Nerdvana: The Animal Factor
We’re familiar with Marvel’s Super Hero Squad Show, correct?
The titular Squad on that show was comprised of superheroes who each possessed a specific factor to make an ideal team. They were:
- Strength Factor
- Speed Factor
- Energy Factor
- Elemental Factor
- Animal Factor
- Technology Factor
As you’ve undoubtedly noticed from my recent entries, I’ve been on kind of an animal kick lately, and that beastly train is still a-chuggin’ along. Today’s Nerdvana spotlights one of my favorite factors, The Animal Factor.
As its’ name implies (in case you haven’t figured it out by now), Animal Factor heroes employ the abilities, strengths and characteristics of animals and bestial ferocity into their power sets.
Since I have nothing better to do, I’ve classified Animal Factor heroes into 3 distinct types: Ferals (animal/human hybrids who possess physical and mental characteristics of various creatures), Animorphs (beings able to shapeshift and/or assume the abilities of animals at will) and Power Animals (animals with super powers). Today I’ll be listing some of my favorite Animal Factor heroes. As with many of our lists, these won’t be in any particular order, so I won’t be numbering them. That said, on with the time-wasting fun.
The Beast (X-Men)
I’ve already gushed about Hank McCoy in an earlier article, so I’ll keep it brief: the Beast is one of my favorite X-Men. He’s an erudite genius in the body of a big blue gorilla. Despite his appearance, he doesn’t speak in “Unga-Munga” dialogue, nor does he wallow in self-pity and angst over his mutation; he takes it all in stride with a big brain, a literary quote for any occasion and a good, cheery sense of humor. More recently, Marvel gave Hank a secondary mutation, making him more cat-like…
…And while I’m not completely against this idea, I don’t consider it all that necessary either. Beast was fine the way he was.
Shalimar Fox (Mutant X)
I know Mutant X was just a poor man’s X-Men clone, and the show was rated LB (for Low Budget), but I did like some things about it, one of the main ones being the Feral class and its’ representative, Feline Feral Shalimar Fox. Yeah, the fact that the Ferals didn’t look any different was mainly because the show didn’t have the coin for fancy makeup and costumes, but I liked the idea of possessing the animalistic ferocity while keeping your matinee idol looks. Shalimar was my favorite character on the show: sleek, agile, acrobatic, limber, prone to fits of savagery but with a soft vulnerable side, plus she lived up her last name.
Cheetah (DC Super Hero Girls)
I’ll be honest, I never really cared or thought much about Cheetah before, but I like the DC Super Hero Girls version, though not at first. Initially, I thought Cheetah was just a one-dimensional bee-yotch who screwed with the others (most notably Wonder Woman) while never suffering any consequences, but in later shorts and in the hour-long TV special we get to see that there’s more to her than that, she actually possesses some humanity underneath her obnoxiousness and can even be friendly on occasion. Plus, I really like her design and costume here; I prefer Cheetah a cat/human hybrid that some rich snoot in kitty pajamas.
Jayna (The Wonder Twins)
I like the Wonder Twins. Deal with it, nerds. Jayna can transform into any animal, whether real, mythological, indigenous to Earth or to some other planet. Since she must vocalize her choice of form to assume, she must know the common name. Naming the wrong animal will cause her to assume the wrong animal’s form. She has been known to take the form of anything from an ant to a whale.
In the Super Friends comic book, Jayna’s powers were shown to be more extensive. By transforming into an animal of Kryptonian origin, for instance, Jayna could gain both the creature’s natural abilities and the super-powers that all Kryptonians possess under Earth-like conditions; she was even capable of overpowering Superman in the form of a Kryptonian animal. She could also morph into creatures like griffins or werewolves.
Beast Boy (DC Super Hero Girls version)
Another character I was usually just “eh” about, though the DC Super Hero Girls take on him is one of my favorites. His costume here is cool, he’s not as exaggeratedly skinny here and here he manages to be the funny guy without being portrayed as a brain-dead moron.
Honorable mention goes to the Young Justice version, where the character was voiced by Logan Grove, the original voice of Gumball Watterson.
