Lately, I’ve been thinking (and talking and writing and tweeting) a lot about the names chosen for our favorite superheroes. I firmly believe that Superman-ripoff-Victor is superior to Superman-ripoff-Supreme conceptually, simply because of his more successful name. But what happens when two separate super-dupers each manage to make a name work for them? Welcome to Ten Things!
Whooshman-Bicarbonate Films, in conjunction with ‘An Amateur Comics Historian’, and ‘Brand Confusion’, Presents:
TEN PAIRS OF CHARACTERS WHO SHARE A HERO NAME!
(Left): Marvel Comics’ character Venus, last seen in ‘Agents of Atlas’, actually dates back to the late 1940s. Thanks to publisher Martin Goodman, Atlas/Marvel followed the trends, and as the superhero star began to fall after World War II, they tried many different gimmicks to appeal to readers, including courting adult female readers with the introduction of woman heroes Sun Girl, The Blonde Phantom, and our heroine, the goddess of love. (She was later retconned to be an impostor, but was created as the actual goddess on Earth.)
(Right): Big Bang Comics, one of the best things about comics in the mid-90s, created their Venus as a loving tribute to the adventures of the Golden Age Wonder Woman as drawn by H.G. Peter. As a core member of the Knights Of Justice, she was also key to JLA/JSA pastiche crossovers in the form of Earth-A and Earth-B, and was one of the most successful (as well as clever and whimsical) of Big Bang’s love letters to comics past.
(Left): Debuting in the pages of Valiant Comics’ ‘Harbinger’ back in 1992, Faith Herbert was a sweet young girl whose dream was to have super-powers and emulate the comic book heroes she loved. Treated somewhat callously by her comrades, she was often called Zeppelin, but her actual chosen super-sobriquet was Zephyr. She is a key part of the current Valiant relaunch as a social-media-savvy hero pulled into the black ops madness of the team called Unity…
(Right): Zephyr Noble is the youngest of the superheroic celebrity Noble family, as seen in ‘Noble Causes’, and is very much the wild child. Her sex-tape caused her parents some consternation, and she also had a brief fling with one of her family’s greatest enemies that led to an unexpected pregnancy. She eventually married the youngest member of the villainous Blackthorne family, in true soap opera fashion, and settled down to a more stable adult lifestyle.
(Left): Mari Jiwe McCabe is a respected hero of the DC Universe, a long-time member of the Justice League, one of the survivors of the Suicide Squad, and her animal-derived magic powers make her a formidable combatant. She was part of the initial New 52 relaunch in Justice League International back in 2011, but I’m not sure what’s she’s been up to since.
(Right): An Australian superhero who dates back nearly 45 years, this Vixen also has sorta-kinda animal powers, with enhanced senses, speed and such. The few adventures of hers that I can find are all beautifully drawn affairs, but it’s clear that her superhuman powers also include “not at all shy about wearing a microscopic fur bikini to fight crime.”
7) ULTRA GIRL
(Left): Another Big Bang Comics hero, Ultragirl is secretly Christine Kelly, daughter of Ultiman, The Ultimate Human (who is himself a Superman analogue.) Ultragirl is interesting in that she takes the role of both Superboy and Supergirl in her world, traveling forward to the future to join a teen team called the Pantheon Of Heroes while also clashing with her father over her superhero activities.
(Right): Marvel Comics’ Ultra-Girl, a hybrid of human and Kree DNA who is apparently also a mutant, is probably best known today for her actions during the superhero Civil War, where she was branded as a New Warrior and ostracized. Funny thing is, Tsu-Zana/Ultra-Girl never actually officially joined the Warriors on-panel, though they did guest-star in her 3-issue introductory miniseries, so she has a good reason to be mad about being tarred with that particular brush.
6) METEOR MAN
(Left): Born on planet Meteorus, Meteor Man has the ability to shift his mass and change size/shape, usually seen in the form of massive pounding fists. His other super-power was being voiced by the late Ted Cassidy, and his strength makes him the core of the Galaxy Trio, alongside partners Gravity Girl (a former princess who joined the space police to fight crime) and Vapor-Man (whose powers defy all manner of physics, in the best way possible.)
(Right): “Ain’t nobody bad like… Ain’t nobody bad like the Meteor Man!” Mild-mannered teacher Jefferson Reed uses his meteor-derived powers to defend his beleaguered city from a gang called the Golden Lords, eventually uniting his city against the villains, even as his powers faded. His movie adventure is a mixed bag, but it is genuinely funny and the hero genuinely heroic throughout.
