DC League of Super-Pets might be DC’s most unexpected number one box office hit yet. Based on some of the publisher’s deepest-cut creations, the film introduces viewers to a team of superpowered pets, some of whom hold a storied place in DC Comics history. Together, the team of shelter pets led by Krypto the Superdog take on Lex Luthor’s evil guinea pig. It’s a wild premise, and it’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the wild history of the animals known as super-pets.
During a chat with Polygon, DC League of Super-Pets director Jared Stern explained his vision for the movie and why he chose the heroic critters that made it into the movie.
“For this one, I knew I wanted them to be pets,” Stern tells Polygon. “I was going to use Krypto, and I wanted the others to end up being adopted by the Justice League. So I wanted each pet to have one Justice League member who made sense and matched with them. And I also knew I wanted it to be about shelter pets; I had this story I wanted to tell about rescue animals.”
That led to the super fun superhero movie’s heroic team: Krypto (Dwayne Johnson); Ace the Bat-Hound (Kevin Hart); Merton McSnurtle, the Flash’s turtle (Natasha Lyonne); Chip (Diego Luna), inspired by the non-pet squirrel Green Lantern Ch’p from the comics; and PB (Vanessa Bayer), inspired by early appearances of a flying pig in Wonder Woman comics (as well as a very good episode of Justice League Unlimited where Wonder Woman is transformed into a pig, aka Wonder Pig).
The movie also introduces a brand-new pet to the super-farm in Anubis, Black Adam’s dog (voiced by Dwayne Johnson, who will be playing the antihero in the upcoming DC movie). The cheeky post-credits scene perfectly sums up the unafraid meta-humor of the movie. But if you can believe it, there’s actually a whole swath of Super-Pets who didn’t make it into the film. And they’re some of the most weirdly wonderful DC Comics creations of all time.
Topo the octopus and Storm the seahorse
Image: Robert Bernstein, Ramona Fradon/DC Comics
Probably the most famous of the super-pets thanks to Aquaman’s legendary love for sea life, Topo and Storm have long been fixtures of the Atlantean hero. Topo first debuted in 1956’s Adventure Comics #229, created by comic book legend Ramona Fradon. Topo is one of the most talented super-pets as a skilled archer, waiter, and musician. He even made a cameo in James Wan’s record-breaking Aquaman movie playing drums in the depths of an undersea volcano! Storm splashed into DC Comics history nine years later in 1965’s Aquaman #23 from one of the hero’s wackiest creators, Nick Cardy. Storm takes on a more typical steed-like role and is well known from the 1967 Aquaman cartoon series.
Because of their prominent roles in comics lore, some viewers were likely intrigued as to why the pair didn’t feature in the movie. But as Stern revealed, at one point they were going to.
“I’ll tell you this: Topo was in the movie at one point, as was Storm the seahorse,” he says. “We had a lot of characters in the movie, and ultimately, it was just too many to service them, to do them justice, no pun intended. We had the whole Justice League and we had these animals, and we were trying to jam too many characters in.”
The other Aqua-pets
Image: Nick Cardy/DC Comics
While they may not be as well known as Aquaman’s two watery compatriots, we have to shout out his other undersea buds. There was his surrogate mother, Porm, a literal dolphin! Of course we can’t forget about Tusky and Imp, his cheeky friends who debuted in the late ’60s. That walrus and seahorse pairing have had some very irresponsible adventures, often putting Aquababy in great peril! Last but not least — or maybe least if you prefer a pet with powers — is Salty the Aquadog, a normal non-superpowered dog that Mera and Arthur rescued from the beasts of the Trench during the New 52 run of the comics. He’s a good dog!
Streaky the Supercat
Image: Wayne Boring, Stan Kaye/DC Comics
Created by Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel and Supergirl mainstay artist Jim Mooney, Streaky was introduced as a pet to Supergirl in Action Comics #261. In that story, Streaky gained superpowers after Supergirl (as her Linda Lee alter-ego) experimented with Kryptonite, creating the mysterious substance known as X-Kryptonite. After Streak — a street cat Linda saved earlier in the issue — discovered the leftovers of her experiment, he temporarily gained super strength, super speed, and the power of flight, among other impressive powers. A millennium later, in the 30th century, Streaky would inspire his telepathic descendant Whizzy to become a supercat who would end up once again helping Supergirl after she’s transported to the future.
Beppo the Super-Monkey
Image: Curt Swan, Stan Kaye/DC Comics
There was a time when every hero needed a super-pet, especially during the era of the self-imposed Comics Code. Cute critters made great sidekicks for young heroes and entertainment for young readers. Created by Otto Binder and George Papp, Beppo bounced into comics history in 1959’s Superboy #76 as a pet and helper to baby Clark Kent. It’s important to note that although Beppo looks like an Earth monkey, he — like Clark — is from Krypton!
Comet the Super-Horse
Image: Al Plastino/DC Comics
Arguably the weirdest — and creepiest — of the super-pets, Comet the horse has a convoluted and wild history. In Action Comics #301 it was revealed that Supergirl’s pet was originally a centaur who was accidentally transformed into a horse by a witch. Then he became a magically shape-shifting horse — after a visit to the sorcerer-filled planet of Zerox — who could transform into a man named Bill, who Supergirl fell head over heels in love with. What an issue!
