The 1990s were a frenzied time for comic books. Sure, everybody was buying stacks of comics with hologram covers and quoting Wolverine non-ironically, but so, so many godawful new characters debuted during those years.
For every Deadpool or Harley Quinn who captured fans' hearts, there were a dozen gaudily dressed nutjobs with katanas growing out of their armpits. Let us tip our hats to those lovable, unsung losers who epitomized that decades' worst impulses (and fashions).
10. Adam X the X-Treme
Who: The most 1990s X-Men character ever
Back in the 1990s, a superhero's appeal could be easily determined by the following formula: (Fanny Packs)² + (Amount Of Inappropriately Placed Blades On Outfit) + (Whether Or Not Character's Name Is An Awful Portmanteau). Adam X scored particularly high thanks to backwards baseball cap, goatee, his superpower to electrify your blood (!), and his decision to wear scimitars for shoulder pads. So yes, he was a walking Capri Sun advertisement narrowcasted to S&M enthusiasts.
Like any 1990s character worth his or her salt, Adam X was a no-rules anti-hero who took no guff from no one. And like most characters who resembles Poochie from The Simpsons, absolutely nobody mentions him now. But back in the day, X-Treme was to have a distinguished pedigree. If writer Fabian Nicieza — who invented the legendary NFL SuperPro in exchange for Jets tickets — had his way, Adam X would've been the X-Man Cyclops' long-lost half-alien brother, a discovery akin to finding out your estranged father is a California Dreams rerun.
Who: The alien warrior who tried to boink Superman
During the waning months of 1989, Maxima debuted. Her primary character motivation was that she wanted to diddle the Last Son of Krypton and produce super-powerful extraterrestrial babies.
Superman spurned her spread-eagle advances, so she joined the Justice League to impress him (this was during that wacky Doomsday saga).
After these good deeds failed to merit a romp, she turned evil, faded into obscurity, and died saving the universe. Moral of the story: if you try to bang Superman and fail, expect to nobly sacrifice your life as penance for your horniness.
8. The Neo
Who: The X-Men's next big baddies (who never were)
When the X-Men were at the nadir of their popularity (before the movie, after the early 1990s hologram cover boom), they battled a shadowy, mutant-like species known as the Neo. According to the Neo, mutants were a genetically inferior nuisance who stood in the way of their nefarious plans...which came to an abrupt halt after X-Men writers one day forgot they existed. The last remaining Neo showed up in 2011 — after a decade-long absence — only to be mercilessly slaughtered immediately.
Who: Grape-flavored Ghost Rider
Throughout the 1990s, Ghost Rider tooled around with Lt. Michael Badilino, whose alter ego was that of the spike-covered, mohawked, purple version of the Spirit of Vengeance.
Being a motorcyclist out of Hell, Ghost Rider is pretty anti-heroic as is, but the embellishments on Vengeance were the apex of excess. He had spikes coming out of his ribcage, for goodness' sake.
Who: An ex-Green Lantern, transformed into a tattooed musclehead
The DC Comics character Guy Gardner debuted in 1968, and he's spent most of his career as a smart aleck Green Lantern with the heart of gold. But for a few years between the 1990s and 2000s, Gardner discovered that he had a secret extraterrestrial heritage.
This alien DNA transformed him into a generic, roided-out superhero who looked like a heat stroke victim at Burning Man. On the plus side, he did open a bar during this period, a side business not enough crimefighters utilize.
Who: Cable and Deadpool's underachieving contemporary
Kane was a boring cyborg who wore a blouse he stole from Cyndi Lauper's closet. He sometimes hung out with X-Men spin-off characters Cable and Deadpool, laid low for a few years, and then died as a cybernetics-addicted villain in the early 2000s.
But in his heyday, Kane was a superhero of merit. He even had his own toy! Here's an analogy to put it all in perspective. In the early 1990s, Deadpool was Ini Kamoze, Cable was Skee-Lo, and Kane was Snow. There, that should clear things up.
Who: The supervillain with the worst name of the 1990s
Many years back, a grade-school version of yours truly picked up the hologram-covered, much-ballyhooed first issue of Secret Defenders, a comic that promised to unite all of my favorite shitty 1990s superheroes (like Darkhawk and Nomad) on a single team with Wolverine. The massive cliffhanger at the end of the issue is that Wolverine and Spiderwoman will next brawl with a (possible) disco dancer dubbed "Dreadlox," who needed a sidekick named "FearBagel." Back in those heady days, I'd buy anything with Wolverine or foil on the cover — I didn't buy Secret Defenders #2.
Who: The catalyst for the most unreadable story arc of the 1990s
One of the biggest Spider-Man stories of the 1990s was Maximum Carnage, a way-too-long story about the Venom knock-off Carnage running amok in New York City and killing civilians. His partner-in-crime was Shriek, a sultrily dull villainess who dressed like Paul Stanley for some reason. Given that Paul Stanley has moonlighted as a Marvel character, I wish they used him instead.
Who: An omniscient supervillain who fell off the planet
Throughout the 1990s, one of the most powerful X-Men foes was the omniscient mutant Gamesmaster, whose origins were unknown and powers seemed endless. Every few issues Gamesmaster would drop by, drop some cryptic clue about his master plans, disappear, and reappear in a few months to do the same damn song-and-dance. It was equal parts stultifying and infuriating. And like The Neo, X-Men writers dumped the character, so we never saw his grand reveal.
1. Superman Blue/Superman Red
Who: The Superman for the 56K modem generation
At a certain point, someone at DC Comics realized that the world wide web was an unflinchingly hip new craze, like The Twist or unleaded gas. To make stodgy old Superman hip to the kids, the publisher briefly gave him electrical powers and the ability to split into two separate sentient entities: Superman Red and Superman Blue. He could travel through electrical signals and (presumably) fire AOL CD-Roms from his wrists. So yes, he had all of the powers of the PBS children's show Ghostwriter. The silver lining to all this? Maxima didn't want to sexify him during this period.
Related & Recent: Snowflame, the cocaine-fueled supervillain of 1988.