As the famous adage goes, the only thing that’s constant in life is change, which has certainly been the case in the history of comic books. Superheroes have been in a constant state of change ever since they debuted, as Superman wasn’t leaping an eighth of a mile for long as his means of travel, nor was Batman wearing purple gloves, carrying guns and snapping bad guys’ necks for long, either. However, in the last 30 years or so, there has been a dramatic rise of character revamps, some good, some bad. Here, we’ll take a look at the 15 worst superhero revamps.
Note that we’re only talking about revamps that were ostensibly permanent when they occurred. There have been plenty of really bad temporary revamps over the years, from Electric Blue Superman to Feral Wolverine to Azrael Batman. We’re only counting down revamps that were intended to be permanent when they were introduced. With that in mind, enjoy the worst superhero revamps of all-time.
15. Moon Knight: Fist Of Khonshu
Soon after Moon Knight‘s first ongoing series ended, it was relaunched with a new series called “Moon Knight: Fist of Khonshu”. In the first issue, Marc Spector decided to abandon his alternate identities that he previously used and give up being Moon Knight. Khonshu, however, was not yet done with Marc. He was called to the desert where he was given a new costume, new Egyptian-themed weapons and, most importantly, new lunar-based powers (he would have super strength when the moon was out) that came from Khonshu sort of merging with Marc’s body.
It was during this period that Moon Knight joined the West Coast Avengers. The attempt to make Moon Knight more of a traditional superhero really did not work particularly well and the series was retroactively turned into a six-issue mini-series. When Moon Knight next got an ongoing series, “Marc Spector: Moon Knight,” he was back to his traditional costume and powers (or lack thereof).
14. New 52 Green Arrow
The New 52 “Green Arrow” launched at a very strange time for the character of Green Arrow. You see, just a few short months after the first New 52 issue of “Green Arrow” was released, Warner Brothers announced that they would be debuting a TV series based on the character that would launch in the fall of 2012. DC almost certainly knew that they were working on a “Green Arrow” TV pitch, but by the time that they came out with their new version of Green Arrow, they didn’t know exactly what the TV series would be about, so they could not gear the New 52 Green Arrow to match the upcoming TV series.
Similarly, though, the New 52 Green Arrow didn’t match any previous comic book version of Oliver Queen, either. The book starred a much younger, clean-shaven Oliver Queen who is a tech billionaire that uses his technology to fight crime around the globe as Green Arrow. So basically, it was a character unfamiliar to both older comic readers and newer “Arrow” fans. The character was dramatically revamped roughly a year and half into his run and has been revamped again for DC Rebirth to be more similar to the Pre-New 52 Oliver Queen.
13. Mutated Metamorpho
Famed explorer Rex Mason was hired to retrieve the Orb of Ra for billionaire industrialist Simon Stagg, whose daughter Mason was dating. What Mason didn’t know was that Stagg resented him and had his loyal henchmen, Java, knock Mason out when he found the Orb, trapping Mason in a pyramid with a radioactive meteorite that had initially helped form the Orb. The meteorite changed Rex into Metamorpho, the Element Man, who is able to transform his body into any element found in the human body.
However, Rex’s body was no longer flesh and blood and he could not transform himself into looking like his former self, so he felt that his new form was a curse. He eventually got used to it over the years, but was never happy about his form, so it was a very strange revamp of the character in the pages of “Justice League International” to make him mutate even further. What was the point? He was already miserable about how he looked, so why would adding some crystals to his body matter? It just made an already mopey character just mope around even more.
12. Justice League Detroit
During the early 1980s, the most popular comic book series in comic books were “X-Men” and “New Teen Titans,” with “Legion of Super-Heroes” being popular, as well. What all of those books had in common were a young, diverse cast with a lot of room for character development in the books. With that in mind, “Justice League of America” writer Gerry Conway decided to re-make the JLA into a title similar to “X-Men” and “New Teen Titans” by having most of the famous members of the team leave the book and re-populate it with brand-new characters (like Vibe, Gypsy, Steel and Vixen) and veteran characters (like Martian Manhunter, Zatanna and Elongated Man) that Conway would have total control over in terms of their characterization.
