Superheroes have a huge range of powers – from the vigilantes who rely on training and gadgets (we’re looking at you, Batman!), to those whose powers are incredibly specific, to those who have a range of powers that they can use in a multitude of ways.
One power that is shared by a range of super-types across both Marvel and DC is the ability to communicate with animals. For some, this is their sole power, or their primary one. For others, it is a minor part of a much bigger range of abilities. Some have it naturally, others use tech to allow themselves to talk to our various animal friends. All of them have used these abilities to take down opponents in the past, and some in quite surprising ways! Read on to discover the top 15 super-types who have a little bit in common with Dr. Dolittle.
15 Catwoman (DC)
In the comics, Catwoman can not actually communicate with cats. Her name comes from her skills as a cat burglar, and her affinity with the stray cats of Gotham. In fact, Catwoman actually has no innate superpowers – her abilities are due to intensive training. However, in some of the live-action versions, Catwoman’s love of cats is taken one further, allowing her to actually communicate with her feline friends.
In the 2004 flop Catwoman, Patience Phillips is given cat powers by the Egyptian goddess Bast – quite a departure from her origin in the comics. Although she doesn’t sit down for a conversation with a feline friend, a cat does help lead her to safety in the movie. Similarly, in Batman Returns, Catwoman is brought back to life after her boss murders her…with the help of stray cats. Both these films expand her love of feline companionship in the comics to a magical connection with the animals, which would include a level of communication.
14 Professor X (Marvel)
Professor X is one of the most powerful telepaths in the Marvel universe, and it seems that his powers are so wide-ranging and strong that he can even use them to communicate with animals. In one storyline (Divided We Stand), a sniper is poised on a rooftop, using a mind-shield to avoid detection. This backfires, as Professor X notices the shield and decides to investigate.
He uses pigeons to do so – entering the mind of one to look through its eyes and spot the sniper, and then controlling a flock of the birds to swarm the gunman, throwing him off. Although Professor X rarely uses this particular form of his ability, it’s possible that it is a part of every high-level telepath mutant’s repertoire. This could mean that other Omega level telepaths like Jean Grey and Emma Frost also have the ability to communicate with animals or see through their eyes, and we just haven’t seen much of it.
13 Vixen (DC)
Vixen has recently appeared in live-action, as Megalyn Echikunwoke brought her to life for Arrow. While it was a brief appearance, she's set to return to the Arrowverse (though she'll be played by a different actress this time around) in the future, so keep an eye out for this animal-master on the small screen.
Vixen’s primary power allows her to channel the powers of animals; usually animals associated with Africa, because she was born there, and the amulet she uses to control her powers is totem of the African trickster God, Anansi. However, she can channel the abilities of any animal she can think of, and of multiple animals at one time. At certain times, she has also been shown to shapeshift, although this is rare.
Animal communication isn’t one of her more commonly used powers, but she does have some ability to control other animals by tapping into her power (and the same Morphogenic field that Animal Man uses). However, most of the time she prefers to do her own fighting, rather than work through other creatures.
12 Circe (DC)
An enemy of Wonder Woman, Circe as a comic book character comes straight from Greek mythology. In Homer’s Odyssey, Circe is a witch who turned men into animals, and in the comics, she is essentially the same. In the DC universe, she is a powerful sorceress, and although Circe has a whole range of different magical abilities, she is still most closely linked with animal transformation.
She can manipulate reality and control minds, which can also be connected to her ability to communicate with animals. However, the majority of the animals that Circe talks to aren’t really animals at all, but the men that she has transformed. Quite often, her victims are still able to think as men and even speak (at least, to her), but are subdued by her magic and cannot fight back. With her ability to control minds, she can even use these victims to attack others against their will.
11 Moonstar (Marvel)
A young Native American mutant, Moonstar’s animal telepathy is an offshoot of her main power – to cast illusions based on fears and desires pulled from another’s mind. It’s a power that caused her many issues in her life, especially when it first manifested and she was unable to control her gift. As she learned to hone her psychic abilities, new powers developed. Not only can she create illusions, but she was able to focus her ability to create ‘psychic arrows’ that can incapacitate their targets.
