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International Heroes


Action Girl Cover Image

The Freedom Collective #1 © 2002 Rough Cut Comics. COVER ART BY DOMINIC REGAN AND COLIN BARR.

If one were to believe the news in comic books, not only is New York City the center of the universe, but it is also the center of superhero and supervillain activities. Sure, sometimes the superbeings are in Metropolis, Gotham City, Opal City, Keystone City, or even real urban centers like Chicago or Los Angeles, but what about other countries? Don't they have superheroes, too? Independent American publishers are not terribly global, but both Marvel and DC have international heroes, many of whom critics deride as countrywide cultural stereotypes.

DC's biggest group made up mostly of foreign nationals is called the Global Guardians. The group is led by African shaman Doctor Mist, and includes the following members and represented countries: lizard-powered Bushmaster (Venezuela); long-haired Godiva (England); flaming spitfire Green Fury (Brazil), later a member of the Justice League as Fire; frost-powered Icemaiden (Norway), later a member of the Justice League as Ice; speedy Impala (South Africa); magic lantern-powered Jack O'Lantern (Ireland); mutant Atlantean Little Mermaid (Denmark); Golden-Fleece-wearing the Olympian (Greece); flying Native American Owlwoman (Oklahoma); solar-powered Rising Sun (Japan); Biblically blessed hero the Seraph (Israel); gay lycanthrope and future Justice League member Tasmanian Devil (Australia); vocal screamer Thunderlord (Taiwan); time-seeing third-eyed Tuatura (New Zealand); and Viking barbarian Wild Huntsman (Germany).

The Global Guardians are not the first of DC's international hero groups, nor the last. The first would likely include the Batmen of All Nations from January 1955's Detective Comics #215 (England's Knight and Squire, Australia's the Ranger, Italy's the Legionary, South America's the Gaucho, and France's the Musketeer). In 1988, DC debuted the weekly Millennium miniseries, which introduced ten heroes from across the globe who would usher in the next era of humanity as the New Guardians. Its members included Betty Clawman, Extrano, Floro, Gloss, Harbinger, Jet, and Ram. The 2000 annuals for DC introduced yet another line of international heroes in a multi-part storyline called Planet DC, most of which have since been relatively unseen—such as samurai-like Bushido (Japan); magical swordswoman Janissary (Russia); shape-shifting Aruna (India); Manhunter-related swordswoman Nemesis (Greece); strong swordswoman Sala (Tunisia); The Boggart (England); the animalistic eight-hero team The Super-Malon (Argentina); and the armored trio Iman, Acrata, and El Muerto (Mexico).

Marvel's international characters have sometimes been perceived as villains or antagonists by the company's American heroes (from the incorrigibly French Batroc the Leaper to the definitive Eastern European despot Dr. Doom), though many, like Russia's supergroup Soviet Super-Soldiers (Darkstar, Crimson Dynamo, Gremlin, Titanium Man, Ursa Major, and Vanguard) were clearly fighting for their country's beliefs. Many Marvel heroes already hail from other countries and continents, such as Black Panther (Africa), Captain Britain (England), Spitfire (England), Union Jack (England), Banshee (Ireland), Storm (Africa), Nightcrawler (Germany), Sunfire (Japan), the Black Widow (Russia), Gypsies Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch (Europe), Wolverine (Canada), and the team Alpha Flight (Canada).

Marvel made an attempt to diversify its slate in Marvel Super-Hero Contest of Champions (June–August 1982), featuring the debuts of power-suited Peregrine (France), Talisman (Australia), Shamrock (Ireland), electrical-powered Blitzkrieg (Germany), quill-firing Sabra (Israel), armored Defensor (Argentina), and sword-swinging Arabian Knight (Saudi Arabia). Few of them have been used often in the two decades since, though Marvel published Excalibur, a long-running counterpart to its popular X-Men set in the United Kingdom, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and tried out an amusing, corporate-created team of Japan-based superbeings, Big Hero 6, in a 1998 miniseries. (The Contest of Champions was repeated as farce in 2003, with Marvel's satirical mutants X-Statix squaring off against the superteam Euro-Trash, and in 2004 was set to take a grimmer form, as Marvel's edgy Avengers variation, the Ultimates, mobilized against international heroes created to offset America's unrivalled real-life superpower status.)

Lest anyone think that international heroes are solely the purview of major American comic-book publishers, rest assured that even though superheroes are not as popular in other countries, they do exist. Red-and-white clad adventurer Captain Canuck is one of Canada's most famous heroes, while Canadian gay hero Go-Go Boy is a bit more obscure, and Canadian heroes the Jam, Northguard, and the heroine Fleur de Lyse fall somewhere in the center. Following are a number of other countries, and the heroes that are represented in comics there.

Due to a ban on imported publications throughout the 1940s and 1950s, Australian comics had a chance to grow. Golden Age (1938–1954) heroes included Crimson Comet, the Phantom Ranger, Captain Atom, Sir Falcon, Silver Starr, Blue Ray, and many others. Most Australian comic-book companies ceased publication by 1960, since the import ban was lifted and American comics were now flooding their market. Cyclone Comics revived some older heroes in the 1980s in the pages of Southern Squadron (Lieutenant Smith, Dingo, Southern Cross, and Nightfighter) and other books. Other heroes included an adventurer called the Jackaroo, energy-wielding Dark Nebula, heroine Australian Maid, and a parody of American heroes called the A-Men (including the Americano, America Man, and others). Phosphorescent Comics published The Watch, with team members Fallout, Adapt, Xenia, Bones, Jack, the Fisher, and others. Other Aussie heroes include Bug Man and Roachboy, Pizza Man, Brainmaster and Vixen, and the groups the Olympians and Forerunners.

