It’s strange to think that way back in 2008, Iron Man was considered a third-tier Marvel hero and not a guaranteed hit at all. With the subsequent success of Tony Stark and his A-list Avenger friends, Marvel producers must have started scouring the pages of some of the more obscure comics from the company’s history to find new heroes. We’ll save them some time: these are the superguys and supergirls you don’t need to bother with…
Squirrel Girl and the Great Lakes Avengers
Funnily enough, several actresses have recently shown an interest in starring in a potential Squirrel Girl movie, including Anna Kendrick (who is basically already half-squirrel), and Shannon Purser aka Barb from Stranger Things. This doesn’t change the fact that Squirrel Girl is basically one big in-joke. Her superpowers are, er, having a giant squirrel tail, although she does have the unique gift of being unable to lose to stronger opponents, which meant she was able to beat Thanos in a fight. Squirrel Girl is part of the Great Lakes Avengers, a kind of supermarket own-brand version of the New York superteam, comprising of Flatman (superpower: being 2D), Big Bertha (superpower: hyper-obesity and vomiting) and Mr Immortal, who cannot be killed (but is nonetheless suicidal).
A true product of her time, Dazzler is easily one of the most useless X-Men ever enlisted. She was created as part of a promotional opportunity between Marvel and Casablanca Records in the 1970s, but the music studio reneged on the deal, leaving Marvel with a superhero who essentially had the powers of a mobile disco. Dazzler can essentially create light and music, which is fine if your wedding DJ pulls out at the last moment but not so hot if the world is under threat from crazed mutant tyrants or whatever. For one brief moment pre-‘X-Men: Apocalypse’, there were rumours that Taylor Swift would play Dazzler in Bryan Singer’s superhero epic, but they came to nothing. Still time for a spin-off, Bryan!
Lord knows what the Marvel writers were smoking back in 1975, but Hellcow was the result. Formerly known as Bessie, Hellcow was just your average farmyard bovine who found herself snacked upon by none other than Count Dracula. She went on to become a full-blown vampire herself, with a thirst for blood and the power of flight. She first appeared in Giant Man-Thing in ’75 but was revived for an adventure with Deadpool in 2011, in which she was hunted for her “vampiric” milk. And if you’re wondering about her origin story before she became Hellcow, Wikipedia has you covered: “Before becoming a vampire, Bessie could produce more milk than the average cow.” So now you know.
You might already be familiar with the concept of multiple Marvel universes. For example, the main Marvel universe where most characters exist is Earth-616. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is Earth-199999. Porcine hero Spider-Ham hails from Earth-8311, also known as the Larval Universe, where all Marvel heroes are anthropomorphised animals. The alter-ego of Peter Porker fights crime alongside the likes of Captain Americat, Deerdevil, Goose Rider and the Fantastic Fur. This one time, Spider-Ham travelled to the Marvel Zombies universe, where he was zombified by an undead Wolverine and then shot and killed by Earth-616’s Ultron, but because he was a zombie he became Ham-ibal Lector. All completely true and you can’t prove otherwise.
It’s fair to say that when God was handing out superpowers, Martin Blank drew the short straw. Blank, no relation to the hitman of Grosse Point Blank fame, was born with ape-like abilities and looks, but used his mutation for evil, not for good, battling against Spider-Man and The Punisher among others. More monkey than man, Gibbon finally got a break when Marvel debuted the Marvel Apes universe (Earth-8101 for those keeping track), where he was inducted into the Ape-vengers (again, not making this up) alongside Iron Mandrill, Hawkape and Spider-Monkey. Working at Marvel sounds great: there’s no such thing as a bad idea!
Robert ‘Robbie’ Baldwin’s superhero origin story is exactly like Peter Parker’s, except there’s no radioactive spider, or anything radioactive at all really, and the only power he gets from his lab experiment gone wrong is the ability to… bounce. Surrounded by weird energy bubbles at all times, inexperienced crime-fighter Speedball’s first major storyline saw him chase after a cat called Niels who was also subjected to the same energy bombardment, hoping to study him more closely. Niels later went on to become part of the Pet Avengers alongside a giant dog called Lockjaw and a frog called Throg. Or maybe Speedball just did lots and lots of drugs in the 70s.
Essentially, Ruby Thursday looks like a supervillain drawn by an artist who ‘can’t do faces’. Thursday was a scientist who created an organic computer and grafted it to her head, giving it the ability to change shape into whichever form she liked (although why she leaves it in its default form of a giant red sphere we have no idea). Naturally, Ruby ran for President of the United States of America, but she was forced to drop out by the Defenders (wherefore art thou for Election 2016, guys?) and was later subject to an assassination attempt by Daredevil villain Bullseye, who threw the Rolling Stones album ‘Flashpoint’ into her chest. Obviously.
An Eddie Izzard stand-up routine come to life, supervillain Swarm is quite literally “covered in beeees”. Better than that, actually: he’s entirely comprised of bees, after a mutant colony of apids consumed his body and merged with his consciousness. He’s fought Spider-Man and friends and formed an alternate version of the Sinister Six, but is usually defeated with your run-of-the-mill over-the-counter insect repellent, which is kind of a downer for a supervillain. Did we mention he was one of Adolf Hitler’s top Nazi scientists? That’s probably one of the least ridiculous things you’ve read on this page today.
They couldn’t come up with a better name? Like, Fire-ella, or Flame Girl or something? Nope, Asbestos Lady does the job well enough, thank you. Her origin is actually quite clever: a criminal scientist by trade, she develops asbestos clothing to help criminals rob banks while she set fires to hold back police. Although she didn’t have any mutant powers, her asbestos clothing did serve her well in tussles with the Human Torch. Sadly, all that exposure to asbestos was not good for her health, and Asbestos Lady contracted cancer while in prison. She’s dead now. Rest in peace, Asbestos Lady.
Beta Ray Bill
First appearing in 1983, Beta Ray Bill was the first character in the Marvel universe other than Thor deemed to be worthy enough to lift his hammer, Mjolnir. Cool, huh? It’s just a shame he totally looks like a horse. A Thor Horse, if you will. An alien from the Korbinite race [insert rubbish political pun here], Bill eventually became an ally of Thor and earned his own hammer called Stormbreaker. Unlike all the other misfits and oddballs on this list, however, Beta Ray Bill has actually appeared in a Marvel movie, albeit an animated one: he was in the straight-to-video cartoon ‘Planet Hulk’. Still, we can’t see him making the move to the Marvel Cinematic Universe any time soon, unless Kevin Feige can afford to hire Bojack Horseman to play him.