Superman. Batman. Wonder Woman. These and many more have graced the pages of countless comics, screens both silver and glass, lunchboxes, and underoos. DC heroes tend to be seen as more godlike than those across the street at Marvel. DC have made many attempts at breaking the mold and producing different characters to what they are known for. Some, like Booster Gold, enjoy success and go on to star in their own books, and even make the leap to tv or film. Others do not, through a combination of bad luck, bad stories, timing and, yes, general incompetence.
Some have been worked on by some of the greatest creators in comics, and some were created just to pad a few pages while a deadline loomed ominously in the background. Some are just gag characters, but some of them have the potential to be great characters or have strong stories, with either very interesting powers or origin stories, which makes it especially galling to see them consistently mishandled. At least character is utterly unique in fiction. Some (very few) are workable characters, but would make terrible heroes.
Here are fifteen heroes DC either need to work on or leave buried in the archives underneath their offices.
14 Resurrection Man
Mitch Shelley dies. A lot. A whole lot. He’s a one man X-team.
Empowered by “tektites,” nanobots that give a remarkably crappy gift. Every time he dies, he is resurrected with a power relevant to his death. These powers range from the useful, like super-strength, to the pointless, like changing colour. Although there is great potential in stories about mortality, love, and loss in him, the sheer silliness of randomised powers is a big mark against him.
Imagine being held hostage by the Joker, and the guy who makes a super-heroic speech about justice gets shot in the face. It doesn’t exactly engender hope.
13 Comet the Superhorse
Any Kryptonian gains super-powers when exposed to the light of a yellow sun. Flight, super-strength, super-senses and more come as a package deal. Krypto the Super-Dog is the best known non-humanoid example. He was followed by a few other super-pets, like Beppo the Super-Monkey and Streaky the Super-Cat. And Comet, the Super-Horse.
Instead of a Kryptonian, he was instead a minotaur from ancient Greece, accidentally turned into a full horse, albeit one with super-powers and immortality, who was trapped on an asteroid for several centuries until Supergirl’s escape pod broke him free. He joined Supergirl as her own pet horse and fell in love with her.
Later, he was able to turn into a mortal man whenever a comet passed through the solar system. Supergirl then fell in love with his human self and it all gets very weird and probably got the writer put on some sort of government watch list.
Writer Garth Ennis and artists John McCrea and Steve Dillon were trying to come up with the stupidest superhero name. Dillon won with Dogwelder, and they quickly introduced him in the pages of Hitman where he more than lived up to his name.
Silent and deadly, Dogwelder took his name for his brutal and bizarre methods of fighting crime. He welds dogs to faces. Simple, but effective. He’s a member of Section 8, serving alongside such luminaries as Bueno Excellente, the Defenestrator and Jean de Baton-Baton, who fights with the power of perversion, alcoholism and Frenchness, respectively.
Voted Best New Character in the 1997 Wizard Awards.
A common theme in superhero stories is evolution. The X-Men occasionally dabble in stories of human extinction and a fear of the next generation. Plenty of superheroes got their powers in shady experiments in advancing evolution.
The Guardians, the creatures who created the Green Lanterns, decided to kickstart human evolution and advanced the evolution of a select few humans to take their place and sire a new generation of super-evolved children. One of those chosen was Extraño, a flamboyantly homosexual magician. Quite how they expected a gay man to impregnate a woman is left to the readers imagination.
A terrible stereotype, best known for the first (openly) gay character in a mainstream comic, he was later attacked by an AIDS vampire and tested positive for HIV. You could argue for good intentions, but his whole story was poorly handled and should be offered as a guide of “how NOT to write gay characters.”
10 Danny the Street
Grant Morrison is well-known for his surreal creations. Danny the Street is certainly in the top five of his weirdest.
Inspired by Irish drag queen Danny la Rue, Danny is a cross-dressing teleporter, who travels the world, looking for the lost and lonely, offering them comfort and a place of safety. He is also a perfectly normal street. He communicates through street signs and graffiti. He blends in the rest of the town or city he’s currently occupying, giving people an odd surprise as they walk home from work. He has since joined the Teen Titans and grown to the size of a planet and shrunk to the size of a brick.
Superman is often characterised as too good, too pure, too nice. At times, this is a valid criticism. He has had his share of poor stories or mischaracterisation.
Goldstar makes Superman look like the Punisher. Raised as part of an experiment, he was raised to be as gentle and loving as his brother was cruel and evil. As a result, his brother grew up to be a galactic conqueror with a bounty on his head, and Goldstar grew up with the superpower to make people feel good. He can sense good intentions and rewards people with Gold Star stickers.
He is also a superb janitor.
9 Red Bee
Like Batman, Richard Raleigh was inspired by a weird creature to become a hero and strike terror into the hearts of criminals everywhere. Now he stalks the streets of Superior City with nothing more than his bare fists, a Stinger gun and his trained bees. Yes, bees. No bee-themed weapons beyond a stinger gun, actual bees. Trained bees, sure, but bees nonetheless. One of them is named after Michael, the archangel who cast Lucifer out of heaven. Dream big, kids.
