While superhero comics are mostly associated with bright colors and wholesome heroes, that's not always the case. Some comics get dark - really dark - faster than you would expect. Even the most famous and beloved heroes in the world aren't always guaranteed a happy ending. With infinite multiverses and weird versions of each character, there are some stories in which our heroes' fates are as depressing as heck.
It doesn't matter if you're the Man of Steel or the Incredible Hulk - no amount of strength can save you from the existential terrors of your own bad deeds. These are the disturbing future realities where the heroes spend more time wallowing than fighting, and they're honestly hard to accept.
In the DC Animated Universe, Tim Drake has a pretty rough time as Robin. In Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, we see an older Drake who has severed all ties with his Robin alter ego. He also loathes Batman, largely because of an encounter with the Joker that left him mentally scarred.
When Drake was still Batman's young partner, he was taken by the Joker and twisted into "Joker Junior" - a brainwashed minion of the Clown Prince of Crime. After freeing Drake and getting him physical and psychogical help, Batman believed his young ward had been rehabilitated. Unfortunately, the Joker secretly installed a microchip in Drake's brain that restructured Drake on a physical and mental level.
As the new Joker, Drake tries to slay the new Batman, Terry McGinnis. Eventually, McGinnis is able to save him, but the older man is deeply traumatized by the ordeal. It is suggested that he may never get over the side effects of Joker's plot, but he does congratulate the hero on his fine work as the new Batman.1,467232Sad, right?
- Photo: The Punisher: The End/Marvel
In the aftermath of WWIII, the Punisher is one of the few people to have survived the atomic devices that scorched the Earth, and continues to vanquish wrongdoers in this post-apocalyptic world. This eventually lands him behind bars, where he proceeds to slay a good majority of his fellow inmates.
The Punisher eventually escapes and eliminates the people responsible for the apocalypse, but only after denying their pleas to allow them to fix the world. He decides to let the world end with them, as he has deemed humanity not worthy of living. Frank succumbs to fatal radiation exposure shortly afterwards.
We last see the vigilante making his way to Central Park, where his family was taken from him decades earlier. He's consumed by fire before we see whether he makes it.1,020225Sad, right?
- Photo: Flash Annual #4/DC Comics
About 20 years in the future, the Flash is a very different person than we know today. After the demise of Wally West, Barry Allen becomes an unhinged slayer that starts offing villains in a misguided attempt to save Wally.
Flash believes that slaying villains will allow him to gain the energy to travel back in time and prevent West's demise, but the plan backfires. While he succeeds in going back in time, his actions lead him into conflict with his past self. Future Flash ends up not only slaying his past self, but Wally West, as well.895198Sad, right?
- Photo: Kingdom Come/DC Comics
Back when Shazam was known as Captain Marvel, he appeared in the Kingdom Come miniseries as a brainwashed and twisted version of himself. He is presented as one of the only real threats to Superman, as their strength levels are similar and Marvel's powers are magical in nature - a particular weakness of the Kryptonian's.
In this timeline, Billy Batson grows up manipulated by Lex Luthor. Using brainwashing worms created by Marvel's nemesis, Dr. Sivana, Luthor convinces Batson that all superheroes are actually villains, including his Captain Marvel alter ego. Batson joins Luthor's crusade against superheroes, committing all sorts of atrocities due to his twisted new mindset. He is eventually brought back into the light by Superman as they duke it out, but he ends up sacrificing himself shortly afterward.554158Sad, right?