Throughout history, the United States military has been depicted in art, literature and pop culture. One art form that has embraced the experiences and skills of service members is comic books. Since America’s soldiers are real-life superheroes it is not surprising that many powerful comic book characters also have a military background. Here is a list of eight popular comic book characters who have served in the military.
Captain America is America’s Super-Soldier and was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby and published by Marvel. Born Steven Rogers, he received a special serum from the U.S. Army General Chester Phillips that transformed the scrawny fine arts student into a human possessing the highest levels of agility, intelligence, stamina and strength. His trademark red, white and blue shield was given to him by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Captain America served the United States throughout World War II battling Nazis primarily as a member of the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment “Blue Spaders.” Captain America is known for his knowledge of the military, piloting and combat strategy and continues to protect American values.
Lady Blackhawk is one of the most renowned female American military characters. This DC Comics character has had three alter egos over the years, the first one being Zinda Blake who became the first female member of the Blackhawk Squadron, a World War II aviator team. She is a self-trained pilot and an expert markswoman who fought Nazis and other villains.
The Thing, born Benjamin Jacob “Ben” Grimm, was a highly skilled military aviator in the United States Marine Corps before becoming a superhero and one of the founding members of the Fantastic Four. This Marvel Comics character created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby has a rocky orange appearance caused by exposure to intense cosmic radiation. He is a loyal and good natured superhero who battles evildoers and screams his signature cry, “It’s clobberin’ time!”
Before Frank Castle became the Punisher, he was a Force Recon Marine who served in the Vietnam War and was awarded the Purple Heart. Upon return from Vietnam, he and his family witnessed a shooting by the Mafia. They became victims themselves as the Mafia wanted to eliminate any witnesses. Frank was his family’s only survivor. Triggered by this experience, Frank became a dangerous and controversial vigilante, taking the Punisher moniker. This Marvel Comics character created by Gerry Conway and John Romita, Sr. continues to use his combat skills to kill criminals with no remorse. On a side note: According to an article in Time, the unit of the American Sniper, Chris Kyle, called themselves the Punishers after the comic book character.
Hal Jordan and John Stewart, two of the Green Lantern’s aliases were former military. Hal Jordan was born into a military family and his father was a test pilot who died in a plane crash. This was one of Hal’s biggest fears. Against his family’s wishes Hal joined the Air Force when he was 18. Years later, the dying alien Abin Sur chose Hal as a replacement for his position as a Green Lantern and the reason he chose Hal was because he had an ability to overcome great fear.
John Stewart is a former United States Marine Corps sniper. His strong hand-to-hand combat, sniper and aviation skills have helped him do his job as a superhero and founding member of the Justice League.
Created as Batman’s first supporting character, James “Jim” Worthington Gordon is the police commissioner for the Gotham City Police Department and helps the Caped Crusader fight crime. Before joining the police department, Jim Gordon served in the U.S. Special Forces, where he was trained in hand-to-hand combat which helps him assist Batman in the battle against supervillains.
Wonder Woman’s love interest, Steve Trevor, is a top secret level operations agent of the United States government. He was a General in the United States Army and retired at the end of the Vietnam War. He served as a pilot and in Military Intelligence and is known for his skills in aviation, tactical analysis, hand-to-hand combat, and military protocol.
The anti-hero Spawn, born Al Simmons, is a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the USMC who went on to work in White House security where he prevented the assassination of the president. He later became a member of the United States Security Group where he carried out secret assassination missions around the world. He was a violent person on the job, as well as in his personal life. After losing his life, Al Simmons made a deal to return to Earth in order to see his wife Wanda, but he would be reincarnated as Spawn.