Reducto: Isn't it true that the reason you left the Super Friends is because you were fired? Fired. Fire! Why?
Black Vulcan: They said it was some sort of budget thing, but I think it's because I complained that they were always pairing me up with a white Super Friend. Like I was gonna start super-lootin' the minute they weren't watching! And you think I named myself "Black Vulcan"? Hell, no! I used to go by "Supervolt". Black Vulcan was Aquaman's idea. And I said "Maybe we should just call you 'Whitefish'!"
Essentially, a Captain Ethnic is a minority Super Hero of a different ethnicity or nationality of whose powers and heroic identity are tied in an incredibly unsubtle, and often stereotypical, manner to their ethnicity or country of origin. They're usually created as a Token Minority to fend off criticism, though sometimes they're the product of creators who really want to say something about the issue at hand, and are handicapped only by the fact that they're entirely clueless about it.
Of course, many superheroes traditionally come with a theme that they're obsessed with — Batman naming all his stuff "bat-whatever" for no apparent reason, for example. It's when this is coupled with an ethnic stereotype that the character becomes a Captain Ethnic.
A Captain Ethnic doesn't need to be a stereotype in terms of how they act and speak, as some accurate national identities are actually unsubtle. It's just these characters frequently are stereotypes anyway — and thus, they wind up acting less like people from another country, and more like the Theme Park Version. Often, these characters are matched up with a Gratuitous Foreign Language.
This started largely around the middle of The Silver Age of Comic Books, following the American Civil Rights Movement, people started realizing that maybe, just maybe, having a universe where the only Super Heroes were white Americans wasn't such a good idea. The better writers, thus, added fleshed-out characters of other races and nationalities to their rosters. Of course, when the writers who weren't so good got into the act, things went a little differently.
Sometimes, a bunch are introduced at once, forming a super-powered Five-Token Band.
A related trope is when a black superhero's Code Name is "Black Something". Usually, their powers and identity are otherwise unrelated to being black, except for actual Africans.
Captain Ethnic is a bit patronizing nowadays, but you have to admit, he beats hell out of the Ethnic Scrappy. Despite that characters from around the world are usually done wrong, they can be done right — usually by doing the research on local culture and creating a character that's likeable and cool in their own right. This is sadly rare. If a Captain Ethnic is done well, he might end up with fans in the ethnic group that he comes from.
Compare Captain Geographic (when the name, patriotism, and/or costume are unsubtle).
Sometimes a result of Political Correctness Gone Mad.
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Averted with The Falcon, one of the first major African-American superheroes (and the first one not to have the word "black" in his name), who frequently teamed up with Captain America. Yeah, he's black, but it's not his whole identity. Notably, when he was first drafted into The Avengers, Sam was so upset when he found out Gyrich enlisted him exactly for this purpose, that led him to quit.
Most of the characters introduced in Marvel Super Hero Contest of Champions. This book started out as an Olympics special, only to be repurposed after the USA declined to participate in the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics. Only Shamrock (Ireland) caught on though she was mainly used as a comedy hero; China's "Collective Man" made a comeback as an X-Men villain/the new main face of China's super-hero community after Radioactive Man was exiled to the US.
Quite a few of them crossed the line from stereotype to offensive stereotype — e.g. a German character named "Blitzkrieger". All Germans Are Nazis, indeed.
The modern character combines Bald of Awesome, Scary Black Man, Jerk with a Heart of Gold and Made of Iron; has abandoned the slightly-goofy 'Power Man' in favor of simply calling himself 'Luke Cage' (a conventional alias rather than a code namenote Though given that he's by this point legally changed his name to Luke Cage, he just has no secret identity. Not that he made any serious effort to keep it secret even when he went by Power Man, seeing as is a very big man who wore no mask and had the same distinctive hairdo out of costume.); fights crime in a tank top and hiking boots; and regards his yellow-disco-shirt-and-Afro days as an in-universe Old Shame.
Sunfire, a Japanese hero with a "rising sun" motif whose origin was that his mother died after giving birth to him after Hiroshima (his first appearance being published in the late '60s), resulting in his uncle convincing him to take his revenge on the US. Later revealed to have a teenage younger sister, with the same mutant powers, fashion sense, grouchy personality and even homonymous codename, Sunpyre (Fire = Pyre, get it?). —- Sunfire reason for being initially a villain explains why he is a captain ethnic.
In Marvel's Earth X continuity, the Asian hero team Xen included Sumo, Chi, Sai, Tora, Tao and Banzai. It frankly bordered on being offensive.
Most of the "all-new, all-different" X-Men are exceptions; though they come from all around the world, most have heroic identities unrelated to their country of origin. The big exceptions are the previously-established Banshee, an Irishman dressed in green and named after his screaming power, Sunfire (who had also appeared before, as above), and Thunderbird, a Native American with an eagle/headdress theme; by the third issue, the latter two were gone. Sunfire quit because he didn't like the group (the feeling was mutual) and Thunderbird was killed off in a Stupid Sacrifice because his personality was so similar to Wolverine at the time that having both of them was deemed redundant.
Colossus is a very clear example. He can change into a "Man of Steel" (the literal meaning of "Stalin"), and as such he is a mutant from the USSR with an actual "Stalin" power, in addition to his Gratuitous Russian. His last name is even Rasputin (later revealed to actually be a direct descendant of the infamous RL Rasputin, who in the MU was actually an early mutant supervillain himself).
Though not necessarily Captain Ethnics themselves, many ethnic X-Men members were (and in some cases still are) unable to complete a sentence without using some word from their native language or local slang, for the sole purpose of reminding the reader that they are, indeed, from somewhere else. Of course such uses are rarely correct, and Critical Research Failures abound when Brazilian readers see Sunspot dropping lines in Spanish (they speak Portuguese). The worst offender in recent years is Gambit, whose Cajun dialect ranges from "kind of annoying" to "downright incomprehensible." As far as writers go, Chris Claremont tends to be the most guilty of this.
