuse writer J. Michael Straczynski from the next entry on this list, or the fact that Spidey’s night vision, organic web-shooters and all of his new abilities were removed in the Brand New Day story.
4. Sins Past (2004-2005)
Sins Past doesn’t seem to get as much stick as the others on this list, but by all rights, it really should! The less said about this one the better, so let's get it over with!
Deep into his marriage with Mary Jane (and J. Michael Straczynski's run), Peter is repeatedly attacked by two masked figures. He soon discovers that they are none other than the twin children of Norman Osborn...and Gwen Stacy!
Yup, before he killed her, he put a bun in her oven. Osborn, perhaps Spider-Man’s greatest villain, slept with one of his greatest loves. And it’s all detailed below in the panels which everyone read, but no one asked for:
I’m all for adult stories in superhero comics (where appropriate), but not ones like this. Not only is Sins Past nonsensical and implausible on many narrative fronts (which are too numerous to list here), but it also tarnishes the relationship between Peter and Gwen.
I’m no prude by any means, but I can’t help but feel that this revelation makes Spidey’s story somewhat sordid. It does Gwen no favors character-wise either. Apparently Straczynski wanted to retcon the story later on, but seeing as Gwen’s son, Gabriel Stacy, has appeared in several comics since, it doesn’t look like he was too successful on that front.
3. The Clone Saga (1994-1996)
He’s the clone! No, now he’s the clone! Aha! You thought he was the clone? Well he isn’t! He's the clone!
I think that pretty much encapsulates this sprawling story, which saw Spidey face off against a series of- yup,you guessed it! - clones, which were created by the Jackal (and manipulated by Norman Osborn) to mess with the wall-crawlers’ mind.
It started off as a shorter, potentially dynamic story, but when issues started to sell in great numbers, Marvel hurriedly padded out the story to grab a few more bucks from the punters.
Several “twists” later, one bad decision after another, and before you know it we are left with one of the most convoluted comic books of all time! Though having said that, we did get great characters in the form of Ben Reilly and Kaine out of it. Plus elements of the story have bled over into other more successful story arcs and adaptations, so even though it’s an utter mess, it wasn’t a complete loss.
2. Dying Wish & The Superior Spider-Man (2012-2014)
Hoo boy! And you thought Cap’s Hydra reveal was controversial! Succumbing to the many beat downs that Spider-Man had dealt him, the ailing Doctor Octopus swapped bodies with Peter Parker and left him to die in his own decrepit form. Circumstances ensured that he would strive to be a “Superior Spider-Man” rather than a villain, and from there, everything changed.
The battles with the Spider-Slayer at the Raft Prison are decently handled and Octavius’s science-heavy approach to crime-fighting was a fresh approach, but there a great many things about this particular story which irritated the fans. And "irritated" is putting it mildly.
Much of Ock’s dialogue is very one note, and essentially boils down to “I’m very clever and a better Spider-Man than Peter Parker,” which doesn’t make for thrilling reading after several variations on that theme. Plus, whilst some characters noticed the blindingly obvious change in Spidey's behavior (see above), many characters who should (Mary Jane, I’m looking at you) failed to, which naturally didn't help matters. Plus, everyone knew that Parker was soon returning.
Why? Well, death is not permanent in comic books any more. Superman, Batman and many others have come back after popping their clogs, so everyone knew that someone as popular as Peter Parker would return at a later date, just like every other supposedly dead character. That isn’t to say that publishers should admit that from the off, but Marvel's marketing stoked the fires of fan-fury by saying “if you didn’t like what we did with your beloved characters last time, then just wait till you read the next issue.”
Not cool Marvel.
1. One More Day (2007)
Almost universally hated by fans – and partly by its author J. Michael Straczynski - no list is complete without this story.
Afraid that Spider-Man’s marriage to Mary Jane was making him inaccessible to younger readers, and openly stating his dislike for their union, editor Joe Quesada struck in the wake of Civil War. Hired by the Kingpin, a hitman shoots at Peter who manages to dodge it and save Mary Jane, but not Aunt May, who then clung to life by a thread; wracked with guilt, Peter and MJ made a deal with Ghost Rider villain Mephisto (aka The Devil) to erase their marriage in exchange for Aunt May’s life, and a retcon of epic proportions ensued.
...Where to start?
The whole thing is laughable really. Few fans had a problem with Peter being married in the first place, so the whole edit felt a bit unnecessary. Plus, I love Aunt May as a character, but when you consider how many times she has disappeared, been critically ill and “died” prior to One More Day, that plot point was getting a little worn out.
Another part is that Spidey makes a deal with a bad guy to facilitate their divorce, which is laughably out of character and even more so given the fact that in the Marvel Universe, where magic and technology are present in the every day, a bullet wound could not be healed...because of reasons...
And, like with Superior Spider-Man, Marvel only salted the wound, with subsequent writers teasing that MJ and Peter were getting back together, only for them not to.
This, this right here, is why we can’t have nice things.
...Whilst you may be raging about Hydra-Cap, its important to remember that Marvel isn't necessarily out to ruin your favourite super soldier. Shock tactics have been used to sell stories on many occasions, and it would seem that this is one of those times. Plus, the story isn't finished yet, and gimmick or not, the reveal may be part of some greater tale which deconstructs old Wingtips and his place in America today!
If you don't like HYDRA-Cap, then try not to get into too much of a flap. As we've seen above, Spidey has had some doozies and I'm sure that there are plenty of others out there that I haven't mentioned, and probably never even heard of!
And that's just Spidey! There are plenty more rotten tales for each and every character in every comic book universe, but after all this time, they are still on our pages and screens fighting bad guys. They meet every obstacle, bounce back, and nearly always come out on top.
After all, they are our heroes. It's what they do.
So as they say before the takeoff on airplanes, lets just sit back, relax and enjoy the ride!*
*They do say this on airplanes right? Lord, I hope so...otherwise I'm going to look very silly!