Religious Superheroes – Counting Down Five More

Holy superheroes, Batman!

Amanda Waller: “You know, the Lord’s been a great comfort to me all these years. [Batman raises an eyebrow] Try not to look so surprised. Yeah, I’ve got a lot to answer for when I meet Him, but I’d like to believe for all the harm I’ve caused, I’ve also done some good. Maybe the angels need a sharp sword too.

Justice League: Unlimited “Epilogue” (Season 2, Episode 13)

Superheroes may seem like gods, but even the strongest of them often believe in a higher power. That isn’t surprising considering how often these heroes meet gods or similarly powerful beings. We’ve already counted down the Top 5 Religious Superheroes, so here are five more for your consideration. Who are these new acolytes? Let’s find out.

Once again, our criteria are no superhero gods (Thor, Hercules, etc.) and no superheroes explicitly based on religion (Bibleman, Shaloman, The 99)

#5 Religious Superhero: Supergirl

Religion: Raoism
Played by Melissa Benoist

Coville: “Your secret is safe with me. As Rao says, “Let my god walk amongst you and shelter her.
Kara: “I am not God. Rao is.”
Coville: “Rao says that even his gods can lose their way. If you’re lost,…  [holds out an artifact] I can help you.”
Kara: “Where did you get that?”
Coville: “I found every artifact of Krypton that there was to find. This contains Rao’s words. This can remind you of what Rao says.”
Kara: “I know what Rao says. You are perverting it.”

Supergirl “The Faithful” (Season 3, Episode 4)

Supergirl has always had an odd relationship with religion. She was introduced as a Methodist like the Kents and Superman. During the 90s, DC writers even made her an Earth-born angel. Supergirl is no longer written as a Christian, but a follower of Krypton’s predominant religion: Raoism. 

Raoism refers to the worship of Krypton’s son, Rao, which is personified as a god of life and light, ruling over creation with the aid of 203 demigods and 1,000 Titans. Some of these demigods include Cythonna: goddess of ice and death, Vohc The Breaker: a creation god turned destroyer, and star-crossed lovers Nightwing and Flamebird.

The tenants of Raosim are frequently co-opted by cults that worship Superman and Supergirl, much to their annoyance. Supergirl remains a devout Raoist, but rarely discusses it. 

#4 Azrael

Religion: Christian (Order of St. Dumas)
Played by James Grain

Azrael: “Your quarrel wasn’t with me! I’m not your puny Batman! I’m the punishing angel! Azrael: Harbinger of Death!”

Batman: Shadow of the Bat #20

Jean-Paul Valley debuted in Batman: Sword of Azrael. Originally portrayed as a goofy college student, readers soon learned that he was a sleeper agent for a cult called the Order of St. Dumas, an offshoot of the Knights Templar that even they considered too extreme.

The Order realized that they needed a champion to do their dirty work. They created “The System”, a hypnotic state that could turn anyone programmed by it into an unparalleled warrior loyal to their extremist ideals. The champion would then be given armor, a flaming sword, and the title of Azrael. 

Jean-Paul was the newest Azrael. Batman helped John-Paul overcome the Order’s brainwashing and offered to teach him how to be a hero. Jean-Paul accepted, kept the identity Azrael, and studied under Batman while dismantling the Order of St. Dumas.

#3 Religious Superhero: Dust

Religion: Sunni Muslim
Played by: Tara Strong

Dust: [in Arabic] “Allah forgive me. Wash away the blood on my hands.
X-23:They would have killed you, Sooraya. And they would not have prayed for forgiveness afterwards.

New X-Men #29

Sooraya Qadir was an ordinary Afghan teenager who was kidnapped by slavers. One of the them tried removing her niqab, activating her mutant power. Sooraya transformed into a living sandstorm that tore apart her kidnappers. The trauma left her only able to say tuurab (Arabic for dust).

She soon came across Wolverine, who was attacking the slavers’ camp. Realizing she needed help, he brought Sooraya to the X-Men’s base to teach her how to control her powers and cope with killing her captors. She soon joined the X-Men, using the codename Dust.

Unlike the colorful costumes her compatriots wear, Dust’s superhero outfit is an abaya with a niqab veil. She wears the ensemble partially for religious reasons, but also because it keeps people from leering at her. Many writers misinterpret the outfit and have the character refer to it as a burqa.

#2 Shadowcat

Religion: Judaism
Played by Ellen Page

Shadowcat: [charging at a villain] “They that put their faith in Him shall understand the truth, but the ungodly will be punished!
Reverend Stryker:Solomon 3: 9/10, [knocks her unconscious] I couldn’t have put it better myself.

X-treme X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills

Shadowcat was the first openly Jewish superhero. She joined the X-Men when she was only fourteen and has supported them since. 

Shadowcat’s religious practices have been useful on several X-Men missions. She has used her experiences with anti-semitism to help her classmates and teammates learn to cope with anti-Mutant bigotry. Shadowcat also repelled Count Dracula by burning him with her Star of David. 

Shadowcat’s arch nemesis is an anti-Mutant zealot called Reverend Stryker, who she often engages in religious debates mid-fight. She even managed to redeem him for a while, though that victory was later retconned away. 

#1 Religious Superhero: Magneto

Religion: Judaism (Lapsed)
Played by Sir Ian McKellen

Storm: [sees Magneto standing over a badly wounded Shadowcat] Goddess, no! …If you have a deity, butcher, pray to it!
Magneto: [remorsefully] “As a boy, I believed in God. As a boy, I turned my back on God forever. Kill me if you wish, Wind-Rider. I will not stop you.

X-Men #150

Our number one religious superhero in this countdown is Magneto: The Master of Magnetism.

Max Eisenhardt was an average boy living in 1930’s Poland. Everything changed when the Nazis invaded and sent Max and his family to Auschwitz for the crime of being Jewish. Max survived by using his newly awakened magnetism mutation to escape. 

Even as he fled, Max realized no one would accept mutants if they could kill so many over religious differences. He swore to prevent the Mutant Holocaust he foresaw, even if he had to eradicate humanity to do so.

Magneto had a lengthy supervillain career that frequently brought him into conflict with the X-Men. During a battle, he seemingly killed their newest member, Shadowcat. Magneto was horrified to realize he had killed a child, much less a fellow Jewish mutant. This event was a moment of clarity that started him down the road to redemption. With Shadowcat’s support, Magneto became an anti-hero and joined the X-Men.

Who is your favorite religious superhero? Is there someone else who should be on the list? Tell us in the comments.

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