A born loser with big dreams, Joe failed at boxing and professional wrestling. His manager, Tommy Tomkins, made him a TV fantasy film extra; wearing an alien costume, Joe accidentally gained power in an electrified pool of chemicals. The dazed Joe went on a rampage, seeking vengeance on those who had mocked him. Between fights with Spider-Man, Joe helped him against Norman Osborn's assassins. Joe held his own against Spider-Man, but eventually his head cleared and his powers faded. Exonerated due to presumptive temporary insanity, Joe's performance led to a new job. Allegedly starring in a weekly TV series, Joe actually played the lead in the low-budget science fiction potboiler The Alien and the Ozone, directed by Toxic Shock Pictures' Mr. Vigarro. His unspectacular performance interrupted by Mysterio, Joe saw his chance to shine again. He confronted Mysterio to free kidnapping victim Betsy Schneider; powerless, he lasted only five seconds, with Spider-Man saving his life. Joe rescued Betsy and then literally pulled the plug on Mysterio's power source, enabling Spider-Man to quickly defeat him.
Joe and Betsy had a brief romance, after which he starred as The Crimson Bat, meeting and marrying studio script girl Liz. The Crimson Bat was cancelled after three years, and the typecast Joe was unemployed. Their son, Joe Jr., had severe birth defects, leaving him mentally handicapped and fragile. Devastated, Liz left Joe, but Joe never gave up, taking his son for special care despite being in financial straits. Joey eventually died, triggering in Joe a post-traumatic stress flashback. His powers re-emerged, again affecting his mind, driving him to seek vengeance on benefit-cutting bureaucrats. These assaults led Captain America to learn Joe's history, and he managed to subdue and reach Joe, convincing him his son's death was not his fault. Regaining his mind, Joe surrendered and was given medical care. Medications restored Joe's sanity, and he was released on time served plus community service. Working at a children's center, Joe found his true calling. When the center was vandalized, the powerless Joe donned his costume in a failed attempt to intimidate the culprits. However, his actions inspired the neighborhood to drive off the gang. Joe later decked small-time criminal Red Bear, who stole from an art gallery and knocked over an old woman.
Reunited with and married to Betsy Schneider, they were abducted by Mysterio (Daniel Berkhart) and Mad Jack (Maguire Beck) who targeted all who had crossed the various incarnations of Mysterio, including Daredevil, Spider-Man, and J. Jonah Jameson. Broken out of stasis by the heroes, Joe helped capture Mad Jack, possibly regaining his power in the process. Betsy decided to write stories about her new hero: A Guy named Joe.