One of the things Stan Lee is credited with in Marvel comics is how he made superheroes relatable. He took larger-than-life characters and gave them human problems. After Spider-Man is done insulating his fists to punch someone with an electric face, he gets picked last for kickball as Peter Parker. That’s something a reader can wrap their head around. Like when Thor goes to the drug store and can’t find a human condom to fit his screaming Nordic penis. “By Odin’s all-seeing eye, I can give to my loins only this empty grocery bag, and to you only this heeding: Valhalla awaits your birth canal!”
Before Stan Lee, comics related to kids by just having the heroes hang out with kids, usually without pants. I’m not sure when gay was invented, but it definitely wasn’t around when the people at DC finalized the Robin costume. So Stan Lee’s idea to add character flaws to superheroes may have saved Marvel comics readers a generation of half-naked little boy sidekicks. However, as the years went by, not all the writers at Marvel were exactly responsible with this concept. The character flaws of caped crusaders soon escalated into full-blown psychological problems which made most of their adventures a series of emotional breakdowns. Here are six of my favorites.
Colossus is a Shitty Cosmonaut.
The X-Men are joining some astronauts on a rocket destined for outer space. Before they’ve even taken off, Colossus suddenly remembers that a brother he never mentioned, Mikhail, died while being an astronaut. So he does what anyone would do to honor his brother’s passing: spazzes the fuck out! He screams and his powers go off, completely shredding his space suit. Which, for a superhero, has got to be the equivalent of shitting your pants.
Imagine what it must have been like for that rocket pilot. He’s already probably grumpy about getting put in charge of a completely untrained flight crew, one of whom is a blue demon monster. And the first thing one of them does is triple in size and start destroying equipment. Say for a moment there’s even a possibility that you still take this lunatic into space. How do you talk ground control into pressing launch?
“Ah, mission control, we’re still a go for launch. The disturbance was, ah, one of the crew exploding into metal. Standby, Houston… looks like two, possibly three more are crying about something and punching through the hull with various energy rays. This is now at the very least a suicide mission, over. Wait, one more thing: Even if we get up and back, I probably don’t have to tell a room full of rocket scientists that these goddamn reentry vectors are hard enough to get right even without one of my passengers wildly altering his mass in the middle of it. Tell my wife that I… no, don’t tell her anything. She knew what she was getting into when she married a rocket man. Over and out.”
Hulk Smash Rainbow!
Picking a favorite emotional breakdown for The Incredible Hulk is hard since his entire super power is an emotional breakdown. There is no The Hulk unless something can make Bruce Banner flip out. A normal Hulk story is Bruce Banner trying to escape society with the tattered remains of his purple pants, then tripping into traffic or getting stepped on by a robo-suit until he turns into the Hulk. Once you see how accident-prone he is, it’s easy to see why he spends so much time as the Hulk. Whenever Bruce Banner bites into a burrito, it’s only after someone misplaced their swarm of poisonous ants wrapped in a tortilla. If Bruce Banner uses a vending machine, it is Vendor, awoken at last from His ancient slumber. Although here is a time where I really don’t think the situation called for any gamma-fueled rage:
Don’t Break Bad News to Spider-Man Over the Phone.
Spider-Man discovers that the supercriminal Arcade has plans to drug and kidnap the X-Men. He’s got to warn them, and fast! He stops into the first phone booth he sees and makes sure to pull up his mask to give his mouth full range of motion. A warning like this is too important to risk snagging a lip on the inside of your face spandex.
But surprise: Arcade himself picks up only to tell him that he’s too late. Known for his wit and fast comebacks, Spider-Man retorts “NOOOO!!” Then, maybe forgetting he’s in a phone booth, obliterates it. NOOOO!!
Doing a jumping jack inside a phone booth is already a strange reaction to bad news, but it becomes even stranger when you know who Arcade is. Arcade doesn’t murder people. He puts them in Murdercade. It’s a deadly but outrageously unexplainable high-tech fun fair that has yet to kill a single participant in the history of Marvel Comics. So again: at a regular murder you kill your victim. At Murdercade you put them on a safety-deregulated carnival ride. The only similarity at all is that your victim doesn’t want to do either. Spider-Man knows all this. He spent this entire phone call knowing that his X-Men friends are so super alive, but sitting in giant bumper cars or fighting a robot corndog or something. But fuck it: NOOOO!!
