Dark Age of Supernames
DUUUUUUUUUUDE you know what would be totally hardcore? If there was a comic that didn't feature any of those stupid 'dialog balloons' or 'plot points.' It just had a guy SHOOTIN' STUUUUUUUFF! We could call it BLOODGUN! YEAH!—90's Kid, in Linkara's review of Cable #1
Part of the Dark Age of Super Heroes involved making not only their appearance, morality, and demeanor Darker and Edgier, but also their names. Heroes born during the nineties ditched the Something Person Naming Conventions and took a page from Names to Run Away From Really Fast, using names both scary and trite.
Most names became one word, usually gritty, edgy, and trendy. At times, two words were merged into a single name, usually including some combination of Dark, Blood, or a verb for killing. Because substandard literacy is kewl, they are occasionally misspelled in clever ways like Darkchylde, Stryker, or Bloodwulf—which coincidentally makes the names easier to trademark.
Characters surviving from this time period may have to struggle with sounding dated, but then again, surviving the nineties hopefully means they have more to them than just boasts of Badassness.
- The miniseries Bloodlines produced a whole slew of these: Ballistic, Cardinal Sin, Edge, Gunfire, Hook, Jamm, Krag, Loose Cannon, Mongrel (an African-American/Vietnamese superhero), Nightblade, Razorsharp, Terrorsmith... it goes on and on. There was also Hitman, who was exactly that, but his comic ran with it, in a Dead Baby Comedy sort of way. In Hitman's own series, there was Nightfist, a tough vigilante who shows no mercy and will hit you, with his fists, hard.
- That said, Nightfist was a crooked hero who beat up crooks for their money and wore a costume so people wouldn't ask questions.
- In the Hitman Annual, it was mentioned that all of the Bloodlines-created supers except Hitman had been killed in less than two years. (As the Flash put it, "There's more to this business than putting on a costume and going out to 'be super'.")
- Wild Dog was introduced in the late '80s, and might be uncharitably described as "The Punisher dressed for some hockey." He wore a hockey mask and jersey with a local school's mascot (a "wild dog," natch.) His look did, however, fit the book's central premise of a "realistic" vigilante hero who could buy all of his clothing and gear off the rack from sporting goods stores, hardware stores, etc.
- Even The Legion of Super Heroes went through this phase. Traditionally a bastion of Something Person names, the '90s-era reboot turned Lighting Lad into "Live Wire", Triplicate Girl into "Triad", Colossal Boy into "Leviathan", Princess Projectra into "Sensor", and so forth. When the series was rebooted again in 2004, most of the new names went by the wayside, and the Something Person codenames returned to the fore.
- Many of the new super people created for Kingdom Come embody this trope: Nightstar (Starfire and Nightwing's daughter), 666, Bat-Knight, Black Mongul, NIL8, Swastika, Demon Damsel, Shiva the Destroyer and Cathedral... This is deliberate, since Kingdom Come is a deconstruction of the Dark Age.
- Nightwing celebrated his own ongoing series by moving to a town named Blüdhaven. It was described as being close to Gotham (the Bat-Family frequently guest-starred in each other's comics), but was also described unambiguously as more crime-ridden and corrupt than Gotham, although 50+ years of comics never saw Batman so much as chase a purse-snatcher there. Eventually the whole city got destroyed during the Infinite Crisis crossover event.
- The Grant Morrison Parody one-shot Doom Force did not have this with the titular team. The mock editorial, however listed many other Doom Force characters with such names as Lock And Load.
- Morrison did, however, deconstruct this trope in Aztek, The Ultimate Man with Bloodtype and Death-Doll. It turned out they used to be Mr. America and Liberty Lass: The crime-fighting husband and wife team that doesn't know each other's secret identities. Unluckily for them, they ran afoul of the Dark Age, as embodied by the strange qualities of the city of Vanity.
- Deathstroke the Terminator. A good example of a character managing to stay top-tier despite a name that seems hilariously over the top today. It's probably for the best the cartoon stuck with "Slade".
- Apparently, his name wasn't inteded to be quite that bad: in his first battle with the Titans, he was called only Deathstroke to a certain point, and then called only Terminator as if he'd been called that all along. Apparently something went wrong at the editing stage. This was Handwaved by saying his full handle was "Deathstroke the Terminator." You'd think they'd have dropped one name or the other by this point (especially with Crisis on Infinite Earths giving them the opportunity to say that in the new combined reality, he'd never been called anything but Deathstroke), but for whatever reason, the over-the-top name stuck.
