From its very inception, Marvel Comics has shocked its readers in a whole plethora of ways. Whether it was in its creation of new characters, its innovation with its storytelling, or even tackling more risky, adult-themed topics as the decades progressed, Marvel has regularly wowed us. And key to so much of the company’s most shocking moments have been, of course, some of its greatest villains.
Like its superheroes, Marvel has a massive variety of legendary villains to play with. From the Green Goblin, to Doctor Doom, to the Red Skull, to Magneto, to Ultron, to even Thanos himself, Marvel houses some of comic books’ most infamous and notorious rogues and rascals.
Now while some of those names do indeed feature here, it’s also the case that it’s not always the biggest-named villains who have carried out the most shocking acts over the years. In fact, quite often it’s even more shocking when a supposedly lesser villain carries out something truly heinous and game-changing.
So, with that in mind, let’s take a look back at the 15 most shocking acts carried out by Marvel villains since the company was first officially founded way back in 1939.
15. Doctor Doom Wears His Beloved’s Skin
Like many a good supervillain over the decades, Doctor Doom found himself in need of a refresh of sorts during the early 2000s. Certain writers had depicted the Fantastic Four’s most infamous foe as being an almost noble, tragic figure, which had in turn taken away some of the menace and threat that Doom once possessed. Enter, Mark Waid.
With the Unthinkable story arc, Waid sought to once again make Victor von Doom a genuinely evil, villainous character. And that’s exactly what he did.
Whilst this arc saw Doom individually torturing the FF and even magically battling Doctor Strange, one of the most shocking elements of Unthinkable was the revelation that Doom had turned his beloved Valeria into his new suit of armour.
The early part of the story saw Doom reunited with his ‘one true’ Valeria, only for readers to see the rogue quickly sacrifice his beloved’s soul to Hell in a deal that saw him receive some impressive new powers. Even worse, Doom then wore Valeria’s charred and roasted skin as his new outfit. Yeah, because that’s not creepy in the slightest…
14. The Superior Spider-Man
Running from January 2013 until June 2014, the whole Superior Spider-Man run was one that firmly split opinion. Regardless of whether people liked it or not, the story was at least a big seller for Marvel. And right at the core of the tale was one of Spidey’s longest-running villains, Doctor Otto Octavius.
With Doc Ock’s days of crime and villainy finally catching up with his health, the genius rogue realises that his days are coming to an end and puts in place a master plan for his mind to take over the body of Peter Parker/Spider-Man. Remarkably, Otto’s plan works to perfection, with his mind swapping with Parker’s mind, meaning Peter’s conscious was stuck in the dying body of Octavius.
What followed was a new take on Spider-Man as Otto decided to prove that he was a better hero than Peter Parker could ever be. If Doc Ock becoming Spider-Man wasn’t shocking enough, he soon made even more waves with what particular methods he used.
From defeating The Sinister Six, to blinding Vulture, to publicly killing Massacre, to quitting The Avengers, to fatally stabbing Alistair Smythe, to punching Black Cat, to even attempting to steal the Venom symbiote from Flash Thompson, the “Superior” Spidey was an erratic, driven, intense individual who never failed to shock readers and his fellow heroes and villains.
Luckily, the lengthy story would finally see Peter Parker given control of his own body once more as we were given a more traditional, familiar Spider-Man… even if ol’ Web-head now had a lot of explaining to do.
13. Harpoon Mutilates Angel’s Wings
During the Mutant Massacre arc of the X-Factor title, carnage and chaos were the order of the day, and one of the worst affected by this whole event was Warren Worthington III, aka Angel.
With the new book itself still in its infancy, things needed to happen to make a statement and to draw in readers. And that’s exactly what happened when Angel found himself forever changed at the hands of Harpoon, a member of Mister Sinister’s Marauders team.
During a battle that saw many mutants killed, Harpoon went as far as damaging Angel’s famed wings so much that they were shortly amputated (even if this was totally against Warren’s wishes). In fairness, Angel was lucky to escape from his battle with the Marauders at all, for Harpoon was intending to kill him before Thor turned up to save the day.
In the overall narrative of the Marvel comic book world at that point, the losing of Angel’s wings was merely done as a plot point to lead into him shortly becoming Archangel, the leader of Apocalypse’s Four Horsemen.
12. Mephisto Voids Spider-Man’s Marriage
In the past decade or so, Peter Parker has had his fair share of ups and downs. Following the public revealing that Peter was indeed Spider-Man during the Civil War arc, it wouldn’t take Spidey long to realise the error of his ways. Not only would he quickly change sides and join Captain America’s cause against Iron Man, but the world of Peter Parker would soon be rocked to its very core.