It was a fine idea, but the problem was that the new characters in this League (nicknamed “Justice League Detroit” when the team moved its base to that city) did not go over as well as the “All-New, All-Different X-Men” and the “New Teen Titans,” and thus the book really did not work. After just a year, Conway brought Batman back onto the team and a year later the series was over, relaunched as “Justice League International” by a new creative team (Plotter Keith Giffen and Scripter J.M. DeMatteis – DeMatteis actually finished out the first volume of “Justice League of America” when Conway left the title soon before it ended).
11. Exiled Hercules
Hercules has always been a difficult character to write in a team book on an ongoing basis since his personality is so over the top that it’s hard to do much characterization with him. He’s pretty much just a guy who loves to fight bad guys, drink ale and have sex. In his initial stint with the Avengers in the 1960s, Roy Thomas clearly found the character lacking, so he wrote him off in less than a year. During his next extended stint with the team in the 1980s, Roger Stern showed the downside of Hercules’ personality by having his aggressive nature used against him by the Masters of Evil, where they got him drunk and then beat him nearly to death.
When Bob Harras had him join the team again in the early 1990s, he tried a different approach by basically softening up the character. He had Hercules shave his beard, lose his famous fighting togs, had his demi-god powers reduced dramatically, and him pine for an Earth woman that he had fallen in love with. In effect, he was a completely different character. He was sort of like Rocky Balboa in “Rocky V”: worn down and sort of pathetic (even kind of looking like that movie’s Sylvester Stallone). This approach to Hercules was dropped very soon after he left the Avengers again following Onslaught.
10. New 52 Lobo
Hamburgers and Filet Mignon are two very different types of food. Depending on your mood, you might want one or you might want the other. However, if you ordered a hamburger and were given filet mignon, then you probably would not be pleased. That’s what DC gave their fans with their revamped Lobo in the New 52. Lobo became one of DC’s most popular characters in the early 1990s through a series of mini-series by Keith Giffen, Alan Grant and Simon Bisley that spotlighted Lobo’s over-the-top violence and boorish attitude. Grant then followed that up with a similar “Lobo” ongoing series.
DC actually used the original version of Lobo at first in the New 52, but then revealed that this Lobo was a fake and that the real Lobo was a suave, slim mercenary. He was still violent, of course, but other than that and some vague visual similarities, the character was completely different and, to paraphrase Obi-Wan Kenobi, this was not the Lobo that fans were looking for.
9. Doc Magnus: A Metal Man
The Metal Men had been around for over 30 years by the time they received their second series. It was a mini-series by Mike Carlin, Dan Jurgens and Brett Breeding, all rather major names at DC Comics at the time, so the series was a bit of a big deal. It was also a dramatic shift in the Metal Men concept. The original idea behind the Metal Men was that a brilliant professor named Will Magnus had created a group of robots named Gold, Lead, Iron, Platinum, Tin, and Mercury that would each sort of take on the properties of the metal that they were each named after. The female robot, Platinum, had a big crush on Magnus.
The mini-series, though, revealed that the Metal Men were actually humans who had their personalities placed into the robots by Magnus. In the end, Gold (who was Magnus’ brother), dies and Magnus is mortally wounded. The only way for him to survive was to put his consciousness into a new Metal Man, made up of an alien metal known as Veridium. The whole thing changed the concept of the Metal Men so dramatically that it was all just quietly ignored after a few years, and Gold was back to being alive while Magnus was human again.
8. Fallen Arsenal
During the mini-series, “Justice League: Cry for Justice”, the villainous Prometheus infiltrated the Justice League by pretending to be Captain Marvel Jr. When Justice League member Roy Harper, then going by the name Red Arrow, discovered who he was, Prometheus responded by slicing Harper’s arm clean off. Prometheus then proceeded to Institute his master plan, which involved destroying much of Star City, tragically including Roy’s daughter, Lian. Roy’s father figure, Green Arrow, responded by murdering Prometheus. Roy, on the other hand, sunk into a world of depression and despair.
