The World's Worst Super Heroes Extravaganza!!11
posted by Mike on 8/08/02
For as long as man has trod the earth, he has had heroes. Whether it be men of great strength (Hercules, Samson) or the very gods who created them, we have always seemed to look towards those greater than ourselves for inspiration and hope. And the cultural icons known as super heroes are no exception.
Where did super heroes originate? Do we, as already mentioned, go back to ancient mythology? Or perhaps not that far? Do we look to the beginnings of the comic book industry, or does it go further back than that? In my recollection, the oldest hero archetype to fit the super hero mold (Hell, in some ways, he defined it) was Zorro.
El Zorro, which is Spanish for “The Fox,” sprang forth from the mind of pulp writer Johnston McCulley in 1919, the hero of his serialized novel “The Curse of Capsitrano.” It spawned sixty-four successful sequels, wherein the masked vigilante fought against evil in the Pueblo de Los Angeles. They proved so popular, in fact, that the following year saw the silent film debut of the Fox in the Douglas Fairbanks classic “The Mark of Zorro.” It is loved the world wide as one of the true classics of silent film. Twenty years later, Tyrone Power and Basil Rathbone starred in the “talkie” remake, which later spawned a highly popular Disney television series in 1957 starring Guy Williams of “Lost In Space” fame. It still holds the record for the most expensive western series ever produced for television. His fame has bled over to the cartoon world (CBS’s “The New Adventures Of Zorro” in 1981) and in comedies (George Hamilton’s “Zorro, The Gay Blade,” circa 1980.)
Zorro was the template on which comic book mainstays such as Batman were built upon. He had an alter ego. His mansion sat on the edge of a cliff, underneath which was a cave, his secret lair (which he accessed through a hidden door behind his fireplace.) He fought for the oppressed, while all the while parading his alter ego right under the noses of the powers that be in true Bruce Wayne style fashion. And he did it all with nothing more than a sword and a bullwhip, often using both to brandish the infamous “Z” mark on everything from walls to the backs of soldiers’ trousers to strike fear into the hearts of evildoers.
Which makes one question: what makes a superhero? Is it the powers they possess, or the good deeds they perform? Judging by the comics industry, it would seem that it is a combination of both. While Superman has vast powers derived from his Kryptonian blood, men like Zorro and Batman have the power of their keen intellect and vast wealth.
But what do we make of the superhero who has neither, or too much of one and not enough of the other? Is a hero that is considered such soley on the powers they possess really a hero at all? And if not, why do writers persist in subjecting us to such lame duck role models? Year after year, one worthless superhero on top of another, whether it be in movies, television, or comics, assault the senses of the public; a public that has become so desensitized to mediocrity that even films like “The Shadow” and “The Phantom” made money hand over fist at the box office. It’s high time that such a travesty be exposed, so that we as readers and consumers can see these characters for what they are: complete and total shit. And so I present to you, constant reader, the top ten worst super heroes of all time.
Up, up, and…no wait…up, down, and… ah fuck it!
10) The Greatest American Hero:
There is nothing more annoying to the true comic fan than a character made for no other purpose than to lampoon the superhero concept. Such was the Greatest American Hero, a monumentally shitty TV show centered around one Ralph Hinkley, an everyday joe blow who one night is visited by aliens. They leave with him a suit that grants him special powers with which to combat evil. So far, so good, right? Well, being the typical American that he is, Ralph loses the instruction manual to the suit. From there on out, the series throws all of its potential down the tubes and becomes one long, drawn out, reoccurring joke. We watch with our faces partially covered in embarrassment as Ralph constantly crash lands into everything when he attempts to fly, yet somehow always manages to say the day, not unlike goofball secret agent Maxwell Smart, only with less fashion sense. It reached its all time low point (in my opinion) in one particular episode, wherein his best friend, an agent with the FBI (whom the aliens had originally chosen as the wearer of the suit) is possessed full-on Exorcist style by the spirit of a dead woman. The only redeeming feature this show had (apart from its theme song “Believe It Or Not”, which became a #1 hit single) is that it ended. Rumor has it that there are plans in place to make it into a full length motion picture, which just goes to show you that Hollywood has yet to probe its deepest depths.
