Getting sick sucks. Believe me, I know: as I write this, I’m fighting a cold, a cough, and a fever to bring you what I hope is a semi-coherent list feature. But worse than any common cold are the diseases that affect superheroes. Superpowers means super-diseases, too – viruses and pathogens so strong, they can knock out even Superman. Over in The X-Men, Marvel’s Merry Mutants have been battling a superflu for the past few issues that’s kept them quarantined to their island home… But even they have it easy. Here are ten of the worst comic book diseases of all time:
10. Dr. Silence’s Disease
This one doesn’t have a name, but it’s still pretty bad. Over in Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol, the maverick writer introduced a villain named Doctor Silence, who had made a few bad decisions in his youth. The worst was visiting a brothel, where he contracted a rare disease: if he ever sees his own face, he will cease to exist. Let that teach you a lesson, kids: don’t visit brothels.
What do you know, another disease that started in Doom Patrol – though way earlier than Morrison’s run. Sakutia has a number of side effects, including granting the affected party with the ability to control their genetic code, turning them green, and, oh yeah: killing them in under forty-eight hours. Teen Titans hero Beast Boy is one of the few survivors of Sakutia, and is now able to change into any animal at will. But most people? Just mean, green, and dead.
8. Virus X (Marvel Comics)
Created by supervillain M.O.D.O.K., Virus X is designed to be hyper-virulent and deadly. So deadly, in fact, that the title of the story that introduces it in Marvel Two-in-One #82 is titled, “The Fatal Effects of Virus X!” That’s pretty deadly. Virus X is first tested on a bunch of homeless guys, and then on the Fantastic Four’s rocky monster The Thing. Though the Thing doesn’t die, he is even more horribly ugly than before. We know that, because he says so on the cover.
7. Virus X (DC Comics)
Hey look, another Virus X! This time, it’s a fatal Kryptonian disease that leaves no survivors after thirty days. Symptoms are similar to the Marvel Universe variant, and when Superman contracts Virus X in Action Comics #362, he becomes bloated, ugly, and green colored. It turns out that the cure is exposure to White Kryptonite, which kills all plant life. Maybe Supes should pass this knowledge along to his buddy, The Thing.
6. The Transmode Virus
First found in the alien Technarchy, the Transmode Virus is used by members of the race to transform organic matter into techno-organic matter, so they can absorb their energy – basically, eat them. However, if a member of the Technarchy doesn’t absorb their prey, they instead turn into a techno-organic being, essentially a slave to the Technarchy. From there, they can infect more and more people, until the entire Universe is turned into machines. In other words, they’re Apple JUST KIDDING OR AM I???
5. Jigsaw Disease
Introduced in Judge Dredd, Jigsaw Disease causes the sufferer to disappear, one random piece at a time. What’s especially scary about Jigsaw Disease is that there’s no timeline for it. You could live your whole life with Jigsaw Disease, or disappear in a single day. Or, you know, just die from losing too many of your pieces.
4. Spider’s Disease
Another unnamed disease, this time from the mind of Warren Ellis. The star of his future-set series Transmetropolitan, Spider Jerusalem, contracts a rare disease as a side effect of using Information Pollen (you can probably figure that one out) which has the same symptoms as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s at the same time. Pretty awful stuff, and only one percent of people ever recover from the disease. Oh, guess who’s in that one percent, though?
Ebola Gulf-A was set up as an enemy that even Batman couldn’t fight, a virulent, constantly mutating disease created centuries earlier by arch-villain Ra’s al Ghul. Nicknamed The Clench, the disease is believed to have no cure, but turns out to in fact have the recipe for a vaccine encoded on an ancient stone. The disease almost wipes out everyone in Gotham City – but luckily, they’re saved by Batman and his team, so they can still be alive the next time The Joker goes on a killing spree or whatever.
2. Swazi Fever
Introduced in the first issue of Archaia’s Days Missing, the disease named Swazi Fever infects nearly 95% of the population of Swaziland in record time. The symptoms? Oh, nothing big, just an airborne virus that sits dormant, until you get a bloody nose, and then die in under five minutes. Good thing the immortal Steward is on hand to discover a cure, or the entire Earth would have been wiped clean.
1. The Legacy Virus
Created by the heroic X-Man Cable’s evil clone Stryfe (seriously), The Legacy Virus was a threat for years in the X-Men books, affecting only Mutant DNA. The first strain would insert junk RNA into a mutant’s genes the first time they used their powers after contracting the airborne virus, killing them slowly over time. The mutated Legacy-2, on the other hand, caused skin lesions, fever, cough, and a weakness to other illnesses. Hey, sound like a metaphor for any other real world virus to you? Nah, me neither. Anyway, before an infected mutant died, they would lose control of their powers, essentially becoming a time bomb. Though the X-Man Colossus sacrificed his life to spread a permanent cure, The Legacy Virus has shown up a few times since as a very, very scary threat to the X-Men’s survival.