11 of the Most Unbelievably Racist, Sexist and Abusive Moments in Comic Book History

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by Ben Furse

in Comics

This may be a controversial subject matter to many, but without glamorizing or adorning any state of accolade to its substance, it’s time to take a look at some of the more reprehensible moments in comic book history and see not only how far we’ve come as a self-aware society, but how the media that we create has followed the general social standard of morals that we now deem as acceptable.

We’ve categorized our examination of offensive comic book moments into sub-sections such as “Racism, Sexism, Abuse, etc.” so if you have any personal disposition to any of these subjects, feel free to skip ahead to something more easily digested.

Ready? OK, don’t say I haven’t warned you…

Racism

Egg Fu (DC Comics)

Egg Fu (AKA Chang Tzu) is a Chinese Communist agent who uses his mustache and unexplainable size to attack and subdue his enemies. He first appeared in Wonder Woman #157 (October, 1965). If the mixture of antiquated stereotypes combined with the type of speech only seen in Mel Gibson’s delusions doesn’t scream “We’ve never really met anyone Chinese!” then I don’t know what does.

egg fu comic

Even in Egg Fu’s “Post-Crisis” incarnation in Wonder Woman vol. 2, #128 (December, 1997), he was the subject of public protests proclaiming his social insensitivity. In this imagining, he was embodied as a nineteenth-century supercomputer who, after being discovered, was turned into a public attraction along a popular boardwalk.

Tyroc (DC Comics)

Tyroc was a member of The Legion of Super-Heroes in the 30th and 31st centuries and debuted one year before DC’s Black Lightning in Superboy #216 (April 1976). His creation happened much like most of the evils in this world, with good intentions swayed by scared men.

Jim Shooter, who is responsible for contributing to the creation of some of The Legion, previously stated that he “always wanted to have a character who was African-American, and years later, when they did that, they did it in the worst way possible….instead of just incidentally having a character who happens to be black…they made a big fuss about it. He’s a racial separatist….I just found it pathetic and appalling.”

tyroc dc comics

Even the co-creator Mike Grell, when asked about previous attempts at introducing black characters, said “I kept getting stalled off…and finally comes Tyroc. They might as well have named him Tyrone. Their explanation for why there were no black people in the Legion was that all the black people had gone to live on an island. It’s possibly the most racist concept I’ve ever heard in my life…I mean, it’s a segregationist’s dream, right? So they named him Tyroc, and gave him the world’s stupidest super-power.”

His disdain for what he was forced to do to his own character led him to admitting: “I gave him a silly costume. It was somewhere between Elvis’ Las Vegas costume and something you would imagine a pimp on the street corner wearing.”

Tintin (Studios Hergé)

It may be my own naïveté, or it may be that one Tintin comic that accidentally slipped its way into my collection of Asterix & Obelix comics from the library as a child and fostered somewhat of a disdain towards the character for me. Either way, I had no idea until a few days ago how massively racist Tintin was. It turns out that this blonde haired, male caucasian was ignorant toward other cultures (I know, mad, right?).

tintin comic racist

In one of the more controversial titles, Tintin: In the Congo (see pic above) there’s a scene in which a Congolese woman bows in front of Tintin and proclaims “White man very great. White mister is big juju man”.

Tintin is one of those things that serves as a look into the mentality of someone born in 1907 and how society not only portrayed, imagined and were exposed to the misconceptions of “artists” in the media but also didn’t really have the worldly know-how not to accept it. Information was disseminated differently then- it’s not as if they could do a Google Image search for “Congolese”.

