Some of the most famous superheroes are named after a pest or are even a pest themselves, but there are plenty of obscure ones that never quite captured the public’s imagination in the same way as the big names. John Barringer, Contributing Head Editor at www.acomicbookblog.com outlines five superheroes you know and love, and five more that you’ve probably never heard of.
5 You Know
From his first appearance in Amazing Fantasy #15, it was obvious that Spider-Man was the next big thing for superheroes – he basically changed the game. Until Spider-Man, teenage characters in superhero comics were usually relegated to the role of sidekick and were never given their own book, but Spider-Man’s popularity and sales paved the way for his own inclusion in the pop culture pantheon, as well as the success of many others.
Also unique to Spider-Man was his flip-flop approach to animal-named superheroes. His powers and abilities were his connection to his name, but his look actually strayed from the typical likeness of a spider. Although, personally, I have always wondered, wouldn’t a real “Spiderman” have the web come out somewhere else other than his wrists?
By 1942 superheroes such as Superman, Batman, and Captain America were selling millions of comics, and Mickey Mouse had his club and had just appeared in the Fantasia movie. Naturally a teaming up of the two ideas was just a matter of time, and thus Mighty Mouse was born. Mostly resembling Superman Mighty Mouse, though he did have a presence in comics, found fame through television, airing for more than thirty years and becoming a cultural icon and staple for children’s programming.
Like most superheroes he’s being rebooted: a Nickelodeon GCI film is set for a 2013 release. And if computer generated furry animal movies like G-Force and Garfield have proven anything, it’s that Mighty Mouse will get a movie before some of the other guys on this list. He’s mightier than any other mouse we’ve found.
The Green Hornet
If you have not heard of the Green Hornet, ask your parents or grandparents; he is one of the more famous heroes from the pre-Superman era. A newspaper publisher by day and crime fighter by night, he usually has only his gun that shoots knock-out gas, his beefed-up car, The Black Beauty, and his assistant, Kato.
The Green Hornet was in the company of other radio and film serial pulp heroes such as The Shadow, The Phantom, Zorro, and the Lone Ranger. And aside from film and radio, the Green Hornet has lived in and out of comics from the early 40’s all the way to a current title, which is released monthly by Dynamite Comics. He had his own television show in the mid 60’s and even has several regular fiction books. Most recently, the Green Hornet has been revamped as a featured film starring Seth Rogen. Catch it at the cinema now.
Made famous from his 1994 Saturday morning cartoon series, The Tick got his start as the mascot for a local comic shop’s newsletter and is an all out parody of the superhero genre. He has the square jaw, the muscular body, and the weird costume, but also works for a newspaper, has a sidekick, is invulnerable, has super strength and “drama power” (which allows his powers to increase as the situation becomes more dramatic) and has no memory of how he became The Tick. It’s suggested he got this way from taking so many blows to the head.
Surprisingly, The Tick has enjoyed success in the comics, on television (with a live show in addition to the cartoon), merchandise, and even a video game. People love superheroes, and apparently they love making fun of superheroes as much.
In 1938 that Superman – the first of the superhero genre – was born. In 1939 Batman hit the scene, quickly challenging Superman for the public’s affection. More than 70 years later, Batman is still one of the most profitable comic books titles: he’s had countless television shows, kids everywhere wear his pajamas to sleep, and as recently as 2008 the franchise set movie ticket records… again. The psychology behind Batman’s popularity has been studied and debated amongst psychiatrists and fanboys since its creation, but one thing remains true: one of the most popular fictional characters of modern times is a rich guy who dresses like a bat.
5 You Don’t Know:
The Red Bee
The Red Bee, created in 1940 (the Golden Age of comics) wasn’t even taken seriously in the beginning of superhero comics and for good reason: Assistant District Attorney Richard Raleigh would put on a red and yellow costume and – with trained bees – fight Nazis and mobsters. He also had a favorite bee named Michael that he kept hidden in his belt buckle.
You would think someone as smart as Richard Raleigh would train bees to do something a little more ‘scientific’ than fight mobsters, or at least realize that male bees cannot, in fact, sting. A female hero would eventually take up the mantle to be the new Red Bee, but the effort was short lived and, again, without much popularity. Guys who dress up as bats, stick to walls and shoot webs, or when angry turn big and green are cool, but a guy who trains attack bees, and keeps one in his belt buckle, well, that just won’t fly.
You wouldn’t think that a biochemist who can shrink himself to the size of an ant or transform into a 12-foot-tall giant would make much of a superhero, but Henry Pym, Ant-Man, was able to catch enough popularity to hold his own amongst other staple Marvel heroes such as Iron Man and Thor, and even joined The Avengers. Despite being one of most intelligent scientists in the Marvel Universe and though he has had an interesting career, Henry Pym eventually developed schizophrenia and created evil robots.
His most famous mistake, however, was when he beat his wife. This led to divorce, getting the boot from the Avengers, and losing all his money. But apparently ants are good pals to have when times are tough because Ant-Man recovered from everything and currently runs the Avengers Academy.
You can’t mention Ant-Man without including his wife, The Wasp (Janet van Dyne). After Ant-Man provided her with the ability, upon shrinking, to grow wings and fire shots of energy – which were cleverly called “wasp stings” – she went on to become one of the founding members of The Avengers.
Janet and Henry had a complicated relationship, though, and were only married when Henry developed his schizophrenia-related alter ego Yellowjacket. Janet took advantage of this new, and apparently all about commitment, personality to get married before he could change his mind. This led to the spousal abuse, which led to the divorce, which led to Janet becoming of the more popular single ladies in the Marvel Universe, having flings with Iron Man and Hawkeye.
They say that behind every great man is a great woman. I wonder if that applies to crazy men who create evil robots and communicate with ants. Hmmmmm.
The Blue Beetle did what a lot of Golden Age superhero creations could not: he kept surviving. The Blue Beetle rights have belonged to two companies, and the character went through two origins and six times has been given a standalone series before he landed at DC Comics in 1983 (by then having been out of publication for 15 years).
DC used the second origin character, Ted Kord, and made Blue Beetle a Batman-isk character with money and gadgets at his disposal (along with a mystic scarab), implementing him for many years into major plotlines and teams like the Justice League.
That incarnation may have been the most popular of all, but it still isn’t the end of the character’s development. Blue Beetle had got a third incarnation recently, teenager Jaime Reyes, now a member of the Teen Titans. Nite Owl from Watchmen was loosely based off Blue Beetle, and a quick search for “blue beetle tv” on YouTube will show the test footage for a rumored television series based on the most recent reboot.
Although technically an alien from the planet Apiaton, Bzzd – yup, his name is Bzzd – has all the characteristics of a house fly. Except he’s a Green Lantern who polices outer space with a power ring capable of creating energy-constructs from his mind.
So what would a fly think to create in a space battle? Well, perhaps to make up for his size, Bzzd usually created oversized constructs such as rollercoasters or giant warheads. And since police have partners, even space police, what would be fitting for an insect? A planet. Yes, Bzzd, the space housefly, had a police partner who was a planet, named Mogo. I can’t make this stuff up, people.
Bzzd is so obscure, he doesn’t even have an official action figure or dedicated cosplayers. You can see an image of him here:
Spiderman comic by riptheskull on Flickr
Green Hornet image by Thomas Duchnicki on Flickr
The Tick by bbaltimore on Flickr
Batman comics by Eay on Flickr
Public domain image on The Digital Comic Museum
Ant-Man comic by droob on Flickr
Avengers image by j_philipp on Flickr
Blue Beetle image from Wikipedia