In the decades since the company first began publishing comics in the 1930s, Marvel has amassed an expansive roster of characters. Whether gods, aliens, spies or super men, many of Marvel’s characters have achieved comic book immortality finding great success on the printed page and recognition in the wider world. In the wake of Marvel’s domination of the world’s movie screens, it’s never been easier to discover Marvel’s characters. On t-shirts, lunch boxes, posters and paraphernalia, Marvel’s heroes are everywhere. Alongside this there has been a growth in Marvel reference texts, with countless guides and encyclopedias aimed at introducing new fans to the wonders of the wider Marvel universe.
To its credit, Marvel has brought both well known and less heralded characters to the screen, familiar concepts like the Hulk and Captain America sharing a universe with lesser known creations such as Ant Man and Guardians of the Galaxy. Yet there are still a huge number of characters in Marvel’s vaults waiting patiently for their shot at the big time – for that new headlining series or big screen debut. Some will undoubtedly make it, but there are many who are destined to languish in obscurity, far way from the limelight. The following 15 characters have all been forgotten, downplayed or removed from the spotlight by any means necessary: exactly how Marvel wants it.
15. HANK PYM
Hank Pym is one of Marvel’s original Silver Age heroes, one of the greatest minds in the Marvel universe and a founding member of the Avengers. And yet, despite all of these points, Hank has long had indignity after indignity heaped upon him by successive writers. Unlike in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Hank Pym was responsible for Ultron’s creation in the comics, a feat that he has struggled to live down. Even worse was his treatment of the Wasp when he was undergoing a mental breakdown, which culminated in him striking her.
Despite Jim Shooter, the story’s writer, claiming that the art was never meant to show Hank hitting the Wasp, the damage was done. The incident permanently tainted his character for many fans and writers. The 2015 film Ant Man and recent comics have highlighted the Scott Lang version of the character, with Hank Pym removed from circulation after falling under the control of Ultron, a situation that suits Marvel perfectly.
14. MATTIE FRANKLIN (SPIDER WOMAN III)
Popularity is a funny thing. Some characters emerge in a blaze of glory before fading away. Others arrive to the sound of a thousand face-palms, and it’s downhill all the way from there. Sadly, Mattie Franklin falls into this latter category. Mattie was created by John Byrne, who introduced her in his run on The Amazing Spider-Man. A Spidey fangirl, Mattie impersonated the webslinger before taking up the mantle of Spider-Woman.
Her ongoing series met with a poor reaction, lasting only 18 issues. Since then, Mattie’s career highlights have included being used to produce Mutant Growth Hormone in Alias and being used as a human sacrifice in Amazing Spider-Man‘s “Grim Hunt” storyline. Just to make extra sure that Mattie was gone, Marvel brought her back in “The Clone Conspiracy” story, where her cloned body was reduced to dust.
13. TRIATHLON/3-D MAN
While he undoubtedly gets points for persistence in the face of near-total apathy, Delroy Garrett has the dubious distinction of failing to interest fans in either of the superhero identities he assumed. First introduced in the ’90s Kurt Busiek/George Perez run on The Avengers, Triathlon’s claim to superhero fame was that he had the abilities of three men, having unknowingly been imbued with the abilities of the 3-D Man. Unfortunately, his character was bound up with the religious organization called The Triune Understanding. This plotline failed to excite fans, dragging Delroy down with it.
When Delroy later assumed the persona of 3-D Man, being spotlighted in Avengers: The Initiative, he showed his worth during the Secret Invasion crossover by murdering one of the only Skrulls fighting to defend Earth. Sheesh — it’s no wonder his appearances since this point have been so rare.
Ahh, Woodgod. Created by Bill Mantlo and Keith Giffen and having the appearance of a half man/half goat: if there was any justice in this crazy world then Woodgod would have been THE breakout Marvel character of 1976. Sadly, that’s not what happened and everyone’s favorite Marvel satyr was restricted to a handful of appearances over the following decades.
Created through advanced experiments, Woodgod has superhuman strength, a resistance to chemical toxins and a mastery of genetic engineering. At first portrayed as a rather savage character, Woodgod used the notes of his scientist creator in order to teach himself to read. From then it was only a small step to mastering the intricacies of genetic engineering. Proof that you may not be able to teach an old dog new tricks, but a goat with a desire to learn is another thing entirely.
