Len is a writer who lives in Brooklyn, New York, and has had a fascination with games and media that has lasted a lifetime.
Normally, I'll spend hours waxing poetic about how great comic books can be. But some comics are terrible. Really terrible. Not only do they bring the genre as a whole down, often times they're so bad they actually prevent better, future stories from ever taking off.
The Worst Comic Books of All Time
5. Youngblood (Image, et al.)
4. Chris Claremont's New Excalibur (Marvel)
3. Ultimatum (Marvel)
2. Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose (Broadsword)
1. The Rise of Arsenal (DC)
5. Youngblood (Image, et al.)
Written and drawn by infamous '90s superstar Rob Liefeld, Youngblood was a superhero book devoid of joy, excitement, and talent. A product of the creators penchant for extreme, amoral butt-kicking, gun wielding bad asses with giant, deformed muscles, Youngblood may well be our ultimate punishment for buying X-Force when we were 8.
One of the most immature comics in a medium full of immature train wrecks, Youngblood is like a twelve year old boys idea of what being "cool" is. All of the members are stone cold killers, and why not? Exploding chests are awesome. That's almost par for the course these days, but... then there's the sex.
Oh, yes, there's sex. Lots of sex.
Oh, yeah. This is awesome. That's totally not Wolverine and Cyclops dressed up like Jean Grey (?), totally doin' each other. Beautiful. Wonderful. Great. Kill me now.
There's plenty more where this came from. Youngblood recently made a come back, because God is dead and we're living in hell now. One of the recent issues guest starred President Barack Obama. I don't care what your political ideology is, no political figure deserves that kind of punishment.
4. Chris Claremont's New Excalibur (Marvel)
Anyone who has followed comic books knows that Chris Claremont is an almost mythic figure in the canon of superhero comics. The man is responsible for nearly twenty years of Uncanny X-Men's best stories. His contribution to the world of modern comic storytelling is unparralleled.
That was then, and this is now. Today, the man can't stop turning out dreck to save his own life. The very low point of his career was when he revived the classic Excalibur title in 2005. The concept, vaguely, is that Excalibur is Britain's premier super hero team. Okay. Great. A whole 40% of the team is even British, so you beat out the revival of Canada's resident team, Alpha Flight.
The entire thing was just a disaster though. The lowest point was when fans clamored to the book to see The Exiles fan-favorite character Nocturne join the team. With new readers ready and excited to see what this fun loving lady is going to do on a new team, what's the first thing Chris Claremont has happen?
She has a stroke.
She isn't shot, she isn't beaten up, she just has a stroke. This is followed by months of physical therapy. Gosh. Good story. Lots of fun. Glad we moved that character over to a new book.
The series was quickly canceled and Claremont immediately took over Exiles himself. Before he was removed from that too. I can only assume that Claremont has some type of contract with Marvel stating they can't use his characters if he isn't allowed to write some X-Men related book whenever he wants. Marvel seems to be figuring out how to deal with it, though. All of his stories are being moved further and further out of continuity. Just look, here's his progression since early 2000.
- X-Treme X-Men - One of the flagship X-Titles
- Excalibur- The important story of Professor X and Magneto on Genosha, dealing regularly with the other teams.
- New Excalibur- On another continent, he only gets to use his pet characters (Psyloke, Sage, etc)
- Exiles - Now his stories take place entirely in another dimension. Even there, he still manages to ruin stories and continuity.
- X-Men Forever - Marvel says, "Screw it." This takes place completely out of continuity and lets him pretend he never stopped writing Uncanny in the 90s in the first place.
3. Ultimatum (Marvel)
Jeph Loeb used to be a good writer. I think. Looking back, I think I might have just been duped by his collaboration with top notch artists. But today? The man is a walking disaster. The worst offender from his huge crop of stinkers (which include The Ultimates vol. 3, The Incredible Hulk, and Ultimate X) was the mega-crossover event Ultimatum.
The entire thing is a childish foray into superhero murder and torture porn. The book opens with most of New York City being murdered by Magneto, including large portions of the X-Men, Daredevil, Iron Fist, and other popular characters.
I can handle character death, and maybe this all would have been okay except for what comes next. As the villains begin to cut a path of destruction across the world, they begin to violently and graphically murder the other heroes. The Wasp is eaten alive by The Blob. Its okay, though. Her (abusive) husband, Giant Man will get his revenge by returning the favor and ALSO eating The Blob alive. Comics are all grown up now.
