Welcome to the D-List: Porcupine

There have been two villains in the Marvel Universe who have assumed the mantle of “Porcupine.” More than just a silly Halloween costume, the Porcupine suit is extremely durable and can fire sharp, quill-like projectiles. The man who built the suit, Alexander Gentry, used the Porcupine moniker for 2 decades before he was killed during a fight with the Serpent Society. This month’s D-Lister grabbed the spiky outfit and continued Gentry’s legacy.  

Did you know that Porcupine fronts a hair-metal band? No, not the Scorpions. (Art by Javier Rodriguez)
Did you know that Porcupine fronts a hair-metal band? No, not the Scorpions. (Art by Javier Rodriguez)

Virtually nothing was initially known about Roger Gocking – he was just a guy who wore sharp, funny clothes. During the first few years of his existence, Gocking never seemed to pose a threat to any heroes. Recently, however, one writer decided to grant Roger Gocking a personality and a heroic role in the Marvel Universe. This month, pet gently, because it’s time to welcome Porcupine to the D-List.  

A few websites have listed Gocking’s first appearance as an issue of Sensational She-Hulk from 1994, but I believe that’s incorrect. At the time that comic was published, Gentry had officially been dead for a few years, so I believe Porcupine’s appearance in the book led to confusion. When She-Hulk saw Porcupine, she exclaimed that he was supposed to be dead, so the costumed criminal clutched his chest and fell to the ground. I don’t believe the creative team intended to permanently resurrect Gentry or create a new Porcupine. Certainly they were simply mocking the fact that comic book characters often return from the dead.

It’s safe to assume that Roger Gocking first appeared in Daughters of the Dragon vol. 1 #3 in 2006. Created by Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, and Khari Evans, Gocking wasn’t explicitly named, but Porcupine was shown fighting Misty Knight and Colleen Wing. The two heroes were battling a group of villains, some of whom had taken codenames and costumes which were previously used by others. Clearly, this was a new criminal wearing the Porcupine suit (and boy, he looked sharp).

As a character who had no personality or even a real name yet, I was surprised when Dr. Doom recruited Porcupine to help conquer the nation of Wakanda. Why would such a massive threat like Dr. Doom enlist such an obscure character? Gocking had absolutely no experience conducting large-scale villainy. T’Challa’s sister, Shuri, beat Porcupine with ease when the villain attacked her, and of course, Doom’s plan failed. Next time, spend the extra cash and find some reliable help (like Kangaroo or Stilt-Man).

To my knowledge, the first time Porcupine was given a real name in-continuity was during a Captain America story-arc. Gocking was under witness protection, and assumed the very uncreative name, “Roger Manning.” Porcupine was next shown at a super-villain’s anonymous meeting, where former villains discussed what went wrong with their lives. Perhaps Porcupine genuinely wanted to end his career as a criminal.

If she ever says “Genesis does what Nintendon’t,” I’m dropping this book. (Art by Javier Rodriguez)
If she ever says “Genesis does what Nintendon’t,” I’m dropping this book. (Art by Javier Rodriguez)

It seemed like this iteration of Porcupine wasn’t anything more than a randomly recurring gag. I understand that some characters are created to make a comic book universe appear populated, but Gocking’s Porcupine was never taken even remotely seriously (to be fair, neither was Adam-X, but he turned out just fine). Thankfully, that changed approximately two years ago.  

Dennis Hopeless introduced Gocking to Jessica Drew’s life halfway through volume 5 of Spider-Woman, when the hero caught Porcupine stealing a safe from a bank (what a prick). Gocking explained that his girlfriend and daughter were being held for ransom, and was clearly concerned for their safety. Spider-Woman investigated the situation, and discovered that many villains’ significant others were living in the same town together. The women simply wanted to be rid of their villainous exes and exploit them for money. Gocking’s ex-girlfriend admitted to Spider-Woman that she was tired of telling their daughter, Kalie, that her father was in jail. Regardless, Kalie was excited to see her dad, and Porcupine was extremely happy to learn that his daughter was safe. Porcupine then decided to become Spider-Woman’s partner, and proved himself to be an asset.

