For comic fans who lived through the era, the ‘90s was a weird and wonderful time. In the years since then, people have looked back on that most bombastic of decades -- especially the comics that were released during that period -- with a certain level of derision. After all, the ‘90s is the massively muscular, chrome-covered decade, nestled between the epic ‘80s (that gave us Watchmen, Dark Knight Returns and the birth of Event comics) and the 00’s (where comics got cinematic and mainstream, with books like Ultimates and Astonishing X-Men leading the fray).
Throw in the fact that the speculator boom and bust nearly ruined the industry, and the ‘90s have never been looked upon that fondly. In the last few years, however, that opinion is starting to change. Comics creators who grew up in the ‘90s are starting to reexamine the best comics, characters, and concepts from the era. Looking back through arguably the biggest franchise of the period -- the X-Men -- can provide some fun and fascinating characters that may vary in quality, but are all entertaining nonetheless, none more so than the villains facing the unlucky mutant super-team. That’s why CBR is ranking the 20 most ridiculous X-Men villains of the ‘90s!
Paris Bennett or Bennet du Paris is a near-immortal French mutant originating in the 12th century. He’s led the Acolytes, as well as being a member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and the Marauders. He’s also one of the most powerful mutants to ever exist, his powers perhaps amplified by Apocalypse.
His power-set includes telepathy, teleportation, telekinesis and superhuman strength, as well as the ability to return the dead to life.
All that pales in comparison to that outfit. He won’t be the only ‘90s X-Men villain to go for the “giant shoulders” look, but the yellow wing-like adornments are especially choice. The white cape and boots are delightful too, all paired nicely with a purple jumpsuit and the classic long blue hair of comics (which is probably supposed to be black).
Not an individual being but a hive mind of thousands, the Phalanx are a formidable cosmic threat facing the X-Men. In many ways, they are comparable to the Borg from Star Trek: The Next Generation except, you know, amped up to 11 in a way that only happens in ‘90s comics. They take their cues from the Technarchy from earlier X-Men comics too, but the Phalanx rose to prominence in 1994 as organic beings infected with the Transmode Virus found in the Technarchy.
In the epic storyline "The Phalanx Covenant," the dreaded robotic race learned that mutants are resistant to their assimilation, and an all-out war began. As said earlier, the look of the Phalanx is peak ‘90s: looking like Terminator exoskeletons if designed by H.R. Geiger, these monstrous mutant hunters are pretty scary, even if they could easily be rejects from an Iron Maiden album cover.
A classic example of a character getting more love as an action figure than in the comic books from which he originated, Tusk is an inhuman and a member of the Dark Riders, an evil team that served Apocalypse. Tusk is fairly recognizable due to the two large tusks that protrude out of his back, and his ability to create smaller versions of himself to do his bidding.
Firstly, can they even be called tusks if they come out of your back? It feels like he just calls them that because he wanted to go by the name Tusk. Also, creating smaller versions of yourself to do your bidding isn’t such a special mutant superpower, it’s something we can all do. It’s called having kids, and unless we’re really unlucky, our kids won’t have weird “tusks” sticking out of their shoulders.
17 NASTY BOYS
With a name that sounds more like an insult from your grandma than a scary mutant superteam (not to mention a prominent wrestling tag-team from the late ‘80s), the Nasty Boys were the personal strike force of Mr. Sinister, who faced off against X-Factor and X-Force on numerous occasions.
The Nasty Boys (sometimes spelt Nasty Boyz) were exactly as ridiculous as their individual names suggested.
Consisting of mutants Slab, Gorgeous George, Hairbag, Ramrod, Ruckus, and a duplicate of the Multiple Man, the Nasty Boys (sometimes spelt Nasty Boyz) were exactly as ridiculous as their individual names suggested. They were pretty easily defeated whenever they appeared, which is no surprise really. If you fill your team with names like Hairbag and Slab, then you’re never going to make the A-List. They’re roughly designed to be mirror images of the X-Factor team: Hairbag against Wolfsbane, Slab against Strong Guy etc.
