Tuesday, 17 August 2010

The New Forgotten Heroes

Fellow blogger and internet chum Jason Todd has a fun, regular feature on his blog that involves asking his followers to submit their Top Five lists in a comics related category of his choosing. Categories have included Top 5 writers, Top 5 villians and even Top 5 bromances. But it was one of his recent categories, Top 5 characters with untapped potential, that got me thinking about the Forgotten Heroes.

Forgotten Heroes by Paris Cullins and Gary Martin

The Forgotten Heroes were a DC Comics super-team formed in 1983 that consisted of seldom used heroes from DC's huge stable of characters. In their original incarnation the team members were Immortal Man, Animal Man, Dolphin, Congorilla, Cave Carson, Dane Dorrance, Rip Hunter and Rick Flag Jr. Since the '80s many of these characters have found themselves not quite as forgotten as they once were. For example, Animal Man was successfully revamped by Grant Morrison in the late '80s, Rip Hunter is a regular supporting character in Booster Gold, Congorilla is a member of the Justice League and Dolphin was a prominent member of Aquaman's supporting cast who most recently appeared in zombie form in the DC mega-crossover Blackest Night.

Jason Todd's untapped potential lists inspired me to consider which DC characters I would choose to put in a modern incarnation of the Forgotten Heroes. This proved tougher than I initially imagined it would be. After all, titles such as Shadowpact, Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters and Justice Society of America regularly feature such obscure delights as Detective Chimp, Mr America and Doll Man, and in this age of the internet is there truly such a thing as a Forgotten Hero? I decided that in picking my team I would set a few goals for myself. I would pick at least five characters that would be obscure enough to justify the title 'Forgotten Hero' and yet alive in current DC continuity, at least to the best of my knowledge. After much head scratching I finally settled on a team. I present to you now, the NEW FORGOTTEN HEROES....


Brother Power, The Geek

Brother Power by Keith Giffen and Malcolm Jones

Brother Power is a wonderful character that was created by comics legend Joe Simon in 1968 in a perhaps misguided attempt to get 'down with the kids'. He's a tailor's dummy that was clad in hippy clothing and brought to life by a lightning bolt. Brother Power's title only ran for two issues before it was cancelled but during those issues the character got into plenty of groovy shenanigans involving hippy protestors, biker gangs, circus freaks and space rockets. He was brought back briefly in the '90s by Neil Gaiman in a Swamp Thing Annual and then featured in his own Vertigo published Special. He turned up last year in a fantastic J. Michael Straczynski penned issue of Brave and the Bold. Despite having shown up quite recently I feel he deserves a spot on the team as his appearances have been few and far between. As for his merits as a character, he's a super strong, living mannequin who talks like a stereotypical 1960s hippy beatnik, if that's not comics gold then I'm a lip flappin' cube, daddy-o!

Captain Strong

Cap'n Strong by Marshall Rogers and Jerry Ordway

In 1973, five years before Superman's famous fight with Muhammad Ali, the Man of Steel battled another legendary pugilist, Popeye the Sailor Man! Sort of. Captain Horatio Strong was created by Cary Bates and seems to have been conceived in an attempt to get as close to Popeye as possible without getting sued. Instead of spinach Strong's strength was derived from consuming an alien seaweed called sauncha. There was however an interesting twist. Sauncha was extremely addictive, it drove Strong insane and caused him to suffer from severe withdrawal pains. Don't panic though, Superman helped him to kick the vile weed! The idea of Popeye as a drug addict fascinates me though and I'd love to see a modern version of the character. Legally speaking though it's probably in DC Comics' best interests to leave Captain Strong to sail the high seas of obscurity.

Chunk

Chunk by Greg LaRoque and Jose Marzan

Chester P. Runk was a podgy scientist who invented a matter transmitting machine that accidentally got absorbed into his body. While Chester was given super strength and the ability to teleport he was forced to constantly consume dense material or risk collapsing in on himself into another dimension. After a brief spell as a villain Chunk was befriended by Wally West, The Flash, and became Wally's best friend for a short period during the late '80s/early '90s. The way this naive, humble, easily manipulated nice guy, was contrasted with the self absorbed ego-maniac version of The Flash that existed at the time made Chunk a very likable, endearing character. Sadly, aside from a brief appearance in Flash in 2001, Chunk hasn't been seen in a comic since 1992. It's not all bad though, Chunk is engaged to Wally's super-model ex-girlfriend, Connie. In your face West!

