You could look at the New Warriors cynically as a marketing ploy to capitalize on skateboarding and rap culture, both of which were big social trends in the late ’80s and ’90s. A more generous point of view is that the New Warriors were designed to give a spotlight to some of the more interesting B-list Marvel characters that otherwise lacked a place to shine. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.
The New Warriors were created by writer Tom DeFalco and artist Ron Frenz for “Thor” #411 & #412. Thereafter, writer Fabian Nicieza and artist Mark Bagley helmed the New Warriors’ successful first volume run from 1990-1996. The New Warriors would eventually cover five volumes over almost four decades. Over that time, the New Warriors would remain a place for non-traditional heroes to shine. Here are 15 of the weirdest characters to fill the New Warriors’ ranks.
Any list of weird heroes has to include the living cartoon Slapstick. Created by Len Kaminski and James Fry III for his own limited series in 1992, Slapstick is teenage prankster Steve Harmon, who was turned into a living cartoon character. His sense of humor and pun-manship is right at the top of the heap with Spider-Man. Like a cartoon, he can withstand great physical trauma and has the ability to pull random objects seemingly out of nowhere.
His status as a living cartoon does not mean he is all fun and games played for laughs, though. Slapstick has a definite mean streak. He treats the world around him much as any cartoon character would, with mallets, bombs and frighteningly dangerous rubber chickens. However, the world around him is not a cartoon. In the Marvel universe, a giant mallet to the face wielded by a cartoon is still a giant mallet to the face and causes the kind of physical trauma and damage that a giant mallet would. His opponents tend to suffer severe, life-threatening injuries from his shenanigans.
14. NIGHT THRASHER
Night Thrasher is the answer to the perennial question of “What would happen if Batman had a fiberglass skateboard?” Night Thrasher’s real name is Dwayne Taylor and he is head of the Taylor Foundation, a multi-billion dollar corporate conglomerate like Wayne Enterprises and Stark Enterprises. The Taylor Foundation seems to have an almost endless amount of money, with resources involved in whatever enterprise the team needs to undertake. Night Thrasher’s role as a wealthy African-American leader of a superhero team adds a bit of unique and welcome diversity to the Marvel Universe.
Thrasher was one of the original team members from their appearance in Thor. In case you missed it, hi name is a play on words highlighting both his ability to thrash his opponents and his acumen with a skateboard; and the fact that he operates mostly at night. The skateboard he uses is not only a mode of transportation, but also a bladed weapon and a shield, owing to its strong fiberglass construction. The fact that he uses a skateboard at all is weird. With his resources, he could have any number of vehicles. On the other hand, how many power suit heroes can also claim to have skills on a halfpipe?
Speedball is Robbie Baldwin, a teenager with energy powers, expressed mostly in a field capable of absorbing and redirecting kinetic energy surrounds him. The net effect of his power is to bounce around a combat zone at great speeds, giving him the apt name of Speedball. Speedball is another original team member from the Thor appearance, although that was not his first Marvel appearance. Speedball was actually created by Steve Ditko in 1988. He appeared in “The Amazing Spider-Man Annual” #22, as well as his own short-lived series before joining the New Warriors.
Speedball does not only stand out from the pack because his powers make him look like a human pinball. Admittedly, being a bouncing ball is a pretty weird combat technique, but that is not all he is. Part of Speedball’s charm is his quirky sense of humor and pure joy at being a superhero. Before (and after) his unfortunate shift into the emo-hero Penance, Robbie was and is a kid living his dream of being a superhero. Like Slapstick, his battlefield antics include quips and puns, but Speedball has always been the heart of The New Warriors to Night Thrasher’s brains, and has been involved in several iterations of the team.
Darkhawk was not just a teenage superhero with anger management issues; he also may have been delusional. Darkhawk worked with the New Warriors on several occasions, although he never joined the series roster permanently. Behind his odd mask, he is teenager Chris Powell from Queens. Created by Tom Defalco and Mike Manley, Chris finds an amulet which gives him the Darkhawk armor, imbuing him with powers similar to most comic book power armors – strength, flight, weaponry, protection, etc, although Chris can change the configuration of his suit if needed.
Initially, Chris believes the amulet was one of several created by scientists for a space gangster named Dargin Bokk. Bokk was eventually betrayed and the amulets destroyed or dispersed. He would save one of the amulets and later become Evilhawk. Darkhawk and Evilhawk were arch-enemies for a time, but Darkhawk would eventually defeat him. Except for one thing: it probably never happened. During the “War of Kings,” Chris learns the amulet is a Shi’ar artifact. It belonged to an order of assassins called the Fraternity of Raptors. The gangster Evilhawk probably never existed and was a creation of Chris’ mind struggling under the strain of the Shi’ar amulet which was not well suited to human biology.