Action Comics (DC)

Taking into account that this issue was printed during the second World War in Action Comics Vol 1 #58 (March, 1943), and also taking into account the wealth of anti-everything-that-was-against-us-and-America propaganda that was being circulated at the time, it’s easy to brush this off as a result of the social climate.

superman racist

In reality, if you think about what has happened here, not only has the forced-xenophobia of countries trying to justify their actions seeped its way into the front pages of newspapers and magazines but into the paragon of purity that superheroes are meant to defend. On top of this, they are trying to get the readers to pay for the wars themselves through the medium of war bonds… Dick move Superman, dick move.

americommando comic

This sort of stuff is the entirely inexcusable side of old comics. It is not as if “comics” can be blamed, but the writers and editors at the time surely can. These two characters have both been involved in too many purely personal attacks on culture with the aim on American superiority. At the time, Americommando and Captain America were DC and Marvel’s answer to blind patriotism and gentle propaganda.

The “great minds” behind such character flaws showed their “skill” with a Chinese Nazi Octopus?… Sigh*. Obviously both characters have followed society and evolved into much more wholesome entities. The themes and images above are a bit heavy, so let’s take a breather and enjoy a moment of zen before we move on to sexism.

Kamal Khan Anti-Racism Graffiti

In San Francisco in the early part of 2012, some truly hate-filled ads from the American Freedom Defense Initiative started to appear on the local buses of the town; ads that involved pictures of Hitler, Osama Bin Laden and hate-filled messages stating such things as “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”

kamal khan anti racism graffiti

Well, a group of comics fans decided that they had had enough of seeing the hate-filled posters and decided to use Kamala Khan, a new Pakistani-American Muslim character who had taken over the mantle of Ms. Marvel, to cover up the offensive ads. The group behind the initiative, called the Bay Area Art Queers Unleashing Power or (BAAQUP) have described themselves as “a loose collective of arts activists with a long history of liberating public spaces and creating images to challenge the control of our lives by corporations, government and the assumptions promoted by mass media.”

For every positive there is a negative, and in this case, vice versa.

 

Sexism

With sexism, unlike racism, there is no way to view it as just part of an ignorant, intolerant social climate and misunderstanding. There’s no point in the span of the human existence where man hasn’t known woman. Ever since our tiny fins started evolving into gross little legs that we were barely able to stand on, males knew females and vice versa. It has not been since the time of mitosis that this has been untrue in our evolution.

Taking this into consideration, it is only man’s natural physical prowess that has caused this divide between sexes and carried through to an almost xenophobic nature that, compared to past events of history, is close to non-existent in western culture nowadays.

The Fantastic Four (Marvel Comics) 

Here we see two Fantastic Four characters with not so fantastic dialogue. I mean, it’s not bad enough that all women have just been branded “scatter brained and emotional” but Sue Storm is seen in the following panel confirming her agreement with the statement and pretty much just sitting back into the idea that he must simply not understand the oh so mysterious and elusive female sex.

fantastic four sexist

And below, the clearly unwanted “Daredevil Booty Slap”. What about the fact that he just described her as a “thing”? Or asked her to slip into something “barely legal”? And Reed Richards’ offer to buy Sue Storm a new wardrobe, because that was surely the height of all female desire?

marvel comics sexism

How about the responses? Upon being called a male chauvinist, something that even a blind man can use to pick up on a sense of scorn, Daredevil goes one step further and simply exclaims “I said MOVE IT, darling”.

Moving on, it seems like from Sue’s responses over the past two panels, she was less than a shining light of feminism than many like to believe; “Wives should be kissed– and not heard!”… Wow, just wow.

As for your “Sexism in Comics” moment of zen, here’s an artist’s take on how impractical and sexually-driven most female superhero costume designs are. I’m not sure that I could take the title “Action Comics” seriously if I had to stare at accentuated Super-Junk every turn of the page, which proves the artist’s point.

sexist comic character costumes

 

Abuse

The Governor (The Walking Dead #43)

The television adaption of The Walking Dead has garnered a large group of extremely dedicated fans over its five seasons. The show has featured many stories with an unflinching approach to gore and on-screen violence, whilst challenging real life events in a post-apocalyptic world.

In comparison to The Walking Dead comic book series (written by Robert Kirkman and drawn by Tony Moore/Charlie Adlard), the show seems rather tame with respect to the far grittier and darker aspects of the world featured in its original incarnation.

