• Longform 

    Beyond Wakanda: Marvel’s Other International Heroes

    By | May 22nd, 2018
    Posted in Longform | % Comments
    Marvel Atlas #1 (2007)
    Earlier this month, it was widely reported Marvel and Chinese company NetEase’s webcomics, “Warriors of Three Sovereigns” and “Cyclone,” would star the Marvel Universe’s first Chinese superheroes. While they certainly feature Marvel’s first manhua heroes, that isn’t true from an in-universe perspective: Marvel Comics have introduced plenty of Chinese and other international do-gooders over the decades, though they’ve often sank into obscurity given how US-centric the comics can be.

    So we’re taking the opportunity to shine a spotlight on Marvel’s Earth outside North America (and Wakanda). For brevity’s sake, this list will focus on characters based in other countries, avoiding heroes like Scarlet Witch or Shang-Chi who migrated to the US to join the X-Men or the Avengers, as well as the gods of every real world pantheon that exist in the MU. Before we get started, we felt it’d make things easier to list several characters featured in the 1982 series “Contest of Champions” (written by Mark Gruenwald, Steven Grant and Bill Mantlo, pencilled by John Romita Jr.), as some of them will be relevant later on:

    Fictional countries will be italicized.


    Africa

    As the cradle of humanity, it should be unsurprising that Africa was the home was the earliest recorded superhero team. In Jonathan Hickman and Dustin Weaver’s “S.H.I.E.L.D.” #1 (2010), it was revealed the titular spy organization began as the Brotherhood of the Shield in ancient Egypt. The group was founded in 2620 BC by the polymath Imhotep to fend off a Brood invasion, and among his allies were a Knight of Khonshu (a precursor to Moon Knight) and En Sabah Nur (the future X-Men villain Apocalypse).

    Imhotep leads the Brotherhood against the Brood in ancient Egypt in 'S.H.I.E.L.D.' #1 (2010). Art by Dustin Weaver.

    Outside Black Panther, the Dora Milaje, and certain members of the X-Men like Storm and Idie Okonkwo, there exists a few other present-day African heroes, namely Doctor Crocodile (Joshua N’Dingi), the cyborg king/president of Mbangawi; Afrikaa (Khairi Ngala), the protector of Wakanda’s neighboring country of Mohannda; and Askari (Jono Baraka), the president of Tanzania and an associate of Angel (Warren Worthington)’s charity Mutantes Sans Frontières.


    West Asia

    Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema introduced Sabra and Arabian Knight in 1980’s “The Incredible Hulk” #250. Arabian Knight later joined the Iraqi team Desert Sword for a back-up storyline that ran in various 1991 annuals, where they came into conflict with Mystique’s Freedom Force, a government-sponsored version of her Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.

    Sabra guest-starred in a 1995 arc of “New Warriors” written by Evan Skolnick and pencilled by Patrick Zircher, which introduced the heavily armored Syrian hero Batal (whose name literally means “a hero” in Arabic), who hasn’t appeared since. Arabian Knight was killed off in “Thunderbolts” #55 (2001), and eventually succeeded in Christos Gage and Mike Perkins’s 2006 “Union Jack” miniseries by the Palestinian Navid Hashim (who bears an uncanny resemblance to Naveen Andrews).

    Sabra, the original Arabian Knight, and Iron Man in 'Contest of Champions' (1982). Art by John Romita Jr.

    Like Thor and Hercules, the Sumerian king Gilgamesh and the Iranian folk hero Rostam exist in the Marvel Universe (although the latter has only been mentioned in Dan Abnett and Luke Ross’s 2016 “Hercules” series). Perhaps the biggest Iranian character at Marvel is Sanjar Javeed, an ancient immortal who served as Apocalypse’s Horseman of Death in Rick Remender and Jerome Opena’s 2011 series “Uncanny X-Force.” He resurfaced in Matt Kindt and Steven Sanders’s “Infinity: The Hunt” (2013), which revealed he went straight and founded the Pan-Asian School for the Unusually Gifted with Jimmy Woo, which is nice.

    Continued below

    The Medieval polymath Abu Mūsā Jābir ibn Hayyān al-Azdi shows up in “S.H.I.E.L.D.” (2010) #3, where he is depicted as behind a spectacularly failed experiment responsible for the Dark Ages, which is also nice.


