“Stability” isn’t a term superheroes get to hear much. People die and come back, teams are constantly changing members, and new villains are always popping up. Heck, most heroes can’t even depend on their own bodies to stay constant, thanks to magic, mad scientists, and/or otherworldly rocks. Here are a dozen heroes who once changed for the worse.
1) Captain America into Cap-Wolf
“Obedient” and “werewolves” aren’t two words you normally think of together, but they were the cornerstone of the villainess Nightshade’s evil plan in 1992. She turned everyone in a small Massachusetts town into her werewolf slaves; Cap was also transformed, but avoided slavery and turning into a feral beast for some reason. This made him less a werewolf than a were-border collie. Eventually, Cap-Wolf led all of Marvel’s lupine superheroes against Nightshade — including Wolverine, because enh, close enough — and was cured.
2) Superman into Superman with a Lion Head
Poor Superman thinks Cap-Wolf had it easy. Superman — along with Batman, Robin, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen — were constantly transformed during the Silver Age by rays and aliens and magic. Most often they got fat: Fat Superman, Fat Batman, Fat Lois, etc. But few transformations were goofier than the time in 1958 Superman got a lion’s head after politely declining to marry Circe of Greek Myth. Except that Circe was an alien and maybe a Kryptonian, too. Anyways, few transformations were goofier than this, and we’ll get to them all shortly.
3) Batman into Bat-Baby
In fact, let’s begin with Bat-Baby. Batman, the Dark Knight, the Caped Crusader, he who is both Vengeance and the Night, is slightly less imposing after a mad scientist shoots him with a mysterious ray that turns him into a four-year-old (which makes him more of a Bat-Toddler than a Bat-Baby, but whatever). The shame is astounding: First, he continues to fight crime in adorable little overalls. Second, Robin has to carry him around in his arms (which is a Freudian nightmare that would eveb scare the Joker). Third, Alfred has to get all the phonebooks in Wayne Manor so little Brucie can sit at the dinner table. You know, Grant Morrison brought back a lot of Silver Age nonsense to his modern Batman run, but 1961’s “Bat-Baby” was not one of them.
4) Betsy Braddock into Psylocke
I doubt anyone at Marvel was embarrassed when they stuck the mind of the British mutant Betsy Braddock into the body of sexy, perennially underdressed Asian assassin Kwannon in 1989, but don’t you think they should have been? It was a hilariously transparent attempt to sex up the character, and what’s more, it worked. Betsy Braddock was introduced in 1976 and she was transformed in 1989, which means she was British for 13 years but has been a sexy Asian assassin for 24+. Just because it proved popular doesn’t mean we shouldn’t all be a little ashamed of ourselves. At least she transformed in 1989; if it haf been 1999, she would have been wearing a Japanese schoolgirl uniform, I guarantee.
5) Aquaman into a Balloon
I previously mentioned how pretty much every DC superhero got super-fat during the Silver Age at one point of another, and with alarming regularity. Oddly, this isn’t Aquaman getting fat, it’s him inflating iliketo a balloon through one of four mysterious superpowers granted by mysterious powder given to him by a dying old man (although he can only use one at a time, and they last six hours). When a ship begins to sink, Aquaman inflates to bring the ship back up to the surface. Sure, he looks dumb, but he saves the day, right? Right. And then he gets caught up in a hurricane and spends the next 5 hours and 45 minutes helplessly spinning around in it. Doesn’t Aquaman have enough problems being taken seriously, DC?
6) Superboy into a Sphinx
If there was a dude who was transformed into more weird shit than Superman, it was his even less serious incarnation, Superboy. Thus a single comic in 1963 could and did send him to Camelot to pal around with King Arthur, then the Wild West to become Jesse James for no apparent reason, but mostly astoundingly become the mythical sphinx of ancient Egypt. Look at him. The only plus side is that if this Superboy teamed-up with lion-headed superman they could at least make a whole lion between them.
