HEAT VISION

The Surprisingly Long History of 'DC Super Pets'

Yes, DC has had a pet-centric superhero team for more than half a century.
YouTube/DC
Yes, DC has had a pet-centric superhero team for more than half a century.

If the idea of a movie featuring the pets of the World’s Greatest Super-Heroes seems like a goofy idea, take some solace from the fact that the roots of DC Super-Pets, now scheduled for May 21, 2021, lie in a concept that has already lasted more than half a century — even though it came from the 30th century… kind of.

The early days of DC’s Legion of Super-Heroes strip were particularly whimsical, even by mid-century comic book standards; the Legion was a group of super-powered teens in the 30th century who hung out together in a clubhouse — one that was actually called a clubhouse and, originally, had a sign out front that read “Super Heroes Club” — and had adventures involving mistaken identities, treasure hunts and similarly lighthearted subjects.

With that in mind, the story that appeared in 1962’s Adventure Comics No. 293 — “The Legion of Super-Traitors!” — made perfect sense. In the 20th century, an alien race decides, for reasons that make little sense, to bring members of the Legion from the 30th century to the present day in order to possess them to fight the teenage version of Superman. It’s discovered that the aliens can’t possess animals, and so Superboy and the no-longer-possessed Legionnaires gather together a handful of super-powered pets, including Krypto the Super-Dog, Beppo the Super-Monkey, Streaky the Super-Cat and Comet the Super-Horse, to save the day.

If that story seems unlikely, consider this; the group of pets — who became known as the Legion of Super-Pets, because of course they did — would go on to star in a number of other Legion of Super-Heroes stories, having apparently found an audience with that first tale. They’d show up irregularly for the next six years, joined by an alien pet, the shape-shifting Proty II. (The first Proty having sacrificed his life to save the mind-reading Legionnaire, Saturn Girl. Yes, he was actually replaced by an identical pet who was given exactly the same name with the addition of “II.” Don’t ask.)

That there were enough super-pets to form a Legion wouldn’t have been a surprise to readers at the time. In addition to each of the founding members of the team, all of whom had appeared previously starting with Krypto in 1955’s Adventure Comics No. 210, there was also Ace the Bat-Hound and Topo, Aquaman’s pet octopus, with the two first showing up in 1955 and 1956, respectively. (All of these animal heroes were just following in the paw prints of Hoppy, the Marvel Bunny, a spin off of the hero now known as Shazam; he first appeared in 1942’s Fawcett’s Funny Animals.) But the animal-centric superhero fad faded, as such things tend to, in light of the self-consciousness of the 1970s and ‘80s, when even the Legion found themselves abandoning the club house in favor of more serious, grown-up hangouts.

The notion of a team of super-powered animals didn’t entirely disappear, however; the 1980s brought DC’s Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew!, and in the 2000s, Marvel finally caught up with the introduction of the Pet Avengers. As for the Super-Pets themselves, they were revived — sans the “Legion of” in their name, and with a revised line-up — in 2011, when Capstone Publishing launched a successful kids’ book line called, simply, DC Super Pets, which was the basis of a series of animated shorts shown as part of Cartoon Network’s short-lived DC Nation block in 2012 through 2013.

It’s this incarnation of the team — which features a membership more closely aligned with the Justice League — that’s expected to form the basis for the group’s big screen debut. But if there’s any justice to be found, we can but hope that the plot involves aliens possessing the human heroes, and the pets having to step up and save the day. After all, it’d be faithful to the source material.

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