This week, many people met Jeff the Land Shark for the first time. Like a real-life shark, he is prone to sneak up on you like that.
Jeff the Land Shark is Marvel's newest solo star, entering this rarified air after news he is one of seven new Marvel titles launching this week as part of a digital-only line on Marvel Unlimited.
Jeff the Land Shark may not be one of Marvel's biggest stars (yet), but to know him is to love him. Since his debut in 2019's West Coast Avengers #7, the mini-megalodon has been chewing at the fringes of the Marvel Universe and has become the low-key scene-stealer in series such as Deadpool and Gwenpool Strikes Back.
So just what is it about Jeff the Land Shark that has proven to be so resilient?
Jeff the Land Shark rides a wave
"Sharks that can theoretically get you on both land and in sea should be terrifying and yet he’s utterly adorable," screenwriter Liam Johnson of ITV's Emmerdale tells Newsarama.
If there's a mathematical formula for cuteness in this meta-loving world we're in now, smaller versions of scary characters are high on the cute quotient. Godzilla beget Gadzookie, Groot turned into Baby Groot, Bowser turned into Baby Bowser, and DC's Jarro could only have happened after the killer kaiju Starro paved the way. A recent trailer for Ghostbusters: Afterlife has shown this can be weaponized, with those pint-size versions of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.
Jeff the Land Shark is a part of that same tide, but also helped by the idea of a 'Land Shark' which strikes a chord for those that remember Saturday Night Live's classic Land Shark skits from the '70s.
"I think characters like Jeff really do have a strange way of capturing the hearts of fans," co-creator Kelly Thompson tells Newsarama. "Characters that live in that weird liminal space where they almost feel like pets because of their adorable non-human features and inability to communicate verbally the same way humans do, but that have more agency than we would or should associate with 'pets.'"
"We're talking the Baby Groots, the Grogus, the King Sharks, even characters like Pan from Golden Compass maybe even Fizzgig from The Dark Crystal," the writer continues. "We seem to be especially fascinated by these types of characters -- and attach quickly. I know I do."
And we can't go without mentioning the 'Baby Shark' song, one of the top memes of the distant yesteryear of 2018:
So… just who is Jeff the Land Shark?
In Marvel Comics' continuity, Jeff was part of a shark army created by the classic big-headed Marvel villain MODOK during a weird phase where he called himself BRODOK. After his attempts at wooing women were rejected, BRODOK created an army of sharks genetically modified to have four legs and live out in the open air. He sent them to destroy a city in California, but were fended off by the appropriately named West Coast Avengers.
West Coast Avengers member Gwenpool took a liking to one of the bunch, which she named Jeff (after a kitten she had previously). The loveable land shark quickly became a part of the team, with Gwenpool and fellow teammate Quentin Quire falling to the role of adoptive parents.
After the West Coast Avengers disbanded and Gwenpool got pulled away into other things, she was able to find a more natural home - Monster Isle, home to various monsters going back to the early days in Marvel lore. Jeff fit in well there, especially as he came there just as Deadpool was named 'King' of the island. You can imagine the kind of things that would happen with that pairing.
As all this was happening, Jeff the Land Shark slowly became a low-key cult-favorite character for some comics fans, and also some comics characters. In a recent issue of Runaways, Molly was drawn sporting a Jeff beanie.
That idea of merchandise was made real in 2020 when Hasbro felt some apparent demand enough to make a Jeff the Land Shark figure, as part of their Marvel Legends line. The figure was included in a pack for Shiklah, but every shark's got to start somewhere.
And while it's a popular myth that a shark dies if he stops moving, Marvel's Jeff the Land Shark keeps moving, as just this week Marvel launched an ongoing digital comics series called It's Jeff by co-creator/writer Kelly Thompson and artist Gurihiru.
"You know, the response to Jeff has been incredible from day one," Thompson says. "Like we're seeing a huge spike right now obviously since there's adorable new (Gurihiru!) content, but ever since he debuted in West Coast Avengers people have been very excited about him."
For some fans who're asked why they're fans of Jeff, they tell us "just look at him!" - so we made sure to include examples of that here. You can catch all his appearances with just five books: West Coast Avengers Vol. 2: City Of Evils, Gwenpool Strikes Back, King Deadpool Vol. 1, King Deadpool Vol. 2, and a brief cameo in Fearless #1.
Jeff the Land Shark is at home in the waters of all the major digital comics platforms. Check out our recommended best digital comic readers.