Superheroes come in all sizes, shapes, genders and nationalities. One nationality that’s not often talked about (and certainly not often represented) is the Irish, but there have been many superheroes and supervillains with Irish heritage in the pages of comic books. Today, CBR is here to highlight some of the most significant characters whose lineage hails from the Emerald Isle.
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We’ll be discussing some characters who were born and raised in Ireland, and some whose bloodline goes back to the old country. Some of the characters on this list wear their Irish heritage on their sleeves, and some are an unfortunate victim of stereotyping. With others, you might not even have known about their Irish heritage until now. With St. Patrick’s Day upon us, let’s review 15 of the most significant Irishmen and Irish women in comic books.
15. ARTHUR CURRY
Arthur Curry, better known as Aquaman, has always been a citizen of the ocean, born and raised in the seas since his first appearance in 1941’s “More Fun Comics” #73, created by Mort Weisinger and Paul Norris. However, one version of Curry has deep roots in Ireland, and that’s the Arthur Curry of “DC Comics Bombshells.” Inspired by a popular series of sculptures based on Ant Lucia’s retro designs of superheroines, the comic series is set in an alternate World War II era with a more female-oriented focus.
Written by Marguerite Bennett and penciled by Laura Braga and Mirka Andolfo, 2016’s “DC Comics Bombshells” #14 introduced a new version of Arthur Curry, who never became Aquaman. Instead, he found and rescued Mera (the Aquawoman of the Bombshells universe) from the ocean after the Battle of Britain. He brought her to his lighthouse on the coast of Ireland, nursed her back to health, and revealed he was descended from the Atlanteans as well. He fell in love with and joined Mera as she became queen of Atlantis.
14. JUDGE JOYCE
Our next character is an Irishman from the future, so Irish that it’s mandated by law. Judge-Sergeant Charlie Joyce first appeared in “2000AD” Prog #728 (Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon) in a Judge Dredd story. Set in a future where officers of law enforcement serve as judge, jury and executioner, Joyce was from the Emerald Isle, formerly known as Ireland. The Emerald Isle had been turned into a gigantic theme park where the citizens were forced to fit the stereotypes of Irish society and culture.
Judge Joyce (undoubtedly named after Irish writer James Joyce) is more laid back than Judge Dredd, since the Emerald Isle allows him to have a family, drink his beloved Guinness and delve into his “oirishness.” He waged a constant battle against the Sons of Erin, who fight to allow the Emerald Isle to escape the trappings of national cliches and live normal lives. Joyce also had to deal with lethal potato guns, the weapon of choice for the resistance, but he did it all with a smile and a pint.
Created by Brandon Choi and Jim Lee in 1993’s “Stormwatch” #1, Hellstrike was an Irish character in the series about a global organization of superheroes sent by the United Nations to handle international crises. Hellstrike was once a British constable named Nigel Keane who worked for Scotland Yard to stop the Irish Republican Army until his powers manifested. He discovered he was a “seedling,” one of a group of mutants who developed superhuman abilities. He could fire plasma blasts and fly, and used them to fight global and interplanetary threats to Earth. His counter-terrorism skills came in handy during combat to avoid destruction.
Later on, Hellstrike was mortally injured and turned into a being of pure energy, which forced him to wear a containment suit to control his explosive energy. He was killed by Xenomorphs in the WildC.A.T.S./Aliens crossover, but was revived by the Engineer in the Authority, and into the New 52 universe.
12. JACK O’LANTERN
Jack o’ lanterns came from Ireland, so it’s not a coincidence that our next hero is from there. Daniel Cormac made his first appearance in “Super Friends” #8 (E. Nelson Bridwell and Ramona Fradon) in 1977 as Jack O’Lantern, when a superhero planted bombs all over the world and the Super Friends couldn’t stop them all in time. For help, they turned to heroes from other countries to assist, and Jack O’Lantern was the hero from Ireland. Cormac and the other international heroes eventually became part of a team called the Global Guardians, who worked for an international organization called the Dome.
Cormac was the son of a poor Irish farmer given a mystical lantern by a fairy that allowed him to do all sorts of tricks like fly, shoot flames, teleport, create illusions and increase his strength. His power would wane with the night, so he was strongest at midnight and weakest at high noon. He eventually died of natural causes, but others took up the mantle of Jack O’Lantern, including his cousin Liam McHugh.
