Why Marvel's Jeff the Land Shark is so popular

It's Jeff #13
It's Jeff #13 (Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Marvel has announced the return of It's Jeff, a Marvel Unlimited digital comic series starring Jeff the Land Shark. And in October, fans can get variant covers for Captain America #42, Captain America: Symbol of Truth #6, and Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings #4 starring the adorable creature, too.

Captain Marvel #42 variant cover by Gurihiru (Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Created by Kelly Thompson in 2018, Jeff the Land Shark has become a fan-favorite character who now has his own series where he gets into all kinds of mishaps. In the newest issue released on the Marvel Unlimited app, he injures his tail and has to learn how to cope. Written by Thompson and drawn by Gurihiru, It's Jeff is a comedy series with no dialogue, which makes sense since its protagonist can't speak.

Comics have long featured super-powered pets and other bizarre creatures – such as Captain Marvel's pet Flerken, known in the comics as Chewie and known as Goose in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Note that on the Jeff variant for Captain Marvel #42, Chewie carries Jeff in its Flerken tentacles while Carol flies Chewie over city streets.

Given the popularity of Chewie/Goose and even Baby Groot, it's no surprise a baby Land Shark would have mass appeal. Jeff may not have the star power of these characters yet, but to know him is to love him. 

Since his debut in 2018's West Coast Avengers #6, 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.

Here's what you need to know about Jeffrey the First of His Name of the Former Staten Island.

Jeff the Land Shark rides a wave

Jeff the Land Shark

Jeff the Land Shark (Image credit: Marvel Comics)

"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. Ghostbusters: Afterlife showed this can be weaponized, with 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," 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," Thompson 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 2018.

So… just who is Jeff the Land Shark?

Jeff the Land Shark

Jeff the Land Shark (Image credit: Marvel Comics)

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 they 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 into 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.

Jeff the Landshark

Jeff the Landshark (Image credit: Marvel Comics)

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 an 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.

Jeff the Land Shark

Jeff the Land Shark (Image credit: Marvel Comics)

And while it's a popular myth that a shark dies if he stops moving, Marvel's Jeff the Land Shark keeps moving, as Thompson and artist Gurihiru's It's Jeff digital comic returns with three new issues on Marvel Unlimited. 

"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.

Someday, Jeff the Land Shark may be considered one of the best superhero sidekicks of all time.

Chris Arrant

Chris Arrant covered comic book news for Newsarama from 2003 to 2022 (and as editor/senior editor from 2015 to 2022) and has also written for USA Today, Life, Entertainment Weekly, Publisher's Weekly, Marvel Entertainment, TOKYOPOP, AdHouse Books, Cartoon Brew, Bleeding Cool, Comic Shop News, and CBR. He is the author of the book Modern: Masters Cliff Chiang, co-authored Art of Spider-Man Classic, and contributed to Dark Horse/Bedside Press' anthology Pros and (Comic) Cons. He has acted as a judge for the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, the Harvey Awards, and the Stan Lee Awards. Chris is a member of the American Library Association's Graphic Novel & Comics Round Table. (He/him)

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