I recently moved, and one of my new neighbors is William. He is three (and a half) years old, and totally and completely obsessed with superheroes. William loves Ironman and Batman, Superman and Spiderman, and Robin is his absolute favorite. He comes over to the house every day to watch cartoons, so I too have been spending a lot of time learning about superheroes of late. While some have incredible powers, others who are not as genetically gifted have the highest of the high-tech tools to help them through dangerous encounters. Either way, these superheroes can and will do just about anything to make the lives of the general population better.
But, that isn’t quite the whole story. Unless you are a dedicated comic follower, you might not know that there are many superheroes that are not so excellent and able. Take the Absorbing Man (a pretty weak name), who is just this big shirtless guy who turns into whatever substances he touches; or Captain Boomerang whose big threat is his ability to commit crimes with his not-so-intimidating curvy stick. Worst of all, though, are the Inferior Five (yes, that is the team’s actual name!).
This team of very not super superheroes was created in 1966 by E. Nelson Bridwell (writer) and Joe Orlando and Mike Esposito (artists) for DC Comics. The Inferior Five was intended as a parody not only of the Fantastic Four, but of all the superhero teams whose members had such great powers that they could have solved any of the crimes put before them singlehandedly. The Five had to work as a team; none of them could have fought crime on their own.
The premise is that the characters were sons or daughters of members of a superhero team called the Freedom Brigade, a parody of the Justice League of America. The leader of the team was Merryman, the son of The Patriot and Lady Liberty. He is highly intelligent, with a diverse background in martial arts. But, he is physically a weakling, making it virtually impossible for his fighting abilities to be of any practical use to the Inferior Five. Awkwardman is the son of Mr. Might and the Mermaid. He is super-strong and able to live underwater, having inherited powers from both parents, but he is also very clumsy. In keeping with his half-undersea heritage, he requires periodic contact with water, which can consist of simply pouring it over himself with a gardening can.
The Blimp is the fat son of Captain Swift who could fly like his father, but only at super slow speeds, and with a tail wind. White Feather is the son of The Bowman, and he too inherited his father’s talent for archery; however, people make him nervous, as do a lot of other things, so he is never able to perform when the team actually needs him. Dumb Bunny is the fifth and final member of the Inferior Five. She is a model by day, and an incredibly strong but overwhelmingly dumb superhero by night.
While the characters made appearances in various other DC Comic adventures, the Inferior Five had just twelve issues dedicated solely to their adventures. But those few comics certainly brought hope to the lives of millions of very human superhero wannabes around the world!