Since it’s incorporation in 1934, DC Comics has been responsible for the creation of thousands of characters from as many universes, galaxies, planets, dimensions, timelines… I could go on. Superheroes such as the Watchmen and Swamp Thing debuted in a sub-sect of DC Comics entitled Vertigo, while the Justice League, the Green Lantern Corps, etc., make up the rest (and the bulk) of the DC Universe.
The Justice League in its formative years began with 8 members (Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Hawk-Girl, Martian Manhunter and the Flash, with Batman and Aquaman as part-time members), and later expanded to include nearly 60 more superheroes from across the globe (such as the sibling team of Hawk and Dove and the Marvel family, though they were members only briefly). The DC Universe has also recently been merged with another creation of DC Comics called the Wildstorm Universe, introducing to the fray such characters as Grifter, the WildC.A.T.s and many others.
Amidst the never-ending array of universes and stories, it’s easy to miss out on a few (hundred) names here and there. So to fill in a few of those gaps, here are a few of the some-what lesser-known heroes of DC Comics.
1. Red Tornado
He’s not exactly lesser-known, but he’s not one of the Super Seven either. Red Tornado is an android created by the mad scientist T.O Morrow, Thomas Oscar Morrow, who used would use technology from the future to help create his inventions. According to the anthology followed in the animated series Young Justice (2010-present), he was created by Morrow following two failed experiments to create human-like androids to infiltrate the Justice League, Red Inferno, and Red Torpedo, who could control the elements fire and water respectively.
Red Tornado maintained the power to channel wind, and in the comics, is an android inhabited by the air elemental known as Ulthoon, a sentient elemental that has made its way across the universe, in the forms of both good and evil personalities, such as the Tornado Champion, and the Tornado Tyrant. I’m sure you can guess which is which. Red Tornado broke away from his original programming to spy on the Justice League and aid in its destruction and eventually became amongst their most powerful (and heroic) members, in a never-ending quest to understand humanity.
Red Tornado takes up residence in the little town of Happy Harbour and one day settles down with a family of his own. But his role in the Justice League is unforgettable, having sacrificed himself on multiple occasions to bring down the forces of evil. Red Tornado has made appearances in Infinite Crisis (2005), Crisis on Infinite Earths (1985-1986) and numerous issues of Justice League, as well as in the animated series Young Justice (2010-present), Batman: The Brave and The Bold (2008-2011), and Justice League Unlimited (2004-2006).
Meet Priscilla Kitaen, of the Wildstorm Universe. An exotic dancer from… well, a little bit of everywhere, who found herself gifted with something called “The Sight”, that allowed her to see people being possessed by creatures of the darkness known as Daemonites, and exorcise them. Though her career (in both fields) began in New York, while being hunted by the Daemonites, she was rescued by the WildC.A.T.S and spent a brief period as a member of the team before a coma ended her short-lived jaunt as a super-hero.
Following a series of other adventures into her heritage on the planet Khera, this sexy stripper returned to a life of dancing in New Orleans, where she discovered further powers possessed by her, to channel the spirit of Erzulie, the goddess of loa (love and women). As detailed in the 4 issue limited series of 1997, written by Alan Moore, her newfound powers granted her the ability to create worship in those around her with her dance, should she so choose, and battle the strongest of Voodoo forces. All this as a novice. Inspired by the experience, Priscilla chose to become an apprentice to a mambo in the art of Voodoo, before returning to super-heroine with the WildC.A.T.S and Team 7.
Following the recently release of the Justice League (2017) movie, most people are aware of the character Darkseid, an almost omnipotent God from the planet Apocalypse, where he rules with an iron fist, drenching the land in fire pits and forcing his subjects to help him in his eternal quest for the Anti-Life Equation. The Planet Apocalypse was created alongside another planet, named New Genesis, a land of beauty, peace, and sustenance ruled by compassionate but powerful Highfather. Darkseid, Highfather and the other superpowered citizens of these worlds are together known as the New Gods.
New Genesis and Apocalypse were at war for hundreds of years, until finally a truce was arrived at by which the sons of Darkseid and Highfather would be traded, as a treatise of peace between the two planets. So it became that Scot Free, A.K.A Mister Miracle would be raised on Apocalypse by Darkseid, and Orion, son of Darkseid was raised on New Genesis by Highfather. In the alternate universe of the animated movie Justice League: Gods and Monsters (2015), the granddaughter of Highfather is betrothed to Orion in a similar attempt at peace between the two worlds.
