Superhero Academy 101: Animal Science (The Problems With DC Pets)
No One is Closer to You Than Your Shape-Changing, Proto-Life Sidekick Pet Alien
Sometime in the silver age of comics, around 1962, comic book writers thought it would be a “laugh panic” to give superheroes pets. After all, if people can’t crank up the yuck-machine after a monkey gets into a housewife’s kitchen and starts causing mass chaos, then they just don’t know high-class humor.
There is also a contingent of this country that think joy buzzers and whoopee cushions are the height of humor and think we just don’t have enough of it on television anymore. I mean, Mister Ed was funny, right? Oh, that Wilbur! How will he keep the neighbors from finding his talking horse?
So comic book writers began writing stories about superheroes and their pets. The logic must have been that if pets were funny, then super-pets must be a super-funny. Pets are the very essence of a mundane life. Throw in some super-powers to the mix, young readers get to laugh at paw prints on the living room ceiling.
This would add a new dimension to a boy and his dog. It would be the story of Superboy and his super-dog, Krypto. Batman and Robin later got Ace the Bat-Hound, because if Sherlock Holmes can have Toby in The Sign of Four why can’t Batman and Robin have their own canine tracker to find things that DC’s premier detective could use to sniff things out. That formula of having a reliable animal member of a crime-fighting team would lend itself to warming the cockles of any boy reader’s heart.
But is that what would really happen?
What would actually happen if Superman had to deal with a super-dog with dog intelligence doing doggie things within his living space? How would Batman deal with a disobedient Bat-Hound?
Here are some things the early writers of the fifties and sixties hadn’t considered in all of their written hijinks and wackiness.
The Problem with Having Kryptonian Animals in the House
Modern comic book writers have addressed the scenario of Superman having Krypto, the Super-Dog. In the early 2000s, Krypto arrived on Earth and found Superman. Clark Kent, now a newlywed to Lois, brought the dog to live indoors with them. The problem was this version of Krypto had normal canine intelligence; the version from the fifties, having gained super-intelligence (for a dog) under a yellow sun had near-human consciousness and could understand and obey all of Superboy’s commands.
When Krypto scratched the door, chunks of wood would get gouged out of it. When Krypto saw a squirrel, he’d want to fly right after him. And when Krypto would chase after bad guys, he might jostle them too hard inflicting near fatal bodily harm.
Imagine having to housebreak him. Imagine trying to keep him off the counter. Imagine having to keep him out of the oven while you’re cooking. That could be a problem, especially if he starts to hump Lois’ leg. Superman eventually brought Krypto to live in the Fortress of Solitude and after that phase, the dog went to live with Jimmy Olsen. Jimmy even gave him a secret ID as “Pal”.
No one has ever spoken about the other Super-Pets.
These were animals that sounded funny at first but are terrifying to think about now?
For instance, there’s Comet the Super-Horse. He’s primarily been associated with Supergirl. Comet has super-powers and just loves being ridden by Supergirl. Comet can fly and has all the powers that Superman and Supergirl have. There are only a few minor hitches. He’s a telepath and his powers are magical which means that he has no vulnerability to the red sun or kryptonite – which is fine.
The other catch is that he’s really a dude.
A sorceress turned Biron from being a centaur to being a horse and sometimes he’s fully human. Not for nothing, that’s kind of creepy. He’s a dude that gets off on having a teenage girl ride on his back. Comet changes into a human whenever there’s a passing comet that flies over Earth – what I’m sure is always a surprise to Supergirl.
Streaky the Super-cat was born when he came into contact with a specific form of kryptonite. This kryptonite, called Kryptonite-X or X-Kryptonite, was an experiment of Supergirl’s and was supposed to neutralize green kryptonite but instead, this isotope gave a passing cat superpowers and higher intelligence.
A cat… with superpowers… with higher intelligence. As a cat owner, this terrifies me. When my cat scratches the edge of the couch, I keep a water pistol to curb her behavior. A cat with near-human intelligence and heat vision doesn’t play like that. Think about every time a cat stares at you without blinking. That’s you burning to death.
Super Powered Monkeys
This could be an article on its own given that we have characters like the Ultra Humanite, Grodd, and Monsieur Mallah.
However, people like monkeys. Didn’t we all chuckle a bit when Clint Eastwood said to his orangutan, “Left turn, Clyde.” When the monkey would take its naturally tremendous strength and punch out a gang of bikers, we all thought it was hilarious.
Heh, heh… monkeys.
What do you do when you go against Beppo the Super-Monkey. Few people remember Beppo. Jor-El, a cruel, cruel scientist on Krypton who belonged to the school of animal testing, kept Beppo in his lab while building his rocket for Kal-El. When Krypton was about to explode, Beppo stowed away on board.
With a monkey on board a prototype interstellar spacecraft with a baby, I’m surprised the ship made it to its destination. But the yellow sun was kind to Beppo and when they entered the solar system, the super-monkey survived with no injuries and a host of super-powers. Beppo survived in a jungle until he found Superboy living at the Kents and made trouble for Clark.