“Begob and Begorrah, they’ve stolen me lucky charms!” Does this strike you as a cliched representation of Irish stereotypes or does it perfectly conform to your image of a country populated by small men in green leggings? If it’s the latter then we’re delighted to introduce you to Shamrock, Marvel’s greatest contribution to Irish-American relations since the debut of Sean Cassidy (Banshee).
Debuting in the 1982 series, Marvel: Contest of Champions, Molly Fitzgerald, known by her superhero name of Shamrock, was every Irish stereotype rolled into one, in a way that’s almost breathtaking. Molly was the daughter of a member of the IRA, and served as a vessel for displaced souls that had died as innocent victims of war. These souls affected probability within a 20-foot radius of her, giving Shamrock (sigh) the luck of the Irish.
Created by Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos and first appearing in Amazing Spider-Man #692, Andy Maguire was a student at Midtown High, Peter Parker’s old school. Unlike Peter, Andy was no straight-A student. After being accidentally infected with Parker Particles, he gained superpowers and set about building a superhero career, beginning this new phases of his life as a sidekick to a less than enthused Spider-Man.
It’s fair to say that fan reaction to Alpha wasn’t particularly enthusiastic. He was deliberately presented as a more hot-headed, more self-interested character than Peter, allowing for a new riff on the themes of power and responsibility. When Andy was stripped of his powers at the end of the three-part story, it was met with a shrug from readers, something that was borne out by very low sales figures that greeted his 2013 miniseries.
9. ARABIAN KNIGHT
Abdul Qumar was the original Marvel superhero known as the Arabian Knight. Created by Bill Mantlo and Al Milgrom in the pages of Incredible Hulk #257, the Knight utilized a golden scimitar, a magic sash and a flying carpet, items that belonged to a 13th century ancestor. The carpet could travel at high speeds, the scimitar could fire destructive blasts and the sash could extend in length, enabling the Knight to confront the Hulk, Water Wizard, Freedom Force and others in conflict.
While this look may have been a good visual, its also likely to be viewed as uncomfortably stereotypical for the modern era. This is perhaps why, when the original Arabian Knight was killed, his successor dispersed with the flying carpet and traded in the traditional costume for contemporary military clothing.
8. LIFEGUARD / SLIPSTREAM
Chris Claremont’s return to the X-titles after nearly a decade away wasn’t the success that many expected. Within a year he was replaced on both X-Men and Uncanny X-Men, but had the consolation of launching a new title: X-treme X-Men. This saw familiar mutants being joined by a number of new characters, including the brother and sister duo of Davis and Heather Cameron. The two were living in Australia when the X-Men encountered them, unaware of their mutant heritage. When Davis’ X-gene was activated he gained a teleportational ability called a warp wave, which he traversed by means of a metal surfboard.
Neither Davis nor Heather proved to be popular with fans. Davis did himself no favors with his horrified reaction to his sister’s changed appearance, eventually leaving the team due to his discomfort. He was later revealed to have lost his powers on M-Day, to a collective shrug from fans.
7. OMEGA THE UNKNOWN
During the 1970s, Steve Gerber — thanks to runs on Howard the Duck, Man Thing and more — was considered one of Marvel’s most quirky and innovative writers. This view was cemented by Omega the Unknown, a series from Steve Gerber, Mary Skrenes and Jim Mooney that debuted in 1976. This followed a 12 year old boy called Michael Starling, and his mysterious connection with an alien superhuman named Omega. The series was cancelled after only ten issues, with Omega being killed off in the last issue.
Unfortunately, Gerber was fired by Marvel in 1978, before he had a chance to draft a proper conclusion to the title. Steven Grant eventually wrapped up some loose ends in a two-part Defenders story that failed to satisfy either fans or Gerber. While Omega was revived for a ten issue miniseries in 2006, his complicated history makes it exceedingly unlikely that he’ll return to the Marvel universe.
Jack Monroe was always a tragic comics character. For some characters, being a hero is a release and a thrill. For others such as Jack, it’s one kick in the teeth after another. Jack was the Bucky of the 1950s, and upon his introduction to the modern Marvel universe, took up the Nomad identity and became the partner of Steve Rogers. The ’90s reinvented Jack as a grittier character, his Fabian Nicieza penned series taking him on a road-trip throughout the USA, dealing with social problems and raising a child.
