In comics, there are universes full of characters who are able to move faster than a speeding bullet, control the elements, easily lift entire buildings and freaking fly. And then, there are the other guys; those weirdos with powers so nonsensical, it’s no wonder they have become the butt of many a fan joke.
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Some of these characters might make you wonder what the creators were thinking, while others reek of attempts at trendiness that just missed the mark. A good deal of them are too ludicrous to even begin to take seriously, while still others could be likable... if their powers didn’t fall so drastically short of amazing. With that in mind, come along with us as we "celebrate" 15 of the Most Useless Superheroes ever, presented here in order of least to most useless.
We want to like Jubilee so desperately that it almost pains us to include her on this list. Almost. First introduced in 1989’s “Uncanny X-Men” #244 and created by Marc Silvestri and Chris Claremont, Jubes' real mutant power wasn't fireworks, it was having all of the attitude in the world. Along with that, it's also hard not to love her yellow-trench-coat-and-pink-shirt combo in a painfully nostalgic way, totally un-ironic way.
But let’s be honest: she’s spent so much time relegated to the role of Wolverine’s sidekick or forgotten nobody that her irrelevance is all but incurable. At the very base of things, her powers are plain lackluster, especially compared to the rest of the X-Men around her. Jubilee literally shoots sparklers from her hands, or, as the Marvel site puts it, “multi-colored globules of energy plasma she calls ‘fireworks.'" She also is great at rollerblading and pretty decent at gymnastics -- all skills that would seem pretty cool in real life, but in the world of X-Men... let’s just say we can understand why she had a stint as a ‘80s mall performer and leave it at that.
14 Mr. Immortal
Mr. Immortal is the leader and founder of the aforementioned Great Lakes Avengers. Created by John Byrne and introduced with the rest of his team in 1989’s “West Coast Avengers” #46, Mr. Immortal (real name: Craig Hollis) is a mutant from Sheboygan, Wisconsin whose main power is that he cannot die. He discovers this skill after several suicide attempts and eventually decides to make some good of it, flinging himself into danger without fear.
Okay, sure, he’s useful as a human shield, but the problem is that it’s his only true power, and he usually wakes up in a fit of rage after being revived, which isn't pleasant for anybody. The only one who could calm him was Dinah Soar, who CBR's Brett White once described as “a pterodactyl-esque hero of an unknown species, who used her sonic voice as a weapon and only communicated with Mr. Immortal.” (Get it? Di-nah Soar. Ha ha?) Regardless of this one weakness, being un-killable is a pretty cool power -- works for Deadpool, right? -- but unfortunately, Mr. Immortal doesn;t have the skills to do anything with it, and instead is content with being a glorified (and surly) punching bag.
Doorman is a guy who can use his body to make a door... hence the name. Another member of the Great Lakes Avengers, the mutant first appeared in “Avengers West Coast” #46, and is able to make gateways through solid objects utilizing the power of the “Darkforce Dimension” (which is also used by the Cloak, Dark Star, and others). The main problem? He can only teleport things to the very next room.
It’s his only real power for quite some time (although he does eventually gain the ability to levitate, which is... okay), and it’s pretty ridiculous because he exists in a universe with, 1.) Heroes who possess more effective teleportation skills, 2.) Super-strong heroes who could just blast through walls, and 3.) Super-logical people who could just pick locks and walk through the stupid doors. If you were trapped in a prison with an unpickable lock, needed to break into somewhere without being detected or were completely walled-in someplace, Doorman might be the one to call. Still, it's not enough to kick anyone up to the level of legitimate superhero just because he or she can replicate the abilities of a largely-inanimate object.
Douglas Aaron Ramsey, or Cypher, is a guy who is really good at languages. That may sound flippant (because it is), but in truth, these languages include all of those on earth (including computer languages) and those of a more extraterrestrial bent. Now, barring that last bit, Cypher's abilities are skills that a regular ol' human could feasibly acquire with some practice and maybe an above-average intellect. His whole deal, however, is understanding language intuitively, instantly and fluently, all on a subconscious level, without expending much of any effort.
Of course, these are all things that would probably be super impressive in real life, but Cypher’s skills simply didn’t add up to the abilities possessed by his friends like, say, Kitty Pryde. Cypher did, however, help the New Mutants communicate with and befriend the Technarch alien, Warlock, when he first arrived on Earth. That's impressive in its own way, but computer hacking and translation skills do not a cool superhero make.
Created as a collaboration between Marvel and Casablanca Records, Dazzler was first introduced in 1980’s “X-Men” #130 with a set of very disco-era powers: she could turn sonic vibrations into light, which she often did by using “rhythmically sustained” music (i.e. disco). However, she wasn’t able to do so without amplifying her voice with, say, a microphone. She was also a great roller skater (noticing a theme?), a solid fighter and a talented athlete.
