MORE THAN PETS: Marvel and DC's Greatest Animal Characters

Fri, May 16th, 2014 at 11:01am PDT | Updated: May 16th, 2014 at 11:33am

Comic Books
Marc Buxton, Contributing Writer
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From the art form's beginning, animals have been a vital part of comics. While they're not as prevalent as they once were, furry pets, prehistoric beasts and other creatures have long played important roles in Marvel and DC Comics' respective universes. And though they traditionally haven't been headliners in the way characters like Donald, Mickey, Bugs, Yogi, Uncle Scrooge and more have, these often-fuzzy, sometimes scaly or feathered sidekicks are just as important a part of the tapestry of comics as their Disney, Dell, Warner Bros. and Hanna-Barbera brethren.

Now, with Rocket Raccoon set to explode into the public consciousness when "Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy" lands in theaters this August, CBR presents a tribute to the finest four (and sometimes two) legged animals that have thrilled and amused fans for generations.

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Hoppy, the Marvel Bunny
First appearance: "Fawcett's Funny Animals" #1 (1942) Created by Chad Grothkopf

What's cooler than an anthropomorphic rabbit with the power of the gods? In December of 1942, Fawcett Publications decided to extend C.C. Beck's Marvel Family lineage by introducing two new Marvels: Mary, the original Captain's sister, and Hoppy, the Marvel Bunny. At the time, funny animals were incredibly popular, so when Fawcett entered the genre with "Fawcett's Funny Animals," it made sense to mash up the Captain Marvel concept with the humorous genre.

Granted the power of Shazam by the Wizard Bunny, Hoppy's adventures follow the same formula as the other Marvel Family titles, with the character needing to say the word "Shazam" to transform into Marvel Bunny. Of course, Hoppy's magic word is a different acronym than the Captain's, the letters standing for Salamander, Hogules, Antlers, Zebreus, Abalone and Monkury.

Hoppy starred in his own title for fifteen issues and was the cover feature of "Fawcett's Funny Animals," making him one of the first animal super-heroes in comics. the character returned many times over the decades since his heyday, appearing in a number of DC Universe stories. His first modern appearance was in "DC Comics Presents" #34 (1981) where he meets the Marvel Family for the 'first' time and helps Superman defeat Mr. Mind and Kill Kull. While not as known as well known to modern audiences as Captain Carrot (and the Zoo Crew), Hoppy served as precursor to perhaps the greatest comic book rabbit this side of Bugs Bunny and rightfully earns a spot on this list. He may be considered a bit light and silly by today's standards, but at one point in comic history, the super-powered pink bunny with the lightning bolt on his chest thrilled comic audiences.

Devil Dinosaur
First appearance: "Devil Dinosaur" #1 (1978) Created by Jack Kirby

Jack Kirby's Marvel creations are legendary. The Fantastic Four, the Avengers, the X-Men, Thor, Iron Man, the Hulk, and -- Devil Dinosaur? That's right! Upon his return to Marvel in the '70s, Kirby gifted fandom with new creations to add to the pantheon of Marvel heroes he helped develop a decade earlier. Sure, Devil Dinosaur doesn't exactly have the historical cachet as most of Kirby's concepts, but that doesn't mean the raging red dino isn't awesome. What's not to love about a giant dinosaur, born in the fiery heart of a volcano palling around with a little fur-covered dude kicking prehistoric ass wherever he goes?

Devil's series, written and drawn by Kirby, only lasted nine issues, but the crimson T-Rex went on to appear in a number of titles, even after his was long extinct. In fact, Devil once fought Godzilla to a standstill. That's right -- he went toe to toe with the King of the Monsters. In the '80s, Devil Dinosaur even joined an X-Men team, the Fallen Angels. And to this day, he still resides in the Marvel Universe, chowing down on Triceratops and Stegosaurus in the Savage Land.

