They've done most of the big names and popular names. They've taken great characters and given us films that we now remember with winces of pain. But what about the second-stringers, the losers? The not just second-string characters, but the ones who many fans recall with loathing?
Is it possible that some of them might actually be fodder for movies more quirky, more original, than the headliners? And if these can be done right, is there still some remaining hope for Jar-Jar?
With Alphas premiering on Syfy July 11 at 10/9C, our thoughts are on superheroes, and so, below, thinking outside the box, we present five widely loathed characters ... the reasons they're loathed ... and why they might actually be worth a trip to the alternate-world multiplex.
BROTHER POWER THE GEEK
Created by: Joe Simon
First Appeared in: Brother Power The Geek #1, 1968
Nature: A mannequin brought to life by a bolt of lightning and adopted by hippies; later revealed as a "Doll Elemental."
Reason Despised: Widely seen as an embarrassing attempt to "relate" to the hippie culture of the time, and remembered as an incredibly failed character whose comic was cancelled after only two issues, after he was shot into space on the orders of the villainous then-governor Ronald Reagan. Despite a new generation of comic book creators like Neil Gaiman who remember the character with backhanded affection and have brought him back for various one-shot appearances, he remains the one character created by industry legend Joe Simon, who is also responsible for Captain America, that Simon refuses to talk about in interviews.
Why He Might Make A Good Movie: A creature granted life by a freak accident, who is not quite human, who views the rest of us from the point of view of an outsider, and who is adopted by people on the fringes of everyday society; what's not to like? Depending on exactly where you went with this, it could be anything from one of Pixar's quirkier animations to a Guillermo del Toro horror movie. You don't even have to preserve the hippie angle, exactly, as long as his human companions are also outsiders; but a "period" production could also be interesting.
THE JASON TODD VERSION OF ROBIN
Relevant Version Written by: Jim Starlin
First Appeared in: Batman 357, 1983
Nature: A troubled street urchin who suffers a bad fate upon being drafted by Batman to serve as the second Robin, the Boy Wonder.
Reason Despised: The character, who actually had a couple of mutually-exclusive origins during his five years as Batman's sidekick, didn't arouse widespread hatred until his second incarnation, where as written by Jim Starlin he became a borderline feral punk, gradually proving too wild and too brutal to function according to his caped mentor's rules. Ultimately he found himself on the wrong side of a crowbar wielded by the Joker, and a call-in poll queried the readership to determine whether he should be killed off or allowed to live. The number of voting readers who'd had more than enough of him by that point exceeded the number who wanted him to live, and so Jason Todd was permitted to expire. (He has since come back as a very angry and damaged adult, revived from the dead through a story device too complicated and ridiculous to elucidate here, but we're speaking specifically about Jason Todd the troubled teenage sidekick.)
Why He Might Make A Good Movie: It seriously doesn't have to be Batman (thought it can be). Any reasonable substitute would do. But this is the story arc. A troubled homeless kid is recruited by a shadowy street vigilante. Instead of addressing his psychological problems, the older man chooses to channel his anger instead—outside the Batman frame of reference, a wholly irresponsible act that amounts to training a juvenile delinquent to be a child soldier. Ultimately, the vigilante starts to lose control of the monster he's created. Will the boy turn away from the abyss in time, or not?
Created by: Archie Goodwin, Bill Mantlo, Sal Buscema
First Appeared in: Spectacular Spider-Man #12, 1977
Nature: Designed to capitalize on the then-current CB radio craze, he's a burly backwoods trucker whose costume consists of a green jumpsuit and a great big stuffed pig head.
Reason Despised: Again, he's a burly backwoods trucker whose costume consists of a green jumpsuit and a great big stuffed pig head. The only borderline competence he shows in his first appearance, which leads Spider-Man to call him a "lummox," is another factor. Reader reaction was so negative that he didn't appear again for years. Again, though, many creators harbored a secret affection for him, and so he was brought back in, among other places, John Byrne's She-Hulk and a line of Marvel prose novels written by, among others, J. Steven York and yours truly.
Why He Might Make A Good Movie: We've had the wannabe amateur superhero film before: why not one involving a rural guy with a perfectly good job as a long-haul trucker who decides that he wants to use his wheels to fight crime? Who gets the looks and reactions one would expect from a person who came up with this dumb idea, but who against all odds uncovers a massive criminal conspiracy that he must take on with nothing but his own native enthusiasm? It would be to die.
Created by: Will Murray and Steve Ditko
First Appearance: Marvel Super-Heroes Special vol. 2 #8 (Winter 1991)
Nature: An acrobatic sixteen year old with all the powers of squirrels, who travels with a rotating series of squirrel companions, she is so chirpy and upbeat and enthusiastic that she gets on everybody's nerves.
Reason Despised: Some comic book fans absolutely adore her. Others take their four-color heroes very seriously, and hate her for her silliness; however, various creators have made a running gag out of the unlikely revelation that, when nobody's looking, she is secretly one of the most formidable heroines in the Marvel Universe, and has defeated such heavy-hitters as Doctor Doom, MODOK, Thanos, Korvac and Ego the Living Planet. Recently it's been revealed that she and Wolverine have a mysterious shared past which ended so poorly that neither one wants to about it. We're intrigued.
Why She Might Make A Good Movie: What makes Squirrel Girl work is the gradual revelation, shocking to the more established heroes like Iron Man and so on, that this annoyingly chirpy flake has an extended personal mythos of her very own, that makes her even more formidable than they are. Imagine a Shwarzenegger type who finds himself teamed up with her, who initially keeps trying to protect her but who is gradually proven to be so wholly ineffective that she has to keep saving him.
Created by: Chris Claremont and Sal Buscema
First Appeared In: New Mutants Vol #1 #12 (1984)
Nature: Arguably the all-time most useless superhero in a fight, the boy otherwise known as Doug Ramsey has the mutant power to translate languages: which is all well and good, but not very helpful when force bolts are being fired around.
Reason Despised: As a member of the New Mutants, Ramsey could accomplish very little except dwell on how useless he was in a fight. He survived by staying close to—usually, inside—another character named Warlock. He died stupidly, but has come back, as frequently happens.
Why He Might Make A Good Movie: There are two possible approaches. One, take him out of the Marvel Universe entirely, and present us with the tale of a kid without any particular fighting skills who understands all languages and who finds himself swept up in a conspiracy of international import, that he must somehow navigate with nothing but his own native intelligence. Or, put him back in that super-team: and make the movie ABOUT what it's like to be the one guy in a group of virtual demi-gods whose power, however remarkable, really sucks by comparison.