Comic books are full of incredible and iconic superheroes. Superman. Spider-Man. Wolverine. Batman. Wonder Woman. Captain Marvel. However, it’s not all caped heroics and memorable villainy. The pages of our favorite comics have also been home to many characters who leave the reader wondering what on Earth the writers were thinking (or perhaps, smoking) when they came up with them. Characters with useless superpowers, inexplicable inclusions, and notably inappropriate choices all appear alongside the big names leaving us thinking… WTF, comics?
Here, we round up fifteen of the craziest, least-logical inclusions from the pages of our favorite comic series. We’re having a little fun with it, so you won’t find many of the characters who would be considered more offensive than bizarre, and we’re looking at individuals, rather than storylines and moments. In addition, this list leaves out some of the crazier incarnations and alternate versions of otherwise totally acceptable characters. Instead, these are the most out-there, nonsensical additions to the comic canon that we could find.
Where would this list be without one of the most famously bizarre comic book characters out there: Arm-Fall-Off-Boy! This DC character first appeared in 1989, when he tried out for the Legion of Superheroes (a teen team from the future), and got promptly rejected for having an absolutely ridiculous power.
As the name suggests, Arm-Fall-Off-Boy has the ability to take off his arms without coming to harm. He can actually remove any limb, and quite literally falls apart during his Legion testing, but it’s most common to see him pull off an arm to use as an impromptu weapon. It’s certainly an interesting power, but it’s remarkably useless; when using his ‘power’, Arm-Fall-Off-Boy has no greater strength or ability than a one-armed human carrying a fleshy baseball bat. He’d actually probably lose in a fight to a one-armed human with a baseball bat, as the bat would be a much more effective weapon than an arm.
14 Color Kid
When it comes to useless superpowers, Color Kid is definitely up there with the best of ‘em. His power (we hesitate to call it ‘super’) is the ability to change the color of an object. Another applicant to the Legion of Superheroes rejected for having a useless superpower, Color Kid first appeared in the mid-'60s, and wears a costume of black and white with a rainbow across the torso.
Although his power appeared ridiculous at first, he actually managed to become quite useful in the DC universe. He was able to hone his power to change his own color as a form of camouflage, and can project beams of black from his hands to temporarily blind his opponents. His most impressive use of his ability, though, came when he was able to save the planet by changing a cloud of green kryptonite encircling the globe into a cloud of blue kryptonite, thus re-powering Superman and saving the day.
13 Bouncing Boy
We’re fairly sure that this superhero was inspired in part by the humble puffer-fish, as his ability is remarkably similar to that sea creature’s defense mechanism. Bouncing Boy (aka Charles Foster Taine) is a scientist from the 30th century who gained his powers in a lab accident -- by drinking a super-plastic fluid. As a result, he is able to inflate his own body to become entirely round and spongey, able to bounce off of any surface. This lets him make a particularity unique escape from any situation, although he also uses his powers to make himself a bouncing weapon.
As a scientist, he is also incredibly intelligent, and surprising charming, calling himself ‘morale officer’ for the Legion. This applicant to the Legion of Super Heroes actually managed to get accepted to the League, and now teaches at the League Academy (where lesson one might be ‘don’t drink super-plastic experimental fluids’).
12 Madam Fatal
Ah, the 1940s, when ‘cross dressing’ was seen as a fantastic punchline and little more, DC created Madam Fatal for their ‘Crack Comics’ title -- a character who is otherwise a reasonable crime fighter, but who decides to dress up as an elderly woman to do it.
By day, Madam Fatal is the wealthy actor Richard Stanton, but when his young daughter is kidnapped, he decides to go undercover to find out who did it. For some reason, he uses his talents as an actor and costumer to go undercover as an old woman with a cane.
We’re not sure why that would be the fastest route to gain access to the shady underworld dealings of criminals, but apparently, that was the choice Stanton made. For what it's worth, he also disguised himself as a younger woman at one point, a secretary named Miss Sharp. As well as the borderline-offensive treatment of men dressing as women, Madam Fatal is particularly WTF because there seems to be no real reason for Richard to go this route. He’s a good fighter, master of disguise, and very intelligent -- why not just go undercover without all the Mrs. Doubtfire silliness?
11 Floronic Man
For the most part, Floronic Man is actually a fairly reasonable supervillain (compared to the rest of the characters on this list, at least!). Similar to Poison Ivy and Swamp Thing, this DC villain is connected to the plantlife of the world, and has some very specific plant-related schemes.
