Six Buddhist Comic Book Heroes.

Via on Jul 3, 2010

Six Buddhists who Will Kick Your Ass!

A List of Buddhist Superheros.

Name: Kuan-Yin and Shen Xorn.

Group Affiliation: X-Men and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Publisher: Marvel Comics – The Xorn brothers are those characters that are likely to not be known to those who never read X-Men.  Their tenure with the X-Men lasted only four years, from 2001-2005, but, for some reason, Kuan-Yin Xorn really left an impression on me.

The Xorns’ mutant powers manifested themselves as “primary states” within their brains: Kwan-Yin was a star and Shen was a black hole.  Not only was each brother capable of reversing their natural states, but also they could feel the movement of energy and emotion and manipulate that energy for a variety of purposes.  What I found really cool though, was their ability to heal others and speak any language.

The Xorns ran into trouble when their powers became too powerful and they accidentally wiped out their own village. The crafty villagers created iron helmets and slapped them on their heads before any more damage could be done.  After being sold to a man who planned on harvesting Kuan-Yin’s power, Kuan-Yin decided to end it all by turning his head into a black hole.  At this point, the X-Men stepped in and saved the day. Cyclops, the leader of the X-Men, invited Kuan-Yin to join the team, who accepted on the condition that the X-Men give him time to meditate.   After fighting with the X-men in battle, witnessing their true acts of compassion, Kuan-Yin Xorn decides to take on a teaching at the Charles Xavier Institute for Gifted Youngsters.

Name: Usagi Yojimbo.

Group Affiliations: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Publishers, Fantagraphics Books, Mirage Publishing, Dark Horse – Usagi Yojimbo “rabbit bodyguard” is based largely on the real life samurai, Miyamoto Musashi. Usagi is a ronin in feudal 17th century Japan who travels around, righting wrongs, and hiring himself out to those in need.

I picked up Usagi Yojimbo back when Mirage was publishing it (around 1993) and really enjoyed it. I’m not normally one for anthropomorphic critters but the Usagi universe really worked for me and even the cross-over into the TMNT was completely acceptable.

Name: The Question (Vic Sage)


Group Affiliation: Justice League (in animated series) and L.A.W. Publisher: Carlton Comics and DC

Vic Sage is an investigative reporter who chose to root out corruption wherever he could find it.  When he runs into a story he can’t investigate through legal means, he dons a mask that makes him appear to have no face.

Being faceless is not his only special power. He’s a master martial artist, and has been able to hold his own against Nightwing, Green Arrow II, and Black Canary.

From the beginning, The Question has always been one of the more philosophically complex superheroes.  In a solo series that ran from 1987-90, the character developed a Zen-like philosophy. Later on, in 2005, a mini-series suggested that The Question’s experience with meditation was what caused his increased awareness and allowed him to interpret coincidences and thus “talk to the city.”

The Question also served as the template for the character “Rorschach” in Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons critically acclaimed series “The Watchmen.”

Name: Wolverine

Name: Wolverine (Logan; James Howlett).  Group Affiliations: First Flight, Weapon Plus, Weapon X, Team X, Alpha Flight, X-Men, Secret Defenders, X-Treme Sanctions Executive, New Avengers, Brotherhood of Mutant Supremacy, and X-Force.  Publisher: Marvel – If you know any character on this list, you know Wolverine. He’s a mutant with healing powers, animal-like senses, claws, and an anadamantium-lined skeleton.  Because of his off-the-chart healing ability, Wolverine has been around a long time.  This means he has lived many different lives, and within those lives he has had many different religious affiliations.

Wolverine spent considerable time in Japan and studied under some Japanese martial arts masters.  He has been shown praying in Buddhist and Shinto temples, as well as participating in Buddhist ceremonies, both in the comic books and in the animated adaptations of The X-Men.  However, Wolverine is not known to practice Buddhism regularly, nor is known to have ever overtly identified himself as a Buddhist.  But so what? I say we still claim him!

Name: Iron Fist (Danny Rand).

Group Affiliations: Heroes for Hire, Secret Defenders, New Avengers.  Publisher: Marvel – Iron Fist is still one of my favorite comics. Danny Rand’s father, Wendell, discovered the mystical city of K’un L’un where he managed to save the ruler’s life.  Wendell then returned to New York, married, and had Danny.  Tragically, Danny’s parents are killed by Wendell’s business partner on a family expedition to find K’un L’un.  Danny is abandoned, but is ultimately taken in by K’un L’un’s ruler. He is trained in the ways of Tibetan Buddhism and martial arts for ten years, and emerges as Iron Fist. It is at this point that Danny vows to avenge his father’s death, though the use of his supremely honed martial art stills, and the ability to summon his chi and disperse it through his fists.

Iron Fist falls within the character genre of individuals who gained mystical powers after studying with Tibetan Monks.  An entire list could be made just from these characters.  Funny thing is, most of them are villains.  I won’t draw any conclusions regarding why that is, it just is.

Name: Green Arrow (II) (Connor Hawke).

Group Affiliations: Justice League.  Publisher: DC – During his retreat at a Zen monastery, Oliver Queen, the original Green Arrow, had a one-night-stand with Sandra “Moonday” Hawke. Moonday ended up getting pregnant and left the child to be raised by the monks. This child, Connor Hawke, was trained in the martial arts and became and expert marksman.  Years later, Oliver returned to the monastery for another retreat, and met Connor. They left the monastery and together traveled the world.  Only eventually, did Connor reveal that he was Oliver’s son.  Then tragically when Oliver appeared to have been killed in an airplane explosion, Connor took on his father’s crime-fighting role as the second Green Arrow.

Connor’s role as a Zen Buddhist plays a central part to his character development.  Unlike his father, Connor is very placid, unruffled, and has a charming simplicity about him. From what I’ve read of this younger Green Arrow, the Buddhism seems reasonably authentic.

It seems to me that someone on the staff has spent a little time in a Zen Center!

For more information, browse Comic Book Religion, D.C. Comics, Marvel Comics and Dark Horse Comics.

About Blake Wilson

Blake is a law librarian and a member of the Kwan Um School of Zen, sitting with the Kansas Zen Center in Lawrence, Kansas. Blake is way into g33k culture which, as he sees it, easily includes Zen, and is willing to share with you his struggles and observations. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and kansaszencenter.org.

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9 Responses to “Six Buddhist Comic Book Heroes.”

  1. kfreedain says:

    This is great. Makes me want to look for some older comics at Comic Con this year. Thanks Blake!

    • Blake Wilson Blake says:

      Thanks! I have Recently given up buying new comics in exchange for trad paper backs (a.k.a. Graphic novels). I’m not gonna lie! I miss stopping by the shop on Wednesdays! But it’s a huge financial drain. For now I’ll just keep up wig what’s happening via blog and TPB’s.

  2. Ari Setsudo Pliskin Ari Pliskin says:

    What a great collection! Sometimes I think about how my current teachers were innovating socially engaged Buddhist institutions and practices while I was in diapers through high school. I was inspired by both Buddhism and social change at the same time in high school. But when reading X-men, Green Arrow and Iron Fist, and TNMT, I was inspired by engaged Buddhism all along!

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