Memorial Day isn’t just the start of summer vacation season. It was originally intended as a day to honor and remember those who have made sacrifices in the name of their country. So, in honor of the members of the United States Armed Forces, I offer up this top ten list of superheroes that served in the military.
The criteria by which I formed this list were simple: Any costumed hero (Sorry, Nick Fury!) who served in a branch of the military was eligible. By no means is this an end all be all list because I’m sure that I forgot some big ones, so feel free to add your input in the comment section at the end of the article.
Finally, before I get into the list, I have an Honorable Mention:
Batwoman (Kate Kane)
The current Batwoman has a military history. Following in her father’s footsteps, she decided to serve her country and enroll in West Point. However, under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, she was expelled and never made it to active duty, which is why she is not eligible for my list. Determined to still serve the people of her country, she took up the Batwoman mantle and looks at her vigilante activity as a form of service.
10. Venom (Flash Thompson)
The former bully turned friend of Peter Parker, Flash Thompson, entered the United States Army after graduating from high school. He volunteered to fight in Vietnam (although, due to Marvel’s sliding time scale, this was later retconned to some unspecified overseas conflict), and then later went over to fight in Iraq after the events of ‘One More Day’. Unfortunately, he suffers several bullet wounds in his legs and is forced to have them amputated from the knees down. With the help and support of his friends, family, and Spider-Man, Flash comes to terms with his condition and comes out of his depression.
Recently, Flash was introduced as a new, government sanctioned Venom. With the help of the symbiote, he is able to join the Secret Avengers and be a hero once more, despite having the restriction of only being able to wear the Venom suit for 48 hours before the symbiote tries to take control.
9. War Machine
Lieutenant Colonel James “Rhodey” Rhodes served in Southeast Asia with the United States Marine Corps before becoming Tony Stark’s personal pilot, chief aviation engineer, and close friend. To help Iron Man battle The Masters of Silence, Rhodey steps into the War Machine armor, which Stark designed specifically for Rhodes with the intention to continue the Iron Man legacy after Stark had passed on.
After a terrorist attack in Dubai, Col. Rhodes is severely injured. Thanks to Stark’s cybernetics and bionic limbs, he rebuilds Rhodey to his former glory, making War Machine a part of him. After the cybernetic upgrades and life-saving systems were in place, War Machine went on to defeat fleets of invading Skrulls, save Tony Stark again, and become a member of the Secret Avengers.
8. Ms. Marvel
Carol Danvers was an officer in the United States Air Force and Security Chief of a restricted military base before she donned the mask and sashes of Ms. Marvel/Warbird. She also served with The Fantastic Four’s Ben Grimm prior to him gaining powers.
The Kree-Human hybrid has had many major roles in the Marvel universe, including holding positions on many incarnations of The Avengers, including The Mighty Avengers, in which she lead a squad of pro-registration heroes under the direction of Iron Man during the ‘Civil War’ storyline.
7. The Thing
Speaking of Ben Grimm, next on the list is the ever-loving blue-eyed member of the Fantastic Four, The Thing. He served as a pilot for both the United States Air Force and the Marine Corps. His exemplary service ultimately earned him the right to serve as the pilot of a space shuttle mission with his good friend Reed Richards. It was on that faithful flight that Ben and Reed, along with Johnny and Sue Storm, were transformed into Marvel’s First Family, The Fantastic Four.
6. The Punisher
Before Frank Castle put on the shirt with the white skull and started calling himself The Punisher, he was a Vietnam War veteran. Castle received training from the Marines, the US Army, the US Navy, and the Australian Special Air Service Regiment, in addition to all the multiple disciplines of martial arts and hand to hand combat that he is well versed in. While he may not do things the way that all the other heroes choose to do so, he certainly gets the job done.
5. The Green Lantern
This slot may refer to one mantle, but it applies to two heroes. First, Hal Jordan was a former Air Force pilot in the Korean War before putting on the ring and joining the Green Lantern Corps. Then, John Stewart served as a Marine in World War II before donning the green and black leotard.
In doing my research for this, I read about an excellent demonstration of Stewart’s skills as a sniper. Apparently, thanks to his experience as a sniper in the war, with the power enhancement from his ring, he was able to snipe Sinestro Corps member Bedovian from across the galaxy. If you didn’t know already, Marines are hardcore.
4. Red Hulk
Very few superheroes that started out in the military are as decorated as The Red Hulk. General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross was a United States Air Force officer who served in several wars, although throughout the years there were many inconsistencies as to which branch of the military General Ross actually served under. ‘The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: Hulk 2004” issue officially indicates Ross to be a 3-star Lieutenant General in the U.S. Air Force, so we’ll go with that. General Ross was also the military lead of the Gamma Bomb Project, which ultimately led to Bruce Banner’s transformation into The Incredible Hulk.
As The Red Hulk, General Ross uses his military experience as part of The Avengers under the leadership of Captain America.
Due to his healing factor, Logan has lived a long life and has fought in many wars. During World War I, he fought as a member of the Canadian military. During World War II, he fought alongside Captain America before joining the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion during D-Day, and then the CIA before he was kidnapped by the Weapon X program.
2. The Comedian
From the classic series ‘Watchmen’ by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, Edward Morgan Blake is the cigar-chomping, gun-toting mercenary/government sanctioned agent known as The Comedian. The nihilistic sociopath has no equal on this list. He’s even leagues ahead of The Punisher. This Vietnam War veteran may not be as well liked as the other inhabitants on this list, but he certainly is an icon in comic book history, which is why he falls in such a high position on this list.
1. Captain America
Probably one of the best examples of the military superhero trope is Captain America. Just like with Green Lantern, I’ll include two heroes under this one mantle. Everyone knows the story of Steve Rogers: The scrawny kid from Brooklyn who became the Super Soldier. However, Cap’s sidekick, Bucky Barnes, who also took up the Captain America moniker for a while, was a World War II veteran as well.
Both of them are men out of their own times, but their old school ways bring a sort of balance and composure to the chaos that The Avengers often are faced with.
Thus concludes my top ten military superheroes. Are there any big ones that I missed? Is there someone here that you don’t think belongs? Let me hear about it in the comment section below after you’ve gone and thanked your local armed service men and women, as well as remember those who are no longer with us.