Perhaps, the character should get a pass because she spent so much time being patently against the idea of being a superhero, even as she traipsed around with groups like the X-Men and Gladiators. She just wanted to be a singer (and, briefly, an actress), but villains kept interfering. An argument can also be made that the core of her story -- a single woman trying to build a career for herself, whose life is not solely defined by men and who has positive relationships with other women around her -- was pretty radical for the ‘80s. In the end, though, she couldn’t even use her own, (pretty silly) powers without a microphone.
10 Gin Genie
Gin Genie (a.k.a. Beckah Parker) was a member of X-Statix, a group of mutant superheroes who were more preoccupied with becoming rich and famous than doing anything altruistic like saving the world. Gin Genie’s "thing" was that she was capable of seismokinesis, or “the power to generate seismic vibrations.” The only problem? She could only do so when she is very, very drunk.
The force of her seismic blasts was actually concurrent with her blood-alcohol content. In addition to being a pretty problematic idea for a superhero (Gin Genie’s dependence on alcohol actually landed her a spot on several "most offensive" lists), it also made her an inept fighter. When she was drunk, Gin Genie occasionally aimed her seismic waves at her fellow X-Statix team members, meaning she was often more of a liability than an asset. Her career as a superhero was cut short when she died while on a mission.
9 Color Kid
Like Stone Boy, Color Kid joined the Legion of Substitute Heroes after being rejected from the Legion of Super-Heroes. Born on the planet Lupra, Ulu Vakk got his powers when he was hit by a beam of colorful light from another dimension while working in a science lab. The accident imbued him with the ability to change the color of any object, no matter how big or small. Thus, he became known as Color Kid.
Admittedly, Color Kid did manage to make the most out of his pretty useless skill. His color-change abilities not only changed the hue of an object but, on at least one occasion, were also able to change the chemical makeup of the object. Thus, he was able to help save Superboy and Supergirl from a deadly Kryptonite cloud. He also figured out how to tweak his abilities to throw off his enemies and to camouflage himself and others around him. But still, being able to change something's color is possible for pretty much anyone with a can of spray paint and a few spare minutes.
8 NFL SuperPro
This is yet another example of Marvel Comics partnering up with a big business to create a pretty lackluster superhero. This time, they teamed up with the National Football League to make -- what else -- a promotional series about a pun-loving, crime-fighting, ex-football player with super powers. Written by Fabian Nicieza, NFL SuperPro debuted in 1991 and centered on a star football player-turned-reporter named Phil Grayfield.
Grayfield just so happens to interview an oddball chemist and sports fan who just so happens to have invented a practically indestructible football uniform. For some reason, a group of thieves comes in, takes what they want, ties Grayfield to a chair and decides to burn up the rest of the scientist’s things, including the suit. The combination of the heat and the fumes from the chemist’s supplies end up giving Grayfield super powers, which he then uses to pummel bad guys.
The series (which Nicieza reportedly worked on just to get free New York Jets tickets) was canceled rather quickly, but not before Grayfield created his own crime-fighting team. Which leads us to....
7 Almighty Dollar
Created by Mike Decarlo, Buzz Dixon and Jose Delbo, Almighty Dollar was a member of NFL SuperPro’s team of unimpressive superheroes. His power? Dude could make loose change shoot out of his wrists.
Born J. Pennington Pennypacker (seriously), Almighty Dollar first appeared in “NFL SuperPro” #10. He was just an average certified public accountant before he attended a “self-esteem camp” at a place called Camp Runamuk (pronounced “run-a-muck” because the “NFL SuperPro” was a really big on the puns) with a few friends from college. The camp was actually a front for a demented scientist who used a special device to give people superpowers. After being given superpowers without their consent, Pennypacker and his friends decided to put their abilities to good use by joining NFL SuperPro’s crime-fighting unit, earning them the name, The Happy Campers.
In case you’re wondering, the other members consisted of a guy named Girth, who used his super-strong stomach to fight crime; a guy with super-speed named Streak; and a Korean statistics genius nicknamed Calculator (Oh, hi there casual racism!).
6 Stone Boy
Part of the Legion of Substitute Heroes, a group of moderately super-powered individuals who gathered together after being rejected from the Legion of Super-Heroes, Stone Boy has one of the most literal names on the list. He is an alien from the planet of Zwen, whose inhabitants turn into stone in order to hibernate their way through their six-month-long winters.
