Earlier this year, I took a look at some of the worst supervillains to ever stink up a comic book cover. Though I don’t normally do “sequels” to columns, this particular topic almost demands more coverage, don't you think? I mean, who am I to deprive comic book fans of the rich history of poorly conceived villainous losers?
So, put aside your high standards and good taste for a few minutes and gird yourself for another batch of Really Bad Bad Guys!
How bad is “really bad”? Let me demonstrate with Exhibit A: Dr. Tyme, a villain so stupid he couldn’t even spell his own name right! Making his first appearance here in Doom Patrol #92 (1964), Dr. Tyme’s goofy clock-face helmet could emit a beam that slowed down the passage of time.
Granted, the Doom Patrol’s villains have always been off-the-charts crazy (Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man, anyone?), but Dr. Tyme stands alone even within that surreal society.
Speaking of tyme…er, time, let’s go back in time to Boy Commandos #15 (1946) and behold the spectacle of Crazy Quilt. Created by Jack Kirby himself, Crazy Quilt was an “artist in villainy” who specialized in painting and color-themed crimes…because, as everyone knows, what could be more threatening than an evil artist?
Later on, after an experimental procedure ruined his eyes, he was forced to wear a special helmet wired into his brain to regain his sight, which made him even more crazy (and crazy looking).
Taking crazy looking to dizzying new heights (literally) was Stilt Man, who made his dorky debut in Daredevil #8 (1965). Basically just a guy in a suit of armor with telescoping legs with a lame name (both as Stilt Man and as scientist Wilbur Day), this Towering Twit went on to battle a number of superheroes, married Princess Python of the Crime Circus, and recently met his end courtesy of the Punisher and a well-aimed RPG.
Stilt Man wasn’t the only laughable loser to plague Daredevil’s early years. In fact, ever since Frank Miller recast the feature as gritty, street-level noir, we tend to forget the exceeding lameness of the early Daredevil’s rogues gallery. Case in point: The Matador. As a famous bull-fighter rejected by the people of Spain for his extreme brutality (you know, because bull-fighting fans are such gentle, caring souls), Manuel Eloganto vowed to strike back at all mankind…with only a sword, a cape and his nimble feet!
I don’t mean to pick on Daredevil, since he’s certainly not the only grim and gritty superhero with embarrassing enemies in his past. Even the Batman, with a classic Rogues Gallery to die for, endured more than his fair share of not so classic rogues.
The aptly named Terrible Trio certainly fell into that dubious category. Making their debut in Detective Comics #253 (1958), three Gotham City inventors did what most intelligent people would do when searching for new challenges: Don fox, shark and vulture masks and embark upon an animal-themed crime spree!
Could there be anything less imposing than guys in
business suits wearing cartoon animal masks?
How about Mr. Polka Dot from Detective Comics #300 (1962)? Obviously, reaching an issue number divisible by 100 wasn’t the milestone special event it’s considered today, since the concepts of “special event” and “Mr. Polka-Dot” should never appear within the same sentence. Question: How bad has it gotten in Gotham’s hired thug market when you’ve gotta work for a guy named Mr. Polka Dot? Sure, only the top guys get in with the Joker or Two-Face…but for those two mugs riding the surfboard with Mr. Polka Dot, weren’t there any openings with Mr. Freeze or even the Mad Hatter?
One guy who did have trouble recruiting hired thugs was gangster-wannabe Phil Cobb, whose inexperience and lack of a “reputation” made him the laughingstock of Gotham’s crime community. How did an up-and-coming gangster like Cobb gain their respect? Why, by wearing a bright red and yellow costume with striped shorts and a Lucky Charms cape, that’s how! Calling himself “Signalman”, Cobb incorporated various signs, signals and symbols into his crimes.
Despite his new popularity with the Underworld, Signalman made only two Silver Age appearances before a brief detour as “the Blue Bowman”, then once again back as Signalman in Detective Comics #466 (1976).
Dubbed “the most dangerous man alive” by Batman, the Ten-Eyed Man was a blinded soldier whose optic nerves were moved to his fingers by an ever-available evil surgeon (thanks, doc). How eye-fingers made him the deadliest man alive has completely eluded comic fans since his debut in Detective Comics #226 (1970).
There’s really nothing clever about the hapless Kite-Man,
appearing here on the cover of Batman #315 (1979).
Except for one thing.
His real name was Charles Brown. You figure it out.
In Brave and the Bold #178 (1981), Batman and the Creeper faced the deadly danger of …paper cuts? Yes, paper cuts, courtesy of the evil (and intricately folded) Origami Man! Fact: You know you’re low on the credibility totem pole when even a guy like the Creeper considers you a “weirdo”.
We go from paper cuts to pixilation in Flash #304 (1981), as Colonel Computron converts the Scarlet Speedster to a (then) cutting edge 8-bit graphic image! As the second employee of the Wiggins Toy Company to become a Flash villain (the first was Captain Boomerang), toy developer Basil Nurblindid designed a suit that was a “portable computer”…which, when you look at his full body shot, really resemble the boxy, extremely ugly, and laughably large “portable” computers of 1981.
Looking like a comical amalgamation of a jungle hut and an Eskimo, the unwieldy Porcupine battled Ant-Man and the Wasp in Tales to Astonish #48 (1963). Originally a government weapons designer, Alexander Gentry turned to crime with his porcupine-like battle suit, which could shoot sharp quills, chemicals, gasses and other weapons. Just like a real porcupine can!
Proving women can do anything men can do, Wonder Woman also battled some spectacularly goofy supervillains. One of them was Angle Man who, if you’ve learned anything from the one-note examples of Mr. Polka Dot and Kite-Man, committed crimes based around…you guessed it…angles. Years later, Angle Man resurfaced as a more conventional costumed supervillain, as you can see from the cover of Wonder Woman #273 (1980), this time sporting a trans-dimensional device named “the angler”.
Slowly bringing up the rear of the Pathetic Parade is Lord Lazee, a villain so lazy that robot minions carried out his wicked schemes. “Battling” Jack Q. Frost in Harvey Comics’ Unearthly Spectaculars #2 (1965), Lord Lazee controlled his fleet of robots from a “control couch”, which actually looked more like a baby’s high chair than a couch.
With dreary, unexciting threats like Lord Lazee, is it any wonder that Jack Q. Frost’s short career as a superhero ended with this very issue?
Happily, more established members of the superhero community have been able to weather the occasional supervillain “lemon”, or as in Batman’s case, multiple lemons without seriously damaging their credibility or longevity. However, poor Jack Q. Frost’s situation should be a lesson everyone that a superhero is only as good as his rogue’s gallery…and all it takes is one Lord Lazee, Mr. Polka Dot or Stiltman to shipwreck a budding superhero career!