This article contains spoilers.
Sometimes, comic book writers like to throw in a curveball every now and then – to keep their comics fresh. And sometimes, these curveballs go way into left field to a point where fans are not only confused, but downright upset at the story’s trajectory. 2016 has been a strange year for comics to say the least, and there was plenty of controversy within fandoms to fuel heated conversations on social media and comic forums.
It makes sense that there would be some uncomfortable changes to the status quo this year. Given that DC Comics is relaunching its entire line with Rebirth, and Marvel is currently upending its comic universe with a second Civil War. But beyond that, there were some other controversies that threatened to overshadow a lot of the interesting stuff unfolding in comics today. Below are some of the biggest comic controversies in 2016.
This was the big one, the one everyone, including mainstream non-comic-book-readers talked about: when Captain America revealed himself to be an agent of Hydra. Only, not really.
To be perfectly frank, the current run of Steve Rogers as Captain America has drawn a lot of talk for many reasons beyond the Hydra thing. First, Sam Wilson aka Falcon is also currently Captain America, and also a historic, black Captain America. The passing of the torch from Rogers to Wilson was symbolic and uplifting, but many thought that the return to status quo with Rogers again becoming another Cap undid much of that progress.
Additionally, the fact that he was revealed to be Hydra, and then revealed to only just be a brainwashed agent of Hydra was too much of a whiplash for comic readers. Regardless of whether or not the reveal that Rogers was merely brainwashed into joining a fascist organization, the idea that Rogers could be compromised in such a way did not sit well with longtime fans.
More accurately the controversy surrounds The Joker, and no, not Jared Leto. During the stint where Bruce Wayne’s Batman became a sort of god of all-knowing, he decided to once and for all find out who exactly the Joker is. Turns out, there are three Jokers.
Yes, throughout Batman’s career as the caped crusader, there have been three different people who have donned face make-up to become the clown prince of crime. How this revelation plays out is unknown, but some fans feel a little cheated by this revelation. Who knows what twist means for one of comic book’s most famous villains?
Marvel Civil War II
The lives ruined or extinguished by Civil War II include the death of James Rhodes’ War Machine, the possible death of Jennifer Walters’ She-Hulk, the death of Bruce Banner, and Clint Barton’s fate as Banner’s murderer still unresolved. To say that it’s been a wild ride is an understatement. Each of these casualties have some sort of baggage to them, like the fact that another black superhero is the first death in a Civil War storyline (like Goliath in the first Civil War event). Additionally it was revealed that Marvel’s most prominent black writers, Ta-Nehisi Coates expressed reservations about the movie.
To a lesser extent there has been much talk about the fact that Clint Barton has easily been the most vocal proponent of non-lethal aggression, yet was the first to pull the trigger against a possibly innocent Bruce Banner. Civil War II is proving itself a little too gungho with plot and characterizations to sit well with comic fans.
Alan Moore’s Watchmen is one of the most revered comics of all-time. Sure, its legacy has been marred by unpopular follow-ups such as Zack Snyder’s Watchmen film adaptation, and the Before Watchmen prequel comics. Some people would just be happy if various studios stopped messing with a good thing.
Unfortunately for them, Watchmen will be appearing all over DC comics as the first issue of Rebirth indicates that the Watchmen were behind all of the doom and gloom (Batman v Superman levels of angst) DC Comics have been featuring in the comics since their New 52 relaunch. While comic fans haven’t seen much beyond the cliffhanger ending that finds Dr. Manhattan monologuing about time and destiny, fans aren’t holding their breath that this could turn out okay for the legendary comic.
After the world disrupting events of Marvel’s Secret War, the universes of Marvel comics have been altered forever. One of the biggest changes is the introduction of Mile Morales into the main Marvel comic universe, from the previously separate Ultimate universe. As a bi-racial African-Latino teenager, Miles has been the source of much pride for comic fans looking for representation.
Unfortunately, writer Brian Michael Bendis threw in a bit of dialogue in which Miles expressed displeasure as being defined by his race. Fans saw this as tone-deaf attempt by a white writer trying his hand at expressing a minority perspective, and at the same time erasing some of the very things that make Morales such an important character.
The controversy around the new Wonder Woman by writer Greg Rucka and cover artist Frank Cho actually takes place outside of the narrative. Cho has come under fire for provoking and poking fun at the conversation of sexism with his outlandishly cheesecake covers (term to describe overtly sexy). Things came to a head when Cho left the creative team due to Rucka’s displeasure at Cho’s sexy Wonder Woman covers.
Cho has publicly claimed that “political correctness” is the reason he left, but to be honest this mostly just sounds like a personal matter between a writer who has always expressed his discomfort with sexualized female characters, and an artist who revels in it.