11. BLACK CANARY
Music is an important part of Irish culture, and our next entry is a true songbird. Created by Robert Kanigher and Carmine Infantino, Black Canary first appeared in “Flash Comics” #86 in 1947. Originally, Black Canary (whose real name was Dinah Drake) started out as a villain who turned to crime-fighting, who used hand-to-hand combat to fight crime in Gotham City, but her history was later altered so it was Dinah’s daughter Dinah Laurel Lance who has the current identity of Black Canary. Besides her martial arts skills, Black Canary also has the power to scream at such a high pitch that she can shatter glass, eardrums and injustice.
Black Canary is an Irish woman who can hold her own alongside Batman and Superman, and has worked with Oracle in “Birds of Prey.” She’s been consistently badass for decades, and has frequently been paired with her longtime partner, Green Arrow.
Created by Mark Gruenwald, Bill Mantlo, Steven Grant and John Romita, Jr. in 1982’s “Marvel Super Hero Contest of Champions” #1, Molly Fitzgerald is the daughter of an Irish Republican Army militant who became a vessel for thousands of souls of innocent people who were killed in war. Named after the fabled four-leaf clover of her homeland, Shamrock’s power is to use the displaced souls to affect probability for fractions of a second, causing good luck for her and her allies or bad luck for her enemies.
In other words, she’s a living embodiment of the “luck of the Irish,” one of the select group of superheroes whose powers is symbolic of her homeland. Later, she joined S.H.I.E.L.D., but not much has been revealed about her time there. We know she eventually retired from superhero work to become a hairdresser and was last seen running a bar in New York City.
9. ERIC O’GRADY
When people think of Ant-Man, they usually think of Hank Pym, the inventor of the Pym particles that allow him to shrink to the size of an ant. Or, thanks to the recent 2015 “Ant-Man” movie, they might think of Scott Lang, the former thief who took on the mantle of Ant-Man. For this list, however, we’ll be talking about the lesser-known and much less heroic Ant-Man, Eric O’Grady. Created by Robert Kirkman and Phil Hester in 2006’s “Irredeemable Ant-Man” #1, O’Grady was just a lower-level S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who found the Ant-Man suit and used it to take on the mantle.
As the title implied, O’Grady wasn’t the heroic type. He had all the powers of Ant-Man, including shrinking, and controlling insects, but he also flew with a jetpack with a flame he could redirect into a weapon. Unlike the original Ant-Man, O’Grady was more interested in stealing and spying on women showering than fighting crime. Later, he joined the Avengers Initiative, but ended up becoming a full-on supervillain named the Black Ant.
8. BLACK TOM CASSIDY
First appearing in 1976’s “X-Men” #99 (Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum), Thomas “Black Tom” Cassidy is a cousin of Banshee, gifted with one of the most bizarre powers in the mutant world; he can fire concussive blasts of energy, but only through wood. Naturally, that means he has to carry around a wooden stick with him, and since he’s Irish, that translates into carrying a shillelagh everywhere he goes, shooting things with great glee.
As if that wasn’t strange enough, Black Tom was gravely injured by Cable and healed with a wooden substance that gave him the power to fire energy from his own body as well as control plants. The downside is that the “wood” began to take over his real body. After all the mutants were depowered, Black Tom retained his power over plants and to fire energy blasts. All this was just so Marvel could have an Irish supervillain whose power is his shillelagh.
In the comics, Bullseye has been a mortal enemy of Daredevil, but not particularly Irish. First appearing in “Daredevil” #131 in 1976 (Marv Wolfman and John Romita, Sr.), the deadly assassin with incredible marksmanship has been a thorn in the blind superhero’s side for decades, especially after murdering Daredevil’s lover, Electra. And yet, it was the 2003 movie “Daredevil” that brought Bullseye into our list.
Played by Colin Farrell, Bullseye was a hard-drinking sadist who had a target branded on his forehead and killed for fun, using everything from peanuts to paper clips as deadly projectiles. He was also straight from Ireland, hopping on a plane at the beginning of the movie to kill Electra’s father at the Kingpin’s request. Farrell used his real accent for the role, and hammed it up really well. His Bullseye was one of the best or worst parts of the movie, depending on your point of view.
First appearing in 1993’s “The Demon Annual” #2, created by Garth Ennis and John McCrea, Tommy Monaghan was an ex-Gulf War soldier turned contract killer who lived and worked in the Cauldron, a lower-class district of Gotham City. During an attack by a race of parasites, Monaghan was bitten, but instead of dying, his metagene was awakened, giving him new powers of X-ray vision and limited telepathy. He decided to become a different contract killer, one who would take on contracts to kill super-powered and supernatural beings in his own series.
