My Favorite Super Heroes
Here is the post I had planned for yesterday. I’ve been writing a lot about Goosebumps and Fear Street, and while I still plan to continue making my way through those series, I want to write about something different every now and then to show you more things I’m into so that you can get to know me a little better. I grew up loving super heroes like many kids in America. There’s something about a (often) masked crusader fighting for good against evil that is exciting. Secret identities, powers bestowed upon individuals that seem more like an unwanted responsibility than something fun, and some of the best villains imaginable… I love super hero stories.
In this entry, I’m going to count down my top five favorite super heroes. My list might surprise you.
#5 – X-Men & Wolverine
I grew up watching X-Men: The Animated Series (1992), and it remains one of my favorite iterations of X-Men today because the stories went closely along with and stayed true to the comics. I actually discovered the comics through the animated series; it’s a great thing when a TV show can inspire a kid to seek out something to read. I remember loving the Jean Gray/Phoenix Saga, and the love triangle between Jean (Marvel Girl), Logan (Wolverine), and Scott (Cyclops) was interesting to me. X-Men is the first instance I remember being invested in a character’s love life.
The X-Men are a perfect example of heroes whose powers are bestowed upon them unwillingly; their powers are painted as an unwanted responsibility. Many of the characters don’t want to be different, and they struggle with their differences throughout the series, trying to learn to love and accept themselves for who they are. My favorite X-Man is Wolverine. I don’t like him for his brute strength, his healing abilities, or his claws as much as I do for his realness. Wolverine’s powers are a result of someone experimenting on him. His life is turned upside down because of something that happened to him. He spends a lot of time simply trying to cope with his anger, which, more often than not, he is unsuccessful. Wolverine is frantic, emotional, and human. I love him for those qualities.
#4 – (Mighty Morphin) Power Rangers
I want to speak to someone who grew up in the 1990s, watched an episode of Power Rangers, and was not a fan of this martial arts super team. I’m not talking about one of the teams created in the 5326467 seasons that followed Mighty Morphin in North America. I’m talking about the original team of Jason, Kimberly, Billy, Trini, and Zack. As described by Zordon in the opening sequence, they were a team of teenagers with attitude. They didn’t want the power, but took on the responsibility to save Earth from a ridiculous witch named Rita Repulsa. They morphed into power suits that gave them cat-like reflexes, strength, and knowledge of how to drive giant robotic dinosaurs called Megazords that they had never operated before in their lives (and yet Billy could still not drive a car). For reasons unbeknownst to the viewer, because all of the villains knew who the Rangers were, the Power Rangers had to keep their identities secret. They were terrible at it, wearing clothing only the color of their individual Ranger suits, I guess to remind viewers which Ranger was which outside of costume.
My favorite Power Rangers were Trini, the Yellow Ranger, and Tommy, the Green Ranger. I remember liking Trini because she faced her fears to do what she felt was right. Tommy, I liked mainly for his awesome story. He was evil and fought for Rita before being defeated, rescued, and recruited by the Power Rangers to fight for good as a sixth Ranger.
#3 – Peter Parker (Spider-Man)
Spider-Man is a character I grew to appreciate more over time. I don’t think it was until my adult years that I realized how much I really love Spider-Man. I was first introduced to him as a kid. My great Aunt Birdie used to bring coloring books to my brother and me when we lived with my grandpa (before the children’s home years), and one of the very first coloring books she brought me featured Spider-Man. The Spider-Man series has some of the absolute best villains. Characters like the Green Goblin, Venom, and Morbius (a frakkin vampire), are almost as interesting as Spider-Man himself. The Spider-Man villains are often people close to Peter Parker who hate or misunderstand him for whatever reason. Watching him fight against these people he knows, whether he realizes he knows them or not, is incredibly interesting and entertaining.
Peter Parker is a likable hero with wit, smarts, and charisma. He is a character that deals heavily with loss again and again; loss and sacrifice become a major theme in his life and story, and make him multidimensional. Surprisingly upbeat and virtuous, Peter Parker represents humans’ innate ability to love and look ahead, no matter the obstacles. Having said that, Marvel gives Peter Parker beating after beating. Because of the gravity of some of the things that happen to Peter, I have to read or watch Spider-Man in doses. In a lot of ways, I feel like Spider-Man may be too mature of a series for kids and may be better appreciated by adults.
#2 The Planeteers
Early in the 1990s, I was in love with a cartoon called Captain Planet and the Planeteers. Kwame, Wheeler, Linka, Gi, and Ma-ti are selected from around the globe by Gaia, the goddess of Earth, to save the world from pollution. They are each given a ring with an elemental power that helps them battle polluters and repair the Earth. Kwame has the power of Earth, Wheeler has the power of Fire, Linka has the power of Wind, Gi has the power of Water, and Ma-ti has what I considered as a kid one of the crappiest powers, Heart, which enables him to communicate telepathically with Gaia, animals, and the other planeteers. The cartoon delivers a promise to viewers each episode:
We’re the Planeteers. You can be one too, because saving our planet is the thing to do.
I’ve been waiting for a long time, but I haven’t received a ring yet. Oh, they must have meant picking up trash or turning off my faucet when I brush my teeth.
It’s hard to say what I loved so much about the Planeteers when I was young, but I was obsessed with them, and they still bring really positive feelings of nostalgia when I see them today. I think being able to control an element to a degree is just a really interesting premise, and looking back on it, I like that the cartoon taught kids about how to save the world literally.
I didn’t care much for the titular character, Captain Planet. Some of the best episodes were episodes in which Captain Planet could not be called upon because one of the Planeteers were missing, there was too much pollution, or something else. Watching the Planeteers get themselves out of messes without calling on a larger super hero was exciting to watch.
From about seventh grade on, until the series ended, I was obsessed with a book series called Animorphs by K. A. Applegate. After R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps and Fear Street, Animorphs is largely to credit for my loving books today. It is a book series about a group of five teenagers who acquire the ability to morph into any animal they touch. They use their powers to fight a parasitic alien species called Yeerks from taking over the world.
The Animorphs have some of the very best super hero qualities: a secret identity, team dependency, the gravity of responsibility, and fighting for what is moral and right. The latter is interesting because the Animorphs are growing and changing themselves; what feels right at the beginning when they are young does not feel right years later. The Animorphs are deeply human, and at a young age, they have a heavy burden put on them. Reading the different ways they cope is interesting.
My favorite Animorphs are Cassie and Tobias. Cassie has moral dilemmas with killing hosts of the parasitic Yeerk species. She believes that evil isn’t necessarily black and white, and doesn’t want to kill innocent creatures. Defining innocence becomes a huge theme for her character. Many readers do not like Cassie because she thinks and debates so much, but it’s exactly why I love her.
I don’t want to spoil the series (because you all need to read it), so I won’t talk about Tobias too much, but a huge theme surrounding Tobias is loneliness and isolation, and it’s something I really connected with as a kid growing up the way I did. Tobias was strength to me. This entire series in a lot of ways was strength to me. It’s why the Animorphs hold my top spot.
Narrowing down my favorite super heroes to a list of five was extremely hard. I kept thinking of others to add to the list, but I stand by my top five. Here are other favorites worth mentioning:
- The Fantastic Four (specifically Ben Grimm/The Thing)
- Underdog (because who wouldn’t like a canine super hero who speaks in rhyming couplets?)
- (Earth One) Batman
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer (+ her Scooby Gang)
- Super Mario
Man, now I really want to go through the Animorphs series again…