Whether you're forging dank memes, narrowly avoiding plagiarism or remixing Sir Mix-a-Lot, there's always something to be gained in using one's creativity to reimagine a pre-existing intellectual property. One of our favorite things about comics for instance is seeing how modern writers manage to transform formerly lame super-villains into modern day menaces. Take Mime for instance, a former Z-List Batman villain who was remade into the mute assassin wielding invisible weapons and the breakout star of 2018's Doomsday Clock by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank.
With Mime serving as our muse, we've scoured our long boxes to find 20 forgotten, under-utilized or just downright esoteric super-villains who are just begging to be revisited and/or reimagined for modern comic book storylines. Mind you, not every character in this listicle needs to be completely overhauled, rather these long-lost villains have been absent from comics for eons in spite of their abject dope-ness. Likewise, mere cameo appearances from these characters will not suffice: we want to see these villains make a dramatic and/or comedic return, becoming the focus of a storyline or even stand-alone-series. Whether its due to a unique power set, origins relevant to the modern world, brilliant character designs, dangling storylines that have remained unresolved for years or simply being able to shoot dinosaurs out of their eyes, these 20 somewhat obscure super-villains are more than ready to make a comic book comeback.
20 TYRANNOSAURUS REICH
When an alien college student accidentally leaves a trans-dimensional portal open, Tyrannosaurus Reich steps out of his empire and into our world in 1997's Major Bummer #5 by John Arcudi, Dave Manhke and Tom Nyugen. Tyrannosaurus Reich is exactly what it sounds like: a Tyrannosaurus Rex wearing a Nazi uniform. In addition to his authentic uniform, Tyrannosaurus Reich wields a dinosaur sized pistol while speaking solely in untranslated German.
While Major Bummer is a standalone series not linked to the greater DC multiverse, it remains a DC intellectual property nonetheless. Maybe Tyrannosaurus Reich's home dimension is a part of the Dark Multiverse? Like, if DC's Earth-X is a Nazi planet, why can't there also be a Nazi Dinosaur planet?
19 THE THANOSI
It's hard to make friends when your goal in life is courting the physical manifestation of Death by destroying all of reality. So, Thanos literally makes friends by cloning himself in 2002's Infinity Abyss by Jim Starlin and Al Milgrom. Five of Thanos' replicants are stolen however, all of whom are obsessed with courting oblivion.
Each member of this quintent – dubbed the Thanosi, which is apparently the plural form of "Thanos" – were created with specific variances: X is a big brained Professor X Thanos, Warrior is an extra dumb yet extra strong Thanos, Mystic is Thanos' head on Dr. Strange's body and Armour is Darth Vader Thanos. Finally, Omega is a Galactus-Thanos mashup that is twice as powerful as the purple planet eater.
What separates genius from laziness? The answer is Cactus, the talking humanoid cactus from 1987's West Coast Avengers #17 by Steve Englehart, Al Milgrom and Joe Sinnott. Cactus is a member of the Desert Dwellers, an Albuquerque based team whose villainous ranks include Heatstroke, Gila and Butte. Immediately after Cactus introduces himself, Heatstroke clarifies: "I didn't name him." To back up his claims that he"causes fear in every other living thing," Cactus can shoot his spines like a machine gun and regrow any of his pulpy limbs instantly.
What's particularly hilarious about Cactus is that he was created by Dominus, an alien super-computer controlled by robots. Despite all of that processing power and advanced technology, Dominus couldn't think of anything beyond "cactus."
In a moment of desperation, Black Knight's squire Sean wields the Ebony Blade, a mystical sword that transforms its wielder into the Bloodwraith, a demon whose power swells with every soul that the blade claims. When Sean visits Slovenia – a nation recently ravaged by Ultron – The Ebony Blade claims the souls of Ultron's victims, causing Bloodwraith to grow to colossal proportions in 2000's Avengers #36 by Kurt Busiek, Steve Epting, Al Vey and Tom Smith.
