Marvel Comics have always been innovative in their character creation. The sky really is the limit and the combination of Inhuman origins, Mutant DNA, cosmic connections, mystical, mythical and monstrous transformations, have all led to the invention of some truly bizarre individuals. Of course, the Marvel Cinematic Universe might have adapted some oddities, from Rocket and Groot to Leapfrog, but the source material is home to countless more truly weird ideas that have somehow managed to stand the test of time.
Many of these figures have made multiple appearances throughout comic book history. Most of them aren’t exactly leading figures and it’s unlikely that a titular run will be awarded to them anytime soon. But whether they are comedy characters or messed-up menaces, these heroes and villains continue to be entertaining every time they show up. Many have carried over from a bygone age of a team-up/antagonist of the week mentality that had resulted in throwing everything at the wall and seeing what would stick.
Elf With A Gun
Those who have a great memory for classic comics might be familiar with the character known as Melf. Created by Steve Gerber and Sal Buscema in the 1975 Defenders #25, the character took on the nickname of Elf With A Gun for obvious reasons. The origins of the odd figure were never known, but there was something that didn’t quite add up about the villain. In fact, the Elf With A Gun was never quite menacing enough; the very concept of the character left a lot to be desired. Supposedly looking to restore some kind of cosmic balance, the actual motivations of Melf were all a fraud.
Melf was eventually hit with a truck and killed off unceremoniously, but no powers were needed to carry on this strange legacy. Melf was barely missed before Relf, his nephew, showed up in Spider-Man Team-Up #5 in 1996. The second Elf With A Gun was thus born, with the character seeking vengeance for the original’s death. Fast-forward to Marvel’s Voices Infinity Comic #37 and the name somehow lives on. Now Hrelf, the great nephew of Melf, has entered the scene as the wholly inspired Elf With A Hrocket Launcher. Needless to say, the wacky idea has never gotten more normal, nor has there ever truly been an explanation for these figures.
Mutants have come in all forms. No one can control their physical transformation after all, when that X-gene first comes into play. Marvel creators have had a lot of fun imagining how the human body could evolve, but Bliss is one of those designs that might be best left on the drawing board. Created by Chris Claremont and Kieron Dwyer, the member of the Morlocks first made an appearance in Uncanny X-Men #261, which was released in 1990.
Bliss, who’s real name was never revealed, has never been a main player within the X-Men comics, but has shown up on a handful of occasions, to protect Madripoor, get accepted into Utopia and to demonstrate a smidgen of loyalty for Mutantkind. On the surface Bliss’ story isn’t that uncommon for a Mutant. But her power is really weird. Bliss has a whole face on the end of her tongue. With a barbed mouth within her mouth, Bliss attacks her enemies by utilizing her secondary face. It’s honestly grotesque in its execution and isn’t likely to warrant a cinematic adaptation anytime soon.
Ziggy Pig and Silly Seal
Marvel has always leaned into its comedy characters, especially when it comes to toonified animals. Throgg, Howard the Duck and Spider-Ham are three obvious examples, but those are all characters that audiences have become familiar with. Ziggy Pig and Silly Seal are on the next level. Created by Al Jaffee when Marvel was known as Timely Comics, the duo appeared as part of separate adventures in Krazy Komics #1, all the way back in 1942. In principle that’s pretty normal, since animal comics were best sellers during the time period.
Marvel has actually brought Ziggy Pig and Silly Seal back into the modern canon though, introducing them to the superhero universe throughout sporadic appearances. Recently Marvel Unlimited gifted them a titular run where Ziggy tried to scam the world into rejecting the Pet Avengers, a scheme that Silly was too silly to fully contribute to. The characters are always used in a whimsical and comical setting, but watching the looney-toon-esque figures interact with Deadpool and other such famous faces has never stopped being utterly wacky.
Stan Lee and Jack Kirby have definitely invented some all-time characters that will go down in pop-culture history. It’s ok to poke fun at a few of their creations therefore and the Living Eraser is absolutely one that jumps out for many of the most bizarre reasons. Real name Cutza, Tales to Astonish #49 in 1963 marked the debut of the Living Eraser. The alien was from Dimension Z and was designed as a wrinkled green figure, who’s oversized head was stuffed into a vibrant purple and white suit, very much of its era.
