Recently, Lockjaw and various super pets of the Marvel universe had a cosmic adventure in Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers. I am old enough to remember the Legion of Super Pets of the silver age of DC comic books fondly and couldn’t help but notice many similarities. Because of these memories and the recent Marvel title, I was inspired to write this post. Heroic pets have existed in other media. In particular, Lassie and Rin Tin Tin existed in film and television but the invention of comic book super heroes led to the very particular super pet. A super pet is the animal sidekick to a super hero.
Probably the most famous super pet is Krypto, Superman’s super dog from Krypton. Krypto has had many solo adventures in DC comic books and even his own animated series on the Cartoon Network that started in 2005. The series is regular who’s who of evil super pets. Some of the evil super pets include the Joker’s hyenas Bud and Lou, Catwoman’s cat Isis, The Penguins trained birds (Artie the Puffin, Griff the Vulture, Waddles the Puffin), and Lex Luthor’s pet iguana Ignatius.
Krypto inspired a whole list of super pets that now appear dated. I think one explanation of why super pets where so popular in that period but not now is that quite simply the median age of comic book readers during the silver age was much lower than now. Younger readers like stories about animals and pets more than older readers. A lot more children’s books are about animals and pets than adult books. The success of Krypto apparently inspired many more DC super pets.
Beppo the Super Monkey from Krypto showed up later. Krypto had super intelligence for a dog which meant he had human intelligence on Earth. This in turn means Beppo should be pretty smart, a lot smarter than Krypto, that’s for sure, but we never see any evidence of this difference in intelligence in the Super family stories of the time. The way these two animals show up at Superboy’s doorstep is hilarious.
Jor El, Superman’s father, presumably a great and compassionate man, rockets his sons pet dog into space to test his rocket to Earth! Beppo is also rocketed into the void by Jor El. I think if my dad used my dog for a dangerous experiment that led to the dog’s seeming demise, then I might be a little angry about this. Superboy never shows any ill feelings about his father’s actions whatsoever. I can accept Beppo being hurled into the void since he is a monkey and we assume specifically purchased to test the rocket. Krypto is another matter. Can’t Jor El find some stray dog at the dog pound on Krypton? Jor El has to use his son’s pet dog? Given that Krypto and Beppo have human intelligence you would also assume they would hate Jor El but this point is never brought up either.
Dogs are supposed to have a sense of smell 1,000 times more powerful than a human being. Both Superboy and Krypto have super smell but presumably Krypto’s super smell would be a 1,000 times more powerful than that of Superboy. Superboy fought some pretty sorry villains, mostly petty crooks, compared to Superman, and many times the Super Boy bad guys gave him the slip since he had super powers and they didn’t. Superboy never ever used his own sense of smell to track a crook.
The use of super smell is pretty much ignored during the silver age by both DC and Marvel. A current poll at the Comic Vine puts Superman at the top of the super smell list
One could argue this is a recent development and Superboy did not have super smell but his dog could still be used to track bad guys. Later Wolverine, a Marvel superheroe, will use super smell to pursue bad guys and figure out the true identity of a shape shifter. Mystique, is an enemy of the X-Men, and can change her appearance and thus fool the other X-Men but not Wolverine as demonstrated dramatically in the first X-Men movie. Superboy never used Krypto to track a bad guy down using scent. Instead Super Boy relies one hundred percent on flying around and using his super vision and if the crooks are smart enough to hide in a lead shielded place then they get away.
Supergirl later acquired a super cat called Streaky. Streaky was a normal Earth cat that was exposed to X-kryptonite and acquired super powers. Streaky was not poisoned to death but instead became a super cat. Super girl also managed to acquire a super horse called Comet. Comet was not from Krypton but was a centaur turned into a super horse by Circe, the sorceress, and this meant that Comet was invulnerable to Kryptonite. Comet had the power of telepathy unlike the other super pets. Just as a horse is more powerful physically than a man, Comet was presumably more powerful physically than Superman physically. This meant Comet was the most powerful character of the Superman family. Comet as a character is worth analyzing more closely.
Comet was in love with Supergirl! Comet even had an affair with Supergirl when he was temporarily a man. Supergirl also rides Comet into battle. Interestingly, Superman never rides Comet. I don’t think most men would like to literally ridden by the object of their affections but maybe I am wrong about this. I suppose, sooner or later, the DC Imprint, Vertigo, will do a reboot of Comet or even all the super pets, with more mature themes explored.
