A hero is known by their name. When a villain screams: "It's the Batman!", they run in fear and terror. Unfortunately, with so many heroes running around, they can't all get cool names. Some folks are stuck with the leftovers. Here are some folks whose names probably never struck anything more than confusion in the folks they fought:
Perhaps the most conceited-sounding name ever, it's really bad when you consider Reed Richards gave the name to himself! I would have thought the other members of the team might have seen this as a little vain, but they just accepted it and ran with it. The weird thing is that it has absolutely nothing to do with his powers. He stretches! We have Plastic Man, Elastic Lad, and even The Elongated Man...what made him so much more special than those guys? He wasn't even unique! I'm willing to cut him some slack though, because Stan Lee was just starting out with a great concept here, and probably never thought the comic would still be around four decades later.
When you hear this name, you think about a woman with jewelry doing a lot of dancing around barefoot with a tambourine, and possibly with a hunchback dude watching her from a bell tower. Either that, or a Stevie Nicks song comes to mind quickly. You just don't picture that as a superhero, and especially not a member of the Justice League of America! But that's exactly who she was.
And yes, DC did manage the indignity of forcing her to run around barefoot while the rest of the heroes got shoes (even Aquaman--a swimmer!--got boots!). And her powers really had nothing to do with a gypsy. She didn't dance, she couldn't tell fortunes, and she did have a home. She just dressed like a gypsy.
Now a member of X-Factor again, this was a pretty easy choice of a name. Imagine how it went:
"I have an idea for a hero. He's strong."
"Cool. What kind of name do you have in mind for him?"
"Um, he's strong."
"Works for me."
Yep, he was strong. And what a wimp out on the name. Fortunately, Marvel didn't do this with all their characters. Imagine: Captain America would be "Shield Throwing Guy", or Spider Man would be "Sticks To Walls guy".
Not Ray Palmer, because his name makes sense. He's The Atom, and he gets super small. I'm talking about Al Pratt here, the JSA version.
He didn't shrink, he was just short...and we're not talking dwarf size here. He was just a short guy who liked to fight. It would be years after his introduction that he would be exposed to Cyclotron's energies and develop superhuman speed, strength, and stamina. In the beginning he was just a normal guy with an inferiority complex who wanted to focus all the attention he could on his one imagined flaw. Shouldn't someone in the JSA have made mention of the fact that an atom is really, really small? Perhaps something more suitable would be "Short Man", "Stumpy", or just "Yeah, I know, I'm not tall" Guy?
Ok, so you hear this name, and what would be the conversation there?
"Oh, you're Speedy? So I guess you run fast?"
"So what do you do?"
"I wear red and shoot arrows at bad guys."
"So why isn't your name 'Red Arrow' then?"
"I have no idea."
Flash had Kid Flash. Aquaman had Aqualad. Green Arrow wore green and shot arrows. His teen sidekick wore red and shot arrows. Where was the stretch in this name? Fortunately they've fixed it now and he's got the name he should have had to begin with, but he spent years trying to explain this one to folks I'm sure.
I know he's big stuff now in the DC underworld and is the puppet master for the most part, but what kind of name was this? And he's given up the costume to go with a more subtle image, but can you blame him?
You hear this name, and it doesn't really strike fear into the hearts of folks. The only time you'd see someone react in terror when they heard: "Oh no, it's The Calculator!" would be if the villain worked for the IRS and someone was cheating on their taxes.
Unfortunately, The Calculator never really got to create his "Back To School Gang". Imagine this lineup: The Calculator, with his partners Slide Rule, Protractor, Number 2 Pencil, and Magic Marker!
I don't think it would be possible to be more generic than this. Not "Rock Guy", or "Tough Stone Guy", but just "The Thing". A little weak to say the least. While we had "The Invisible Girl" (she turned invisible) and "The Human Torch" (a guy who catches on fire...gotcha), the other two members of the team ended up with pretty lame titles. At least his name was a little more humble than Reed Richards went with. I guess he could have said, "Mister Fantastic? Well, I'm even better, so I'm gonna be Captain Fabulous!"