Sometimes heroes retire, sometimes they fall in battle. But either way, someone has to step up to take a missing hero’s place.
A brief note: All handpicked successors were wiped from this list. I exclusively picked heroes introduced as replacements for characters who were temporarily disabled who were NOT GIVEN THE MANTLE BY THE PREVIOUS HERO. So, even though I like them a lot, no Kamala Ms. Marvel or FalconCap or Wally West Flash. They’re pretty great, though. But replacements only, no successors.
Honorable Mention 1: Superboy (Conner Kent)
Hey, it's one of the four replacement Supermen from the decent, but not excellent, Reign of the Supermen story arc.
Cadmus was an organization designed to work on cloning. It went pretty well, because they did clone a bunch of people, after all. And one of them was Superman.
But when he came out of the tube, he was still just a teenager. And maybe giving a nineties teen Superman-level powers was a bad idea? I mean, it worked out in this case, but nine times outta ten, you're in for a world ruled by his dictatorship Kyle and his love of skateboarding and Sunny D (all right!). But, hey, Kon-El (or Conner Kent) is a Superman clone. So he's a pretty decent kid.
Kind of a jerk sometimes, but he has potential to live up to. Oh, but only half of his DNA is from Superman. The other half is from"¦gasp…Lex Luthor! All right, solid twist, solid character. Although that t-shirt and jeans costume is awful. Dude should go back to the rad leather jacket.
Honorable Mention 2: Captain America (John Walker)
Gosh darn, does Captain America hate Republican presidents. That's not me editorializing, either, it's straight-up historical fact.
When Nixon took office, Cap discovered an evil organization that led straight to the White House. And then he got disillusioned and quit being Cap to be Nomad. While Bush, Jr. was Prez, he was shot and killed. And, now that Trump is Commander-in-Chief, he's revealing himself as a secret HYDRA Agent.
But when Reagan was POTUS, Steve became upset with government oversight. He refused to blindly follow along, so he was replaced with the uber right-wing John Walker. Walker fought crime and did some crazy stuff, until the Red Skull manipulated him, and he realized that Steve Rogers was more deserving of being Captain America.
But, hey, Walker would later become USAgent. His time as Cap would show us why a blindly patriotic Captain America would never capture the spirit of the character.
15. Batman (Jim Gordon)
Scott Snyder is a fantastic Bat-writer, and Greg Capullo draws comics like he was born with a pencil in his hand. So of course they created a replacement Batman I actually like!
When it appeared that Bruce Wayne died fighting The Joker in a cave under Gotham, the Gotham City Police Department decided that, one way or another, they needed a Batman in the city. So they tapped Jim Gordon to wear the Batsuit. Well, a new Batsuit. But, of course, Jim isn't nearly as highly trained as Bruce was, so how does he compensate for his lack of skills? Well, with a batarang gun and a giant mech suit, that's how.
And I'll admit, it works. Like, if I were a criminal, I'd be pretty scared of the shadowy night demon who may or may not exist, but I would be TERRIFIED of the nine-foot police mech that could drop out of the sky and choke-slam me into a parked Audi at literally any moment.
Of course, everything eventually went back to normal, but it was fun while it lasted.
14. Iron Man (Tony Stark) (The 19-Year-Old One)
(aka Iron Boy)
Ah, Tony Stark, our favorite recovering alcoholic jerk.
Well, during the Avengers story known as The Crossing (different from The Crossing Line, which was that one time someone let Stingray be an Avenger), Immortus manipulated Iron Man into becoming a crazy evil psycho jerk and betraying the Avengers. The Avengers in turn decided to go back in time and grab a past version of Tony to come back with them and fight the present one. However, they crossed over into an alternate dimension by accident, and grabbed that reality's Tony Stark, a 19-year-old kid. He got himself a new armor, and became known as Iron Boy.
Iron Boy became an Avenger, and tried to fight his evil duplicate, but he was hopelessly outclassed. Not only did Iron Man beat him, he punched a hole straight through the kid's chest. However, said Mortal Kombat-ing made old Tony realize what a jerk he'd become, so he sacrificed himself to beat Immortus, and gave the Avengers the technology they needed to save Iron Boy's life. Iron Boy lasted with the team until Onslaught killed him (and the rest of the Avengers).
