Best Replacement Heroes
As a lover of comics I often wonder about those, new to medium, excited about diving right in only to be confused that Captain America is not Steve Rogers as in the movies or that Thor currently does not look a thing like Chris Hemsworth. In comics there is a long tradition of a legendary character passing on his mantle to a newcomer to carry on his legacy. Sometimes this has worked and other times not so much. This list will not count those who took on superhero identities on other Earths from their predecessors (ie Hal Jordan, Ted Kord etc.). And as with many of my lists there is no particular order they are sorted into.
Sam Wilson (Captain America): Steve Rogers was a hero of near mythic proportions, a steadfast fighter for all things true and good, commanding the respect of his colleagues. Naturally given his nationalistic theming, his stories have often been used by writers to tell parables to reflect the mood of the United States. And thanks to his being out of commission writers can tell those same types of stories but from the point of view of an African American. After suffering a devastating blow courtesy of the Iron Nail, Steve Rogers was forced to pass on the shield to his longtime partner Sam Wilson, the Falcon. This could not have come at a more interesting time, as race-relations have once again become a hot topic in the country. With this new element in the Captain America comics,
Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel): Like most of us, teenager Kamala Khan idolized superheroes, but unlike all of us she was given the opportunity to become one. When this geeky affable girl from Jersey City was hit by the Terrigen Mist, she gained the powers to manipulate her proportions. Taking for herself Carol Danvers former alter ego, Kamala has taken to the streets with a great sense of optimism and idealism. In a move seen by many as bold, Marvel made this new Ms. Marvel an Arabic-American from a Muslim family, which in today’s environment propelled her right into the spotlight from the beginning. Under the top notch writing of G. Willow Wilson, Ms. Marvel has taken that momentum she started with and become a cultural icon; featured on buses in San Francisco, seen on Alex’s dorm room wall in the hit sitcom Modern Family, and even being praised by the President of the United States.
Dick Grayson (Batman): The former Robin Dick Grayson is synonymous with comic book sidekicks, even to those who have never read a comic. Even upon graduating to become Nightwing this former acrobat, never quite escaped the shadow of the Batman. But when the Final Crisis devastated the DC Universe and Bruce Wayne was believed to be dead, his greatest protégé donned the legendary cape and cowl to become Gotham’s newest protector. Not nearly as jaded and world weary as his mentor Grayson’s tenure as the Dark Knight was a breath of fresh air to the franchise. Perhaps he is best known for taking the previously unlikable brat Damian Wayne and training him to become a fan favorite as Robin. And let comic fans not forget that Scott Snyder, who will surely one day be legendary for his Batman work, put himself on the Batradar writing Dick Grayson in Detective Comics.
Carol Danvers (Captain Marvel): After many years as a role player in the Marvel Universe, but never a star, Carol Danvers took on the mantle of Captain Marvel and has exploded into popularity. With a bold adventurous spirit that would make Amelia Earhart proud, Danvers is blazing a trail all her own and completely different from her predecessors. With a massive legion of fans proclaiming themselves members of the Carol Corps. propelling her popularity, Danvers became chosen to join the insanely popular Marvel Cinematic Universe. Despite not being the first to be called Captain Marvel in the Marvel Universe, Carol Danvers stands to be the most definitive version of this hero.
Jane Foster (Thor): A rare example of a sidekick or partner inheriting the mantle of a legend, but rather a longtime love interest having it thrust upon them. Jane Foster had her hands full enough battling cancer (fuck cancer) when the events of Original Sin made the Odinson no longer worthy to wield his iconic hammer. Mjolnir chose Foster to be the one worthy to be known as Thor. In a move rarely seen in comics, this new Thor did not come into a clean slate but rather had to deal with the problems who predecessor had been facing, with a conspiracy involving the evil company Roxxon as well as longtime Thor foe Malekith the Accursed. If a woman who uses the power of a god to protect the earth while dealing with Chemotherapy treatments is not worthy to wield the hammer then perhaps nobody is.
Jaime Reyes (Blue Beetle): The Blue Beetle was always a cult favorite, and when affable everyman hero Ted Kord boldly gave his life standing up to evil it sent shockwaves through the DC Universe. Who could replace such a brave hero? Well nobody had to choose because the mystical scarab tied to the Blue Beetle mythos chose the replacement for everyone in the form of an average teenager named Jaime Reyes. This reluctant hero, could have been another in the long saga of DC Comics legacy characters were it not for the hit cartoon series Batman: Brave and the Bold. In this colorful and zany take on the Caped Crusader, Batman regularly teamed up with fellow superhero colleagues, and one who got regular screen time as Reyes’ incarnation of the Blue Beetle. Thanks to DC’s current Rebirth, fans now have the joy of seeing both Kord and Reyes working side by side on a new series of adventures while they try to discover the meaning behind Dr. Fates’ ominous warning.
Kyle Rayner (Green Lantern): Someone is chosen to be in the Green Lantern Corps. Because they have shown they possess great willpower, or in the case of Kyle Rayner they were in the right place at the right time. What could have been a fun chance to be a hero came crashing down, after the controversial death of his girlfriend Alex brought the reality of his new responsibility crashing down. Despite having massive shoes to fill after Hal Jordan’s devastating rampage throughout the universe, Rayner poured his heart and soul into being a Lantern and forged a path completely different than all those held the ring before him. Like the best comic characters he has proven to be so flexible that no matter what role creators need him to take he maintains his popularity.
Wally West (the Flash): Not only was the famed red-haired Titan arguably the best replacement hero of all time, to an entire generation of fans Wally West WAS the Flash. During the Crisis on Infinite Earths, stalwart speedster Barry Allen met his end while saving reality. In order to honor his mentor Kid Flash took up the red costume and vowed to continue protecting Central City and Keystone City. This was not a simple substitution to hold fans in suspense for a while, for 25 years Wally West was the first sidekick in comic history to take over for their mentor. In fact when Barry did return to life, many fans were actually bummed rather than excited. When DC Comics decided to reboot their entire line with the New 52, making their comics grittier and less fun, the missing West became the patron saint of dissatisfied fans. So muchso when the problems caused by this move were rectified with Rebirth, their was no better protagonist to kickstart things than the former Flash himself. Currently reunited with his Titan colleagues, Wally West is back and fans could not be happier.
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