The New Age of Heroes: 6 comic characters you should checkout

From 1930’s America onward there have been comic book heroes, men, and women who are larger than life, who conquer any and all adversity in the pursuit of peace and justice. These icons have gathered widespread popularity with superheroes like Batman, Superman and Spider-Man garnering the widest audience and current superhero movies only increasing it. However, for years those big names were the only ones that mattered, and they almost exclusively received recognition from TV, film and print mediums.

Only recently have more obscure characters begun to receive their fair share of fame, and more of these lesser-known heroes are joining the pantheon of iconic heroes. So with that said here are some characters who are amazing in their own right. They all have dynamic backgrounds, stories and motivations that should put them on par with the other popular heroes of today.

 

Ms. Marvel

The original Ms. Marvel was a stunning blonde woman with the ability to harness immense cosmic power. The new Ms.Marvel Kamala Khan, on the other hand, is a first generation Pakistani teen from New Jersey who spends most of her time playing video games, writing fan-fiction, following Captain Marvel’s exploits and arguing with her parents about conforming to Pakistani cultural traditions. After discovering her genetically inherited powers she takes the name Ms. Marvel in honor of her hero Captain Marvel.  Kamala has the power to stretch and shapeshift at will. While she’s not nearly as powerful as her hero, Kamala’s real intrigue comes from her grappling with her cultural identity and the expectations of others with regard her ethnicity.

Kamala yearns to be like her idol, Captain Marvel, and more like other kids her age who don’t have to deal with overbearingly conservative parents. While she doesn’t hate her heritage, she finds some cultural perceptions oppressive. When she first receives her powers, she shifts her body to look like the glamorous blonde she idolizes as a way of hiding her true self. However, Kamala learns, what most children of immigrant families do, that she must accept her heritage and herself. Once she does, she dons a new costume in all her Pakistani glory and pledges to fight crime in New Jersey City as the new and true Ms. Marvel. This is the moment when she truly comes into her own and discovers her greatest strengths.

 

Captain Marvel

Speaking of the original Ms. Marvel, she has also become a hero in her own right, albeit under entirely different circumstances. Carol Danvers was an ace fighter pilot, but then she meets an alien superhero named Captain Mar-vell. Their budding romance eventually leads to her gaining superpowers similar to his, thus she takes the name, Ms. Marvel. Unfortunately for her, Captain Mar-vell soon dies, but Carol continues fighting crime under her Ms. Marvel moniker for years. However, she has recently had a change of heart. She has shed her previous incarnation and taken the name Captain Marvel with a new awesome suit and rank befitting one such as herself.

While it may not seem that important, Carol Danvers presenting herself with the title of Captain is a huge development in comic book genre. For years female superheroes have always been stuck with gender-specific titles in their names, like Supergirl, She-hulk, and Catwoman. Having a female character adopt a gender-neutral title of authority is a giant step forward for gender equality in the world of comics. However that is not all Captain Marvel has going for her; though her appearance still conforms to a stereotype of ideal femininity, her other attributes challenge these notions. She’s an ace pilot of almost all aircrafts, an excellent tactician and she wields immense, physical strength rivaling the Hulk’s. Captain Marvel is an icon, for both men and women, that emphasizes the value of becoming your own person and achieving greatness in your own right. She is as worthy of the hero title, if not more so, than her male counterparts and continually confounds those who think any less of her.

 

Wonder Woman

Captain Marvel isn’t the only female hero to be recognized for her valor instead of her gender. In the past, Wonder Woman was widely regarded as one of the most objectified, frail female heroes, with her rather weak power set, flight, and super strength, as well as her laughable outfit, basically a bikini, and her less than intimidating weapons of choice, bracelets and a tiara. However, with the comic event series called the New 52, Wonder Woman has been completely re-envisioned.

Originally Wonder Woman was Princess Diana from Paradise Island, an Amazonian land ruled by women, born from the Queen of the Amazons and the King of the gods, Zeus. She became the greatest warrior of her time, yet longed to explore the world beyond her home, the world of man. When a pilot washes upon their shore Diana gets her wish and goes with him to the world beyond her island thus starting her career as Wonder Woman, fighting crime and becoming a founding member of the Justice League.

However, about five years ago this character’s representation took a drastic turn. Wonder Women from this point on differs greatly from her previous versions. Her stories usually place her in the midst of the war between the gods of Olympus. Depictions of brutal, bloody battles between the gods portray Wonder Woman as a formidable force while waging war or promoting peace. She forgoes her bikini in favor of battle armor equipped with sword and shield to better combat the powerful beings she fights daily. She has even wrested the God of War title from its previous owner, Ares. Despite her propensity for battle, Diana never loses touch with her empathy. She feels love and compassion for all things. So next time you think of Wonder Woman as the most delicate or least developed hero in the Justice League just remember that’s the sword-wielding, monster killing, God of War you’re talking about.

