A super hero’s publishing career can be long and quite repetitive, often in search of creative interest and sales, comic characters are often sidelined in their own books and a substitute is brought in. If that character has legs, they often go on to do other things. When I started really collecting comics, it was the 90’s and it happened a LOT. Iron Man, Spider-Man, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Green Arrow, the entire Fantastic Four, Captain America and others all were replaced/succeeded/filled in for. Since I am trying to be more frivolous on this blog, I wanted to have a quick look at this comics trope.
So here are 5 comic book heroes who were temporarily replaced. Now I haven’t included the sidekicks groomed for the role (such as Kid Flash, Robin, Speedy or Wonder Girl) since that was their original purpose. Nor am I counting impersonating hero replacements (hence no Reign of the Supermen characters or Iron Fist’s stint as Daredevil) I am only thinking of heroes who filled in for a hero and did sort of well enough for us to keep watching out for them later. The heroes in training, I may look at later.
1: James “Rhodey” Rhodes.
Filled in for: Tony “Iron Man” Stark.
First Appearance: Iron Man #118
Took the job: Iron Man #170
Why did he take the job? Tony Stark’s descent into alcholism.
What happened? Jim Rhodes was a commercial pilot for Star International, acting as airborne chauffeur for Stark before becoming good friends with him. An air force pilot originally, Rhodey was cool under fire and didn’t let Stark get away with much. After the machinations of Obidiah Stane took everything from Tony, he hid in a bottle and Rhodey took the role of Iron Man from him and filled in the best he could. He was even the Iron Man during Secret Wars (the 1985 one) and the early adventures of West Coast Avengers. While Stark continued his downward spiral, Iron Man went from strength to strength, until the stresses of using the armour, weighed on his body, causing headaches as well as increasingly irrational behaviour. A recovering Stark returned to wearing armour and stopped Rhodes, reclaiming the identity of Iron Man. Apart from the odd assist in the armour, Rhodey returned to an assisting role, up until injuries caused Stark to fake his death, until his health could be stabilised. Rhodes was Iron Man again, this time wearing the variable threat response battle armour. When Stark returned in new armour, Rhodes quit. He then took on name War Machine and for quite a while became a hero in his own right.
How did he do? He did alright, good hearted and capable, he was a decent Iron Man, till health issues changed that. As War Machine, he has done well enough to have his own title once or twice, serve on several Avengers teams as well as a good role in the Iron Man movies from 2008 onwards.
2: Connor Hawke
Filled in for: Oliver “Green Arrow” Queen
First appearance: Green Arrow #0
Took the Job: Green Arrow #101
Why did he take the job? The death of Green Arrow
What happened? In years past, Oliver Queen, the Green Arrow killed someone. In need of peace and serenity he found himself at an ashram, where he met teenager Connor Hawke. The two became friends and his friendship/mentorship of Connor helped Oliver come to terms with the wrongs he has done and he was able to return to crime fighting. What he didn’t know is that Connor was his son, via a one night stand in college. He met up with Oliver later and worked as a sort of sidekick, wearing a similar costume. Oliver found out who Connor was and left. He went undercover in a eco-terrorism group and was soon after killed. To honour his father, Connor became the new Green Arrow. He joined the Justice League and had several adventures. During the DC One Million event, he learned that Ollie would somehow return and decided to return to the ashram, feeling that since the real Green Arrow would return, he was no longer needed. During the excellent Quiver story, Ollie did in fact return, reconciling with his son and while they wouldn’t be sidekick and hero again, they’d team up from time to time and had a good father son relationship, at least till the Nu 52 started and then none of what I’ve written here mattered anymore.
How did he do? He was a good and fair replacement for Oliver Queen. A chaste and religious man, he possessed Ollie’s charm and attractiveness as well as his affinity for the bow but was very much an anti-Ollie in his personality. Being a similar age to Wally “the Flash” West and Kyle “Green Lantern” Rayner gave him an interesting place in that Justice League line up. A Victim of the mid noughties nostalgia kick, he faded into the background, somewhat undeservedly.
3: The Captains America (post 1960’s we’re going to ignore Patriot and Spirit of ’76)
3a: John Walker
First Apperance: Captain America #323
Took the job: Captain America #333
Why he took the job: Steve “Captain America” Rogers resigned
What happened? The US government decided it owned the rights to Captain America and said that he needed to be under their direct control. Steve Rogers decided to politely and honestly walk away from the job, leaving the goverment to assign the role to the Super Patriot. As time went on, he got more and more unhinged, especially after the death of his parents. Eventually he learned that much of this was the result of the Red Skull, but by this point, he had Steve Rogers so much that he gleefully battled with him. He didn’t win.
How did he do? Strong, capable and an excellent combatant, Walker seemed like a good fit for the job. More right wing than Captain America had ever been, he was more violent and less interested in the niceties, but did ok. Reactionary, but with his heart in the right place, he eventually took the costume that Steve Rogers used in non Captain America days as the Captain and became the US Agent. He’s had some mixed amounts of success since.