7) The Marvel Universe into Heroes Reborn
As one of Marvel’s bold but terrible experiments in the ‘90s, they decided to give all their flagship titles to Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld for a year to essentially restart the Marvel universe. The results were predictably the ‘90s-est fucking comics you’ve ever seen, and just as predictably, Marvel canceled Liefeld’s contract after six months and gave his titles to Lee, too. Heroes Reborn updated origins and made the heroes all edgy and x-treme (not in an X-Men kind of way, but more of a wide-mouth Mountain Dew Slam Can kind of way) — in a sense, it was a lot like DC’s New 52, except Marvel had the sense to rescind it after a year in Heroes Return.
8) Batman into a Genie
Terrifying, this issue of Detective Comics came out in 1963, two years before the popular TV comedy I Dream of Jeannie. So DC has absolutely no excuse for why they decided to give Batman a turban, a nebulous lower half, and stick him in a lamp. About the only thing more shameful for Batman than dressing up in a discount genie Halloween costume is that fact that he had to grant criminals wishes, too.
9) Thor into a Frog
Here’s the bizarre thing about Thor Frog; sure, when Thor is turned into a frog as a result of one of Loki’s goofier schemes, he’s pretty mortified, and for the God of Thunder, being a small amphibian living in Central Park is a hell of a bummer. But then two things happened: 1) Thor learned that his fellow frogs were being attacked by the evil rats of Central Park, and so he joined in the fight, which cheered Thor up immensely and 2) as goofy as this sounds, it turned into a completely awesome story for the readers, too. It was part of Walt Simonson’s phenomenal ‘80s run on Thor, but still, Thor was pretty damn embarrassed when it first happened.
10) Green Lantern into Parallax
Here’s a transformation that doesn’t get mentioned much in the DC universe anymore — the time Green Lantern Hal Jordan turned into a villain and killed not only the inhabitants of an entire city, but most of the Green Lantern Corps., too. He was driven insane by the destruction of his own hometown, Coast City, decided to call himself Parallax, and then was one of DC’s fiercest bad guys for much of the ‘90s before sacrificing himself to save the sun from being eaten by a Sun-Eater (who are beings that eats suns, if that wasn’t clear). Of course, this was retconned in 2004 by Silver Age DC’s biggest fan Geoff Johns, who decided Hal was merely possessed by a being called Parallax who had been imprisoned in the Green Lanterns’ Central Power Battery for millennia. So all that murdering wasn’t technically his fault, but I guarantee he still blushes a but when someone mentions it at the Green Lantern mixers.
11) Spider-Man into Spider-Man-Spider
Spider-Man has mutated more that any non-mutant in the Marvel universe (and he’s mutated more than most of them, too). He’s been a Spider-Hulk, a Spider-Lizard, a Man-Spider, and many more. But what’s worse than being a six-armed dude with a spider-head? Turning into an actual giant spider… and a pregnant giant spider at that. A villainess named the Queen captured Spidey and kissed him, which 1) started his mutation into a big-ass spider, and 2) somehow knocked him up. Eventually, Spider-Man-Spider was spider-y enough he went to the Queen willingly, where, to her surprise, he died instead of giving birth. The Queen was sad. And then Peter Parker crawled out of Spider-Man-Spider’s corpse with organic webshooters. This was possibly the stupidest way that Marvel could have given Peter organic webshooters to match the recent movie, but I think it’s more important to remember Spider-Man once gave birth to himself.
12) Superman into Howard Hughes
A random blast of red kryptonite started making Superman’s hair and fingernails grow into terrifying lengths, making him look like a super-powered version of famed recluse Howard Hughes. I don’t think it’s at all a stretch to assume Superman also peed in mason jars and kept them stored in the Fortress of Solitude. Oh, the way Supes trimmed his hair and beard so he could return to his disguise as Clark Kent? He had Supergirl and Krypto use their x-ray vision on it simultaneously. It makes absolutely zero sense, but at least now we know.