The new Afghan Muslim X-Girl was called Dust, and was originally intended to have suicide bomb powers before they were changed to "can change into sand that can flay flesh from bone." She's actually been rescued from the Captain Ethnic heap, thankfully, in part because of the respectful way the comics depicted her choice to wear her niqab. She still suffers from a few Critical Research Failures, however, in that she speaks Arabic when almost all Afghans speak Pashtun or Persian.
As it happens, one newer student at the Academy, Gentle, is one of these for a nationality that doesn't actually exist; he's from the fictional nation of Wakanda, which is known for its massive deposits of the equally fictional metal Vibranium. Not only does he have tribal tattoos all over his body... they were done in Vibranium ink, making him the Wakandan equivalent of a Kuwaiti mutant with oil powers.
The original lineup of Alpha Flight was a whole team of "Captain Canadas", with Shaman doing double duty as "Captain First Nations". For instance, the aqua alien Marrina is from the province of Newfoundland, the siblings Aurora and Northstar are French Canadians from Quebec (with Northstar as a former separatist terrorist), Sasquatch is from British Columbia (and is thus a big, hairy Canadian football player), Snowbird is from the north territories and Guardian (who is consciously modelled after Captain America) and Puck (as in hockey puck — he's short, fast, and hard!) are from Ontario.
Snowbird is also the half-white daughter of Nelvanna (orig. Nelvana, an Inuit superheroine from back in the day), which would also make her an "Exotic Goddess" of a sort.
And Yukon Jack, an Indian tribal spirit from the Yukon... who prefers to go around wearing just a loincloth (the Yukon territory is just east of Alaska, by the way).
One arc featured the team trekking across the globe and running afoul of local heroes in various countries — like the Italian Omerta, a monk who has taken a vow of silence. "Omerta" is Italian for silence, but it's also used to refer to the code of silence in The Mafia.
Similar to the above example is a Deadpool story wherein he is recruited by the Canadian government to be Canadaman, alongside Canadian superheroes Puck-man, Moositaur, Beaver, and Ms. Puck-man. The team, sans Deadpool, is presumably killed in the team's maple leaf-shaped plane after Deadpool learns that he was the second choice, the first being Wolverine.
Silverclaw is the Latina analogue to Snowbird, the half-human daughter of a pre-Christian native goddess and a modern-era human male who is a member of the tribe which used to worship her, who also possesses the ability (like Snowbird) to transform into various animals native to the region in which her mother was worshiped. While her mother is a completely fictional made-up MU-only deity (a Caribbean expy of RL Polynesian goddess Pele), likewise with her father's tribe, the pantheon which her mother belongs to is a mixture of various RL Native American pantheons.
Wyatt Wingfoot, a Native American counterpart of BP. He's not a superhero, though, just a school friend of Johnny Storm. He was created as an Expy of real life Native American Olympic athlete Jim Thorpe.
Jubilee, the young X-Man of Chinese descent whose mutant power was to... shoot fireworks. On the other hand, she was Book Dumb and especially bad at math.
Also see Wasabi No-Ginger of the Japanese superteam Big Hero 6. A katana-wielding chi-manipulating sushi chef whose codename combines two distinctive ingredients in Japanese cooking, he is essentially Iron Fist meets Iron Chef. Although to be fair, he's a master of every style of cooking.
Big Hero 6 in general is made of stereotypes from Japanese media: its leader is a teenage boy genius (Hiro) with a robotic protector, ala Giant Robo or Gigantor (although Baymax isn't kaiju size...). who is implied to secretly be the resurrection of his deceased father in a mechanical body ala Ghost in the Shell; a ditzy supergenius (Honey Lemon) ala Tenchi Muyo! 's Mihoshi, with an inexplicably blond-haired blue-haired Fauxreigner appearance ala Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei's Kaere Kimura (which is implied by her off-panel backstory to be due to the result of a bodyswitch, making her the Asian counterpart of the X-man Psylocke) with a super-science technomagic purse ala Doraemon; a juvenile-delinquent punk badgirl (Go Go Tamago) with a henshin-type voice-activated energy-transforming armorsuit ala Metroid's Samus Aran; and a loner-slacker expy of Persona 3 badboy anti-hero Shinjiro (Fredzilla), who is apparently the avatar/host ala Naruto of an ancient monster spirit expy of Godzilla, which manifests itself exactly like the aforementioned Personas in the classic RPG series.
Another ostensibly-international team of superheroes who were really only Red Shirt cannon-fodder as well was Marvel's expy of DC's The Great Ten, called the People's Defense Front, who were introduced and subsequently disposed in the space of a single splash page, where they appeared as a badly-drawn and vaguely-detailed army of nameless and faceless super-powered spandex-clad drones who were massacred simply to show how bad-ass was the Big Bad of the story (an Inhuman expy of Sauron). Not surprisingly, the only characters who they even bothered to actually identify (longtime Marvel Chinese anti-hero/anti-villains Radioactive Man & Collective Man, and generic newbies Scientific Beast, Lady of Ten Suns, Princess of Clouds, 9th Immortal, and Most Perfect Hero — the codenames are admittedly cool but the visual designs were so basic as to be simply bleh) were later revealed as the only survivors of the massacre.
The Dynasty, China's equivalent of the Avengers, fares better in that regard, with most of its members having names and powers not tied to Chinese stereotypes. The exceptions are the Revolutionary and Star, the latter of whom is basically a Captain America Expy draped in the colors of the Chinese flag. Seeing as the Soviet Union (back when it existed) had its own blatant Cap expy Vanguard (as well as Britain's Captain Britain, Canada's Guardian, France's Adamantine, Japan's Sunfire, Saudi Arabia's Arabian Knight, Ireland's Shamrock, etc.), it's just the kind of thing a major world power does in the Marvel Universe.
Lampshaded and averted in Supreme Power. There is only one American superhero that is black and the viciously racist Nighthawk is pissed that said hero is less powerful than the first hero to appear (who is white).
