Even as I approach my eighth anniversary of living in beautiful Coastal Georgia and nearly five years as an American citizen, a week never goes by that I don’t still learn something new about this wonderful country I now call home.
My co-workers and I often discuss cultural differences, and pop culture is one area that often leads to confusion and amusement. My historical understanding of American pop culture is pretty much limited to whatever movies and TV series the BBC chose to import in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s.
In particular, there is one area that Americans really excel at: superheroes! American superheroes are so much better than the British ones. Maybe that is why I first dated British men but married an American?
I just adored Superman — the unassuming newspaperman Clark Kent, who as Superman is dedicated to helping humanity through heroic good deeds. And then of course there was that handsome Christopher Reeve in his tight costume.
I was also a fan of Wonder Woman, who proved women can be superheroes too. On the other hand, I just never warmed to Batman, Robin, the Bat cave, and all that bat stuff.
While American superheroes are well known across the world, British ones are much less so, with the possible exception of Dr. Who. Yes, the Brits do have mega-popular mortal heroes like Sherlock Holmes and James Bond, but other British hero figures need explaining to the outside world.
Here are some of the lesser known British superheroes that I grew up with.
•Miracleman — Created in the 1950s as the British answer to America’s Captain Marvel, Miracleman was a master hypnotist, able to mesmerize others with a glance and then cause them to experience whatever he wished them to. He would create a variety of illusions, and those under his influence would see, hear, touch and even taste or smell the effects of these illusions.
•Captain Britain — An aristocratic superhero invented in the 1970s intended to be the UK equivalent of Captain America. His powers were given to him by legendary magician Merlin, and he was assigned to uphold the laws of Great Britain. Unfortunately, he was also rather a snob.
•Union Jack — Another posh, upper class hero who was originally Lord Falsworth, a military man and British legend during the Second World War. After he loses his legs in combat with the evil vampire, Baron Blood, the Lord’s son takes over the hero duties. Union Jack’s big claim to fame was his appearance in a couple of Captain America comics.
•Bananaman — My favorite of this strange group, Bananaman launched into British comic books in 1980 as a parody of traditional superheroes. A schoolboy who was transformed into a strong and muscular do-gooder who could fly, he had a yellow, two tailed cape that looked (of course) like a banana skin. When he needed extra power, his pet crow brought him more bananas.
So now you understand my fondness for American rather than British superheroes. I will leave you with a quote from one of the best, Christopher Reeve, whose own heroic qualities were revealed when he suffered an injury in 1995 that left him a quadriplegic until his death in 2004. He said, "A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles".
God bless America, and all our heroes — real and imaginary!
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