If Devil had been introduced as a Saturday morning cartoon, there's a decent chance he would have become an indelible part of a generation's imagination, alongside the Herculoids, Jonny Quest and Space Ghost. Unfortunately, comic readers of the '70s just weren't ready to open their imaginations to the fiercest dinosaur of the cosmos and his simian pal Moon Boy. So here's to Devil Dinosaur, the reddest prehistoric creature created by the King of Comics!

Pooch
First appearance: "Our Fighting Forces" #49. (1950) Created by Robert Kanigher and Jerry Grandenetti

DC Comics has been the home of so many great, non-powered war heroes that fought in World War II. Sgt. Rock and Easy Company, Johnny Cloud, the Blackhawks, the Unknown Soldier and many more took the fight to Hitler and the rest of the Axis. Among the greatest of these fighting men of the front line were the Losers, and one of the greatest of the Losers was Pooch. The canine commando first appeared fighting alongside Gunner and Sarge, two of the toughest men in to ever strap on a machine gun in the DCU. When Gunner, Sarge and Pooch joined with Johnny Cloud, the Losers were born.

Pooch is from a lineage of heroes as his brother Rex, the Wonder Dog starred in his own comic in the post Golden Age era of DC. There are many great animal champions on this list, but only Pooch received the Purple Heart for his valor in the European Theatre. Let's all salute Pooch, the bravest comic book canine to ever fight for his country.

Detective Chimp
First appearance: "Adventures of Rex the Wonder Dog" #4 (1952) Created by John Broome and Carmine Infantino

Detective Chimp was another animal star to debut in the pages of Rex's comic. A simian with great deductive skills and a real name of Bobo, Detective Chimp solved crimes alongside Rex and their human chums. Bobo could understand human language, though he could not speak it himself, and was every inch a detective as any gumshoe in the annals of DC history. But his true day in the sun came in the modern era, when he joined the group of mystic heroes known as Shadowpact. For a short time, he even wielded the power of Dr. Fate. With his connections to both DC's distant past and to the pre-New 52 world of magic, Detective earns his spot on our list with due to the character's enduring appeal -- and the fact that he's a monkey with a magnifying glass.

Redwing
First appearance: "Captain America" #117 (1969) Created by Stan Lee and Gene Colan

The loyal avian companion of the Falcon, Redwing has been fighting crime since the late days of the Silver Age. A vital part of the Captain America/ Falcon team of the '70s, Redwing was a soaring symbol of justice. The Falcon has the ability to see through Redwing's eyes and can control the avian hero with a thought, but the founding member of the Pet Avengers is a brave champion in his own right. He may not have made it into "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," but we appreciate you Redwing. Keep 'em flying!

Ampersand
First appearance: "Y: The Last Man" #1 (2002) Created by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra

He was comics' top capuchin for most of the early 2000s, when, other than his human Yorick, Ampersand was the last male creature on Earth in "Y, the Last Man." No matter how intense "Y" got -- and it got intense -- fans could always count on Ampersand for some well-timed poop flinging or ear biting. More than mere comic relief, the bond between Yorick and Ampersand was the emotional center of "Y, the Last Man," a series riddled with emotional moments. In fact, it was suggested that the entire reason Yorick and Ampersand survived the plague that killed every man on Earth was due to the monkey. Ampersand was a genetic mutation, and it may have been the monkey's poop, which he frequently threw at Yorick, that held the anti-bodies that allowed them both to survive. There are many great animals on this list and in the history of comics, but only one whose scat may have saved human civilization.

Titano
First appearance: "Superman" #127 (1959) Created by Otto Binder and Curt Swan

Who doesn't love King Kong? Now, picture Kong -- but with Kryptonite vision! A huge, rampaging super ape, equipped with the one thing that can harm Superman, Titano was a sympathetic villain introduced in the Silver Age, a circus monkey named Toto that gained his prodigious size and super powers after he was shot into space and exposed to space radiation. In other words, Otto Binder watched King Kong and went to town. All joking aside, those Silver Age Titano stories were always pretty good, as Binder and company really played up the sympathy angle for Titano. So we salute him, the only giant ape with the power to take down Superman.

