Coming up with a new superhero cartoon is the easiest thing in the world. Just give your hero some extraordinary power and someone vaguely evil to punch and WHAM, you’ve got toy and cereal companies beating down your door to pay you to exploit bored children. Heck, you don’t even need to think up an origin, as long as your name and opening credits explain the show to you. Birdman, Space Ghost, Captain Caveman…even kids whose brains were 90 percent sugar and marshmallow horseshoes could figure those guys out. But even with the sub-humanly low standards that used to exist in cartoons, animators were still sometimes able to screw up that simple super-formula. Here are the ten that even kids chewing on lead paint could tell were a bad idea.
10) Moby Dick The Super Whale
Aquaman catches a lot of shit for having to just deal with ocean-based crimes, but imagine how much lamer he would be if he could never leave the water, couldn’t talk…oh and he’s AN ACTUAL FISH. Well, Moby Dick’s a whale actually, but he’s a one-trick whale, with that trick being ramming things with his head…which still makes him a more well-developed character than Aquaman.
9) Mighty Mightor
This prehistoric superhero seems pretty cool at first, since he’s got a sweet Alex Toth design and a dragon who turns into… um, a slightly larger dragon. But why do you need a secret identity when you fight ancient monsters all day? Are you afraid they’ll track you down at your cave office and embarrass you in front of your barely hominoid cave sweetie? When your tribe is constantly under siege by giant creatures looking to floss their teeth with your loved one’s hamstrings, not letting everyone know the easiest way to get to their one hope is just being a cave-dick.
8) Super Globetrotters
Apart from being rip-offs of the also-pathetic Beatles-themed superheroes the Impossibles, the Globetrotters suck because of their one strength and weakness: Basketball. Sure, showboating may momentarily distract dying children (or ones who wish they were dying), but if you can only save the earth by playing a game of horse, then we’re pretty much doomed. Not even the ability to pull anything you want from your super afro will save you, even if that is a power that God himself wishes he had.
7) Muhammad Ali: I am the Greatest!
Is Muhammad Ali a superhero? Well, when your ego-stroking cartoon resume involves battling giant robots and investigating haunted amusement parks, then you’ve pretty much got the superhero job. His only power appears to be an ability to sound like a bad impression of himself and he had one foe he couldn’t beat: Parkinson?s.
6) Frankenstein Jr.
It’s the age-old story; a tiny boy makes a giant robot to fight crime. It happens in Japan literally every week or so. But here in America, you get the twist that the boy constructs the son of one of the most terrifying monsters of all time and rides around on his shoulder. And who the hell is the eye-mask supposed to be fooling, anyway? Is there more than one 20-foot-tall Frankenstein robot out there to attract suspicion? Cause if there is, we’re betting it’s already been set on fire by an angry mob.
5) The Robonic Stooges
Yep, it’s the Three Stooges, but with superhuman “robonic” powers. So, out of all the deserving cases out there, these three are the ones who you give potentially lethal robotic powers to? Really? You couldn’t just upgrade some guys on the street or a cop or even some kind of monkey? Because these three idiots are literally the LAST people in the world that should have that power. With hours of incriminating footage, you’d think someone would’ve stopped the procedure. We’re betting these guys were poking each other in the eyes right into the operating room.
4) The Thing
Now don’t get us wrong, the Thing is generally a great superhero. But this is the cartoon Thing, which is actually teenager “Benjy Grimm” who turns into the Thing by combining the two halves of his “Thing Ring” and yelling “Thing ring do your thing!” At that point, giant rocks would fly onto him and transform him, instead of crushing him as God and Stan Lee demanded. Where those shorts came from, only our horrified imaginations can guess.
3) Turbo Teen
Have you ever gotten into your car and said, “Boy, I sure wish I could become this car?” Of course you haven’t, because it’s much more convenient to simply drive your own car and get out when you get where you need to go. Which is why Turbo Teen doesn’t so much have a power as a horrible, horrible curse. Especially since he uncontrollably changes whenever he gets too hot and has to cool down to change back, meaning when he?s a car, he?s often aroused. Who?s going to call shotgun to get in that?
2) Rubik the Magic Cube
Can you truly call a magical puzzle cube with a bizarre, Emmanuelle Lewis-esque face a superhero? Well, we justify it by pointing out that he helps people and has a secret identity as a piece of useless ?80s trash in the bottom of a toybox. But his real patheticness is revealed when you learn that he loses his powers when his sides are scrambled, which meant that he was entirely dependent on people being able to solve one of the toughest puzzles ever. Good luck with that, Rubik.
1) Mighty Man & Yukk
Mighty Man had everything you needed in a superhero: tights, the ability to fly and a sweet Brady Bunch perm. The only problem was the only way to use his powers was to shrink down to 6-inches-tall. And since that rendered him as able to fight crime as the average broken Barbie doll, he had to rely on his sidekick, Yukk, a dog so ugly he had to wear a doghouse on his head so he wouldn’t terrify people. What should’ve terrified people is the fact that this wretched concept ever got on the air.
Robert Bricken is one of the original co-founders of the site formerly known as Topless Robot, and its first editor-in-chief, serving from 2008-12. He brought the site to prominence with “nerd news, humor and self-loathing” as its motto, raising it from total internet obscurity to a readership in the millions, with help from his savage “FAQ” movie reviews and Fan Fiction Fridays. Under his tenure Topless Robot was covered by Gawker, Wired, Defamer, New York magazine, ABC News, and others, and his articles have been praised by Roger Ebert, Avengers actor Clark Gregg, comedian and The Daily Show correspondent John Hodgman, the stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Rifftrax, and others. He is currently the managing editor of io9.com. Despite decades as both an amateur and professional nerd, he continues to be completely unprepared for either the zombie apocalypse or the robot uprising.