I must have melting on the mind. I recently wrote an article for Geekscape about characters from popular culture that melted; like characters that, rather than burning up or being shot, actually bodily collapse into puddles of goo. It was an easier task to think up than you think, as more characters than you would think have melted. Indeed, I had to come up with a rule for myself: The melting characters had to melt entirely, and not merely be the kind of superpowered beings that can melt and re-solidify.
But, given a few more moments of thought, the melting-into-a-puddle-of-water schtick has been tapped numerous times by the writers of comic books. There are certain superpowers that some people just can’t leave alone. Some are so common as to be expected (flying, super-strength, being bulletproof), while others are entirely non-useful, but are still used anyway (you know how many superheroes can shrink? How useful is that one really?). Give the usefulness and dramatic practicality of teleportation, I’m surprised so few heroes can do it. But the ability to turn into a liquid seems to be one of those superpowers that writers just love. It’s fun to imagine and, I postulate, fun to draw.
Heck, the liquid powers have even leaked into regular science fiction. Look at Odo from “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.” He doesn’t turn into water, per se, but he can become a liquid, and change his appearance accordingly. Ditto for the T-1000.
Y’know, thinking about it, I now consider how impractical such a superpower would be in a combat-type situation. Sure, if you’re made of water, you can’t be harmed by bullets or fists, but how would you attack a foe? I suppose you could drown them in your own body, but if they can run faster than you, then you’re kinda screwed. The human body, when you think about it, does not amount to a large mass of water. If you were to melt into water, your body wouldn’t entirely fill an average bathtub. Here’s one way it would be way useful: If you’re trying to flee an attacker, and you’re close to a large body of water, you could mingle your own body with the fluids of the lake, and remain unfound for as long as you like. Hm… If you’re body’s made of water, would you need to eat? Could you digest the fish in the lake in liquid form? And why the Hell am I think about this?
Anyway, as it’s time for another weekly list for Geekscape, I have wracked my brain, asked some friends, and done some very cursory internet research, and come up with the following ten beings that are actually made of living water. Let’s get wet.
From “Darkwing Duck” (1991-1995)
The Liquidator only showed up in, I think, four or five episode of “Darkwing Duck,” but, to my much-addled mind, he stood out as one of the central characters. That he was a boss in the “Darkwing Duck” video game probably compounded that. From what I remember, an evil adman named Bud Flud was trying to poison the water supply of a competitor’s soda company, when he fell into a vat of chemicals, and had his molecular structure rearranged. Now that I’ve typed that sentence, I am curious as to how many times the phrases “fell into a vat of chemicals” and “had their molecular structure rearranged” have been used in comic book lore.
No mere milquetoast villain, The Liquidator had the stentorian voice of a TV commercial pitchman, and a fast-talking adman approach to his everyday conversation. He may have been made of water, but The Liquidator seemed to be charming and seductive. Not in a sexual way, but in that way commercials for breakfast cereals are. I think even the youngest of kids might be savvy enough to see that The Liquidator is making a villain into the very commercials that sponsor the show they’re watching on Saturday morning.
From “The Amazing Spider-Man” (1981)
Again, a random everyday fellow, this time named Morrie Bench and working as a crewman aboard a naval vessel, fell into a body of water where some scientists were testing a nuclear molecular thingamajig, and his atoms were scrambled turning him into living water. Morrie Bench, blaming the nearby Spider-Man for his mutation, became a rival, naming himself Hydro-Man, donning a costume occasionally, and even joining certain supervillain syndicates to take down Spider-Man. I have learned that Hydro-Man even teamed up with Sandman on a few occasions, as they could blend their respective bodily elements, and become a composite monster called Mud-Thing. Yeah, it sounds like the writers were really stretching for ideas on that one.
Spider-Man has had some pretty weird and crappy villains in his life. Indeed, I have heard it argued that Spider-Man, unlike Batman, has never emerged with a really clear arch-rival. The Green Goblin is arch and silly even when compared to a goofy crazed criminal like The Joker. At least Hydro-Man is an easy villain to swallow. Guy made of water. Easy. I’ll take Hydro-Man over, say, Tangle, any day of the week. Do you remember Tangle? Of course not. Let’s move on.
From “Jack Frost” (1997)
Two feature films came out within a year of one another, both with the same title, and both with the same premise: In one, a young boy, mourning his dead father, wished the dead father’s soul into the body of a snowman he just built. The snowman springs to life, á la Frost the Snowman, and teaches his kid a few more valuable lessons before moving into the afterlife. In the other film, a straight-to-video horror cheapie made the year previous, a serial killer on a prisoner transport, runs into (naturally) a chemical truck, and merges bodily with the snow on the ground outside. The serial killer, already named Jack Frost, forms into a snowman, and continues his reign of terror.
