Labor Day has come and gone, but workers are such an integral part of all societies, that it’d be a shame if we didn’t continue to celebrate labor well through the year. But let’s keep it geeky.
When it comes to heroes, there’s no doubt that the workers who keep our society functioning, fed, and safe are real heroes. But when we look to the heroes we praise in fiction, there seems to be a working class shaped hole in comics. Mainstream superheroes seem to come in shades of rich kid/playboy, god, or full-time super, with the occasional doctor and student thrown in. Spider-man is probably the first superhero everyone thinks of, from delivering pizza in the Tobey Macguire rendition to his better known and stable occupation as an under-appreciated photographer at The Daily Planet. There are a couple others in mainstream comics…
Rocket Raccoon (mailman)
That’s right. That badass little raccoon took a gig as a mail-clerk on Earth after the Guardians of the Galaxy broke up in the Annihilators series. He’s since returned to his role as universe defender, but I couldn’t help throwing this one in the mix.
Cloak (fast food restaurant manager)
In Brian Michael Bendis‘s reboot of the Cloak and Dagger characters in the Ultimate Comics universe, Ty Johnson is first introduced to us through the love-smitten eyes of Tandy Bowen who meets him at his job as a manager of a fast food restaurant. We don’t know yet if he keeps the gig now that he’s all dark matter superpowered, but odds are, in this universe where major superheroes die and young newbie heroes have homework, it wouldn’t be surprising if the kid had to keep his day job.
Jesse Alexander, Joseph Loeb’s reboot of the character, took a hiatus from saving the universe when he fell in love and had a kid. He took a job as a janitor at the local high school his son Sam would later attend. When his alcoholic father didn’t show up for work Sam picked up the mop in his father’s place. Of course, as we know, he also took up the helm of his father’s heroics as well, when Sam Alexander became the new Nova.
The Entire Supporting Cast of Kick-Ass
Okay so they may not be actually, technically “super,” but they play at it pretty convincingly, and almost every single one of them is a working stiff, probably mostly white collar, who take off their ties and take to the streets to beat the living hell out of bad guys.
As far as mainstream comics go, those are probably the most indisputably working class superheroes. We could throw in Johnny Storm who had a stint as a firefighter and Hercules who worked construction in Marvel’s Damage Control series in the late 80’s. Depending on your definition folk like Powers’s Christian Walker and Tony Chu of Chew might fit the bill in their roles as detectives, and if we open it up to independent contractors in general, then the likes of Spawn, Hellboy, and Luke Cage, back when he was a “hero for hire,” might make the cut too. But let’s not get too fuzzy. Instead, let’s keep an eye to indie comics that are probably holding it down for the working class in really fresh ways. A personal favorite is…
In Anthony Aguilar‘s comic El Verde, Arturo Sanchez is working in a corn factory when an accident gives him superpowers, and he dons a sharp suit and a sleek mask to become El Verde!
There have got to be more, and certainly the indies have some awesome class representation going on, but obviously representation is lacking. Certainly part of that is the fantasy that we all have to never have to work again, but just fly around in flashy clothes saving the world. But given the popularity of the gritty, real-life insider look of comics like Matt Fraction & David Aja‘s Hawkeye, it’s clear that readers want something a little closer to home. Comics like Ultimate Comics Spider-man and Kelly Sue Deconnick’s Captain Marvel make Miles Morales and Carol Danvers more relatable and more real by making their home and school lives vital parts of their stories.
And it’s certainly part of the fantasy to think that you could be that guy, the grocery store clerk by day and avenger of injustice by night.
If you know of awesome indies doing just this kind of work, tell us about it!