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9 of the best teachers in comics

Contributed by
May 8, 2018

Being a teacher is a lot like being a superhero. You're taking a lot of responsibility for a lot of people's lives without asking for much in return.

So it's not much of a surprise that plenty of comic characters happen to moonlight as teachers, either in a superhero setting or even occasionally in a plain old high school. We all loved Spider-Man's brief stint as a school teacher when he showed up to class in his full uniform cracking jokes for the kids, but there are plenty of others that have dedicated their whole lives to teaching. Here are a few of our favorites.

Hopey

Gilbert and Jamie Hernandez' Love & Rockets is one of the greatest comics of all time. Utilizing challenging new storylines and sympathetic but incredibly flawed characters throughout its nearly 40-year history, it's become known particularly for featuring sprawling stories with dozens of characters spanning decades. One of those characters is Hopey, who appears consistently in Jamie's ongoing Locas series. Following a small group of young punks, as they grow up, both together and apart, Hopey is the best friend, lover, and occasional foil to Maggie, the tentative main character of Locas. After years of touring in punk bands and aimlessly drifting from place to place for most of her life, Hopey finally gets her act together in her early adulthood. She and Maggie break up, which leads both of them to stabilize. Maggie goes on to use her skills as a mechanic to work as a building manager, while Hopey becomes a school teacher.

After years of reading stories of Hopey's rebelliousness and antagonistic attitude towards authority figures, it's incredibly heartwarming to see her take on the role of mentor for young children, showing them compassion and tenderness that she herself perhaps never received. Besides, who doesn't want to learn about history and math from a queer punk with an eyepatch?

The Beast

Unlike Wolverine, who surprises us with his aptitude for teaching, Hank McCoy, better known as the Beast, is a natural. Growing up a star athlete and closet bookworm, Hank was recruited by Xavier to join the original team of X-Men. Hank showed initiative and continued studying science, only to foolishly begin experimenting on himself, which is how he turned blue and why he has grown physically more animalistic as time has gone on. While he has served on several different teams, the X-Men have always seemed like the best fit for him.

As a teacher, Hank is frazzled, over-serious, and goes a little bit over his students' heads at times, but he's also kind, patient, and able to successfully play the butt of a joke without losing stature. Despite his zealousness when it comes to scientific research, at least that strange addiction of his seems to play out without causing harm to anyone but himself.

Miss Haggly

Out of all the teachers in Riverdale, Miss Haggly is the least scandalous, and that's why she's not only the most effective teacher in Archie Comics but also the most quietly delightful. There aren't a lot of comics about Haggly, and she appears in a minor role at best, but she's incredibly hip and doesn't ever seem particularly shocked by the shenanigans of her students—unlike Grundy and Weatherbee, who are known to more or less panic every time anything happens. Haggly is elderly, and most of the gags surrounding her have to do with the fact that no one seems to know quite how old she is.

Like Riverdale High itself, Haggly is a landmark and an institution, and her relaxed teaching methods make her perhaps the most accommodating teacher on this list. Miss Haggly also made a brief appearance as a young babe on the show Riverdale, but we really prefer her in the comics for actually being elderly and refusing to retire because she just likes teaching so much.

Emma Frost

The White Queen is a bit of a conflicting entry, because, while she later became an excellent teacher, she didn't exactly start out that way. In the Firestar miniseries from 1986, we meet an Emma Frost who kills a teen girl's pony to try and make her a more dependent individual. You would think that would be kind of a dealbreaker for her career as a teacher, but it wasn't. At the time, Emma was the head of the Massachusetts Academy, which is where New Mutants rivals called the Hellions attended and trained to use their mutant powers.

Besides her incredibly weird relationship with Firestar, Emma was mostly good for her students. She taught them to live in a cruel world, hoping it would help them to protect themselves. You could see she genuinely took the safety of the teens to heart. When they were later killed, somewhat arbitrarily, by a time-hopping supervillain in the early '90s, the shock sent Emma into a coma for years. When she returned, it was as a teacher to Generation X, a team of mutants including Jubilee. Later, she survived a bombing in Genosha that saw another class of students dead. Although her fatality rate is abnormally high, most of it is due to circumstances entirely beyond her control and can be blamed more on the X-Men than on her. Despite her dubious history, Emma has shown time and again that she is more than willing to lay her life on the line for her students, and they learn from her something that no other X-Man could teach: ruthlessness.