After the 25-issue run of this series concluded, Nomad vanished from the Marvel universe. Nicieza later brought him back during his run on Thunderbolts, where Jack was revealed to be a mind-controlled operative for the Commission on Superhuman Activities. He was later brought back by Ed Brubaker during his Captain America run, only to be killed in the same issue by the Winter Soldier.
5. PHANTOM RIDER
One of Marvel’s many western heroes, Lincoln Slade, the Phantom Rider, has been one of the few to have regularly appeared in the modern Marvel universe. His encounters with the West Coast Avengers during their mid-80s travel through time led to Slade meeting Mockingbird, something that would greatly affect the lives of both characters. After kidnapping Mockingbird, Slade drugged her so that she was subservient to him, taking advantage of her.
When Mockingbird regained control the two fought, and she let him fall to his death. This violation of the “Avengers don’t kill” rule led to her separation from Hawkeye, and would define their relationship for years. The storyline proved highly controversial, but the ghost of Slade has returned on several occasions. The final issue of Mockingbird from 2016 revisited this plot, finally helping give Bobbie some closure.
4. HELL’S ANGEL
During the ’70s and ’80s, Marvel UK was primarily known for Captain Britain and its expansive line of American reprints and licensed titles. At the beginning of the ’90s, an attempt was made to launch a genuine Marvel UK superhero universe. The titles would be for sale in all good comic shops, while condensed versions of the strips would be serialized in Overkill, a fortnightly title.
One of the initial launch titles was Hell’s Angel, from the creative team of Bernie Jaye and Geoff Senior. This featured Shevaun Heldane, who was empowered by the Angel of Death with a fragment of the universe. Unfortunately, the Hells Angels biker club launched legal proceedings against Marvel over the name, resulting in Shevaun being renamed Dark Angel. In addition, Marvel was ordered to pay £35,000 to Ronald McDonald house.
3. THE FRIEND
When he first debuted, in 1972, Johnny Blaze was transformed into the Ghost Rider after agreeing to sell his soul to Satan (later revealed to be Mephisto). During the ’70s, Blaze was involved in superheroic adventures (infamously being a member of the Champions) but also stories with a more supernatural edge. One of the most interesting examples was in 1974, when Tony Isabella created a supporting character called The Friend. This character helped Blaze on the journey to redemption and was intended to be Jesus Christ, making a thematic link with Satan’s presence in the book.
Unsurprisingly, having the Son of God as a supporting character in a book about a fire-skulled motorcyclist made some of the higher-ups at Marvel very nervous. In #19, ten issues after his introduction, the story was rewritten to show that The Friend was actually a demonic illusion.
2. THE RAWHIDE KID
In the years after Bill Jemas and Joe Quesada took over the reigns at Marvel, in 2000, the company ventured into previously neglected areas of publishing. Innovations during this period included the “Ultimate” line of books and the introduction of the “Marvel Max” imprint, featuring stories whose content pushed the limits of what was acceptable in mainstream Marvel comics. In some cases, such as with Punisher, this was a perfect fit. However, not all series were as well received, with the revamp of the Rawhide Kid being infamous.
The intent of reintroducing the Rawhide Kid, an old Marvel western hero, as gay generated some excitement at the time, with many fans happy to see this move from Marvel. Unfortunately, this new portrayal of the Rawhide Kid was played for laughs, his stereotypical portrayal leading to a huge backlash and ensuring that this version of the character was excised from history.
Cloud, created by J M DeMatteis and Don Perlin in 1983’s Defenders #123, was a character that was the subject of great discussion at the time, both from her teammates and the title’s readers. This was primarily due to the fact that after initially appearing as female, Carol demonstrated the ability to transform into a male form. Cloud’s feelings at the time showed her torn between her attraction to Iceman and Moondragon, leaving her questioning her feelings and who she was.
Her teammates were similarly conflicted, particularly Iceman. In fairness, Peter B. Gillis, who replaced DeMatteis as writer, explored the situation fairly sensitively. But the limitations of the format and the subsequent reveal of Cloud as a space nebula, prevented a full exploration of Cloud’s situation.
These are our choices for 15 characters that Marvel wants you to forget. Who else deserves to be forgotten? Let us know, either in the comments or on Facebook!
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