Bloke from the revamped X-Force is an intentional parody, being a combination of so many gay stereotypes that he Crosses the Line Twice. Originally being rainbow in color before permanently turning pink, Bloke loves musical theater and has impeccable taste in soft furnishings. And lives in San Francisco. And can usually be found in the gym. He also subverts this slightly by being an especially brutal and grim vigilante. Did we mention he's a great dancer and has many strong opinions about certain civil liberties? Also, he's British and his real name, Mickey Tork, is taken from two of The Monkees (Mickey Dolenz and Peter Tork).
When he dies, his lamentation that he's just "one less of 'my kind' to worry about" now is intentionally left ambiguous (meaning it isn't clear whether he's referring to homosexuals or mutants as "his kind", and teammate Phat's reaction to this statement foreshadowed his own coming out of the closet.
Parodied later after the change to X-Statix by Spike Freeman's new team, Euro Trash, with such stereotypes as the French Surrender Monkey (who, admittedly, is later revealed to be an American making a pathetic attempt at going native) and the clumsy British oaf Oxford Blue. "Mr. Freeman, don't you feel these heroes are all crude foreign caricatures?" "What can I say? I'm American. That's how we like our foreigners."
Oh hey look, New Zealand gets it's own mutant. He's a Maori! Cool. He's got the tattoos! Still good. He's called Kiwi Black... (To clarify for non-New Zealanders, "Kiwi Black" is a brand of shoe polish. An iconic, much loved shoe polish, but...)
Croikey! Lookit the soize of these Australian stereotypes, mate! Boomerang, for one, is a hot-head with a Precision-Guided Boomerang gimmick. There are also two villains known as "the Kangaroo": the first is a brawny meathead with powerful jumping ability, while the second wears a suit of kangaroo-like Powered Armor.
Marvel have not one, but two (count 'em) Aboriginal superheroes who swing a bullroarer that sends them into the Dreamtime. Talisman (no relation to Alpha Flight's Talisman) from Contest of Champions (see above) and Gateway from X-Men. Two that I know of, anyway.
There was also Dreamguard from Force Works. He didn't use a bullroarer, but he did have dream based powers and wielded a boomerang as his primary weapon.
Minor Daredevil villain Frog-Man, real name Francois LeBlanc... you can probably see where this is going (if you can't, "frog" is a derogatory term for a French person), but he looks incredibly frog-like even out of costume.
Infamously, we also have Georges Batroc, the Leaper. Named after "Batrachia", a genus of frog, and possessing incredible leaping and kicking power, Batroc is a silly French stereotype through and through (just look at his mustache!), but due to the joy he takes in his role and Memetic Mutation he is regarded as incredibly awesome nonetheless.
Further tying the two aspects of his theme together, he practices savate, which is a French martial art that involves a lot of kicking and jumping. Oddly, his costume doesn't seem to have anything to do with either theme.
Batroc's sometime-cohort Tarantula is a Delvadian criminal whose pointed shoes allow him to scale walls. Pointed shoes are a stereotype in and of themselves, but this guy's a South American whose equipment allows him to scale walls. Think about that for a minute.
At one point, Taskmaster ran into Batroc and the Tarantula's daughters, using their respective father's gimmicks. Tasky soundly thrashed the villainesses, stating "I hate ethnic stereotypes". (He also expresses surprise that Batroc and Tarantula are heterosexual.)
Batroc makes a habit of surrounding himself with walking Latin cliches; one of the frequent members of Batroc's Brigade is the South American mercenary Machete, whose weapon of choice is probably obvious.
Of course, her eventual Heel-Face Turn was intended as a subversion of this archetype.
See also the second Crimson Dynamo, who was a slow-witted goliath named Boris (and married to a Natasha himself). It's not entirely clear whether the Rocky and BullwinkleTheme Naming was intentional, subconscious, or simple coincidence, but it's still there.
Hell, even the Gennady Gavrilov Dynamo is a stereotype, this time of Russia's youth in the 21st century.
In Ghost Rider, it's revealed that every country has its own Rider, and each is tied heavily to local folklore and legend. The British rider is based on Spring-Heeled Jack, the Rider stalking Frankfurt for evil to punish is "shock-headed", the Rider protecting the shores of New Zealand is a Maori warrior, the Japanese rider is a bosozoku gang member with an oni motif
Even the the American riders throughout the ages seem to encompass little more than era-specific tough guy stereotypes, including a vengeful Native American rider in the early 1800s, an entire Ghost Rider tank crew in WWII, trucker Devil Rig and muscle car enthusiast Hell Driver in the 70s, the hard-drinking Southern badass Penance Fist in the 80s, etc. Let's face it, considering how Badass pretty much all of the above are, it might be an example of how to do it right.
The 50 States Initiative gave every state its own superteam, and they tended to be arranged along these lines. The Rangers, Texas' team, features three cowboys, a Native American legacy hero, a Latino armadillo man, and a Latina with fire powers. Utah's team, the unseen Called, are stated to all be Mormons, and Hawaii's Point Men includes a new age hippie, a guy with sand powers, a volcano guy, and Stingray, etc.
And California's The Order. Two actors, a pop sensation, a baseball star turned entrepreneur, a war hero whose story was turned into a movie, the daughter of two punk pioneers... Do you get that this is America's elite yet?
Mulholland Black is especially notable in this case, being named (and that is her real name) after a street in Los Angeles and formerly having been in a gang called the Black Dahlias (after a famous Hollywood murder case). And her powers are that she is psychokinetically linked to the city of Los Angeles itself, drawing power directly from it and its people.
In a Civil War issue of Fantastic Four we encountered Les Heroes de Paris. Who went a different route: They were all thinly-veiled expies of the Justice League of America. Only... Well, French.. Including Adamantine (French Superman dressed in the Tricouleur) La Lumiere Bleu (Green Lantern, only blue) Le Phantome ("Who haunts the Louvre at night"), and Le Cowboy (Guess). The mangled
And the Thing, who had briefly joined them out of disgust for the actions his teammates had taken (most readers can agree, considering Ben Grimm to have by far the most rational reaction to Civil War).
Scarlet Witch, if you think about it. She's Romani (half, after we learn her father is Magneto) and has the power to curse people.
