NO TAKE BACKS1 of 12DC Comics is well into "Rebirth" - its line-wide relaunch designed to bring their characters and stories back to their roots and bring back certain elements lost in the "New 52." Certain returns – like Dick Grayson’s Nightwing identity, the married post-Crisis Superman leading Superman, and the original Wally West – have been received with open arms. But there are plenty of aspects of pre-"New 52" continuity that fandom would rather remain “debirthed” (see what we did there?).
We’re not talking about small character changes or little nitpicks – these are the sometimes weird, sometimes absurd, almost always controversial decisions that put cracks in the Internet (or in some cases made for angry letter pages), either because they altered a character in a fundamental way or were, well, just plain ill-conceived (hey, nobody’s perfect).
So with all past continuity back on the table with "Rebirth," here’s Newsarama’s countdown of ten things we think DC would be well served to keep off the table, for good!
BART ALLEN: THE UNLUCKIEST SUPERHERO EVER2 of 12Pity poor Bart Allen.
It wasn't enough that Bart, who had a good run - no pun intended - as Impulse, the speedster who very definitely wasn't Kid Flash found himself with what was essentially a new personality and old costume when he became a member of the Teen Titans as Kid Flash. When Infinite Crisis came around and Wally West made what seemed at the time to be the ultimate sacrifice - Bart then found himself artificially aged to become the next Flash for roughly two seconds of DC time before being killed to clear the way for Wally's return, and then brought back to life a year or so later as a teen again through what could best be described as a retcon that everyone liked the results of enough that we pretended not to notice how dubious it actually was. And then, adding insult to injury, he was one of three DCU characters to make it intact into Flashpoint, only to become a new Black Flash and cause all manner of disaster to the timestream as a result.
At some point, Bart stopped being a character and started being a solution to whatever plot problems writers felt needed addressing. He didn’t fare much better in the "New 52," where he was reinvented as “Bar Torr,” a fugitive from the future. He was eventually locked up, where he seemingly remains in Rebirth.
SUPER-STAG FILM3 of 12You've heard about this one, right? In Action Comics #592 and #593, shortly after Crisis on Infinite Earths, John Byrne introduced a new villain named Sleez, who manages to trick Superman and Big Barda into filming a sex tape with each other.
Mr. Miracle, Big Barda's husband and fellow New God, wasn't too happy to find out - wait, let's rewind. Mr. Miracle saw the film because Darkseid gave him a copy of the tape. That's right - Darkseid, the ruler of Apokolips and generally the worst dude around in the DC Universe, tasked his minions to hit up the porno shops in Metropolis in search of a stag film on VHS.
This actually all might be pretty funny in an Elseworlds or "Bizarro Comics" story, but no, it was right there in continuity, filling two issues of one of the longest-running series in American comic book history.
YOU WILL BELIEVE A MAN CAN WALK4 of 12Just imagine this creative meeting.
"So, Superman has been struggling with his connections to humanity, being more Kryptonian than human lately, right?"
"Yup, go on..."
"And he just had big fights with huge threats including Lex Luthor, Brainiac, and an army of Kryptonians! So how do we follow that up?"
"We make him walk across the country, kind of be a dick to people to find his humanity again! Then he can renounce his U.S. citizenship, make some headlines, and, oh, hell, I'm not even into this story enough to finish it!"
Superman remained a “man of the people” throughout the "New 52," though that version of him gave way to the return of the classic Man of Steel in "Rebirth" – with no mention of his ill-fated walkabout yet.
THE MOST HONESTLY TITLED COMIC DC HAS EVER RELEASED5 of 12It's possible that no comic book has even been titled as literally as Justice League: Cry For Justice, a series in which multiple characters do, in fact, cry for (or shout, pout or otherwise demand) justice. For example, each of the four scenes in the first issue features the central character talking about their need for justice, with three of those four ending with said character actually crying out for their need for justice by either saying or caption-narrating "Justice." Just for emphasis, the final page of the issue not only features Congorilla's internal narration saying "Justice," but also features the same character - a giant golden ape, remember - leaping towards the reader, yelling "I want justice!" There was little doubt that anyone who read the issue could have missed the point of the series from that one issue alone.
Amusingly, apparently all of these literal cries for justice wasn't intentional on the part of writer James Robinson - in an afterword written for the collected edition, he admitted that he hadn't realized just how many times the word appeared in the first issue until he re-read it after publication.
Fittingly, the final word of the series, spoken by Green Arrow as he stands over the corpse of a supervillain he's just murdered, is "Justice." The irony being, of course, killing the villain wasn't actually justice at all, just vengeance.
BATMAN'S BLADDER6 of 12Kevin Smith has a dedicated fanbase, but his comic books aren't for everybody (You could say the same thing about his movies, but that's a different list). His Daredevil run offended a section of fans by killing off several long-running characters, and several other series turned readers off after being plagued with long delays.
Batman: The Widening Gyre caused a controversy for a very different reason. Smith's penchant for toilet humor is well known - there's a certain scene in Zack and Miri Make a Porno that took it to its (we hope) fullest potential - so it was only a matter of time before he brought an element of that into his superhero comics. But people probably didn't expect it to also affect one of the most acclaimed DC stories of all time.
In Widening Gyre #6, written by Smith, Batman explains that during a key scene in Frank Miller's classic Batman: Year One where the fledging Caped Crusader confronts the mob with a stern warning, one of the explosive devices he set off caused him to pee his pants (which really makes wearing your underwear on the outside of your pants seem impractical).
As a consolation prize, the final six issues of Widening Gyre were never released, despite being recontextualized as a sequel titled Batman: Bellicosity, so you can easily forget Batman's "bladder spasm" (His words).
