When you think super-teams in the DC Comics universe, the Justice League comes to mind immediately, maybe followed by the Teen Titans, the Justice Society and half a dozen others. I’m going to delve a little deeper, and take a journey into the forgotten corners of the DC universe. Here’s a look at some of the forgotten teams of the DC Universe.
The Forgotten Heroes, and Villains
Yeah, talk about on the nose, these guys are actually called the Forgotten Heroes, and yeah, in a whirlwind of creativity, their foes were called the Forgotten Villains. Sigh. Sometimes, DC, you are just so hard to love. The Forgotten Heroes were officially organized in 1983 by writer Marv Wolfman and artist Gil Kane. It was an obvious ploy to dig for gold in the nostalgia well by bringing back obscure favorites who had not been seen in decades. Their membership included Cave Carson, Rip Hunter, Dane Dorrance, the pre-Peter David Dolphin, the pre-James Robinson Congorilla, the pre-John Ostrander Rick Flag, Jr., and the pre-Grant Morrison Animal Man. Led by the Immortal Man, they helped Superman fight Vandal Savage.
Their foes, the Forgotten Villains, were similarly nostalgic and almost forgotten villains from decades past. Their roster included Atom-Master, Kraklow the Magician, Ultivac, Mr. Poseidon, Yggardis the Living Planet, one of the Faceless Hunters from Saturn, and the pre-John Ostrander Enchantress. Many of these characters (hero and villain) were considered silly in retrospect, but the fact that many were re-introduced into continuity, sometimes to critical acclaim just proves there are no bad characters, only bad writers. A later version of the Forgotten Heroes confronted Resurrection Man, thinking him to be Immortal Man.
I’m still waiting for the New 52 revival of these guilty pleasure favorites. If only they added Mark Merlin, Madame Fatal, and the Green Glob to their membership, I would be one happy (and old) fanboy.
This ‘fantastic four’ created by Jack Kirby for DC Comics in 1957 is considered by many to be a prototype version of the real Fantastic Four. Ace Morgan, Red Ryan, Rocky Davis, and Professor Haley (joined later by June, Tino, and Corinna, among others) were a non-powered team of risk-taking adventurers who ‘were living on borrowed time.’ They were essentially the Fantastic Four without powers as most of the menaces and threats they faced were of a metahuman, supernatural or extraterrestrial design.
Some of their foes even showed up in the Forgotten Villains. In their day, the Challs seemed to have tied the Doom Patrol for the most bizarre and monstrous rogues gallery in comics. The Challengers of the Unknown have returned recently in a new incarnation currently appearing in DC Universe Presents. The new concept focuses on a reality show for explorers, featuring new versions of many of the original Challs characters. It’s well worth picking up, if you haven’t already.
The Sea Devils were also a non-powered Silver Age foursome who fought really messed up villains and monsters, only they did it on the ocean floor. In an age when Aquaman has trouble keeping a title without getting cancelled, the Sea Devils had their own comic for six years, and they even crossed over with the Challengers. Led by Forgotten Hero Dane Dorrance, the Devils were June and Nicky Walton, along with Biff Bailey; they were just basic undersea explorers and adventurers. It was their adventures that set them apart, facing weirdies like King Neptune, the Man-Fish, and the Octopus Man. They even teamed up with a group of DC Comics artists once. Fun stuff.
The Original Teen Titans
Speaking of DC artists, one of the greatest is a guy named Nick Cardy. His covers alone define the Bronze Age of comics at DC, but in my opinion, he made his mark on a little book called Teen Titans. No, not the New Teen Titans by Marv Wolfman and George Perez, but the team that existed before that group’s comic was canceled the first time. We’re talking 1969-1973, baby. Writer Bob Haney and Nick Cardy told tales for the times, groovy stories of the beat generation, set amongst the superhero sidekicks. Man, did I dig these stories.
Back in the day the super hipsters Robin, Kid Flash, Speedy and Wonder Chick, I mean Girl, along with the teenage psychic Lilith Clay and Mal Duncan, DC’s first regularly appearing African-American character, solved mysteries Scooby-Doo style in and out of costume under the tutelage of their mentor Mr. Jupiter. It was a dynamic that could have only worked in the swinging sixties. It was a short but fun era that was highlighted by the semi-realistic art of Cardy, and although dated, in my opinion are some of the best Teen Titans stories ever told.
The Seven Soldiers of Victory
When most folks think of the Seven Soldiers of Victory, they’re thinking of Grant Morrison’s intriguing non-team featured in the multi-title mini-series that served as a prologue to his Final Crisis. I’m not talking about them, but the team I speak of did serve as their inspiration, and are perhaps one of the biggest victims of the comic book device called the retcon.
Law’s Legionnaires, as they were alternately called, consisted of the Shining Knight, Green Arrow and Speedy, the Crimson Avenger, the Star-Spangled Kid and Stripesy, and the Vigilante. Basically DC tried to do the big superteam trick again, these were the best B-listers the Golden Age had to offer – who weren’t already members of the Justice Society of America, of course. Just like the JSA in All-Star Comics appeared in solo chapters and finally solved the case or beat the villain together in the last part, so too did the Seven Soldiers in Leading Comics.
They were revived decades later and then fell victim to the Crisis of Infinite Earths. With redundant characters removed from continuity along with the multiverse, replacements had to be found for Green Arrow and Speedy, or the team could be called the Seven Soldiers any longer. Sidekicks like Wing, Stuff, and Billy Gunn were added to the mix post-Crisis. Later, the heroes (or villains in certain cases) Alias the Spider, and TNT and Dan the Dynamite were claimed as members.
I prefer the original membership, and the original continuity. And as long as I’m at it, I would also recommend their revival in Justice League of America #100-102 and the Grant Morrison stories mentioned above. Another great team, gone but should never be forgotten.
And there you go, some examples of superhero teams gone but not forgotten. Maybe some talented creators will come along and breathe new life into these concepts someday, like Morrison did in our last example, perhaps not. Either way, I still remember them fondly.