Monday, January 14, 2013

Groove's Countdown: 5 Super-Villains that Bugged Me

It's back! BACK, baby!

Today's countdown focuses on five super-baddies who could'a been contenders but wound up scraping the bottom of the garbage pail. Ready? Let's get buzzin' with...

5 Super-Villains that Bugged Me

5) Dragonfly: Those blank eyes! That purple hair! That red skin! Those antennae! A winged chick who can hypnotize ya sounds kinda interesting, huh? Co-creators Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum must've thought so, since after she got her wings clipped by the X-Men in All-New, All-Different X-Men numbers 94-95, they planted a panel in ANADXM #104 showing that our hot li'l hypnotist had escaped imprisonment. Dunno what those plans were 'cause Dragonfly never made another Groovy Age appearance. She did make a comeback in the 90s, but who wants to think about the 90s? Sheesh!

4) Tarantula: This South American baddie, debuting in Amazing Spider-Man #134, had a very cool costume, but a very lame m.o.--his pointy-toed boots were actually spiked, leading Tarantula to employ kung-fu style foot-fighting; kinda like a pointy-toed Batroc the Leaper. You can only jump and kick at Spider-Man for so long until the Amazing Web-Headed Dude takes you down. Senor Rodriguez was a slow learner, though, since he kept on trying to keep his toe in the bad-guy clubhouse by appearing in ASM numbers 135, 141, 147-149, 181, Spectacular Spider-Man numbers 1-3, and Captain America #224.

3) Hellgrammite: When Hellgrammite first appeared in Brave and the Bold #80, he seemed like a pretty tough customer. Armor, strength, leaping ability, and some sort of sticky stuff he could use to make cocoons to imprison his prey. He gave Batman and the Creeper a pretty rough way to go, and it seemed that Gothamites had another weird-but-powerful super-villain on their hands. When Hellgrammite next appeared nearly a decade later in the pages of World's Finest numbers 248-249, he didn't seem as intimidating. In his battle with Green Arrow and Black Canary, Hellgrammite was more of a con-man, using his cocoons to make old people young again. Yeah, he didn't show his face again until after Crisis on Infinite Earths.

2) The Fly: Another cool looking baddie (inspired by Archie Comics' Fly/Fly-Man?). Another baddie with cool powers (almost just like Spider-Man, just swap the webs with wings). Another baddie with tons of potential swatted down in his prime. The Fly made his first appearance in Amazing Spider-Man Annual (Summer 1976), and then in Amazing Spider-Man #193 a couple'a years later. His biggest claim to fame (if it's the same guy--the costume is subtly different) is battling Spidey in a Hostess ad that started running just weeks after his debut in the aforementioned Spidey Annual. Again, he reared his bug-eyed head in the 80s and 90s--but those decades were anything but kind to the former Mel Cooley. Huh? Oh, that's a different Richard Deacon...

1) Mantis: He was created by Jack Kirby as a villain for the Forever People and the New Gods. He could go toe-to-toe with Orion. He appeared in Forever People #2, New Gods numbers 2, 9-10, and Secret Society of Super-Villains numbers 2-5 (what's up with all those number twos?). And yeah, he looked awesome! What else do ya need to know?


  1. Neato collection of buggy baddies!

    Hellgrammite was in one of my very first DC comic reading experiences. I love those muscular Neal Adams masterworks!

    Dragonfly did seem to be a villain who deserved a better fate. Her translation on the big screen was pretty successful.

    Tarantula is a lot of fun. I always heard Ricardo Montalban in my head when he talked.

    Like you said, the Fly is in my opinion a way for Marvel to have Spidey face off against his Red Circle inspiration. The Silver Spider concept that gets talked about from time to time sure sounds like Fly redux to me.

    Mantis was a villain who got lost in the Kirby shuffle. There's so much awesomeness oozing out of that powerful imagination, that concepts got left undeveloped, or left to lesser lights to deal with. Mantis is one of those. He's supposed to be second only to Darkseid in power, but that never came through effectively.

    Rip Off

  2. Yeah, webbing his ankles together would pretty much dispense with Tarantula's threat. I don't know why those battles dragged out like they did.

  3. Gotta love the 70s when any animale or insect could become a goofy villain. I keep thinking of the Kangaroo. Even at 7 I was rolling my eyes.

  4. Nice collection!

    The Fly I first encountered when Fred Hembeck did a guest issue of Spider-Man. There is no way of taking him seriously after that.

  5. I was in the third grade when The Tarantula was introduced, and I remember smuggling the comics featuring him into the private school my parents made me attend and getting into trouble for the contraband. So I always equate a feeling of excitement when reflecting back on that character -- he held a lot of promise in my little mind. As an adult, though, I get where you're coming from. I'm still fond of the covers that featured him, though.

  6. I read somewhere that Dragonfly was lined up for a Cockrum/Claremont project called The Furies, with a couple of other female characters. Hence the panel in X-Men 104 that says she's escaped from Muir Island.

    Hellgrammite is a wonderful name but a goofy visual whereas Mantis is a fantastically imposing character, isn't he? I'd forgotten that "second only to" bit.

  7. You forgot to mention how Tarantula literally transformed into a giant spider.

    And I agree with the sentiments concerning Mantis. He was a great Kirby villain with a lot of potential who was unfortunately neglected by most creators who worked on revivals of the New Gods.

    1. Didn't forget it, Ben--just chose to ignore it since it was a non-70s development.

  8. Could that Fly in the Hostess ad be THE Fly? I always thought those Hostess villains were created just for the ads.

    I seem to recall Mantis showing up in an early issue of The Secret Society of Super-Villains, where I think he got caught trying to betray Darkseid, a definite no-no, but that’s my only experience with the character.

    I do have a weakness for the Ani-Men, and thus Dragonfly. It’s hard to believe she didn’t make another appearance until 1990.

    I recently read that Hellgrammite issue in a Neal Adams TPB, and it was actually a pretty good story.

    I vividly remember the Tarantula, as he was on the cover of one of the first issues of Amazing Spider-Man I ever bought. Definitely a lame gimmick, though.

  9. I actually liked the Fly when I was a kid. He could go toe-to-toe with Spidey and get the best of him. He was a real challenge for him. In one comic he escapes the wall-crawler by bouncing him off a building with his bag of loot..................then gets taken down by the police later in the story.
    Spidey couldn't catch him but the police could...
    As a child the story had some humor though since later on Spidey was coming for the Fly with the intent of taking out his anger on him.......not catching the criminal and stopping his crime spree. Just brutalizing him...this was not one of Peter's better momoments. He then got stuck having to scream away his bad day when he discovered the police had gotten to him first. I don't remember the issue number, haven't read it in at least 20 years but for me that was a memorable story.

  10. Dougie wrote: Hence the panel in X-Men 104 that says she's escaped from Muir Island.

    The Groovy Agent wrote:"She did make a comeback in the 90s"

    I recently made an effort to track down the Quasar issues in which she returned...I could never get the number right and as a result have waaay too many Quasar booms in my collection...

    And I could never figure out why I hunted it down....I think the footnote bugged me FOREVER and realized the dangling plot thread was dealt with while I was...away...from comics for a while....or I needed a challenge...or I was mad at myself...

  11. Hey, Tarantula got an action figure. That's more than most villains manage.



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