Every week in 2018, the plan is that my friend Rod is going to ask me some geeky question that will answer in a post. This week is Week #22, and this week’s question, is…
Pick the weirdest powered characters I can think of, rank / seed them and then pit them against each other in a tournament!
So, to break it down…I’ve been asked to pick a group of super-powered characters with kind of odd super-powers, to seed (or rank) them, and then pit them against each other in a tournament style battle to the death, or because I don’t want to do that, to a battle to submission.
I was originally asked to pick ten characters but I’ve decided to go with 16 to better facilitate the tournament style approach. And I’ve picked 16 characters who are associated with the Legion of Super-Heroes, my favorite series, because the Legion is like a one-stop shopping center for characters with strange powers.
Because of the nature of this question, it’s going to take me more than one week to complete, so this is just going to be part 1, in which I’m going to introduce the 16 characters, describe their powers, and explain why I’ve ranked them as I have.
First off, I haven’t limited myself to Legionnaires only–it’d be hard to come up with 16 of them whose powers qualify as “weird”. Indeed, only four of the characters are ones that we normally think of as full-fledged members of the team. The others are pretty much all rejected applicants to the Legion, who either ended up as members of the team’s back-up club, the Legion of Substitute Heroes, or who went evil because of their rejection and became villains, or who just drifted off into obscurity.
Secondly, I have to admit that in some cases, I didn’t just pick people with “weird” powers, but rather more “useless” powers, or perceived as useless anyway.
After I selected my characters, I divided them into two “conferences”, just by random. For no particular reason, I’m going to refer to these two conferences as the Binder Conference and the Plastino Conference, after Otto Binder and Al Plastino, the writer and artist who were behind the first ever Legion story, even though neither of those guys worked on any of the stories that introduced any of the characters we’re going to talk about.
With each of these characters, I ranked them based on a quick evaluation of where I think they stand on three areas: Power, Training and Technology, particularly in regards to how those things will potentially assist them in a hand-to-hand battle. Each area gets a 1-10 ranking, which then get added up, so the scores could theoretically range anywhere from 3-30. We’ll also use these numbers to calculate odds in the battle, so that higher ranked characters have an advantage over the lower.
Here are our contestants:
The Binder Conference
Triplicate Girl (15 points)
First appearance: Adventure Comics #276 – May 1961
Top position of the Binder Conference goes to Triplicate Girl. You’ll notice that the actual Legion members are the highest seeded members in both conferences. That’s generally because we’ve got to assume that even if their powers were sort of weak, they benefited from all sorts of training and experience that they’d receive as members of the future’s flagship super-team–including a Flight Ring that allows them to fly unaided.
Triplicate Girl in particular is Luornu Durgo of the planet Cargg, where everyone was born with the ability to split themselves into three identical people. She’s generally looked at as one of the weakest Legionnaires out there, even though I think she might have one of the powers that’d be most useful in real life (and that many of us have wished we had). She later became even weaker when one of her bodies was killed by Computo, and she became Duo Damsel.
Later versions of the character have established that she was familiar with a form of hand-to-hand combat called “tri-jitsu” which took advantage of her abilities, and would make her formidable to go up against. And in still later iterations, she was renamed Duplicate Damsel when she discovered the unexplained ability to copy herself multiple times.
Triplicate Girl also is known for having gotten married and retired from the Legion. Her husband just might find himself showing up on this list as well.
Matter-Eater Lad (12 points)
First appearance: Adventure Comics #303 – Dec 1962
I have to be honest and say that almost as soon as Rod posed this question to me, I thought of Matter-Eater Lad. And Rod says it was the same for him. Indeed, it really because I thought of him that I got to the idea to make the entire thing focused on the Legion.
Matter-Eater Lad is really Tenzil Kem of the planet Bismoll (!!?) who, like all the people of his world, had the power to consume anything. That may sound useless, but think about it for a second. Not only does it mean he has amazing digestion, but he must have super-powerful teeth! And he was often shown eating things (like digging out a tunnel, for example) at super-speed. So here’s a guy who can eat anything at super-speed. That’s pretty dangerous, really. He’s also a Legionnaire, with all their training, and also a Flight Ring.
The only limitation is that it may be tricky for him to get close enough to his opponent to say, bit off a finger, without getting attacked in return.
