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Times Superheroes Had A Worse Day Than You

People have a tendency to look at comic books as pure escapist fiction, but that's not always the case. Sure, there are a ton of stories in which colorful heroes take on bad guys and solve their problems with simple, direct action, saving the world and basking in the adulation of their friends, but those good times are only part of the story. Plenty of superheroes have had some pretty terrible days—and not just the kind that involve getting beaten up by murderous clowns and bone monsters, either.

So if you're having a rough time, take a look at some superheroes who probably have it worse. If nothing else, you take some comfort in the fact that even if you're bulletproof, you still have to deal with a pretty crappy day sometimes.


Garth Ennis and John McCrea's HItman was pretty much just 60 issues of terrible things happening to everyone, including—especially—the main characters. It didn't take a lot of time to get there, either, setting the tone for rough days right there in the very first issue.

As the title implies, Tommy Monaghan was a hitman, albeit one with a moral code that led him to only pull the trigger on bad people. Thanks to an alien invasion and a largely forgettable crossover called Bloodlines designed to fill the DC Universe with a bunch of new heroes who, unlike Tommy, never really went anywhere, he had X-ray vision and limited telepathy, both of which can come in pretty handy if you're trying to figure out who in Gotham City deserves a bullet. The answer: pretty much everyone not dressed up like a bat.

Anyway, all of this was introduced to readers in a story where Tommy used his telepathy to get a date by asking a woman out for her favorite meal—curry—before taking a job that brought him in contact with Batman. One swift bat-punch to the stomach later, and Tommy was barfing a curry dinner all over Batman's boots—and even if you've had the worst food poisoning ever, you've never puked on Batman. It's not something that ends well.


As a team, the Doom Patrol is pretty well-acquainted with the concept of bad days. It's something baked into their characters right from their origin stories. Each member of the team went through a horrible trauma that ended up giving them superpowers, and none were more horrible than the accident that left Cliff Steele as Robotman. As a racecar driver, he was in a fiery crash that destroyed his body, leaving his brain to be transplanted into a robot housing.

The catch was that while his body allowed him to continue living and could be rebuilt from even the most horrific mangling, it didn't actually allow him to feel, taste, or smell much of anything, and his other senses weren't that great either. Eventually, in Grant Morrison and Richard Case's Doom Patrol #34, the Chief of the Doom Patrol decided to build him a new body, but that wasn't exactly the solution everyone hoped.

Not only did Cliff's new body rebel against its owner while Cliff was still hanging out as a disembodied brain in a jar, it was eventually taken over by another brain in a jar, the Brotherhood of Evil's appropriately named leader, the Brain. If that wasn't weird enough, the Brain quickly used his new body to confess his love for his longtime partner in crime, Monsieur Mallah, who was, of course, a talking gorilla. After that, Robotman's new body just exploded, and honestly, that was probably for the best.

Green Lantern

In theory, Hal Jordan is a guy who has it all. Not only is he a superhero who gets to travel through space and battle evil with the help of the single most powerful weapon in the universe, even his civilian identity is awesome—a handsome, square-jawed test pilot who risks his life every day to give the good ol' USA the edge in aircraft supremacy. And yet, he's also had a weird tendency to get bonked in the head and knocked unconscious. Seriously, flip through some Silver Age Green Lantern comics and see for yourself—it happened all the time.

With that in mind, it's not surprising that Hal's proclivity for concussions would result in one of the most hilariously humiliating moments of his entire career in Len Wein and Dick Dillin's "The Man Who Murdered Santa Claus," from 1974's Justice League of America #110. When a call from the Justice League comes in gathering the team so they can investigate the murder of a department store Santa Claus—which kind of seems like small potatoes for the Justice League—Hal's in the shower getting ready for a date, and slips on a bar of soap trying to get out, cracks his head on the tub, and spends the next few hours in a mild coma.

Let's just go through that one more time: Not only does the fearless defender of an entire sector of space get laid out by soap, he also a) misses a date, b) misses Christmas, and c) has to be replaced on the mission by backup Lantern John Stewart. Even his own Power Ring would rather spend time with another Green Lantern. Ouch.


Going by percentages, Adam Warren's Empowered has probably had more terrible days than every other superhero combined. Her super-suit gives her strength, speed, agility, and even protects her from damage that would kill a normal person, but unfortunately, it's also about as fragile as a soap bubble, and the more shredded it gets, the less power she has. The end result is that Emp often finds her costume in tatters, and shortly thereafter is put into what can only be described as elaborate and innovative bondage. If you haven't read it, well, trust us: it's actually a lot smarter and more character-focused than it sounds.

That said, things were rarely more cringe-inducingly humiliating than they were in the first volume of Empowered, when Emp was knocked out by a self-proclaimed "supra-genius" before her costume had even lost a single shred of material. His plan was to leave Emp stripped and tied up, taking the suit and all its powers for himself.

Unfortunately, he found out pretty quickly that the suit only works for her when he tried to roundhouse kick a concrete pillar, snapped his own leg in half, tumbled out a window, and peed himself from the sheer pain of it all. Emp, on the other hand, was left with the knowledge that she'd been taken out at full strength, a suit in desperate need of laundry and disinfectant, and a paramedic who assumed she was romantically involved with the would-be supervillain.

Caitlin Fairchild

Empowered isn't the only heroine who found herself put through the wringer by Adam Warren. During his run on Gen 13 with artist Ed Benes, Caitlin Fairchild was involved in one of the most brutal bits of deception to ever hit the comics page. See, in order to restore her team's powers, Caitlin had previously made a deal with the villainous Ivana Baiul—a government agent who usually spent her time trying to kill Fairchild and her team—in order to get their powers back. The tradeoff was that Caitlin and her super-strong, invulnerable body would owe Ivana a single favor, to be called in whenever Ivana needed her.

