It’s Not a Matter of Being Super: We Can All Be Heroes

09.04.2019 | By MICOL PIOVOSI

Forget the classic comic book heroes for a moment. Leave out the shiny smiles, perfect costumes, hearts of gold and cool superpowers. Because behind the glossy facade of super hero teams, now booming in cinemas, hides a whole unexpected world, filled with heroes that we wouldn’t exactly refer to as ‘super’. Some of them, born on the desks of renowned comic artists, can even boast a certain popularity; others are lesser known characters, instead, that do deserve to be discovered just as much, though. For those who were raised on their printed adventures, discovering that anyone can become a hero came as a real turning point. No matter your ‘freak’, insecure or loser reputation: you may hide an admirable inner strength, too. And if your powers don’t include being ridiculously good-looking as a bonus… well, you can still be an unsettled preacher possessed by the offspring of an angel and a devil with a vampire for best friend.

A bunch of dysfunctional heroes – The Umbrella Academy

Currently in fame’s spotlight thanks to the success of their dedicated Netflix series, the members of the Hargreeves family really deserve a special mention. Heroes, indeed, but dysfunctional. These unconventional characters were born from the imagination of Gerard Way, frontman of the popular band My Chemical Romance, and put onto paper by Gabriel Bá in three main books. But who are the members of the Umbrella Academy? Seven children with super-human abilities, who got adopted by a rich philanthropist, Sir Hargreeves, with the aim of creating a super hero league. But contrary to the old man’s scheme and sadly for the heroes in-the-making, though, things didn’t go exactly as planned. The strict, totally unconventional education provided by Sir Hargreaves caused the kids to grow up into disturbed adults: now, some try to forget their superpower by drowning it in alcohol and drugs, some others retreat into their own loneliness and someone behaves like a self-centered hothead, too… The idea that the world is in the hands of a bunch of mentally unstable adults is ridiculous enough itself, but throw in a team of super villains with cuddly masks and an educated primate as a butler, and…


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A street heroine  – The Pro

Pretty, fit, clever and determined in a sexy not-too-sexy costume: here’s the academic description of the perfect super heroine. Who is not The Pro. Definitely. A brainchild of Garth Ennis, a comics writer with a thing for peculiar protagonists, The Pro challenges the superhero cliches of the Marvel and DC universes by introducing an unconventional heroin with origins that fall very far from the classic stereotype. No alien from remote corners of the universe and no warrior born to fight. The Pro is just a prostitute who finds herself with supernatural abilities all of a sudden. And what better use for her super-speed than her job itself? The twist in her routine will come as she is (unwillingly) introduced into the League of Honor (a parody of the famous Justice League), a story riddled with pretty pulp episodes but culminating in a final redemption moment.


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A broken-hearted hero – The Crow

Perhaps the most popular alternative hero ever, The Crow, born as a comic series, could boast a huge success in the 90s when it was made into a cult movie starring Brandon Lee. The author of The Crow’s 2D adventures is James O’ Barr, whose personal story clearly inspired the comic series dark themes: in 1978 O’Barr was enlisted in the Marines, but before he moved to Germany a drunk driver killed his fiancee Beverly in her car. In Berlin, overwhelmed by pain, O’Barr started working at The Crow, in an attempt to process the death of his loved one through the protagonist Eric’s revenge. Eric is the dark hero who gained his place in our collective imagination as the iconic clown face-painted hero with black leather outfit and Robert Smith-like hairdo. Back from the dead to avenge his fiancee, who was killed like him by a ruthless criminal gang, Eric digs his way down an underworld of evil and perdition, but not without fear or hesitation like the typical superhero would do. On the contrary, Eric is still deeply human. Every page of The Crow exudes pain, although we know that “it can’t rain all the time”.


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A curvy low-self-esteem heroin – Empowered

If super heroines have anything in common, it’s definitely the looks. From Wonder Woman to Captain Marvel, comic ladies are often stunning creatures with perfect statue-like bodies. Right? Not for Emp. Or, at least, that’s what she thinks. Forced to wear a super skinny glove-like costume to use her superpowers, Emp just can’t draw people’s attention away from what she sees as her worst feature: an extra-curvy backside. No matter how her super villain boyfriend praises her body shapes on a daily basis: to Emp, the hardest enemy to defeat is definitely her low self-esteem. Throw in some sexist teammates and a super heroine colleague with a bully attitude, and you’ll figure out why Emp is one of the most unique protagonists in the whole genre. Emp is a super heroine, but even more importantly a super insecure woman that needs to bend over backwards to find the courage to get out of her shell and become a real villain fighter. Her creator Adam Warren’s pencils enrich this ironic saga with the high-quality graphics that makes Empowered one of the most interesting projects of the super hero genre.


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A godlike hero – Preacher

Annville, Texas. A placid small town, a church, a pastor. Nothing strange, until a bombshell turns the congregation upside down. It’s the arrival of Genesis, a creature born from the union of an angel and a demon, that ends up possessing no less than Reverend Jesse Custer. So, by accident, Jesse becomes the most powerful being in the universe, stronger than God himself. Which is why God, in his turn, decides to abandon Heaven the moment Genesis is born. Here comes Jesse’s mission: to find and bring back God. Helped by his ex-girlfriend Tulip and Cassidy, an alcoholic Irish vampire, Jesse proceeds on his search across the States. The obstacles on his path are overcome thanks to a certain amount of luck, his friends’ help and his newly gained superpower: the Word, or the ability to say commands that listeners can’t help but obey. A unique (and foul-mouthed) hero, thanks to the art of Steve Dillon and the straightforward, raw storytelling of above-mentioned Garth Ennis. With sex and guts, booze and gunfights, killers and gods, Preacher is one of the most important comics of the ‘90s.


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