With Peter’s identity known to the world, it didn’t take long before villains targeted his personal life, which unfortunately meant Aunt May. Sadly, May was shot and left in a coma courtesy of one of The Kingpin’s hired guns. And this is where things got really murky for longtime Spider-Man fans.
You see, it was here that Peter Parker was given a choice: the Devil himself, the villainous Mephisto, turns up and offers to restore May to full health if Peter agrees to erase his marriage.
The fact that Peter agreed to this angered many longstanding fans, and even worse was that Parker had contacted May in the spirit world… with his Aunt telling him that she was totally okay with dying and that Peter should not make a deal with the Devil.
The whole One More Day story tainted Spider-Man for many readers, with this paragon of virtue and responsibility instead taking the easy way out and sacrificing his marriage to Mary Jane. And this all came about simply because Marvel’s Joe Quesada had grown tired of seeing Spider-Man married.
11. Magneto Rips Out Wolverine’s Adamantium
Whilst Professor X often tried to see the good in Magneto, Wolverine was always defiant in his thoughts on the Master of Magnetism: he hated him. Like, really, really hated him. As in, he’d happily turn him into a shish kebab if given half the chance.
With 1993’s Fatal Attractions arc, though, readers we’re finally given an answer to one of comics’ most simple questions. What if Magneto, the villain known as the Master of Magnetism and who can control metal, decided to have some fun with the adamantium skeleton of Wolverine.
It seemed baffling to most that this hadn’t been addressed in the decades prior, but we finally saw Magneto do to Wolverine what many had presumed would be the logical thing to do to him; torture and terrorize Logan by manipulating his very skeletal structure.
After one attack too many from Wolverine, Magneto, like a cat toying with a mouse, finally snapped and ripped the actual adamantium from his opponent’s bones. It was a brutal image and one that had been a long time coming. Wolvie was left near-death – well, as near-to-death as someone with a healing factor can be – and this led to a run of Wolverine reverting to bone claws rather than the regular adamantium ones. Oh, and Professor X in turn also snapped, wiping Magneto’s mind in retaliation for this despicable act.
10. Bullseye Kills Elektra
The villainous Bullseye killing Elektra was one of comics’ most shocking moments when it happened back in Daredevil #181. Sure, it may have been a little diluted over the following years due to having been done-to-death in various forms and re-tellings of the story, but it was a major moment in Marvel history, and one that set Bullseye up as a thorough villain of the highest order.
Frank Miller is no stranger to hitting hard with his stories, and his run with Daredevil in the 1980s helped save the Guardian Devil from cancellation, with Miller in turn making the character one of the most popular of that time period. But in typical Frank Miller fashion, Frank Miller did what Frank Miller does best: deliver something shocking.
All seemed like a relatively normal Daredevil-driven story, with ol’ Hornhead battling longtime nemesis Bullseye whilst also juggling the reappearance of his love interest, Elektra. With hopes of redemption for Elektra in Matt Murdock’s mind, there was actually a slight sense of optimism surrounding the issue. Well, that was until Elektra found herself targeted by Bullseye, who had been paid off by The Kingpin to wipe out the master assassin. And that’s exactly what he did, running her through with her own sai and taking her life.
The death of Elektra was a huge moment for Daredevil, yet it was something that was delivered in a way that had no pomp or fanfare around it, which in turn made it even more shocking to unsuspecting readers. Frank Miller had made Bullseye into an A-list villain with this one act, and the aftereffects of Elektra’s death were felt for decades afterwards… even if she did eventually get resurrected.
9. Crossbones Kills Captain America
Marvel’s Civil War event may have seen heroes battling other heroes, but it was ultimately a supervillain who would do the unthinkable: kill Captain America!
Steve Rogers and Tony Stark were front-and-centre for Civil War, leading their respective teams against each other, and the two had some barnstorming battles throughout the arc. As for deaths, there had been a few during the story, but, let’s be honest, no real A-listers had bitten the bullet by the time the tale had come to a close. Then came the aftermath, however, and that’s where things took a turn for the worse for Rogers.
With Rogers now in custody and treated as a rebel against his own government, it didn’t take long for someone to put Cap in their sights. That person was the nefarious Crossbones, who, along with a brainwashed Sharon Carter, shockingly did what seemed unthinkable – he assassinated Captain America.
Not only was Steve Rogers killed, he actually stayed dead for a fair amount of time, which in itself was more shocking. Like all good comic book heroes, though, Rogers would, as ever, return from the grave when it was revealed that he never actually died, instead being frozen in time and space. Oh right, of course…
8. Magneto Snaps Professor X’s Neck
Magneto and Professor X – best buddies, right? Longtime rivals who can see past their differing views and who put their friendship above personal battles? Not exactly.
