Marveling at Nature (Thats Right, We Made a Comic Book Pun!)

In the opening scene of last week’s “Simpson” episode, ‘Married to The Blob’,Bart’s favorite comic book hero, Radioactive Man, battles The Fossil Fuel Four.  The Fossil Fuel Four, Old King Coal, Petroleus Rex, French Femme Fatale Charcoal Briquette, and The Fracker are attempting to destroy the Nuclear Power Plant. Radioactive Man tries to stop them by telling them that Nuclear Energy is the cleanest form of energy but the The Fracker retorts by saying that studies show that fracking is the best option for America if it wants to have energy independence. To this Radioactive responds by calling the Fracker out by saying those studies were industry funded, and by calling for help from sidekicks Citizen Solar and Wind Lab. Unfortunately Citizen Solar and Wind Lab are unable to help because it is too cloudy and “people don’t like the noise”, and Radioactive Man is killed.

Though this scene is a farce it got me thinking about the relationship between comic superheroes and environmental issues. Whether it is the source of their origins, or their type of superpower, many superheroes have links to the environment.

Super Powers That Replicate Nature

Many superheroes have superpowers that derive from nature. In the X-Men, Storm has the ability to control weather, while Ice Man has the ability to turn water into ice. These powers indicate respect for nature while at the same time express humans’ ultimate fascination in controlling the world around them.

The villain Poison Ivy uses nature-based powers another way. She uses her plant-like abilities to protect nature, even if it harms humans.

Super Powers Replicating That of an Animal

There is something fascinating about animals and their natural super human abilities. That is why there are so many super heroes who’s abilities, whether acquired or man made, are modeled after animals. Super Hero’s like Batman, Catwoman, and Wolverine are modeled/model themselves after animals while others like The Beast did not choose to emulate animals

I find animal derived super powers the most interesting. If I could be a super hero modeled after any creature I would choose the cockroach. With speed, the ability to fly short distances, and heavy armor that cam still fit in small spaces I would be impossible to defeat.

Other super heroes have powers that are less species specific. The super hero named The Animal Man can morph into any species of animal, whether alive of extinct, while AquaMan has the ability to speak  to sea creatures.

Origins That Reflect Fears of Science and Technology

Superheroes like the Hulk, Spider-man, The Fantastic 4, and the Toxic Avenger gained their super powers accidentally. This type of origin reflects the readers/society’s technological fears at the time of the superhero’s conception. Many of the comics were conceptualized in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s  which is why radioactivity is a particularly common cause of powers. Spiderman is a particularly quintessential example of this concept, not only does his radioactive spider bite implicate the fear of radiation but it also implicates a fear of genetic engineering.

Two Words: Captain Planet (And the Planeteers)

When I was a child I was a big fan of watching Captain Planet protect earth from pollution and environmental destruction. With help from the Planteers, 5 Teens from different parts of the world with powers, Captain Planet showed young viewers of the different hardships facing the earth. I remember finding the show educational and entertaining and can still practically sing the theme song by heart.

Since the show started in the 1990’s the show has expanded into “The Captain Planet Foundation” which funds young environmental stewards create their own “Captain Planet” worthy projects.

If Superheros’ reflect American values, comic super heroes emphasize that nature and the environment are an integral part of our lives and without them we are powerless.

super child with earth via shutterstock

super child unleashed via shutterstock


by Maddie Perlman-Gabel

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