Captain America (fighting a villain) ” Neural chaff, dazzling lights, pre-programmed attack skills… Try fighting the Wehrmacht, mister – it teaches you focus! ” – JLA/Avengers
Soldiers are heroes. They are trained, educated, and held to different standards than civilians. So is it really a surprise that some superheroes started out as soldiers? They may have traded the uniforms and guns for powers and Spandex, but these ten remember that once a soldier, always a soldier.
Here are our top 10 veteran superheroes.
10) The Punisher
Played by Jon Bernthal and Dolph Lundgren
Rank: Unknown, (Deserter)
Foggy Nelson: “See, Frank Castle never came home. He just traded in one war zone for another.” – Daredevil “ Semper Fidelis” (Season 2, Episode 7)
Frank Castle was a soldier before he became a notorious mass murderer. He served three tours in Vietnam earning several medals including a Purple Heart. While on leave, Frank and his family stumbled into a gang shooting as they went to a picnic. The crossfire shredded Frank’s family, leaving only the soldier alive.
He deserted the army to begin a crusade against crime. His rank has never been revealed, but it is likely he has been dishonorably discharged in absentia for his crimes. Learn more about the Punisher in our exclusive backstory.
9) Captain Atom
Played by Chris Cox and Brian Bloom
Superman: “Good to see you, Captain. Cover our flank.”
Captain Atom: “I’m afraid you misunderstand. I’m speaking as an officer of the United States Air Force.”
Huntress: “Bad time to grow a sense of humor, Cap.”
Captain Atom: “No joke, ma’am. I’m currently assigned to General Eiling’s special projects unit. My orders are to prevent you from taking Question out of this facility. (raises a glowing fist) So how’s this gonna go down?” – Justice League: Unlimited “Question Authority” (Season 2, episode 9)
Captain Nathaniel Adam was court-martialed for a crime he didn’t commit. He was given a choice between death or participating in an experiment to earn his freedom. Adam wisely picked the experiment. He was encased in an alien metal and blasted with a nuke to test the metal’s durability. The nuke fused the metal to Captain Adam and gave him the power to fly and shoot radioactive blasts.
The military saw a golden opportunity with this new super-soldier. They gave him the name Captain Atom and ordered him to infiltrate the superhero community. Captain Atom joined the Justice League and was ordered to destroy the League if they became a threat to America.
8) Doctor Manhattan
Played by Billy Crudup
Rank: N/A (Secret Weapon)
John Osterman: “They call me Dr. Manhattan. They explain the name has been chosen for the ominous associations it will raise in America’s enemies. The marketing boys say I need a logo. If I’m to have a symbol, it shall be one I respect.” [burns the symbol of a hydrogen atom on his head] – Watchmen
Dr. Jonathan Osterman was a scientist working for the U.S. government who was accidentally trapped in a testing chamber as an experiment on “intrinsic fields” began. Osterman was vaporized, but did not die. Over the course of months, he willed himself back to corporeal form, finally manifesting as a bald, blue man who could warp reality.
The government somehow convinced this new being, Dr. Manhattan, to work for them. He singlehandedly won the Vietnam War and heated up the Cold War. Dr. Manhattan slowly lost his humanity, only remaining on Earth because of his few associates.
At the end of Watchmen , Doctor Manhattan leaves to observe other worlds. He has since started mucking around in the DC Universe as a lead in to the crossover Doomsday Clock .
Played by Christopher Reeve and Henry Cavill
Rank: General (Retired)
Inspector General: “Lt. Superman, by special authority given to me by the Commander-In-Chief, I hereby promote you to General!” – Superman # 133
In the story Superman Joins The Army , Superman complies with the laws of the time that required him to do a stint in the army. Supes spent the majority of his time trolling his CO, a notorious tightwad. Superman is ordered to read the last line of text in a vision exam? He reads the fine print. The squad is ordered to take a hill in a war game? Superman lifts the hill over his head and brings it back.
The Inspector General is amazed by Superman’s feats and promotes him from Private to General in only a few days. Supes uses his General rank to screw with his former CO, passing by him repeatedly at super-speed. The CO injures his arm trying to salute each time, and Superman uses his last act as a General to promote him. Thus was the saga of General Superman. Thankfully, it was never revisited.
6) Nick Fury
Played by Samuel L. Jackson and David Hasselhoff
Rank: Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., formerly U.S. Army Colonel
John Garrett: “ You remember that speech you used to give us, Nick, about how one man can accomplish anything once he realizes he can be something bigger? Well, now I am .“
Nick Fury: “ A part – a part of something bigger. ”
John Garrett: “Is that how it went ?”
Phil Coulson: “ Not a great listener .”
Nick Fury : “ If you told me this whole Hydra path thing you took is because you misheard my damn “one man” speech… ” – Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., “Beginning of the End: (Season 1, episode 22)
Colonel Nick Fury was the leader of a multicultural squad of soldiers called the Howling Commandos. Marvel writers admit now that they created S.H.I.E.L.D. to cash in on the popularity of the television show The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Fury eventually became the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and appointed the Howling Commandos as his top agents.
Director Fury is supposed to answer to the United Nations, but often acts unilaterally. He has an army of Life Model Decoys that he uses to be in multiple places at once. He is ruthless and once brainwashed several superheroes to try and conquer the country Latveria while Doctor Doom was away. His plan backfired and caused a war between America and Latveria. Good goin’, Nick.
5) Captain Marvel
Played by Brie Larson and Jennifer Hale
Captain Marvel: (to Hawkeye) “I may be an Avenger now, but I’m also an agent of S.W.O.R.D. This is what we do. If Nick Fury thinks you’re one of these Skrulls, I need to bring you in for interrogation. Those are the rules.” – Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes , “Who Do You Trust?”, (Season 2, episode 7)
I should warn that there are at least 20 superheroes called Captain Marvel. This is Marvel’s current Captain Marvel, the one who is getting a movie in 2019.
