Since DC Comics was first founded back in 1934, the comic book powerhouse has given readers some of the very best comic book tales and characters of all time. Alongside Marvel Comics, DC Comics simply is comics too many a fanboy.
Part of the charm of DC, as with any similar company, is that they have the power to regularly bring out a whole array of emotions in their readers. Happiness, sadness, joy, laughter, disappointment (hey, New 52!), and a sense of reward are just some of the emotions that DC has given to fans over the years. But then there’s the murky stuff, the twisted, sinister stuff, the stuff that shocks and disturbs readers to their very core. Yep, that’s often the “good stuff” a lot of the time.
DC has delivered so many messed-up moments over the decades, with some of their villains (and heroes, for that matter) having carried out some truly vile, despicable and out-right evil things.
It may have been hard to narrow it down to just 15, but here’s the 15 most shocking and disturbing acts ever carried out by some of DC’s most (in)famous rogues and rascals.
15. Tarantula Rapes Nightwing
Taking after his mentor Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson has quite the reputation when it comes to being a ladies’ man and a womanizer. Not only is Dick easy on the eye, but the former Robin just seemingly can’t help himself where the fairer sex is concerned.
Unfortunately for Grayson, certain females have used this against Dick at times. Even more unfortunate than merely being strung along by a woman, Nightwing has actually been raped.
Technically, Grayson was raped when Mirage pretended to be his girlfriend Starfire. Under the guise of Starfire, Mirage had sex with Dick, who thought that he was bumping uglies with his usual partner. But that’s nowhere near as bad as what Tarantula did to Dick.
Having been driven to the brink of his own morals by Blockbuster, Nightwing beat his foe to a bloody pulp and just about managed to stop himself from killing him. That said, he did allow Tarantula to step in and kill Blockbuster, for which Grayson went into a state of shock at what he’d just let happen.
A delusional Dick was then straddled by Tarantula, who proceeded to have sex with him. What was most interesting, though, was that the script for this story actually used the word “rape”, making it perfectly clear as to what had happened to Dick Grayson.
14. Black Mask And His Power Tools
To many, Roman Sionis, aka Black Mask, is one of the most villainous rogues to have ever walked the streets of Gotham City. Sure, he may largely be a Batman foe, but his most treacherous, disturbing act involved poor Stephanie Brown.
Stephanie had been known as The Spoiler, a self-made hero who was doing what she could to protect Gotham. Grabbing the attention of the Caped Crusader, Batman actually took the young girl under his wing and even went as far as to make her the fourth Robin. Sadly for Steph, she made one mistake too many for the Dark Knight and he gave her the boot. Desperately trying to make it up to Batman and prove her worth, she once again became The Spoiler and decided to go after Black Mask. And that’s where everything went majorly wrong.
Not only did Black Mask brutally beat Stephanie Brown, the rogue shocked us all by actually torturing her with power tools in an act that could have served as inspiration for what went down in some of the Hostel movies.
That wasn’t merely the end of it, though, as Stephanie would get free and confront her torturer. With a gun pointing directly at the face of Black Mask, this young hero realised that she couldn’t kill him as that wouldn’t be the right thing to do. Unfortunately, Roman Sionis doesn’t operate on those same morals. Snatching the gun out of her hand, Black Mask would shoot Stephanie, wounding her so badly that she’d briefly have enough time to say her goodbyes to Batman before she flatlined in front of him.
13. Harley Quinn Has A Daughter
Harley Quinn having a daughter is shocking and disturbing on many levels.
Granted, Harleen is often depicted as a sympathetic villain, tied to an abusive relationship all because she idolizes her puddin’, The Joker. That doesn’t necessarily mean her actions are justified, though.
In Injustice: Gods Among Us – Year 2, Quinn reveals to Black Canary that she has a 4-year-old daughter named Lucy. This was a major shock to readers, and it was additionally confirmed that, yes, The Joker was the father of this young girl.
To have a child with the Clown Prince of Crime is a pretty disturbing act in itself, although Harley would explain how The Joker doesn’t actually known about Lucy and that the girl lives with Quinn’s sister. More disturbing is that Harley Quinn chose to keep The Joker in the dark because she believes that his “work” is far more important. To make things even more disturbing and heartbreaking, Harleen tries to make a joke of the fact that Mr. J didn’t even seem to miss her during the year she was absent during her pregnancy and child birth.
12. Professor Zoom Kills Iris West
The Barry Allen version of The Flash has had many infamous foes over the decades, and one of the most popular, especially these days, is Eobard Thawne’s Professor Zoom. In terms of the most shocking, disturbing things that this villainous speedster has carried out, right at the top of that list is killing Iris West.
