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Comic Book / Elephantmen

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Most of the cast.

Elephantmen is a comic book series published by Image Comics, created by Richard Starkings and illustrated by Ladronn, Moritat, Marian Churchland and guest artists.

Set in the 23rd century, the series revolves around a group of genetic super soldiers created by a Mad Scientist named Kazushi Nikken. With support of the nations of Northern Africa Nikken and the Mappo corporation forcibly impregnated thousands of women with human/animal hybrid embryos based on African wildlife (elephants, rhinos, zebras, hippos, crocodiles, giraffes, hyenas). The resulting "elephantmen" are bigger, stronger, and tougher than humans. Nikken also subjects them to years of mental conditioning and cybernetic Emotion Suppression to purge their humanity, making them merciless, obedient killing machines.

When the deadly FCN virus kills 90% of Europe, the nations of Northern Africa dispatch the elephantmen to conquer the lands. On the opposite side is China, which similarly seeks expansion and even develops its own version of animal/human hybrid soldiers. The result is years of Afro-Sino War.

In the aftermath of the war, the United Nations arrested Nikken and shut down his African facility. The surviving Elephantmen — over 15,000 of them — were rehabilitated to recover their humanity. These were gradually reintegrated into human society across the world and given jobs, education, and even citizenship. After more than a decade, society remains divided. In rare instances, the elephantmen are highly regarded and treated as equals. But in most cases, the elephantmen are treated more as second-class citizens with notably less freedom and more government supervision than their human counterparts. Discrimination and hostility remain common.

The series officially ended in January, 2018, after eighty issues. Twelve volumes were published, along with one volume of the prequel series Elephantmen: War Toys, and four issues of Hip Flask, starring the hippo hybrid who started it all.

Elephantmen provides examples of:

  • Aborted Arc:
    • Everything involving Elijah Delaney and what happened to Herman Strumm and everyone else on the Dogstar Radio station is never resolved or brought up again. It was implied Elijah snapped and ate Strumm after he humiliated him during a live broadcast.
    • None of the characters ever find out where Serengheti took Sahara's baby, nor does he receive any comeuppance for his actions.
    • Issue 75 ends with Horn ordering one of his men to extract Nikken from prison so he can kill him personally. This never happens.
  • Action Girl: Yvette in War Toys, Vanity Case with her Wing Chun skills, and most recently Blackthorne with her Gun Fu.
  • Adaptation Expansion: Started with the Hip Flask advertisements.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Hide has both of his legs bitten off to save his life during the All Coming Evil arc.
  • And the Adventure Continues: The series ends with Flask and Farrell teaming up so they can start their own private investigation business and going to investigate another crime together.
  • Anyone Can Die: It isn't uncommon for any of the side or major characters to be killed off when the situation calls for it. Surprisingly, out of all the major named Elephantmen, only Tusk and Gabbatha are dead by the end of the series.
  • Anti-Climax: Twice in the final arc.
    • When Flask confronts Dr. Nikken in the penultimate issue, he's so disgusted with the man that he doesn't even try to kill him or hurt him. He just walks away, telling Nikken that he's going to choose his own, peaceful path in life.
    • The final issue shows no major character death, no massive shootout, no confrontation, and no huge battle. Rather, the final issue is about the characters staying optimistic in a seemingly pessimistic world and reflecting on the good instead of the bad.
  • Art Shift: Due to the number of artists contributing to the series. Ladronn is the regular Hip Flask artist, and Moritat was the regular Elephantmen artist until issue 18. Now there are several different artists rotating on the book.
  • Artificial Animal People: The Elephantmen are human-animal hybrids based on African wildlife (elephants, rhinos, zebras, hippos, crocodiles, giraffes, hyenas), created as Super Soldiers on behalf of the nations of Northern Africa.
  • BFG: Any of the weapons carried by the Elephantmen during the War.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: If an Arc Villain or Big Bad Wannabe is arrested or killed, it won't be long before two more come along and cause even more trouble for the protagonists. Even when the comic ends, Serengheti and Raven are still at large, with the latter planning on breaking Dr. Nikken from prison.
  • Bio Punk
  • Body Double: Played for Drama between Sahara and Panya. Both of them frequently trade spots in life because they look so similar, but after Sahara desires to have a child, Panya switches places with Sahara for months and gets impregnated, while Sahara has to go into hiding for the sake of protecting her baby.
  • Break the Cutie: Sahara endures several trials throughout the series, but Issue 62 really tests her limits. Just as she reveals to Horn that she's alive and has a baby, Serengheti comes to their wedding and starts gunning down everyone alongside his goons. During the shootout, Panya is murdered. And then Sahara's baby is kidnapped. And then Gabbatha is murdered—by Horn, no less. It isn't until several issues later that she recovers from everything that happened.
  • Canned Orders over Loudspeaker: "You are not God's children! God made you weaker than man! MAPPO made you strong! You will defend MAPPO to your last breath!"
  • Connected All Along: Hip Flask has actually met Miki before, when Miki's mom was a refugee fleeing France with an infant Miki, Ebon killed Miki's great grandfather and took his sword. Hip Flask discovered Miki and her mom but told the other Elephantmen that it was a cat, thus sparing their lives.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: The mothers of the Elephantmen, in a variant of Death by Childbirth. Nikken kidnapped them, implanted them with hybrid embryos, placed them — naked — in nightmarish robotic contraptions, waited until their bellies were practically bursting from the sheer size of the baby, then cut them open and tossed their bodies in a mass grave.
  • Cyberpunk with a Chance of Rain: The Los Angeles of 2259 is much more polluted than it is today, and it rains much more frequently as a result. British-born creator Richard Starkings says that the main reason for all the rain is that Englishmen in LA always miss the rain.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Pick any main character, and chances are they had a horrible childhood or were somehow negatively affected by the Elephantmen during the war.
  • Designer Babies: How the Elephantmen are created.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Sahara after Issue 62. It reaches a point where she considers either leaving or killing Horn after realizing how violent he truly is.
  • Door Stopper: By the time the series is over, eighty issues have been published, along with three issues for the "War Toys" prequel arc and four issues for the Hip Flash comic.
  • Driven to Suicide: Yvette, after she gets a "The Reason You Suck" Speech from Horn, Sahara and Flask, in The Killing Season arc.
  • The Dreaded: For the Elephantmen, Yvette was this.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Gabbatha is murdered with little warning at the end of the Red Queen arc, and his death only heavily impacted Sahara.
