Supervillain teams are unique groups in the world of superhero comic books. When it comes to superhero teams, you typically have to come up with a reason for why a specific group of characters have decided to team up. Either there’s a shared interest or sometimes an outside force poses a common threat for them to defeat. Supervillains, however, almost never need a good reason to get together outside of “fighting superheroes” or “committing crimes.”
As a result, you often end up with some rather bizarre configurations on certain supervillain teams that don’t last very long or teams where it seems like the writer of the issue just picked villain names out of a hat. On top of that, there have been a number of more logically put together supervillain teams that have just faded away because no one was particularly interested in doing anything with them going forward. Here, then, in chronological order, are 15 supervillain teams that you’ve probably totally forgotten ever existed (if you ever knew they existed in the first place).
15. GAS GANG
The Gas Gang first showed up in 1963’s “Metal Men” #6 (by Robert Kanigher, Ross Andru and Mike Esposito). The issue opened with the shocking revelation that following a mission in outer space, Doctor Will Magnus (the creator of the Metal Men) had been exposed to cosmic rays and had been transformed into a robot himself! Unlike the Metal Men, however, Magnus was now devoid of emotions and would not let the Metal Men rescue another space ship in distress. When they disobeyed him, he decided that he had to destroy him. They locked him into a room at their headquarters while they tried to come up with a way to return him to his normal self.
Foolishly, they locked him into an area of their base where he had access to his robot-building tools, so he built a new group of robots, each based on a gas rather than a metal. Oxygen, Helium, Carbon Monoxide, Carbon Dioxide and Chlroform made up the membership of the Gas Gang. Luckily, when the Metal Men found a way to destroy the Gas Gang, the same technique also turned Magnus back to his human self!
14. LEAGUE OF CHALLENGER-HATERS
When you think about the Challengers of the Unknown (the group of adventurers who banded together after they each survived a deadly plane crash), you rarely think of them as having many recurring villains. However, in 1964’s “Challengers of the Unknown” #42 (by France Ed Herron and Bob Brown), the Challengers gained their own rival group, the League of Challenger-Haters.
The group consisted of Kra, the self-proclaimed “King of the Robots,” who had conquered his own planet until the Challengers showed up and freed his people; Dranby, a thief who stole inventions from the future to conquer the world today (his most powerful weapon was his Elemental Helmet that allowed him to control the Earth around him); Volcano Man, your typical, run of the mill lava monster; and Multi-Man, the villain who gains a new superpower every time he is killed. Multi-Man would actually become a popular member of the Injustice League and Justice League Antarctica during the “Justice League International” years.
13. BIG GANG
In 1968, “The Atom” and “Hawkman” would see their comic book titles merged into one series. You would not be surprised that the series were running out of steam when you saw the new villains introduced in 1967’s “The Atom” #34 (by Gardner Fox, Gil Kane and Sid Greene). That issue saw the Atom fight against the Big Gang. The Big Gang consisted of a group of supervillains who all had the word “big” worked into their name.
There was the super-intelligent Big Head, the super-strong Big Bertha, the “really good at synchronizing the timing of robberies” Big Ben, the man whose wigs are also his weapons, Big Wig, the man with a special gun, Big Shot, the man who makes deadly cheeses, Big Cheese and finally, a master card sharp named Big Deal. They were obsessed with stealing “big” items, which in this issue meant a giant emerald, a giant coin and a giant stamp that were all improbably on display in Ivy Town. Taking them down was not a very big to-do for the Atom and since they haven’t really appeared since, they likely just weren’t ready for the big leagues.
12. THE AWESOME THREESOME
One of the things that really galls people about supervillains is that they don’t only ignore your traditional laws like “Don’t rob” or “Don’t kill,” but they also flaunt laws like “truth in advertising.” This was the case with the boldly named Awesome Threesome, who debuted in 1967’s “Aquaman” #36 (by Bob Haney and Nick Cardy). The each member of the trio was a robot. Their leader was Torpedo Man, who could go super fast while in his torpedo form. The other two were the powerful fighter, Claw, and the master of magnetism, Magneto (yes, four years after the famous Marvel villain debuted, DC still was like, “Eh, why not just call our guy Magneto, too?”).