Iris had become the wife of Barry, even finding out his secret life as The Flash after he accidentally blurted it out during a sleep talking session on their wedding night, but it wasn’t meant to be ‘happily ever after’ for poor Iris.
Several years after becoming Barry’s wife, Iris found herself killed at the hand of Professor Zoom. The murder itself took place at a fancy dress party, with the rogue vibrating his hand through Iris’ head before doing just enough damage to kill her.
Of course, as this is comic books we’re talking about, Iris would be brought back to life down the line. As would Professor Zoom, who’d been later killed by The Flash after the villain had targeted Barry’s new fiancée, Fiona.
11. Prometheus Takes A Limb
Whilst Prometheus is so often positioned as a Batman rogue in the DC comic book realm, it was Oliver Queen and Roy Harper who he had in his sights at one point in time.
The second incarnation of Prometheus, this villain managed to do something truly shocking and disturbing in actually cutting off Harper’s arm. The deed was done by using a poisoned blade, and it took many a reader aback.
Not only was the fact that Roy Harper had lost an arm shocking enough in itself, but even more disturbing to many was just how impactful the artwork was for this. The shot of Roy sans-arm is one that has stuck with any and all comic book fans who have ever seen that particular panel.
Roy Harper is a superhero who has been troubled and plagued by so much over the years, from drug addiction to dead children, and seeing Prometheus step up and actually cut off one of Harper’s limbs was a twisted, treacherous act that shocked the DC world.
10. The Fate Of Sue Dibny
What happened to Sue Dibny, the wife of Elongated Man, isn’t the direct result of one single person, instead it’s more a horrible collection of tragic events that shocked and disturbed many a longtime DC reader.
For decades, Sue and hubby Ralph were depicted as one of the greatest couples in comic history, with Sue regularly seen at the side of her other half while he battled the bad guys, whether that was on his own or as part of the Justice League. At a time when comics were starting to take a darker slant, this romance was often championed for its well-meaning, warm nature. D’awwww. Of course, happiness is only usually a temporary measure in comics, as we all know. Unfortunately, that would sadly prove to be the case here.
In 2004’s Identity Crisis, Sue Dibny was killed. Not just killed, but she also had her lifeless corpse set on fire. And she was pregnant at the time. Oh, and it was then revealed that she’d previously been raped as well. Yeah, it was as twisted and disturbing as it sounds.
Jean Loring, the separated wife of Ray Palmer, aka The Atom, was desperately trying to win back the affections of her husband. To do this, her crazed logic was to force him back to her by threatening those closest to Ray’s superhero pals. Upon threatening the preggers Sue via telephone, this caused an aneurysm to pop in Sue’s brain, rendering her dead in an instant. Desperate to cover her tracks, Loring then set fire to Sue’s house, complete with her dead body in it. In the aftermath of this, it was then revealed that Sue had been raped by the villainous Doctor Light years prior.
9. The Joker Breaks The Boy Scout
In the long history of comic books, Superman has always been the beacon of hope, the whiter-than-white hero, the guy who always saves the day and who always makes the right decision, often somehow coming out on top when all seems lost. And then came Injustice: Gods Among Us.
Injustice is best known as a video game that sees some of DC’s finest heroes and villains thrust into a beat-em-up. But there was also a prequel comic, which fleshes out further just why the events of Injustice have happened.
What players were introduced to was a world gone to the dogs as Superman has snapped and decided to rule the planet with an iron fist, killing any and all who stand in his way or oppose him. That’s the basic gist of it. What causes the Man of Steel to snap, though, is The Joker.
The Clown Prince of Crime manages to convince Supes that Lois Lane is actually Doomsday. Not only that, but he and Harley Quinn have implanted an explosive device to Lois’ heart that will wipe out millions of people if the heart of Superman’s ‘one true’ stops. Falling for The Joker’s ruse, the Big Blue Boy Scout kills Lois, believing her to be Doomsday, and in turn wipes out the whole of Metropolis. To rub further salt into his Super-wounds, Lois was also pregnant at this time as well.
In typical Joker fashion, the Harlequin of Hate would actually taunt Superman over this, much like what he’s often done over the decades to Batman. Unfortunately for Mr. J, though, he’d pushed the Last Son of Krypton too far. What resulted was Superman punching a hole through The Joker’s chest and killing him. Ouch!
8. The Joker Kills Jason Todd
We all know the story by now – 1988’s A Death in the Family arc saw The Joker brutally beat and kill the second Robin, Jason Todd, via the help of a crowbar and a massive explosion – but that doesn’t make it any less disturbing.
