The world of comic books has always turned to nature for inspiration. The insect world gave the world the likes of Spider-Man and Ant-Man.
Mammals have inspired superheroes such as Animal Man, the Black Panther and others. However, being plant lovers here at Greener on the Inside, we know that greenery has its own unique set of abilities that would make excellent superhuman abilities.
Fortunately for comic book fans, the creators of a whole host of heroes and villains have often turned to the world of plants to create heroes and villains. Here’s a look at 8 of them.
Comic book creators seem to like the more heroic nature of plants, as there are far more heroes than villains. These include:
— Heroic Hollywood (@heroichollywood) July 31, 2016
Probably the most famous of the plant-based heroes. Originally conceived as a monster, Swamp Thing started out as scientist Alec Holland who ends up caught in an explosion in his lab, set by villains. The lab is in the swamp and the chemicals combined with the swamp turn him into Swamp Thing. For years he fought other monsters, a secondary hero at best.
Then writer Alan Moore (Watchmen, V for Vendetta) took over. He completely transformed Swamp Thing. The hero was now composed entirely of plant-matter and was connected to something called “The Green” which allowed him to control plants and create new bodies of himself anywhere there was plant life.
Swamp Thing could transmit his thoughts across the country, jumping from plant to tree to bush and create new selves at his destination, grow to immense size and cause plants to bend to his will. The green thumbed hero eventually evolved into full-on elemental creature capable of even controlling earth, fire, water and air, as well as plants.
Over on the Marvel side, they decided it was time to create their own swamp-based creature. Although somewhat similar in appearance and overall make-up (even origin) as DC’s Swamp Thing, this character has gone in vastly different directions.
Dr. Ted Sallis is working for the government trying to duplicate the Super-Soldier serum that turned Steve Rogers into Captain America. Spies attack the lab and he runs with his serum, injecting it into himself as he drives away. He crashes into the swamp. The chemicals mix with this “mystical” swamp and turn him into Man-Thing, a creature composed of plant matter.
Man-Thing loses all traces of Ted Sallis to become the mindless, shambling Man-Thing. The swamp, it turns out, is the home to something called The Nexus of Realities (because, comics), which he protects. He senses intense emotions, such as hatred and evil, has superhuman strength and when he touches someone who is experiencing fear, secretes an acid-like substance from his body. Thus, his catchphrase is: “Whatever knows fear burns at the touch of the Man-Thing.”
If you were among the many thousands who saw Guardians of the Galaxy then you already know this one. Groot is actually an alien from a planet of sentient plants that appear like trees. He is a noble creature, originally appearing in Marvel comics as a curious alien looking for life on Earth to capture and study. He later becomes part of the Guardians and befriends Rocket Raccoon.
Groot is a sentient tree who can, apparently, only say the phrase: I am Groot. Other characters have pointed out that although he appears to say only that one phrase, his various inflections and ways of making the statement indicate he is saying many more things than his name. He has superhuman strength, devours other trees to add mass and size to himself and control plant life around him. He can also regrow himself when it appears his original body is destroyed.
— CRAVE (@CraveOnline) February 18, 2016
Easily one of the strangest characters to ever end up on the Avengers. Mantis is a half-Vietnamese, half-German woman who has been trained in martial arts since she was a child. Mantis has absolute mastery of her body and can instinctively find pressure points that allow her to take down much larger enemies with barely a touch.
In her first appearance in the comics, Mantis easily knocks out Thor and Captain America. She can also communicate with plants, gaining information and emotions from them and, in later years, learns to manipulate plant life for her own needs. Various strange things happen to her, like becoming part of something called the Cotati and becomes something called the Celestial Madonna because … comics. It has been stated that a version of Mantis will make an appearance in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
— very lavish items (@items_lavish) July 11, 2016
Then again, this character may be one of the strangest yet. Black Orchid first appeared in DC comics in the early 70s as a character with superhuman strength, ability to fly and the ability to disguise herself as almost anyone – but no origin.
That was changed years later when writer Neil Gaiman took over the story and did a three-issue limited series that showed Black Orchid was really a plant-based lifeform created in a lab to fight crime. The reason she can change her face – she’s a plant. She is connected to the same “Green” as Swamp Thing and can also control plants. She has superhuman strength, can fly, change her appearance at will and her plant body is nearly invulnerable. She also has other multiple bodies growing at all times and can transfer her consciousness if one is destroyed (creepy!).
There are a few characters that use their plant-based powers for evil. They include:
One of Batman’s most famous rogues. Poison Ivy was originally botanist Pamela Lillian Isley. Evil plant expert and Pamela’s professor, Dr. Jason Woodrue (more on him in a moment) injects her with experimental chemicals that turn her from the shy, timid girl she was into Poison Ivy.
Capable of controlling plants, but also to secrete toxins from her own body (that she usually administers via kiss) she becomes one of Gotham’s most notorious villains. In later years she has become a kind of eco-terrorist, using her powers to try and strike vengeance against the humans that are poisoning the planet. It is also generally agreed that her character is completely insane, so when caught she usually ends up in Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane.
The Floronic Man
Jason Woodrue again. Woodrue eventually injects himself with a formula that turns him into a human-plant hybrid. Over time, the plant part of him takes over, giving him a body that is entirely plant-based.
The character became infamous when Alan Moore relaunched Swamp Thing as he gains control, for a brief time, of all plants on Earth and they begin producing so much oxygen that the atmosphere becomes flammable.
Humanity is on the verge of regressing back to the Stone Age before Swamp Thing uses his abilities to remind plants that, without humans, they would no longer have the carbon dioxide needed to live. The Floronic Man retains the ability to control some plants, but not all over the world. He also becomes hopelessly insane and often ends up in Arkham right near Poison Ivy.
— Random Comic Book (@randomcomicbook) June 26, 2016
Over at Marvel, there was third-rate villain Samuel Smithers. A lab assistant for a famous botanist, the two looked into the intelligence of plants. Smithers comes to the U.S. from London and invents a device that lets him communicate with plants. Although laughed at by scientists, a bolt of lightning hits the device and now gives him the power to control plants.
Using his “Vege Ray” gun (along with cannon-sized versions) Plantman forces plants to grow to monstrous sizes and even creates humanoid plant-creatures that bow to his will. Plantman has fought the Human Torch, SHIELD, the X-Men, Spider-Man, the Avengers and more.
So, there you have it: plant-based heroes and villains in the comic book world. Of course, your Ambius technicians are also superheroes in their own right, so be sure to contact us if you have any questions about plants for your office!