Ever since the debut of Superman in Action Comics #1 in 1938, comic books have been ingrained in pop culture, entertaining its readers with fantastical stories of larger-than-life characters. Over time, some comics have become so influential that rumours and theories have popped up over time about certain characters and events that have fans engaging in endless debate. Sometimes the writers themselves come forward to refute theories and set the record straight, while other times the writers sit back and enjoy the ceaseless speculation over their work. The more ambiguous the ending/situation/character, the more ripe theory crafting becomes in place of actual answers. Without further ado, I present the top 5 comic book fan theories.
1. Batman kills the Joker in The Killing Joke
Alan Moore's milestone one-shot graphic novel, The Killing Joke set out to give the Dark Knight’s arch nemesis, the Joker, a definitive origin story, as a down on his luck wannabe comedian, who had an unfortunate incident with a chemical bath, transforming him into the Clown Prince of Crime. The final page depicts the Batman and the Joker together, where Joker tells a joke (kind of his thing) and Batman laughs, much to his amazement. The remaining panels shows Batman moving closer to Joker, before the focus turns to the ground below and the laughter stops. Given the position of Batman's hands, many have theorised that Batman strangled the Clown to death, ending his reign of anarchy. Given that Joker paralyses Barbara Gordon (ending her crime-fighting as Batgirl) and subjects her father, Jim Gordon to extreme psychological torture in the story, the Caped Crusader certainly had motive to do in his rival. Although the comic’s script makes no mention of Batman killing Joker, the ending is open to interpretation, ensuring that the climax of The Killing Joke remains elusive as ever.
2. J. Jonah Jameson knows Peter Parker is Spider-Man
The editor-in-chief at the Daily Bugle, J. Jonah Jameson has a reputation for being a hothead, loudmouth who only cares about seeing his paper succeed. When a penniless high school student comes in looking work, Jameson dismisses him. However, when that student, Peter Parker returns with pictures of New York's latest vigilante, Spider-Man, Jameson hires the boys to work freelance, so long as he continues to get pictures of the Wall Crawler. A theory that's gained traction over the years is that Jameson actually knows that Parker is Spider-Man since he's the only one to get decent pictures of the Web Head. The reason Jameson publishes anti Spider-Man articles is to make Peter work harder to earn his respect (and to have some fun at the young man's expense). Add to the fact that Jameson has been in media for decades means that he's no fool. Spider-Man drives Daily Bugle sales and Jameson isn't going to get rid of his meal ticket.
3. Doctor Manhattan Created the DC Universe
Returning to the world of Alan Moore, his seminal classic, Watchman sees Dr. Jonathan Osterman a.k.a. Doctor Manhattan leave Earth after being framed for the destruction of New York City and the annihilation of millions of people. Before leaving the planet, he considers the possibility of creating life in another galaxy with his godlike power. This has led to speculation that the multi-dimensional being created the DC Universe (since Watchman was published by DC). With DC Rebirth incorporating the Watchman into the canonical DC Universe; more weight has been put behind this theory, especially since the crux of the DC Rebirth arc in the comics points to Doctor Manhattan as the architect of The New 52. Some go even further with this theory, stating that Doctor Manhattan is essentially the God of the DC Universe, having created humans, watching them from a distance with his detached perception of life.
4. Galactus is the God of the Marvel Universe
A slightly more tenuous one, when Galactus made his debut in the Fantastic Four story, The Galactus Trilogy in 1966, Stan Lee reportedly told artist Jack Kirby to "have the Fantastic Four fight God". Lee's scripts were notoriously short (that being said, he was writing dialogue for 10 monthly comics simultaneously, so that's understandable), giving one sentence synopses to the artists. From Lee's eight word synopsis, Kirby created a three issue arc that is considered a classic (with a villain who just so happens to eat planets and wears a purple helmet). In later years, both Kirby and Lee went on record to say that they wanted to create a villain who was more epic than anything they had done before, settling on a godlike figure (but not actually God). Kirby even threw in the Herald of Galactus, the Silver Surfer for good measure as well.
5. Superman only has one Power
Superman, the Man of Steel is one of the most powerful characters in all of comic history. He can fly, has super strength, superspeed, heat vision, x-ray vision, the list goes on. However, what if Superman wasn't as powerful as we all thought? One theory posits that Superman only has one power: telekinesis. It's quite a stretch but it could seem plausible that Superman could possess telekinesis, even without knowing about it. Kryptonians were a race of scientists, only gaining such fantastical powers when exposed to a yellow sun. The theory states that Kryptonians eventually gained telekinesis to complement their scientific achievements. When in a crisis, Superman can manipulate the environment with his mind to create the desired effect (e.g. speeding up molecules becomes "heat vision") it would certainly explain how Superman has such a diverse range of powers (or rather the illusion of it). Furthermore, the theory goes on to say that the reason Kryptonite affects him is that it weakens Superman's mind rather than his body .