I haven’t seen the former film, but I can attest for the quality of the serial killer snowman flick. Jack Frost (Scott MacDonald) is a pointedly stupid film with dumb jokes and a weird, weird, stupid premise. During the course of the film, Frost learns that he can be melted, re-solidify, turn into vapor, snow, or mere water at a moment’s notice. That makes him a water supervillain in my mind. Some of his one-liners outstripped the stupid jokes in the equally-regarded “Thankskilling” last year. “Who are you?” someone asks of him. “The world’s most pissed off snowcone!” He replies. “How does it feel to be immortal?” he is asked later. “It feels… COOOOLD!” he screams. Echoes of “Batman & Robin” there.
From “Batman Beyond” (1999-2001)
Maybe she’s not technically made of water (it is established over the course of the series that Inque is actually hurt by water), but Inque has all the trappings of a water villain. She seems to be made of liquid, and can melt into a puddle of blackened water (perhaps ink?), and can drown people in her body. She also clings to the side of the Batmobile in one episode. Her origins are never explained, so I’ll assign one to her: She was working at a printing press when a new experimental ink was being delivered after hours to the plant. Inque (real name: Emily Bossment) was trying to steal a stack of rare error comics to sell on the black market when she accidentally stepped in front of the experimental ink. The ink, mixed with some recycled paper, reduced to liquid, mixed with her body, and made her inky and liquidy. Her only rival is Liquid Paper.
Inque is not a character I’m too familiar with, but I have seen plenty of young ladies dressed as her at various comic book conventions. She is sultry and Gothy and has a neat look. Plus her skin is blue, which seems to draw a certain crowd; I’m guessing Mystique from the X-Men would not have been as popular as she is, were it not for her blue face.
From: “Justice Machine” (1983)
One of the off-brand comic companies, Comico Comics is one of those universes only followed by obscurists and lovers of the outré. Many people love Comico’s “The Elementals” for their grittiness; no mere superhero book, “The Elementals” was raw, openly dealt with real political issues, rife with sexuality, and, of course, full of amped-up violence that was certainly not o.k. for the kiddie crowd. The origin story of The Elementals, despite this, sounds like the usual superhero stuff, but far starnger and more magical: evidently the four elemental Gods, needing avatars on Earth to combat an evil sorcerer, selected four people (one apiece) that died by their own element (air, earth, fire, water), and gave them powers related to that element. The Elements were named Morningstar, Vortex, Monolith, and, for this list, Fathom.
Fathom was a ditzy model type named Becky Gordon (no relation to the commissioner) was mutated into a fish woman by the Water Elemental after she drowned after falling off a boat. She had gills and webbed fingers and all, but could also turn herself into water on a whim. Fathom differs from all the water monsters on this list in one important regard: In addition to being bodily made of water, she’s also dead. Now is she made of water, or is she a resurrected spirit who happens to reside in water. We’ll argue the semantics of that some other time.
From: “The Secret World of Alex Mack” (1994 – 1998)
Alex (Larisa Oleynik) is an ordinary teenage girl living in a bland everytown America. I think the actual town was called Paradise Falls or some such thing. Let me check… Oh sorry. It was called Paradise Valley. Anyway, as can now be predicted, Alex was, on her way to Jr. High, hit by a truck carrying an experimental chemical, spaying her body. She gained superpowers. Where are those chemicals when I need them? I’d happy be sprayed with radiation if I knew I would be granted the ability to turn into water. Anyway, Alex Mack gained several disparate superpowers from the accident, including telekinesis, power bolts and, oddly the ability to turn into water. It’s unclear if she just has liquid powers, or if she’s now made of water, but I choose to believe she’s made of water. She shared her secret with only a few friends.
Not exactly a hard-hitting superhero myth like in comics, “The Secret World of Alex Mack,” a Nickelodeon series based on a series of books, played more like a sitcom. Alex did not don tights or fight crime, but merely tried to keep her secret from the world at large. I brushed against this show in vague ways during its run, but am more familiar with similar (if sillier) shows like “Out of This World.” I can say this for sure: There are probably hundreds of boys in the world who had their very first crushed on Alex. Larisa Oleynik went on to be the cutesy Bianca character in “10 things I Hate About You” and is currently on the reboot of “Hawai’i Five-O.”