  • Dysfunctional Family: Sahara is the daughter of Serengheti, and Hide's half-sister.
  • Eye Patch Of Power: Trench, a police officer and a Zebra.
  • Eye Scream: Trench lost his eye in the war, he took down a Chinese gunship but when it crashed shrapnel hit his eye. The real scream came after, Trench took a burning piece of wood and applied it to the wound.
  • Fantastic Racism: Many humans hate the Elephantmen, and call them a variety of slurs, the most common being "munt" and "monkey." There is a thriving black market in Elephantman parts.
    • Animosity between species of Elephantmen seems common as well, with the hyenas seen as mindless brutes, and the crocodiles as monsters.
  • Flashback: Used quite a bit. In issue #0 ("See the Elephant"), Savannah's innocent remarks trigger dark memories for Ebony. Some stories are set entirely in the past.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Sahara has compassion for all living things, including Elephantmen and their nemesis Yvette. This despite her mother dying from birthing a Transgenic, her father Serengheti passing her around as a sex toy to his men, and later her getting circumsised while she was living in a podunk village in Central Africa.
  • The Future Is Noir
  • Gunship Rescue: In War Toys Volume 1, French freedom fighter Yvette is cornered on the roof of a cathedral by several Elephantmen. Then three or four Red Chinese gunships appear and open up on the Elephantmen with More Dakka. Subverted, because the gunships are shot down by the Elephantmen, crash into the cathedral roof, and kill everyone except Yvette who miraculously survives.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Obadiah Horn and Sahara. Flask and Miki.
  • Huggy, Huggy Hippos: Played with regarding Hip: he's easily one of the kindest and friendliest Elephantmen, being a Gentle Giant and Friend to All Children, but is still a super-strong killing machine and utterly ferocious when he cuts loose in battle.
  • The Immune: Elephantmen had been developed to be highly resistant to poison and completely immune to disease. This lets them operate in FCN contaminated Europe.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Trench falls on a spire in Issue 76. Miraculously, he survives.
  • Innocent Fanservice Girl: Miki. She is well aware of her beauty ("Just because I'm super-hot doesn't mean I'm not super-smart"), but not always the effect her physical form has on men. In issue #18, she removes her work shirt - which has a transparent window down the front - and dons a t-shirt fresh out of the freezer. All in front of Tiny, one of the mechanics at the Skycab company. The poor guy tries not to look, but doesn't quite have the self-control.
  • Inseries Nickname: No one ever calls Hiromi Kiyoko that. Instead she's Miki to everyone. Played with for Vanity Case, her name was actually Bianca when she was a child but was given the nickname Vanity because there was no mirror she didn't love herself in. But when her mom and her ended up in protective custody, Bianca was renamed Vanity.
  • Interspecies Romance: Horn and Sahara. Flask and Miki.
  • Jigsaw Puzzle Plot: The story is told from multiple perspectives with various flashbacks in-between. And every time some of the subplots converge and an arc wraps up, there's always another crisis that comes about in the very next arc.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Carlos Vlasco, aka the River Killer, gets no comeuppance for killing well over a hundred men, women, and Elephantmen.
    • Joshua Serengheti gets away with kidnapping Sahara's baby and killing Panya, along with several other innocents.
  • Katanas Are Just Better: Many of the Elephantmen carry huge katana during the War. Apparently Ebony Hide is the first to use one. He keeps it and uses it to fight three crocodiles in a later story.
  • Kavorka Man: The Elephantmen. Miki says she "likes muscles, and you boys are loaded with them." She also is very interested in seeing their genitals, presumably because Bigger Is Better in Bed is in effect.
  • Keystone Army: The Mops in the All Coming Evil arc are defeated in this manner by detonating their cranial chips, though there were some survivors who lived at least long enough to be "cleaned up" by Promethean. It remains to be seen if any hyenas still live.
  • Mind-Control Device: Since it wasn't guaranteed that their upbringing would make them into vicious but loyal sociopaths, Mappo had each Elephantman implanted with a tiny robot that alters their brain chemistry to force them to do Mappo's bidding.
  • Medical Rape and Impregnate
  • Merchandise-Driven: Starkings created the original Hip Flask to advertise some fonts. Nobody was interested in those, but the story garnered considerable interest.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Sahara. She usually drapes her curvy figure in near-transparent white fabric, and that's about it.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Minor characters are sometimes derived from real people. "Herman Strumm" is a parody of Howard Stern, and TV anchors "Bauer" and "Cussick" are obviously based on Matt Lauer and Katie Couric.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Despite the series title, not all of the Elephantmen are elephant hybrids. The main protagonist, Hip, is a hippopotamus hybrid.
  • Only One Female Mold
  • Paparazzi: Both the photographer and the photo-pusher. Both die in terror.
  • People Farms
  • The Plague: The FCN virus wiped out almost all of Europe leading only thousands of survivors. This left Europe ripe for invasion by the Central African Alliance and China. Turns out FCN is an artificial plague made by China.