A rare photo of Lou Ferrigno’s audition for Teen Wolf
During the 70’s, The Incredible Hulk was one of the most popular shows on television. Millions of viewers tuned in each week as Bill Bixby wandered from town to town, solving everyone’s problems with the worst case of schizophrenia the world has ever seen. Or at least, up until the Fox network unleashed Werewolf on its audience in 1987. Werewolf concerned the life of one Alex Cord, a man who’d been brutally attacked (and infected) by a werewolf, and much like Bixby’s David “Bruce” Banner character, was falsely accused for a crime he didn’t commit. And so he wandered from town to town, searching for the werewolf who spawned him, solving problems with each consecutive “wolf out.” He had no real powers, other than the fact that every so often, a bleeding pentagram would appear on his palm, and he would magically transform into a man in a werewolf costume that had apparently been stolen from the set of The Howling. And just as Banner would always come so close to finding a cure, Cord would always get within arms reach of killing his attacker (thus ending his curse) only to have his opportunity slip between his hairy fingers. He, like the Hulk, was portrayed not as a true hero, but as a tortured soul who just happened to do good deeds by accident. The show was thankfully cancelled after one season, making room for future Hulk rip-offs to follow in its footsteps.
When not fighting crime, MANTIS enjoys eating the heads of his lovers…
This utterly forgettable show was yet another Zorro/Batman wannabe, concerning a rich (and physically disabled) businessman who, under cover of night, donned a mechanical suit that both gave him the ability to walk AND gave him superhuman strength. Every night, he would escape to the confines of his underground/underwater lair, hop into his MANTIS hover car, and patrol the skies above the city streets, searching for villainry which he could combat with his ability to jump really high and reign down stun darts of justice. Unfortunately, no hero is complete without an archrival. MANTIS had no super villains with which to feud. Much like the horrendous live action Spider-man series from the 70’s, MANTIS fought against boring antagonists, such as government corruption and terrorism. The viewing public could watch enough of that on the nightly news. They didn’t want realism. They wanted two-headed mad scientists who could shoot death rays from their rectum, and so the show suffered a quick, quiet death, as did MANTIS, who actually died in the final episode.
Batman Wannabe… and annoying one note joke… AWAY!!!!
7) Blue Falcon and Dynomutt:
Shit, where to begin? Thanks to those pesky kids and their stupid Great Dane thwarting the plans of evil amusement park owners everywhere, cartoons starring talking dogs became the hot ticket during the 70’s. So the deep thinkers at Hanna Barbera chose to blend that formula with that of the superhero. Thus Blue Falcon and Dynomutt were born. Blue Falcon was a complete rip-off of Batman, both in his look, his weapons, and his modis operandi. The real star of the show was his sidekick Dynomutt (also known as The Dog Wonder), a sort of canine precursor to Inspector Gadget. Hidden within Dynomutt’s bionic body were scores of weapons and devices, which were almost always malfunctioning, producing quite unfunny comic results. Half the time, Dynomutt came closer to killing himself and his partner than the villains did, making one wonder why Falcon never bothered to just ship his worthless canine ass back to the Acme Company from which he no doubt sprang. Kids didn’t buy into it, and the show was quickly cancelled, though Dynomutt went on to guest star in a few Scooby-Doo episodes, and was a reoccurring character on Laff-a-lypics.
Evildoers and Oreo cookies… BEWARE!!!
6) Meteor Man
For some damned fool reason, Robert Townsend got it in his mind to create the ultimate black superhero. Knowing, however, that no one would take a black superhero seriously (*coughBladecough*) (*sneezeSpawnsneeze*) Townsend chose to instead lampoon the superhero myth and created Meteor Man, the story of a down-on-his-luck Jimmy Stewartish character living in the hood, who is one day struck by a meteor, and blessed with superpowers. Along with the prerequisite powers such as super breath, super speed, heat ray vision, super strength, and the ability to fly, Meteor Man could also speak dog (???) and could absorb the contents of any book by touching it…but could only retain that knowledge for a few minutes before losing it, leading to scenes such as the climactic final battle, wherein he touches a novel about Bruce Lee and briefly becomes a master of Jeet Kun Do. The stupidest aspect of the character, however, was that he had a crippling fear of heights. And so in a running gag that would’ve made Ralph Hinkley green with super envy, Meteor Man would patrol the streets at night, hovering less than six inches above the ground. Add to this the fact that his sidekick was a gangsta rap spewing James Earl Jones, decked out to look like a member of Kid N’ Play in the year 2035, and that his archrival was a drug dealer whose most distinguishing aspect was that he and all his henchmen (a gang called the Golden Lords) dyed their hair bleach blonde (a sure sign of the White Devil’s influence) and what we have here is nothing short of a cinematic abortion. The film made less money at the box office than a homeless guy begging for change in front of the AMC 24.
