The 90s was a crazy time. Gimmick covers. Zero issues. Speculators looking to retire off of the boxes of that brand new issue #1. Eventually, that all settled down, but one thing that remains constant throughout comic book history is that there will be characters that don’t quite make an impression.
For every legendary comic book superhero and supervillain, there are a dozen others—maybe two dozen—who are silly, redundant, or just plain blah. Many are forgotten, and the 90s had its share. Let’s take a look at ten forgotten DC villains from the last decade of the twentieth century.
“Hey, wait a minute—Orca first appeared in Batman #579 in 2000,” you say? Farmer’s Almanac says a decade begins with a year ending in one and ends with a year ending in zero, so, here we go, kids. Just making the cut is Grace Balin, a.k.a. Orca, a woman who looks like… a big, giant Orca whale. Like many comic book characters, she experiments with things she probably shouldn’t. She has some good intentions, though, using Orca spinal cord tissue to try and regenerate human spinal cord tissue. This naturally leads to a life of crime, and, eventually, obscurity.
Sometimes, there’s some craft in villain’s names. Sometimes, it’s just obvious, and, sometimes, they try too hard. Case in point: Fatality. An alien warrior sent to capture Green Lantern, Yrra Cynril mistakenly believed that John Stewart was responsible for the total destruction of her home planet.
She murdered a number of Lanterns along the way and even became part of Sinestro’s Sinestro Corps. This should have been enough to make an impression, but being a supervillain is a tough racket. Though her evilness is largely forgotten, Fatality did eventually turn good and became a Star Sapphire.
It doesn’t get any more 90s than this. Aaron Helzinger debuted in 1999 in the Batman: Crimson Mist mini-series. Apparently, Batman was a vampire, and then he got staked through the heart, so, naturally, the baddies in Arkham Asylum took that as their cue to try and bust out… which, do they ever really need an excuse? Amygdala was unique in that a surgeon actually removed the amygdala cluster from his brain to make him less psychotically violent. Hey, if you want to make an omelet, you have to break some eggs.
It’s tough being a Superman villain. What can he do? What can’t he do? There’s a reason the Man of Steel’s Rogues Gallery is not, shall we say, as interesting as Batman’s. Enter Conduit. Conduit burst on the scene in 1994 with an intriguing backstory.
He was born in Smallville on the day Kal-El crashed to Earth. Conduit suffers from the radiation from Kryptonian ship —hey, you’d think that would have been a thing earlier—and then, thanks to comic logic, he volunteers for government experiments to turn him into a supervillain who can process and manipulate energy. But then he died, squandering a lot of potential.
Lock-Up shares something in common with Harley Quinn: they both originated in the legendary Batman: The Animated Series before transitioning into the comics. Lock-Up made the jump in 1996, debuting in Robin #24.
Unlike Harley, Lyle Bolton didn’t make anywhere near the same impression. Lock-Up actually starts out… well, locking up supervillains, but he gets a bit of a head on his shoulders and eventually tries drowning Batman, Nightwing, and a bunch of captured bad guys. Sometimes, when everyone’s wearing a mask, it’s hard to tell who’s good and who’s bad.
A very 90s type of villain with basically a supernova for a head, Dreamslayer fought Justice League Europe, though his ambitions were more global. He stole a bunch of nuclear weapons and threatened to release them unless the entire planet surrendered. This came after he was responsible for the nuclear destruction of another planet, Angor.
His bad-guy group, The Extremists (so extreme), helped him out with that one, but, luckily, his atomic fixations were put to rest before he could destroy Earth. If he looks kind of familiar, it’s because he was based in part on Dormammu.
So brutal. A habit of 90s villains was to telegraph how extreme they were, and Brutale was no different. Principally a villain of Nightwing, Brutale shows up in Nightwing #22 as a hired assassin terrorizing Blüdhaven. Though his costume is ostensibly meant to resemble a gargoyle, there are some pretty strong Scarecrow vibes there. Hmm.
Anyways, Brutale’s main thing was using blades to cut people up since he was a brutish interrogator of his country’s secret police, and his main way of getting you to talk was to… well, cut you.
As the third son of Darkseid, you’d think Grayven would rate a little higher. Not really. Despite his pedigree, he’s never going to cut among those villains DC heroes really fear. He tries, though. He really, really tries, destroying tons and planets and annihilating tons of species along the way.
Debuting in the pages of Green Lantern in 1996, Grayven was like most of his New God kin in that he was super strong, immune to death—at least from most kinds of death—and really just a huge jerk. He was dispatched by the Kyle Rayner Green Lantern and Superman, so… yeah. That was Grayven.
2 Demon Gate
Aquaman got pretty 90s in the 90s with a radical makeover that included a harpoon for a hand. His villains got a little more extreme, too. A good example of this is Demon Gate, who is neither a demon nor a gate. He’s actually Kimon Tanaka, captain of a fishing boat, the crew of which worked to killed dolphins.
That’s enough reason for anybody to show this guy what’s what, but one of these dolphins happened to be Aquaman’s adoptive mother, Porm. Big no-no. Aquaman destroys his boat, and Tanaka is transformed into a cyborg—and that was pretty much it.
You don’t get more 90s than this guy. Massacre was an alien jerk who killed people for fun. Proudly carrying on the tradition of extreme names, he did get an action figure—really, who didn’t in the 90s?—but, beyond that, he was pretty much one and done. Massacre showed up on Earth looking for some diversion and found one in Superman. At first, this worked out; Massacre could sense nerve impulses, which gave him a bit of a heads up on the Man of Steel’s movements, but then Superman figured it out and introduced Massacre to the concept of Kryptonian fun.
DC has a ton of unused, forgotten characters in its backlog, and here are 10 baddies superhero fans haven't thought of since 1999 at the earliest.