The entire thing is juvenile. I don't know who this was marketed too. It is too violent for children and too stupid for adults. God only knows.
The entire thing ends with Magneto killing Wolverine, Cyclops killing Magneto, and an assassin killing Cyclops, and The Thing killing Doctor Doom. Hope you didn't like any characters too much, because it looks like the only people who survived were some random X-Men, Spider-man, and The Fantastic Four. Good times. This was the end result of four years of some of the worst writing in decades and it shows.
2. Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose (Broadsword)
Until this last few months, I would say this is the worst comic ever created. Holy God. I don't even know what to say. I'll let this image speak for me.
Work it out.
"You have to get out of here!"
Okay, that's reasonable. This superhero is warning someone off.
"Your VAGINA is HAUNTED"
How does that work? If her vagina is haunted, where can she go so that it won't be haunted? The story behind this is that the girl had a vagina transplant and the previous owner (1/5th of a team of sexy undead nurses) is out to reclaim it. I don't know if the writer understands science, but vagina transplants are generally not things that happen.
This is an actual storyline. This happened. Everything about this comic is gross and ugly and unpleasant. The oversexualized main character makes Witchblade look a Puritan novel. The storylines are... well, once again, look above. Just awful all around.
What really makes Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose one of the worst comic books ever, however, is the utter lack of thought put into the most basic plot points. You'll rarely see a comic so lazily constructed in your life. The protagonists are incompetent, the villains are dull, and everyone seems to live in a sexy fugue state bumbling into one another and occasionally doing sex magic.
1. The Rise of Arsenal (DC)
Congratulations: an ongoing series actually won. The Rise of Arsenal, a 4-issue mini-series written by J. T. Krul managed to become the worst comic book ever written before it even ended. Spawning out of the already monumentally terrible Cry for Justice event, The Rise of Arsenal follows Roy Harper, the Green Arrow's former side kick, as he recovers from the events that destroyed his life.
His arm has been severed in a terrible battle and his daughter Lian killed when super-terrorist Prometheus blew up his hometown of Star City. Now, the Green Arrow would go on to track down and kill Prometheus and for some reason, people have a problem with this. If I tracked down and shot Osama Bin Laden in the head, I'd have a parade, but whatever. Cry For Justice is only in the top twenty worst comic books of all time, and we're talking about number one here.
After coming out of a medically induced coma and finding himself mangled and his daughter dead, Roy lashes out at everyone around him as cruelly as possible. Black Canary, Batman, his successor as Green Arrow's side kick Mia, the former Wonder Girl Donna Troi, and just about anyone he can get his mitts on. Okay. Great. He's traumatized, people get mean when they're dealing with loss.
Then he starts doing heroin again. Okay. Then he physically attacks someone at his daughters funeral. Right. This is already the most miserable comic book experience I've ever seen.
Then his daughter's super-villain mother shows up for a fight. She attacks him and while the two fight, Roy's inner-monologue states that she was the best lay of his life. As he beats the ever living shit out of her, he glibly states that it is okay, because she "likes it rough."
Take that, bereaved mother.
He ties her up and attempts to have hate sex. The key word here is attempts, because... hm. It seems he's lost more than his arm. This is a great story line that can only be told in comics. Dude loses everything he loves and, now the real tragedy, his web shooter is out of fluid.
Naturally, he proves he's still a man by heading out on the street and brutalizes some petty criminals. Awesome. I never thought I'd miss the Comics Code. To make everything better, he trips balls on heroin and imagines a dead and rotting stray cat is actually his still-living daughter.
This entire thing is a travesty. No one acts like a real human being, heroin doesn't work that way, every superhero is portrayed as a miserable, awful person and it manages to be grossly offensive in just about every way possible. How could anyone write this? Why did I read it? I feel like we're both stupid.
Anyway, Batman shows up and gives the old "I'm your friend, trust me, I'll help you get past this." Unlike most instances of this jolly old plot chestnut, Batman starts kicking the piss out of Arsenal during the middle of it. Good shows, Bats. I think you won him over.
Could issue 4 get any worse? There's only one issue left. Let's hope to hell it doesn't. It just might create a black hole and suck all the other comics on the shelf into a point of infinite literary denseness.