The WB Proudly presents Homeboys In Shitty Capes
Blankman couldn’t even manage to rip off its content from real super heroes. Its writers chose instead to emulate the astounding success (tongue buried deeply in cheek) of its predecessor Meteor Man by releasing yet another black superhero comedy. This one starred Damon Wayans as a reclusive genius dork who makes crime fighting weapons out of everyday household items. When he begins his crime fighting career, he has no name for himself, and no real look. His costume is fashioned from wool long johns and his mother’s overcoat. So the media names him Blankman. His sidekick is his dumber, yet vastly more sensible brother (played by David Alan Grier) who is so indistinguishable that he quickly earns the monicker of “The Other Guy.” And that’s how they announce themselves throughout the picture. Blankman and Other Guy. Seriously. The only similarity Blankman had to an actual superhero was that he had an almost crippling weakness, namely Robin Givens, who by kissing him on the cheek elicits his first orgasm and renders him completely helpless for five minutes (though it seemed like an eternity.) Much like any other movie starring Damon Wayans, Blankman bombed. Perhaps his In Living Color fans were expecting Handi-Man revisited, but were disappointed when Wayans attempted to give them something smarter, only to end up being even more retarded than a retarded man.
Super Duper Doo, where are you?
4) Wendy, Marvin, and Wonder Dog:
As already mentioned, hip kids and happening dogs were all over Saturday morning TV during the 70’s, and the SuperFriends were no exception. In their debut season, their comedy sidekicks were a very Shaggyish chump named Marvin, a Daphne clone named Wendy, and their caped canine crusader pal, Wonder Dog. Now mind you, none of them had actual powers, other than the ability to fall for the simplest of traps and induce projectile vomiting from the show’s viewers. They merely wandered around from set piece to set piece, getting into trouble so the real heroes would have something to do. Originally advertised as an animated version of DC’s Justice League Of America comic, the cartoon was initially rejected by longtime fans due to its comedic nature, and the fact that there were no super villains. All of the shows revolved around some ecological problem or other foolishness, filling the 70’s requirement that all children’s television have at least five minutes of educational content. The cartoon was also criticized for its lack of ethnic representation inside the Halls Of Justice, which led to the debut of number three on our list…
Now if we could just hire Turbo Turban, our collection would be complete!
3) The Ethnic Friends:
Apparently, the SuperFriends’ lack of color angered the parents of non-white children everywhere, prompting the producers to search the annuls of DC history for ethnic heroes to include on the show’s roster. Unfortunately, DC didn’t have any. For that kind of gritty realism, you had to go to Marvel, where there were Blades, Deathloks, and Black Panthers aplenty. So with no other alternative, the writers were forced to create new heroes from scratch, thus producing four of the most worthless super heroes ever to disgrace a TV screen.
First off, there was the Apache Chief, a Native American who’d been granted the ability to grow to fifty feet in height by his tribe’s medicine man. It’s astounding how useless the ability turned out to be. Why he never bothered to just step on the Darth Vader helmet that the Legion of Doom lived in and turn them into Lex Luthor Starkist is beyond me. Perhaps he considered that littering, which would bring a giant tear to his war painted cheek.
Then you had the Samurai. Nevermind the fact that he looked like a young Jerry Garcia in a bright green komono. Nevermind the fact that his accent was about as Asian as Kevin Kostner’s accent in Robin Hood was British. His superpower, the ability to turn the bottom half of his body into a tornado, was utterly useless, not to mention had nothing to do with being a samurai. Now if he could’ve sprouted katanas from his forehead, or shot energy stars from his underarms, at least that would be somewhere in the ballpark of the traditional samurai warrior. But no… He does a barely passable Tasmanian Devil impersonation. Somehow I don’t see Asian-American kids finding this uplifting.
Next up was El Dorado, a Mexican superhero. Other than the ability to become invisible (and have a costume that looked like it was pulled from the Birdcage’s costume rack) El Dorado was totally forgettable. In fact, I myself had forgotten him, up until this afternoon when I was doing research for this article. Other than the possibility of having Super Enchilada Breath, I can’t think of anything he might’ve done that was even in the slightest bit remarkable. Though I’m pretty sure he was banging Wonder Woman on the backside, which would actually make Elizabeth Shue only the SECOND woman in history to get nailed by an invisible man.
