Sure we all know the greats: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the X-Men and the list goes on. They are powerful and iconic, sparking the feel of heroism within folks for decades. For all their greatness and glory, however, they have inspired more than a few knockoffs in their time.
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Most of the time, these spoofs are just meant to make their own funny riffs on more popular counterparts. Other times, though, these knockoff heroes are doing their best to emulate the greats and make their own helpful mark on society. We here at CBR count down some of our favorite superhero spoofs that made us laugh or even feel a touch inspired to be a hero ourselves.
Subtly disguised as the simple and kind Shoeshine Boy, Underdog was a character that most riffed off of Superman. When danger would appear in some form or another, Shoeshine Boy would run into a nearby telephone booth, change into Underdog and fly away (usually causing the booth to explode afterwards). The knockoff hero had a variety of powers including flight and super strength, most of which would change wildly from episode to episode. He often caused a lot of collateral damage while using them, but would brush it off as it too minimal a problem for him to worry about.
“Underdog” was first created to promote breakfast cereal, so it only makes sense that he would be a spoof of a popular hero that kids loved. In his own way, though, Underdog became a loveable superhero icon. His laughably inconsistent powers and convenient solutions to crises were great jibes to the hokeyness of comic heroes. Despite his somewhat haphazard ways of fighting crime, Underdog was a cute spoof that charmed us all.
From one extreme to another, “Orgazmo” was a satirical film following the story of a young Mormon missionary named Joseph Young. Tempted by money that could pay for his future wedding, Young dons the titular superhero persona in an adult feature film. When the director of the flick shows his true evil colors, however, Joe acts as Orgazmo outside of the set to fight back alongside his sidekick Choda Boy. Young was adept at martial arts and used his trusty Orgazmorator to stop enemies in their tracks with a surprise climax. Eventually, the hero (of sorts) saves the day, but unwittingly gives birth to his real-life nemesis, Neutered Man.
True to the creative minds behind “South Park,” Trey Parker and Matt Stone, crafted the character Orgazmo as a spoof within a spoof. Partly joking at the numerous superhero adult films already in existence and even more so the ridiculous happenstances crafted in comics for origin stories, “Orgazmo” was a ridiculous combination all his own. He may not be the hero we need, but he might just be the one the adult industry deserved.
When nerdy repairman Darryl Walker is rocked by the sudden murder of his grandmother at the hands of a local gang, he feels compelled to do good. Using his childhood hero Batman as inspiration, Walker puts together an outfit and arsenal of hodgepodge gadgets to fight injustice as Blankman. He uses the help of his robot buddy J-5, as well as the begrudging assistance of his brother Kevin as his sidekick, aptly named Other Guy. Eventually the two manage to overthrow the local mob gang and clean up the city for good.
Blankman was pretty much a “what if Batman had been a gigantic nerd” scenario. Darryl was a technical genius, but painfully naive when it came to the realities of crime fighting. He sported bulletproof long johns and followed every classic “Batman” trope to a tee. Meanwhile, all his surrounding support tells him how incredibly silly his whole schtick is and how going after criminals as a vigilante will only catch him a bullet. Blankman might have been a complete dork, but his heroism went far beyond his non-threatening appearance.
After superheroes have seemingly made a hardcore comeback in the cinematic realm, the “Scary Movie” folks decided to throw in their silly take with “Superhero Movie.” Average high school student Rick Riker gets stung by a genetically-enhanced dragonfly, inexplicably giving him a number of powers except flight. He decides to become a superhero named Dragonfly, fighting crime until he comes up against his greatest adversary, Hourglass. After his foe threatens to destroy the city (and his love interest), Dragonfly defeats him and grows a pair of wings to save his girl from certain death. Unfortunately like most bugs, Rick and his girlfriend get smashed against a windshield of a helicopter when they attempt to fly off into the night.
Dragonfly, at his core, was a parody of Spider-Man in his 2002 film, but didn’t waste time in denouncing other tropes of the genre. He struggled with quickly changing into his superhero outfit, poorly explained away his powers to people and sometimes caused more collateral damage than helped people. Dragonfly was silly, but also a fun aside from the superhero films that would only get more serious as time went on.
11. RADIOACTIVE MAN
Radioactive Man was a longstanding character in “The Simpsons” TV show. A hero who received his powers after surviving an atomic bomb blast, he worked throughout the years to fight crime with his sidekick, Fallout Boy. The comic hero was an idol of Bart Simpson, who auditioned for the role of his young ward when a Radioactive Man film was going to be shot in Springfield. The character was seen in a trilogy of films in the Simpsons realm, including “Radioactive Man III: Oh God, Not Again.”
