Look up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s… Kenny Starfighter holding a blow dryer? How about the invisible Mr. India? And is that Wonder Woman fighting alongside Invisible Girl? The big question we have on our mind is: who exactly is that half-man, half-bear holding a mini-gun and why can’t every superhero movie have that? Superheroes are a global phenomenon, and although Superman can fly to anywhere on the Earth to help those in need, there are plenty of international superheroes to go around.
However, at first glance, maybe something’s getting lost in translation? A masked wrestler as a superhero? A man with a flying car who would rather be delivering flowers? Who is the equivalent of Batman in, say, Pakistan? Who is the mightiest mortal in Spain? Sometimes we see an international superhero and their similarities to popular American heroes are clear, while others are so different you’ll be upset the USA didn’t come up with it first. Saying that these heroes are a little strange is an understatement, and we’ve assembled 15 international superheroes who are bonkers AF. We’ve got heroes from Japan, India, Sweden, France, China, Mexico, and more! We wonder what fans of Krrish in India think of, say, the X-Men?
Ultraman, and the entire Ultra Series, was made in 1966 by the special effects studio Tsuburaya Productions, named after Eiji Tsuburaya who helped create Godzilla. Ultraman arrived on Earth in his pursuit of Bemular, an escapee from the Monster Graveyard. After merging with Shin Hayata, an officer of the Science Patrol, Ultraman stayed on Earth and fought a variety of aliens and kaiju.
Ultraman punches and kicks his foes and finishes them off with his Spacium Ray, which is fired when he makes his arms into a modified cross position. Given how good our special effects are today, it’s strange to see people fighting in rubber and foam suits, but the more you watch the more you see Ultraman’s influences on pop culture.
Defendor is a Canadian superhero who is on a quest to find his arch-nemesis, Captain Industry. When he’s not wearing all black and patrolling the streets as Defendor, he’s Arthur Poppington, who tells his psychiatrist, Dr. Park, about how his grandfather raised him, teaching him how to read through comic books. Poppington is convinced that Captain Industry is the reason his mother left him as a child. However, we soon learn that Defendor’s grasp on reality is not as tight as we may have hoped.
What’s crazy is that Defendor is played by Woody Harrelson! Why did it take this long to have Woody play a superhero? Nowadays plenty of people have played more than one superhero, but it would have been cool to see Woody debut in the DC or Marvel Cinematic Universes.
13. MR. INDIA
When poor but optimistic Arun Verma dons the wrist device built by his late father, he becomes the invisible superhero Mr. India. His archnemesis is Mogambo, a brilliant yet insane General who has aspirations to conquer the world. Mogambo is infamous for not being afraid to kill children and employing henchmen that shout “Hail Mogambo!” Mr. India prevents Mogambo from destroying all of India with four intercontinental ballistic missiles.
A hero is only as good as their villain, and Mogambo, is considered on of the best villains in Bollywood history. Mogambo was played by Amrish Puri, who was also the villainous Mola Ram in 1984’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Mr. India was also the highest grossing Indian film of 1987 and is considered a cult classic.
12. EL SANTO
This entry is kind of meta because it not only talks about El Santo the superhero but the man as well. Rodolfo Guzman Huerta was also known as El Santo (The Saint). He was a Mexican Luchador (masked professional wrestler) and one of the greatest legends in Mexican sports. In the late 1950s he simultaneously wrestled and had a thriving film career getting his start as El Enmascarado, sidekick to a masked cop named El Incognito.
He would move on to star in 52 lucha libre films in which the title was his name versus someone (Santo contra la hija de Frankenstein, Santo contra los asesinos de otros mundos, the list goes on). El Santo never removed his mask, and even when he got on an airplane would fly separately from the cast and crew so that no one would know what he looked like out of character.