 

Aquaman

Wonder Women was not the only hero to receive a much-needed reboot from the New 52 comic event. Arthur Curry, Aquaman, has been the subject of ongoing mockery after suffering by comparison to the other heroes of the Justice League for decades. Considering his powers were relegated to the ocean and the vast majority of evil plans are hatched on land, he was generally regarded as useless. However, it is a grievous misjudgment of character to not see Aquaman for the hero he is, as opposed to the joke he’s made out to be by those who have never actually read the current storylines.

Born from a human father and the Queen of Atlantis, Aquaman is the first half-breed Atlantian in years, meaning he lives in the worlds of land and sea. Also as the ruler of Atlantis, he has the entire power of the sea and all that lives beneath at his command (and don’t forget the Earth is 70 % seawater). His ability to telepathically communicate with this sea life allows him to always have allies when near the sea. Giant squids, great white sharks, whales, orcas and a host of other creatures lurking in the deep are at his beck and call. His magical trident also has the ability to control water and storms. Because of his Atlantian heritage, he can survive tons of pressure at the deepest levels of the ocean, essentially incredibly strong on land. He is able to keep falling buildings stable, run at speeds rivaling cars and survive harsh environments that kill mere mortals.

Yet, it is Arthur’s responsibilities that make him a truly fascinating character. Having the blood of both Atlantis and the Surface, he must act as the great mediator as Atlantis’ could very easily overpower the human world. He must also accept the fact that, because he comes from two disparate cultures, he doesn’t entirely belong to either and will always be an outsider to both. So Aquaman, while not the most powerful hero of the DC universe, is still a very compelling character whose new story is worth diving into.

 

Miles Morales: Spider-Man

With great power comes great responsibility as we take a look at Spider-Man, but not the version of this hero you may know best. In an alternate universe separate from the main heroes, a new Spider-Man is born on the day the old one dies. Teenager Miles Morales’ uncle is a professional thief who steals a genetically altered spider, similar to the one that gave Peter Parker his abilities. When Miles visits his uncle he is accidentally bitten giving him the powers of Spider-Man along with the additional abilities of camouflage and a venom blast. When Miles witnesses the murder of Peter Parker by the Green Goblin, he is too scared to help. Disgusted by his own cowardice, Miles makes a vow that parallels Parker’s, to help anyone he can, whenever he can. With the help of Peter’s family and friends, he begins to live up to the Spider-Man mantle.

Miles is a character that was met with controversy not only because he was seen as an unwelcome replacement for a character with a loyal fan-base, but also due to his bi-racial descent. Many fans began calling the African American – Hispanic character’s introduction “affirmative action” for comics and while others simply didn’t want a new Spider-Man. However as his series progressed, people began to appreciate his dynamic story and character. Miles’ race actually plays very little into his stories and is rarely mentioned, always taking a backseat to his character development. No matter his race, this Spider-man is a hero who reminds us to never let anything, from skin color to self-doubt, stand in the way of greatness.

 

Agent Venom

Continuing with the spider theme, we move on to one of Spider-Man’s greatest foes, Venom. As many fans already know, Venom is an alien parasite that Spider-Man found which took the form of a suit he was compelled to wear, enhancing his already extraordinary abilities. The sentient garb became known as the “Black Suit.” However, Peter soon discovered the suit was distorting his perception, making him more hostile to friends and foes alike. Once Parker discards the parasitic suit, it finds a new host becoming the first Venom, the twisted, monstrous opposite of Spider-Man. Subsequently, a long line of Venoms commit horrible acts and endlessly torture Peter Parker.

That is until the U.S. government capture the “symbiote” with the objective of creating a new breed of super-soldier. They hope that by using a person of good moral character and strong will, they can harness the suit’s power for their own purposes. Enter Eugene “Flash” Thompson; decorated Iraq veteran, a former bully to Peter Parker who ironically idolizes Spider-Man. While in Iraq, Flash lost both of his legs saving his unit from a surprise attack, and all the while, through gunfire and grenades, he repeated the mantra, “What would Spider-Man do?”. Now ready to see if he can do what his hero couldn’t, he will bond with this parasite to become an agent of justice, an agent of freedom. He will be Agent Venom.

The reason Agent Venom is so amazing, as well as my personal favorite among the most recent reincarnations of comic book characters, is that he most clearly embodies redemption – redemption for himself, for the symbiote and the legacy of Venom. Everything about this version of Venom is about becoming better than what you previously were, learning from your past and fixing your old mistakes. This is not just a character seeking to overcome some debilitating flaws or challenges. It is a character that is trying completely reinvent who he is, despite a history of despicable behavior. Who knew a high school bully and a parasitic alien organism could create one of the most inspiring and relatable themes in recent comics; when you make a mistake, when you fail, when your past is nothing but a trail of people you have hurt you, you not only can, but must, make amends.

Though comics may seem a trivial genre of art to some, it can capture the pulse of a generation. More importantly, it can set the tone for the next by asking us to examine who we are and become more than what we were. Much like the ancient hero sagas of the past, the best comic heroes can remind us that we can become the heroes of our own stories. Every time you feel unsure, just ask yourself, “What Would Venom Do?”.