In most cases, the ’90s tend to be some of the most fun times for us old folks to get nostalgic about. The music, the fashion, the television — it can all remind us of a simpler, more colorful time. But with comics…things tend to become just a little more polarizing. As comics tried to shed the wildly accepted view of being “just for kids”, they would crank up the things they saw as “mature”, leading to more violent storylines. Which meant more violent characters — the heroes got dark and the villains got even darker.
Every week, it felt like more teams were being created that featured the words “force”, “blood”, or something else that exuded what was thought of as “cool”. This was very much an independent publisher thing, but DC and Marvel definitely got in on the action! Since then, many of those “radical” ’90s creations have faded into oblivion, and certainly both the Big Two would rather keep it that way. Fortunately, CBR has you covered, as we count down 15 awful ’90s super teams that Marvel would rather you forgot about. Get ready for all the cybernetic limbs, absurd bodily proportions, and all the misunderstandings of the term “strong female characters” you can handle!
15. B.A.D. GIRLS INC.
Initially appearing in Mark Gruenwald and Ron Lim’s Captain America #385 in 1991, the B.A.D. Girls consisted of a bunch of women who at one point were a bunch of criminals in the Serpent Society, but gradually changed their lives around. Diamondback, Asp and Black Mamba would work together with Cap several times over the course of their first year, before gradually dropping off the map only to make some sporadic reappearances in the 2000’s and then vanishing for good.
They almost make this list for the absolutely awful choice in names alone — based off the initials of their code names, which were already ridiculous because how many snake-themed characters do you really need? It didn’t get any better when they briefly popped up in the late 2000’s as Delaware’s Initiative team, The Women Warriors, either. Guess snake women aren’t good with naming stuff?
14. TEAM X
First appearing in John Byrne and Jim Lee’s X-Men #5 back in 1992, Team X was a black ops group that Wolverine ran with long before there had ever been any “X-Men”. The group consisted of Wolverine, Sabretooth, Kestrel, Maverick, Mastodon and Major Barrington, a member of the Canadian military. The group also was believed to have a woman on the team known as Silver Fox, but this was later revealed to be false memories implanted into Wolverine’s mind by the Weapon X program to help control him.
And that’s how the team got on this list. Wolverine’s false memories make up one of the most annoying parts of ’90s X-Comics. When the continuity is already tangled up in knots, it was never a good idea to try and have readers guessing which fictional events were “real” or “fake”. Team X contributed to that, and should be shamed for it.
13. WINTER GUARD
Inarguably, there are worse super teams than the Winter Guard. They were a cool enough idea when Kurt Busiek introduced them as “Russia’s Avengers” in Iron Man vol. 3 #9 back in 1998, despite the fact that one of their key members is a guy who’s power is to transform into a bear. Sorry, but anyone who transforms into a single thing should go back to the store and get a refund.
The problem with Winter Guard is that, like most teams that are “[Other Country]’s Avengers”, there wasn’t much follow-through. They made sporadic appearances throughout the 90’s, only to be wiped out by the Intelligencia in Amazing Spider-Man #676…then make an appearance in Monsters Unleashed earlier this year. Because when you’re this forgettable, no one bothers to check if you should be dead or not.
Another team that in theory isn’t all that terrible, the Exemplars were an attempt to expand on the mythology of the Juggernaut. Created for Marvel’s “The Eighth Day” event at the tail end of 1999, the group started out as a bunch of humans who were all granted powers by beings called the Octessence so they could discover which of their group was the strongest. Because that’s what you do when you’re a god, waste time having discussions about which of you could beat the other up.
The Exemplars gradually came together to battle each other, with the Earth being the ultimate loser in their quarrels as they brought down the Avengers with relative ease. Captain America eventually talked them out of killing each other, and afterwards they all vanished, never to be seen again, and leaving us all forever wondering who’s the strongest among the…who was it again?
