Movies & TV / Columns

Comics 411: The Worst Written Superheroes

November 4, 2022 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Wonder Man Image Credit: Marvel Comics

Welcome back! I’m Steve Gustafson and if you enjoy discussing anything comic book related, you’ve come to the right place. Each week we cover something in the industry and I always enjoy your input in the comment section below.

Previously on…

Last time we discussed the Terrifying Comic Book Moments. Here’s what some of you had to say:

“Filthy” Jake Fury: “Sentry ripping Ares in half”

DandySkull : “It’s really kind of upsetting how many of these involve sexual violence, or fridging.

I loved a bunch of Immortal Hulk stuff. It was some really grotesque body horror stuff with how Devil Hulk twisted and distorted, and what became of the Leader.”

El Atomico: “Another great column, Gusto, thank you! Killing Joke was the first thing I thought of.”

MoMoney1985 : “Walking Dead when Ben kills his brother Billy. That was a pretty shocking and chilling moment for me. Especially with Ben not thinking he had done anything wrong because Billy will come back and he didn’t damage his brain”

D2Kvirus: “Anybody who read Preacher will surely remember this scene…

“A Spetsnaz unit was invited on a NATO special forces exercise in northern Norway. But the weather closed in faster than expected. The team was cut off. In their patronizing way, the Western military believed they had a lot to teach the Russians. They thought in terms of method… when in fact it was a matter of philosophy. Don’t look round. It was forty degrees below zero. The four-man unit stumbled on an elderly couple stranded in their mountain cabin. They had food in their larder for another week. The blizzard lasted two. You can look now…””

Too many great comments to list! Thank you to everyone who commented last week!

This week we discuss…

The Worst Written Superhero

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is preparing to join Marvel as the lead for the studio’s Disney+ series Wonder Man. While this is cool news, I wonder what type of story angle they are going with as the character has a fair amount of baggage. Simon Williams has been at the mercy of both good and not-so-good writers over the years and I can see them really cutting the character down to make him appealing to viewers. Not to mention that he has had some of the worst costumes ever and he’s never done anything to make a real impact in the Marvel universe. And that’s a shame because he has a backstory with links to a number of major players and could have found his way with a few minor tweaks. And definitely a new wardrobe.

Still, it got me thinking about characters who have suffered the most from poor writing. I’m talking about those characters who have languished due to just bad writing overall. Like anything, over the years we’ve had our share of well written characters, storylines, and books. On the other end of the spectrum, we have those characters that have so much potential but have never been attached to decent stories. Realistically, every character has had their share of bad stuff. But who had it worse?

Take a look at Dazzler and see how she started off as a horrible cliche (disco singer) that was originally developed as a cross-promotional, multi-media creation between Casablanca Records and Marvel Comics until that was dropped in 1980. Even worse, she was created by a committee. Usually a sign of trouble for any new hero. She overcame that and became a decent hero over time but has never really found her place. The same could be said for Spider-Woman, who is just now starting to see some redemption after decades of messy storylines.

Then you have someone like Adam X. This was a character who was destined for big things (by the powers that be) but quickly became a punchline. Could a decent writer have given him a better shelf life? Or was he cursed with being too much of a 90s cliche? I can’t see him getting his own movie but stranger things have happened.

Then we have good characters that were involved in horrible…just horrible…storylines. Which is where most of the examples will come from. Like Captain America. Cap-Wolf immediately comes to mind and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, consider yourself lucky. Captain America could have his own list with the number of bad storylines he’s been involved with. You could also say that Hal Jordan/Green Lantern’s ‘Emerald Twilight’ was a huge misstep, taking a beloved hero and driving him to do things completely out of character. Sheesh, I could name a few Wolverine stories that fit the bill, like the time he went noseless or threw Cyclops under the bus for leaving his wife and newborn child in Uncanny X-Men to go and be with the recently resurrected Jean Grey in X-Factor.

Batman isn’t free from the conversation and I humbly submit Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again as an example of a great writer who got lost. And I can’t forget Wonder Woman, who has had some…interesting…storylines over the years.

What about Hawkman, who’s backstory at one time was so muddled, I don’t believe even the writers knew who he was supposed to be. Or when they took away Doctor Fate’s helmet and gave him a sword. Actually, the 90s stands out as producing a large number of story arcs that were just…sad. I shudder at some of the memories.

Speaking of swords, what about Marvel’s Black Knight? Outside the Avengers, has he made any sort of impression?

One that had huge potential but suffered from confusing storylines is The Sentry. Marvel’s attempt at showing a different side of a superhero took a number of wrong turns and never recovered. He was almost my pick for worst but after careful consideration, I went with another.

That being…Lobo. No character has the reputation of being a great character with so little to back that up. I’ve reread some issues over the years and come away with asking myself if that was an entertaining story or was I just told it was entertaining so many times, I sort of believe it. Nope. Lobo, who if handled right, could have been a major player in the DC universe. But he’s never earned that with the quality of stories he has out. Sorry.

What about you? This one is wide open. Who do you think has been written the worst or involved in horrible stories? Has Shazam suffered? How about Namor? Thinking more about it…Namor is definitely in the running for me. Let us know below!

That’s all the time I have. See you next week!