< Return to Religious Affiliation of Comics Book Characters
What can I do if there is no superhero that represents my faith?
After an brief introductory discussion the plight of religious groups who are unrepresented by super-heroes, this page discusses three possible ways you can establish a super-hero for an un-represented (or under-represented) group:
- Discovery: Find an existing super-hero for your group that we haven't heard of yet. Let us know.
Sadly, some religious groups have no superhero to represent them.
Few things in life are sadder than having no super-heroes to represent your faith or primary-identity sub-cultures. Think of the Seventh-Day Adventist child who sees that her friends - Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Presbyterians, Hindus, etc. - all have super-heroes that belong to their faiths, but she has none. Sure, she can look to Christian and Protestant superheroes whose precise denominational affiliation is unknown, but she knows in her heart that Spider-Man doesn't attend church on Saturdays, and neither does Aunt May. She really wants the same thing we all want: a super-hero from her background.
How does a member of the Assemblies of God feel when they consider the fact that their denomination has over 50 million members worldwide, including members of the U.S. Cabinet such as John Ashcroft and James Watt and pop icons such as Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis, not to mention many of the greatest heroes and most nefarious villains in U.S. history... Yet not a single comic book super-hero!
Ahmadis worldwide may be pleased that there are a number of Muslim super-heroes. But would any Ahmadi really feel welcome worshipping with Sunni or Shiite super-heroes? No, of course not. Yet even though there are millions of Ahmadis throughout the world - and even an Ahmadi hero in Carl Sagan's novel Contact, there isn't even one Ahmadi super-hero. Why?!
And where are the Baha'i, Jain, and Zoroastrian super-heroes? These are entire major world religions that have no super-hero to call their own. We've had two Quakers as U.S. Presidents (Hoover and Nixon) - and there have only been 42 different people serve as U.S. President ever. Yet even with literally thousands of super-heroes running around in tights, there's not room for even one Quaker superhero?? We know that there are Quakers in comic book universes. Nixon is the U.S. President in Watchmen, for example. So why no Quakers in spandex? (The only Quaker superhero we have found is Nixon himself as a superhero, based on his appearances in TV Funhouse's illustrated and animated adventures of the "X Presidents" for Saturday Night Live and Random House. But these stories never comment on Nixon's religious affiliation, and they're hardly what most people are looking for when they think of comic bok superheroes.) Has there never been a comic book writer who could see the dramatic potential inherent in a super-hero whose religion prohibits the use of violence? To me, it sounds like this could be pretty interesting.
We're just the messenger.
First off, we should mention that although the creators of this website feel bad for all those members of religious groups who do not have any super-heroes that share their faith, this isn't our fault. We have catalogued what is out there. But we don't write comic books ourselves. If Marvel Comics and DC Comics and Image Comics and others do not have any Unitarian super-heroes, you need to blame Mavel, DC, etc.
We tried to find super-heroes for all of these religious groups. We have looked. We have been very aggressive in trying to identify super-heroes of various un-represented or under-represented groups. In many cases we have been able to find sufficient textual and external evidence to identify super-heroes as adherents of certain faith groups even when the character's original creators may not have overtly identified the character's faith. For example, Kahlo is classified as a Pentecostal super-hero, but his biographical information does not overtly mention that he is a Pentecostal. However, he is identified as a member of Potter's House Church (where he lives and works as the church custodian). Potter's House Church is a Pentecostal denomination, so we know that Kahlo is a Pentecostal super-hero.
We have looked high and low to try to find super-heroes for un-represented and under-represented groups. We have researched independent comics, foreign comics, online comics, older comics, superhero-themed films and television. We have looked through the ranks of super-villains as well as marginal heroes. But unfortunately, the search for super-heroes for some faith groups has simply yielded no results. But this doesn't mean there aren't any. We aren't omniscient. There may be a super-hero out there for your un-represented religious group.
Is such exclusion acceptable?
No. It's not okay to be excluded this way. So if you have decided that you won't take this lying down, then good for you. The world needs people who will stand up for what is right, and that includes inclusion and representation of minority groups among comic book super-heroes.