3b Bucky Barnes
First Apperance: Captain America Comics 1 (1941)
Took the Job: Captain America #34
Why did he take the job? The apparent death of Steve Rogers
What happened? After the post Civil War assassination of Captain America, Tony Stark honoured his final wish, which was for Tony to help James Buchanan Barnes and to preserve the identity of Captain America. Killing two birds with one stone, Tony helped Bucky to assume that identity.When Steve returned, he asked Bucky to carry on. During the Fear Itself event Bucky was badly injured and Steve retook the job. Bucky became the Winter Soldier again and everyone was happy with that.
How did he do? Bucky was thought lost in 1945 and had been used as an assassin by a mad Russian colonel with a re-programmed mind. Even freed, he was a darker and more aggressive Cap, to the extent of carrying a gun. He never felt he could live up to Steve and his example, but he also never did anything less than his best in trying. A flawed and relatable hero, he was different enough to be his own man. If not for the movies, his stint may have been longer.
3c: Sam Wilson
First Apperance: Captain America #117
Took the Job: Sam Wilson: Captain America #1
Why did he take the job? The retirement of Steve Rogers
What happened? During the Stand Off event, Steve Rogers was aged to where he would be without the decades on ice and had to hand over the shield and identity to someone else. Sam “The Falcon” Wilson was the best choice, given their years of working together and Sam’s loyalty and integrity. When Steve’s youth was restored, both men served as Cap, up to and including the recent Civil War II.
How did he do? From what I have seen he has been a decent Captain America. My main issue is that he is best as the Falcon. He is being used like a sidekick that graduated, the same sort of thing as Dick Grayson, when he took the role as Batman. But Falcon was Cap’s partner and a hero in his own right. Their relationship was more like Green Lanter & Green Arrow than Batman and Robin. So in a way he went from a great solo hero with a lack of exposure, to the ‘other’ Captain America. I could be wrong and this may be the status quo for ten years or more and people end up forgetting he was ever Falcon.
4: Kyle Rayner
Filled in for: Hal “Green Lantern” Jordan/Every current Green Lantern
First appeared: Green Lantern (vol 3) #48 (Last page)
Took the Job: Green Lantern (vol 3) #50 (Last page)
Why did he take the job? Hal turned into the villain Parallax and destroyed the Green Lantern Corps
What happened? After the destruction of Coast City, Hal journed to the Green Lantern homeworld of Oa and sought power to restore it. He cut his way through dozens of lanterns and after destroying the main battery and merging with Parallax, depowered thousands of others. The last ring was given to the last Guardian of the Universe, who gave it to the first human he could find, a shiftless layabout of an artist called Kyle Rayner, who was getting some air outside a nightclub. Most Green Lanterns get the …… of sector 2814, you have the capacity to overcome great fear, welcome to the Green Lantern Corps, Kyle got a “you will have to do.” He rose to the challenge of being the only Green Lantern. That’s why he’s made this list. Most other Lanterns have succeeded the previous ring bearers or were added as back up. After Parallax, Kyle was the only Lantern. He didn’t replace a GL, he replaces ALL of them. He served as Green Lantern for years, even as a member of the Teen Titans and then the JLA, until the corps could be restored, at which point, he was one of many.
How did he do? Pretty well. Rising to the challenge of the ring after the sudden death of his girlfriend Alex at the hands of crap Capt Atom villain Major Force, Kyle overcame his fear to reach heights that most ring bearers never did. He was relatable in his inexperience and his responses to working with the JLA were very everyman. He was the 90’s iteration of the Spider-Man archetype at DC and it worked very well. He’s still out in space doing stuff and I read the majority of his adventures as they came out. I appreciate Hal Jordan’s place in the Green Lantern mythos, but Kyle was ‘my’ Green Lantern.
5: Thunderstrike/Eric Masterson
Filled in for: The Mighty Thor
First Appeared: Mighty Thor #391
Took the Job: Mighty Thor #432
Why did he take the job? The disappearance of the original Thor
What happened? A supporting character from Thor, Eric was an architect and single dad. Injured several times in Thor’s cause, he was merged with Thor and acted as his secret identity, much as Donald Blake did years earlier. Eric would slam the cane on the ground and Thor would appear. Eric wouldn’t exist again, until Thor changed back. When Thor seemingly slew his adopted brother Loki, he was banished by Heimdall and Eric took on the powers and name of Thor for a short time. His heroic actions and selflessness earned him the respect of Odin and when Thor was returned, Odin told Eric that the world still needs heroes and had a mace called Thunderstrike created for him.
How did he do? He did fairly well, well enough at least to get his own spin off series. Thunderstrike became a member of the Avengers and was a very 90’s Thor, in the good way and bad. He was killed off in the Thunderstrike series and the name Thunderstrike was briefly used by his son Kevin.
There are many more, but those are the ones that came more easily to me.
Comments, complaints, dirty jokes and recipes are always welcome.
Ttfn Internet People.