While Aquaman, Aqualad and Aquagirl battled the robots, they soon discovered that they were being controlled by someone else. As it turned out, there was an alien who had been banished to Earth many years ago and he had created these robots to free him from his captivity. It did not work out, and sadly no matter how awesome these robots were, they did not appear as a team ever since (although Torpedo Man at least has made a cameo appearance since then).
11. CRIME WAVE
It’s interesting to see how certain themes continue to arise in the works of certain comic book writers. In the case of Steve Englehart, he often would write about the corruption of political figures and that was the case behind the creation of the short-lived “pick a name out of a hat” supervillain team, the Crime Wave. Debuting in 1972’s “Captain America” #159 (by Englehart and artists Sal Buscema and John Verpoorten), the Crime Wave consisted of established (but unconnected) Marvel villains the Porcupine, Plant-Man, Eel and the Scarecrow. They were working under the direct command of the Viper and were all directed by the mysterious Cowled Commander.
In the end, it was revealed that the Cowled Commander was a New York City police sergeant who had created the Crime Wave to help prove that there needed to be a stronger police force created to deal with superhuman threats. This whole “the bad guy is secretly part of the establishment” approach would be revisited by Englehart at the conclusion of his famed “Secret Empire” storyline.
10. COLD WARRIORS
The Cold Warriors are a tricky team for this list, because they mostly just exist in the world of the DC Animated Universe. They debuted in “Justice League Adventures” #12, consisting of Mister Freeze, Captain Cold, Killer Frost, Minister Blizzard, Icicle, Snowman, Cryonic Man, and Polar Lord. Another version of the team also appeared in the more recent “Super Powers” comic book series based on the kid’s toy line.
However, before you dismiss this group as merely a joke team introduced in an out-of-continuity kiddie comic, note that a team basically just like the Cold Warriors (without a name, but we’re going to retroactively dub them the Cold Warriors) showed up in 1976’s “Justice League of America” #139 (by Steve Englehart, Dick Dillin and Frank McLaughlin – the very first issue of Englehart’s run on the title). That team consisted of Captain Cold, Icicle and the old Wonder Woman foe, Minister Blizzard. What they didn’t realize was that they were being roped into a plot by the Shadow Thief to cause a new Ice Age on Earth, which the Thief would avoid by going to his shadow dimension.
9. MUTANT FORCE
There is always work available for henchmen who are just powerful enough to make the heroes have to sweat a little bit, but not so much that the henchmen can pose a legitimate threat on their own. This was the case with a group of mutants who made their debut in 1977’s “Captain America Annual” #4 (by Jack Kirby). In that book, they were Magneto’s latest incarnation of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. They consisted of Burner, Lifter, Peeper, Shocker and Slither (Kirby wasn’t spending a lot of time on names that day).
After Magneto dropped them, they showed up again working for the Mandrill, now calling themselves Mutant Force. They then added Mist Mistress, Quill and Rust to their team, along with Mentallo (calling himself Think Tank) to form a new group called the Resistants, created to protest the Mutant Registration Act. They then went back to calling themselves Mutant Force before finally disbanding. Being such a forgettable group of cannon fodder villains, they still lasted a whole lot longer than anyone likely ever expected them to.
8. LUCK LEAGUE
One of the earliest foes of the Justice League of America was Amos Fortune, the famed gambler who discovered the existence of so-called “Luck Glands” that could control ones luck. He formed the Royal Flush Gang, consisting of old members of his gang from when he was younger. In 1977’s “Justice League of America” #151 (by Gerry Conway, Dick Dillin and Frank McLaughlin), he discovered a way to leech power from superheroes, beginning with Wonder Woman.
