Most people, especially ’90s kids, are incredibly nostalgic for the “good ol’ days” before the turn of the century. However, there were some aspects of the ’90s we would like to forget; frosted tips, boy band obsessions and Furbies should stay in the past where they belong. It was also a dark age for comics. Sure, people bought issues by the stack and marveled at the rad foil covers, but the industry was sinking rapidly. To make up for that, comics started getting really, really weird and experimenting with things that were probably better left alone.
Every publisher had at least a few characters that flopped, or were just too weird to keep around. Whether they portrayed awful stereotypes or were just really, really weird, there are some characters from the ’90s that defy nostalgia. In today’s world, the comics industry (and the world) are very different. While we were throwing away our backwards jeans, Marvel was sliding some questionable mutants under the rug and DC and Image was revamping their brands. Comics have changed a lot in the last two decades, and some ’90s creations deserve to be forgotten forever. Here are 15 characters from the ’90s that wouldn’t work today, and for good reason.
Dreadlox first appeared in The Secret Defenders. Her start was not pretty; she was a homeless woman, living underground. She was infected by a hive-mind bacteria known as the Viral Swarm. The swarm, seeking the power it had left behind in its homeworld, transformed the homeless woman into a super-human. She could create terrifying illusions, and she used this power to take advantage of her opponent’s deepest fears.
Dreadlox was a cool idea for a villain, but that doesn’t save her from a problematic reality. In a world in which people of color have their hair stigmatized and stereotyped, creating a character that associates a traditional POC hairstyle with violence, homelessness, villainy and uncleanliness is a detrimental stereotype and an irresponsible creative choice. Hopefully, if Dreadlox was revived in today’s comics, the creators would have enough sense to give her a name she deserves, that is unattached to harmful stereotypes.
Bliss embodies everything extra and ridiculous about female characters in the ’90s — including, of course, being co-created by Chris Claremont. She has a huge mutant tongue and can unhinge her jaw, which has some questionable implications and innuendo attached to it, but that’s not the weirdest part. She was molded to look like Jean Grey (and later, Storm), which is a strange creative choice that takes away her sense of personal agency and worth — she’s just another clone of a better-loved character.
Bliss also has a prehensile tongue…with her own face on the end of it. It’s extremely creepy, especially considering she can also spit venom. Bliss is definitely one of the ’90s throwaway Mutants created when Marvel started to run out of ideas, and it’s good she hasn’t shown up much since.
13. THE ARYAN BRIGADE
It should be fairly obvious, even without context, why the Aryan Brigade has no place in comics. The Aryan Brigade was a team of Nazi supervillains who idolized the Third Reich. Each team member could probably have their own place on this list, but together they are even worse. Members like Backlash, Golden Eagle II, Iron Cross, Heatmonger and Blind Faith perfectly encompass the hateful ideals represented by this team of evil white supremacists.
Their main villainous plot centered around releasing a virus that would kill every person who was not white. Luckily, they were taken out by the Justice League, but we don’t need Nazis in comics. We have enough racial tension and violence in the real world. Giving white supremacists a place in media is irresponsible, because even when Nazis are villains, unsavory groups will latch onto their rhetoric and glorify their goals.
12. BIKER WONDER WOMAN
Wonder Woman is iconic, and her starry outfit is recognizable by even the most casual comic fans. With the success of the recent Wonder Woman film, there are millions of fans who have fallen in love with this Amazonian hero and her outfits. Unfortunately for Diana, she made some bad choices in the ’90s that she would likely prefer to forget.
When she lost her Wonder Woman title to Artemis, has had to give up her signature outfit, too. She decided to keep fighting crime on her own terms…and in her own sexy biker outfit. Her starry daisy dukes, bra and sweet bomber jacket were not at all reminiscent of her original outfit, unlike more modern redesigns like DC Bombshells Wonder Woman. We have all (hopefully) forgotten this ever happened, and DC would be doing a disservice to their hero to bring this look back now.