In Gen 13 #67, that favor comes due. Caitlin is sent after a newly activated superhuman, forced to fight her way through an army of his potential future selves while dressed as a futuristic fetish model, with Ivana laughing at her the entire time. When she finally makes it to her objective, she finds the real guy dead in the bathtub after a Green Lantern-esque slip cracked his head against the tile—something Ivana knew and held back so that Caitlin wouldn't be able to prepare herself for the sight.

But here's the twist: at the end of the story, it turns out that this is actually the fourth time Ivana has called in her "one favor." She just erases Caitlin's memory each time after bragging about it, keeping her in reserve for the next time she needs someone to do her dirty work.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

It's safe to say that we've all screwed something up pretty royally at one time or another, and there are probably moments in your past that still make you shudder with embarrassment and guilt. Really, though, no matter how bad you messed up, there's no possible way that you caused the Cretaceous-Tertiary Extinction Event, which puts you one step above the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

In Tales of the TMNT #7, the Turtles found themselves hurled back to the days of the dinosaurs by Savanti Romero, a former time lord who was hell-bent on revenge after they stopped him from taking over all of reality. This time, his big plan was to change history, mystically activating every volcano on Earth in order to knock the planet just slightly out of the path of the asteroid that killed all the dinosaurs, and giving him an entire planet full of dinosaurs that he could use to conquer the rest of the time stream.

Obviously, the Turtles didn't let that happen, but in this case, "not letting that happen" also means that they're directly responsible for letting a massive impact wipe out about 70% of all life on the planet. It's a tough choice, for sure, but to be fair, if those dinosaurs wanted to live, they probably should've invented pizza.


You know how sometimes, you'll have a weird pain in your ankle or something, and when you start digging into symptoms on the internet you wind up convincing yourself that that you've come down with extreme death plague? And then you have that moment of pure terror before you remember that you stumbled over your own shoes the day before? Well, don't feel too bad. It happens to everyone—even Superman.

In his case, though, it was a little more dramatic, and it also led to one of the single best stories of the Silver Age. In Ed Hamilton and Curt Swan's "The Last Days of Superman" from Superman #156, the Man of Steel starts to feel dizzy and weak after being exposed to a Kryptonian disease called Virus X, and immediately assumes he's dying. To his credit, this inspires him to accomplish some great things, like protecting the Earth from distant threats. Of course, he also carves an inspirational message into the surface of the moon that will reveal his secret identity once he's dead, but still, it's pretty nice.

Eventually, though, it turns out that "Virus X" is about as legit as that bout of the Black Death that WebMD convinced you was giving you a sore neck. It's really just a shard of Kryptonite that was embedded into Jimmy Olsen's camera, which affected Superman because Jimmy was hanging out documenting his best friend's slow death.


It might sound weird when you consider that they have names like "Lightning Lad" and "Cosmic Boy," but the Legion of Super-Heroes might actually be the most realistic children in comics. Sure, they can read your mind and control gravity, but they also exhibit exactly the sort of weird cruelty you see in actual teenagers. It's actually the basis of their first appearance, when they use the fantastic technology of the distant future to travel back in time just to mess with their greatest hero, setting Superboy up to fail and kicking him out of their club just to see what he'll do. It is messed up.

In Supergirl's case, though, her failure to join the Legion was less about them being mean and more about how much they loved to shrug their shoulders and tell other teenagers that they couldn't join because of the rules—conveniently forgetting that they were the ones who made the rules. In Action Comics #267, the Legionnaires audition Supergirl, who proves her might by digging a giant tunnel from the Arctic Circle to the South Pacific in order to deal with hovercraft traffic.

Unfortunately, she also runs across some Red Kryptonite that has the side effect of aging her from 15 to 18, and thereby making her ineligible for Legion membership. How exactly the Legion determines that she's 18 (and not just, you know, taller) is never actually discussed; they just tell her she can't join and make her wait a year to try out again.


Being the new kid is never easy, but rarely has anyone managed to piss off quite as many classmates in a single day as Bart Allen did in Impulse #3.

In a story by Mark Waid and Humberto Ramos, the time-traveling speedster started his first day of high school, and after using his super-powers to slip past a couple of bullies, he was challenged to a fight before he even took his first step in the actual building. It just got worse from there, too, with Bart somehow managing to systematically earn the ire of so many classmates that he wound up with a fight so big it had to take place on the school's football field.

The good news, of course, is that it's awfully hard to punch someone who can move faster than the speed of sound, so while the entire student body was in the middle of a fistfight around him, Bart just casually dipped out, with a sincere hope that he could do a better job of making friends the next day. That's an optimism we can all learn from when we're having a hard time fitting in and/or causing the biggest brawl in high school history.

Booster Gold

1992's "Death of Superman" story is commonly remembered as being a pretty bad day for the title character, but there's someone else who ended up having a pretty rough time when Doomsday attacked Metropolis: Booster Gold. To say that his attempt to stop Doomsday was a disaster is underselling things just a little bit.

Before Doomsday threw his first punch at Superman, the Justice League of the era tried to slow him down as he made his way to Metropolis, and it didn't end well for anyone—but Booster got the worst of it. Not only did he wind up getting his head slammed in a car door before being thrown like a dodgeball at his own teammates, his suit was shredded, leaving him without any super-powers until a new one was built from the circuitry of his robot buddy Skeets.

Here's the thing, though: It's later revealed that Booster, a time traveler from the 25th century, knew exactly what he was getting into when he tangled with the monster that would go on to kill Superman. So not only did he voluntarily take the first big hit in an effort to save his pal, and not only did he lose his powers because of it, nobody even remembers how hard he lost that fight, because somebody else lost it worse.