10 Of Comic Book History’s Most Dubious Dopplegangers
In traditional folklore, the doppelgänger (from the German, meaning “double-goer”) is a person's spectral double, which, when seen, is a portent of death. In superhero comics and other genre literature, the evil twin or doppelgänger has been a common plot element since man could grow a goatee. Such evil doubles have returned to the spotlight recently due to the Crime Syndicate's debut in the New 52 as part of the Forever Evil storyline. But while many superhero fans know Bizarro, Sinestro, or Venom, here are ten lesser known evil twins/counterparts/doppelgängers.
One of the earliest evil twins of a comics superhero is the Rival, a dark version of the Golden Age Flash who precedes any version of the Reverse Flash. He begins as a college professor who figured out the formula that gave the Flash his speed, and he becomes criminally enraged when others in the academic community do not believe him, even though he is, and I quote, “famous for other inventions in Europe.” I wonder what the academic community's opinion is on his girlfriend in Canada.
Anyway, obviously he does a crime spree, assisted by crooks to whom he has given the speed formula. As will one day happen to Usain Bolt, he eventually finds himself trapped in the Speed Force. But his speed formula wears off, and so the breakneck pace of the Speed Force drives him irreparably insane. Eventually he returns as a being of pure speed energy (science note: this is not a thing that exists) and possesses the Flash's other fast friend from the Golden Age, Max Mercury. This is literally never addressed again.
Vengeance is what happens when someone looks at Ghost Rider and says, “Hmm, nope. Not crazy enough.” It is a war of van-painting attrition: our guy is a flaming skeleton head on a motorcycle, their guy is another, more different skeleton head on a FLAMING motorcycle who shoots magical chains that are also on fire, so we have to come back at them with a still more different PURPLE skeleton head on a flaming motorcycle MADE OF SHINY BONES and who is also covered with spikes of such immense length that he could never shrug or scratch his head at risk of immediate spike death.
Captain Britain is a member of the Captain Britain Corps, an assembly of heroes who protect Britain or its multiversal equivalent through all the infinite earths in existence. This unlimited variety leads to a wide spectrum of moralities under the title of hero, including Enforcer Capone, from a world where murder is legal, and Captain Airstrip-One, who has always been at war with Captain Eurasia.
But if quantum theory is anything like popular historical fiction, about 95% of worlds must be ones where the Nazis won World War II. Such is the world where Hauptmann Englande is protector, together with his Nazi version of Excalibur, the Lightning Force, which includes the ghost of an executed Kitty Pryde and Nightcrawler, dressed for his knife-fight scene in the “Beat It” video.
Superman has basically one million evil counterparts: Bizarro, that Cyborg one, Superboy Prime, Negative Superman, Ultraman, that one that flicked peanuts through mirrors, etc. But above all these others towers the might of the Super-Menace!
Did you know: as the yonic metaphor carrying the baby Kal-El rocketed through the cosmos, it was shot by a rogue duplicating ray which made another baby Kal-El who also crashed on earth, just like the Kal-El we know! Wait, one difference: he was raised by criminals, so he became Super-Brat to reg-style Kal's Super-Baby, Super-Bully to his Super-Boy, and Super-Menace to his Superman! Wait, one other difference: he was immune to kryptonite radiation, so he brought down meteors packed with green K so that he could kill Superman and be the last Kal standing! Wait, one other other difference: he was made of energy and not actual person parts, so when he realizes killing Superman would not fulfill him and all he really wants is love, he turns back to his energy form and blows up himself and the criminals who raised him.
This is canon, by the way. Also Super-Menace just looked like Superman in a domino mask carrying a bag of money with the amount of money contained within printed on it.
In 1992, the Magus, himself an evil version of Adam Warlock who had an afro in the '70s and a ponytail in the 90s, started a war—an Infinity War, in fact, which I assume means it's still going on today—which for some reason was centered around making a bunch of evil doppelgängers of Earth superheroes. Look, I could not afford all those tie-ins as a kid. I have no idea what the hell was going on.