This isn't a "trivial" matter at all. Would Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton or Aaron McGruder consider it "trivial" or "petty" to complain if there were no black super-heroes? Of course not. Just imagine the marches the Rainbow Coalition would organize against Marvel Comics and DC Comics if these companies didn't have ample numbers of high-profile black super-heroes such as the Black Panther, Black Goliath, Black Lightning, Black Vulcan, Black Racer, and Brother Voodoo.
It wasn't because of hatred or outright prejudice that the major comic book companies excluded your religious group from representation. But it does represent a form of soft bigotry. And, no, comic book companies can't fall back on the excuse that "it doesn't serve the purpose of the story" to have a super-hero belong to an un-represented religious group. Over ninety-nine percent of the stories which feature Jewish superheroine Kitty Pryde ("Shdowcat") have nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not she is Jewish. Should she thus not be Jewish? Should she only appear in stories in which X-Men fight evil Nazis or Muslims? Of course not. Every story featuring Kitty Pryde doesn't need to mention her Jewish religious affilation, but comics are more interesting and inclusive for having her there.
Superman is a Methodist. How often does that come up? It's rarely mentioned. And yet, this backdround adds depth and realism to the character. Clark Kent transcends mere "Generic Hero" status and becomes more of a living, breathing realistic person that all people can relate to, regardless of their religious affilation or beliefs.
That's one of the great secrets of characterization: The more detailed and realistic a character's background is, the more readers will be able to relate to and identify with the character, even if those details differ from the details of your own life. Think of your own experience with characters who have an overtly-identified religious affiliation, characters such as Nightcrawler (Catholic), the Thing (Jewish), Daredevil (Catholic), Wolfsbane (Presbyterian), Captain America (Protestant), Dust (Muslim), Quasar (atheist), Elektra (Greek Orthodox), and so many more. It simply isn't true that knowing such details about a character diminishes the character or makes it impossible for people of other faiths to identify with the character.
How can I get a super-hero listed for an un-represented religious group?
Maybe there are no super-heroes from your religious group listed on our website. Or maybe your religious faith is woefully under-represented. (For example, Kahlo as the solitary Pentecostal super-hero is pretty meager representation for one of the world's largest religious groups.) The good news is, you can do something about it. Below are some suggestions about what you can do. It doesn't make any difference if it is your own religious group that is un-represented, or if you would simply like to see representation for an un-represented group that you don't belong to.
• Discovery: Find an existing super-hero for your group that we haven't heard of yet. Let us know.
• Creation: Create a character for the un-represented group.
Creating your own comic book character and online comic book story for the express purpose of having your faith represented in the super-hero community might not be quite the same as having a major publisher feature such a character in their line-up. But this will at least get you on the dance floor. It is not cheating, as far as we're concerned. We would love to read your 5-page story featuring a Nazarene super-hero or a Raelian super-hero or a Calvary Chapel superhero. And we know members of your denomination would love to read it as well. It might be a very rewarding experience to produce such a comic.
• Adoption: Adopt an existing super-hero.
Does this mean that you can identify a character as a member of a specific religious group even if such identification has not yet been published in comics featuring the character? Yes.
But you can't just pull this kind of thing out of your hat. This has to be done right. Your identification of a character's religious affiliation can not conflict with what is published about the character and it must be supported by published comics about the character.
Below there is a detailed discussion of super-hero adoption. If you are interested in this option, pause a moment before reading all this. Super-hero adoption is not necessarily a complicated or difficult process. You don't have to find a smoking gun. Perhaps the most important ingredients for this are enthusiasm and a willingness to adopt. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Nothing bad can happen if you try to adopt and everything isn't in order. There is certainly no cost involved. Write us at any time in the process to ask questions or ask for help.