However, instead of being reborn on Counter-Earth with the other Avengers, someone decided to bring back the Tony Stark version who could legally rent a car. We never heard from Iron Boy again.
13. X-Force (The Second Team)
Look, I really can't stand the original X-Force team. Like, it's just a bunch of over-muscled dudes and over-sexualized ladies who have some combination of guns and/or knives. They are boring characters. However, when Peter Milligan and Mike Allred took over the book and changed everything, I was enthralled.
In X-Force # 116, we meet the new X-Force team, a group of fame-hungry mutants with mediocre powers and a reality show. The team included the acid sweating Anarchist, the hyper-sensitive Orphan, the teleporter U-Go Girl, and the mysterious floating blob Doop.
In addition to that, there were heaps of other characters on the team, and all of them were killed while on their first or second missions. The team was always prone to in-fighting, and issues of public relations swamped their actual superheroing.
Eventually, the team changed their name over to the X-Statix (and got a new comic with the same title), but it will always remain a neat book, just by virtue of what it was. They took a book about explosions and murder, and turned it into one about characters.
12. The Atom (Ryan Choi)
(aka All-New Atom)
After Ray Palmer decided to turn into a whiny crybaby because his ex-wife turned out to be a murderer in one of the worst DC Comics of all time, his scientist protÃ©gÃ©e came to Ivytown to take up his role as a professor.
This new professor, Doctor Ryan Choi, also found Ray Palmer's other legacy, that of superhero The Atom. Ryan fought through many alien and human villains, and even went on a hunt through the multiverse to find his predecessor for a while. Eventually, Ray and Ryan teamed up during Final Crisis, and Ray gave the newbie his blessing to continue using the Atom code name.
The guy also dated Giganta, and participated in the Battle of Metropolis during Infinite Crisis. Unfortunately, Choi was the first target of Deathstroke's new team of Titans, and they killed him.
Pissed-off fans accosted DC for years over the character’s mistreatment, and he was thankfully brought back in the DC Rebirth special. He now resides with the Justice League of America as The Atom.
11. Thor (Jane Foster)
Jane Foster was a registered nurse who worked at the same hospital as Dr. Donald Blake. When Blake was bequeathed the powers of Thor, Jane became his love interest. Their relationship carried on for years before she faded away into the background.
Eventually, though, after Thor headed out to fight Gorr the God Butcher, she discovered that she had terminal cancer. When Thor returned and discovered this, he offered her a seat as the Midgardian representative on the Congress of Worlds. Months later, during the Original Sin event, Nick Fury revealed information to Thor that made him unworthy of his hammer, causing him to lose control of it.
And Jane was the one to pick it up, and become the new Thor. Although initially angered by this new Thor's presence, the original eventually gave her his blessing. He then took the name The Odinson to reflect that he was no longer the one true Thor. Jane was even one of the heroes to escape the destruction of all reality during the Secret Wars, allowing her to help her cohorts save the multiverse once and for all.
She truly is worthy.
10. The Flash (Walter West)
(aka The Dark Flash)
Wally West is not a replacement hero. Wally West is a successor. HOWEVER, Walter West is a completely different story.
Walter was the Flash in an alternate reality, where his decisions led to personal failure and tragedy. When he and our Earth's Wally West got bounced around in time and space, Walter took up the role of The Flash for the time being.
This led to initial mistrust and worry among Wally's friends, since Walter refused to reveal his true identity to anyone, aside from a select few. He fought with the Titans and Justice League of America during his time as The Flash, and earned the nickname The Dark Flash.
Sidenote: That costume is fantastic. The crimson balances beautifully against the silver, and I wish we had this costume back in some form in the current comics. Pre-Flashpoint Wally West's new costume with the Titans uses the same color scheme, but sadly, not in the same ratios.
9. Batman (Jean-Paul Valley)
(aka Azrael, aka Azbats)
It's pretty hard to replace Batman.