Carol Danvers was an Air Force pilot who encountered the Kree hero Captain Mar-Vell. She assisted him in a battle against aliens called the Skrulls. Exposed to radiation from a device called the “Psyche-Magnetron”, Danvers became half Kree. Inspired by Mar-Vell, she became a superhero and took the named Ms. Marvel.
Ms. Marvel would become an iconic Avenger and popular feminist superhero. She took up the mantle of Captain Marvel after Mar-vell died from cancer. Captain Marvel is considered one of the strongest Avengers, rivaled only by Thor and the Hulk.
4) Green Lantern (John Stewart)
Played by Phil LaMarr
Rank: Unknown, Former Marine
Sgt Rock: “Seeing as how we’re behind enemy lines, we could have used some help.”
Green Lantern: (currently powerless) “I’ll do whatever I can to help ”
Soldier: “Forget it, Sarge. He may be a hotshot flyboy, but he ain’t a real soldier. (Pushes Green Lantern, who then kicks the snot outta him.)
Soldier 2: “Where’d you learn that move? ”
Green Lantern: “ U.S. Marine Corps.” – Justice League, “The Savage Time” (Season 1 Episode 24-26)
There may be 20 Captain Marvels, but there are thousands of Green Lanterns. Right now, we’re talking about the third human Green Lantern, John Stewart. Laugh it up, get your Late Night jokes outta your system and rendezvous in the next paragraph.
John Stewart was a career sniper and architect. His indomitable will led the Guardians of the Universe to recruit him as a Green Lantern. Originally quick tempered and reckless, John grew to become one of the most reliable Green Lanterns.
John can use his Power Ring to create energy constructs. John’s constructs are unique because he designs them from the ground up. Every screw, every gear, every part of his constructs is solid. This lets him use weapons like catapults and drills while most Lanterns stick to energy blasts and shields.
If all that wasn’t enough, John’s willpower is off-the-charts. He once tried to reconstruct a planet he had accidentally destroyed and nearly broke his Power Ring. Not because the task was impossible, but because his will was overloading the Ring, which is powered by will.
3) War Machine
Played by Don Cheadle and Terrence Howard
Rank: Lt. Corporal
Iron Man: “What have I done! ”
War Machine: “ Well, let’s see, Near as I can figure you’ve trespassed on federal property, assaulted a Naval officer, and taken a dip without waiting an hour after meal time. ”
Iron Man: “I don’t have time for one of your morality lectures, Jim.”
War Machine: “ Yeah? Well make time. I’m here to put the kibosh on your plan one way or another!” – Iron Man, “Armor Wars”, (Season 2, episode 8)
James Rhodes was a helicopter pilot who was shot down. He assaulted an enemy base under attack by Iron Man and helped the hero mop up the remaining forces. Iron Man was impressed and escorted Rhodes back to his base. Iron Man later showed up as Tony Stark and offered Rhodey a job once his tour was over.
Corporal Rhodes joined Stark International and learned Tony’s secret identity. He aided Iron Man in fights, even taking over the suit while Tony was dealing with alcoholism. As thanks, Tony developed the War Machine armor for Rhodes’ personal use. Rhodes once painted the armor red, white, and blue before calling himself Iron Patriot. He stopped that after Green Goblin went on a rampage as the Iron Patriot. Besides, it was dumb.
2) Captain America
Played by Chris Evans and Reb Brown
Captain America: (held captive) “Little green men, tch. You speak English pretty well for a Martian. So what do you want?”
Skrull Interrogator: “ We already have everything we want from you. Unless there is something you would like to tell us?”
Captain America: “There is. Name: Steven Rogers. Rank: Captain. Serial Number: 54985870. And that’s all you’re ever going to get from me.” – Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes , “Prisoner of War” (Season 2, episode 10)
Wait, what! Captain America isn’t the number 1 Veteran Superhero?! What kind of moronic Fifth Columnist list is this?!
Steven Rogers was a sickly guy deemed unfit to join the army during WWII. Determined to join the war effort, he volunteered for a secret experiment. He was injected with a Super-Soldier Serum and blasted with “Vita-Rays”, turning him into a blonde haired, blue eyed Ubermensch. And the writers who created Cap were Jewish. Take that, Hitler!
The Serum’s creator was assassinated before more could be made. Steve was given a bulletproof uniform and an indestructible shield, which become part of his Captain America identity. He became such a skilled Nazi fighter that his first comic’s cover was Captain America punching out Hitler. He may not be number one on this list, but there is no denying that Captain America is a badass.
Played by Hugh Jackman
Rank: Various, currently X-Men
U.S. Col. William Stryker: “Your country needs you.”
Wolverine: “I’m Canadian.” – X-Men Origins: Wolverine
The number one Veteran Superhero is Wolverine.
James Howlett was born in the 19th century. He has a healing factor, heightened animal senses, bone claws, and a nasty temper. These gifts have served him well throughout the many wars he’s been in. He fought in the American Civil War, World War I, fought alongside Captain America and the Howling Commandos in WWII, the Superhero Civil War, the Skrull’s Secret Invasion; you name a war, chances are he was there.
Wolverine is often brash and argumentative, but that changes when he enlists. He becomes a perfect weapon, willing to do almost anything to accomplish a mission. He knows not to cross a line and is the perfect weapon who remembers his humanity. He also goes out of his way to save civilians caught in the crossfire.
That’s our list? What veterans do you think should have been included? Leave a comment.