Zabu
First appearance: "X-Men" #10 (1965) Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby

The only known living sabretooth tiger in the Marvel Universe, Zabu has been the loyal companion of Ka-Zar for decades. The feline powerhouse has gone claw to toe with some of Marvel's toughest characters, and is a (founding) member in good standing of the Pet Avengers -- a concept we can't believe Disney has yet to exploit. Zabu is really Ka-Zar's greatest weapon in his mission to keep the Savage Land safe, and readers have marveled at the sight of Zabu taking down many a dinosaur, beasts four times his side. It's a good thing Ka-Zar was once a millionaire, because giant balls of yarn and acres of cat nip must get expensive, and Zabu, fierce protector of the primal Savage Land, deserves every bit of luxury his friend can provide.

Lockjaw
First appearance: "Fantastic Four" #45 (1965) Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby

Let's break this down: Lockjaw is a giant bulldog, with a fork on his head and teleportation powers. The Inhumans' canine companion has been a part of the Marvel Universe since the heyday of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee's "Fantastic Four" run. There's been some confusion over the years regarding whether or not Lockjaw is an actual canine or an Inhuman severely altered by the Terrigen Mists, but there's no doubting his importance to their kind. It was believed at one point that he was actually sentient being as intelligent as the other Inhumans but stuck in the body of a giant dog, though it was later revealed that the whole sentient dog motif was simply a joke on Ben Grimm, the ever-lovin' Thing. Whatever the case, Lockjaw is deeply rooted in the mythos of the Fantastic Four, one of the more fascinating bits of color from Marvel's most creative period, and is unarguably an Inhuman's best friend.

Rocket Raccoon
First appearance: "Marvel Preview" #7 (1976) Created by Bill Mantlo and Keith Giffen

He's about to become the most merchandised critter of the 21st Century, but though he's new to the majority of his soon-to-be fans, Rocket Raccoon is a veteran at being protector of the cosmos. Rocket first appeared as a backup feature in "Marvel Preview" before guest-starring in an issue of "the Incredible Hulk." From there, Rocket went on to star in his own miniseries before fading into limbo for a little more than a decade, eventually returning to the spotlight as a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy.

Rocket has enjoyed a great group of writers and artists to guide his adventures over the years over the years, from creators Bill Mantlo and Keith Giffen, to Mike Mignola and Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning. In fact, Rocket was fated to remain a space faring curiosity until DnA included the diminutive hero in their Guardians of the Galaxy revival in the early 200s. Now, the character that began life as an obscure back-up feature in an all-but-forgotten black-and-white magazine will soon find himself the most recognizable machine gun wielding rodent in the galaxy. With the "Guardians" film imminent, and an upcoming monthly series by writer/artist Skottie Young on the horizon, 2014 could become the Year of the Raccoon.

Gorilla Grodd
First appearance: "The Flash" #106 (1959) Created by John Broome and Carmine Infantino

No one can say that DC doesn't believe in diversity when it comes to its simian characters. Gorilla Grodd is a giant, nearly rabid with hate ape who just so happens to posses mental powers the likes of which would rival Professor Xavier. Think about it: Before he rends a victim limb from limb, Grodd can project an image of what he's about to do into his victim's mind and read his victim's horrified thoughts as he goes to town. Super-intelligent, Grodd is a powerhouse and a megalomaniac of the highest order, a charter member of the Legion of Doom on the "Super Friends" cartoon and an A-level threat in the pages of the comics. Only the power of the Flash has kept humanity and the kindly apes of Gorilla City free from this simian tyrant. One of the most evil bad guys of any incarnation of the DC Universe, Grodd has earned his spot as comic's greatest animal villain, many times over.

