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Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Spider-man, Iron Man, Captain America and the Incredible Hulk are but a few on a long list of world renowned superheroes, who are recognized in the most remote parts of the world. But even with an explosive rise in popularity in the genre, there are still a few superheroes that, while once popular in their time, have been practically forgotten over the years. Be they characters from Pulp Magazines, TV series, Animation or Comics, time and underexposure has sadly caused the general audience to forget about these superheroes and their thrilling adventures. Here are ten superheroes that have been mostly forgotten, and deserve to be remembered.
Created in 1963 by Jiro Kuwata and Kazumasa Hirai, 8-Man was the lead character of the similarly titled tv series “8-Man”, one of the first cyborg superheroes ever created. When police detective Hachiro Azuma died in the line of duty, he was revived with the use of cybernetics (being the eighth attempt at doing this), where he gained an indestructible body that granted him super strength and speed, which he needed to recharge with the use of cigarette-shaped power cells, that 8-Man could use by smoking them (which would be almost unthinkable to see in children's entertainment today). Azuma returned to duty as a police officer, morphing in and out of his 8-Man identity at will to fight criminals.
“8-Man” was among the earliest anime distributed outside of Japan, along with such shows as “Astro Boy”, “Gigantor” and “Speed Racer”. Released in the USA as “Tobor, the 8th Man”, 8-man would be the precursor to such later characters like Robocop and Marvel Comic's Deathlock, other deceased men brought back to life with the use of technology, using their enhanced strength for vengeance and justice.
While the series has since faded into obscurity, with only a 1992 live-action adaptation starring actor Kai Shishido as 8-man and “8-Man After” in 1993, an animated film that served as a sequel to the television series with a new character taking up the mantle of 8-Man. It was met with scathing reviews, and the film's poor treatment of Azuma (where his mind was deleted from his robotic body off-screen) was not well received by fans, who still hold out for an eventual revival the 8th Man, the first cyborg superhero.
9. Olga Mesmer, the Girl With the X-Ray Eyes
Created in 1937 for Spicy Mystery Stories (writer and artist unknown), Olga Mesmer makes the list primarily for not only being practically forgotten but also for being the fist female superhero.
Olga is the daughter of Margo, queen of an underground kingdom inhabited by Sitnaltans, a people descendant from Venusian aliens. Forced to flee to the surface world after an attack on her kingdom by the villain Ombo, Margo met scientist Doctor Hugo Mesmer, falling in love with the man and marrying him. Hugo eventually experimented on his wife (as one does) and gave Margo the power of X-ray vision, the use of which ended up killing her husband. Their child, Olga, inherited these powers from her mother, as well super strength. Olga would go on to use her powers to investigate criminal activity, eventually facing off against her mother's nemesis, Omba.
With the decline of the pulp magazines and the rise of comics books, Olga Mesmer was the first female lead that exhibited superpowers in the traditional superhero sense, even if she never wore a costume. Due to the date of her appearance, Olga beats out not only Wonder Woman as the first female superhero, but Superman himself by a year, basically kickstarting the entire genre of the super-powered crime fighter, and she deserves to be named alongside such female characters as Fantomah and the Woman in Red.
8. The Green Lama
Created in 1940 by Kendell Foster Crossen during the age of the pulp novels, the Green Lama effortlessly transitioned to comics after Crossen retooled him to fit the changing trends, becoming one of the few pulp detectives to take up a traditional superhero identity and costume. Considering the large output of competing superheroes such as Superman and Batman, the Green Lama had difficulty standing out. What made him unique, however, was that he was the only openly Buddhist superhero published at the time, when most characters tended to be Anglo-Saxon Protestants.
Similar to such characters as Doc Savage and The Shadow, Jethro Dumont inherited a large fortune and traveled the world, studying Buddhist mysticism in Tibet. He eventually returned to New York, hoping to teach Buddhism, but eventually felt that he could achieve more by fighting crime (the go-to solution at the time).
After the superhero comics implosion of the 1950's, the Green Lama faded into obscurity, appearing sporadically in select titles throughout the remainder of the 20th century. Dynamite Comics revived the character as part of their Superpowers line, where he is portrayed as having elemental superpowers and fighting alongside a number of other public domain superheroes (though the Lama himself still under copyright by the Crossen Estate). In 2012, the Green Lama was featured as the subject of an exhibition at the New York Gallery, highlighting him as part of their “Tibet in Comics” theme.
