Roads to Regrettability : Homegrown International Heroes
The League of Regrettable Heroes – soon to be published by Quirk Books and written by yours truly – features write-ups on 100 of comicdom’s weirdest, most unfortunate, most misunderstood and flat-out strangest superheroes. The book debuts June 2, 2015, so in the meantime let’s discuss the many paths a character can take on the road to regrettability. There’s an old joke that war is how God teaches geography to Americans, and the fact is that our colossus of a nation sometimes makes us a little ignorant of the heroes of other lands, which is why sometimes they come out a little stereotypey …
One of the things which the limited series Marvel Super Heroes Contest of Champions brought to the world of superherodom was a heretofore unheard-of number of international heroes. Slipping the boundaries which seemed to keep superheroes exclusively in Manhattan (or, at least, America), superheroes from around the planet were introduced in one swell foop. The problem- no one seemed to know enough about other nations to create much in the way of nuanced regional heroes, meaning we had a green-clad Irish “Shamrock,” a generically Arabic “Arabian Night,” an aboriginal “Talisman” parading around the Dreamtime, and a West German superhero named, of all things, Blitzkrieg. Who were his sidekicks, Kristalnacht and Zyklon?
|Knockin' down haters.|
Not to be left out in the cold, DC had their own international super-heroes. On television, the Japanese “Samurai” and Native American “Apach Chief” rubbed shoulders with a glitter-tastic Mexican El Dorado, all of whom possessed powers that had nothing to do with their names (which were there just to be ethnic, frankly). Meanwhile, in the pages of the Super Friends comics – and elsewhere in the DC Universe – an international “Global Guardians” was developed to provide some around-the-world flavor, but again was based largely on landmarks and cultural traditions. Ireland was this time represented by Jack O Lantern, Greece by The Olympian, Denmark by The Little Mermaid, Japan by The Rising Sun, and so on.
DC repeated this technique when appointing its unusual New Guardians, supposedly the next generation of super-humanity representing all the people of the world, but once again the aboriginal Australian wandered the Dreamtime, plus there was a Japanese guy who was really good with computers and a totally racist white South African. At least that last one was a bit of a twist.
A personal favorite among the American-created international jet set was Captain Britain, created by Chris Claremont and Herb Trimpe in order to give Marvel UK a British hero in the Marvel tradition, without all that pesky familiarity with the culture. Powered by Merlyn, a member of aristocracy and intended to be a sort of stiff-upper-lip Captain America, the British Cap’s costume was a lorry wreck of apparent Englishisms shoved haphazardly on a single piece of fabric. With tiny flags on the corner of his mask, a lion rampant on his chest, Union Jack bracelets and a ding-dang scepter, all that was missing was a belt made of five-pound notes and fish fingers. Maybe he could also have a double-decker bus he parks in a red telephone booth, just to make sure all our bets are covered.