The superhero comic book is an American art form. Seeing as the vast majority of superheroes were created in America, the characters themselves have generally tended to be, well, American. There is nothing wrong with that, but having so many characters originate in the same country can get a bit stale storywise.
Through expanding multiverses, entirely new publishing lines, and special miniseries, both Marvel and DC have found ways to create new versions of their most popular superheroes. How about a Russian Superman? How about a pirate Batman or an Indian Spider-Man? An entire series of superhero comic books based in the 1600s? Let's get it done.
Here are some of the coolest international incarnations of popular superheroes that DC and Marvel have come up with.
What if the man who fights for “Truth, Justice, and the American Way” wasn’t raised in America? In 2003’s Superman: Red Son, Mark Millar gave the world a Superman who was raised in the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War. Suffice it to say, he’s not from Kansas anymore.
During the events of the three-issue limited series, Superman becomes the leader of the USSR's Communist Party and eventually spreads Soviet dominion over every nation but the United States and Chile. The story offers an interesting alternative history featuring one of America’s greatest icons.
While not as critically lauded or well-known as Superman: Red Son by any stretch, 2002’s JLA: Shogun of Steel offers an even more divergent take on The Man of Tomorrow. The story comes in the form of an Elseworlds one-shot and asks the question, "What if Superman didn't land in 20th century America but 14th century Japan?"
Though JLA: Shogun of Steel clearly follows more than just Superman (JLA is short for Justice League of America, after all), everyone’s favorite Kryptonian serves as the story’s main character. After Kal-El's ship lands in feudal Japan, he grows up not as Clark Kent but Hoshi. Eventually, he joins Elseworlds versions of other Justice League heroes - including Blossom, a Bat themed female ninja, and Inazuma, a warrior of incredible speed - in the fight against the titular Shogun of Steel.
The shogun is later revealed to be Brainiac, who in this universe is also a descendant of Jor-El - making him Superman's brother.
If you’ve ever thought, "Boy, I sure do wish Batman was less of a modern-day vigilante and more of a 17th century British pirate," then we’ve got good news for you. In 1994’s Detective Comics Annual #7, writer Chuck Dixon and artist Enrique Alcatena introduced Captain Leatherwing to the comics-reading masses - and he sure is a sight to behold.
Leatherwing works under the authority of real-life English monarch King James II and raids ships in order to collect enough gold to re-purchase the former land of his - wait for it - slain parents. The issue is home to a bevy of alternate takes on Batman characters, like Alfredo, Robin Redblade, and The Laughing Man. If swashbuckling is your thing, you can do much worse than the enterprising escapades of the rougeish Captain Leatherwing.
Spearheaded by long-time comics writer Dan Jurgens, Tangent Comics was a late 1990s DC Comics imprint that created all-new characters using popular superhero monikers. Jurgens’ Batman has nothing to do with the original incarnation of the character and has a truly bonkers backstory that is both pretty awesome and utterly comic-booky.
This Batman is Sir William, a former Knight of the Round Table who was cursed by the famed wizard Merlin after an attempt to dethrone King Arthur. The curse causes William to live alone in his castle until he has properly atoned for his misdeeds. After centuries of isolation, William finds that he can project his spirit into his armor and fight evil, because comics!