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Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Get Ready for James Gunn’s ‘The Suicide Squad’ With This Introduction to DC’s King Shark [Comics]

When the trailer dropped for James Gunn’s upcoming film The Suicide Squad, we got a look at many DC Comics weirdos, including David Dastmalchian as Polka-Dot Man and even Starro, the Conqueror. But the stand-out character, by far, was King Shark, a human/shark hybrid voiced by Sylvester Stallone

We won’t get to see the movie until August, but fortunately, there’s plenty of King Shark content to satiate our appetites. In addition to his appearances on CW’s The Flash (voiced by David Hayter) and the animated series DC Superhero Girls and Harley Quinn (voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson and Ron Funches, respectively), King Shark has been a regular fixture in DC Comics since his full debut in 1994’s Superboy #9.

Created by Karl Kessel, King Shark is Nanaue, son of the (fictional) Hawaiian shark god Chondrakha and a human woman. Although he’s evolved greatly over the years, King Shark has been a fan-favorite from the start, even supplanting Green Lantern villain The Shark (an old favorite of mine) as DC’s best selachamorphic monster.  

As the demigod Nanaue, King Shark spent his early days battling Superboy, the teenaged clone of Superman and Lex Luthor. Although introduced as a voiceless force of nature, King Shark quickly became a team player. In Superboy #13, King Shark does his first tour with Task Force X, the U.S. Government-created team of supervillains better known as the Suicide Squad. As the team wild card, King Shark hinted at a level of intelligence lurking below his beastly demeanor. 

That intelligence comes to the forefront in the excellent series Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis, originally by Kurt Busiek and Jackson Guice. A sword and sandals (or falchion and flippers?) type adventure featuring a young amnesiac who will become Aquaman, Sword of Atlantis gave Nanaue a purpose and a voice. As the new Aquaman’s rough and tumble partner, King Shark could not only speak, but also became something of a tortured anti-hero, sent by his father to kill the new King of the Seas. Unfortunately, low sales meant that Busiek and Guice left the series before they could complete the story.

Busiek opened up new possibilities for King Shark, but Gail Simone capitalized on them when she brought the character into the Secret Six. A pseudo-sequel to the Suicide Squad comics, the Secret Six were a team of supervillains who banded together to protect themselves. King Shark initially came on as a member of a renegade Six to battle the main team, but soon became a regular in the series. Without sacrificing any of the pathos suggested by his appearances in Superboy and Sword of Atlantis, King Shark was the comedy breakout of the series. In Simone’s hands, King Shark became a lovable galloot, a fundamentally good guy who just liked to eat lots of meat – some of it human. 

Unfortunately, King Shark’s star turn didn’t last long. Like every other character in the DCU, King Shark was rebooted and reimagined for the company’s New 52 relaunch in 2011. And like nearly every other character in the DCU, King Shark became worse in the New 52, complete with unnecessary make over – he’s a hammerhead now, with eye-stalks – and a grim ‘n gritty attitude. 

Although King Shark was a main member of the Suicide Squad, the book was a Harley Quinn showcase that sometimes included Deadshot and rarely had time for anyone else. In the pages of that series, King Shark lingered largely in the background, his jokes limited to uncomfortable cracks about the ethnicities of the people he was eating. Writers did introduce a few compelling plotlines, including a battle with his father Chondrakha and a sub-plot involving a teammate stuck in his stomach, but they never received full development. 

Fortunately, the tide has turned for King Shark as DC continues to walk back its New 52 changes. It appears that his time in the Suicide Squad has been erased, and Naneau is now a principled but violent gang leader outside Atlantis. Once again teaming up with Aquaman at the end of Dan Abnett’s solid run, King Shark retains the personality developed by Busiek and Simone, without sacrificing any of the nobility hinted during his earliest origins. 

Since then, King Shark has only made a few appearances, surfacing to battle the Teen Titans or the Flash, before sinking back into the depths. Given the success James Gunn has already had in making comic book oddities into household names (even your grandma says “I am Groot”), there’s reason to believe that King Shark has yet to take his biggest bite of the superhero world.

Recommended Reading:

  • Superboy #9 (1994) 
  • Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #40-49 (2006 – 2007) 
  • The Secret Six #25 – 36 (2010 – 2011) 
  • Aquaman #30 – 40 (2018) 



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/comics/3658305/get-ready-james-gunns-suicide-squad-introduction-dcs-king-shark-comics/

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