But not every new character succeeds. Sometimes they're an idea that's been handled better somewhere else. Sometimes they just don't connect. Sometimes they're either ahead or behind their times. Sometimes they're just terrible. Just so, so terrible.
Thus, we have the book The League Of Regrettable Superheroes, a collection of the weirdest, most misunderstood, and downright worst superheroes (and some villains) who ever existed.
The author, Jon Morris, operates the Gone And Forgotten blog, which is one I really wish a) had thought up and b) had the resources to maintain. Sadly, I have neither. So instead, all I can talk about is the collection of some of the most (least?) memorable characters he's covered on his site.
The book breaks everything up by ages, starting with the Golden Age where rules were looser but there were more heroes whose rule were "punch people in the face with no powers" or "punch people with just one power." It moves on to the silver age, then ends in the modern age, looking at some of the more recent failures in comics.
Not every character is awful, however, some just didn't work out. For instance, there's Lady Satan, a character now in the public domain who fought against America's enemies with a chlorine gun and later developed black magic powers.
There was Bozo the Iron Man (a robot, not Tony Stark), The Red Bee (a personal favorite of mine), Spider-Queen, and even some truly unique characters, like Nelvana of the Northern Lights, who protected the Inuit peoples and appeared a few months before Wonder Woman first appeared on the scene.
The Silver Age brings us such classic characters as Brother Power, The Geek (that's one person), Bee-Man (who I'll discuss another time), Congorilla, B'wana Beast, Dial H for Hero, and others who people might remember fondly at times, but were never really "successful." Except Bee-Man. Nobody remembers him fondly.
The modern age digs deep, and makes a few choices that some might consider controversial in comics. ROM, Spaceknight was a pretty successful title, and only is "forgotten" because the rights to the character were lost by Marvel so they can never reprint anything with him. Prez, Slapstick, and NFL Superpro were never really meant to be the next Superman, but they each had a story to tell, even if they never really told a very good one.
And then there's the atrocities. Gunfire, whose superpower is that everything he holds turns into a gun. Adam X the X-Treme, Thunderbunny, Sonik (not the hedgehog), Ravage 2099, and Skate-Man.
If you want a fun bit of trivia history, or if you and your friends want a coffee table book you can just casually pick up and go "hey, did you guys know there was a loser called Jigsaw whose was made of mechanical jigsaw puzzle pieces?" then I heartily recommend this book. I, admittedly, know a lot of obscure comic book stuff, but most of these characters I never heard of, and a few of them I wish I still hadn't.
For instance, if we do invent time travel, if someone doesn't go and prevent the creation of Dr. Hormone, then we have failed as a civilization.
Jon Morris' writing perfectly encapsulates how ridiculous these characters are, even considering many of them exist with strange people from other worlds, guys who dress up like spiders, and a guy who thinks dressing up like a bat and driving a rocket car around is the best way to defeat people who make him solve riddles. They aren't all terrible, and you can tell that Jon Morris has a strange kind of affection for a lot of these characters (though some you can tell he's just being nice about).
But seriously, go read Jon Morris' blog. It's where I go for inspiration sometimes (and the fact he's posted the Marvel Cookbook before I could makes me very sad).