These 12 Overexposed Comic Book Characters Overshadowed Their Universe
Some overexposed comic book characters are famous and popular because they are simply overused and oversaturated in their mediums. These characters can be found in every crossover comic book event or guest-starring in other comic books to boost sales. Some of these characters also get to star in multiple solo and team comic books, further oversaturating their exposure to readers.
Popular characters are also relied on too much in comic book films at the expense of introducing or exploring lesser-known ones. Sometimes, too much of a good thing is just too much. Here is a list of 12 of the most overexposed comic book characters.
Wolverine was wildly popular long before Hugh Jackman’s portrayal but has since become one of the most overexposed comic book characters. He is infamous for appearing in multiple teams and solo titles at once and even meta-commenting on it in the comics. He became the righteous assassin with uncontrollable rage lecturing others about violence while being everywhere all at once. Even Jackman’s Wolverine, who got the most exposure and only solo films in the Fox films, is coming back in Deadpool 3 for more overexposure.
There is an internet rumor that the aborted DCEU-era Ben Affleck solo Batman film would have featured Deathstroke as the main villain. However, Batman’s eternal top foe is a lanky, unathletic, psychotic, ex-comedian clown with a rictus grin. The Joker is the prime example of overexposed comic book characters overstaying their welcome. A cackling, over-the-top, and calculating Joker can’t not appear in a major DC Comics story for too long. It’s something we’ve seen too much of too many times.
As a hardcore comic book fan, I love the Punisher, but he is one of the most overexposed comic book characters ever. Frank Castle was a vigilante wish-fulfillment character and social commentary on crime in society who suddenly became a superhero as popular as Spider-Man or Captain America. Having the Punisher popping up in so many other comic books diluted the character’s individuality, and original social message, and spread him too thin.
In the comic books, the Venom symbiote is being retconned to show that the symbiote originated from another planet of monstrous alien creatures. The military in the Marvel Comics have used the symbiote on their soldiers for special missions. Flash Thompson, some members of the Guardians of the Galaxy, and other characters have bonded with the symbiote. Venom was once just Eddie Brock – why is Venom special now when he is everywhere and so many others can bond with it?
This character found new life in the Ryan Reynolds films but has been overstaying his welcome in the comic books for decades now. Infamous for his fourth-wall-breaking antics, Bugs Bunny-esque jokes and witticisms masking deep pathos, and ultra-violence, Deadpool has been in the Avenger, X-Force, X-Men, Thunderbolts, and even a team-up book with Spider-Man. It’s too much for a character that has devolved into a Rodney Dangerfield-mixed-with-an-assassin schtick.
Harley Quinn first appeared in a Batman cartoon in the 1990s and transitioned to the comics. Some critics refer to her as the female Deadpool due to her fourth-wall-breaking antics. However, her appeal is overly forced in comic books. She is a powerless, 90-pound Joker derivative with a mallet who has been in the Suicide Squad, Gotham City Sirens, and a sometimes Batman Family ally who has been in love with The Joker and now Poison Ivy. That would be fine if her powers extended beyond quippyness and overexposure.
Magneto is one of those villains that Marvel Comics can never decide is a villain or hero, dead or alive, righteous or evil. The character was recently killed and resurrected in the comic books, again. Magneto has cheated death, switched from villain to hero and vice versa, or styled himself a political leader of mutant-kind many times in the comic books. His penchant for double-crossing is so overdone that Magneto is an overexposed sub-genre of tropes within his trope.
Peter Parker’s status quo as a broke New Yorker trying to pay bills while wooing Mary Jane and fighting crime has put his stories in a rut. When Marvel changes the story formula, it causes outrage (Look up “One More Day.”) One of the most popular Spider-Man stories of the last decade is “Superior Spider-Man, a story where Peter Parker is temporarily killed and Dr. Octopus assumes the Spider-Man role.
Spider-Man’s identity is unevolved but his IP is oversaturated. He is overused in street and cosmic-level stories in the comics and in other media where armies of Spider-Man variants and clones prosper.
When casual comic book fans say they love Iron Man, they are talking about Robert Downey Jr.’s MCU portrayal. Iron Man was not an A-list character in the comic books until the MCU exploded. Post-MCU, the character became a hot commodity that appeared in multiple comics, even though his comic book character trope of being a billionaire, struggling alcoholic playboy who doesn’t play well with others was already stale in the 1990s but is still being recycled and overused in stories even now.
Thanos was very popular in comic books before becoming the Darth Vader of the 21st-century MCU generation, a villain ubiquitously known to every pop culture fan in the zeitgeist. He then became inescapable in the comic books and the center of new threats in every cosmic-level comic book. He popped up as a threat all of the time and was even beaten once by Squirrel Girl. It’s a duel-edged sword to have Thanos be so popular and overused while also having his power and menace diluted by multiple defeats and appearances.
MCU fans are clamoring for Dr. Doom to appear in the films, but be careful what you wish for. Since 1962, Dr. Doom has been the mastermind and evil force behind many comic book storylines and evil plots and it gets tiresome. The Fantastic Four and other heroes can’t rest for five minutes without dealing with a Dr. Doom world-ending plot. Doom is probably the first of the overexposed comic book characters to exist and needs a rest.
In music, the Drake stimulus package refers to the financial and popularity benefits of having the star rapper appear on another artist’s song as a feature. Batman is that important in the world of DC Comics. Batman, a human character with no superpowers, usually has more solo comic book titles, ancillary titles, and team book appearances than other DC characters.
This fact strains credulity in stories where Batman survives reentry into Earth’s atmosphere without a space suit, survives fights with Superman, develops countermeasures to incapacitate every Justice League member, and can be counted on to stop every villain from the Joker to Darkseid. (All of those things happened in the comic books) Batman is everywhere in the DC Comics and has more clout than Superman – it’s just too much.
The Most Overexposed Comic Book Characters Sometimes Need a Break
Comic book mania and comic book films are not going anywhere. However, even the MCU is now suffering because they purposely overexposed comic book characters in the films and streaming shows post-Endgame wore out their welcome. Marvel and DC would be smart to start using their most popular characters more sparingly and in more strategically creative manners to keep fans wanting more.
Allen Francis is a full-time writer, prolific comic book investor and author of The Casual’s Guide: Why You Should Get Into Comic Book Investing. Allen holds a BA degree from Marymount Manhattan College. Before becoming a writer Allen was an academic advisor, librarian, and college adjunct for many years. Allen is an advocate of best personal financial practices including saving and investing in your own small business.