The Superman family inspired the creation of a Batman family. Superman is a family guy. Batman is at his best when he is a loner and does not need a Batman family. Batman associates perhaps but not a family. Oh well, they had Batman fighting aliens in the same time period. If Superman has a dog then so must Batman. Batman adopted a dog called Bat-Hound. Bat-Hound was a normal German Sheppard that wore a mask. Actually, Bat-Hound was not the stupidest member of the silver age Batman family by any means. Police use police dogs and Batman is kind of a super policeman and the ability of a dog to act as a hound and follow a scent could be useful to Batman in a pursuit situation. Batman did use Bat-Hound to track criminals using the dog’s sense of smell! Very recently, Batman used the current incarnation of Krypto, who has normal canine intelligence, to track down a crook with his sense of smell. Further proof, if needed, that Batman is smarter than Superman or at least Superboy. Bat-Hound and Streaky did appear on Krypto’s animated series.
Other superheroes of that time period also had super pets but they were extremely minor characters. The Atom had a bird that he rode to battle called Ms. Mina. Aquaman has a regular aquarium of finny friends but I would put the giant seahorses Aquaman and Aqualad rode at the top of his super pet list. This lack of Justice League super pets meant that a Justice League of Super Pets was not possible but the creation of a super pet club was possible using another angle.
Superboy and Supergirl belonged to something called the Legion of Superheroes in the 30th century. There were over 20 something legionnaires but only one super pet in the bunch. Chameleon Boy had a super pet called Proty II. Proty II was a big yellow blob that could shape shift. Not much of a super power I supposed but adding him to the Legion of Super Pets meant that club wasn’t exclusively a Superman family club. Proty also had the power of telepathy like Comet. Poor Proty, surrounded by super pets with at least a half dozen super powers and all he can do is shape shift. The situation was probably difficult for Proty to say the least. Supergirl meets a descendant of Streaky, called Whizzy, in her first adventure with the Legion of Superheroes and the descendant can talk unlike Streaky. This character is never seen again but logically a talking super cat would be a welcome addition to the Legion of Super Pets.
I have included the cover of Adventure #322 above. Comet and Proty are the only two members that have telepathy as a superpower and very appropriately are the only two talking to each other via thought balloons, the comic book version of telepathy. The plaques at the table conference table give Krypto and Streaky names but Comet and Beppo are simply referred to as super-horse and super-monkey and their names are not used. I guess only some pets rate an actual name on their plaque.
Lockjaw is the leader of the Pet Avengers. Lockjaw can teleport, has super strength, and is a giant. The Avengers consist of Lockheed, Redwing, Ms. Lion, Zabu, Niels the Cat, and Throg. The biggest difference between Lockjaws team and the Legion is that Lockjaw’s team has pets that do not have super powers. The members that have powers are Lockheed, Zabu and Throg. Zabu is a sabretooth lion. Lockheed is a miniature dragon about the size of a cat that can fly, has very tough hide and can exhale fire. Throg is a frog version of Thor and probably has about one tenth the power of Thor or maybe even a lot less. The other super pets are normal animals. Niels the Cat aka Hairball, generates a kinetic energy field, like his owner Speedball, and this means he can bounce around and is super slippery. Cats are pretty slippery anyway so I think catching Niels would not be easy.
Redwing is a hawk that works with the Falcon and at least has super hero experience. Ms. Lion is a rather silly dog that belongs to Aunt May, the Aunt of Spiderman, and would probably get destroyed in a fight with even a normal street mutt. Ms. Lion has ribbons in her hair! However, Ms. Lion did sacrifice her life to save Hairball and was only revived later by the power of the infinity gems. So how would a battle between the Legion of Super Pets and Lockjaw’s Super Pet Avengers turn out? The two super pet teams have both claimed a particular park in the New York as their territory. Krypto and Streaky have clearly marked the park as their territory! The Marvel Avengers try to argue that the park should be open to everyone but Krypto promptly responds human concepts such as sharing territory have nothing to do with animals that live by a different code.
Comet knows what is going to happen next and wants nothing to do with the events that will follow. Comet has known Krypto for years and years and knows that he is ruthless when it comes to defending his territory. Comet, as mentioned, is a centaur in animal guise and has had it hanging around a bunch of animals. Comet is also thousands of years old and is sick of baby sitting the other super pets especially Beppo who he suspects was driven insane by his years alone in space. Beppo is not the only member of the super pets that might have psychological problems. Comet is sick of Krypto’s obsession with dinosaur bones that are obviously rock and not bone. Comet is sick of Streaky getting high on catnip all the time. Comet is sick of being ridden by Supergirl, actually he doesn’t mind that part so much but still. Most of all Comet is sick of how all of them refuse to learn how to use a toilet. The Legion headquarters stinks to high heaven. Comet flies off to a far off planet governed by intelligent horse creatures that have achieved space travel and are more advanced technologically than the humans on Earth. Comet misses Super Girl but when elected king of the planet, due to his many super deeds, gets over it.
