Out of all the comic book films that have been released in the last ten years, Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight series is arguably the darkest. But when you compare those films to the stories that they’re based on, they barely scratch the surface of the darkness beneath. And outside of the comic book world of Batman, there’s an entire history of writers pushing boundaries and inspiring their peers to completely break the rules. The stories on this list are some of the darkest tales that ever graced the pages of a comic book, and we doubt you’ll ever see them on the big screen.
A lot of the stories detailed within this list are NSFW and may be triggering, so if you’re worried about seeing, or reading about something graphic you may want to read one of our lists about fluffiest kittens. The stories on this list come from mainstream and indie comic imprints, but honestly, some of the most shocking story lines come from the majors.
On the lineup, we have shocking character deaths, sexual assaults committed by heroes and villains alike, and at least one account of a character cutting themselves out of another character’s stomach; if any of that piques your fancy then we want to hear from you. After you pour over this list of comic book stories that are too dark to film, we want to know which story you think is the darkest. If there’s a story we missed, leave us a comment and fill us in on the action.
Batman: the Killing Joke
Originally, The Killing Joke was meant to be an Elseworlds version of the Batman tale, but for some reason DC decided to make Alan Moore’s SUPER GRAPHIC story of the Joker paralyzing and physically abusing Barbara Gordon in front of her father canon.
Wolverine: Old Man Logan
The entire “Old Man Logan” storyline is a killer comic that will probably be adapted some day, but the revelation that Wolverine slaughtered his friends and family in the X-Mansion under the hypnotic spell of Mysterio is probably too horrendous to commit to celluloid.
There’s also the tidbit about Wolverine carving his way out of the Hulk, that might be a bit too much for some viewers to stomach.
Sue Dibny Raped By Dr. Light
Not only is this storyline super dark, but it’s also one of the most unnecessary stories in comic book history. The story opens with Sue being murdered, and the Justice League going on an adventure to find the murderer. It’s revealed that Dr. Light teleported to the JL Watchtower, where he found Dibny alone where he attacked and raped her.
Not content with simply sending him to jail, the League and Zatanna neuter his mind as punishment for his actions.
Mockingbird Raped By Phantom Rider
The “Lost in Space-Time” storyline by Steve Englehart was controversial for a number of reasons: Ant Man tried to commit suicide, and the WC Avengers went back in time where they ran into The Phantom Rider who became infatuated with Mockingbird.
He kidnapped, drugged, and raped her before brainwashing her to fall in love with him. She eventually lets him fall off a cliff (yay!) but then her husband, Hawkeye, divorces her for her actions (BOO!).
Crossed is a story of a post-apocalyptic world where a plague turns the majority of the population into ravenous zombie like beings that try to rape and pillage everything in their path. Sounds fun!
The series has given audiences their take on rape, incest, and child murder. Understandably, some readers find Crossed to be a bit dark.
Kraven’s Last Hunt
Kraven was always kind of a B-Team bad guy in the Marvel universe, but this story made him an incredibly interesting character. After years of hunting Spiderman, Kraven finally catches him, kills him (or so he thinks) and then buries him. Kraven then dons the Spidey costume and has fun until Parker can dig his way out of the ground and catch.
Feeling like he already won, Kraven writes a confession to the police before blowing his brains out with a shot gun. The end.
Alexandra DeWitt Gets Fridged
After Hal Jordan went psycho and stopped being a lantern, Kyle Rayner was tapped to take over as the defender of sector 2814. For the first few issues he and his on again, off again girlfriend, Alexandra DeWitt, worked out the foibles of a new lantern. But soon enough she was murdered and stuffed into a fridge by the super powered hitman Major Force.
Once again, comic writers used cheap violence against women instead of writing actual character development.
The Death of Jason Todd
This storyline is just grim. In 1988, DC gave fans the choice of whether or not they would like to kill Jason Todd (the most recent incarnation of Robin). Proving that people have always been awful, readers voted en masse for Todd’s death.
Jason is killed when he jumps onto a bomb to save his mother, although that sounds sweet, it’s kind of a boring way to go.
Norman Osborn Fathers Twins With Gwen Stacy
Spiderman has been around long enough to repel fans with hot topic storylines only to win them back with even better stories months late. But “Sins Past” definitely left some fans out in the cold. In the storyline we learn that shortly after her father’s death but before her own, Gwen had traveled to France, where Norman Osborn AKA the Green Goblin seduced and impregnated her.
The children grow up SUPER FAST thanks to their dad’s goblin sperm and have appeared rarely in the comics.
Shado Rapes a Feverish Green Arrow
In one of his earliest encounters with the Yakuza bread “Shado,” Oliver Queen is left beaten and hallucinating. Shado nurses him back to health, but she also tricked him into thinking she was Black Canary and instigated a bit of the ol’ in out in out. Arrow would only find out about this violation years later when Shado would show up with his son Robert, and then forbid him from being involved in the boy’s life.
Ultimate Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch’s Incestuous Relationship
Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch had always been close, they are brother and sister after all, but in Ultimates 3 things became too close for comfort when it was revealed that they were having a brother/sister sex party with only two invites. The storyline made EVERYONE uncomfortable.
