The ‘90s will never likely go down as comics greatest decade. There were some great stories to be sure but also a lot of duds. The bright future promised in the latter half of the ‘80s by innovative books like Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns fizzled during the ‘90s. Publishers like DC Comics sought to replicate the success they enjoyed in the previous decade, somehow never realizing that imitating what went before only chained them to an unproven formula rather than freeing them to make the bold storytelling choices their more sophisticated audiences were looking for.
DC killed off Superman and broke Batman’s back. Gratuitous violence, heaps of variant covers and interminable crossover events became the norm; standing in for imaginative storytelling and compelling characters. It was an era when substance took a back seat to spectacle. You could see it in the types of characters that populated the shelves of your local comic shop. If a character wasn’t strapping mad heat or have the words “blood,” “dark” or “shadow” in their names, they weren’t born in the ‘90s. But it wasn’t all bad. For better or worse, here are 15 DC characters they’d like you to forget. Do they all deserve to be forgotten? We’ll let you be the judge.
SPOILER ALERT! Spoilers ahead for numerous stories published by DC Comics.
One of the most popular DC heroes to come out of the ‘90s, Connor Kent has gotten a raw deal in recent years. After a decent run in his solo series and starring roles in both Young Justice and Teen Titans, he was pretty much written out of continuity during DC’s New 52 reboot. Instead, a new super-clone emerged boasting an unnecessarily convoluted backstory that failed to resonate with readers.
Now, with Superman’s son, Jon Kent, occupying the role of Superboy, it is unlikely Connor will return under that moniker. DC’s Rebirth presents all sorts of continuity-based conundrums such as this one but the return of Connor Kent is perhaps its biggest hurdle. For a time, it seemed DC wanted us to forget all about Connor and his sacrifice during Infinite Crisis but with much of DC’s classic history restored, the good news is forgetting Connor might just be impossible.
14 THE REBOOT LEGION
For some reason, DC never seems to know when to leave well enough alone with the Legion of Super-Heroes. Whenever the book’s sales seem to flag a little, someone in DC editorial gets the brilliant idea that it’s time to reboot the entire concept. In 1994, in the wake of Zero Hour, the Legion was reimagined and redesigned from the ground up. This fresh start went over well with many readers but also served to complicate the team’s already convoluted history.
When the series was cancelled, it seemed that was it for this version of the Legion. However, they reappeared during Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds, where it was revealed their universe was destroyed during Infinite Crisis. This version of the team was relegated to editorial limbo, when they decided to explore the multiverse as the Wanderers, never to be heard from again.
13 EXTREME JUSTICE
In 1995, DC Comics spun off Extreme Justice from Justice League America as a proactive team of Leaguers, who decided to mete out their own brand of justice after becoming disillusioned with their association with the United Nations. Under the leadership of Captain Atom, Extreme Justice was considered a dangerous collection of loose cannons, whose flagrant disregard for international laws and borders, eventually resulted in a botched invasion of Bialya and the massacre of an entire volunteer army.
The U.N. decided to disband not only Extreme Justice but also the core team and its other spin off group, Justice League Task Force. Thankfully, this resulted in a more streamlined version of the team in Grant Morrison’s JLA, which returned the League to its former glory. Fittingly, Extreme Justice became an embarrassing footnote of League history best left forgotten.
Monarch gives us a headache. With one of the most labyrinthine, messed up origins in all of comics, it’s a damn shame there isn’t a comic book version of Botched willing to excise the mangled history associated with this character. First appearing in Armageddon 2001, Monarch was an ultra-powerful despot from the future, who believed he was saving the world by enslaving it. Part of the storyline’s hook was that a major DC hero was actually Monarch.
When it was leaked Captain Atom was the hero wearing Monarch’s armor, DC switched gears and revealed the villain was Hank Hall, the former hero known as Hawk. This made little sense for a variety of reasons. Eventually, after Hall took on the identity of Extant, Captain Atom did inherit the Monarch armor, for still more reasons that defy logic except maybe that someone at DC just couldn’t let the angle go.