- A couple years before Marvel used the name, Milestone Comics also had a villain named Holocaust. He even had his own miniseries, My Name Is Holocaust, which indeed it was... until it wasn't. For reasons not entirely clear (In-Universe, Static surmises "Someone just got around to seeing Schindler's List"), Holocaust changed his name to "Pyre". (Perhaps, as with the Marvel example, the name was just too dark?) In 2010, however, Holocaust turned up again in Teen Titans, using his original name.
- So far DC's latest Continuity Reboot has shown signs of using this trope, with previews mentioning new characters with names like Morphicius, Virule, and Bugg. The last two are also intentionally misspelled, for extra radicalness/ease of trademarking.
- Lobdell, the writer of Teen Titans, seems to have noticed this, changing Bugg's name to Skitter in issue two, the first time she was even mentioned in-universe.
- Although a mild example, Arsenal counts. Notably, he started off as "Speedy" when he was a Kid Sidekick, then became "Arsenal", switched to "Red Arrow" when he joined the Justice League of America, and then switched back to "Arsenal" when he went Darker and Edgier.
Image Comics[edit | hide]
- The Maxx, whose series, was ironically, phenomenal. In his own book, the Maxx met The Pitt, an Image character who and starred in a rather less distinguished (and shorter-lived) comic.
- Spawn, who practically epitomized this trope in the 90s.
- Youngblood: Deathshot, Riptide, Badrock, Combat, Psi-Fire, Psylence (sometimes Psilence), Bloodwolf, Diehard, Wylder. Rob Liefeld was one of the big popularizers of this trope, and probably helped everyone get sick of it too.
- Of course, some members' names are fairly muted in comparison; Chapel, Shaft, Cougar, Troll, Vogue, and Brahman, for instance.
- Cyberforce: Ripclaw, Cyblade, Heatwave, Stryker.
- Parodied in Wildguard with Crimson Phantom Vengeance, a Batman-style vigilante (eliminated in the first round of competition as "not what we're looking for") and Mr. Transmuto, whose fashion sense is stuck in the 90s, as well. Also Red Rover's enemy Heartwyrm. The name "Wildguard" itself kind of smacks of this trope, though.
- An interesting character came up in an old TV special, with Stan Lee suggesting a character name, then both Rob Liefeld and Todd McFarlane designing the character. The suggested name was "OverKill", with Stan joking at the end that they did a good job, but that the character now belonged to him. When he showed up as a villain in Spawn, his name was changed to the even more ridiculous OverTKill.
- Supporting Savage Dragon character KillCat is a parody of this sort of thing - not that it stopped some writers from having him play the Nineties Anti-Hero completely straight, though.
- By the time the later 90s rolled around, even Image was conscious of this trend. That's probably why a bunch of criminals burst into uproarious laughter when the team Bloodpool told them their name.
- The assassin team Bloodstrike.
- Deadpool was originally an homage (or ripoff, depending on who you ask) of an '80s DC character with a Dark Age name, Deathstroke the Terminator (already mentioned, by the way),since you do the "Deathstroke" in the "Deadpool". Deadpool (or dead pool) is an actual word that technically fits the character, even if it does sound very 90's-ish.
- Venom (Who had his own Darker and Edgier series where he was an Anti-Hero) and his Ax Crazy spawn Carnage. This tradition is also carried on by his spawn Toxin; fortunately he's actually a good guy.
- Night Thrasher (of New Warriors fame). Whose name came from his advanced weaponized skateboard, thank you very much.
- X-Men 2099 had some of the best. Skullfire, Bloodhawk, Metalhead, Meanstreak, Junkpile, and Psyclone. Note that those are all members of the actual X-Men - Skullfire in particular is the leader!
- A notable exception in X-Men 2099 was Serpentina - Tina to her friends. Naturally, she dies in the third issue.
- Adam X the X-treme. Hellion, Warpath, Rage, Warstar, Kill Power, Onyxx, Thornn, Darkdevil, Warbird...
- A very early example (from 1974) Deathlok (also referred to as Deathlok the Demolisher).
- Interestingly, Star Blazers, a dubbed anime also from 1974 had Desslok - the Japanese syllabary sound-alike of Deathlok...
- Also from the 70s - Raza Longknife, Killraven and Daimon Hellstrom (the Son of Satan).
- Probably as a reference to the Dark Age of Supernames is Speedball, who changed his name to Penance supposedly to become "deep" and to escape his comedy-character background, because of the Stamford incident. His cat Niels is renamed "P-cat the Penitent Puss". (He has since gone back to Speedball, and Niels now goes by the moniker "Hairball" in his adventures with the Pet Avengers.)
