Who is the lamest comic book superhero? This question will keep comic book fans arguing for hours. There have been many horrible superheroes over the years. There are different categories of ridiculous characters. There are laughable powers, weird origins, and dumb names.
Not to mention the stupid pets and mascots that were prevalent in the Superman family in the 1950s and 1960s. Krypto the Super-Dog is the most famous, but there was also Beppo the Super-Monkey, Comet the Super-Horse, and Streaky the Supercat, all of which wore capes. Of course, not to be outdone, Batman had Ace the Bat-Hound, complete with bat-mask.
Superhero teams are filled with crazy characters. The Legion of Super Heroes probably has the most. Bouncing Boy (the power of super bouncing!) and Matter-Eater Lad (the power to eat anything [let’s not think about his digestive process]) are the two lamest Legionnaires. Then there’s the Legion of Substitute Heroes, which I think was created more as a joke than anything, but has some truly worthless members. The founding members of this group of Legionnaire rejects were Polar Boy (Iceman-lite), Night Girl (whose super strength only worked at night), Fire Lad (who could breathe fire, but sneezed uncontrollably), Chlorophyll Kid (who can make plants grow super fast), and the lamest of all, Stone Boy (who turns into inanimate stone).
The Green Lantern Corps is another superhero group with plenty of bizarre members. For example, Brik is composed entirely of organic rock; Leezle Pon is a sentient smallpox virus; Rot Lop Fan is from a species that evolved in darkness, has no concept of light and color, and thus cannot comprehend how the power ring works (it projects solid rays of light manifested by the bearer’s will power); and Mogo is a sentient or “living” planet.
Sometimes a seemingly ridiculous character will turn out to actually be pretty good. Animal Man, with the ability to temporarily “borrow” the abilities of animals, has had incarnations written by Grant Morrison and is part of DC’s “New 52.” Ragman, with enhanced agility and strength, while not a brilliant creation, was better than he had any right to be thanks to the guidance of two comics masters, Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert.
Conversely, there are some long-lived characters who continue to be popular for inexplicable reasons. Aquaman, with the power to talk to any kind of sea animal, is the subject of much derision by fans, yet continues to be one of the top DC characters. The Atom, with the power to shrink to microscopic size, is another top-tier DC character who defies reasonable examination. There have been a number of shrinking or growing characters over the years. Ant-Man can shrink and grow, and he can telepathically control ants. So, evildoers, watch out for those swarming ants!
There are the crappy characters who are created just to secure copyright protection. Marvel is notorious for this, with She-Hulk, Spider-Woman, and Spider Girl coming to mind. That any of them eventually found good story lines is something of a miracle.
Certain characters are created to cash in on societal trends. Black Lightning was one of the first black characters at DC, but in his first appearance he was an Afro-haired stereotype. Dazzler was a mutant who could transform sound into light. This might have been a good fit during the disco era, but Dazzler #1 came out in 1981, well after the disco era had faded. Subsequently, Dazzler has been revamped and has found some success in recent times. Another character in this mold was Ulysses Solomon Archer, AKA U.S. 1, who fought evil on the highways of America in his pimped-out truck. U.S. 1 was apparently designed to appeal to the redneck crowd; unfortunately, issue #1 came out five years after Smokey and the Bandit (1977), which it emulated.
Man-Thing from Marvel first appeared in 1971, with DC’s Swamp Thing not coincidentally arriving about a year later. Both of these could have been highly problematic, walking muck being not necessarily very interesting. But somehow despite their names, both of these titles went on to very successful runs.
Comics have always had a fascination with intelligent gorillas. Two of the more infamous are Congorilla and Gorilla Grodd, one of The Flash’s archenemies, both of whom debuted in the late 1950s, a heyday of “anything goes.”
Human/animal hybrids are a source of endless awful characters. Two of the most famous are Man-Bat (instead of a man dressing as a bat, it was a man transformed into a bat) and Squirrel Girl, not one of Steve Ditko’s brighter moments.
Some of the most popular superheroes have less than stellar origin stories. If someone were caught in the middle of a gamma bomb, they would be turned into radioactive ashes, not a green Hulk. The same goes for the Fantastic Four who obtained their powers by flying their spaceship through a gamma radiation storm. Gamma radiation was quite the solution to Stan Lee’s plotting problems in the 1960s!
As beloved as Spider-Man is, if a radioactive spider bit someone, they would probably just have a welt for a few days and then die of cancer twenty years later. Moreover, what I never understood was how high school student Peter Parker could overnight invent a miracle fluid that had the strength of steel, the adhesion of the strongest epoxy, and dissolved with no residue in an hour. Turning into a human spider pales in comparison! He could have built a company to make the revolutionary material and become richer than Tony Stark. Frankly, Sam Raimi’s version with biological web shooters makes much more sense, although to be strictly true to nature, the webbing would have to shoot out of Spider-Man’s butt.
Some superheroes definitely have powers that defy all logic. How does The Flash maintain the energy to keep running? Batman’s utility belt and suit would weigh a hundred pounds if he really had all those gadgets. Plus, he wouldn’t last more than a couple of years sustaining that kind of physical pounding night after night.
Plastic Man, Mr. Fantastic, and Elongated Man (really?—that’s the best name you could think of?) have perhaps the silliest power, to stretch the human body into any shape. At least Plastic Man was played for laughs.
I’m sure I’ve missed quite a few other lame super heroes. Who are your favorite ridiculous characters?