Spider-Man and Batman? Cool as hell. Superman and the X-Men? Ditto. But just because you put on some costume and fight crime doesn’t mean you’re all that. Far from it. Whether it’s in the funny pages (as old people say) or on the screens big and small, there are plenty of superheroes through the ages who don’t cut the mustard. Here are 10.
As much as I always enjoyed Aquaman as a character (being a blonde, perhaps it was because he was the only high-profile blonde superhero), I’ve gotta admit that he’s pretty lame, although few others can pull off that orange/green combination. So to spare him any further indignity, I’ve decided to direct all that bad will toward his teen protégé, Aqualad. Queer name. Queer outfit. His hair always reminded me of the comic strip character Dondi. And I fuckin’ hated Dondi.
See him in: SHOWCASE PRESENTS TEEN TITANS: VOLUME 1
I can just hear the editorial meeting now: “Hey, we’re getting Steve Ditko, co-creator of Spider-Man, back into monthly comics! Yeah! On a book starring a fresh, new, teenage superhero coping with his amazing powers! All right! And let’s name the character after a heroin/cocaine cocktail!” What, was Black Tar taken? The Crank? Yeah, he wants to join the X-Men, all right.
See him in: CIVIL WAR
Bouncing Boy becomes massively fat from a combination of a slow metabolism and a home accident that crushed him underneath a bookcase filled with film-geek memorabilia. No, wait, that’s the origin of Harry Knowles. Bouncing Boy drank a scientific potion or comes from a planet of bouncing people or something like that — I don’t know. He’s lame because his power is to get really fat and project himself around like a beachball at a Doobie Brothers mid-market, summer-amphitheater concert. His only redeeming factor: He married a superheroine who can create two additional copies of herself. That sounds like some new math I can get into.
See him in: SHOWCASE PRESENTS LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES: VOLUME 1
Another comic book legend (in fact, the comic book legend, Jack “The King” Kirby) created Captain Victory during the first independent comic boom of the early ‘80s. Unfortunately, he’d proven over the previous 10 years that the classic characters he created with Stan Lee — X-Men, Fantastic Four, The Avengers, Hulk, etc. — owed as much to Lee’s creativity as his. I can’t tell you anything about Captain Victory, other than he had a big, blonde Prince Valiant haircut, traveled in space (I think) and hung out with dog-faced humans or something. It was big and intergalactic and virtually unreadable. And while “Captain Victory” might’ve sounded great in, say, 1944, it just sounded old and tired in 1982.
See him in: JACK KIRBY’S CAPTAIN VICTORY
I don’t think it’s racism that keeps the comics industry from creating African-American superheroes that aren’t merely embarassing tokens. No, I think it’s probably the fact that the fat, pasty, Hawaiian shirt-clad guys who create most superheroes never had adolescent male power fantasies featuring black guys. Triathlon follows in the tradition of The Falcon, the other black Avenger with lousy powers and a costume that’s 100 percent dork. He apparently has three times the strength, speed, whatever of a normal man. In other words, about six times that of a normal white guy.
See him in: CIVIL WAR
Somehow Gambit has become a bit of a fan-favorite X-Men character over the past decade, which might explain why the comic book industry took a nosedive throughout the ‘90s. Gambit’s some lame-ass in a purple trenchcoat and funky open-face non-mask who throws kinetically charged playing cards at bad guys or something. This could lead to some fun dialogue like, “Consider yourself … spade!” or “Join … the club!” Instead, he speaks in low-rent Cajun that makes Paul Prudhomme sound like Auguste Flaubert. Ah gah-rown-tee that he sucks ay-uss.
See him in: ASTONISHING X-MEN: GAMBIT, VOL. 1 — HOUSE OF CARDS
Two things that suck the worst about Godiva:
• she’s not naked and
• she has nothing to do with chocolate.
She’s yet another lame-ass member of an even lamer-ass international supergroup — do I smell a trend here? — called The Global Guardians. Her power is she’s got a big ol’ mess of hair with which she can hit people and … apparently fashion wings out of to fly. As a power, it’s a pretty lousy one, although Stan Lee and Jack Kirby made it look cool with Medusa of the Inhumans in THE FANTASTIC FOUR. Godiva makes it suck worse by speaking in the most god-awful Cockney accent since Dick Van Dyke in MARY POPPINS. And, I repeat, not naked.
See her in: CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS
Near the beginning of THE X-MEN’s creative peak in the late ‘70s, they traveled to a punk club in search of a new mutant. Walking through a throng of Sid ‘n’ Nancys, they stopped as the lights went down and the crowd quieted to a hush, all in anticipation for the arrival of … The Disco Dazzler! Even at age 9, I questioned what a Farrah-feathered, flare-sportin’ reject from Andrea True Connection would be doing at a freakin’ punk club. Such was the Dazzler. From what I hear, she was created as some joint (or, more than likely, coke) project between Marvel and Casablanca Records. Even with the usual six-month lag in headlines-to-comic book relevancy, by the time the Dazzler showed up in the Marvel Universe, they’d been burning Village People records in Cincinnati for months. She was essentially the superhero version of that creepy mirrorball chick from Wang Chung’s “Dance Hall Days” video, with ample cleavage being her lone asset.
See her in: ESSENTIAL DAZZLER: VOL. 1
I don’t believe that homosexuality is an abomination in the eyes of the Lord, but Extrano sure as hell was. Extrano was a member of The New Guardians, a lame-ass international supergroup spun off from the even lamer-ass 1987 DC company crossover event MILLENNIUM. I suppose being the first openly gay superhero should be a noble achievement, but when he’s a limp-wristed, swaying Peruvian Liberace with an outfit cribbed from Carol Burnett’s take on Scarlett O’Hara, the only notable thing one can really say about the character was that the creators predicted the existence of John Leguizamo with Nostradamus-like clarity. What were his super powers? Jesus, I have no idea. But I’m sure that they were fab-u-lous!
Vibe, Vibe, Vibe. Poor, dead Vibe. Yet another attempt at cultural relevancy in comics – a smack-talkin’ Puerto Rican breakdancer with the coincidental ability to cause small tremors with his hands. (Insert easy masturbation joke … right here.) The thing that makes Vibe suck most of all isn’t his yellow parachute pants, his sporty red bandana (Ice-T hadn’t yet clued in the folks at DC about what symbolizes gang warfare) or his pre-grunge soul patch. It’s the fact that he was introduced as a new member of the freakin’ Justice League of America. What’s supposed to be the pre-eminent collection of super badasses the universe has to offer temporarily became a halfway house for suck-ass lame-os like Gypsy, the Vixen and Steel (not to be confused with the suck-ass Shaquille O’Neal movie). Vibe just had the unfortunate luck to be the suckiest of them all. —Brian Winkeler