WELL, if the rest of the Western world is avoiding actual disaster by watching superheroes save us from fictional disaster, why should Scotland miss out on this spree of escapism?

This week’s announcement of the new Marvel Comics character Kelpie, taken on her own, is quite intriguing. The early artwork shows that her superpower seems to be derived from Scottish lochs, and manifested by her body turning into an evasive fluid. Metaphor city, for Scotland’s current moment.

But wait! Dunt! Scud! Kelpie’s not alone. Alongside her is The Choir from Wales, whose singing voice alone has destructive powers (if only). Then there’s Snakes from Northern Ireland (as in, the one snake that escaped being driven out by St Patrick’s staff).

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Alongside them is Union Jack (representing England, inevitably). And leading them all, apparently, the shield-wielding she-warrior Britannia. Their collective name is...The Union. And they’ll be joining up with The Avengers across the cosmos, to battle ... the Empyre.

The National:

Are you in hysterics yet?

The writer of The Union, Paul Grist – almost superheroically named himself, as he is shoving an awful lot into the mill – seems to be wryly aware of the potential grief involved in all of this.

“Not going to be a flag-waving comic,” he tweeted the other day. “My working title was the United Kingdoms International Powerhouses. Couldn’t get it past small-minded editorial. They don’t have creative vision. It’s a curse.”

And before we rend our indy-supporter garments too vigorously here, we must remember this is comix-land – they’ll grab at any available mythology or zeitgeist for a buck. Grist himself points out that Union Jack was originally created in the mid-1970s, under the ultimate sanction of Marvel Comics magus Stan Lee himself.

The slogan that accompanies his 2020 incarnation – “He’s fought for Queen and Country. Now it’s time to find out which country he’s really fighting for” – actually hints at some divided loyalties between England and Britain (“that was the point being made,” tweets Grist).

Furthermore, as the press release quotes him: “This team is falling apart before it’s even begun!”

So stand down the consumer boycott for the moment. Looks like there’s enough drama and ambiguity here for this to be more than Murdo Fraser’s under-the-duvet reading (tightly gripping his hot little torch).

But it has been something of an entertainment to research the mottled history of the Scottish superhero. For, indeed, there is one.

Given the social origins of superhero comics, you’d have thought there would be more. Many critics and historians have noted the 1930s creations of Superman and Batman – Jewish-background writers and artists such as Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster – observing the rise of regimes acutely malevolent to their existence.

These mega-characters tapped into the most elemental American fantasies of exceptionalism, pining for an ultimate defence of their republic against the world. (And remember that Superman is the immigrant-made-good story taken to the max: a Kryptonic hulk among, and defending, the huddled masses).

In literature and verse, Scottish modern mythology has always gone much further down the fantasy than the science-fiction route (Superman is scientifically alien, possessing superpowers from evolving on his own planet).

Though you’d make a strong case for Robert Louis Stevenson’s

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as one of the earliest examples of “hard” sci-fi. Jekyll’s self-experimentation reveals the id of the human unconscious, years before Freud first theorised psychoanalysis.

But in 2020, it’s still a mystical “kelpie” that’s wearing her superhero Lycra suit (though we’ll wait to see if there’s any scientific McGuffin involved: Union Jack got his hyper-athleticism from the same serum that upgraded Captain America).

Kelpie is obviously cast in the light of the previously most overt Scottish character in the Marvel universe. Wolfsbane is a member of the New Mutants – an X-Men spin-off, which is coming to UK screens on April 10 this year (Wolfsbane will be played by Maisie Williams, Arya Stark in Game of Thrones).

The National: Maisie Williams

The X-Men franchise is, one could say, bioscience fiction. It posits that humans’ diverse biological development throws up powers that defy the usual laws of matter and action – and that the children who manifest these powers are usually demonised and excluded from society.

Very liberal. The X-Men (though note the usual sexism) is the association which retrieves these children and educates them in seclusion, trained to use their powers for public benefit. The young trainees are often wrangling with their own inner demons, as a consequence of being ostracised in their early years.

From her original comics incarnation in the early 1980s, Wolfsbane is an exemplar of an X-Woman. Religion has been beaten into her by her foster father Reverend Craig, who turns out to be her real father, but has produced her from a liaison with a prostitute.

She comes to Dr Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters full of repression and frustration, which she can enjoyably release not just by turning into a lycanthrope, but even a whole pack of human-wolves (RLS could easily have worked with this in the Marvel writers’ room).

But there’s more than these two. My diligent research has revealed that, beneath the Empyrean realms of the Marvel’s blockbuster franchises, the US publisher has a history – somewhat shilpit, but there nevertheless – of Scottish superheroism.

FIGURES such as the mutant Kylun, part of the Excalibur team, who wielded two swords rather well, and looks remarkably like the old Scotland footballer Colin Hendry. Or Beast 1602, who comes from Orkney, apparently ape-like with blue fur.

Or there’s Aberdeen Angus, a “warpie” (mutated human) who winningly wears a tartan cloth and sword. Unfortunately he was depowered by Captain Britain, using his Sword of Might. Boo!

In the late 1990s, Caledonia briefly made her Saltire-and-spandex appearance with Cap’n B and the Fantastic Four. She ends up, rather bathetically, as the Four’s nanny. Travelling in the other direction about a decade later, Anachronism was transformed from a weedy gamer in Aviemore to a supernatural Celtic warlord, who then hung around the Avengers in a desultory fashion.

READ MORE: Pat Kane: Why Scottish independence bid requires hearts and heads

We can’t end without noting, flinchingly, Scotland’s serious indigenous attempt at superheroism. Saltire came upon us in 2015, from Glaswegian publishers Diamondsteel, an immortal character who vows to “defend Scotland” against a variety of militial foes, whether “Roman invasion, tyrannical Saxons and crazed Berserkers, to the manipulative Wars of Freedom and the tragic final reckoning of the Puritans”.

“A power grows to the south”, thunders Saltire’s promo video on YouTube, “a power bent on destruction ...” All too apropos.

But must that power be resisted, to quote the late Clive James, by someone who looks like a giant blue condom stuffed with walnuts? Can’t we do some peaceful institutional non-compliance, a dogged pursuit through the courts, and some

joyous presence on the streets instead?

I will confess that I am a wee bit glad that Scotland seems to be pretty rubbish at superheroes. Let’s see how Kelpie and Wolfsbane, as young, modern, transforming Scottish women, either perpetuate or reframe our old childish compensations: those pleasures we take from watching the excessively enhanced redeem the world.

But maybe a country that sees heroism in achieving fairness, justness and equality hasn’t much need to develop its own superheroes. For that increasingly mutant tendency, let us be thankful.