This might seem difficult, but these requirements actually leave open a universe of possibilities. Out of the thousands of comic book super-heroes that have been published by Marvel, DC, and other major comic book publishers, the overwhelming majority of them have never had their religious affiliation overtly identified. That leaves the door open for anybody to identify the character's religious affiliation - maybe even you. Do you think that Walter Langowski ("Sasquatch" of Alpha Flight) was Jewish before he was identified as such in Infinity Crusade #1? There was no evidence whatsoever that the character was Jewish. But Sasquatch had never been identified as a member of another faith (such as Catholicism), either. So the door was open, and the creators of Infinity Crusade saw the opportunity and seized it. They didn't need to do something "controversial" like convert the character to a different religion. They simply filled in an information gap by answering a question that had never before been addressed.
There are thousands of super-heroes in comic book publishing history whose religious affiliations haven't been overtly named. But if you read the stories featuring the characters, you can devise a textually-supported explanation of what the character's religion really is, even without overt identification. Perhaps the style of service, the apparel of the clergyman and the text of the vows in the wedding of the character that provides the clues you need. Perhaps it is the type of headstone and the inscription we see at the character's funeral. Perhaps it is the character's dialogue, including their style of profanity. "Great Hera!" tells us something different than "Great Neptune!" or "By my the Eternal Guardians!" The character's name, national origin, or family background might provide clues. Consider the peculiar way they act. Maybe a character has a distinctive code of ethics that lines up with what your church teaches. Is a character based on a real-life person? What was that person's religious affiliation?
Some of these methods for determining a character's religious orientation may not be sufficient for our own researchers to have classified a character a certain way. We tend to be more stringent and require more support. We don't classify characters as Jewish simply because they have a "Jewish-sounding name", for example. But there might be enough for you to classify a character as belonging to an under-represented group, and then we can include a listing based on your conclusions.
You may not need anything other than an explanation of how there is an affinity between a character's ethics or values and the values and ethics taught by your religious group. Like we said, you don't need a smoking gun. Be creative. Go for it. Unclaimed characters want to be adopted.
In "adopting" a character into a religious group, the best-case scenario is to identify a character's religion that has not yet been overtly identified in canonical stories, but was secretly intended by the character's creators. An example of this is Willow Rosenberg, a super-powered major supporting character in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series, comics, novels, video games, etc. In earlier episodes of Buffy, Willow's religious affiliation was never overtly mentioned. But there were a number of clues that could be interpreted to support the conclusion that Willow's family was Jewish. The fan community and online writers identified Willow as Jewish and eventually the TV series and other media overtly identified Willow as Jewish, and sometimes she even refers to herself as Jewish (although she is also a practicing Wiccan). She-Hulk supporting character Mallory Book is a similar example. The comics she appeared in never overtly identified Ms. Book as a Latter-day Saint, but the comics did identify her as a native of Utah, a former Miss Utah pageant winner and a graduate of Brigham Young University. It was easy enough for readers of She-Hulk to recognize that the character's creator Dan Slott intended for the character to be a Latter-day Saint (Mormon). In cases like this, the community of fans, readers and researchers have simply outpaced the writers a little by picking up on the clues that were there but were already there about a religious affiliation which had not yet been explicitly identified. Similar things have happened when clues about gay characters (such as Northstar of Alpha Flight or Hulkling of the Young Avengers) were picked up on by the fan community before the character's status was more openly recognized.
Sometimes a character's creators may not have intended for the character to be an adherent of a specific religious faith, but the character becomes associated with that faith anyway. Nightcrawler is a well-known example. Kurt Wagner was introduced as a German mutant member of the "new" X-Men in Giant-Size X-Men #1 (May 1975). The character's creators, writer Len Wein and artist Dave Cockrum, did not conceive of Nightcrawler as a Catholic character. In fact, readers eventually learned that the character had an explicitly non-Catholic background. Nightcrawler's biological mother was the decidedly non-Catholic villain Mystique and his father was the completely non-Catholic extradimensional demon Azazel. Nightcrawler was abandoned as an infant and was raised by Margali Szardos, a sorceress and gypsy queen who lived with a travelling circus. Kurt Wagner's heritage and upbringing wasn't Catholic at all, and yet the character became a devout Catholic. He even became a Catholic priest at one point. The gradually increasing identification of Nightcrawler as a Catholic character was driven by the character's writers and not the fan community, but the fan community heartily embraced and latched onto Nightcrawler's Catholicism as one of his distinguishing characteristics. This illustrates the fact that a comic book character can come to be strongly associated with a specific religious orientation even if the character's creators did not envision this aspect of the character from the start.