Though he had powers, Monaghan mostly used conventional weapons and his brains to kill his targets. He would take on the most bizarre clients and missions, but spent most of his time hanging out at Noonan’s Bar, drinking and chatting with his fellow hitmen about old movies and baseball. Even though he killed for money, he never killed “the good ones,” which makes him a hero in our book.
5. MIGUEL O’HARA
When Marvel decided to set books in the distant future of 2099, one character who was re-imagined was Spider-Man. The Spider-Man of 2099 was Miguel O’Hara, created by Peter David and Rick Leonardi in 1992’s “The Amazing Spider-Man” #365. Though he’s known more for being a Latino superhero, his father was Irish, making him of Irish-Mexican descent. In 2099, O’Hara is a geneticist obsessed with recreating the legendary Spider-Man from history. When he’s double-crossed by his employer, O’Hara tries to rewrite his DNA, which accidentally becomes half-human and half-spider. With his new spider-based abilities, O’Hara took on the legendary mantle of Spider-Man.
O’Hara fought to free the people of his time from the mega-corporations that ruled the lives of citizens and try to restore himself back to normal. His strength and agility were increased and talons in his hands and feet allowed him to climb walls. He was transported to the present during the “Secret Wars” storyline, where he continues to fight crime.
4. KYLE RAYNER
As Green Lantern, Kyle Rayner put the phrase “wearing of the green” to a whole new level. Created by Ron Marz and Darryl Banks as the son of a Mexican-American father and an Irish mother, Kyle Rayner first appeared in “Green Lantern” #48 in 1994. After Hal Jordan was infected by the fear parasite Parallax, Jordan destroyed the Green Lantern Corps to try to gain new power. The Green Lantern ring passed to Rayner, who became the new Lantern of Earth.
Sharp, funny and full of imagination, Rayner used his artistic skills to create new and more complex energy constructs than ever before, creating objects like characters from anime, mechanized armor and fantasy characters. Even when Jordan returned, Rayner went on to become Ion, the Torchbearer of the Corps, and the White Lantern. On a personal level, Rayner was raised as an only child by his mother instead of his father, so he took his Irish heritage seriously.
The unabashedly Irish X-Men known as Banshee first appeared in 1967’s “X-Men” #28, created by Roy Thomas and Werner Roth. Banshee is of course named after the mythological ghoul who let out shrieks before someone’s death, which is a rather dark image for someone usually so hopeful and affirming. His real name is Sean Cassidy, and he has the power to make his voice so loud that it can create waves of destructive force and even help him fly.
Cassidy started out as a villain who was forced to become a member of the criminals known as Factor Three, but freed himself with the help of the X-Men, who he later joined. He was extremely Irish with a thick accent and smoking a pipe, but he also had a bad habit of losing his superpowers on a regular basis. His throat injuries were eventually healed, but unfortunately he had to sacrifice himself to save lives on an imperilled passenger jet.
Matt Murdock is living proof that no good deed goes unpunished. As a child, Murdock pushed an old man out of the way of an oncoming truck, but his reward was being struck in the head by radioactive waste and blinded for life. The only upside is that the toxic waste heightened all his other senses, giving him a radar-like ability to scan the world. With his newfound abilities, Murdock became a lawyer by day and a vigilante by night: Daredevil.
Created by Stan Lee and Bill Everett in 1964’s “Daredevil,” Daredevil’s Irish background has become more prominent in recent years than it was when he was first created. Frank Miller took a more tortured take on the classic hero in the 1980s with his Irish past and devout Catholic faith. He’s lost loved ones fighting for justice, but keeps up the fight in the courtroom and on the mean streets of Harlem.
1. CAPTAIN AMERICA
Captain America? More like Captain Ireland. That’s right, the blonde-haired, blue-eyed all American is actually the son of Irish immigrants. First created by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon in 1947’s “Captain America Comics” #1, Steve Rogers was a dreamy-eyed weakling who tried to join the army, but was rejected until he was recruited for a secret program to turn him into a Super Soldier. With his enhanced speed, strength and stamina, Rogers became the hero Captain America.
America is a nation of immigrants, so it makes sense that the most American of superheroes would be the son of immigrants. Not only does Captain America have the power, but also the bravery and courage to fight threats all over the world, not just the United States. He doesn’t wield a sword or a gun for his weapon, but an indestructible shield that is as unique as he is. He’s been fighting for decades and made his nation and the world a better place.
What other Irish superheroes and villains do you love in the comics? Let us know in the comments!