Bitch Betta’ Have Luke Cage’s Money!
Luke Cage, or Power Man, is a hero for hire. Which means you have to pay him. So when you hire him for a job and you don’t pay up, here’s what you do next: buy a shovel and start digging that foot out yo’ jive turkey ass.
I’m not sure if I’m saying that right. The Luke Cage comic had some problems. He had all the rage of a revolutionary 70s black man, but angry black men in the 70s didn’t write no jive funny books. And from the looks of his jibba jabba, I don’t think they even had one around to do part-time consulting. So at any given time, Luke Cage may or may not have been saying things that mean anything. Then this nonsense moon language was sent to people even more square where they put it through a filter to make sure it was rated G. This may be why every panel of every issue, Luke Cage punctuates his sentences by putting his fist through all nearby objects. Because it’s hard to express your anger at the establishment when your mouth only forms kindergarten Madlibs.
In one issue, he gets stiffed on a heroing invoice by Dr. Doom and lets out a string of expletives so confusing to me that I had to call in outside assistance. As I often do in African-American matters, I asked my black girlfriend for help. Was Power Man speaking a forgotten dialect of her people’s tongue? Or was it meaningless gibberish from a mental breakdown that transcended racial differences? This is a word-for-word transcript of our meeting.
Seanbaby: “Sweetie, could you read a page of this Luke Cage comic? I want to verify that he’s talking nonsense, or jive.”
Girlfriend: “What’s Luke Cage’s power?”
Seanbaby: “He’s just tough. He lifts like 40 tons and is kind of bulletproof.”
Girlfriend: “Just tough? They can’t give a nigga’ a freeze ray?”
She never answered my question. I think she may have been covering; embarrassed that she didn’t know what the fuck he was talking about either. I didn’t press the issue because I immediately knew I was going to quote her, and was trying to figure out a polite way to ask her where the apostrophe goes in the n-word.
Ms. Marvel Don’t Need a Man’s Touch
What a fucking bitch. Wait, what’s that about mustaches?
If you’re wondering, someone did save Human Torch by superheating a hot dog cart below him until it exploded. I’m serious, look it up.
Ms. Marvel never really had much of an excuse for this behavior. Her saga of psychological problems started with daddy issues so mild that most girls wouldn’t have even grown up to be a stripper, much less this disaster. One rapeless capture into her superhero career, and she develops a crushing fear of touching men. But when she flew into space with the Thing and got hit by cosmic rays, oh wow, she became a rock monster and her ugliest got her to flip out in completely new directions. The second she looked down at her igneous cleavage, she made a snap decision to commit suicide.
There was only one problem: she was too stupid to figure out a way to kill herself. Let’s look at the facts: One of her teammates figured out how to counter a 100 story fall with an exploding hot dog cart, and this bitch can’t kill herself with a whole jungle? You can’t fail harder than that without actually being Phil Collins.
What Storm Can Withstand the Fury of Enclosed Spaces!?
In a fight against Juggernaut and Cassidy in their spacious castle basement, Cassidy mentions the word “tomb” to the X-Men. That’s all it took to send Storm into a claustrophobic fit that leaves her in a heap on the floor for three straight issues. Imagine if he would have said “Small Closet” or “Size 2 Jeans.”
Unlike most of the freakouts in this list, claustrophobia is a real thing. You know, as opposed to taking a crap in your pants when you remember rocket accidents or not touching men because your dad had a mustache. But this basement is large enough for eight jumping and flying mutants to comfortably fight and still leave room for a nutjob to crawl into the corner and cry. You can’t get claustrophobic in something as big as a castle because you would have hung yourself in the car ride there.
The thing that makes this freakout so funny is that the X-Men become more and more pissed at her as they fight. After uselessly punching the invincible Juggernaut for hours, they start to take their frustrations out on Storm, complaining that all their problems would be solved if she’d hit him with some weather. I think they were just being passive aggressive, though; because when she does pull her shit together, her first lightning bolt bounces off the Juggernaut and she knocks herself out.
This leads me to two questions. One: What does it take to get fired from the X-Men? And two: You suck, Storm.
6 Superheroes Who Completely Lost Their Shit is the latest of Mania's Weekly Cracked Spotlight, which appears at your online destination for genre entertainment every Saturday courtesy of our sister website Cracked.com.