Login or Register

Sign in with Facebook

Chances are, we all have ancestors we'd rather not know about. Maybe your great-great-grandpa was a gangster, or a mime, or a gangster/mime (so, a Juggalo). Most likely, he was just incredibly racist. But don't worry; even superheroes have awkward forefathers. Comic book companies aren't exactly eager to let you see the stupid early prototypes of their most iconic characters, but we're not so considerate toward your eyeballs.

Before your favorite superpowered defenders came about, someone tried out a similar concept with far more embarrassing results. For example ...

5
The First Iron Man Was A Creepy Grinning Robot Named Bozo

Marvel Comics

The Famous Hero:

Iron Man, aka Tony Stark, is an engineering genius whose sleek, kickass robot suit can fly faster than a commercial airliner, carries a cornucopia of high-tech weaponry, and routinely pisses off Captain American and the U.S. government in general. Despite being a walking armory, Tony usually doesn't kill. More often than not, he can use his sweet gadgets to incapacitate his enemies long enough to give us a nice wide pull-away shot.

Marvel Studios
We said "usually."

The Shitty Early Version:

Look at this freaking bozo:

Quality Comics

Quality Comics
"And eat them!"

No, seriously, that's his name. Bozo the Iron Man was created by the paradoxically-named Quality Comics and debuted in 1939, 24 years before the Marvel version. A bulletproof smasher of cars, people, animals, and buildings, this Iron Man is a creepy grinning robot with the power to fly using the spinning retractable beanie on his head.

Quality Comics
"Wheeeeeeee!"

Quality Comics
In this story, space looks exactly like upstate New York.

Bozo is created by standard-issue mad scientist Dr. Van Thorp as a doomsday machine to wreak havoc upon the world. Van Thorp believes that as long as his murderbot does his bidding with a smile, no one will suspect his evil intentions, which makes about as much sense as painting a smiley face on a brick of Semtex -- people are still going to run like hell the moment they realize what they're looking at. Fortunately for the world, Van Thorp's obligatory evil scientist soliloquy is overheard by his lab assistant, the puzzlingly well-dressed Hugh Hazzard. Hugh climbs inside the jolly grey giant and, for whatever reason, uses a handgun -- instead of, you know, the indestructible robot -- to thwart the villain.

Quality Comics
"Now help me out. I gotta pee."

Quality Comics
Tonight: Bozo gets drunk enough to let Hugh knock on his back door.

After dealing with the doctor, Hugh decides to start fighting crime using the Iron Man. He commemorates their new beginning by giving the robot what had to be the most insulting name he could think of, starting a chain of craziness that would continue for 40 issues. Bozo is autonomous enough to get 'faced with Hugh in his apartment, but Hugh still feels that it's necessary to crawl inside his leering robot pal and control him from there. Awkwardness abounds as panels show Hugh's torso emerging from Bozo's inexplicably hollow body, leaving us to wonder where the dapper man stores his legs when he's not using them, and how he manages to stay so crisp and un-sweaty in there.

Marvel Comics
"Now bring me my pelvis! I want to teabag that tank!"

Like Tony Stark's suit, Bozo can be controlled either from within or without. But unlike our Iron Man, Bozo does not give a fig about killing people, and neither does Hugh, apparently.

Quality Comics
All of Donald Trump's campaign promises summed up in two panels.

DC Comics bought Quality in the '50s, presumably just so they could stick Bozo the Iron Man in a basement and never, ever let him out.

4
Dr. Droom: Dr. Doom And Dr. Strange's Hilariously Racist Precursor

Marvel Comics

The Famous Characters:

Dr. Strange, Earth's Sorcerer Supreme, is a former surgeon who's now a supernatural crime-fighter. Dr. Doom, meanwhile, is a brilliant supervillain with mystical powers and a Doombot army. Both characters have some control over time travel, the ability to project astral bodies, and other magical / new agey powers, not to mention similarly dated fashion sense.

Marvel Comics
The stuff Strange smokes is way more potent, though.

The Shitty Early Version:

Some months before Dr. Doom's debut and two years before Dr. Strange came about, Stan Lee (and BOTH the artists who co-created those characters, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko) test-drove the "mystical adventurer" concept with a ... somewhat less fortunate take on it: a white guy called Dr. Droom who turned Asian upon learning how to magic.

