Fad Super

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Ah, Dazzler. Surely your appeal will last forever!

A character is created as a direct response to an idea or fad that is currently popular. Naturally, this character might prove schlocky or out of place once that fad passes out of pop culture, unless some writer is willing to take the character out of obscurity and build him or her up into something more.

Villains who are Fad Supers have a higher chance of being kept, since they are usually intended to be eccentric, out of place, and theme-based.

This isn't the same as an existing hero's ability or story being tweaked in response to the times, such as Silver Age technobabble revisionism. Compare with Totally Radical, We're Still Relevant, Dammit!, and Captain Ethnic, contrast with Old Superhero, who is outdated on purpose. Particularly prone to being the subject of Reimagining the Artifact if brought back.

Examples of Fad Super include:
  • Wonder Woman was once caught up in this trope. For a time in the late 60s and early 70s, Wonder Woman lost her powers and familiar uniform, gained a wise old Asian mentor who taught her martial arts, and had espionage adventures wearing a white jumpsuit ... right around the time spy shows like The Avengers were popular. Most people hated this, Gloria Steinem even commenting how it was a needless depowering of the strongest female hero in comics, and it's pretty well in a Dork Age.
    • Ironically, the spy concept as well as the white-jumpsuit were both used in a more recent volume of Wonder Woman following Infinite Crisis. Judging by some reviews, people liked it.
  • Dazzler (pictured at right), who later became a member of the X-Men, was introduced with disco-based powers and costume (white jumpsuit and roller skates) just as disco was dying. It didn't help that she was given a big marketing push, meeting up with the likes of Galactus in a vain attempt to make the character cool, or that the entire project had begun as a proposal for a live action film starring Bo Derek. But at least she wasn't called the Disco Dazzler, as originally planned.
    • Going even further, there was going to be actual Dazzler music put out by Casablanca Records, the same label Kiss was on.
    • The Ultimate version was made a punk rocker, which is almost as anachronistic.
    • Once the "disco diva" gimmick was dropped, Dazzler became a fairly popular second-tier X-Woman. Dazzler revisits the disco diva gimmick during some of her performances as part of a tribute. She's a main character in Marvel Zombies vs. Army of Darkness, and Ash hits on her repeatedly.
    • In Dazzler's introductory issue, Scott and Jean look for Dazzler in a makeshift disco inside a dilapidated buildling, with Scott wondering "if this was where old discos went to die".
    • Dazzler's sister/nemesis, Mortis, sports a costume similar to the Misfits from Jem and The Holograms. So one sister visually evokes 1970s disco, while the other evokes 1980s hair metal and glam rock.
  • Storm was another X-Man who got in on the punk trend - she sported a mohawk for a while in the 90s.
  • Vibe, a member of the much-maligned Detroit-based Justice League of America, was a breakdancer with vibrational powers.
  • The original run of the Teen Titans comics featured two villainous examples who used then-trendy fads as covers for their criminal schemes: Ding-Dong Daddy (a caricature of Ed "Big Daddy" Roth whose shtick was Hot Rods) and the Mad Mod (whose shtick was the fashions of the "Mod" look). Appropriately, such villains have returned as part of a nostalgia fad, to evoke the era in which the original fads appeared. The animated series hangs a lampshade on this when it's revealed that the youth-scene-oriented Mad Mod is actually a crotchety old man using holograms and stage magic to create his younger appearance, trying to steal and/or control youth.
    • This trope is possibly a reason why Dick Grayson got new Nightwing costumes. His first one was very 80s while his second was very 90s with hair to match and that followed him into his more familiar costume for a time.
  • Grunge from Gen 13. Adam Warren had one of his sparring partners mock his name by calling him "Easy Listening" and other musical genres. Gail Simone's more recent run explains this as a reference to the fact that he has "grunge under his fingernails", although Roxy provides a Lampshade Hanging with the comment "Grunge? You mean the stuff dinosaurs have on their iPods?"
  • The Calculator. Originally a supervillain with a giant calculator on his chest, calculators having just come into wide use at the time. In recent years, he's matured into a costumeless Information Broker and plotter, and Oracle's archrival. Possibly her stalker as well.
  • Videoman, of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, was based on arcade-style videogames. Other characters of similar vintage are Marvel's Megatak and DC's Colonel Computron, and Bug and Byte. The latter three could potentially be made into credible threats again considering the incredible advances in computer technology since their creation, but Megatak's entire thing is being a character from an 8-bit arcade game.