Out of options, Scarlet Witch binds Bloodwraith to Slovenian soil. While Bloodwraith can't leave Slovenia, no one can enter either. Evidently, The Avengers were satisfied with this stopgap, as Bloodwraith never appeared in comics again. Black Knight inexplicably gets his sword back, so everyone (outside of Slovenia) was happy.
16 THE ERASER
At first glance, The Eraser seems like the laziest character design for a super-villain, considering that he's basically an anthropomorphic pencil, complete with pencil-point sharp boot tips. Eraser provides a necessary service to the criminal underworld however, offering his evidence-erasing services in 1966's Batman #188. Eraser's rubber-head helmet contains a special compound which removes everything it touches, hilariously requiring Eraser to unmask himself during heists.
Despite making a cameo amongst other Z-List villains in The Lego Batman Movie, Eraser could be reintegrated into modern comics, providing a necessary service for the super-villain community, not unlike the cleaners from John Wick. As Eraser says from within a jail cell: "It's better to be a rubber – than a robber!"
15 THE HANGMAN
Selling his soul to become famous, former actor Jason Roland is transformed into a demonic agent for Sattanish in 1970's Tower of Shadows #5 by Gerry Conway, Roy Thomas, Wally Wood and Barry Windsor-Smith. In addition to sporting Wonder Man levels of strength and endurance and commanding The Lethal Legion, The Hangman has the power of rope. Specifically, Hangman can produce an ostensibly endless supply of rope, most likely from Hell or some sort of rope-dimension.
Additionally, Hangman can manipulate the rope like Omega Red and even make it nigh-indestructible using just his mind. Hangman's rope also defies logic, as Hangman can climb his rope without it actually being attached to anything.
14 THE SCISSORMEN
Born from a meta-fictional text that serves as a gateway between realities, The Scissormen cut their way into our world in 1989's Doom Patrol #19 by Grant Morrison, Richard Case and Carlos Garzón. Using their scissor-hands, The Scissormen cut people out of reality, leaving behind only a white-space silhouette.
What sets the Scissormen apart from other faceless bogeymen is that the Scissormen speak using the "cut-up" technique of dada poetry, wherein words are randomly rearranged to form new phrases. To quote the Scissormen: "Thirdly be grimmer as fond brevities." Also, "Curdle your pilgramage!" But most importantly, "Dote over gantries!" We can only hope that the Scissormen will make another nonsensical appearance in the upcoming live-action Doom Patrol show.
13 THE EXAMINER
The Sligs are considering conquering Earth, however they are aware of The Avengers defeating both the Kree and the Skrulls. So, the Sligs send out The Examiner to assess The Avengers in 1988's West Coast Avengers #30 by Al Milgrom, Bob Sharen and Mike Machlan. Much like the Hyper-Adaptoid, The Examiner adapts to any threat it faces. What's unique about The Examiner however is that it becomes immune to whatever destroyed it. Basically, The Examiner was the OG Doomsday.
One-by-one The Examiner is defeated by each Avenger until only Moon Knight remains. Because they are fighting in an alternate dimension however, Moon Knight draws power from thousands of moons to rip The Examiner apart with his hands while laughing maniacally.
Wanting to redefine super-villainy as an art form, Deathtrap captures Deadpool to "critique" his work in 1997's Deadpool #9 by Joe Kelly, Ed McGuinness and Nathan Masengill. Deathtrap displays his artistry by developing highly personalized and intricate deathtraps for his victims. For instance with Deadpool, Deathtrap designs a Teddy Bear guillotine that descends with every word that Deadpool speaks, intending to make the "Merc with the Mouth" talk himself to death.
Though Deadpool survives, he breaks both of his ankles and wrists to escape the trap, leaving him helpless at point-blank range before Deathtrap. While offing Deadpool would've been easy, Deathtrap instead spares Wade, leaving a note marking the start of a beautiful friendship that would never be explored again.