7. The Green Turtle
At the dawn of the 21st century, there has been a rise in POC superhero characters headlining their own comics and shows. However, in the early days of American comics, you would be hard pressed to find a non-Caucasian character that wasn't portrayed as a cut-out stereotype, let alone as the hero of their own book. The Green Turtle was the first superhero of Chinese decent, though he could never reveal it to us readers.
Created by Chu F. Hing for "Blazing Stories #1", the Green Turtle fought the Japanese Imperial Army within China with the use of martial arts and a “Turtle Plane”, even gaining a Robin-like sidekick in the Burma Boy. Together they protected the people oppressed by the Imperial Army. Outside of this, not much was known about who the Green Turtle was behind his mask, as his identity was never revealed to us during the original run of the character. This unusual choice was a necessity on Hing's part, pushed by editorial mandate.
Hing designed the Turtle as a positive role model for Asian-American readers. However, the publisher feared there would be a backlash from the predominantly white readers, invoking an editorial mandate that forbade the hero being anything other than a white man. Rather than scrapping the character or complying with his editors, Hing took a third option by never having the Turtle be unmasked, leaving his ethnicity a personal secret to him alone.
The Green Turtle has thankfully not been completely forgotten, receiving a revival penned by Gene Yang and Sonny Liew in the mini-series “The Shadow Hero”, which finally allowed the turtle to unmask himself and reveal his origin. Still, the Turtle deserves more attention, especially in an age of superheroes that includes Kamala Khan and Duke Thomas as headlining heroes.
6. Stardust the Super Wizard
Created in 1939 by Fletcher Hanks, Stardust the Super Wizard is among the most terrifying of superheroes to have been created in the golden age of comics. While later characters would go out of their way to prevent loss of life, Stardust would routinely execute his adversaries on a whim, using a large array of bizarre superpowers.
His repertoire of powers is so vast, it would require a list of its own just to run the majority of them down. Some of these include the basics, such as flight, invulnerability and super strength, but then there were more out there abilities such as Magnetic Rays, Shrinking Rays and Transmitting Rays (there's a big ray theme with Stardust). These abilities were derived from his Radiation Belt and his blue 'Star-metal suit'.
Most of the enjoyment there is to be had from the adventures of Stardust came from the utterly bizarre ways that the Super Wizard dealt with his enemies, concocting near diabolical punishments that are more befitting of a science fiction horror scene than a superhero story.
After falling into the public domain, Stardust has enjoyed a number of short appearances and revivals over the years, including webcomic adaptation and a brief cameo in Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”. But you would be hard pressed to find many readers today who remember the awesome and terrifying force that was Stardust the Super Wizard.
5. Gekko Kamen
Superheroes are a mainstay of Japanese tokusatsu tv series, headlining such shows as “Kamen Rider”, “Super Sentai”, and “Ultraman” for decades (and even Spider-man got in on the action for a brief period). Yet the one hero that practically jumpstarted superheroes on Japanese television, Gekko Kamen, has faded into obscurity, even with his name and style still being synonymous with the genre.
Gekko Kamen (often translated into English as Moonlight Mask) was a 1958 Japanese television series where its eponymous masked hero would fight evil. While somewhat closer to American pulp heroes as opposed to what we imagine as a superhero nowadays, Gekko Kamen would set the mold for later tokusatsu superheroes, fighting crime on a motorcycle, performing death-defying stunts and maintaining a secret identity. In fact, his identity was such a secret, even we weren't privy to it, with Gekko Kamen simply being credited as “?”.
In the 1970's, Gekko Kamen received an anime adaptation that finally revealed his identity as police detective Jūrō Iwai. This anime was later followed by a live-action film in 1982, which was the last time Gekko Kamen was featured in any media. His influence still lives on in such characters as Kamen Rider and Kekko Kamen, but the true grandfather to the tokusatsu superhero deserves to make a comeback someday.
Created by Argentinean creators Carlos Meglia and Carlos Trillo featured in the Italian comics magazine "Skorpio", Cybersix is the youngest character on this list, and, despite critical acclaim, has faded from the public consciousness. The lone survivor of a series of cybernetic experiments performed by former Nazi scientist Von Reichter, Cybersix vows to stop his further work by engaging them in battle. She is joined by the robotic panther Data 7, who contains the mind of her deceased friend and fellow experiment Cyber29.
