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Five Really Lame Marvel Characters

Chris Peruzzi is a comic book superhero historian who is passionate about how today's comic book heroes are the new mythology for America.

This is only the beginning...

Hang on, folks... It's going to be a bumpy ride.

Hang on, folks... It's going to be a bumpy ride.

In a recent post when it came to identifying really lame characters, I said that I was going after DC first because of its "low hanging fruit." Ironically, I had found all of the lame characters who, by coincidence, weren't villains. So when I decided to do the same thing with Marvel, I figured I'd start with their heroes first and make it about them. As it turns out, that was easier said than done.

I had no problem at all envisioning Stan Lee coming up with really bad characters. After all, if he could come up with "Stripperella" for TV, there was no limit to how low he could go. What I found, however, was a plethora of really lame bad guys. It seems that while Marvel had an absolute knack for creating lame bad guys, that the good guys, no matter how lame they appeared, could always be vindicated one way or another. I'd have to search a little harder.

But all was not lost. I turned to my Official Marvel Universe Handbook and began to peruse even deeper and managed to find at least nine candidates. Here, I've whittled them down to the five worst.

The Five Worst Marvel Heroes

  1. Howard the Duck
  2. Pip the Troll
  3. Captain Ultra
  4. Impossible Man
  5. Puck
Howard the Duck

Howard the Duck

1. Howard the Duck: Trapped in a World He Never Made

Let's begin with the painfully obvious. I think the same place in George Lucas's mind that came up with the Jar Jar Binks's character also thought doing a movie on Marvel Comics' least marketable character, Howard the Duck, was a good idea. It was such an epic failure that I think Lucas gets a facial tick anytime he hears the name.

The character was a being from an alternate reality Earth where the dominant life form was ducks. Through the intervention of Garko the Man-Frog, the cosmic axis shifted and he found himself on our earth in the Florida Everglades—where the nexus of all realities is (in the middle of the Man Thing's swamp).

He meets and rescues a woman, Beverly Switzler, who becomes his companion and sometimes girlfriend. Howard is a duck who does not have wings and can not fly. His only hero quality is that he fights using the little known art of Quack-Fu (whatever that is).

Howard the Duck was one of those characters that Marvel thought, "Okay, he's a talking duck. Let's give him a cigar and hat... and that'll make him funny." I can usually picture him with a gravely Brooklyn voice that every character who smokes a cigar in the Marvel Universe has... including Ben Grimm, the Thing, and J. Jonah Jameson. Howard was more a vehicle for social commentary rather than one to be taken seriously. This did not stop him from becoming part of the mainstream Marvel Universe.

Characters like Howard's continue to keep cropping up in Marvel. I don't know if this is a tribute to Jack Kirby or if Marvel has devolved into some really twisted and stagnant machine that can't create new characters. In any event, these characters don't die easily.

The next case in point...

Pip the Troll: Adam Warlock's Sidekick

Pip the Troll: Adam Warlock's Sidekick

2. Pip the Troll: Sidekick to Adam Warlock

Can you hear it now? It's in the Marvel Bullpen.

"Hey guys! I have a great idea for a new character! He's a guy who becomes a troll. He has hooves, but he's only three feet tall... and smokes a cigar! That makes him funny!" Yup, they just keep churning them out... just like that.

Okay, seriously, this is his origin: Pip the Troll was Prince Gofern of the planet Laxidazia. One night, he decided to party with bunch of satyr-like trolls who spiked his drink with a mutagenic hallucinogenic ale. This turned the prince into a troll. He was then disowned by his family and found refuge with the equally lonely Adam Warlock. Together they wandered the galaxy and had adventures together.

Anyone who's read Rip Van Winkle knows it's a bad idea to party with the fairy folks. It never turns out well.

Just to illustrate that these characters are hard to kill off, Pip was killed off by Thanos the Mad Titan who essentially lobotomized him. Adam Warlock found Pip's dying body and absorbed him into his soul gem where his spirit lived on happily. Pip was resurrected during the events of the Infinity Gauntlet. Adam Warlock gave him a new body, which was made into a troll form to look like his old one.

Pip, for the longest time, was guardian to the space infinity gem. This gave him the ability to teleport wherever he wanted to. Again, his character is very much like the Ben Grimm, Nick Fury, J. Jonah Jameson, Wolverine, cigar smoking, gruff, wise-cracker that Marvel has an endless supply of.


3. Captain Ultra

Take a good look at this guy... a good long look. Is that the stupidest costume you've ever seen?

Not many people have heard of Captain Ultra. I think one of the reasons why he's so incredibly lame is that he got his start as a Marvel Supervillain. He was recruited to be part of the Wizard's Frightful Four (enemy of the Fantastic Four). At first, he was a great fit. He flies. He can lift nine, count em, nine tons. He has superhuman endurance. He has X-ray vision and super breath. And he can become intangible, too! He's like the poor man's Superman!

Unfortunately, he's more like the poor man's Martian Manhunter—he's a pyrophobe. Any flame as small as one made from a cigarette lighter will make him faint. NOT THE GUY WHO SHOULD BE FIGHTING THE HUMAN TORCH.

