I loved The Avengers. It was Joss-tacular. The final battle was epic enough that I was able to suspend my disbelief adequately. And the big, destructive creatures were not just like the driller thing from Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Because, I have to admit, the first thing I though when I saw that first full-length Avengers trailer was: “That looks like that driller thing from Transformers.”
And since I’m admitting things, the first thing I thought when I saw the Transformers: Dark of the Moon trailer was: “That looks like that serpent dragon from Dragon Wars.”
Thankfully I was wrong on both counts. The big creature in The Avengers are referred to as “leviathan” in the script and is a biomechanical armored whale creature. And they tended to knock into and brush against the buildings they destroy, rather than coiling around them.
As relieved as I was that the leviathan things in The Avengers were totally different than the driller things from Transformers: Dark of the Moon, they still seemed really familiar. Where the heck could I have seen giant, agressive space whales before?
Well, I’d seen them in the Metabarons comics by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Juan Giménez…or something very much like them. By the way, if you don’t recognize any of the hyperlinked words in the previous sentence, here’s another one: Jean Giraud (aka Mœbius).
After collaborating on an unsuccessful attempt to bring Frank Herbert’s epic Dune to the screen in the mid-1970s, Giraud and Jodorowsky decided to create their own epic science fiction universe in the form of a comic series called The Incal. As a comic, no one could tell them that any scene was too fantastic or too expensive to render. If you haven’t read The Incal comics, you need to. There is a link to the newest English-language printing at the end of this post. There is a clear line from Dune through The Incal straight to The Fifth Element, for which Giraud served as production designer.
One of the characters from The Incal that intrigued both Jodorowsky and readers alike was The Metabaron. When he decided to expand on the lore of The Metabaron, Jodorowsky teamed with Argentine comic artist Juan Giménez, whose work (as you will see below) is astounding.
And right in the first book, first published in 1997, are the amazing cetacyborgs, gigantic, space-going whale things that can destroy a planet. Here is a gallery of pages featuring the cetacyborg. Click thumbnail below to open the full-size gallery.
[minor Avengers spoiler follows]
As you can read in the panels in the gallery, the only way to break through the cetacyborg’s indestructible armor is to let it eat you and destroy him from inside. Huh?
Putting your hero inside a whale is not a new trick. In The Bible, Jonah is swallowed by “a great fish” (which narrowly escapes being eaten by a leviathan, which is a different, bigger sea creature), and Pinnochio and Gepetto end up inside Monstro. Each party escapes, one with the help of God, the other with the help of fire, but neither “great fish” is killed from inside. Heck, it happens twice in Star Wars (Millenium Falcon and R2-D2)!
But there are also plenty of precedents for killing something that has eaten you: Polynesian myth, Native American myth, Greek myth, Men in Black, Baron Munchausen, Alien, Tremors 3, etc.
But there is only one place I’ve seen a guy try to kill a giant, armored space whale and finally give up, get swallowed on purpose and blow his way out from the inside.
[minor Avengers spoiler complete]
Update! My brother Britt found another one! There was a mid-90s Japanese animated series called Hakugei: Legend of the Moby Dick which featured a giant space-going cybernetic whale! I haven’t seen the whole series, but this clip explains it all pretty well:
Here are Amazon links to the first volume of The Metabarons, the new printing of The Incal and the Art of The Avengers book, which I haven’t gotten yet myself, but which may hold some answers about the design of the leviathan.