(Disclaimer the first: my research was confined exclusively to The Marvel Encyclopedia: The Definitive Guide to the Characters of the Marvel Universe, a book which is not as definitive as it would like to claim. Since not every Marvel character ever got an entry, it stands to reason there may be even lamer Marvel characters out there. Given how goddamn lame some of these guys are, though, we’re talking a pretty tall order.)
(Disclaimer the second: I haven’t actually read a comic book since about 1992, and don’t actually know who most of these characters are. It’s entirely possible one or more of these guys is, in actuality, totally kickass. I’m not holding my breath.)
Mandarin is apparently one of Iron Man’s more prolific villains, but I only know him from that one boring level in Marvel Ultimate Alliance. From what I can tell his main super power is being almost offensively Chinese. Comic books have a long and storied tradition of defining characters with nothing more than their nationality, but Mandarin shows a particularly jarring lack of creativity. The guy lives in the “Palace of the Star Dragon” for crying out loud. Somewhere I bet there’s a French supervillain named Jacquesdu Frenchie, who wears a beret and lives in a baguette factory.
So the question is, how does an old Chinese man stand up to the likes of Iron Man and Spider-Man? Answer: magic rings. Ten magic rings, as a matter of fact; one for each finger. Each of the rings has a theme; there’s an ice ring and a fire ring and a poison gas ring, so Mandarin is at least a versatile criminal mastermind. However, I have a hard time respecting a supervillain whose entire repertoire relies on an object he has to carry. When you describe what Mandarin can do to ruin someone’s shit you aren’t really describing Mandarin — you’re describing the contents of his jewelry box. Even more worrying is that one of his rings is a desintegration beam. If you have a ring that does that, first of all, you don’t need the other nine. And second of all, I don’t ever want to hear about how you lost a fight to Iron Man. Iron Man kicks ass but I’m pretty sure he isn’t immune to disintegration.
#9: Awesome Android
Oh man, where do I start. I admit I picked Awesome Android (or “Awesome Andy” as he likes to be called) solely because of how completely ridiculous he looks. You have to admit though, as embarrassing a character as he is, one cannot dispute his awesomeness. I mean, it’s right there in his name! So you can understand why he’s not higher on the list.
Andy was built by some evil mad scientist or another to destroy the Fantastic Four. Right off the bat I’m spotting a flaw in this plan. I’m not a fan of the Fantastic Four or anything, and it required a considerable amount of will to just keep all of them off this list to begin with, but it seems to me you’d need at least four Awesome Androids to make it a fair fight. I suppose the second design flaw would be accidentally giving him a sandwich instead of a head.
Eventually Andy decided getting his ass(?) beaten by the Fantastic Four wasn’t exactly a thrilling career, so he grew a personality and now works as a legal aide for Goodman, Lieber, Kurtzburg & Holliway. I swear to Mandarin I’m not making that up. It says it right here in the encyclopedia: eyes, none. Hair, none. Occupation, legal aide. I don’t know what qualifies a 15-foot tall naked robot with a sandwichface to work in the legal industry, and honestly I think I’m too utterly terrified to ever find out. The answer might just be too awesome for me to bear!
#8: Rocket Racer
I went back and forth over whether or not to include Rocket Racer on this list. On one hand, he rides a rocket skateboard which is controlled with a walkman. On the other hand, he rides a rocket skateboard which is controlled with a walkman.
See, I really have no problem with rocket skateboards. I wholeheartedly believe rocket skateboarding should be an Olympic sport, and I’m certain that the YouTube in the Marvel universe is full of videos of dumbass teenagers cracking their nuts open in freak rocket skateboarding accidents. However, I am not convinced owning a rocket skateboard qualifies you to be a second-rate criminal, let alone a supervillain capable of taking on Spider-Man. Let’s face facts here: Spider-Man’s arch nemesis is the Green Goblin, who is basically just Rocket Racer with a flying skateboard and a sack full of magic bombs.
Apparently Rocket Racer had the same idea I did, since after being clobbered enough times he decided to hang up the skateboard and go to college. Which is weird because if you’re smart enough to build a rocket skateboard in the first place you should already be a millionaire.