Microbe, whose real name is Zachary Smith Jr., is a genuinely tragic character with a power of mind-boggling destructive power. He had the ability to control micro-organisms, including bacteria, which is most definitely not a common power set. The threat microorganisms can pose ranges from bad breath to a slow-flesh eaten fall to Ebola, and we only understand a small portion of the microbiological world. Microbe had the ability to create a human extinction level event if he had wanted to, and in many ways, he almost did.
Zachary Jr. was adopted by Dwayne Taylor (Nigh Thrasher) and became a member of the New Warriors, after the suicide of his father. Zachary Sr. had been working on a cure for cancer using flesh-eating bacteria, which was a bad idea, and it only worked when Zachary Jr. was around to control the bacteria. When Zachary Sr.’s research was uncovered as a failure, he tried the bacteria on himself without his son around. Zachary Sr.’s death was probably slow and excruciating. Microbe later died during the Stamford Incident. He has yet to be resurrected.
Night Thrasher’s parallels to Batman include a trusty father figure named Chord. Chord adopted Dwayne after the death of his parents, took control of the Taylor Foundation, and raised Dwayne as his son. Chord groomed Dwayne into becoming the crime fighter Night Thrasher, and helped him start The New Warriors. Of course, Chord had an ulterior motive — his end game was to sacrifice Dwayne and the New Warriors to help an ancient sorceress amass massive power.
There are lots of awful villains in the Marvel universe, but Chord has reached a special level of douchebaggery. Chord murdered Dwayne’s parents in front of Dwayne and then had the young man’s memory erased through magic. It takes a truly twisted mind to raise the child of your victims as your own, help him build a team of children eager to do good, with the express intention of using them all as sacrifices for a power mad sorceress.
Turbo was a member of the New Warriors for about half of its original run. The hero is another case of a bizarre power suit, and an identity that has been used by a few people. Like Night Thrasher’s skateboard, Turbo’s power suit seems… ill-conceived. The suit functions by the use of four miniature jet turbines, one at the end of each appendage. A quick look at the suit and it immediately becomes apparent that anyone wearing it would have dislocated their arms and legs the first time they tried to maneuver.
Turbo was actually two different people in the New Warriors’ run. Michiko Musashi and Mike Jefferies both take turns wearing the suit, until Mike’s presumed death. Turbo was created for the “New Warriors” series by Evan Skolnick, Dwight Coye and James Brock. The Turbo suit was actually the Torpedo Armor previously worn by Brock Jones, but Michiko’s real contribution to the team was her quick thinking during combat and her impressive intellect.
Dagger is a well-known hero and has the distinction of having an upcoming show on Freeform TV. Introduced as a teenage runaway named Tandy Bowen, she gained her powers when the Maggia injected her and several other runaways with a designer drug. The weirdest thing about Dagger is how revealing her costume is, which has somewhat shockingly remained unchanged since her inception. She wears a full body leotard with a dagger shape cut out of the front. The tip extends way below her navel, and the cross bars follow the curve of her breasts. Not exactly what you’d call “combat ready.”
Dagger is usually paired with her lifelong companion, Cloak. Cloak relies on Dagger’s light energy for nourishment and to maintain his sanity; if he goes too long without an infusion of her light, he can go crazy with an unnatural hunger, draining the life energy from everyone he draws into himself. The combination of her outdated outfit and her role as provider for Cloak actually makes her situation more creepy than weird.
Rage is literally a boy in a man’s body. Elvin Haliday is a 12-year-old young man but, thanks to his powers, he lives in the body of a muscular adult, exposed as he was to the special comic book version of toxic waste that grants powers rather than causing crippling life-threatening poisoning. While hiding from racist bullies in the heavily polluted waters of Newton Creek, he is exposed to additional chemicals when workers from Fisk Biochemical dump them into the creek.
Over the course of several weeks, puberty hits Elvin at super speed, leading to a transformation that leaves him in the body of Charles Atlas. He functions like a street-level Hulk, benefitting from incredible strength, agility and healing powers. Also like the Hulk, his strength increases in proportion to the amount of anger he is feeling, hence his name. The more rage that Rage feels, the stronger he becomes. Rage is the New Warriors’ youngest member since he is only 14, but that doesn’t stop him from kicking ass.
Silhouette deserves a lot more attention than she gets. A fascinating take on a character with disabilities, she is introduced in “New Warriors” #2 as an old friend of Dwayne’s. Silhouette and her brother were Dwyane’s first vigilante team before he took the mantle of Night Thrasher. The team broke up when Silhouette was paralyzed from the waist down by a gang member’s bullet, forcing her to use leg braces and crutches to be mobile. Unwilling to give up on the vigilante life, she teaches herself to fight using her crutches through a combination of acrobatic agility, superb upper body strength, and leverage.