Finally, there was Black Vulcan. Black Vulcan could shoot bolts of electricity from his hands, and was basically a rehash from DC’s one Afro-American hero, Black Lightning.
His costume was a cross between the Flash’s get up and a black leotard. On the rare occasion that he was actually in an episode, his role was usually to replace Robin as the guy who stands around and emotes about everything, ie “Great LIGHTNING, Superman!” Whenever he was teamed with another of the Super Friends, he always took on the sidekick role, the Tonto to the other’s Lone Ranger, much to Apache Chief’s chagrin. His origins were never discussed, most likely because the writers never bothered to come up with one. And if they had, it would most likely have turned out to be something ethnic and quasi-racist, such as a man who gets electrocuted in the drive through of the KFC. He had no fan following whatsoever. After all, everyone knows that’s there’s only one REAL black Vulcan, and his name is Tuvok.
Live long, and ACTIVATE!!!
2) The Wonder Twins:
The Wonder Twins replaced Wendy Marvin and Wonder Dog as the comic relief for the show during the second season, though one could hardly call them an improvement. They looked like teenage Vulcans, hailed from the planet Exor (I suspect one of the Superfriends writers was a Trekkie) and were done up in matching purple jumpsuits. Rather than a dog, their pet was a blue monkey named Gleek, which just reveals the fact that the writers stole them lock stock and barrel from the sidekick characters on Space Ghost. They did have one major point over the Super Mystery Gang, in that they actually had powers. But they had possibly the most useless powers ever. First off, they could only use their powers together, by touching their fists together and screaming “Wonder Twin powers… ACTIVATE!” Zan, the male twin, could take on the form of any water source, while Jayna, the female, could take on the form of any animal. This usually resulted in scenes where Jayna would turn into a gorilla, Zan would turn into a puddle of water, then Gleek would grab a bucket, pour Zan into it, and then hand it to Jayna, who would swing through the trees, dump Zan in the bad guys path, and watch the not-so-hilarious results as the villain slipped and fell. That’s an awful lot of work to accomplish the same result as Superman breathing on the bad guy. The only instance that I can see where the Twins would actually serve a real purpose is if the fate of the universe depended on Superman impregnating an Earth woman, whose vagina would be no match for his Rod of Steel. Thus Zan would take the form of a water-based lubricant, and Jayna would take the form of a declawed gerbil. “Wonder Twin powers… MASTURBATE!!!”
Which finally brings us to…
Faster than a speeding bus, more powerful than people without capes!
1) The Puma Man:
Puma Man was an Italian Z movie that hit the US midnight cable scene in the early 80’s. It didn’t become “popular” until it was lampooned on Mystery Science Theater 3000, and with due cause. It sucks more dick than the entire cast of Queer As Folk. Puma Man’s only distinguishable power is his ability to fly, which he apparently learned to do from the Greatest American Hero. He learns of his powers when a humungous Mexican throws him off the roof of a fifty story building, and he doesn’t die, thus proving that he is a “Puma Man.” This makes me wonder how many hopefuls fell short of the mark, and fell hard tp the asphalt. His archrival is played by Donald Pleasance of Halloween fame, who reprises his role of the typical James Bond evil mastermind, who seeks the “Puma Mask,” a golden mask which allows anyone who wears it to control mens’ minds. If this sounds like the worst film you could possibly imagine, that’s probably because it is. The special effects are neither special, nor effective. His costume is comprised of a cape, khaki jeans, and a long sleeved shirt (he must have raided Marvin’s closet.) His flying through the air must break some kind of strange sound barrier, as it instantly causes cheesy disco music to blare across the landscape. His only weaknesses are drunken script writers and a budget that would make Ed Wood spin in his grave. Thankfully the producers chose not to make any sequels, but instead chose instead to go back to making shitty Hercules movies starring Lou Ferrigno’s pectorals and Charlton Heston’s voice.
So what have we learned from this torture? Should we all make like John Ritter in Hero At Large and become super heroes ourselves when what we’re offered doesn’t make the grade? We have always looked to heroes as the way we would like to be. So is there really people out there who have dreamed of being a Puma Man, or a Vulcan monkey from the planet Exor? And if so, is it any wonder that the comic book industry is dying a slow death? We as a nation need to raise our standards when we look for super-powered role models. Otherwise, your kids may one day come home with a George W. Bush lunchbox, and I don’t think that’s a world any of us would want to live in…