#7: Silver Surfer
The first question I posed myself when I decided to make this list was: should I stick to the lameass obscure characters nobody has ever heard of? Or are popular characters fair game too? I decided they were because, heck, if not I couldn’t rant about how excruciatingly lame Silver Surfer is.
First of all, Surfer doesn’t have any genitals. Sometimes he’s drawn wearing a silver speedo, and sometimes he’s just smooth like a Ken doll, but in either case it’s completely obvious that the dude simply isn’t packing. I don’t want to hear “well, he’s an alien” either because alien though he may be he is very clearly modeled after a human. He’s got facial features, muscles, appendiges… but no bit and tackle. The encyclopedia has an entire blurb dedicated to Surfer’s timultuous love life. Gee, I can’t for the life of me imagine why none of those relationships worked out for him.
Secondly, he rides a surfboard through space. This is not a logical or even useful superpower. This is the result of some bored comic book designer deciding that, hey, surfboards are cool, so surfboards in space must be absolutely incredible. What’s wrong with just having a silver alien guy who can fly faster than light and control cosmic energy? I mean, I think I would find a character like that boring but it at least doesn’t strike me as completely silly.
You have to be careful when you start defining your supervillains by the heroes they fight, because if you’re not paying attention you end up with retarded ideas like Flag-Smasher. This completely uninspired Captain America villain was obviously the result of someone deciding, hey, Captain America is basically just a walking American flag. What’s a natural counter to an American flag? Why, a flag smasher of course! Durr!
Why not Flag-Burner? I mean, sure, that way you just end up with an uncreative villain with a gas tank and a flamethrower strapped on his back, but you’d still have a better product than Flag-Smasher. For one thing, you can’t smash a flag. Flags are typically made of cloth; apply as much pressure as you like, but you’re just going to end up with a well-creased flag at worst. For another, you’d have a villain your readership is already rallied against. What does every American citizen hate? The idea of someone burning his flag. A comic book about Captain America pummeling a dude who just runs around burning flags writes itself.
On top of all that, if I’m making a list of weapons to give to a guy who is going to be fighting a hero whose claim to fame is an enormous metal shield, “spiked mace” is going to be nowhere near that list.
My favorite part of Flag-Smasher is that he has no super powers outside of being foreign and really, really hating flags. No fooling, his “special powers/abilities” entry actually lists the languages he can speak. Watch out, Cap! Here comes a guy what knows Russian and Japanese!
I do indeed have both the Marvel and DC encyclopedias, and I do in fact plan to do a DC version of this post at some point in the future. (I flipped a coin to see which I would do first.) When I get around to that post, rest assured Green Arrow is going to be on it, because try as I might I simply cannot fathom how a universe where people can throw fireballs, lift buildings and rearrange reality could possibly consider a guy with a bow and arrows as being on equal footing.
Now, Robin Hood was a badass. That thing where he shoots an arrow into a tree and then shoots a second arrow which splits the first down the middle? Totally boss. Let’s keep in mind though that Robin Hood existed (well, not really, but you know) during the Middle Ages when the longbow was the pinnacle of military technology. We’ve kind of moved on since then. I tend to think the Punisher is a pretty lame superhero since his only power is “has lots of guns”, but let’s give the guy his due: he dresses in ammunition and carries an assault rifle in each hand. When it’s time to throw down, the Punisher can come packing enough firepower to level a city. Hawkeye, on the other hand, has to strap twenty arrows on his back. Here’s how you beat Hawkeye: have twenty-one henchmen. Run him out of arrows and victory is yours. Or, you know, hire the Punisher.
I also have to seriously object to Hawkeye’s fashion sense. Okay, I can understand that green is the natural color scheme for an archer hero and that Green Arrow already capitalized on that. What I don’t understand is why eye-bleeding purple was the runner-up. I don’t even want to talk about the giant gaudy “H” on his forehead.
