Galactus, Doom, and LockjawWhen Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the Fantastic Four, Lockjaw was a major supporting character, just like Galactus, The Watcher, and Doctor Doom:
The most interesting character in the Marvel universe
All the major Marvel superheroes are basically the same: humanoids who fight. Lockjaw is different: a non-humanoid, who does not think or act like us. Like Wolverine at his height, Lockjaw is a being of many secrets. And like Wolverine, he's the best at what he does (saving people). But unlike Wolverine, Lockjaw is basically non violent, is loved by all, and loves his life!
Lockjaw is the second most powerful character in the Marvel Universe, if we measure power in its usual way: the ability to make things happen. Time and again he's saved his friends who can then save the world.
In FF 160 he is the key to saving worlds in multiple dimensions. And he's not short of raw power either: he's fought the Silver Surfer and the Hulk to a standstill.
Thanks to his teleportation he not only has strength but speed: only Lockjaw can catch Quicksilver:
Unlike other heavyweights, Lockjaw has complete freedom and no worries! Other characters appear to have more crude power, but they are heavily constrained, and often lonely or tragic. Galactus gets hungry and has enemies, Franklin has mental blocks and risks causing chaos, the Molecule Man can be is mentally unstable and has many enemies. And so on. All these characters use power very crudely. They are like the old giant factories of the industrial age. But in modern times the real power comes from networking and communication. This is the kind of power than Lockjaw has.
Lockjaw is an enabler. He brings people together. He has no real enemies, he is free to come and go as he pleases and do whatever he wants. And he enjoys life! When there is a problem he can bring to the greatest heroes together in an instant, even if they are on different planets. Maybe Galactus and the Celestials can throw more fireworks at a problem, but they are usually defeated. Meanwhile, Lockjaw can enable a lasting solution. Hence Lockjaw is more powerful than Galactus.
Oh, and the most powerful character? Well d'uh. Franklin of course. I was going to say "third most powerful" after Squirrel Girl, but technically Squirrel Girl is not part of the Marvel Universe because she did not appear until 1991. Though since 1991 was the cut-off date, and SG is a wonderful old-skool character, and she was drawn by Steve Ditko, we could argue the point. But that is a debate for another time.
"Sighphi" observed, "Read the War of Kings Son of Hulk Tie-in. Lockjaw outsmarted one of the Shi'ar Royal Guard and Gorgon called him one of the smartest Inhumans."
Lockjaw's intelligence is established from the start. Lockjaw can create "a mental dimensional displacer force." Note the word "mental." And note the size of Lockjaw's head. Lockjaw's power comes from his enormous brain.
In his first appearance, the Inhumans' hideout had been reduced to rubble, but Lockjaw probes for the door and open it telekinetically. Lockjaw's brain is his first and defining power. But like many highly intelligent beings he does not act or think like other people.
How powerful is his brain? Lockjaw is able to identify and locate one person from among billions of others, even if they are a stranger from worlds away. And all he takes is (for example) a single scrap of cloth.
Can you imagine what mental processing power this must require? An ordinary dog can track the scent of people who are present. Lockjaw can track people who are not present. An ordinary dog has to choose between hundreds of scents Lockjaw has to distinguish between billions of people, multiplied by countless worlds, multiplied by countless alternate realities, plus endless other dimensions. Lockjaw's brain power must be simply vast, unimaginable. Reed Richards would love to harness that power but does not know how:
When he visited the FF's headquarters, he recognized that one of
the many electronic devices was used for communication, he deduced
that there was an incoming message, and he alerted the others. The
others had not noticed - suggesting they are less intelligent than
Lockjaw. Critics might say that Lockjaw was just reacting to a
'ka-thak' noise, but that is highly unlikely: the 'just a dog'
theory requires Lockjaw to be highly trained for times of war, so
he would not react to minor distractions any more than would a
highly trained war horse.
Lockjaw has greater insight than most humans. He senses what is wrong and acts accordingly - while others are unaware.
In the second story in FF 118, Lockjaw rescues Ben, then takes him to an alternate dimension. Are we to assume that he chose this dimension by accident? Of all the infinite worlds, Lockjaw chooses the one that has a message for Ben. It seems that Lockjaw understands Ben's tragedy, and understands Ben's feelings towards Reed, and wants to show him the other side of the coin.