A later version of Tenzil gave him an acidic spit which he was able to use as an attack, so that’s something to keep in mind.
Stone Boy (10 points)
First appearance: Adventure Comics #306 – March 1963
Stone Boy, who is seeded third in this Binder Conference, is a member of the Legion of Substitute Heroes. These guys were a team of Legion rejects who decided that the honor of being accepted wasn’t what was most important to them, but rather staying true to the vision of using their powers for the sake of what’s good. Maybe nobody exemplified that better than Stone Boy, who once beat his teammates in a contest to earn a membership in the main Legion, only to turn it down so he could stay with his friends.
Stone Boy’s powers were to turn himself into stone, a power his people developed so they could hibernate when necessary. Usually, in this form he originally couldn’t move, but he seemed fairly indestructible. Later uses would have him turning just his fist to stone so he could punch people harder than otherwise, and even to move around in Stone form, which is obviously a lot more versatile.
As a long-term member of the Substitute Heroes, we’ve got to presume that Stone Boy benefits, not necessarily from the same type of training that the Legionnaires get, but at least regular workouts with his teammates, and semi-regular opportunities to put his courage to the test against actual super-villains and menaces. Plus, he has an anti-gravity belt as a gift from the Legion, so he ranks pretty high.
Interestingly, based on the above picture, Stone Boy’s costume is just his set of family pajamas.
Double-Header (7 points)
First Appearance: Adventure Comics #323 – August 1964
So, Double-Header has the amazing power of…having two heads. Actually, the idea is that they are brothers, born (as all members of their species) as conjoined individuals. Apparently, their two-headedness helped make them excellent hand-to-hand combatants, although this is something I’ve read on the internet and don’t remember ever seeing it in an actual comic.
They were also members of the Substitute Legion, which means they had an anti-gravity belt or flight ring, and access to a certain level of training.
Antennae Lad (5 points)
First Appearance: Adventure Comics #305 – February 1963
Antennae Lad is also a member of the Substitute Heroes, so he’s got the basic training and the flight device. He also has his power, which is the ability to pick up any sound wave from anywhere in the galaxy, even in the past, and play it out loud. When he first tries to join the Legion he is seen given them a terrible headache by playing the cacophony of noises he was picking up to loudly. So that sounds like it’d give him an attack power, basically, assuming he could learn to control it well. Add that to the training and gear he receives as a member of the Legion of Substitute Heroes and he ends up ranking better than some others.
Antennae Lad’s real name is apparently Khfeurb Chee Bez, which is kind of crazy.
Polecat (5 points)
First Appearance: Adventure Comics #331 – April 1965
Polecat was a rejected Legion applicant, and the first one on this list who never joined the Legion or even the Substitute Heroes. Interestingly, he tried to join the Legion at a time when all the of the regular members of the team had been kicked out by the villainous Vorm, aka Dynamo Boy. Nonetheless, the young hero with his power to be incredibly stinky probably would have been rejected anyway. It would have been funny if Polecat had become embittered and become a villain, seeking revenge not against the proper Legion but against one of their enemies.
Anyway, regardless of all that, Polecat certainly has the ability to stun an enemy, but whether that’ enough to defeat a foe or not awaits to be seen, especially since Polecat never had access to Legion training.
Rann Antar (4 points)
First Appearance: Adventure Comics #317 – February 1964
Rann Antar didn’t have a super-hero code name, but perhaps he should have been called “Exposition Lad” as he seems mainly to have existed to help the writers explain to the readers what Star Boy’s powers were (as Star Boy had only appeared once before, and had completely different powers at the time). For himself, Rann didn’t have a super-power at all, but instead, he’d invented a formula that made feathers as heavy as lead. He apparently didn’t have a chance to even demonstrate this, as the feathers he is carrying in his only appearance are clearly only as heavy as feathers. He’s pretty low on the rankings, but not the lowest.
It’s too bad that DC never did the story where Rann Antar went evil and attempted to use his formula to destroy all birds on the planet. If that had happened in the Silver Age, then there’s no doubt that Paul Levitz would have brought the character back and had him fight Dawnstar. And it would have been amazing.