Howard the Duck
First appearance: "Adventure into Fear" #19 (1973) Created by Steve Gerber and Val Mayerik

People often forget what an absolute sensation Howard the Duck was when he was first introduced in 1973. Debuting in "Adventures into Fear" #19, Howard was killed off very quickly, but fan demand brought the lost resident of Duckworld back, this time in his own series. A masterful social satire by Steve Gerber and Gene Colan, Howard proved to the world the marketing potential of Marvel's characters, as stickers and other paraphernalia emblazoned with the cigar chomping, foul mouthed master of Quack-Fu's visage blew out of stores' stock and into the hands of hungry fans.

Howard fought Dr. Bong (a villain with a head shaped like a bell), took on a giant gingerbread man, became a vampire, met the rock band KISS and maintained a relationship with his human girlfriend Beverly Switzer. He even starred in a short-lived daily newspaper strip! Through Howard, Gerber brought the art form of satirical comics to a new level -- and raised the awareness of creator rights when Gerber sued Marvel for ownership of the character. While Howard still exists in the contemporary Marvel Universe, no creator has ever equaled his creator's ability to bring Howard to life. Despite his best-forgotten feature film, Howard will always have a place in our heart.

Ace, the Bat Hound
First appearance: "Batman" #92 (1955) Created by Bill Finger and Sheldon Moldoff

Ace, the Bat Hound was introduced in that odd period between the Golden and Silver Ages, and became a member in good standing of the Bat family until Julius Schwartz revamped the Bat books in 1964. Ace is a perfect example of the quaintness of the era, cut from the same cloth as Lassie and Rin Tin Tin. Though he fit right in during the early '60s, when Batman took a darker turn under the hands of creators like Neal Adams, Ace's time had decidedly passed.

But still, the appeal of the character lived on. Paul Dini and Bruce Timm brought a great dane named Ace, sans mask, into the world of "Batman Beyond," a character who was an integral part of the animated show and proved to even the most modern of fans, that Batman with a dog can be pretty awesome. The comics took a cue form the cartoons, and when Bruce discovered he had a son, it was often interactions with Ace that provided readers a look at the vulnerable side of young Damian Wayne.

We3
First appearance: "We3" #1 (2004) Created by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely

They're like cute and cuddly Terminators -- fuzzy little killing machines that are as unforgettable as they are tragic. Bandit, Tinker and Pirate, three of the most dangerous and heartbreaking animals in comics, began their lives as lab animals in a military experiment to create perfect killing machines. Under the creative hands of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, the trio of innocent critters embarked on a "Homeward Bound"-like journey, only they happened to be equipped with smart missiles. Along the way, they are hunted at every turn by the military and more animals-turned-cyborg weapons. "We3's" journey is harrowing and intense, and after reading it, thousands of fans have found themselves hugging their pets and never wanting to let them go. "We3" is a haunting look at animal cruelty, but also animal loyalty. Its protagonists are some of the most dangerous animals to ever appear on the comic page, but they are also the most poignant and tragic. "Gud dog," indeed.

Krypto and the Legion of Super-Pets
First appearance: "Adventure Comics" #293 (1962)

We had to group all of the Legion of Super-Pets in one entry, because if we didn't, half of this list would have consisted of these mighty champions of justice. Comprised of of Superman's pets Krypto the Superdog and Beppo the Supermonkey, along with Supergirl's menagerie of Comet the Superhorse and Streaky the Supercat, the Super-Pets were a key part of Superman's Silver Age world. Eventually, they joined with Chameleon Boy's pet, the shape-shifting Proty, to form one of the most lovable team of heroes since, well, ever. The Legion had few adventures together, but their existence is an undeniably beloved part of yesteryear. It's not as if every super-team took on and defeated the Brain-Globes of Rambat!

While most of the Pets have disappeared into comic lore, Krypto stuck around long after the Silver Age. He's not only been a fixture in Superman's life in every iteration of the DC Universe, he's also the only character on this list to successfully anchor his own cartoon and an entire line of action figures!

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TAGS:  marvel comics, dc comics, ace the bat hound, krypto, rocket raccoon, howard the duck, devil dinosaur, we3

 
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