6 Unsung Patriotic Superheroes
Everybody knows about Captain America. He’s a living legend! Plus he had that big, fancy movie earlier this Summer. But you don’t come here to Henchman-4-Hire to read what you already know. You’re here for greater depth in your comic book knowledge. So in honor of Labor Day, I decided to write up a quick list of 6 America-themed superheroes that you probably never heard of.
Some successful. Some not.
6. Uncle Sam:
Yes, the actual and literal Uncle Sam come to life. Starring in DC Comics alongside Superman and Wonder Woman, Uncle Sam was even a supporting character in the Justice League. He’s got a whole host of general super-powers, like super strength, speed, agility and the ability to just plain kick ass. His origin is that the Founding Fathers performed an occult ritual to give the ‘Spirit of America’ a physical form. He served as various guises over the years until finally emerging as Uncle Sam in the late 1800s. Nowadays he’s the leader of the Freedom Fighters, a badass team of super spies and secret agent superheroes working for the U.S. Government.
5. Iron Patriot:
You’re right, that does look like a cross between Iron Man and Captain America. That’s the point. In reality, it’s the Iron Patriot, the ‘heroic’ guise of Norman Osborn! Remember him from the Spider-Man movie? He was the villainous Green Goblin. Norman Osborn is a crazy man, but he’s also a businessman. And in that capacity, Osborn stayed sane long enough for certain government people to start trusting him. Then he was put in charge of the Thunderbolts, a government team of super-villains being used as heroes.
When he helped repel an alien invasion, Norman was seen as such a hero that the American government put him in charge of H.A.M.M.E.R., a new version of S.H.I.E.L.D. He was America’s top cop, and as such, he formed his own team of Avengers, all of whom were secretly villains posing as heroes. Norman took on the identity of the Iron Patriot, repainting some of Iron Man’s old armors. Stark was on the outs with the government at the time, viewed as a bad guy. For a few months, Norman led the ‘Dark’ Avengers on a few heroic missions. They actually helped people, despite being super-villains in disguise.
In the end, though, Norman bit off more than he could chew by leading his Dark Avengers against Thor and Asgard. He was revealed to be the psycho that he was, and got locked up. Though there are hints that he’s soon to be free and troubling the heroes once again.
4. The Spirit of ’76:
Now that’s an exciting superhero name! He was created in the 70s as a patriotic hero for Marvel Comics, and his history is that William Naslund wanted to do more for the war effort in World War II. So taking Captain America as an inspiration, Naslund became really athletic and created this costumed identity. He served as a member of The Crusaders alongside a bunch of other random heroes. So basically a poor man’s Captain America serving at around the same time.
When Cap was frozen in the Atlantic (like at the end of his movie), the U.S. Government recruited Naslund to replace him. They gave him a costume and a shield, and Naslund was Cap for a few years before being killed by a robot. Comcis, everybody!
3. Mister America:
There’s a whole line of superheroes in the DC Universe who go by the name of Mister America. The first one, Tex Thompson, actually debuted in Action Comics #1 in 1938, the same comic that was the first appearance of Superman! As the costume implies, he’s just a dude in some patriotic-colored clothes who has a whip that fights crime. Thompson went on to become the Americommando during World War II.
That picture is from the modern day Mr. America in the pages of Justice Society of America. Similar to the Justice League, the Justice Society is made up of heroes that debuted before Superman and Batman in the comics timeline. It’s a little bit complicated, but essentially the heroes in the Justice Society are all old men in their 50s and 60s, whereas Superman, Batman and their generation are all in their 20s or 30s. In Justice Society, these old heroes are training and working with the next generation of heroes, composed of descendants of old heroes.
Thompson’s descendant debuted in the first issue of a recent JSA relaunch, only to die in that same issue. Dumbass. Then his FBI partner Jeffrey Graves took up the costume and whip and has had a much more successful superhero career.
