default article image

Heroes That Have Animal Instincts

When it comes to animals in comic books, you can never be too careful. Throughout the Marvel and DC Universes, animals exist with amazing abilities who demonstrate as much courage and determination as their two-legged counter parts when defending Earth.

In the DC Universe there are a number of examples of super animals like B’dg, a squirrel from outer space who is Green Lantern of Sector 1014. Another creature from the “Green Lantern” franchise is the Red Lantern, Dex-Starr. Dex-Starr was a common Earth cat until the Red Lantern ring hooked onto their rage and turned him into a blood-thirsty (literally) animal who could use the power of rage to his whim.

While Superman has an array of powerful creatures like Bippo the monkey, the top pet first has been a dog, Krypto. Although his origin has evolved over the years, this super dog first appeared in “Adventures Comics” #210.

Here it was explained that Krypto was a test subject for the rocket that Jor-El would later use to save his son from Krypton’s destruction. However, plans changed when Krypto’s ship veered off course and traveled through space until he reached Earth. There he reunited with his owner, a young Clark Kent/Superboy.

Since then, Krypto has been involved in crises like “Crisis on Infinite Earths” and “The Sinestro Corps War.” Krypto remained a key part of the Superman legacy and last appeared in Jeff Lemire’s “Superboy” before the DC New 52 reboot.

In a interview with Lemire before his previous “Superboy” series premiered, he explained his intentions for this superdog. “Oh yeah, Krypto is the best. I love Krypto. I think, and I’m not joking about this at all, I really want to write the first really great Krypto story. I want to give him a really serious and a really meaty character arc over the first year just as much as Conner,” Lemire said.

Beyond the mainstream DC Universe, Krypto also appeared in his own animated series and comic book miniseries, “Krypto, the Superdog,” which was geared toward a younger audience. He was also joined by Streaky the Cat and Ace the Bat-Hound (Ace was also a featured character in the “Batman Beyond” animated series albeit more serious).

Now although Marvel Universe presents their comics in a more realistic light, that doesn’t mean their creatures act like regular animals.

One comic book miniseries, “Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers,” put the spotlight on certain Marvel animals. It included Lockjaw (the teleporting Inhuman canine), Hairball (Robbie Baldwin’s/Speedball/Penance’s cat), Lockheed (Kitty Pryde’s purple dragon), Redwing ( the Falcon’s falcon), Throg (a frog with Asgardian powers and the look of Thor), and Ms. Lion (from “Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends”). Zabu, Ka-Zar’s pet Sabretooth, also made an appearance.

The miniseries centered on these creatures working to find the Infinity gems. Another miniseries followed and was called “Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers Unleashed.”

However, one go-getting talking animal that has made a name for himself in the cosmic corner of the Marvel U has been Rocket Raccoon.

Simply, a space raccoon that patrols the universe, this critter has come back to the mainstream universe courtesy of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s epic “Annihilation” space miniseries and the short-lived revival of “Guardians of the Galaxy.” In fact, Rocket Raccoon’s presence had developed so well that a miniseries featuring him and his fellow Guardian, the Tree being Groot, was made.

At the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con, Abnett and Lanning discussed why Rocket Raccoon and Groot are such interesting characters to write for. “They’re enormous fun to write because they’re funny, but one of the most interesting things about Rocket and Groot is writing them in a way where they’re also credible. There’s a reason for there being a talking raccoon and a talking tree, even in a universe where anything can happen. It’s giving them a context so they’re not cartoon characters, but proper creations,” Abnett said.

Now, just like Krypto and his animated series, Marvel also had their own kid-friendly talking animals series. However, this one featured a pig, Peter Porker, was bitten by a radioactive spider and became Spider-Ham. It was created by Tom DeFalco and Mark Armstrong and published through the now defunct imprint, Star Comics.

While Spider-Ham thrived for 17 issues, he would continue to appear in Marvel Comics like “Marvel Tales” and “Spider-Man Family” or one-shots such as “Ultimate Civil War: Spider-Ham One-Shot” written by J. Michael Straczynski.

DeFalco even got to honor his co-creation one more time in July 2010 with “Spider-Ham: 25th Anniversary Special” #1. While talking to on the eve of this anniversary, DeFalco said “I recently wrote a few Swiney-Girl, the daughter of Spider-Ham, stories and had a blast. But Swiney-Girl may be seen as an alternate reality so I was anxious to return to the true Porker Universe.”

So, comic book readers, be aware the next time you see a dog, cat, or even a fish on the comics page because for all you know, these innocent creatures might just be a superhero in disguise.