As a member of the Gods of New Genesis, Orion grew up with a sense of justice and freedom, often battling his father and the forces of Apocalypse who only wish to subjugate. Though he is a noble warrior, he still maintains much of his father’s rage and impatience. But every step of the way he shows us that in his case nurture wins out over nature. He currently stands as the leader of the armed forces of New Genesis.
Another creation of the Wildstorm universe, Majestros, alias Mister Majestic, was once a Kherubim Warlord, born and raised on the planet Khera, where he would later also have two children, presumably with different women. Some supers tend to play it fast and loose. During a war between the Kherubims and Daemonites (enter Voodoo), Majestros found himself trapped on Earth for centuries, endlessly caught in the battle for justice and even forming a team to fight alongside during World War II and being recruited by the Government during the Cold War. He then served for many years as the team leader of the WildC.A.T.S.
His brain having been poisoned by a villain, he begins to lead them down a violent path, dispensing cruel punishment to both human and superhuman criminals alike. He eventually quits the team and searches for purpose elsewhere, fighting rebellions on his home planet and even making a few jaunts into the DC Universe (before the integration). Majestros, as an immortal being, was amongst the few characters that lived to see the end of all life in the universe in the Wildstorm Spotlight story entitled “The Big Chill” (1997).
5. The Atom
Proof that the biggest of heroes can come in the smallest packages, Ray Palmer was a scientist, a well-renowned physicist who dabbled in research into the uses of nanotechnology. During the course of his research, Dr. Palmer discovered a meteor that was later determined to be a fragment of white dwarf star material that had fallen to earth and theorized that the power of the meteor could be channeled through a lens and focused to shrink objects. But when he attempted to turn theory to reality, the device rendered all shrunken objects unstable, causing them to explode.
A disappointed Ray Palmer decided to work off the stress and joined a group of friends on a spelunking trip. But a cave-in resulted in the group being trapped and in an instant of desperation, Ray Palmer used the shrink on himself to help his friends escape. Much to his surprise, he didn’t explode and he was able to return to his normal size. He eventually discovered that he possessed a “metagene”, something in his genetic make-up that prevented his atoms from becoming unstable. Armed with his newly synthesized shrink ray,
Ray Palmer used his ability to alter his size and weight, and superior intellect to battle injustice and became the hero known as The Atom, the Mighty Mite of Ivy Town. In his long-standing career with the Justice League, this tiny titan has fought alongside many heroes, including the Big Three (Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman), the Hawks from Thanagar, Flash, Aquaman etc, with his adventures taking him all across the galaxy (and the DC Animated Universe).
The Dark Knight may be our favorite vigilante, but he’s not the only one. In the DC Universe, two people have donned a mask and taken the name Vigilante, though they share nothing else in common besides the name. The original Vigilante, appearing first in 1941, was named Greg Sanders and was the gun-slinging, fast-talking crime-fighter of the Old West. In keeping with the older, non-PC days, he also had a side-kick named Stuff, the Chinatown Kid. This version of Vigilante also makes multiple appearances (minus the sidekick, of course) in the animated series Justice League Unlimited (2004-2006) and Batman: The Brave and the Bold (2008-2011).
4 decades later, a new Vigilante was created for the comics (no DCAU appearances as yet), a much darker anti-hero of sorts. His story when a nice guy (relatively), a lawyer named Adrian Chase, who spent many years using the legal system to put bad guys away, watched his family get murdered and the killers go free. Shattered by the tragic loss, he reinvented himself as the spandex-clad masked anti-hero Vigilante, who dispensed justice to criminals with what he believed was a justified brutality that became legendary and inspired others in his time to take up the costume but proceed as judge, jury, and executioner.
After years of fighting the worst kind of criminals, Chase struggled with his internal conflict to do good and his decision to take the law into his own hands. He eventually met his own sad end, and the mantle was taken up by many others after him.
