The 5 Most Ridiculous Attempts to Reinvent Superheroes
Because comics have been around for so long, every spin on a character and "What if?" scenario you could fantasize about already exist. Think it would be cool to see an evil version of Superman? Done. Want to know what would happen if the X-Men and the Avengers fought? Done. Think it would be wacky to see Batman as a baby? You're right, it's very wacky. Every corner of comic imagination has been covered.
I do mean every corner. For each awesome idea, there are a TON of ridiculous alternate versions of superheroes that should have never seen the light of day ...
Superman Is a Simpering Fop
Superman is like the Jesus of superheroes -- there's an interpretation for everybody to enjoy, whether you want Freemason Superman or Amish Superman or something in between (whatever the hell that might be). The '90s even gave us a hippie version named Sunshine Superman, whose Justice League calls itself the Love Syndicate.
Hippies: What can't they ruin?
So why not something for the socially repressed across the pond?
How It Got Ludicrous:
What would have happened if Kal-El's rocket had landed not in Kansas, but in Somerset, England? The answer is True Brit. And you can tell right away what you're in for: a metric quantity of irreverent puns.
Monty Python's John Cleese has a co-author credit on True Brit. Now, if comedy was a superpower, Cleese would have a "C" stamped on his chest and a cozy seat in the Hall of Justice. So it's kind of a personal crisis for me to report that this book does for satire what a stillborn Chihuahua does for a rich girl's libido.
So ... no pain, then?
You would expect this Superman to battle uniquely British foes like Maggie Thatcher's dole-zapping lizard henchmen. But no, Superman is too afraid of making a scene to use his powers.
OK, but surely Colin "Superman" Clark at least faces Anglican challenges like tea shortages or naming his kids something even more English than "Benedict Cumberbatch," right? Wrong again. It's 90 pages of Superman stammering haplessly just to belabor the point that British tabloids are shallow rags. Oh, and the villainous news mogul looks like John Cleese, just in case any flush producers were in the market for an adaptation-ready property with a marquee name attached.
The comedy isn't funny, and if there had been action it would also not be funny. With no supervillains to fight, the queen tasks him with making the trains run on time, speeding up their state health care system, and revamping BBC programming into something interesting -- which seems like an unfair request, considering he can't even do that for a Superman comic.
Truly this was Superman's Career Opportunities.
There's a running gag where the Clarks are so embarrassed by their son drawing attention to himself that they keep moving farther away without telling him. This eats up 10 percent of the book just so it can propagate the myth that Wales is a real place. And no offense to the Welsh, but if your country exists, how come there's no portal to it in the back of my wardrobe?
The book ends with Superman emigrating to America because he's sick of Great Britain -- although his is a biased perspective, since he never needs health care. So after watching him bust his ass for the country he loves, nothing changes, and Superman says, "Sod you all, I'm going someplace easier."
English Superman would have had more dignity chasing Lex Lutheran through a "Yakety Sax"-filled highway.
But I still love you, John Cleese.
Wolverine Is Not a Mutant
Comic books contain one law of physics, and that is Logan's Rule, which says that, regardless of temperature or pressure, Wolverine slays mountains of ass. If you dropped Wolverine into a vat of phosphoric acid, the acid would learn, to its horror, that it could be stabbed. The only thing he can't cut is his hair properly, and that's because his hair is Wolverine, and therefore cannot be defeated.
How It Got Ludicrous:
Earth X is a miniseries that takes place in a future of the Marvel universe where everyone on Earth has become a 1980s cartoon character. Marvel's sexiest forbidden lovers, Jean Grey and Wolverine, are now a fat, boring married couple. That's a daring switch-up, even though we know there's no credible future in which Wolverine can take his Centrum Silver multivitamin without stabbing a few ninjas.
Danny DeVito in his Flock of Seagulls days.
The ludicrous part happens next. Wolverine finally learns his mysterious origins, and they're not pretty. Say "Oh, hell" to Logan's great-great-not-very-great-grandfather, Moon-Boy:
No way did he sire Wolverine. Moon-Boy couldn't get laid in Swaziland if his semen cured HIV.
This paragon of dignity is one of the "Small Folk," which are what human beings were supposed to be until alien gods, called Celestials, tinkered with our DNA. That's right -- Wolverine's not the mutant. You are. And your mutant power is not having a healing factor. So thanks for saving us from that, outer space people.
Moon-Boy is a member of the Moon Clan, aka the Wolf Clan, and all the feral heroes of the Marvel Universe (like the Beast) are descended from him. By the time Earth X takes place, their proud lineage has petered out to a fat, hairy little guy prone to psychopathic fits of violence. So basically, the true face of humanity is Joe Pesci.
But what about the feral villains? Oh, it's explained. Wolverine's arch-nemesis, Sabretooth, gets his powers from inhuman ancestors in the Bear Clan, the Moon Clan's mortal enemies. It's just one of those weird coincidences that true human beings and their monstrous foes evolved the exact same abilities.