11. THE BURKA AVENGER
Miles Morales was praised because it provided a role model for children of color. Wonder Woman was directed by Patty Jenkins and the upcoming Captain Marvel film starring Brie Larson will be co-directed by Anna Boden. Representation is important to many modern day comic book readers, which is one of the reasons why the debut of the Burka Avenger was such a cultural landmark.
Named by Time Magazine as one of the most Influential Fictional Characters of 2013, the Burka Avenger was an animated series that was set in the fictional Pakastani town of Halwapur. Jiya is a teacher at an all-girls school, and when her alter ego is needed she dons her burka and becomes the Burka Avenger. She is able to attack her enemies with Takht Kabaddi, a form of martial arts that utilizes the throwing of books and pens. However, perhaps her most important weapon is her empowerment of women and promoting education.
The Guardians is a Russian film made in 2017 where… whoa, is that a half-man, half-bear on the poster? Tell me more about that guy! The Guardians are a team of Soviet superheroes created during the Cold War, representing different nationalities of the USSR. It was not considered successful at the box office, but hey you came here to learn more about that Man-Bear guy. That guy is Ursus Wildman, who has the ability to turn himself into a werebear.
His teammates have powers too (that aren’t as cool) with Ler Landman being a geomancer and Xenia Waterwoman being able to waterwalk. Now that we think of it, their last names kind of give away their powers. They are all given costumes to enhance their abilities and their nemesis is Professor Kuratov, who has the power to generate electricity and control machines. Did we mention the werebear fires a mini gun?
9. SUPERSONIC MAN
Supersonic Man is an Italian/Spanish film from 1979 that features Kronos, an extraterrestrial that has been sent to Earth to protect humanity. Supersonic Man’s nemesis is Dr. Gulik, who has plans of world domination. His mask kind of makes him look like a dinosaur, and he spends an awful lot of time flying around.
Supersonic Man was played by Jose Luis Ayestaran, a bodybuilder who also played Tarzan in 1973’s Green Inferno and Tarzan and the Kawana Treasure, which came out in 1975. The evil Dr. Gulik was played by Cameron Mitchell, one of the founding members of the Actor’s Studio in New York City who also starred with Marilyn Monroe in 1953’s How to Marry A Millionaire. Rifftrax featured it as one of the movies that they make comedic deconstructive comments on in 2013. They were not kind to the movie.
What do you do if you’re a third grade school teacher who has an unfaithful wife, a terrible job, and troubled kids? You do what any normal person would do: you dress up at night as the motorcycle-riding Zebraman. Although Shinichi Ichikawa is fighting crime, it’s also an elaborate cosplay because Zebraman was a television show he loved to watch in his youth that was cancelled after seven episodes.
But in a meta turn of events, the television show was actually a warning to the people of Earth of an impending alien invasion. Zebraman develops superpowers and actually successfully repels the aliens. Oddly enough in the manga version Zebraman has no superpowers. We’d love to say that he has the powers and ability of a zebra, but alas he does not. In the sequel, Tokyo is renamed Zebra City in Zebraman’s honor.
7. KRRISH 3
In the Indian film Krrish 3 the titular character is the superhero Krrish, played by Hrithik Roshan, who oddly enough also plays his own father in the film, scientist Rohit Mehra. Krrish’s antagonists in the movie are Kaya, a shapeshifter, and Kaal, a telekinetic with a preference for metal. Krrish also fights maanvars (human-animal hybrids), stops a plane from crash-landing, and even dies only to be revived by a regenerative ray built by him… er… his dad, who is also played by him. Ugh.
If you watch the trailer and get an X-Men vibe to it, you shouldn’t feel bad; Kangana Ranaut’s character of Kaya was based on Mystique and Vivek Oberoi’s Kaal was based on Magneto. It also feels like it borrows a little from Superman Returns and the first Hulk movie. Just saying.
6. BLACK LIGHTNING
The 2009 Russian film called Black Lightning doesn’t refer to the star of the film Dmitry “Dima” Maykov, but the car that he drives. His father gives him a black ’66 Volga to drive while at Moscow State University. It turns out the car was part of a classified Soviet military project and it has enough gadgets in it to make James Bond jealous, including the ability to fly.