Aside from characters such as Nightcrawler, whose association with a particular faith was pushed by subsequent writers, there are other characters whose religious affiliation was identified and emphasized more by the fan community. Dick Grayson (a.k.a. "Nightwing") is a good example of this. When the ongoing Nightwing comic book series was written and illustrated by openly Christian comic book professionals, they agreed that Christian religious affiliation made sense for the character and helped to explain his nature. A number of hints were included in the writing and art about Grayson being a believing Christian, but this religious affilation was never overtly identified by name. It was really the community of readers and fans who picked up on these elements and discussed them and helped establish Grayson's religious affiliation as a more widely recognized aspect of the character.
Some characters have become widely associated with a particular religious faith with even less intentional support from the writers and artists crafting character's stories. There are examples of characters whose writers have "accidentally" linked the character with a specific religious affiliation without even intending to do so. But by consistenly portraying a character in a certain way or by utilizing certain meaning-laden visual and textual elements, the characters have come to be classified as adherents of a certain religious group because no other classification makes sense.
What does this mean for you and your un-represented religious group? It means that you do not need to wait for a character to be overtly identified by name as a member of a specific religious group. You can identify a character as a member of a group if it makes sense, if such an identification can be supported, and if such an identification does not conflict with published material, even if such an identification was not the original writer's intention.
Write us to lay out your case. Explain how certain scenes or dialogue or details relating to the character point to a specific religious affiliation.
Keep in mind that with thousands of published super-heroes, a certain percentage of them should belong to your religious group, even if your group as small as 100,000 people. Every group that people strongly identify with should have at least one super-hero. Find that character.
Which character strikes you as most likely to be a member of your faith? Which character feels like he or she is probably a member of your denomination? Read everything you can about the character. See if you can find something concrete to support such a feeling or gut instinct. Often, you'll find you were right, and that the sense you had about the character was the result of the writer actually thinking of the character as an adherent of the religion you thought of, without ever explicitly stating it. The writer's own beliefs and background may have crept into the portrayal of the character, creating a unconscious sense of affinity and identification.
In looking for a character to adopt as a member of your faith, be sure to consult the research that has already been published on this site. You won't be able to usurp a character who is already well established as a member of another faith. For example, you can't simply say, "I like Wolfsbane. She's a devout Christian and she attends church every week. I'm going to say she's a Mennonite." Well, she's not a Mennonite. She's a Presbyterian. Published comics say she's a Presbyterian and unless something is published that says she has converted to become a Mennonite, there's really no way around the fact that she is a Presbyterian and is not a Mennonite.
This doesn't mean that a character's listing can't be changed. If you find published information that provides a more concrete and reasonable identification for a character than the one we have, then we would love to hear about it and we'll change the character's listing.
A good place to start might be the Comic Book Superheroes whose religious affiliation is as currently unknown to us page. There are over 2,000 different super-heroes listed on this page. Most of these characters really are "up for grabs." Read over the list. Maybe you'll recognize a super-hero on the list who you have some familiarity with and whose religious affiliation you can identify for us. Maybe one of these characters belongs to your faith.