Most of the Superfriends who didn't appear in comics first, including Apache Chief, El Dorado, Black Vulcan, and Samurai. However, outside Samurai, most were jettisoned in the final incarnation, with Cyborg (who is an established character from the comics) taking Black Vulcan's place.
Justice League Unlimited later included throwbacks to the Super Friends-exclusive superheroes, but gave them names that were more realistic while still retaining an element of ethnic identity. Samurai became Wind Dragon, Black Vulcan became Juice, and Apache Chief became Longshadow. El Dorado wasn't included, probably because he wasn't on the show at the same time as any of the others.
Similar to the JLU example, Young Justice brought a teenage version of Apache Chief into the show under the name Tye Longshadow. They went with a more modern take on the character and seem to be attempting to distance him from the stereotypes of the Super Friends version.
"Runaways" confirms fan suspicions that they've also updated the other ethnic Super Friends as Eduardo "Ed" Dorado, Jr., and genderflipping Samurai as Asami "Sam" Koizumi, while Black Vulcan was replaced with Static.
Apache Chief was eventually introduced in the comics as the more sensitively portrayed Manitou Raven, and briefly stood as a member of the Justice League as well. The others, eh, not so much.
There was actually a prior attempt to introduce Samurai into the DCU in the Justice League 80-Page Giant one-shot. They attempted to rationalize the name and costume by making him an actual samurai from feudal Japan who gained his abilities from a young sorceress. Unfortunately, this incarnation was pretty roundly ignored.
Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law parodies this with Black Vulcan stating that it never his idea to call himself that, as seen in the page quote. Eventually, he joins up with Apache Chief and they form their own group of Super Friends, the Multiculture Pals. Of course, it also established that "Vulcan" is Black Vulcan's real last name, which means it makes even less sense.
The Global Guardians, an international (and originally, United Nations-funded) team of superheroes, with members like Little Mermaid (Denmark), Jack 'O Lantern (Ireland), and Tasmanian Devil (guess). These first appeared in the Super Friends tie-in comic before migrating to the DCU proper. Two of these, Green Flame and Icemaiden (after a name-change to Fire and Ice) shed their Captain Ethnic status and joined the Justice League of America.
Justice League Europe member Crimson Fox is a wealthy French perfume mogul (or two; the identity was shared between a pair of sisters) who possesses the power to seduce men and make them fall in love with her.
In an issue of Infinite Crisis, Black Lightning (a black character created during the Blaxploitationcraze of the 70s) and Mr. Terrific (a black character created in the late 90s/early 00s) go on a mission within the Brother Eye satellite, and the latter points out how ridiculous the former's name is. His response is that he was the only black superhero at the time of his debut, which was essentially true.
Icon had Buck Wild, a very deliberate parody of not only Luke Cage and Black Lightning, but virtually ever other black superhero created in the 70's. His role is lampshaded when Icon notes that while Buck embodied a number of negative stereotypes and often embarrassed the black community, he was also a pioneer who paved the way for the less-offensive black superheroes of today. Note that he was an explicit mishmash of a bunch of Blaxploitation-era superheroes. Black Lightning, The Falcon, and Luke Cage were among those that were parodied.
Grant Morrison's Great Ten, a Chinese superhero team, would probably be Banned in China, and they are supposed to be. Its members are heavily tied into Chinese mythology and tradition and modern Chinese Communism, or at least the Western view of said. One of them is the Mother of Champions, who gives birth to superheroes. The team was created not to be offensive per-se, but the creator commentary for their reveal in 52 reveals that they were intended to be self-caricatures in a way. The writers were not trying to be offensive, but were deliberately making a team based on foreign perceptions of a culture and outside viewpoints. Maybe a Take That against the comic industry as a whole? Of course, considering the Japanese teams also created by Morrison...well, the only way it could get any more badass is if the two teams fought bloodily through Nanking.
Grant Morrison also invented the "Super Young Team", who embodied Japanese stereotypes for much the same reason.
In New 52's JLI, August General in Iron is a member of the titular Multinational Team and is a much broader caricature than he's ever been depicted as before, being a rude, anti-Western government drone.
The Knight; a second generation British Batman ripoff with a knight theme, with a subversive theme of him also being a broke ass noble taken in by a woman and her daughter, with the daughter becoming his new sidekick "The Squire". The latter became a player in recent issues of Batman, striking up a friendship with the new Robin, Damian.
Joining him as examples are all of the other members of the Batmen of Many Nations, such as the French Musketeer, the Argentinean Gaucho, the Italian Legionary, and the Native American Chief Man-of-Bats and his sidekick Little Raven. Thankfully, Grant Morrison revamped the characters into being less stereotypically offensive, right down to giving them their own "Club of Villains" enemies, including Pierrot Lunaire (a murderous mime), El Sombrero (a suit wearing luchadore who specializes in elaborate death traps), Charlie Caligula (who lords over a vast and hedonistic criminal "empire"), and le Bossu ("the Hunchback", whose henchmen dress as gargoyles).
The Swedish Wingman was a rather odd case: how many comic-book readers in the early 50s would have known just how much Sweden was into flight at time?
What's more, Batman, Inc revolves around appointing a local hero to act as Batman in countries all over the world. Thus Nightrunner, a French practitioner of Le Parkour, the Hood, a British secret agent, and the Japanese Mr. Unknown, a nerdy Covert Pervert whose secret base is underneath an anime hobby shop, are recruited into the company. That's in addition to the surviving members of the Club of Heroes, mind you.
Nightrunner is also a French-Algerian Muslim, which led to the spectacle of certain bigots (the kind who would likely spend every other hour decrying France) sending up a row about how Nightrunner wasn't "a real Frenchman."
The writer who created Nightrunner also claimed he did so because he felt that for once, France deserved a superhero who wasn't a complete cliche.
A "Batman of Moscow", an alcoholic Husky Russkie with an AK-47, has also made scattered appearances in the Bat-books.
Speaking of Batman Inc., the Knight and Squire miniseries introduced a whole slew of heroes and villains from the U.K., most of which were obscure British pop-culture references (which the trade paperback thankfully explains).