On Earth, Stone Boy generally uses this ability in some pretty comical ways. He was originally unable to move or stay awake while in his stone state (hence, his uselessness), so his teammates would throw him at enemies, drop him on their heads or use him as a distraction. Eventually, thanks to a bit of hypnotherapy, Stone Boy figured out how to remain conscious and even move while using his power, but nevertheless, his skills are pretty underwhelming in a universe where mobile rock monsters and heroes are pretty much the norm. But hey, none of us can turn to stone, so maybe we shouldn't judge!
5 Hindsight Lad
Carlton La Froyge, a.k.a. Hindsight Lad, is a great guy to have around... if you’re looking to spend your days filled with regret. First introduced in Marvel’s “New Warriors Annual” #3, La Froyge would not become Hindsight Lad until “New Warriors” #37, after he caught his neighbor and schoolmate, Robbie Baldwin, transforming into his superhero alter-ego, Speedball.
La Froyge had always wanted to be a superhero and decided to blackmail Speedball in order to force his way into the New Warriors. The one problem? He didn’t exactly have any superpowers. Somehow, he came up with the idea of “helping” the team by being able to point out any tactical errors they made during battle -- after the fight was already over. This post-battle criticism didn’t exactly make him an asset in the field, so the New Warriors only allowed him a desk job doing administrative tasks and using his computer skills at their headquarters, the Crash Pad. Nevertheless, La Froyge was just happy to be a member of the team... even if he was a professional Debbie Downer.
4 Bouncing Boy
Charles Foster Taine was just an everyday scientist's gopher until he accidentally drank some of his employer's "super-plastic fluid” while running an errand. He was supposed to be delivering said fluid to the “science council” when he stumbled across the Robot Gladiator Tournament and decided to flake on his job to take in the action. Distracted by all of the robot fighting, he absentmindedly drank some of the plastic, which essentially turned him into the human superball, Bouncing Boy!
As his name subtly implies, he quickly develops the power to inflate his body and turn into a sphere that could bounce off of anything without injury. Taine auditioned for the Legion of Super-Heroes multiple times before he was finally invited to join the team. The fact that they even offered membership to a guy who only obtained his ridiculous powers after deliberately being bad at his job leads us to believe that the Legion's pickings must have been slim... no pun intended.
3 Matter-Eater Lad
Of course the world needed a superhero who literally ate his way out of his problems. A one-time member of the Legion of Super-Heroes, Tenzil Kem is an alien from the planet of Bismoll. Much like Stone Boy, Matter-Eater Lad’s powers are the result of his planet’s inhabitants evolving in response to an unexpected tragedy. When all of the food on Bismoll became inedible thanks to some pesky microbes, the Bismollians adapted by becoming able to eat and digest all matter.
In addition to being able to keep down random objects he consumes, Matter-Eater Lad can also analyze matter’s contents, determine if it contains poisons, metabolize his food quickly in order to obtain super-speed and use his special Bismollian digestive enzyme in order to make tough materials like steel easier to consume. Being able to eat any and everything might make for a good party trick, but the image of a Legionnaire stepping up to help the team by tying on a bib and tucking into a nice piece of, say, rebar, is laughable.
2 Rainbow Girl
Probably one of the most potentially offensive superheroes to ever exist, Rainbow Girl is a mood swing-prone superhero with the ability to harness the emotional spectrum... because women, right?
Born Dori Aandraison, she hails from the planet Xolnar. An aspiring actress, she wanted to become a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes in order to work her way into the acting world. She managed to score a trip to Metropolis by using her powers to win the “Miss Xolnar” contest. What powers you ask? Why, the ability to make herself irresistible to people around her by emanating a field of light that basically looked like a rainbow... hence, her name.
She didn’t make the Legion's cut, unfortunately, and instead, married a member of a wealthy Metropolis family in order to stay on Earth. She had an epiphany while writing her autobiography and realized she still wanted to pursue her dreams of superheroics, so she ended up joining the Legion of Substitute Heroes instead, despite the fact that she felt they were not high-profile enough for her to meet her goals. So yeah, she was basically the worst.
1 Arm-Fall-Off Boy
In keeping with the theme of super-literal superhero monikers, this DC Comics character gets his name from the fact that he can literally detach his own arm and use it to beat up villains. So basically, he has the power of almost every single action figure that has ever been produced. This, as you might expect, begs the question... What?!
According to his creators, AFOB's powers are intentionally ridiculous, which makes sense, since he was both the first to try out for the Legion of Super-Heroes, and the first to be rejected. In fact, the character is so inconsequential that he initially isn’t even given a name (although in the Zero Hour reboot, it is revealed that he is Floyd Belkin from the planet Lallor). It’s seriously impossible to imagine his creators developing a character whose sole ability is popping off his arm and using it to bludgeon bad guys without the conversation devolving into a fit of giggles.
Who are your favorite (or, indeed, least favorite) useless superheroes? Let us know in the comments!