- The short-lived Marvel UK sub-universe had the Warheads, Motormouth, Killpower, Death's Head, Death Metal, Death Wreck (the last three versions of the same character), Hell's Angel (later Dark Angel, following a lawsuit by Hell's Angels) and Genetix. Oh, and a number of these appeared in a comic called Overkill.
- At least half the Transformers have names that sound like this. Ravage, Prowl, Deadend, Dirge, Snarl, Razorclaw, etc...
- It got worse later on in the franchise. And then Generation 2 happened, and they must have thought "We're running out of names, so let's take older names and make 'em cooler", so that gave stuff like Staxx (who is a semi-truck with smokestacks...) To be fair, this was G2, i.e., before the standard practice with new Transformers stuff was to simply set the series in an alternate universe and primarily re-use old names. Of course, even in G1, you had guys like Megastorm...
- The trade for Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers gives us a standout example, even though we never see him in person - Gorelock.
- However, most of those guys villains. Prowl and Snarl are about the darkest good-guy names usually get. Names like Sinnertwin, Ruination, Onslaught, and Triggerhappy fall under Obviously Evil. However, Warpath is a good guy who earns his name. "They don't call me Warpath 'cause I'm gentle!" as he put it.
- X-Men villain Holocaust is notable for having too dark a name. When toy company ToyBiz made an action figure of him, they changed it to the less genocidal Dark Nemesis. This carried over to the comics with a name change to Nemesis. They later switched him back to Holocaust just in time for him to be snorted to death by an evil Superman Expy.
- Holocaust was originally known as Nemesis prior to the events of Age of Apocalypse. When Magneto ripped him apart for killing Scarlet Witch, he got a new name after coming back.
- Wait, isn't Magneto Jewish?
- Holocaust was originally known as Nemesis prior to the events of Age of Apocalypse. When Magneto ripped him apart for killing Scarlet Witch, he got a new name after coming back.
- Darkhawk had an obvious dark age name that sounds rather generic now.
- The Darkness.
- Ravenshadow, Pyre, and Flagg of Rising Stars. (Flagg later changes to "Patriot", not because it's a better name but due to a real life request from American Flagg's Howard Chaykin, which is Lampshaded in the storyline itself.)
- Common Grounds featured perennial nice guy Captain Gallant's three sons, Bloodstain, Die-Cut, and Deathmarch.
- Penance - not the Marvel character who used to be Speedball, nor the young woman with diamond-sharp skin from the 90s X-kids team Gen-X.
- The Wild C.A.T.s in Warblade, Grifter, Maul, Zealot, etc.
- Also poked fun at in Wild CATS, when Ladytron asks someone "what's up with this kill-hell-death-blood name thing?" Naturally, the other guy makes fun of the name "Ladytron", and hijinx ensue.
- The Authority's Midnighter (despite him snarking about someone else in the opening quote) is actually a sort of hidden reference. The Midnighters were a 60s soul band- of the sort that would perform at The Apollo, which is his partner's name.
- Gen 13: Grunge.
- Deathblow. His old teammates from Stormwatch include Hellstrike and Backlash; The original Stormwatch was surprisingly light on this in general—unless you count "single normal word" types like Fuji, Winter, and Synergy.
- Lampshaded in Stormwatch: Team Achilles with a character named "Ripslashbloodclawmaimblade" who smokes a cigar, appears to be made out of sharp stabbing instruments and spouts off the line "That's what I do best. And I'm the best there is at what needs to be done!"
- In addition to Hellstrike and Cannon, Stormwatch also had Battalion, who channeled his telekinesis through (what else?) guns to battle his evil father, Despot of WarGuard. Notably, though, he abandoned the guns and codename after a few years to become an administrator.
- Darkchylde. For what you could probably consider bonus points, her real name is Ariel Chylde. Even as a civilian, her name is super kewl!
- Parodied ruthlessly with the New Zealand comic Bloodface, and his team the "Bloodgroup", all of whom have Blood in their names, constantly scream and grimace, and are drawn like Rob Liefeld characters. The only female member of the team is called Wandering Menstrual.
- Parodied in Penthouse Comics' Captain Adventure, with the villainous Team Supreme. Comprising of Manpower, Red Rogue, Edge, Bloodskull, Death Killer, Blazing Fury, and Hotblood, they speak in meaningless pop culture references and end their every sentence with Tradesnark™. Leader Manpower is not impressed by Captain Adventure. I mean, he doesn't even have any facepaint or giant guns!
