A high-stress environment triggered Aruna’s abilities
For over a decade, superheroes have been in the mainstream, particularly within Hollywood.
Films featuring the likes of Iron Man, Batman and Spider-Man have resulted in box office blockbusters and it has also led to a battle between DC and Marvel.
They revived old comic book storylines and portrayed heroes in different ways. This made the world obsessed with every film.
Blank Panther (2018) was a turning point when came to representation in films as it featured an ethnic minority protagonist.
Fans took to social media and called to see more characters who represent the diversity we see in everyday life.
Ranjit is a fan of DC and reads their comics. On the topic of South Asian superheroes he said:
“I’ve taken inspiration from them as long as I remember.
“The few brown led comics that exist have had a profound impact on me. I relate more than ever and feel empowered more than ever.
“I want that to be more common and represent a lot more inter-culturally and not just cover a few well-known culture touchpoints.”
However, not many South Asian superheroes have been seen on screen. Here are 20 South Asian heroes and villains from the worlds of DC and Marvel.
Aruna is one of few DC Indian superheroes. Aruna is genderfluid, meaning the character does not consider themselves to be male or female. Instead, Aruna is referred to as ‘they’. The character is a shapeshifter and is self-named.
Aruna’s parents never mentioned their abilities, leaving the hero unsure of their real birth identity and name.
Aruna is best known as Batgirl’s ally, their first appearance being in Batgirl Annual #1.
Born in Chennai, India, Aruna and their parents lived a poor but happy life. But because of finances, Aruna was not sociable or formally educated.
When Aruna was young, they ran away after seeing their parents kidnapped. As they ran, they mimicked the faces of passing children.
A high-stress environment triggered Aruna’s abilities leading to them discovering who they are.
Alone, afraid, and aware of their new power, Aruna sought a job in Bollywood. They were successful, training as a stunt person and actor, doubling in for actresses and actors alike.
Using their skills, Aruna helped Batgirl and Batman hunt down a missing person who was last seen in Chennai.
Arani Desai, aka Celsius, is considered DC’s first South Asian character. She was created in 1977, destined to head her own superhero team, Doom Patrol.
Arani was born into a wealthy family with loving parents. Her mother died during childbirth and Arani ran away after her father went insane.
She ended up in Kolkata before being rescued by Dr Niles Caulder. They fell in love and got married. On their wedding day, Niles gifted Arani with an immortality serum to protect her, which she took.
Niles was a member of the original Doom Patrol and left for a mission, leaving Arani alone in the Himalayas.
But the immortality serum had mutant side effects. Arani discovered she could control her core temperature, and command fire and ice. Eager to learn more, Arani took refuge in a monastery and became a master of martial arts.
After learning a blast had killed members of her husband’s team, Arani used her powers and influence to create the new Doom Patrol, with the hope she could eventually find Niles.
Chakra is the protagonist of the film, Chakra: The Invincible (2013).
Dr Singh is a genius, combining science and Hindu belief together. He has a young, eager apprentice named Raju Raj and seeing the good in him, Dr Singh built him a suit.
The suit uses nanotechnology to harness the power of all the Chakras in Raju’s body.
When Raju realises the suit gave him superpowers, he calls himself Chakra and vows to protect Mumbai from danger.
Indra is a mutant, a Marvel character and a member of X-Men’s training squad.
Born as Paras Gavaskar, Indra lived with his wealthy parents in Panchajana, a family estate outside Mumbai.
He was raised as a Hindu and implements his beliefs into everyday life. Indra is also a vegetarian, believing all life is sacred.
However, when Indra kills a person in self-defence, he worries for his soul and starts to doubt his abilities. This lack of self-belief leaves him wondering about his future with X-Men.
During his violent outburst, he also loses his powers temporarily. But after revealing his state of mind to his friends, he realises his true self and becomes stronger, gaining psionic armour and weapons.
Indra has purple skin, lines across his body and red marking on his forehead.
His powers include a retractable exoskeleton, which acts as body armour. His strengthened body armour gives him superhuman durability.
Jinx is a sorceress and the leader of the supervillain group the Fearsome Five, enemies of the Teen Titans.
DC has deliberately made Jinx mysterious and mystical. Her real name and origin remain unknown, much like the full extent of her powers.
She is a formidable sorceress, generating her powers whenever she touches the ground.
Jinx is always barefoot as she believes that she must be in contact with the ground in order to use her abilities.
Jinx’s known abilities show she can control the elements, dissolve solid objects and create earth tremors.
Omega Sentinel is also known as Karima Shapandar. She is a human/machine hybrid in the Marvel universe. Her origin story is dark, injected with loss, betrayal and the burden of a new responsibility.
