While we celebrate 4th of July to commemorate America’s Founding Fathers’ Declaration of Independence from British rule, characters from comics have been liberating themselves from many other kinds of strictures, past, present and future: Nazis, monsters from beyond time—even fear itself. Whether green newbies leaping over their first rooftops or old pros locked behind bars, read on to see why they all deserve fireworks.
Independence from: captivity
For decades, the Punisher has made a name for himself as a vigilante hunting New York’s worst villains. So, one can only wonder what sort of maniac would send his alter ego Frank Castle to jail. (After all, it hasn’t worked yet.) However, after a failed run at the Kingpin leaves him nearly dead, it’s hard to think of a better place for Frank than a maximum security prison. The trip to the big house gives him enough time to heal up and reflect on what makes him the Punisher, while introducing him to a few easy targets. When his stay in the clink comes to an end, Frank’s ready to face the past and take a second shot at his one-man war on crime.
Independence from: addiction
It’s hard not to envy the life of a genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist superhero. And yet, not a lot of people are lining up to be the next Tony Stark. Maybe it’s due to his gallery of rogues, or maybe it’s just the chest-crushing fear of failure. In “Demon in a Bottle,” faced with losing his company and framed for murder, even a virtuoso like Stark has a few drinks to get away from it all. Over time, that habit turns into a compulsion. Alcohol abuse consumes Tony, and it takes a helping hand from his then-girlfriend, Bethany Cabe, to get him back on the straight and narrow.
Independence from: fear
From a distance, Gotham City may inspire awe, but for anyone inside the city limits, it’s a living nightmare. There’s no shortage of corrupt cops, psychopaths, and organized crime. Every trip down a dark alley is a tragedy waiting to happen. To a seemingly meek librarian like Barbara Gordon, it’s where good people become victims. So, when she gets a chance to face off against the Killer Moth at a costume party, Babs doesn’t think twice about redefining her destiny and jumping headfirst into the crime-fighting life. Over the years, that initiative and winner’s attitude would always keep her going, no matter what the city sent her way.
Independence from: the past
One might say Steve Rogers knows a thing or two about freedom and independence: After all, the scrawny-kid-turned-superpowered-patriot did spend most of his 20s defending the U.S. of A. against costumed criminals and Nazi agents. Despite his best efforts, the events of “Civil War” put him on the wrong side of the law and allow the Red Skull to send Steve tumbling through time. Trapped in the past, Captain America is forced to relive his worst moments, from his battle with Master Man to the loss of Bucky—all of which nearly drives him insane. Fortunately, the events of the present save him from that fate, and Steve goes off to face the future with a new sense of clarity.
Independence from: family
Living with a famous superhero sounds like a dream come true—unless she’s your overprotective mother. Laurie Juspeczyk might be the daughter of the famous Sally Jupiter, but she’s not about to get trapped by a bossy parent or an unwanted legacy. The two suffer a blowout over the original Silk Spectre’s sordid past, and Laurie runs away from home to start a new life in San Francisco. But before long, the junior Jupiter is sneaking out at night to patrol rooftops and beat up on thugs. She’s determined to do it her way, but in the end, it’s obvious that no amount of freedom can change who you are.
6. Atomic Robo
Independence from: a hyperdimensional entity trying to devour the universe
Every so often, it can seem like bad days are all but unavoidable. When those bad days are due to an extraterrestrial life form chasing you through time, you’d best look to science for answers—or, at least a lightning gun capable of destroying hyperdimensional beings. For Atomic Robo, gaining freedom from the monster means using a little of column A, a little of column B and a lot of temporal mechanics made up on the spot. And if H.P. Lovecraft, Carl Sagan and Robo’s former selves want to help save the universe… well, that’s fine, too
This piece originally ran in July 2013.