The Bear Clan and the Moon Clan have been bickering for eons, and didn't quit trying to destroy each other even when history invented better things than feuds, like pornography and video games. Which explains why they're dying out. Now, I'll grant you, Moon-Boy might have gotten lucky only because of his sweet ride: a T. rex named Devil Dinosaur.
He's basically the Knight Rider of Parallel-Lithic Earth.
But none of that matters, because when Earth X Wolverine met Days of Future Past Wolverine (who is another future timeline Wolverine), the latter laughed his fat counterpart right out of his own book.
That's just how badass Wolverine is -- you give him the answers he's been seeking his entire life, and when they're not worthy of his legend, he shames an entire timeline out of existence.
Punisher Makes Crime Kinky
Frank Castle is a vigilante whose only power is surviving any brutal situation you put him in. Unfortunately, that meant he got to watch his family explode after he made the fatal mistake of entering Central Park before the '70s were over. He has never forgiven the world for his loved ones' demise. At the end of the universe, the last two things to break down will be background radiation and the Punisher's rage. God help the radiation.
The last time Death came for him, he killed it and made a tunic of its corpse.
A lot of people think the most ludicrous version of the Punisher was the one that showed up in Riverdale to substitute-teach Archie (which was awesome), or the time he became an angel who killed demonic mobsters (which was boring). Nope. It's this. This thing that happened:
Oh for ...
How It Got Ludicrous:
Since all manga characters, male or female, are the prettiest ladies you've ever seen, it's not weird that the Punisher is now a sexy school administrator. What is weird is that her parents died in a pogo stick accident. And with that pair of corpses, the similarities to her counterpart end. Sensei Punisher spends her evenings engaging Tokyo's crime lords in light BDSM for literal punishment, or as it's known in consenting circles, "sexual assault."
First off, where was this teacher when I was at private school -- this morning -- trying to find a date? And second, this particular brand of justice-meting is only going to encourage criminals.
Hulk Is a Force of Nature, Perverts Laws of Nature
Bruce Banner was a jellyfish with the brain of a nuclear physicist, until the day he grew enough backbone to save a stranger from a bomb he'd made. For his courage, he was rewarded with a lifetime of hatred and self-loathing, and the inability to speak in the first person whenever he got crabby. Over the years, the Incredible Hulk has had a few skin color changes and a range of smarts to complement his rage, but generally Hulk storylines followed a pretty basic formula: Banner was smart, then he was angry, then he was Hulk and you didn't like him anymore. Standard Jekyll and Hyde stuff. Cue sad, Hulk-walking-away music and call it a night.
How It Got Ludicrous:
Or, hey, how about we make him a backward hillbilly raising a brood of inbred, cannibalistic mini-hulks?
What a fun sentence that was to type.
That's right! This version of Hulk comes from Old Man Logan, an eight-issue series set in the apocalyptic wasteland of the future that centers on an old and tired Wolverine who vowed never to use his claws again. Old Wolverine just wants to spend the rest of his days in quiet, peaceful solitude, but a number of ridiculous comic-book-related shenanigans force him on a cross-country road trip that finds him coming up against a variety of enemies, including a whole clan of inbred, redneck mini-hulks born of the Hulk's unholy pillaging of his cousin She-Hulk.
I've thrown a lot at you just now, so I'll break it down a bit simpler: Hulk's cousin got Hulk horny (and you won't like Hulk when he's horny), and their incestuous union yielded a crop of backward-ass Hulk cannibals.
Science may never know if they're messed up from the radiation, the incest, or the bad parenting, but lord, it ain't good any which way. When Logan stalks out into the wasteland to scratch up rent money, the Hulk brood up and murders his whole family, leaving the corpses lying around like sun-bloated Pick Up Stix. That's enough for the low-key Logan's claws to finally come out, and he gives it back to every last green abomination.
After Wolverine wipes out all of the hulklings, Bruce Banner, the OG Hulk, EATS Wolverine.
And then Logan bursts back out of him like a goddamn Alien, because of course he did, and then he rides off into the sunset with the last remaining Hulk, a baby called Bruce Banner Jr.
So, a guy who just wants to live a peaceful life is thrown back into a life of violence when his family gets murdered and then he ends up with a green inbred monster baby and ... what's the moral of this comic? Who the hell knows? Just pray that it doesn't end up being the plot of Avengers 2.
Deadpool Has Fleas
There's an Earth where Weapon X made Deadpool out of a dog instead of a Canadian hit man.
He got out of that mask two seconds after this picture was taken.
And everything about that idea is goddamn beautiful. I won't hear a word against it.
Brendan McGinley apprehended the Five Supervillains Too Lame to Be in a Man of Steel Movie. He also tweets news headlines from alternate futures at Twitter @Newsin20years.
For more comic characters ripped out of their time, see the 7 Comic Characters Who Outlasted the Trends That Made Them, or see Brendan's explanation of How Comics Work.