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Wait, Did Ambush Bug Just Kill That Guy?

In every installment of “If I Pass This Way Again,” we look at odd comic book plot points that were rarely (sometimes NEVER!) mentioned again after they were first introduced.

Today, we look at how Ambush Bug was originally a villain who flat out MURDERED people before he became the beloved comedic icon that has been ever since.

The origins of Ambush Bug come down to Paul Kupperberg needing a villain for Superman and the Doom Patrol (the new version of the team that Kupperberg himself had invented a few years earlier) to fight in an issue of DC Comics Presents. The artist on the issue was Kieth Giffen and Giffen recalled a character that he had created in high school called Lunatik. Giffen would later note that a lot of what became Lobo also originated with Lunatik. However, some of the character concept also fit a new villain named Ambush Bug. The concept for the guy is that he is a villain but a sort of breaking the fourth wall sort of wacky villain.

However, when he debuted in DC Comics Presents #52 (Sal Trapani inked Giffen), make no mistake about it, he is a flat-out VILLAIN in the issue. Ambush Bug had these little "bugs" that would fly around and he could teleport anywhere that those bugs were (eventually, it was changed so that he could just teleport without their help as it got kind of annoying to always have to draw the bugs to get Ambush Bug to teleport).

Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen are covering the Metropolis Day Parade in Metropolis when Ambush Bug made his deadly debut...

Yep, Ambush Bug just flat out MURDERED the District Attorney of Metropolis! What the what?

He then popped back into the studio, but just in time for Robot Man to burst through to try to capture him. These pages are fun, too, for the Easter Egg of having Elfquest characters appear as balloons in the parade...

Negative Woman was having some trouble controlling her powers, so Ambush Bug was able to briefly trick Superman and Doom Patrol into having one of those classic bits where superheroes fight each other by mistake. They figure it out quickly enough, though, and Superman also realizes how Ambush Bug is teleporting and he fixes it and then Robot Man fixes Ambush Bug...

The new villain proved very popular with fans and the editor of the book, Julius Schwarz, asked for more of the Bug. So seven issues later, Keith Giffen plotted and penciled a brilliant one-off issue (dialogue by Paul Levitz and inks by Kurt Schaffenberger) where Ambush Bug teleports on to Superman's back just as the Man of Steel is traveling into the future...

Superman doesn't exactly seem to be treating him as someone who MURDERED a guy, right? So Superman hands him over to the Legion's Substitute Heroes, who were filling in for the "real" Legion. They quickly lose Ambush Bug. Superman wraps him up in his cape, but then that just means that Ambush Bug teleports away with Superman's cape!

Ambush Bug then tries to kill another being!!

The Legion save the alien from dying.

The issue was a classic. However, Ambush Bug was now too popular to keep as a villain.

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