Comic book writers have always taken inspiration from the world around them, for better or worse. This can lead to incredible stories grounded in reality and poignant commentary. After all, Captain America wouldn’t be the iconic character he is today without punching Adolf Hitler square in the jaw. Sadly though, not every attempt has aged well. This can make going back to older tales very, very awkward.
But it’s not just the older comics that get things so badly wrong. Despite all the work put in by publishers to move away from stereotypes, attempts to make characters work in a modern setting can come off as patronising or edgy for the sake of being edgy.
Luckily for publishers, they can simply reboot a character or even an entire universe if things go wrong. However, there are times where the only reasonable action is to just never bring the offending personality or storyline up again. With the benefit of hindsight, Marvel and DC have hopefully learned valuable lessons, so don’t expect to see anything in this list hitting pages again in the future...
10. DC’s Captain Marvel Owned A Slave
Captain Marvel may have just been an attempt at making the next Superman, but that didn't stop the character from becoming one of the most popular superheroes of the 1940s. In a horrifically misguided attempt at including African American character, writers introduced a new sidekick.
Simply named Steamboat, this new character managed to portray every racist stereotype available at the time. The character design was basically a monkey and his personality was offensively dumb. As if that wasn't bad enough, Captain Marvel literally made him into a slave. After accidentally blowing up his food truck, Billy Batson gave Steamboat a job at the radio station. On the face of it, a kind gesture to try and atone, yet the job was simple and demeaning tasks. It seemed that the character was simply there for comic relief rather than any positive representation of black culture.
Thankfully - after just three years - a group of students met with Fawcett Comics' executive editor, Will Lieberman. After successfully arguing for the removal of this highly insensitive character, Steamboat was written out in 1945 and has since never returned.