Throughout its long, rich history, despite numerous reboots and countless retcons, there has always been a Doctor Fate to protect the DC Universe from supernatural threats. During the ‘90s, after Kent and Inza Nelson were killed by a couple of demons, the mantle of Fate fell to Jared Stevens, a smuggler who melted the good doctor’s trademark helmet and amulet into more prosaic weapons. Armed with a mystic dagger and set of darts, Stevens combatted paranormal danger on his own terms.
Stevens was a reluctant hero, who often found himself fighting alongside another forgotten DC ‘90s property called Scare Tactics, a rock band composed of classic horror monsters. Eventually, Stevens was put out of his misery by the mystical heavyweight Mordru, who murdered him in the pages of JSA, in an effort to claim Fate’s artifacts for himself.
Chronos from 1988 was one of those comics we wished more people had read when it was first published. This is one of those books that should never have been forgotten. Created by John Francis Moore and Paul Guinan, Gabriel Walker inherited the mantle of Chronos after the perennial Atom villain died. Alternatively a thief or hero depending on the situation, Gabriel’s travels through time brought him into contact with several DC characters from throughout its history.
From Thomas Wayne to Vandal Savage, Gabriel’s footprints can be seen throughout history. Moore and Guinan’s epic was an engaging, character-driven twist on the conventional comic book time travel concept. If you like books like James Robinson and Tony Harris’ Starman, then Chronos is right up your alley. Don’t let this overlooked gem be forgotten forever.
Created in 1992 by prolific sci-fi novelist Michael Jan Friedman and artist Mike Collins, the Darkstars was a group of interstellar police officers created by the Controllers, a race of beings who were rivals of the Guardians of Oa. Formed to isolate threats to Controller territory, the Darkstars eventually expanded to fill the void left by the disbanded Green Lantern Corps.
Armed with a powerful exo-mantle that provided the wearer with several offensive and defensive capabilities, the Darkstars were a force for justice and order until the Controllers withdrew their support, rendering most of their battlesuits useless. The last of the Darkstars sacrificed their lives in battle versus the Starbreaker but their legacy lived on through Kate Spencer, who came upon one of their exo-mantles and became the hero Manhunter.
R.E.B.E.L.S. stands for Revolutionary Elite Brigade to Eliminate L.E.G.I.O.N. and first debuted in 1994. Set in the present, the team was led by Vril Dox, a descendent of Brainiac 5, who had originally formed L.E.G.I.O.N. to combat the forces of the oppressive Citadel. After L.E.G.I.O.N. was taken over by his insane son, Dox created R.E.B.E.L.S. to regain command of the rogue intergalactic peacekeeping organization.
R.E.B.E.L.S. and L.E.G.I.O.N. were both intriguing books thanks to their connections to the 31st century-based Legion of Super-Heroes, through characters like Dox, Phase, Strata and Lyrissa Mallor. Unfortunately, it is those same ties to the Legion that eventually relegated both teams to comic book limbo. L.E.G.I.O.N. popped up for a time in the New 52 but its history was vague and didn’t appear to be tied to the Legion, which was also largely absent from DC’s reboot.
7 ALPHA CENTURION
The Alpha Centurion was a Roman soldier named Marcus Aelius, who was abducted in 2nd century A.D. by an alien race called the Virmiru. Trained by his benevolent abductors, he was returned to an alternate Earth to become the guardian of a Metropolis that never knew a Superman. During Zero Hour, he encountered a displaced Superman and the two heroes teamed up to defeat the menace of Bloody Mary. His timeline was erased during Zero Hour and for a time Marcus was relegated to oblivion.
He eventually emerged in the mainstream DCU, where despite coming into conflict with Superman over their mutual feelings for Lois, helped rescue the Man of Steel from an unfair extraterrestrial tribunal. Since then he’s appeared briefly in the New 52 version of the Teen Titans and in a cameo in Grant Morrison’s The Multiversity. So maybe he’s not quite forgotten after all, even if he probably should be.
Long before A.R.G.U.S. gained traction in the DC Universe as its premiere spy organization, there was simply Argus, a former federal agent who gained superpowers after he was bitten by the alien Bloodlines parasite. One of the New Bloods to emerge from the Bloodlines crossover (along with Anima, Gunfire and Garth Ennis and John McCrea’s Hitman), Argus possesses enhanced strength and healing, the ability to see the entire electromagnetic spectrum (“Argus vision”) and limited invisibility.
