The 10 Saddest Moments in Comics
Though I rarely make it to the theaters these days (I’m a recluse), I did fight the crowds last weekend to catch Toy Story 3. As a forewarning to any families that have not yet seen the new Pixar classic, I want to clearly state that you should not bring any razor blades to this film, as you will surely be tempted to use them. Lots of times.
Upon exiting the theater and getting back to my comics writing, I found myself haunted by the horribly depressing (but remarkable) Toy Story 3 as I sifted through my weekly offerings. As such, this led to a brainstorm of the saddest moments throughout comicdom. Feast your eyes on the fruits of my horrifying labor.
By the way, there are potentially spoilers within. You’ve been warned.
10. Catwoman Gives Up Helena for Adoption
Within the 82 issue run that is the 2002-2008 Catwoman monthly series, Selina Kyle was dragged through the mud. After murdering Black Mask in cold blood after discovering that Zatanna had mind wiped her in order to set her on the "right" path, Selina wound up with a baby when DC’s titles jumped forward one year in time following Infiinite Crisis.
She had given up the Catwoman mantle and tried to go legitimately straight when her secret identity is discovered and Selina realizes that it will be impossible to raise her daughter in that environment. Enlisting the aid of Batman, she fakes the deaths of herself and the baby, and places the child up for adoption. The real gutwrencher comes when she turns to Zatanna and begs her to mind wipe her again, to erase all memories of Helena, to which Zatanna refuses. Selina is one of the most grounded, independently sufficient characters in modern comics, and to see her break down like that was just brutal.
9. Terra Trumps the Titans (and Bangs Deathstroke?)
I’m not sure what’s more depressing: Terra betraying her brother and the rest of the Teen Titans in The Judas Contract and subsequently killing herself in an attempt to find redemption, or that Deathstroke the f*cking Terminator has so little game that he has to sleep with an emotionally damaged 15 year old. Either way, the entire situation with Terra is one for the record books.
Deathstroke used the poor girl to try and destroy the Titans, and in the process fans were given a whirlwind of a character arc that ended in tragedy. And statutory rape.
8. The Death of Harry Osborn
Deaths are, quite honestly, a dime a dozen in the world of superhero comics. That’s why when they really hit you, it takes you by surprise. Perhaps the most depressing moment in Spidey history, Harry Osborn’s death came after Harry’s descent into madness and delusion. After convincing himself that Peter was envious of the Osborn family name, he concocted a plan to murder Spider-Man and anyone else that had ever wronged the Osborns.
With Peter about to be killed in a gigantic explosion, Harry snapped to his senses and made a last ditch effort to save his best friend. The injury coupled with poisoning by a strength serum he had taken led to Harry’s death. In his final moments, he told Peter that he was sorry.
Too little too late if you ask me, but still, it was a heart wrenching moment. Come to think of it, that’s pretty much how it goes down in Spider-Man 3 (kind of), and it’s still amazing that they effed that up with such a strong scene to draw from.
7. Tony Stark’s Confession
6. Alan Moore Quits Mainstream Comics
Though in retrospect, you can’t really blame the man, just think of all the amazing DCU stories we could be talking about from Alan Moore in addition to his classics like The Killing Joke, Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? and For the Man Who Has Everything, had he not sworn off the major publishers in the 1980s. While America’s Best Comics eventually saw Moore back under the DC banner when DC purchased WildStorm, censorship issues and consistent bastardization of his comic properties on film pretty much sealed the deal that we’d never get another Moore-penned DCU story.
It’s a truly sad thought that just because DC wanted to squeeze a few extra dollars out of the man, they sabotaged a potential twenty years worth of stories that would’ve sold through the roof.
As if the cover alone wasn’t a dead giveaway that All-Star Superman #6 would hold some truly teary-eyed scenes, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely bombarded readers with emotion through one of the most potent scenes in Superman’s long history. The last few pages of the issue sees a younger Clark speaking at Jonathan Kent’s funeral, where he is witnessed (unknowingly) by his future self. The teardrops come once Ma and Clark are back on the farm, and young Clark is questioning the point of his powers if he couldn’t save his Pa.
Of all the times Jonathan Kent has died in comics, or even in film for that matter, All-Star Superman #7 nails it right on the head in terms of genuine emotion. Morrison serves us the best incarnation of The Man of Steel; unrelentingly human.
In Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s Astonishing X-Men, Kitty Pryde showed why she’s the most BA of the X-Men when she phased inside of a giant galactic bullet rocketing towards Earth to disrupt it’s circuits. The sad part is that after a glorious reconnection with her former teammates and deceased lover, the bullet held no circuitry and Kitty was trapped inside. She phased the bullet through Earth, but was left to speed through space forever.
3. The Mural Gets Repainted in Blankets
Blankets has shown up again and again on top 10 lists that I’ve written. and this moment is a key reason why. Playing off of one of the most poignant moments in the book when Craig paints a mural on Raina’s wall, the scene towards the book’s finale when an unknown person paints over the painting until the comic page is completely blank is all at once beautiful and deeply saddening. Even just refreshing my memory on how this scene plays out has put Blankets right back on my nightstand for the umpteenth time.
It’s that kind of imagery that makes Blankets what it is, a heartfelt exploration of first loves and growing up.
2. Ralph Finds Sue’s Body
I think that in general, Identity Crisis #1 may be the saddest DC Comics magazine ever. There is not one moment of joy within these pages. When Ralph Dibny, the Elongated Man, finds his wife and soulmate Sue dead in their home, burnt to a crisp, you are a soulless freak if you didn’t wipe a tear from your eye. Firstly, seeing Ralph’s rubbery mouth droop open because he is too emotional to keep himself (literally) together, while kneeling desperately in the rain clutching Sue’s body is a great image in itself. Juxtaposing that panel with a closeup of a positive pregnancy test and a note that says "Daddy, Two lines = positive!" is just cruel.
Identity Crisis is definitely the saddest event comic ever, but this moment takes the cake for the most depressing moment in superhero comics history.
1. 355 Gets 187ed
I’ve never been floored with such gaping sadness like I was finishing Y: The Last Man #58. Two issues left to go, and one of the main characters that you’ve been with on your entire madcap journey gets shot through the head, mere moments after she and Yorick confessed their love for each other. It sounds tacky, but the pacing with which Brian K. Vaughan delivers it is flawless.
Y: The Last Man is the epitome of a high concept comic book, but god damn does it tug the heart strings.