The Joker had been around since 1940, but it was the late ‘80s that saw him really depicted as a truly evil and maniacal presence. He may had spent the previous 40+ years carrying out crimes or tormenting the Caped Crusader, but the 1980s brought The Killing Joke and A Death in the Family, two stories that added a clinical, twisted edge to the Clown Prince of Crime.
In killing Jason Todd, The Joker went from fun-loving, jovial criminal who loved the theatrical, to becoming a vicious villain who actually went through with his evil plans and even did the unthinkable: finally got one-up on Batman.
Everything about Jason’s death was so shocking, from Joker bringing Todd’s long-absent mother in to the fold, to using Jason’s mother to lure him away from the Dark Knight, to the bloody and brutal beatdown that ensued courtesy of a handy crowbar, to the cold, heartless, disturbing conclusion that saw the lifeless body of Jason being held in the arms of Batman.
7. Darkseid Kills Batman
With Darkseid and the New Gods running rampant during Final Crisis, which ran from July 2008 until March 2009, the ominous tagline of “the day the evil won” gave readers an idea of what to expect from the huge DC event. Still, that doesn’t mean that fans weren’t shocked by what happened in this company-wide mega arc.
The plot sees Darkseid and the New Gods manipulate the situation perfectly so that many a hero is out of the picture, such as the death of Martian Manhunter, the framing of Hal Jordan for murder, the infecting of Wonder Woman, or the severe injuries given to Lois Lane in order to have Superman fly off to the future to find a way to help his ‘one true’. And then there was the Caped Crusader, Batman.
Having been kidnapped and kept at a secret location under Blüdhaven, the World’s Greatest Detective finds himself going one-on-one with this ridiculously powerful Darkseid. Keep in mind, this is an uber-villain who has been known to be able to fight off the entire Justice League at times. Of course, Bruce Wayne is merely a man – no superpowers, just excellent and at the apex of everything he does – and so never really stood a chance in this battle.
Batman would manage to fire off a radion bullet that mortally wounded his opponent, but the Dark Knight’s days came to an end when Darkseid uses his Omega Beams to kill Batman. This led to the eerie, shocking image of Superman arriving on the scene just in time to be left cradling Batman’s charred body and fleshless skull.
Eventually the day would be saved by Wally West and a back-from-the-dead Barry Allen, and we would obviously see Bruce Wayne back amongst the living eventually due to a convoluted storyline involving him travelling back to the present day after a trip through history itself. What was awesome about this, though, was that Bruce’s absence saw Dick Grayson step up to take on the Batman mantle, giving readers some fantastic stories with Dick as Bats and Damian Wayne as Robin.
6. The Joker Torments The Gordons
Whilst Batman is obviously the person most tormented by The Joker, the Jester of Genocide has also made life hell for the Gordon family over the decades.
In Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s fan favourite The Killing Joke, The Joker decides that he’s going to break Jim Gordon in order to prove that it only takes one bad day to make someone tumble into insanity.
First and foremost, Mr. J shoots Barbara Gordon through the spine, crippling her in the process. That was soon followed up by beating up and kidnapping Jim Gordon, who’d witnessed the shooting of his daughter. Jimbo would end up stripped naked and forced to run a twisted gauntlet of sorts, all the while as images of the naked, crippled body of Babs were projected around him.
The Killing Joke is rightly revered as the greatest Joker story ever told, but it’s also one of the most disturbing and shocking DC tales ever put together. And unfortunately for poor Jim Gordon, the torment would continue years later when The Joker shot and killed his wife, Sarah Essen, during the No Man’s Land arc of the late-90s.
5. Parallax Corrupts Hal Jordan
In 1994, the unthinkable happened: Hal Jordan became a bad guy. And not just any bad guy, but Hal Jordan actually became Parallax.
Up until this point, Hal’s history, which began back in 1959, always saw him positioned as one of DC’s greatest heroes. He was the first human to be given the privilege of being a Green Lantern, and he was always one of those good guys who always saw the best in people, who always managed to do the right thing, and who was always at the right place at the right time just in time to save the day.
Parallax was literally the embodiment of fear itself, and ’94 saw it revealed that the entity had slowly been taking over Hal and influencing him for years. When the cat was finally let out the bag, Jordan went on the warpath and actually remained a full-on villain for a couple of years, with Parallax tapping in to Hal’s grief over the destruction of Coast City.
During this time, Hal Jordan became the biggest opponent of the other Green Lanterns and the rest of DC’s famed heroes. In fact, one early battle saw the Parallax-infused Jordan easily defeat the combined might of Wonder Woman, Captain Atom, Martian Manhunter, fellow Green Lanterns Guy Gardner and Alan Scott, and some other lesser-known heroes. This troubled time for Hal also saw Kyle Rayner step up to become a Green Lantern, with him becoming one of the few who could even stand the slightest of chance against the all-powerful Hal Jordan.
