A Collection of Comicdom’s Sorriest Super-Villains
Not every hit can be a home run.
Not every car can be a Lamborghini.
Not every guitar solo can be Eddie Van Halen’s Eruption.
Well, you get the picture.
Similarly, not every comic book supervillain can be The Joker or Dr. Doom.
In fact, the rigors of monthly deadlines have ensured that most comic book bad guys remain forgettable, vanilla flavored non-entities. However, that same deadline pressure is also responsible for spawning some of the most delightfully stupid supervillains to ever grace a comic book cover. Of course, “deadline pressure” doesn’t explain all of the hapless losers I’m about to inflict upon you, but I’d rather give the well-meaning creators of years past the benefit of the doubt.
Leading off the dork parade is Mental Man from Action Comics #196 (1954). Though technically only a “rival”, Mental Man was one of the rare costumed threats Superman faced during the "lean years" of the eary to mid-1950’s. Despite the dreary repetition of gangsters and con men on The Adventures of Superman television show airing at the time, I guess I should be relieved that a costumed guys like Mental Man never make the jump to TV.
Some years later, Superman faced the laughable (and vaguely naughty-sounding) Purple Piledriver on the cover of Action Comics #464 (1975), smashing into what appears to be an explosive spray of green liquid.
In Wonder Woman #166 (1966), Diana battled the egg-shaped Commie mastermind Egg Fu the Fifth, a character whose lameness was surpassed only by its breathtaking racism. Wonder Woman finally managed to crack the evil egg by…wildly dancing for him? Make it stop!
Even the legendary team of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby weren’t immune from laying the occasional egg. Fantastic Four #24 (1964) marked the arrival of The Infant Terrible, who, as its name implies, was a giant alien baby with near-omnipotent powers. After an issue-long tantrum, Mr. Fantastic reunites the extra-terrestrial tot with its rightful parents, who just so happened to be passing by Earth.
Introduced during the decrepit final years of the Barry Allen Flash series, Big Sir was actually a mutated mentally retarded man named Doofus P. Ratchet. Doofus was equipped with a suit of flying armor and energy mace by the Monitor (of Crisis on Infinite Earths fame) in Flash #338 (1984). How a flying, sandal-wearing retarded giant fit in with the Monitor’s plan to save the Multiverse, we may never know.
The Monitor wasn’t the only man with a plan, as we learn from the cameo appearance of The Organizer on the cover of Daredevil #11 (1965). When his plan involving animal-themed henchmen was foiled by the Man Without Fear, it's rumored the Organizer eventually went legit and developed the “Trapper-Keeper” loose-leaf binder for Mead office products.
Another serious planner was The Calculator, appearing here on the cover of Detective Comics #468 (1977). Though he’s now a big shot “behind the scenes” mastermind, his original push-button costume remains a campy favorite.
Basing his crimes on specific days or holidays, Calendar Man brought a 24-7 commitment to jackassery…as you can see from the cover of Batman #384 (1985).
Completing the office supply theme is Pink Pearl from Alpha Flight #22 (1985). Previously a circus fat lady, Pink Pearl used her powers of super-obesity to become a terrorist bent on assassinating political leaders.
See it. Believe it:
Another circus performer-turned-criminal was The Tumbler, who used his handsprings and tuck-n-rolls for evil in Captain America #169 (1974)!
Now that we’ve hit the halfway point, let’s take that “psychological pit stop” I mentioned at the top.
Go for a walk.
Take a series of deep, cleansing breaths.
With fully-rested and refreshed psyches, let’s get back to the horror, shall we?
Despite the creepy voodoo powers, Nathan Dolly’s even more sissified name of Mister Doll wasn’t likely to terrify the masses. At least Tales of Suspense #48 (1963) also featured the debut of Iron Man’s spiffy new armor, which almost managed to cancel out Mister Doll’s glaring suckitude.
Even more delusional was hydraulics expert Manfred Haller, who designed the Man-Elephant suit to capture the (then) out-of-control Jade Giantess in Savage She-Hulk #17 (1981). Keep in mind this took place well before creator John Byrne transformed the title into a 4th wall-breaking, lame villain-mocking comedy series in the late-80’s...so Man-Elephant must've been intended to be a "serious" supervillain.
Everyone loves a good “David and Goliath” tale of a triumphant underdog, but a “Kamandi and Goliath” story?
Not so much.
Like all animals in Jack Kirby’s post-apocalyptic future, Goliath was able to talk and kill humans (as you’d naturally expect from an enraged killer whale). Undoubtedly, Jack intended for the cover of Kamandi #23 (1974) to be frightening, but as with many of The King’s endearing excesses, the big-mouthed beast comes off much more comical than terrifying.
When it came to comical excess, nobody (not even Kirby) could touch writer Bob Haney, creator of the original Teen Titans. Beloved for his zany plots and hilarious faux-hipster dialogue, Haney introduced Ding-Dong Daddy Dowd in Teen Titans #3 (1966). Based on hot-rod cartoonist Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, Ding-Dong Daddy hired high school dropouts to work in his crooked car shop. When the President’s Commission on Education caught wind of Daddy-O’s schemes, they promptly assigned the newly formed Teen Titans to the case…who then faced a barrage of Ding-Dong’s “Vehicles of Villainy” (including an advanced surfboard missile system).
Another notorious vehicle of villainy was The Big Wheel, rolling onto the scene in Amazing Spider-Man #183 (1978). Continuing the long supervillain tradition of coincidentally similar surnames, businessman Jackson Weele (groan) was taunted by the skateboarding criminal Rocket Racer (who himself missed my “Worst Villains” list by this much). Naturally, Weele did what anyone who suffered humiliating taunts would do:
Build a giant weaponized wheel to hunt down and kill the offender!
Further down the tech-scale was Junk-Man–The Recycled Superstar, making his one and (mercifully) only appearance on the cover of Action Comics #455 (1976). As one of the dullest, worst designed covers in comic book history, it’s not clear if Junk-Man’s leg is recoiling from Superman’s exploding midsection, or stomping Superman’s groin into a slushy pulp.
Who “plays the deadliest game of all”? Why, GAARD, of course! Created to guard the Nexus of the Multiverse by other-dimensional warlord Arkon, this cosmic hockey goalie battled the Thing in Fantastic Four #163 (1975). The issue’s shocking climax revealed Gaard to be an alternate Earth version of Ben Grimm’s teammate Johnny Storm! Just think…maybe there’s an alternate Earth somewhere out there where you have an ultra-lame, sports-themed supervillain counterpart!
“Do the hustle!” The disco fad of the late 70’s inflicted untold evils upon our nation, one of which was the Hypno-Hustler in Spectacular Spider-Man #24 (1978). Using musical mass-hypnotism, the Hustler and his band The Mercy Killers were able to relieve their booty-shaking audience of their wallets and jewelry…..until “Spider-Man Night Fever”* shut him down.
*“Spider-Man Night Fever”, in case you’re wondering,
was the authentic title of this funky phantasmagoria.
There. You made it.
While you remove your safety harnesses and proceed to the nearest exits, remember this:
While they were never good enough to make it anywhere near a “Most Wanted” poster or “Top 10 Villains” list, the malevolent misfits of comic book villainy still play a role by helping us to appreciate the A-List bad guys all the more. Counter to the old brainstorming maxim “There’s No Such Thing As a Bad Idea”, these morons prove again and again that not only do bad ideas exist…but they also wear costumes!