11 BLOOD SPIDER
Commissioned to train a trio of evil Avengers, Taskmaster unleashes the evil Spidey Blood Spider in 1992's The Amazing Spider-Man #367 or "Skullduggery" by David Michelinie, Jerry Bingham and Randy Emberlin. Despite his hodgepodge costume, Blood Spider wields a flamethrower-style web-shooter and is "just as strong as Spidey" according to Agent Venom.
While The Blood Spider works alongside a knock-off Captain America and Hawkeye named Death-Shield and The Jagged Bow, respectively, Blood Spider appears to be the best of these Z-Lister costumed criminals. Also, Hawkeye started out as a villain, making The Jagged Bow pointless. That being said, "Spider-Man fighting Spider-Man" is pretty standard for Spider-Man, so it's understandable why Blood Spider is seldom utilized.
10 THE DEMOGOBLIN
Seeking further power, the second Hobgoblin Jason Macendale trades his soul with the demon N'Astirh, ultimately creating the demonic Demogoblin in 1985's Web Of Spider-Man #86. Demogoblin has all of the powers and equipment of your typical Hob and/or Green Goblin, except Demogoblin makes his Goblin-gear out of magic.
Despite seeming like just another [Adjective]-Goblin, Demogoblin is actually compelling. Unlike most demons for instance, Demogoblin seeks salvation by vanquishing the wicked, but also Spider-Man. When Demogoblin amassed an army of literal goblins in 1994's Venom: The Enemy Within #3 by Bruce Jones, Bob McLeod and Harry Candelario for instance, Demogoblin orders his army to drown themselves, just to reduce the demonic quota.
The Full Acclimation Combat and Defense Explo-skeleton or F.A.C.A.D.E. is a set of neo-bionic power armor stolen in 1994's Web Of Spider-Man #113 by Terry Kavanagh and Alex Saviuk. Daily Bugle photographer Lance Bannon snapped a pic of the culprit, however F.A.C.A.D.E. throttles Lance.
Betty Brant narrows the culprit down to three suspects, right as F.A.C.A.D.E. bursts through her apartment. Spidey destroys the armor, however the man inside escapes. Before we could find out the identity of F.A.C.A.D.E., Spider-Man's Clone Saga started, abandoning the storyline and ultimately making F.A.C.A.D.E.'s identity a running joke.
Trying to gain bonus points for making first contact, Joystick attacks the Scarlet Spider in 1995's The Spectacular Scarlet Spider #2 by Mike Lacjey, Tom DeFalco and Mark Bagley. Joystick holds no grudge for the Scarlet Spider, rather he was just chosen to be Joystick's next opponent in The Great Game, a series of death matches organized by a secret society. It's basically the plot of Surviving The Game, or as Joystick summarizes: "You ever play Mortal Kombat?"
Though Joystick later joins The Thunderbolts, no mention is made to The Great Game or Joystick's gamer girl motivations. If she were revisited, a new Joystick could be obsessed with achieving a proverbial "Victory Royale" or "Chicken Dinner" in a modern iteration of The Great Game.
7 ANYTHING MAN
Anything Man is a one-shot villain making his sole comic appearance in 1979's The Defenders #69 by Mary Jo Duffy, Herb Trimpe and Ben Sean. While foiling a robbery at his mansion, Jeff Colt discovers that he has reflexive superpowers, temporarily gaining abilities based on whatever is currently threatening him.
Wearing a tennis outfit complete with short-shorts, Jeff easily whoops The Defenders. In addition to out-tumbling Hellcat, Jeff defeats Valkyrie in a sword fight by using a piece of driftwood that he imbues with the qualities of steel before gaining flight to pursue Nighthawk. Anything Man is defeated however when Nighthawk maroons Jeff on an island, leaving him powerless. Fearing isolation, Jeff allows Dr. Strange to strip away his powers.
6 ANIMAL-VEGETABLE-MINERAL MAN
While demonstrating an experiment to create life from a vat of amino acids, Dr. Sven Larsen falls into his concoction, emerging as The Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man in 1964's Doom Patrol #89. Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man is exactly what it sounds like: a man who can turn into any animal, vegetable or mineral. As The Chief explains, the first animal and vegetable life emerged from minerals, therefore Sven's experiment uncovered the linked between the three groups.