What is Dima do with it? He uses his flying car to avoid Moscow traffic jams while delivering flowers. Dima has his “Uncle Ben” moment when he decides not to aid a man stabbed in the street, only to learn that the man was his own father. Filled with regret, he decides to use his car for good, which includes stopping the evil Kuptsov, who wants the engine from Dima’s car.
Rendel first introduces himself by hanging six of the bad guys by their arms and carving a letter from his name into their backs, leaving others to wonder “Who is Rendel?” and “Is it in the right order?” Rendel has the honor of being the first Finnish superhero movie. Whereas The Avengers took over four months to film, Rendel was done in about 50 days.
It still operated like a big film with 50 crew members on location every day of shooting with the majority of the film shot after sunset. There were over 100 locations and only one day of shooting in a green screen studio. It will be released in September of 2017. Is it our imagination, or does his mask look a lot like the mask Zoom wears on The Flash tv show?
4. THE BATWOMAN
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then we can assume there were good intentions in the 1968 Mexican film The Batwoman, which was clearly trying to capitalize on the popularity of the Adam West 1960s Batman. Also popular in Mexico was Lucha Libre, a form of professional wrestling that involved colorful masks and aerial stunts. Played by Maura Monti, the Batwoman’s outfit is less reminiscent of crime-fighting and more representative of G.L.O.W.
It’s a campy movie for sure and falls into the “mexploitation” category (low-budget films that combine elements of Mexican culture and Exploitation film). Batwoman must stop the evil Dr. Eric Williams from stealing the brain fluid of professional wrestlers in his attempt to genetically engineer a half fish/half man hybrid. Told you it was campy!
3. THE HEROIC TRIO
Fanboys, the day has come where a movie features both the Invisible Girl and Wonder Woman! The police are powerless to stop Invisible Girl from stealing newborn babies. Invisible Girl’s real name isn’t Sue Storm… it’s Ching (played by Michelle Yeoh), and she is instructed by Evil Master to kidnap children who have great destinies. Who can stop her? Wonder Woman, of course!
In the English dub she’s called Shadow Fox. Anita Mui’s character uses cool throwing knives in the shape of butterfly wings. She partners up with Thief Catcher (referred to in the English dub as Mercy, short for Mercenary) who rides a motorcycle and has a boomerang-like sword. Invisible Girl atones for her sins and eventually joins her formal rivals to become the Heroic Trio.
Fantomas was France’s response to James Bond, and the trilogy of films became quite successful in Europe and Japan. Instead of being a spy, he is a master impersonator, using masks and makeup to be anyone he wants to be. When a journalist named Fandor writes a fictitious interview with Fantomas that he disagrees with, Fantomas pulls the ultimate jerk move: he kidnaps Fandor, then dresses up like him and commits crimes.
The 1964 movie is loosely based on the French crime novels created in 1911. In the novels he is a sadistic sociopath who masquerades as his victims and uses Bond-villain type traps such as rooms that fill with sand and giant snakes. The initial version of X-Men character Fantomex is also loosely based on Fantomas.
1. KENNY STARFIGHTER
When you have a galactic crisis, you get the best of the best, but when the best all go missing in action, you scrape the bottom of the barrel and use whomever shows up. That person is Kenny Starfighter, a Galactic Hero who is pitted against the evil Dr. Deo. His space bus crash lands in a Swedish town on Earth and he gets into adventures with the neighborhood school kids.
Due to the television show’s popularity (with kids and adults), a prequel film was made in 2009 called Kenny Starfighter: Kenny Begins. It currently holds the record for having the most special effects in a Swedish film. Your eyes aren’t fooling you; Kenny’s gun is a repainted hairdryer. Most of the props on the show are in fact household appliances repainted for comedic effect.
Did we miss any international superheroes? If so post them below!
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