    • A little earlier in Spider-Man's history, we have supervillains Rocket Racer (skateboard) and Hypno Hustler (disco). Disturbingly, Hypno Hustler never appeared again as a villain (Aside from some cameos here and there) after his first appearance but has acquired a certain notoriety-based cachet among fans; Rocket Racer cameos every few years - his latest appearance portrays him as a genius Basement Dweller with confidence issues, based on the engineering skills he often displayed in earlier stories.
    • And in Spidey's current stories, we have Screwball, a traceuse who broadcasts her supervillainy live on the Internet.
  • Guy Gardner didn't become an actual Green Lantern until the 1980s, where he was essentially made into a walking parody of Regan-era policies. He started a war with the USSR and frequently expressed admiration for the amoral corporate raiders of the era. His characterization has progressed since then, but his 80's look remains intact.
    • His fellow GL, John Stewart, was introduced amidst the racial turmoil of the 70' as an Angry Black Man who railed against "The Man" and frequently provided a liberal counterpoint to convervative white Hal Jordan.
  • Ghost Rider is actually a combination of two different fads at the time the character was created in the early 1970's: stunt cycling and characters with horror-themed origins, which were then popular at Marvel Comics. Thankfully his occult adventures and highly distinctive design fit in rather well during the 80's and 90's, especially with the influx of anti-heroes in the 90's. His popularity has faded considerably in recent years, however.
  • The new Flash character Turbine seems like he was created to cash in on the renewed interest in the Tuskegee Airmen after the release of the movie Red Tails.
  • Naturally, any Soviet-themed comic character that is now hopelessly dated. Granted, the USSR was around more than seven decades, so it's a pretty long fad.
    • Combining this with Comic Book Time gives nearly every one of these characters his or her own Continuity Snarl.
      • The only aversions (or are they Lampshade Hangings?) are Omega Red, an intentional throwback who, in his first appearance, was explicitly kept in stasis since the Cold War until woken in the post-Soviet era, and "Cold Warrior", a similarly stored surplus-parts cyborg whose whole schtick is trying to bring back the People's Glory Days.
        • Ironically, Omega Red was created in 1992, early enough that stasis could not have been needed.
    • Averted in the case of Nazi-themed villains, since Nazism is such an enduring symbol of evil, but played straight for any villain based on Japanese Imperialism.
  • U.S. Archer was a Marvel character based on the truckin' CB radio craze of the 70's... created in 1983. Way to jump on that trend. Razorback was an earlier CB-based character.
  • Night Thrasher, leader of the New Warriors in the Marvel Universe, was created in 1990 with a skateboard grafted onto his urbanized Batman schtick to cash in on the rising popularity of the sport in the late '80s. As the '90s progressed, he used the board less and less.
    • And since any connection between skateboards and the term "thrashing" has largely passed out of public awareness, his name just sounds awfully nasty (although Spider-Man made a joke along this line in 1991.)
    • Not just a skateboarder, mind you, a black skateboarder. Marvel sure know their demographics. For the uninitiated - his heyday was long before there were any big name black skaters.
  • Marvel's Angar the Screamer, an angry radical type whose screams cause intense hallucinations.
  • You also used to get a lot of "kneejerk reactionary" villains in the 1980s, like Warhead, who held the Washington Monument hostage until the United States started war with somebody, anybody. Strangely, he was an inversion of a real-life incident where a peace protestor threatened to blow up the monument unless the U.S. disarmed.
  • At the height of Ultraman's popularity, Godzilla was forced to hang out with Jet Jaguar. That didn't go so well.
  • Skateman was made at a time when all skates had side-by-side wheels.
    • Skateman is interesting because the other two major facets of his life, being a karate blackbelt and a Vietnam vet, are also heavily tied to the early 1970s
  • The Legion of Super Heroes' Karate Kid, who has since moved beyond his fad into a fairly Rounded Character.
    • There was a karate fad in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s. He was reworked to fit the kung fu fad of the 1970s. He still predates the movie The Karate Kid by decades, so he's not quite as derivative as he sounds. (In fact, if you read the credits on the film carefully, you can find a disclaimer thanking DC for letting them use the title.)

