Part FOUR?! Are there really that many silly, cheesy, and downright lousy bad guys out there in the comic book universe?
Oh, you have no idea.
In fact, the more research I do, it seems that A-listers like Two-Face, Lex Luthor, and the Green Goblin are in the vast minority compared with the teeming masses of mediocrity that pass for comic book villainy.
For example, for every A-list Batman villain, there seems to be five or six losers like the Human Eraser, a “rubber headed” felon who, counter to the cover of Batman #188 (1966), was not able to erase matter. Rather, he only covered up (or “erased”) the evidence of other criminals’ crimes for 20% of the take.
Of course, Paper Man was only one of a long line of losers dreamed up by the uncanny Kanigher. Three more of them combined forces in Wonder Woman #141 (1963) to destroy the Amazing Amazon. I previously covered Angle Man back in Part II, which leaves Mouse Man (a six-inch guy in a yellow mouse costume who could control rodents) and the Human Fireworks (a.k.a. Fireworks Man), who could turn into “a giant, whirling exploding pinwheel” while emitting a highly annoying HREEEE sound.
Looking like a cross between Buck Rogers and a Conehead from Saturday Night Live, Brain Storm’s dorky helmet augmented his intelligence and allowed him to control the actions of others…such as making kids of 1964 buy Justice League of America #32 against their better judgment.
Speaking of acting against one’s better judgment, what possessed the folks at DC to give “launch clearance” for the Moon Beast? Appearing in Challengers of the Unknown #35 (1963), this alien monster had “built-in organic engines” that could shoot jets of flaming gas from its rear! KAWOOSH!
Instead of saving kids, the Garbage Man exploited them in Power Pack #32 (1987). How? By forming a mutant street gang named “Trash” to help operate his drug running operation. Essentially just a huge fat guy wearing a t-shirt, Garbage Man’s team was made up of equally lame members…such as Crazy Legs and Airhead.
When you’re creating a cosmic character embodying the wonders of the universe, what sort of face would you chose for such a lofty being? Why, Whoopi Goldberg, of course! Yes, it’s true…Whoopi Goldberg was obviously the face of Numinus in Power Pack #51 (1989). When you pair this with Whoopi’s then-concurrent role of Guinan, a mysterious cosmic bartender in Star Trek: The Next Generation, what was it about the dreadlocked comedienne that people associated with cosmic wisdom? Haven’t they ever watched The View?
As the same team who brought us Garbage Man, Trash, and Numinus, writer Louise Simonson and artist Jon Bogdanove also inflicted us with Bloodthirst in Superman: The Man of Steel #29 (1994). Looking like a collision between Mr. Clean and a kinky S&M queen, Bloodthirst was a 1,000 year-old demon that could change form and spew smelly green gas from various nozzles and orifices.
As you may gather from Bloodthirst, compelling comic book villainy had fallen on hard times in the early 90’s. The reason? Responding to the initial success of upstart publisher Image Comics, DC and Marvel began flooding the market with characters sporting ridiculous Image-esque names and belt pouch/shoulder pad costumes. One of these forgettable clowns was Blistik, who, contrary to his epically lame name, was not a soothing lip balm but a self-proclaimed champion of New York’s quality of life. Sounds good, right? Well, not when Captain America #422 (1993) depicted Blistik advocating severe punishment (including the death penalty) for even minor offenses like traffic or noise violations.
Someone truly deserving of severe punishment was Typeface, a disgruntled sign-maker who turned to crime in Peter Parker: Spider-Man #23 (2000). Writing letters on his face and using giant letters for weapons, Typeface was L-A-M-E with a capital “L”.
When it comes to the cover of Spectacular Spider-Man #99 (1985), a quote from Shakespeare’s Macbeth comes to mind: “Out, damned spot! Out, I say!” Gaining the ability to appear and disappear through spot-like space warps, Dr. Jonathan Ohnn resembled a human/Dalmatian hybrid and later joined the aptly named Legion of Losers.
Others who definitely qualified for a Legion of Losers membership card were the Headmen, seen here on the cover of Defenders #33 (1976). Dr. Arthur Nagan (a.k.a. “Gorilla-Man”) was an evil surgeon whose head was transplanted onto a gorilla’s body by vengeful gorillas, while a defective shrinking gas left Dr. Jerold Morgan with a too-small skeletal system and the name “Shrunken Bones”. Joining them was Ruby Thursday, a scientist who decided to replace her own head with a shape changing “organic computer".
I’ve never been much of a pirate fan, so you can imagine how thrilled I was to see Peg-Leg Portia show up in Superman #318 (1977). As pilot of the Cosmic Hound spaceship, the 347 year-old Peg-Leg was kept artificially young by a pack of telekinetic, energy-vomiting space dogs. No…really. However, I have to give writer Martin Pasko credit for (against all odds) making it quite a touching story. No…really.
After energy-vomiting space dogs, there’s really nowhere else to go, is there? How about if we take this opportunity to heal our fragile psyches from cosmic Whoopies and flame-assed moon beasts…and prepare for part five of Bring on the (Really Bad) Bad Guys?
UPDATE: Just a reminder that the Crackin' Skulls contest is still underway...and now with an actual email address to send your entry to (sorry about omitting it before). Just click here to send in your guesses.