Plaid Lad (3 points)
First Appearance: Legionnaires #2 – May 1993
The lowest ranked character in the Binder Conference is also the most recently created, debuting a mere 25 years ago during an early issue of the “Batch SW6 Legion”. He had the chance to demonstrate his powers at the first public tryouts that this version of the Legion had. But he has a power that is the poster boy for both weird and useless: the mutant ability to change permanently the color of fabric around him to plaid. He was rightly rejected, especially when it was revealed he lacked control of his great ability–thus it would be as much a danger to his teammates as his enemies.
It’s interesting, I think, how much some of these Legion tryouts anticipated the vibe of shows like The Voice or the various Idol shows.
The Plastino Conference
Bouncing Boy (17 points)
First Appearance: Action Comics # 276 – May 1961
Top seeded in the Plastino Conference is Bouncing Boy, aka Chuck Taine, one of the few heroes in all of DC and Marvel to get their powers by complete incompetence. Chuck was a delivery boy who slacked off on the job by going to a sporting event and then accidentally drank some of the top-secret formula he was supposed to be safeguarding when he mixed it up with the bottle of soda he was carrying. He gained, as a result, the power of…super bouncing!
Even back then it was often commented upon that Chuck’s powers were a bit silly and unhelpful, but really there’s no reason that they shouldn’t be incredibly effective. His body is quite impervious to normal harm, and we have to assume that when crooks were bashed by his body flying into them that it wasn’t like getting bumped by an inflatable beach ball. After all, there’s no reason that just because he was inflated that he would lose his evidently ample mass. So we’re talking about a hero who could take most physical punishment, and who could attack all but the fastest enemy with a projectile that probably weighed about 250 pounds, moving potentially as fast as a basketball.
So, potentially pretty powerful, and even more so if you add in Legion training and equipment. The main thing that holds him back is just the lack of respect the guy gets.
Incidentally, for a bunch of his comic book history, Chuck was married to Luornu Durgo, aka Triplicate Girl, who is top seeded in the other conference. It’d be interesting if the Grand Final of this whole thing wound up as a battle between the two of them.
Dream Girl (16 points)
First Appearance: Adventure Comics #317 – Feb 1964
Dream Girl is the last of our main Legionnaire contestants in this battle. She originally joined the team under false pretenses, having had a precognitive dream (her main power) that a bunch of heroes were going to die. Instead of just telling people this, she worked the system to get a bunch of the Legionnaires suspended, so they wouldn’t be on the mission where they were supposed to die. Turns out her vision was accurate but not completely understood, which is something that she’d come to be known for, and afterwards she willingly resigned. She went on to join the Substitute Heroes, and then finally rejoin the team with her boyfriend Star Boy a bit later.
Classic Dream Girl’s powers were usually limited to visions of the future she’d get while she was sleeping, which makes her pretty limited in power. But as the character went along she was shown also to be a capable hand-to-hand fighter as well as a scientific genius. Later still versions had powers expanded to include the ability to be aware of the future at any time, which potentially makes her quite a dangerous melee fighter.
Arm-Fall-Off Boy (10 points)
First Appearance: Secret Origins #46 – Dec 1989
One of the later and more overtly amusing (and grosser) rejected Legion applicants is Arm-Fall-Off Boy, a fearsome fighter whose powers include the ability to take his very heavy looking arm right off his body and to hit people with it like a club. He never had Legion training but he appeared to be a pretty fearsome and aggressive fighter, so he seeds pretty highly here.
Color Kid (8 points)
First Appearance: Adventure #351 – December 1966
(Strangely, Color Kid is listed in most sources as appearing first in Adventure #342, but I can’t find him anywhere in that story. I think he might have appeared in a letter column, as one of the “reader-submitted” characters).
Color Kid is the first “permanent” member of the Substitute Heroes to join after the team was founded, and had the ability to change the color of any object. That doesn’t sound incredibly dangerous, but when you consider the fact that the power could be used to bring a lot of confusion and disorientation to his enemies, and that he has the basic training and equipment of a Substitute Legionnaire, he’s more highly ranked than you might expect.
Ronn Kar (8 points)
First Appearance: Adventure #314 – Nov 1963
For years, I’ve thought this guy’s name was spelled “Ronn Karr”–I’m shocked, shocked I tell you, to discover today that I’m wrong. What kind of Legion fan am I?