The Cybersix series put a clever spin on the secret identity trope by having Cybersix take the guise of deceased poetry teacher Adrian Seidelman, a man, by day, while going out at night to fight the monstrous creations of Dr. Von Reichter. Her duel identity also causes tension between her colleague and friend, Lucas Amato, who is attracted to her Cybersix persona (and hinted to also be attracted to Adrian).
The comic series lasted from 1992 to 1999, gaining enough popularity in Europe and South America to warrant a live action television series in Argentina and a Canadian-Japanese animated series, which toned down the violence and sexual content of the original comic. Since then, Cybersix has practically vanished. But with the revived attention for female superheroes with the premiere of Wonder Woman, perhaps there is hope for a comeback for Cybersix yet.
3. Robot Archie
One of the few non-human superheroes, Robot Archie first appeared in the British comic magazine “Lion” in 1952, featured in many issues of the magazine, and even growing a large fanbase in France and the Netherlands, where he was known as “Archie, the man of steel” (not to be confused with that other man of steel).
Originally simply known as the Jungle Robot, then Archie the Robot Explorer, Archie was created by Professor C.R. Ritchie to aid him in his adventures in the jungle, commanding him via remote control. While Archie originally had no name, consciousness or a mouth to speak with, he eventually gained both as well as a jovial personality and went on to embark on a slew of adventures both in and out of the jungle.
Since the end of Lion's publications, Robot Archie has faded from the public consciousness, making sparse appearances in other books as a side character in such titles as Grant Morrison's “Zenith” and “Albion” by Leah Moore and John Reppion. With such few British superheroes still being published, it would be a shame if Archie was to remain in his forgotten state, especially with regards to the popularity of such high-tech heroes like Iron Man.
Herbie is an odd one on this list. While it is debatable if Herbie Popnecker counts as a superhero at all, he is not bereft of the strange and bizarre abilities that come with the genre.
A rotund little 9-year old boy, spoiled by a doting mother but berated by his father as a “fat little nothing”, Herbie goes on many adventures, eating lollypops and getting into all sorts of trouble, only to easily escape them and humiliate his opponents with very little effort. Herbie's power range is extreme, being able to travel through time, literally walk on air, speak to animals, and do many other thrilling feats, which appear when it is most convenient for him. In fact, Herbie's nigh-invincibility is played purely for comedy, as any actual suspense would be impossible since the outcome is always Herbie besting everyone and everything. Monsters fear him, ancient civilizations revere him as a God, women (including, in one instance, former First Lady Jackie Kennedy) find him irresistible. And despite all this, Herbie in unfazed by any of it, showing no emotion in either his expression or speech, preferring to focus his attention on his lollypops. While not a traditional superhero, Herbie has donned a costume from time to time, wearing a plunger in his head and delving out justice as “The Fat Fury”, which was again, done as a joke.
There have been a number of attempts to bring the Fat Fury back into the spotlight, including a few in the 1990's. Though Herbie has been mostly forgotten, he is still a fondly remembered character among many comic book creators, with his peculiar speech pattern serving as inspiration for that of Rorschach's from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons's “Watchmen”. While Dark Horse comics brought Herbie back by publishing the complete Herbie collection in 2008, Herbie Popnecker is far from a household name to the general audience.
1. Ogon Bat
Despite sounding like a ripoff of the more well known Batman, Ogon Bat actually preceded both the caped crusader and the man of steel, arguably making him the first modern superhero. Fist appearing as a character in Kamishibai street theater stories, he endured well past WW2, eventually being given his own anime tv-series in 1967 and a film version in 1966, starring the legendary Sonny Chiba.
Ogon Bat (trans: Golden Bat) is a mysterious crime-fighter who can fly, possesses super strength and keeps his secret base within the Japanese Alps. Despite his frightening (or comical, depending on the art) appearance with a skull face, golden skin, long cape and battle cane, he is actually benevolent, fighting to protect the innocent and defend them from such enemies as Dr. Zero, with his frightening laugh meant to strike terror into the hearts of evil doers.
Since the anime's end, Ogon Bat has not been featured in any other media. Though Kamishibai performers still tell his stories to this day, and collectors pay top dollar for original art pieces from these performances, there have been no plans for a revival anytime soon, though “Death Note” artist Takeshi Obata admitted he was a fan and would like to see Ogon Bat make his return one day.