Fast cars and fiery explosives are meat and potatoes for an action star, but things have headed in a more tofu and kale direction over the last decade. As conspicuous consumption becomes increasingly frowned upon — a trait of the venal and frivolous — our heroes are getting back to the Earth. Driving a Prius is the new “saving the cat.” These days, the guys with the biggest shoes to fill have the smallest ecological footprint.
Here’s a chronology of the rise of the red-blooded green hero.
He was never a Greenpeace poster boy, what with the cars and the watches and the unsustainable killing sprees, but 007 did sow the seeds of green stardom with The Man With The Golden Gun. The flick takes place during the 1973 oil crisis and is all about finding a renewable energy source. Bond’s mission in this 1974 film is to retrieve the Solex Agitator, a solar-powered device that promises to solve the energy crisis.
Captain Planet is a ridiculous superhero. He belongs on this list not because he represents the trend but because he represents a logical extreme show runners and directors seek to avoid. He’s so preachy that he makes you want to light a cigarette and throw it at an oil derrick. Better to have environmentalism be a trait than a raison d’être.
He may get everywhere on horse or on foot (I mean come on, his nickname is Strider), but with his ability to slay orcs with a single swoop of a sword and charm Elven princesses into forfeiting their immortality, there’s no questioning this former forest ranger’s badassery.
Throughout the course of the Bourne trilogy, America’s favorite CIA amnesiac eschews the black cars of the secret service for public transit, catching trains everywhere from Waterloo Station to the Eurostar at France’s Gare du Nord.
Former Cold War physicist Jon Osterman is well aware of what happens when nuclear testing doesn’t stay within its bounds. Bearing the big blue burden of radiation exposure for the rest of his life, The Watchmen’s Dr. Manhattan goes on to produce all the lithium needed for the world to run on electric cars.
Being completely solar powered, the Man of Steel is also the poster boy for sustainable energy. His Lex Luthor-generated nemesis Nuclear Man also gets his power from the sun, which eventually proves disastrous when Superman kills him with a solar eclipse.
Ra’s Al Ghul
Proving that bad guys can be tree huggers too, Batman’s archnemesis has only one goal: To achieve perfect ecological harmony — even if it means destroying all of Earth’s inhabitants.
Okay, Aquaman doesn’t have the same cool factor as the weather-exploiting Storm or the fiercely eco-protective Swamp Thing, but his entire life is devoted to saving the ocean from baddies. That’s got to count for something, even if his only real power is having a watery left hand.