Power-ups, boosts and new costumes are common occurrences in comics…. but that’s not always a good thing. Welcome to Ten Things: Ten Upgrades That Were Downgrades!

Whooshman-Bicarbonate Films, in conjunction with An Amateur Comics Historian and ‘Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo’, Presents:

TEN THINGS: TEN UPGRADES THAT WERE DOWNGRADES!

10) SON OF THE MASK

Upgrades That Were Downgrades

A decade after Stanley Ipkiss saved the day, got the girl and ate a bomb, his mask was discovered in a river by Tim Avery’s dog. Not only does Tim put the thing on (Eww! River Mask!), he conceives a child with his wife, Tonya WHILE WEARING IT, leading to their baby being possessed by Loki or something. It’s a pretty nonsensical plot, made worse by the fact that Jamie Kennedy is no Jim Carey, leaving this character’s sole appearance to be remembered as one of the worst films of its decade.

9) SCOURGE

The role of Scourge brought a whole new level of technology to Jack Monroe’s costumed duties, far outstripping his abilities and arsenal as Nomad or the Bucky of the 1940s. Sadly, it also left him brainwashed and under the control of Henry Peter Gyrich, used as a human weapon against super-villains of the Marvel Universe. After a run as recurring antagonist of the Thunderbolts, Jack was shot and killed by The Winter Soldier, his predecessor as Bucky.

8) TV’s DAREDEVIL

Now, hear me out on this before you start eviscerating me in the comments. Charlie Cox makes a good Daredevil/Matt Murdock, and his makeshift sweatshirt-and-mask combination looked really good in action during Season 1. As Season 2 dawned, that realistic look was replaced with a full black-and-red leather uniform that had three major problems: The too-tight cowl didn’t ever look right with Cox’ head shape, it lacked the traditional interlocking-D’s chest symbol, and the reds were muted and very dark. What could have been a comic-accurate look instead ended up being a standard 2000s black-leather-unitard-with-belts ensemble that wouldn’t be out of place in the first couple of X-men movies.

7) ZAIDO GREEN

The popularity of ‘Space Sherriff Shaider’ in the Phillipines led to a local sequel series featuring THREE heroes (Zaido Red, Zaido Blue and Zaido Green) carrying the torch of Shaider’s quest for justice. I try not to be too judgy about these things, but the series visual effects team borrowed from multiple sources (especially ‘Star Wars’) and the real Zaido costumes felt very low-rent, like the superhero trappings were an afterthought. It’s a bummer, too, as I am fascinated by the localization of superheroes from one culture into another, like Power Rangers.

6) JEWBOT

Initially known as Robobot, this A.I. wanted to fight crime and also had an appreciation for humans, working to understand and integrate with them. When he discovered that his creator was named Martha Goldstein, he embraced the trapping of Judaism a little bit TOO hard, making a cringe-worthy show of changing his name and mannerisms. When he finally met Martha, she revealed that not only was Goldstein her married name, she herself was a Scientologist, ending his experiment and returning him to his Robobot alias.

The coil-springs-as-payot visual gag is ingenious and cute, though.

5) PURPLE PLATINUM BEETLEBORG

Initially the Red Striker Beetleborg, Jo McCormick was gifted with superhuman strength and durability, with armor patterned after a Japanese Rhino Beetle. That armor was destroyed in battle and replaced with the Beetleborg Metallix armor (a side effect of using footage from two different Japanese tokusatsu shows), which was patterned after a ladybug, a considerable step down in “cool bug” quality. Her look is still pretty cool, and Jo’s story contains one of the strangest (and actually most successful) explanations for an actress change, as a “magic spell” changed the character’s face, but a second spell made her look the same to anyone who didn’t witness the first spell (including *the audience*). That’s brilliant.

4) SPIDEY SUPER STORIES STILT-MAN

In the mainstream Marvel Universe, Wilbur Day wears a sleek, armored suit that protects him from gunfire, is coated with a special polymer and has telescoping limbs, making him an armored dynamo (albeit one who gets no respect.) On Earth-57780, the world of Spidey Super Stories, he literally just a husky man on stilts, wearing an ill-fitting tuxedo.

No one has ever typed these words in this order before, but: The original Stilt-Man was WAY cooler than this guy.

3) ULTIMATE IRON MAN

Taking all the worst aspects of the Earth-616 Tony Stark and turning them up to eleven, Ultimate Tony Stark is arrogant, lazy, short-sighted and over-confident. He also has a much more pronounced drinking problem, is a serial womanizer with no shame nor remorse and justifies it all because of an inoperable brain tumor and his obvious genius.

Oh, and one of his signature speeches revels in the joy of killing his enemies. It’s hard to see how or why he’s meant to be a hero, and to add insult to injury, he looks like a Cyberman.

2) SUPERHERO ORION OF NEW GENESIS

Though it’s now considered discontinuity, ‘Return of The New Gods’ brought Kirby’s creations back into the DC Universe in 1977, recasting them as more traditional superheroes that had team-ups with The Flash and successfully defeating their nemesis Darkseid. Orion got the worst of it, with a big “O” chest symbol and a new attitude, all of which was jettisoned by 1980, with Darkseid resurrected and an unspoken vow to never speak of it again.

1) “HAPPY PANTS” BLACK PANTHER

The reverse situation to our #2 example occurred after Kirby’s exit at DC and return to Marvel in 1976. At the time, The Black Panther was in the middle of a long narrative by Don McGregor that is still recognized today as a high point not only for T’Challa but for Marvel in the 1970s. The King’s return led to a shiny Black Panther #1 and the multi-dimensional quest for King Solomon’s frogs. It’s a very tongue-in-cheek story and it’s pure Kirby, but it’s an odd fit for what The Black Panther had become (and what he WOULD become in the future.) An explanation for the disparity came more than two decades later, with the discovery that this T’Challa’s exploits were taking place in the future reality of Earth-1145. It’s a complicated retcon, but one that allows Kirby’s vision to still have relevance, and so I’m 100% on-board.

This week’s topic is all me, but feel free to follow along @MightyKingCobra for more Ten Things madness on Twitter. Or check out the full Twitter archive here! As with any set of like items, these aren’t meant to be hard and fast or absolutely complete, especially given that comics tend to have a couple of massive PR disasters every quarter or so. Either way, the comments section is Below for just such an emergency, but, as always: Please, no wagering!


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About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.

3 Comments

  1. I will have to disagree on Orion. His 1977 look always felt a marked improvement on the original to me. No longer relying on that clumsy contraption to fly also helped.

    On another matter, I never understood why this Black Panther is nicknamed “Happy Pants”.

    • Mileage varies, and that’s okay.

      As for Black Panther, that’s a Christopher Priest thing. I think he didn’t want that character to be associated with “his” Panther, but couldn’t bring himself to retcon Kirby. He was, however, free to have Everett Ross mock him

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