Things get really wild, however, in his later incarnations, when Floronic Man is regenerated out of marijuana. That’s right, kids, DC has an entire character made out of weed! His super-villainous plan? To flood the streets of Gotham with weed and get everybody stoned. He also wanted to have a plant-baby with Poison Ivy during this particular story arc (titled Reefer Madness: Leaves of Grass), but Poison Ivy is gorgeous, so that kinda makes sense.
And as bizarre as the concept of a man-weed hybrid who wants to take over the world by getting everyone high is… it also seems a little benign in comparison to the usual supervillain plots. Perhaps that’s the kind of thinking that results from being half pot.
10 Matter Eater Lad
Another superhero with a very descriptive name, Matter-Eater Lad’s power is the ability to eat stuff. This might strike some readers as more of an impulse-control issue than a superpower, but Matter-Eater Lad is a legitimate hero. He made it into the Legion of Superheroes and everything. His power isn’t unique to him, though. It actually is something that his entire race (from the planet Bismoll) is capable of, as they evolved the ability to digest everything after microbes made all of the food on their planet inedible. His power comes in particularly handy if Matter-Eater Lad is trapped anywhere, as he is able to simply eat his way out of any cell. He has also eaten dangerous objects, such as the Miracle Machine and more traditional weaponry.
Of course, Matter-Eater Lad is essentially useless in a defensive or offensive position, unable to do more than fight like a (relatively) normal human.
Thanks to Benedict Cumberbatch and last year’s hit movie, everybody knows who Doctor Strange is these days. Few people, however, will remember his DC counterpart from the late '80s: Extrano (which is Spanish for ‘Strange’, just in case the resemblance wasn’t clear enough). Extrano is also a cosmic magician-turned superhero, who can fire magic bolts of energy from his hands and has the power of levitation.
Unlike Doctor Strange, however, this Hispanic hero is the epitome of every gay stereotype. He’s ridiculously flamboyant, often dresses in loose, flowy and brightly colored robes, refers to himself as ‘Auntie’, and turns everything he possibly can into a sexual innuendo. (In your end-o, right Extrano?) He also gives advice to his fellow teammates (calling them ‘honey’ when he does) and is obsessed with his gorgeous hair and sparkly jewelry. This painfully awkward attempt at a gay male superhero was taken so far that he even battled an AIDS-super-vampire. We wish that we were joking.
Speaking of AIDS-super-vampires… of course he’s going to be on this list too. Hemo-Goblin (you heard us) is literally a vampire who infects the victims that he bites with HIV. As if an ‘80s villain who weaponizes HIV wasn’t quite disturbing enough, there’s more. Hemo-Goblin didn’t gain this power naturally. He was created by a white-supremacist group, with the intention of infecting every non-white person in the world in order to kill them off slowly.
Hemo-Goblin’s run-ins with Extrano presumably infected the gay cosmic magician with the virus, and eventually, Hemo-Goblin himself died of the disease. It also appears that this vampire is somewhat unique, as his bite doesn’t turn his victims into vampires themselves, it just infects them with HIV. We don’t know how that works, and we’re not too concerned with finding out. Luckily, Hemo-Goblin only appeared in two issues, but we’re willing to say that that was two issues too many.
7 Armless Tiger Man
One of the earlier Marvel villains, Armless Tiger Man was originally known as Gustav Hertz before a tragic factory accident changed his life forever. He lost both arms in the incident, and was left with a passionate hatred for machines as a result. Over time, Hertz trained to become a fearsome warrior using only his feet. He sharpened his toenails into claws, and honed his teeth into fangs. He is agile, strong, and terrifying -- as well as a cannibal. Whether it was fighting with his teeth that gave him a taste for blood, or just an extension of his less-than-sane rage that did it, Armless Tiger Man loves to chow down on his fellow man.
He’s worked for the Gestapo and Red Skull, but was eventually killed with a bullet to the brain by a Howling Commando. After his death, Armless Tiger Man did reappear one final time in the service of Pluto. Given that all of his ‘powers’ are simply rage and unusual training, he could be theoretically taken out very easily, and was more frightening than actually effective as a supervillain.
More deeply offensive gender stereotyping combined with some nonsensical storylines -- who could it be but He-She? Created for Boy Comics by Charles Biro, He-She appears in a single comic from 1943. This ridiculous criminal was half man, half woman (hence the name), with a face that is split down the middle. He-She's also described as being as ‘deadly’ as the female and as ‘strong’ as the male of the species, which makes us wonder quite what Biro thought of women.
He-She uses this ‘power’ to confuse/seduce/otherwise manipulate people using one-half of him/herself at a time, helped out by a hat pulled down at a careful angle and a tendency to talk to people without every actually facing them head-on. The male half of He-She even manages to marry a woman without her noticing, and then murders her when she eventually sees the other half of her husband’s face. How were people so easily stymied by He-She? Didn’t anyone wonder why they talked with their head turned to the side at all times? Did they not notice the long, thick hair coming out of the other side of ‘his’ head?
