Welcome to Italian-American Heritage Month! That’s right, October is the month when the United States celebrates the history and contributions of Italian-Americans to this country. America owes a lot to Italians starting with its name. Thanks, Amerigo Vespucci! Italian-American Heritage Month was created by the President and Congress in 1989. With this in mind, I thought this would be a great time to take a look at some of the greatest Italian-American superheroes.
To be sure, Italian-Americans are not an ethnicity that has gotten that much attention from either Marvel or DC. Italian-Americans have largely been stereotyped by American entertainment companies with numerous Mafia-styled characters. But, that is not to say that there are not some fairly big-name Italian-American superheroes. Let’s take a look at some honorable mentions before kicking off our Top 10 list!
The DC Bombshells franchise kicked off in 2011 with some fantastic Ant Lucia’s prints re-imagining DC superheroines as World War II pin-up girls. The DC Bombshells franchise got its first ongoing series written by Marguerite Bennett in July 2015. In DC Bombshells, Catwoman was retconned into an Italian. Her name was Selina Digatti which is a clever last name. Digatti means “of the cats” in Italian.
Zatara first appeared in Teen Titans Vol. 3 #39 published in May 2006. Zatara was a member of the Teen Titans. To be honest, Zatara is not the greatest character. He is basically just a male version of Zatanna only with an obnoxious attitude. As long-time followers of the Revolution know, I do not like derivative characters. Therefore, I do not have much love for Zatara.
Scorpion’s real name is Thasanee Rappaccini however she goes by the alias, Carmilla Black. Carmilla was created by Fred Van Lente and Leonard Kirk and first appeared in Amazing Fantasy Vol. 2 #7 in June 2005. Look, I will admit that Scorpion is not the most compelling character. But, this is more of a product of there not being a ton of Italian-American heroes in comic books. So, I gotta work with what we got!
Carmilla’s powers include being immune to environmental toxins and being able to produce a variety of life-saving chemicals. Carmilla has been a member of both SHIELD and HYDRA. Honestly, Carmilla’s character has never interested me. Having said that, she has interesting powers. This is a character that Marvel has not utilized that much in recent times. However, Carmilla has appeared in the M.O.D.O.K. animated series over on HULU. This is a great show that is definitely with checking out.
Diva is a Wildstorm superhero who has been played by two sisters: Alessandra and Isabella Fermi. The Fermi sisters are the daughters of a famous Italian opera singer. Diva was created by Brandon Choi and Jim Lee and first appeared in StormWatch #1 in March 1993. Alessandra assumed the mantle of Diva. Alessandra had the power to project sonic vibrations with her voice. Kind of like Banshee of the X-Men.
Alessandra died in StormWatch #23 in June 1995. At this point, Isabella assumed the mantle of Diva. Now, originally Isabella was the unattractive sister of the beautiful Alessandra. However, after Alessandra’s death, Isabella was “activated” and changed into looking identical to her deceased sister Alessandra. Go figure. It is all part of that legendary Wildstorm logic.
Isabelle as Diva was created by Christos Gage and Doug Mahnke and first appeared in Stormwatch: Post Human Division #1 in January 2007. Despite the rather unoriginal idea to kill off Alessandra and replace her with….a completely identical-looking and powered character, I still dig Diva. Diva has a fantastic look and cool powers. I am all in on Diva returning to an ongoing comic book at some point in the future.
Top 10 Italian-American Super Heroes
Argent’s real name is Antonia Louise Monetti. Argent was created by Dan Jurgens and first appeared in Teen Titans Vol. 2 #1 in October 1996. Originally, Argent was able to generate solid energy constructs out of silver plasma. Later on, Argent’s powers evolved to the point where she could fly and create complex energy constructs. Think of Argent like a silver version of a Green Lantern. Another reason that I like Argent’s character is her amazing original costume. It reminds me of Cosmic Boy’s stripper costume from the 1970s. That is always a good thing.
Argent was a member of the Teen Titans and has remained connected to the Titans franchise even after leaving the active roster. Argent also played a role in Final Crisis. But, for the most part, Argent has not been utilized that much by DC Comics in the past decade. Which is a shame. Argent has a cool look and a neat power set. It would be nice to see DC Comics find a place for Argent’s character in their current line of comics.
Giovanni Zatara was created by Fred Guardineer and first appeared in Action Comics #1 in June 1938. Yeah, Zatara has an impressive pedigree. Zatara has been all over the DCU over the past 70-plus years and has been a member of the All-Star Squadron, Justice Society of America, and Justice League.
Zatara is a great old-school character and I always love seeing him make an appearance in a comic book. Which is rare. Because he is dead. But, hey, this is the world of comic books! You never know when Zatara may make another appearance. And the fact that I have to include a dead character shows the paucity of Italian-American superheroes.
Rockslide’s real name is Santo Vaccarro. Santo was a member of the Hellions and later a member of the New X-Men and Young X-Men. Santo is similar to The Thing and the legendary Badrock. Santo has superhuman strength, endurance, durability, and the ability to fire his hands as projectiles. Santo possesses some traditional Italian-American personality traits including having a brash bravado, and a quick temper, but also a strong sense of honor and true loyalty to his teammates. Rockslide is a guy who you want to have your back in a fight.
Rockslide is a character that has plenty of potential. It would be nice to see Marvel find a good role for Rockslide in the current X-Men franchise with all of the various titles that are flooding the market.
The Darkness is a cosmic entity that selected Jackie Estacado as its host. Jackie Estacado was created by Mark Silvestri, David Wohl, and Garth Ennis and first appeared in Witchblade #10 in November 1996.
Jackie is definitely a badass character. He is an ex-mafia member who uses the powers of the Darkness to brutalize his enemies. To be sure, Jackie is your classic 1990s anti-hero. This is definitely why Jackie’s character appeals to me so much. These are the types of characters that I grew up reading and loving.
Jackie Estacado has it all. Bitchin’ long hair? Check. Badass armor? Yup. Super strength and durability? Of course. The ability to summon demons from another realm via shadows? Naturally. Of course, Like many other heroes in the 1990s, Jackie also has a healing factor.
What is cool about Jackie’s powers is that as he evolved over time Jackie learned that the powers of the Darkness were varied and diverse and only limited by his imagination. All in all, Jackie has an impressive power set that made him a heavy hitter capable of going toe-to-toe with just about anyone.
I love the Darkness. Is Jackie very much a product of his era? Absolutely. But, this is still a formula that very much works today. Anytime there is a new The Darkness comic you can bet that I will be there to buy it.
Strong Guy’s real name is Guido Carosella. Guido was created by two titans of the industry in Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz and first appeared in New Mutants #29 in July 1985. Guido’s powers include super-strength. Guido can absorb kinetic energy and use it to enhance his strength. The limit that Guido can enhance his super strength appears to be limitless. One fascinating twist on Guido’s mutant ability is that he is in constant physical pain. This is wonderfully juxtaposed with Guido’s personality which is one of always being a comedian.
I have always loved Guido’s character. His character design is so unique and makes him such an easily recognizable character with his outlandish bodybuilder physique, bald head with one white curl of hearing the front, and his bottle-cap glasses.
Guido is also blessed with a fantastic personality that truly blossomed under the guiding hand of Peter David during David’s run on X-Factor between 2005-2013. David’s X-Factor is an absolute gem and definitely, a must-read for any fan of the superhero genre. David breathed new life into Guido’s character and made him a character that was a huge hit with readers. It was hard not to completely love Guido’s character.
It is a shame that Marvel totally failed to build off the incredible character growth and momentum that Guido experienced under Peter David. Instead, Marvel has utterly ignored Guido’s character. This is a real shame. Guido is a fantastic character who deserves better.
La Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine
Valentina Allegra de Fontaine was created by one of the greatest comic book creators of all time: Jim Steranko. The Contessa first appeared in Strange Tales #159 in August 1967 as a member of S.H.I.E.L.D. The Contessa has gone on to be a member of J.A.N.U.S. and Hydra.
Yeah, it does not get much better than the Contessa. This is absolutely my type of character. The Contessa is a classic femme fatale who is capable of manipulating and defeating nearly any target. Steranko also blessed the Contessa with a fantastic look.
Now, despite my love for Steranko and Contessa’s character, I will admit that based on Contessa’s comic book history alone I have placed her way too high in this Top 10 list. However, Contessa’s appearance in the MCU as a major player replacing Nick Fury as the central intelligence character warrants boosting her character up this list.