From: “Justice League” (1994)
(She’s the pixie in red)
Cascade, nee Sujatmi Sunowaparti, was a Balinese woman who was exposed to radiation, and become a water woman. Odd how many of these water people are females. In order to fight injustice in Indonesia, Sujatmi put on a costume, and joined up with a team called The Global Guardians, calling herself Cascade. As Cascade, she could not only turn into a watery mass, but had the added bonus of being able to control bodies of water with her mind. This seems a lot handier than simply melting. I think I would definitely want that thrown if, should I become a waterman. Why simply dampen my foes, when I could wash away their whole car with a mind-controlled tidal wave? Although I would probably choose a less dainty name than “Cascade.”
I like that Cascade worked in Bali. The Global Guardians were essentially a second-rate Justice League of America, only with less recognizable heroes, and having the distinct advantage of being able to work outside the U.S. purview. The Justice League were a blowhard and public military force. The Global guardians, it seems to me, were more of a peacekeeping U.N.-type organization. Any followers of The Global Guardians, I ask that you chime in. How does Cascade look in a sari?
From: “The Strangers” (1993)
Naiad, named after the Greek water nymphs, is identical to all the other water types. She only appeared in an issue or two of a totally obscure comic book. Naiad was a villainess who fought against The Strangers in their short lived (and some would say ill-advised) title as part of Malibu Comics’ Ultraverse. There is no other available information on Naiad. She is way, way obscure. Do you remember her? I barely do, and I think I was one of the only people on the planet who was openly excited about The Ultraverse.
Say what you will of The Ultraverse and their oddball canon of off-brand superheroes, I admire their ambition. They tried to create an entirely new universe with its own mythology, dynamic and superhero ethic. I rooted for the Ultraverse; they were kind of the underdog in the 1990s battle between Marvel, DC, and the (definitely ill-advised) Image comics. The origin stories in The Ultraverse all involved people being imbued random superpowers from a mysterious and sudden spate of energy blasts from the Moon. That means Naiad, for however obscure she might be, was granted her powers magically. That makes her the only water person on this list who wasn’t harmed in a chemical accident. Well, her and Fathom.
From “Ghost Rider” (1977)
Like a lot of Marvel characters from the 1970s, Aqueduct has been through several incarnations, and has worn several costumes. I think I appreciate multiple repurposing in comics more than I do for movie remakes. Comics, as I have pointed out in the past, resemble soap operas, so bending and stretching your canon can take on a delightfully delirious quality over the years. It’s fun to look back at the history of a character, and actually watch their hair and costumes change as fashions do; if you look at someone like, say Adam Warlock (if you remember him), and you’ll see his ‘70s bodybuilder hairdo turn into a ‘80s mullet, and later become a ‘90s Goth coif. Fun.
Aqueduct, then, started his life as a radiation-mutated solider who could manipulate water with his mind. He, for some reason, fought Ghost Rider. Later he became an ally to Ghost Rider. Then he found he could draw up oil, and he fought in the Middle East. At one point he disguised himself as Captain America. He eventually changed his name to Aqueduct, and is one of those tiny ancillary Marvel characters that writers occasionally drag out of mothballs when they need a water guy. I’m sure Marvel has hundreds of these. Is he made of water? You know what? Not technically. But my early memories of The Water Wizard all involve him making men out of water to attack good guys. So he squeaks in.
The Waters of Mars
From: “Doctor Who” (2005 – present)
From the 2009 “special” episode. It turns out there is water on Mars. It also turns out that it’s living water. It turns out the living water can seep into human bodies and possess their minds. And then it wants to infect other people, so it goes on a silent creepy rampage, trying to possess the small band of astronauts on Mars. It also seems to be able to turn human bodies into seeping masses of scary weirdness. And, most chilling, it can never tire. As The Doctor (this was David Tennant) points out, water can carve canyons and form mountains. It takes millions of years, but as long as there is water in the atmosphere, it will dominate. Sure, you may be in an airtight space pod, but if an angry river is determined to get in, it will eventually, even if it takes years. This is a notion of watermen that is rarely brought up: Water never fails to succeed. It changed form, but is never properly destroyed.
And, since this is “Doctor Who,” they have to hold up the tradition of cheap-looking, but still-scary monster makeup. The Waters of Mars seem to be hollow-eyed zombies who are constantly leaking, and have big, gaping, blackened mouths hanging from their faces. This is a show known for its haunted house theatrics, and The Waters of Mars fit every bill and tradition of a show whose true origin was back in the 1960s. Good on you, British sci-fi. You made another cool monster.
For some reason, Witney Seibold really has to pee. He’ll be right back. In the meantime, read his other output.
His ‘blog, Three Cheers for Darkened Years!