This hero was another overall spoof on the entirety of comic book super personas, as well as a riff on the Hollywood push for franchises centered around them. He appeared in a comic series called “Interesting Stories” (as opposed to “Tales to Astonish!”), held a hokey TV series reminiscent of the ’60s “Batman” show and even had his own low-budget knockoff dubbed Radiation Dude. The hero was replaced by a number of actors in the Simpsons, and was a true jibe at the film space intent on turning superheroes into franchise staples; not too far off from the DC and Marvel Cinematic Universe we see today.
10. GREATEST AMERICAN HERO
Becoming a hero couldn’t have been made any easier for substitute high school teacher Ralph Hinkley. He was gifted a super-powered suit by a group of aliens, accompanied with an instruction manual, and told to use it for fighting crime. Ralph, however, loses the directions and is forced to figure out his newfound powers with each mission to stop evil doers as the titular Greatest American Hero. He boasted a ridiculous amount of powers while in his suit, including flight, telepathy, x-ray vision and tons more. Despite the abilities, though, Hinkley was hapless, crash landing whenever he flew and literally stumbling through fights. Miraculously, he often ended up surprisingly victorious at the end of the day.
“The Greatest American Hero” was impossibly corny. The character himself was a more humble version of Superman, so much so that Warner Bros. actually sued ABC for it (the case was dismissed). Ralph tackled the silliest of problems during his run, including nosy IRS agents and voodoo dolls, but at his core remained a helpful hero just trying to do right where he could. His show also had a pretty catchy theme song too.
9. ITALIAN SPIDERMAN
This one is an odd duck, as “Italian Spiderman” actually parodied older low-budget films that would take well-known superheroes and change them to suit a foreign demographic. True to the “genre,” Italian Spiderman is nothing like his comic book counterpart, save for the poorly drawn spider on the front of his red sweater. The hero has the ability to teleport, fly and telepathically command animals to do his bidding. He also comically murders his foes with a number of firearms or, in one case, beating them to death with a telephone.
Italian Spiderman was the direct antithesis of a hero, but was done in an over-the-top manner riffing on previous misappropriations of favored heroes. He smoked, drank, romanced a number of women and had no qualms about killing his enemies in the most gruesome of ways. An avant-garde piece of retro cinema, Italian Spiderman certainly wasn’t the superhero we’re all used to, but was an incredibly unforgettable spoof of him.
8. MERMAID MAN AND BARNACLE BOY
SpongeBob Squarepants’ favorite superheroes, Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy, were well into old age by the time the fry cook met them. A play off of the ’60s “Batman” show, the duo were dressed to the nines in their underoos, putting down bad guys left and right every week. They rode in an invisible “boat mobile” and even had the signature words forming in the air after striking a blow. The two were long retired when SpongeBob convinced them that Bikini Bottom was in danger. Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy took to the current again as heroes, rocking fuzzy pink slippers and full-blown senility.
Although they were nowhere near their glory days, Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy were a funny take on the early days of Batman and Robin. It entertains the idea of what would happen if you dragged a hokey early era superhero out of retirement and thrust them into the real world. The result? They are laughably out of touch and held back by their frailty, but amazingly manage to pull through victorious.
7. POWDERED TOAST MAN
A creation spawned from the cult classic cartoon “The Ren & Stimpy Show,” Powdered Toast Man was a superhero that debuted largely in commercials the duo watched. His appearance was that of a fairly buff guy, but he somewhat disturbingly had two pieces of toast for a head. He boasted the power of flight, triggered either by launching himself out of a toaster or farting tremendously for takeoff, and bizarrely traveled backwards most of the time. When not fighting off the forces of… something, he masqueraded as a youth deacon named Pastor Toastman, who looked the same but with a pair of glasses (and no one caught on).
Perhaps a bigger jibe at cereal companies creating ridiculous “heroes” to promote anything, Powdered Toast Man was downright bizarre. Like Underdog, he causes a lot of collateral damage in the process of “saving” lives. One such case was where he saved a small cat from being run over by shooting down an airliner to deter the oncoming vehicle. He was suitably weird given his origins, and certainly one of the craziest riffs on heroes yet.
6. JUSTICE FRIENDS
When the hijinks going on in “Dexter’s Laboratory” needed a break, the “Justice Friends” would swoop in. The mini show followed a ragtag trio of heroes: Major Glory, The Infraggable Hunk and Val Hallen. The group lived together as roommates in an apartment and, when not fighting crime, were often bickering about household chores. A lot of their so-called adventures stemmed from them using their heroic abilities to address menial problems such as fighting over the TV remote or dealing with an errant bee that flew into their place.
These heroes were a little more blatant in their parodies with Captain America, Thor and Hulk being more or less direct translations of these characters, but their concept was pretty funny. It pokes fun at the idea that this is what the Super Friends or Justice League had to deal with in between world-saving missions, taking it a step further by making them all roommates. Their personalities might have been a little on the nose, but their silly adventures are what made them a laugh-worthy spoof.