When fighting isn’t enough, she uses her shadow manipulation powers from the Darkforce dimension. They originally allowed her to meld into shadows and to teleport from one to another. Her powers were upgraded when an event affected the Darkforce dimension, though, and now she can transport others in the shadows as well. She can also take on the form of a living shadow, and create shadow tendrils. Her shadow powers are impressive (and what makes her kinda weird), but what is more impressive is her perseverance and strength of character.
5. SCARLET SPIDER
What is a teenage group of heroes to do when they need help and Spider-Man is busy? Bring in his clone, Ben Reilly. Ben, also known as the Scarlet Spider, was a member of the New Warriors for a short time, but didn’t last long on due to friction with the group’s leader at the time, the former Marvel Boy, Justice. One major sticking point was Ben’s unwillingness to reveal his true identity, as The New Warriors had never kept their identities a secret from each other before (or after).
Ben could not have revealed his identity if he had wanted to since it would also reveal Peter Parker’s identity. To make matters worse, there was also a budding love triangle between himself, Firestar and Justice. The Scarlet Spider has an odd history due to changing editorial decisions, and is just pretty weird, being a spider-clone and all. His tenure on the New Warriors may have been short, but his membership does contribute to the New Warriors overall theme of general oddity.
Aegis was the proud bearer of a magic breastplate created by Athena, which protects its wearer from harm by absorbing energy attacks. Absorbed energy can then be released as an offensive force or it can be used to protect others. He joined the New Warriors during one of the team’s shorter comic runs, and would eventually die from jumping out a window, unaware that the breastplate’s magic had been disabled.
The weirdness around Aegis isn’t him so much as how he was used in the “Contest of Champions II” series. He participates as a member of the New Warriors during the Contest’s only basketball game. Aegis makes the winning basket, which is great, but the problem is Aegis is of African-America heritage. Giving Marvel the benefit of the doubt, you could argue that the only basketball competition in the whole series was to have a team match and add some variety, more cynically it could be seen as a play on the age of the teams and a way to bring in younger readers, or at worst thinly veiled racism.
Hindsight, also Hindsight Lad, is Carlton LaFroyge. Even though his name is nutty, he didn’t start weird, but he worked his way there over time. He has no super powers and managed to manipulate his way onto the New Warriors. He initially learns of the team by discovering Speedball’s secret identity, which he uses to blackmail Speedball. His plan does not work, but it brings him closer to the team. During one of their adventures, Hindsight assists in the team’s rescue. Night Thrasher eventually grants Hindsight full membership, with his main contribution to the New Warriors being in a research and tactical support capacity.
The Stamford Incident would drive Carlton to a very weird dark place. It would cause him to turn against his old friends and start a website called “DestroyAllWarriors.com.” He released all of their secret identities to the web and encouraged violence against them through the site. Eventually, the site was shut down, and Carlton continued down the rabbit hole of conspiracy theory.
Wondra is the de-powered superhero name of Jubilee. She joined a version of the New Warriors run by Night Thrasher whose members were all de-powered mutants. Wondra uses gauntlets that give her super strength and a few other superhuman abilities. She acts as field leader and trainer to the New Warriors team since she has years of experience from being a member of the X-Men. Wondra is a bizarre phase in the already weird story of Jubilee’s life.
Jubilee starts as a famed member of the greatest super mutant team in the Marvel Universe, the X-Men. After losing her powers, she becomes a technology-based hero for the New Warriors. After the New Warriors break up, she is infected by a virus and becomes a vampire. Once she learns to control her murderous urges with the help of the X-Men, she adopts a baby mutant named Shogo. The journey from mutant to technological hero to a vampire to mother has to rank as one of the weirdest character progressions in comic-dom.
1. SQUIRREL GIRL
Squirrel Girl is one-of-a-kind. She has not been a member of the New Warriors in the comics, but will be in the upcoming TV show. Her inclusion in the show would be quite a mark of distinction even if she weren’t already distinct. Her powers mimic those a squirrel, mainly involving strength, sense enhancement, a tail, and a massive army of squirrels ready to follow her, regardless of where she is. None of this is what makes her stand out from the crowd.
Her most powerful ability, however, is her unabashed optimism. Her solo series is called the “Unbeatable Squirrel Girl” because no matter what happens, she always seems to win. She has a super-powered level of self-belief, a love of friendship and faith in the goodwill of humankind. Punching is her last resort, and usually, she wins the day through persuasion and excellent listening skills. For example, she escapes the clutches of Kraven not through force but by convincing him that his next target should be something mythical like the Leviathan, not another superhero. She’s a clever girl.
Which weird New Warriors did we miss? Which was your favorite? Let us know in the comments!