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9 Most Memorable Superhero Change-Ups

Spider-Man isn't the only one to get a new face under the mask.

By Rob Vaux     August 12, 2011


9 Biggest Superhero Change-Ups
© DC Comics/Robert Trate

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.

 

9. Green Lantern: Guy Gardner

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.

 

8. The Flash: Wally West

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.

 

7. Iron Man: Jim Rhodes

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.

 

6. Wonder Woman: Artemis

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.

 

5. Captain America: Bucky Barnes

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…

 

4. Batman: Dick Grayson

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.

 

3. Thor: Beta Ray Bill

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.)

 

2. Superman: The Supermen

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.

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1. Batman: Jean-Paul Valley

“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.

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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karas1 8/12/2011 5:44:45 AM

So, Dick Grayson isn't going to be Batman anymore?  Not upset.  He was better as Nightwing.

jedibanner 8/12/2011 6:12:16 AM

Fun articles.

It's always nice to have a ''replacement'' once in a while but, only for a while and more importantly, only if it's done well.

The way Marvel brough back Bucky Barnes to life was a very well written story and brough very interesting perspective to Cap and about Bucky (he ws a bad guy first then became good).

I did get an interest when Dick became Batman but, I didn't see him doing it forever and I believe that's the way it should be. Sure it's interesting and brings a new aspect of a role established by someone but in the end, there is always only one Batman, one Thor, one Cap America. The symbol of the role is important but the person who created it, established it and constantly surpassed it earned the right and the respect and honor of being the rightfull ''owner'' of the role.

theREALsterma 8/12/2011 7:32:48 AM

In my opinion Wally actually surpassed Barry as the Flash.  As smart as Barry was/is, it was Wally that TRULY discovered the speed force and how to use it.  And while I am on my soapbox I realized last night that I was angry.  Angry about the fact that Tim Drake who was lining up to be a better Batman that Bruce ever dreamt of being.  Better detective, better crime fighter, better at everything.  And now thanks to the DC REBOOT, we will never see that happen.  I am seriously thinking about quitting comics because of this.  My three favorite characters in the DCU were Tim, J'onn and Plastic man.  The plas from the pages of the Justice Leacgue, not the goofy one, but the one who was trying to be a father, trying to be a hero, trying to find his place among the marble jawed icons of the league.  Ok done here.

heath0920 8/12/2011 8:01:24 AM

Although I also am a huge fan of Tim Drake's character, he was NEVER going to be Batman for the same reason Dick will NEVER be it (not definitively anyway). Comics don't change, they can move a little forward and then a little back, but most of them stay static and have for the past 20 years.

So Bucky can take over for a little, Dick can, but ultimately, the characters go back in the toybox and the series go on. 50 years from now, provided the medium still exists, Bruce Wayne will still be suiting up in the cowl and continuing his neverending crusade.

I do take comfort that Geoff Johns seems to like Tim and I don't think he'll jeapordize that character.

NDorado 8/12/2011 8:12:05 AM

Robin deserves a mention here, even though he was just a sidekick.  Dick Grayson will always be my favorite, but Jason Todd deserves a mention for beign the first replacement, and the one with the most baggage.

theREALsterma 8/12/2011 9:13:43 AM

Yeah but I still love the fact that Tim just popped up and said "Hey, Bruce i figured out you are Batman."

  I mean I would have just asked for 5 million and reitred but hey i am just too dam fat to fit in those shorts anyhow, hehe.

Bryzarro 8/12/2011 9:16:28 AM

 Nice article.

I too enjoyed Bucky's return and rise to Cap.  I also loved the Knightfall Saga when it was out.  Didn't like JP Valley as Batman but was a solid arc.

I liked Dick as Batman and enjoyed it for a while.  His banter with Damien was what kept me going with it.  But i'm glad it will only be Bruce.  I am dying to see the interaction between Father and Son with Damien.  I sense some tough love coming to keep Robin on his toes.

jfdavis 8/12/2011 9:55:39 AM

Though I think Artemis actually came before Azrael, I frequently refer to her as "the Wonder Woman version" of that character...

Back when they were introduced, War Machine and Thunderstrike were my 2 favorite Marvel characters.  I really couldn't tell you why...   

 

tallman 8/12/2011 10:19:07 AM

 Nice list, Guy Gardener wow, I haven't read any Green Lantern's for a while but when he was in it last time i read...I love that annoying smarmy git! Dick Grayson would always be next in line or a good temp replacement in my eyes but Azrael, that was an awesome storyline. Everything was so wrong about him you just knew he would only be there for a short while no matter who took him out.

monkeyfoot 8/12/2011 10:25:15 AM

Just reading this reminds me of a conversation I had with my sister when I was a kid. It was summer and I had started watching one of her soap operas (All My Children). I commented that these shows are just like comic books. They are both filled with weird plot twists, soap opera, and off the wall ideas and stories. But at least comics had explosions, super powered fights, and badass costumes.

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