Characters like Batman, Spider-Man, and the Flash are all impressive in their own ways. They have brought hope to the world and serve as icons of the values they stand for. Being the stars of countless stories, it seems like their time will never come to an end. However, nothing lasts forever. Several times throughout comic book history our favorite characters been slain by diseases, villains, and even reality-altering mistakes. Whatever the cause, superheroes all die at some point. Because of this, there are many times where a new character, inspired by the hero that passed away or stepped down, decided to take on the mantle for themselves and become a new version of said hero. There are times where it’s a sidekick who takes the lead role once their mentors disappeared. Other times, it’s an entirely new character deciding to step up when the opportunity arose.
Regardless of how new characters ended up taking the mantle of popular superheroes, there are many times where this is done extremely well. Having a new character in the role can lead to new and exciting stories. It also gives the writers a chance to have more depth to characters we’ve known for quite some time. At its best, having a replacement hero take the lead can be a great thing for comics. On the flipside, there are times when a replacement hero was paled in comparison to the original so much that they didn’t last long as the star. Without further ado, we’ll be exploring 10 of the best replacement heroes and 10 of the worst.
20. BETTER: WALLY WEST
Jay Garrick might’ve been the first version of the Flash, but it was Barry Allen who became the most popular, being defined by the death of his mother and the grudge against the Reverse-Flash. As he learned to be the Scarlet Speedster, he took on an apprentice in the form of Wally West.
Barry, a few occasions, died or disappeared for a time, leading Wally to take over as the Flash. He embodied everything that Barry stood for while being different enough to explore new aspects of the Speed Force and DC Universe as a whole. He also became faster than Barry for a time.
19. WORSE: JASON TODD
After Dick Grayson decided to forge his own path as Nightwing, it was time for Batman to get a new sidekick to patrol the streets of Gotham with him. That sidekick was the orphan, Jason Todd, whom Batman met when he tried to take the tires off of the Batmobile.
It wasn’t long before Todd showed his true colors and became immediately disliked. He was brash, hotheaded, and acted before thinking. He was disliked so much by the readers that they all voted for him to be written out of the DC Universe. Todd definitely works much better as the Red Hood than he does as Robin.
18. BETTER: TIM DRAKE
Dick Grayson was the first Robin. Jason Todd was the second Robin. However, the award for the best replacement Robin has to go to Tim Drake. After the occasional stubbornness of Grayson and the hotheaded ego of Todd, Tim Drake took his time with becoming the Boy Wonder. He thought before he acted, and that made him one of the best Robins to date.
Tim Drake also gained the best detective skills out of any sidekick that Batman trained — and that’s saying a lot. He upheld everything the Dark Knight established and even outshone his gruff mentor in many ways.
17. WORSE: JOHN WALKER
Steve Rogers is the most patriotic hero in the Marvel Universe, and that has put him in direct odds with the government. After being disillusioned by the country he gave his life to serve, Rogers resigned from his role as Captain America and went his own way. It was then that the U.S. enlisted John Walker to take his place.
Walker was never a true Captain America replacement, though. He was violent, unstable, and everything that Captain America wasn’t. Clearly, the readers weren’t a huge fan of him either, as he only managed to stay in the role for about a year.
16. BETTER: OTTO OCTAVIUS
Peter Parker hasn’t had an easy life. Between being told he was a clone and losing his best girlfriend, there’s always something out to get him. However, there was one villain who actually succeeded: Doctor Octopus. Dying of cancer, he switched bodies with Peter so that he would become Spider-Man and Peter would die.
Determined to be the best Spider-Man yet, Ock took the name “Superior Spider-Man” and had a number of technological enhancements. Seeing a villain take the role of a hero is an extremely compelling change of pace, especially for a character like Spider-Man. It was also interesting to see how Octavius still made morally right decisions through his time as a hero.