Wolverine

Wolverine might have been introduced to us as a tough guy with a serious chip on his shoulder and a huge problem with authority, but over time, we've come to know him as a bit of a softy. He started mentoring young X-Men, starting with Kitty Pryde who he taught ninja skills, then later Jubilee, who saved his life and began traveling with him as sort of a sidekick and sort of his partner.

In Wolverine & The X-Men, we saw Wolverine taking on a grumpy teacher role, finally putting his past as a murder-happy anti-hero to rest. Unfortunately, that story was very close to The Death of Wolverine, in which he, well, died. Character growth be damned. On the other hand, we did get a Logan who was happiest in a mentorship role, trying to calmly dissuade others from taking the same path that he did. For many reasons, we'd love to take a class with Professor Wolverine. Especially ninja class.

The Huntress

There are a lot of different characters in DC that are known as the Huntress, but perhaps the best known is Helena Bertinelli, a schoolteacher who highlights as a somewhat ruthless vigilante. Although she has mellowed a bit in recent years, it's important to remember that this is the woman that got kicked out of the Justice League, by Batman, for being “too violent.” That should give you a pretty good idea of how out of control Helena can get.

One of our favorite things about the character is that she's a dedicated teacher, but one of our least favorite things is that this aspect of her life is seldom explored except via reference. We'd love to see more of Helena in her role as a teacher if only to see the steely glint in her eye she must get when dealing with unruly students. While we might not have seen much of the Huntress actually teaching, we can safely assume she's good at keeping everyone in line. Maybe a little too good.

Black Lightning

Like many of the characters on this list, Jefferson Pierce was compelled to teach after experiencing a long series of hardships in life and feeling deep down that he could help to guide the next generation away from those same hardships. Having grown up in the bad part of Metropolis, otherwise known as Suicide Slum, Jefferson did everything he could to escape it. Later in life, he returned to Garfield High School and was almost immediately witness to an act of violence that ended in the murder of a young student. Taking this as a call to duty, he not only became Black Lightning but took on teaching classes.

Jefferson Pierce is unique on this list in that he specifically set out to be a teacher—and, as you can see when he's at the front of a classroom, that's really where his heart is at.

Stevie Hunter

This is a character that just does not get the page space she deserves. Initially appearing as a very young Kitty Pryde's dance instructor, Stevie eventually moved to the Xavier Institute to teach all of the New Mutants. Her story is a tragic one, involving a busted knee that would go on to keep her from performing ever again throughout her life. Still, you can't keep a good man down, and Stevie was always cheerful and decent to her students, even Kitty Pryde, who is a bit headstrong to say the very least.

Stevie was seldom involved in any fights and she doesn't have any mutant powers, but she was an excellent character for perspective. Telling the young X-Men never to give up hope and somehow managing to wrangle a crew of super-powered teenagers without any powers of her own speaks to Stevie's incredible grace and charm.

Firestorm

Even as superheroes go, Firestorm has always been a bit strange. High school student Ronnie Raymond accidentally gained the power of Firestorm simply by being caught in an accident at the same time as professor and nuclear physicist Martin Stein. Martin and Ronnie merged, but, because Martin was unconscious during the first merging, he only appeared in Firestorm as an inner voice. Firestorm thus was known around the DC universe for seemingly muttering to himself constantly and being stuck in a neverending-but-unheard-by-others dialogue with a professor. Martin was a bit condescending and had a tendency to be frustrated with Ronnie's completely different approach to superheroics, but it was that strange dynamic that really made Firestorm.

Teachers, next time you go to complain about a problem student, take a second to imagine what it would be like to be literally stuck in their minds while you were teaching them. Students, on the other hand, probably already have a pretty good grasp on what it's like to have a disembodied head yelling at them about their bad choices in life.