Last weekend, DC Comics and millions of comics fans celebrated Batman Day, a special day to celebrate the Dark Knight and his contributions to pop culture. Batman Day was started by DC to celebrate Batman's 75th birthday three years ago, but DC has continued the tradition with special giveaways and sales at stores around the United States and beyond.
While we were stuffing our faces full of Batman Cake last weekend, we started thinking about what other superheroes deserved an annual celebration. After all, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman all have their own "holidays", so why shouldn't these five other historically important superheroes get their day in the sun?
Namor the Submariner
Namor doesn’t have the prestige as many of the other superheroes on this list, but the Atlantean superhero holds a special spot in Marvel history. Namor was Marvel’s first ever superhero, published way back in 1939. Even in Namor’s earliest appearances, it was clear he was different than other superheroes published at the time. Namor was the first true antihero in superhero comics, a character just as willing to attack the United States as he was to help it in their fight against Axis powers.
Namor also holds the distinction of being Marvel's first mutant, at least in terms of his first appearance. Both Professor X and Magneto attempted to recruit Namor during an early X-Men comic, but Namor didn't officially embrace his heritage until he joined the X-Men in the early 2010s.
We suggest launching Namor Day sometime in October to commemorate the release of Marvel Comics #1, which was released in October 1939. Alternatively, Namor Day could also take place on May 18, the birthday of his creator Bill Everett.
Namor was Marvel's first superhero, but Captain America was its first superhero to become a national sensation.
Joe Simon and Jack Kirby created the Star Spangled Avenger in response to the Nazi threat overseas and America's growing build up to entering World War II. The first issue of Captain America Comics featured Captain America punching Hitler in the face, a controversial and political statement during a time when the country was still deciding between isolationism and entering the war.
Captain America became a monster hit for Marvel and inspired a slew of patriotic-themed knockoffs. While the character's popularity faded after the war, Marvel brushed the dust off the character and added him to their growing superhero universe in the 1960s. Cap became synonymous with the Avengers and is widely seen as the leader of Marvel's superhero community.
Captain America's popularity endures to this day. Marvel made national headlines when they revealed that Captain America was secretly a sleeper agent working for HYDRA (thanks to the reality tinkering of the Cosmic Cube). Thanks to Chris Evans' good looks and acting talent, he's also one of Marvel's biggest movie stars.
We'd suggest celebrating Captain America Day on December 20, 1941, as it marks the anniversary of the release of Captain America Comics #1.
Although overshadowed by Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, the Flash holds a special spot in DC comic book history. DC revitalized a flagging superhero comic industry in the 1950s by introducing Barry Allen in Showcase #4, launching what superhero fans now know as the Silver Age of Comics. Although the Flash wasn't technically a new superhero, DC realized they could spruce him up and reboot him for a new audience.
Thanks to the Flash, DC's superhero line got a much needed shot in the arm, and led to more superhero reboots and changes. The Flash not only became a critical part of DC's superhero universe, he also served as a harbinger for more changes. Allen played a critical role in Crisis on Infinite Earth, Final Crisis, Flashpoint, and most recently DC Rebirth, all of which had universe changing implications for the DC universe.
Most importantly, the Flash represents the one thing that separates DC from Marvel: legacy. The Flash has passed his mantle to several other heroes, each of whom has served as the Flash for a new generation of fans. A "Flash Day" wouldn't just celebrate Barry Allen, it would also celebrate Jay Garrick, Wally West, Bart Allen, and all the other speedsters DC fans love.
DC's Silver Age began with the Flash, but Marvel's superhero universe really began with the introduction of the Fantastic Four. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the Fantastic Four to compete with DC's Justice League of America. But while the Justice League were just a group of superheroes chumming around to save the world, the Fantastic Four were a dysfunctional family who fought each other almost as much as they fought superheroes.
The Fantastic Four innovated the superhero genre by putting character over plot. Reed Richards, Ben Grimm, Johnny Storm, and Sue Storm acted like normal people who just happened to have powers. Because of the success of the Fantastic Four, Lee, Kirby, and other Marvel creators created more flawed protagonists, creating the foundation for a world that continues to capitivate millions of fans today.
The Fantastic Four are known as Marvel's "First Family", although the group's popularity has waned as of late. Although Marvel currently has the Fantastic Four on hiatus, their inevitable return should be marked with a major celebration.
Thanks to his breakout role in Captain America: Civil War, his own upcoming movie, and the successful Marvel series by Ta-Nahesi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze, Black Panther has never been more popular.
The king of Wakanda also holds an important spot in superhero history: he was the first black superhero in mainstream comics.
Stan Lee and Jack Kirby introduced the Black Panther in the pages of Fantastic Four as the leader of a remote but technologically advanced African nation. Lee and Kirby attempted to keep away from typical stereotypes, portraying Black Panther as an equal to his peers and not needing the help of outsiders to protect or rule his country.
Black Panther went on to appear in what's unofficially called Marvel's first graphic novel and helped pave the way for other black and minority superheroes. With the Black Panther movie (the first DC/Marvel solo movie starring a black superhero) out soon, now is the perfect time to celebrate Black Panther's contributions to superhero culture.