Things That Make You Go ‘ARRRRRR!’: 4 Comics about Pirates

Cover by Russell Dauterman

Cover by Russell Dauterman

Yar! Avast, ye scurvy dogs!

OK, I promise, that’s the last of my talking like a pirate. 

This week, the X-Men set sail in a new title called “Marauders,” where it looks like Kitty Pryde is taking a crew of mutants on a pirate adventure, or as WMQ Editor/Publisher Dan Grote has said, “It looks like a dark-and-gritty reboot of ‘Kitty’s Fairy Tale.’”

Pirates go back in comics at least as long as superheroes. “Action Comics” #1, which featured the first appearance of Superman, also had a story in it called “South Sea Strategy,” and “Detective Comics” #1 had a story with a villain named Cap’n Scum. And while we don’t get many pirate comics nowadays, there is a long history of pirates in comics, as supervillains or heroes in disguise. Heck, some of those pirates are fantasy pirates or sci-fi pirates, so you don’t even need a ship in the traditional sense. 

So this week, we’re looking at four of my favorite comic book pirates whom you should check out if you dig “Marauders.” 

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The Black Pirate

Jon Valor, the Black Pirate, could have easily been one of those characters from Golden and Silver Age non-superhero comics who was just forgotten. He first appeared in “Action Comics” #23, cover dated April 1940, and was your typical roguish privateer. Modeled on the type of pirate played by Errol Flynn in movies like “Captain Blood,” Valor was a rogue with a pencil-thin moustache who served the King of England, fighting Spanish ships and other, more evil pirates.

Valor would pop up in time travel stories throughout the Silver Age, and even appeared in “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” but as with a lot of those obscure older characters, he faded after “Crisis” … 

… That is, until he was saved from obscurity, also like a lot older obscure characters, by James Robinson during his epic run on “Starman.” In that series, the ghost of Valor is tied to Opal City, having been wrongly accused of his own son’s murder and hanged there, but not before cursing the dead of the city to remain as ghosts until his innocence was proven.

What could have been just an interesting side character and plot, of Valor’s ghost befriending Jack Knight and Jack sort of looking to find the truth, became a major plot point by series’ end, as Robinson used all the characters and elements he introduced over the first 60 issues to pay off the last 20, and Valor’s curse inadvertently nearly damned the entire city. But with the mystery-solving help of Ralph and Sue Dibny, with a little help from Sherlock Holmes analogue Hamilton Drew, Valor was proven innocent and finally given his rest. A pirate being a part of a latter-day superhero story seems odd, but when you consider “Starman” also features a shadow-wielding immortal Victorian and a Damon Runyan-sounding former ’50s mobster, a ghost pirate fits in just fine.



Oh, to be a Summers. Even if you don’t have mutant powers, you get some serious comic book nonsense back story. Corsair, the father of Cyclops and Havok (and Vulcan, but the less said about that guy the better), was a test pilot who was kidnapped by aliens and escaped from slavery to become a badass space pirate. Yup, a space pirate.

First appearing in “X-Men” #104, Corsair was introduced as the leader of the Starjammers, a group of aliens who escaped the slave pits of the mad Shi’ar Emperor D’Ken to become pirates who stood against the emperor’s evil. When D’Ken was defeated, the Starjammers became privateers flying the flag of the Shi’ar, and were regular allies of the new empress, Lilandra, but whenever the empire wandered from what was considered by the Starjammers to be the moral high ground, they would invariably stand against the empire again, whether Lilandra was dethroned or sitting squarely at the head of the empire.

Corsair is another heroic pirate, one who fights against a corrupt system, rather than your traditional villainous pirate. He loves his sons, and often comes to Earth to see them, but his love is the spaceways, and the skunk lady alien, Hepzibah. While he could theoretically wear all sorts of crazy space armour or a uniform, he instead dresses like a pirate because that’s the kind of guy Chris Summers is. He is probably the most regularly appearing pirate on this list, having shown up just last week in the new “X-Men” #1.



Batman has had a lot of Elseworlds stories written about him – those DC releases that feature their recognizable characters in strange or unusual settings – so it’s not surprising that one of the Batman Elseworlds is a pirate Batman. Specifically, it’s Captain Leatherwing, who made his first appearance in “Detective Comics Annual” #7, written by Chuck Dixon and drawn by Enrique Alcatena.

Leatherwing is another English privateer fighting the Spanish during the Golden Age of Piracy. The story, like a lot of Elseworlds, takes a lot of familiar characters and skins them to the setting. Leatherwing has a ward, Robin Redblade, and a navigator/major domo, Alfredo. His enemy is the pirate called The Laughing Man, his rival and love interest is the Captain Felina. While Leatherwing does his best to keep casualties to a minimum, he is still a pirate and doesn’t have the modern Batman’s aversion to killing; at the end of his one major appearances, he does indeed kill The Laughing Man. The original creative team returned to the character once, for a short in the “Batman Chronicles” anthology series called “The Bride of Leatherwing,” in which the captain has to save Robin and Felina from Admiral Cobblepot, who was placed in a longboat and sent to be stuck with the penguins at the South Pole after his defeat.

Leatherwing is one of the most commonly used Elseworlds versions of Batman, thanks to Alcatena’s stunning, detailed designs and art, and often shows up alongside other Batmen, having appeared among the Batmans of the Multiverse in “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” and having had his own action figure in the ’90s “Legends of the Dark Knight” line that featured different versions of the Caped Crusader from the comic.

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Raven, the Pirate Princess

While the first three entries here are pirates that have some connection to a superhero universe, this last entry is a little different. We have had writer Jeremy Whitley on WMQ&A, and I have spoken glowingly about his run on “Unstoppable Wasp” and his creator-owned “Princeless.” And so, with a list about pirate comics, I had to include the spinoff from “Princeless,” “Raven, the Pirate Princess.”

Raven Xingtao is the most recent in a long line of pirates. Her family has treated men and women equally for generations; the progenitor of the line was a Pirate Queen, while Raven’s father was the Pirate King. But Raven’s crappy brothers, Magpie and Crow, decide they’re sick of this, so they steal her inheritance and send her off to be out of their way. After a little help from Adrienne, the main character of “Princeless,” Raven gathers a crew and sets sail to get her revenge on her brothers.

Raven is a magnificent character. She’s intelligent, tough and supremely confident, to the point of occasional overconfidence that she pays for in comedic ways. But she’s also wonderfully empathetic, and is a heroic pirate for it. Her crew is made up entirely of women, and mostly if not entirely queer women. For example, Raven is in love with her navigator and former friend/hostage held by her father the Pirate King, Ximena, while Sunshine, the half-elf pirate, loves Raven from afar. The soap opera surrounding the characters is part of the fun of the book, but there’s also plenty of action and non-romantic adventure. The ship is packed with fascinating, well-rounded female characters, all of whom have different ethnicities and body types, for an engaging read every issue. There are six trades available now, with two more solicited, and the single issues come out digital first, so it’s easy to find and enjoy.

Matthew Lazorwitz was given “Who’s Who in the DC Universe” #2, featuring characters whose names begin with B, when he was 5, and that probably explains his devotion to all things Batman to this day.

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