Every hero must have an adversary, you know this to be true. What would Batman be without the Joker? Or Spider-Man without the Green Goblin? Boring, that is what they would be!
A couple of years ago I was able to review a book that examined some of history’s less notable heroes, the link can be found here. This time, however, I am able to delve into the world of their enemies! I present to you The Legion of Regrettable Supervillains: Oddball Criminals from Comic Book History!
The thing with bad guys is that there are always more of them than heroes, so in honor of that fact it appears there are over one hundred villains within these pages! Set up in a similar fashion to the first compilation, this book gives a brief synopsis of the antagonist along with a few quirky or fun facts. Many even feature a few panels from a story, giving the reader a lot of perspective and a glimpse at how the comics of yesteryear differ from those today. As before, this is broken into Golden Age, Silver Age, and Modern Age in order to provide consistency for readers.
Unlike the superhero book in this series, a few of these are actually in the rogues gallery of some well-known figures! For instance, Bull’s-Eye the clown was a one time enemy of Green Arrow! Plastic Man faced off against Sadly-Sadly, a criminal who uses his morose visage to control people. Even Captain Marvel had Spider Man (no hyphen), who could squirt out rope with which to climb things. Captain America, The Atom, Wonder Woman, The Shadow, Aquaman, and many more of the recognizable heroes from modern times. It just goes to show you that no matter how great the comic is, there will always be some under performing characters or creatures at some point.
There are some things in this book with which I disagree but they are not as numerous as you might think. For the most part the villains are a bit regrettable, though often it’s their story and not so much their persona that tanks them. For instance, I do not see MODOK as a regrettable anything. I just feel that the writers didn’t utilize him efficiently. In the poorly created Super-Richie Rich comics, Badman seems to be getting a bum rap, along with a bum name and a bum comic. So it is not just regrettable supervillains you have to watch out for, it’s regrettable creators as well.
Others are not so lucky; their stories, abilities, and costumes make them regrettable on a variety of levels. Dr. Dracula has the misfortune of being the enemy of the atrociously monikered Captain Battle and not being what you would expect him to be with that name. The Reefer King is a not-so-subtle addressing of the supposed threat of marijuana during the World War II era and is busy doing all sorts of non-stoner activities. The villain He-She is about as terribly portrayed as possible, delivering insult after insult to anyone who might have gender identity issues and apparently was considered soulless. I must note that the book does not condone or indulge any of these issues, but merely gives a summary of the comic and character.
One feature that I noticed in this compilation is the occasional sub-section of a group of these villains based on a common thread. Instances include “Those Nasty Nazis,” which is merely a bunch of Nazis with different powers. Notable here is that the list includes an evil tattoo artist! I’m pretty sure my tattoo artist would kick that one’s ass. Right, Pat? There was also a section on “Sinister Simians,” with an explanation that monkeys and gorillas apparently drove positive sales when featured on a cover. For the most part their backstories involved de-evolution in one fashion or another. The final grouping is “Beast-Named Bad Guys,” and is essentially what it sounds like, a bunch of baddies named after beasties.
I would love to go into details about the other ninety or so villains listed here but I feel I can do no justice to the hard work that Jon Morris has put in with this wonderful guide. I will treasure this book, it’s a piece of history that is seldom discussed.
Comics have long been disregarded by the masses but these last ten years or so have seen an encouraging acceptance of what many of us have loved for decades. Take the time to peruse this book and its predecessor, and you might just find yourself looking for some of these old “regrettable” comics. Thanks for reading and I hope you grab a copy while you can!