Let’s face it, lightning doesn’t strike every month, and sometimes inspiration can be difficult to come by. But comic books still had to come out, ready or not. And so, occasionally, our favorite heroes of Marvel’s silver age would find themselves contending with opponents who–well, let’s just say they weren’t quite up to the usual standard. That said, I have a lot of love for the dopey and the dumb in comic–so here are the Five Best Dopey Marvel Silver Age Villains.
THE ASBESTOS MAN, STRANGE TALES #111. There were certain substances that Stan Lee treated as though they were magic back during the Silver Age. Radiation. Magnetism. And of course, Asbestos. The way Stan depicted it, asbestos wasn’t simply resistant to burning, it was absolutely impervious to flame–and to any heat created by said flame. A miracle substance (and certainly not at all cancer-causing.) So many a foe of the Human Torch employed weapons lined with asbestos against him. But none went so far as the Asbestos Man, who clad himself in the stuff head-to-toe and ventured out with an asbestos net and an asbestos shield to put an end to the Human Torch, This story was actually the work of Ernie Hart (writing under the pseudonym H.E. Huntley) and Dick Ayers, and ultimately the Torch puts an end to the threat posed by the Asbestos Man by using his flame on the environment around him, causing him to fall through the floor, and consuming all of the oxygen around him so that he passes out.
STILT-MAN, DAREDEVIL #8. Given the talent involved here, they really should have known better. That said, the Stilt-Man was one of the more successful turkey super-villains of the era, coming back time and again to bedevil not just Daredevil but also Captain America and Ghost Rider and a bunch of others. Pretty good for a character whose main claim to fame is that his armored suit lets him get really tall. Stilt-Man was the brainchild of editor/scripter Stan Lee and plotter/artist Wally Wood, with some supposed kibbitzing in the mix from Jack Kirby. And his debut story wasn’t bad, which is no surprise with those creators at the helm. truly, no rooftop payroll depository or helicopter transporting valuables was safe within the Marvel Universe with this steel-clad villain on the prowl.
PASTE-POT PETE, STRANGE TALES #104. Clearly the champion in the lame-o villain sweepstakes, Paste-Pot Pete eventually reinvented himself as the Trapster, and has continued to get work defying the assorted Marvel heroes on the regular to this day–even as simultaneously they mock him for his absurd origins. Initially, he was a master criminal whose one and only weapon was a powerful adhesive paste. He’d carry around a pot of it along with a glue-gun that would fire off streams of the stuff. And this was enough to allow him to outwit and confound the police and to cause repeated headaches for the Human Torch and eventually the whole of the Fantastic Four. The fact that Jack Kirby came up with him, alongside Stan Lee and Larry Lieber, may have had something to do with his longevity. He also wore a smock and a beret as his fear-inducing costume, so he looked to all the world like a crazed pop artist on a mad spree.
LEAP-FROG, DAREDEVIL #25. I really don’t mean to be picking on Daredevil and the Human Torch exclusively–that’s simply how things worked out. And so it was that after a string of ill-considered baddies and enemies borrowed from other titles, writer Stan Lee and artist Gene Colan hit upon the mother lode for ol’ hornhead. The Leap-Frog made himself invincible by donning a seemingly ill-fitting frog costume–certainly an image that would stultify onlookers–and attaching hydraulic springs to his feet that allowed him to leap around like a jumping jack. He was a surprisingly durable for for Daredevil (quite possibly because DD was distracted in having to pose as his own twin brother, the ultra-cool Mike Murdock) and he returned on a few occasions, committed to the power of jumping as a method of crime. Eventually, his son would succeed him and attempt to redeem the good name of frogs everywhere as the fantastic Frog Man. But that wouldn’t happen until the 1980s. Until then, the Leap-Frog set the bar for underwhelming super-villainy.
THE LIVING ERASER, TALES TO ASTONISH #49. The Living Eraser had the honor of being the first villain battled by Henry Pym in his colossal new identity as Giant-Man–one of a number of attempts to rework the sluggish Ant-Man series to make it commercially viable. And he had a good, visual shtick, transporting victims to his own interdimensional universe by wiping them away with sweeps of his hands–a visual that artist/plotter Jack Kirby first came up with in his Simon & Kirby days. Stan Lee provided the dialogue here, failing to make the Eraser anything but a generic alien menace–he’s not even the main villain of this story but rather simply a functionary of an otherworldly regime that seeks to steal Earth’s top scientists and pick their brains. But Giant-Man and the Wasp are able to turn the tide and get everybody home in one piece. Amazingly, the Living Eraser returned in the 1970s in an issue of MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE, where he battled the Thing and Morbius of all people.