Spider-Man is no longer Peter Parker… at least in the Ultimate Universe, where a battle with the Green Goblin cost him his life. In his place is a new kid: Miles Morales, who has some big shoes to fill if he’s going to replace one of the most beloved figures in comics. He’s not the first hero with some big super-powered boots to fill. Here’s a look at nine other “replacement heroes” – who took over the mantle from the previous holder – and how they fared in the shadow of their predecessors.
The history of the Green Lanterns is convoluted, as the Golden Age Alan Scott was replaced by the Silver Age Hal Jordan. Jordan remains the definitive Lantern, but he’s hardly the only one. In Green Lantern #59, he became incapacitated… necessitating his “back-up,” Guy Gardner take over the responsibility. The move opened the door for a number of other Lanterns from Earth, including John Stewart and Kyle Rayner. All three have proven popular choices, and regularly “swap out” or even act in concert with Jordan.
Like Green Lantern, the Flash underwent a “reboot” in the Silver Age which has become the go-to version of the character. Barry Allen served as the Flash for many years, until he was killed during the Crisis on Infinite Earths. His nephew Wally West – who had acted as his junior-graded sidekick, Kid Flash – took over the mantle of The Flash in Crisis on Infinite Earths #12. He’s proven an enduring and reliable member of the DC Comics roster, and as popular as his predecessor among the fans.
Tony Stark had demons… one of which (the famous title assures us) lived in a bottle. And when it all got to be too much for him, his buddy Jim Rhodes donned the Iron Man suit in Iron Man #170. Jim served as Iron Man for almost a decade – participating in the Secret Wars, as well as several other major story arcs – before returning the mantle to Stark. Rhodes continued as the Iron Man-esque War Machine after fixing a little problem with his head, and he remained a more stable (though slightly duller) variation on the Stark original.
Artemis Bana-Mighdall stepped into Wonder Woman’s tall red boots in the mid-1990s thanks to the machinations of Queen Hippolyta, who foresaw Wondie’s death and would rather see someone besides her daughter Diana take the fall. Artemis struggled with her duties and proved unpopular with Diana’s allies, though in retrospect the storyline gave the Amazing Amazon a nice jolt of energy. Hippolyta’s vision proved true and Artemis ultimately died in the red, white and blue trunks; thankfully, her death proved only temporary, as is usually the case in comics.
Captain America first lost his shield in in 1970s: resigning his commission in the wake of the Watergate scandal. Several other men claimed the banner before Steve Rogers ultimately took it back, but only one was really worthy. Bucky Barnes, Cap’s former sidekick, took over his mentor’s role after Steve Rogers seemingly died at the end of the Civil War storyline. He did great, until the Marvel brass remembered that he should be dead and killed him off. Thankfully, Steve Rogers wasn’t really dead and came back to… okay wait, I’m confused…
The original Robin first took over for his boss following the events of “Knightfall,” as Bruce Wayne struggled to recover from a broken back. Grayson picked it up again after – you guessed it – Wayne apparently died, then held onto it with the establishment of Batman, Inc. While it was nice having a Batman who smiles once in a while for a change, the upcoming reboot will apparently erase the whole thing and start again with Wayne back under the cape. Gotta love comics.
A horse-face Korbinite initially mistaken for a villain, Beta Ray Bill is one of those characters who separates hard-core comics fans from more casual reader. Bill took over the mantle of Thor after defeating the 1.0 version in Skartheim. He wielded the hammer against the demon Surtur and joined forces with the original Thor even after he gave up the title. He’s pretty damn awesome: a unique and original addition to the Marvel mythos who brings a smile to the face whenever he appears. (Part of me is secretly hoping for an appearance in the movie sequel.)
Superman died – and they brought him back too – but before they did, a quartet of pretenders rose to carry his mantle. Strictly speaking, only three of them claimed to be the real Superman; John Henry Irons’ Steel only said he represented the spirit of Kal-El. Naturally, none of them were the real thing: the Cyborg Superman turned out to be a villain and the alien “Last Son” apparently died himself. (Steel and the cloned Superboy remain recurring figures in the DC universe.) But they made for an intriguing and exciting way to bring Supes back to life, retaining the rejuvenated spirit of the “Death of Superman” storyline.
“Knightfall” remains one of the seminal storylines in Batman’s history: so seminal that Christopher Nolan is apparently using it as inspiration for The Dark Knight Rises. When it ended, Bruce Wayne had a broken back and the unstable Jean-Paul Valley (aka Azrael) stepped into his shoes. He ultimately proved disastrous: allowing innocents to die and adopting a cybernetic Batsuit that sent fans into a tizzy. DC stalwart Denny O’Neil later explained that they wanted to show the fans why Batman doesn’t kill, and why they didn’t change his look to match fleeting tastes. Initial impressions notwithstanding, the storyline proved a masterstroke, and brought the Knightfall saga to an eminently satisfying conclusion.