Here's the sad part: DC Comics made a character like this that actually works. Jonn Jonzz, the Martian Manhunter, has been in almost every incarnation of the Justice League. His staying power has been around since the fifties. For some reason, Joe Sinnot, his creator, could not make it work.

Maybe, it was the costume.

He's just impossible... man.

He's just impossible... man.

4. Impossible Man: The Most Annoying Character Ever

Impossible Man is the character you bring on after a very dark story arc. I usually see him on an annual issue of some title, like the X-men or the Silver Surfer. Most of the time, though, he can be found making a guest appearance in The Fantastic Four. He is the brainchild of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby to be a prankster and a hedonist.

The Impossible Man is from the planet Poppup. We don't know his real name because Poppupians don't have names. Everyone on planet Poppup knows who each other is because they share a collective consciousness as they reproduce asexually. Poppupians have the natural ability to teleport and to shape shift (they can't change their colors, so they're usually purple and green constructs - most often impersonates the Hulk and Galactus). When they teleport, it's usually accompanied by a small "pop".

He is, in essence, the Marvel version of Mr. Mxyzptlk - he's not really evil though, he's more a practical joker whose presence causes enough chaos to warrant immediate and violent disemboweling. To his credit, he took on Klaw and the Molecule Man simultaneously and beat them. Other than that, his presence is a big pain in the butt. His mission usually revolves around some kind of juvenile task that he's involved with like a scavenger hunt or televising a Hulk battle.

But, oh my GOD, is he annoying! The common strategy to making him leave is IGNORING HIM.

Practically every Canadian stereotype in one small package.

Practically every Canadian stereotype in one small package.

5. Puck: From the Great White North, Eh

If anything should have caused war between Canada and the US, it should have been this character: Puck.

John Byrne, when he came up with Canada's superteam, Alpha Flight, decided we need a small, hairy, cigar smoking dwarf who can round out the team. He smokes a cigar and HE'S CANADIAN! That's funny!

Ugh... eh.

Let's look at this in a bright light. The dwarfs have a comic book hero who fights crime. His powers? Well, he's super dense... like rubber. And he can cartwheel really fast. When he does this, he's like a huge Canadian hockey puck.

You can't make this up.

I'm treating his background a little lightly. Initially, he (Eugene Judd) was a six foot five giant, who made his body the prison for an Arabian demon called Black Raazer. Every time Judd was cut by the demon, he lost a foot of his height. When he made his body the demon's prison, he stopped aging... but he was trapped in the body of a dwarf and is in constant pain from the demon trying to escape.

Now, I know that there is a precedence to his character. The Golden Age Atom from DC was very much like Puck - a short guy with no powers - but he could fight really well. How do you use a character like that on a super team? It can be done if the writing is exceptional.

Unfortunately, Alpha Flight really never got to that level of excellence and Puck's potential as a character really wasn't explored well.

Final Words

Little cigar smoking characters apparently have a long shelf life with Marvel. Apparently no one got the memo that cigars may not be the best influence on children reading comics - not that I've seen any teenagers smoking any Cohibas, but that's beside the point. I need to ask if there's a stipulation in the creative lines for any Marvel writer that when they come up with a new super team that one has to be a small creature that smokes a stogie.

Who knows? There are stranger things in heaven and earth, Horatio.

To their credit, Marvel makes some good heroes. Some of them start out really lame with lame powers and evolve to some pretty dangerous characters. I will leave that topic for another article, but three immediately spring to mind.

What will get the full attention of my fury will be when I bring up five Marvel villains who really need to be brought into the light of day.

© 2012 Christopher Peruzzi


Christopher Peruzzi (author) from Freehold, NJ on August 20, 2012:

Peter David had made the analogy between old Galactica and new Galactica as between camp and serious science fiction. But I agree, seeing Galactica the first time around was scarring.

Steve Rubino from Milton, Vermont on August 20, 2012:

Ahh... the 80s. Gotta love them. Just watched the original Battlestar Galactica ( late 70s ) again not too long ago and laughed at the fact that they had to divert all their mighty computer power towards solving some really silly problem. Too funny.

You know, the idea of a comic based on an android/robot/cyborg that ran on Windows has limitless comic potential...

Christopher Peruzzi (author) from Freehold, NJ on August 20, 2012:

Here's the fun part about Machine Man - his Marvel Universe profile from the 80's. According to Machine Man's specs, his memory space for his mind to function is 3.2 TB. Imagine that. The facsimile of a human mind running on what could be summed up with 3 high end external hard drives. This means that either the operating system that runs Machine Man's BIOS really runs very efficiently for that amount of space for that long a time or Marvel couldn't envision something larger than a terabyte back in the 80's.

What I can tell you is that he probably doesn't run on Microsoft.

Steve Rubino from Milton, Vermont on August 20, 2012:

Howard the Duck suffers from the same problem that Machine Man does: terrible writing. They both have a ton of potential, and actually have some really fun stories, but too often they were used in just really atrocious ways. However, Machine Man, aka Aaron Stack, is redeemed from the Lame pile simply by being in Nextwave alone, and is an absolute riot during his appearances in Miss Marvel's comic.