In Dan Slott's the Thing issue 4, Lockjaw worked out how to disable a battle suit that supplies deadly voltage to anyone who touched it. Could you do that?
Very few people understand Lockjaw. Ben Grimm does. Black Bolt does. Crystal does. But almost everyone else treats him as an idiot. In David Hine's "Son of M" miniseries we see the statement that Lockjaw has "limited intelligence." But this story was narrated by Quicksilver. Lockjaw once humiliated Quicksilver - the famous time when Lockjaw spoke. Quicksilver has never forgiven him.
We often see people treat Lockjaw as a fool. But in every case, Lockjaw is later proven right. In this case, Luna wanted crystals that created terrigen mists. But those crystals have a drug like effect that harms the mind. The mind is very important to Lockjaw, so he wisely refused to bring them. (A normal dog would of course have obeyed.)..
Some comic book humans seem very unintelligent. Some villains have henchmen who's only job is to be quickly defeated. Heroes with secret identities are surrounded by people too stupid to work it out. "Gee, Peter Parker, how come you are the only person who can get photos of Spider-man? And he's about your height and build too. And why do you make an excuse to run away when there is trouble, just before Spider-man appears? I just can't figure it out." And that's just in Marvel. In DC we have Superman who's disguise is... he takes off his glasses! Comic books are full of really dumb people.
A lot of the villains are especially dumb. How many times do they have to be beaten before they realize they're in the wrong job? Even super intelligent villains (The Wizard) or heavyweight powerhouses (the Super Skrull) may talk smart but they act dumb.
Here's an exercise to prove that the average superhero is dumber than Lockjaw. Read a team book like the Fantastic Four, Avengers, X-Men, etc. But this time just look at what happens - don't read any of the worlds. You will see that the average hero just stands around doing nothing most of the time. Occasionally he might hit someone, but (especially in the early Avengers books) mostly they just look self-important or stupid.
Compare this with Lockjaw: When you see Lockjaw he's either the physical center of the team (they all rely on him to get yo places) or else he's sleeping, sniffing, playing games, just having a great time! And yet still he saves the world. When you turn off the sound who looks smarter? It's like Douglas Adams said about the dolphins. Humans think dolphins are stupid because all they do is have fun, eat, go where they want, and play in the water all day. Whereas humans worry and fret and live often miserable lives. So who is really more intelligent?
Lockjaw is the smartest, most loved, most successful, and happiest of all superheroes. What a guy!
Lockjaw is misunderstood because he works in a different, better way. In this example from "Fantastic Four: The End," Reed Richards wastes his time in futilely and dangerously fighting Dr Doom head on. But Lockjaw, with his dimensional powers, knows that the solution is to lure Doom to a dimensional gateway. Being a dimensional being, simply sitting there will draw Doom's attention. Sure enough, Doom sees Lockjaw, sees the gateway, and thinks exactly what Lockjaw wants him to think. Result: Lockjaw can defeat Doom even in his sleep.
Lockjaw the philosopher
Students of Greek Philosophy may recognize Lockjaw: he has much in common with the Cynic philosophers. "Cynic" is the Greek word for dog. In later centuries, a cynic came to mean anyone who criticized others' motives, but the original cynics were only interested in virtue. They had simple needs and found joy in the simple things in life. Some cynics went to extremes, and rejected every part of sophisticated life (property, money, marriage, etc.) and lived just like their namesakes, dogs.
The Ancient Greek Cynics believed that virtue was the greatest truth, and they didn't care about anything else. They didn't seek wealth or position, they didn't care what people thought of them, and they didn't feel the need to say anything if they didn't want to. Much like Lockjaw. Most people find this hard to understand. How can you not care what others think? How can you be so at peace with yourself? How can you find real joy in the simple act of being alive, rolling, sniffing, running and playing? When you understand that you will have true inner peace, and you will understand Lockjaw.
Surely philosophers have to say things? Surely they must write books? Not always. Many of the greatest philosophers are only known because of what their disciples said. The cynics are the same, and rejected theory in favor of practice. You can tell what Lockjaw thinks by what he does, not by what he says.
