Discovery's Shark Week may be over for 2021, but there's still blood in the water ahead of the August 5 US release of The Suicide Squad, writer/director James Gunn's much-hyped revamp/reboot/sorta-sequel of 2016's similarly titled Suicide Squad.
Though much of The Suicide Squad's colorfully obscure (and expansive) cast of villains have caught the eyes of viewers of the films' trailers, it's King Shark who has kicked up a veritable feeding frenzy of fan attention as a, well, violently adorable weirdo.
The Suicide Squad's King Shark, voiced by Sylvester Stallone, seems to be a kind of monosyllabic mutate, judging from the clips of the film that have been shown so far.
But in comic books, where King Shark also has a long history with the Suicide Squad, his identity is tied to Hawaiian mythology and the kingdom of Atlantis, and he's portrayed as far more cunning and intelligent than what trailers have shown of the movie version.
Both versions of King Shark love eating people though. And honestly, what could be better for a big, giant shark guy to spend his time doing?
"His table manners are really bad," Stallone recently told The Irish Times (opens in new tab) of his portrayal of King Shark in The Suicide Squad. "His timing is really bad because he keeps eating people at the wrong times."
It's unclear how or if King Shark's comic book mythology will factor into The Suicide Squad - though with Starro, itself a gigantic starfish from outer space, playing into the nautical theme, and Aquaman now well established in the DC film universe, he may have a bigger role and a longer life in DC movies than meets the eye.
King Shark may have a comic book mythos all his own, but we're still… maybe a little too pumped about a giant shark guy eating supervillains on the big screen.
And that's probably because we've seen him do it plenty of times on the comic book page with suitably brutal and bizarre results (though probably not quite at the level the R-rated film will show, thanks to the mostly teen-oriented nature of mainstream superhero comics) - not to mention his appearances on CW's The Flash and HBO Max's Harley Quinn: The Animated Series.
With The Suicide Squad about to blaze its way into theaters, we're hopping in our steel cages and swimming with the sharks to take a deep dive into the comic book history of King Shark through his biggest bites into other characters.
Who is King Shark?
Who is King Shark? Well, to paraphrase the man himself from his time with villain team the Secret Six (opens in new tab): he's a shark! He's a shark!! He's a shaaaaarrrk! HE'S A *&^%$#@ SHARK!!!
Yes, that's more or less a direct quote (as you can see in the image) - thank you writer Gail Simone and artist Jim Calafiore.
To be slightly more informative, King Shark first swam into the DC Universe way back in 1994's Superboy #0 (opens in new tab), becoming a recurring nemesis for the Boy of Steel (then, as now, Connor Kent, in his first solo title).
King Shark - or Nanaue, his real name - claimed to be the son of the 'King of All Sharks,' which was later confirmed with the introduction of his father, the shark god Kamo. Since his earliest appearances, King Shark has always been more-or-less what it says right on the tin: a big ol' shark guy with a mean streak and a taste for flesh.
How voracious is King Shark? Well, in one of his earliest appearances, he eats his own mother's arm.
Let's call this moment:
King Shark's Big Bite #1 - His own mama
King Shark's first clash with Superboy in 1994's Superboy #9 (opens in new tab) followed his breakout from a special prison where he was held after kidnapping and killing - and cannibalizing - several people from around Hawai'i. While he was on the run, he found his mom, who was a consort of the shark god Kamo (derived from the shark god Kāmohoali'i of Hawaiian mythology). To sustain his massive hunger, she willingly let him eat her own arm.
Superboy got involved in tracking the villain down, and after a blast from his heat vision goggles, King Shark was recaptured. He stuck around in Superboy's title as a recurring villain for some time, including his first stint on the Suicide Squad, in which he actually killed several of his fellow villains, particularly Sidearm - who he actually stabbed.
King Shark's Big Bite #2 - Jimmy Olsen
After his time on the Suicide Squad and fighting Superboy, King Shark took a shot at a slightly higher weight class and landed himself in Metropolis in The Adventures of Superman #608 (opens in new tab), where he tried to chow down on Superman's pal, Jimmy Olsen, throwing him through a window.
Just as King Shark was about to fully devour Jimmy, he managed to activate his signal watch and summon Jimmy Olsen's pal, Superman.
Supes showed up, and with basically no effort, managed to knock the living crap out of King Shark, decking him with one punch - and knocking a good chunk of his teeth from his mouth. Don't worry though - like with actual sharks, Nanaue's teeth are always gonna grow back.
King Shark's Big Bite #3 - Neptune Perkins
Who the hell is Neptune Perkins? Well, if you lived in the original DC Multiverse's Earth-2, you'd know that he was a semi-obscure teen hero from Atlantis during World War II, and an ally of Aquaman, who managed to later parlay his brief heroic career into being elected as a US senator.
When the Multiverse was destroyed in 1985's Crisis on Infinite Earths (opens in new tab), Neptune Perkins was brought into the mainstream DCU as a Z-list hero with very few appearances. He later resurfaced (get it?) in the event Infinite Crisis (opens in new tab), which rebuilt the Multiverse - though he was pretty much instantly bitten in half by King Shark, who was in turn harpooned by Aquaman.
King Shark's Big Bite #4 - Elasti-Girl
Elasti-Girl of the Doom Patrol's whole thing is that her body is, well, elastic - almost to the point of being indestructible. That is, unless she steps into King Shark's swamp, at which point he's liable to use his apparently extra-super-duper sharp teeth to bite off her entire freakin' lower leg.