He then used that power, combined with his amazing “luck wheel” to empower seven extraordinarily lucky people (who were therefore already predisposed to be given more luck) and gave them the powers of the Justice League, using them to form the Luck League (they each had “lucky charms” that gave them their powers). The members of the group were Acrobat, Racer, Strong Man, Crier, Cyclone, Shrinking Man and the Water King. Luckily for the Justice League, the captured Wonder Woman hypnotized Fortune into reversing his luck wheel, thus giving the Luck League bad luck and making them easy to capture.
The Weathermen first appeared in 1981’s “Avengers” #210 (by Bill Mantlo, Gene Colan and Dan Green). As it turned out, the government had created a super-computer that was designed to be the most accurate monitor of weather patterns in the world. It stationed this computer on a space station that had once been used by the villainous Egghead. It was dubbed Samarobryn. However, the computer somehow gained sentience. It then became obsessed with not just monitoring the weather, but controlling it! It then brainwashed the five meteorologists working on the station into becoming the Weathermen.
They were each equipped with powerful armor and hovercraft, and sent around the world to cause the disruptive weather demanded by Samarobryn. While the Avengers were busy fighting the Weathermen, Jocasta went directly to the station and, after turning down a marriage offer (boy, robots could not get enough of Jocasta. They were always falling in love with her), she erased the sentience of the computer. Interestingly, the space station remained in operation afterwards. The Thunderbolts once used it to hide out when Baron Zemo had brainwashed the rest of the world.
6. ANI-MEN OF REPLI-TECH
Debuting in 1983’s “Justice League of America” #221-223 (by Gerry Conway and Chuck Patton), the Ani-Men of Repli-Tech were a deadly threat to the world and opponents of the Justice League that were created by a company known as Repli-Tech. The genetic research company had been in financial distress and was headed for ruin, so the CEO of the company, Rex Rogan, convinced the rest of the company’s board to allow their chief scientist, Dr. Lovecraft, to run genetic experiments on them, turning them all into animal-human hybrids.
Rex became the lion-like Maximus Rex and used the Ani-Men to steal the supplies needed to keep the company going, while also then forcing Ani-Men to fight each other to the death in gladiator combat. The Ani-Men (not to be confused with the also-obscure Ani-Men of Marvel Comics) were surprisingly strong. A whale-like creature actually defeated both Superman and Wonder Woman and a scorpion-like creature nearly killed Hawkman. Luckily, Rogan’s assistant (and lover) decided that she had seen enough. She broke free and warned the Justice League of what was going on.
In Mark Gruenwald’s acclaimed mini-series, “Hawkeye,” he had Hawkeye fight against Crossfire and his associates, the deadly Bombshell and Oddball, who were jugglers that used their deadly accuracy to nearly kill the hero. Amusingly enough, where others would see two juggling-themed villains and say, “That’s two too many,” Gruenwald looked at them and said, “That’s not enough!” So in 1986’s “Captain America” #317 (by Gruenwald and artists Paul Neary and Dennis Janke, an issue known for its striking cover featuring Captain America firing Hawkeye’s bow and Hawkeye wielding Cap’s shield), Bombshell and Oddball were revealed to be part of a team of juggling villains known as the Death-Throws.
As it turned out, Oddball had been part of the Death-Throws before he went to work for Crossfire and recruited Bombshell. The group included Ringleader, Tenpin and Knicknack. Oddball and Bombshell joined the group and they helped break Crossfire out of prison. They were then defeated by Captain America and Hawkeye. They were later hired, along with a bunch of other villains, to take off Hawkeye’s right arm. The Death-Throws have appeared a few times over the years, even managing to outlast the death of the original Oddball.
4. ASSEMBLY OF EVIL
During the “Acts of Vengeance” crossover, the supervillains of the world were recruited by a small group of major villains consisting of Doctor Doom, Magneto, Kingpin, Mandarin and Red Skull (who were themselves being manipulated by Loki) to wreak havoc on the world of superheroes by attacking them with villains that the heroes were unfamiliar with. In other words, a Hulk villain would attack the X-Men while an Iron Man villain attacked Spider-Man and so on and so forth, with the intent that they would all catch the heroes unaware.