Marvel Comics
"The Magic Mustache is sacred to all mystical crime-fighters. Use it wisely."

In his origin story, Anthony Ludgate Droom, MD, flies to Tibet at the request of an elderly, dying Lama. The Lama turns Droom into a mystic after making him go through a series of Indiana Jones-esque tasks and then drops dead, leaving him with a sacred quest: to fight evil in his place as a magical, turtleneck-wearing Asian man.

Marvel Comics
Unfortunately, he had to forfeit his club membership after becoming a minority.

Droom's eventual nemesis is as weird as he is: a famous stage magician named Zamu who is secretly a warrior-wizard from the planet Saturn (until they changed it to the fictional planet R'Zahn, probably after Saturn threatened to sue). Droom uncovers the shocking fact that Zamu uses his race's gadgets to fake doing magic at stage shows, which is ... the exact thing humans do? Oh, but Zamu's ambitions are far greater than that. He wants to use his hi-tech magic to become a state governor. Way to dream big, buddy.

Marvel Comics
"Why not president?"
"Zamu doesn't need the stress. Have you seen those before/after pics?"

In the action-packed climax to this story, Dr. Droom catches up to Zamu and stares him into submission:

Marvel Comics
At this point, Droom sings some Boyz II Men to Zamu and everything fades to black.

Zamu never got Droom, but someone else did -- several someones, in fact. Dr. Droom's peculiar franchise has been updated. The changes included renaming him "Dr. Druid," dropping the Asian-ness, and killing him multiple times. He's currently one of the only Marvel superheroes to be left in peace instead of getting the standard "Let's revisit this dead guy and make some money" undead comic treatment. One of the benefits of being the worst magical hero ever.

Continue Reading Below

3
The Original Black Widow Was A Psychic Servant Of Satan Named Claire Voyant

Marvel Comics

The Famous Hero:

As seen in the Marvel movies, Natasha "Black Widow" Romanoff (Romanova in the comics) is a former KGB spy with incredible acrobatic and martial skill, plus enviable elasticity. She can con just about everyone, and she's got ice in her veins. She's also beloved by fans of all genders for being by far the easiest Avenger to cosplay.

Marvel Studios
All you need is a black jacket, some L'Oreal, and a pissed-off face.

The Shitty Early Version:

Before Marvel was even called Marvel, they had another Black Widow, called Claire Voyant. Claire fought evil, like Natasha does, but it was to feed souls to the devil, so the heroism bit was a little ambiguous. Then again, it's Satan. He ain't care. The guy likes him some souls.

Marvel Comics
"WHAT" indeed, comic. "WHAT" indeed.

Claire's story starts with her working as a psychic medium (because with that name, it was either that or stripper). While performing a seance for the Wagler family, she listens to the literal devil on her shoulder and curses them. Not as in telling them to go suck a fuck -- she puts an actual curse on them, and then all but one of them die in a car crash.

Marvel Comics
Kinda puts Spider-Man's "I didn't stop that one robber" origin in perspective.

The surviving son/brother is understandably pissed off, and returns to kill Claire in her apartment. As she shuffles off her mortal coil, she swears that she'll avenge her own death. It seems Satan was paying attention, because when she gets to Hell, he has an outfit ready for her so tacky and unflattering that it could only be a superhero costume.

Marvel Comics
The devil isn't really red; he's merely blushing because she can see his "pitchfork."

After Claire kills her killer with her new Devil's Kiss ("apply directly to the forehead"), S-dawg has new instructions for her: Bring him as many wicked souls as she can rip out of people.

Marvel Comics
"I meant, like, bring me Marvin Gaye records! Jesus Christ, what's wrong with you, lady?!"

Marvel changed some of the details in subsequent releases to make it a little less weird (i.e. "They're evil, so they already belong to Satan, so I'm only kind of working for him."). All of that being said, she was the first published female costumed superhero. Ever. Which makes her kind of like an alternate reality President Palin -- a crazy character doomed to ruin any chance of women being put in charge of anything powerful ever again.

2
Another Company Made A (Terrible) Captain Marvel Right Before Marvel Comics

Marvel Comics

The Famous Hero:

Marvel has had a gazillion heroes called Captain Marvel, but the earliest one, debuting in 1967, was an alien warrior whose name was Mar-Vell (because Stan Lee was already running out of fucks to give by then).

