Even though, more often than not, Marvel characters tend to stick to (sometimes literally) bustling urban areas, there are a shockingly large number of characters that model their alter-egos after members of the animal kingdom. Sometimes it’s just part of their appearance and how they want to be perceived. Other times, that bestial ferocity and likeness is a deep-seated part of who they are.
A lot of the time, it is those very animalistic qualities that lead these villains to a life of crime. Here, we’ll be exploring 16 of Marvel’s most bestial comic book villains in order of how animalistic they actually are. We’ll also take a look at the instances where the villainous character wears the beast and where the ferocious beast wears the character.
We just had to kick this one off with a band. Certainly one of the most vicious of this bunch is the mutant, Victor Creed, better known by his alias, Sabretooth. Armed with powerful claws and enormous canine teeth, when he first appeared in “Iron Fist” #14, Sabretooth gave us just a taste of his savagery, a quality of his that has only worsened as the characters has evolved. He’s a mercenary who kills for pay as well as for his own twisted amusement.
How does someone turn out like Creed? Well, he suffered through multiple traumatic events throughout his childhood. He killed his brother, for example — an act for which his father chained him up in a basement like an animal and constantly pulled out his mutant fangs. It seems Victor was meant to become the creature he is, though he has tried to become more. He once had a sidekick, the mutant Birdy, who aided him through telepathy in controlling his more animalistic, murderous urges. More recently, it seems he’s genuinely turned over a new leaf and is more actively trying to do good with Magneto’s X-Men, at least, for mutantkind. Sure that happened after his personality was switched in the “Axis” storyline, but whatever works, right?
One of the earliest animal-themed criminals, first appearing in “Tales to Astonish” #48 (written by Stan Lee and H.E Huntley, with artwork by Don Heck), Alexander Gentry was a weapons designer who decided to turn to a life of crime to get rich quick. He designed a battle suit equipped with quills, which, unlike an actual porcupine, could be shot at opponents. He wasn’t especially strong, intelligent and his suit didn’t actually help much, so he became a laughing stock among criminal and super hero society. That’s what led him to temporarily giving up his suit and his life of crime until he donned it once more to try and sell it to the Avengers, who he had faced before. He died before that could happen, impaled on one of his own quills.
Despite the undeniably wild appearance, Porcupine is definitely not as animalistic as he looks in the suit. He was just a guy trying to make some money through illegal methods. It’s a perfect example of the name being used to describe what he had created and not who he was as a person, or even as a criminal.
Next on the list is one alias used by two colorful characters straight out of Australia’s outback. First, there was Frank Oliver’s Kangaroo. He first appeared in “Amazing Spider-Man” #81, bouncing around like the kangaroos he so intensely studied. Wanting to make a name for himself, Kangaroo found himself in a battle against the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. SPOILER: he lost. Throughout his career, he kept trying to gain infamy as a criminal, right up until he died unceremoniously via gamma radiation poisoning.
Not long after, there was Brian Hibbs, who idolized the original Kangaroo and desperately wanted to become a supervillain. He trained and eventually fought Spider-Man, who hilariously beat him with one punch. Still, he went on to create a more elaborate kangaroo-themed suit. At one point, he even tried to force mutations on himself, which eventually worked, though he was throwin in prison and couldn’t escape, thus negating any thrill of his powers. Still, Hibbs was different to Oliver in that everything he did was done so he could emulate the animal he named himself after.
Fans of the “Amazing Spider-Man” series will probably recognize the Rhino as being one of Spidey’s most enduring foes. Aleksei Sytsevich was a bad guy from the very beginning. He was part of the Russian mob, chosen to undergo various procedures that would bond a thick armored suit to him, modelled after a rhinoceros hide. This subsequently turned him into the strongest, toughest thug they had. The moment that separates the person from the animal is in “Amazing Spider-Man” #625, written by Joe Kelly and illustrated by Max Fiumara and Fabio D’Auria. We find Aleksei out of the suit, trying to just be a human being. He’s in love and married to Oksana, who tragically dies when a new Rhino emerges, forcing Aleksei to don the suit again, after which he quickly destroys his new adversary.
It’s a symbolic moment when we see Aleksei choose to become a completely destructive force, much indeed like an angered and rampaging rhino. It’s an easy line to cross, even though throughout his many appearances, we see him constantly swaying from one side to the other. Was it life that forced him to be the Rhino or was that beast just a symbol of who he really was?
Villains born from tragedy don’t always become the creatures they wear. For example, Antonio Rodriguez, who first appeared in “Captain America” #308 (written by Mark Gruenwald and illustrated by Paul Neary, Dennis Janke and Ken Feduniewicz), became a villain because he needed a means to cure his ill wife. He eventually found Dr. Karlin Malus, who offered to cure Rodriguez’s wife in exchange for his consent to becoming Malus’ test subject. Rodriguez was turned into a creature armed with a thick hide and long, sharp claws.
Rodriguez is, however, an animal in appearance only. The mind and man within is still very much in control, albeit misguided and a little violent. He doesn’t act out of instinctive rage, he just needs a purpose in his new form and though he’s tried, he just can’t be a hero. If he really was more animal than man, there’s no way he would have ever even tried to be decent.
