There are spoilers that follow in this article about superheroes doing very un-heroic acts. The newest one is from Man of Steel, and the rest are older than that, so there is a statute of limitations on complaints about spoilers. If you haven’t read old comics, you might be spoiled, and we will leave it at that.
There has been a lot of talk since the last Man of Steel movie about Superman’s actions at the end. The ideal is that Superman represents all that is good about a person, and him snapping General Zod’s neck to save the people at the end was met with distaste and anger from many Superman fans. Those fans must not know a lot about Superman’s history.
With that moment still fresh on people’s minds as the Batman vs. Superman movie sets into motion, here is a look at the least heroic acts by a superhero in comic books. And, we will start off with Superman.
The 10 Least Heroic Acts by a Superhero
Superman kills General Zod – 3 different times
Look, Superman had to kill General Zod in Man of Steel. Zod was a warrior trained for battle while Superman was a man trained to be a farmer – or something – by Pa Kent. If he didn’t snap Zod’s neck, the General would soon overpower Superman and more people would die. Plus, I think that the death of General Zod is something that will help turn Superman into the pure character we all know from the comics.
However, let’s look back at history.
We will stay in the movies for the first one. In Superman II, a movie that Superman fans love, Superman tosses General Zod into what looks like a bottomless pit – AFTER STRIPPING HIM OF HIS POWERS. Look, Zod was no longer a threat, he was powerless, and Superman decided to toss Zod into the pit anyway instead of locking him away. Some say that it was never shown that Zod died, but he was powerless and that was a long fall. There is no way that a powerless man survives that fall. Face it Superman killed a powerless Zod in Superman II.
Then we can head back to the comics, where Superman killed General Zod as well. He actually killed Zod, Faora and Quex-Ul with green kryptonite after already stripping them of their powers with gold kryptonite. So, basically in both Superman II and the comics, Superman played the role of judge, jury and executioner against powerless people, one of the least heroic acts in Superman’s history.
Cyclops kills Professor X
I am not including Dark Phoenix killing that entire universe because that was not Jean Grey’s body and it was just the Phoenix masquerading as Jean. However, when Cyclops killed Professor X, while possessed by the Dark Phoenix, it was Scott Summers. The fact is that Scott killed the only father figure he has ever known in a battle between the Avengers and X-Men where no one had really died before that.
Cyclops went from being the most upright X-Men member to a mutant terrorist in the snap of a finger. Scott tries to repent by accepting all responsibility, feeling worse about killing Professor X, but when he learns that his actions brought back mutants, he said he would do it all again. Was it heroic? I would think killing your father figure and mentor does not excuse him of his new terrorist styled attitude and desire to be a martyr and political prisoner for Mutant-kind. Plus, once he gets broken out of prison, he almost takes on a more Magneto-styled role of winning at any cost.
Green Lantern kills all the Guardians
Much like Cyclops, Hal Jordan was not completely responsible for these actions, but that does not excuse what he did. Hal Jordan was a man who was able to almost completely overcome fear and was almost the ultimate power of good. Well, Parallax destroyed all of that when the aftermath of the Death of Superman destroyed Hal’s life. Basically, the Cyborg Superman that showed up after Superman died destroyed Hal’s home of Coast City and killed everyone in it.
Hal, who took an oath as a Green Lantern to never use his powers for his own personal gain, tried to bring Cost City back and resurrect everyone. His ring ran out of power and the Guardians refused to give him more power and stripped him of his ring. So, instead of giving up his ring, Hal murdered a number of Lanterns, took their rings, and then slaughtered and all the Guardians but one. It was the most heinous act in the history of superheroes. Green Lantern went from being the most honorable hero in the DC Universe to becoming their greatest villain.
Well, the one superhero here who acted the least heroic was Ozymandias, a hero so intelligent and separated from reality, that he felt faking an alien invasion on earth, and killing innocents, was needed to make all the nations in the world stop fighting each other and work together. Of course, in the end he killed millions of people, but Ozymandias felt that was ok if it helped his plan succeed. The sad thing is that, the rest of the Watchmen agree to keep it a secret, except for Rorschach, who might be the most heroic of them all. Just to add a little side note here, the fact that The Comedian tried to rape Silk Spectre proves how immoral most of the people on this team were.
Wonder Woman snaps Maxwell Lord’s neck
It was something that had to be done. That is what Wonder Woman would claim to Superman and Batman after she murdered Maxwell Lord. She might be right. Maxwell Lord formed The Justice League of America, only to turn out to be a criminal mastermind (to the point that he murdered Blue Beetle) and then set Batman’s own weapons against the superheroes of the world and was bringing the world to its knees. Lord then used mind control on Superman, and had him fighting Wonder Woman. When Wonder Woman put her magic lasso around Lord, she asked what it would take to stop him and Lord said only death would stop him. So Wonder Woman snapped Maxwell Lord’s neck and killed him.
This appalled Batman, who has a no kill policy, and Superman, who is conflicted when things like this happens. But, for Diana, she knew that if she did not kill Lord, then Superman might not stop. For her, it was heroic, but in the real world, murder is never heroic and never the answer, which is why she was treated so badly by Batman after the incident. To her credit, she allowed herself to be arrested and stood trial, to be found not guilty. At the end of the day, there is still a murder on Wonder Woman’s hands – a murder that might not have been needed because the Justice League almost always finds a way to win in the end.
Punisher shoots two villains in cold blood to impress Captain America
Yes, Frank Castle has killed more people than almost anyone in the comic book world, but the deaths I am going to talk about here are pretty reprehensible. It was during Civil War and Frank wanted to join Captain America’s side to battle against the super hero registration supporters led by Tony Stark. See, Captain America has always been someone that Frank idolized his entire life, and this was his chance to impress his hero and finally fight by his side.