Just like Bliss, it’s the powers that made the character so memorable. The Living Eraser literally acted like the titular stationary item, removing parts of his victim from the page, one arm movement at a time. The explanation was that they were getting teleported elsewhere, but visually it seemed as if the artist was taking their equipment to the page and removing random elements each time. Despite 26 issues across history, Cutza hasn’t made much of an impact in recent years.
Boasting a name inspired by a Rolling Stones song, Ruby Thursday was first imagined by Steve Gerber, Sal Buscema and Jim Mooney to be published in the 1976 release of The Defenders #32. The background of the character is an interesting one, even if her real name, Thursday Rubinstein, might be a little derivative. The scientist managed to connect a super computer to her head, transforming her into the villain fans might know and potentially love today. Why that was envisioned as a giant red globe atop her head is still a mystery.
That red ball has remained a fixture of Ruby Thursday’s design right into the modern era. In fact, the character hasn’t been abandoned like so many strange ideas, perhaps because of the potential of her powers. Ruby Thursday’s ruby orb can remove itself from her body acting as a separate weapon, while also transforming itself into any number of items. The scientific genius has found no shortage of tasks for her head to complete, but it has never looked any more normal.
The Marvel Universe has quite the history of seeing villains launched that haven’t fully thought out their gimmick. While Daredevil fights the likes of Stilt-Man, a bizarre yet consistent foe in itself, Spider-Man has had to face someone even weirder. Big Wheel’s real name is Jackson Weele (no points for guessing the reason for the surname), with Marv Wolfman, Ross Andru, and Mike Esposito debuting him in The Amazing Spider-Man #183 in 1978.
Fans of Revenge of the Sith might see a few similarities in Big Wheel’s design to that of Grievous’ own mechanical monstrosity, with Weele driving into battle in a giant wheel. It was equipped with an array of guns, missiles and other contraptions, but in truth, Big Wheel mostly just drove around. It’s hard to imagine the eccentric nemesis ever doing much damage, but that didn’t mystifyingly stop a second antagonist taking on the same name. Not much is known about the spare Big Wheel, but he was even less successful than the first.
There’s a super weapon among the X-Men that no one seems to talk about. Doop. You read that right. Invented by Peter Milligan and Mike Allred for X-Force #116 in 2001, the little green creature was supposedly a cold war experiment. Deemed a Mutant, Doop has been a member of multiple teams, with the character recently making a permanent stay on the X-Statix; a group that has its fair share of out-there personalities.
It’s not really clear what Doop actually is. The floating goo is incredibly powerful though, with psychic abilities, durability, flight, strength, omniscience and a whole host of other powers. In many ways Doop is terrifying, because the true potential of the X-member has never been tapped into. The character communicates in a language undiscovered by mankind, and yet everyone can understand him. That’s one of the least weird things about Doop!
Armless Tiger Man
Armless Tiger Man, who’s genuine name is Gustav Hertz, was launched as part of Marvel Mystery Comics #26 in 1941. Paul Gustavson came up with the creation, who had lost his arms in a mechanical accident. Swearing vengeance on all machines, Armless Tiger Man was manipulated by the Nazis to sabotage the technology of the United States. As villainous backstories go, there certainly won’t be any copycats.
Armless Tiger Man had to learn how to use his feet effectively, leaping into combat often with a knife impressively held between his toes. His mouth was unexplainably and bizarrely super strong to the extent that it could bend metals, and his teeth had been filed into fangs. By the time he was sent into action his incisors had randomly grown in size, but the allies would have been perplexed not by his beastly facial features but by the technological motivations of the skilled warrior. With a profile like that, it is shocking that only 8 appearances were gifted to Hertz… Perhaps there’s room for a comeback, but if that is the case, a bright yellow onesie accompanied by black trunks probably isn’t the best look to go with.
Marvel will never stop coming up with odd characters to throw into their stories. While there are so many more that could be mentioned, from Hellcow to Jeff the Shark, the beauty of reading through this classic literature is that there is an infinite roster of surprise designs that could reveal themselves to readers at any unexpected opportunity. That’s why it’s always worth heading back into the archives to uncover further forgotten faces.