The story of Kamandi takes place on a parallel universe, centuries into the future. Or the past depending on the story. Kamandi is the grandson of a man named Buddy Blank, a janitor who once worked for the Global Peace agency that was turned by them into a super-powered force called the One Man Army Corps, or O.M.A.C. In a post-apocalyptic world where genetic mutations and evolution has caused animals to develop human-like traits, walking upright and speaking languages. Over the decades, these Animal-Men would come to take over the planet for themselves and humans, now left without structure or social culture, began to devolve into a lesser species with minimal intelligence and capabilities. Buddy Blank, having been witness to the rise of the kingdoms of the Animal-Men (Tiger-men, Wolf-men, etc) and their enslavement of humans, he raised his grandson in hiding and taught him what he could about Earth before the disaster, when humans were once a dominant life form. Named after the bunker he was born in (Command-D), Kamandi, also known as the Last Boy on Earth, was inspired by the lessons taught by his grandfather about humans and began a quest to find more people like him and free as many human slaves as possible along the way aided by his friends, a hyper-intelligent dog-man named Doctor Canus, and a few other humans.
8. The Creeper
Despite the resemblance to Joker in his mannerisms (and all-out insanity), the Creeper is on the right side of the law. Created by the injection of an experimental nano cell therapy into his bloodstream by Dr Vincent Yatz, the Creeper was granted the power of rapid healing, enhanced reflexes and many other gifts, including a pain-inducing laugh, that can literally cause his victims to suffer immense pain on hearing it. His alternate personality is Jack Ryder, a reporter for the Gotham City TV Station, known for his fiery opinions, constant quests for the truth and antagonizing guests on his show to make a point. Though the story of the origin of his powers is slightly different in the DCAU, his personality (both of them, that is), remains the same. Ryder (the Lois Lane of Gotham by day) can at will transform into the Creeper, or as he calls himself in Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995), “Yellow-skinned Wacky Man”. Draped in a bright red feather boa (and very little else), the Creeper uses his powers and insanity to fight the good fight with Batman in Gotham City and even assisted the Justice League in many a battle.
9. The Question
A faceless detective by night and investigative reporter by day, Vic Sage has been a member of the Justice League, the Black Lantern Corps and even the L.A.W (Living Assault Weapons – not quite the law we are used to, but desperate times). Driven by a greater knowledge and thirst for a deeper meaning to the universe, and armed with martial arts skills taught to him by experts such as Lady Shiva, the Question is the world’s greatest conspiracy theorist, connecting dots where you wouldn’t believe there were any and discovering the 32nd Baskin & Robbins flavor (Justice League Unlimited (2004-2006) for the win!). Hailing from the same city as Ted Kord, the hero that eventually would come to take the mantle of the Blue Beetle, Sage keeps Hub City safe from the underground crimes, donning a mask that completely hides his face (and disguises his hair color) using an experimental material known as pseudoderm. But he does often take time off to help the Justice League with their many battles, facing off with such villains as Darkseid and Lex Luthor, and even had a large role in the protection of Gotham City. He eventually trained and was replaced by Renee Montoya, a detective in the Gotham City Police Department.
10. Elongated Man
Ralph Dibny was a normal kid from Nebraska, constantly lost in dreams of fortune and fame. During his days as a junior detective, one day at a carnival, he found himself fascinated by the antics of a group of contortionists who performed there as a side attraction and on further investigation, determined that the source of their power was a rare fruit. Distilling the fruit into its concentrate form, Dibny found a way to access the true potential of the same, and somehow avoid the poisonous effects of the same and became the Elongated Man, which game him the power of absolute dexterity and shapeshifting. Think Mr. Fantastic meets Mystique. The same fruit was eventually used to create the chemical substance the Question would use for his mask. Ralph then moved to Central City, where he would eventually become good friends with Barry Allen, the Flash, and hone in his detective skills, despite a lack of formal training. During the course of his Central City adventures, Ralph met Sue Dearbon, and with a whirlwind romance, they were soon married. Ralph and Sue Dibny would go on to have many adventures together, during some of the greatest years of the Justice League, refusing to stay parted even by death. Ralph Dibny has been a member of the Justice League, the Justice League International and the Justice League Europe, amongst others, and has made notable appearances in the comic series Identity Crisis (2004-2005), and the animated series Justice League Unlimited (2004-2006) and Batman: the Brave and the Bold (2008-2011).