The League of Regrettable Superheroes is an entertaining look at some of the odder corners of the comic book world.
Writer Jon Morris (proprietor of Gone & Forgotten, a blog that looks at amusingly weird comic book stuff) has combed through the back issue bins (or electronic databases) to turn up some of the more striking examples of bizarre comic book characters. The League of Regrettable Superheroes is divided into three eras (Golden, Silver and Modern Ages) and spotlights some colorful examples of each.
While many characters spotlighted in The League of Regrettable Superheroes were misguided or unsuccessful, many have an odd charm. Morris’s intent is to highlight heroes with a bonkers origin, bizarre conception or an approach to their adventures that was not quite sane. Some of these characters have had long runs, some even enduring for decades (Doll Man, Dial “H” for Hero). Some had respectable, popular runs in spite of being oddly conceived (Rom). And still others had their potential realized down the road by writers and artists with a good idea that was well-executed (Kid Eternity, Brother Voodoo, Squirrel Girl). Heck, even the ludicrous Red Bee had one good story in him (as Roy Thomas proved when he unearthed the hero as part of an All-Star Squadron arc).
The most interesting characters that Morris highlights in The League of Regrettable Superheroes fall into some broad groups. There are characters that were ill-considered promotional tie-ins without any redeeming virtues of their own (Captain Tootsie, AAU Shuperstar, NFL Superpro). Others were crass attempts to cash in on a pop culture trend (Brother Power the Geek, Amazing Man). Some fell into recognizable categories, like horror, fantasy or espionage, but either were unoriginal or so baffling that even a genre tag couldn’t explain them. Many were just full-out bananas. Consider:
– The Clown: A cop dresses in a garish white and pink clown outfit to chase gangsters.
– The Eye: A big, floating eye floats around and scares people. For justice, apparently.
– Madam Fatal: A young man dresses up as an old woman to thwart crime.
– Music Master: A magic organ gives a musician super powers, one chord progression at a time.
– Fatman: A portly guy gains the power to turn into a human flying saucer.
– The Sentinels: A trio of folk singers use folk singing as a cover for traveling for superhero action.
– Adam-X, “The X-Treme” — Every ‘90s comic book cliché rolled into one unappealing package.
Morris has a lot of fun chronicling the bizarre, puzzling and macabre heroes, many from long-forgotten fringe publishers who were desperate to tap a sales trend. His commentary is humorous, but not cruel, and he provides historical details that provide some nice context. The entries for characters are illustrated with original artwork to help readers get the full effect.
For the record, while some of these characters were created by writers and artists who rightfully never made a mark on the industry, some well known creators are represented here (some more than once). Jerry Siegal, Joe Shuster, Bill Everett, C.C. Beck, Will Eisner, Gardner Fox, Carl Burgos, Otto Binder, Sheldon Moldoff, George Tuska, Max Gaines, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby are just some of the famous names to turn up in The League of Regrettable Superheroes. And that’s just in the Golden Age section. Numerous other familiar creators get credit (or its opposite) in the later sections.
Morris doesn’t intend to shame anyone, though. The book is all in good fun and comes from a genuine love of the often crazy art of making comic books.
For fans with a good sense of humor and an appreciation for comic book history, there’s a lot to enjoy in The League of Regrettable Superheroes.
Originally published at thunderalleybcpcom.ipage.com on July 1, 2015.