Jaguar (Archie Comics)

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The Jaguar
Publication information
Publisher Archie Comics
First appearance Adventures of the Jaguar #1, September 1961
In-story information
Alter ego Ralph Hardy
Team affiliations Terrific Three
Mighty Crusaders
Abilities enhanced strength, animal powers, telepathic control over animals, flight

The Jaguar is a superhero published by Archie Comics. He was created by writer Robert Bernstein and artist John Rosenberger as part of Archie's "Archie Adventure Series", before that line was camped up as part of their Mighty Comics line. He would actually appear two years after The Fly did.

The Jaguar is actually zoologist Ralph Hardy. While on a dig in Peru (Hardy, like most Silver Age heroes, was a man of many interests and talents including archeology), a giant serpent burst forth from the ground and began terrorizing the area. While the others fled Hardy followed a rare white jaguar into a ruined temple and found a series of cave drawings depicting the ancient Incas battling the same monster as well as a mystical "nucleon energy belt". The buckle of the belt had an inscription: "He who loves the animal kingdom may wear this belt and be transformed into a human jaguar." Hardy put on the belt and instantly transformed into the Jaguar.

As the Jaguar he possessed, in addition to the expected feline abilities, all the powers of the animal kingdom only a thousand times more powerful (the oft-quoted magnified toughness of a rhinoceros' hide, for example, gave him near Superman level invulnerability), plus he had the Aquaman-style telepathic ability to mentally communicate with and command all animals including those from alien worlds.

As the Jaguar, he wore a simple skintight scarlet bodysuit with a flared black collar and the stylized suggestion of a feline face (just the eyes, whiskers and open mouth) on the chest and jaguar pelt-patterned boots and nucleon belt, the later with two small rocket packs on either side which gave him the power of supersonic flight. The Jaguar wore no mask and looked exactly like Ralph Hardy, except that Hardy had a mustache and the Jaguar didn't.

In many ways, the Jaguar was a copy of the Fly: magic belt instead of magic ring, powers of the animal kingdom rather than insect kingdom, etc.

Unlike the Fly, however, the handsome Jaguar had many recurring romantic interests, including the immortal feline sorceress Cat Girl who had command over the cat kingdom just as he ruled over the entire animal kingdom (also known as the Sphinx, she originally had fought the Fly, but it was quickly realized that she would make a more fitting foe for the Jaguar), the green-skinned and white-haired undersea siren Kree-Nal, and Hardy's secretary Jill Ross who, like Pete Ross, secretly knew that Hardy was her beloved hero the Jaguar and used that knowledge to help him without him knowing it. Nor were these relationships static for in later stories Jill left to study to become a nurse so that she could better assist Hardy in the veterinary side of his work, and Cat Girl lost her magic powers due to exposure to Strontium 90 radiation from atomic testing, retaining only her telepathic mastery over cats as she took on the new mortal identity of jet-set socialite Lydia Fellin whose "family fortune" was actually the vast treasure trove that she had gathered over the centuries.

The Jaguar appeared in 15 issues of The Adventures of the Jaguar, as well as backup stories in several other Archie comics (Jughead Jones Comic Digest 7; Laugh Comics 127, 130, 131, 133, 135, 140-142, 144; Laugh Comics Digest 25, 27; Pep Comics 150, 152, 157, 159, 168), and would show up in The Adventures of the Fly #23. When the "Archie Adventure Series" line was canceled and camped up as Archie's Mighty Comics line, The Jaguar only made brief appearances in Mighty Crusaders #4 and 5. In #5, The Jaguar would team up with Mr. Justice and Steel Sterling as the "Terrific Three".

The Jaguar would again appear as part of Archie's Red Circle Comics revamp in the 1980s, as a founding member of the new Mighty Crusaders, and get a backup series in The Fly (issues 4-9). In this incarnation it was revealed that the source of the Jaguar's powers was the pre-human god Varigon, Lord of the Animals, a towering golden-winged being with the three heads of a bird, lion and bull who had created the magic belt as a weapon to be worn by his mortal champion in his eternal battle against the scaly green lizard-headed S'ithh, Lord of the Reptiles who wanted the dinosaurs to rule the Earth once more and that the first person to have worn the belt in ancient times had been an Incan woman.

The most recent appearances of the Ralph Hardy Jaguar have been in cameos in Archie's Weird Mysteries #3 and 14 and a cover story crossover appearance in Sabrina the Teenage Witch # 30.

A teenage female version of the Jaguar, written by William Messner-Loebs, was used in DC Comics' Impact revamp of the Archie superheroes. She was naive and good-hearted Maria DeGuzman who came to North America from Rio de Janeiro to study at Elm Harbor University when to her surprise she inherited from her late aunt the werewolf-like ability to transform into the large, muscular, barefoot and green-eyed Jaguar. Unlike her male namesake, however, in this ferocious feline form her powers were limited to superhuman strength and agility combined with cat-like claws and senses. She eventually "married" the Impact version of the Fly at the end of the Crucible mini-series.

In the aftermath of the continuity-altering Final Crisis, DC comics once again licensed the Red Circle heroes, this time choosing to bring them directly into the DC Universe. In March 2010, a new Jaguar is set to appear in The Shield #5 and is apparently a Brazilian male who can transform into a red tattoo-covered were-jaguar.[1]

In New Crusaders, the role of the Jaguar was passed to Ralph Hardy's young apprentice, orphan Yvette "Ivy" Velez. She was given the helmet of Ai Apaec to become the new Jaguar.

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