Batwing, the ex-child soldier from Congo who was orphaned after his parents died of the AIDS virus. Not that the individual members of Batman Inc. aren't badass mind you (most are), they just rely on a lot of cultural stereotypes.
Batwing's comic averts this with the Kingdom, a team of African heroes who don't embody any cultural stereotypes (unless you count "black guy with electrical powers", that is). Of course, it's also played straight not only by Batwing himself, but by his growing Rogues Gallery, including Massacre (a merciless, death-obsessed warlord), Lord Battle (a crazed dictator), and the Jackals (a brutal crew of Ruthless Modern Pirates).
The Ultramarine Corps had Vixen (African woman with animal powers), Goraiko (Japanese monster with a rising sun motif), and Fleur de Lis (French swordswoman with a name and costume inspired by her namesake symbol) just to name a few. Vixen is the only one with any character development, and that's only because she subsequently joined the Justice League. Vixen was an existing character who had previously joined the Justice League. Other pre-existing characters in the Corps included most of the former Global Guardians...
Captain Boomerang, though his (illegitimate) son is American. Pretty much everyone in Australia hates him for being a stereotype.
In 2000, every DC series' annual featured a new heroic character from a foreign country. This flopped so badly that Geoff Johns killed off both characters he was ordered to create, in the pages of JSA and Infinite Crisis. The characters themselves varied wildly in how obnoxious they were about their national origin or how effective or interesting they were as characters (the Janissary from Turkey is generally regarded as one of the only decent-to-good ones).
In a montage page of Kingdom Come, one panel shows a fight with a quartet of Japanese superheroes. Their themes? A samurai, a Kabuki actor, a Humongous Mecha, and a Chun Li lookalike.
It also featured a few new allies of Batman who, in a Shout-Out to the Club of Heroes mentioned above, are all foreign vigilantes who put a local twist on Batman's dark knight persona. They include the Cossack from Russia, the Dragon from China, and the Samurai from Japan (and yes, it's the same samurai noted directly above).
Jean de Baton-Baton from Hitman's Six Pack is an outrageous French stereotype (unless you consider the fact that his bravery is unwavering). He is armed with a large baguette and baton, blinds or incapacitates villains with spices used in French cooking, wears a beret and a horizontally striped suit, is very gaunt, etc.
Rocket Red of Justice League Europe was a loud, burly, hairy Funny Foreigner from the USSR (hence the "Red" part of his title) who is mostly remembered for comically mangling the English language and constantly proclaiming his love for "Mother Russia". The Rocket Red Brigade continues to be used even in 2011, with the communist symbolism and rhetoric greatly toned down.
The New Guardians had a whole bunch of Captain Ethnics. These include an Aborigine with mysterious powers connected to the Dreamtime, a Japanese with a circuit board pattern covering his body whose power is remotely affecting electronics, and a Chinese who channels the powers of Dragon Lines.
Parodied in Dial H, in which Nelson Jent at one point is banned from leaving his house by Marteau after the Dial turns him into Chief Mighty Arrow, a ludicrously stupid and offensive Native American stereotype.note His magic flying horse ends up saving the day without him.
Used knowingly in Astro City; the further a hero is from Astro City proper, the more likely they are to be a Captain Ethnic.
Las Vegas' big hero is the neon-themed Mirage, New York is defended by Skyscraper, Boston has the Silversmith (after Paul Revere), Chicago has The Untouchable, Austin has Lonestar, and Atlanta (home of Coca-Cola) has The Real Thing.
Australia's most notable heroes include Kookaburra, Barrier, Bullroarer, and the Colonial.
British crime lords include The Red Queen, Clever Dick, the Toff and the Headmaster of Crime, while its heroes include The Lion and the Unicorn.
Kenya has Anansi, who creates illusions.
India has a team of super-powered street urchins called The Unclean.
Brazilian heroes mentioned are the Birds of Paradise, a trio of flying, scantily-clad women.
You could even include the All-American and Slugger here, two of the biggest heroes of The Golden Age of Comic Books and World War II; Americans whose tactics and abilities all come from sports.
There was an independent comic series called Captain Africa, which was written and drawn by a black creator, and was meant as a vehicle to garner interest in African heritage in black children. Despite the fact that the title character was actually American, and had never actually lived in Africa.
There was also Zwanna, Son of Zulu, who was an African price who is enrolled at 'Black American State University' who enjoys watching Montel who becomes a mighty champion by yelling the magic word 'ZHAAB!'. His costume is a loin-cloth and a necklace, and he has a spear. He battles skinheads and three transvestites named after Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George Bush, Sr., and goes on to fight their cross-dressing boss. Needless to say, it was a very weird comic.
Parodied in The Boys with Glorious Five Year Plan, a Russian superhero team with names like Hammer and Sickle, Collectivo and Purge.
Chris Claremont has always had ...problems with this trope. During his run on Gen13, he had a Muslim superhero, which was an admirable gesture. Thing is, the kid started nearly every other fucking sentence with, "Oh, Allah!"
The short-lived comic book 'The Mighty Bombshells' consists of American Ms. Liberty (A redhead wearing Uncle Sam's costume), British Fireball (who likes to make tea), German Blitzkrieg (Blonde hair blue eyes), Chinese Red Dragon (who is a martial artist), Japanese Cherry Blossom, and Texan Dynamite Girl (whose costume has the Confederate flag on it).
The latest incarnation of The Guardians of the Globe is, for once, actually global. Most of its newer members aren't obvious stereotypes, but there are a few. The Japanese Japandroid, a sophisticated robot that looks like a prepubescent girl and the French Le Bruiser, a French bulldog with superpowers, are the biggest examples. Others, like the Nepalese Yeti, the Australian Kaboomerang, and the Mexican el Chupacabra, are more thematically tied to their countries of origin than anything else — it's a part of their identity, but not their entire identity.