Read Good Comics
Don't let the entire affair sour you too much on comic books, though. Although these are some of the worst comicbooks ever created, the medium on the whole has had some really high points. If you're interested in reading more about quality books, check out the links to your right.
If you have any particular "favorite" awful comic books, be sure to share them in the comments section!
Modemac on April 18, 2020:
It's been a few years since you wrote this column (I came across it in a random Google search for "worst comics ever"), but I feel I have to cheer you up by pointing out how Youngblood finally met their end, at the hands of none other than Alan Moore. Rob Liefield hired Moore to re-invent the Awesome Comics universe, and to this day I'm convinced he wanted Moore to do a huge multitiverse-shattering Secret Crisis Infinity War type of thing. Instead, Moore wrote a *courtroom drama* starring Youngblood, and you almost certainly know this already. It was "Judgment Day." For an Alan Moore story it was so-so, which means by superhero comic book standards it was pretty good. Not legendary but pretty good. Moore was in his phase where he wanted to "bring back the fun" of superheroes and write modern stories that hearkened to the innocent, silly fun of the Golden Age of comics, and so he rebirthed the Awesome universe as a superhero universe filled with characters based on classic mid-20th century superheroes.
Anyway...after this Moore began writing a new Youngblood series, populated by several new characters but including Shaft, Liefeld's Green Arrow/Hawkeye clone. And this series only made it to issue #2 before it was canceled, as Awesome Comics collapsed. That issue #2 started out with several villains in prison, apparently a mockup of Arkham Asylum. The villains were goofing around, telling stories to stave off boredom. One of them made a bet with another that he wouldn't be able to destroy the Youngblood team. And the other villain proceeded to do so without even leaving his jail cell. He sent out a message that lured the Youngblood team into a trap meant for an entirely different superhero team, the Awesome version of the Justice League. This was a time trap, and the issue ended on a cliffhanger with the entire cast of Youngblood being catapulted somewhere in time.
And that's it. The series was canceled, and we never found out where Youngblood went.
haterprime on June 05, 2014:
Tarot does not deserve to be on this list. Because one does not read Tarot. FOR ODIN'S SAKE DO NOT READ IT! One gawks and slobbers over the unbeleavable women. Then does something they may or may not be ashamed of. Then cleans up. Tarot does not belong on this list because it shouldn't even be a mainstream comic. It should be listed under sex comics. And believe me there is nothing gross and unpleasant about the women in this comic. Clownish...maybe. Gross...well maybe you just prefer men. Look all women in comic books are, lets say overdrawn. Powergirl anyone. But Tarot is at least entertaining. Alot of comics out there aren't even that.
nuffsaidstan on July 04, 2013:
Youngblood a truly awful comic book plus drawn by Liefeld an artist who can't draw feet , what's not to hate!
Christopher Peruzzi from Freehold, NJ on March 25, 2012:
Truly, you've never read Superman/Batman: Saga of the Super Sons.
It's the MST3K equivalent for comics.
Domenick Dicce on February 16, 2012:
Great article. The sad part is I find myself wanting to read these just to witness the train wreck. Still kicking myself for watching Battlefield Earth. Why!!!
rednickle from New Brunswick Canada on January 04, 2012:
Ok i believe Ultimatum being on this is quite harsh but i agree most of your selections here
Nexis19 on September 06, 2011:
Absolutely hilarious. Never laughed so much at a hub. Fantastic thanks.
Des Shinta on August 15, 2011:
As of a few weeks ago, Internet personality Lewis "Linkara" Lovhaug has completed reviewing Three of these comics (Youngblood, Ultimatum, and Rise of Arsenal) on his Webseries "Atop the Fourth Wall." While he has outright refused to have a go at tearing Tarot a new one( it's Sexually explicit and his show is family-friendly), I kinda hope he takes shots at Excalibur some time soon, as there's no way non-comic readers would know of these travesties to the written word.
davethesodaguy on July 26, 2011:
I don't think I even need to mention it, but spider man maximum carnage is my favourite worst comic ever
jake13edward from Redlands Ca on July 25, 2011:
All of those comics are bad except for youngblood.the art is just great.
Moi on July 20, 2011:
Wow just wow "your vagina is haunted" I wonder if the people who make those comics ever took a second to look at how stupid they are.
