If there’s only one thing you learn from Ten Things (which, heaven help me, could be true), it’s that the name game is tough to play. Naturally, some supers don’t get it right the first time. Welcome to Ten Things: Ten Abandoned Aliases!
Whooshman-Bicarbonate Films, in conjunction with An Amateur Comics Historian and The Human Spider, Presents:
TEN THINGS: TEN ABANDONED ALIASES!
10) THE HUNTRESS Becomes MOCKINGBIRD
First appearing several years before she ever put on a costume, Dr. Barbara Morse (Bobbi to her friends) was initially a super-scientist and S.H.I.E.L.D. agent during the experiments that accidentally created the Man-Thing. When corruption in a S.H.I.E.L.D. cell led her to go undercover, Bobbi became The Huntress, resigning her commission, then disappearing for a while. By the time she returned, Batman’s daughter had popped up at the Distinguished Competition, leading Bobbi to rebrand herself as Mockingbird, the nom de guerre she still uses today.
9) SLAGER Becomes JOTO
Isaiah Crockett is an alien/human hybrid, part of a group engineered by a race called the H’san Natall who became an iteration of the Teen Titans in the mid-90s. Discovering that he could generate intense heat from his hands, Isaiah chose the (awful) code name of Slager. (This was, by the way, the name that all the solicitation materials identified him with, and was a primary reason why I didn’t read the book upon its launch.) By the time of their in-costume debut, though, his dad suggested that he instead use “Joto”, the Swahili word for heat, which he used until his untimely death.
By the time he was resurrected, though, editorial had discovered that it also had a vulgar connotation in certain Spanish dialects, at which point his code name became the incredibly generic Hot Spot.
8) WEAPON ALPHA becomes VINDICATOR
An engineer by trade, James MacDonald Hudson created his first cybernetic exoskeleton to find hidden oil deposits, but stole it away from his employer when they planned to sell it to the U.S. government as a weapon. Updating and miniaturizing his technology, Hudson became Canada’s first superhero, assembling a super team code-named Alpha Flight. As Weapon Alpha, the team’s commander, Hudson led the battle against the X-Men, but by the time he returned, he had changed his name to the cooler-sounding Vindicator. Then Guardian. Then he died, his wife became Guardian, but Jimmy came back as Vindicator.
Or was it Guardian, THEN Vindicator?
Honestly, I don’t remember, but I know that it’s confusing.
7) MISTER ZERO Becomes MISTER FREEZE
Modern fans know Victor Fries for his tragic origins and the obsession that led him to be little more than a snowman in a jar in his crusade to save his sick wife, Nora. But back in his first appearance, he wasn’t Mister Freeze (or, for that matter, Victor Fries) at all, instead going by the alias Mister Zero. After that one-shot appearance, he dropped out of sight for a number of years, returning in the late sixties under the alias we all know him today.
Of course, Nora and the origin we all associate him with didn’t show up until the ’90s.
6) ARACHNE Becomes SPIDER-WOMAN
An in-universe example, Jessica Drew was recruited by Hydra as a young woman and given the codename Arachne, which she used in her initial forays to the Marvel Universe, including a battle with The Thing and Shang-Chi. Of course, she had been cover-credited as Spider-Woman since the very beginning, since the entire impetus for her creation was to secure the Spider-Woman copyright before Filmation used the name for a cartoon.
That said, the bigger change was opening her cowl to expose Jessica’s great head of jet-black hair.
5) LIGHTNING BOY Becomes LIGHTNING LAD
During the initial appearance of the Legion of Super-Heroes, there were a number of anomalies, but the one that was most obvious was Garth Ranzz’ red-and-green costume (with his name helpfully written on the chest). His more familiar colors didn’t appear until the group’s second appearance, where his name changed, Cosmic Boy lost his bubble helmet and Saturn Girl started wearing pink. Of course, that story identifies them as the CHILDREN of the heroes seen in the team’s first appearance, so things aren’t quite consistent just yet.
Then again, the Legion doesn’t get past its Early-Installment Weirdness until about 1963 or so.
4) AUTOMATON Becomes ROBOTMAN
The cover of the first appearance of the Doom Patrol features General Immortus calling Cliff Steele an automaton, a schmancy word for robot. What’s not entirely clear, though, is that it’s not just a descriptor, but his actual superhero alias… at least at first. Their first appearance doesn’t really give the heroes of the Doom Patrol specific names (though it does call Larry Trainor’s energy-self the Negative Man), using Robotman and Automaton in dialogue, as well as calling Rita Farr Elasti-Woman. By the third issue, writer Bob Haney had settled on Robotman, which does fit Cliff’s character better, reputedly declaring the Automaton alias dumb.
3) BUCKY Becomes BATTLESTAR
When Steve Rogers was fired as Captain America, the Reagan Administration hired John Walker, the former Super-Patriot, to fill his chainmail shirt, while Lemar Hoskins joined him as his partner, Bucky. After a very short time, writer Mark Gruenwald was informed that the word “buck” could be used as a slur towards Black men, so he quickly created the alternate alias of Battlestar. Even without the unfortunate cultural connotations, having a grown man using the costume and alias of a kid sidekick was infantilizing, so the change was welcome.
Also, Lemar’s updated costume is one of the best of the Bronze Age.
2) THE RED HOOD Becomes THE JOKER
Another in-universe example here, as The Joker (whose real name is absolutely not something I care to know) had been around for nearly TWENTY YEARS when the Red Hood story was printed. When the Caped Crusader uses the mystery of The Red Hood as a teaching exercise for criminal science students, the real thing reappears, only for the hero to discover that the end of the Red Hood was the beginning of The Joker.
I’ll be honest, if you found Major Spoilers, you probably know about the vat of acid already, but if not, there’s a pretty good capsule summary to be found in Tim Burton’s Batman, minus the whole Red Hood aspect.
1) MISTER MACHINE Becomes MACHINE MAN
The first appearance of Aaron Stack actually appeared in Marvel Comics’ adaptation/continuation of 2001: A Space Odyssey, wherein we are shown the story of an android raised by a human as his son. When his father died, Aaron Stack set out into the world, discovering a population openly hostile to machines. As a matter of respect, he demanded to be called MISTER Machine, much as Virgil Tibbs insisted that his fellow police address him. By his third or fourth appearance, Aaron had instead settled on Machine Man, a name that described him perfectly.
Once again, this week’s topic, Ten Alternate Aliases, is all me, but feel free to follow along @MightyKingCobra to suggest a topic of your own! There’s always more Ten Things madness on my 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, though, in these days of careful copyright wrangling, this one may not get many more modern entries. Either way, the comments section is below for just such an emergency, but, as always: Please, no wagering!
Re: “That said, the bigger change was opening her cowl to expose Jessica’s great head of jet-black hair.”
That’s not her jet-black hair. Jessica had mousy-brown hair, cut short. Originally, she wore a wig while appearing as Spider-Woman. She dyed her hair and let it grow out until she didn’t need the wig any more.