One of the founding members of Stormwatch is Toshiro Misawa, alias Fuji. Nicknamed in high school for his Japanese heritage and mammoth size, Toshiro was a sumo wrestler until he developed a condition that forced his wealthy businessman father to invest in a cure. Stormwatch had a solution: turn his body into plasma and put him in a cybernetic containment suit — essentially turning him into Briareos. The head of Fuji's new body is patterned after the Japanese flag, with the red dot covering his face.
This got a bit of play in early Stormwatch, to be honest. The Russian guy with heat-absorbing powers named Winter? The Italian sonic screamer opera singer named Diva?
Parodied by Secret Identities: The Asian American Superhero Anthology with the Asian Y-Men, who introduce themselves by saying "Feel the suicidal wrath of Kami Kazei", "Sweaty Feet of Coolie are express ticket to hell", "The myopic blasts of Four Eyes" and "Special delivery from Riceman. Pork-fried pain".
Anime and Manga
In School Rumble, Lara Gonzalez, the Mexican exchange student, is extremely strong and has wrestling skills of a Lucha professional.
There are a few notable exceptions, the biggest being Schwartz Bruder (a German McNinja,) and Allenby Beardsly (who's Gundam looks like a Magical Girl despite representing Neo Sweden.)
The trope also applies to their Gundams; China's Dragon Gundam has a bladed ponytail, France's Gundam Rose is a Musketeer with rose-shapped Attack Drones and a Napoleon hat sculpted into its head...probably the most over-the-top is America's Gundam Maxter, which combines boxing, American football, cowboys, surfing, AND the Red White and Blue. And again, it's awesome.
Shaman King does this a lot. Silva is the most obvious example to American viewers, but there's also Horohoro, Faust VIII, and Ren. As they come to America, it gets more obvious, with Joco ("Chocolove" in the Japanese version), a black teenager who possesses an African jaguar spirit and happens to be a former gang banger. Then come a pair Jewish twins who control a golem, a trio of witches who go on and on about "The Burning Times" (an explanation about the "Burning Times" is required: Witch hunts obviously never killed any actual witches, just people accused of being witches so their accusers could get their stuff, and in Salem, witches were hanged), and an English dowser who dresses like Sherlock Holmes. Oh, and a Mexican who puts his comrades in little trinkets that are sold on the Day of the Dead.
It's arguable that this example is, at least in principle, justified — many shaman learn their art according to the ancient customs of their people, and so will, to some degree, appear as a representative of that culture. It's just that it so often ends up being played in such a stereotypical, over-the-top manner that you cross from a legitimately multicultural cast into Captain Ethnic territory.
In Tetragrammaton Labyrinth, the Japanese have also managed to stereotype themselves pretty well with Hisame, a Japanese girl amongst a cast of Caucasian European characters. Her powers stem from being a miko and she also fights with a katana.
Pretty much all the non-Japanese wrestlers in Kinnikuman are this (at least the human ones, anyway). The United States is represented by Terryman, a Texas cowboy, and Specialman, a wrestling football player; Britain is home to Robin Mask, who wrestles in a knight's suit of armour; from Germany come Brockenman, a wrestling Nazi commandant, and his son, who isn't a Nazi but still wears an SS uniform; and India brings us Curry Cook, the wrestling...well, guess. Sometimes they at least shake it up, as in the case with Mr. Khamen, an Egyptian wrestler who dresses like a pharaoh and whose Finishing Move involves mummifying his opponent...and who is also a vampire. Even the minor characters fall victim to this, including Woolman, a sheep-themed wrestler from New Zealandnote which is known for its high sheep population and the one-shot Danish wrestler Vikingman.
Happiness Charge Pretty Cure's internationally-based Precures shown are: An American (specifically, Texan) team including a Cowgirl and one wearing Native American-style feathers in her hear, a French precure who appears to be maid-based (or at least weilds a broom as a weapon), and a pair of Indian Bollywood Nerds whose attack involves calcularors.
Hooper X from Chasing Amy invented a "positive black role model" superhero named "White Hatin' Coon." Yes, that happened.
In Kick-Ass 2. The Motherfucker has a tendency to name the members of his gang based on their ethnicities. He names a black MMA fighter "Black Death", a triad member "Genghis Carnage" and a former member of the KGB "Mother Russia". His assistant notes how incredibly racist this is, to which Chris insists that they're "archetypes" rather than stereotypes.
Live Action TV
A sketch on In Living Color! parodied the lack of minority superheroes. It's best remembered as the first appearance of Handi-Man, the first physically-challenged superhero.
And also Tiny Avenger, a super-powered female little person.
Nickelodeon's All That featured the black and lactose-intolerant Super Dude, whose main enemy was the evil Milk Man, who was forever squirting milk at him. The sketch makes more sense with the fact that many African-Americans do have trouble digesting dairy products.
Key And Peelelampshaded this trope with Power Falcons, a Sentai/Power Rangers parody. Green Falcon, the token black of the group, is repeatedly called "Black Falcon" by all the other heroes, and eventually starts calling his Asian and Native-American teammates "Yellow Falcon" and "Red Falcon" as payback.
Vincent J McMahon (second owner of the CWC/WWWF/WWF/WWE and father of the current chairman Vince McMahon) loved these believing that you needed one to appeal to every ethnic group in New York. Several of his top stars were examples like the Italian Bruno Sammartino, RussianIvan Koloff, and Puerto Rican Pedro Morales, all of whom would become champions. Interestingly the senior Vince originally wanted Hulk Hogan to be an Irish Captain Ethnic (hence why he was originally in a stable dominated by evil foreigners). However the Italian-Hispanic superstar objected to it because he would have had to dye his hair, and McMahon agreed to allow him to only use the Irish name.
Finlay may be one of the worst just because of the mish-mash of stereotypes that goes into him; he's a tough, Badass Irish brawler who clubs people with a shillelagh and hangs out with a leprechaun. The Leprechaun was an intentional Scrappy that backfired. Finlay (as a heel) was more popular than most faces, so he was given "The Little Bastard" to hang around with, hoping it would derail his popularity. It failed.