When they stumbled across a town full of aggressive, mind-controlled citizens, Spider-Woman was subdued and Gocking was going to be buried alive. Porcupine defeated the zombie-like people and singlehandedly diffused the situation (Porcupine should be cast on The Walking Dead). When Jessica decided to be impregnated via artificial insemination, she relegated herself to a supervisory role and allowed Gocking to fight crime alone, which he did quite adeptly. Porcupine was even shown working with the police. As someone who, until this point, was never written as a serious character, Gocking was seriously kicking some ass.

I love stories of villains becoming heroes and vice-versa, but I was very surprised that Porcupine was becoming a main character in Spider-Woman. I think it’s wonderful when obscure characters are utilized, but I always thought of Porcupine as a ridiculous individual with little potential. Regardless, I was very excited at the prospect of Gocking asserting himself as a formidable hero. However, Jessica wanted to return to crime-fighting, so after she gave birth, Roger became little more than a nanny for a brief period (Nanny Porcupine sounds like an awesome Disney movie).

It’s like this panel and my article are soulmates. (Art by Tigh Walker)
It’s like this panel and my article are soulmates. (Art by Tigh Walker)

Because Roger was under house-arrest shortly after his daughter was born, he had plenty of time to learn about infant care. Porcupine was actually quite capable of caring for a newborn, and he became the only person who Jessica trusted with her baby. Thankfully, Gocking wasn’t always sidelined – he singlehandedly defeated Sandman during a trip to the beach with the kids, and Gocking’s daughter was thrilled with her father, calling him a hero. 

Porcupine was actually becoming a good role model for Kalie. It was exciting to watch Gocking grow as a character, because it’s something I certainly never expected to witness. However, Gocking still needed to make his newfound heroism official by leaving his previous employer, Roderick Kingsley – the Hobgoblin.

Hobgoblin leased the Porcupine persona to Gocking, but the reformed criminal wanted to exit their contract and purchase the Porcupine suit. In response, Kingsley ordered some his henchmen to pulverize Porcupine and take the suit by force. Kingsley left Gocking incapacitated on a rooftop with a pumpkin bomb on his lap, which seemingly killed him when it exploded. Reporter, Ben Urich, witnessed the incident and delivered the bad news to Jessica.

Forget Spider-Woman’s feelings, I was devastated. The panel which showed Roger right before the bomb exploded was just so goddamned sad. These events occurred as I was working on this article, and I was waiting with bated breath to find out if Gocking was truly dead or not. After the pumpkin bomb exploded, Gocking’s remains were not shown, so I had a sliver of hope that Roger was somehow still alive.

Spider-Woman sought retribution and targeted Hobgoblin, but some of Kingsley’s goons preempted Jessica’s attack on their boss. However, Roger appeared and helped Jess defeat the criminals. Gocking explained that he was wearing a protective chest-plate under his Porcupine armor when the pumpkin bomb exploded, and it absorbed the brunt of the impact. Jessica jumped on Roger and kissed him, but Hobgoblin arrived, roped Roger by the legs, and flew away with him (Hobgoblin? More like Cock-block-goblin). Although Roger’s fate was drawn out over 3 issues, Jess managed to save him, and the two shared another passionate kiss.

Roger Gocking has become an important character in one comic book, but I’m not under the impression that he will become an important presence in the Marvel Universe as a whole. Still, Porcupine is definitely more interesting now that a writer has developed his character, so future stories featuring him have greater potential. Roger Gocking is proof that even Z-List characters can ascend to D-List greatness.   

To my knowledge, Roger Gocking has never appeared outside of Marvel Comics, however, a “Lady Porcupine” appeared in an episode of the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon, so that’s something. Even if the man never appears in another medium, Roger Gocking now has a history, a family, and a purpose. Whether as a thorn in its side or not, I hope that this Porcupine will continue to make his point in the Marvel Universe for many years to come.

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