Holly Loranger | June 20, 2017
Wonder Woman opened recently to much praise and solid box office sales, including the top spot in many nations around the world during its debut weekend. One of Wonder Woman’s appeals is that it challenges the typical notion of a superhero. However, more broadly, Wonder Woman is an opportunity to reflect on the global fascination with superheroes. Natalie Haynes of the BBC (Before Marvel and DC) suggests that even though superhero stories dominate contemporary cinemas, they actually have their origins in antiquity. From Fionn mac Cumhaill, who built the Giant’s Causeway to Northern Ireland, to Gilgamesh, who defeated Humbaba in Mesopotamia, superheroes have existed as long as stories have. They have both timeless and universal appeal to “ordinary” human beings.
The global appeal of superheroes stems in part from the universality of the themes they represent: justice and injustice, the hero’s journey, lessons for coping with adversity and more. Sohaib Awan, producer of the Jinnrise comic series, says, “Each culture offers a potential take on well-known themes and stories. There may only be a certain number of stories to tell, but cultural diversity offers a myriad of ways to tell them.” Additionally, fans across the globe are continuing to adopt cosplay, short for costume play, to honor their comic book and superheroes. To read about how young women in Malaysia have found ways to merge the hijab with their passion for superheroes and cosplay, click here or read on to learn about superheroes from around the world.
A Sampler of Superheroes from Around the Globe:
Created during the Balkans War in the 1990s, Super Hrvoje was intended to be a Croatian version of Captain America. He has the power to shoot stones at supersonic speed, merge with rocks or dive into the rocky ground. Read more about Super Hrvoje here.
The kindly crime-fighting granny with X-ray eyesight is extra fast and incredibly strong. Super Gran uses her powers to protect the fictional town of Chiselton. Read more about Super Gran here.
The 99 are crimefighters associated with the 99 attributes of Allah. However, they have generated a considerable level of controversy, both within and outside of the Islamic community. Find out more about the controversies generated by this series here or view comic creator Naif Al-Mutawa’s TED Talk here.
Israeli comic book artist Uri Fink created Sabraman when he was 15 years old. Sent to Europe to fight Nazis, Holocaust survivor Sabraman had an atomic brain and the ability to fly. Read more about the history of Sabraman and other Israeli superheroes here.
Ultraman uses powers like super-strength, flight and self-replication to battle giant monsters. Read more about Ultraman here.
After being infected by a viral gecko, Hairi was transformed into bug-eating mutant Cicak Man (Gecko-Man). Read more about this Malaysian superhero here.
Pakistan’s first animated female superhero, schoolteacher Jiya uses books and pens as weapons in the fight for educational access. Learn more here.
The Tibeb Girls use their powers to fight against injustice. Series creators hope they will teach activism and leadership to Ethiopian girls. To see the Tibeb Girls in action, click here.
“The first year of conceptualizing – it was completely carbon copies of the US superheroes,” creator and artist Loyiso Mkize said. “I wanted them to wear spandex, I wanted them to have a cape and all of that. It just didn’t work. It didn’t fit the South African dynamic.” Mkize looked to the streets of Johannesburg for inspiration and created Kwezi. This 19-year-old superhero illuminates the power of finding one’s heritage.
Rodolfo Guzmán Huerta, El Santo, was one of Mexico’s most- celebrated luchadors. He continued to grow in popularity through the Lucha Libre films of the 1960s and 70s. Symbolizing mythic battles between good and evil, the Lucha Libre genre helped catapult El Santo to superhero status. Read more about El Santo here.
El Eternauta (The Eternaut) is a science fiction superhero created by comic writer Héctor German Oesterheld and artist Francisco Solano López. After surviving an extraterrestrial invasion, Argentine Juan Salvo activates a time machine. He travels through time and space trying to save his planet from annihilation. Read more about El Eternauta and other Latin American superheroes here.
The Guardian’s Teacher Network offers suggestions and activities for incorporating superheroes into lesson plans for a range of grade levels and disciplines: How to Teach Superheroes.