5 Superheroes who tried (and failed) to solve the Troubles in Northern Ireland
It’s been a tense year in Northern Ireland. Flag protests and dissident attacks have all made the international news and the traditional
rioting marching season has been one of the most violent for years.
Surely it would take some kind of superhero to sort this mess out! Well, believe it our not, it’s been tried…
1) Spider Man
When Spidey paid a visit to London and
a post-apocalyptic wasteland Belfast in 1987, he was keen to foil the plans of the evil IRA and help restore a bit of sanity to the troubled region. It was grim, ripped-from-the-headlines stuff. Oh, and there’s something to do with an “AK-X Antipersonnel Particle Beam Cannon”
So how does Spidey try and solve this quagmire?
Who is to blame: Spidey learns first hand from his journo buddy that the troubles are all the fault of the Spanish! Who converted the pagan Irish to Catholicism as a way of creating a back-door passage in to Protestant England. The English responded by colonizing the North of Ireland with Protestants.
The reality: At the time anyone was converting European Pagans to Christianity there was only one flavour available: Catholic flavour. Also the man widely credited for converting the Irish to Christianity (you may have heard of him) is Saint Patrick. Who was a Romano-Briton. The part about the British colonising the North is more or less true but infinitely more complicated.
The (useless) Super-hero Save: Spidey’s contribution to the conflict is dazzling a Provo with a flashbulb – allowing him to be mercilessly mown down by the Army (who all look like they’ve been copied and pasted from an old World War 2 comic)
Best bit: “I’m no fool, I’m an Irishman” as he leaps towards a live grenade…
Irony! My one weakness…
Fun Fact: Marvel received complaints and even a bomb threat to their offices during this storyline, so not only did they manage to not stop any terrorism, they actually provoked some! As a result the storyline became less about the troubles and more about a shady corporation that was…. something something…. lazers. I forget.
2) Captain Planet
Captain Planet’s Planeteers arrived in Belfast a full 5 years after Spidey. So what’s changed? Absolutely nothing… apparently.
One catholic and one Protestant have been given the means to detonate a nuclear bomb under the “others’” side of the city. This plotline (and this clip) would have you believe that Belfast was like 1970s Berlin (at least we’ve moved on from 1940s Berlin) in that it had a big wall running down the middle separating Catholics from Protestants…
Who is to blame: According to
Yoda The Planeteers’ boss Gaia, “Hate has become Stronger than Logic”.
It’s pretty vague but at least it isn’t as innacurate/ offensive as Spidey’s explanation.
The reality: Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering. Not sure what that has to do with the troubles, though…
The (useless) Superhero save: Gaia sends a ginger, teenage, New Yorker to Belfast, alone. His whole plan is to basically point out to everyone how stupid their feud is and tell them to forgive each other. He even manages to get his power ring taken from him by two guys competing to be the Northern Irish member of the village people. Useless.
The two sides can only be convinced not to nuke the whole fucking city by a weird living dream that basically shows them that it would be an extremely bad idea.
To reiterate; the only way the characters can be convinced not to nuke the shit out of themselves is if they experience the fall out first hand.
Once they realise that murdering themselves and everyone they love is a bad idea, the Catholic and Protestant characters make-up and open a bakery together; a move which will almost certainly see them both unemployed again because who the fuck buys their bread from a bakery anymore?
Best bit: “…and me deep in Protestant territory!”
3) Diamond Dan
Diamond Dan is unusual in that he is the only Superhero on this list that never featured in a comic book or TV series.
As you might be able to guess, Dan was created by the Orange Order as part of their more “inclusive” rebranding of the 12th of July as “Orangefest”.
Inclusive, that is, for people who aren’t Catholics.
Or married to Catholics.
Who is to blame: Catholics. And people married to Catholics. Assumedly.
The (useless) Superhero Save: Despite appearing on a few fridge magnets and Christmas Cards (presumably not distributed to Catholics or people married to Catholics) Dan was eventually exposed to his one weakness: copyright law, when it was revealed that his design was plagiarized from an online stock image.
Best bit: This side by side comparison:
In honour of Diamond Dan, we shamelessly stole this image from Irishcentral.com
4) Liam Connaughton (Muties/ X-Men)
Marvel also had a go at a Northern Irish super-powered mutant by the name of Liam Connaughton. he was introduced in 2002 so surely this will be a more well-rounded approach to the conflict..?
Liam sneaks off with Bridget to spend some time together, as they embrace an explosion nearby occurs. The police believe that there is a phantom bomber in Ireland. However, Colin, Bridget’s brother thinks it’s Liam as he has always been near when the explosions have occurred. He tells some of his friends, who on hearing of this, plan to use Liam for their own ends.
So uh… no.
Who is to blame: Terrorists try to exploit Liam’s superpowers to their own ends. Marvel never specify whether they are Republican or Loyalist terrorists so as not to take sides. Except that they have names like Seamus. So uh, not the Red Hand Commandos, probably.
The (useless) Superhero Save: In a stunning move of offensive stereotyping shocking even by Marvel’s standards, Liam’s superpower is the ability to blow things up. I can see the development process now:
“hey, what’s Northern Ireland famous for?”
“uh, blowing stuff up?”
best bit: This flamboyant Hawaiin/Cowboy/Terrorist, and how psyched he seems that Liam just blew up the car they were riding in together:
5) The Punisher
The Punisher isn’t a goody-goody like Spiderman or Captain Planet. If anyone is going to sort this shit out once and for all then it’s Frank Castle. He isn’t going to try and convince everyone to hold hands or kiss and make up. He’s going to shoot them in the fucking face. Frank heads to Belfast to try and find out about a coke shipment, which leads him to the streets of West Belfast, in the midst of a dispute over a flag. Sound familiar?
Who is to blame: Anyone who gets worked up over a stupid flag.
The reality: Yeah, pretty much anyone who gets worked up over a stupid flag.
The (useless) Superhero Save: Frank does what he does best and fucks a load of guys up good. But as he leaves he realises what Spidey and the Planeteers never will – that the problems in Northern Ireland are deep, complicated and petty. They will never be solved by Americans in silly costumes.
And angry. he’s always angry.
Fun fact: This issue was written by legendary comics writer Garth Ennis, but If this seems like a surprisingly nuanced and valid point to come from the man who created the character “Arse-Face” well, Garth grew up with this shit so he knows what he’s talking about.
Best bit: Just arrived in Belfast. Hmmm.