With the revelation at SDCC of the Marvel Comics All-Conquering Empire's movie release schedule for the next 150 years, attention has naturally turned to those Marvel titles who for some reason or another have been deemed unfit for cinematic translation. And while local magician Dr Strange is, for some inexplicable reason, going to be one of the figures joining the Marvel film pantheon – a sorcerer, martial artist and trained neurosurgeon? He's a triple threat! – there are any number of embarrassing, ill-advised and just plain terrible franchises that we can safely say won't be getting a film tie-in any time soon.
Behold, dear reader: the worst of Marvel!
The Great Lakes Avengers
I remember when I was growing up that the Avengers West Coast series already felt a little bit embarrassing – a cheap ploy by the Marvel powers-that-be to cash in on the enduring Avengers phenomenon by relocating their crappiest members to a sunnier clime and having them fight cut-rate evildoers by the beach. Little then could prepare me for the discovery that back in 1989 (and then periodically over the ensuing two decades), they also attempted to introduce a group to cater to the interests of the mid-west – the so-called "flyover states" – by the name of the Great Lakes Avengers. And, woo boy, if they were trying to introduce a bit of pride to the Wisconsin region then did they go about it the wrong way.
So, basically, the Great Lakes Avengers started when Mr. Immortal – whose sole power is an inability to die – takes an ad out in a local paper to try and find some likeminded freaks. Enter:
– Dinah Soar: a human-pterodactyl hybrid and Mr. Immortal's weird freaky love interest.
– Flatman: a cheap Mr Fantastic knock-off who brings to the table fabulousness and an extensive knowledge of fashion.
– Doorman: Portal weaver-turned-officially sanctioned angel of death who surfs through the cosmos on actual skis. Because how bad ass are skis?
– Big Bertha: A model who, I shit you not, can become dangerously fat on command. Here she is using her power to burst our of a phone box.
This list doesn't include later additions Squirrel Girl and Grasshopper whose powers are exactly what they sound like. If all of this took the good people down at Marvel Comics any longer than a coffee break to concoct then Stan Lee is paying them way too much.
Now, it was a real toss up as to whether to put Dazzler or Jubilee on this list – both of whom seemed to have been individually designed ten years apart to appeal to the lucrative teen-girls-into-sparkly-lights demographic – but in the end I had to go with Dazzler merely because as far as I can tell one of her legitimate superpowers appears to be rollerskating. Her other, more important power, for what it's worth, is an ability to transform audio waves into bright lights, which comes in handy both for foiling villains and for playing sold out shows at Carnegie Hall (yes, she actually does this). Here she is "dazzling" Wolverine, shortly before he rips her throat out.
The whole thing was an ill-fated 1980 cross-promotional effort between Marvel and Casablanca Records, who were looking to cash in on the successful KISS comics franchise from three years earlier. Marvel would make the comic, Casablanca would make the pop-star and then they'd make a feature film together and spend the rest of their lives seeing how much money they'd need to throw into a volcano before it exploded. Casablanca backed out a year later, but by this point Marvel had introduced Dazzler in almost every single one of their flagship titles so they were pretty much stuck with her. Last seen in 2012 as leader of the barrel-scraping X-Treme X-Men series, a collection of bizarro X-Men stolen from other dimensions, such as Corporal Scott Summers, a version of Cyclops from the Civil War. How do they come up with this genius?
In 1992 The Punisher got his face cut up real bad by a villain called Jigsaw (whose face had been cut up real bad in a previous encounter with The Punisher). While under the ministrations of a back alley plastic surgeon/junkie prostitute (because this is The Punisher after all), he turns black. Like stone cold 100% African American black. There's some attempt at explaining this away via "melanin", but long story short they made Frank Castle – vigilante, widower and unarguably white dude – black so that he could help fellow black man Luke Cage clean up the mean streets of Queens. He was like the reverse Michael Jackson!
While you can tell their heart was in the right(-ish) place this was one of the more audacious incidents of blackface in American pop culture since minstrelsy was still a real career option. But hey, if it's good enough for Chris Lilley...
Look, I understand that when a comic has been running for as long as Captain America has there are going to be patches of mediocrity. And when your primary character trait is "Boo Nazis!" at some point you're simply going to run out of fun ideas as to how one keeps a conflict brewing that has been dead for over half a century. For Captain America that moment was reached in issues #393-396 when he, for the third time, encountered an artificial being named Doughboy. Yes, Doughboy, a sphere of semi-sentient, super sticky and infinitely malleable dough with a face created by Cap A arch-nemesis Arnim Zola.
Here is the scene where Doughboy busts out of a building while Captain America and Thor are literally stuck inside him.
My brother and I collected Captain America comics for roughly 9 months back in 1992, meaning that almost half of our childhood investment in the franchise involved this pre-baked lardass glomming on to every superhero in sight (including issue #395, titled simply 'The House That Dripped Dough?!'). And I wonder why my enthusiasm for the filmic reboot of Captain America have been so muted.
Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers
In a tale as old as time itself, giant, teleporting alien dog finds all-powerful Mind Gem, increases intelligence to superhuman levels and then shares power with other cute animals in order to fight evil.
Truth be told, I would probably watch this film. It'd be like some badass version of Milo and Otis. Anyway, here they are meeting President Obama's Portuguese Water Dog, Bo, current holder of the Power Gem, an artefact so powerful it had previously been used to alter the trajectory of an entire universe. Awwwwwwwww.
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