— Shashwat DC
Superheroes have been with us for a long long time, ever since the dawn of civilisation, we have had our fair share of these amazing humans doing their amazing feats. From the Hercules of the yore to Ironman today, superheroes continue to live amongst us and save us now and then from evil villains to hideous aliens. Not only that, they are ready to rescue in case of natural calamities too, be it earthquake, tornado, or even a tsunami. They can always be banked to save us humans. They have done so in the past and can do so in the future.
Yet, today the greatest challenge in front of humanity is in terms of global warming and climate change. This is bigger than any Lex Luthor or Ming the Merciless. Could our superheroes be up to this global challenge that threatens the very existence of the species? Can we be saved again, if so, even fictionally. The only way to assess that would be to arrive at the right superhero who through his/her actions has shown a bit of consciousness about environment and degradation. The hero must be up to mark not only in terms of environment, but also the implications of his/her actions.
Hence, let’s find out who the greenest superhero is. And let’s give them points on a scale of 1-10, where 10 is the best (or the greenest) that you ever could wish for.
Hercules (*) – 1/10
If ever there was any ranking of most destructive superhero, Hercules would surely be a top contender in it. This son of Zeus has been a brawny destructive force, killing and maiming exotic species like the Stymphalian Birds, Nemean Lion, and nine-headed Hydra. He also went on to capture the Erymanthian Boar, Ceryneian Hind, Cretan Bull and so on. I mean, this bulky man was single handedly responsible for murdering so many exotic fauna, making them extinct. And then, when some asked him to clean up the stables, this fool won’t pick up a mop or say a vacuum cleaner, he will divert a river to clean up the mess. Imagine the sheer ecological consequences of diverting a river. But then can you really expect this brawny DUH! to understand?
Thor (**) – 2/10
This giant of god, armed with a hammer in his hand is forever fighting, fighting and fighting. In many ways, the son of Odin is not much better off than the son of Zeus that we encountered earlier. The only difference is that he is much indifferent to humanly affairs, and hence did not maim and kill exotic animals like the stupid Hercules. He even rides in a cart or chariot pulled by two goats, Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr (that he eats and resurrects now and then). With his Mjolnir, he is constantly shattering mountains or fortresses. The rather sad part is that he is often battling the frost giants, which could lead to a lot of ice-melt. But then he redeems himself in the great final battle of Ragnarok, where he kills the serpent Jörmungandr that comes out of the ocean and poisons the sky. Thor kills it, and dies too in the bargain.
Superman (********) – 8/10
Without doubt Mr. Kal-El from Krypton, who lives on Earth under the alibi of Clark Kent in Metropolis, when he is not flying all over in red cape and underwear over his tights. Superman was not only of the first superheroes (debuting in 1938) but also among the first to leverage the idea of solar power. His planet was destroyed by an over-heated red sun, thus, he savours the yellow sun. Apparently, the yellow sun is also the source of his power. Once he had changed his dress from a blue-colored one to yellow, and then his powers dipped as yellow reflects the sunlight, while blue absorbs it. Also, much of his superpowers have other-worldly source, his laser-vision, his flight and so on, are all emission free and in consonance with nature. On top of it, his super-powers enable him to even face up to cataclysmic events and set them right. And though, he has married Lois Lane, he does not believe in increasing population and has no kids of his own. Having lost his home world of Krypton, Superman is very protective of Earth. His Fortress of Solitude deep in the Antarctic acts as a place of solace for him in times of loneliness and despair. Thus the Kryptonian is inarguably among the best that you can have as a green action hero.
Batman (****) – 4/10
Bruce Wayne, as a kid, witnessed the brutal and tragic murder of his parents, and this shaped his destiny as the protector of Gotham City, namely, Batman. He does indeed a good job of protecting the city, fighting off real motley of villains. Yet, his lifestyle is anything but sustainable. Keeping in mind his billionaire alibi, Bruce Wayne lives in an ostentatious mansion, drives along in some of the most elaborate limozines. Even when he is fighting crime, his batmobile and his batplane don’t seem to be like the one that run on economy. Though most of his travelling is done by gliding down from towers in Gotham. Though to be fair, Batman does get extra points for maintaining his data-centre (Batcomputer) underground cavern, which will have natural cooling shaft, requiring very little air-conditioning. But for Bruce Wayne’s rather extravagant unsustainable lifestyle, Batman could have been a good role model for green. Alas!