Looking like Rocketeer and Iron Man raised a child together, Tempo is a founding member of the Mutant Liberation Front, a terrorist organization designed to liberate the disillusioned mutant youth. Tempo, aka Heather Tucker, is, as her name suggests, a manipulator of time. She can speed up or slow down individuals or objects, such as slowing down a grenade mid-explosion, or speed up Rogue so she hits a wall while flying.
Besides looking like a slim female Juggernaut, Tempo’s look serves a practical function too. Her helmet is fitted with electronic devices that prevent psychic manipulation by Cable’s telepathic probes, and the yellow jumpsuit is presumably to offer reduced wind resistance when she’s sped up? Either way, she looks like a human bullet, and not in a good way (if there is a good way to look like a human bullet).
Originally designed to be an older, evil version of prominent New Mutants member Sunspot, Reignfire’s origins were retconned to establish him as merely a clone of Bobby DaCosta, formed from a protoplasmic being in the possession of the Celestials who was injected with the DNA of Sunspot, presumably because X-Men writers of the ‘90s like to make things as simple as possible.
Naturally, his powerset is very similar to Sunspot's, with solar energy absorption, the projection of heat and light, flight and super strength. He also looks like an extreme metal version of Sunspot, with long straggly hair, epic golden cape and large shoulder pads (again with the shoulders). His piercing red eyes and black void where his body should be, only serve to make him more extreme, but despite his looks and convoluted backstory he was pretty handily beaten by his younger self.
Like a cross between X-Men members Sunfire and Cannonball, the somewhat racially insensitive Kamikaze was a member of the Mutant Liberation Front, recruited by Stryfe to fight against and capture the New Mutants -- then known as X-Force.
Kamikaze, aka Haruo Tsuburaya, has the powers of a living bomb, exciting the friction between atomic molecules so that he can detonate upon impact.
He can fly too, leaving a trail of explosive airspace behind him like a mutant rocket. His look is styled with the Japanese flag and he’s got a red visor that puts Cyclops to shame. Unfortunately for Kamikaze, his time in comics was cut short when, in the storyline "X-Cutioner’s Song," he was accidentally decapitated by the sharp metal wings of the X-Man Archangel.
13 TREVOR FITZROY
The award for most uninteresting mutant name ever goes to Trevor Fitzroy, who is primarily an antagonist of Bishop, the time-hopping X-Men detective from the future. Trevor is from the same future that Bishop hails from, and is a mutant super criminal capable of absorbing the life energy from humans in order to create time portals, which frankly is comic book science at its finest.
The illegitimate son of Anthony Shaw, the Black King of the Hellfire Club in the future, Fitzroy was a dangerous teleporter who discovered he could also teleport through time. Originally considered by Xavier’s Security Enforcers as an asset they could use to change history for the better, he was far too dangerous to be trusted. He traveled back to our present and fought against Cable, among others, and was seemingly killed when trying to absorb the future X-Man’s life energy through his techno-organic arm.
Blastfurnace was a robot designed to think it was a mutant, created by Simon Trask to be the leader of his fake terrorist organization the Mutant Liberation Front. Looking exactly like his name would suggest, Blastfurnace resembled a giant walking oven, with flames shooting from its head like a chimney, and with the power to create immense heat that would incinerate its foes.
For a character with a pretty iconic design, Blastfurnace was rarely seen in comics, first appearing in an issue of Punisher from 1996. It’s not entirely clear if he was an actual artificial intelligence or piloted remotely, but his body armor was extremely durable and, aside from flame generation, Blastfurnace is able to teleport for great distances. It still wasn’t enough to make him a formidable enough enemy for either the Punisher or the X-Men, but very few individuals are.
