Issue #26 of 35   INDEX

Joel Grineau
by: Joel V. Grineau
Superheroes: Captains, Doctors and Misters

In my last column, I mentioned that many of Marvel's mainstay heroes and villains, created, or relaunched in the 1960's did not have a colour in their name. My brief list included, amongst others, Captain America, Dr. Doom, and Mr. Fantastic. Upon further reflection, I see another trend.

Once again, a test: giving myself about ten seconds, and discounting the aforementioned three, I can still rattle off a group of Captains, Doctors and Misters:

  • Dr. Druid
  • Captain Comet
  • Mister Sinister
  • Dr. Fate
  • Doctor Strange
  • The Captain
  • Mister 103
  • Mr. Amazing
  • Captain Atom
  • Doctor Light

So, why this plethora of Captains, Doctors and Misters? Well, maybe the dictionary will be of some help to us.

Beyond its placement in the military hierarchy, the word Captain means: leader, chief, great soldier, strategist, experienced commander and team leader. This makes some sense as both Captain America and Captain Atom are leaders, experienced commanders, and have been team leaders (of the Avengers and Extreme Justice, respectively). For the record, Captain Atom was actually Major Nathaniel Adam in the U.S.A.F. before his heroic transformation.

Doctor, of course, generally refers to those who hold medical or advanced academic degrees (i.e. Ph.Ds). But beyond that, it also refers to a teacher, and/or an eminently learned person. Dr. Doom and Doctor Light hold advanced academic degrees. Doctor Strange was actually a surgeon before he became Earth's sorcerer supreme. Other 'masters of the mystic arts' i.e. learned practitioners of magic, who also carry the doctor title include Dr. Druid, and Dr. Fate.

Mister is a title given to a man without any superior title or rank, e.i. those of us not in the military, noble or clerical hierarchy. That leaves it pretty wide open. I mean, by this definition, we could have Mr. Spiderman, Mister Batman and Mr. America (oops, DC did have a Mr. America, who was DC's first patriotic hero appearing in 1941).

In the end, what have we got? Well, I think these appellations: Captain, Doctor and Mister - are titles. They are meant to differentiate these characters as being superior at what they do.

For example, every Marvel team has a leader, but I don't think any of them, such as Cyclops of the X-Men, Iron Fist of Heroes for Hire, or Citizen V of the Thunderbolts can compare to the leadership abilities of Captain America. Over at DC? In all fairness, I must hamstring myself here by stating that the ultimate team leader is certainly not Captain Atom.

Similarly Doctor Strange and Dr. Fate, Marvel and DC's chief fireball throwers always triumph over their respective non-titled nemesis: Nightmare and Wotan.

Mister Sinister is a major bad guy, always up to something. Heck, in 'The Age of Apocalypse' (one of Marvel's alternate future time lines), he ruled something like one quarter of North America. Mr. Miracle as some of us know, is the premier escape artist over in the New Gods corner of the DC Universe. Definitely two guys who have earned the respect implied in the title of Mister.

In the end the title is just another way to legitimize the character's place in comicdom.

Joel Grineau is a former Writer/Contributing Editor for "Chaos" Magazine. "Iron Man" 146 (purchased in the spring of 1981) was his first comic book, and time has not worn down his enjoyment of them. Joel holds a BA from the University of Guelph and an MA from the University of Saskatchewan. He is currently an officer with the Canadian Forces.

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Text © Joel V. Grineau, 1997,1998.
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