THE WIZARD LIST: DC’S GRISLIEST MOMENTS
The 25 most shocking acts of violence to disturb the DC Universe
Posted November 15, 2007 3:30 PM
Villains love the spotlight, and fortunately for them, the DC Universe provides plenty of wattage of late.
Lex Luthor’s Injustice Gang is running rampant in the pages of Dwayne McDuffie and Ed Benes’ Justice League of America, while November’s Salvation Run limited series by Bill Willingham and Sean Chen sees a host of antagonists shuttled to their own planetary prison with predictably violent results.
In dubious honor of these crime sprees, we’re taking a look at the most shocking moments perpetrated by the DCU’s criminal elite. The criterion was simple: If we recoiled in horror at the visceral bloodletting, it’s on the list; if it tightened up unmentionable body cavities, it’s in the top 10; if it made us go fetal, heck, it’s No. 1. Read on!
25 Secret Massacre
(Infinite Crisis #1)
Cats, meet mice. The Freedom Fighters, durable though they may be, prove to be a mismatch for any supervillain troupe serious about its carnage. For evidence, check the Secret Society’s mass destruction of the team in Infinite Crisis #1—Deathstroke skewers Phantom Lady, Bizarro pummels the Human Bomb to death, Zoom permanently rearranges Damage’s face and Uncle Sam is left to die in a bloody pool of filth. The next flag these patriots see? The one draped over their coffin.
24 PIECE-D CORPS
(Green Lantern #49)
Take away a man’s life—city and all—and he’s liable to go cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. Even hero Hal Jordan isn’t exempt: After Mongul destroys Coast City, Jordan answers the Guardians’ refusal to sanction revenge by plowing through virtually the entire Green Lantern Corps. Mad with rage, he flays teammates Ke’Haan and Liara, leaving them to suffer in space without their rings. In the brutal coup de grace, he charbroils friend Kilowog. Does absolute power corrupt? In Jordan’s case, absolutely.
23 A TIME TO DISMEMBER
(Legion of Super-Heroes [Vol. 4] #3)
Nothing’s more demoralizing than seeing the dismembered corpse of a teammate show up, postage due. When the alien Dominators instruct villain Roxxas to send a “message” to the Legion, the soulless mercenary corners the lumbering Blok—who’s peacefully meditating at the time—and carves him into easily shipped pieces. The parcel shows up on Lightning Lad’s doorstep, with the surprise inside rivaling that of Brad Pitt’s wife’s-head-in-a-box in “Seven.”
(Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #3)
Though ultimately thwarted by the combined might of every superhero in the 30th century—including time-travelers Supergirl and Superboy—Darkseid got the last laugh as he cursed the LSH thusly: “That which is purest of you shall be the first to go!” The ruler of Apokolips made good when he kidnapped one of Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl’s twins, went back in time with the child and transformed him into the monstrous Validus, one of the Legion’s greatest foes!
21 SERIAL KILLER 2.0
If you’ve ever wondered what horrors a serial killer could conjure up if he had superpowers, look no further. The anonymous, psychotic wielder of the H-E-R-O device impales his first victim on a radio tower, but his most stomach-churning kill in this issue? Turning one woman into a human jigsaw puzzle—slicing her horizontally and vertically—and putting her back together slightly askew like a demented 8-year-old!
20 TITANS BETRAYED
(New Teen Titans #39)
Criminal acts don’t have to be physically violent to resonate—just ask the Titans, who welcomed stray superheroine Terra into their fold. After becoming emotionally invested in her as both an ally and a friend, they’re shocked to discover that she’s actually a rogue agent working for the Machiavellian plans of rival Deathstroke. Thinking nothing of manipulating the malleable, confused young woman (even sleeping with the impressionable psychopath), ’Stroke shows his true colors, black heart and all.
19 GYPSY CURSE
(Justice League America #38)
Despero’s grudge against the one-time “Detroit” Leaguers turned Gypsy’s retirement into a funeral procession for the young heroine. Returning from an outer-space exile, the fin-headed monster reduces her home to rubble, killing her mother instantly. Her father is the next to go; he’s morbidly repositioned in his lounge chair, tongue lolling out, “waiting” for her arrival. The tragic diorama branded into her brain, she’s slated to be Despero’s next victim, except for Martian Manhunter’s timely intervention.
18 EURO TRASHED
Expecting to police croissant sales or Jerry Lewis film festivals, the “Justice League France” was caught off guard by the second Mist. More calculated than eighth-grade algebra, she systematically offs each member using preplanned traps. Amazing Man, believing he’ll absorb the structure of a concrete wall, turns to glass instead and is shattered; Firestorm finds himself ironically nuked; Blue Devil’s fire sets off sprinklers loaded with holy water. Sick as she is, Mist’s ingenuity deserves some kind of ovation—in hell.