Dick Grayson tried it, James Gordon tried it, and there’s one more dude who gave it a shot. Jean-Paul Valley was brought up in a crazy cult called the Sacred Order of St. Dumas. They tended to get all their stuff from Crusades-era attitudes which, if you know anything about the Crusades, should already freak you out a bit.
Jean-Paul took on the identity of Azrael, and went after Batman, who beat him up and got him some help. He eventually became well enough that, when Bane broke Bruce Wayne’s back, Jean-Paul was offered a role as the placeholder Batman.
He did okay for a while, until he went nuts and built himself some big scary murder gloves, and then followed up with a very Azrael-looking Batsuit. What a surprise…the crazy guy went crazy when they let him be Batman. Total shock, that one.
8. Iron Man (James Rhodes)
(aka Rhodey, aka War Machine)
James "Rhodey" Rhodes was a marine pilot who was shot down in the jungle. There, he ran into Iron Man, who was fresh from escaping his captivity and still clad in the Model 1 armor. The two became friends, and Rhodes was offered a position with Stark International.
When his boss, Tony Stark, succumbed in earnest to alcoholism, Rhodey stepped up and put on the Iron Man armor, initially to fight Magma. Rhodes kept up his role as Iron Man through Obidiah Stane's hostile takeover of Stark International, and was successful in keeping control of Tony's armors out of Stane's hands.
Rhodes fought in the original Secret Wars, and was welcomed into the ranks of the West Coast Avengers. Rhodey was suffering, however. It turned out, Tony never re-calibrated the armor, and the circuitry was damaging Rhodes' brain. This drove him temporarily insane, and Tony had to don the armor again to finish the fight against Obidiah Stane.
Tony took over, and Rhodes was eventually given a new armored identity as War Machine.
7. Thor (Beta Ray Bill)
(aka Beta Ray Thor)
INSIDE OUT HORSE THOR!!!!!!!
My favorite Thor, because he’s great, and I love him. This is Beta Ray Bill, and yes, he is lovely and perfect and the best.
Beta Ray Bill was the champion of the Korbinites. In order to serve them, he was augmented into a vicious cybernetic monster with incredible strength and power. Flying the cosmos in his ship, the Skuttlebutt, Bill fought for the survival of his race.
But one day he bumped into Thor, separated him from his hammer, and knocked out the newly transformed Donald Blake. He lifted the hammer and was granted incredible powers as Beta Ray Thor!! Bill and Thor (the classic one) fought each other for the right to be the one true Thor, and our non-horse-faced bro Thor won.
But Bill proved himself such a worthy warrior that he was granted his own hammer, the uru mallet known as Stormbreaker.
6. Wolverine (Laura Kinney)
You probably know her from her recent film debut, but Laura Kinney, aka X-23, has been a part of comic-dom for quite a long time.
Wolverine's been a murder-y super dude for a while now, so of course someone wanted to make more of him. But since replicating the Weapon X experiment didn't work, they opted to clone the dude. Because having a comic book clone is always a good idea, and that always works out, right? So one of those clones was X-23.
X-23 was eventually freed by her surrogate mother, but was then manipulated into killing her, leaving the newly christened Laura Kinney all alone in the world. She eventually found Wolverine and the X-Men, who took her in. She bounced around a bit, taking up posts with the New X-Men, X-Force, and even the Avengers Academy.
After enduring untold horrors during Arcade's Hunger Games-inspired Avengers Arena, she worked with the time-displaced All-New X-Men. But after Wolverine's death, she took on the identity of the All-New Wolverine, and it’s one she continues to hold to the present.
5. Steel (John Henry Irons)
In the nineties, every DC character was dying or getting his spine snapped like a twig in a hydraulic press or some other form of crisis that left him or her unable to function.
The biggest one of those was the Death of Superman, in which Doomsday showed up, and he and Superman punched each other until they both died. And after all of the funeral stuff, four new Supermen stepped in to take his place. One of them, starring in Superman: The Man of Steel, was John Henry Irons, aka Steel.