11. THE VEIL
The Veil was an Iraqi mutant and a member of Team Desert Sword, on a mission to stop the Freedom Force from rescuing a German scientist in Kuwait. The Veil was powerful, but her powers are the exact reason she should not be featured in comics today — she probably shouldn’t have been in comics in the ’90s either. The Veil could secrete a noxious gas from her skin, which she used to disguise her movements.
There’s nothing wrong with her powers until you connect them to her ethnicity and public affairs at the time. In the ’80s and ’90s, Iraqi extremists were being prosecuted for their extensive use of chemical weapons. Feeding into dangerous cultural stereotypes and political fear was a crass creative decision. The Veil deserved better, but she never got it. She was killed by Pyro, who followed her murder with a “Barbecued Babe, coming up”.
10. THE LINEAR MEN
The Linear Men were a team of super-scientists led by Rip Hunter. They were in charge of monitoring the timestream and making sure no one messed up the timelines or created paradoxes. They apprehended heroes like Superman and Booster Gold, who got a little too close to messing up time. They even had cool (well, ’90s cool) time-monitoring technology, like wrist-mounted monitors, and Rip Hunter even had an awesome and totally not obnoxious energy beam shooter mounted in his eye socket.
If the Linear Men came back now, they would be out of luck. In DC comics, the timeline has pretty much been obliterated. The poor Linear Men would be so overwhelmed just trying to muck through the New 52, figure out “Flashpoint”, and make sense of Rebirth that they would probably run back to the ’90s, when people appreciated cool things like cohesive timelines and eye socket energy beams.
Shadowhawk has an unfortunate legacy: he was the first superhero to have AIDS. He was a successful lawyer in Harlem, and was infected purposely with the HIV virus, as revenge for taking down the mob in court. His disease was made public knowledge, and he was driven out of his position because people were irrationally phobic of his HIV.
He dons the Helmut of Hero, a mystical armor that connects him to an ancient power, Nommo, and sets out to take back the streets of his hometown. He doesn’t believe in killing, but he breaks the spines of his victims, paralyzing them and trapping them in their bodies, like he is trapped in his own dying shell. When he dies, he passes on his Helmut, and his legacy. Today, we have a better understanding of HIV, and creating a character who is purposely stigmatized by the illness wouldn’t fly.
8. ADAM-X THE X-TREME
Adam-X is why we don’t let pre-pubescent 12-year olds market their power fantasy comics to the masses. He skipped any pretence of seriousness when he decided to name himself “X-TREME”, which can only be said in the gritty, booming voice of a monster truck rally announcer. He has everything the perfect X-Man needs: a sweet bleach-blonde do, complete with confusing braids, gigantic muscles that grow on top of other muscles and literal razorblades all over his suit.
Top that off with an unquestionably rad backwards baseball cap, and you’ve got the most X-TREME X-Man possible. Oh, except he wasn’t even in the X-Men; he refused because he was “too cool”. Did we mention he has the mutant ability to light peoples’ blood on fire? Yeah, that’s his whole schtick. Hopefully Adam-X is out of comics for good, because he was an X-Tremely awful character.
Threnody is another woman of color who was treated poorly in comics. She is an energy vampire, which is just a step away from the “succubus woman” trope. She is portrayed as a homeless woman, destitute because she can’t control her outbursts of emotion. If that isn’t a blatant narrative for how women are treated, we don’t know what is. Her story doesn’t get any better for her, or any less problematic.
She is picked up off the streets by her male savior, Mister Sinister, who quickly binds her into slavery. Yeah, slavery. After falling in love, being murdered, and feeding off her own death to revive herself, Threnody moves into the sewers, creating an army of zombies and raising her zombie baby. Thankfully, she’s been put out of her misery in the Marvel Universe, as she was a strange character, and piling on stereotypes and problematic details didn’t help.
6. THE NEO
The Neo were a race of super humans who appeared in the X-Men universe. They are a master race of super-evolved humans, who live reclusively in hopes that humanity will obliterate itself and they can assume their rightful place as the dominant species. Unfortunately for the Neo, when Mister Sinister temporarily shut off the mutant gene to transform the X-Men, the Neo were caught in the crossfire, and many perished.