From the infancy of the X-Men as a whole, Magneto was always depicted as an out-and-out villain, one who had no particular redeeming factors about him and someone who was completely unrelenting in his own views and achieving his goals. Then came the 1980s and beyond, where the Master of Magnetism was given a more sympathetic edge, an almost noble figure who was fleshed-out to be one of the bestest of pals with Charles Xavier. In turn, that’s something that’s spilled out over to the movie world, with the cinematic X-Men franchise often playing on this element of the pair’s relationship.
Still, forget all of that, for Magneto shocked the world in the Ultimatum arc as he snapped the neck of Professor X, killing his longtime pal. In fact, this whole arc was full of Magneto being on the baddest of bad behaviour. Having stolen Thor’s hammer, the rogue went on a rampage against mankind as an act of revenge for the death of his children, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver.
Then, with the X-Men all out on a rescue mission, Magneto would confront Charles, who only furthered angered his longtime rival/BFF by comparing him to the likes of Hitler, Pol Pot and Osama Bin Laden. And that was enough to push Magneto over the edge, resulting in him killing his buddy-cum-enemy.
7. Sabretooth’s Birthday Present For Wolverine
How better to say “Happy Birthday!” than by killing someone’s other half?
1989 saw a character named Silver Fox introduced as one of Wolverine’s many ‘one trues’, although this one was definitely, definitely, definitely the one. Honest! She even had her own healing factor and a slowed-down aging factor, meaning she was the perfect match for Logan as she could live happily ever after alongside him for eternity. Well, that would’ve been all well and good if it wasn’t for Victor Creed, aka Sabretooth.
As the love-struck pair were separated momentarily when Wolverine popped out to do some Wolverine-type things, Sabretooth arrived on the scene and set about carrying out a bizarre act of dominance. To one-up Wolverine, he actually raped and then killed poor Silver Fox, with Wolvie returning home to the sight of the abused corpse of his partner. As birthday presents go, this one absolutely sucked and wasn’t even returnable.
Unfortunately for comic book fans, years later this whole happening was left pretty worthless when it was revealed that Silver Fox had actually survived this attack and even went on to become a villain in her own right as part of HYDRA.
6. Scarlet Witch Snaps
Whilst many casual fans may think of Scarlet Witch as a hero due to her depiction in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and how recent years have seen her as a regular member of the comic book Avengers line-up, Wanda Maximoff is someone who has flirted between good and evil more than most.
Initially debuting as an outright villain as part of Magneto’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, it’s when carrying out evil acts that Wanda seems to be more powerful. And that was certainly the case with the whole House of M story.
Not for the first time, Scarlet Witch has a mental breakdown, this time as she looks to alter reality in order to recreate her lost offspring. As a result, though, Wanda caused absolute chaos.
With it revealed that Scarlet Witch has altered the world to a state where everyone gets whatever they always wanted – for instance, Peter Parker is happily married to Gwen Stacy, and Magneto rules over the world – it’s only Wolverine who can recall the “real” world from before Wanda lost the plot. When Logan finally informs the confused Scarlet Witch of what she’s done, she then drifts even more into the depths of insanity and mutters the words “No more mutants”… which sees the world revert back to what it was, just with millions of mutants losing their powers.
This was Wanda Maximoff at her most unstable and powerful, showing just what a threat she can be when not on the side of good. Then again, it was also later revealed that this whole event had been manipulated by the ever-nefarious Doctor Doom.
5. Norman Osborn Has Sex With Gwen Stacy
How do you hit your greatest rival where it truly hurts? How about by having sex with their significant other. Yep, that’ll do the trick.
To many a comic book reader, the death of Gwen Stacy (more on that later) and the subsequent constant hold it had over Peter Parker is one of the most hard-hitting, poignant and tragic events to happen in the history of comics. With 2004’s Sins Past, that whole tragedy was given an added layer courtesy of J. Michael Straczynski. This shocking story arc was one that equally baffled and disgusted longtime fans of Web-head and his world.
Sins Past revealed that Norman Osborn actually had sex with the worryingly-young Gwen way back when, with the result being that Gwen was actually pregnant with twins. Norman had whisked Gwen off to France to give birth to these twins, and the Goblin-infused blood in his system actually carried over into his offspring and caused the newborns to age at a rapid rate. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the twins were then sent to kill Spider-Man, not to mention that keeping these kids a secret was supposedly the real reason why the Green Goblin targeted Gwen during The Night Gwen Stacy Died.
To nearly all who read this tale, it was a massive slap in the face to fans and soured one of the most impactful moments in Spider-Man’s life. Regardless of that, though, it did at least make Norman Osborn out to be even more of a bad egg than we thought was possible… which was no easy feat at that point in time.