During his reign of Woodbury, The Governor gave the audience a look at just what this character and the writers were prepared and willing to do, when it comes to pushing the boundaries of what a generic comic or TV series would usually offer.

the governor worst moments walking dead comic

The Walking Dead #43 is a fine example of this. The Governor, after waking up to find his right arm missing and his left eye near-lost, ventures outside and finds his previously second in command trying to kill his zombie-daughter Penny (whom he’d been keeping locked in a cupboard). This follows onto a later scene where The Governor has just finished removing all of Penny’s teeth and then, inexplicably, he kisses his daughter passionately, before vomiting and promising “I’ll get used to the taste”.

If the whole necrophilia side of things isn’t bad enough, then remember this is his young daughter.

Sue Dibny & Doctor Light (DC Comics: Identity Crisis)

The graphic novel Identity Crisis, stirred up a lot of controversy with regular DC Comics readers, not only for what was described by critics as generally being awful and poorly written, but it also features arguably one of the most graphic scenes of sexual violation in comics to date.

dc comics identity crisis sexual abuse

In a flashback as described to The Justice League by the Flash, we see Sue Dibny sitting aboard the Justice League’s Watchtower going about her daily business, when suddenly Doctor Light enters the base in what was assumed to be an attempt to retrieve his weaponry. The story took a turn for the worse when Doctor Light realized that he had found himself something more valuable in the form of Sue Dibny.

Doctor Light abused and humiliated Sue in what can only be described as an extremely upsetting scene, until the inevitable arrival of The Flash. This moment would mentally torture Sue’s husband, Justice League member Ralph Dibny (The Elongated Man) even after she was eventually murdered by Jean Loring. To make things worse in an already bad existence, Ralph Dibny then came to learn that she was pregnant at the time of her death.

Hyde (League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol 2 Issue #5)

There are few things that would lead me to believe that one day I would be typing the words “Hyde raped The Invisible Man to death”, but life is full of surprises. Much like Hawley Griffin, The Invisible Man was about to find out, life doesn’t always go your way.

As Hyde (of Jekyll & Hyde) returns to the Annexe he takes a seat and then expresses humor that The Invisible Man is trying to stay quiet so that he doesn’t know he is there. Hyde wastes no time in reminding him that he has always been able to see The Invisible Man due to his ability to see infrared. After Hyde gets his hands on Griffin, he breaks his leg so that he can’t get away and proceeds to rape The Invisible Man to death… Yes, you read that right, to death.

Hyde raped Invisible Man comic panel

To put this in a bit of context (but in no way excusing his actions), Hyde is driven to commit this horrific act when he finds out that The Invisible Man had been previously abused and humiliated Mina Murray, someone who Hyde had come to care for greatly and someone who had previously caught Griffin raping Pollyanna Whittier.

The Purple Man (Marvel Comics)

Zebediah Killgrave, also known as The Purple Man is more well known for his appearances alongside Jessica Jones as one of her main antagonists, or at least the antagonist that has affected her the most. Before he was known as The Purple Man, he was a physicist who later became a spy. It was a freak accident involving experimental chemicals that turned his skin and hair purple and eventually led to him developing superhuman abilities.

marvel the purple man

Living life as a human mutate, he uses his powers of mind control and skills of manipulation to abuse and degrade anyone he wants. The Purple Man has not only taken control of and forced a woman to become his wife, which in turn led to her becoming pregnant with his child, but over the following years he used this technique with many women and fathered many children. Eventually he had fathered enough illegitimate offspring that they got together and formed The Purple Children. With similar powers to their father, they continued his work only for him to later abandon them.

Considering The Purple Man’s past history of debauchery and abuse, it’s unlikely that we’ll see a comic-accurate representation of this character in the upcoming AKA: Jessica Jones Netflix series, but possibly an adaption suitable for a wider audience.

The Joker and the Gordons (The Killing Joke)

Many fans of DC Comics have seen The Joker pull some seriously sick and twisted stuff over the years in an attempt to ruin Batman’s day and turn Gotham into his own personal mad house. Sometimes The Joker has taken it too far.