Karima was a police officer in Kolkata’s Indian Police force, dispatched to look after Neal Shaara. After spending so much time together, the two were on the verge of a relationship.
But they were captured by Bastion, a villain who creates sentinels to hunt down mutants.
Due to his genetic makeup, Neal became a mutant but Karima transformed into a sentinel, forever doomed to hunt the man she loves.
Being a human/machine hybrid, Karima has increased strength, speed and reflexes. Due to her training in the police force, she is also apt in basic combat and detective skills.
Thunderbird aka Neal Shaara is X-Men’s first Indian member. His origin story is intertwined with Karima Shapandar’s.
From a wealthy family in Kolkata, Neal lived a happy life until his brother Sanjit disappeared. Determined to investigate his brother’s disappearance, Neal’s father, the Chief of Police, dispatches officer Karima Shapandar to watch him.
The two almost begin a romantic relationship, only to be separated by Bastion.
Bastion plans to turn them into Prime Sentinels, a human/machine hybrid. But the process plays with Neal’s DNA, moulding him into a mutant.
Sanjit dies in his arms while Karima transforms into a machine sent to hunt him. So he flees, leaving behind his brother and the woman he loves.
He is recruited into the X-Men after a chance meeting and takes the name ‘Thunderbird’.
Thunderbird can transform his molecules into plasma and energy. From this, he can fly and destroy any object he focuses his energy on.
Maya is a superhero from the DC universe whose real name is Chandi Gupta.
Chandi was born with the ability to control fire and water. This terrified her parents, who decided to leave Chandi to be cared for by a strange cult.
Her powers are elemental, reminiscent of the Hindu God, Shiva. The cult who raised her thought Chandi’s powers could help them. They decided to sacrifice her for their own lives.
Overhearing this, Chandi flees to London under the alias of Maya. Here, she witnesses the Justice League Europe (JLE) fight supervillain Sonar.
She uses her powers to help the JLE but she ends up defeating Sonar by herself. The JLE are impressed and invite her to become a member of the team.
Maya controls her powers by manifesting a mystical bow, which can also be used normally. The bow allows her to precisely hit her targets and channels energy for speed and flight.
A character in DC, Rama Chandra was born a prince in ancient India. But after defeating a demon king in the Indian epic of Ramayana, he became the seventh avatar of Hindu God, Vishnu.
He is a potential love interest for Wonder Woman, meeting her after an attack on the Hindu Gods.
A villain, Oblivion, traps Wonder Woman and Rama in a dream world. The pair are buried in a sequence where the two were married and happy.
But after they defeat Oblivion, Rama remains smitten with Wonder Woman.
As an avatar of Vishnu, Rama’s powers are flight and wielding the sword Vayu, which shoots flaming arrows.
He can self-heal when he’s in the state of Berserker rage, but in this state, he destroys his surroundings and kills anyone near him.
Whilst in this state he also removes his crown, creating a third eye, and grows two extra arms, imitating the Hindu God of Kali. This state causes him to be insane, leaving his future uncertain within the DC universe.
Dharma is a DC character and part of the Milestone Media project. He is also head of the Shadow Cabinet – a team of superheroes who live in the Dakotaverse.
Dharma’s real name is Harry Chawney. Not much is known of Dharma’s origin, other than his Indian descent.
He is a powerful figure in the DC universe. A combination of his powers and sheer determination for justice makes him a formidable leader for the Shadow Cabinet.
His powers are remarkable. Dharma can touch any object and sees its past or future. Through his skills, he has predicted and stopped many apocalypses from happening.
His power allows him to see through other people, their powers and their weaknesses, using this knowledge to his advantage.
Due to his determination, he does not consider the consequences of his actions.
There are too many possibilities for any event, so Dharma worries his brash actions trigger the very thing he wants to prevent.
Plus is Dharma’s sister. She is composed of two twin sisters, fused into one, connected through a psychic link.
The two sisters are named Apurna Chawney and Bina Chawney.
Apurna has no body and is completely made up of Kinetic energy.
Bina manipulates Apurna’s energy allowing her to fly, create force fields, and project energy.
Much like Dharma, not much is known about her. She is also part of the Dakotaverse.
Solstice is a relatively recent character in the DC universe, having been created in 2010.
Her real name is Kiran Singh. She was born and raised in Delhi to two famous archaeologists. Her parents are aware of her superpowers.
Her abilities are presumably sourced from a tattoo on her wrist which illuminates whenever she summons her powers.
She can also manipulate energy. All this is revealed during her debut performance alongside Wonder Girl when they fight against a villain named Lady Zand.
She is best known as part of the Teen Titans.
Spider-Man is a story we all know. Boy genius gets bitten by a spider and realises he’s gained powers. He lives with his aunt and uncle but has to learn how to deal with his uncle’s death.