They soughT revenge (wrongfully) on the X-Men, and ended up working with Magneto to take down the X-Men. In modern comics, the X-Men have expanded their coverage in comics, and have the whole “mutant race” thing covered pretty well. The Inhumans are Marvel’s next pet project and trying to squeeze The Neo back into the mix just wouldn’t work. Luckily, we still have Shadowcat/Kitty Pryde, who might be the last remaining Neo, to remember them by.
5. BLACK PUNISHER
Black Punisher is just regular Punisher, but somehow even more tacky — prepare for one of the most blatantly awful creative decisions in comics history. In a famous arc, Punisher is attacked in prison and escapes, but is vulnerable to his enemies. He tracks down a seedy, drug-addicted doctor to make him unrecognizable. He wakes up and looks in the mirror to find he has been transformed into a blue-eyed black-skinned man.
The next creative team quickly turned around from this awful mistake, subjecting Punisher to a realistic experience with some traffic cops, and briefly teaming him up with Luke Cage. Eventually, the plastic surgery fades (because that’s how surgery works) and the Punisher returns to normal. Hopefully any creator who thinks of reviving this awful idea is fired, immediately. We don’t need blackface in comics.
Maxima was a super-hot, bikini-clad alien goddess of the ’90s with only one thing on her mind: Superman. Did she want to team-up? Meet the Man of Steel and get his autograph? Nope. She wanted to make him her mate. Maxima was royalty on her home planet of Almerac, and she was set to be married to her fiancee, Ultraa. Though Ultraa and Maxima definitely seem like a perfect match, she was interested in finding another superlative-man to bear her heirs.
Superman was, in her opinion, a perfect genetic match. She even joined the Justice League to impress him, but he denied all her advances. She lost her mind completely and then was was killed, which was for the best. We don’t need comics today featuring Maxima: horny alien rage-monster. Now, if only we could forget the cover art of her seducing Superman on Lois’s grave….
Chapel was created by Rob Liefeld for Youngblood, one of the cringiest comic series in history. He was best friends will Al Simmons, but murdered him. Simmons became Spawn, and of course ended up fighting Chapel. Chapel was infected with HIV by his superiors, which could be activated if he strayed from his orders. He teamed up with Shadowhawk, another black character with the unfortunate history of being purposely infected by HIV, but they were unsuccessful.
Chapel killed himself, hoping to become like Spawn, but instead came back as Lord Chapel, a Demon Horseman of the Apocalypse. Creating a black character, who is purposely infected with HIV, just shouldn’t be a thing. Chapel was a strange character but luckily he will most likely be left out of future appearances, due to disagreements between the creators.
2. BLACK BOX
Black Box is worse than most of the fringe X-Men created in the ’90s — he wasn’t even good enough to be in the X-Men! Black Box decided to go off on his own and make new friends, like Cable. This is ironic, considering Black Box’s more recognizable moniker: Commcast. That’s right, Commcast and Cable, kicking butt and providing you low-cost TV packages.
In line with his terrible origins, Commcast had the power to absorb and translate cyber messages, but he’s also too slow to keep up with his own translations. The real issue with creating characters based on technology is that technology changes. If Commcast came back now he would be less than a joke. Most kids are raised on Netflix and Hulu now, and have never heard of cable (the service or the character). He might as well be walkman-man.
Rage was poisoned by toxic waste on his way home from basketball practice when he was 13, but the waste aged him to adulthood and gave him super-strength, stamina and speed. That doesn’t seem like a bad tradeoff, but the creative team decided to give him a terrible name: Rage. Was he mad? Probably. Does that warrant playing into the angry black man stereotype and further stigmatizing black men in comics? Definitely not.
Rage made the best of it, though. He complains to Captain America about the lack of black members on the Avengers team, and fights racial tension as well as villains. Rage has already been brought back in recent Marvel comics, even working with Sam Wilson to combat anti-immigrant sentiments. Rage is proof that ’90s characters can overcome the bad decision making of their decade and make a name for themselves in today’s comics, but with serious changes.
Are there any other characters that just wouldn’t work today? Let us know in the comments!
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