The Killing Joke is a fan favorite and was an instant classic that received critical acclaim from both comic veterans to new readers alike. The story features what is now most widely accepted Joker origin, explaining his transition from a failed comedian in debt with the wrong people to the most unpredictable threat Gotham has ever seen.

joker the killing joke

The Joker, believing that one bad day can change anyone into a monster similar to what he has become, attacks police commissioner Jim Gordon’s daughter, Barbara Gordon. Barbara answers a knock at her apartment door and to her shock, standing before her is The Joker. After being shot and subsequently paralyzed, The Joker then strips, molests and photographs Barbara Gordon in all manner of distressing positions.

Jim Gordon is later kidnapped and also stripped, chained to a moving fairground train ride where he is exposed to the pictures of his wounded and abused daughter surrounding him in a tunnel-of-love type room. The Joker is determined to put Gordon through so much abuse and pain that he will snap.

As messed up as this is, I like to think that in some way this is The Joker trying to understand his own madness, trying to relate to something, to anyone. This of course doesn’t excuse his actions, if anything it makes it worse that he’s willing to go this far for his own end.

The Wayne Foundation

As your final moment of zen, I present you The Wayne Foundation whose board of directors include: President – Jamie Walton, Vice President – Kevin Smith, Treasurer – William Bittner and Adviser – Dr. John Fite. In their own words:

“The Wayne Foundation is committed to spreading awareness of CSEC (Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children) DMST (Domestic Minor Sexual Trafficking) occurring within the United States. Our organization is survivor lead. Our goal is to provide young women in the United States who have fallen victim to DMST with a means of leaving the sex industry for good by providing a safe home environment with rehabilitation services.”

the wayne foundation kevin smith

This service is for survivors by survivors and is an invaluable port of call for people who are exposed to these horrible situations. They offer ongoing support and will soon offer a drop in center in Florida. As their site states:

“The Wayne Foundation is currently remodeling a location in Charlotte County, Florida that will start the fulfillment of our vision statement to provide direct services to youth affected by commercial sexual exploitation.”

And hey, the name is pretty cool too…

There it is, some of the most offensive moments in comic book history. Feel free to leave your comments, opinions and maybe some other instances below.

Thank you for reading this article.

If you would like to keep up to date with my personal work and articles like this one, please follow me on Twitter @UltraBawz.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

TheFullmetalFanboy February 26, 2015 at 8:45 pm

I really do hate how they reworked Starfire in Red Hood and the Outlaws. They really butchered her personality. And before you swamp me with “Oh, it’s just how she is in the comics, what are you, some naive Teen Titans fan?” keep this in mind, 1: I am a naive Teen Titans fan. And 2: In said comics, she came from a culture primarily about love and joy. Here’s an excerpt from a Red Hood comic-
Roy Harper: “So, is there anything I need to know about making love to a Tamaranean?”
Starfire: “Just that love has nothing to do with it.”
You see what I mean?

Reply

Dr. Reno April 20, 2017 at 10:49 am

Here’s a simple Post Scriptum.
Many of the “comics” you show here are unacceptable, but not because of the attitudes they express, but for the simple and undeniable fact that, like all things on the Left, show acts of violence which are ILLEGAL in ALL Christian countries and many non-Christian countries, i.e., Japan, Russia, etc..
Here is a basic human-related fact for you.
It is a several thousand year old tradition, Karl Marx not excepted, that any person has the basic human right to think what they want and that no harm can be attributed to a thought (which is what the Left is trying to extinguish here, especially freedom of thought) and not until someone ACTS on a thought that A-N-Y culpability can be attached.
In other words, you think something bad, you should see a doctor, DO something bad and you see a Judge. Simple isn’t it.

Reply

Freddy September 14, 2017 at 3:20 pm

What a dumb post. The author spends way too much time being offended. Nobody needs – or seeks – moral guidance from a comic book. (Except maybe the author.) The only thing that made any sense was Dr. Reno’s response.

Reply

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