Never Coming to a Theater Near You: ‘The League of Regrettable Superheroes’

 

Let us pay homage to the greatest superheroes of our time: Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, Doctor Hormone.

Wait. Doctor Hormone?

Alright, maybe he’s not so great, but he’s a superhero, and only one of over a hundred misbegotten characters featured in The League of Regrettable Superheroes, a new book by Jon Morris, published by Quirk Books. While you may not recognize Doctor Hormone’s name, Morris’s may ring a bell. He’s a cartoonist and graphic designer, and the guy behind Gone & Forgotten: a blog devoted to the memory of the most obscure and ill advised comic book heroes the industry has ever produced.

Back to Doctor Hormone.

You would think that with a name like Doctor Hormone (his real surname, not an alias) he’d be a character in a junior high sex education film, but in the wild world of Golden Age comics, things rarely had to make much sense. The Good Doctor’s origin story was that he was a newly rejuvenated senior citizen who discovered a way—hormonal, of course— to reverse the aging process, and was now free to play God with the rest of us mere mortals. For science and the good ol’ USA, naturally. Doctor Hormone transforms Boy Scouts into super soldiers, babies into grown men, and (naturally) elderly women into buxom young ladies.

Doctor Hormone could have started a bizarro medical practice with another Golden Age physician: Dr. John Rogers, better known as “Doctor Vampire”.

I’m assuming that you won’t be surprised when I tell you that Doctor Vampire was not, in fact, a vampire: He hunts vampires. You’d think that if he insisted on naming himself after what he hunts, then he’d at least go with the marginally more clever appellation “Dr. Acula”. “Doctor Vampire” only ran for one issue, and as far as I know, he never got to use the line “Vampirism is the disease, and I’m the cure.”

At least with Silver Age hero “Fatman” you get what you expect: He’s a generously proportioned gentleman who is clearly comfortable with, and unashamed of, his body. However, unless you want to count Fatman’s admirable resilience against the arbitrary and unrealistic standards by which society judges physical pulchritude, being a little heavy isn’t really a superpower. Thank goodness he can transform into a UFO like some kind of flesh-and-blood Transformer. See, Fatman is actually “Fatman the Human Flying Saucer”. Why he wouldn’t just go by “The Human Flying Saucer” and just ditch the whole “Fatman” schtick is beyond me, but so is the fact that he transforms into a space vehicle. Again, some heroes are best forgotten. To quote that crusty old New Englander Jud Crandall from Stephen King’s Pet Sematary, “Sometimes, dead is bettah.”

The League of Regrettable Superheroes is a hilarious, gorgeous book. Every abortive also-ran included here is accompanied by a full-color, full-page excerpt from the comic or comics they appeared in, along with their history and sharp-witted commentary by Morris, who is clearly a scholar of the comic medium’s weirdest and most recondite dregs. If you even have a slight interest in superheroes, and have ever wondered about the ones that didn’t make the cut, this is the book you’ve been looking for.

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