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Superhero Nicknames


Some superheroes' nicknames are so ingrained in America's consciousness that hardcore fans and the general public alike often use the nickname to refer to the character. How many times has The Man of Steel been used to describe Superman? Or The Caped Crusader for Batman? What about the Dynamic Duo (Batman and Robin)? Spider-Man is Spidey or the web-slinger to most, while few can instantly recall his other (less complementary) name, Web-Head. Fewer still remember the World's Smallest Superhero (it's the Atom, of course). Some heroes' nicknames are so catchy they are reminiscent of fairy-tale ideals or popular advertising campaigns (think the Hulk's sobriquet, Jolly Green Giant). But these are just a few examples of comic-book creators' ingenuity and of names both popular and long-forgotten that have served costumed crime fighters well.

Early comic-book references to DC Comics' ominous hero, Batman, have hailed him as the Masked Manhunter, Master of Darkness, the Dark Night, and the World's Greatest Detective. This last phrase comes from the fact that Batman is an ingenious mystery-solver (a supersleuth, if you will) and ace criminologist. Indeed, Batman #14 (December 1942) calls the hero a stunt man an acrobat a superb athlete a lion-hearted fighter—and a sleuth all rolled into one. As protector of one of America's most crime-ridden cities, he is the Guardian of Gotham.

The other half of Batman for most of his fighting career, Robin, the Boy Wonder, was a wondrously dexterous ex–circus performer turned America's most popular sidekick—also described as Batman's daredevil young aide and a young, laughing Robin Hood of today in the early 1940s. Coming into his own as Nightwing, he fights crime in nearby Blüdhaven—though time, not miles, has separated his counterpart character Batgirl from perhaps the most unforgettable (and unforgivable?) of superhero nicknames, straight from the camp-crazed 1960s: The Dominoed Dare-Doll .

DC champion Superman is heralded as both the Man of Steel and the Man of Tomorrow—both fitting for a futuristic demigod who can bend steel in his bare hands and withstand being struck by steel girders. Mid-1950s issues of Action Comics called him the champion of the underdog, eternal foe of the underworld, and the world's mightiest hero. The comics pages have also referred to him colloquially as a colorfully-costumed, mighty-sinewed man of might, mankind's foremost crusader for good, and a fighting champion of justice who is famous the world over. In the high-tech 1990s and 2000s he has sometimes been known, with apologies to IBM, as Big Blue. Following in the footsteps of Superman's most popular nickname, Superboy is the Boy of Steel; Supergirl, the Girl (or Maid) of Steel.

Sobriquets for other costumed heroes include Amazing Amazon, aptly embraced by DC's Wonder Woman, who has also enjoyed such honors as Aphrodite's agent, America's Guardian Angel, disciple of peace and love, and invincible enemy of injustice. Marvel Comics' Ant-Man is also known as the Ant-Size Avenger, and as Giant-Man has been referred to as High-Pockets. DC's Elongated Man was often called the Ductile Detective. DC's Aquaman is none other than Marine Marvel or King of the Seven Seas. Marvel's undersea counterpart, the Sub-Mariner, is called the Prince of the Seas. Marvel's Captain America goes by Cap, the Star-Spangled Avenger, or—are you ready for this?—Winghead (depending upon who is doing the name-calling).

Marvel's blind superhero, Daredevil, is simply referred to as the Man without Fear—his supersensory powers enabling him to fight crime with a super-level of confidence. DC's favorite speedster, the Flash, has been termed (most appropriately) the Fastest Man Alive, the Scarlet Speedster, and the Sultan of Speed. DC's Green Arrow is simply the Emerald Archer; the Green Lantern is the Emerald Crusader or the Green Gladiator. Marvel's Doctor Strange is the Master of Mystic Arts. DC's birdlike hero Hawkman is dubbed the Winged Wonder or the Flying Fury. Marvel's Iron Man has fondly been called the Golden Avenger, the Golden Gladiator, Bullet Head, and Shell Head. DC's green-skinned Martian Manhunter prefers to be called either Manhunter from Mars or Martian Marvel (no ego there!). Marvel's ultra-cool Silver Surfer rides intergalactic waves as the Sentinel of the Spaceways. Marvel's Iron Fist has been called the Living Weapon. Finally, who could forget Marvel's Norse God of Thunder, the mighty Thor—who has been called both the Son of Odin and the less immortalizing Goldilocks?

Teams don't escape nicknaming either. Marvel's superteam, the Avengers, has been called Earth's Mightiest Heroes. DC's superteam, the Justice League of America, is named the World's Greatest Super-Heroes. Marvel's mutant X-Men are, most appropriately, the World's Strangest Superheroes. —GM

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