This week, Tom Holland (Marvel’s new Spider-Man) and Chris Hemsworth (Marvel’s not so new Thor) team up in In the Heart of the Sea, a new period action film about the true story of a whaling ship that takes on a giant sperm whale and loses with catastrophic (and cannibalistic) results. The events shown in the film inspired Herman Melville to write the famous novel Moby Dick.
While you might not want to spend your weekend watching a whale eat Spider-Man and Thor, you probably do want to know a little bit more about the rich history of whale themed characters in comics. You might be surprised to learn that there are approximately five whales that have appeared in superhero books, with each one more obscure than the last. Luckily, ComicBook.com is here to help, with our fascinating feature on the top five whales in comics:
One of Black Lightning’s first and greatest foes, Tobias Whale was the leader of the Metropolis branch of “the 100”, an international crime gang. Whale’s nickname was “the Great White Whale” due to his massive size (he weighed over 400 pounds) and his white skin (caused by albinism). Whale was a recurring villain in Black Lightning’s solo series before he moved to Gotham in an attempt to take over the city’s organized crime in the wake of Black Mask’s death. The crime boss also appeared in the Beware the Batman cartoon as a recurring villain and leader of a Gotham gang. Due to sharing a similar girth and occupation, Whale often draws comparisons to Marvel’s Wilson Fisk, aka the Kingpin.
While Batman has probably fought whales a few times in the comics, one of his more interesting “D-list” rogues is actually part whale herself. Orca was a former marine biologist who experimented with whale gene therapy after she became paralyzed from the waist down. Her experiments were partially successful: while she couldn’t walk as a human, she could transform into a fully mobile whale/human hybrid, complete with the proportional strength and swimming skills of a killer whale. Orca decided to use her powers to steal a diamond in hopes of selling it and funding several programs for underprivileged youth. Batman stopped Orca’s planned diamond heist, but not before private security shot Orca several times. In order to save the criminal’s life, Batman allowed Orca to take a formula that permanently left her in her part-whale form. Orca later joined the Penguin’s forces, but she died at the hands of the Great White Shark, another nautically themed villain and rival to the Penguin.
What’s even more terrifying than a giant, berserk whale? A giant, berserk whale with arms and legs. Giganto is actually a race of whale-like creatures used by the Atlanteans as an “ultimate weapon” of sorts. Namor first used Giganto to attack the surface world after discovering an Atlantean outpost destroyed by nuclear bomb tests. The creature attacked and destroyed part of New York City before the Thing stopped the beast by detonating an atomic bomb in its stomach. Namor and other Atlanteans later used Giganto (or its offspring) on attacks against the Avengers, Doctor Doom, and Japan as well as a way to fix Reed and Sue Richards’ marital problems. Giganto’s only recurring weakness (besides his weak constitution towards atomic bombs) is his cat-like sleep schedule. Giganto needs to rest for nearly a full day for each hour he’s above surface, which leaves him vulnerable to attack. Good luck trying to pierce his hide, though.
While most whales live in the ocean, the Acanti are space whales capable of traveling at faster than light speeds. While the red space whales are typically peaceful creatures, the villainous Brood enslaved the race to use as spaceships for their own expansionist goals, captured the Acanti’s collective Soul and transformed their corpse of the Acanti’s leader into the throne city of their homeworld. After the Brood attacked the X-Men and infected them with embryos that would eventually consume their bodies, a rogue Acanti saved the X-Men and directed them to the Brood’s home planet, where they were able to stop the Brood and free the Acanti from enslavement. While the Acanti haven’t really been seen since, one alternate universe seen in X-Treme X-Men had a version of Charles Xavier who had somehow been transformed into an Acanti whale and imprisoned by the Brood.
Grant Morrison’s New X-Men run introduced tons of weird and wacky concepts to the X-Universe, including the mutant team’s first inter-species member. In his final arc “Here Comes Tomorrow”, Morrison introduced an alternate future where Beast (corrupted by the sentient alien virus Sublime) has taken over the world, with only the last remnants of the X-Men to oppose him. One of the X-Men’s members is a cowardly telepathic whale named Mer-Max. We don’t learn much about Mer-Max other than he’s a whale, he’s “speaks” in a Scottish brogue and he’s a big baby, but Morrison fans loved the big lug…even though he appeared in just six or so panels.