At first people treated the cynics like fools. But as people started to pay attention they began to realize that these people had really got it together. These people were centuries ahead of their time. But that was their undoing. People wanted to copy the fun parts (criticizing others and doing their own thing) and ignore the hard parts (living a virtuous life). So the word cynic lost its original high meaning.
To understand Lockjaw the philosophers, it might help to compare other great Cynic philosophers, Diogenes, Crates (pronounced cra- tees) and Antisthenes.
The most famous cynic was Diogenes. He would introduce himself by saying, "I am Diogenes the dog. I nuzzle the kind, bark at the greedy and bite scoundrels." He'd use a lantern by daylight, explaining that he was searching for an honest man. Even Alexander the Great didn't escape unscathed. When the young conqueror found Diogenes sitting in the marketplace and asked how he could help him, the old philosopher replied that "you can step out of my sunlight." - (source) Does any of this sound familiar?
Diogenes believed that, to provide a truly alternative way of thinking and living, you must purposefully open yourself up to ridicule from society. Diogenes, like Lockjaw, did not just tolerate being called a dog. He encouraged it!
When Diogenes died in 323 BC, his friends did not at first notice, because they thought he was just fooling around. And when he was finally buried, they erected a memorial to him (in the shape of a dog), made of marble. The Thing 4 begins with a marble slab. It is shattered by Karnak and Lockjaw is hurt. Lockjaw goes to each of his friends in turn and they do not notice the wound, they think he is just fooling around.
Perhaps the most infamous story of Diogenes is when he was criticized for performing a lone sexual act in public. When he was criticized for doing so, he replied that it was harmless, yet made him feel good. He said, "I wish I could rub my stomach in the same way, and so avoid hunger." (See Theophrastus' "Lives of the Philosophers.") Lockjaw, like Diogenes, acts how he feels, and right then, after Ben had removed the marble shard, Lockjaw loved him! Lockjaw, like Diogenes, simply does not care what others think. It's harmless, it's what he wants to do, so he does it.
Most of the time, Lockjaw just hangs around with his friends. He is not a dead weight, he does not hinder them, and sometimes he is of great help to them. But he enjoys the simple things in life. Much like Diogenes. He may be an iconoclast, an enigma and a curmudgeon, but he is happy and at peace - more so than anyone else in the comic. Who has the better philosophy?
Lockjaw reminds me of another of these dog-philosophers, Crates (pronounced cra- tees). Crates was often called "the door opener" because he would come and go as he pleased. Like Lockjaw. These words of Crates that could have been spoken by the dimension-hopping Lockjaw himself:
'Tis not one town, nor one poor single house,
That is my country; but in every land
Each city and each dwelling seems to me,
A place for my reception ready made.
Crates was a very ugly man. (source)
- Lockjaw would win no prizes in a beauty contest. Yet he is respected and admired. Much like Crates.
As a result of his generally easygoing attitude, he was greatly respected in Athens as a kind and supremely virtuous man. The character of Crates closely resembled the character of an Indian philosopher, Siddhartha Gautama (a.k.a. Buddha). (source)
Come to think of it, Lockjaw with his massive bulk and peaceful expression looks a bit like the Buddha.
Antisthenes founded the school of the Cynics. He is best known for having no possessions, except his tatty cloak. Many stories are told about the holes in his cloak. For example, Socrates once met him and said that Antisthenes was not really humble because he ran a school. Socrates said that Antisthenes' vanity shone through the holes in his cloak. Antisthenes did not argue. He closed down his school, became a follower of Socrates (even though he did not agree with all that Socrates taught), and encouraged his former followers to do the same.
The parallels with Lockjaw should be obvious. Lockjaw's tatty cloak is his baggy, ill-fitting skin. Lockjaw clearly has his own views, yet chooses to be seen as just a follower of Black Bolt or Crystal. Above all, Lockjaw does not lecture or preach to anyone. He lets his actions do the talking. He clearly knows a great deal, yet he chooses to follow others.
I think we can understand Lockjaw better if we look at the work of Temple Grandin. Temple Grandin is a scientist who studies how animals think, has written many books on the topic, and has improved the lives of millions of animals by designing better ways of treating them. She has a special advantage in this field that other scientists lack: Temple Grandin is autistic. I strongly encourage anyone who wants to know how animals think to read Grandin's books.
