Has there been an impostor in your favorite comic book? Signs point to “yes.”

Comic books love a good impostor story. One character pretending to be someone else, fooling everyone else. The revelation tends to be dramatic and produce fallout with long-term consequences. Here are a few memorable impostors.

Impostor: Shrinking Violet

In the early ’80s, perpetual second banana Shrinking Violet got a big spotlight in Legion of Super-Heroes. As her name suggests, the size-changing heroine often faded into the background. Suddenly, Violet was ignoring her long-term boyfriend and returning the previously one-sided romantic interest of teammate Colossal Boy. When her behavior tripped some red flags for Element Lad and his cop girlfriend, they brought the matter to a head in dramatic fashion. In short order, they discovered that Shrinking Violet had been replaced by a shape-changing Durlan actress named Yera. Meanwhile, the real Violet was held by rebels on her home planet, who kept her in a sensory deprivation tank while they extracted valuable tactical info from her brain. The team rescued the real Violet, who transformed herself after her ordeal, leveling up her fighting skills and adopting an aggressive new attitude. Meanwhile, Colossal Boy, who had married Yera while thinking she was Violet, decided he was in love with her and re-affirmed their marriage. Which didn’t always make things easy with the real Violet, who had some issues with the woman who’d taken her place being married to her teammate.

Impostor: Alicia Masters

Alicia Masters was the long-time girlfriend of Fantastic Four member the Thing. The blind sculptress also happened to be the step-daughter of FF foe the Puppet-Master. When the FF was off embroiled in the original Secret Wars, a shape-changing alien Skrull (shape-changing aliens are such a bother) named Lyja kidnapped and replaced Alicia in order to spy on the team. When the Thing elected to remain in space, Lyja instead seduced his teammate/friend the Human Torch. Thing was not amused when he returned home, and less so after “Alicia” and the Torch married. Lyja had fallen in love with the Torch, so when her identity was revealed, she turned on her masters. That led to years of on/off relations between the couple. Most recently, Lyja took part in Secret Invasion (see below) and used her role to prevent the FF’s deaths, though she did plunge the Torch, the Thing and the Richards children into the Negative Dimension. She stayed behind, ensuring the others got home, and hasn’t been seen since.

Impostor: Secret Invasion

Over the years, the Skrulls have impersonated any number of Marvel characters, usually in the short term. But in Secret Invasion, a coordinated effort over a period of years saw the shape-shifters kidnap and replace any number of characters (including Mockingbird, Hank Pym, Elektra, Spider-Woman, Black Bolt and various S.H.I.E.L.D. agents) as part of an elaborate plan to seize control of Earth and transform it into a new Skrull homeworld. The aliens sowed paranoia and distrust, turning heroes against one another, so that they were significantly weakened when the Skrulls launched a devastating attack. The heroes won the day, but the scars from the plot would linger for a long time to come.

Impostor: Hawkeye

In one of the more bizarre plot turns from West Coast Avengers, a new version of Zodiac, composed of Life Model Decoys that had gained independent consciousness, kidnapped team leader Hawkeye and replaced him with an LMD. The faux Hawkeye wreaked havoc on the fractious squad, before the truth emerged and the two organizations had a punishing showdown. While, for the most part, the incident wrapped up quickly, the damage that the episode inflicted on the already strained Hawkeye/Mockingbird marriage would help hasten the duo’s eventual split. Also worth noting, ex-spouses Hawkeye and Mockingbird both would have an impostor at different points over the years.

Impostor: Superman

After Superman died, four different Superman-like characters emerged. At times, characters wondered if each was, somehow, the believed-dead hero come back to life. Steel, sporting a full face mask, turned out to be an African-American scientist who was inspired by Superman to take up a life of heroics. The cocky Superboy was sure he was the hero, returned from the dead, but eventually discovered he was a clone of Superman, with some of Lex Luthor’s DNA spliced in for good (bad?) measure. More problematic were the other two contenders. The Eradicator, an older, grizzled warrior who was more brutal than Superman had ever been, seemed like he could be Superman, returned from the grave and badly affected by his plight. But he was actually the manifestation of a Kryptonian artifact that had previously given Superman a lot of trouble. After the truth emerged, Eradicator continued trying to be a protector of Earth before dropping out of sight. The real threat was the Cyborg Superman. He most resembled the Man of Steel, albeit a misshapen, part-machine version. He feigned “amnesia” to cover various lapses and eventually revealed he was Hank Henshaw, a Superman foe who’d had most of his body destroyed in a rocket mishap. Insane, he tried to destroy the world. Steel and Superboy emerged as long-time allies for Superman, while the Cyborg became a recurring threat.

Impostor: Hyperion

Various versions of the character Hyperion have made their way through Marvel’s stories. One was an artificial life form created by the Elder of the Universe known as the Grandmaster for use in a scheme against the Avengers. That Hyperion later wound up trapped in a murky dimension after a battle with Thor. The Hyperion of the Squadron Supreme’s Earth led his teammates in essentially taking over the world following a massive crisis that left the planet on the brink of ruin. With the help of one of Hyperion’s enemies, the villainous version took the hero’s place, in the process starting a romance with teammate Power Princess (killing off her elderly husband in the process). When the real Hyperion escaped his imprisonment, he and the villain had a massive showdown that left the villain dead and Hyperion blind. An even bigger development: having been awoken to her attraction to Hyperion by his impostor, Power Princess convinced the powerful hero to embark on an actual relationship.

Originally published at thunderalleybcpcom.ipage.com on May 5, 2016.

Author (Grievous Angels) and pop culture gadabout #amwriting

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