Are nurses superheroes? Possibly. After all, once upon a time, nurses and superheroes were two of the few groups of professionals whose uniforms included capes.
Capes, which were only worn outdoors (and rarely since the mid-20th century), served a practical purpose for nurses in the days when uniforms were stiff and starched. Capes replaced coats or jackets, the tighter fit of which would have wrinkled the nurses’ uniforms.
In the comics, the purpose of the cape seems to vary from superhero to superhero. For the ones who fly, we’ll assume it has something to do with aerodynamics.
Like modern nurses, modern superheroes largely have abandoned the cape. Even minus the capes, though, nurses still seem to perform near-superhuman feats.
It’s fitting, then, that one group of superheroes relies on a mortal nurse to tend to their injuries — both physical and spiritual.
Claire Temple is the medical professional who stitches up and links together the Defenders, a team of Marvel Comics heroes that provides a gritty, more real-world centered contrast to the publisher/studio’s traditional superhero team, the Avengers.
“The Defenders,” a new series streaming on Netflix starting Aug. 18, brings together the lead characters from four other Netflix series depicting the Marvel Universe: “Jessica Jones,” “Iron Fist,” “Luke Cage” and “Daredevil.”
Nurse Claire Temple, portrayed by Rosario Dawson, provides a narrative common thread, appearing on all four series and treating (and fighting alongside) all four of the heroes.
Claire Temple embodies elements of two Marvel Comics characters. The original Claire Temple was a doctor, who treated and became romantically involved with Luke Cage. Dawson’s character also shares similarities with Linda Carter, first seen in 1961 as “Linda Carter, Student Nurse,” and then 10 years later as one of three young nurses featured in the short-lived comic book “Night Nurse.” Carter later turned up in the comic book “Daredevil,” assuming the title of Night Nurse for herself, and treating Daredevil, Luke Cage and Iron Fist.
Even though she lacks her patients’ super powers, Claire proves their equal in courage, resourcefulness and sharp humor. Working the night shift at a big-city hospital has honed her compassion, but not at the expense of her grittiness. She can staple a wound or inject a syringe into the eye of Luke Cage, whose impenetrable skin makes a normal injection impossible.
Her no-nonsense demeanor makes her the perfect match for this superhero team, prickly personalities who prefer to work alone but are forced to come together to battle The Hand, a band of ninjas led by a demon known as The Beast.
Given that she deals with super-powered patients and, in the case of The Hand, supernatural villains, Claire is going to encounter things real-world nurses never will.
Other than that, though, Claire’s challenges are familiar: dealing with life-threatening injuries, caustic patients and demands of her time and energy that would tax a, well, superhero.
Thought of another way, though, Claire, and real-life nurses are anything but superheroes. Most superheroes have gained unusual powers that allow them to perform heroic tasks. While some had a hand in their transformations, many superheroes were born, not made. Some who were made were done so by accident.
Nurses, on the other hand, only have the strength, smarts and stamina of a normal human, and they must push those features every shift. They can’t rely on x-ray vision or bionic strength, just their training, their experience and their determination.
No, Claire Temple and her real-world sisters and brothers aren’t superheroes.