DC often gets a reputation for being the more mature of the Big Two, which is both true and not true. On the one hand, DC’s icons are much more squeaky clean than their marvelous competition, and the mainline DC books are usually less risque when it comes to language and violence. On the other hand, DC also has a history of printing mature readers books from Vertigo and the Black Label.
Over the years, DC has put out some comics that have gone a bit far with the sex, violence, and profanity. They’re definitely the kind of comics that a parent would balk at their children having.
10 Hellblazer Put John Constantine On Display, Warts And All
Hellblazer is one of those comics that could only exist in the ’90s and early ’00s. It started during that nebulous time in DC history before Vertigo when DC was pushing the bounds of what could be done in comics. Once Vertigo was born, the gloves were off, and multiple creators, like Jamie Delano, Garth Ennis, Brian Azzarello, and more were able to take it in some extreme directions.
Like most Vertigo books of its day, Hellblazer featured graphic violence, sexual situations, and profanity. It earned its “mature readers only” tag and is one of the Vertigo classics that no parent would want their kid to read, but every kid would love.
9 The Filth Is Peak Bleak Morrison
The Filth, by writer Grant Morrison and artist Chris Weston, is a strange bird in the Morrison oeuvre. Morrison’s work often has a utopian bent to it, but The Filth is the opposite. It follows the Hand, a group of people who work behind the scene and enforce the status quo. It’s the ideological opposite of The Invisibles, but it gets into a lot of the same mature reader shenanigans.
Morrison is at their most bleak in this one, and it works wonderfully. Weston’s art makes the whole thing come to life as it lives up to its name. The Filth is extremely graphic, but it’s also inventive and smart in a way that is quite subversive.
8 Blackest Night Is Geoff Johns At His Edgelord Best
blackest night, by writer Geoff Johns and artist Ivan Reis, was the big DC event book of 2010. It was built up for years in Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps and pitted the heroes of the DC Universe against the undead hordes of the Black Lantern Corps. It was basically a zombie story and had the gore to back that up.
Johns as a writer developed a heavy edgelord streak as the years went by, and this title is a perfect example of that. The Black Lanterns rip out the hearts of those they kill, and the first issue ends with Black Lantern Elongated Man and Sue Dibny bludgeoning and stabbing Hawkman and Hawkgirl to death. It’s a comic often full of horrific violence.
7 DCEased Is A Blood-Soaked Zombie Epic
DCeased, by writer Tom Taylor and artist Trevor Hairsine, takes a play from Marvel Zombies and blackest night, but goes farther than both. A zombie virus, created from a combination of the Anti-Life equation, Cyborg’s technology, and the Internet overtakes the Earth, and things get bloody. The book is full of gore and violence, all wonderfully rendered by Hairsine.
It’s one of the best zombie superhero stories ever, expertly mixing horror with superpowered action. The violence is what makes it questionable for parents, as this is definitely not anything that they’d imagine a superhero story to be.
6 Batman: The Killing Joke Gets Brutal On Multiple Levels
Batman: The Killing Joke is one of those difficult classics because of its content and subject matter. Written by Alan Moore with art by Brian Bolland, it’s considered one of the quintessential Batman/Joker stories. However, its centerpiece is the brutal attack on Barbara Gordon, one that Moore manages to make doubly disturbing with his penchant for sexual violence.
Add in the Joker’s torment of a near-naked James Gordon later in the book, and the whole thing veers into not safe for young readers territory. The Killing Joke was always rather extreme but has only gotten worse as the years go by.
5 Batman: The Damned’s Original Publishing Had Some Bat Nudity
There are lots of Batman stories that every fan needs to read, and the original version of Batman: The Damned belongs in that number. Not because of its quality, but because of an infamous moment. Written by Brian Azzarello with art by Lee Bermejo, it’s the comic that revealed naked Batman to the world, a moment that sparked an uproar that was mystifying.
The fact that a mature readers book was pilloried for showing a full-frontal nude Batman shows the hypocrisy of American culture. If a parent found a first printing of the book with Batman’s genitals on full display, they’d certainly have the same reaction.
4 V For Vendetta Has Content That Many Parents Would Be Against
V For Vendetta is a classic of the comic medium. Written by Alan Moore with art by David Lloyd, the story made the Guy Fawkes mask the worldwide symbol of rebellion, and it has the requisite Moore sexual violence. While that would be enough for most parents to not want their kids to read it, the story is especially scathing of conservatism and religion.
Any right-leaning parent would not want their child reading the book because of how far the story goes to reveal the core of fascism and bigotry behind the modern conservative movements. Seeing as how books like Mouse are getting banned by reactionary politicians, it’s only a matter of time it happens to V For Vendetta.
3 Watchmen Is Mature In Many Ways
Watchmen is widely considered the greatest piece of literature in comics. Written by Alan Moore with art by Dave Gibbons, the story takes a nuanced look at what would happen if superheroes were real. Moore is a brilliant writer, and he and Gibbons pull out all of the tricks for this one. However, the two also give readers a heaping helping of violence, male nudity, and sex.
Watchmen is an adult story in every sense of the word. It’s written for a more mature audience and contains mature content. It may not be as graphic as books that came after it, but it definitely isn’t something a parent would approve of.
2 The Invisibles Is Chock Full Of Sex And Violence
The Invisibles is Grant Morrison’s magnum opus. Working with artists like Jill Thompson, Steve Yeowell, Phil Jimenez, Chris Weston, Frank Quitely, and others, Morrison created a mind-bending story of good versus evil that does not skimp on the R-rated situations. There’s a massive amount of drug use, sex, profanity, nudity, and graphic violence.
The book took complete advantage of Vertigo’s lack of censorship and contains some of the most positive LGBTQIA+ representation of any comic, even today. It’s also a comic one would definitely keep away from their parents at all costs.
1 Preacher Revels In Its Mature Content
Preacher is one of the pillars of the ’90s Vertigo. Written by Garth Ennis with art by the late great Steve Dillon, it’s the story of Jesse Custer, his girlfriend Tulip, and their vampire friend Cassidy on a cross-country hunt for God. Ennis and Dillon combined graphic violence, extreme profanity, blasphemy, and lots of sex and nudity with a wealth of emotion to create a frequently moving tale.
Preacher became the top Vertigo book after The Sandman ended. It had no problem getting down and dirty with its mature content, playing it both for laughs and seriousness, but it was so much more than that. However, the first time a parent came across a topless full-page spread of Tulip or one of its blood-drenched action scenes, that would be all she wrote.
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