DC’s 10 Most Controversial Heroes

DC is the forefather of the superhero comics industry. The company set the table for every superhero that came after, and was alternately viewed as either too old-fashioned or too outlandish. In the 1980s, DC Comics was instrumental in bringing superheroes into the mainstream by adding complexity to its characters. This revolutionized the industry and changed the perception of the publisher.


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Since then, DC has been no stranger to controversy. DC Universe heroes, like Barbara Gordon’s Batgirl or Jon Kent’s Superman, have sparked their own controversies, from comics that changed the way fans see them to stories that angered many groups in fandom.

10/10 Barbara Gordon has been the subject of controversy for years

Barbara Gordon as the Oracle who ties her hair back in DC Comics

Barbara Gordon has a rich history with Batman. The first Batgirl, Gordon, became a fan-favorite character. Batman: The Deadly Joke saw her paralyzed and she became an oracle, using her intelligence and the skills she developed as a librarian to aid the heroes with information. Fans loved that and she became an icon for fans with physical disabilities.

The New 52 saw her revert to Batgirl and reverse her paralysis. Many fans hated this as it took away a prominent disabled character. Since then, DC’s use of Barbara Gordon as the performer has sparked controversy, which the company has basically ignored.

9/10 Many fans miss the Point of Rorschach

Rorschach climbs through a broken penthouse window in DC Comics' Watchmen.

Rorschach isn’t a traditional DC hero, but that hasn’t stopped him from being controversial for the publisher. Rorschach was one of the main characters of Guardian and over the years, many fans have praised the character and his black-and-white morals. This totally misses the character of the character, as creator Alan Moore made very clear in interviews.

Rorschach is not meant to be idolized. His whole life is a tragedy and he is not someone to emulate. That so many fans miss that about him and love him says a lot about media literacy. Rorschach is meant to be an object of pity at best and a monster at worst.

8/10 Wallace West was put in a terrible position

Kid Flash Wallace West in DC Comics

flash point launched the New 52 and changed the mythos of many DC characters. The Flash’s life was completely changed when Wally West was dropped from the continuity. Many fans were upset about this, and DC created Wallace West, an African-American boy who became the New 52 Kid Flash, as a replacement.

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Fans immediately turned against him. Part of it was racism, but another part was just that fans wanted the original Wally West back and not this new version. Wallace West was put in a terrible position, and the character suffered from backlash for years. Wally West would eventually return and now he and Wallace are working together and fans are finally warming to Wallace.

7/10 Red Hood’s retcons left many fans unhappy

Red Hood, also known as Jason Todd or the second Robin

Red Hood is the black sheep of the bat family. Jason Todd was killed when Robin and DC spent years reconnecting his existence and turning him into an angry young man when in reality he was just a milquetoast Dick Grayson substitute. His return as a villain led to some good stories, but older fans didn’t like his character’s retcons.

He had become a hero again and rejoined the Bat-Family as the most violent member. Since then, the character has sparked controversy in a variety of ways from his timethe new 52s Red Hood and the Outlaws to Three jokers. Red Hood was popular with some fans, but other fans disliked the continuity changes that made him what he is.

6/10 Barry Allen has been controversial since his resurrection

Barry Allen overtakes the Black Racer in Final Crisis 2

Barry Allen was the nerdy Science Dad of DC’s Silver Age, a white-bread hero who eventually fell out of popularity and sacrificed his life fighting the Anti-Monitor. This made him DC’s patron saint for years, giving him a popularity he never had in the last few years of his existence. He came back Last Crisis before being restored to continuity along the way The Flash: Rebirth.

He became the focal point flash point, a story that ruined the Flash mythos and transformed the DC Universe into the New 52. Since then it has been controversial. Barry Allen became the poster child for DC’s Re-Silver Ageization, something many fans resented. All of the goodwill he built after his death is gone, and most fans would prefer he was gone.

5/10 Damian Wayne is a bone of contention for DC fans

DC Comics' Damian Wayne in his assassin-inspired Robin costume

Damian Wayne is a great Robin to some and a hated Robin to others. He replaced Tim Drake as Robin, a fan-favorite character that didn’t do him much favor with many readers. He’s a spoiled superhero who always talks about being the best and hates every other hero out there. The schism in the fandom over Damian has always been an interesting aspect of the character.

Damian is in a way endemic to anything wrong with Batman himself. He’s a character who loudly proclaims that he’s the best, that he’s better than any other member of the bat family and any other superhero. His cocky attitude puts off many fans, raising controversy over its existence at various times.

DC Comics' Green Arrow with his Cry for Justice team

Green Arrow is a great hero, but for a large part of his existence he was basically just Batman with a bow and arrow. He had an Arrowcave, an Arrowcar and a little buddy named Speedy. Arrow was a boring hero, but all that was about to change when writer Denny O’Neil decided to use him as his liberal mouthpiece in the classic Green Lantern/Green Arrow: Heavy Traveling Heroes, with artist Neal Adams.

Green Arrow became a die-hard liberal, an aspect of the character that has become a staple for him. His new characterization was unlike anything else DC was publishing at the time, and many fans were surprised at the dose of leftist politics in their comics at the time.

3/10 Harley Quinn’s meteoric rise to fame and fan misunderstandings have divided fandom

Harley Quinn, currently an ally of Batman and a former sidekick of the Joker

Harley Quinn’s debut in Batman: The Animated Series introduced a character that would ultimately usher in a future cornerstone of the DC Universe. Quinn’s popularity made her an anti-hero, going back and forth with Joker before becoming a true hero. Many fans hated her rise for many reasons, while others somehow thought her abusive relationship with Joker was somehow a relationship goal.

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Quinn is an interesting study of what popularity can do to a character. A lot of fans love her, a lot hate her and a lot don’t understand her. She has been misunderstood in many ways, and some hate the fact that she has attained a trinity befitting of popularity.

2/10 Jon Kent’s bisexuality brought out an ugly side of comics fandom

Superman Jon Kent unveils new Justice League in Dark Crisis

Jon Kent was a great Superman, but he had some big shoes to fill. Replacing Clark Kent as Superman was always going to be difficult for the character, but his coming out as bisexual made national headlines. Most saw it as a wonderful moment of representation, but the worst corners of fandom and media turned it into a controversial moment.

The fact that a young man finds himself and his truth becoming divisive and some fans react ugly is terrifying. It didn’t help that this coincided with Superman’s motto change to “Truth, Justice, and a Better Tomorrow,” something that angered right-wing nationalists.

1/10 Batman’s ubiquity has made him an object of contempt

Batman gestures for his opponent to step up to him, confident he will win in DC Comics

Batman is the greatest vigilante in comics, which is both a blessing and a curse. DC is basically the publisher of Batman books at the expense of everything else right now. He is DC’s most popular character and the Batman Comic title is constantly at the top of the sales charts. He’s the cash cow and DC won’t let fans forget that.

This has become a self-fulfilling prophecy; DC puts out bat books and it feels like that’s all they put out so they sell. Many fans are fed up with Batman’s dominance at the publisher and have many antagonized against him. Batman is loved and hated, a true Schrödinger superhero if ever there was one.

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