The main gimmick of Arab-American wrestler Muhammad Hassan was complaining about anti-Arab prejudice while his manager translated his speech to Farsi. While his run did include entertaining (and racist-baiting) matches against Sgt Slaughter and Hulk Hogan, he had the unfortunate pleasure of being choked out by The Undertaker and being carried out of the ring by masked men dressed in black... only two days before the London bombings. His next appearance had him accusing everyone who inevitably complained about the angle as racists. Didn't get him many boosuntil he compared them to the audience, but UPN demanded that he be removed from Smackdown. Sadly, Hassan (who, rumor has it, had been booked to win the World Heavyweight Championship at Summerslam, and was the most effective new Heel WWE had produced in years) left the wrestling business altogether soon afterward.
Said manager, Shawn Davari, went on to become a successful mid-carder in TNA. He became known as Sheik Abdul Bashir. He explained that he had been a patriotic American all his life, who was quickly turned on after 9/11. His rational was, if people are going to treat him like some sort of mad Arab, then that's what he was going to give them.
In fairness, professional wrestling in other countries has not been above it — "Los Gringos" and Rikidozan's opponents (especially American) coming to mind. However, at least in Japan, it's changed so that the most recent "big time" wrestler to fill a stereotype may have been Stan Hansen... who was using a similar gimmick to his American self— and made it work.
The Japanese promotion Dragon Gate arguably parodied this with the Florida Brothers — bleach-blond Japanese guys decked out in the stars and stripes who had "The Star-Spangled Banner" played every time they won.
Unfortunately, Captain Ethnic types are almost always heels (Kofi Kingston being a notable exception), and they are cooked up simply to stoke the xenophobic rage of the fans, and are usually historically timely. So there were "evil" Germans for an entire generation after World War II, "evil" Japanese almost up until the present day, "evil" Russians during the entire Cold War, and "evil" Middle Easterners off and on throughout the years. A particular Kick the Dog moment came in early 2003, when Canadian wrestlers Rene Dupree and Sylvan Grenier were forced to portray "evil" Frenchmen all because of the "Iraqi weapons of mass destruction" controversy. A parade of French stereotypes followed: Weird facial hair? Check. A lion-clipped poodle named Fifi? Check. MajorJerkass tendencies? Check and double-check. What made this really sad was that Dupree and Grenier came from respected French-Canadian wrestling dynasties whose members had not been stereotyped in the past. This may be why these "evil Frenchmen" were so popular in Canada.
The Old World of Darkness had problems with this, especially in the first editions of Vampire: The Masquerade and Werewolf: The Apocalypse. Let's see, we've got the Ravnos (Romani vampires with illusion powers and a bend towards crime and trickery), the Giovanni (a clan of Italian necromancers with Mafia ties), the Assamites (an Arabic vampire clan made up mostly of assassins), the Fianna (Irish Warrior Poet werewolves), the Get of Fenris (Nordic warrior werewolves with some uncomfortable ties to the Nazis), and the Wendigo (a Native American werewolf tribe that still wasn't fully over colonization). Later editions cleaned it up by either breaking away from the ethnic stereotypes or, in the case of the Ravnos, killing most of them in a single apocalyptic act.
In some cases, like the revised Uktena tribebook, the stereotypes are even worse than before.
Averted in GURPS International Super Teams, where (except for those with explicitly political motives), non-US supers have names like La Fusionnne (a heroine with fusion powers) and Argurous Astraph ("Silver Lightning", chrome body and lightning powers); non-stereotypical, just translated into their native language.
Though not averted in the original GURPS Supers. What about the Japanese super-sumo wrestler who calls himself "Mount Fuji"? And is an Anti-Villain because he follows a samurai code? And has origami and kite flying as stated hobbies?
Oh, so very very used in the Freedom City setting for Mutants & Masterminds, especially the Golden Age sourcebook (because it was appropriate for the Golden Age). The Japanese villain team included the first Crimson Katana, a mentalist named Geisha, and a wind-controller named Kamikaze, which is Japanese for "the Divine Wind". (The German ones were more along the lines of generic villains who simply happened to be Nazis, with the possible exception of Madame Blitz.)
Sleepbringer is a Nazi supervillain whose shtick is poison gas. Think about it.
European Enemies, widely regarded as the worst sourcebook ever released for Champions, has this kind of thing generally listed among the book's problems. Some of the more demonstrative characters included are the Swiss Clockmaker, the Spanish Inquisition, the Italian Godfather and Gladiator (his real name is even Spartacus), Swedish Midnight Sun, a German strongman based on the Berlin Wall, a French Napoleon impersonator, and a British punk band as well as a druid.
Freedom Force and its sequel Freedom Force vs. The Third Reich parody this trope to the extreme, particularly with the villains. Most ridiculously is Fortissimmo: An Italian opera singer with sound-wave powers as part of a supervillain team of World War 2 axis powers.
The twist: Blitzkrieg is actually Charles Wilson, American and deputy director of the CIA! His origin is never explained though.
Red Sun is also an interesting example of Hypocritical Humor: He apparently can't decide if he is a knightly samurai or a sneaky ninja stereotype, so he constantly shifts between these two opposites. One moment he declares sneak attacks to be dishonorable, the next he summons explosive fire elementals to aid him in a duel.
There's also silly Soviet stereotype Nuclear Winter, who has cold and ice powers.
Not to mention Red October. Although admittedly her powers (basically being a witch) has nothing to do with the USSR.
On the heroic side, we have El Diablo, who is Mexican and has the name El Diablo... And Tricolour, who is a French fencer who wears the tricolour on her costume... And Quetzaloquatl, a Latin-American version of Captain Marvel... The Green Genie is middle-eastern and, you guessed it, has genie magic and a flying carpet... Let's just say that Freedom Force has a *lot* of these on both sides and it's played about as seriously as the rest of the cast, which is to say not at all.
Essentially every opponent in Punch-Out!! is this to one degree or another. The only notable exceptions are Disco Kid, Mr. Sandman, the Bruiser brothers, Piston Hurricane, and Mike Tyson.
