When it comes to creating comic book characters, nothing is out of the realm of possibilities. In that magical world a nerd can be transformed into an incredibly-cool crimefighter with just one bite from a radioactive spider. Even villains can become fascinating when an evil genius is imbued with the powers of a Norse god.
With all of those possibilities, it seems it would be difficult to create a character that just fizzles. As any reader of comic books can tell you, however, there are no shortage of characters over the years who have failed to rise to the greatness of Spider-Man, Loki, or even the Sandman. This article takes a look at some of the worst characters to grace the pages of comic books.
DISCLAIMER: I am an unabashed Marvel Comics fan. I can’t help but notice that the majority of these characters seem to come from DC Comics. I don’t think that’s personal bias showing up, but in the interests of full disclosure, keep in mind that this is written from a Marvel-centric point of view.
If DC Comics was attempting to create a character who had the power to cause people to ask, “Huh?” upon hearing about him, Dogwelder certainly is at the top of the list. Dogwelder’s superpower is dogwelding. “What is dogwelding?” you may ask. Dogwelding is the ability to take dogs and weld them to the faces of adversaries. Yes, you read that correctly.
Try to imagine the conversation at the table when this character was created:
Creator: “Hey, I have this idea for a new guy…. He’s more-or-less psychotic and goes around welding dogs to people’s faces. I think we’ll call him ‘Dogwelder.'”
Editor: “Sounds great. Go for it.”
Then, after a few weeks, the proofs for the first appearance of Dogwelder appear on the editor’s desk.
Editor: “You mean you were serious about this? I thought you were pulling my leg!”
Creator: “Trust me on this. This will be bigger than Wolverine!”
Editor: “Well…. I don’t know… But the deadline is today, and it’s too late to come up with something else. Let’s go with it.”
This is the only possible way I can imagine Dogwelder ever getting the chance to see print. If it happened in any way where more than one person actually thought this was a good idea, then history will record that the decline and fall of western civilization began in a DC Comics brainstorming session.
A number of comic book characters have gone by the name “Black Condor.” The first made his appearance in 1940 in Crack Comics #1.
What is it about Black Condor that earns him a place on this list? His superpower is flight, which is a generally-acknowledged cool power. The problem is with how he got this power in the first place.
In an unabashed rip-off of the Tarzan origin, Richard Grey, Jr. was an infant when the rest of his family was killed. They were in Outer Mongolia at the time. Like Tarzan, the baby was rescued by a kindly animal. It wasn’t an ape that saved young Richard from the dangers of the wilderness, however; it was a kindly condor. This magnanimous bird raised the boy as one of her own, teaching him to fly. Eventually, Richard returns to the United States and becomes an intrepid crime fighter.
Shall we list the problems with this? We have already acknowledged the similarities to Tarzan, but that’s probably the least egregious issue. Granted, every science fiction story requires some element of suspending disbelief, but the best stories have at least a tiny sliver of possibility that the plot could happen. That’s where things spin out of control for Black Condor. In the first place, he doesn’t get his power of flight from mutation, cosmic rays, or a magic ring. Apparently all it takes to learn how to fly is for a bird to teach you how to do it. I wonder how many times he had to be pushed out of the nest before gravity suddenly gave up trying to hold young Richard down.
Oh… and let’s not overlook one teeny, tiny detail: condors don’t live in Mongolia!
Oh, where shall we begin with Arm-Fall-Off-Boy?
This DC Comics hero of the 30th century takes on the crime of that advanced civilization with his superpower. What mind-blowing abilities do the superheroes 1,000 years from now have? The amazing powers of Arm-Fall-Off-Boy are — wait for it — his arms fall off. He is then able to use those arms as clubs to whack the super baddies. Of course, if both of his arms fall off, he would be reduced to grasping one of them between his teeth, since the loss of arms tends to limit one’s options for fighting.
Arm-Fall-Off-Boy makes this list for a number of reasons. First of all, this name really needs help. Any number of alternatives readily comes to mind. He could be known as Regeneration Man, The Arms Reduction Treaty, or even ARMageddon. Having the name “Arm-Fall-Off-Boy” is akin to Wolverine going by the moniker “Razor-Sharp-Indestructible-Pokey-Things-Coming-Out-of-Hands-Man.” Secondly, he’s not really a boy. At the very least, he should be “Arms-Fall-Off-Man.” Then there is the superpower itself. In what way does this equip him to fight villains — particularly those of the 30th century? A non-super-powered person could do just as well by grabbing a club. For that matter, a non-super-powered person could grab a club with each hand.
Blue Snowman is one of Wonder Woman’s enemies. Let’s overlook, for a moment, the appearance of this nefarious performer of evil, which bears more of a resemblance to an oxygen-deprived Oliver Hardy than an actual snowman. Instead, let’s take a peek at the creative meeting where this character was conceived.
Editor: “OK, we need a new villain for Wonder Woman. Anyone have any ideas?”
Creator: “How about a guy who has the power to freeze things?”
Editor: “Hmm…. There are a few of those out there already. What would make this one unique?”
Creator: “Well, we could make him into a snowman.”
Editor: “Hmmm…. Maybe…. I don’t know, though… Kids like snowmen. They’re kind of cute. I can’t imagine a snowman being evil.”
Creator: “How about if we make him blue?”
Editor: *snapping fingers* “Perfect. That will work. But I’m still not entirely convinced…. So we’ve got a guy who turns into a blue snowman and can freeze things, but we need something else that will make this creature truly villainous and make even Wonder Woman live in mortal terror.”