Spiderman (*****) – 5/10
Peter Parker was an academically gifted student, with a recorded IQ of 250, when a stupid spider passing through a radioactive stream bit him and turned him into a Spiderman. Peter is now replete with all powers and agility of a spider, crawling and swinging from buildings and all place else. Considering that he lives in a metropolis like NY, and has a simple job and lifestyle, he really has no major CO2 footprint so as to speak off. He doesn’t even own a car, and as Peter much of his traveling is done by public transport, and when he is Spiderman, he is swinging around town. The only deplorable thing about Mr. Spiderman is his copious amount of webbing that really must be bane for the civic administration. In the early days, using his scientific bent Peter develops a special synthetic polymer adhesive that has spider web-like properties, as well as wrist-worn launching devices. Later on, Spiderman undergoes a transition and he develops his own organic web. Nevertheless, when he is brachiating at his web line in Manhattan at 120 MPH, he leaves a lot of it behind. Even on the organic front, since Spiderman is a ‘radioactive’ entity, his webbings would carry traces of radioactive element in it. Apparently, the webbing turns into powder after an hour and dissipates away. But there is still no official communication in that regards and hence, we deduct 50% of his stars just because of that. Sorry Spidey, to be green you have to stop all that webbing menace.
Mandrake (****) – 4/10
Theron, the grand old man at the Collegium of Magic, sired Mandrake when he was 275 year old. Subsequently, Mandrake trained at the secret college in Tibet, and became the world’s greatest hypnotist. He has used his magical abilities to fight crime and became pretty famous, so famous to be able to date a princess from a European country, Cockaigne. He also has a black superman, Lothar, as a sort of his man-Friday, though to be fair he calls him his friend. And then he lives in a huge complex which rests on a hill just outside NY. The palace named Xanadu was gifted to him by a president of a nation, who was saved by Mandrake. Usually, Mandrake and Lothar can be seen driving around in an open red sedan that seems like a gas guzzler. Mandrake also has access to Theron’s Cube that has amazing power stored within it, yet that seems to not make a difference. Also, Mandrake happens to be good friends with Magnon, emperor of a million planets in the galaxy, many of which are oxygen breathing, but never has Mandrake put a word for saving the environment or anything. He seems pretty indifferent to it or the need for it.
Phantom (***) – 3/10
Under ideal circumstances, the ‘Ghost Who Walks’ would make an awesome green guy. After all, this man lives in the jungles of Bangalla and has sworn to “Devote my life to the destruction of piracy, greed, cruelty, and injustice, in all their forms, and my sons and their sons shall follow me.” The current Phantom, Kit Walker, is the 21st in the line. In addition to it, Phantom is also the head of Jungle Patrol, where a certain Colonel Jonathan Worubu works as his deputy, and he guards against thieves, hunters and poachers. And yet even though he lives in a pristine jungle, Phantom lords over the Deep Woods like his personal fiefdom. The Pygmy Bandars are like his personal guards, he has some of the greatest riches in his vaults (like Alexander’s diamond cup, King Arthur’s sword, or Cleopatra chalet), but this is his personal treasure, he does not use it for the benefit of the jungle folk. Not only that he has a Jade hut, and sands of gold at Keela-Wee, but this is only for Mr. Phantom’s personal pleasure. He also has a Castle in Air, built by the local tribes. Then he a special house Mesa Table in the US, and many other properties all across. He even has a special island named Eden, full of most exotic animals and surrounded by a pool of piranha-infested waters, but again, this is again solely for the pleasure of the Walker Family. On top of it, Mr. Walker is a white Caucasian man with blond hair, and his lady love is Diana Palmer, another white lady. Thus, you have a situation, where a vast amount of property in Africa, full of blacks and tribals, is ruled by a whiteman, who does not believe in sharing his riches and inheritance. And so, how can he ever be a green and sustainable hero, when he is so selfish in the first place.