Marvel's Captain Britain first appeared in British comics in 1976, but Marvelman (called Miracleman in the United States) was a much older hero, having first appeared in the 1950s before his 1980s revival by Alan Moore. Costumed heroes first appeared in the 1920s and1930s pulps, including Invisible Dick, Blackshirt, Waldo the Wonder Boy, the Black Whip, and the Night Hawk. Some 1940s comic-book heroes—such as the Bat—resembled American counterparts, while Captain Magnet, Electro Girl, the Falcon, Maskman, Tornado, Mr. X, and Wonderman were less obvious homages. The 1950s brought in Black Shadow, Electroman, spoof hero Super Stooge, and the bizarrely named Robot Archie. Heroes from the 1960s included Gadgetman and Gimmick-Kid, Captain Miracle, contortionist Janus Stark, Miniman, and the Phantom Viking. The weekly 2000 AD brought violent helmeted police officer Judge Dredd and others into the 1970s, while Aquavenger, Marksman, Leopardman, evangelist hero Hotshot, and Birdman and Chicken prowled the comics, and actor Dave Prowse donned the costume of the Green Cross Code Man to teach kids about road safety (years before he played Darth Vader in the Stars Wars saga). Revisionist hero comics Zenith and New Statesmen were released in the 1980s, before their creators were whisked away to write revisionist American comics, while the 1990s saw Marvel U.K. titles like Clan Destine, Hell's Angel, Knigths of Pendragon, and Death's Head. Paul Grist's Jack Staff (April 2000) became popular enough that in 2003 Image republished it in the United States.

Early heroes included Fantax and Atomas, while Tenax, Felina, and bug-powered Mikros came later. French publisher Semic brought back some older heroes and mixed them with new creations to create a shared universe that included Starlock and the Strangers, and superteams Kidz and Hexagon. Alien astronaut Homicron 1, gold-armored peace officer Le Gladiateur de Bronze, and man of light Photonik are among other francophilic heroes, while sexy trapeze artist Felina and insect-powered Saltarella are two of the relatively few original heroines. Gay heroes Lift, Volt, Seal, Phase, and Tiger starred in 2001–2002's Ultimen.

There are numerous Indian superheroes including robotic Fauladi Singh, high-tech hero Abhay (and his higher self Agniputra), and live-action television hero Shaktimaan. The heroes of the company Raj Comics include Jupiterian Vinashdoot, cyborg Inspector Steel, acrobatic Super Commando Dhruva, patriotic Tiranga, and blue-skinned goddess avatar Shakti.

Created in 1962 but still going strong, Diabolik is probably Italy's most famous super-character, though this masked man preys on the underworld as a Robin Hood–like criminal. Down Comix's Capitan Italia makes fun of his American counterparts, while Pumaman was a 1980 film about an animal-powered paleontologist who becomes a badly dressed avenging hero (tan pants, a black shirt, and a red cape). Zorry Kid, created in 1968, was a parody of Zorro. Leo Ortolani, a hilarious Matt Groening–inspired cartoonist, writes and draws the long-running Rat-Man. Published by Marvel Comics' Italian imprint Cult Comics, it spoofs the stereotypically diminutive stature of Europe and its comics, as well as the stereotypically brawny self-assurance of both Marvel's American heroes and America itself.

There are hundreds of luchadores enmascarados (masked fighters/wrestlers) in Mexico who fight villains in the comics, the movies, and the real-life wrestling rings. The three most famous ones are Santo, the Blue Demon, and Mil Mascaras. Other Mexican heroes include Flyman, Zooman, Supervolador, La Llanera Vengadora and her brother sidekick Fausto, giant Zor, and El Hombre Invisible. More modern characters include the teen hero Meteorix, Cygnus Comics' Creaturas de la Noche, superduck Ultrapato, and anthropomorphic heroes the Valiants. Ka-Boom Estudio has released Nemesis 2000: La Alianza, the ghostly Spectrum, and marine group Hibridos del Mar.

Heroes include El Gato, Japanese Bat, Kapitan Aksiyon, Captain Barbell, Maskarado, and the longest-running (since 1950) heroine, the buxom Darna. There are several Phillipine superhero movies as well, including Super Islaw, Super B, and the campy gay hero She-Man: Mistress of the Universe.

Many heroes in Spain are published by Planeta's Libertino imprint, including the groups Triada Vertice (Mihura, Estigma, and Cascabel) and Iberia Inc. (Dolmen, Trueno, Lobisome, Drac de Ferro, Aquaviva, Trasnu, and Melkart), as well as solo heroes Gavilan and Le Loup Garou. Some 1940s heroes include the female vigilante La Entorcha and masked crime fighter El Encapuchado. The 1970s saw the birth of comedic superhero Super Lopez, whose adventures continue today, and which include other parody heroes such as La Chica Increible (Wonder Girl), El Mago (the Wizard), and Capitan Hispania. Super Pumby, a flying cat, hailed from a 1964 kids' comic.

Denmark has heroes Dukse Drengen (Hero Boy) and Natte Ravnen (Night Owl), while the former Yugoslavia published the scantily clad heroine Cat Claw. Israel is represented by Sabraman, first published in 1978, while Nigeria has the flying Powerman. And as if to show that all international borders could be crossed, in 2002 Scotland's Rough Cut Comics released the satirical publication The Freedom Collective, imagining a Silver Age Marvel-style comic as if it were published in the Kremlin at the height of the cold war. The Collective is made up of members Mig-4, the Krimson Kommisar, ice goddess Ajys, rocky Homeland, and the monstrous Mastodon.

Superheroes may have started out as an American pleasure, but as the preceding information shows, the rest of the world loves ultra-powered men and women in tights, armor, and capes as well. —AM

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