Creator: *slapping his hand on the table in excitement* “I’ve got it! The Blue Snowman doesn’t actually turn into a snowman — It’s just a costume that he puts on, and then — get this! It’s not actually a dude! The true identity of the Blue Snowman will be a woman, who pretends to be a man, who dresses up as a snowman! Oh… and did I mention that he — I mean she — is blue?”
And what else can we say? That, in a nutshell, is the character of the Blue Snowman. Incidentally, a nutshell is exactly where this idea belongs.
As it turns out, Marvel cannot entirely escape this list. With the creation of Eye-Scream, even the creators of Spider-Man, Iron Man, and the Fantastic Four earn a place on this parade of horribles.
Eye-Scream is a mutant. His powers? He can transform into ice-cream. Once again, let’s take a peek into the brainstorming session where this one was concocted.
Editor: “OK, I think we’re all set, except we still haven’t decided which super villain to use to get our new series, Obnoxio the Clown, off to the roaring success we all know it will be. Any ideas?”
Creator: “What about a guy who can make himself into a non-solid state so he can sneak into really secure places like Xavier’s School?”
Editor: “Don’t we have enough of those types of guys already? I mean, that’s basically what Sandman does, isn’t it?”
Creator: “Ok… Well, suppose the thing he can change into is ice-cream?”
Editor: *raising eyebrows* “Seriously? You think a guy who can change into ice-cream is going to give the X-Men a run for their money, so much so that they have to reach out to Obnoxio the Clown to bail them out?”
Creator: “No, listen…. Not just ice-cream… He can turn into any flavor of ice-cream!”
Editor: “Hmmm…. Ok, now I’m starting to get intrigued. But remember, if he’s sneaking into Xavier’s School, there’s no shortage of mutants there who have some kind of power over heat, and they could melt him.”
Creator: “That’s the ingenious things about this guy. We’ll give him an unstable molecule refrigeration system! Oh! And we’ll call him ‘Eye-Scream.’ Get it?”
Editor: “Sounds awesome! Let me call Stan Lee and run it past him first. No… wait…. On second thought, this is such a great idea, I think I’ll just surprise him with it!”
As it turns out, Eye-Scream made his first — and last — appearance in Obnoxio the Clown #1. Curiously enough, there was not a second issue.
Ebony White earns his way onto this list out of sheer offensiveness. If “cringeworthiness” was a superpower, Ebony White would rank up there with the Hulk in terms of power. Originally designed as a sidekick to the 1940s hero The Spirit, Ebony embodies all of the offensive stereotypes of the day for African Americans. He is depicted with massive lips, huge eyes, and graces the pages with such dialogue as, “Doggone all women! Ah wish ah didn’t lak ’em lak ah do!”
In a genuinely brilliant Marvel Comics series of the 1980s, Strikeforce Morituri, people go through a process that is guaranteed to kill them within a year in exchange for a random superpower they cannot predict. They do this so earth can fight against alien oppressors. In one poignant scene, a woman reveals that she gave up decades of her life merely to obtain the power to cause flowers to bloom early. Readers are left with the deepest sympathy for the poor woman who gained a power of absolutely no value in the fight against earth’s adversaries. Even a really lame power such as that, however, has to be infinitely more desirable than the powers of Stone Boy.
Stone Boy can turn into stone. While that may seem rather lame to you, let me add that he can also….. Well, actually, that’s about it. He can turn into stone. While he is in this stone state, he is unable to move, talk, or do anything of any significance. His primary contribution to the battle against evil is that other superheroes have occasionally picked him up and hurled him at bad guys or used him to break a window. Of course, a rock would have been just as valuable and infinitely less annoying.
On its face, Snowflame has the potential to be a reasonably-interesting bad guy. He has the powers of super strength, endurance, and blasting power. It’s not the most creative of powers, but with good writing, he at least has potential. So why does he show up on this list of the worst comic book characters? Let’s take one more look into the minds of his creators:
Editor: “We need a really good villain for New Guardians #2. Any ideas?”
Creator: “Well, I have been kicking around this idea for a guy with super strength and endurance, who can blast people. I could have him ready for that issue, I suppose.”
Editor: “Hmmm…. Sounds rather generic. What makes him special?”
Creator: “Well, I’ve got a cool name for him: Snowflame.”
Editor: “Snowflame? Hmmm… That’s catchy. What does he have to do with snow?”
Editor: “And flame?”
Creator: “Nothing. But it’s a cool name, isn’t it?”
Editor: “Yes, it is. No denying that. We should do something, though, that would tie his powers to his name. Something to do with snow….”
Creator: “How about if we make Snowflame be a woman, who dresses as a man, who dresses as a snowman? A blue snowman, at that!”
Editor: “No… My predecessor ran with that idea. How do you think I got this job in the first place? We need some kind of new idea related to snow….”
Creator: *slapping his palm on the table* “I’ve got it! Don’t druggies refer to cocaine as ‘snow’? How about if Snowflame gets his superpowers by snorting coke?”
Editor: *snapping his fingers* “That’s it! What a perfect idea for a character of a magazine whose principal demographic is teenage boys! How quickly can you have Snowflame ready?”
That has to be the way this guy was designed. The only other plausible explanation was that the editor and creator were snorting something themselves.
Alas, that is, however, Snowflame’s claim to fame. He gets his powers by snorting cocaine. He showed up in an issue that was designed to drive home the message of “Say no to drugs.” The takeaway from that issue was, “Kids, don’t do drugs, because if you do, you might end up with superpowers, too.”