The Legion of Regrettable Supervillains is a fun romp through decades of bizarre, questionable, loopy and downright confounding comic book creations.
Like its predecessor, The League of Regrettable Superheroes, Legion takes a chronological deep dive through the back bins and archive editions of numerous comic book publishers, large, microscopic and everything in between, to find and mock some of the more offbeat bad guys to bedevil a host of colorful heroes. Genre fans will marvel at just how many evil scientists, Nazi war criminals, ape-themed nogoodniks and otherwise “normal” citizens driven to villainy by the merest pretext abounded on the comic racks over the years.
Jon Morris, author of the “Gone and Forgotten” blog, has as much fun with the bad guys as he did with the do-gooders a couple years back. He mixes the heart of a comic book diehard with an historian’s eye for interesting details and trends that developed in the industry over the years. In the Golden Age section, fans might be surprised to note how many bad guys didn’t survive their inaugural appearance. And any number of super-crooks attempted to reflect “hip” cultural trends (at least as interpreted by often-stodgy creative teams).
Comic book fans will find some well-known characters in these pages, including Black Talon, Batroc the Leaper, The Top, Magpie, Giganta, the Mandrill and Angar the Screamer. Some of these characters have recurred for in a variety of books for decades, many filling out the ranks in the inevitable scenes of a villain army taking to the streets during one of the frequent Big Two “event” series. Demonstrating that just because a concept is goofy doesn’t mean it can’t be enduring. Prize for the most bizarre? Clearly Swarm, the villain composed of Nazi bees.
As with the heroes, the creators responsible for these freaksome creations aren’t entirely unknown hacks. Famous and respected talent involved in their genesis include Otto Binder, C.C. Beck, Bob Oksner, Frank Frazetta, Will Eisner, Kurt Schaffenberger, Reed Crandall, Jack Cole, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Gardner Fox, Gil Kane, Jim Steranko, Robert Kanigher, Ross Andru, Jerry Siegel, Ramona Fradon, Carmine Infantino, William Moulton Marston, Wayne Boring, Steve Ditko, Joe Simon, Wally Wood, Steve Gerber, Gene Colan, Len Wein, Neal Adams, Mark Guenwald and Steve Engelhart, among many others.
As with the prior volume, Morris isn’t going for intentional cruelty. The Legion of Regrettable Supervillains is a fan’s celebration of the oddities that abound in the industry. For long-time diehards or those interested in some of the less explored corners of comic book history, it’s a fun and breezy read.