Jul 25 2011 9:25am

Romantic Heroes as Superheroes: Jane Eyre’s Rochester at X-Mansion

Little did he know that the fire was only the beginning...When the endlessly inventive Rachel Hyland told me about her piece on superheroes as romantic heroes, and suggested that I wax eloquent on the opposite topic, romantic heroes as superheroes, I was intrigued.

Indeed, I was particularly game for such an adventure because—being a lazy sort—I recognized instinctively that this thing was going to pretty much write itself. After all, my work is two-thirds done for me up front, right?

A truly memorable romantic hero is already a little bit larger than life, is he not? He’s usually devastatingly attractive, as superheroes tend to be. He’s not infrequently the most masculine guy in the room (although there are exceptions – see #2 below). As often as not, he has some terrible Secret – similar to most superheroes, who, Iron Man’s Tony Stark notwithstanding, tend not to go around advertising their abilities. Throw in some special paranormal attributes such as , say, vampirism and the various abilities that go along with it, and the guy’s basically a superhero in everything but name.

With all this in mind, here are five (plus) romantic heroes who could make the leap from Hero to Superhero without too much difficulty.

Edward Fairfax RochesterI Sense that Jane is in trouble...Away!
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Attractive, magnetic, and secretive, Rochester is the template from which hundreds of romantic heroes have been struck. He’s also a little bit telepathic, as evidenced by the iconic scene in which he calls out desperately for his Jane and she hears him, despite being hundreds of miles away. Yes, he is blind and missing a hand by the end of the novel…but he would nevertheless fit right in with the X-Men, perhaps as a colleague of Professor X. His Special Mutant Code Name could be, I dunno, Visionary or something.

Can you picture, say, the Toby Stephens version of Rochester sitting around with the Patrick Stewart version of Professor X (or the James McAvoy version, take your pick), thinking deep thoughts, enjoying claret and intelligent conversation, and then, when the bad guys arrive, kicking ass and taking names using only the AWESOME POWER OF THEIR MINDS? I can.

The Hunger Games by Suzzane CollinsPeeta Mellark
The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

As noted above, not all superheroes are made of bon mots and swagger. (Again, Tony Stark notwithstanding.) Some have a quieter strength—theirs is the power of protection, not aggression. The Hunger Games’ Peeta is such a one. He’s Scott Pilgrim, he’s Kick-Ass, he’s any ordinary guy who gets caught up in circumstances beyond his control and rises to the occasion. As such, he would make a fine best friend and sidekick for The Amazing Spider-Man. He’d keep the frequently goofy Spidey grounded, and he could give Aunt May a steady job in his bakery. His quick thinking and loyalty (and who knows what other talents he may be hiding?) could get the Webbed Wonder out of many a jam. And who wouldn’t love to be a spider on the wall when Katniss and Mary Jane get together to dish about their men?

Rhett ButlerFrankly my dear, I just give a damn!
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

I know that there are plenty of people out there who consider the scoundrel Butler to be neither romantic nor a hero, and I respect that position, but just roll with this for a minute. Butler is fearless, principled (I know, I know), and evidently immortal, considering all the near-fatal scrapes he lucks out of. I picture him shaking the dust of Atlanta from his feet and heading for the Old World, where he devotes himself to being patron of the poor, protector of the innocent, and friend to all mankind. Sort of like Robin Hood, only cleaner. He also develops a superpower, say night vision or something, but his real weapons are his sex appeal and charm.

Outlander by Diana GabaldonJames Fraser
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Six-feet-four, with red hair, broad shoulders, the hottest accent in the Highlands, and legendary facility with his sword in every sense of the word, Jamie Fraser certainly looks the part, and the only reason he isn’t a time traveller yet is that his wife, Claire, hasn’t allowed him to try. It’s time he tried. Because There-Can-Be-Only-One, Jamie needs to step into The Highlander’s well-traveled shoes – instant immortality! He will thereupon spend the balance of Claire’s life wandering through time with her, righting wrongs, fighting persecution, protecting the innocent, etc. etc. etc. And when she passes on, he will continue on his lonely way, shacking up with the occasional wench (why, hello there, Laoghaire!) but never forgetting his one true love, until he too is ready for the peace of the hereafter and the Highlander’s sword passes to his successor… anyone but that drippy Roger, because bleagh.

The Black Dagger BrotherhoodLover Avenged by JR Ward
by J. R. Ward

Okay, so this is totally cheating, I know. The Black Dagger Boys are already pretty super-heroic – super-tall, super-strong, super-hot. They can’t fly, but they can materialize out of nowhere, and they already fight crime, so to speak, most notably the serial killers that inevitably show up in towns where vampires tend to congregate. (Have you noticed that?) Most of them have the requisite tragic past that all superheroes seem to have. They drink human blood, of course, but I don’t necessarily see that as a disqualification for superhero-dom; their sources, after all, are all willing (and frequently eager) volunteers. The only thing keeping the BDB from being superheroes in name as well as fact is that they don’t think of themselves as heroic; in fact, most of them have self-esteem issues to some degree. So I think that the Brotherhood, after a suitable course of cognitive-behavioral therapy (for some more than others; Vishous, I’m looking your way), should reinvent themselves as superheroes for the modern age, acknowledge that Caldwell, New York is too small to contain their greatness, relocate to the Big Apple, and devote themselves to taking down the world’s most powerful and elusive criminal masterminds. But not drinking their blood.

Unless said mastermind is very, very hot.

—Kate Nagy is Editor at Large of Geek Speak Magazine.

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
Lisa Cox
1. brontëgirl
Lol :). Love the comic pic . . . I've got a copy.
There's always T. Dalton's interpretation of the character in the '83 BBC adaptation . . . Perhaps all that superheroing could be done when he and Jane visited the continent . . . cf. Chapter 34. I wonder what sort of superheroes other Brontë heroes--Robert Moore, William Crimsworth, M. Paul Emmanuel--would make. And Austen's heroes . . . hmmm :).
Megan Frampton
2. MFrampton
Ooh, how cool would it be if the BDB came to NY! I love the idea of Rochester as a superhero--and you're right, he has telepathy! And he's got physical issues he has to overcome, perfect tortured superhero material.

3. SarahBella
I'll go ahead and volunteer to help V 'work out' his issues.

Just sayin'

Really fun article! Thanks for sharing.
4. Traxy
Interesting thought - Rochester as a superhero. :)
Rachel Hyland
5. RachelHyland
I love the idea of Rochester and Professor X sharing a bottle of red and discussing the plight of mutant-kind, while Jane is somewhere in the depths of the Academy teaching, like, Kitty Pryde how to conjugate her Latin, or whatever it was 19th-century governesses did.

And I always thought Spidey needed a proper sidekick! Aside from himself, I mean.

Great post, Kate!
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
6. tnh
Rachel @5, I don't suppose you're going to write that as fanfic? Because I'd really like to read that dialogue.
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