Comics/Graphic Novels

9 Heroes From Around the World

Elisa Shoenberger


Elisa Shoenberger has been building a library since she was 13. She loves writing about all aspects of books from author interviews, antiquarian books, archives, and everything in between. She also writes regularly for Murder & Mayhem and Library Journal. She's also written articles for Huffington Post, Boston Globe, WIRED, Slate, and many other publications. When she's not writing about reading, she's reading and adventuring to find cool new art. She also plays alto saxophone and occasionally stiltwalks. Find out more on her website or follow her on Twitter @vogontroubadour.

Children of Anguish and Anarchy by Tomi Adeyemi

Featuring gorgeous designed edges, dazzling metallic foil designs on the jacket and case, and an exclusive endpaper map that reveals new unexplored territories, Tomi Adeyemi’s #1 bestselling Legacy of Orïsha series comes to an earth-shaking conclusion.

We are so used to thinking of superheroes as a United States phenomenon that we can sometimes forget their influence on the rest of the world. My first encounter with a non-U.S. superhero came in an unexpected place: a Chilean socialist comic book from the 1970s. The short-lived comic La Firme aimed to teach Chileans new socialist values after Chile democratically elected its first Marxist president. Issues dealt with agrarian reform, monopolies, and even fake news in humorous ways.

One recurring character was Supercauro, a young boy who, instead of having superpowers, would use the power of the community to solve problems. As a counter to Supercauro was a Superman proxy who had a dollar sign instead of an “S” on his uniform. Supercauro was a counterpoint to the individualistic tendencies of U.S. superheroes. 

While La Firme only ran for a few years before the entire socialist experiment collapsed with a military coup, it was a reminder that superheroes are not just limited to Marvel and DC, or even the U.S. Throughout the world, creators have been coming up with their own ideas of superheroes, sometimes as a way to critique their own society or comment on power structures throughout the world.

As I was working on this article, I came across the Venezuelan superhero Super-Bigote, or Super-Moustache, who is “at war with imperialism” and emerged in 2021, according to ABS-CBN News. When not wearing his red construction hat and hammer, Super-Bigote looks a bit similar to the current president, Nicolas Maduro. The first episode shows a masked person in the Oval Office with orange hair shooting a cannon of money to Venezuela to fund a whisper campaign. I cannot wait to dig in and see how it compares to La Firme.

Today, we’re going to take a trip around the world to visit with nine superheroes who will hopefully inspire you to explore the world beyond U.S. comic book borders. These were chosen in part because of the availability of the comics and/or films. Enjoy!

cover of La Borinquena

La Borinqueña by Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez (U.S./Puerto Rico)

We’ll start our tour around the world in the U.S. with the amazing Afro-Puerto Rican superhero, La Borinqueña. Marisol Rios De La Luz lives in Brooklyn and decides to do a study abroad in Puerto Rico for her geology degree. In her studies and cave spelunking, she finds five crystals that make her into a superhero. She uses her newfound powers to help protect the people of Puerto Rico. It’s a wonderful comic that interweaves the political and cultural situation in Puerto Rico.

El Santo book cover

El Santo by Jose G. Cruz (Mexico)

Next on our voyage, we’ve got a special superhero: El Santo was a real person before becoming a comic book and film superhero. Rodolfo Guzmán Huerta became a famous Mexican wrestler who fought under the name “El Santo” in a silver mask. While he had a successful wrestling career, he made about 50 movies from 1958-1982 (a few may have ended up on Mystery Science Theater 3000). Jose G. Cruz created the El Santo comic book series that combined drawings and photomontages that ran for 35 years. He even showed up in some Batman comics.

Fandom Wiki reported that his origin story was about protecting a little girl and her puppy from bullies. Instead of getting in trouble, his dad tells him that the family has a tradition of donning silver masks and fighting crime, while also continuing his career in Lucha Libre.

Sereno book cover

Sereno by Luciano Vecchio (Argentina)

Written by Luciano Vecchio, who has worked with Marvel and DC, Sereno, which means both nightwatchman and serene, began as a webcomic in 2014 and made its English-language debut in 2023. In a CNN article, Vecchio explained that he was influenced by both Japanese and American superheroes “through the prism of my Latinoamerican sensibility.” Vecchio called Sereno “A spiritual warrior of light defending his utopian city, a queer lead character, a counteroffer of sensitive masculinity reclaiming what patriarchy denied us.”