Another good place to start would be with super-heroes listed on the main page as simply "Protestant" or "Christian (d.u.)" or "Evangelical Protestant." Few people in the world actually go to a church with the word "Protestant" on the sign out front. Sure, we know that Jennie-Lynn Hayden ("Jade" of Infinity Inc.) was a Protestant, but what kind of Protestant was she? Was she Nazarene? Reformed? Church of Christ? Maybe you can read the comics featuring her, particularly the ones in which she mentions that she is Protestant, and find some clue in the pictures or text that you can use to tie her to a more specific denomination. The "d.u." in "Christian (d.u.)" stands for "denomination unknown." All we know about these characters so far is that they are Christian. But these characters must have an association with a denomination or branch of Christianity that is more specific than that. Have you ever, in real life, ever met anybody who honestly didn't know "what kind" of Christian they were? Who didn't even know if they were Catholic or Eastern Orthodox or Quaker or a Pentecostal or Latter-day Saint or whatnot? Even Christians who don't attend church very often or don't like to admit the name of their church have some idea about what they are and what they are not. Maybe one of these "Christian (d.u.)" characters is really an elusive Quaker. Which of them seems to be the most like a Quaker? Can the case be made that the character actually could be a Quaker?
Some characters are identified on our main page simply as "religious." We know that Eugene Judd (Puck of Alpha Flight) was religious. He was selected by the Goddess as one of Marvel's most religious super-heroes during the Infinity Crusade. But what religion did he belong to? Any character identifed thus far merely as "religious" should be able to be identified more specifically. What was Alec Holland's religious affiliation before being transformed into the Swamp Thing?
Even characters who don't seem particularly religious may well have a religious affiliation. Not everybody talks about their faith. Andy Warhol's work strikes most people as fairly secular in nature, yet he was a devout, churchgoing Byzantine Rite Catholic. People may think that Natasha Romanova (the Russian Avenger known as the "Black Widow") is very secular. But then, there she is, going to Confession. People can surprise you. Seeing the Black Widow go to Confession does not mean that anybody should suddenly consider her devoutly religious. But it does mean that she has some sense of religious affiliation. Why, when her conscious is troubled, is she not seeking out a Jewish rabbi or a Muslim imam or her local Latter-day Saint bishop or an Ethical Culture clergywoman or a Freudian psychotherapist? Her choice reveals something about her and her background. Remember, "religious affiliation" is not always the same thing as "active, weekly participation."
Characters may be lapsed in a faith, but what faith? Despite being chosen by the Goddess as one of "Marvel's most religious," Simon Williams (a.k.a. Wonder Man) seems like a fairly secular super-hero. Maybe the Goddess chose him because he returned from the dead and not because he is devout in his faith. But before he became Wonder Man, what was his religious affiliation? How was he raised? Even if he is a non-churchgoer now, we really don't know his overall "religious affiliation" until we know about his upbringing and prior church membership or beliefs as well.
Even a character's upbringing makes a difference in how the character is written and portrayed. Batman probably doesn't attend regular church services, but he has a religious background. For years after his parents died, Bruce Wayne prayed every night for God to help him avenge his parents' deaths. Bruce Wayne's parents were probably Episcopalian and Catholic. Regardless of his current beliefs and religious practice (or lack thereof), it makes a difference today that Bruce Wayne's religious upbringing was Episcopalian/Catholic. Would he not be a completely different character if he raised Amish or Quaker or Buddhist or Muslim or Wiccan? Imagine a Quaker-raised Bruce Wayne: "Mom, Dad, I know you taught me never to use violence against another human being... But to heck with it! I'm going to brutalize these criminal bastards who took you from me!" Does it really make a difference what kind of Christianity (or what kind of religion generally) Bruce Wayne was raised in? Of course it does. Much of the reason people enjoy reading Batman stories stems from the character's excellent, well understood back story and the fact that writers have been relatively consistent in their portrayal of the character. He isn't a completely blank slate, all over the map with regards to his persona. We know something about who Bruce Wayne is and that enhances the enjoyment of his stories.
Answers to some questions about super-hero adoption
Q. Is super-hero adoption legal?
Q. Are you authorized to administer super-hero adoption?
Elements of popular culture have always been adopted, claimed, co-opted, amplified and otherwise transformed beyond the intents of their original creators. For example, when Irwin Levine and L. Russell Brown originally wrote the song "Tie a Yellow Ribbon 'Round the Ole Oak Tree" in 1973, they had no idea that it would eventually become an anthem used by Americans to honor those taken captive in the Iranian hostage crisis of 1981. This does not mean that Iranian hostage crisis was an invalid interpretation of the song, or that the song did not apply to that situation. Similarly, Tinky Winky, a member of the Teletubbies of British TV fame, was not portrayed by the show's creators as having any particular sexual orientation, but the LGBT community nevertheless "outed" the character by identifying what they considered harmonious correspondent characteristics and thus adopted it as a symbol of their own.