Metal Gear has verged into this occasionally, some times less offensively than other times:
Mostly subverted with FOXHOUND, who deliberately had powers that contradicted their ethnicities (the most obvious example being a cowboy-type gunplay expert who was apparently a Russian nationalist), but Vulcan Raven was an Athapaskan Native American shaman whose powers included the ability to endure cold and the ability to have prophetic visions, and his weapon of choice was a minigun. His incredible size and strength was honed by participating in and training for the Eskimo Indian Olympics. The re-localisation of the script in The Twin Snakes took out Snake's blatantly sarcastic and insulting dialogue towards him ("You must be a real threat at the muktuk eating contest"...which Raven, in all seriousness confirms), which both fit Snake's character better as someone who respects his enemies and made Raven look more positive.
Justification/Lampshade Hanging in Metal Gear: Ghost Babel. Slasher Hawk is an Aborigine who fights alongside a hawk he had raised from an egg, which he calls his totem. He fights shirtless and attacks Snake with two giant boomerangs, as well as taunting Snake when he calls them 'boomerangs' ("That's an overused, white man's name"). Upon defeating Hawk, he gives a Final Speech about how he isn't an Aborigine at all, but a white orphan adopted by an Aboriginal family. In order to prove he was worthy of their culture, he adopted all of their cultural expectations and observed their traditions as vehemently as he could, but was still regarded with suspicion. He claims he joined the terrorist group because they were the only people who accepted him.
Mega Man 6 bosses. You have Flame Man (with a turban, in a level covered in oil) from Saudi Arabia, Centaur Man from Greece, Knight Man from England, Yamato Man from Japan, Tomahawk Man from the central United States, Wind Man (who looks like a chime) from China, Plant Man from Brazil, and Blizzard Man from Canada. The game's from Japan, so Yamato Man more fits the "we're no exception" attitude than Tomahawk Man who is a Native American stereotype.
Played straight with most of the games in the Street Fighter series (especially the original and Street Fighter II), in which a character's design would often reflect their nationality. The best example of this would be Capcom USA's original explanation for Dhalsim's fire powers as him eating lots of spicy curry before a match.
Many of the non-main Wonderful Ones in The Wonderful 101. For instance, the Congolese Wonder-Jungle is a Tarzan-like Nature Hero, the Spanish Wonder-Matador is exactly what he sounds like, and the German Wonder-Beer is a fat man with a helmet shaped like a frothing beer mug.
The narrower "city-based stereotype" version is also present, with heroes like Hollywood director Wonder-Movie, or Wonder-Gambler from Las Vegas.
Also present are a number of stereotypes from Japanese culture, including Wonder-Samurai, Wonder-Socho (based on Japanese Delinquents), Wonder-Kabuki, and Wonder-Schoolgirl.
The Global Guardians PBEM Universe features literally dozens of non-American, non-Caucasian superheroes and villains working in their own native countries.
Walkabout, a teleporting martial artist who protects Alice Springs, Australia.
La Brigada de Victoria ("The Victory Brigade") is an entire team of Brazilian heroes.
The People’s Revolutionary Metahuman Collective may be the setting's most notable example. A team of forty-two Chinese superheroes protecting the People's Republic of China.
PRIDE is an entire team of gay, lesbian, and transgender superheroes. Most of them are Camp Gay in one way or another.
Captain Canada! of the Whateley Universe, who can't even officially use the name Captain Canada until he graduates from Superhero School Whateley Academy. His battle cry is "For the Great White North!". The other Canadians kids at the school think he makes all Canadians look bad.
Being all about a superhero team made up of stereotypes, Minoriteam parodies this with characters like Nonstop, an Indian decked out in a turban and the like with a flying carpet and total invulnerability to small arms fire, El Jefe, a heavyset non-English speaking Mexican gardener who wields the Cosmic Leafblower, and Fasto, a black guy with Super Speed and an insatiable lust for white women. However, it's also subverted by their civilian identities, where Nonstop is a slacking former pro skater, El Jefe is an American-born oil billionaire, and Fasto is a nerdy professor of Women's Studies. That said, there's also Jewcano, a Jewish man with a long beard whose super strength and volcanic fire powers come from his severe irritability and whose weakness is money, and Dr. Wang, an extremely gifted Asian scientist who runs a laundromat. Jewcano does have a secret identity as a meek milquetoast named Neil, but Dr. Wang is Dr. Wang 24/7.
Their enemies in the White Shadow are composed primarily of white Captains Ethnic. Foul tempered drunken Irish leprechaun Seamus McFisticuffs, white rapper White Rapper, slow-witted Ivy League alumnus and yuppie Racist Frankenstein, French chicken-themed chef the Black Coq, snivelling corporate climber the Corporate Ladder, Dirty Cop, and "the captain of evil industry", the White Shadow himself.
Hadji from Jonny Quest probably qualifies, as his main contribution to the team was snake-charming, rope-tricking, and other stereotypically Indian activities. The 1990s update gave him advanced computer skills, which in present day can be seen as unintentionally stereotypical. What's especially odd is he's described as a Hindu Indian, he wears a turban like a Sikh and "Hadji" is a Muslim title for someone who has made the pilgrimage (haj) to Mecca. The 1990s tried to also explain this away in A Day in the Limelight episode as an Orphan's Plot Trinket.
Marvel's The Super Hero Squad Show wasted no time in parodying their own trends in one episode, where Wolverine ends up joining a team called the All Captains Squad. Captain America and Captain Britain appear, along with original creations Captain Australia, Captain Brazil, and Captain Liechtenstein. Yes, Captain Liechtenstein. (He's tiny, but economically prosperous!) However, the truly hilarious part is when Wolverine joins the team and is forced to take up the moniker of Captain Canada, complete with a costume homage to Guardian, one of two Canadian Captain Ethnics from Alpha Flight.
Spoofed in the superhero movie episode of Total Drama Action, when Harold used the superhero identity Captain Alberta. Chris MacLean himself seemed to appreciate this patriotic statement.
Hanuman Man, Baljeet's Author Avatar in the Phineas and Ferb episode "Out of Toon", could be considered this since Baljeet is Indian and Hanuman is a hero from the ancient Indian epic the Ramayana.