It’s Earth Day! And since there’s nothing like a themed article (technically, there are many things that are like themed articles, like desktop themes and theme parks, but we digress), we thought that we might take a look at a few of our favorite Earth-lovers in the comics context. Some are heroic, some are evil by the textbook definition, but none of them are afraid to show their feelings for the planet. So, even when their motivations, or their complexions, tend to get muddy, their environment-friendly nature shines through.
Five Earthy Heroes
Swamp Thing: It is his swamp. Do not take your evil there. Somewhere in between the first film and that time that he almost got nailed to Jesus, Swamp Thing earned quite the degree of subtext. Among the many traits developed more fully by Alan Moore and others was a deeper awareness of the Earth. Couched in his explanation of how Swamp Thing became Earth’s plant elemental was the debut of the Parliament of Trees, a collective of former elementals that would have been willing to extinguish human life on Earth to protect the plants. Fortunately for fleshy things, Swamp Thing let humanity slide, which I suppose makes him both tree-hugger and humanitarian.
Captain Planet: “By your powers combined, I have a hockey hairstyle!” “Go mullet!” Wait, that’s wrong . . . Regardless, Captain Planet is so in love with the Earth that it’s part of his name! Actually, he gets his marching orders right from Gaia herself. Cap’s cartoon, which debuted in 1990, is loaded with the kind of things that keep Glenn Beck awake at night: a multicultural cast, battles against pollution and greed, a team leader from Africa, the usual. The good Captain and his Planeteers fought for Earth in 113 animated episodes, Marvel comics, video games, toys, and more. Last we heard, you could still catch the show on Mother Nature Network.
The Doctor (Authority): The Doctor isn’t just a single character; rather it’s a title that’s been passed down through a line of shamans that protect the Earth. Readers first encountered a Doctor in the pages of Stormwatch during the “Change or Die” arc. That character was killed, and his abilities passed on to Jeroen Thornedike. Jeroen became one of the founding members of The Authority. Though he tended to love hard drugs as much as he loved the planet, The Doctor participated in a number of world saving ventures throughout his tenure in the office. Unfortunately, he was killed by Rose Tattoo in The Authority: Revolution.
The next Doctor, Habib Ben Hassan, also joined The Authority. Unfortunately, he went a bit round the bend after the “World’s End” event, and killed himself. His spirit later coalesced into a vegetable-construct called The Green Man that, like the Parliament of Trees, flirted with the idea of killing humanity to save the planet.
Monolith: Yes, I’m talking about The Elementals again. And why shouldn’t we? It remains a critical, trailblazing work that is criminally out of print in any kind of collected edition. The team contained a member that was quite literally earthy: Monolith. Young Tommy Czurcha was killed in a landslide and revived with the ability to turn into a massive creature of stone and earth. He joined three other people that had died in association with elements and been revived, forming the team. Particularly in the early days, the group struggled against Saker, a sorcerer that sought to bring all of the supernatural power in the world under his control.
Storm: Though the comic book version of Storm isn’t given to pleading to the elements in the way that her ‘90s animated counterpart was (and thank Claremont for that), it’s always been clear that Storm embraced the concerns of the environment. Whether it was her tenure as local Kenyan weather goddess as a young woman or as a novice X-Man filling the attic of the mansion with plants, Storm’s love of nature has remained a fairly constant fixture of her character over time.
Three Dirty Villains
Ra’s al Ghul: Leader of the League of Assassins! Madman! Environmentalist? That’s right; Ra’s al Ghul has always professed a deep love of the planet and a deep hatred of those that would do it harm. Like many other characters with this bent, he thinks that most of humanity needs to be purged in order to perfectly balance the planet. This obsession has lead him into frequent conflicts with Batman and other heroes.
Poison Ivy: One of the few people that can make the phrase “plant lover” have multiple connotations, Poison Ivy’s personal motivations include being a champion of plant life. An eco-terrorist, she has made weapons from plant-based materials and has also taken on a more plant-like appearance in subsequent years. Ivy has also created her “feraks”, bipedal plant-based creatures that she employs to attack enemies and defend her lairs.
Floronic Man: In many ways the opposite of Swamp Thing, Jason Woodrue also became a plant creature, then fought super-heroes like the Atom and the Justice League, and later had contact with the Parliament of Trees. He (you guessed it) wanted to destroy all animal life until Swamp Thing taught him about the interdependent nature of the biosphere. He joined the New Guardians in the late ‘80s to help protect the planet, but has since spun off to freaky villain town once again.