Lockjaw can talk. So why does Lockjaw usually stay quiet? He told Ben Grimm that he "never had anything to say." Yet there were plenty of times when, to a human observer, he could have said something. Instead, he often goes his own way, making decisions that infuriate his human companions. This makes sense in terms of Grandin's work. Animals do not think with language - their brains work in a different way. Autism is like half way to that kind of brain. Autistic people have more direct access to lower level brain functions, which allows them to solve some kinds of problems much faster than regular people. In particular they can focus on one topic without noticing other things, or they can notice little details that others miss. Autistic people often don't realize that other people want something from them.
Where did Lockjaw come from? This is one of the biggest mysteries in Marvel comics, but actually there is a semi-official answer. When it was revealed that Lockjaw could talk, Lockjaw warned Quicksilver that Bad Things can happen to people when they are exposed to the Terrigen mists. Ben Grimm (The Thing) concluded that Lockjaw was once a human, like the members of the royal family, and exposure to the mists turned him into a dog thing. However, Lockjaw never said that. Lockjaw only indicated that a person might turn out like him. This does not prove that Lockjaw himself was once a person, only that he understands what could happen. There are other nonhuman looking Inhumans, such as one with a serpent's tale instead of legs, so gaining four legs was certainly possible.
This would explain why he is still a fun loving character. Ben Grimm is a semi-tragic figure because (for many years) he wanted to be human but could not. He naturally assumed that Lockjaw was the same. But Lockjaw is not a tragic figure - he is very happy with who he is. So it makes more sense that Lockjaw was a dog given heightened intelligence and power, and he was just warning Quicksilver because he had seen some weird stuff happen to other people. So the simple answer is that Lockjaw was a dog who was given great power, and human level intelligence, by the Terrigen mists. But he still likes to act like a dog - it's what he does! (Acting like a dog does not imply low intelligence.) Ever since then, Lockjaw he has chosen to serve the Inhuman Royal Family. They love him and give him everything he wants. He has a great life, with all of the royal benefits but none of their responsibilities. He has friends all over the world and beyond, and of course he can teleport on vacation any time he wants. What a great life!
Lockjaw's first appearance, Fantastic Four 45
And what is it with those antenna? Only two Inhumans have that feature: Black Bolt and Lockjaw. As one reviewer said, "Why does Black Bolt always wear a mask? Is he the 'ugly' Inhuman?" Black Bolt is the king, the one person who surely does not need a secret identity! So what is he hiding? Could it be the two non-speaking Inhumans have more in common than we thought? At least one Marvel writer has suggested (in an interview) that maybe Black Bolt and his dog went into the Terrigen mists together - either deliberately or by accident.
When Lockjaw was first introduced, we were told that Black Bolt is his master, not Crystal. Even though Crystal is most often seen with Lockjaw. Right up to 1970, in Amazing Adventures 2, Lockjaw is referred to as belonging to Black Bolt. In the Paul Jenkins Inhumans miniseries, Lockjaw is shows as being closer to Black Bolt than even Bolt's wife Medusa.
Somebody once asked for the best Lockjaw stories. The Stan and
Jack Fantastic Four obviously: he played a key role in the
greatest stories of all (starting at FF44). Then we have the controversial Byrne story,
discussed here. Finally we have Paul Jenkins' Inhumans.
Officially the miniseries is about Black Bolt: how he cannot talk
and how he has to be like the old "bulldog" Winston Churchill. But
everything that is said about Black Bolt applies even more to
Lockjaw. You just need to read between the lines...
Other than those, Lockjaw is basically played for laughs these
days (e.g. the "Pet Avengers" series). But if Marvel ever gets
tired of shallow escapism and wants to get their teeth into
something meatier, nobody has stronger teeth than our favorite
It's not just in the comics that Lockjaw is undervalued. In Marvel-based role playing games, Lockjaw is often a sought after character due to his low cost and unique abilities. For example, in the Heroclix series, winning teams often include Lockjaw, so they can transport their other characters to where they are least expected. Judging by the number of cards, models and other merchandise available, everyone loves Lockjaw!