- Although the regular heroes in Astro City avoid this trope, it was invoked (usually briefly) for characters who appeared during the series' aptly-named "Dark Age", such as Stonecold, Broadsword, Hellhound, Pale Horseman, and Hollowpoint.
- An animated version: The Ripping Friends (by the creator of Ren and Stimpy) featured Crag, Rip, Slab, and Chunk. As with a lot of Kricfalusi's material, the viewer may be excused for not being 100% clear whether this was intended as a parody or a devoted, loving tribute.
- Drifter, the main character of an early G4TV show called Portal that took place inside of MMOs.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or as she is commonly known, "The Slayer".
- Even Japanese Tokusatsu heroes are not immune to this trope, though their "Dark Age" started in the year 1987 with Kamen Rider Black (YMMV) and didn't spawn many examples, most of which were are also from the Kamen Rider franchise: Starting with Kuuga's (no, he's not a creatively misspelled "Cougar") successor Agito (the O at the end spelled as an Omega) and reaching it's climax with the next year's season Kamen Rider Ryuki, which featuered the characters Zolda (Soldier), Imperer (Impaler) and Alternative Zero, as well as monsters with names like Dispider, Evildiver, Psycorogue, Deadlemur, Abysslasher and Genocider. The following, less dark but still edgy season Kamen Rider 555 only featured two Riders with Dark Age Supernames; Kaixa (Kaiser = German for Emperor) and Orga. Kamen Rider Blade featured characters with rather exotic names like Garren, Chalice, Leangle and Larc, as well as the weapon-themed Glaive, Lance and the titular Blade. Servel character names in the comperatively Lighter and Softer Kamen Rider Hibiki translate to Dark Age Supernames like "Roaring Demon". Kamen Rider Kabuto, which also marked the end of the "Dark Age of Kamen Riders", still featured the Kamen Riders The Bee (read Za-Bee) and Sasword (a mashup Sasori = Scorpion and The Sword, read Za-Sword), as well as the "Hopper Hell Brothers" KickHopper and PunchHopper.
- Most of those aren't quite Dark Names, though. "Agito" is derived from the Latin for "I move", referring to his being based on evolution. "Imperer" is actually derived from "Impala", a type of antelope (which is his contract monster). 555's Riders are named for Greek letters (Kaixa = Chi, Orga = Omega). Blades cast has a Tarot theme, with The Movie Riders being Expies of the original four. And Hibikis cast isn't quite as evil as it sounds (Hibiki himself means "echo demon".
- The Hopper Hell Brothers can be seen as kind of a cynical Deconstructive Parody. They are essencially darker Expies of Kamen Rider #1 and #2, especially their portayal in The Movie Kamen Rider the First. Taking the dark- and grittiness Up to Eleven, they parody what Kamen Rider had become over the last couple of years.
- Ironically, while most of the other Riders in Ryuki had more traditional Something Person or Animal Motif names, the adaptation Kamen Rider Dragon Knight gave them more Dark Age-ish names - in 2009!
- Scissor -> Incisor. Ridiculous, if you mind that his Animal Motif was a crab.
- Gai (Rhino) -> Thrust
- Raya (Ray) -> Sting
- Ouja (Snake) -> Strike
- Taiga (Tiger) -> Axe
- Odin -> Wrath
- To make it more hillarious, Dark Age Names from the original got Bowdlerized: Zolda -> Torque and Imperer -> Spear. YMMV with Alternative Zero -> Advent Master Eubulon. Most of the monsters kept their names, but Genocider was renamed Cerebeast, for one reason or another.
- You can still occasionally find Kamen Riders with Dark Age Supernames in later seasons. For example; IXA, whose name is an acronym for Interceptor X Attacker, and Kamen Rider Skull, who is a homage to Skull Man.
- So many Warhammer 40,000 names, for understandable reasons. Ragnar Blackmane, Night Haunter, Doomrider, Huron Blackheart, etc.
- In the Mutants and Masterminds setting "Freedom City", the "Iron Age" of the 1980s involved the criminalization of super-heroics in the titular burg. Enter FORCE Ops (Freelance Organization of Criminal Elimination Operatives), a bad-ass team of heroes fighting a no-holds-barred battle against crime AND the authoritarian government. Members include: Kismet, a mysterious mercenary; Network, an elite hacker turned into pure energy; and Nightrage, a super-heroic vampire.
