Suicide Squad’s King Shark: His powers, origin, and sex appeal, explained
James Gunn’s The suicide squad features a grinning DC Comics villain whose presence dominates the company’s adaptations across all entertainment media: movies, video games, live-action shots, and animated TV. He’s in the Arrowverse, he’s in the Harley Quinn cartoon, he’s going to be in Rocksteady’s next Suicide Squad game.
It’s not the Joker: it’s the King freakin ‘Shark.
The DC Universe just … has a shark man in it? Is this allowed? And why is he in so many adaptations of DC Comics? How did it come together with all of these disparate projects of vastly different continuities, tones, and main characters?
Once you know the secret of King Shark, its appeal becomes obvious. One is a shark. And second, that’s the only thing you really need to know about him. Truly.
King Shark is a shark man who doesn’t need to be introduced
It’s a universally accepted truth that every comic book villain has an origin story. Maybe it’s full of pathos, like how Killer Croc has a soft spot for the underdog because he’s been abused because of his looks, or how Man-Bat is still looking for a cure for his tragic condition. . He may be a weird but weirdly enduring major Flash villain like Gorilla Grodd, who hails from a secret African town of sentient gorillas called Gorilla City. But what you need to understand is this: in a genre known for its convoluted continuity, tough reboots, and decades of history …
There is no explanation for King Shark.
King Shark is just a big, stupid, hungry shark.
He’s just a whore Street shark that exists in the DC Universe without any firm reasoning behind it. When he was given his first full appearance in the 1994s Super Boy # 9, Karl Kesel and Humberto Ramos do set it up with a vague origin story about maybe being the child of the King of All Sharks and a human woman, hardly any comic ever wanted to mention again.
King Shark himself doesn’t care why he is what he is, because what he is is a shark. It’s a level of self-confidence that we should all be lucky enough to achieve.
Embrace the ineffable mysteries of life, and also, this shark man
It’s this blend of inexplicable concept with nothing to back it up that has kept King Shark in DC’s continuity while other unique characters are being forgotten. King Shark wasn’t left out of the New 52 reboot: he debuted in his first month as a member of the Suicide Squad. However, if you’re a comic book reader with a penchant for the guy, it’s probably because you’ve read Gail Simone. Six secrets, in which a clear personality shines through in his handful of appearances.
King Shark can regenerate entire limbs, but doesn’t like it if you call his little growing chicken wing a new “delicious” appendage. King Shark thinks all meat is delicious and he likes to fight and kill things made of meat and eat them. King Shark wants everyone to know he’s a shark and he loves being a shark. In one story arc, it is established that the most effective torment hell could prepare for him would be to trap him in a vegetarian restaurant for all eternity.
King Shark is a pure distillation of superhero joy
The superhero genre asks its readers for a certain suspension of belief, on the promise that the reader will be rewarded, with characters and storylines that are only possible through their own willingness to embrace the fantastic. As genres go, isn’t alone in this case.
But King Shark is pushing this market to its most escaped extreme. After all, even Street sharks, a cartoon based on a toy line about four anthropomorphic male sharks named Jab, Streex, Ripster and – I can’t stress this enough – Slammu, proposed a backstory for his characters. King Shark has appeared several times since its introduction, in Six secrets, in Suicide Squad and even in a brief stint as Aquaman’s sidekick. But we never gave him a backstory that stuck.
Because if you’re someone who wants to put a giant, silly shark man in your story as a recurring character, you already understand that there’s no way you can make this idea any cooler by offering an explanation for it. A giant, stupid shark man is already inexplicable.
“Kiss that shark man,” the story says. “He’ll never make you cry, and the fact that he’s a shark won’t fit into a meta-story.” But if you but kiss that shark man, I promise we’ll have fun together.
Reader, if you can believe that a man can fly, you can believe that a man can be a shark.
And King Shark is a shark.