5. Guy Gardner as Green Lantern
Poor Guy could have been the main Silver Age Green Lantern except for some rotten luck. The dying Abin Sur’s ring found two worthy candidates but grabbed Hal Jordan since he was closer. This was later retconned to be the work of Booster Gold, but I prefer the original explanation just because it seems fitting.
In any case, Gardner became the most official substitute super hero ever, literally picked as a backup in case Jordan was tied up with something else. If that sounds like a good gig, remember that Guy had a damaged power battery blow up in his face, got trapped in the Phantom Zone as a result, watched his girlfriend almost marry Jordan, then ended up stuck in a coma when he made it back home.
That’s enough to give anyone a complex, and Guy had a huge one. I’ll always remember him lording it over Hal during a Crisis on Infinite Earths tie-in issue, leading an assault on the Anti-Monitor’s moon and telling the motley crew of villains assisting him that he’d have to be “in three pieces” for Jordan to take over.
Gardner eventually became a true hero and a key member of the Green Lantern Corps, but man, did he have to go through a lot to get there (and this too). His actual time as a substitute may not have been inherently memorable, but his trials and tribulations alone were enough to get him on this list.
(Note: Why not John Stewart? Because he’s even less known as a substitute than Gardner, only getting the call after Guy was hit by a bus. Let’s just keep thoughts of Stewart as a regular, highly respected Green Lantern in our heads. And for goodness sake, let’s all forget about this.)