(Right): Fletcher Hanks is a forgotten master of the comic medium, and his character Fantomah is the first female superhero in comics history, but his real legacy is in the wacky/deadly/wonderful adventures of Stardust, The Super Wizard. Seven feet tall, with an array of amazing super-powers, Stardust is also the star of super-entertaining comics where he displays no limitations, no restraint and no mercy for the wicked.
(Left): A super-scientist from another planet, Dr. Mara came to Earth and clashed with the superheroic Femforce before reviving the lost hero Captain Paragon and accidentally gaining powers of her own. Joining the Sentinels of Justice and late the Femforce, she helped defeat an alien invasion, and gave her life saving a teammate. (Turns out she got better, rather than being vaporized, she was thrown into an alternate C’thulu-esque dimension from which her partners later retrieved her.)
(Left): Debuting on NBC in 1981, Elektra comes from a universe beyond a black hole, traveling into our world to fight cosmic evils wherever they rear their head. With the powers of telekinesis, telepathy and
Telly Savalas teleportation, she and her partners Kid Comet and Moleculad saved the universe as often as possible, while somehow being typical teenagers, even though they’re superheroes from an alternate dimension who patrol space on interstellar motorcycles.
(Right): That same year, Marvel Comics’ Elektra made her bow in the pages of Daredevil, as the obsessed former lover of our hero, now grown into an internationally renowned assassin. Though much more down to Earth, her story quickly became as bizarre as her namesake hero’s, with murder, resurrection, adamantium spines and an eventual kidnapping and replacement by an alien-shapeshifter, proving once and for all that the words “street-level hero” are utterly meaningless in comics.
3) THE BLACK CAT
(Left): Dating back to the Golden Age, Harvey Comics’ Black Cat was one of the first female heroes to go into combat wearing little more than a bathing suit, predating even Wonder Woman in that regard, and was something of a sensation in her heyday. Her comic adventures lasted well into the 1950s, unlike most of her super-duper counterparts, though she is sadly little-remembered today.
(Right): Felicia Hardy, Marvel Comics’ Black Cat, will always be a villain to me, but the creators clearly have the expectation that she’s at least an anti-hero, putting her on superhero teams repeatedly. Thought she has lots in common with DC’s Catwoman (jewel thieves whose romantic entanglements with their main heroic opponents make things complicated), she’s nonetheless become her own woman. Sadly, her appearance as Felicia in ‘Amazing Spider-Man 2’ probably won’t be followed up on the way I hope it would.
(Left): One of the earliest heroes of the Golden Age, Centaur Publications Amazing-Man wasn’t published for as long as many of his colleagues, but was incredibly influential anyway, with his origins inspiring Peter Cannon at Charlton Comics, and Iron Fist at Marvel Comics in later years. A version of Amazing Man called ‘The Prince Of Orphans’ was later used at Marvel, as the original character has long since fallen into the public domain, allowing him to appear there and in ‘Project: Superpowers’ as well.
(Right): Admittedly, the second Amazing Man is an intentional homage to the first (his name, Will Everett, comes from the original A-Man’s creator, Bill Everett), but his place in comics history is important nonetheless. Retconned into the All-Star Squadron as the first African-American hero in the DCU, his legacy has continued in the form of no less than three updated characters bearing his name and powers.
(Left): A founding member of the Uncanny X-Men, Jean Grey seemingly gave her life to save her teammates, only to rise again as the much-more powerful Phoenix, before all retcon hell broke loose in her personal history. Eventually, Jean Gray really did rise from Jamaica Bay, and really did give her life to save her friends, but is mostly known these days as the poster-child for why comic book deaths don’t stick. (In reality, Jean Grey has canonically died exactly once.)
(Right): The watchword of 70’s Atlas Comics was clearly “Marvel”, with publisher Martin Goodman hiring Stan Lee’s brother as editor, poaching as much talent as they could get from the House Of Ideas, and made every effort to make their titles look as Marvel-like as possible. However, naming one of their first heroes ‘The Phoenix’ was NOT an example of that as he made his bow in January of ’75, and Jean Grey’s transformation didn’t happen til the fall of ’76. Atlas Comics didn’t last long, but they held in long enough for Phoenix to get completely reworked into a hero called ‘The Protector’ before the line folded entirely.
Feel free to follow along (@MightyKingCobra) for more Ten Things madness on Twitter! As with any set of like items, these aren’t meant to be hard and fast or absolutely complete, and indeed, we can easily name another ten, even another twenty examples of shared names in various universes. Feel free to throw out your picks, as the comments section is Below for just such an emergency (though characters who are in-universe replacements/legacy heroes/sidekicks graduated are probably a different thing entirely) but, as always: Please, no wagering![signoff predefined=”PayPal Donation” icon=”icon-cog”][/signoff]