  • Private Military Contractor: MAPPO, Nikken's company.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Agent Vanity Case looks like she's in her early-twenties, but she was born in 2143 and the timeline of post-war Elephantmen is 2259, making her 116 years old. Though this may have been an uncorrected error, as elsewhere other people refer to her as being in her late teens.
  • Really Gets Around: Miki is a player and ended up getting pregnant with some Asian man she met while she was with Hip Flask. She later goes to get the embryo isolated. She also had another boy-toy on the side after this. More recently she started seeing Mr. Apostrophe just because Flask missed a date with her, while he was investigating a murder case.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Elijah Delaney is a crocodile-hybrid thug who may have a taste for human flesh.
    • The crocodiles in general are the most widely disliked species, regarded as monsters even by the other Elephantmen.
  • Retirony: Subverted. Trench is impaled through the back a week before he plans on retiring. He survives his injuries and renounces killing.
  • Ridiculously Human Robot: Simms. And Horn's sidekick Mr. Purchase
  • Robot Buddy: Miki gave Flask an Ifrog personal assistant named Wagner. It's a robot frog that takes care of Flask's home, including getting dinner ready for him and setting up a mudbath.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Janis Blackthorne in The Killing Season.
  • Scenery Porn: Ladronn and Moritat can draw some jaw dropping scenery.
  • Science Is Bad: Some of the Elephantmen, particularly Trench feel this way.
  • Sexbot: The Simms model of robot which includes features such as pheromone manipulation and neuro-stimulation
  • Sinister Scythe: Yvette in The Killing Season.
  • Spanner in the Works: Nikken would have successfully made all the Elephantmen into monsters, but his assistant (who currently goes by Claude Bernard) felt that for the Transgenics to be better than humans, they needed moral guidance and so as a personal experiment he took aside a few of the Transgenics, including Hip Flask, and read to them and encouraged them to think and imagine.
  • Stripperiffic: Miki's Skycab uniform is skintight and includes a see-through window down the middle of the shirt.
  • Stalker with a Test Tube: The FCN virus turns people green and makes them sprout deadly mushrooms, for Miki all it did was give her a slight fever and a runny nose. When Miki got pregnant, she had the embryo removed and disposed of because it was infected with FCN. The biotech company that does embryo removal actually didn't dispose it and instead kept in suspended animation due to interest in Miki's FCN resistance and her relationship with an Elephantman.
  • Theme Naming: People named after deserts, Elephantmen named after Old Testament figures, co-workers named after portable objects (Hip Flask, Vanity Case)... Starkings really likes this trope.
    • All the trade paperbacks use the theme of "<adjective> <plural noun>".
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Obadiah Horn and Sahara. She's a tall, slim, curvy African goddess, and he's a rhino-human hybrid.
  • Uterine Replicator: Once removed from their mothers' wombs, baby Elephantmen spend time in fluid-filled pods.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Yvette, in The Killing Season arc, ends with her killing herself.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: There's a full shot of a giraffe throwing up in an alley near the end of Issue 75.
  • War Is Hell
  • Wham Episode: Issue 62 has multiple subplots come to a head—none of which end well. Sahara reveals she's still alive to Horn during his wedding and was using Panya as a double. Just as they reconcile, Serengheti finds both of them at the wedding and shoots up the place, killing dozens. During the confusion, he kidnaps Sahara's baby and kills Panya. Horn, in blind rage and grief, murders Gabbatha in front of everyone. The issue ends with Serengheti getting away unscathed and Sahara emotionally broken.
  • Wham Shot:
    • The final page of Issue 38 reveals that Razorback is Yvette.
    • The final page of Issue 58 reveals that Sahara's baby is human, not a baby Elephantman.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Elijah Delaney, the only reptilian Elephantmen with a major speak role, never shows up again after his debut in the second issue.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: This is kind of the whole point of the Elephantmen as characters. They were created from human and animal DNA as "war toys," but they are as intelligent as any human and capable of very human reasoning, emotions and desires. Many of the munt-haters consider them subhuman, animals, and hate them for it.
    • China goes a step over. Once the war is over, they detonate their Tigermen army, and are quite proud of it.
  • You Do NOT Want To Know: When Mad Scientist Nikken created his Super Soldiers he got away with it by people turning a blind eye in exchange for promises of cures, ballgames, etc.
  • You Need a Breath Mint: After Tusk saves an old lady (who did not know Tusk was an Elephantman) from drowning, she thanks him for saving her, but not before telling him he has bad breath after he holds her too close to his face.
  • Zerg Rush: Tiger and Hyena Elephantmen have little strategy in their attack. The former tends to charge towards their target until its dead, even if they aren't carrying a weapon.