In the regular world, plants don’t amount to much to us. They decorate our houses and gardens, clean the air, grow food, and occasionally get chopped up to make our furniture. They certainly don’t fight crime or try to take over the world. That’s where comic books come in.
In the comic world, plants can become powerful weapons or even superhuman beings, fighting for heroes and villains. From Marvel to DC to independent comics, the plant world is one of danger and mystery. With the adorable Baby Groot set to return in 2017’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” it’s time for CBR to review 15 plant-based characters in the world of superheroes. We won’t be talking about characters who have power over plants, but ones who actually have plants in them or are made of plants.
The superhero Tumbleweed first appeared in 2008’s “Number of the Beast” #1, written by Scott Beatty and penciled by Chris Sprouse. Edward Dane was caught in the detonation of the Trinity atomic bomb test in the New Mexico desert, turning him into a collection of desert plants in the shape of a human being. Tumbleweed is made of desert fauna (mostly tumbleweeds and cactus) and has the power to control the flowers and branches inside him. He can adjust his shape by changing the way the plants are arranged, and also grow new ones inside himself.
With his new powers, Dane became Tumbleweed, a member of the World War II-era superhero group, the Paladins. Along with the other Paladins, he was kept inside a virtual reality simulation to keep him under control, but escaped in modern days. After the apocalyptic events of “Number of the Beast,” Tumbleweed used his powers to make an oasis in the Nevada desert in the post-apocalyptic world.
In 1984’s “Firestorm” #19 (written by Gerry Conway and Carla Conway, and penciled by Gene Colan), a broke lawyer named Frederick Delmar agreed to become a test subject for an experimental antihistamine drug called Nuvafed. The drug was just supposed to be harmless, but it caused a violent reaction in Delmar that killed him. Not wanting to admit the drug was a failure, Delmar’s body was dumped in a deserted field, where the body combined with the plants around him, bringing him back to life as a monster nicknamed Goldenrod.
Goldenrod went on a rampage to try to track down the people responsible for his transformation, but went up against the nuclear man himself, Firestorm. Goldenrod was made of plants and had the power to shoot concentrated pollen at his enemies, triggering fatal allergic reactions, and could also pollinate the area around him to grow plants that he could control. When he got out of control, Goldenrod realized he had gone too far and killed himself by dissolving into a cloud of pollen. A supervillain who kills with hay fever? Only in the comics.
13. BLACKBRIAR THORN
Created by Len Wein and Joe Kubert in 1984’s “DC Comics Presents” #66, Blackbriar Thorn was a Druid high priest whose sect was attacked by Roman soldiers. In order to escape, Thorn used his power to turn himself into wood so that he could hide in the forest. He intended to revert to normal upon being exposed to moonlight, but an earthquake buried him underground before that could happen. Thousands of years later, an archaeologist dug him up and put him on display in a Gotham City museum, where the moon’s light brought him back to life.
As a druid, Thorn has mystical power over the elements, able to cause wind and storms, even indoors. He also has power over plants, causing them to grow and move however he wanted, including the growth and shape of his own wooden body. Since his inception, Thorn has been a part of the DC Universe as one of the most powerful members of the magic community, often fighting heroes like the Justice League Dark, but also helping to stop the “Crisis on Infinite Earths.”
12. LADY WEEDS
2013’s “Swamp Thing Annual” #2 by Charles Soule and Jesus Saiz introduced the cruel and sadistic Lady Weeds. In the Victorian Era, Lady Weeds was an avatar of the Green, another dimension where all plant life is connected. It’s also the source of Swamp Thing’s power. Lady Weeds abused her power, though, deliberately causing the Great Potato Famine in Ireland that led to the deaths of millions, in order to convince the members of the Parliament of Trees (the Parliament helped other Green avatars like Swamp Thing) never to challenge her claim as an avatar of the Green.
Lady Weeds had all the power of Swamp Thing with none of the conscience. She could manipulate and control plants both within and outside of herself, was basically immortal as long as plants existed in the world, and could draw upon power from the Green to make herself superhumanly strong. She ended up becoming expelled from the Green and paralyzed, but reborn as an avatar of the Metal.
11. EL SEED
In 1992, the animated TV show “The Tick” aired “The Tick vs. El Seed,” written by Ben Edlund and Richard Liebmann-Smith with storyboards by Christopher McCulloch and Stuart Yellin. In the episode, the superhero Tick faced a humanoid flower turned revolutionary named El Seed. No one knows where El Seed came from before he went to school for agriculture, but in the process he developed a chemical “vitilizer” to make plants grow arms and legs, and rise up against humans.