Although her telepathy does not allow her to look into other human minds consciously (she only sees their fear or desire when the illusion is created), she is able to connect telepathically with animals. In the past, she has used this to see through the eyes of an animal, and she can also communicate with them on an emotional level, sensing what they feel. A strongly emotion-based power, Moonstar cannot “talk” to animals directly, but has a more empathetic form of animal communication.
10 Beast Boy (DC)
This green-skinned Teen Titan has the ability to morph into any animal, much like Animal Man (although for very different reasons). As a child, he was in Africa with his scientist parents when he caught a deadly virus – one that only animals could survive. He was saved with an experimental treatment, but the cure turned his skin green and granted him morphing abilities.
He is able to take on any animal shape, including insects and germs, but will always be a green version of that animal thanks to his unique skin color. As an animal, he can still speak with humans, but he also has a minor ability to communicate with other animals of the same species as the shape he takes. This is not in the form of literal talking, but close to an understanding of the animals and an ability to convey broad ideas to them in the same way that a natural-born member of the species would.
9 Hawkman and Hawkgirl (DC)
Like most comic book characters, Hawkman and Hawkgirl have had more than one backstory over the years. At times, they are from the planet Thanagar, at others, they are humans using Thanagar technology/Nth metal. Because of this change in history, they cannot always communicate with animals, but in some versions, they are able to speak with birds, and occasionally control them. While various birds have been used as distractions or to help the Hawks on their missions, they are more commonly used as spies for information.
Silver-age Thanagarians are able to communicate with birds thanks to a device called the Absorbascon. The Absorbascon allows the Thangarian using it to absorb and understand the thoughts of others. Usually used to allow Thangarians to understand the languages and cultures of other races, it also allows them to interpret the language of birds. Potentially, this could also allow them to understand other animals, but being Hawk-people, they are only shown communicating with winged creatures.
8 8 Koi Boy and Chipmunk Hunk (Marvel)
Friends of Squirrel Girl, both Koi Boy and Chipmunk Hunk have a similar ability to communicate with a single species or group of animals. They also seem to have her taste in rhyming superhero names! Their alter egos, Ken Shiga (Koi Boy) and Tomas Lara-Perez (Chipmunk Hunk) both attend university at the same school as Doreen Green (Squirrel Girl), Empire State.
Chipmunk Hunk has the ability to communicate with chipmunks, in addition to his superhuman strength and increased agility. Much like Squirrel Girl, it seems that he is able to call to large numbers of chipmunks over a distance.
Koi Boy has more extensive powers. He can communicate with many different kinds of fish, not just a single species. He can also slowly grow in size (but cannot grow larger than the space he is in, like a fish in a bowl), can swim at super-speed, and can breathe underwater. Both very new characters, we are sure to learn more about their abilities in the future adventures of Squirrel Girl and her friends.
7 Chat (Marvel)
Sophia Sanduval exists primarily in the Marvel Adventures universe (Earth 20051). She did make a brief appearance in the main universe, but doesn’t reveal any powers there. A mutant, Chat’s ability is animal communication – which is why she earned a spot on this list despite being a minor character from an alternate universe.
Something of a Snow White, her ability means that animals love her and tend to cluster around her, so that she often has birds on her shoulder or creatures at her feet. She embraced this, and worked with a travelling zoo and an animal shelter. She is dating Spider-Man and she often uses her powers to get dogs and other animals to help trap or distract the criminals he is chasing. She has also used her animal friends to attack others, although this is rarer, as she is usually a peaceful hero. Working with a detective agency, Chat also uses her animal friends to investigate and spy on others – no one notices the stray cats listening in!
6 Nature Girl (Marvel)
Similar to Chat, Nature Girl is a mutant who can communicate with animals, but her powers are wider ranging (and come with a physical manifestation in the form of antlers). A relatively new student at the Jean Grey Institute, the full extent of her powers isn’t yet known. However, she can communicate and bond with animals, both speaking with them and commanding them. This power extends to entities who are feral or animalistic, including demons (such as the bamf) – when dealing with these she is able to calm and control them, preventing them from attacking others. Her powers even allow her to communicate with plant life (a power known as botanopathy), which could be very useful for tracking and spying.
Having only appeared in 26 issues thus far, there is still a lot to learn about Lin Li, and her powers may develop even further as she trains at the Jean Grey Institute.
