Superhero replacements are not just commonplace but virtually inevitable, with the endless serial nature of comic book storytelling necessitating endless twists, turns, and reinventions - which sometimes even means replacing individuals under that iconic mask. Sometimes, it works out, like when Jane Foster brought new meaning to the title of Almighty Thor, but most of the time it doesn’t, and the competition for the title of worst superhero replacement ever is fierce.
At the end of the day, most fans are willing to accept a temporary stand-in for their favorite hero - even those particularly surprising substitutes - but never for very long. Eventually, they almost always demand the return of the original, and the replacement has to either carve out a new costumed niche for themselves or fade into the background of continuity. Vote up the superhero transitions that got a well-deserved cold shoulder.
- Photo: Marvel Comics
How'd He Take Over? The Clone Saga is infamous for completely upending the course of Peter Parker’s life. A series of tragedies and moral conundrums all led up to the big reveal that the person Peter had thought was his clone, operating under the names Ben Reilly and Scarlet Spider, was actually the real deal - and that Peter was the clone all along, bamboozled by his implanted memories. With this shocking news, Peter and Mary Jane decided to settle down away from New York City, and leave the mantle of Spider-Man to Ben.
How Long Did He Last? The big reveal occurred in July 1995’s The Spectacular Spider-Man #226, but Parker got over it by October’s The Spectacular Spider-Man #229 and offered up his webshooters to his clone “brother.” A year later, in October 1996’s Spider-Man #75, Ben’s time in the spotlight came to a merciless end.
How'd He Lose The Gig? Though Parker had attempted to retire from webslinging, the ongoing events of the Clone Saga brought him back into the action - and into conflict with the Green Goblin alongside Reilly. In the end, Ben jumped in front of the Goblin’s glider to save Peter and was fatally impaled, crumbling to dust shortly thereafter and confirming once and for all that he had been the clone all along.19134Hard pass?
- Photo: DC Comics
How'd He Take Over? When Bane broke the Batman’s back, Bruce Wayne had the opportunity to choose anyone he wanted as his successor, with most assuming he’d hand the cowl over to Dick Grayson, the current Nightwing and original Robin. Instead, Wayne inexplicably picked Jean-Paul Valley, a vigilante known as Azrael who had been raised in a religious cult and struggled with violent impulses, and who had only been introduced a year prior.
How Long Did He Last? Valley became the Batman in August 1993’s Batman #498, and stayed in the role for exactly a year until August 1994’s Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #63.
How'd He Lose The Gig? Wayne procured the cutting-edge services of Dr. Shondra Kinsolving, who somehow managed to knit his spine back together. Meanwhile, Valley began to trick the Batsuit out with more and more high-tech weaponry and loosen his adherence to the typical non-lethal code of the Dark Knight. So it was only a matter of time until the real Batman came out of retirement to lay a whooping on Valley and forcibly reclaim the mantle.20445Hard pass?
- Photo: DC Comics3
The New Lobo Was Somehow Even More Hateable That The Original
How'd He Take Over? In the wake of The New 52, a new, much sleeker version of Lobo appeared on the scene, and claimed he was the genuine main man, with the classic Czarnian being an impostor of sorts. He hunted down the supposed substitute and chopped his head off, bringing the debate to a firm conclusion.
How Long Did He Last? The new Lobo first appeared in November 2013’s Justice League #23.2: Lobo. The original Lobo reappeared with 2016’s DC Rebirth, where he quickly reasserted himself as the real deal, and the other guy quietly faded into the background, last appearing in one of Brainiac’s bottles in March 2017’s Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #12.
How'd He Lose The Gig? The “pretty boy” Lobo proved so unpopular, DC Comics didn’t really feel the need to justify the return of the original. He just came back, briefly joined Batman’s Justice League squad, and everyone seemed to just agree to forget about that whole impostor thing.15221Hard pass?
- Photo: Marvel Comics
How'd He Take Over? In the present day, it was revealed that Kang the Conqueror had been using time travel to retroactively rewrite Tony Stark’s personal history, to the point that Stark was now an effective sleeper agent. When Iron Man started slaying his fellow Avengers, they made the unconventional choice to travel back in time, pluck a teen Tony from an earlier point in the timeline, and bring him to the future to confront his older self. The original Stark nearly brought down his younger self, but doing so jarred him from Kang’s influence and he instead chose to sacrifice his life to stop the Conqueror. Teen Tony stayed in the present as the one and only Iron Man.
How Long Did He Last? Teen Tony was plucked from the timestream in December 1995’s Avengers: Timeslide #1. He seemingly sacrificed his life, too, at the climax of the Onslaught event, and when Iron Man reappeared in a pocket dimension of Franklin Richards's creation for September 1996’s Heroes Reborn, he was back to his usual maturity.
How'd He Lose The Gig? Like countless other non-mutant heroes, Teen Tony seemed to sacrifice himself to stop Onslaught, a being created from the combined psychic energy of Professor X and Magneto. Instead, all of these characters were saved from destruction by Franklin Richards, the uber-powerful child of the Invisible Woman and Mister Fantastic, who shuffled them into a pocket dimension and conveniently reconfigured their continuities before returning them to the regular Marvel Universe. One such reset was the re-aging of Tony Stark, and so Teen Tony quietly passed from existence.10821Hard pass?