The Legion of Super Pets looks at the sorry underpowered Avengers team that is giving them a hard time. All the other animals on Earth have enough sense to treat them like the top dog, top cat or whatever and decide and example needs to be made once and for all. Streaky goes after Zabu the sabretooth and Zabu puts up a valiant struggle but Streaky is about a million times stronger than Zabu and invulnerable to boot. Streaky grabs the back of Zabu’s neck with her teeth and rattles him like a rag dog until Zabu’s neck is broken. Streaky feels a little sorry since Zabu was kind of hot.
Krypto chases Niels all over town and despite superspeed and superflight and super smell has a hard time even touching Niels much less fighting him. Krypto loses interest in the chase and Niels gets away to fight another day. Krypto returns to the park and bites Ms. Lions throat and she promptly dies. Throg zaps Krypto with lightning and the lighting actually hurts due to its magical origin and the vulnerability of Krptonians to magic that may even be higher than that of normal humans. Krypto decides to not take any chances and uses his ultimate weapon, heat vision. Krypto zaps Throg with his heat vision. Even Thor would be in trouble but a frog is especially vulnerable to heat vision. The amphibian quickly dehydrates and dies. Streaky flies after Redwing, the hawk, and swats him out of the sky with fatal results to Redwing.
Lockheed flies towards Streaky and breathes fire all over Streaky. Streaky is grateful since the flames remove a lot of dirt she had accumulated during the battle. Superman uses a super flamethrower at his Fortress of Solitude to clean his uniform and Streaky always thought this was a pretty good idea. Streaky has never told Krypto that she finds his body smell to be too much and wishes he would learn to clean himself with his tongue like she does. Streaky slashes Lockheed throat with her claws and Lockheed bleeds to death.
Proty turns into a bush and avoids the battle. The Avengers don’t have a chance! Krypto tells the rest of his team to hold off on attacking, the leader, Lockjaw since he wants to save that pooch for last. Krypto is going to teach Lockjaw who is top dog once and for all. The Legion surrounds Lockjaw. Lockjaw looks at the mutilated bodies of his friends and vows revenge. Lockjaw teleports the Legion and himself to a Kryptonian style planet and all the super pets lose their powers except Proty. “If only Comet hadn’t abandoned them”, thinks Krypto just before he loses his super intelligence and the ability to formulate full sentences.
Lockjaw has super canine strength in his jaw and at one time locked down on the Thing’s arm and the Thing could not get away. I would estimate Lockjaw is eight feet from nose to tail and probably weighs in excess of six hundred pounds. Basically Lockjaw is a giant bulldog. Lockjaw chomps all the Kryptonian super pets to death. Proty turns into a local shrub in order to hide from the wrath of Lockjaw but Lockjaw as a dog easily sniffs him out and chomps his head off or rather the upper part of his body since Proty doesn’t really have a head. Lockjaw promptly spits Proty out of his mouth since Antareans taste like plastic mixed with detergent. Lockjaw doesn’t mind eating the odd robot now and then but Proty just doesn’t taste good.
The Marvel team wins but a terrible cost!
After I wrote this post Marvel published The Marvel Pets Handbook. The writers of this handbook graciously admit that their “Distinguished Competitor” (DC) had a head start in the super pet area but that Marvel is taking the lead in this category and I have to agree. The handbook includes entries for
Ant-Man’s Ants, Ape, Aragorn, Beasts of Berlin, Bill & Don, Blaze the Wonder Collie, Brightwind, Cerberus, Collector’s Creatures, Cosmo, Cr’ree, Currs, Deuce, Devil Dinosaur, Diablo, Droog, Ebony, Freki & Geri, Frogs of Central Park, Garm, Giganto, Hell Storm’s Demon-Steeds, Hellcow, Hellhorse, Ina & Briri, Kerberos, Kraven the Hunter’s Menagerie, Krill, Lobo, Lockheed, Lockjaw, Man-oo, Max, Mole Man’s Monsters, Monkey Joe, Munin & Hugin, Niels, Nimo, Old Lace, Outcasts, Princess Python’s Pythons, Preyy, Puppy, Red Ghosts’ Apes, Redwin, Saint, Sassafras, Sleipnir, Strider, Tippy-Toe, Toothgnasher & Toothgrinder, Valinor, Valykrior Steeds, Vixen, Watchdog, Zabu, and Zar. There is even an appendix of Cowboy Horses of the West and another appendix of miscellaneous pets. This handbook should really be titled “Marvel Animal Handbook” since the entries go way beyond just super-pets and mention just about every animal that has ever appeared in the Marvel universe and had a name and even some unamed animals.
My other website at:
Other DC vs. Marvel Posts
WereVerse Universe Baby!