He was murdered by Baron Blitzkrieg and his grandniece built a bee themed suit of armour to honour his legacy. She later turns into a giant bee that tries to colonise the entire planet. Comics.
Every decade has something people look back on with embarrassment. The sixties had the hair, the seventies had disco, the eighties had breakdancing. Vibe was a character born of the eighties and who should never have left the eighties.
Originally the leader of a breakdancing street gang, he decided to throw his lot in with the Justice League. He quickly got them drawn into a smalltime rumble between his old gang and their rivals. He’s best known for being the first Justice Leaguer to die in the line of duty and for being absolutely hated by artist George Perez. When Perez illustrated JLA/Avengers, a crossover that featured every member of both teams, Vibe’s only appearance was his legs as he fell off panel.
His powers revolve around sound, vibration and rhythm.
One of the first shrinking heroes, and created by Will Eisner (a key figure in early comics) Doll Man has the power to shrink to six inches tall and retain his full-size strength. The catch is, he can only switch between full height and six inches, and he can’t get bigger. He uses a Great Dane as transport, or a model plane for longer trips.
Best known for his very cool covers, Doll Man is an easily-overlooked character. DC has other size changing characters, with additional abilities and longer runs. Doll Man vanished off the shelves for 20 years and has only made sporadic appearances since his return, including one story where he was leading an army of subversive Doll Men after decades of size changing broke his mind.
6 Matter Eater Lad
Hailing from the planet Bismoll, Matter Eater Lads eats everything and anything. He washes nuclear waste down with a glass of lava. He can bite through anything, regardless of how strong it is. Stone, metal, diamond, all fall before his mighty chompers.
The ability is a native one. When all food on his home planet was rendered inedible, the inhabitants of Bismoll evolved the ability to eat anything else. That’s ability with a ton of real-world applications, but it doesn’t really translate to superheroism. Eating a villain is a bit too final.
Writers couldn’t think of ways to use him, so he was often off-world, dealing with the politics of his home world.
5 Infectious Lass
Yet another member of the Legion, Infectious Lass comes from the planet Somathur, where the natives are hosts for all manner of infectious diseases. Although they are immune to these diseases, they tend to be pretty infectious, leading to her spending a lot of time in isolation.
This is a perfectly fine supervillain origin. Doomed to kill everyone around her, forced to live in isolation, lonely, scared, angry, it’s almost Shakespearean. The problem is, she’s a superhero who wanders around spreading viral infections that she can’t really control. She has repeatedly infected bystanders and innocent civilians while trying to fight crime.
Nobody wants space ebola.
4 Brother Power the Geek
Brother Power the Geek is notable in the real world for being (unfairly?) shot down by an editor who hated those damn hippies, and in comics for getting shot into space by Ronald Reagan, who also hated those damn hippies.
Hippies don’t get a break.
An attempt at creating a Silver Surfer-esque wandering philosopher at DC, Brother Power was a mannequin brought to life by a lightning strike, fought for hippie rights against Nazi-esque conservatives and ran for congress.
Cancelled after two issues because of the editor’s dislike of hippy subculture, Brother Power was just too weird for comics in the 60s. It’s possible that there’s a good story in him in these more liberal times, but DC will probably leave him be.
3 Black Condor
Tarzan was a feral child adopted by great apes who was later reintroduced to polite society. Black Condor (or Richard Gray) was adopted by intelligent Mongolian condors who taught him how to fly, taking a massive dump on both evolutionary biologists and cars all over the world.
He was later civilised and moved to America, where he stole the identity of an assassinated senator to fight bootleggers and crooked politicians. A barely literate bird man who rose to high office. He’s the American Dream made flesh.
It was later stated he actually got his flight powers from a meteorite, but the condor thing was much more entertaining to think about.
An attack by a Bloodlines parasite gave Andrew Van Horne the power to turn anything into a weapon. He can convert matter into energy, for example turning sticks into concussive blasters and balls into grenades.
Born in the Bloodline story, an attempt to create new superheroes for DC to sell, Gunfire has almost completely disappeared, along with almost every character created in the story. Who could forget Krag, or Razorsharp, or Shadowstryke? Everyone, apparently. Gunfire is notable for just how bad his stories were. He swings between emotions from panel to panel, trying to kill/team up/save/kill characters as he puffs around.
A later version of the character managed to turn his buttocks into a grenade. Which is certainly something.
1 Colour Kid
The Legion of Superheroes have one rule regarding membership. Every member must have different powers. It started as a challenge for the creators to get weird and inventive with powers. So far, this list has had Infectious Lass and Matter Eating Lad. But they don’t even come close to the worst member of the Legion. Hands down, the worst hero in the DC universe is Colour Kid, who wields the terrifying power of making things change colour!
He once had his gender flipped by Infectious Lass and later took the name Colour King. That’s all there is to say about the character.