17 CHILD’S PLAY
The Toyman always sported a serious case of arrested development, but not even the Man of Steel with all his super-vision abilities could have foreseen what he was truly capable of. After Cat Grant’s son Adam turns up missing after a birthday party, a manhunt reveals his corpse, punctured with knife wounds delivered by the maniacal toymaker, who was desperate to keep his hideout a secret from the youngster who’d stumbled upon it. Playtime’s officially over for the one-time goofball Superman rogue after this shocker.
16 IT’S RAINING SUPERMEN
Being vindictive and petty is fine for the playground, but when you have the money and dementia to act on it, things can get hairy. When Lex Luthor discovers that his Everyman project—a science program designed to give ordinary humans superpowers—won’t be effective on his own physiology, he spitefully deactivates hundreds of his recruits in midair, sending them plummeting to their deaths and causing untold carnage (not to mention property and personal damage).
15 DOOMSDAY FOR SUPERMAN
Seeing the normally indestructible Superman bloodied and wheezing on death’s door sent a chill down the collective spine of fans everywhere. As the mindless marauder Doomsday sends fist after fist into Supes’ face, slicing open his flesh with the help of protruding bones, we’re reminded of the old prizefighting axiom: No matter who you are, someone’s got your number. Seeing the Man of Steel go down was like “Buster” Douglas felling Mike Tyson—even though we saw it, we still couldn’t quite believe it.
14 CHILLY RECEPTION
(Green Lantern [Vol. 3] #54)
God bless the brave souls who date DC heroes—their mortality rate ranks worse than coalminers. When GL Kyle Rayner returns from a night of ring slinging, he’s shocked to discover that girlfriend Alex DeWitt has been murdered by Major Force—and stuffed in their fridge. (The panel, which reveals only part of the scene, allows the viewer to conjure further horrors.) The pure, seething psychosis on display compelled writer Gail Simone to coin a new term for violence against females in comicdom: Women in Refrigerators Syndrome.
13 NAZI PARTY
(Justice Society of America #3)
Geoff Johns’ second JSA run displays the grisly horrors of history in this ish: Stumbling upon Citizen Steel’s family during a picnic, meta-powered Nazis dubbed the Fourth Reich dole out ethnic cleansing without regard for age or gender. “Woman and children first,” declares psychotic speedster Blitzkrieg, tearing through innocents like a blender. When the Reich finished, the public park—littered with the bodies of Steel’s family members—resembled a cemetery instead.
12 PETE ROSS: SPECIAL DELIVERY
Leave it to Alan Moore to take two relics of 1950s kitsch comics and make them very real threats in the homicidal vein. In this pseudo-finale to the Superman saga, the Man of Tomorrow gets the surprise of his life when the Toyman and Prankster mail the dead body of pal Pete Ross to the Daily Planet’s offices. Cradling Pete’s corpse, his disguise already blasted off by a cadre of mini-Superman toys included in the attack, Clark Kent’s life descends into chaos in the span of seconds.
11 BLUE IN THE FACE
(Countdown to Infinite Crisis #1)
In comics, heroes often die noble deaths, saving thousands of lives amidst some kind of galactic imbroglio. Ted Kord was afforded no such dignity: As the Blue Beetle, he infiltrates the lair of Maxwell Lord and uncovers a disturbing plot to corral Earth’s heroes. Refusing to join his old friend and one-time benefactor, Beetle takes a point-blank gun blast to the head. It was as visceral and shocking as a street crime, a rare sight among the spandex set.
Getting the drop on Batman, trained for years in multiple martial arts, was considered a near-impossibility, even for those possessing superhuman abilities. But the bull-necked Bane wouldn’t be dissuaded by the odds. Cornering a fatigued Batman after organizing a grueling brawl against a horde of his rogues gallery, Bane snaps the Caped Crusader’s back like a wishbone. The vicious attack paralyzed not only Bruce Wayne, but a Gotham City used to relying on his vigil.
9 PROBLEM CHILD
(Lex Luthor: The Unauthorized Biography)
Don’t like dad’s house rules? You go in your room and you bounce a ball—unless you’re Lex Luthor, in which case you plot your parents’ demise. As reporter Pete Sands digs into Luthor’s past, he uncovers the morbid truth of their car accident when Lex was 13 years old—a life insurance policy in the amount of $300,000 was taken out just days before, payable to their son. “From the moment I could walk, I hated them,” Lex tells Sands, proving that there’s no age prerequisite on evil.