    East Asia

    There’s more to Marvel’s East Asia than Kamar-Taj, ninja clans, or the many Iron Fists. It was revealed in “S.H.I.EL.D.” that HYDRA originated from the Brotherhood of the Shield’s eastern wing, the Brotherhood of the Spear (so named because they inherited Imhotep’s spear instead of his shield). The name S.P.E.A.R. was dusted off by the Chinese government for their own spy agency, introduced in 2014’s “Avengers World” #7 (written by Nick Spencer and drawn by Stefano Caselli).

    Xian Zheng, Director of S.P.E.A.R. Art from 'Avengers World' #7 by Stefano Caselli.

    The first Chinese superhero team at Marvel were China Force, created by Bill Mantlo and Jim Lee for 1988’s “Alpha Flight” #64. They all had codenames and powers based on the animals of the Chinese Zodiac: the team gradually fell apart, with many of them defecting or getting killed off.

    In 2009’s “Mighty Avengers” #27, Dan Slott, Christos Gage and Khoi Pham introduced the People’s Defense Force, which includes Collective Man and former Iron Man villain Radioactive Man. Most of the PDF are killed by the Inhuman villain the Unspoken, and the team has only resurfaced once in 2016’s “All-New Inhumans.”

    Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca introduced a new Chinese superhero team, the Dynasty, during their “Invincible Iron Man” run in 2012. The Dynasty, which Tony Stark described as “sort of a militarized Avengers,” consisted of the Star, Weather Witch, Saber, Soldier One, and the Revolutionary, and aided Iron Man and War Machine in their (thus far) final battle with the Mandarin.

    The Dynasty's debut in 'Invincible Iron Man' #513. Art by Salvador Larroca.

    It was revealed in “Avengers World” that the Star and Soldier One died during Thanos’s invasion (‘Infinity,’ 2013), and that S.P.E.A.R. reorganized Dynasty into the Ascendants, with Weather Witch as their leader. She is joined by Saber and new teammates Devastator, Monkey King, and Vector, and the team was shown to be still active during 2017’s crossover ‘Secret Empire.’

    Chances are you’ve heard of Japan’s superhero team, Big Hero 6, thanks to the Academy Award-winning Disney film. The team, created by Steve Seagle and Duncan Rouleau, first appeared in 1998’s miniseries “Sunfire and Big Hero Six,” which also included Wolverine nemesis Silver Samurai (Wasabi and Fred wouldn’t join the team until the 2008 series by Chris Claremont and David Nakayama). The team haven’t been seen in the Marvel Universe since 2012’s one-shot “Amazing Spider-Man: Ends of the Earth.”

    Big Hero 6 in their 2008 series. Art by David Nakayama.

    Other East Asian superheroes include the Masters of Silence, a trio of hi-tech Japanese warriors known as Kaze (Wind), Inazuma (Lightning), and Kaminari (Thunder); Radiance (Ryoko Sabuki), a Japanese singer who can manipulate light and energy, and granddaughter of the Japanese-American WW2 hero Golden Woman; and White Fox (Ami Han), a South Korean kumiho agent introduced in the 2014 webtoon Avengers: Electric Rain.


    South Asia

    Most of Marvel’s South Asian superheroes tend to join American superhero teams (or in the case of the Inhuman Grid, a New Attilan one). Characters who’ve thus far bucked the trend include the Pan-Asian School for the Unusually Gifted’s Pom Pom and Shri (an avatar of the goddess Durga); the Pakistani vigilante Red Dagger, who happens to be Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel)’s cousin Kareem; and Tara Virango (Enigma), a Bangladeshi who guest-starred in 2002’s “Peter Parker: Spider-Man” #48-49, and – true to her name – hasn’t appeared since.

    Perhaps the best known South Asian superhero is Pavitr Prabhakar, an alternate reality version of Spider-Man from the 2004 miniseries “Spider-Man: India” (created by Jeevan Kang, Suresh Seetharaman and Sharad Devarajan). The character is among the many versions of Spider-Man who turned up in the 2014 event ‘Spider-Verse.’

    The Triumph Division. Art by Salvador Larroca.

    Over in southeast Asia, the Philippines have their own superhero team, the Triumph Division, who were introduced near the start of Fraction and Larroca’s “Invincible Iron Man” in 2008, and promptly killed off in a terrorist attack orchestrated by Ezekiel Stane. It turned out the team has a succession scheme, where deceased members are succeeded by their relatives, and the Triumph Division reconvened to aid Stark with the Dynasty during the climax of Fraction and Larroca’s series. The characters have been largely criticized by Filipino readers as an inaccurate representation of their country, and the team has been mostly absent since Fraction and Larroca’s run ended.