This one’s technically cheating, as this team and the “Ultraverse” that spawned it was created by Malibu Comics, but they were brought into the Marvel Universe only a year after their book’s debut so it counts. The premiere superhero team of the Malibu-verse, Ultraforce hits a lot of ’90s “highlights”: a ridiculous team name, characters that are pastiches of existing DC and Marvel characters, men with impossibly muscular physiques and scantily-clad “strong female characters”.
Ultraforce went down with the rest of the bigger Malibu titles in the great collapse of the mid/late ’90s. Marvel’s mentioned trying to bring these guys back before, but the unique deals that were cut at the time have left it a near impossibility to pull off. Maybe that’s for the best.
The Externals aren’t quite a team, so much as a special group of mutants. Their existence was first referenced by Rob Liefeld in X-Force, as a unique section of mutants that were all immortal and who each somehow played a part in Apocalypse’s rise to become ruler of the world. Each External was to represent a different “external” attribute: hope, despair, wisdom, corruption, and so forth.
However, in spite of their supposed immortality, nearly every member of the Externals wound up dying one way or another aside from Cannonball, who may or may not be a member of this exclusive club — they never clarified for sure. Several of them were killed by the Black Queen of the Hellfire Club Selene, and by the end of the ’90s they were all but a distant memory.
Let’s be clear here: Mark Gruenwald is, without question, of the greatest writers to ever put pen to paper for Marvel Comics. This is just proof that even the best creators can’t knock it out of the park every time. First appearing in 1991’s Captain America #386, the Femizons are a group of lady villains who sought to take over the world and create a society in which women ruled over their male counterparts. Basically, they’re straw-women(?) feminists.
Unfortunately, since they’re villains they couldn’t even accomplish their goal right: their method of attaining this great utopia was using a biological weapon that would sterilize all women aside from their “chosen ones”. Gross. Fortunately, Cap tricked their leader into destroying their weapons, and no one’s seen this group since the early ’90s.
A team that comes primarily from Malibu Comics’ “Ultraverse”, Strangers is about a group of mostly normal people who gained their powers after being hit by a lightning bolt while riding a cable car together. Because the first thing you do when gaining super-powers in a group is form a super team, they became the “Ultra-hero” team the Strangers.
Created by Steve Englehart, this team actually isn’t all that bad on the whole. Aside from the fact that the group features a lady hero named Electrocute, who started off as a really complex plesasurebot who gains sentience after the accident. Not that this isn’t a unique idea, it’s just…given how women heroes were treated in the ’90s? Maybe it’s a good thing this team rode off into the sunset with the rest of the Ultraverse.
7. THE UPSTARTS
The Upstarts is basically what happens if you combine the X-Men world with The Most Dangerous Game. Introduced in 1991’s Uncanny X-Men #281, the genesis of The Upstarts happens when the Black Queen of the Hellfire Club decided to start a game where she would decide the members of her inner circle by inviting a bunch of mutants to kill as many other mutants as possible.
The sad thing is, the Upstarts aren’t very successful at the thing they set out to do. Few mutants ever actually get killed by them, aside from a few members of the Hellfire Club, which seems counter-intuitive if the goal was to expand their ranks. Eventually Husk convinces the guy running the show, The Gamesmaster, to train mutants instead of murdering them, and the Upstarts disband. Because who wants to train your fellow mutants when you could keep failing at killing them all instead?
6. FEMME FATALES
Another “peak ’90s” super group, the Femme Fatales first appeared near the dawn of the decade in 1990’s Amazing Spider-Man #340 by Erik Larsen and David Michelinie. They started out as the equally horribly named “Band of Baddies”, becoming enemies of Spider-Man when he foiled their attack on an ambassador. They were destined to become just another group in Spider-Man’s endlessly growing rogues gallery, but since they eventually joined up with the Femizons…it seems like they settled for being generic villains belonging to no hero in particular.
