Can we take a moment to marvel at these icons?
It’s hard to imagine going to a theater (remember those?) and not seeing a Marvel or DC-related superhero poster as you pass through the building’s doors. But there are other heroes out there on this rock, people! With that said, from comic books to animation to live-action, here are a few super characters that originated in cultures outside of America that we should get to know (and perhaps even strive to get on posters in movie theaters).
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This powerful figure hails from the minds of Jide Martin and Wale Awelenje—both of whom are essential players (Martin being the founder) of Nigerian media company Comic Republic, Africa’s biggest comic book company. Guardian Prime is a fashion designer whose call to Guardianship is “awakened” by Mother Nature (a Guardian is born every 2,000 years among the human race). Making his first appearance in The Might of Guardian Prime in 2013, Guardian Prime is the “fifth element”—in addition to Earth, Water, Air, and Fire—that allows life to exist on this planet. This Guardian, 25-year-old Tunde Jaiye, has God-like powers, including tremendous strength, flight, and the ability to channel his invulnerability to anything simply by laying a hand on it. In short, he rules.
The Burka Avenger
Positioned as a way to highlight the importance of education in society, this Pakistani animated show, which shares the same name as its main character, is also intended to highlight the power of equality. The titular Avenger, whose burka allows her to keep her identity a secret, can attack enemies with books and pens via her fighting style–known as Takht Kabaddi. By day, the hero goes by Jiya, an empowered teacher at an all-girls school who spends her time taking on venomous bureaucrats. While the show has garnered some criticism—some say the burka is not an appropriate “costume,” as it signifies the oppression of women that’s been around for a very long time—its defenders and creators stand by their message of intended empowerment.
A resident of the fictional city Meridiana, Cybersix—the product of a genetic experiment conducted by a Nazi scientist—is a super-strong, super-acrobatic human-like creature who hunts down her prey, the co-conspirators of her creator, by night. Her sleek leather costume and intimidatingly large cape are mesmerizing to see in action (think Batman, but if he prowled rooftops in The Matrix). By day, she disguises herself as high school teacher Adrian Seidelman. The character and the world in which she inhabits hail from Argentinian comic book creators Carlos Meglia and Carlos Trillo. Their work—which debuted in 1991—was adapted in 1995 (as Cybersix) by Network of Animation and Japan’s TMS Entertainment; it aired in Argentina, Canada, and, later, in the U.S., but was scrapped after just one season because of differences between the production companies.
WHERE: South Africa
This comic book hero has super strength and the ability to fly to great heights. He’s also 19 when he discovers his powers and is obsessed with Twitter, so…there’s a lot going on in his life, to say the least. A product of the imaginations of visual artist Loysio Mkize (who is credited with the original idea of “Kwezi”), colorist Clyde Beech, and writer Mohale Mashigo, the story of this fictional teen, which has resonated with superhero fans around the world, also has references to its place of origin, something Mkize says people are absolutely longing for.
Fun fact: His name translates to “star” in Zulu and Xhosa—two of the official languages of South Africa.
The world first met Adèle Blanc-Sec in 1976 when The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec from French author and illustrator Jacques Tardi made its way onto shelves. Adèle’s steampunk tale starts with her career as a novelist, but audiences follow her as she delves into the world of investigative journalism (before and after WWI) as it pertains to supernatural crimes, political corruption, and toxic patriotism. Though there was a feature film adaptation in 2010, Adèle’s keen eye for clues and feminist values sure could use more spotlight. She may not have “superpowers” in the traditional sense (compared to the others on this list), but, make no mistake—she is not to be underestimated (and is completely capable of wrangling dinosaurs).
A grandmother who came into a certain amount of power later in life courtesy of a mishap with a cosmic ray gun, Super Gran will not tolerate nonsense when it comes to protecting her small town from those who intend to harm it or its residents. Based on a series of books that debuted in 1978 from Scottish author Forrest Wilson, Super Gran was made for the small screen in 1985 when it ran for two seasons as a show for Children’s Independent Television in the U.K. Aside from incredible strength, of course, Super Gran’s powers include enhanced speed and the ability to jump very, very high—both incredibly important things if you plan on guarding many obnoxious grandkids!