Today is Veteran’s Day, a US National Holiday that honors all the men and women who have served in the United States Armed Forces. Veteran’s Day began as Armistice Day, which celebrated the anniversary of the end of World War I back in 1918. In 1954, Congress shifted the focus of the holiday to acknowledge the service of all veterans including those who fought in World War II and the Korean War. Many superheroes have a military background, with several fighting in the front lines of global conflicts like World War II or more recent conflicts like America’s ongoing operations in the Middle East. To commemorate Veteran’s Day, here’s five superheroes who served in the military during a time of war:
(And for more superheroes with a military background, check out our previous feature on superheroes from the Air Force.)
You can’t have a Veteran’s Day article without mentioning America’s original supersoldier Steve Rogers. Captain America served on the front lines during World War II, fighting alongside members of the US Army’s 1st Battalion and participating in several major battles, such as the Normandy Beach invasion on D-Day. Cap also conducted many covert missions during the war, fighting the likes of Baron Zemo, the Red Skull and other Nazis threats too dangerous for normal soldiers to handle. When Steve Rogers returned from his prolonged icy exile, he eventually discovered that the Army had never formally discharged him, meaning that he still was an active soldier. When the governmental Commission on Superhero Activities (unwittingly following the orders of Red Skulls) attempted to manipulate Rogers using his active military status, he temporarily resigned from his post. Although he eventually returned as Captain America, he now operates independently as opposed to working for any one military branch.prevnext
While most Marvel and DC characters have remained relatively static over the years, Flash Thompson underwent a dramatic transformation from his first appearance in the pages of Amazing Fantasy #15, largely due to his experiences in the US Army. Thompson joined the military to fight in the Vietnam War and returned from the conflict a changed man. No longer the bully who tormented Peter Parker, Thompson became much more mature due to his tour in Vietnam. Unfortunately, like many soldiers, Thompson carried psychological scars from his wartime experiences and often turned to alcohol to cope with lingering depression issues. Thompson coped with his depression with the help of his friends and eventually became Peter’s co-worker when he took a position as the gym instructor at Midtown High.
When the Iraq War started, Flash volunteered to rejoin the Army and once again served on the front lines. During one conflict, Flash took several bullets to the legs, but he continued to fight to protect his wounded commanding officer. Flash saved the man’s life, but lost his legs as a result of his wounds. Because of his extreme valor, the Army awarded Flash the Medal of Honor and offered him the opportunity to become “Agent Venom”, allowing him to walk once again. Although his time as Agent Venom hasn’t been without incident (largely due to the symbiote’s destructive nature), Flash continues to serve as a member of the army and as the Avengers’ liaison to the Guardians of the Galaxy.prevnext
Wolverine’s the best at what he does, and what he does is fight in World Wars. The future leader of X-Men fought in the Canadian army during both World Wars, mainly participating in combat missions over in Europe. Wolverine’s army days were…eventful. During World War I, Logan fought the actual Angel of Death on the battlefield, besting the supernatural entity in single combat (because not even death can defeat Wolverine). His World War II exploits were just as eventful; he fought alongside Captain America and Bucky to rescue a young Black Widow from the clutches of Baron Strucker and parachuted onto the beaches of Normandy during D-Day. As if his European exploits weren’t enough, Wolverine also saw the actual end of WWII firsthand. After escaping a Japanese prison camp, Wolverine fled into Nagasaki just as America dropped the nuclear bomb that leveled the city and caused Japan to surrender to Allied Forces. He survived the blast, because a puny atomic bomb isn’t enough to stop the (almost) unkillable killing force that is Wolverine.prevnext
While Earth’s first (Silver Age) Green Lantern Hal Jordan was an ex-Air Force Pilot, his eventual partner John Stewart was a former Marine sniper. Although much of Stewart’s military past is unknown, we know that Stewart saw active combat several times, including one mission where he fought off an angry mob of hostiles who had killed one of his friends after his helicopter crashed. After killing several hostiles, Stewart retrieved his friend’s body and carried him back to base, so he could get a proper burial on American soil.
Surprisingly, Stewart’s Marine background is a recent addition to his backhistory. The Justice League cartoon first introduced the idea of Stewart as a Marine and used his military background as a defining characteristic for his personality and mannerisms. Geoff Johns later brought Stewart’s Marine history into the comics, adding a sniper’s mentality to Stewart’s already precise and focused attitude.prevnext
In the days leading up to World War II, a group of Nazi saboteurs attacked several US military bases, injuring and killing many military personnel and soldiers. A friendly scientist saved one of these soldier’s lives, transforming Marine Hank Heywood into the indestructible Commander Steel. As America had yet to enter the war, Heywood travelled to Europe in secret to assist Allied Forces in fighting the Nazis. While in Europe, Steel unsuccessfully tried to assassinate several world leaders. He first tried to kill Adolf Hitler under orders from Winston Churchill, but he failed and was captured by the Nazi supervillain Baron Blitzkrieg. Two years later, a then brainwashed Commander Steel attempted to assassinate Churchill, but the All-Star Squadron stopped him and snapped him out of his brainwashing.
After fighting alongside the All-Star Squadron for several more years, Heywood retired and started a successful manufacturing business. Two of Heywood’s grandsons would later take up the Steel moniker and become superheroes of their own, while Heywood would reenter the superhero business in his waning days and die fighting Eclipso.prev