One of Spidey’s many animal-themed foes, former private investigator Mac Gargan was hired by J. Jonah Jameson to become the villain to take Spidey down. Gargan, now a monster, grew enraged and insane, hating Jameson for what he had done and Spider-Man for basically just being Spider-Man.
Gargan has a tendency to give in to his anger and, like the animal, literally lash out at those who show him the slightest aggression. We can see this in everything from his irrational hatred for Jameson, to his willingness to embrace the more violent aspects of the symbiote when he becomes the new Venom, going so far as to eat and enjoy the flesh of humans, skrulls and of course, the bones of Swarm (who we’ll get to in a bit). That’s pretty animalistic and more than enough to weigh against the few more humane things he’s tried to do, like stop a bank robber, since right after that, he ate the robber.
Hailing from the jungle city of Wakanda, M’Baku became the ferocious Man-Ape after trying to usurp the throne of his rival, T’Challa, with the help of the White Gorilla Cult. He received his powers and abilities after consuming the flesh of a white gorilla and bathing in its blood. He first appeared in “Avengers” #62 (written by Roy Thomas and illustrated by John Buscema and George Klein), and he makes his purpose more than clear. He doesn’t just want to rule Wakanda, he wants to change it. Where they worship the panther and strive for progress, M’Baku would have them worship the white gorilla and return to a more primitive era instead.
That alone isn’t exactly animalistic until you compare Man-Ape with the behavior of an actual gorilla. He’s wild and unpredictable, but he’s not entirely unsociable. He was seen at T’Challa’s wedding, after all. That’s not unlike any predatory animal of the wild, which can be vicious or friendly depending on what mood it’s in.
9. TIGER SHARK
Lurking in the depths of the deep blue sea is Tod Arliss, also known as Tiger Shark, a long-time foe of Namor. You might not have guessed it, but Arliss was actually a hero before turning into a ferocious supervillain. He was an Olympic swimmer, who, while saving someone’s life, damaged his spinal cord and therefore lost his ability to swim. In desperation, he turned to a scientist who experimented on him with a mixture of Namor and a tiger shark’s genetic material, turning Arliss into a monster.
Over time, his mutation has grown worse and it’s undeniable that he has embraced the deep sea predator for which he is has been named. Armed with razor-sharp teeth and gills, as well as a terrifyingly predatory nature, he is now more shark than man in both mind and body. It’s why he cannot stop hunting something after his keen senses have locked onto it and why he needs a special suit to remain on land.
This wart-covered mutant, first appearing in “X-Men” #4 (written by Stan Lee with artwork by Jack Kirby and Paul Reinman), was undeniably one of the more primitive-seeming mutants, at least, at first. While in earlier comics he appears to just be a lackey for the Brotherhood, we’ve come to know him as being far more complex than his simple name implies. Beyond his elongated amphibian tongue and abilities, his creature-like stance and mannerisms, Mortimer Toynbe is actually just a mutant trying to be more than what he’s perceived.
Maybe he does it because, as he said before trying to kill Cyclops (to change the timeline), he doesn’t want to be a monster, or maybe he tried for the affections of those who might see him as more, like Wanda Maximoff or later, Husk. He’s not wild or even unpredictable. Mortimer is just trying to find happiness, and when you really get down to the man beneath the slime-secreting skin, there’s very little animal-like about him… well, other than his look, powers and codename.
Ladies and gentlemen, Miles Warren. Most people might remember that name because it belonged to the culprit who cloned Peter Parker, beginning the infamous “Amazing Spider-Man” Clone Saga of the mid-90s. Aside from being a genetic genius, Warren also became a mutated green jackal-like creature, reflecting the madness that sprouted within him. In the recent “Dead No More: Clone Conspiracy” story arc, he went so far as to resurrect Ben Reilly only to kill him and resurrect him once more, more than a dozen times. That sort of cruelty or devotion to science (depending on how you look at it) is not animalistic, it is unfortunately very human; a warped take on the scientific method.
Jackal was akin to his namesake animal only in the symbolic sense. He was cunning and lurked in the shadows, watching his schemes unfold with shining eyes and gleaming teeth. He was insane, sure, but he definitely was not animalistic on the inside; predatory, perhaps. He was barely animalistic on the outside just… really, really weird looking, and his motivations show that he’s far from being a simple animal at heart. He’s been involved in the rise and fall of criminal empires, tangled emotional trauma and has successfully executed contingency plans to avoid ever truly dying.
Maxwell Markham donned the Grizzly exoskeleton from Jackal, in order to get revenge on Jameson for writing an unflattering editorial on the former wrestler; an editorial that ruined Maxwell’s career. Aside from bearing the look of a gargantuan grizzly bear, the suit augmented Maxwell’s strength, allowing the wrestler to begin his career as a supervillain. He was constantly defeated by Spider-Man, even when working with other villains in the infamous Legion of Losers. That’s just about where his animalistic or generally wild qualities end.
