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The Most Unexpected Replacements For Major DC And Marvel Superheroes

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Vote up the weirdest replacements for real-deal superheroes.

For fans of comic books, accepting temporary replacement superheroes has become a reality of the medium - even the most high-selling heroes occasionally need to take time off and let legacy characters step into the spotlight. Typically, most vigilantes are succeeded by their sidekicks - Dick Grayson becomes Batman in Bruce Wayne’s absence, while Sam Wilson takes over as Captain America when Steve Rogers hangs up the shield - but every so often, a replacement hero crops up from out of left field.

Controversy tends to move comic books, which is why publishers like DC and Marvel Comics aren’t afraid to sometimes select an oddball fill-in for their most notable superheroes. Most times, these revamps bomb. But every now and then, a replacement catches on and becomes the sort of character that can stand on their own two feet - even if they usually have to give up the codename and find their own when the original inevitably returns. 

  • When Otto Octavius - better known as Doctor Octopus - is about to perish, he makes clever and diabolical use of a classic sci-fi trope - brain-swapping technology. Doc Ock manages to trade minds with his greatest enemy, taking over the body of Spider-Man and forcing Peter Parker to perish in the body of a pudgy old supervillain.

    Instead of using his newfound abilities for ill, Octavius is influenced by the memories and lingering personality of Parker to learn the lesson of great power and great responsibility, vowing to become the Superior Spider-Man. Indeed, Otto briefly proves to be a more effective - if much less altruistic - vigilante before his own limitations put the entire city of New York in danger. 

    Humbled by the experience, the Superior Spider-Man decides to reset his brain back to Peter Parker mode - erasing himself from existence and allowing the original Spidey to come back and save the day. 

  • The original Ant-Man is Hank Pym, though the second man to wear the mantle - Scott Lang - is arguably more famous. Whichever version one prefers, however, all can agree that Pym and Lang served the role more proudly than the third Ant-Man in Marvel Comics history, Eric O’Grady.

    O’Grady is a low-level S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who takes an Ant-Man suit from the body of his deceased friend and uses it for his own perverted means - including petty larceny and spying on women in the shower. Despite his irredeemable qualities, O’Grady eventually discovers a heroic streak when he gets recruited for the Secret Avengers, ultimately giving up his life to rescue a young boy from an underground robot city. 

  • Batman Was Replaced By A Religious Zealot In A Super Suit 
    Photo: DC Comics

    The infamous Knightfall saga sees Bruce Wayne crippled by Bane, leaving the role of Batman vacant and Gotham City without its greatest protector. Whereas most would expect Dick Grayson - the original Robin - to take up the mantle of the Dark Knight, Wayne’s choice for the new Batman is Jean-Paul Valley - a dangerous vigilante known as Azrael, who was raised in a religious cult from birth.

    Unable to fully escape the brainwashing of his upbringing, Valley proves to be an excessively cruel and sadistic caped crusader - upgrading the Batsuit with all manner of aggressive technology capable of unleashing severe bodily harm on even the most pedestrian of villains. Eventually, Bruce Wayne recovers from his paralysis through questionable means and returns to Gotham to confront Valley - ultimately defeating him and reclaiming the cowl. 

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    The Human Torch Was Replaced By A Non-Flammable Robot

    The Human Torch Was Replaced By A Non-Flammable Robot
    Photo: Hanna-Barbera

    When the Fantastic Four were adapted into a Hanna-Barbera cartoon in 1978, their roster was slightly altered - instead of the Human Torch, the rest of the FF was accompanied by H.E.R.B.I.E., a tiny, mostly useless, and entirely non-flammable robot. An oft-repeated urban legend holds that Johnny Storm was kept out of the animated series over fears that he would inspire children to light themselves on fire, but the reality is much more mundane.

    The Human Torch could not be included in the series because Stan Lee had already sold his rights separately for a solo movie venture that never actually got off the ground. That might explain Johnny’s absence, but it still doesn’t change the fact that replacing the Human Torch with H.E.R.B.I.E. was an odd choice.