Top 6 Non-Traditional Superheroes

Posted: January 11, 2016 in Comic Book Study
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With all the big name superheroes getting movies and TV shows recently, it’s hard (especially for younger fans) to remember a time when properties were centered around heroes not originally from the pages of a Marvel or DC comic book. The Shadow, Green Hornet and Kato, and Zorro were some pretty big names back in the day, and while they’ve enjoyed some success in recent years, they’ve never reached the same level of popularity as the more “traditional” superhero, like Spider-Man.

It’s a shame, because a lot of these older superheroes had a lot of interesting things about them, ranging from costume design, characterization, origin, and story elements. All that having been said, let’s take a look at my personal top 6 favorite non-traditional (i.e. not Marvel or DC) superheroes, such as:

1. The Rocketeer

I remember first learning about the Rocketeer when I was flipping through channels and saw his movie was on TV. Eventually, I picked up the comics, and wow, what a story. The Rocketeer, first appearing in the pages of Starslayer #1, tells the story of stunt pilot Cliff Secord, who discovers a rocket pack built by Howard Hughes and uses it to fight crime. The story is set in the late 1930s, with a number of the Rocketeer’s adventures involving Indiana Jones-esque escapades, up to and including treasure hunting.

Personally, I can’t see why anyone wouldn’t like this character. He’s awesome, the stories are set in that era of cool, swashbuckling action that enjoyed popularity for many years (and has begun to again, thanks to a few recent films), and he’s actually interesting. The problem with some superheroes today, like Superman for example, is that they’re too overpowered, and as a result, they get boring without exactly the right kind of story. A premise like the Rocketeer’s, however, works well because he’s not super powered, but still retains what it means to be a real hero. The adventures are simpler and nostalgia driven, but that’s what makes them so special.

2. Hellboy

It wasn’t until 2004’s Hellboy that I first heard about the super strong character. A demon from another dimension, Hellboy was brought to our world by a Nazi experiment gone wrong, leading to his being raised by the kind Professor Trevor Bruttenholm. Hellboy and his allies, pyrokinetic Liz and the mutated creature Abe Sapien, battle dark forces while trying to keep Hellboy from his ultimate destiny: destroying mankind.

The premise of a demon trying to save humanity is awesome in and of itself. But the writing/artwork/plot elements/everything else really come through to push the character over the top and make him even better. He’s funny when needed, well designed, and is just a fun character to read and to watch. The films are really a league all their own, and deserve to be covered in more detail (I’ll get around to a review eventually, but for now, watch them when you can).

3. Darkman

Darkman is what happens when you get a creative director like Sam Raimi, take away the chance to adapt both the Shadow and Batman to film, and force him to create his own character. The result? A super insane “hero” who tosses people off tall construction sites and fights Sam Raimi’s brother. Not only that, but he’s apparently a magical master impressionist, since all of his disguises give him different body shapes, and his voices all sound exactly identical to the person he’s trying to be.

I first saw Darkman on Netflix, and my only regret is not having seen it any sooner than that. The character’s almost like a grungy Batman, in that he’s highly intelligent, never gives up, and can work with almost anything he has available. Even better, he’s super strong (while still staying within realistic boundaries) and extremely prone to aggression. If nothing else thus far has convinced you of how awesome this character is, I’ll refer you to the following scene of Liam Neeson (playing the titular character) screaming and breaking a guy’s fingers over a pink elephant:

4. The Green Hornet and Kato

Notice how I’ve been leaving film trailers up to introduce you to the superhero I’m going to talk about? I’m not doing it for this one, because the 2011 Green Hornet movie is terrible. Instead, here’s a bunch of clips from the 1960s TV show crossover, when he and his confidant Kato met Batman and Robin.

There we go, much better.

I actually first learned about the Green Hornet and Kato through the bio drama film on Bruce Lee’s life, titled Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story. Remember the short segment in the film about Bruce Lee’s time on the set of the Green Hornet show? I went from there to the actual TV show, the original radio show, and the comics from the 1940s.

Much like the Rocketeer, the Green Hornet and Kato had a very simple, retro premise: they pretended to be villains in the 1940s to gain the trust of real villains, all to beat them up and capture them for the police. Green Hornet works a lot like Batman (both rich playboys by day, vigilantes by night who fight crime with tech and sidekicks), except his Robin, Kato, is actually useful in their early adventures.

5. Toxie (the Toxic Avenger)

There’s not a whole lot that needs to be said about this one, and by that, I mean simply describing this character doesn’t do him enough justice. Watch the film if you can. You can thank me later.

6. Spawn

Super fans of this character are probably already getting irritated, simply because the trailer I posted doesn’t do Spawn justice at all. Never fear though, because there’s always the cartoon and the immensely better short film for that.

Spawn is an interesting character for me, in that I read a few issues of his comic and watched the film before calling it quits. I didn’t have that same level of input some did with him, so I had no idea that he gained God-like powers, or that another person took on the role of Spawn after original Spawn Al Simmons left the picture. However, that’s part of the reason why I put Spawn so low on this list. I like his older adventures, but when he starts to get too overpowered, I lost interest a little. He’s still a cool character, still has a cool costume/powerset, but I’d just prefer it if he stayed just under the level of OP.

Now obviously I haven’t listed a lot of names, but do you have a favorite on this list? Are there any characters you feel deserve to be on here?  Let me know in the comments below, or with a tweet through that widget on the left. Better yet, like the Comic Books vs The World Facebook page, subscribe to the official Youtube channel, and follow the official Comic Books vs The World Instagram to keep up with all the latest on Comic Books vs The World.

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