- Books, Literature, and Writing
Five Really Lame Marvel Characters
This is only the beginning...
In a recent post when it came to identifying really lame characters, I said that I was going after DC first because of its "low hanging fruit". Ironically, I'd found all of the lame characters who, by coincidence, weren't villains. So when I decided to do the same thing with Marvel, I'd start with their heroes, first, and make it about them.
Easier said than done.
I had no problem at all envisioning Stan Lee coming up with really bad characters. After all, if he could come up with "Stripperella" for TV, there was no limit to how low he could go. What I found, however, was a plethora of really lame bad guys. It seems that while Marvel had an absolute knack on creating lame bad guys, that the good guys, no matter how lame they appeared, could always be vindicated one way or another.
I'd have to search a little harder.
But all was not lost. I turned to my Official Marvel Universe Handbook and began to peruse even deeper and managed to find at least nine candidates and whittled them down to the five worst.
Let's begin with the painfully obvious.
Howard the Duck - Trapped in a World He Never Made
I think the same place in George Lucas's mind that came up with the Jar Jar Binks character also thought doing a movie on Marvel Comics' least marketable character, Howard the Duck, was a good idea. It was such an epic failure that I think Lucas gets a facial tick anytime he hears the name.
The character was a being from an alternate reality Earth where the dominant life form were ducks. Through the intervention of Garko the Man-Frog, the cosmic axis shifted and he found himself on our earth at the Florida everglades - where the Nexus of All Realities is (in the middle of the Man Thing's Swamp). He meets and rescues a woman, Beverly Switzler, who becomes his companion and sometimes girl friend. Howard is a duck who does not have wings and can not fly. His only hero quality is that he fights using the little known art of Quack-Fu (whatever that is).
Howard the Duck was one of those characters that Marvel thought, "Okay, he's a talking duck. Let's give him a cigar and hat... and that'll make him funny." I can usually picture him with a gravely Brooklyn voice that every character who smokes a cigar in the Marvel Universe has... including Ben Grimm, the Thing, and J. Jonah Jameson. Howard was more a vehicle for social commentary rather than one to be taken seriously. This did not stop him from becoming part of the mainstream Marvel Universe.
Characters like Howard's continue to keep cropping up in Marvel. I don't know if this is a tribute to Jack Kirby or whether it's some really twisted and stagnant machine that can't create new characters. In any event, these characters don't die easily.
The next... case in point...
Pip the Troll - Sidekick to Adam Warlock
Can you hear it now? It's in the Marvel Bullpen.
"Hey guys! I have a great idea for a new character! He's a guy who becomes a troll. He has hooves, but he's only three feet tall... and smokes a cigar! That makes him funny!" Yup, they just keep churning them out... just like that.
Okay, seriously, this is his origin. Pip the Troll was Prince Gofern of the planet Laxidazia. One night he decided to party with bunch of satyr-like trolls who spiked his drink with a mutagenic hallucinagenic ale. This turned the prince into a troll. He was then disowned by his family and found refuge with the equally lonely Adam Warlock. Together they wandered the galaxy and had adventures together.
Anyone who's read Rip Van Winkle knows it's a bad idea to party with the fairy folks. It never turns out well.
Just to illustrate that these characters are hard to kill off, Pip was killed off by Thanos the Mad Titan who essentially lobotomized him. Adam Warlock found Pip's dying body and absorbed him into his soul gem where his spirit lived happily. Pip was resurrected during the events of the Infinity Gauntlet. Adam Warlock gave him a new body which was made into a troll form to look like his old one.
Pip, for the longest time, was guardian to the space infinity gem. This gave him the ability to teleport wherever he wanted to.
Again, his character is very much like the Ben Grimm, Nick Fury, J. Jonah Jameson, Wolverine, cigar smoking, gruff, wise-cracker that Marvel has an endless supply of.
Take a good look at this guy... a good long look. Is that the stupidest costume you've ever seen?
