The Mighty Thor has uttered many a memorable line over his long career as one of Marvel Comics’ heavy-hitting heroes, but none so absurd as the one that forms the title of this post. Way back in Thor #269, ‘ole Goldilocks fought one of Marvel’s lamest villains, Stilt-Man.
What are Stilt-Man’s powers, you ask? What makes him a super-villain? Well, he wears a suit of metal armor that possesses telescoping stilt-legs, allowing him to walk around 50 ft. (or more) in the air. The suit also gave him limited super-strength (he could lift a VW Bug, or in today’s comics, a Smart Car). It also happened to look patently ridiculous. But that never stopped Marvel’s merry writers from sharing Stilt-Man across numerous titles. Although he rightfully gets his clock cleaned by Thor, he certainly gives Daredevil a run for his money in issue #102 of that title, which CLP owns in a lovely hardcover collection that can be found here.
Aside from being an excellent second story man and sometime peeping tom, Stilt-Man has never really accomplished much in his super-villainous career. But he keeps coming back for more, and that’s the thrust of this post. There are villains in comics who entertain merely by their existence. Sometimes their absurdity makes them interesting foes. And sometimes it just means they’re really silly. Here are a few more lame villains, with links to some titles in our collection that highlight their ill-fated capers.
This curious little villain first appeared in Batman and the Outsiders #11, and while he has a cool origin, as a villain he’s still pretty lame. Blowdart comes from a magical sword which slew him and a host of other warriors, taking their soul essences captive and allowing them to return and serve the blade’s master. His powers? Well, he uses a blowgun and poison darts, and he’s short. That’s about it.
This old Iron Man villain also owns the distinction of being one of the original members of the Masters of Evil. Sounds impressive, huh? Not really. The Melter’s sole ability resided in a belt-buckle mounted ray that could melt anything metal. That’s about it. So if you happen to be facing the Melter, and wearing something metal, you might be in trouble. Otherwise, just run behind him and smack him in the back of the head and you’re good. Later on, he upgraded to a pistol, and seemed to be able to affect more materials than just metal, but this did not improve his lameness.
The sheer number of criminal carnies and circus performers in the DC and Marvel universes might make one think that attending either a circus or a traveling carnival is hazardous to one’s health. Danger aside, you would at least have a good chance at seeing these villainous performers getting stomped by your favorite superhero. The Cannoneer is a Batman villain whose only ability seems to be a willingness to allow himself to be shot out of a cannon, generally into banks and other establishments where he might crash into money or other valuable items. You can read about him in the pages of one of our Brave & the Bold collections.
Not sure if it’s the pantyhose face mask or the fishnet bodysuit, but the Shocker has long been one of Spider-Man’s lamest foes. He wears twin vambraces giving him hyper destructive, super-vibrational powers, and begging the somewhat uncomfortable question, shouldn’t this guy be named The Vibrator? But I digress. In spite of all of his considerable weaknesses, I kind of like the Shocker, and I find myself rooting for him. Maybe it’s because I remember him so fondly from Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. You might root for him too if you read his exploits in the pages of Essential Spider-Man vol. 4.
Emblematic of the classic comic book “gimmick” villain, the Trickster committed crimes using a series of zany devices generally associated with comedy. Funky wind-up joke toys, explosive yo-yos, and “air-walking” boots were among his tools of the trade. Notable also for being one of the Flash’s famous Rogues Gallery, the Trickster was only really cool because of his association with this loosely organized group of “ham and egger” bad guys. By himself, he was just a bit too lame for my tastes. Trickster shows up in this Showcase edition of the Flash.
It seems like Stan Lee was obsessed with idea of adhesives during his most productive years as a writer in the 1960’s. After all, Baron Zemo had Adhesive-X, and Paste-Pot Pete made his debut in Strange Tales #104 (1963) and after many defeats returned as the Trapster in Fantastic Four #38. The name change did not improve his performance. Trapster uses a backpack mounted device linked to wrist launchers to shoot powerful wads of super-adhesive at his foes. You can see him taking on Daredevil in Essential Daredevil vol. 2. I don’t think I’d be spoiling it for you to let you know that he loses.
These are but a few of the lame, misguided, and just plain goofy villains to have graced comics over the last fifty years. Heck, in the 1980’s Marvel writer extraordinaire Mark Gruenwald cleaned house with his Scourge of the Underworld storyline that eliminated dozens of lame villains.
Of late, some of the above villains, and many others I have not written about have gotten their due in titles that expand their backgrounds and make them a little cooler, a little edgier. Suicide Squad does a nice job taking lame villains and making them interesting. That said, there’s something cool about a wacky villain, and you might agree after reading some of this classic stuff!