NIGHTWING, A THREE-TIME VICTIM7 of 12It sounds like the punchline for a particularly sick joke, but somehow it happened: Dick Grayson, one-time Robin, two-time Batman and almost guaranteed to stay Nightwing for quite some time now, has been raped or sexually abused three times in official DC continuity since Crisis On Infinite Earths. Quite how this happened - or, for that matter, why the repetition was never really addressed in any story - is lost to the various creative teams on the various titles the events happened in. His assault by Tarantula in his own title during Devin Grayson's run has been often-discussed by fans (not least of all because it's unclear whether he was actually raped on-panel, or whether it was just some very suggestive silhouette-work going on), but Marv Wolfman managed to have him mind-controlled for dream sex by Raven and sleeping with Mirage who was disguised as his girlfriend Starfire during the latter years of his Teen Titans run.
Whatever it is about Dick that brings out the predatory nature of his female villains is unclear, though it's surprising that this is never brought up in some clumsy "Look, we do it to our male heroes too!" defense whenever DC is accused of misogynistic shock storytelling towards its female heroes. Dick has often been considered a comic book heartthrob for many fans (a quick Google search will find plenty of fans obsessing over his butt), but as we all know, that’s no excuse.
A WOMAN IN A REFRIGERATOR8 of 12Let's face it, Green Lantern #54 is going down in history no matter what. When Alex DeWitt, Kyle Rayner's girlfriend, got murderized and shoved into a refrigerator (literally) by Major Force, it sparked a revolution, or at least a blog.
That blog, of course, wound up helping a young Gail Simone launch her superhero writing career, so at least it has a silver lining. Regardless, back to Alex. The biggest problem that detractors have isn't necessarily that she died, or even that she was killed in a grisly manner, but more that she was created to do so.
While this wasn't a high point in the stories of Kyle Rayner as the last Green Lantern, it was an early point, and the character wound up having many wonderful adventures and moments. And hey, this moment did lead to one of our favorite moments of the Blackest Night event, when a Black Lantern Alex shoves Kyle into a black light refrigerator.
Fortunately, Kyle will eventually return in Hal Jordan & The Green Lantern Corps - hopefully without this layer of baggage.
BREAKING THE FOURTH WALL (LITERALLY)9 of 12It's a quandary that both DC and Marvel heck, anyone telling a long-form narrative frequently find themselves having to tackle. They want to make dramatic changes to the characters and storylines, but also want it to make sense with what's happened before. So what do you do?
Well, in the case of Infinite Crisis, you have a frustrated Superboy-Prime punch the wall of reality, thus conveniently altering several things DC wanted to change at the time, including bringing former Robin Jason Todd back to life. The "Prime Punch," as fans dubbed it.
Given the "only in comic books!" nature of Superboy-Prime's entire existence (he's Superboy from our) the whole incident seemed like a kind of metatextual commentary on where DC had progressed to that point, lifting the curtain in a way similar to say, Grant Morrison's Animal Man or a typical episode of Community. Except it was played totally straight. Still, creators like Judd Winick did some quality stuff with the resurrected Jason Todd, who retains his status a leading character in "Rebirth"’s Red Hood & The Outlaws.
MORE THAN ONE WAY TO SWING A CAT10 of 12So, in the recent old DCU, there was this time that Roy's daughter was killed in a completely preventable and senseless way. Then, in his fury, Roy got his arm ripped off. Then none of the big brains in the entire DCU could find a way to fix it because of Nanomites, so he got a mostly-functional cyber arm. Then he was impotent. Then he went back to his good ol' heroin addiction, got high, and thought a dead cat was his dead daughter.
If you’re not familiar, we’re gonna let that one sink in for a moment… take your time, we can wait…
It made no sense then, in pretty much any conceivable way. There are no hallucinogenic properties to heroin, for starters. Second, dead cats don't typically make very good stand-ins for daughters, or for weapons (especially when you use the same cat for both). The glass-half-full POV, however, is that Roy (and apparently both his arms, hopefully no cats) are part of "Rebirth"'s Titans.
IDENTITY CRISIS11 of 12Identity Crisis is quite possibly the most polarizing and controversial DC story of all time - Publishers Weekly called it "both wildly popular and reviled." Though the book has its definite supporters, the Brad Meltzer-written, Rags Morales-illustrated series caused so much consternation, that Rolling Stone even asked Grant Morrison (who wasn't involved with the comic book) about it - seven years after it came out.
Not only did Identity Crisis reveal that Doctor Light, previously seen as a mostly harmless goofball, was in fact a brutal rapist who sexually assaulted beloved supporting character Sue Dibny at the Justice League's headquarters, it also killed off Firestorm, Tim Drake's dad, and Sue herself.
Sue, who along with her husband Elongated Man are generally considered the embodiment of the whimsical side of the DC Universe, was then murdered by Jean Loring, the Atom's ex-wife. Loring's not-so-perfect murder of Sue included shrinking herself down using her ex’s tech, crawling around Sue's brain in an attempt to give her a stroke (because, sure!), accidentally killing her, and then burning Sue's corpse with a flamethrower for good measure. If you’re asking why Jean even had a flamethrower with her, well, the line starts to the left.
Oh, did we mention Sue was pregnant at the time?
But before you get too upset at Jean Loring about all of this, keep in mind that it started as a plan to reunite with her ex-husband. Crazy, Stupid, Love, right? And what’s more, it worked!
Along with being one of the most reviled stories on this list, this is also the closest to being blatantly undone by "Rebirth." After an offhand line in DC Universe: Rebirth #1 basically confirmed that the story hadn’t happened the way readers remembered, many characters that were deeply involved in Identity Crisis have died (or more accurately, disappeared) under mysterious circumstances during "Rebirth." Perhaps the altered Identity Crisis will be the crux of a new mystery in the DCU.
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