Marvel Comics
Mar-Vell off to fight his nemesis, the evil Dee-Cee of planet Stanleehasagiantdong.

He's been in cartoons, video games, and might even pop up in the 2019 Captain Marvel film, which will feature his latest successor, Carol Danvers.

Marvel Comics

The Shitty Early Version:

A year before Mar-Vell, a company called M.F. Enterprises beat Marvel to the punch by introducing its own extraterrestrial hero called Captain Marvel ...

M.F. Enterprises
We'll let you speculate on what "M.F." stood for.

... and that's about where the similarities stop. Like we said, the name "Captain Marvel" has been passed around the comic book industry like (or probably instead of) an STD, but this is by far the weirdest hero to bear that title. He's actually an android, and his power is to shout "Split!" -- not to get his enemies to scram, as you might guess, but to separate his body into individual pieces. He has the powers of a poorly-made G.I. Joe action figure.

M.F. Enterprises

M.F. Enterprises
He's very effective, in that most of his enemies get too sad to keep fighting.

When he wants to collect himself, Marvel yells "Xam!" -- not "Shazam!" like the other, even earlier Captain Marvel yelled to turn into a kid named Billy Batson. No, this is totally different. Also, his kid sidekick's name was Billy Baxton, and his enemies included highly original creations like Tinyman (The Atom), Elasticman (Plastic Man), Dr. Fate (Dr. Fate), and Dr. Doom (Dr. Doom). Another villain, The Bat, reportedly got the M.F.'ers a cease and desist letter from DC Comics, for some reason.

M.F. Enterprises
At least the villain's collective name was accurate.

And while we're talking about that other Captain Marvel ...

Continue Reading Below

1
The 1940s Spider Man Was An Old Dude Who Went Around Shooting White Goo At People

Marvel Comics

The Famous Hero:

You know, this guy:

Marvel Studios
(Civil War spoilers.)

The Shitty Early Version:

Fifteen years before him, the first Spider Man appeared as an enemy of Captain Marvel (the good one, not the removable-limbs one). Like the more famous Spider-Man, this Spider Man shot webbing at his enemies and used it to climb buildings. But while Spidey's webs are awesome and even kinda pretty sometimes, this slob's webs are just gross.

DC Comics
We read somewhere that it's good for your skin, though.

The Hyphenless Spider Man only showed up for one issue, but his moment in the sun was memorable. Spider Man's favorite trick was to run around in a rosin-lubed suit (to prevent himself from getting caught in his own webs) and spray his sticky stuff right into the open mouths of his victims, leaving them scarred for life. Instead of web shooters, he carried his white goo in a bag. Or a sack, you could say.

DC Comics
That's nuts.

Things get even worse when Spider Man overhears Captain Marvel's secret identity from some random kids (freaking nerds) and decides to kidnap him in his young child form:

DC Comics
"Look out! Here comes Spider Man! (No seriously, please look out.)"

Billy eventually gets free, returns to his muscular adult form, and punches the shit out of this creep. He then spends a week sitting in the shower, presumably. As with Bozo the Iron Man, DC owns the character now, since they bought the company at some point. Just a reminder that if Marvel ever pisses them off, DC could legally make their own Avengers movie and make all the characters look like sordid jerks.

Which Sci-Fi Trope Would You Bring To The Real World, And Why? Every summer, we're treated to the same buffet of three or four science fiction movies with the same basic conceits. There's man vs. aliens, man vs. robots, man vs. army of clones, and man vs. complicated time travel rules. With virtual reality and self-driving cars fast approaching, it's time to consider what type of sci-fi movie we want to be living in for the rest of our lives. Co-hosts Jack O'Brien and Adam Tod Brown are joined by Cracked's Tom Reimann and Josh Sargent and comedians David Huntsberger, Adam Newman, and Caitlin Gill to figure out which sci-fi trope would be the best to make a reality. Get your tickets to this live podcast here!

For more alternate versions of pop culture you probably didn't know about, check out 16 Famous Characters That Are Secretly Ripoffs and 7 Classic Movies That Are Shameless Ripoffs.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel, and check out 6 Insane Foreign Remakes Of Famous American Blockbusters, and other videos you won't see on the site!

Also, follow us on Facebook. Or, don't. But, please do!

To turn on reply notifications, click here

174 Comments

Load Comments