Gender seems to be the issue of the day in comics, and it’s an important discussion to have but it’s a bit anthropocentric don’t you think? Why does it have to be about humanoids all the time? So many characters are based on animals, but that market has stagnated and needs reinvigorating. And it was a love of animals that really made me pursue biology in the first place. So with all that on my mind I’m advocating, nigh to the point of demanding, that somebody step up and give some awesome and under-appreciated animals their superheroic counterpart. And fair warning, as a paleontologist, I may call upon some extinct favorites as well. And the more I think about it, the more I think they should be a team of awesome obscure animals, so I’ll be tailoring their descriptions to that effect.
When Randall “The Crust” Auerbach ate a bowl of Cioppino he didn’t realize that the whole thing had been tainted with illegal waste. Waste dumped by the mafia, illegally. The now mutagenic crustaceans turned Randall into a hard hitting, encrusted, Homo stomatopodus known as MANTIS SHRIMP!
The firebrand. The shoot-first-ask-questions later kinda guy. He’s sort of the Midnighter of the team; tough as nails, can dish out the pain, and is sometimes even monogamous. His main offensive ability are his keratin-infused fists which he can lash out with faster than the eye can see. About 50 times quicker than the time it takes you to blink. Randall is also incredibly territorial, with senses so keen that when he’s on guard nothing can sneak past. His eyes now have 6 pupils, giving him the depth perception necessary to accurately place his killer strikes. He can smell well enough to track, and see in ultraviolet just for good measure.
Favorite food: Poisonous blue ring octopus (he just punches the poison out, literally)
Tanya Padilla was an avid birder, who always went out of her way to see the rarest and hard-to-find specimens. It was this attitude that led to her to Costa Rica to find some of the most magnificent avian animals in the Americas. Charging head long into the bosque after hearing the call of the three-wattled bell bird, she thought she saw the flash of a Resplendent Quetzal, easily one of the prettiest birds the tiny nation had to offer. While scrabbling through the forest Tanya unknowingly stumbles into the ruins of a pre-Colombian village.
Completely overgrown, the only thing that remains untouched is the perfectly reconstructed statue of a giant bird, a terror bird. The three-wattled bell bird calls again, the bones begin to glow then a flash of light. When Tanya awakes she finds herself transformed into the fast and furious TITANIS!
She fast, she’s sharp and she’s mean. The most fleet of foot of the foursome with no time for nonsense. He razor sharp beak slices right through crime, and even though she can’t fly, don’t think you’ll be able to get away. Tanya is a top predator from the time between the last of the dinosaurs and the true rise of the mammals, and even though her namesake may have faded to obscurity, Tanya is determined to stay on top!
Least favorite animal: Horses, they’ve gotten a bit big for her tastes.
While exploring the Amazon, Xavier Mykenos stumbled upon a hidden tribe of native Amazonians. These Amazons had tamed one of the most impressive beasts of old, the Giant Ground Sloth. Thought to be extinct, Xavier took the opportunity to further science by living with the tribe and learning their ways. Eventually they allowed him to become a full-fledged member of their group, teaching him their mystic means of empathic sloth control. Now whenever he needs to, Xavier can call upon the spirits of the behemoth, transforming him into the lumbering titan known as MEGATHERIUM.
The powerhouse of the squad. He’s slow, but tough. And look at those claws! Kind of a Sasquatch + Wolverine cranked all the way up to eleven. Osteoderms (aka bits of bone) under the skin made him as durable as bane, and believe it or not, he can float! While he can’t match Mantis Shrimp or Titanis for speed, he can take punishment while dishing it out. Surprisingly, Xavier is also a master of camouflage, as he emits no odor, can move through dense forest silently, and can remain hiding from view for millennia (theoretically, at least).
Favorite political issue: Immigration, he floated from South America to Florida several million years before it was cool.
Shelly Dover was an assistant at an advanced research lab studying eusociality, or animals that are truly social, such as Honeybees and Naked Mole Rats. The work involved behavior modification with hormones. While cleaning the Naked Mole Rats’ habitat the colony, acting with greater unison and coordination than had ever been seen before enacted an escape. Fearing for her job, Shelly attempted to stop their egress, angering the queen who redirected the group’s aggression towards Shelly. After being bit repeated by tiny sharp teeth Shelly thought she was surely going to die but when she was found on the lab floor the next morning she showed no signs of injury. The modified mole saliva had left her with the powers of a naked mole rat, and since that day she has lead the team as THE QUEEN!
She may look delicate, but don’t be fooled. Shelly now has a pain threshold that Colossus would envy. Acids don’t matter, CO2 inhalation is no problems, and she’s now basically immune to cancer. Since naked mole rats live longer than any other rodent, and humans longer than any other ape, it’s not even clear that she’ll ever die. Shelly also has a strong empathic link to the rest of team, she truly is the kind of leader that wouldn’t ask for something she wouldn’t do herself. She expects a lot, but gives it back in spades, and while monogamy isn’t really her thing, there’s a sneaking suspicion around the base that she and Mantis Shrimp may be making time.
Favorite tuber: ALL OF THEM!
So there’s my team. Do you have a favorite obscure animal that I didn’t feature? Let us know in the comments! With some good suggestions I can do this again, because a team is only as good as their villains…