4. Mysterio Convinces Karen Page She Has HIV
In the history of comic books, the majority of heroes all have a certain ‘one true’ love interest. Others go a tad further and get greedy, having two ‘one true’ love interests, and that’s certainly the case with Matt Murdock, aka Daredevil.
The Guardian Devil not only had goo-goo eyes for Elektra, but the protector of Hell’s Kitchen was totally loved up with Nelson & Murdock’s secretary, Karen Page. And we all know by now, love very rarely triumphs in the comic book world, and such was the case where poor Karen was concerned.
After having done the on-again, off-again thing with Matt, Karen ended up falling into a murky lifestyle that involved heroin addiction and adult entertainment. In fact, so bad was her addiction to drugs, Karen even sold Daredevil’s real identity to a dealer who in turn passes this information onto The Kingpin.
She’d finally get her life back on track and reconnect with Matt, but it wouldn’t be long before Karen landed a job in LA. As part of a routine blood test ahead of this new job, it was discovered that Karen was actually HIV positive.
In a heinous act, it was revealed that the doctor who broke this news to Karen was actually the supervillain Mysterio disguised as a doctor. This was part of Mysterio’s plans to break Daredevil before the villain himself died from a brain tumor that he had.
3. The Death of Gwen Stacy
To many, the whole The Night Gwen Stacy Died two-part tale is one of the most shocking, impactful stories in the history of any and all superheroes. It was one of those things that has stuck with its hero – in this case Spider-Man – right up until the present day despite happening back in 1973.
Key to this devastating and monumental shocker was, of course, the Green Goblin.
Norman Osborn’s Green Goblin had caused Spidey plenty of headaches over the years, but him throwing Gwen Stacy to her death put him on a whole different level in the villain stakes. At the George Washington Bridge (or Brooklyn Bridge depending on whether you were going on the text or art of the story), the Goblin threw poor Gwen to her certain doom. But never fear, for Spidey was here to save the day, right? Right? Sadly not.
Whilst the Wall-crawler would catch Gwen in his webbing just as she was about to land, the love of Peter Parker’s life lay dead in his hands. Even worse, it was soon revealed that it was actually the whiplash effect of Spider-Man’s webbing that was ultimately responsible for Gwen’s death.
So not only had the Green Goblin looked to kill Gwen Stacy by throwing her to her death, he actually caused Spider-Man to have the blood of his deceased beloved on his hands by inadvertently causing Parker to be responsible for Gwen’s demise.
2. The Blob Eats The Wasp
Simply mentioning 2009’s Ultimatum story to some comic book fans will instantly put a look of disgust on their face, and with good reason. The story itself is so awful, so flawed, and such a low point for Marvel’s Ultimate line of books that many fans of the Ultimate realm never bothered to pick up another issue of this alternative Marvel world again.
One of the most memorable moments of the story, though, saw The Blob actually eat The Wasp. Sure, Wasp was technically already dead, meaning that the villain didn’t kill her, but he certainly went above and beyond to shock readers and the soon-on-the-scene Hank Pym. In fact, Pym, in his Giant Man persona upon finding The Blob eating the flesh of his deceased other half, took his own twisted revenge by biting off Blob’s head. Yes, it was as odd and messed up as it all sounds.
Even odder, was that The Blob, forever a perennial C-list villain who was often positioned as just a mindless goon of Magneto’s, had seen his villainous stock rise massively be taking down an A-list Avenger original in the form of The Wasp. Of course, this rise of stock lasted only a matter of minutes before he himself ended up dead.
1. Ms. Marvel’s Son Rapes Her
To many, this is right up there with the most messed-up happenings in comic book history, period. Yes, as the title says, Ms. Marvel’s son actually rapes his mother. But that’s just the tip of this overly-convoluted iceberg.
It had taken a little while for Marvel to really figure out just how to use Carol Danvers, but by the late-70s she had become a hugely popular character with readers under the mantle of Ms. Marvel. Things then took a major turn for the worst for Danvers during Avengers #200.
In this issue, Carol mysteriously became pregnant, and even more shockingly gave birth just 3 days later. Continuing the shock factor, this child almost instantly became a fully-formed adult male. And just to clarify, this was totally as bonkers as it all sounds.
As the smoke began to clear, it was revealed that the son, now known as Marcus and eventually Marcus Immortus, had somehow gone back in time to actually impregnate Carol Danvers, as in, yes, his own mother. Even more creepy, the from-the-future Marcus had brainwashed Carol into having sex with him, meaning he’d basically gone back in time to rape his superhero mother.
Marcus would ultimately continue ageing at an accelerated rate and would be turned to dust, but that still doesn’t mean to say his horrific actions were any less deplorable.
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