The comic book world has been abuzz with the release of the first trailer for the upcoming Marvel Inhumans TV series and the show has gotten great praise so far for how good of a job they have done at translating the characters to the small screen, including an amazing piece of CGI making Lockjaw, the Inhuman’s teleporting canine-like being, come to life. However, while it certainly looks like Lockjaw will be the breakout star of the program, it also opens up the longstanding comic book question – is Lockjaw a giant dog with superpowers or a mutated Inhuman who just happens to look and act like a giant dog?
The reason that this is even an issue is twofold. First, outside of a single comic book story that was quickly ignored (and then specifically retconned, as we’ll get to later), Marvel has not gone into specific details regarding Lockjaw’s origins. Since they are a mystery, the question remains an open one. Second (and just as important), the way that the Inhumans work is that at a certain age, they go through “Terrigenesis,” the process where an Inhuman is exposed to the Terrigen Mists, which are created by a special crystal that mutates Inhuman biology and transforms young Inhumans into the form that they will live in throughout the rest of their life. Typically, the end result will also give them superpowers. However, sometimes the end form is a mutation that is not a pleasant one. Even with that possible result, the Inhumans keep putting their youth through the process (due to it being part of their cultural history), which suggests that the Inhumans are somewhat cold when it comes to the negative consequences. With that in mind, it is possible that they would be willing to still be okay with a process that would turn a human into a dog.
When Lockjaw was introduced in Fantastic Four #45 (by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott), it was clear that Lee and Kirby saw Lockjaw as a giant dog…
In fact, in Fantastic Four #55 (by Lee, Kirby and Sinnott), they explicitly called Lockjaw “Crystal’s dog.”
Would the Inhumans mutate a dog? They seem like the type who would experiment on all sorts of things, so it does not seem outside the realm of possibility that they would mutate a dog.
The big change in Lockjaw’s status came in 1983’s The Thing #3 (by John Byrne, Ron Wilson and Hilary Barta), when Quicksilver was pushing for Luna, his daughter with the Inhuman Crystal (who was somehow the daughter of a mutant and an Inhuman and yet seemed to be a regular human child), to be exposed to Terrigenesis. Quicksilver remarks that there really did not seem to be a downside to him. Lockjawk, though, speaks up and explains how she could end up like, well, him…
Almost a decade later, in X-Factor #71 (by Peter David and Larry Stroman), that Byrne story was retconned in a bizarre retcon (one that was pushed on David by editorial, so it was not like it was his idea) that turned that dramatic moment where Lockjaw convinced Quicksilver not to mutate his child into a prank somehow…
David, for his part, liked the prank approach specifically because revealing that moment to be a prank could mean that Quicksilver might be lying, thus preserving Byrne’s revelation in the minds of anyone who feels like preserving it…
And just for the record, the reason I always liked the practical joke explanation was specifically BECAUSE it seemed so ridiculous. The elegance was in its absurdity. Because for those fans who disliked Byrne’s retcon, they could embrace this and say, “Thank God.” For those who liked the retcon, they could look for reasons that Quicksilver was in fact lying to Madrox. And they wouldn’t have far to look: the reason is right there in Byrne’s own story. Lockjaw’s status is supposed to be the Inhumans’ darkest secret. If it’s a freakin secret, do you REALLY want everybody and his brother knowing? So Quicksilver came up with the first explanation off the top of his head that he could to throw Madrox off the track. Then all we had to do was never have Lockjaw talk again–which no one else at Marvel was gonna do anyway since they hated it–and everyone would be satisfied. Everyone wins. My one miscalculation was that I haven’t actually ever seen fans come up with the explanation that I thought was kind of obvious.
Thus, Marvel’s official take on Lockjaw is that he is a mutated dog. However, the interesting question is what that means in terms of how Lockjaw is treated. Even if you were to concede that Lockjaw was a mutated dog, does that mean that he should be treated like a pet? Couldn’t a mutated dog still be, in effect, a peer of the other Inhumans? There does not seem to be anything inherent in Lockjaw being a dog that means that he should be treated like a pet.
However, in the wake of the Byrne revelation, which, admittedly, does make the Inhumans look like jerks in the stories where they have treated Lockjaw like a pet, Marvel has doubled down on treating him like a pet. It should be noted, by the way, that Lee/Kirby did not have the Inhumans explicitly treat Lockjaw like a pet. They probably did see Lockjaw as a pet, but if so, that view did not make it into the actual comic. The only issues by Lee and Kirby where Lockjaw was explicitly shown as a pet are the issues following Fantastic Four #55, and it is Wyatt Wingfoot, not an Inhuman, who does so. Again, that probably was what Lee and Kirby were thinking, but since they did not actually show the Inhumans treating Lockjaw as a pet, it leaves open the possibility that he was a mutated dog who just happens to be a peer of the other Inhumans). Since the Byrne revelation, though, Marvel has gone out of their way on occassion to show the other Inhumans treating Lockjaw like a pet, like in Thing #4 (by Dan Slott and Andrea DiVito), where Medusa chastises him as a dog, even calling him “bad dog” and whipping him with her hair.
It is as though Marvel has to go overboard treating him like a dog when that was not something that Lee and Kirby did during their time with the character.
In any event, the official answer is – Lockjaw is a mutated dog, not a mutated person, but it is up to you whether you think he should be treated like a pet or like a peer of the other Inhumans.
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