Anyway, Ronn Kar was an early rejected Legion applicant who went on to be a super-villain, where his power to flatten himself could potentially be more useful (for like, stealing stuff and so on). He’s never been shown as being particular dangerous (except in the Legion animated series) but I guess you have to imagine that if he’s willing to turn to evil that there’s a level of ruthlessness to the guy, and being part of the Legion of Super-Villains would add some baddie training.
Lester Spiffany (6 points)
First Appearance: Adventure #301 – October 1962
Lester Spiffany has the distinction of being the first ever rejected Legion applicant that readers saw who didn’t go on to become a member of the team. He was rejected because he had a terrible attitude, and because he didn’t have any super-powers. Instead, he was just rich, which gives him a certain amount of potential as a fighter in our tournament—presumably he could equip himself with some gear, etc—but wasn’t enough to get him into the Legion (although that was all it took to get Projectra into the Legion in the Threeboot version of the team).
Eye-ful Ethel (4 points)
First Appearance: Adventure #330 – March 1965
Eye-ful Ethel, as she was known, was a woman who had eyes all around her head, who was rightly rejected for having a fairly useless superpower, although it would mean that she’d be difficult to sneak up on. She has at other times been depicted as a school teacher (eyes in the back of her head, etc) and a wanna-be super-villain.
Unnamed Camera-Eye Kid (3 points)
First Appearance: Adventure Comics #307 – April 1963
Last seeded of all is another rejected applicant who never even was named on panel. He apparently had a camera eye (the art is unclear but it almost looks like this was an extra eye) which would record and potentially play back anything that he saw. He tried to join the Legion by showing them a battle between Superboy and Bizarro which implies he must have had a bit of daring in his personality to get such an image, but aside from that he doesn’t have much to recommend him. I guess maybe he if came at his enemy at the right angle, he could project a bright light into his face?
So how will our battles be decided? Well, we’re going to use the same bracketing tournament system used by the NCAA and also by blogger Brian Cronin when he does his big vote-in tournaments every March (I think the last one had The Dark Knight beating Captain America: Winter Soldier as the best superhero movie).
That means the first battles will be as follows:
- Triplicate Girl (1) vs. Plaid Lad (8)
- Double Header (4) vs. Antenna Lad (5)
- Stone Boy (3) vs. Polecat (6)
- Matter-Eater Lad (2) vs. Rann Antar (7)
- Bouncing Boy (1) vs. Unnamed Camera-Eye Kid (8)
- Color Kid (4) vs. Ronn Kar (5)
- Arm-Fall-Off Boy (3) vs. Lester Spiffany (6)
- Dream Girl (2) vs. Eye-ful Ethel (7)
Each battle will take place in different environment. I will decide the environment from a list of 8 possibilities at random, but not until immediately before the fight.
Each battle will be a best of 5 round fight to submission. Each round will be decided by a dice role. I’m going to role a 2 regular six-sided dice, and based on the scores of the different characters as well as any adjustments made based on the particular environment the fight is happening in. So, for example, if the battle was happening in a place where there lots of feathers suspended in the air with threads, it’d be an advantage to Rann Antar. That’s not one of the environments, but you get the idea.
The idea with the dice roles is to allow for upsets, so no matter how disadvantaged someone is, they’ll always have a chance of winning a round (say, by rolling a 12, or an 11 or a 12, something like that). Whatever the result, I will “dramatize” it, by giving a quick summary of the fight, and how things wound up that way.
After all the winners are announced, they will go on toward the championship of their conferences until we come to a grand finale, and then a winner will be chosen. All of this is going to take some time, so this process will take a couple of weeks.
The eight environments that we’ll draw from are:
- An ocean beach with lots of waves
- A ski slope where it’s snowing heavily
- A crazy macabre fun house from somebody’s childhood nightmare
- A big warehouse with lots of boxes, shelves, fork-lifts, and so on
- An Indiana Jones style ancient temple with lots of deadly traps
- A thick jungle
- A department store full of clothing and other wares
- A construction site in the middle of the night—because isn’t that where superheroes always have their big fights?
For simplicity’s sake, we’re going to assume that there aren’t any civilians around, and that both combatants have had some time to prepare and have access to anything they’d normally have access to.
Phew! Got all that? Let’s get started!