Comic book characters are usually thought of as ordinary people who become thrust into extraordinary situations when they gain superpowers–your average Spider-Man or Flash or Captain Marvel is really just a squishy Earthling if not for the costumes and the crimefighting. But some of the most memorable characters in superhero comics are actually aliens, representing exotic non-terrestrial cultures and with fascinating biology. Here are four favorite representatives of distant planets in comics.
Fearsome Fantastic Four foe Galactus–see, there’s some Marvelous Stan Lee/Jack Kirby-era alliteration there–is a simple extradimensional star-god from before the Big Bang with simple needs. Specifically, he needs to eat planets. Big G (you can tell who he is by his honest-to-Cthulhu city-block-sized initial belt buckle) was created when writer Stan Lee offhandedly suggested that after Doctor Doom’s plots got old, the Fantastic Four should go bigger and fight God. The iconic trident hat and purple outfit were Jack Kirby’s signature style, and though Galactus started out as just an apocalyptic-scale destroy-the-world villain, his motivations and his backstory both got infinitely more complex, as comic characters are wont to do. He gained a succession of heralds, most notably Norrin “Silver Surfer” Radd, and even teamed up with heroes to fight even worse cosmic entities.
By far the most physically attractive alien on this list, Princess Koriand’r (yes, that pun is terrible, but you should see her sister Komand’r) of Tamaran has had a long and proud superhero career as part of DC’s Teen Titans. The orange-skinned and wild-haired princess is from a race of graceful feline humanoids who have the unique property of absorbing ultraviolet light. Tamaranean culture places high value on heroism and theatrical displays of emotion, and Starfire’s powers are many and vast thanks to her heritage: She can fly, has superhuman strength and speed, and when her emotions run hot she can project mighty energy bolts from her hands. Tamaraneans, incidentally, are different from humans in ways other than skin color and natural superpowers: They all have prehensile tongues and a nine-chambered stomach. Starfire is a very popular character nowadays thanks to her appearance as part of the main cast of the mid-2000s Teen Titans animated series on Cartoon Network, where she was something of the naïve exchange student of the team.
Earth’s current Green Lantern is always part of the Justice League of America, and he (all of the position holders have been male) is who most people mean when they say Green Lantern. But John Stewart, or Kyle Rayner, or whoever it is, is also but one member out of millions of the Green Lantern Corps, an intergalactic peacekeeping force. Many of the members of this group are truly exotic aliens, and none more so than Rot Lop Fan. Saying Fan is the weirdest member of the Corps is truly something, because another of the members is a living planet and another still, a sentient virus. Rot Lop Fan doesn’t even call himself a Green Lantern, because he has no concept of either. His race is from a dimension of complete darkness and has no sense of sight, thus relying primarily on hearing. So Fan is the universe’s only F-Sharp Bell, whose willpower fuels constructs out of solid sound rather than light. His oath is even different than the usual “In brightest day…” spiel: He says “In loudest din, in hush profound, my ears will seek out evil’s sound. Let those who toll out evil’s knell, beware my power, the F# Bell!”
Very few villains can really stack up against Superman. The Big Blue Boy Scout is not only invulnerable to everything but kryptonite; he can fight even Marvel’s Thor, the literal God of Thunder, to a standstill in a fair match. Darkseid, however, is definitely a credible threat to Supes. Gray-skinned tyrant of the planet Apokalips, Darkseid (who changed his name from Uxas when he assumed the throne) was created by Jack Kirby to essentially be ultra-Hitler. Completely amoral and obsessed with power for its own sake, he overthrew his just-as-nasty father in order to force Apokalips’ enslaved masses to serve him. He’s an evil genius with plots spanning millennia, is effectively invulnerable and immortal, is just as physically strong as Superman, and even has an advantage over him: an optic blast called the Omega Beam that can seek out and utterly destroy its target around any obstacle (it makes 90-degree turns around shields!) and across any distance.
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