Tarzan (********) – 8/10
Lord John Clayton Viscount Greystoke is a man of many talents, he knows many languages and is a man much appreciated and liked in the English society. But also, he is equally at home with the Mangani, Great Apes living in the African jungles. In fact, Lord Greystoke prefers the company of the apes much preferable to that of man. And that is the reason; he left the civilised life and returned to the jungles to be amongst them. The only human that he ever cares for is Jane Porter. Meet Tarzan, the king of the apes, a feral human child raised by a Gorilla mom. He is idea of a noble savage, for whom the animals and their rights are equivalent to those of man. For him, there is no difference between an ape and a man. Tarzan has super strength, and yet he is ever helpful and handy. He has constant battle running with Numa the lion. But even so, he respects Numa and his strength. The primitivist philosophy has many fans including the most famous ape-lady Jane Goodall, who believed that she could make a better spouse than Jane. While Tarzan is very much white and Caucasian, unlike Phantom, he is very much a part of the setup, not an owner of it. And so, he surely makes a great run for the green superhero
Green Lantern (*) – 1/10
The only thing green about Green Lantern is the green lantern that powers him and the green costume that he wears. Except for the fact that his power is derived from the moonlight that gets stored in the lantern, and is transferred via the ring that he wears. There is precious else that is green about him.
Hulk () – 0/10
The only thing green about Hulk is the fact that he turns green when he is hulky. Otherwise the kind of destruction he causes when he loses his temper is quite the opposite of anything but green.
Bahadur (**) – 2/10
Bahadur was an Indian superhero, who moved like a cheetah, kicked
like a tiger and so on. Living in the idyllic village of Jaigarh, the son of a slain dacoit, Bahadur is much involved in rehabilitation and education of youth. With his girlfriend Bela, and Inspector Vishal. Occasionally he guards forests against illegal miners and so on. Though, he does not seem to have any particular interest in conservation per se.
Shaktiman (***) – 3/10
Pandit Gangadhar Vidyadhar Mayadhar Omkarnath Shastri is a geeky photographer for the newspaper Aaj Ki Aawaz. And yet, as the super-powerful Shaktiman he is constantly battling the evil unleashed by Tamraj Kilvish. Meanwhile, Shaktiman has attained superhuman strength and power through deep meditation and attaining control over five elements of life, after pursuing “yogic shakti which was natural power.” As a result he possesses powers like unlimited speed (up to the speed of light), strength, durability as well as psychic powers like telepathy, teleportation, telekinesis etc. Considering the organic nature and meditation are the cause of his power, he does get a few green points. But then nothing much beyond that.
Villains or Heroes?
Not all that good are good, or those that are bad are bad. There are some villains that are more concerned about the environment than anyone else. If given a chance, they would really make a much better green hero than any other hero itself. Here are two that really stand out, and by a quirk of fate both are from the Batman universe.
Dressed in a one-piece, strapless green bathing suit, covered with leaves, Dr. Pamela Isley or Poison Ivy refers herself an “eco-terrorist of global importance”. Poison Ivy is depicted as one of the world’s most notorious eco-terrorists. She is obsessed with plants, botany, and environmentalism. She uses toxins from plants and mind controlling pheromones for her criminal activities, which are usually aimed at protecting the natural environment.
Ras Al’ Ghul
Ra’s al Ghul whose ultimate goal is a world in perfect balance. He believes that the best way to achieve this balance is to eliminate most of humanity. Ra’s usually tries to assault the world’s human populace with a biological weapon, such as a genetically-engineered virus. He is aided in this quest by the Lazarus Pits, reservoirs of rejuvenating chemicals that restore the dead and dying to life; these pits have granted him a lifespan of several centuries. He firmly believes that humans are a bane and wants to destroy them for good.
And yes the ultimate Green Champion of the Planet is without doubt Captain Planet and his Planeteers (10/10). They are summoned by Gaia to defend the world from pollution, criminals, and natural disasters. With a motto “The Power is Yours!” Captain Planet is always fighting eco villains trying to save the planet at all the times. His only weakness is pollution, when it is unleashed on him.
With the spectre of climate change looming over us, we need more superheroes who can save the planet. And these will not come from comics or fiction, but from amongst us all. Let’s try and hunt him within himself…