Literally armed with a new cybernetic arm that is painful to use (since Prometheus’ blade also left nanites that would eat at Roy’s skin even after the arm was lost), Roy returned to his earlier codename, Arsenal, and began living on the streets, becoming addicted to drugs to dull the pain of his existence. He found the Prometheus underling who was directly responsible for Star City’s destruction and he butchered him to death with the knives he now carried. Arsenal was then recruited to join Deathstroke’s new villainous team of Titans. As it turned out, he was just going undercover to take Deathstroke’s team down, but still, the whole situation was bizarrely morbid.
7. Mutated Wasp
During the “Avengers” crossover “The Crossing,” a number of Avengers got new looks. However, while most of the Avengers just got new costumes, things were different for Janet Van Dyne, the hero known as the Wasp. The storyline began with Jan discovering that someone had been embezzling money out of her trust fund so that she was now basically broke. She then discovered, along with the rest of her friends, that their old colleague Tony Stark was actually a sleeper agent for Kang the Conqueror this whole time. Iron Man attacked his old friend and mortally wounded Jan with an energy blast.
With Jan dying in front him, Hank Pym, her ex-husband, desperately turned to the bio-chemical procedure that gave Wasp her powers in the first place. Why he thought that that would cure her is beyond us, but the procedure formed a healing cocoon around Jan. When she emerged, she had been mutated into a giant, flying, wasp-like creature! Oddly enough, Jan seemed to be pretty okay with this new development, although she was mad a few issues later when she discovered that Hank had bizarrely placed a tracking device inside of her. Soon after, Wasp was one of a bunch of heroes who seemingly sacrificed themselves to stop Onslaught. As it turned out, they were sent to an alternate Earth and when they returned, Jan was back to normal.
6. Vuldarian Guy Gardner
There were two issues at hand with Guy Gardner in 1994. One, DC Comics felt that the character needed a superhero name. He had been lacking one since he quit the Green Lantern Corps and became a superhero again by using Sinestro’s old yellow power ring. Two, the entire Green Lantern Corps was about to be wiped out by Hal Jordan, and with the Corps gone, so, too, would Guy’s yellow ring be gone. Those are both reasonably difficult things for any writer to deal with. The first was addressed by Guy taking on the name “Warrior,” while the second was dealt with in a less interesting way.
As it turned out, the now seemingly powerless guy was actually half-alien. He was part Vuldarian, which allowed him to transform any part of his body into a weapon. He was now covered in strange tattoos, as well. Again, Guy needed new powers to keep having his own comic book, so we certainly don’t begrudge write Beau Smith for coming up with the best that he could do, as that was the order of the day. But boy, tattooed shirtless Guy Gardner with shapeshifting powers was not a good look at all, especially not after him just getting a new “Warrior” costume soon before the change.
5. Punisher: Avenging Angel
In 1998, Marvel decided to farm out a few titles to a comic book company called Event Comics, run by Joe Quesada, his wife Nanci and Jimmy Palmiotti. These comics, dubbed “Marvel Knights,” did so well that Quesada was then hired to become Marvel Comics’ Editor-in-Chief. However, while three of the original four titles (“Daredevil”, “Inhumans” and “Black Panther”) were critical and commercially successful revamps, one of them stood out for the wrong reasons. The first try by Marvel Knights for “Punisher” was a bit too outside the box.
The series, written by Christopher Golden and Thomas E. Sniegoski, and drawn by comic book legend Bernie Wrightson (with inks by Palmiotti), saw the Punisher kill himself and get offered a chance to come back to life as an avenging angel working for heaven. As it turned out, the man who killed the Punisher’s family was actually a demon who had been powered up by the souls that the Punisher sent to hell in his name. The overall concept wasn’t a bad one, but it didn’t fit the Punisher, and in the next attempt at a “Punisher” series by Marvel Knights, they had writer Garth Ennis write off this take at the start of his first issue (with Punisher basically just telling heaven that he was done with this nonsense).