Also: "Strip my gears and call me shirtless!" The '40s were a weird time in comics.
5 Pink Pearl
Breezing on past the overt sexual reference that is her name, let’s look at who Pink Pearl actually is in the Marvel universe. A former circus freak (the Fat Lady), Pink Pearl’s primary power is simply her immense size, which also gives her proportionate strength and a measure of protection (courtesy of her fat protecting her internal organs). This enormous supervillain turned to terrorism after she left the circus, and joined the Femizons, during which time she battled Alpha Flight and Captain America.
Later in her career, she turned away from villainy and toward capitalism, however, and opened up an all-male strip club in Canada. She called her club Cloisters, and her patrons included some of the female members of Alpha Flight, which led to some violent altercations between Pink Pearl and Aurora. Now, the Fat Lady turned strip club owner appears to be a legitimate businesswoman, although she still has some connections to the supervillain underworld.
4 Leather Boy
When it comes to comic book characters who are appropriate for children, Leather Boy should probably not rank anywhere near the top of the list. This caricature of a BDSM fetishist appears in the 2005 series GLA Misassembled, the surprisingly dark offshoot of the Great Lakes Avengers title that deals with fun topics like suicide right in the first issue (although Monkey Joe reminds readers not to try that at home). Leather Boy doesn’t actually have any superpowers, he just ‘misread the ad’ that Mr. Immortal put out when he was creating a team.
He later began to hate the GLA because they never used him in any superhero battles (again, because he had no powers), so he created an all-leather Dr. Doom outfit, broke Mr. Immortal’s neck, and killed Monkey Joe (Squirrel Girl’s sidekick). He has a little bit of a vendetta against Squirrel Girl, in fact, and also kidnaps her second sidekick, Tippy Toe. Luckily, Deadpool stopped him from hurting Tippy Toe, and tied him up and left him to the squirrels. (Which, in retrospect, he may have quite enjoyed -- and Deadpool probably knew it.)
This superpowered villain has only appeared on one occasion in the DC universe, although once was probably enough for a villain that taught kids that snorting vast amounts of cocaine was a great way to get superpowers. That’s right, Snowflame is literally a drug-fueled supervillain who also has a day job as a Columbian drug lord. (At least it’s not another evil scientist, right?)
Snowflame’s powers include super-strength and the ability to burn with a white flame, both achieved by doing snorting up some white stuff. He evens has a somewhat religious love of the drug, according to his first meeting with the New Guardians when he says, “Every cell of my being burns with white-hot ecstasy. Cocaine is my GOD, and I am the human instrument of its will!” He also claims to feel no pain, and ‘burns with thought’. It’s little wonder that this gun-toting, drug-fuelled supervillain only showed up once -- although a devoted fan has continued his adventures in a webcomic.
2 Gin Genie
Like Snowflame, Gin Genie is a character that somehow made it into the pages of comics despite getting her superpowers by imbibing a mood-altering substance. In this case, however, Gin Genie’s powers come into being when she drinks alcohol. A mutant in the Marvel universe, Gin Genie had the ability to create and project seismic waves. The strength of these waves were proportionate to her blood alcohol level, but her mutation didn’t make her immune to the effects of the booze.
What this meant was that in order to be effective in a team battle situation, Gin Genie also had to be at least a little bit drunk. Unsurprisingly, she was often more than a little bit drunk, and tended to also be abusive when she was on the sauce. This meant occasionally drunkenly directing her own superpower at her teammates in a drink-addled rage, making her a far-from-ideal heroic role model for young readers.
1 Heavy Flo
It’s difficult to know exactly where to begin with Heavy Flo, a character that manages to raise a huge number of questions at the same time as being significantly more disgusting than the majority of superheroes of villains. Heavy Flo appears in the pages of Image Comics’ Savage Dragon, a series about a super-strong, green, healing-factor-possessing police officer named Dragon. Heavy Flo is a (now dead) villain whose entire power is the ability to fire high-powered jets of menstrual blood at her enemies. In case the image above didn’t make that entirely clear, that does involve bending over and firing this blood-hose from her actual genitals. Lovely.
As though weaponized bodily fluids aren’t appalling enough, Heavy Flo also leaves us with several questions. Can she only do her villainy one week of every month, or has she somehow figured out how to be constantly bleeding? Can she control this to the point of not needing sanitary products? Why did they have to kill her by bashing her head to a pulp?
Did we miss any of your favorite WTF super-characters? Comment and let us know!