The Rape of Ms. Marvel
In Avengers #200 Ms. Marvel wakes one morning to find herself pregnant. The baby comes to term within a few days and grows quickly as he builds a machine that causes a number of time-related incidents across the city. After The Avengers destroy the machine, the boy (Marcus, son of Immortus), reveals that he kidnapped Ms. Marvel and impregnated her with himself to escape the Limbo universe. Soon after, Ms. Marvel follows Marcus as he returns the the Limbo Universe. UGH.
Nightwing Raped by Tarantula
While Nightwing was championing his own city Blüdhaven (what a name!) he fell in with Tarantula number 2 (long story) and during a battle with Blockbuster, he allowed her to kill the villain before collapsing on a roof.
On the rooftop Tarantula forced herself on Nightwing, who was unable to fight her off in in his weakened condition.
Hal Jordan Deletes Everything
In the 1994 Green Lantern story “Emerald Twilight,” after discovering that Coast City has been laid to waste by Mongul, Hal Jordan loses his mind and uses his power ring to re-create the city and all its inhabitants before flying to the home planet of the Green Lantern Corps, killing everyone, syphoning their power, and becoming Parallax.
Speedy Addicted to Heroin
Deciding to take some time off, Green Arrow and Green Lantern took to the open road to explore America, leaving Speedy (Arrow’s sidekick) behind to try out the hip new heroin trend he’d heard so much about.
After the two green guys returned, they found Speedy to be a full on junkie who, with the help of Black Canary, would kick the habit.
Cyclops Abandons His Wife and Newborn Son
After the Dark Phoenix storyline, it was time for Scott Summers AKA Cyclops to get the heck out of Dogde. He married a stewardess, had a kid and moved to Alaska. But when Jean Grey returned to the comic book realm, he abandoned his wife and child, causing Madeline (his wife) to attempt to sacrifice their child (who grows up to be Cable) to open the gates of hell. Readers weren’t on board.
Demon in a Bottle
Seeing as how Iron Man’s popularity has sky rocketed in the last 10 years, it’s doubtful that this story will ever be adapted. In this nine issue arc, Tony Stark drinks heavily, accidentally kills a foreign dignitary and loses controlling interest in his company. It’s an interesting tale of redemption, but it doesn’t scream “big screen.”
Severed is not only a horrifyingly gruesome comic series, but at its core it yearns to break your heart. The nostalgic thriller about a cannibal boogeyman who assumes various identities to hunt and kill children ramps up the pace and violent terror until you can’t look away. To reveal anything that happens would be a massive spoiler.
Johnny the Homicidal Maniac
JTHM is a coming of age story for the Hot Topic sect, and even though Johnny eventually curbs his violent tendencies, he spends most of the series committing horrific acts. It’s no wonder than when Nickelodeon approached series creator Jhonen Vasquez about working with the network they proposed he create something new and little less maniacal.
From Hell is a graphic novel by Alan Moore (who else?) that speculates on the identity and motives of Jack the Ripper. At the time, this groundbreaking comic was thought to be unfilmable, but then Johnny Depp got involved and made an awful adaptation that hardly captures the spirit of the source material.
Neonomicon is Alan Moore’s take on Lovecraftian horror, and he does so with his usual fervor. While most of the comic is the stuff of nightmares, one specific portion stands out. Half way through the four comic run, the protagonists, a pair of FBI Agents, enter a cultists’ hideout where one is murdered and the other horrendously violated.
It’s like Moore is daring Hollywood to adapt his comics.
Batman Tries to Kill Superman in The Dark Knight Returns
As dark as all of Chris Nolan’s Bat-films have been, none of them were as dark as Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, where an aging Bruce Wayne takes back Gotham with more violence than ever before. Towards the end of the story he goes so far as to try to beat Superman to death, and his plan backfires. Or does it…?
Spider-man: One More Day
In order to reset the Spider-man chronology after the Civil War storyline, Marvel decided that they would have Spirder-man sell his soul to the devil (Mephisto) for more time with Aunt May, who suffered a deadly gun shot wound at the end of CW. Not only is this storyline dark, it’s terrible.
New X Men – Planet X
In this five issue run (146-150) by Grant Morrison, we see Magneto become addicted to the poorly named street drug, “Kick,” before he gets half his face blasted off by Cyclops. Then in issue #150 he’s decapitated by Wolverine after killing Jean Grey. Fun stuff all around.
Charles Burns’ seminal work might be the zenith of body horror fiction. The story traces a spread of an STD that mutates its victims, and with barely a shred of violence, the book worms its way into your mind with Burns’s starkly beautiful, woodcut-like images of depravity and teenage confusion. Think Cabin Fever meets Ghost World.
Kitty Pryde’s Stand Against Racism
Racism and discrimination have always been running themes in X-Men, and usually they approach the topic with the gravitas it deserves – BUT when Kitty Pryde finally grew tired of terms like “muties” and “mutie-lover”, Kitty responded to an African-American man’s mutant slur by throwing another slur back in his face.
The controversy arose with not only Claremont’s unfiltered use of the word, but his implication that the word “mutie” is just as bad as other slurs.
Starfox Is Put on Trial for Sexual Assault
For about 10 years it felt like the only thing mainstream comic writers could do to make a story “dark” was invoke the ever triggering rape story. This story presupposed that Starfox (brother of Thanos) used his psychic powers to get women to have sex with him. She-Hulk defends him in court, but things don’t work out for Starfox.