9 Times Comic Book Fans Rejected A Hero’s Successor

None Of The Four Replacement Supermen Could Hold A Candle To Kal-El

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.

1. The New Lobo Was Somehow Even More Hateable That The Original

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.

2. Batman Could Have Chosen Anyone As His Successor – But He Picked Azrael

Batman Could Have Chosen Anyone As His Successor - But He Picked Azrael

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.

3. A Time-Traveling Teen Tony Stark Took Over For His Evil Older Self

A Time-Traveling Teen Tony Stark Took Over For His Evil Older Self

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.

4. Ben Reilly Was The Real Spider-Man, Until He Wasn’t

Ben Reilly Was The Real Spider-Man, Until He Wasn’t

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.

5. None Of The Four Replacement Supermen Could Hold A Candle To Kal-El

None Of The Four Replacement Supermen Could Hold A Candle To Kal-El

How’d They Take Over? When the Man of Steel made headlines by dying at the hands of Doomsday in the Death of Superman mega-event, he was quickly replaced by not one, but four new crimefighters for Reign of the SupermanJohn Henry Irons wore an Iron Man-esque suit of armor as Steel. A mixed clone of Kal-El and Lex Luthor took up the mantle of Superboy. Hank Henshaw built a robotic shell for his disembodied consciousness and became Cyborg Superman. And an ancient Kryptonian living weapon known as the Eradicator took Superman’s form as the Last Son of Krypton and claimed to be the real deal. 

How Long Did They Last? The replacement Supermen started showing up in June 1993’s Action Comics #687. Though DC Comics toyed with the possibility that one of these four was the real deal, everyone knew they weren’t – and the actual real deal returned to life in October’s Superman #82.

How’d They Lose The Gig? Cyborg Superman soon proved himself a global threat, leading to the other three replacement Supermen uniting against him in a fight that brought them within close vicinity of Kal-El’s body – which, as it turns out, was only mostly dead. A stray blast of Kryptonite revived his powers, and the original Superman snapped back into action just in time to shake his cyborg counterpart to pieces.

6. The Avengers Lost Two Iconic Members When Hawkeye Replaced Hank Pym As Goliath

The Avengers Lost Two Iconic Members When Hawkeye Replaced Hank Pym As Goliath

How’d He Take Over? Over the years, Hank Pym had worn countless identities for the Avengers: Ant-Man, Giant-Man, Yellowjacket, and Goliath. Eventually, however, he came to the conclusion that his constant size-changing was affecting his mental stability and decided to hang up his Pym Particles for good. In an emergency situation later that same issue, Hawkeye decided to take up both the mantle and the gigantic proportions of his teammate, becoming Goliath II and giving up his trademark bow.

How Long Did He Last? Clint Barton became Goliath II in April 1969’s Avengers #63. He stayed that way for three whole years, going back to being plain ol’ Hawkeye in April 1972’s Avengers #98.

How’d He Lose The Gig? It wasn’t necessarily that anyone missed Pym on the roster of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes – he’d already returned to the team as Yellowjacket and subsequently left again. But the people missed Hawkeye, and so Barton just sort of decided to stop being Goliath and go back to firing arrows at supervillains, as Stan Lee intended.

7. Bart Allen As The Flash Was A Regrettable Impulse

Bart Allen As The Flash Was A Regrettable Impulse

How’d He Take Over? When Barry Allen perished in the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths, he was replaced by Wally West, who was so well-received in the role that he stuck with it for more than a decade. But when it was time for Wally to disappear into the Speed Force following a fight with Superboy-Prime, the gig fell to Bart Allen, Barry’s somewhat obnoxious grandson from the future who insisted on going by Kid Flash.

How Long Did He Last? Wally disappeared in March 2006’s Infinite Crisis #4, and in that same event, Bart also spent time inside the Speed Force, returning several years older and ready to take on the mantle of Flash without the kid stuff. He lasted until August 2007’s The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #17, when he was brutally slain by the Rogues.

How’d He Lose The Gig? Following Bart’s demise, a returned Wally and Jay Garrick took up the Flash legacy. Then, after several teases, Barry Allen finally returned for good in August 2008’s Final Crisis #2, and he’s been the primary Flash ever since, even through multiple continuity reboots.

8. Matrix Somehow Had An Even More Complicated Backstory Than The Original Supergirl

Matrix Somehow Had An Even More Complicated Backstory Than The Original Supergirl

How’d She Take Over? The original Supergirl was one of many heroes to give their lives to the Crisis on Infinite Earths, perishing in battle with the Anti-Monitor. Then, a couple years later, a new Supergirl arrived on the scene – though she wasn’t quite what she seemed. This take on the character was actually a “protoplasmic matrix” appropriately named Matrix, hailing from an alternate universe where it was created by a benevolent Lex Luthor. It was given the form of Supergirl and sent to the mainstream DC Universe to recruit Superman to defeat some baddies in her homeworld, after which he invited it to stay in his reality.

How Long Did She Last? Matrix first appeared in April 1988’s Superman #16, where her mystery was quickly unraveled. Amazingly, she stuck around for a good long while, mostly going by Matrix and palling around with the mainstream Lex Luthor until she merged with a dying human to become a brand-new Supergirl in September 1996’s Supergirl Vol 4 #1. 

How’d She Lose The Gig? Matrix and Linda Danvers were eventually separated in November 2002’s Supergirl #74, after which Matrix became something known as an Angel of Fire – and was never heard from again. Several continuity reboots led to the return of Kara Zor-El to the role of Supergirl anyway, starting with 2004’s Superman/Batman #8.

9. Amadeus Cho Wasn’t A Totally Awesome Hulk

Amadeus Cho Wasn’t A Totally Awesome Hulk

How’d He Take Over? A long-time friend and ally of the Hulk, young genius Amadeus Cho conceived of a way to cure Bruce Banner of his affliction – which had just begun having explosive side-effects – but only by absorbing it into himself. At first, Cho proved far more capable of controlling the influence of gamma radiation as the Totally Awesome Hulk, though it didn’t take long for his own demons to bubble to the surface.

How Long Did He Last? Cho first hulked out in December 2015’s Totally Awesome Hulk #1, and has remained in the role ever since, though he switched his moniker to “Brawn” in September 2018’s Champions #22. Banner was slain by Hawkeye of all people – at his own request, in Civil War II #3 when it looked like he was on the verge of becoming the Hulk again – but he returned Hulkier than ever in Avengers #684.

How’d He Lose The Gig? When Banner came back to life for the umpteenth time, he finally figured out the reason why – the Hulk, and all gamma mutates like himself, are functionally unkillable. He’s now known as the Immortal Hulk, the former She-Hulk goes by just “Hulk” and has taken his place on the Avengers, and Cho has graciously chosen to drop the Hulk motif altogether while retaining the green muscles.