Joe Potato

Joe Potato by Norm Breyfogle

During Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle's legendary run on Detective Comics and Batman in the late '80s/early '90s they created many memorable characters. Anarky, Cornelius Stirk, Kadaver, The Corrosive Man, The Ventriloquist and Scarface all came from their brilliant brains. One of my favourite products of their legendary collaboration however is the seldom used Gotham City private eye, Joe Potato. Joe was a gruff, hard-boiled but loveable detective that would use a rubber potato peeler to bluff confessions out of terrified crooks. His face was scarred and pock-marked and he was carrying a bit of extra weight. Basically, he looked like a potato. But this didn't stop him being a great supporting character in the handful of Batman stories he appeared in. The main reason I love this character is that he's an excellent example of Scottish writer Alan Grant showing his 2000AD roots. The name Joe Potato is exactly the kind of thing you'd expect to appear in a Judge Dredd strip. Despite the fact that Joe's an American, the way the name and concept straddles the line between cool and ridiculous is very British. That is why he should return!

Mopee

Not a dream! Not a hoax! Not an imaginary story!

The final character on my list is the ultimate forgotten hero. In 1967 writer Gardner Fox and artist Carmine Infantino revealed that the lightning bolt that endowed Barry Allen with the super-speed of The Flash was sent by Mopee, a magical imp from Heaven who looked a bit like Woody Allen! And some fans think the Speed Force is a dumb idea! Mopee's been briefly mentioned in a dismissive fashion in a Flash fact file during the '80s and a few jokey references have been made here and there, but Mopee's pretty much been totally ignored since his first appearance. It's pretty much a case of no writer wanting to touch that mess with a ten foot pole. Mopee has been swept under the rug of DC history. If anyone deserves the title of Forgotten Hero, it's him. One interesting aspect of Mopee's story in Flash #167 is that Barry Allen observes that while Mopee's magic is responsible for his powers, Wally West's speed was derived from a genuine, naturally occuring lightning bolt. So there you go Wally fans/Barry haters! Next time someone's bigging up Barry on a message board at Wally's expense you can tell 'em, Barry's powers were the result of a ginger imp's mad whims but Wally is the real deal!


So there we have it! Brother Power, Captain Strong, Chunk, Joe Potato and Mopee! I don't know about you but I'd buy it. What about you? If you had to pick five obscure but "alive" characters from DC Comics history to star in a new series of The Forgotten Heroes who would you pick? Leave a comment and let me know.

5 comments:

  1. Brother Power sounds absolutely hilarious! A dummy, wearing hippie clothing that was brought to life via a lightning bolts?!? Brilliant!!!

    Hmm, let's see what I can come up with... There's NO way I could come up with a character as obscure as Brother Power, so my picks will probably be a bit more familiar and recent. I'll go with Arrowette, the Jack Knight Starman('cause he's awesome), Cassandra Cain, Mike Costner(the "last" OMAC)and that little known Wally West guy. Or at least that's what I think his name was. :P

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  2. That's odd, I was only thinking of Joe Potato the other day and wondering if he had made any return appearences since those awesome Grant/Breyfogle days.

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  3. Great post Paul. And thanks for the plug, just the idea that a Top 5 could help spawn this post is pretty awesome. A lot of those guys I've never heard of so you're definitely right about obscure, especially with Chunk and Joe Potato, I wouldn't mind reading about those two.

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  4. I always liked Cap'n Strong. Recently DC remastered and brought him back for a couple of appearances in Harley Quinn #17 in June 2015.

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    1. I'll have to check that out, thanks! I noticed Chunk's back in the latest issue of Flash (#49) too, and Brother Power the Geek popped up in the Multiversity Guide Book! Now where's Joe Potato?!

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