In fact, when it came down to it, the only person who actually stopped Hal Jordan was, well, Hal Jordan, with him sacrificing himself during 1996’s The Final Night arc. This in turn led to Jordan fusing with The Spectre, which eventually led to him once again becoming the Hal Jordan fans knew and loved.
4. The Torture Of Tim Drake
This particular entry relates to the animated DC movie, Batman Beyond: Return of The Joker.
As the title of the film suggests, this animated offering saw The Joker mysteriously return to action after having been out of the picture since the Batman Beyond series began. We’d find out just where Mr. J had been, too, when it was revealed that he was ultimately killed by Tim Drake. But that was nowhere near the full story.
It would be explained how The Joker and Harley Quinn had actually kidnapped young Tim, who was the third Robin. The nefarious pair would torture the youngster for several weeks, giving him shock therapy treatment as they turned him in to a miniature version of The Joker. This may have been an animated movie, but seeing a child tortured made for some truly twisted viewing.
Batman and Batgirl would eventually locate Tim and, after much deliberation from Robin, the youngster would fire a harpoon through the chest of The Joker, killing him in the process. In the aftermath of this, the traumatised Tim would walk away from the Robin gig for good.
3. Major Force Stuff Alex DeWitt’s Corpse In A Refrigerator
When Major Force killed Kyle Rayner’s girlfriend Alexandra DeWitt, it was a moment that rocked the landscape of comic books to its very core. Sure, Alexandra was a minor, minor character who was Kyle’s partner before he became a Green Lantern in his own right, but that didn’t take away the shock factor of her demise.
With Rayner only recently becoming a GL, he returned to his apartment to find his girlfriend dead. And not just dead, but her lifeless body was brutally stuffed inside a refrigerator. It was as shocking, creepy and eerie as it sounds, even to this day.
Up until the death of Alex DeWitt, Major Force had always been viewed as a relatively minor DC villain, with him largely battling Captain Atom since his 1988 debut. With the horrific murder of DeWitt, Major Force became a major name in the DC Universe, even if the buzz around him shortly died off.
In fact, it was the actions of Major Force that resulted in the famed “women in refrigerators” phrase being coined, with that becoming the go-to term to use when describing how a female character had been abused or killed merely to further the story of one of her male cohorts.
2. The Joker Is A Rapist
Of all of the rogues and villains featured on this list, one particular no-good sort appears more than any other. That villain is, of course, the Clown Prince of Crime, the Harlequin of Hate, the Jester of Genocide: The Joker.
With the 2008 graphic novel known simply as Joker, readers were given a truly twisted and disturbed tale. This take on Mr. J looked like a cross between Heath Ledger’s Joker and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’s Leatherface. But it wasn’t just his appearance that was gruesome and shocking.
In a story filled with horrific acts – making a bank manager masturbate over a picture of his own daughter springs to mind, or how about skinning a poor fella alive? – the one element of this book that stands out more than the rest is that this take on The Joker is a rapist.
After the Clown Prince of Crime finds out that his new goon-for-hire, Jonny Frost, had previously met with Two-Face to discuss working for him, The Joker’s skewed logic sees this as Frost cheating on him. In some twisted act of revenge, the Jester of Genocide actually rapes Jonny’s ex-wife in order to equal things out between them.
1. Superboy-Prime’s Rampage
Man oh man, the actions of Superboy-Prime during the Infinite Crisis arc were, well, super. Super bad, that is.
From an alternate world where superheroes are seemingly just fictional comic book characters, Superboy-Prime sees himself as the world’s only hero. Upon ending up in the DC Universe, this hugely powerful supervillain targets the main DC realm’s Superboy, Conner Kent. And this is where the fun really begins.
In his mission to prove that he is the only hero that anyone could ever possibly need, Superboy-Prime’s crazed assault would eventually see him kill several Teen Titans, be thrust in to the actual Speed Force by the combined might of three Flashes, manage to break out of the Speed Force, banish Black Adam, kill Conner Kent, overcome a 300-mile thick wall of willpower put together by the whole Green Lantern Corps., slaughter a whopping thirty-two Green Lanterns, holds off two Supermen, and concludes things by killing the Kal-L version of the Man of Steel. Oh, and he’d kick poor Kypto the Superdog. Not cool, man. Not cool.
Superboy-Prime’s onslaught would finally be halted, but he left a shocking, disturbing path of destruction and carnage in his wake. Even worse for the DC Universe, he’d return a year later as part of the Sinestro Corps and finally become known as Superman-Prime.