Comic books thrive on gimmicks. They entice readers with covers that may or may not accurately reflect the book’s inner contents, but at any rate, they sure do grab your attention. Why is Batman making like King Kong? Why is that rabbit smoking a cigarette? Why is Lois Lane a centaur? You don’t know! Buy our comic!
As you can tell from the examples above, animal transformations are a popular ploy, so it’s only fitting I spotlight them here. I won’t be talking about characters like Beast Boy, who transform on purpose. No, this list is for the unfortunate heroes who, in the course of performing their heroic duty, found themselves with a tail or an affinity for flies. How did they handle it? Let’s have a look-see…
Get Involved in a Turf War
Stick with me here: at the end of Thor #363, Loki turned Thor into a frog for taking-over-Asgard reasons. Thor quickly finds himself in the middle of a war between New York’s frogs and rats, which he ends by commandeering some sewer gators to eat the rats while he stands there impassively. That’s one bloodthirsty frog.
Anyway, Thor then gets his hammer back and is able to transform into a six-foot frog in a Thor costume. Speeding back to Asgard, he trounces Loki and is returned to normal by pure happenstance (Loki sure wasn’t about to help). So endeth the adventures of the Frog of Thunder…the first one, anyway.
Attack Your Friends
In Greek mythology, Circe had a thing for turning men into animals. This…hobby?…carried over to DC Comics, where she turned Green Arrow’s luckless sidekick Speedy into a centaur in Justice League of America #102. Green Arrow was, as usual, off doing things that did not involve Speedy, so it was up to the Flash, Zatanna, and Red Tornado to effect a rescue.
Speedy, fully under Circe’s spell, attacked his friends with magic arrows that transformed them into human-animal hybrids, too. (The Flash is a giant slug! Ho, ho, irony!) But eventually, the League got their act together and stole Circe’s wand, returning Speedy to normal. Too bad Batman wasn’t around to cure him with a torch song.
Never Speak of This Again
Starting in Spectacular Spider-Man #17, Peter Parker became a lot less man and a lot more spider. The transformation was precipitated by a kiss from some weird insect lady who wanted to mate with him. Don’t worry, it gets worse: once Peter has gone full spider, a random side character informs us that, on top of everything else, the kiss put Spidey in a family way.
To make a long and gross story short and still gross, Spider-spider drops dead, only for his old human self to come bursting out of his spider self’s corpse, complete with the abilities to shoot webbing from his wrists and talk to bugs, mostly ants. Surprisingly, Ant-Man did not sue him, but that’s probably just because everyone wiped this storyline from their memory the second it ended.
Plot Against the Nazis
Since I mentioned it in the intro, let’s unpack just why was that rabbit smoking a cigarette. Answer: the rabbit is John Constantine, as he appears in the DC Comics: Bombshells series, set during World War II.
So what happened? Constantine was infiltrating the SS when he was busted by Zatanna. Zatanna — here a Jewish-Romani woman held captive by the Joker’s Daughter — saves Constantine by transforming him into a chain-smoking bunny rabbit. The two plan their escape, but they end up losing their powers instead, which turns Constantine back to normal. I’m still sad we didn’t get to see John Constanbun dropkick a Nazi, but oh well.
When he originally joined the X-Men, Hank “Beast” McCoy wasn’t much of a beast: he was just a bit bigger and more muscular than average. He was also possessed of a big brain. In Amazing Adventures #11, he applied that brain to the study of genetics and created a formula that could trigger mutations in regular people.
And then Hank drank the formula himself, like a nincompoop. He sprouted gray (then black, then blue) fur all over and grew fangs and claws. Though understandably upset at first, Hank’s natural optimism soon reasserted itself. He thrived as a long-time member of the Avengers, spreading cheer and multisyllabic words wherever he went.
So Your Family Was Erased From Reality
So You’ve Been Retconned into a Scumbag
So You’ve Been De-Aged Against Your Will
So Your Best Friend Wants You Dead
So Your Girlfriend Is Also a Supervillain
So You Are Your Team’s Token Minority
So Your Gods Have Turned Against You
So Your Family Isn’t Dead After All
So You’re Old All of a Sudden