15. WORSE: BEN REILLY
When Ben Reilly was introduced, he was brought up as a clone of Peter Parker, but then we were all told that he was the real Peter Parker and that the Peter we’d been following for years was the real clone. It gets more confusing from there.
Peter Parker left once he was told he was a clone for some alone time. It was then that Ben Reilly took over the role of Spider-Man as the Scarlet Spider. While he does have an impressive costume, him swinging around as the “real” Peter Parker never felt genuine. It felt wrong and Marvel quickly rectified their mistake.
14. BETTER: LAURA KINNEY
Laura Kinney was a clone of Wolverine and not just in abilities. She had a miserable life full of trouble and heartache, including her being manipulated into killing her own mother. She was alone in the world, and she knew it was all her fault.
Eventually, she was taken in by the X-Men and took over the Wolverine mantle after Logan was gone. She had a different sense of savagery about her, but her youthful age still made her reasonable. She was a mirror of Logan, but compelling in many different ways. Having less trauma, she is much more redeemable.
13. WORSE: TEEN TONY STARK
Tony Stark isn’t known for his outstanding qualities as a human, but that’s never stopped him from doing the right thing and being a hero. Could you imagine what it would be like if a teenage Tony Stark was in the Iron Man suit, though?
Never fear, because Marvel has the answer. After Tony Stark became evil, the Avengers went back in time to get a teenage Tony Stark to replace him. Imagine Stark with all of his bad qualities and with the attitude of a teenager. That’s basically all there was to this version of the character. Thankfully, he didn’t last long.
12. BETTER: BUCKY BARNES
After Captain America was assassinated following the events of “Civil War,” it was time that someone take over the mantle and keep the hero alive. That someone was Bucky Barnes: better known as the Winter Soldier.
Being Cap’s best friend, Bucky understood what it meant to be Captain America and what his importance was to the rest of the country. He toiled to fight HYDRA and restore liberty to the world. He carried himself pride if only to honor the memory of his best friend. It was a touching point in Marvel’s history that went to show how far the two had come as friends.
11. WORSE: JULIA CARPENTER
Jessica Drew, the original Spider-Woman, didn’t have a lot do with the powers of Spider-Man. While she had a similar costume, her abilities were much different than Peter Parker’s. This brought up some concern for Marvel, who were afraid that someone else would make someone else with the name Spider-Woman.
To compensate, they hastily created Julia Carpenter as a more by-the-numbers Spider-Woman. They wrote out Jessica Drew and replaced her with a female version of Peter Parker with no unique qualities other than the fact that she was a girl. The fans didn’t take too kindly to it and Carpenter was eventually thrown out.
10. BETTER: CASSANDRA CAIN
Barbara Gordon is the Batgirl that most people think of when discussing the character, but she was not the only one. There was also Cassandra Cain, who did an excellent job holding up the mantle.
Cain was the daughter of two of the deadliest assassins in the DC Universe. She was born and raised to end people without mercy. After taking a life, she swore never to do it again and fled to Gotham City, where she would be adopted by Batman and given the Batgirl name. Not only does she have the best costume, but she is also the best fighter to ever become Batgirl.
9. WORSE: ARTEMIS
For some reason, DC had a strange love with replacing their most popular heroes during the ’90s. Superman was mortally wounded by Doomsday. Batman’s back was broken by Bane. Then they decided that Wonder Woman should join the club as well, so they had Hippolyta determine that she was “unfit to be Wonder Woman.”
After holding a brief challenge, HIppolyta declared Artemis the new Wonder Woman. As you might expect, Artemis was a bit more “extreme” than Diana Prince and was a bit more brutal. After only a year, she fell in combat and Diana was given the mantle back. That’s all there was to it.
8. BETTER: JANE FOSTER
If you thought that Jane Foster was a bland character in the Thor movies, then you might want to read the comics. When Thor was deemed unworthy to wield Mjolnir, it was Jane Foster who was chosen by the hammer to take up the mantle.
