#3. Asbestos Lady (Marvel Comics) -- A Suit Made of Cancer
Many comic writers design their characters' powers around the cutting-edge science of the day: the Fantastic Four got their abilities from cosmic radiation, Batman from human-bat hybridization, etc. These usually seem awesome at the time, but, like the near-future world of Back to the Future II, can appear a little stupid in retrospect. Or extremely stupid.
The pseudo-science seems stupid. The purple hood's still awesome.
One of Human Torch's enemies, Asbestos Lady, fits into that last category. She and her thugs rob banks wearing fireproof suits made out of asbestos, then set the banks on fire to deter the cops, even though asbestos lining wouldn't protect you from bullets, or falling debris ... or, for that matter, dying of lung cancer from breathing that shit all day.
Luckily, she had backup from Benzene Drinker and Radium-Pants Gentleman.
Unsatisfied with her successes, she longs for something more. So, as told in The Invaders #22, she seeks out two prominent asbestos researchers and tries to force them to work for her, decrying that there is still much to learn about the "criminal possibilities of asbestos." Like a gun that shoots asbestos or a gun that shoots smaller guns that shoot asbestos -- the sky is the limit.
"What about a suit made of 15 percent more asbestos?"
"Yes, of course!"
Her plan is foiled by Human Torch, but she escapes. She later murders the two researchers for seemingly no reason, even though they were basically the only two people on Earth qualified to help her. Unbeknownst to Asbestos Lady, the scientists' son survives the attack and later joins the circus as the Fire-Eating Boy -- yes, it seems his parents' experiments with asbestos made him immune to flames. Apparently Dad had been injecting the stuff directly into his ball sack.
Asbestos Lady attempts to kill the fireproof boy, presumably out of professional jealousy, but once again is stopped by Human Torch, who is definitely the winner in this situation because he just scored himself a new sidekick.
His previous 19 sidekicks all died in mysterious hugging incidents.
In a shocking plot twist, Asbestos Lady later died of lung cancer from breathing that shit all day. If only she had met some sort of expert who could have warned her about that, and then not murdered them for no reason.
#2. Dan the Dyna-Mite & TNT (DC Comics) -- If They Touch Their Hands, They Explode
This duo appeared in multiple issues of Star-Spangled Comics in the '40s, and like every good American comic of the time, they fought somebody tangibly related to Adolf Hitler at some point. Also like every other good American comic of the time, the writers were completely unaware of all the homoerotic overtones in their own work.
Or so they claimed.
Chemistry teacher Thomas N. Thomas and his star student Danny Dunbar give themselves powers while experimenting with radioactive materials (which was part of the school curriculum in the '40s). The powers were activated when they both accidentally touched each other, although disturbingly it's not mentioned in what way.
Nor is it mentioned why they used their real initials.
Donning the alter egos of TNT and Dan the Dyna-Mite, they somehow figure out how to funnel their powers into their "Dyna-Rings" so they can turn them on when they hold hands. Sure, the elemental powers are nothing to shake a stick at, but that's the whole problem. Whenever they activate their powers, they create a huge explosion all around their bodies. What if Dan shakes Thomas' hand at, like, his uncle's funeral or something? "Oh Shi- BOOM!" Time to schedule a couple more.
The rest of the time they have to say hello by awkwardly nodding at each other.
Another problem: What happens if they lose one of the rings down a storm drain or drop them in the toilet while they're "conducting experiments"? Or if they're separated for some reason? Or if, you know, one of them dies? Because that's exactly what happens when, in the most predictable death in comic books, TNT gets killed in an explosion in the Young All-Stars series. Dyna-Mite assumes that he lost his powers until he figures out that he could just wear both rings and slam his knuckles together. Surely this development will get rid of all the sexual connotations, right?
"I'll need at least 15 minutes and some pics of John Hamm shirtless."
#1. The Kangaroo (Marvel Comics) -- The Power to Leap Reasonably High
Doctor Octopus, the Lizard, the Rhino, the Vulture, the Scorpion -- Spider-Man has a proud tradition of fighting animal-themed villains. OK, maybe not so proud when it comes to the Kangaroo. Trust us, his name is the least ridiculous part of his origin.
In The Amazing Spider-Man #81, Australian stereotype Frank "Bruce" Oliver goes to live in the Outback with kangaroos. He goes where they go and eats what they eat (so he rechews his own puke?), and somehow he gains the powers of kangaroos simply by hanging out with them.
"If only I could jump like them ... oh hey, there I go."
Using his newfound jumping skills, he becomes a boxer but promptly gets disqualified for drop-kicking an opponent in the face, which is apparently against the rules in Australia.
He would have tried professional wrestling, but even he had more dignity than that.
Shunned by his fellow man due to his ability to jump higher than is socially acceptable, he flees the country and decides to live a life of crime, calling himself the Kangaroo. Eventually, he meets up with Spider-Man after he steals some experimental bacteria, thinking it's a suitcase full of money.
Ignore the "Wait, you don't understand!" guy. He never knows anything.
Eventually he is defeated and hops away, which nicely illustrates the real stupidity of his jumping power. OK, so he can do something that regular, non-NBA-playing people can't, but in the superhero universe it's all relative -- he's (sometimes willingly) going against a guy who can leap across tall buildings and swing around the city using indestructible webbing. Maybe he should take on Daredevil first and work his way up from there, is what we're saying.
And then, in a later issue, a doctor upgrades his arms and legs with jet propulsion.
Covered by Australian health care, for obvious reasons.
Now he has the ability to kick through concrete and jump 100 feet into the air. Finally, the Kangaroo is a worthy opponent! This doesn't last very long, though, because he soon kills himself by exposing his own body to deadly radiation, despite Spider-Man's attempts to tell him that's stupid.
Brought down by his own hubris. And gamma rays. Just like a kangaroo.
Related Reading: These characters shouldn't feel too bad, because some of the beloved superheroes have utterly useless powers. Like the Invisible Woman who, according to her husband, "should be kissed and not heard". Speaking of useless powers- read about the REAL man with an invulnerable crotch. Feel like taking a trip back to fiction-land? Read about the worst weaknesses in Superhero history.