Decurso on June 23, 2011:
Hilarious! Tarot actually sounds kind of Ed Wood-ish.
joawmeens from Hopewell, Ohio on June 13, 2011:
The only one of the five I have read was Ultimatum, but judging from your description, all of these are terrible
Keith Abt from The Garden State on April 25, 2011:
"Haunted Vagina" would be a great name for a band. :)
arthurchappell from Manchester, England on December 25, 2010:
almost fell off the chair laughing at your description of Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose - so bad it sounds like a classic
skewd on November 29, 2010:
fun to read
Matthew Gabriel from Eugene on October 18, 2010:
I agree with all but Ultimatum. That story was bad but there have been A LOT WORSE..... I'd agree to Ultimatum for maybe being within a list of the worst 25 or 15 but not 5.
DStettler on September 09, 2010:
That was great. Humorous and forewarning of comics not worth reading. nice work.
Maximum A on August 19, 2010:
wow! i had so much fun reading ur hub and i totally agree with what u wrote! i do think that jeph loeb is a good writer (especially during the batman comics), but what u wrote convinced me that one should never read books or comics based on the artist's or writer's reputation.
adeluca on August 19, 2010:
'Your vagina is haunted.'
Why would anyone think this was a good line in a serious scene?
Great article. :) I knew there was a reason I was incredibly picky about my reading material.
bledsoep from Olathe, KS on August 14, 2010:
I've got a real winner for you: "Batman and Superman vs. Vampires and Werewolves." It is an extremely weakly told story that fails to live up to the potential of such a badass title.
Paula Atwell from Cleveland, OH on August 10, 2010:
I used to be a comic book reader and collector although I have not done so in quite a while, I am very entertained by this description of the worst comic series. I feel the same way about a lot of the horrible anime that my teenagers watch. Great job presenting this topic.
sunforged from Sunforged.com on August 10, 2010:
Fantastic! The tidbits of terribleness you presented were entertaining in a B movie kind of way..
I still have YoungBlood 1-10 (or whatever) and most of the entire original Image launch - I may actually have to read those YoungBloods to see the awfulness firsthand
Len Cannon (author) from Brooklyn, NY on July 13, 2010:
Blackest Night was a lot of fun but I'm not loving the Brightest Day title as much as I thought I would. The other spin offs are doing all right by me, though. Generation Lost is a lot of fun.
ChamberNaut from Southern California on July 13, 2010:
Well put, Len. These are pretty awful. I, too, had a hard time with Cry For Justice. But I do have to say...for excellent comic series? Blackest Night. I've loved every bit of it, all of the Green Lantern sagas leading up to the Blackest Night, and the entire adventure during (although some of the side issues were weird). Brightest Day has been proving to be quite immersive as well.
John B Badd from Saint Louis, MO on June 20, 2010:
I remember Youngbloods. One of the original Image comics if i remember right. If the rest are as bad as it was I'll stay away from them,lol. Liefield was a great figure artist but he had no skill in background. It was all lines. He brought all his figures over from Marvel with him also.
Kasey Rubenstein from California on June 16, 2010:
All of your talk about unrealistic and unnecessary sex and violence in these comics totally makes me want to read more of The Boys. They know how to parody.
Len Cannon (author) from Brooklyn, NY on June 15, 2010:
I've argued with people about whether or not it qualifies as a "so bad, its good" comic but the entire thing just makes me feel dirty.
trollin on June 15, 2010:
Tarot is insane. Witch of the Black Rose is not a train wreck, it's Jim Balent's insane mind unleashed upon the world. I only wish the villains, if you can even call them that, defeated the major heroes for making the idealistic hero speech into a joke. Sometimes, the bad guys should win.
Gemineye on June 09, 2010:
Haunted Vaginas!! Unreal...hilarity...very good article...glad I found it
Wayne Tully from Hull City United Kingdom on June 09, 2010:
Hahahaha a haunted vagina....now that is a classic and a bad line of dialogue from a terrible comic book, I used to like Youngblood when I was 12!!
Seth Tomko from Macon, GA on June 06, 2010:
Right on about Ultimates Vol. 3. I enjoyed The Ultimates when it first started and stuck with it even when it started to go sour, but when it got that bad I bailed.
the fix on June 04, 2010:
This Hub is awesome, I was laughing so hard! There are definitely more bad comics than good ones and these are god-awful!! Great writing, thanks for sharing your comics knowledge.