FOR NEARLY 100 YEARS, comic books have, at varying times, risen and fallen in public favor. But when times were good? They were very good, and at the height of their popularity, heroes like Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man spawned countless others—many of whom were extremely short-lived and hilariously terrible. Jon Morris' highly entertaining history book, The League of Regrettable Superheroes spans the golden, silver, and modern age of comics, gathering roughly 100 of these minor, laughably bad creations—each weirder than the last.
For example, Bozo the Iron Man (1939) was a simultaneously silly-looking and terrifying robot whose frozen grin and beanie propeller belied an ability to fight crooks and sharks, and stop missiles with his huge metal hands (inspiring his strapping sidekick Hugh Hazzard to quip, "Nice catch, Bozo!"). Similarly ridiculous were two medical-themed heroes, Doctor Vampire (1944) and Doctor Hormone (1940). Doctor Vampire was a doctor who fought vampires, while calling himself "vampire" (which was weird), and Doctor Hormone used his special "hormone pills" to turn Boy Scout troops into grown soldiers, and thinly disguised Nazi leaders into jackasses. Other heroes named within the book are joyous enough without further description; such as Professor Supermind & Son, Kangaroo Man, Dynamite Thor, Stardust the Super-Wizard, Mr. Muscles, and the narcoleptic crime-fighting team Nightmare and Sleepy.
While the witty page-long histories of these characters become repetitive after the first 100 pages or so, The League of Regrettable Superheroes is nevertheless a damn near perfect coffee table (or better yet toilet-reading) book full of laughs, amazement, and lost creativity. It also serves as a bittersweet salute to those superheroes who were never quite "super" enough.