11 DARK RIDERS
Also known as the Riders of the Storm, the modern day incarnation of the Dark Riders is composed of Inhumans and Mutants, all hand-picked to serve the immortal mutant Apocalypse as his faithful warriors. Made up of individuals such as Gauntlet, Psynapse, Dirtnap and Tusk, the Dark Riders were an imposing threat to both X-Factor and Cable.
The team believed in the survival of the fittest.
It took the combined might of X-Factor and the Inhumans (Apocalypse raided the Inhuman home of Attilan for members of his Dark Riders) to bring down the fierce warriors, but they succeeded, killing Apocalypse in the process. Following a further defeat at the hands of Stryfe, the Dark Riders adopted him as their new leader, causing Apocalypse to team up with the X-Men to bring them down.
If it weren’t for the bright yellow shoulder-strap made of pouches, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Gamesmaster was nothing more than one of a dozen grey-jumpsuit wearing minions in some bad guy's base. As it goes, Gamesmaster is a fairly powerful omnipath, meaning he can hear the thoughts of everyone on the planet, a power that has, understandably, affected his sanity.
He, alongside Selene, formed the Upstarts: a twisted game held for the benefit of the cruel and wealthy, allowing them to pit mutants against each other in deadly competitions. He mostly engaged in this as a distraction from the seven billion minds invading his every thought, and though he professed to have enough psychic power to control everyone on earth, that was determined to be false. Still, he could easily influence those around him, if not quite the entire planet.
Maybe we were a little premature in saying that Trevor Fitzroy had the most uninteresting name because along comes Post and it’s an entirely forgettable moniker. Kevin Tremain was initially a mutant taken under Cable’s care after being saved from Iron Man’s nemesis, the Mandarin. Cable had to use his own blood to stabilize Post, despite the risk of infecting him with the Techno-Organic virus.
The dread villain Onslaught manipulated this new weakness in Post, using the virus in his system to turn him into a cybernetic powerhouse. Now one of Onslaught’s emissaries, Post was covered in Techno-Organic armor platelets that gave him powers such as teleportation, invisibility, weapon construction and the ability to look entirely generic. His biggest claim to fame was perhaps being the second mutant to try (and fail) to assassinate Senator Robert Kelly and bring about the Days of Future Past universe.
Onslaught is among the quintessential X-Men villains of the ‘90s, and certainly, the one that directly caused the biggest shake-up in the entire line for at least a decade in either direction. Born out of the combined brain patterns of Magneto and Charles Xavier, Onslaught was teased and slowly revealed over months. When he hit, all hell broke loose.
Despite looking a little bit like the answer to the question “what if M Bison was a Decepticon?” Onslaught carved a path through the entire Marvel Universe.
Defeating him was the catalyst for Heroes Reborn, the event that saw previous Image Comics founders return to the fold for reimagined (if short-lived) versions of Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Captain America and the Avengers. He was kind of a big deal, except for the fact that Heroes Reborn has been largely considered "Bad Comics" in the years since its release.
With arms so nice he made them twice, it's Forearm! Who can not love a dude with four arms calling himself Forearm? A prominent founding member of the Mutant Liberation Front, Forearm is a staple of the terrorist organization through its many leaders, including Stryfe and Reignfire. He’s a pretty great bad guy because his mutant superpower is exactly as simple as you’d think: he just has four arms.
He seems to have superhuman strength and durability too, which is pretty lucky, but otherwise, he’s defeated fairly easily by Warpath, who refers to him as “the boy.” His fairly memorable design has seen him used in the X-Men Animated Series too, as part of Magneto’s army, and in a random issue of What If? He died in Madripoor while fighting in an underground fighting match pleasantly titled “Bloodsport.”
6 DIRT NAP
With a name like Dirt Nap, you’re not going to be expecting anyone particularly delightful, and you’d be right, as this life-absorbing mutant has taken the permanent form of a giant rat. He was originally humanoid, with the ability to absorb bodies into his own form and take on their likeness, the only evidence being a red smiley face on their body.