It doesn’t get much more meta than this. Catman was the superhero persona of Adam West, a well-known resident of the town of Dimmsdale. Although he claims to have “cat-like reflexes,” Catman largely relegates himself to using feline themed gadgets such as kitty litter, a catarang, laser pointer and a grappling hook in the shape of a paw. When dressed as Catman, West takes on the personality of one, often spontaneously napping or distractedly batting at balls of yarn. At one point, though, his specific cat-like skills in capturing mice ended up saving the town and making him a hero (at least for a day).
Even though Catman was a real character in the DC Universe, his iteration in “The Fairly OddParents” appeared to be more of a joke aimed at the expense of its voice actor Adam West. Catman out of costume was unhinged and often seen as a local loony. In his superhero attire, however, he presented all the silliness you would expect of the early “Batman” TV show. It is fitting that the old actor for the world’s greatest detective play a spoof of himself, as no one else would be able to do it with such flair.
4. MYSTERY MEN
What if the Super Friends had been a far more… grounded effort? The “Mystery Men” team answered just that question, as it contained everyday vigilantes of D-squad abilities with even more ridiculous origins. Case in point, in the comics, one of its founding members was the Flaming Carrot, a man who read 5,000 comics in one-sitting on a bet and was transformed into the living embodiment of his vegetable namesake. Other oddball heroes featured on the team included the Shoveler, Mr. Furious, Screwball and numerous more, many of which were portrayed in the subsequent film. All of them fought small-time evil with a big-time heart.
The Mystery Men were a joke of a team even in their own book (and later film). Most of them had mediocre abilities and even sillier foes to clash with. They were among some of the earliest spoofs on superheroes, all of whom seemed predisposed to being rich, beautiful or incredibly powerful. The Mystery Men only held a brief appearance within “Flaming Carrot Comics,” but the impression they made as the lovable (if hapless) other guy heroes was a joke that lasted for years.
3. BLUNTMAN AND CHRONIC
A fictional super duo, Bluntman and Chronic have quickly risen to popularity despite their joke nature. The two sell “illicit substances” in front of the Quick Stop by day as Jay and Silent Bob, but fight evil as superheroes at night. The team was introduced as an indie comic and then quickly cameoed into creator Kevin Smith’s films “Chasing Amy” and “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back,” despite the protestations of the people they’re based on. The heroes aim to fight crime with the lowest of brows, going toe-to-toe with enemies such as Lipstick Lesbian and Dickhead. Of course, many of their fights revolve around using an herbal-themed arsenal of weaponry and slinging out the most crude of catchphrases.
Given that this team spawned from the mind of Smith, a well-known comic book geek and creator, it’s no surprise that Bluntman and Chronic pull out every stop in the superhero book to riff on. From silly origins to movie rights wrangling, the super team explore every facet of superheroes today and makes the biggest possible joke out of it.
2. DARKWING DUCK
Slinging on his hat, cape and bandanna, in the face of peril Darkwing Duck simply grinned and said, “Let’s get dangerous!” Drake Mallard lives an unassuming life in the suburbs raising his adopted daughter, but at night jumps into action as a vigilante clad in purple. He caught bank robbers, stopped mad scientists and restored stolen heirlooms to their rightful owners. Trained in Quack Fu, but hardly ever full-on fighting villains, Darkwing often got out of scrapes utilizing a number of gadgets, like his trusty gas gun.
Darkwing Duck is an easy rib at superheroes that seem to get all the glory. So much positive spin is bound to go to your head right? The so-called “terror that flaps in the night” basks in his own popularity with each crime bust to an almost annoying degree. Although some vigilantes have experienced it in the comic books, none quite struggled with it so comically as Darkwing Duck. He was trained in every obscure skill possible, armed with a number of gadgets, had garages filled with vehicles for chasing criminals and all of it made for one big-headed hero.
1. THE TICK
A character of unknown origins (even to him), the Tick is a superhero who has taken it upon himself to protect the residents of The City. Buff and rocking a blue spandex suit with antennae, the hero is impervious and oblivious to most of the danger around him. With his trusty sidekick, Arthur as the Moth, the Tick impulsively goes out into the world each day intent on stopping whatever injustices he finds. From Mad Nanny to Professor Chromedone, the hero clashed with some of the most ridiculous of foes and usually cried out “Spoon!” before doing so.
“The Tick” was the mother of all superhero parodies. Depending on the characters, the series would either be a blender or black mirror of more famous comic book heroes and villains. The Tick himself was overly self-righteous at times, but stupid enough to never be taken seriously. Every one of his antics attempted to spoof a popular superhero in some way, shape or form. The Tick was the biggest riff on hero comics and set the bar for all others to try and follow.
Who is your favorite superhero spoof, parody or homage? Let us know in the comments!
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