- The Cyberpunk 2020 RPG included quotes from characters with names like Ripperjack and Morgan Blackhand. Appropriate to the Cyberpunk genre, though at times they come across more like parodies of self-consciously "edgy" tough guys, which may have been intentional.
- According to the Fiendish Codex II the Hellbred race follow this trope. When one comes Back from the Dead as one they keep their first name, but replace the last with something more infernal. Though, as an entire species of Atoners they're definitely good examples.
- The rules-light "Rob Liefeld's BLOODP.O.U.C.H." role-playing game takes its own name in honor of the Dark Age (and one of the artists who launched it), and is themed around the sort of gritty antiheroics that were common then. It also includes a table for randomly generating Dark Age-y supernames.
- Professional Wrestling (especially in the 1990s) is chock full of these spanning pretty much the entirety of its colorful history, with varying degrees of success, ranging from the surprisingly successful (and intentionally ironic) Chyna...to the execrable Shockmaster.
- Dusty Rhodes, in his recent stint as Guest Host of RAW, admits his mistake on that one (complete with humorous Santino Marella reenactment AND Arn Anderson providing the character's voice, in a Shout-Out to tag-team Kayfabe brother Ole Anderson's original role), apologetically saying to D Generation X (another great example of this trope, by the way) "I thought it would work!"
Video Games[edit | hide]
- If you want to see this trope in the extreme, look no further than the City of Heroes playerbase itself. The number of heroes with names like this has spawned much derision from the playerbase, especially from the role-players. Granted, most of the "creatively misspelled" names are simply a way to get a desired name that's long since been taken by another player, but it's a safe bet that there are enough people who were fans of the Dark Age of Comics and do this deliberately.
- Perhaps fortunately, there aren't many examples of this among NPC heroes and villains, with the only real examples being among the more minor "Rogues Gallery" rather than the Signature characters. Notable cases are Mangle, Hollow Point, Comatorium, and Blood Thorn.
- The above also applies to Champions Online (AKA The Other City of Heroes)
- The same goes for World of Warcraft, especially for rogues, especially on PvP servers. If you haven't seen it, you will never believe how many variations of names like "ShadowKiller" there are.
- BlazBlue has Ragna the Bloodedge.
Web Comics[edit | hide]
- Just about everyone in Antihero for Hire does this intentionally. Early on, one of the recurring villians was constantly changing his name into ice-related puns during the fight with the main character.
Dechs: When we're done I'm going to ducktape a name to your forehead.
- Parodied in Penny Arcade, with the characters Raven Darktalon Blood and Grimm Shado.
- In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, Dr. McNinja's brother Sean gives himself the codename "Dark Smoke Puncher," an arguably ludicrous moniker. This fact isn't lost on Doc himself, who says that it sounds like something he got from a friend playing Counter-Strike.
Web Original[edit | hide]
- As seen in the quote up top, Linkara pokes fun at this trope with his Dark Age fanboy character, 90's Kid and his character, Bloodgun. Though in the later review of Darker Image #1 even 90's Kid concedes that Deathblow is stupid name.
90's Kid: "Bloodgun doesn't even have a FACE, man! I mean, who needs a face when you're shooting stuff all the time!? Bloodgun just has his ripped bod and his gun: The Bloodgun of Bloodgun!"
- Take a look at the userlist of any large fan forum, and just try and count the amount of names that start with "dark". Especially if it's a fan forum where usernames tend to be the same as the poster's fan character.
- The Global Guardians PBEM Universe: Oh my, were there several. Some players just couldn't get over the fact that the games were supposedly running under Bronze Age ideals and not Dark Age ideals. Ballistic, Ambush, Battlecat, Twilight, Recoil, Fracture, Fusillade, Shift, Flux, and Ablaze are just a random ten, and those are the heroes.
- Dark. Raven. Wing. A member who got banned by GM Dave for being named DarkRavenWing.
- These chaps.
- "Blood and Guts" Patton.
- The Norse were not averse to nicknames like this, "Eric Bloodaxe" and "Björn Ironside" being two famous examples. They also cheerfully inverted it at times.
- Some Real Life Superheroes have names like Razorhawk, Insignis, Ghost, Ha!, Oni, and Silver Dragon (making up a team called the Black Monday Society); there's also Dark Guardian, Mr. Xtreme, Phantom Zero, Crimson Fist, Geist, Shadow Hare, Mr Ravenblade, Lucid, Catastrophe, and Death's Head Moth.
- Ironically, he was actually made long before the movie.