What if instead of a radioactive spider, Peter Parker had been bitten by a radioactive butterfly? He'd be a freaking laughingstock, that's what.
Some ideas for "super heroes" should have never been spoken aloud, and when they were the creator should have been laughed out of the room, preferably through a tenth story window. Instead, seven of them were fitted with origin stories and sent to the presses giving us unintentional hilarity like:
Madam Fatal was Murder She Wrote in the 1940s if Murder She Wrote involved more criminals getting punched in the face by an octogenarian lady. So it's more like that episode of The Golden Girls where Bea Arthur has to rescue Sofia from the Mafia using only her muscular, mannish body and her experience as a female wrestler (it is entirely possible we dreamed this episode).
What Went Wrong?
But like all super heroes Madam Fatal has a secret. Her Mike Tyson-like knock out power is fueled not by hatred of whippersnappers, but by testicles. And no, she doesn't eat them for protein. Madam Fatal is a dude.
And really, who hasn't had a date that ended just like this? Stupid Craiglist.
The Madam's real name is Richard Stanton, a retired actor from New York, who dressed as a woman to rescue his daughter from some kidnappers. Richard liked it so much he decided to continue fighting crime using only his wits, face punching and acting abilities.
By "acting abilities" we of course mean dressing like a woman all the time. That's his superpower. He/she is a superhero in the same way that Mrs. Doubtfire was a superhero.
They could have made it less lame by, well, by doing anything. But more specifically, if the guy had used his super acting skills to disguise himself as a doctor, a policeman or as a fellow crook, using his amazing powers to disappear into any room. But no, Mister Stanton wrestles men while wearing old lady clothes. And we're guessing that when the crime fighting is over, well, he just leaves them on for a little while.
Imagine Olivia Newton John, circa "Xanadu", as a Marvel superhero. Now imagine her powers are really, really shitty. You got Dazzler!
Alison Blaire was a magna cum laude law student who decided to throw away her promising career for a chance of disco stardom. Who wouldn't? Besides you, us and everyone we know. So when does superheroing enters the scene? Well, turns out our plucky lawyer / disco sensation was a mutant who had the power to transform sound into light... and rollerskates.
What Went Wrong?
Turning sound into light is only useful if you are fighting Dracula in the middle of a construction site. But at least she has her music career going on for her, right?
OK, that's a no then.
You may be assuming this whole Dazzler thing was a product of the misguided disco era. You'd be wrong. Dazzler showed up in the early 80s, when all peoples of the world were trying to put disco behind them.
Like all great cultural icons, the character came about as a commission from a record company who wanted a superheroine singer with her own comic. If you wonder why you don't remember any Dazzler records, it's because the whole thing died before they got the chance. Casablanca records abandoned their end of the project by the time the first issue of Dazzler came out in 1981, presumably realizing how ludicrous the whole thing was.
Marvel, in the grand tradition of "Ah, fuck it, what do we have to lose?" began to publish the comic anyway, giving birth to the proud heroine we know as Dazzler.
Ulysses Solomon Archer (U.S.A. get it? Get it?) fights evil in the highways of America in his pimped out truck to avenge the death of his brother, Jefferson Hercules Archer. At this point we can only theorize that their father had the impossibly awesome name of Washington Samson Archer McPornstar.
His brother, by the way, was murdered by a sinister trucker known as The Highwayman, who sold his soul to the devil for a satanic eighteen-wheeler (honest). U.S. 1 was Marvel's response to America's short love affair with trucks and truckers brought by movies such as Smokey and the Bandit and that TV series about a trucker and his pet monkey (it's unfortunately not possible that we dreamed this one; we Googled it).
What Went Wrong?
Because Marvel has a sense of timing on par with a wet fart right before match point at Wimbledon, the first issue of U.S. 1 came out in 1983, five years after Smokey and the Bandit, missing its cue even worse than Dazzler did. We assume they'll have a Lambada themed comic next year.
Even if they had published this comic back when it made sense to do so, we don't think the world was ready for a superpowered trucker. Oh yes, he had one superpower. In the same accident his brother lost his life, Ulysses skull was crushed and had to be replaced with a metal plate, which SOMEHOW allowed Ulysses to pick up CB transmissions.
Armed with this dubiously amazing ability, Ulysses tries to find the man who killed his brother. We don't know about you, but our money is on the guy with an eighteen-wheeler powered by Satan and not on the guy who saved himself 50 bucks on a CB radio.
Rick Raleigh fights crime during the day as assistant district attorney of Superior City and fights crime... also during the day as the Red Bee, scourge of the underworld!
Sadly, we have not been able to find anything remotely close to an origin story for this guy, which is a shame because if anything needs an explanation it's those awful stripped tights and see-through sleeves. You know what, maybe it's better we don't know.
What Went Wrong?
You know how Batman doesn't actually fight crime with trained bats? And how Spider-Man actually stays away from actual spiders? Well the Red Bee said fuck that shit, and fights crime with bees... for real.
Not only that, but he keeps his favorite Bee and best friend, Michael, in a special compartment in his belt for special occasions. So think of Red Bee as an Aquaman, but limited to one insect, making him the scourge of people allergic to bees and villains who have never heard of insecticide.
You don't even need a fly swatter to beat this guy, just roll a magazine or a newspaper and kill Michael already.
Since there is no known origin for this guy, we can't tell you how he managed to train insects dumber than dirt that only live for a few months. We assume "Michael" gets changed pretty often after the old Michael gets a Viking funeral in the toilet. Even the creator of Red Bee is ashamed, he signed his work with the obviously phony name of B. H. Apiary (an apiary is a place where they breed bees. Get it!?!).