Gimmicky villains come with the territory of being a costumed superhero. For every Lex Luthor or Joker, there's a Polka Dot Man or Microwave Man. It's a hazard of the job and a delight to fans.
Few superheroes have the sheer amount of silly villains as Batman. And even fewer of those villains are as ridiculous as Orca - a former marine biologist turned mutant Orca whale. However, with appearances in spinoff series Suicide Squad: King Shark by Tim Seeley, Scott Kolins, John Kalisz, and Wes Abbott, she seems poised for some character rehabilitation.
When King Shark is attacked -- and almost killed -- by the Limbo Legion in #8, Orca comes to his rescue. Before she arrives, death at the hands of a merciless beating from former Z-list villain Pigeon (now reinvented as a god-killing supernatural entity) looks certain for Shark. Orca makes her entrance -- looking to rescue her pal Shawn, not King Shark himself -- and takes out the Demon Etrigan with one punch. Her element of surprise proves enough to give King Shark a chance to fight back. Add in an early rescue mission that freed King's dad -- a shark god -- and Orca looks like the MVP.
Orca first appeared in Batman #579, created by Larry Hama and Scott McDaniel. Introduced in the storyline "A Matter of Principle," Grace Balin, a marine biologist, is paralyzed in a terrible accident. Experimenting with the spinal cord tissue of a killer whale, Balin hopes to cure her paralysis. But, instead, she transforms herself into the hulking great metahuman Orca - a human/whale hybrid with enhanced strength, speed, and swimming abilities. Embarking on a crime spree as Orca, Balin fights Batman and -- ingesting the remains of the formula which initially turned her into Orca -- is transformed permanently.
Orca would keep a low profile until the events of "One Year Later." Then she showed up an apparent victim of Two-Face -- shot in the head and left to rot in the sewers of Gotham. To add insult to injury, a hungry Killer Croc found and partially consumed her remains.
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She reappeared alive and well in DC's "Rebirth" as a foil for Nightwing. Showing up in Bludhaven in Nightwing #11, she is recruited by a criminal group known as the Whale's Enders and pit against Batman's former sidekick. However, an air horn, blasted into her ears at 300 decibels, defeats her. More recently, she appeared in Joker #3, beating the Clown Prince of Crime's newest partner, Punchline, to a pulp. This encounter proved she's more than just a joke villain, at least at that moment.
Outside of main continuity, Orca appeared in Injustice 2, serving on that universe's roster of the Suicide Squad. It was here that she met and began dating Killer Croc, eventually falling pregnant with his child. The pair would marry in Injustice 2 #70 - a rare happy ending for at least two inhabitants of the grim and gritty Injustice universe.
Orca has also appeared in 2017's The Lego Batman Movie, voiced by Laura Kightlinger. Like most of Gotham's villains, she joined the Joker in his takeover of Gotham City. "I'm a whale," she replies when asked what her powers are. It's a flippant dismissal of the character but an apt one.
While an imposing beast, Orca has never posed much of a threat to Batman. Only her abilities as a swimmer ever gave the Dark Knight pause. However, even that proved a quickly overcome pause, thanks to a scuba version of his costume. The snarling jaws and hulking physique are impressive but not on the same level as Killer Croc or even King Shark. One of the more ridiculous mutant variant villains, Orca has never been taken seriously -- and for good reason. Her gimmick is a silly one, and her sympathetic origin story cribbed from the likes of Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, and Marvel's the Lizard.
However, she is well-used in Suicide Squad: King Shark, a book about oddballs and misfits. Her standout action sequence in #8 finally gives the character something to do beyond being beaten up by Batman and his sidekicks.
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