Not many people have heard of Captain Ultra. I think one of the reasons why he's so incredibly lame is that he got his start as a Marvel Supervillain. He was recruited to be part of the Wizard's Frightful Four (enemy of the Fantastic Four). At first, he was great fit. He flies. He can lift nine, count em, nine tons. He has superhuman endurance. He has X-ray vision, and super breath. And he can become intangible, too!
He's like the poor man's Superman!
Unfortunately, he's more like the poor man's Martian Manhunter - he's a pyrophobe. Any flame as small as one made from a cigarette lighter will make him faint. NOT THE GUY WHO SHOULD BE FIGHTING THE HUMAN TORCH.
Here's the sad part - DC Comics made a character like this that actually works. Jonn Jonzz, the Martian Manhunter, has been in almost every incarnation of the Justice League. His staying power has been around since the fifties.
For some reason, Joe Sinnot, his creator, could not make it work.
Maybe, it was the costume.
Impossible Man - Most Annoying Character EVER
Impossible Man is the character you bring on after a very dark story arc. I usually see him on an annual issue of some title, like the X-men or the Silver Surfer. Most of the time, though, he can be found making a guest appearance in The Fantastic Four. He is the brainchild of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby to be a prankster and a hedonist.
The Impossible Man is from the planet Poppup. We don't know his real name because Poppupians don't have names. Everyone on planet Poppup knows who each other is because they share a collective consciousness as they reproduce asexually. Poppupians have the natural ability to teleport and to shape shift (they can't change their colors, so they're usually purple and green constructs - most often impersonates the Hulk and Galactus). When they teleport, it's usually accompanied by a small "pop".
He is, in essence, the Marvel version of Mr. Mxyzptlk - he's not really evil though, he's more a practical joker whose presence causes enough chaos to warrant immediate and violent disemboweling. To his credit, he took on Klaw and the Molecule Man simultaneously and beat them. Other than that, his presence is a big pain in the butt. His mission usually revolves around some kind of juvenile task that he's involved with like a scavenger hunt or televising a Hulk battle.
But, oh my GOD, is he annoying! The common strategy to making him leave is IGNORING HIM.
Puck - From the Great White North, eh.
If anything should have caused war between Canada and the US, it should have been this character: Puck.
John Byrne, when he came up with Canada's superteam, Alpha Flight, decided we need a small, hairy, cigar smoking dwarf who can round out the team. He smokes a cigar and HE'S CANADIAN! That's funny!
Let's look at this in a bright light. The dwarfs have a comic book hero who fights crime. His powers? Well, he's super dense... like rubber. And he can cartwheel really fast. When he does this, he's like a huge Canadian hockey puck.
You can't make this up.
I'm treating his background a little lightly. Initially, he (Eugene Judd) was a six foot five giant, who made his body the prison for an Arabian demon called Black Raazer. Every time Judd was cut by the demon, he lost a foot of his height. When he made his body the demon's prison, he stopped aging... but he was trapped in the body of a dwarf and is in constant pain from the demon trying to escape.
Now, I know that there is a precedence to his character. The Golden Age Atom from DC was very much like Puck - a short guy with no powers - but he could fight really well. How do you use a character like that on a super team? It can be done if the writing is exceptional.
Unfortunately, Alpha Flight really never got to that level of excellence and Puck's potential as a character really wasn't explored well.
Little cigar smoking characters apparently have a long shelf life with Marvel. Apparently no one got the memo that cigars may not be the best influence on children reading comics - not that I've seen any teenagers smoking any Cohibas, but that's beside the point. I need to ask if there's a stipulation in the creative lines for any Marvel writer that when they come up with a new super team that one has to be a small creature that smokes a stogie.
Who knows? There are stranger things in heaven and earth, Horatio.
To their credit, Marvel makes some good heroes. Some of them start out really lame with lame powers and evolve to some pretty dangerous characters. I will leave that topic for another article, but three immediately spring to mind.
What will get the full attention of my fury will be when I bring up five Marvel villains who really need to be brought into the light of day.
What do you think?
Who's the most lame hero?
© 2012 Christopher Peruzzi