Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Six of One: Buffalo pals, won't you come out tonight?

So, I had this great image (among other photos of buffalo) show up in one of my feeds, and I reposted it in the spirit of November 1st being National Bison Day (which it isn't yet, although a movement to make it such exists).

I have always had a soft spot for the North American Buffalo, Bison bison; its near-extinction as a species is one of the tragedies of the American story. The buffalo is an impressive beast as well as an awesome-looking one; I have always dug that they are one of the few animals that face into a storm. One friend of bison called them "the fastest-moving slow animal." They are one of the icons of vegetarian badassery, right up there with gorillas.

Thinking about how cool buffalo are of course made me wonder: how many buffalo- or bison-themed superheroes (or villains) are there? It seems a natural choice: all that power and strength, plus a cool, shaggy look.

Surprisingly, there are not many, and none like I expected. I really had to scrape the pot just to fill out this feature - but here they are.


This one is really a leap, but I couldn't resist. He was created by Stan Lee's Pow! Entertainment (remember them?) for the National Hockey League, as part of an ill-fated plan to promote the teams through custom superheroes. Aside from some publicity leading up to the 2011 NHL All-Star Game, The Guardian Project lived and died almost totally beneath the radar. Anyway, this is the hydro-electrically powered Sabre of Buffalo, New York. He's not buffaloey at all, not in the thematic sense.


I had high hopes when I saw this name pop up in my search, but they were sadly dashed. Bison is a Marvel super-villain, a basketball player turned into a "man-bull" by the Egyptian god Seth. Hunh? There weren't ever any bison in Egypt! There's a river buffalo there, a kind of water buffalo, but it's Bubalus bubalis, a different genus and species. Shouldn't this guy have been called Bull, or at best, Buffalo?


This guy was originally a videogame character (a boss) in the Capcom Street Fighter game, but he had a comic book for a while, so I guess he counts. He's not very buffaloey in any way that I can tell, though. He was played by Raul Julia in the live-action movie, and he was more a fox or a wolf than a bison, so I really don't know what's up here.


This guy is a hero from the anime Tiger & Bunny, and I figure he had a manga or a comic somewhere. But I don't know why I made the stretch to include him - he's even less buffaloey than the Egyptian guy. He just has horns on his armor (and great big drills on his shoulders).


Finally, a real connection to the American buffalo. Black Bison is a Native American villain who went up against the hero Firestorm, using vaguely defined shamanic powers on a mission of vengeance. So, besides his name, he's not very buffaloey either. But he is wearing a version of the bison headdress, which was used by some plains tribes, including the Blackfoot, in shamanic ceremonies and as a sign of rank.


This is the only character I had in my mind when I first was considering the existence of bison-based heroes. Flying Stag and I go way back - I remember reading his few adventures when I was just a kid. He was a 15th century Iroquois who gained unnatural strength, speed, and agility from a meteorite sent to him by the Manitou, the Great Spirit of the Algonquin; the bison-mask served to protect Flying Stag's identity when he went into action as Super-Chief (seriously). Why someone from an essentially Eastern nation was wearing modified regalia from the Plains Tribes was never fully explained. Despite this inaccuracy, I liked Super-Chief's look, and he had that earnestness common to Silver Age heroes. Notwithstanding my affection for him and his super powers, I have to admit that he isn't really very buffaloey, aside from his mask. I don't think any of his reboots (including a thankfully short-lived grim 'n' gritty version) were either.

So that's it. I expected some sort of Rhino-like guy, a hard charger, tough and strong, with a really imposing look. But even Dr. Peculiar failed me; the realm of a bison-based hero is apparently an untrodden prairie.

Bonus 7:
Super-Chief did break into the big-time once: In January 1972 one of his stories was reprinted in Superman #245, and on the back cover he got some face time right next to Big Blue himself:

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