We have no authoritative power to allow super-hero adoption, but nor can we prevent it.
We will, however, ignore non-harmonious and textually impossible (or implausible) adoptions. For example, if a Buddhist denomination decided to "adopt" Nightcrawler and point out the ways in which Nightcrawler is actually a Buddhist character, there is nothing we could do to stop them. But because this character is already firmly established as a Catholic character, we would in no way change our listing or description of him. There is no forseeable way for such an adoption to become widely recognized. You could try editing Nightcrawler's Wikipedia page to claim that he is a Buddhist, but your edits will simply be removed (and you might get banned from making further changes). You could create your own website on the topic "Nightcrawler is Buddhist." But most people would just ignore you or think you are a crackpot.
Q. Can I adopt a super-hero for a religious group that isn't my own?
Q. Can I adopt a super-villain?
Q. Can I adopt a super-hero even if my religious group is already represented by super-heroes?
But we would not consider adoption a good idea for some groups: groups that are already highly represented. Such groups would likely face a more critical eye. For example, if somebody wanted to "adopt" a super-hero as a Catholic or Jew, we would have to ask "why?" There are already so many Jewish and Catholic characters. It would be far better to simply better appreciate or do additional research about already identified Jewish or Catholic characters. Or it would be better to identify or discover yet another clearly Jewish or Catholic super-hero, rather than trying to "adopt" a character that isn't clearly Jewish or Catholic. Adopting a character as Jewish or Catholic who hasn't been overtly identified as such or clearly implied to be Jewish or Catholic is exceptionally difficult, because there are already so many Jewish and Catholic super-heroes that will be used as a measuring stick.
Remember, if a character is overtly identifed as something, or clearly implied textually to be something, then it isn't "adoption" to identify what this character is. To point out such a character's religious affiliation is simply "identification" or "discovery." Jews and Catholic have no real need for super-hero adoption because so many authentically Jewish and Catholic super-heroes have already been identified.
As of 9 July 2007, our main list of super-heroes and their religious affiliations listed 851 characters. 119 of these were Jewish. This represents 14% of the list. Yet only 2% of Americans are Jewish, and only 0.2% of the world's population is Jewish.
110 of the characters listed were Catholic. This represents 13% of the total list. This actually signifies significant under-representation, because 25% of the U.S. population and approximately 16% of the world's population is Catholic. Realistically speaking, a large number of the unclassified super-heroes (super-heroes whose religious affiliation we have not yet determined) are Catholic. Nevertheless, Catholics are already over-represented in the super-hero community relative to other religious groups, and it is unlikely that additional super-heroes will be listed as Catholic unless there is textual support for doing so.
Statistically Speaking... there are super-heroes who belong to your denomination, even if it is small
As of 12 June 2007, we had 778 characters listed on the "Comic Book Superheroes whose religious affiliation is as currently unknown to us" webpage. Most are American characters featured in American-published comics. If we generously assume that 10% are non-American characters, that leaves us with 700 superheroes that we can apply current U.S. demographic statistics to in order to make some estimates about the religious affiliations of these characters.
So, statistically speaking (if the religious affiliation of these characters reflects current U.S. demographics):
Of course, this assumes that the religious demographics of the American superhero community match the religious demographics of the United States as a whole. Realistically speaking, this is probably not an entirely valid assumption. Some groups may be disinclined to become superheroes, and some groups may be disproportionately drawn to superheroism.
Webpage created 3 July 2007. Last modified 24 July 2007.
We are always striving to increase the accuracy and usefulness of our website. We are happy to hear from you. Please submit questions, suggestions, comments, corrections, etc. to: firstname.lastname@example.org.