Despite the savage look of his suit, Maxwell isn’t a particularly animalistic person. He’s gruff, not too bright and capable of unspeakable violence, but is he primitive and wild at heart? No. In fact, he’s even been seen trying to reform himself in “The Superior Foes of Spider-Man” #11, when he attended a Villains Anonymous meeting alongside Porcupine (Roger Gocking), Looter and others lesser known villains. He also recently made a switch to the side of the angels in the “Astonishing Ant-Man” series by Nick Spencer and Ramon Rosanas.
You’re probably thinking that this one just has to have lost his humanity. He’s a cold-blooded pteranodon-man well known in the Savage Land. It can’t get any wilder than that, can it? Surprisingly, Karl Lykos is more human than he appears or even acts sometimes, though he is evil in his pteranodon form, taking the name Sauron after the evil elven overlord of J.R.R Tolkien’s fantasy novels. In his earlier stories, he was in constant conflict with his bestial side, going so far as to starve himself in isolation just to fight the urge to drain the life energy of others.
Though he usually retains his intelligence in his monstrous form, there have been instances when he lost all control and ability to think like a human being, as he did when Lykos and his alter-ego clashed on the astral plane following a psychic intervention by Phoenix. Lykos slowly returned later on, but that moment did highlight an important fact about Sauron. In his battle for control, Lykos just barely pulls through. Like the animals of the jungle (or of the Mesozoic era), it’s the hunger that drives him and that usually means danger for others.
Since his first appearance in “Amazing Spider-Man” #6, we’ve seen Curt Connors evolve (or devolve, depending on how you look at it) over the course of his long and arduous battle against his green, scaly alter-ego, the Lizard. It was never an easy battle for the brilliant scientist. His family has been placed in harm’s way multiple times and he’s lost friends because of his tendency to transform into the surprisingly manipulative Lizard persona. Not only does the Lizard embrace its predatory nature, it’s capable of appealing to the “reptilian part” of the human brain, compelling others to act like animals, too.
Thankfully for Connors, he was cured in part thanks to Otto Octavius, who freed Connor of the Lizard persona, though Connors was still trapped in the reptile body, which was revealed in “Amazing Spider-Man” #699 in one of Connors’ defining moments. Remembering all the death and destruction he’d caused as the Lizard, Connors resigned to his imprisonment even when presented with the opportunity for escape, declaring that he had nowhere to go and that he deserved his punishment. That one moment shows that even after all the mutations and madness, Connors is still a good man inside.
For those who are familiar with this particular bestial baddie, you probably already know that Romulus is in no way human. Unlike the rest of the villains on this list, he is one example of what happens when an animal tries to emulate a man. He first appeared (completely) in “Wolverine” Vol 3 #50 as the shadowy figure manipulating Wolverine, Sabretooth. In later issues, we find out he’d also been manipulating Logan’s son, Daken. He’s a member of the Lupine, a species that Black Panther postulates quite possibly evolved from canines rather than apes. So far, Romulus’ every action has reflected that. He’s not after world domination, not really. He just wants to create a new breed of predator.
As wolves need an alpha to lead them, Romulus had been preparing Logan and Daken for a battle against each other to see which one could take his place at the top. You could argue that his motives are human in a very small way, but for the most part, it’s the kind of basic survival instinct you see in wolf packs. He might look almost human, but when it comes down to it, it’s just the skin the beast wears.
In a freak accident involving killer bees, a Nazi scientist and “radioactivity,” Fritz Von Meyer’s consciousness was dispersed among a swarm of bees. Thus, Swarm was born, first appearing in “Champions” #14 (written by Bill Mantlo and John Byrne with artwork by Byrne, Mike Esposito and Glynis Wein). As you might imagine, Swarm is driven by one thing: to see the swarm thrive and therefore, humanity eradicated. It may still possess the consciousness of Fritz, but there’s nothing human about it (except for maybe his odd need for a cape… bees get cold too). It attacks seemingly at random, as it did when it attacked the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning in “Wolverine and the X-Men” #19, just like a pest.
As a collective of insects using Fritz’s expertise to ensure their own survival, it’d be difficult to argue that Swarm is anything more than a bunch of malicious insects now. They have completely engulfed his mind and therefore, while he can still be seen using technology (to wipe out all other technology), he’s now just a collection of animals.
A Wendigo is the product of a curse created by the extradimensional being, Tanaraq. Any who consumes the flesh of another human being in the Canadian wilderness will turn into a ferocious, furry, sasquatch-like creature with strength enough to stand their own against the Hulk. Unfortunately for them, once a human has been turned into a Wendigo, there’s very little left of their former humanity.
Of course, while at least one Wendigo was shown to be capable of speech (albeit broken and simple), most others are generally dangerous and animalistic, generally unleashed as opposed to co-operated with. They’re more like the dogs you send to hunt rather than a partner you fight alongside (although some of you dog owners might argue otherwise). Wendigos are the perfect example of the form of a beast consuming the identity of the man who was once behind it. There are no clever schemes hatched from Wendigos, there aren’t even any complex emotional motivations, just raw animal instinct.
Who is your favorite animalistic Marvel malcontent? Let us know in the comments!
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