Despite the chaos of our constantly changing world, there’s one unchanging truth we can cling to: There will always be plenty of lame supervillains to make fun of.
Yeah, I know…that’s a pretty bold claim…but after two loser-packed installments of Bring on the (Really Bad) Bad Guys, I'm nowhere close to running out of goofy, ill-advised or moon-barking insane bad guys.
What better way to demonstrate that “moon-barking insane” variety than with a Doom Patrol villain…any Doom Patrol villain, for that matter. Springing from the active (or perhaps radioactive) imagination of creator Arnold Drake, the Doom Patrol faced a kaleidoscope of surreal adversaries. From a giant with an eyeball for a head to an evil brain in a jar (carried around by a talking gorilla), the Doom Patrol had seen it all…that is, until they met the Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man in Doom Patrol #89 (1964).
A few years later, writer Robert Kanigher created his own wonky corner of the DC Universe with the Metal Men, seen here on the cover of their 24th issue (1967) battling Balloon Man, whose decidedly non-threatening appearance was amplified by his Pretty In Pink color scheme.
Another non-threatening non-entity was the Black Talon, whose otherwise cool zombie-creating voodoo powers were completely eclipsed by the stupidity of his chicken costume on the cover of Avengers #152 (1976).
“Stupidity” takes on a startling (and possibly inbred) new dimension in Spectacular Spider-Man #156 (1989) with the debut of Banjo, a mutant hillbilly with super-strength and a hunchback….who’s only ten years old! Looking on in the lower right-hand corner were “Mama” and his brother “Bugeye”. Yeee-hawww!
Leaving the mutant-strewn hills of Appalachia we head back to the late 1970’s and the corrupting influence of….disco music! As Saturday Night Fever and the BeeGees held the country in their polyester grip, trend-chasing comic book creators incorporated a small (but infamous) number of disco-themed characters.
First up was the Blue Streak, a rocket-powered disco skater who returned in Captain America #229 (1979) with his fellow S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives.
Sporting a spiffy new suit of armor, Blue Streak attempted a comeback in Captain America #318 (1986), forgetting one tiny detail: He was still a roller-skating supervillain!
Next came a demon sorceress named Satin Satan (a.k.a. super-model Sabrina Sultress), who trapped a rookie Firestorm in her “Hell on Wheels” here on the cover of Justice League #180 (1980).
If there’s anything worse than disco, it’s bad puns…like the name of villain Turner D. Century, who loved the idealized society of the year 1900 so much (get it? “Turn of the Century”?), he was determined to destroy the modern world to bring it back! Making his debut in Spider-Woman #33 (1980), Turner used wacky inventions like a flying tandem bicycle, a flame-throwing umbrella and a “time horn” in his war against social progress!
Someone who might have passed Turner D. Century’s dress code was the Minstrel. Appearing in Doll Man #15 (1964), this Joker wanna-be committed music-themed crimes while packing a flame-throwing banjo.
Jumping from the flame-throwing banjo to a flame-throwing teenager, the Human Torch encountered some of the worst supervillains to ever see print during his solo stint in Strange Tales. Take the Rabble Rouser for example, who embodied the early 60’s double threat of Commies and…beatniks?! Appearing in Strange Tales #119 (1964), an unnamed Communist nation sent the Rabble Rouser to stir up unrest using his “mesmerizer wand”, which had the power to make the masses believe his subversive propaganda.
The brain of Asbestos Man was obviously addled by his constant exposure to the non-flammable (yet horribly unhealthy) substance he was named after. I mean, how else would you explain the use of a net against someone who could fly? In fact, even the breathless narrator on the cover of Strange Tales #111 (1963) seemed to be unaware that the Torch could simply fly away from the net-flinging nincompoop.
A bit more dangerous, though no less lame was The Painter, a.k.a. Wilhelm van Vile. Making his artistic debut in Strange Tales #108 (1963), the “Painter of a Thousand Perils” could create solid forms with this special paints and brushes, which he could then animate and control. Not to be confused with the late Bob Ross, "Painter of a Hundred Thousand Nature Scenes".
Finally, like the spectacular climax of a fireworks display, we come to the absolute worst Human Torch villain…and possibly one of the worst comic book supervillains ever. After inventing an adhesive paste he could shoot from a gun, chemist Peter Petruski used it to commit crimes as Paste Pot Pete in Strange Tales #104 (1963). Initially dressed as a stereotypical artist (complete with floppy beret), Paste Pot Pete shot streams of sticky white fluid (ahem) at the Torch several times before finally changing his name to the Trapster (a founding member of the Frightful Four). However, despite the new name, heroes and villains alike always enjoy reminding the Trapster about his original name…sending him into fits of shame and fury!
With that, our symphony of supervillain suckitude mercifully comes to an end. After all, a mind can only take so much of flame-throwing banjos, rocket-powered roller skates, and Voodoo chicken suits before its recognition of true quality begins to erode. So, read some classic literature…listen to some great composers…sip some fine wines…until your discernment of quality is once again razor-sharp.
Then come back for the inevitable (Really Bad) Bad Guys, Part IV...if you dare!