5 Wonder Woman (DC)
Everybody knows Wonder Woman (especially after her incredible debut on the big screen earlier this year in Batman V Superman), but not everyone knows that one of her myriad powers is an ability to communicate with animals. One of her more divine powers courtesy of being an Amazon (and a favorite of the Gods, who have granted her various powers and equipment in her long life), she can easily communicate with and control animals. Her communication is shown as a clear conversation (speech bubbles and everything) rather than a more general empathy or understanding.
She has lazed about with lions and tigers, chatted with birds, even made a bull perform. Often she saves the animal from harm, and at other times, animals have helped her with missions – she has even acted as pet psychiatrist in the past! It may not be as impressive as her more war-appropriate abilities, but we would love to see more of this side of Diana.
4 Animal Man (DC)
One of DC’s lesser-known heroes, Buddy Baker was killed on a hunting trip, and brought back to life by alien beings who gave him a connection to ‘The Red’. ‘
The Red’ (aka the Morphogenic Field) is a force surrounding the planet that contains all the information (genetic, mystical, physical etc) of all animals. Buddy’s connection to this force allows him to tap into any aspect of any animal – from the smallest bacteria through to the largest beasts, and even chimera. He understands animals on an instinctive level, can control them to do his will, and can take on multiple animal attributes at any time. He can also shape-shift into animals, as well as take on their abilities while still in human form.
Finally, in the New 52, he can communicate with animals directly, talking to them rather than simply understanding or having a more general empathetic connection to them. This was something of a surprise to Buddy, and is usually a surprise to the animal as well!
3 Ant-Man and Wasp (Marvel)
Recently brought to life on the big screen by Paul Rudd, one of Marvel’s tiniest heroes can communicate with insects thanks to a nifty little helmet. A vital part of his costume, Ant-Man’s helmet contains a receiver, decoder and transmitter. These allow him to both understand the communication of various insects, but to reply to them as well. The helmet is made of the same materials as his suit, allowing it to shrink alongside him – obviously an important element!
Although he doesn’t actually control the insectoid companions (usually ants, unsurprisingly) in the way that many other animal-communicators do, it seems that most insects are very helpful and willing to lend him a hand (or should that be feeler?) when asked. Wasp, Ant-Man’s partner, can also communicate with insects, but her talents are thanks to genetic modifications rather than advanced tech. She has retractable antennae that do the job for her, although she rarely uses them.
2 Squirrel Girl (Marvel)
Anna Kendrick made headlines recently when she told an interviewer that should would love to play Squirrel Girl – a choice that many comic book fans responded very enthusiastically to. Often underestimated, Squirrel Girl is in fact quite a tough opponent, due to both her ability to talk to and control squirrels and her other squirrel-related powers. She even saved the Earth from Galactus single-handedly (well, almost. Tippy Toe helped.).
Doreen Green is a college student who is part-squirrel, giving her increased strength, agility, and senses. She also has retractable knuckle spikes, sharp claws and strong teeth (and a tail, although that’s not really a power). Although she is usually seen with her trusty squirrel sidekick, Tippy Toe, she can communicate with any squirrel, and with multiple squirrels at the same time. She often uses this to create a squirrel army – capable of overwhelming opponents by sheer numbers. Unlike other heroes who use telepathy, Squirrel Girl can actually speak “squirrel” and understand it, although her power may have an element of telepathy to it that allows her to call squirrels to her when needed.
1 Aquaman (DC)
Aquaman, King of Atlantis, badass of the sea…is actually often the butt of jokes for this power. Although more recent versions (including, presumably, Jason Momoa as a muscled, tattooed live-action Aquaman) have presented a more imposing Atlantean, early versions of the character were nowhere near as impressive.
In the early days, Aquaman’s main power was his ability to communicate with sea-life, a telepathic power that worked best at close range. As the character developed, his powers became more impressive, allowing him to communicate with and command sea creatures over vast distances. Although this may not seem too useful at first glance, at times, he has been able to use this telepathy to stop various villains, even controlling bacteria in the body that has evolved from marine life. As the character has developed to become more intimidating, so have his powers. He also has an animal sidekick, Topo the Octopus. Like Aquaman himself, Topo has gone through some changes over the years – from a cuter, cuddly friend to a looming Kraken.
Know of any other animal-communicating men and women from the comic book world? Let us know in the comments.