Blockbuster adaptations of some of our favorite characters have brought mainstream attention to comic books, but real fans know that there are hundreds of awesome characters that have never made it into a movie. From titles like Invincible, Manifest Destiny, and Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid on Earth, some of the best protagonists are unknown to the casual fan. But even when you live and breathe comics, you can’t know everything. We’ve gathered up five totally unique and strange characters that even the die-hard fans have never heard of.
#1 Red Tornado
The first ever female superhero, Red Tornado was also one of the first superhero parodies. Inspired by her son’s admiration for Green Lantern, Ma Hunkel dons longjohns and a cooking pot on her head to fight off criminals in her New York City neighborhood. While she passionately defeated evildoers with a variety of hilarious weaponry, Red Tornado fell into series after series of mishaps, lending a comic tone to the book. Her popularity took off, and she was given appearances in the first ever Justice Society of America. Of course, her accident-prone nature was in full visibility here, too, as she split her pants in front of iconic characters like the Flash and Green Lantern.
Even though he’s made appearances in The Avengers, Star-Stalker has never made it into a movie, or had the fan favorite status to bring him back as a recurring villain. We’re not sure why, because Star-Stalker is awesome and terrifying. Similar to Galactus in his abilities, Star-Stalker is a mutant Vorm, an alien race that could travel though spaceways unaided, sucking the energy out of entire planets. When Star-Stalker finally made his way to Earth, he was defeated by The Avengers, killed by a solar beam from Vision. A giant space dragon, Star-Stalker was updated and re-released in the form of Fin Fang Foom, largely considered one of the weakest Marvel villains.
Introduced by First Comics in 1983, Grimjack is a mercenary and a detective, and was raised fighting as a gladiator since childhood. He’s a lot like Batman, if Batman had a drunken lizard for a sidekick. As a vigilante, Grimjack is much more concerned with the outcome rather than the methods he uses, adding surprise and creativity to the mix every time he takes down a criminal. We’re not sure why Grimjack never took off, as the dialogue is tightly written and the art is fantastic. He most recently appeared in 2011 in a six-part miniseries for IDW comics. We’re hoping he’ll get his own comic again, and soon.
Of all of these characters, the one you’re most likely to have heard of is Rai. The reason? This year, Valiant Comics just released a reboot of Rai that sold out its original print run. Because Valiant Comics is a smaller publisher, there’s still a good chance you haven’t been lucky enough to read a page, but if you can, check it out. Rai is a spirit guardian that protects 41st century Japan, where industrialization has taken over every single inch of the island. Rai protects the residents of an immense factory-like arc and provides justice when they’re wronged. With an amazing character design and loving colorization, this is one you’ll want to search out.
#5 Adèle Blanc-Sec
The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec was published in Belgium in 1976, by French creator Jacques Tardi. While it was turned into a French-language film trilogy in 2010, Adèle has yet to see a surge of popularity in English-speaking countries. This historical fantasy series focuses on Adèle Blanc-Sec as she solved mysteries, fought criminals, and went on grand adventures. It’s hard to understate the spirit of this book: beginning with a light, whimsical tone, the tales take on much darker notes as World War I moved into France. Set against real places, with real streets accurately illustrated, the comic is a French masterpiece, and Adèle remains one of the most famous of all French comic book characters.
Interested in more comic history? Take a look at our post, The Biowars Guide to the Comic Ages.