    Continued below

    The island of Madripoor has had a couple of vigilante groups over the decades, namely the Rising Sons (introduced by Jay Faerber and Terry Dodson in 1999’s “Generation X” #53) and the Raksha (who debuted in Cullen Bunn, Ray-Anthony Height and Ramon Bachs’s “X-Men Blue” #6 in 2017). Marc Guggenheim and German Peralta introduced Horus (Tarik Fayad), an Egyptian-styled defender in 2016’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” #2: the character was killed by Grant Ward in the same issue.


    Europe

    When Marvel fans think of superheroes based in Europe, they’re likely to think of Silver Sable, the Symkarian mercenary, and Psylocke’s brother Brian Braddock, aka the UK’s magic-infused defender Captain Britain. Braddock has been affiliated with many superhero teams, from the X-Men offshoot Excalibur, the interdimensional Captain Britain Corps (which consists of all the Captain Britains from every reality), and the obscure ’90s group Knights of Pendragon.

    Detail of 'Captain Britain and MI13' #15 cover by Mico Suayan.

    Currently, Braddock is head of the Braddock Academy (the British equivalent of the Pan-Asian School), and a member of the government division MI13. The group, which is headed by the Warren Ellis and Ken Lashley creation Pete Wisdom, was introduced in 1996’s “Excalibur” #101, and includes every British superhero, from the vampiric Blade and Spitfire, to the American expat Dane Whitman/Black Knight, and Union Jack. The group headlined Paul Cornell and Leonard Kirk’s 2008 – 2009 series “Captain Britain and MI13,” which introduced the medical doctor Faiza Hussain, who becomes the new wielder of King Arthur’s sword Excalibur.

    Aside from Le Peregrine, the most prolific French hero at Marvel has to be the French/Algerian Jeannine Sauvage, aka Guillotine, who wields a cursed sword (and family heirloom) called La Fleur du Mal. She was created for the Contest of Champions mobile fighting game, and ported over to the comics in Al Ewing and Paco Medina’s 2015 series of the same name.

    A French superhero team, Les Heroes de Paris, were introduced in 2007’s “Fantastic Four” #541, written by J. Michael Straczynski and Mike McKone, when the Thing moves to City to Light after becoming distraught by the events of ‘Civil War.’ The team shares some of its members with Le Bureau Discret, a black ops group introduced in Simon Spurrier and Jorge Molina’s “X-Force” #4 (2014).

    The Thing meets Les Heroes de Paris. Art by Barry Kitson.

    Germany’s premier hero would be Hauptmann Deutschland (Captain Germany; real name Markus Ettlinger). Created by Mark Gruenwald and Dan Panosian, the character first appeared in a back-up to “Captain America” #387 (1991), and led a trio of heroes called the Schutz Heiliggruppe (Sacred Protection Group). The group disbanded at the end of Gruenwald’s run in 1995, when Blitzkrieg, one of his teammates, is murdered by the other, Zeitgeist (who turned out to be the supervillain Everyman).

    There are several Pan-European groups, like Euroforce, which was introduced in the back-up strip to a 1996 Marvel Italia series titled “Europa,” which focused on a group called Gemini: that team has not appeared since, while Euroforce appeared in “Avengers World” and ‘Secret Empire.’ In “Avengers World,” Black Knight becomes leader of the group, and his recruits included Swordswoman (Adelynn Duquesne), the daughter of classic Hawkeye enemy-turned-Avenger Swordsman.

    The Champions of Europe. L-R: Outlaw, Captain Britain, Guillotine, Le Peregrine, Faiza Hussain/Excalibur. Art by Paco Medina.

    Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee introduced the Super Heroes of Europe (SHE) in 2000’s “Sentry,” and Al Ewing and Paco Medina debuted the Champions of Europe in “U.S.Avengers” #7 (2017). The latter team, which shouldn’t be confused with the Champions of Los Angeles or the post-‘Civil War II’ group, included Guillotine, Le Peregrine, Captain Britain and Faiza Hussain. The Ultimate Marvel universe introduced the European Defense Initiative, which included Thor, and Captain(s) Britain, France, Spain and Italy.