Yeah, that’s just hilarious.
Think about how much strength a normal monkey has. A normal monkey could tear your arm off and beat you with it. A super-monkey can tear Superman’s arm off and beat him with it. Think about what it could do to a normal person. All I can say is that if Beppo wants a banana, you’d better f*@%ing give him one.
I won’t even go into the problems and damage a super-monkey can do if it flings its super-poo.
Of course, we never think of such things whenever we need the help of The Detective Chimp or Sam Simeon, from Angel and the Ape. It is one thing to be a monkey, but it’s quite another to be one that can talk. What I don’t understand is how a monkey can get a private investigator’s license. Sure, the monkey can talk. I’m sure that most monkeys would express a deep desire to fill their lives with more bananas and complain incessantly about why they can’t climb up buildings to swat at planes, but is that any reason to hire them as a PI? In what circumstances would you have been in to hire a monkey to take illicit pictures of a philandering spouse or dig up dirt on a business competitor, leave alone solve a murder or robbery?
It’s one thing to be impressed with a talking primate, it’s quite another to take their deductive reasoning at face value as they socially remove head lice from a friend.
If you were foolish enough to have a super-pet, what kind would it be?
Proty I and Proty II: A Sentient Pile of Goo
Fans of the Legion of Superheroes may remember Chameleon Boy’s favorite pet, Proty.
He’s the perfect pet for Chameleon Boy as he’s a shapeshifter and Proty can use his protoplasmic blobby form to adopt the shape of anything or anyone it can imagine. It’s like having a giant amoeba that you can teach to camouflage itself into other things for kicks.
The thing is that he’s really a member of an alien race that another alien race, the Llorn, transmogrified into sentient blobby things that can change shape. This thing is also telepathic.
Having a Proty for a pet is never having to say you’re busy. If you don’t want to go to an event you can always send Proty in your place, provided that the conversation with your friends doesn’t get too complex and you don’t mind a trained bit of protoplasm acting in your name, everything should go just fine. Just be prepared to answer a lot of weird questions the next morning like “Why did you feel a need to spend time next to the jello last night and why did you put it down your pants?”
Proty died when imitating Saturn Girl in a Daxamite lightning rod ceremony to resurrect Lightning Lad. The science always calls for a sacrifice and Proty decided to sacrifice his life rather than Saturn Girl dying instead.
Proty was replaced with Proty II, who is a member of the Legion of Super-Pets with Krypto, Streaky, Beppo, and Comet.
The biggest problem of having a pet like Proty or Proty II is finding him if he ever runs away. “Have you seen this puddle of animated goo? Answers to Proty II. May feel need to reproduce asexually. Heart shaped spot on pseudopod.”
Other Animals that Should Cause More Trouble
While Super-Pets have the potential to cause mind-blowing havoc and destruction, there are scores of other normal animals that are dangerous even without having powers.
Like Doctor Mid-Nite’s owl. The first and current Doctor Mid-Nights have employed owls as partners/mascots within their own crime-fighting careers. The first Doctor Mid-Night, Charles McNider, got his powers shortly after a grenade damaged his eyes. One night, as he was recovering from his injuries and contemplating how he could never practice surgery again, an owl crashed through his window and scratched off his bandages. McNider discovered that he could see perfectly in complete darkness.
No one ever questions why the owl went for McNider’s eyes.
He took in the owl as a partner and named it “Hooty”.
Pieter Cross, also a doctor, is exposed to a strength enhancing Venom derivative that made him blind but able to see in complete darkness like the original Doctor Mid-Nite. Cross has also adopted an owl named “Charlie” that he named after McNider. Cross has put a small camera around Charlie and uses him to scout out places for him.
As cute as both owls are, they are officially “birds of prey” and are very dangerous to handle. They are not cuddly canaries or parrots. They can hurt people and have a very natural killing instinct. Owls are naturally carnivorous. Plus, according to the International Owl Center, it is illegal for a private individual to own an owl as a pet.
Nor does anyone ever question how or why Aquaman rides on a giant seahorse or why Wonder Woman likes to ride for kicks on the back of a giant Themysciran kangaroo. A giant sea horse could only be ridden by a man who can talk to fish while anyone who voluntarily decides to ride on a giant kangaroo should have their sanity checked.
Talk to any Australian on how naturally dangerous kangaroos are.
It was the great W.C. Fields who coined the phrase to never work with children or animals. There is some truth in that you shouldn’t work with dangerous animals just because it looks great to do so or because other people think they’re cute. While there is much we don’t know about the wild kingdom, it is a best practice to treat animals with respect and that if you get hurt or maimed by an animal that most people consider dangerous, chances are you did something really, really stupid.
It seems fitting to leave you with a snippet from the immortal Douglas Adams about the dangers the animal kingdom. In his book Last Chance to See, Adams writes the following as part of his interview with a leading expert on deadly animals:
“So what do we do if we get bitten by something deadly?' I asked.
He looked at me as if I were stupid.
'You die, of course. That's what deadly means.”