Argus embarked on a career as a superhero, fighting alongside heroes such as the Flash and the Blood Pack. Outside of a six-issue limited series, Argus’ appearances have been sporadic since his debut. He most notably survived an encounter with Prometheus, who managed to dismember his fellow New Bloods Anima and Gunfire. Our Argus vision reveals a similar fate for this piece of ‘90s cannon fodder... if anyone bothers.
5 ADAM CRAY
In order to infiltrate the villainous Micro Squad, Ray Palmer fakes his own death and recruits Adam Cray to take his place as the Atom. As part of his mission, he joins the Suicide Squad, where he uses his size-changing powers to give the team a secret edge on their missions. All seems to be going as planned until one of the Micro Squad impales Cray through the chest with a nail, believing him to be Palmer. Cray’s death forces Palmer’s hand and he reveals himself, defeating the assassin in the process.
Unfortunately, Cray’s death was all for naught. Palmer was no closer to uncovering the secrets of the Cabal yet Cray still paid the ultimate price. He recently showed up in DC Rebirth as the new Atom Ryan Choi’s college roommate but we have a feeling his own size-changing days are over.
4 TEAM TITANS
Team Titans originally hailed from an alternate future in which Donna Troy’s son becomes a ruthless dictator called Lord Chaos. They are sent back through time to murder Troy but convince her to give up her powers instead, so that her son would be born as a normal human. The team remains in the past operating alongside the original Teen Titans until Zero Hour, during which it’s revealed they were really sent back in time by Monarch (former Titan Hank Hall) to act as his agents during the latest DC crisis.
When Hall (now going by Extant) is defeated, all of the timelines he created are destroyed, including the one from which he plucked Team Titans. All of the team’s members, except for Mirage and the second Terra (who were actually from the mainstream DCU) were erased from continuity. Advil anyone?
3 THE HECKLER
The Heckler is one of the few characters on this list we wish had never been forgotten. Created by Keith Giffen and Tom and Mary Bierbaum, this madcap parody of superhero comics debuted in 1992, in the pages of his own limited series. By day, Delta City native Stuart Mosely runs a skid row diner called Eats. By night, he cavorts through the underworld annoying the heck out of criminal underworld with wild abandon.
His rogue’s gallery is almost as absurd as he himself and boasts such delightfully strange villainous luminaries as Boss Glitter, the Cosmic Clown and C’est Hay. Although he only appeared in a grand total of nine actual comics, the Heckler’s striking appearance and laugh-out-loud dialogue makes us wonder how he could have ever been sidelined to the forgotten corners of the DC Universe.
2 GENERAL GLORY
A tongue-in-cheek riff on flag-wearing patriots like Captain America and the Shield, General Glory “plagued” the Justice League during the ‘90s with old fashioned morals and cheesy dialogue after Maxwell Lord thought a Golden Age hero would improve the team’s floundering public image. Granted superhuman strength, speed and endurance by the spirt of Lady Liberty, Glory awoke as an old man after an extended bout of amnesia. Upon reciting his oath to Lady Liberty, he was transformed into the robust hero he had been in his youth.
After suffering a heart attack in his elderly civilian identity, he passed his powers along to Donovan Wallace, who had shared a hospital room with him. Wallace and his entire family were eventually murdered by Vandal Savage’s Fourth Reich in a bid to wipe out the lineages of America’s patriotic heroes. Glory be…
Bloodwynd was one of those characters typical of the ‘90s: grim, prone to brooding and partial to enforcing his own twisted brand of justice. He first appeared as a member of the Justice League and even fought Doomsday during the classic “Death of Superman” storyline. However, it was revealed that Bloodwynd was actually an amnesiac Martian Manhunter, who had been compelled to take on the new identity by the ancient necromancer living in Bloodwynd’s gem.
Once the real Bloodwynd was freed, he chose to remain with the League. However, his questionable morals and refusal to participate on missions that ran counter to his personal code prompted him to leave. He eventually faded into obscurity after serving as a Sentinel of Magic for a short time. He was last seen in on Earth 16 in Grant Morrison’s The Multiversity, much changed from his original incarnation.
Who is your favorite forgotten hero of the ‘90s? Let us know in the Comments!