Celebrate 4th of July With The Top 5 Comic Book Patriots

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Happy Fourth of July! Patriotism has long been a popular theme in comic books, dating back to World War II when a wave of patriotic superheroes flooded newsstands to support the United States’ war effort. While WWII ended, the patriotic spirit infused in comics did not and many of the best superheroes have ties to the great American Spirit. To celebrate America’s birthday (or at least the day America says is its birthday) here’s a list of the five most patriotic superheroes to appear in comics.

Captain America

The Sentinel of Liberty himself, Captain America has proudly represented the Red, White and Blue since the 1940s. First appearing in 1940, Captain America was the best known of the many patriotically themed heroes appearing in the shadow of World War II. While many of those characters faded over time (check out ComicBook.com’s article on obscure American heroes for more on that), Captain America survived the war and thrived in the modern era of superheroes. Beyond his iconic costume or indestructible shield, what makes Captain America such a great character is how he represents ever evolving American ideas and the country’s political mood. From anti-Nazi sentiment to resentment over the Watergate scandal, Captain America’s writers have used the character as a vehicle to subtly express political opinion. Even the recent Captain America: The Winter Soldier movie touched upon the relevant concerns of government authoritarianism while still thrilling audiences with plenty of superheroic buttkicking. Captain America, plain and simple, is the heart of America.
Superman
Superman might not wear a star-spangled costume, but he’s always stood for truth, justice and the American way. If Captain America reflects America’s ever shifting attitude and role, Superman represents the purest form of the ideals on which the United States was founded. Superman appeared in the midst of the Great Depression, one of the darkest periods of modern America. Creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created Superman as a champion for the common man, with integrity, honor and all the other things that Americans claim to hold most dear. Sure, the United States might not always remember what we’re supposed to stand for, Superman (one of America’s greatest contributions to pop culture) still does. Superman as American as apple pie.
Uncle Sam
Created by comics legend Will Eisner, DC Comics character Uncle Sam is the actual embodiment of the United States of America. That’s right, Uncle Sam is ACTUALLY America. Created in an occult ritual conducted by the Founding Fathers, Uncle Sam is a mystical entity who gains physical form by possessing the body of dying patriots. While he originally only appeared to assist America during major wars, Uncle Sam became a superhero and led the patriotic Golden Age team the Freedom Fighters. In the New 52, an African-American version of the character appeared, although he’s yet to have any real impact on the series. Artist Alex Ross and writer Steve Darnall used the character in an Eisner Award nominated Uncle Sam miniseries that examined America’s character (and by extension, Uncle Sam’s character) through more critical eyes. Uncle Sam represents America’s soul, battered and beaten at times, but never giving up and always ready to put up a fight for what is right.
Iron Patriot
Wait, why is a bad guy doing on this list? While fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe may recognize the Iron Patriot suit as a painted version of the War Machine suit from Iron Man 3, Spider-Man villain Norman Osborn first used the suit during his brief takeover of SHIELD during the 2000s. Intended as a mix of Captain America and Iron Man, Osborn repurposed an old Iron Man suit and used it to lead his own team of (dark) Avengers. After Steve Rogers and Tony Stark defeated Osborn during the Siege event, James Rhodes (aka War Machine) gained possession of the suit and a fleet of Iron Patriot drones, which he’s used periodically during recent Marvel comics. Norman Osborn might not be a patriotic superhero, but Rhodes, a lifelong soldier, is as patriotic as they come. Iron Patriot is a perfect representation for a modern America: darker, more technologically advanced and not always on the right side of things.
Stargirl
Following a proud superhero legacy, Stargirl the newest version of the Star Spangled Kid and Starman. Bratty teenager Courtney Whitmore originally donned a version of the Star Spangled Kid’s costume to annoy her stepfather Pat Dugan (who was the original Star Spangled Kid’s partner Stripesy). However, Stargirl discovered that she was actually a pretty good superhero and eventually joined the Justice Society of America as its youngest member. Armed with a Cosmic Converter belt and Starman’s iconic Cosmic Staff, Courtney becomes one of the key members of the Justice Society and is considered by many to be the heart of the team. Of all the characters on this list, Stargirl is my favorite. Kind, brave, but not without flaws, Stargirl represents the ideal American superhero, a normal person ultimately willing to fight to protect others.
Who are your favorite patriotic superheroes? Let us know in the comments, and have a Happy 4th of July!