2. Isiah Bradley and Patriot:
Did you know there was a black Captain America? In a somewhat controversial comic released a few years ago called Truth: Red, White and Black, it was revealed that after Steve Rogers was given the super soldier serum, the U.S. Government tried to recreate it and conducted secret, often-fatal experiments on African-Americans. It treated them like lab rats. Something akin to the Tuskegee Syphilis Study.
The only survivor of the experiments was Isiah Bradley. He was taken overseas during WWII, and using a stolen Cap costume, he stormed the Nazi’s own attempts to recreate the Super Soldier Program. He successfully defeated the bad guys, but got kidnapped and brought before Hitler himself! Eventually Bradley was saved and returned stateside, only to spend nearly 20 years in federal prison on a court marshal. He eventually got pardoned in the 60s and spent the rest of his life at home, since the experiments had failed to recreate the true Super Soldier Serum and instead left Bradley with a deteriorated mind.
But throughout the years, he became a living legend as the ‘black Captain America’, but that legend only seemed to exist in the black community. He was visited by many important black icons. And eventually, Bradley had a grandson named Eli Bradley.
Eli is the hero known as The Patriot. He’s a member of the Young Avengers. It was a surprise hit series from a few years ago. The idea was silly (kid Avengers?) but the writer hit it out of the park and the Young Avengers became a popular success! They’ve had a few series, since the writer hasn’t exactly been reliable, and they appear now and again in big Marvel stories. Eli was on a short list of young people that the Avengers were keeping track of, and the young version of Iron Man got ahold of the list and put a team together to fight Kang the Conqueror, a time traveling super-villain.
Eli led the team to victory, though it was later revealed that he didn’t have any super powers. He was actually using a recreational drug that gave people super powers. When his friends found out, they turned their backs on him until he cleaned up. Later, Eli was injured and had to get a blood transfusion from his grandfather Isiah Bradley. The super-powered blood from grandpa finally gave Eli powers for real.
1. U.S. Agent:
The man who would be Captain America! Picture the Captain America you know, now imagine him as far more conservative, badass and something of an arrogant jackass. That’s John Walker! He’s a second-rate Captain America, copying him in powers, costume and shield. But he’s stuck around for years, and has served as both an Avenger and a member of Alpha Flight. He’s a legitimate hero, not just some chump joke. Whereas Steve Rogers is more heroic, good-natured and inspirational, John Walker is just a hard-nosed, brutal ass-kicker. I’m a big fan.
Walker debuted in the 80s as a soldier who, after he was discharged, decided to get some super powers. There’s a villain out there called the Power Broker, and he gave Walker super strength, speed and agility. Powers similar to Captain America. Walker became the Super-Patriot to pay off the Power Broker, and then went around challenging Captain America while also doing good for the country. Eventually, Steve Rogers stepped down as Cap because the government wanted to turn him into something of a lapdog. Cap wasn’t about to be used, even by the U.S. Government, so he resigned. The government then scooped up Walker to be the new Captain America. Much like The Spirit of ’76 once served as a fill-in Cap. But then Rogers eventually came back, and Walker switched to being the U.S. Agent.
He continued to serve the U.S. government, and eventually joined both the Avengers and the West Coast Avengers, who were based on the west coast. Yep. He made a few costume changes now and again, jumping in with different teams and organizations, but most recently he returned to his more well-known red, white and black Cap knock-off costume. He was a member of the good guy Avengers again when Norman Osborn led his assault against Thor and Asgard. During the fight, Walker got his arm and legged ripped off. Most people would retire when that happened.
But not John Walker! He just went ahead and got a robotic arm and leg and became the warden of a super-villain prison!
Honorable mentions: There are a ton of random American superheroes. I chose some of the main ones from Marvel and DC comics, and that’s not a full list. There’s still Battlestar, Liberty Belle, Major Victory, S.T.R.I.P.E., American Dream, American Eagle; plus heroes from other comic companies like The Shield, Captain Flag, Yankee Girl, American Maid and many more!
This might be my favorite blog entry yet. I want to start replacing the “Chuck Norris” in Chuck Norris facts with Uncle Sam.
Uncle Sam destroyed the periodic table because the only element he recognizes is the element of surprise!
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