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Secret Origin: Jeff!
I get asked a lot about character creation — and though I have had a hand in creating a ton of characters so far — and some surprisingly popular Marvel characters like Star, Lauri-ell, Xandra, Fuse & Alloy — none of them have even come close to the popularity of…JEFF THE LANDSHARK!
So let’s get into how he came to be, and then how his look evolved in the hands of different artists…up until the point of his all-new comic! Which is out now exclusively on Marvel Unlimited - a new “issue” every Friday - well, until we run out and then we’ll probably do more!
I was going to also do a sort of “full history” of Jeff - hitting all his major milestones, but this post turned out long enough on its own, so we’ll punt that to a part two post!
A lot of characters get created for very specific stories/plot reasons. With Star we needed a very specific type of villain for a Captain Marvel story, so we just made her. And thanks to Carol’s new origin in the comics it only made sense that she might have other family out there, and so when the Empyre event came to Marvel, it just seemed like the perfect time to create Lauri-ell.
With Jeff, nobody needed him. He wasn’t needed for a story. He was just something that happened. But I think that makes his creation even more pure somehow? And it certainly makes his ascension even more impressive. He had no epic stories or books or plans…but people just loved him.
So how did he come to be?
It all started in WEST COAST AVENGERS #1, with Stefano Caselli’s fantastic designs of landsharks that were attacking L.A., and who turned out to be genetically engineered by B.R.O.D.O.K. (who was just M.O.D.O.K. temporarily in a hunky body).
The landsharks were just supposed to be a one-off thing for that first story, a fun thing to fight. But in Caselli’s beautiful pages I noticed this very concerned landshark in the background. This guy was CONCERNED.
Very very concerned. Like, this guy did NOT want to be here.
And I couldn’t stop thinking about him.
And so one day, when working on later issues of WCA, I combined the IDEA of our “VERY CONCERNED LANDSHARK” with…
…that’s right, my baby boys, The Monarch and Clive (this is the second ever photo of them - before their adoption even went through and when they were still named Toffee and Cadbury)!
So when you combine a very concerned landshark and some of this adorable trouble making nonsense:
And this extreme ridiculous cuteness:
You eventually end up here and you know what? Everyone is pretty freaking excited about it:
But while the look Gurihiru has established for Jeff in our IT’S JEFF digital comic is pretty definitive thanks to his strip being a massive success, he did have a fun evolution to get there thanks to a lot of terrific artists who all got a crack at Jeff.
Daniele Di Nicuolo is of course the co-creator for Jeff - designing him and drawing him for the first time in WEST COAST AVENGERS #7 (that’s Jeff’s first official appearance for those of you keeping score).
As you can see, the design, while in spirit TOTALLY JEFF, is a departure from where we are now. He was leaner and longer, and he had some side flippers that are sometimes really visible and sometimes lay flat and are almost invisible.
Though the side flippers were lost from the design fairly early in the comics they ARE pretty canon in that Jeff’s first ever action figure toy includes them!
Jeff’s next major appearance (after the untimely cancellation of WCA) is in DEADPOOL #1, where Gwenpool shows up and asks Wade to look after Jeff, because she knows Jeff’s survival depends on being in a strong book that doesn’t get cancelled (ironically we got cancelled anyway. Sigh):
Jeff’s a little aggressive at first…
You can see that in Chris Bachalo’s take on Jeff, he still has the front flippers, but they’re sort of in place of the front two legs. When Gerardo Sandoval takes over on Deadpool #5, he does what I would call a hybrid between the Bachalo take and Di Nicuolo’s original design.
When Kevin Libranda comes on, he has a very different take on Jeff and I’d say it’s the birth of where we have eventually ended up. It’s the debut of “round boi” Jeff - plus 4 legs that are all the same, and no side flippers, and he’s demonstrably smaller. He also looks/feels a bit more baby-ish than in the previous iterations.
Pepe Larraz did an incredibly adorable take on Jeff with Elsa Bloodstone for Marvel Comics 1,000 with me. Even though this has a lot of the “round boi” qualties - and the now traditional four “normal” legs, it’s also probably the most realistic take we’d seen so far - and yet HIGHLY CUTE. Pepe kills it on just about everything, right?
Gurihiru around this same time includes Jeff into a very popular exhibition piece for a con, and people go wild for it - the whole thing is great, but Jeff’s presence especially seems to get people excited. They also begin drawing Jeff into the backgrounds of all kinds of fun things. A lot of Jeff cameos and merch (not real) begins showing up around this time - people wear Jeff shirts in universe, or have coffee mugs with him on them (what I’m saying is that the people that live in the Marvel universe are definitely luckier than we are in the real world!)
And that brings us just about current! Like I said, I will do a fun “full history” of Jeff someday soon that will include ALL his appearances and some of his “important moments” like when he discovered he could stab things with his “mouth knife.”
Good times! But in the meantime, be good to each other (Jeff would want you to!), subscribe to my Substack for more content like this, plus original comics coming soon (Jeff would also want this, I’m quite sure!), and wash your hands again. Can’t hurt!