Times change, language evolves, viewpoints shift in ways not expected by the creators of days past.
But what does that mean for the pop-culture creations of previous decades? Welcome to Ten Things!
Whooshman-Bicarbonate Films, in conjunction with ‘An Amateur Comics Historian’, and ‘That One Issue Featuring The Joker’s Boner Crimes Because Boner Used To Mean ‘Mistake’, Ya Pervs’, Presents:
TEN SUPERS DEFEATED BY THE CHANGING TIMES!
10) THE RED RUBE
Clearly influenced by Captain Marvel, The Red Rube was secretly 12-year-old Reuben Ruebens, who found that he could transform into a superpowered adult form by crying the phrase “Hey, Rube!” (itself a reference the rallying cry of turn-of-the-century circuses and carnivals, by which one could summon help in a fight with the locals.) Sadly, ‘rube’ also has a secondary meaning of unsophisticated, uneducated or backwards, which is now the only way one sees it used in modern parlance. Of all Archie/MLJ’s heroes, Reuben has never made even a single-panel cameo after his handful of Golden Age appearances, a situation certainly attributable to his name.
A rather clever (if somewhat hard to believe) premise lies behind 711’s adventures: Stuck in jail for a crime he did not commit, D.A. Daniel Dyce escapes every night to battle neer-do-wells as 711 (his prison number.) His adventures were pulpy, two-fisted tales, and after a couple of years, 711 was actually killed in the line of duty (providing a springboard/origin for a new hero named Destiny.) Though ostensibly owned by DC Comics these days, 711 has had only one measly reprint appearance, owing to the fact that his name is now synonymous with ‘late night frozen burrito emporium.’ Given his place in history (his death was one of the earliest in comics), it’s kind of a shame…
8) B’WANA BEAST
What is there to say about B’wana Beast? He is fondly remembered for a few Silver Age appearances and his role in ‘Batman: The Brave And The Bold’ but his origin (Great White Hunter goes to Africa and uses mystical means to become a savior to the native peoples) was questionable even when he debuted. Grant Morrison made great use of him in ‘Animal Man,’ even creating a much less offensive legacy hero, The Freedom Beast. That hero was later killed in the pages of ‘JLA: Cry For Justice’, in one of many crimes against comics perpetrated by that execrable series…
7) CHIEF MIGHTY ARROW
Already a stereotypical Native American hero when he debuted circa 1967, Chief Mighty Arrow covered all the pop-culture clichés of native people (with the exception of halting Tonto-speak), Robby used his powers to great effect not once, but TWICE in the run of the series. (Not sure where the Pegasus comes into the equation, but that’s comics for you.) Interestingly, Chief Mighty Arrow is not only one of the only heroes to have been dialed more than once, he was actually dialed by MORE THAN ONE person, as Nelson Jent was able to call on his powers in the modern New 52 incarnation of ‘Dial H’, only to find that his partner Manteau refused to let him step outside in such a racially insensitive persona…
6) THE BOUNCING BEATNIK
To be honest, this may not be a fair example, as Astro City’s two-toed hero is an intentional nod to the Beatnik sub-culture of the 1950s. Still, there are hints that his superhero persona changes with the changing times, as evidenced by the similar characters of The Halcyon Hippie (seen in the 1970s) and Mister Cakewalk (seen in the 1900s), leading some to theorize that he is somehow the living embodiment of the counter-culture, changing with each generation. Of course, since he seems somehow tied to the inexplicable doings of the character called The Broken Man, there are still many blanks to fill in the Beatnik’s dossier…
5) THE BOUNCER
An early creation of comic workhorse Robert Kanigher, The Bouncer is actually a bronze statue brought to life by mystical means, using the power of Antaeus to leap great distances. In today’s ‘armor, leather and seams’ era, his Greek attire seems even more ludicrous than it did in 1943, and given the new definition of Bouncer as “burly person who minds the doors at Da Club”, he’s double out-of-date. Still, the name might work if played straight with a muscular man or woman in a t-shirt with a lanyard. Writers: You get that one for free, my other ideas all cost $3.50…
4) GREEN GIANT
HO HO HOOOO! At the time of his first adventure, anything and everything was being thrown at the wall to see if it would be the next Superman, and Green Giant’s career ended up being a short one. (His sole appearance is the only comic put out by the publisher, and only a handful of comics are thought to exist. Accounts differ on whether it ever actually made it to distribution!) It’s probably just as well he didn’t stick around, as by the 1950s, General Mills’ frozen pea mascot would have forever owned his heroic nom de guerre…
3) JAMM THE THRASHIN’ MAN
Sometimes people ask me: “Who’s the worst character in comics history?”
They’re surprised when I tell them that, not only did he appear in Legion of Super-Heroes, he came out of the 1990s and not some arcane tome from 1943. Jamm is every terrible teenage fashion trend of the 80s and 90s, as seen through the eye of an out-of-touch fifty-something, mashed together into a hailstorm of clichés and bad dialogue. Worse still, when confronted with the Legion Of Super-Heroes, he used his power to compel the women of the LSH to strip for his entertainment. If I didn’t know better, I’d say the character was intentionally created to be dated, offensive and hackneyed (not to mention sexist, dumb and ridiculous to look at.)
2) MIGHTY ISIS
A live-action superheroine created to give Captain Marvel a Saturday morning counterpart, Isis drew upon Egyptian mythology to teach kids the basics of right or wrong. As someone who grew up with her adventures on television, I was surprised to find that only 22 episodes were made, as reruns made it seem as though the show was on forever. Though she made a transition to comics in the 1970s, she was later adapted into a character who became Black Adam’s wife circa 52 in the DC Universe. Sadly, real-world events have made it likely that neither version of the character will be adapted into the post-Flashpoint DCU any time soon…
1) THE GAY GHOST
One of DC’s earliest comic-book heroes, he has an impressive pedigree: Created by Gardner Fox, with excellent art and a clever premise (murdered by highwaymen, his ghost haunts his ancestral castle until 1942, when he is able to enter the body of a murdered man to wreak vengeance on the world), his adventures didn’t make it past the end of the war. By the time DC Comics admitted to his existence in the 1980s, he had been renamed The Grim Ghost for one or two brief appearances before disappearing into limbo. Happily, this particular alias is one that I think could easily be redeemed and relaunched in the modern era, even though the “ghost” part of his nom de guerre is probably an issue amid the nanotech and claws heroes of today.
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, because language changes with such frequency. I myself was shocked and dismayed to hear that kids today apparently no longer say that someone who is foolish or stupid is “buggin.”
Either way, the comments section is Below for just such an emergency, but, as always: Please, no wagering![signoff predefined=”PayPal Donation” icon=”icon-cog”][/signoff]