El Seed wanted to raise an army of plant soldiers to overthrow humanity and have plants take over the world, and his chemical concoctions almost let him do it. He tended to avoid fighting himself, but had two female insectoids called the Bee Twins to do his dirty work for him. Fortunately, the Tick and Arthur managed to get the drop on him by infiltrating the plant army as “kernels.” El Seed should have branched out to helping people instead of overthrowing them.
Timberius first appeared in “Incredible Hulk Annual” #1 in 1968, written by Gary Friedrich and penciled by Marie Severin. A member of the Inhumans, Black Bolt found him guilty of treason and banished Timberius to another dimension along with other rebels. When the Hulk was transported to their dimension, Timberius worked with Maximus the Mad to escape. They also tried to take over the Inhuman city of Attilan. As a member of Maximus’ guard, Timberius continued to wreak havoc as part of the leader’s mad schemes.
Like all Inhumans, Timberius was exposed to the Terrigen Mists, but the combination of plant DNA gave him a wooden appearance and control over plants. He can grow plant life and make it move, much like the other entries on this list, although he’s much more ambitious. Over the years, he’s fought the Silver Surfer, the Fantastic Four and the Avengers, but keeps on going.
9. FLORONIC MAN
Written by Gardner Fox and pencilers Gil Kane, 1962’s “Atom” #1 introduced Jason Woodrue as the Plant Master, who used inter-dimensional technology to grow plants in order to take over the world. However, an experimental formula later turned him into a plant humanoid and he changed his name to the Floronic Man. He later became a villain of Swamp Thing, and at one point, the Floronic Man even became a hero when he joined the Global Guardians who formed after the events of the “Millennium” storyline. However, he since went back to the side of evil.
Even as Woodrue, he was dangerous because of his knowledge of plants, but as the Floronic Man, Woodrue gained the ability to control and combine his body with plant life. His powers increased when he ate parts of Swamp Thing and connected with the Green, making him able to control plants all over the world. In the New 52 reboot, Woodrue became the Seeder, fighting Swamp Thing for the right to be the avatar of the Green.
8. POISON IVY
“Batman” #181 (1966), created by Robert Kanigher and Sheldon Moldoff, introduced the supervillain Poison Ivy to the DC universe. Poison Ivy was a botanist injected with experimental poisons by Woodrue that transformed her into a toxic woman who could control plants. Obsessed with plant life over human beings, Poison Ivy became an eco-terrorist who fought, robbed and even killed in order to fund her attempts at destroying humanity and saving the natural world. That’s made her one of Batman’s deadliest enemies.
Poison Ivy can control plants, making them grow and move wherever and however she likes. She can also connect to plants with her mind, communicate with them over long distances and is immune to all forms of poisons and toxins. Poison Ivy herself is riddled with poisons, able to kill someone with a kiss alone, and can also produce pheromones to control people’s minds (particularly men). She tends to fall on the side of evil, but isn’t above working with Batman on the side of the heroes every now and then.
In the 1990s Disney superhero TV series “Darkwing Duck,” Darkwing fought a lot of weird villains, but one of the strangest was Reginald Bushroot. In the 1991 episode “Beauty and the Beet” (created by John Behnke, Rob Humphrey and Jim Peterson), we met the mild-mannered scientist named Reginald Bushroot who experimented on himself and became a half-duck, half-plant hybrid.
In his new form, Bushroot could control all plants around him, making them steal and fight for him. He’s also still a genius and uses his knowledge to breed new plants for different purposes. Though Bushroot has a lot of power, he’s not really a bad guy. He just wants to help the world and find love, even going so far as to try to create a female plant for companionship. He can also regrow parts of his body that are injured, making him immortal. He’s always a thorn in Darkwing Duck’s side.
Written by Len Wein and penciled by Dave Cockrum, 1975’s “Giant Size X-Men” #1 introduced a new team of X-Men assembled from mutants around the world. Cyclops explained that they needed to find the original team of X-Men, who had gone missing on a remote island named Krakoa while looking for a powerful mutant. When they arrived on Krakoa, the new X-Men discovered that the island itself was the mutant they had been looking for.
When an atomic bomb had detonated near the island of Krakoa, the radiation caused the entire island to mutate into a single conscious entity. All the trees, flowers and plants on the island could work together to fight the X-Men and drain their life energy for Krakoa’s purposes. Though the story was later retconned to say Krakoa was just a hallucination caused by Xavier, it was one of the X-Men’s most bizarre adventures, fighting piles of rocks and tree branches trying to kill them.
