Marvel Comics has approximately 16,567,239 characters and that’s just the mutants. Sure, that 16,567,239 number is hyperbole but the reality is that, with a character universe as expansive as Marvel’s, it is entirely understandable a few characters with potential would fall through the cracks.
What follows are 7 such characters that have fallen through the cracks. And it makes us sad they are forgotten. Sure, they’ve appeared a few times in the comics, but not enough we say. We need more.
7 Sadly Forgotten Marvel Characters
Razorback: We need a Red State hero.
Razorback is a character that goes back to the late 70s, created by Archie Goodwin, Bill Mantlo, and Sal Buscema. Legends, each of them. The one sentence origin story is this: Buford Hollis was a muscular truck driver from Texarkana, Arkansas, who was in New York looking for his younger sister Bobby Sue in order to rescue her from a religious cult.
His most notable appearances were in Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man and Sensational She-Hulk comics, which I have read, and hoo boy. Ulysses Solomon Archer (US 1) was in a deep space as a space trucker when his female trucker lady friend, Taryn O’Connell, teamed up with Razorback to reunite them.
Alas, Archer had hooked up with another chick while in space and she was with child. As if that drama wasn’t enough, Razorback was needed to help She-Hulk thwart Xemnu the Titan, who intended to transform Archer’s unborn child into a member of his alien species.
Razorback had at that point been identified as a mutant with the ability to drive anything, so She-Hulk advocated on his behalf behalf with NASA, realizing his mutant ability made Razorback the perfect pilot for any spacecraft. Meanwhile, Razorback and O’Connell hooked up on a spacecraft that Razorback had renamed the Big Pig III.
The Civil War storyline had Razorback appear as part of an Arkansas-based team named the Battalion, but that was very short lived because the Secret Invasion storyline revealed Razorback to be a Skrull, which is a real kick in the plums.
What’s the lesson here? Big rigs and big pigs mixed with love triangles in space is the reason we read comic books. We need more of that, just as we need more of Razorback, a real Red State hero.
+++ Search for Sensational She-Hulk comics here.
Prince of Orphans: A public domain hero.
Prince of Orphans (John Man) is a character based upon on 1939 public domain hero named Amazing-Man. Much like what was done with the Agents of Atlas, Amazing-Man was brought forth into the modern day and reimagined as Prince of Orphans.
Introduced in Immortal Iron Fist #12 (2008), Aman had been sent to assassinate Orson Randall — the Iron Fist before the present day Danny Rand took on that mantle. Chasing Randall around the world, Aman would come close to killing his foe, only to yield honorably and drop his quest against Randall when he is seen as honorable.
Prince of Orphans wasn’t exactly left fallow as a character because he did pop up here and there in the 4-5 years after his first appearance, but never fully. That makes him a forgotten character twice over, first in the Golden Age, then in the Modern. But his status as public domain means he could be surrounded by some of his public domain peers.
+++ Look for Iron Fist comics here.
Rocket Racer: Why don’t skateboarding characters stick around?
Rick Remender (Uncanny X-Force) and artist Tony Moore (the co-creator of The Walking Dead) had a Rocket Racer pitch that was initially greenly, only to be abruptly canceled. Remender even posted some of Moore’s character designs online.
So why was Remender pitching a Rocket Racer series? Well, it had to be his rocket-powered skateboard. Rocket Racer first appeared in the late 70s in the Amazing Spider-man book. Origin story: Robbie Farrell was a scientific prodigy, but when he realized he couldn’t earn enough to support his family, he developed a rocket-powered skateboard and turned to a life of crime as the Rocket Racer.
Rocket Racer had some fun Spider-Man stories, occasionally encountering Silver Sable. But none of his storylines were better than when corrupt business man Jackson Weele hires Rocket Racer to steal some documents. Weele and Rocket Race then attempt to double cross one another until Rocket Racer blackmails Weele, an event that drove Weele to suicide.
Rocket Racer stops the suicide but still demands payment from Weele for the burglary. Weele turns to the Tinkerer, who makes Weele a super-powered Big Wheel so he can battle Rocket Racer. Yes, it was a skateboard vs a Big Wheel to the death.
Rocket Racer later briefly appeared during the Avengers Initiative era, but so did everyone, so it wasn’t a proper storyline for him. The Marvel character Prowler had a skateboard, as did Night Thrasher of the New Warriors. Neither are well known characters, so why don’t skateboarded characters stick around at Marvel? Did Tony Hawk date en editor’s sister or something?