Sailor Moon book cover

Sailor Moon by Naoko Takeuchi (Japan)

While there are many superheroes to choose from, Sailor Moon takes the cake. She was the first character from manga I ever knew about, and so she holds a sweet spot in my heart. Written and illustrated by Naoko Takeuchi, this main character goes by Usagi Tsukino by day and Sailor Moon by night. With her trusty companion, Luna, and her Sailor Scouts, they take on the forces of evil to save the world. And like any good superhero series, her secret life causes all sorts of issues with her love life.

Monkey King book cover

Monkey King by Wu Cheng’en, translated by Julia Lovell (China)

When I first thought of non-U.S.-based superheroes, I couldn’t help but think of Monkey King. Written by Wu Chengen in 1550, the line between trickster god and superhero may be thin, but he’s got a lot of cultural relevance, so I’m putting him on the list. Monkey has many superpowers, from shape-shifting to making clones of himself from his hair, jumping hundreds of thousands of miles, and much more. Like any good trickster, he gets himself into a lot of trouble over an Immortal Peach and he has to get penance for his sin by accompanying the monk Tripitaka on a 14-year voyage.

EXO The Legend of Wale Williams book cover

Wale Williams by Roye Okupe, edited by Ayodele Elegba, illustrated by Sunkanmi Akinboye, colored by Rapael Kazeen (Nigeria)

Set in 2025 Nigeria, Wale Williams has a difficult relationship with his scientist father, and after a life-changing event, Williams leaves Lagoon City for five years. When he returns after his father’s death, his hometown has become overrun by a criminal group called the Creed. Williams doesn’t want to get involved until he’s pulled in. He finds an exosuit that his father had made and starts defending the good citizens of Lagoon City with it. It’s not only crime that he has to vanquish, though, but also the demons of his family’s past.

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy book cover

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Emmuska Orczy (Hungary/Britain)

While it predates the dawn of superhero comics, I think Emmuska Orczy’s Scarlet Pimpernel qualifies as a superhero. It’s the French Revolution, and Madame Guillotine (what a great supervillain name) is using her power to sentence the innocent to death. Much like Christopher Nolan’s Batman, the Scarlet Pimpernel’s secret identity is Percy Blackeney, a useless aristocrat who can’t stand violence. But when the Scarlet Pimpernel takes up his superhero mantel, he joins up with his fellow friends in the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel to bring justice and mercy to France.

Miraculous Ladybug and Cat Noir book cover

Ladybug by Cheryl Black and Nicole D’Andria (France)

Some of you may have seen the animated series: Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir. Marinette Dupain-Cheng may seem like a typical Parisian schoolgirl by day, but she’s crime-fighting superhero Ladybug at night. Getting her powers from her tiny assistant Tikki and magical earrings, she teams up with Cat Noir to fight the terrible Hawk Moth. And Marinette has no idea that her school crush, Adriene Agreste, is her partner in fighting crime! Thomas Astruc is the director and writer of the animated series.

M.O.M. Mother of Madness book cover

M.O.M: Mother of Madness by Emilia Clarke, Marguerite Bennett, art by Leila Leiz and Jo Ratcliffe (U.S./France/Italy)

Okay, so this one is technically U.S., but it’s definitely not Marvel or DC. Also, Leila Leiz is French but now lives in Italy. You may know her from Game of Thrones, but Emilia Clarke is no mother of dragons here. This mini-comic series is about Maya Kuyper, who is a scientist and single mother (which is a superhero of its own). On top of that, she has superpowers attuned to her emotions, such as getting super strength from anger, and uses her superpowers to take on human traffickers. 

So that’s a taste of the wonderful wealth of non-Marvel and non-DC superheroes around the world. What are your favorites?

If you want more superheroes, here’s a list of the most influential superhero comics and another discussion about the history of superheroes and social justice. Or if you want to learn more about La Borinqueña, check out this article I wrote about her in 2022.