Sequoia first appeared in “Fantastic Four” #325 (1988), written by Steve Englehart and penciled by Rich Buckler, as the result of years of plotting and development for the character Mantis. Created by Steve Englehart and Don Heck in “The Avengers” #112 (1973), Mantis is a half-Vietnamese martial artist who was raised by a sect of the alien Kree. She joined the Avengers, and began a journey to become the Celestial Madonna, a legendary woman prophesied to give birth to the most important being in the universe.
She finally mated with a Cotati tree in human form and gave birth to Sequoia, who has the power to absorb and control energy, using it to create energy beams and heal himself. Sequoia (who also goes by Quoi) also gained incredible psychic powers on the level of Thanos and can survive without food or air, thanks to his plant-based biology. He’s become one of the most powerful beings in the universe, which is pretty impressive for a tree.
Making his debut in “Strange Tales” #113 (1951, written by Stan Lee and Joe Carter with pencils by Dick Ayers), Samuel Smithers was an orphaned British botanist who become convinced that he could give intelligence to and communicate with plants. He invented a gun designed to bring plants to life called the “vege-ray,” and used it to become the supervillain Plantman. Over time, Plantman developed plant-based versions of himself called “simuloids,” which he used to do his bidding. Some of them have been programmed with his mental pattern to the point that they are essentially Plantman. Over time, his body mutated from exposure to the vege-ray energy, and allowed him to merge with the Earth’s biosphere.
Plantman can animate and control any form of plant life. In his simuloid form, Plantman has superhuman strength and resistance, as well as the ability to control and change form. He’s living proof that plants are out to get us.
“Whatever knows fear burns at the touch of the Man-Thing.” That’s the slogan of one of the most powerful monsters in the Marvel Universe, who first appeared in 1971’s “Savage Tales” #1, created by Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway and Gray Morrow. Dr. Ted Sallis was a scientist working on a variation of Captain America’s super-soldier serum when he was attacked by thugs trying to get his formula. Sallis was hurt and injected himself with the serum in order to try to save himself, but instead mutated into a monster made from the swamp.
The Man-Thing is a terrifying creature, made even more fearsome by his powers. Man-Thing is superhumanly strong and fast, thanks to his huge plant-based body, and can heal and regenerate from any injury, but also has empathic powers that let him sense fear and evil intentions. Those emotions make him seek out the source, excrete an acidic compound, and burn whatever causes it. So if you see Man-Thing lumbering towards you in the middle of the night, try not to be scared…if that’s possible.
2. SWAMP THING
A scientist working in a swamp on a secret formula gets attacked and his own formula mutates him to become a plant-based monster. No, this isn’t a repeat of the last entry. This is Swamp Thing, created for DC in “House of Secrets” #92 (1971) and later rebooted in “Swamp Thing” #1 by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson. Whether Swamp Thing was developed independently of Man-Thing is a matter of debate, but the two characters diverged wildly after their origin.
Unlike Man-Thing, Swamp Thing retained his intelligence and identity as Alec Holland, living as an exile in the swamps of Louisiana. He has incredible strength and power in his vegetable form, and can grow himself into different shapes. He can also disassemble himself and create new bodies from any plant matter, allowing him to go anywhere and live forever, as well as control other plants that aren’t part of him.
Alan Moore’s run in the 1980s made him a more monstrous and philosophical character, questioning his existence and identity. It would later be revealed that he wasn’t actually Alec Holland turned into a swamp creature, but rather that he was the swamp itself transformed into thinking he was the scientist.
Groot first appeared in 1960’s “Tales to Astonish” #13 by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers as an alien plant monster who wanted to try to conquer the world. He’s obviously changed a lot since then, beginning in 2006 as a captive and later a member of Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos. From there, Groot joined the Guardians of the Galaxy and became a true hero.
Groot is made of a wood-like structure that allows him to change shape, growing and shrinking all or parts of his body at will. He can also change his body to become covered in thorns, perfectly smooth or any other texture in between. Whenever he’s damaged, he can grow himself back from any individual part, even able to survive being almost completely destroyed and growing back from just a twig to full sized, which he’s done several times. Though it seems like he’s a simpleton who can only say “I am Groot,” he’s actually very smart. He’s also extremely loyal, especially to his best buddy, Rocket Raccoon.
Which is your favorite plant-based character? Let us know in the comments!
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