    Finally, Hickman and Weaver’s “S.H.I.E.L.D.” revealed the Brotherhood of the Shield were based in Rome, and that the likes of Archimedes, Leonardo da Vinci, and Galileo Galilei were members of the group (and the intellect of their Marvel Universe counterparts still puts the likes of Tony Stark and Reed Richards to shame). Michelangelo was noticeably not a member of the Brotherhood, but his intellect and powers may well dwarf everyone else on this list.

    Continued below


    Russia

    Marvel’s Russia is best known for the sinister Red Room program that created Black Widow, but the former Soviet Republic has had several more heroic groups as well, both during and after the Cold War. Fans of Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 may recall the Winter Guard, a quartet consisting of the Red Guardian (Nikolai Krylenko), Crimson Dynamo (Dimitri Bukharin), Darkstar (Laynia Petrovna), and Ursa Major (Mikhail Ursus). However, all of these characters are older than the group, which was introduced by Kurt Busiek and Sean Chen in 1998’s “Iron Man” #9. In the case of Red Guardian and Crimson Dynamo, both mantles were originally assumed by Soviet supervillains who clashed with the Avengers and Iron Man during the ’60s.

    Cover art by Clayton Henry for 'Darkstar and the Winter Guard' #1.

    All four of the Winter Guard had been introduced by 1981’s “The Incredible Hulk” #258, where they assembled as the Soviet Super-Soldiers. (At the time, Krylenko was going by the identity of Vanguard, while Josef Petkus was the Red Guardian.) Eventually, most of the Soviet Super-Soldiers defected, kicking out the KGB agent Bukharin, and joining the underground mutant group Siberforce. The Kremlin formed the Supreme Soviets, whose numbers included Bukharin, Petkus and the god Perun, to hunt them down in 1989’s “Captain America” #352 (written by Mark Gruenwald with art by Kieron Dwyer).

    After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Supreme Soviets were renamed the People’s Protectorate, and Red Guardian became Steel Guardian. The two former Soviet superhero teams reconciled and merged into the Winter Guard in 1998, although many of the former Protectorate were killed off in the 2010 miniseries “Darkstar and the Winter Guard” (written by David Gallaher and Steve Ellis), effectively recreating the Soviet Super-Soldiers.


    South America, Oceania and Antarctica

    If you’re a South American Marvel hero who hasn’t joined the New Mutants (like Sunspot and Magma), chances are you’re dead: the likes of Defensor, Brazil’s Captain Forsa, and the Tierra Verdean revolutionary Bandera, were murdered by Everyman towards the end of Mark Gruenwald’s “Captain America” run in 1995 (see the section on Europe).

    Including Talisman, there are many Aboriginal Australian heroes, like the X-Men’s ally (and Bishop’s great-grandfather) Gateway, and the Secret Warrior/Avenger Manifold (Eden Fesi), who both possess different types of teleportation powers; and Dreamguard (Willie Walkaway), a police officer who could interact with the spirits of the dreamtime. We should also mention Brian Hibbs, the second Kangaroo, who briefly used his powerful legs and tail for heroic ends in 2012’s “Amazing Spider-Man: Ends of the Earth.”

    Manifold and Gateway greet Sebastian Druid and Daisy Johnson in 'Secret Warriors.' Art by Stefano Caselli. It should be noted this was when Daisy was portrayed as white in the comics.

    Incidentally, The Super Hero Squad Show introduced a Captain Brazil and Captain Australia. Last but not least, Antarctica is home of the Eternals’ city of Olympia, and the Savage Land, home to many prehistoric beasts, Ka-Zar, Shanna the She-Devil, and the Hulk’s former Warbound from ‘Planet Hulk’ (including Korg).


    So there you have it: the many heroes of Marvel’s Earth. Which of these characters had you heard of? Which ones do you want to become more prolific, and which do you think don’t deserve to be rescued from the back issue section of the store? Which corners of the globe need their own Marvel mascot? Which characters do you think should appear or star in a movie or TV show (Guardians of the Galaxy seemed like a pipe-dream too once)? Would you like to us to cover the superheroes of the Indigenous Nations in North America? Be sure to let us know in the comments: excelsior!


    Christopher Chiu-Tabet

    Chris is a writer from London on the autistic spectrum, who enjoys tweeting and blogging on Medium about his favourite films, TV shows, books, music, games as well as history and religion. He is Lebanese/Chinese, although he can't speak Cantonese or Arabic. He also writes for Nerdy POC.

    EMAIL | ARTICLES