I don’t know about you guys, but I have no clue how to celebrate Earth Day. I mean, I try to be an environmentalist year round, sorting my recyclables, conserving energy, and riding my bicycle when I can – which makes me real unpopular in New York City. So I decided to honor Mother Earth the best way I knew how: compiling a list of DC Comics’ greatest environmentalists.[divider]
Dishonorable Mention: Superman
At first it seemed a no-brainer to include the Man of Steel on this list since a great part of his Fortress of Solitude is devoted to housing alien creatures whose natural environments have been destroyed. Then I realized that just made him a glorified zookeeper. Ultimately, it was this panel from the sixties that disqualified him: [Flash and Superman destroying trees]
So here are the real contenders:[divider]
Ya’Wara, a member of the superhero team, the Others, is a rising star in the New 52. Aided by wild jaguars, she protects the rain forests of South America. Over time she may earn a higher rank on the list, but that largely depends on the success of her team’s book, Aquaman and the Others.[divider]
6. Green Arrow
So unlike our friend, Supes, Green Arrow developed a social conscience in the late 60s/early 70s. Unlike so many of his costumed peers, Green Arrow liked to stick it to the man, sometimes for environmental reasons. In Green Lantern/Green Arrow #7, he defends a radical environmentalist named Isaac who chains himself to an airplane belonging to Ferris Air. He’s even able to sway his straight-laced friend, Hal Jordan, who to that point disapproved of Isaac’s actions.
For those of you less familiar with the DC Universe, yes, there is a Catman, and yes, he is just a cheap knock off of Catwoman. At least he was, until he redefined himself in Africa where he lived among a pride of lions. The experience not only made him a more formidable villain, but instilled in him a great disdain for poachers, whom he usually beats and leaves for dead.[divider]
4. Poison Ivy
Pamela Isley may be a villain to people, but to plants she’s a hero. Most of her crimes are aimed against those who would harm the environment, which in some ways makes her Gotham City’s noblest criminal. She did enjoy a brief stint as a superhero with the Birds of Prey, but she lost her spot when she reverted back to being an eco-terrorist. Hey, sometimes you can’t be on the same team as the earth and the law.
Arthur Curry may just be the most ridiculed member of the Justice League, but I can’t think of another one this planet more desperately needs. Have you seen the state of our oceans? We’re over-fishing, killing whales, and we’ve got great patches of garbage floating in the Pacific. Who can forget the BP oil spill of 2010, when even his greatest detractors were asking, “Where’s Aquaman when you need him?” While we mock him for his ability to talk to sea creatures, his compassion towards them is something we should all strive for.[divider]
2. Animal Man
Of course, Aquaman’s connection to marine life pales in comparison to Animal Man’s larger connection to all animal life. This offbeat character has been greatly elevated in DC’s New 52, becoming an agent of the “Red,” the elemental force that governs all animal life on earth. He serves as a great reminder that humanity is connected to all life on the planet.[divider]
1. Swamp Thing
In a former life, this leafy green monster was a botanist Alec Holland who created a bio-restorative formula to grow plants in brutal conditions such as deserts. Unfortunately, he had rivals who planted a bomb in his lab by a swamp in Louisiana. A couple of days later he arose as the Swamp Thing, the avatar of the “Green,” the elemental force that governs all plant life on earth. He actually saved the planet with Animal Man in “Rotworld,” one of DC’s New 52’s first crossover events. But Animal Man can hang up his tights at the end of the day, while Swamp Thing will always be a humanoid mass of green vegetation. Every passing second of his existence is devoted to promoting a healthier planet, which is why Swamp Thing is DC Comics’ number one environmentalist.
Have a happy Earth Day, everyone! And remember, tomorrow is New Comic Book Wednesday. The question is, will you contribute to deforestation by buying your stories in print or will you contribute to energy consumption by reading them digitally?
(Answer: You’ll buy them in print, of course, because even Swamp Thing would want you to support your local comic book store! Also, most comic book stores have back issues for cheap, which is a form of recycling.)