CLOSE

8 Regrettable (But Still Kind Of Awesome) Superheroes

With C-listers like Ant-Man and Aquaman starring in their own movies, it feels like every superhero, no matter how obscure, is headed for wide-ranging fame. But nothing could be further from the truth: There are hundreds of weird, dumb, preposterous, and just plain awful superheroes who have appeared in print before fading into the cultural abyss, an abyss from which they’ve been rescued by comics scholar Jon Morris in his wonderful new book The League of Regrettable Superheroes. This book is the blooper reel of superhero comics.

Despite the title, you can tell Morris loves all these characters, and who wouldn’t? Flops or not, they are colorful and amusing pieces of comics history. Still, no matter how bloated the membership of the Avengers gets, it will never include the following folks.

1. Doll Man

Ant-Man is a powerhouse compared to Golden Age hero Doll Man, who couldn’t control ants or do anything except shrink to the size of a doll. The “World’s Mightiest Mite” was more adorable than invincible, especially when riding his Wonder Dog Elmo to the rescue.

2. The Eye

With a name like The Eye, you’d expect a Cyclops-type hero—or perhaps someone with a particularly good eye for crime. Nope. This hero who debuted in 1939 was literally a big, floating eyeball who fought crime with supernatural powers.

3. Doctor Hormone

No, Doc Hormone is not the greatest enemy (or ally) of the Teen Titans. Rather, Dr. Hormone (his actual name) was a scientist who fought evil and played god by turning babies into adults, old people into young people, and regular folks into animal-human hybrids via hormonology. Holy hormonal hijinks, Batman! 

4. Fatman the Human Flying Saucer

After plump Van Crawford stumbles upon a crashed flying saucer that was actually a shape-shifting alien, he gained the same powers, becoming unquestionably the greatest plus-size male superhero who can change into a flying saucer. You’re not going to believe this, but Fatman’s publisher Lightning Comics couldn’t stay in business for more than a few months. 

5. Funnyman

One of the subplots of Morris’ book is that even legendary comics creators like Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko created some stinkers. The guys who started it all—Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joel Shuster—created Funnyman, a comedic crimefighter who debuted in 1948 and promptly went nowhere. Or perhaps he retreated back to his “Funny Manor,” a poor substitute for the Batcave or Fortress of Solitude.

6. The Ferret

With its foul stench and penchant for theft, the ferret would seem to be a better role model for villains, but this yellow-caped crusader fought mobsters and other crooks in his brief 1942 appearance. The Ferret was revived in the 1990s as a hero typical of that era: grim and violent to the point of absurdity. He also had claws that were a transparent rip-off of Wolverine.

7. Squirrel Girl

This bushy-tailed heroine—who once took down Dr. Doom in a crushing blow to anyone who takes their comics a little too seriously—is a great example of how any character can thrive with the right creators. This humorous mutant has been used sporadically since her 1992 debut, but she recently landed her own series, which has been a breath of fresh air in the all-too-often self-serious world of comics. 

8. U.S. 1

Many of the regrettable heroes collected by Morris are from the Golden and Silver Ages of comics, a faraway time encompassing 1938-1969. But some are more recent, and I felt the sting of shame when I realized one of these heroes was in my own collection: U.S. 1, a colossally stupid trucker/hero based on an aborted toy line. Why did young me need this comic? Maybe I identified with Ulysses Solomon Archer and his metal skull that picked up C.B. and allowed him to control his rig telepathically. Or maybe I was just an idiot.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Disney/Marvel Studios
arrow
Afternoon Map
Marvel vs. DC: This Map Shows Each State’s Favorite Comic Universe
Disney/Marvel Studios
Disney/Marvel Studios

Which comic book company is the best: Marvel or DC? This is a perennial argument on middle-school playgrounds and Reddit threads, but this map, courtesy of USDish.com, might just give us a definitive answer. The information here is broken down by state, using information provided by Google Trends to give us a clear winner of not only the most popular comic book company but also the most popular individual hero in each state (let’s show a little respect to Indiana for championing the Martian Manhunter).

According to the map, Marvel is the most popular publisher in 37 states, with DC trailing behind at eight, and five additional states coming to a 50/50 stalemate. The totals weren’t a blowout, though. In certain states like Mississippi, Iowa, and Pennsylvania, the favored company only won by a point. And just because a state searches Google for a specific publisher the most doesn’t mean an individual character from the opposing team isn’t its favorite—Hawaii is listed as favoring Marvel overall, yet they love Aquaman on his own. Same with DC-loving Maryland showing Black Panther some love (helps to have a big movie coming out). Take a look at some of the most notable state preferences below:

So how did Marvel amass so many states when there are just as many DC TV shows and movies out there? Well, according to Andrew Selepak, Ph.D., a professor in the department of telecommunication at the University of Florida, and director of the graduate program in social media, the answer lies in the depth at the House of Ideas.

“While Superman and Batman may be dominant characters,” Selepak said in a statement, “the DC Universe offers few other well-known heroes and villains and when these other characters are presented to the audience in film and on TV, they often are less than well-received.” This is opposed to Marvel, which launches new heroes on the big and small screen seemingly every year.

Does this map tell the whole story? That’s up for debate. When it comes to comics sold, DC and Marvel are always in a close battle: In January 2018, DC had six of the 10 best-selling comics of the month, placing four of the top five. Marvel, meanwhile, had three, while Image Comics had one with The Walking Dead. In terms of overall retail market share, though, Marvel eked out DC 34.3 percent to 33.8 percent.

This is a battle that's been raging since the 1960s, and for an industry that thrives on a never-ending fight between good and evil, we shouldn't expect the Marvel vs. DC debate to be settled anytime soon.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
DC Comics, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
arrow
entertainment
The Dark Knight Is Returning to Theaters, Just Ahead of 10th Anniversary
DC Comics, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
DC Comics, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Believe it or not, July 18 will mark the 10th anniversary of the release of The Dark Knight, the second entry in Christopher Nolan’s game-changing superhero movie trilogy. To mark the occasion, Showcase Cinemas—the movie theater chain behind the Cinema de Lux experience—is bringing the movie back to select theaters on the east coast for limited screenings on February 8 and February 11, /Film reports.

Many people consider The Dark Knight the best film in the Batman franchise (Tim Burton and LEGO-fied movies included). The film currently holds a 94 percent “fresh” rating with both critics and audiences on Rotten Tomatoes, making it the highest-rated movie in the Batman universe.

Much of the film’s acclaim came from Heath Ledger’s brilliant turn as The Joker—a role that won him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar (making him the only actor to win that award posthumously). Even Michael Caine, who plays Bruce Wayne’s ever-dutiful butler and BFF Alfred, admitted that he wasn’t sold on the idea of bringing The Joker back into Batman’s cinematic universe, after the character was so ably played by Jack Nicholson in Burton’s 1989 film, until he found out Ledger would be taking the role.

“You don’t try and top Jack,” was Caine’s original thought. But when Nolan informed the actor that he was casting Ledger, that changed things. “I thought: ‘Now that’s the one guy that could do it!’ My confidence came back,” Caine told Empire Magazine.

To find out if The Dark Knight is playing at a theater near you, visit Showcase Cinemas’s website. If it’s not, don’t despair: With the official anniversary still six months away, other theaters are bound to have the same idea.

[h/t: /Film]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios