Earth Day is upon us again, when we celebrate the beauty of the planet we call home. People use this day to plant trees, clean up trash, or even just to bask in a field. ComicVerse encourages everyone to celebrate in those ways, but we also have one of our own. DC’s vaults contain a wide variety of characters, and many of them are worthing mentioning on Earth Day. From guardians of the planet to eco-warriors (good and bad), DC is no stranger to the Earth-friendly character. So for Earth Day, ComicsVerse celebrates with a paperless look at five of DC Comics’ best Earth-based heroes.

Black Orchid

Earth Day
Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

We begin with a name probably better associated with a DR. WHO character. Black Orchid stands as one of the more obscure DC heroes. While she wasn’t largely eco-themed in her 1973 debut, her look combines those of Poison Ivy and Batman. She operates like a spy, using misdirection and disguise while leaving a black orchid as a calling card. Orchid reemerged à la Swamp Thing in 1988 as a plant-human hybrid. She could take nutrients from the air like a plant, and eventually became part of the Parliament of Trees (plant elementals that are a major part of Swamp Thing’s mythos). Orchid might not be DC’s most prominent Earth Day hero, but she was an early example of a heroic spy, kind of making her DC’s Black Widow.

Aquaman

Earth Day
Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

The King of Atlantis may seem like an odd choice for Earth Day. He dwells in the seas and, for much of his career, could only step on land for an hour. Plus, he’s never had a major pro-Earth message. However, it’s only strange if you take “Earth” Day literally.

Aquaman protects the oceans, which means he’s in charge of 70% of the planet. So what might threaten the ocean more than anything else? Pollution, hunting, illegal dumping, and oil spills; to name a few. These are all things that Earth Day was created to stand against and they’re the biggest threats to Aquaman’s kingdom. Arthur Curry may deal with undersea monsters and Atlantean magic, but his greatest challenge is often the human race. His debut in the animated JUSTICE LEAGUE shows this, as he emerges from the seas to demand the U.N. stop polluting the oceans.

This subtler approach proves the best part of Aquaman’s environmentalism. It’s something you don’t realize at first. You have to stop and think about what protecting the ocean really means. This makes Aquaman one of the better written environmental heroes. He promotes his message without the hammer-to-the-head approach of someone like Captain Planet.

Floronic Man

Earth Day
Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Jason Woodrue may be one of DC’s lesser antagonists, but he’s had a unique career. He began as an interdimensional refugee who bonded himself with plant life. The Floronic Man spent much of his time as a base criminal, without any Earth connection beyond his powers. However, an experience with Swamp Thing pushed him over the edge. Woodrue used Swamp Thing to contact the Green (the life force of all plants), which drove the villain mad.

Ivy and Harley Take Center Stage in BATMAN #43

He attempted to wipe out all human life by increasing the oxygen output of plants. However, that becomes a teachable moment as well, since the Green chastises Woodrue for killing animals (who provide plants with carbon dioxide). This moment reminds readers of the symbiotic relationship between plants and animals, and why a holiday like Earth Day is important. It’s arguably a defining Woodrue moment, just as vital as his role in the creation of Poison Ivy. For those two things, Woodrue has a special significance for Earth Day.

Swamp Thing

Earth Day
Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Perhaps the most complex character on this list, Swamp Thing has been around since the 1970’s. Creator Len Wein penned the character as a horror icon; a plant monster formed from the remains of Dr. Alec Holland. However, Alan Moore retooled the character, giving him a more tragic backstory and further shaping him into the icon he’s become.

Swamp Thing’s greatest power has been his connection to the Green; in fact, he’s its Avatar. Alec represents and protects all plant life on Earth, and has attacked those who would threaten it. However, he’s closer to an antihero than a villain, as he’s locked away the forces that wanted him to be a more aggressive Avatar. Since then Swamp Thing has played many important roles and become one of the strongest (and strangest) forces in the DC Universe. There’s only one other plant-based character has an Earth Day connection that rivals Swamp Thing…

Poison Ivy and the Importance of Empathy

Poison Ivy

Earth Day

Admittedly, we all knew how this was going to end. That fact doesn’t diminish Poison Ivy’s role as DC’s most well known plant-based character. Pamela Isley’s obsession with vegetation has changed many times over the years. Initially, she was just a plant-themed character, with only an immunity to poisons. Over time, she evolved further, becoming a plant-hybrid and gaining various vegetation-based abilities. However, her love of the Green never faltered. Fans of the character know her for using her powers to fight for the Earth. This resulted in both criminal and philanthropic means to ‘re-green’ the world. BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES captured this aspect of Ivy with a psychotic twist.

Ivy’s love of green became her defining trait, but also made her a villain with a somewhat noble purpose. Her complex character made her not only one of Batman’s best villains, but also DC’s most unique and memorable Earth Day character.

Why DC Does Earth Day Justice

DC’s success with these Earth characters stems from a few simple applications. These heroes and villains fall into two categories: they either have subtle connections to Earth Day ideals, or said ideas are central to their character. Aquaman performs his duty in ways that aren’t immediately obvious. The others became so entangled with the Earth that they’re expected to be eco-friendly. Their actions don’t come across as preachy or annoying because it’s a central character trait, and one that’s been honed over time. This is how to promote champions of our planet — with good writing and subtly.

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