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
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.
We said "usually."
The Shitty Early Version:
Look at this freaking bozo:
"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.
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.
"Now help me out. I gotta pee."
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.
"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.
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
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.
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.
"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.
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.
"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:
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.