Everybody needs a vacation once in a while, even superheroes. Unfortunately, whenever a member of the costumed crime-fighting elite takes a day off, it’s usually due to death, mental instability or being cast into another dimension. When those situations occur, someone else steps up to the plate and fills in. Today, we take a look at some of the more notable superhero scabs by evaluating their performances.
What happened: Jim Rhodes was a Marine Corps pilot who first encountered Tony Stark in Vietnam and later became his personal pilot and aviation engineer after the war ended. The men became close friends over the years and when Tony started hitting the bottle, Rhodes helped him pull through. When Tony relapsed and ended upon the streets, Rhodey ended up in the red and gold armor--and thank God! Drinking and driving is bad enough, but flying around shitfaced in a suit of high-tech armor equipped with repulsor rays, a uni-beam and an electromagnetic pulse generator is a disaster waiting to happen.
Results: Rhodey wore the suit until Tony could pull himself back together, but during that time, he ended up growing increasingly paranoid, as the armor was not specifically calibrated for his use. Tony had to wear a clunky old suit of armor to take Rhodey down and it was Iron Man vs. Iron Man with ol’ drunky coming out on top.
Evaluation: Promoted! Despite a couple of setbacks that weren’t really his fault (like going crazy), Jim Rhodes performed quite well and was rewarded with his own shiny new War Machine armor.
What happened: After the success of the Death of Superman, DC decided that Batman needed a ridiculous gimmicky storyline that saw him replaced by someone with lots of shoulder pads and belts strapped around his thighs. The result was Knightfall, which saw Bruce Wayne sitting at home with a broken back while a brainwashed religious nut assumed the role of Batman.
Results: Valley grew increasingly violent and ended up tarnishing Batman’s good name and ruining his reputation with the Gotham City police force. Good triumphed, as it always does, and Bruce Wayne ended up back in the batsuit, but fans were left with a terrible taste in their mouths that took years to wash out.
Evaluation: Demoted back to C-list status, Jean-Paul Valley resumed his Azrael guise and carried his own series for 100 issues before being killed.
What happened: It could be argued that John Stewart and Guy Gardener were both replacements for Hal Jordan, but in reality they were more like back-ups. When Hal Jordan, possessed by the demonic parasite known as Parallax, went nuts, killed a whole bunch of Green Lanterns and destroyed the Central Power Battery effectively destroying the Green Lantern Corps, it was time to find a replacement. Ganthet, the last surviving Guardian, managed to pass the lone existing Green Lantern ring along to a random guy he ran into outside of a nightclub. Thankfully, Kyle Rayner proved to be up to the task of being the sole Green Lantern in the universe as well as using his artistic background to be one of the more interesting Lanterns. It wasn’t all giant hammers and catchers’ mitts for this GL; in true fanboy style, he also created giant anime robots!
Results: During his tenure, Rayner joined the Justice League and earned the respect of the top guns of the DCU, including Batman and the Flash. He re-ignited the Central Power Battery, restoring all that Hal Jordan had destroyed and for a time operated as Ion, the torchbearer of the Green Lantern Corps and manifestation of the green willpower.
Evaluation: Promoted to member of Green Lantern Honor Guard.
What happened: Way back in the swingin’ ‘70s, Peter Parker’s biology professor, mad with grief over the death of student Gwen Stacy, cloned both Gwen and Spider-Man, whom he held responsible. The two Spider-Men battled with neither one knowing for sure which was the clone and which was the real deal. Spidey defeated the clone but never bothered reading the results of the DNA test. He knew he was the real Peter Parker based on his feelings for Mary Jane, which the clone couldn’t possibly have. It was all forgotten until Marvel, in their first attempt to de-age Spider-Man, decided to bring the clone back and reveal that he was, in fact, the real Spider-Man!
Results: It was tampered with by editorial and dragged out far longer than it should have been but in the end, fans were treated to a brand new Spider-Man with blond hair and a new costume, unencumbered by marriage and years of baggage. And they loved it! Well… not exactly. It wasn’t long before Peter Parker came back from retirement to be revealed as the one, true Spider-Man and Ben Reilly gave his life to save him. Or something like that. We do our best to forget the whole thing ever happened.
Evaluation: Pink-slipped into the great beyond, but with a Clone Saga revival on the way. Could Ben Reilly’s return from the grave be far behind?
What happened: It seems like there’s been a million guys who have carried the flag while Steve Rogers has been frozen in ice, had a crisis of conscience or been killed in action, but for the sake of remaining relevant, we’re going to focus on the current Captain America, James Buchanan Barnes. He started out as Cap’s partner in WWII, got his arm blown off in the same explosion that sent Cap into suspended animation and ended up as a brainwashed assassin for the Soviet Union. He got a bionic arm, spent the 1950’s through the mid-2000s in and out of suspended animation and ended up having his memories restored only to see his mentor killed in the aftermath of Civil War.
Results: With no one else up to the job, Bucky accepted the shield and a brand spankin’ new Captain America costume and continues to uphold the tradition and wave the flag.
Evaluation: He defeated the Red Skull, saved the original Human Torch and fought off the Skrull invasion, but we can’t give the guy a promotion. Can you really get any higher than Captain America? That’s like being president of the company and the official mascot!