Over the years, we here at ComicsAlliance have brought you definitive rankings of the various comics-related valentines parents can buy for their kids at their local pharmacies and big-box stores. We sure have had a lot of fun cracking jokes about mass murderer General Zod wishing kids an enjoyable day and Spider-Man's flying motorcycle.

When editor-in-chief Andrew Wheeler threw a twenty in my face and told me, "You've got the Valentines beat this year, Wilson," I thought that's what I'd be doing. Cranking out a few yuks about some cheap novelties. Little did I know that I would be taking a trip...down the rabbit hole.

As I cracked open the boxes and began searching through these cardstock sentiments that our children -- our very children -- share with each other each February, I began seeing clear messages that are most assuredly intended to change our behavior, our thought patterns, our very lives. The conspiracies are real.

We are through the looking glass, people.

  • Conspiracy #1: Ultra Comics Is Real, Has Taken Over Our Earth, And Removed Its DC Valentines

    Evidence: DC Comics Valentines (or the lack thereof)

    The first clue that something was amiss happened before I ever opened a single box of Valentines. It happened before I bought any.

    I went to three different stores looking for Valentines. Specifically, I was looking for at least something to represent characters from one of the two best-selling comics publishers in the market: DC Comics. I came up with nothing. No Batman, no Superman, no Wonder Woman. I didn't even find any Teen Titans Go Valentines, and that's a popular animated show that's still on television.

    So what happened? Did everybody in DC's marketing department just forget about Valentine's Day this year like a bunch of sitcom husbands? Is this some kind of anti-Valentine's stand? While plausible, I don't think either of these is the real explanation.

    I think the only possible explanation is this: Ultra Comics, the malevolent force from Earth-33 (our Earth!) in Multiversity has been made manifest, and is making its presence known by removing all DC Comics valentines from the world. They're probably all scattered around Earth-7 as we speak.

  • Conspiracy #2: Supervillains Are Making Your Kids' Valentines

    Evidence: Star Wars, Angry Birds, Spider-Man Valentines

    Among the Valentines I did find, I was shocked -- shocked -- to discover just how many of them featured characters that embody evil. Take a look at these Star Wars valentines. Of the four designs, they're half made up of space Nazis and their cyborg leader; one of the other two insults the reader's humanity; the other crams the series' heroes into one half-hearted card.

    For further proof, take a look at this Angry Birds card:

     

     

    Oh, what's that? A glorified depiction of an evil, invading green pig, smiling wide as if he's unaware of the atrocities he has committed against birdkind?

    What are the kids supposed to think?

    And this may be the biggest smoking gun of all:

     

     

    These are this year's Spider-Man Valentines. This is a person who has saved countless lives, risked his own life for the good of others, and has powers like a spider. And they're the most boring valentines I can recall having seen in my one whole years of evaluating them.

    Conclusion: According to these Valentines, villainy is the best and superheroism is downright tedious. Case closed.

  • Conspiracy #3: There Is A Corporate Valentine War Taking Place

    Evidence: Big Hero 6 valentines

    Big Hero 6 was one of the top-grossing movies of 2014, a huge success for Disney, and based on a Marvel Comics property. And yet the Valentines for the year immediately after its release look terrible. Generic phrases slapped onto promo images in what appears to be all-caps Arial font.

    Look at this:

     

     

    That's an outright mess.

    So who's to blame? A graphic designer who thought, "Eh, they're just kids, who will care?" Perhaps one could assume that. But I smell corporate malfeasance.

    Careful examination of the boxes of Valentines I bought offered this clue: The Valentines for every Disney property (Spider-Man, The Avengers, Star Wars) were all made by Hallmark except for Big Hero 6. These Valentines were made by Paper Magic Group, the company that, from what I can tell, is Hallmark's only children's Valentine competitor.

    Somehow, Paper Magic Group won the tense bidding war for the rights to Big Hero 6 Valentines and tanked it to stick it to Hallmark, leaving our children as the true victims. For shame.

  • Conspiracy #4: Valentines Are Infesting Children's Brains With "Rap" Language

    Evidence: Angry Birds valentines

    Did you know that more and more kids these days are listening to "rap" and "hip-hop" tunes? Were you aware that the Angry Birds Valentines your children may get from their "friends" at school could include language found in the latest "Snoop Doggy Dogg/Lion" "track"?

     

     

    I'll drop it, all right. Right in the toilet.

  • Conspiracy #5: The Valentines That Aren't Written By Supervillains Boost The Superhero Industrial Complex

    Evidence: Avengers valentines

    The four designs in the set of Avengers Valentines I bought all are single images of men, grimacing directly at the viewer. The only woman represented in the set is Black Widow, who shows up in tiny form in the included sticker set.

    That's not the conspiracy, though. The conspiracy is evident in the Captain America card, in which he encourages our very children to have "a super-soldier kind of day."

    A super-soldier kind of day, huh? You mean the kind of day that involves watching their best friend die in front of them? One that involves being frozen in ice for years until being thawed out? One in which one has to kill a literal vampire with a shield? One in which a "civil war" or sorts begins? One in which the person who gets the card is replaced with a Skrull for a while?

    What kind of behavior are we encouraging?

  • Conspiracy #6: Sexual Turtles

    Evidence: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Valentines

    I'm sorry, but how are these not euphemisms? Consider our children!

    At the very least, it can't get any more explicit, can it?

     

     

    OK. I was wrong. Nunchuks phallus and Donatell-O-face take the cake.

  • Conspiracy #7: Adventure Time Is Really Good And Its Valentines Are Neat

    Evidence: Adventure Time Valentines

    You know what, these are actually just fun. I don't really see any conspiracies in these.

     

     

    Maybe there's just like, a good Valentines conspiracy here? I don't know.

    They seem pretty cool for our children.