Joining the Dark Riders, Dirt Nap was part of their plan to bond Wolverine’s skeleton with the adamantium that Magneto had ripped from him. Dirt Nap was to get close enough to Logan to absorb, but when he tried, the mutant’s healing factor rejected him. Their failed attempts to carry out their plan sent Wolverine into a feral state, and Dirt Nap bonded with a rat in order to escape. He’s kept that form ever since, the only sign that it’s him being a red smiley face on the rat’s back.
You know when a character is co-created by Rob Liefeld that you’re in for a crazy ride. Richard Gill, aka Wildside, was another soldier in the Mutant Liberation Front and was perhaps its most sadistic member. Despite his comical, gravity-defying hairstyle, Wildside is a pretty scary mutant. He has the ability to psychically disrupt your reality, making you hallucinate whatever he wants, but he rarely uses these powers, instead choosing to maim, torture and kill his victims in a much more visceral way.
It’s never explained if his enhanced speed, strength, agility and aggression are part of his mutant powerset or just physical training, but his almost feral nature means he’s adept at attacking people with his techno-organic claws that he received from the Weapon X program. We can’t fault his style though: white hair and pants, gold trim -- he’s rocking it.
4 SUGAR MAN
Hailing from the Age of Apocalypse universe, Sugar Man sounds like a fun character for kids, but looks like a giant ball of nightmares and teeth. An expert in biology and genetic engineering, Sugar Man was a student of Mr. Sinister, tormenting and experimenting on his human slaves in his lab at Niagara Falls.
His four arms are nothing compared to his giant face that takes up most of his body, making him look like a horrific, feral egg man.
He’s got a huge mouth full of razor sharp teeth, enhanced senses (he can smell fear) and a long tongue infused with bio-electric energy that can cut through stone and steel. He can also control his own body mass and regenerate, making sure he haunts the dreams of mutants for years to come.
3 BRIMSTONE LOVE
Looking like a second-tier Power Rangers villain, with a name ripped straight from a Shonen manga, Brimstone Love was part of the X-Men 2099 universe, even becoming an action figure that was sure to disappoint kids all over the country. His Demonic look -- complete with excessively ‘90s horns, a long flowing cape, and an evil grin -- is matched by his powers, which include the ability to summon magma, generate intense heat and light and the usual superhuman strength, durability, and resistance to injury.
His life’s work is the Theatre of Pain, designed to convert the suffering of others into pieces of art. He captures a young mutant called La Lunatica, whose power is to trigger painful memories in others, and uses her to extract the suffering of victims so that he can record them and sell them to his clients.
With armor that looks like it’s made of knives, giant spiky shoulder pads, and a chrome finish, Stryfe could only come from the ‘90s. The clone of Cable, Stryfe is a powerful mutant antagonist of the X-Men and the main villain of the 1992 crossover "X-Cutioner’s Song." Being a clone of the Askani’son means he has all of the psionic and telepathic abilities associated with Cable, but he’s also a merciless madman.
While Cable was infected with the techno-organic virus that keeps his powers in check, Stryfe was not, making him far more powerful.
He was also stolen and raised by Apocalypse, meaning he grew into a sadistic and lonely individual, skilled in all forms of combat and tactical strategy. His enhanced control over his telekinetic ability makes him a match for the strongest mutants in the world, including Jean Grey, Cable or even Apocalypse.
1 OMEGA RED
An attempt by the KGB to create a super soldier to rival Captain America, Arkady Rossovich was a serial killer that survived his own execution -- as well as the brutal experimentations that turned him into Omega Red -- because of the intensity of his evil spirit. He’s implanted with retractable carbonadium tentacles that sprout from his arms, that he’s able to wrap around his victims and drain their life.
His vampiric nature is a consequence of the carbonadium in his system. A poor substitute for Adamantium created by the Soviets, carbonadium is poisonous, meaning Omega Red needs to drain the life energy of his victims in order to survive. He’s also got the ability to release “Death Spores” that can kill those in his immediate vicinity, meaning that the KGB couldn’t have made a worse Captain America if they tried.