The only downside to this was that she was dying of cancer. The only reason she stayed alive is through becoming Thor. Still, she pressed on with great dignity. She unlocked powers that Thor Odinson never knew existed and she was noble up until the very end. She sacrificed her powers, and her life, to save the world in the end.
7. WORSE: ERIC MASTERSON
If you thought that DC was the only company who decided to replace their heroes with edgier versions in the ’90s, then we present to you Eric Masterson. Replacing Thor, he was supposed to be a more “dangerous” rendition of the character. Complete with a rocker’s ponytail, a leather jacket, and some serious facial hair, it was only a matter of time before Marvel brought Thor Odinson back.
6. WORSE: BART ALLEN
Wally West was such a great character to become the Flash because he spent time working toward and earning it. Barry Allen died during “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” and it was Wally’s time to take over. However, DC tried to recreate this moment by having Wally disappear into the Speed Force, leaving Bart Allen, Barry’s descendant, to take on the role.
However, they decided to rapidly age Bart for convoluted reasons and the readers were just meant to accept it. Because Bart’s tenure as the Scarlet Speedster was never earned, it felt cheap. It wasn’t long before he no longer had the mantle, though.
5. BETTER: SAM ALEXANDER
Richard Rider was one of the greatest heroes in the Marvel Universe, becoming the leader of the Nova Corps and having the power and bravery to stand against even the strongest of foes. However, he gave his life during The Thanos Imperative to save the Guardians of the Galaxy.
After he died, it was Sam Alexander who would become the new Nova. Being only 15, he had the natural valiance of Rider and fought all sorts of cosmic threats. He even found Rider’s helmet and brought it to his family to let them know that he had died a hero. Even as a young hero, Sam had all of the right qualities.
4. WORSE: AMADEUS CHO
The Hulk has always been defined by his constant dancing on the edge of sanity and rage. Bruce Banner has dealt with his darker side for generations, but Marvel decided to replace him with someone new.
After being killed by Hawkeye, Amadeus Cho was the one who took over the mantle as the Hulk (taking the name “Totally Awesome Hulk”). However, Cho is fundamentally against everything that defined the Hulk in the first place. He’s snarky, almost to the point where he comes across as rude and uncaring. It’s a “goofy” version of the character, and that cheapens the depth one would normally feel with Banner.
3. BETTER: JOHN STEWART
There are many people on Earth who were selected to become Green Lanterns, but John Stewart was chosen specifically to fill in for someone else. When Guy Gardner needed some time off, the Guardians chose Stewart to take his place (much to the frustration of Hal Jordan).
There were some concerns with Stewart considering his hatred of society and the traumatic memories he buried deeply in his consciousness, but he proved to surpass all of it. John Stewart became one of the noblest Green Lanterns ever created and has just recently become the first of an all-new type of Lantern.
2. WORSE: JEAN-PAUL VALLEY
After Bane broke Batman’s back, there needed to be a temporary replacement to protect Gotham City. Crime doesn’t take a holiday, after all. That’s when Bruce decided to enlist Jean Paul-Valley, better known as Azrael to take his place.
Unfortunately, Jean was never a proper replacement to Bruce Wayne. Not only was his version of the batsuit ridiculous and such an obvious product of the ’90s, but he also lacked any compelling angle. He was brainwashed by the Order of St. Dumas to attack Bruce Wayne, so that always made the audience not totally trust him. At least his costume as Azrael looked great.
1. BETTER: BETA RAY BILL
Thor was shocked during one cosmic mission to learn that there was another who was worthy to wield Mjolnir, and that was Beta Ray Bill. An alien created as a “champion” of an entire race, he had a pure heart and just lived in bad circumstances. After being worthy, Odin created a special hammer for him so that he could have his own powers.
After Surtur ransacked Asgard, Thor left for some time off and Beta Ray Bill took his place. Despite his brutal appearance, he was a noble hero, constantly putting himself in harm’s way to save the day.
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