Spider-Man: India is a similar story. Pavitr Prabhakar is from a remote village. He has no parents and moves to Mumbai after gaining a scholarship to study at a prestigious school. He now lives with his Aunt Maya and Uncle Bhim.
After being bullied, he meets a Yogi who grants Pavitr the abilities of a spider so he could fight the evil of this world.
On his way home, he notices a woman being robbed, but Pavitr ignores it and walks past.
But after hearing his uncle cry out, Pavitr realises his uncle Bhim was stabbed trying to help the same woman who was being robbed.
As Pavitr holds his dying uncle, he vows to bring justice to Mumbai.
Suvik Senyaka is a mutant villain in the Marvel Universe. He’s part of a team ensembled by Magneto, due to his, quite frankly, evil powers.
He can drain the life-force out of any biological substance. The life force of others powers him, making him swift, durable and strong.
His first appearance is battling the X-Men, and over a series of arcs, he’s eventually decapitated by Wolverine.
Other than his evil nature, he is revealed to be of Sri Lankan ethnicity, making him the first Sri Lankan character in Marvel.
Montpellier is a Bangladeshi superhero who immigrated with his family to Barcelona, Spain at three years old. He is part of the DC universe.
He was born with the ability to be agile and snake-like in his natural fighting style.
Montpellier has wrist-mounted cannons attached to his arm which produce venom, emphasising his snake-like fighting ability.
Montpellier is also highly intelligent and a gifted detective. On some occasions, he teams up with La Sangre, another hero based in Barcelona.
Enigma made her first appearance in Spider-Man.
She came to New York City seeking revenge after the US government released a nano-virus, killing 4,000 people in her village, Malpura.
Whilst she came into contact with the nano-virus, it woke up her dormant mutant DNA, giving her powers and giving her some sort of connection to the Buddhist goddess Tara.
Her real name is Tara Virango and she was born and raised in Bangladesh.
Her powers include superhuman strength, superhuman agility, telepathy and flight.
Faiza is a British Pakistani character developed by a panel of Muslim women. She was born in Essex to two British Pakistani doctors but moved to London to pursue her career in medicine.
At first, Faiza had no powers. She trained as a doctor but worked closely with superheroes.
After being caught up in the Skrull’s invasion, she is struck by a laser, seemingly giving her powers.
She has the ability to control any living organism at a subatomic level, however, the true extent of her powers has not been revealed yet.
After defeating the Skrulls, Faiza becomes the wielder of the legendary sword, Excalibur. This makes her one of the most powerful South Asian superheroes.
She is a huge fan of Carol Danvers (Captain Marvel) and adopted her persona of Ms Marvel after being exposed to the Terrigan Mist.
The mist gave her the power to stretch her body into different lengths. Occasionally, she has also shapeshifted into different people.
Kamala is the only member of her family to be born in New Jersey, as her parents and brother immigrated from Karachi, Pakistan.
After defying her parents’ wishes, Kamala went to a high school party to prove she wasn’t an outcast. But she meets her bullies and decides to go home.
On her way home, she gets caught in the mist, gets knocked out, and dreams of meeting Carol Danvers. She wakes up to find herself in Captain Marvel’s suit.
After realising her powers, Kamala decides to use them for good.
Vesper is a mysterious character. Her real name is Raani Jatwinder who is born in India but lives in England.
Vesper is a telepath. She also has technopathic abilities, meaning she can control electronic machinery.
She is part of Marvel UK and is a member of Genetix.
They are a group of mutants who trained under Mys-Tech, but they rebelled and went on the run after realising much of their memories were erased.
The group then desperately seeks to discover their true past.
Sooraya Qadir is an Afghani superhero, under the alias of Dust. She is a Marvel mutant with the power to turn herself into sand.
She can blast out particles of dust, regrouping later to reform her human form.
The origin of her power is unknown but they become the target of slavers. Her powers are first shown after a man attempts to snatch her niqab.
The X-Men are alerted that a mutant had been spotted. They end up rescuing Sooraya and send her to the X-Men corporation in Mumbai.
Sooraya is shy and traditional, choosing to wear the hijab in her human form. She speaks Arabic and English.
The character design came under controversy after people believed “the artist had felt the need to sexualise Dust”.
However, it seems like Dust’s design hasn’t been altered yet.
DC and Marvel are famous and celebrated for their character’s portrayals.
This is now being represented on the big screen as Kumail Nanjiani is set to play Kingo in the upcoming Marvel film Eternals, which is set for a 2021 release.
This breakthrough ignites a path for leading roles to be played by South Asian actors.
With an array of characters to choose from, more South Asian superheroes may be prevalent in the near future.