Beast Boy: "Karate Kid"? Ha! "Wax on. Wax off."
Apparition: Superboy said that, too. What does it mean?
Karate Kid: I have no idea.

  • Similar to Karate Kid, Marvel's Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu, first appeared in 1972 as part of the '70s kung fu revival. Not only was Shang-Chi meant to invoke Bruce Lee, but his origin came because Marvel owned the comic book rights to both Fu Manchu and Kung Fu at the time.
  • Luke Cage and Iron Fist were created to cash-in on the popularity of Blaxploitation and Kung-Fu genres.
  • There were a lot of black superheroes created in the wake of the Blaxploitation trend. In addition to the aforementioned Cage, there was also Black Lightning, Black Goliath, Misty Knight (as well as her Kung-Fu master partner, Colleen Wing), and Wonder Woman's black "sister" Nubia.
  • Adam X the X-Treme, from the early, well, guess which decade, who was almost made a completely unignorable Old Shame by virtue of being the third Summers brother. Fortunately, he vanished before the writers revealed that, and it ended up being someone completely different about a decade later. He hasn't disappeared completely, considering a few recent appearances - and it's still entirely possible he's the fourth Summers brother, if only a half-brother.
  • Occasionally employed in a self-aware manner by Astro City—for instance, flashbacks to The Fifties might feature an appearance by a hero called "The Bouncing Beatnik".
    • Word of God is that the Bouncing Beatnik actually changes identities to match social trends of the time. There's been three known (in-universe) incarnations of the Beatnik, though only two have appeared in stories to date.
    • The "Dark Ages" story arc references the kung fu fad of the '70s with the Jade Dragons, and the space race with the Apollo Eleven.
    • Older stories have featured brief glimpses of the Frontiersman, complete with coonskin cap. If you don't get it, there was a popular Davy Crockett TV show in the 1950s.
  • VR Troopers, Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad, and Denji Sentai Megaranger all had 1990s-high-tech cyberspace/virtual reality themes (though Power Rangers modified Megaranger into an outer space theme).
  • The Heroes for Hire, Power Man and Iron Fist, capitalized on the popularity of blaxploitation and kung fu movies, respectively, by combining the two trends. As did their female counterparts, the Daughters of the Dragon Misty Knight and Colleen Wing.
  • Marvel Zombies. It's probably not a coincidence that an alternate universe where all the superheroes have become zombies became a recurring theme at the same time that books and movies about zombies were trendy.
    • There's a bit of "retro on purpose" there, though. The Marvel Zombies universe (the first one, at least, before they go dimension-hopping) is a bit further back in the timeline than the "real", 616 Marvel Universe but doesn't perfectly match any particular era. Captain America was a colonel, Earth has never seen Galactus before, and most of the zombified heroes wore costumes that those characters hadn't worn since the 1970s. However, Magneto had acolytes, which didn't come along until the 1990s in the 616 Marvel Universe.
  • There are plenty of Goth superheroes, like Marvel's Nico Minoru (formely Sister Grimm until they decided to ditch the codenames) and DC's Black Alice.
    • In Teen Titans, Raven was worked to fit the Emo and Goth fads as well, with... varying levels of success.
    • The Goth subculture's also not even close to dead (though the music's unrecognizably different now, of course) ... its corresponding suerheroes tend to be about ten years behind the current popular "look."
      • Negasonic Teenage Warhead, or Why It's A Bad Idea Let A Goth Teen Name Herself.
    • Neil Gaiman's Death is also now an example. She typically dresses as a 1980s goth, even in time periods before the 1980s. This seemed clever when read during the 1980s. From a modern perspective, she has an odd fixation on death imagery from one historical time period to the point that she even uses it in another.
  • Super-Hip, who appeared in DC's Adventures of Bob Hope comic book, was a parodic example of this trope.
  • Video game example: Hinako Shijo was based almost entirely around a very short-lived fad that revolved around petite women and high school girls that wanted to learn how to sumo wrestle. Seriously.
  • In the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, there is Headbanger, a hair-metal themed supervillain (who shows lots of chest hair, has big poofy 80s rock-star hair, and makeup) who uses The Power of Rock as a weapon. Glitterball was a disco-themed hero active in the late 1970s. Speedway is a Nascar-themed speedster. Yo-Yo uses gimmicked yo-yos as weapons.
  • Fire and Ice from the JLI used to sport some very...80's looking costumes, complete with big hair and T-shirts over spandex. Ice even lampshaded this by claiming she and Fire looked like they belonged in a rock video. Needless to say, the more recent comic books and cartoon adaptations have chosen to give the heroines different outfits.
  • It's hard to tell whether Marvel: The Lost Generation's Hipster, a skinny, goateed beatnik and total Jive Turkey operating in late 1950s San Francisco, is intended as a spoof or a completely straight portrayal of this trope. However, he's unarguably an example. When he meets Sunshine, a woman with psychedelic powers, he changes his costume and name to become Captain Hip.
  • DC's Super Young Team subverts this while trying to play it straight. They aren't tied to any specific trend, but they're obsessed with staying fresh and current. That said, Most Excellent Superbat, the most materialistic of the lot, is adamant that they're also somehow more than all that.
  • Video game example: the Koopalings, introduced in Super Mario Bros 3, were generally given a punk aesthetic to reflect Eighties-era trends (the most notable exception being Ludwig von Koopa). They went on hiatus after Super Mario World, which would seem to reflect on Nintendo abandoning past fads. Luckily for them, they got a comeback in the last dungeon of Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, followed by top billing in New Super Mario Bros. Wii; Weird Al Effect is definitely present, though.
  • Another DC creation was the short-lived Brother Power, The Geek, a hippie-themed hero whose exploits must simply be seen to be believed.
    • In 2009, there was an issue of The Brave and the Bold that was written, which essentially put forth the idea that Brother Power was too tied to the past to exist in the present. The issue ends with him burning to death after realizing he doesn't belong in the 21st century.