Christopher Peruzzi (author) from Freehold, NJ on July 24, 2012:

That was the X-men annual for the scavenger hunt with Longshot.

Puck... Well...

Eric Mikols on July 24, 2012:

Wow. I forgot how bad Impossible Man was. I read an old X-Men story with him and it was terrible. And poor Puck! He does the best with what God has given him!

Christopher Peruzzi (author) from Freehold, NJ on April 19, 2012:


Definitely obscure. I vaguely recall the character from Spider-man. I'm not sure if we can go lame with that. She certainly provides a service very much in keeping with the superhero vigilante community - especially heroes that are not as accepted as any Avengers members.

But you are right. This may be a character that should be brought to light. The only problem is finding enough real issues out there (other than her limited run) to build on that.

Keith Abt from The Garden State on April 19, 2012:

How'bout the semi legendary NIGHT NURSE?

Christopher Peruzzi (author) from Freehold, NJ on April 19, 2012:

Well, I see we've identified a real need here.

While I feel I've done some work with some of the lame characters in Marvel and DC, I've found that newer readers are unaware of what I like to call "the dark times."

For DC, it's most of the silver age plot lines that preceded the 1986 renaissance that came with Crisis on Infinite Earths. It was a reboot at the right time which introduced many of the modern writers to the medium. What I remember best was the insanely good plot and characters that came with Alan Moore's Swamp Thing run in 1984 - 85.

For Marvel, it's harder to define without offending a lot of the comic book originators. What I can tell you is that I found a line between good and awesome in the late 90's. I credit the improvement to Joe Quesada's management and Brian Michael Bendis' magic with plot and dialogue.

But I digress.

Marvel and DC kept the lame characters to some degree but did a bit of retrofitting when they could. What really needs to be done is a bit of comic book spelunking - which I may need to do.

Priscilla from El Paso on April 18, 2012:

I have not heard of any of these characters before but I can see why. Voted up!

Christopher Peruzzi (author) from Freehold, NJ on March 27, 2012:

Yeah, I remember the Ditko stuff, and knowing it was early, thought he was the originator.

I'm not ready to write Machine Man as lame just yet as the philosophical questions regarding "the ghost in the machine" have yet to be fully explored. I also want to get a read as to what his character had done in Marvel Zombies.

In my continuing research, I'm finding more and more lame good guys in the Marvel Universe that are unexpectedly cropping up. And, yes, even more than Devil Dinosaur, I think Moon Boy should get on the list first. I can't divorce myself from the feeling that Chaka, from Land of the Lost, made it to the comic pages.

The lame Marvel villains is taking longer than I thought as there are JUST SO MANY. Sorting through them is a chore.

Keith Abt from The Garden State on March 27, 2012:

Yep, Kirby created Machine Man (originally called "Mister Machine") in the last two issues of his quickly-cancelled monthly series based on the "2001: A Space Odyssey" film. Why they decided to carry the character over into his own book afterwards is anyone's gues..

Christopher Peruzzi (author) from Freehold, NJ on March 26, 2012:

It was Kirby, first.

Christopher Peruzzi (author) from Freehold, NJ on March 26, 2012:


I'm pretty sure Machine Man was Ditko. Maybe Kirby wrote the character.

Next is villains.

Keith Abt from The Garden State on March 26, 2012:

Awww c'mon, Howard the Duck's comic was great stuff. If it weren't for that godawful movie, he'd be more fondly remembered today.

If you ever do a part II to this hub, I nominate two of Jack Kirby's lamest creations...Devil Dinosaur and Machine Man!!

Stevennix2001 on March 26, 2012:

great read, as i can tell you put a lot of research into this.

Christopher Peruzzi (author) from Freehold, NJ on March 26, 2012:

Thanks :)

Jayfort on March 26, 2012:

Tough topic, well done Hub, C!

Christopher Peruzzi (author) from Freehold, NJ on March 26, 2012:

Honorable mentions for lameness go out to:

- Wundarr the Aquarian -

- HellCat -

- Frog Man -

- The Spider-Kid -


- Volstagg -

Christopher Peruzzi (author) from Freehold, NJ on March 26, 2012:

The problem is that Marvel has two Catwoman characters that are too similar. When you look at Patsy Walker, you have to remember that there's already a Tigra character as one of the Avengers.

Let's also remember that Selina Kyle at least has the sense to wear a black costume as a cat-burglar. Hell Cat's costume is yellow and blue.

What were they thinking?

The most interesting thing they did with her character was marry her off to Daimon Hellstrom (The Son of Satan). Other than that, her link to the old Patsy Walker Model comic makes her almost nauseating.

Ara Lynne from Nebraska on March 26, 2012:

Ugh! The Impossible Man always irritated me - you are right, he shows up randomly in so many comic series, and every time I saw him I just dreaded reading that particular one. He was probably my least favorite villain type.

For your lame heroes, I chose Hell Cat, because it always bothers me when they make a character that is so similar to another character (Selina, Catwoman.)