The 9/11 attacks are probably the most infamous terrorist attacks in history, especially on US soil. It happened in 2001, but the day will forever be etched in history as one of the darkest moments in the history of the United States and the world in general. Naturally, every media outlet spoke about the subject – and still do to this date – and comics are no exception.
Especially Marvel Comics, because New York City – where the Twin Towers were taken down on 9/11 – is probably the main location for most of their Earth-based plots and street-level superheroes.
DC Comics also addressed the event in several of their own issues, so without further ado, here’s the ultimate list of the ten best Marvel and DC comics about the 9/11 attacks.
Did the 9/11 attacks happen in Marvel & DC Comics as well?
Before we begin our list, I wanted to quickly address a couple of questions I’ve seen circulating online comic book forums for years.
As we mentioned, Marvel and DC Comics released numerous issues that talked about or referred to the 9/11 attacks in NYC. Most of them reflected on the aftermath of the attacks rather than the day of the attacks as well. Some fans wondered why that was the case, and also, if the attack did happen in Marvel’s and DC’s respective universes, why no heroes stopped them?
The answer is actually quite simple. They never made a comic book about the 9/11 attacks being prevented because they respected the actual victims of the real-life attacks and the horrors that the people endured back then and still endure to this day in the aftermath.
It would be highly insensitive to use such a tragedy as a storyline to make a hero look good, which is why most of the comics on this list actually dealt with the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. In all fairness, Marvel and DC comics are fictional worlds where disasters like the 9/11 attacks and the catastrophic destruction of cities happen virtually all the time.
We’ve seen entire planets – nay, universes – eradicated from existence in the comics, so there’s really no need to explain why all the heroes were ‘too busy’ dealing with other issues or why the attacks might’ve flown below their radar. In real life, of course, the 9/11 attacks were a massive tragedy – which finally brings us to our list.
The list is unranked but rather chronologically ordered based on the issue’s release date.
1. ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ Vol. 2 #36
In this issue, both Marvel heroes and villains gathered in New York to help in the aftermath of the attacks. Even Doctor Doom infamously shed a tear in the issue. The comic was released in November 2001, only months after the 9/11 attacks, so naturally, it was still a very emotional, sensitive subject to write about.
There’s a line from Spider-Man in the issue that always gets me when I think about it:
“The sane world will always be vulnerable to madmen because we cannot go where they go to conceive of such things. We could not see it coming. We could not be here before it happened. We could not stop it. But we are here now. You cannot see us for the dust, but we are here. You cannot hear us for the cries, but we are here.”
2. ‘9-11: The World’s Finest Comic Book Writers and Artists Tell Stories to Remember’ (Volume 2)
This colossal 224-page issue was released in late January 2002 and was published by DC Comics. It included not only DC character-based stories (although there was a Sandman and a Krypto the Super Dog story in there, among others) but also the personal stories of some of the world’s best artists and comic book writers.
That included the likes of Neil Gaiman, Stan Lee, Jill Thompson, and others. If you ever get a chance to get a hold of this comic book, you won’t be sorry to read it from front to back.
3. ‘A Moment of Silence’
Also published in January 2002, ‘A Moment of Silence’ was a 40-page Marvel Comics issue that featured four wordless stories depicting the tragedy of the 9/11 WTC attacks from four different perspectives.
It’s an homage to the victims and the heroes who helped make the aftermath at least slightly less traumatic, like the firefighters who risked their lives to save thousands of others in the debris.
4. ‘The Call of Duty’ series
No – not the popular video games. ‘The Call of Duty’ came out in three separate volumes – The Brotherhood, The Wagon, and The Precinct – and was published by Marvel Comics from June to August 2002.
It wasn’t a series about Marvel’s superheroes, but rather about the real-life superheroes and first responders of the 9/11 attacks, including the firefighters, police officers, and EMTs.
5. ‘Captain America: A New Deal’ #1-6
This wasn’t a single issue, per se, but rather a six-issue storyline about Captain America dealing with grief, anger, and the ever-changing global picture in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. As Cap contemplates his role in the world, a small village is yet again attacked by terrorists.
It was a very sad and hard storyline to digest, seeing that it had real-life events at its core. The first issue was published in April 2003.
6. ‘Human Target #2-3: The Unshredded Man’
Exactly two years after the WTC 9/11 attacks, DC Comics released these two issues. And they were quite good because, for the first time, they weren’t solely focused on the tragedy but also calling out those who tried profiting off of it (ironically, I guess).
The issues feature a guy who tried faking his own death after the WTC attacks to escape money laundering and embezzlement charges but was later caught and given a chance to admit to his wrongdoing before it was too late.
7. ‘Ex Machina: The First Hundred Days’
Ex Machina was actually published by Wildstorm and DC Comics, set in the Wildstorm universe. In this particular storyline, published from August 2004, a superhero known as the Great Machine became the mayor of NYC after successfully stopping the second plane during the 9/11 attacks in that particular universe.
While some readers found the subject a bit insensitive, the graphic novel was quite good and worth your time reading.
8. ‘The Boys’ #21
This is the only comic book on this list that either Marvel or DC Comics didn’t publish. Instead, ‘The Boys’ is a very popular series by Dynamite Comics that often has brutal, dark-humor storylines. And this one was very much in line with the rest of ‘The Boys’ comics.
In this particular issue, we saw all four of the hijacked 9/11 planes being brought down. However, three of them were shot down by the Air Force, killing everybody inside ‘for the greater good. Meanwhile, the fourth was stopped by superheroes, only for that plane to eventually crash into the Brooklyn Bridge, killing more than a thousand people.
The issue was published in August 2008, and I wouldn’t recommend it to those with a sensitive spot for the subject. For those who appreciate the brutal humor and subtle sarcastic social commentary behind The Boys, this issue will be the treat of the list.
9. ‘Fear Itself’ Vol. 1 #1
This particular issue came out in April 2011, and although the 9/11 attacks weren’t the only subject at hand, it was quite a daunting and riveting example of how tragedy can lead to more tragedy.
In the issue, two fractions of protestors started riots over what to do with Ground Zero. One fraction wanted it to remain intact to honor the victims of the 9/11 attacks, while the other wanted to build there as a sign of healing.
The riots were so violent that Captain America had to intervene. He thought a supervillain must’ve been behind the riots, but he found nothing in his investigation, showing just how painful the event was for ordinary folks.
10. ‘The Four Fives’
The Four Fives was a follow-up on this list’s first entry – ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ Vol. 2 #36 – twenty years after the attacks. It came out as a part of Marvel’s 9/11 20th Anniversary Tribute on the 8th of September, 2021.
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