Two super villains, Plunderer and Goldbug, show up at Captain America’s secret headquarters and asks to join because the super villain community is just as scared as everyone else. Then, without warning, Punisher murders both of them in cold blood. So, what does his hero do? Well, Captain America beats the hell out of Frank Castle, who refuses to fight back. Even as he tried to explain that they were bad guys, Captain America just beats the hell out of him some more. Cap yells for Frank to fight back, but he just said “not against you.” Punisher is crazy and he is a killer, but when he killed these two men who were wanting to fight for Captain America, he stepped over the line.
Spider-Man makes a deal with the Devil
Wow, this was something so un-heroic and selfish that Spider-Man ruined his own comic books for a good year. I guess Spider-Man can be excused since he lost his Uncle Ben because of his own selfishness and then lost Gwen Stacy at the hands of one of his biggest villains. However, when he made a deal with the devil, it was nothing but the selfishness all over again.
We are still in the Civil War crossover and Spider-Man had revealed to the world that he was Peter Parker, something that Tony Stark thought was a good idea. As a result, all Spider-Man’s enemies now knew who he loved more than anyone (see why revealing a secret identity is a stupid idea?). Well, Kingpin sends an assassin to kill Peter and Aunt May is shot instead. She ends up in a coma and is about to die. So, since Peter could never save his Uncle Ben, he makes a freaking deal with the devil (actually Mephisto) to save Aunt May in exchange for his identity once again being a secret and his marriage to Mary Jane never having happened.
Never mind that Johnny Blaze made a deal with Mephisto years before to save his adoptive father, ended up as The Ghost Rider, and his adoptive father just died anyway. What the hell makes Peter Parker think that making a deal with the devil is any kind of good idea?
Tony Stark being Tony Stark
Ahh, Tony Stark, the biggest jerk in comics. Let’s look at three areas where he was very unheroic.
First of all, let’s look at the Demon in a Bottle. I don’t want to get too much into alcoholism, but Tony Stark using his armor while drunk is about 1000-times worse than drinking and driving, and he did it a lot. One perfect example came in Iron Man #168 when Machine Man came to visit Iron Man. Well, Tony was drunk and stressed out and attacked Machine Man, who allowed Iron Man to beat him because Tony was putting innocent employees in danger in the drunken stupor.
Next, let’s move to the Armor Wars. Well, Tony learns that someone stole his armor designs and was selling them to super villains. So, what does Tony Stark do in all his ultimate wisdom? He decides to attack everyone that he feels might have Stark Industries designs on their armor. This includes attacking Stingray, who was working for the U.S. Government, and getting that armor back. He battles SHIELD’s Mandroids and beats them. He attacks the prison The Vault to battle and take armor from the Guardsmen. He kills someone piloting the Titanium Man armor. He was simply out of control.
Then, there was the Civil War. Look, I know the writers felt that Tony was the good guy in this situation, but I disagree. He imprisoned anyone who wouldn’t comply with the registration act, he convinced Spider-Man to unmask for the public which almost got Aunt May killed, he watched as a Thor clone killed Goliath, and tried to wipe it away, and the was part of the reason Captain America died. Oh, and his ignorance in the entire situation led to Norman Osborn rising to power. Stark is arrogant and makes bad decisions all the time.
Hank Pym has a nervous breakdown
Forget about Hank Pym slapping Jan. That has already been explained as an error by the writer who never meant for that to be how it was drawn. It was supposed to have been an accident. What I want to talk about here is his very poor decisions after he suffered his nervous breakdown. After returning to The Avengers as Yellow Jacket, Hank was getting more and more reckless. He finally lost control in a fight and blasted a villain from behind after the villain had quit fighting.
This caused Captain America to suspend Hank from the team and they began a court martial of the hero. So, what does Hank do? He creates a robot called Salvation-1 to attack the Avengers at his court martial so he can save them and prove himself to be a hero again. Things don’t go good, but luckily after Wasp discovers what he is doing (this is where the slap happens), she is able to stop it when Hank can’t.
The Avengers kick him off the team and Jan divorces him. Hank finally redeems himself and then quits his role as a superhero, but his lapses in judgment remains a strong part of Marvel history.
Justice League Mind Wipes Batman
Identity Crisis really threw the Justice League into a sort of turmoil. Sue Dibney was murdered and the Justice League set out to figure out who did it. The story was tragic in that Sue was pregnant with Ralph Dibney’s child when she died, and vengeance was sought. That was when Green Arrow reveals an old story to Wally West and Kyle Raynor that the original Justice League did something pretty horrible years before.
When the Justice League learned that Doctor Light raped Sue Dibney, the group chose to mind wipe Doctor Light, removing all traces of him being a super villain from his mind. Green Arrow also mentions this was not a one-time deal, and the Justice League have mind wiped people before. That includes one of their own. Batman caught them trying to mind wipe Doctor Light and the League voted to mind wipe him as well, to erase the fact that he learned what happened.
So, what did this cause? Batman figured out what the Justice League did to him and created the OMAC Project, which lead to the instance where Wonder Woman had to kill Maxwell Lord. What the Justice League did to their enemies, with the mind wipe, was horrible enough, but to do it to one of their own in Batman might be the worst sin of all.
So, what are your thoughts? Am I off base on some of these? Are there some that you would have liked to see on the list? Chime in below in the comments and lets talk bad decisions and the least heroic acts by superheroes.