Despite essentially being Beast Boy, Metamorpho and The Floronic Man rolled into one package, Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man is seldom used in comics, most likely due to his terrible moniker. Fortunately, AVM Man is mentioned as being part of India's superhero team in 2018's Doomsday Clock.
5 INFINITE MAN
While testing the theory that time is circular, Professor Jaxon Rugarth tests how far ahead he can go in time in 1977's Superboy and The Legion of Superheroes #233 by Paul Levitz, James Sherman and Bob Wiacek. Jaxon returns instantly, confirming that while time is circular, the time machine he used was too powerful, causing him to loop millions of times through all of time. Now reeling from time-madness, Jaxon emerges as Infinite Man, a gigantic being made out of the infinite flow of time itself.
In addition to his large stature, Infinite Man can pull anything out of any point in time. Infinite Man demonstrates this power by utilizing what can only be described as "Dinosaur-ray vision." Need we say more?
Angry at the world for his quote-unquote shortcomings, the man who would be known as Codpiece straps on a literal crotch cannon to rob a bank vault and our hearts with in 1993's Doom Patrol #70 by Rachel Pollack, Scot Eaton and Tom Sutton. In addition to projecting energy blasts, Codpiece's codpiece is equipped with spring-loaded boxing gloves, drill bits and surface to air missiles. Ultimately, Codpiece loses everything, as his true codpiece is liquified by a blood bender wearing a frog mask.
Just, how has there not been another Codpiece in comics? Dude is basically the walking embodiment of phallocentrism wielding a hip-fire cannon torn from some of nightmare version of Inspector Gadget... and we love him for it.
Formerly pudgy secretary Angelina Brancale is chosen by Doctor Octopus to test out the Virtual Reality Matrix, a machine that allows Angelina to control Stunner, a hologram of Angelina's idealized self in The Amazing Spider-Man #426. Bearing statuesque proportions, ludicrous strength and a '90s style leotard, Stunner is a cliché femme fatale, which is precisely the point. Despite her avatar's appearance, Stunner holds a grudge against every man that plagued her outside of the VR Matrix.
When Stunner returns in Superior Spider-Man #20, Spider-Ock uses Stunner's VR rig to wrap up some storylines via Doctor Octopus construct, demonstrating the plot potential of Stunner. Stunner and her VR Matrix could address impossible beauty standards, cat-fishing or even body dysmorphia.
Timeshadow first popped into comics in 1986's X-Factor #5 by Bob Layton, Jackson Guice and Josef Rubinstein. Using his mutant power, Timeshadow can teleport through time one mllisecond at a time. In addition to making Timeshadow nigh-impossible to hit, Timeshadow can also "strobe" himself through time, resulting in multiple Timeshadows existing simultaneously. This is not just a visual effect however, as each Timeshadow copy can think and act independently.
What separates Timeshadow from other self-replicators like Madrox is that none of Timeshadow's copies actually are Timeshadow, because of quantum physics. Timeshadow last appeared when Apocalypse's Alliance of Evil disbanded in 1988's X-Factor #33, which is a shame as Timeshadow's powers were hardly explored, yet bear limitless potential.
Swarm is a reanimated Nazi skeleton covered in bees. Swarm first appeared in 1977's Champions #14 by Bill Mantlo and John Bryne, wherein Nazi scientist Fritz Von Meyer's body was skeletonized by a colony of irradiated bees, resulting in Fritz's consciousness being dissipated throughout the bees, technically making Swarm a colony of Nazi bees.
Swarm has limitless potential for modern comics, as his Nazism combined with the helpfulness of honey bees makes Swarm a walking dichotomy. Like, imagine Captain America fighting Swarm. On one hand, Cap loves punching Nazis. On the other hand, how could Cap punch a formerly endangered species responsible for pollination and curing diseases? Incidentally, heroes fighting Swarm inevitably end up reenacting the "Not the bees!" scene from The Wicker Man.