SCIENCE! Where would superheroes be without it? If not for the admittedly shaky principles of comic book super-physics and four-color chemistry, we’d live in a world without Iron Man or The Flash, sans the Atom or Ant-Man; even the Hulk and Captain America would be absent from our cultural landscape. But in writing The League of Regrettable Superheroes, I was frequently reminded that not all super-scientists have their thinking caps on straight, even by comic book standards. Here’s a selection of five mental giants whose questionable choices and often-terrifying inventions will never get them on the good side of the Nobel Prize committee.
Professor Supermind: He scored top billing in his comic, Professor Supermind and Son, but the prof rarely did any heavy lifting. That was left to his son Dan (whose first name nevertheless doesn’t make the title). Gifted with “strength equal to a thousand horsepower” by his father’s ominous-looking, electricity-spitting High Frequency Energy Builder, Dan frequently expressed the trepidation his father’s creations inspired in him. “I still don’t see why I don’t get electrocuted,” he confesses prior to one power-generating session, before being waved off by a father not even slightly bothered by his only son’s fear for his own life.
Bozo the Iron Man: Not the Iron Man (or Bozo) you’re familiar with, this grinning automaton was the intimidating invention of the villainous Dr. Van Thorp. A garden variety mad scientist of the world-menacing type, Van Thorp expected to somehow conquer the entire planet solely through the use of his titanic machine-man. What the sinister scientist hadn’t counted on, however, was crusading troubleshooter Hugh Hazzard, who climbed inside Bozo via a handy panel in the robot’s back. Taking control, Hazzard went on to use the ’bot’s tremendous power for good! I guess not even all the science in the world can prepare you for someone carjacking your pet robot (if only he’d secured it with The Club).
Holoman: “Laser-physicist” Dr. James Robinson becomes the victim of his own “laser-induced thermo-nuclear fusion” process when trying to save the President of the United States from foreign terrorists. Trapped in gigantic holographic plates of his own invention, Doc Robinson of course pops into another dimension. There a bearded figure named “Laser Man” grants him a variety of hologram-related abilities, then sends Robinson back to our world dressed like a baffled rainbow. Being that he’s now a “living hologram,” any hard science left in the now-dubbed Holo-Man’s story melts away pretty quickly.
Captain Science: Perhaps the most sciencey hero of all, scientist Gordon Dane’s adventures begin as he’s recruited by an intergalactic do-gooder to become Earth’s protector against alien aggressors. Captain Science gets off to a rocky start, however, as Dane happily allows his extra-terrestrial sponsor to brainwash his young protégé Rip Gary into handing over his sizable inheritance (hey, it’s for the cause of science)! From a newly-funded, off-the-books super-scientific base in the desert, Dane and Gary protect the world from every kind of threat, using increasingly questionable science as their sole weapon.