Now, I would have preferred that Marvel Studios handle the casting of Contessa’s character like they have the casting of other ethnic characters and selected an Italian actress. However, Julia Louis-Dreyfus is a gem and she brings the Contessa to life in a wonderful fashion. The Contessa is being set up to be a real power player in the MCU. I expect big things for Contessa’s character going forward.
Witchblade’s real name is Sara Pezzini. Sara was created by Marc Silvestri, David Wohl, Brian Haberlin, and Michael Turner and first appeared in Cyblade/Shi: The Battle for Independents #1 in January 1995. First off, this is a character that was drawn by legendary Michael Turner and Marvel Silverstri. That right there is enough to make anyone a fan of this character.
To be sure, Sara has a fantastic look and costume. Witchblade has always been my favorite Image Comic with Spawn close behind. I mean, Sara has teamed up with some of my other all-time favorite characters in Lara Croft and Vampirella! What in the hell is not to absolutely love about Sara’s character?!
Witchblade is a fascinating character with an excellent power set. Sara is a serious heavy hitter. It is without question that Sara is as intelligent as she is deadly. What is so enjoyable about Witchblade is that I always know I am going to get a kickass character that delivers excellent entertainment.
The Huntress’ real name is Helena Rosa Bertinelli. Helena was created by Joey Cavalieri and Joe Staton and first appeared in The Huntress #1 in April 1989. Helena replaced the original Helena Wayne version of the Huntress that we got in the DCU prior to the original Crisis on Infinite Earths.
I have always loved Helena’s character. In fact, Helena Bertinelli is one of the few instances where I like the legacy character more than the original character. What draws me to Helena is how compelling she is with her rich Catholic themes contrasted with her willingness to kill bad guys. Helena also has always had a good look and is pretty kick-ass.
I like the Huntress so much that she is my favorite female character from the Batman franchise. Yup. Sorry, Catwoman, Harley Quinn, Barbara Gordon, Cassandra Cain, and Stephanie Brown. It will always be the Huntress for the win.
Helena Bertinelli also has the honor of being the Huntress used in the Justice League Unlimited animated series and in the Batman: The Brave and the Bold animated series. We also see Helena Bertinelli in the Arrow CW show. Helena also appears in the Birds of Prey movie even though she had a terrible look.
With the ridiculous level that DC has taken the Batman franchise as of late, I would hope that DC gives us a new Huntress title. After all, it seems that literally, everyone else in the Batman franchise is getting a title.
Zatanna Zatara was created by other iconic Gardner Fox and Murphy Anderson and first appeared in Hawkman #4 in November 1964. Zatanna is a longtime member of the Justice League and more recently a member of the Justice League Dark.
Look, I am not going to hide the ball. I have Zatanna at number 2 on this list based on objective criteria. However, if this list was just based on my personal preference then Zatanna would be in the number one spot. And it would not even be close.
Zatanna is easily my favorite DC superheroine. Zatanna has been blessed with some of the best costumes in all of the DCU (With the notable exception of the New 52 costume). And it is not even close. Zatanna also has a wonderful appearance with her trademark long dark hair and sultry looks. Zatanna also has a likable personality that endears her to the reader and makes her a character that is easy to root for in all situations. On top of all of that, Zatanna is a heavy hitter as one of DC’s premier magic wielders.
The high point for Zatanna’s character was the brilliant solo title from 2010-2011 by Paul Dini, Stephane Roux, and Karl Story. This is a must-read title. Go get it in trade format or on the DC Infinite Universe subscription service. I would love to see Zatanna get her pre-New 52 costume back and also get promoted from the C-team in Justice League Dark back to the A-team in the Justice League at some point in the future. DC needs to do better with Zatanna’s character.
Yup. You might know him as Frank Castle. But, the Punisher’s real name is Frank Castiglione. Sadly, Frank is another example of an Italian surname being anglicized. At any rate, Marvel’s biggest badass takes the mantle as the number one Italian-American superhero.
There may not be that many Italian-American superheroes, but the Punisher making this list shows that sometimes quality is better than quantity. And to be sure, the Punisher is one of the biggest names in the comic book industry. Big Frank gives Italian-Americans an iconic hero to call their own.
The Punisher may have grabbed the top spot on this Top 10 list of Italian-American superheroes, but it is le signore who reigns supreme. Four of the top five characters on this list are women. Kudos to these badass Italian-American ladies! Maybe Marvel and DC will give us some new Italian-American heroes to add to this list in later years!
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