It occurs to me that most superheroes are, in a sense, super-cops. The main thing they do is fight crime.
But there are a couple of other areas of kind of action-oriented public service, such as firefighting, emergency medical, and search and rescue.
So has there ever been a comic book featuring a superhero or super team that's specifically and entirely oriented toward any of those areas? Certainly most superheroes do some of that kind of thing (like rescuing cats from trees, and rescuing kids from burning buildings, and carrying accident victims to hospitals, and finding hikers lost on mountains), but that's usually a sidelight to their main crimefighting activities; I'm looking for non-crimefighting superpowered people who do emergency work.
A quick search brings up a little bit of info about three connected Marvel comic miniseries collectively called The Call of Duty. Call of Duty: The Brotherhood was about firefighters; Call of Duty: The Precinct was about police; and Call of Duty: The Wagon was about EMTs. But they were all about normal human members of those forces; none of them featured superheroes.
Certainly a lot of the drama and action in superhero comics comes from the fight scenes, and you're not gonna get fight scenes with bad guys in a story about firefighters or EMTs or S&R. But I can see at least two possible responses to that:
- Real police officers don't have that many fights with bad guys either. A lot of their work is routine, and even when they do make arrests they don't often have actual fights. So superhero comics aren't (and aren't meant to be) an accurate representation of police work; so a superhero comic focusing on helping people rather than fighting crime could greatly exaggerate and distort and focus on different areas than what actual emergency workers do.
- In addition to the drama of dealing with emergencies, plenty of drama can come from interaction among the team members.
Both of which are, I assume, approaches that are taken by TV shows that focus on emergency workers. (I haven't seen Rescue Me, but I assume it uses both of those approaches.) So what I'm suggesting would be, essentially, adding superpowers to the mix.
This idea started with a conversation with Kam about superhero triage. If there's only a few superheroes in the world, then they each need to cover a lot of ground; they can't respond to every emergency everywhere. Astro City #1 touched on this roundaboutly, and certainly lots of comics have used the "[Hero X] can't save both his friend and random member of the public! Which! Will! He! Choose!" hook, but it seems like it would be a common daily problem: at any given moment, there are probably multiple crises going on. (NYC had, on average, a violent crime every ten minutes in 2004, and a property crime every three minutes; presumably some of those incidents took place at the same time as each other, and that's only the law-enforcement side, not the emergency-services side.)
So it seems like one good approach would be for a superhero to act as (a) a dispatcher (carry a radio to let police and emergency workers know about situations they might otherwise take longer to find out about), and/or (b) a teacher, helping train people to do this work. Only the superhero's advantage is their powers, which they generally can't train other people to have.
So now I'm thinking of a super team with "powers" based on technology, oriented toward EMT, firefighting, and/or S&R, who spend their downtime recruiting and training new members. It would take a lot of money, and if you have that much high-tech equipment there's a question of why you wouldn't just issue it to the existing emergency workers. But maybe you don't have that much money; maybe it's a situation where the do-gooder billionaire who's funding this project creates a few small elite teams (like SWAT teams) to handle especially difficult situations, working in parallel with the regular emergency services. You'd want to recruit from regular emergency services, most likely; and if it's a world that has superpowered individuals, sooner or later you're probably going to end up with some of them on the teams too.
I dunno; I'm not sure there's a market for something like this, and I'm not sure adding the superpowers (or comic-book ultra-high-tech) adds enough to make it sufficiently different from a non-super drama about normal human emergency workers. And I confess that I haven't come up with any actual plots--although, for example, rescuing people from a burning skyscraper is a lot easier if you have team members who can fly, whether under their own power or using high tech.
And if you really wanted to give them a tangible/personified Enemy, how about elementals? Air (tornadoes), Water (tsunamis, hurricanes), Earth (earthquakes, mudslides), Fire (fires, lightning strikes). And terrorists, of course.
At any rate, I think it's an intriguing idea.