That's exactly what happened in Secret Six #29 (opens in new tab), in which the Doom Patrol were ambushed by the titular team of mercenary supervillains. This led to King Shark's last big adventure (including the famous "I'M A SHARK!" moment) before the 'New 52' reboot, in which the Secret Six were being hunted down by heroes.
King Shark's Big Bite #5 - The Penguin
OK well, not the Penguin - but one of his pet penguins, in Secret Six #35 (opens in new tab). Yech.
King Shark devoured the poor flightless bird whole (shortly after also gobbling up one of the Penguin's henchmen) while the Secret Six were intimidating Penguin as part of their plan to escape the heroes that were hunting them.
Unfortunately for, well, everyone, the team didn't actually escape, and what followed was a brutal, knockdown, drag-out fight between the Secret Six and JLA that left tons of scars on both sides. Fortunately, kinda, the very next thing that happened was the reboot of the entire DC Universe following the Flashpoint (opens in new tab) event, leading to the aforementioned 'New 52' era.
King Shark's Big Bite #6 - Yoyo
In the 'New 52,' King Shark's history stayed mostly the same, though many of the specifics of his previous appearances were wiped clean (primarily his rivalry with Superboy). In the new timeline, King Shark is an agent of the Suicide Squad who was raised and trained by Amanda Waller.
In one of the team's earliest 'New 52' appearances (2011's Suicide Squad #5 (opens in new tab), to be exact), King Shark eats one of his teammates whole, devouring the stretchy villain Yoyo in basically a single bite. Even weirder, just a little while later in Suicide Squad #9 (opens in new tab), Yoyo managed to escape King Shark's belly, forcing the predator to regurgitate him. They… wound up being kinda friends, if you can believe it.
King Shark's Big Bite #7 - Grifter
King Shark's time on the Suicide Squad involved chomping up a lot of people. Like, a lot of people, most of them nameless enemies. But very few of those who found themselves between his jaws managed to find their way back out again.
One of the few who survived his encounter with King Shark was the former Wildstorm hero Grifter, who was incorporated into the DCU with the 'New 52' (he's still kicking around Gotham, to boot). King Shark almost gobbled him up in Grifter #15 (opens in new tab) - but was convinced to spit him back out post-haste.
King Shark's Big Bite #8 - His own papa
King Shark's time with Task Force X culminated in Suicide Squad #25 (opens in new tab), with his confrontation with his father, the shark god Kamo, who, in 'New 52' continuity, had been held captive for years by Amanda Waller, leader of the Task Force X program. When he escaped, his main desire was to kill Nanaue, his own son, who had been raised as a weapon by Waller.
Kamo almost succeeded in killing both King Shark and Waller, since Waller had kept him captive, and since the prophecy of his divine nature meant that his son was destined to kill him for his throne as 'King of All Sharks.'
However, ever conniving, Waller managed to convince Kamo to leave Nanaue in her custody in exchange for returning him to his home realm.
King Shark's Big Bite #9 - Aqualad
After he got out of the Suicide Squad, King Shark joined up with an aquatic terrorist group called NEMO (Nautical Enforcement of Macrocosmic Order), leading him to stage a prison break in San Francisco in which he turned all the escaping inmates into shark people as his personal army.
Clashing with the Teen Titans in Teen Titans #7 (opens in new tab), King Shark's army was defeated, and the villain himself tussled with Aqualad, who used his hard water powers to create a blade and slash King Shark, driving him off. It's that kinda power that's got Aqualad upgrading to Aquaman in the limited series Aquaman: Becoming later this year.
King Shark's Big Bite #10 - Corum Rath
After he was falsely (for once) accused of murder only to be exonerated by Wonder Woman in 2017's 'Rebirth' era Wonder Woman Annual #1 (opens in new tab), Diana herself helped King Shark relocate to Atlantis and settle into an apparent life of peace under Aquaman's watch.
But when a tyrant king named Corum Rath took Aquaman's throne in Aquaman: The Crown Comes Down (opens in new tab), leading to chaos in the streets, King Shark seized the opportunity to become an Atlantean crime boss and organizing a group of fellow ocean predators. Aquaman managed to convince King Shark to use his gang to help depose King Rath, with Nanaue himself devouring many enemies in the final battle.
King Shark in the current DC Universe
King Shark's fight alongside Aquaman was pretty much the last time anyone saw King Shark - at least on the page. He's popped up in other media, however, becoming a bit of a meme over the years. He's had a few minor, but kinda jaw-dropping appearances on CW's The Flash as a CGI character, and he's a regular cast member of HBO Max's Harley Quinn: The Animated Series as part of Harley's gang.
He has a remarkably different persona on Harley Quinn (as voiced by Ron Funches), more of an awkward, somewhat demure people pleaser - though he's still given to feeding frenzies in which he cannibalizes his share of human flesh, proving that there's at least one quality you can always count on in King Shark.
King Shark will also appear as one of the characters of the upcoming video game Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League - meaning fans themselves will soon get to flex their jaws and chow down on the DC Universe.
As for Sylvester Stallone's upcoming portrayal in The Suicide Squad, Stallone seems to split the difference between King Shark's mega-murderous rampaging comic book self, and the somewhat vulnerable version that's become popular in animation.
"I'm definitely looking for love. I'm looking for my special female shark," Stallone tells the Irish Times of his version of King Shark. "I just want to get along. I want to be part of a group because you know, a shark is the loneliest apex predator. It's great to find a group of outsiders who want to hang out with a 9,000lb shark."
He's definitely still gonna eat a whole lot of people.
The Suicide Squad hits US theaters and HBO Max on August 5.
King Shark has been a member of the Suicide Squad since the '90s. Read up on the oral history of DC's Original Suicide Squad before catching the movie.