In “Cloak and Dagger” #9 (by Terry Austin, Mike Vosburg and Don Cameron), the Jester was given the opportunity by Doctor Doom to recruit his own supervillain team, the Assembly of Evil, consisting of villains of various heroes. It was hard for people to take the Jester seriously, so the Hulk villain the Leader wouldn’t join, but did lend him one of his subordinates, the Rock. Daredevil villain Typhoid Mary shot him down, but the X-Men villains Fenris agreed to join. Doctor Doom lent Jester his Hulk robot. Hydro-Man joined, as well. Things took a turn for the strange, though, when Jester tried to sign Cloak and Dagger to the team, thinking that they were Spider-Man villains.
3. AVANT GUARD
The Painter was a powerful villain who debuted in the pages of “Strange Tales,” in the Human Torch lead feature (it is interesting to note that during the early days of Doctor Strange, he was the back-up feature in the title behind Human Torch and later Human Torch and Thing as a duo). Pretty much anything he painted could come to life. When his paints were destroyed, though, he lost his powers.
Years later, though, he re-discovered his powers and recruited two struggling artists (a performance artist named Spark and a mutant ballerina known as Bora) and they performed a ritual that increased their abilities. The Painter was now inspired and the group debuted in “Web of Spider-Man” #75 (by Tony Isabella, Alex Saviuk and Keith Williams) as Avant Guard!
Spider-Man ultimately defeated them with the help of other New York City heroes including the Avengers, Fantastic Four, New Warriors and X-Factor (the New Warriors and X-Factor being involved was fun, as it led to the first in-continuity team-up of Spider-man, Iceman and Firestar, who were a team on the animated series, “Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends”).
2. NEW ENFORCERS
When Steve Ditko and Stan Lee invented the original Enforcers, including Ditko’s greatest creation, Fancy Dan (can you think of a cooler villain than a dude named Fancy Dan? No, you cannot), fans probably thought that there was never any way that you could top that group. Somehow, though, Terry Kavanagh, Alex Saviuk and Joe Rubinstein tried in a storyline leading up to “Web of Spider-Man” #100.
The “new” villain known as Blood Rose was being hunted down by the Foreigner (quotes because Blood Rose was the same person as the original Rose, Richard Fisk) who had enlisted a group of villains known as the New Enforcers. They included new villains Blitz, Thermite and Tangle as well as classic villains Plantman, Dreadnought, Dragon Man, Eel, Super-Adaptoid and Vanisher. Spider-Man ended up creating special Spider-Armor (just in time for him to have a foil cover featuring the armor) specifically to take the villains down and keep them from killing Blood Rose.
At the end of the issue, it was revealed that the New Enforcers were the outer circle of a larger group, whose inner circle included Mentallo, Fixer, Controller, Mister Fear and Madame Menace, but nothing ever came of that story.
1. KILLER ELITE
The Killer Elite made their first (and almost only) appearance in “Justice League America” #105-106 (by Gerard Jones, Chuck Wojtkiewicz, Drew Geraci and John Dell), a tie-in to “Underworld Unleashed.” The event was a crossover where the demon Neron would appear to villains and offer them power upgrades in exchange for their souls. This was an attempt to upgrade a number of old-school villains, but for the most part, the “upgrades” weren’t actually upgrades (a notable exception was Blockbuster, who gained super-intelligence to go with his super-strength and became the main villain in Chuck Dixon’s “Nightwing” series).
The Killer Elite, though, did not even seem to get any sort of upgrades. This team of famous assassins, consisting of Deadshot, Merlyn, Bolt, Chiller and Deadline, just apparently sold their souls for the hell of it. All of them were cool characters in their own right, but as a team, it seemed like too much of a good thing. They were each diminished by throwing them together. It also did not help that Deadshot was typically best used as an anti-hero and not an outright villain. The whole thing was a mess and unsurprisingly did not last long.
Can you think of another obscure supervillain team that you wish had made the list? Let us know in the comments section!
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