The League of Regrettable Superheroes: Half-Baked Heroes from Comic Book History

Superman always left me cold. Virtually omnipotent, unerringly virtuous, and slightly boring, Superman is capable of rescuing kittens from trees, leaping over buildings with a single bound, and routinely saving the entire planet from certain cataclysm. He always wins. Sure, he was sort of killed once, he's been naughty on occasion (usually due to some form of Kryptonite or an alternate reality), and he certainly has a fascist streak in the current movies, but his most recent controversy is whether he's wearing the red trunks or not. Yawn.

I was always fascinated by the C-squad heroes, the not-quite-ready-for-prime-time group just below Aquaman and Elongated Man in name recognition. Red Tornado, the 1940's heroine who fought crime while wearing a bucket on her head, utilizing only her fists and wit. Mr. Terrific, the Golden Age 'Man of 1000 Talents', who rarely used any of them. Phantom Stranger, a mage with omnipotent powers who was merely a narrator in his own book, generally only appearing in the first and last panels. And then there's The Legion Of Superheroes, whose members included Bouncing Boy, who had the ability to inflate himself and bounce around, Ferro Lad, who could turn himself to solid iron, and Matter Eater Lad, who could eat anything, which inspired the indie rock group Guided By Voices to write a song about him. Don't even get me started on the League Of Substitute Heroes, the minor leaguers with questionable abilities not quite up to snuff to join the Legion.

The League Of Regrettable Superheroes examines the careers of a few of the comic book history's least likely heroes. Snarky and humorous, the book pokes good-natured fun at the heroes who couldn't quite make the big Leagues. Beginning in the Golden Age and working right up to the modern age, it features full page images of the comic's front cover, a page from the interior of the book highlighting some of their less-than-spectacular exploits, and a sidebar gives important statistics. Some of the characters presented include: Bozo The Iron Man, a Nazi-slugging robot with a inexplicably menacing grin on its face. Doctor Vampire, a caped physician who is actually not a vampire, but battles them. Fantomah, the beautiful heroine who transforms into a hideous skull once angered. Kangaroo Man, a daredevil explorer fighting fascism with his trained kangaroo sidekick. Mad Hatter, the rhyming crime-fighter whose fighting togs do not include a chapeau. And finally, The Puppeteer, whose day job as a puppet maker has almost nothing to do with his powers or origin.

With its gorgeous full page images of the comics and humorous descriptions of the heroes, each second-stringer gets a few pages of glory. Zipping along through 70 years of comic book history, The League Of Regrettable Superheroes is a fun, quick read.

– SD

The League of Regrettable Superheroes: Half-Baked Heroes from Comic Book History

by Jon Morris

Quirk Books

2015, 256 pages, 7.3 x 1.0 x 9.3 inches, Hardcover

$18 Buy on Amazon

See sample pages from this book at Wink.