Spider-Man. Batman. Rhino. Black Panther. What do these character have in common? They are superheroes and villains whose personas are based on animals, bugs and other creatures that are legitimately dangerous. But not all comic characters have chosen so wisely. Here are just a few heroes and bad guys that should have picked up a subscription to Zoobooks before hitting the streets.
To be fair, Squirrel Girl is a mutant, and thus didn’t choose to be a squirrel-oriented crimefighter as much as being a squirrel-oriented crimefighter was thrust upon her. Her powers include a giant prehensile tail (which squirrels don’t have), the ability to chew through wood (which squirrels can do), squirrel-like agility, and the ability to talk to and control other squirrels (which either squirrels either can’t do or they just never have anything important enough to warrant getting a group together). While regular squirrels don’t do much other than store nuts for the winter, Squirrel Girl has single-handedly defeated more top-tier Marvel villains than any single Avenger.
The Walrus — also known as The Savage Walrus, which is completely hysterical — is one of Spider-Man’s many animal-themed foes. Despite their formidable tusks, walruses aren’t much of a danger to anybody but mollusks and the occasional polar bear stupid enough to get in a fight with one. Hubert Carpenter decided his goal upon receiving “the proportionate speed, strength, and agility of a walrus” was to run around and cause property damage. That's it. Angry dude in a walrus costume, breaking shit. Moving on.
Although the Australian tree kingfisher birds known as Kookaburras are carnivorous and will happily eat mice, lizards, and other small birds, they’re still kind of adorable. It’s probably the name, which makes it sound like a beloved children’s TV show character. Somewhere in the world of Kurt Busiek’s Astro City, there’s an Australian hero who took this less-than-imposing name. He’s only been mentioned, but I hope his powers include the Kookaburra’s unique call, which sounds like a human pleasantly laughing.
Ant-Man has been a part of the Avengers so long that he’s actually got a decent reputation, at least in the sense that people stopped making fun of him for being “Ant-Man” (it surely helped that he could also become Giant-Man, a superhero which tended to be plenty useful on his own). But when you think about it, ants are one of the least threatening bugs on the planet. Sure, red ants can bring the pain, but he’s not Red Ant-Man, he’s Ant-Man, which should mean he’s more likely to fuck up your picnic than anything else. Ant-Man has the proportionate strength of an ant in his regular size, which he somehow keeps at exactly the same level when he’s tiny, which is pretty ridiculous even for comic books. His other power is controlling ants. Great. How often do the Avenger need crumbs carried a few yards?
The most brightly colored monkey in nature, mandrills are pretty chill. They eat a lot of fruit and bugs — maybe some actual meat if it presents itself — but really, what most people know about mandrills comes down 1) their colors and 2) the fact that they present their butts to each other as a sign of submission. The Marvel mutant known as the Mandrill hasn’t presented his butt to anyone that I know of, but he does have the power to enslave women through his pheromones, which is completely insane even beyond the fact that it has nothing whatsoever to do with actual Mandrills.
Armadillos aren’t even close to dangerous, but they have cool, armor-like shells, so Antonio Rodriquez could be forgiven for taking The Armadillo as his supervillain name after a mad scientist bonded that armor to him. But man, The Armadillo’s life has been one pit of suck after another: He initially began his career as a criminal to save his dying girlfriend Maria’s life; when he got the money and she was cured, she left him. He tossed himself off the Empire State Building when he saw his estranged wife with another dude. After he was arrested, he just wanted to serve his sentence and thus tried to keep other supervillains from breaking out, forcing him to fight guys like Venom. Then, once he was out, he made the mistake of visiting a bar for the memorial of the villain, Stilt-Man, The Punisher poisoned all the drink and then blew up the goddamn bar. Even an armadillo’s armor can’t protect a broken heart.
The flamingo: a pink bird with long-legs best known for standing on one leg, inspiring a popular lawn ornament. The Flamingo: A recent Batman villain who is a serial killer who dresses like a pink member of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, likes to pose like Prince, and has a habit of eating his victims’ faces. Honestly, flamingos are giving The Flamingo a bad rap, he’s giving it to the birds.
Porcupines are of course known for the countless spines on their backs, which protect them from predators as they go about their serene, herbivore lives. They aren’t offensive weapons. Still, when Peter Dustin developed spiny quills over his body — quills that he could actually shoot out — I guess his options for superhero names were pretty limited. Still, it might have been worth thinking of one more imposing, because Pete’s powers couldn’t even get him into the Legion of Superheroes, which had accepted a dude named Arm-Fall-Off-Boy. It’s probably the “Pete” part that makes him sound so terrible.
Oh, The Monarch is a great superhero name. It’s a name that screams power and status and hubris all at once. But as any fan of the Venture Bros. cartoon knows, the Monarch is not a king-based villain, but a butterfly-based villain. Imagine if he called himself The Butterfly — he’d be taken even less seriously than he is now, and frankly, that’s saying something. The only thing less intimidating than a butterfly is a rainbow, which may be why the Monarch’s schemes seem to always leave his opponents alive, if mildly annoyed. If guess if a bird-themed villain tried to eat the Monarch, there’d be some major repercussions, though.
There have been a lot of The Flys in the comics world; Marvel had a hero and a Spider-Man villain of that name, and Archie also has one as part of its superhero line who joined the Crusaders. All of these flies can fly and stick to walls, although the Marvel superhero actually has the ability to vomit on things, and his vomit is actually powerful/corrosive enough to tear an armored truck in two. Unfortunately, flies don’t actually vomit every time they land — houseflies actual spit or drool when they land on food, in order to help break the food down. Nice try, Fly guy.
Maggots are gross — super, super gross — but they aren’t particular dangerous. Heck, they’re sometimes used in medicine to eat dead flesh in wounds to keep it from spreading. So you’d think a maggot-themed superhero would be a healer, albeit one who might like to hang out in shit a lot. But not, Maggott the Marvel mutant is a dude whose digestive system has turned into two semi-sentient slugs which can leave his body and digest pretty much anything. Including dead flesh, I guess, so maybe that does check out. On the other hand, I think most criminals, when hearing Maggott was on their way to stop them, wouldn’t say “Oh no!” as much as they’d say “Gross, dude.”
Gibbons, like the monkey cousins the Mandrills, are apes that just want to chill. They eat plants and fruit, but they’re better known for their ability to swing through trees and their habit of mating for life. They’re not really a danger to anything other than the bugs and bird eggs they tend to eat, unless they’re provoked. Marvel’s The Gibbon is likewise not much of a danger, whether he’s trying to be a hero and getting made fun of by Spider-Man, or being a villain and stealing She-Hulk’s sandwich from the fridge in her law office (don’t ask). The Gibbon has his namesake’s agility and a very simian appearance, but he’s not going to be teaming up with Dr. Doom or the Avengers any time soon. It should be noted he was also in the bar that the Punisher poisoned all the drinks in and then blew up. The Punisher’s a dick.