Steel was a weapons designer who was horrified by how his products were being used in black market deals. So he built a big armored suit and started fighting crime. The dude also made himself a big friggin' hammer, which is a pretty smart move, to be honest. No one's gonna mess with a big metal guy with a hammer.
A quality replacement for Superman, Steel has gone on to become his own man in full.
4. Captain America (James Barnes)
(aka Bucky, aka The Winter Soldier, aka BuckyCap)
When Steve Rogers was shot and killed, the nation was thrown into crisis. Someone had to step up to become the Captain America the nation needed.
And that someone was James Buchanan Barnes, the Winter Soldier. Bucky became a worthy successor, and learned how to fight off the advancing forces for the Red Skull, Crossbones, Sin, Dr. Faustus, and numerous others. Because never forget that there are a lot of great Cap villains.
He kept soldiering on through Secret Invasion, Dark Reign, and Siege, and held a dual Captain America title with Steve Rogers for a time, until he returned to the Winter Soldier identity. Bucky is a great example of a replacement hero because he's the logical choice. Who better to replace a fallen hero than his best friend?
Bucky took up the classic shield, along with a handgun (because look, every once in a while Cap needed to shoot a dude), and carried them with pride.
3. Nova (Sam Alexander)
I may be one of the only people on earth who really really likes Richard Rider, aka Nova, The Human Rocket. That Abnett and Lanning run starting just after Annihilation and ending right before Thanos Imperative was one of my favorite monthly comics for years. So when I heard they were giving us a new Nova, I was skeptical. But I decided to give the book a shot, and I was blown away.
Sam Alexander was a bullied kid whose dad was a janitor at his high school. When his dad disappeared, Sam discovered that he was actually a member of the Black Novas, or the Supernovas, an elite branch of the Nova Corps. Sam took the helmet, and became earth's newest Nova, using much of his time to search for his dad.
Sam eventually ran into the Avengers, just in time to warn them about the oncoming Phoenix Force. After receiving an offer to join the Avengers, Sam instead took some time to himself, although he helped battle Thanos's generals during Infinity.
Sam worked with the New Warriors and the All-New All-Different Avengers before settling into his current place with the Champions. Sam truly did fly higher and burn brighter than his predecessor.
2. Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner)
(aka Ion, aka The White Lantern, aka The Omega Lantern)
Kyle is a replacement who not only lives up to the example set by his predecessor, he actively surpasses him.
Hal Jordan is a good character, but Kyle Rayner is even better. When Hal became possessed by an alien space fear bug and went on a crazy murder spree, it was Kyle who took up the reigns and carried on. He faced some hardships early on, but he eventually became THE Green Lantern for many people (including myself).
The dude served on Grant Morrison's JLA. That’s a badge of honor if ever I've seen one. Once Hal Jordan came back, it seems that DC couldn't really figure out what to do with Kyle, so they made him Ion and then the White Lantern.
However, he was used in a fantastic way again in Tom King and Barnaby Bagenda's amazing maxi-series Omega Men, in which he had to fight to save himself from the dangerous characters of the titular team, the regime they battled, and the horrible aftermath inherent in revenge.
1. Spider-Man (Miles Morales)
(aka Ultimate Spider-Man)
Well, who else was gonna be number one? Of course it's Miles.
The Peter Parker Ultimate Spider-Man series is deeply, truly personal to me in a way no other comic book really is. And Parker's death in that series was a beautiful ending to the story. But I was ready to open my heart to another, and when Miles came along, he captured it.
Miles was bitten by a brand new radioactive spider that had been stolen by his uncle, criminal The Prowler. Miles gained powers, and decided to be a hero. But when Peter Parker died, he took up the mantle to do right by Parker's example. And do right by it he did. Miles took up the spirit of Spider-Man like no other, becoming a real hero in his own tradition. His unique abilities, like his venom sting and invisibility, let him stand apart and operate in his own way.
Miles is truly a Spider-Man, and one who is no longer living in Peter Parker's shadow.
And so there you go! My ten favorite replacement heroes, for your entertainment. Maybe at some point I'll put together a list of true successors, so I can talk about some of those I had to leave out of this one. But for now, Make Mine Miles.