Later, in the ’80s, Comet was reimagined as (deep breath) a superheroic jockey reborn with horse DNA who became known as the Earth Angel of Love after dying in an avalanche and merging with a lesbian stand-up comic named Andrea Martinez who was killed alongside him in the snowy tragedy. As the Angel of Love, Comet used his romantic powers to force Supergirl to fall for him. Bad Comet! So yes, there’s a reason Comet the Super-Horse always looks like he’s lusting after Supergirl… because he is!
Jumpa the Kanga
Image: Harry G. Peter/DC Comics
One of the oldest pets in our lineup, Jumpa first debuted in 1942’s Sensation Comics #6. The Kanga are a flying species of kangaroos native to Paradise Island. Jumpa is Wonder Woman’s favorite of the island creatures, often flying on her during missions. She’s appeared in multiple iterations of Wonder Woman comics, as well as DC Super-Pets and Super Hero Girls cartoons.
As Stern explained, Jumpa almost made it in, but the super animal team “needed to make sense in a Metropolis shelter. So you could buy a squirrel and a turtle and a dog [in a shelter], but I had [plans for] Jumpa, and then I was like, ‘Can I get away with a kangaroo in Metropolis? I think that’s just one step too far.’” Fingers crossed she’ll jump into action in a possible sequel.
Image: Gil Kane/DC Comics
After coming across this mynah bird on an adventure, Ray Palmer, aka the Atom, saved the creature from a bigger, more fearsome winged foe. Though he rescued it from the jaws of death, its wings were destroyed. Luckily, Hawkman took the hero and his pet to his cosmic home world and used high-tech Thanagarian tools to give it superpowered mechanical wings! And, yes, on occasion you may see Palmer riding his cool new useful feathered friend.
Image: Alex Saviuk, Vince Colletta, Frank Giacoia, Anthony Tollin, Ben Oda/DC Comics
Over the years, Green Lantern has collected an interesting menagerie of animal sidekicks and teammates, but none so odd as Itty. The alien creature resembles a starfish and joined Hal on numerous adventures after debuting in The Flash #238, when the Green Lantern headed to his planet to save Itty’s race, the Ayries. Communicating through vibrations, the pair became close. However, after his seemingly tragic death, it was revealed Itty had actually transformed into a gaseous humanoid creature by imbibing calcium, some of which he tried to get from Green Arrow’s bones… awkward! After the (non-human-bone) calcium allowed Itty to become his true self, he apologized for all that and headed into space to live happily ever after.
Hoppy the Marvel Bunny
Image: Chad Grothkopf/DC Comics
No, your eyes have not deceived you. The early-’40s Fawcett Comics — which would later become part of DC Comics — had a whole Marvel family, including Hoppy the Marvel Bunny. A sidekick to DC’s Captain Marvel — better known now as Shazam — the rabbit debuted in 1942’s Fawcett’s Funny Animals #1. Just like that hero, Hoppy’s powers emerge every time he says the magic word. But in this super-pet’s case, each of the letters in Shazam stand for something a little different: “the wisdom of Salamander, the strength of Hogules, the stamina of Antlers, the power of Zebreus, the courage of Abalone, and the speed of Monkury.” Seems like with the arrival of Anubis — the dog of Black Adam, Shazam’s greatest foe — Hoppy could arrive in town sooner rather than later.
Image: Ed Benes, Rob Hunter, Nathan Eyring, Carlos M. Mangual/DC Comics
Following the tradition of Ch’p – who was adapted for DC League of Super-Pets as Chip –Dex-Starr wasn’t actually a super-pet, but was instead a normal cat that became a Red Lantern. Shane Davis created the villainous cat with a tragic past, explaining he gained his powers after his owner was murdered, filling the feline known as Dexter with uncontrollable rage.
Damian Wayne’s personal pet collection
Image: Chris Burnham, Nathan Fairbairn, Pat Brosseau/DC Comics
If there’s one character who can compete with Aquaman for the most super-critters, it’s Damian Wayne. Batman’s sassy biological son has over the years had many, many pets. They include: Alfred, a cheekily named cat homaging the Wayne family butler; Goliath, a dragon-bat who he spared while undertaking a brutal coming-of-age test to secure his place in the League of Assassins; Titus, a great dane who was gifted to Damian by his father, Bruce; and Bat-Cow, a heifer that was adopted and affectionately given the name by the younger Wayne.
Though none of his pets appeared in the finished movie, Stern did reveal that one of his most famous animal charges was featured in a never-made post-credits sequence.
“At one point, before we ended up on the end-credit thing we did, which I love, I had a notion to just end on a cow eating grass in a field that sees the Bat-Signal,” Stern says. “I’m happy with where we ended up with our end-credit teaser, but that would have been a fun way to tease maybe where we’d go next.”
If you’re sad that some of your faves didn’t make it in, then don’t worry, as Stern has big dreams if he’s allowed to continue telling stories in the world of super-pets. “I love the original Legion of Super-Pets. I love Bat-Cow, Detective Chimp. If we’re so lucky to make a sequel — I never want to get ahead of ourselves, but we have a lot more to play with, if we ever get a chance to.”
DC League of Super-Pets is in theaters now.