10 times fans changed comic storylines: from fan votes to outcry

Fans had the power in their hands.

There’s many terms used to describe comic book fans – some uncalled for (we’re not geeks, okay, we’re just very passionate about detail) and some deserved. To call a comic book fan opinionated is most definitely warranted.

When something breaks canon or completely disregards everything people have come to love about a certain character or series, there’s no corner of the world wide web that’ll protect people from hearing just how a comic fan feels.

And rightfully so, we say. It’s the fans who have helped build the empires.

Because good publishers and artists know that the success of a story relies on the fans, they’ve actually switched the roles of the audience to the author on more than one occasion. Fans have been asked to determine the next steps or outcomes of several storylines and arcs, sometimes controversially, or the reaction to a story has been so fierce that bosses had to quickly rethink and retool.

Here, we look at ten times the power came back to the people…

#10: Azrael’s stint as Batman came to a rapid end

Bad Batman. (Picture: DC)

Bane breaking Batman’s back in Batman #497 has become one of the most memorable moments in the Caped Crusader’s history.

The Knightfall arc was an epic that, along with Knightquest and KnightsEnd, lasted 16 months, but fan reactions caused Knightquest to end much sooner than originally planned.

After Bane leaves the Bat’s wings (and back) clipped, the Dark Knight’s role was taken on by Azrael – an assassin who slowly erodes the trust that Gotham had in Batman prior to his replacement.

The reaction to this new Batman was enough to force publishers to send up the Bat Signal and get help. Azrael became a mere blip, therefore, and Bruce Wayne returned. Much, much faster than predicted – or explainable by modern science.

#9: Spider-Man’s wardrobe makeover

Picture: Marvel

Bought by the then Editor-in-chief, Jim Shooter, for the very reasonable price of $220, the idea to give Spider-Man his now iconic black suit was the brainchild of a fan!

Randy Schueller, in a very ‘carpe diem’ mood decided to just contact the editor. His gumption paid off, as the black suit became a fascinating arc for Peter Parker. So much so that it even paid a pivotal role in 2007’s Spider-Man 3 movie.

#8: Giving new life to Deadpool

Today, even outside of the hugely popular movies fronted by Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool is a Marvel fan-favourite.

But, he wasn’t always meant to be. In fact, if it wasn’t for the fans demanding for more, Deadpool’s original 1998 series was meant to end after its 25th issue.

#7 The Incredible Hulk’s incredible return

Picture: Marvel

Another ‘really?’ moment, but the Hulk was once cancelled. Yes. That Hulk. No one tell him, though, he might get angry and you know the rest.

Due to distribution logistics back in 1963, Marvel had to limit how often they could publish new comics. As a result, The Hulk got put on the backburner… something fans were ready to Hulk Smash about.

Stan Lee noted that the cancellation led to thousands of letters calling for the Hulk to return, leading to the character’s inclusion in The Avengers #1.

Fan reception of the cancellation of The Incredible Hulk led to Marvel bringing back the character without any real plans for him. He jumped around, guest-starring in Fantastic Four and Amazing Spider-Man, with bit-parts in The Avengers and Tales to Astonish, before finally getting his own series once again in 1968.

#6: The fans voted… Batman beats Cap.

(Picture: Marvel/DC)

The Caped Crusader came out on tops against Captain America thanks to a fan vote in 1996.

In 1996, Marvel and DC crossed over for a battle royale, the likes of which haven’t been seen again – and maybe it’s because of bruised egos after fans voted for Cap to come up short.

#5. Readers vote who Kraks into the X-Men

That was no typo.

For you see, in 2021, Mutantkind will be selecting the first X-Men team of the Krakoan Age and viewers were invited to take part in the election.

Marvel’s fan vote was 100% responsible for the determination of the final member of this inaugural team. Options included characters named Armor, Banshee, Boom-Boom, Cannonball, Forge, Marrow, Polaris, Strong Guy, Sunspot, or Tempo.

#4 Justice for Sue Storm

Picture: Marvel

In 1961, Jack Kirby and Stan Lee created the first family of Marvel, The Fantastic Four.

Judging by their name, you’d expect there to be four of them – which there were – and they were all to be fantastic – which… three of them were.

Sue Storm was given minimal powers to begin with, basically just able to go invisible, but always struggling to do that safely.

Fans wrote in in their droves, so much so that, in a slice of meta brilliance, Stan Lee had Reed Richards, Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm read the complaints about Sue Storm’s seeming lack of power.

In no time, sue was given extra strength, including the ability to throw force fields.

#3. Justice for Captain Marvel (justice for women, all around, TBH)

Before she was a powerhouse Avenger (with her own mega hit movie) Captain Marvel was rather unceremoniously written out of the comics.

David Michelinie, Jim Shooter, Bob Layton, and George Perez worked together in what, retrospectively, has been something of a shameful blight on their legacy as progressives.

Captain Marvel, as Carol Danvers, was written out in Avengers #200, where she was forced to love her captor, having her become mysteriously pregnant, and depart this world with a being from Limbo.

Chris Claremont, after reading a powerful piece by art historian Carol A. Strickland, agreed that this act was essentially rape, and brought back Ms. Marvel to get her revenge and her redemption. She came back to confront the teammates who sat back and did nothing.

A wrong was righted because of fan reaction and outside pressure.

#2. Peter Parker isn’t Spider-Man… okay, he is.

(Picture: Marvel)

In 1994, Marvel began an ambitious storyline that lasted over two years and boiled down to a massive game-changing question: was Spider-Man the real Peter Parker or was he a clone?

It was eventually revealed that Ben Reilly, thought to be a clone of Peter Parker, was actually the original Spidey, and that it was Parker who was the clone. After the revelation, Peter and MJ leave, allowing Ben Reilly to drop his Scarlet Spider persona and resume his crimefighting as Spider-Man.

Understandably, suddenly telling fans their beloved Peter Parker was nothing more than a diluted clone didn’t go down well, and Marvel quickly had it reworked so that Peter was the OG.

#1. Jason Todd buys the farm

Batman holding Jason Todd
Picture: DC

To a lot of Batman fans, Dick Grayson will always be Robin, but his growth past adolescence to become Nightwing left a Robin-shaped gap to be filled. Enter Jason Todd.

Jason proved not to have the same popularity as the first Boy Wonder, alas, prompting DC to leave the poor boy’s fate in the callous hands of the fans.

In a 1988 storyline, A Death in the Family, the fans voted to kill him off. And kill him off they did.

In Batman #427, the rash Jason ignores Batman’s warnings of how dangerous the Joker is, choosing to go off on his own to save his birth mother. The Joker then mercilessly beats the second Robin with crowbar, and fans narrowly voted that he should be permanently killed off.

Comics. It’s a tough business.

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