Mari McCabe can’t technically shapeshift, but she can magically assume the abilities of the animal kingdom. Vixen possesses the innate ability to make direct contact with the Earth’s morphogenetic field, which is sometimes known as the “Red”. This contact with the “Red” allows to draw upon the abilities of any animal that has ever lived on the planet. By simply focusing on a specific animal, she can draw its talent directly from the morphogenetic field and mimic its abilities, thus giving herself a variety of superhuman powers.
Vixen’s connection to the “Red” is so deep that she can use the abilities of multiple animals, once holding onto the morphogenetic traits of an entire forest. Her abilities have allowed her to channel the powers of extinct animals (such as the saber-toothed tiger and the Triceratops), domesticated animals (like the Doberman Pinscher), and even mystical beasts (like dragons). Her powers even allow her to twist some animal abilities, like when she used the bio-luminescence of a Marine hatchet fish and an Angler fish to produce light from her hand and to create a laser-like beam from her head.
Vixen wears a mystic artifact called the Tantu Totem, a fox-head shaped talisman given to her ancestors by the African trickster god Anansi. It was previously thought that the totem was the source of her powers but later stories, have shown that it merely prevents the morphogenetic field from overwhelming her mind. It was once assumed that the totem increased her range for mimicking animals as she has been seen taking on the traits of animals from across the world. However this limit has been removed since The New 52. The full capability of the totem is unknown but Vixen once used the magic of the totem to heal bruises and wounds within seconds by simply touching it. The totem is thus far absent from her uniform and she has been seen taking on the traits of animals that were not within her vicinity.
On top of all that, she’s a freakin; supermodel!
No offense to Bumblebee, but I still wish DC had chosen her as the African-American representative to DC Super Hero Girls.
Astria (The Young/Space Sentinels)
A relatively obscure choice, Astria was a character from The Space Sentinels (originally titled The Young Sentinels and renamed midway through its only season), a Saturday morning animated series produced by Filmation which debuted on the American NBC network on September 10, 1977 and ran for thirteen half-hour episodes. She could morph into any living animal (duh! Why else would she be on this list?), plus she was one of the few African-American superheroes on TV at the time. Nice. Plus, she managed to give the team’s resident robot mascot, MO, a case of Jungle Fever hardware, since he was hot for her.
Reptil (The Super Hero Squad Show)
Again, I’ve praised Reptil in previous entries, so I’ll to abridge my thoughts here. I first learned about Humberto Lopez, aka Reptil, via The Super Hero Squad Show and he quickly became a favorite of mine. Despite the funky tights and no shoes which make him look like he’s wearing a wet suit, Reptil’s spunky, cute in a rambunctious boyish way and possesses one of the more unique powers on record: his Sun Stone amulet allows him to transform into various dinosaur forms…
Either partially, such as sprouting pterodactyl wings…
Or full-on dinosaur or humanoid dino forms. Also, he manages to make red and scaly look kind of cool.
Krypto the Superdog
C’mon. He’s a dog with all the powers of Superman. Do I really need to explain why he’s on the list? He can save you from an active volcano, and then fetch you the paper. He’s the ultimate pet: a cross between Superman and Jeeves.
Brainy Barker (Krypto the Superdog)
My favorite member of the Dog Stars. She’s a purple Afghan in a cape with telekinetic/telepathic powers. ‘Nuff said.
Monkey (Dexter’s Laboratory/Dial ‘M’ for Monkey)
A super-powered lab monkey given amazing powers via weird scientific experiments by boy genius Dexter himself. Monkey can fly, manipulate energy, fire laser beams from his eyes, move objects telekinetically, change into and out of his costume with a thought and his costume is really cool looking. Not bad for a lower primate. Hmmm, maybe I should’ve put him on my roster for Build Your Own Fantastic Four.
Bolt (Disney’s Bolt)
On his TV show, Bolt possessed such dazzling powers as super speed and a ‘sonic bark’. They were just fictional of course, but still pretty cool. Also, I like the bolt mark on his fur.
-So there you have it. Some of my favorite Animal Factor heroes.