Professor Wadleigh was the first. Long years ago, I was almost thrown out of school on a blasphemy rap, by a Dean who had been at one time a Southern Baptist preacher-man. Guess what his last name was.
So I was writing a story for a friend's fanzine, and needed a villain. I used the worst villain I knew, calling him "Professor Wadleigh, Dean of Scientific Crime." I had an excellent time writing the story, and it was well-received by comics fandom.
But darn if I didn't start to feel a sneaking fondness for the fella. So when I was writing scripts for Star-Studded Comics (a wonderful comicszine out of Texas) I used Professor Wadleigh and his occasional companion Rocketking as villains in a pie-flinging kind of story against the hero, Defender.
The Texas Trio never did use that script. I sent it off to Minotaur, a comiczine put out by Carl Gafford. Since he didn't have rights to Defender, he created another hero of the same type named Icarus. Somewhere among the flying pies, Professor Wadleigh got a sex-change. (I was working out a few issues of my own, and having fun to boot.)
A sex-change and a name-change, however, mean the police no longer recognize this person. And after this story, the Professor takes off for a vacation in Mexico. Life is interesting there, and she has a very good time being perfectly normal instead of a super.
On the way home, the plane is hijacked by the terrorists du jour, who want to go to the location du jour - it hardly matters to the story, so leave that in abeyance until it's actually drawn. Now, she has a suitcase with a number of robots in it checked in as luggage. She summons them. They get out of the suitcase, doing a Dagwood-and-the-burglar routine in the process, and climb up to the passenger cabin. (It may require a bit of finagling to fit this storyline into the post-9/11 world!)
The robots have been instructed beforehand to not reveal any connection to Wadleigh, but rather to act independently. If the police are going to bother anybody, the Professor wants it to be robots (who have special circuits and accessories for just such occasions). They hijack the plane in the name of the Robot Liberation Front, and divert it to Silicon Valley, where they parachute out. And she ends up back in Twinopolis after a certain amount of bureaucracy.
As she's making her next robotic villain-machine (a big sucker named Leviathan) she realizes that it is capable of really standing up to the heat. So she takes it to an oil-industry convention to market her services for putting out oil-well fires. This is where she takes her first steps into respectability; and also where she meets Salamander (see picture above), an industrial super with flame control, in the same line of work. They end up in business together, and eventually marry. This plotline introduces the industrial supers - a third branch, alongside the heroes and villains.
Industrial supers? Well, yes. Some powers are good for more than robbing banks, conquering the world, and saving us from villainy and the occasional flaming meteor. The Flash would make a superlative express courier. Superman could do well moving pianos, especially to third-floor walk-ups where you have to carry the piano up a winding staircase (unless you can simply fly it in the window). The Incredible Hulk would be a primo demolition company. And while Salamander refers to himself as the master of flame, he really is the master of combustion. Which lets him control just about any energetic, exothermic chemical reaction. The industrial uses are obvious: why rob banks when you can get a hefty paycheck in the chemical industry? Tame over-enthusiastic reactions, goose sluggish ones, and steer them all down the desired reaction paths. Why, it's almost as good as transmuting lead into gold, and a lot better than transmuting palladium into silver!