+++ Find Rocket Racer’s origin here.
Thunderer: The Golden Age hero.
Thunderer 1st appeared in 1941, the Golden Age of comics, so good luck finding an issue of that in a 9.8.
At one point the Thunderer airdropped into a Nazi stronghold, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Learning that a radio station was really a front for Nazis who were transmitting secret messages hidden in music, radio operator Jerry Carstairs created a superhero identity using a costume with a built-in microphone in order to deliver the sound of justice. When he learned that they were targeting his girlfriend Eileen – C’mon! – his anger rose by several decibels.
A year later, the FBI caught a Nazi spy and convinced him to go undercover to try and expose the spy ring that was sending defense secrets back to Nazi Germany. Jerry briefly changed his name to the Black Avenger in order to round up the Nazis and turn them over to justice.
But the Thunderer struggled to find vigilante gigs after that. The FCC restricted his ability to participate in spying and in order to protect his secret identity, he acted like a meek civilian. So he was ultimately thwarted by bureaucracy and male impotency, I suppose, which is a shame because we need more of the Thunderer.
Listen, update the Thunderer to be streamer who uses sound-based technology to root out fascists and you have a public domain character that works today.
+++ Source: Encyclopedia of Golden Age Superheroes. High Rock Press. pp. 21–22, 272. ISBN 978-1-61318-023-5
Plantman: Entirely dissimilar from a Giant-Sized Man-Thing.
Plantman was created in 1963 by Stan “The Man” Lee, so I’m already intrigued. Real name Samuel Smithers, Plantman first appeared in Strange Tales #113. Samuel grew up as a poor orphan in Londen, but found refuge in his work as a lab assistant with a famous botanist. After the botanist’s death, Samual took up his mentor’s work and invented a device capable of communicating with plants.
Alas, Samuel was laughed out of the scientific community and could only find work as a gardener. Angry during a rain storm apparently, Samuel’s device was truck by lightning, imbuing it with the power animate plant life. Samuel took on the Plantman disguise where he used a chloro-blaster gun to promote rampant plant growth, a vega-ray gun to animate plant life, and spore-shooting pistols.
Plantman has had more appearances than some of the others in this list but he’s never had a storyline where he could “grow” as a character, so we need more.
+++ Plantman first appeared in Strange Tales.
Captain Ultra: Let’s hypnotize the plumber.
Griffin Gogol was a plumber who was also a heavy smoker. When an elderly customer couldn’t pay his plumbing bill, he offered to hypnotize Griffin in order to cure his smoking habit. But the elderly gentleman turned out to be an alien and the hypnosis unlocked Griffin’s innate superhuman potential. Putting on the most colorful costume imaginable, Griffin Gogol became the superhero Captain Ultra.
Created by Roy Thomas in 1976, Captain Ultra first appeared in Fantastic Four 177 and I want him to make a rousing return to comics because I own that issue and will have a kid in college soon. Captain Ultra’s FF 177 appearance is as an applicant to the Frightful Four. He’s enthusiastically accepted by the other three villains, who are ecstatic at Captain Ultra’s impressive array of powers. But when one of them lights a cigarette in celebration, Captain Ultra faints in the presence of the match because he suffers from severe pyrophobia as a side-effect of the hypnosis.
You can make this stuff up….but I guess at some point a comic creator most certainly did make this stuff up! And we need more of it and more of Captain Ultra.
Sleepwalker: Enter Sandman.
Nerds on Earth contributor Brandon calls Sleepwalker, “Sandman done right” and Brandon knows 90s Marvel comics. The Mindscape is a dimension that works in the periphery of the minds of all intelligent beings and is inhabited by many strange, often dangerous creatures. The Sleepwalkers act as a “dream police,” guardians who defend the Mindscape.
One such Sleepwalker was tricked by his archenemy Cobweb into entering the mind of a New York college student named Rick Sheridan and became trapped. Sleepwalker first emerged from Rick’s mind to battle a gang of thieves but after Rick tore off Sleepwalker’s badge-like device worn by Sleepwalkers to teleport around the Mindscape, the two to become bonded.
Brandon says that Sleepwalker has sadly been forgotten by Marvel and that we need more of the character. I believe him. With Sleepwalker’s presence in the Infinity War comics of the early 90s, it’s not hard to impinge an opportunity for a return beyond cameo appearances.