8 DOMESTIC DISTURBANCE
(Flash [Vol. 1] #275)
With a self-appointed name like Professor Zoom, you know there’s a little bit of ego going on. A longtime Flash rival, the yellow-clad speedster becomes so obsessed with infiltrating every aspect of Barry Allen’s life that he puts the moves on Allen’s wife, Iris. When she rejects his advances, Zoom vibrates into her skull, killing her. Not even the Fastest Man Alive can outrun tragedy in this early example of a nemesis attacking his enemy’s
7 THE REICH STUFF
(Batman: Death and the Maiden #5)
No one will ever mistake Ra’s al Ghul for a saint, but his wartime atrocities reached a new level of sadism. In 1945 Berlin, the Nazis capture Ghul’s daughter Nyssa, whom he leaves to rot in a concentration camp, believing Hitler’s goals will make his similar plans easier in the coming years. Nyssa survives, though her womb is burned with acid. Ghul, a Nazi soldier himself now, thinks only of his own destiny, his child’s blood no different than a stranger’s.
6 JOKER’S WILD
Allowing a reckless teen at Batman’s side was always a shaky proposition, but the odds finally caught up with the second Robin, Jason Todd, at the vicious hands of the Joker. The white-faced psychotic mercilessly beats the trapped Todd with a crowbar, his innocence literally being bled out of him. After an endless series of stories that depicted the Clown Prince as a buffoon, this savage mauling reminded readers that beneath that smile is something too wicked for words.
5 BLACK MASK, BLACK HEART
Sporting a face like the burnt end of a match is bound to ruin your disposition, but after Catwoman shakes up the Black Mask’s drug-running ring, the charred criminal goes for the jugular in his revenge: He tortures Selina’s sister Maggie using a litany of medieval props, then forces her to watch as he murders her husband Simon. As if that weren’t enough, Mask force-feeds Maggie hubby’s liberated eyeball, giving even torture-porn-meister Eli Roth the dry heaves.
4 DESTINY: NO DESSERT
Arkham Asylum really, really needs better locks. When certifiable crazypants Doctor Destiny escapes the institution, he hitches a ride to a local diner. Ordering a cuppa Joe, Destiny sits in a corner booth and uses his manipulation of psyches and dreams to coerce the customers into violence, aggression and sex. One patron drives nails into the hand of another; a woman stakes her own eyes. At hour 22, Destiny finally departs, a pile of bloody carcasses picked over like chicken bones.
3 THE DOCTOR IS INSANE
(Identity Crisis #2)
Sue Dibny, recalled husband Elongated Man, just wanted to see the stars. Beaming aboard the Justice League’s orbital headquarters, she encounters Doctor Light, who had infiltrated their base. What happens next—Sue’s violation at the hands of a vengeful adversary—is heartbreaking in its consequences, the powerless being molested by the powerful. Light was later mind-wiped by Zatanna, but Sue’s memory of the event would haunt her until her dying day—which, sadly, wasn’t far off.
2 LAUGH RIOT
(Batman: The Killing Joke)
The Joker’s moral obscenities could fill volumes, but none had more gravitas than his unthinkable psychological warfare on Commissioner Jim Gordon. After shooting his daughter Barbara—replete with ear-to-ear grin—he captures Gordon and forces him into a sensory overload of pain, inundating him with photos of Barbara’s crippled, bloodied, often topless frame. It’s enough to make a man insane, and for any bleeding heart to reconsider views on the death penalty—at least where clowns are concerned.
1 BABY BOOM
(Adventure Comics #452)
It only takes one act for a villain to go from laughingstock of the four-color pages to a monster on par with Beelzebub himself.
And perhaps that’s why Black Manta’s actions in Adventure Comics #452 still shake us to the core. Manta doesn’t want to conquer the universe and he isn’t certifiably insane—he just wants to hurt Aquaman as badly as possible.
Like Aquaman, readers took Black Manta—usually involved with more pedestrian crimes like high-seas robberies or gun smuggling—for granted. But here, forcing Aquaman to fight Aqualad in a gladiatorial arena with the life of Aquaman’s infant child at stake, readers see the real depths of his sadism. Aquaman eventually breaks his son’s glass prison, but it’s too late: The newborn suffocates to death. Decades before heinous violence became a recurring plot point in comics, Manta’s 1979 baby murder still resonates—creator Alex Ross even calls it “the death of innocence in the DCU.”
I don't know much about the DC Universe and its history so I won't comment too much here. All those famous moments that I know of are there though: Bane breaking Batman's back, Superman's death at the hands of Doomsday, Sue Dibny's off-panel rape by Dr Light, the Joker shooting Barbara Gordon, and Green Lantern Kyle Rayner's girlfriend being chopped up and stuffed into his fridge. Gruesome.
Wizard should do one for Marvel Comics! That'd be awesome.