From peace-loving Captain Euro to Canada's killer lumberjack, Captain America's got company.
- By Edmund DownieEdmund Downie is a Yale University Gordon Grand Fellow currently interning at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi. He works on the regional political economy of Asia. Follow him at @ned_downie.
As the debt crisis worsens in Washington, the release of the movie Captain America: The First Avenger may have some Americans longing for a superhero to pull the country out of its current predicament.
But it’s not only Americans who turn to superheroes when the going gets rough. Comic book stars like the X-Men and Superman have been known to dabble in geopolitics, though not all have gotten the recognition of their American counterparts. Here’s a peek at some of the world’s more oddball super-powered peacekeepers.
Johnny Canuck and Captain Newfoundland
America’s peaceful neighbor to the north may not seem like it’s in desperate need of a national superhero. But, risk-averse as they are, Canadians actually have several crime-fighting icons tasked with protecting their honor, dignity, and nationalized health care system.
First, there’s Johnny Canuck, who in his modesty, strength, and common sense is the quintessential Canadian lumberjack. He made his first appearance in a 1869 political cartoon, but took on new life during World War II when he was cast as a Canadian hero standing up to the Nazi war machine.
As Johnny Canuck infiltrates Germany and targets Berlin’s war material factories, he drives Hitler into a sputtering rage. “Ach!” he shouts at his beleaguered staff. “You promise arrest, but dot svine Canuck goes on destroying our war machine!” Johnny Canuck eventually manages to escape the country, though not before landing a punch square on Der Fuehrer’s jaw. Subsequently, Johnny Canuck exercised his right to a peaceful, stress-free retirement: Today, he serves as the unofficial mascot of the National Hockey League’s Vancouver Canucks.
Created by Canadian media mogul and spiritualist Geoff Stirling, Captain Newfoundland is the rare superhero who attempts to transcend, rather than confront, violent crime. He fights evil not with his fists, but by tapping into the collective consciousness of global humanity through superhuman telepathy and pedantic New Age philosophy. He starred in a late-night TV show on Stirling’s Newfoundland TV network for years, while his comic strip continues to run in the Newfoundland Herald, also owned by Stirling. The Captain’s code? “To thine own self be true.”
Shortly after the creation of Captain Newfoundland, Stirling’s empire added Captain Canada as his partner-in-crime. Captain Canada’s achievements include saving the royal family from giant Japanese robots. Bet Captain America’s never done that.
The Newfoundland Herald
American-style superheroes made their first appearance in Israel with Uri Fink’s Sabraman, which debuted in the pages of the Jerusalem Post in 1978. After Israeli policeman and Holocaust survivor Dan Bar-On is wounded in the Yom Kippur War, he goes to the Israeli Secret Service for a limb transplant. When the operation goes awry, he emerges with superhuman abilities. The cover of the first issue bills him as “Israel’s mighty superhero” who combines in one person “the powers of a superman,” “the courage of a sabra [a native-born Israeli Jew],” and “the faith of Abraham.” Sabraman uses his powers on the enemies of Israel, including his archnemesis, evil German concentration camp mastermind Dr. Josef Mengele.
Though Fink’s strip was short-lived, it launched him on a career as one of Israel’s most successful comic artists and editorial cartoonists. He hasn’t returned to the superhero genre since then. In 2001, he told the Jerusalem Post that he wouldn’t feel comfortable indulging in those sorts of fantasies while the Palestinian conflict rages on. “It’s not like Captain America fighting Red Skull. The people he’d be beating up are those we see every day on TV.”
The wars between Croatia and Serbia from 1991 to 1995 produced some of the bloodiest fighting Europe has seen since World War II, with 20,000 dead and more than 250,000 displaced. Both sides could have used a superhero — and, in the world of Croatian comic artist Sinisa Ercegovac, the Croatians had one. An ordinary Croatian ex-pat living in Germany named Hrvoje Horvat (both the first and last names come from Hrvatska, Croatians’ name for their country) returns home at the start of the wars and finds himself transformed into Superhrvoje, a man made of stone who rises from the ground whenever innocent Croatians come under attack.
Ercegovac created his superhero for a comic contest run by the Croatian daily newspaper Slobodna Dalmacija in the fall of 1991, after Croatia declared its independence from the Serb-dominated communist state of Yugoslavia. The first issue appeared in June 1992, during a yearlong ceasefire in the war, and it featured the Croatian superhero crushing Serbian nationalist and Yugoslav army tanks. Though the war broke out again in live fighting in 1993, Superhrvoje never re-emerged; though Ercegovac allegedly completed the second issue, he never published it.
Superhrvoje wasn’t the only superhero that emerged from the Balkan Wars — indeed, each nation involved in the conflict invested its hopes in a powerful, albeit fictional, guardian. Bosnia had Bosman, based on Marvel Comics’ The Punisher, while the Serbs had the “Kninjas” (Knin is the name of a Serbian town in Croatia).
You wouldn’t know it from the impending doom it’s been staring in the face the past year, but the European Union actually has its own superhero of sorts. Captain Euro was the product of a 1999 marketing campaign run for the EU by Corporate Vision Strategists, whose clients also include Google and South Africa. Captain Euro was born Adam Andros, the polyglot son of a famous European ambassador and a paleontologist. He strives to represent Europe at its finest by taking a vow “to use, whenever possible, intellect, culture, and logic — not violence — to take control of difficult criminal situations.”
But he has his work cut out for him in battling Dr. D Vider (get it?), a former financier and “ruthless speculator” who tries to use his network of businesses across Europe to dismantle the continent’s welfare systems, and turn its nations against one another. (Financiers causing problems for Europe? What a crazy idea.)
Corporate Vision Strategists
Next time Chile needs a savior, they might want to turn to Capitan Chile, a parody superhero created by Chilean comic artist Cristian Diaz. The superhero debuted in 2001, shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks. In his first appearance, he confronted the international scourge of terrorism in the form of Ozamu bin Alien, a thinly veiled reference to 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden.
But Capitan Chile is no American stooge. While the United States wages war in Iraq, he’s there saving Iraqi civilians. Meanwhile, at home, he tackles the ills of Chilean society — corruption, child abuse, even addiction to Japanese erotica — and shows his Chilean roots by lapsing into local slang. If Captain Chile has his way, Captain America might have to insert the word “North” in the middle of his name.
Cristian Diaz TEC