The group can’t even get cool names, stuck with boring “extreme” monikers like Whiplash, Bloodlust, or Mindblast, and that’s before you get to their terrible designs. Most of these characters vanished quite some time ago, with Bloodlust having outright lost her powers thanks to Scarlet Witch’s “No More Mutants” spell.
5. WEAPON PRIME
Weapon Prime first appears in X-Force # 11 in 1992. Created by Rob Liefeld, they initially form in order to do something about Cable, the time-traveling mutant who turned Xavier’s innocent third class of students, the New Mutants, into a para-military group. Weapon Prime is awful in a very literal sense, as they continuously fail to actually achieve the goals they set out to do. They try to capture Cable and fail, tried to capture the rest of X-Force and failed at that as well.
Within only a few issues worth of appearances they have to form a different team after losing one of their own to…the guy they tried to imprison, and one member just up and quit. Eventually they give up on their battle with Cable, and were last seen going after former Alpha Flight member Northstar. And wouldn’t you know it, they fail at that too.
4. SIX PACK
Yet another group created in Rob Liefeld’s X-Force, the Six Pack first appear in X-Force #8. Essentially Cable’s wetworks squad, the group starts out going by the Wild Pack until they wind up going at it with Silver Sable over having the same name. Because nothing says totally awesome, uncontrolled renegades like a battle over copyright infringement.
The group’s design is classic Rob Liefeld: lots of vests, everyone has huge shoulder pads, cybernetic arms and more pockets than Batman’s utility belt. They spent most of their time trying to take out Cable’s evil clone Stryfe to no avail, wound up going at it with Weapon Prime trying to help Cable, then eventually faded into the background after a brief appearance in the genius Cable & Deadpool comic.
3. THE SPINSTERHOOD
Seemingly existing in order to validate as many stereotypes about “strong female characters” as possible, the Spinsterhood was an ancient order of women who gave up promiscuity in order to learn how to fight. Because y’know, women can enjoy hooking-up or know how to fight, not both. Debuting in 1993’s Silver Surfer #80, the group existed to battle Tyrant, a machine imbued with Galactus’ Power Cosmic that eventually went rogue and tried to conquer the universe.
Once a large order, the group placed themselves into suspended animation in order to be ready for Tyrant’s possible return. By the time he did come back, billions of years later, only two of the Spinsterhood were left remaining to help banish him once more. Since then, the group hasn’t been seen in well over a decade, which is probably for the best — calling lady heroes “spinsters” probably isn’t the best thing nowadays.
2. THE JURY
Created by two of the most talented people in comics in David Michelinie and Mark Bagley for Venom’s solo mini-series, Venom: Lethal Protector, it’s no wonder The Jury is so particularly awful. They’re basically throwaway characters that keep finding their way back into brief relevance, despite being useless.
Originally formed by General Orwell Taylor, The Jury’s purpose was to get revenge on Venom for killing Taylor’s son when he first escaped from the super prison The Vault. The group specialized in sonic and flame weaponry that would weaken the symbiote…but still failed to kill Venom time and again. They would eventually go on to become a simple hired goon squad just to pay the bills, and wound up battling the Thunderbolts a few times before getting beaten back into obscurity where they belong.
1. FORCE WORKS
Force Works was created in the mid ’90s by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning and Tom Tenney. Meant to be a replacement for the West Coast Avengers, the group was formed by Iron Man in an attempt to try and prevent disasters before they happened. Because this is impossible without knowing the future, they created the Chaos Computer, a computer capable of extrapolating existing information to predict future events…with the help of Scarlet Witch’s magic.
The comic came to an end when it was revealed that Iron Man had been mind controlled and was working for Kang the Conqueror. Since both fans and creators alike try to pretend that particular plot point never happened, everything around it has been pretty much erased. Which is why Force Works has been referenced once as a part of the 50 State Initiative, but no book was announced and no members were shown. Good.
What other ’90s super teams should be on this list? Let us know in the comments!
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