True story: I was going to include the exceedingly humiliating Frog-Man in this list, but then I found someone even worse: the guy who wants to be Frog-Man. Here’s a guy whose claim to fame is jumping really high.
At least, that was my initial thought. Further research reveals I had it backwards: Leap-Frog came first and then Leap-Frog’s son decided to be Frog-Man. The point is this: you can’t dress up like a frog and then beat up Daredevil and/or Spider-Man. This is combat, not a Most Ridiculous Costume contest. Even if it were a Most Ridiculous Costume contest, the likes of Daredevil and Spider-Man are still probably primed to beat the guy in the frog suit.
I simply cannot imagine how jumping high is at all helpful for a criminal mastermind. It doesn’t get you into the bank vault. It doesn’t get you any credit card numbers. Neither Leap-Frog nor Frog-Man even have a long sticky tongue! How can you call yourself a frog man if you don’t bother giving yourself a sticky tongue? I guess he’s carrying a lunchbox or whatever that is in the picture; congratulations, Leap-Frog, you made off with some guy’s sandwich and Doritos. If he looks a bit panicked as he’s glancing back over his shoulder while frantically hopping away, that’s because Spider-Man is swinging up behind him at way-faster-than-hopping speed, and he’s weighing the pros and cons of snapping Leap-Frog’s spine over his knee versus a brick wall.
My criteria for choosing the most humiliating Marvel characters started by picking the people with the worst costumes. By that criteria alone I would have blown right past Snowbird, whose getup is ridiculous but not any moreso than your typical X-Man. I did try to fill the ridiculousness quota by picking a picture of her where she’s making a funny face, though. No, what made me stop on Snowbird’s entry was her name. The term “snowbird” as used by Floridians refers to old people who live here for half the year and drive really, really slow and awkwardly.
Snowbird didn’t make the list because of her name, though; she made the list because of her super power. She can assume the form of any animal native to the Canadian Arctic. This ultra-specific power description strikes me as the same kind of schlock as “a surfboard, but in space“. This time, though, our intrepid comic book writer was told to fill some Canadian super-hero quota. “I don’t care what powers you give her, as long as they’re Canadian.” Unfortunately American readers don’t consider “Canadian” to be a super power in the same way they would “Chinese”, so he had to think on is feet. Okay, he thought, she can turn into animals. But only certain animals. Only Arctic animals. And not just any Arctic animal; they have to be Canadian.
Eye-rolling premise aside, wouldn’t this limit her options to pretty much polar bear, narwhal and lemming? Look out, guys! There’s a caribou headed right for us and she looks plenty pissed! On that note why would she ever not pick polar bear? And why would she be a more qualified member of Alpha Flight than, say, any other polar bear?
#2: 3-D Man
Okay, I’ve read 3-D Man’s entry at least a dozen times, and I’m still not clear on what, exactly, his deal is. Whomever invented 3-D Man clearly had no idea either. 3-D Man was clearly invented by a guy who blew off his new comic character deadline to go see one of those newfangled three-dee movies. You know, the kind where you have to wear the crazy glasses? It was so lifelike when that guy threw a punch and it was like all in your face! Whoa, can you imagine what a superhero who could do that would be like? Amazing!
Unfortunately, the next day our moviegoing artist had sobered up and realized that every single superhero and supervillain ever created already tentatively existed in three dimensions, but by that time he had already drawn a guy in Christmas colors with a triangle on his chest and had to do something with him. So 3-D Man’s powers? He’s three times stronger and faster than a normal man! Whom I’m guessing would be 1-D Man.
3-D Man’s origin story kept the insane magic glasses motif though; it involves aliens and radiation and a plane crash and some other weird stuff. I guess 3-D Man is really dead? Except his brother can revive him by wearing colored sunglasses? And it gave him a headache or whatever so he stopped doing it, and just brought his brother back to life since it was easier? I’m sure it would make perfect sense if one of 3-D Man’s fans would leave a comment and set me straight, which will totally never happen because he totally doesn’t have any.
I’m not going to say anything about Bird-Brain. I’m just going to show you:
What the… what the hell?
NO SERIOUSLY WHAT THE HELL!?