“Fate” was yet another idea that could have worked under the right circumstances, as the protagonist, Jared Stevens, was actually an interesting character. It was how the character was presented that ended up being the issue. Stevens was a dealer of ancient antiquities, antiquities he acquired by basically plundering ancient ruins, sort of like an evil version of Indiana Jones. While Kent and Inza Nelson, who were combined as Doctor Fate, were dying after the events of “Zero Hour,” Jared got his hands on the famed Doctor Fate helmet, amulet and cloak. However, some villains showed up and Stevens was badly injured. In the end, the amulet exploded and its power went directly into Stevens. He melted down the helmet and used it to make a knife and throwing stars and used the cloak to repair his injured arm.
Calling himself simply Fate, Stevens worked as a sort of balancing agent between Order and Chaos, neither of which he explained were necessarily bad or good, but just necessary parts of life. Not a bad concept, but not really what any fans of Doctor Fate would be looking for. Stevens actually had two series, “Fate” and “Book of Fate,” but they both soon ended and, when “JSA” launched, Stevens was killed and Doctor Fate’s possessions were returned to normal and used for a new Doctor Fate, Hector Hall.
3. Teen Iron Man
During the aforementioned “The Crossing” crossover, Tony Stark turned out to be evil, having been brainwashed by a time-traveling Kang who had visited Tony in the past. The Avengers decided only Tony himself could take him down, so they travelled back in time themselves and brought back a teen version of Tony from before Kang could get to him. In the end, adult Tony sacrificed himself to save the world, but not before gravely injuring his younger self in battle. The younger Tony’s heart was badly damaged and now needed a special chest protector to keep beating, basically going back to the original origin of Iron Man from “Tales of Suspense” #39.
Now trapped in his future (our present), teen Tony became the new Iron Man and also enrolled in college. The whole idea was to give Iron Man a fresh start as a character and to make the series sort of a new take on Spider-Man (the young hero trying to make it as a superhero motif) with some “Captain America Man Out of Time” thrown in there, as well. Teen Tony’s tenure was very brief, as he was one of several heroes who seemingly sacrificed themselves to stop Onslaught, but were instead transported to another Earth. Upon returning, Tony was an adult once again and all was forgiven for the whole “trying to kill his teammates” thing.
2. Post-Civil War New Warriors
The New Warriors were at the center of “Civil War,” as it was their battle against a bunch of low-level supervillains that led to the explosion in Stamford, Connecticut that led to the passing of the Superhuman Registration Act. Most were killed, but after “Civil War” concluded, a new incarnation of the team sprung up in opposition to Iron Man and his support for registered superheroes.
This new New Warriors team was seemingly led by Night Thrasher (who had been killed in the explosion) and had a whole pile of new superheroes involved in the team. As it turned out, these new heroes were former mutants who had lost their powers after the events of “House of M,” where the Scarlet Witch had used her reality-altering powers to reduce the number of mutants to less than 1,000. The problem was that they were literally unrecognizable. Jubilee was on the team as Wondra, and you would be hard-pressed to tell that it was her. Same with former X-Men, Angel and Beak (now known as Tempest and Blackwing). As it turned out, “Night Thrasher” was really Bandit, the brother of the original Night Thrasher, and the whole point of the team was just so that Bandit could build a time machine and save his brother. When that didn’t work, the team disbanded.
The only New Warrior member to survive the explosion at Stamford was Robbie Baldwin, the easy going superhero known as Speedball. The explosion had charged Speedball with so much kinetic energy that he went flying miles away into upstate New York. Baldwin was then arrested for his role in the explosion. He defiantly stood up for his rights, insisting that he did nothing wrong and that the explosion was the fault of the supervillain, Nitro, who exploded on purpose, not Baldwin fighting him.
However, following an assassination attempt on Baldwin, he suddenly decided to take full responsibility for the people who died and began wearing a suit of armor that contained 612 spikes inside of it (one for each person who was killed in the explosion, including 60 longer spikes to symbolize the children who died), as following the assassination attempt, his powers were now activated by pain. He took the name Penance, atoning for the deaths of the innocent people by being a member of the Thunderbolts. It was all way too over-the-top, especially the idea of him walking around with spikes stabbing him all the time. Eventually, he got over his trauma and returned to his Speedball identity, but not before Penance had gained a well-deserved reputation as the most ridiculous superhero revamp ever.
What do you think is the worst superhero revamp? Let us know in the comments section!
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