Anyway, notable doppelgängers included a six-armed, compound-eyed Spider-Man who just got called Doppelgänger as far as I know, an evil Daredevil called Hellspawn, and Moon Knight's opposite number, Moonshade, which, uh...that is technically a name, at least. But I think we can all agree the most significant of these doppelgängers was the evil twin of Robbie Baldwin, who got the not-at-all ridiculous moniker of Blackball. He was fueled by cosmic ostracism powers, I guess. It's actually kind of surprising Dan Slott has not already brought this dude back as a way to retcon Penance.
There have been a number of attempts to create the definitive anti-Batman: the Wrath, Prometheus, Bane, Catman, Owlman, that other Owlman, Black Mask, and Hush, to name just a few. But for my money, the lock for the position of Batman's evil opposite is Cameron van Cleer, the original Killer Moth.
First, he has the best pants in all of comics, but that's not what makes him a good evil Batman. He was a millionaire, he had a Mothcave, he drove a Mothmobile, and when criminals found themselves about to be captured by Batman, they could call him on the Moth-Signal. What would a Hush-Signal even look like? Jim Lee's head?
Chris Sims: There is an (even more) evil version of Team Rocket. Their names are Butch and Cassidy.
Me: It is not super likely that I am going to write about Pokémon.
Chris Sims: Listen: I am on my deathbed here.
Me: Okay, if this is your final wish.
Chris Sims: There were also evil Power Rangers called the Psycho Rangers.
Me: Nope. You only die once, you only get one deathbed wish.
In the late 1980s, Spider-Man gained his definitive evil opposite in a smiley fellow with a black suit called Venom. By the early 1990s, Venom was hands down the raddest possible thing to read about on the bus on your way to sixth grade. He was so rad that Marvel decided to make him the star of his own book, and so he dropped his grudge against Spider-Man and became a
hero aniti-herolethal protector.
With Venom no longer an evil opposite, he gained his own evil version, Carnage, who went on to be so popular that he got not one, but TWO Super Nintendo games. Look, if Venom can just pop out another symbiote and suddenly we're rolling in tall Nintendo dollars, why don't we have him pop out some more?
What if one of them has boobs?
Anyway, enjoy your alone time, nerds.
I will tell the story of Psyko and you see if you can tell which part I made up:
A dream person named Cobweb made a bunch of other dream persons called Mindspawn, who are not to be confused with yet still other dream persons called Sleepwalkers. One of these Mindspawn was called N'ogskak. First N'ogskak was brainwashed to team up with Sleepwalker to fight Cobweb, but later he decided he wanted to invade Brooklyn instead. After Sleepwalker and the Avengers teamed up to defeat the Mindspawn, N'ogskak was left behind, so he possessed the body of a serial killer named Romeo Roscoe, and they became the villainous Psyko, which is presumably spelled that way on purpose.
Can you figure out which part I made up? The answer is not any of it. Comics were pretty crazy in the nineteen-oh-nineties, you guys.
I had never heard of this obscure character who makes a single appearance in a 1979 issue of Weird Western Tales until I started working on this list, but he's in a comic, he had a doppelgänger, and, like I said, I'd never heard of him, so I guess he fits the bill.
Anyway, a story synopsis I found says that after he was elected president (of the United States? Not sure; this synopsis doesn't specify), Lincoln lay down on his couch only to see his body reflected in a full length mirror, except next to his normal face...was an evil doppelgänger face! He would see this face again and again whenever he looked in a mirror. When he told his wife about it, she, who was obviously macabre as hell, told him this doppelgänger face was a sign that he would be re-elected president (of whatever country, I guess), but that he wouldn't survive his second term! What the actual hell, Mrs. Lincoln? Why would you even say that to a man? Anyway, the synopsis doesn't say anything about whether or not he survived his second term, which is pretty frustrating. Maybe they wanted to avoid spoilers.
Seems pretty weird for a story in a Bronze Age western book, but I guess they didn't call it “Mundane Western Happenings Such as You Might Not Find Out of the Ordinary” for a reason.
Anyway, I think we can all agree to hope that this recent focus on the evil twins of Earth-3 will lead to a bounty of new evil doubles that we will all have forgotten about in five years.