In 1962, Robert Ettinger wrote his masterpiece The Prospect of Immortality, introducing the world to cryonics. The idea behind it was so unconventional that it attracted the attention of an incredible number of writers, directors, and illustrators. They took the idea and integrated it into their own science fiction stories.
It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that while reading your favorite comic book, you might find a hint of cryonics. Often it is more than just a hint: some comic book characters are capable of cryopreserving other beings, almost better than a trained standby team! They usually use it for malicious purposes, though. Can you think of any? Here are some examples of cryopreservation in famous comics.
As a superhero comic book aficionado, you are probably either Team DC or Team Marvel. Batman or Spider-Man? Superman or Iron Man? We decided to start our analysis of cryonics in comics from DC Comics simply because it’s the older of the two. Founded in 1934, this American comic book publisher has been entertaining the public for several years before cryonics became mainstream. Which of its villains are connected to cryonics?
Mr. Freeze — Batman Universe
Let’s start with Mr. Freeze, alter ego of Dr. Victor Fries, a cryogenics expert in Gotham City. As most villains in superhero stories, he has a history of sadness, loss and pain. Interested in cryonics from a very young age (he used to freeze animals in the hope of reviving them in the future), he has always been an outcast, disliked by his classmates and parents alike. The first and only person who ever loved him was a young girl called Nora, who soon became his wife. Sadly, shortly after their wedding, Nora is diagnosed with an untreatable disease.
Victor sees no other way to save her than to put her in suspended animation, stopping her from dying. But something goes terribly wrong during the experiment and Victor is transformed into a bluish monster that can only survive in sub-zero temperatures. To survive, Victor, who has now become Mr. Freeze, builds himself a special suit (maybe some sort of portable cryogenic dewar?).
Since Nora’s long-term preservation was not financed in advance with the necessary funds, Mr. Freeze finds himself having to rob banks to pay for it. Now a criminal, he clashes several times with Batman and Robin.
Cryonic Man — Batman and the Outsiders
Have you ever heard of Cryonic Man? Less famous than the villain above, Cryonic man (aka Philip) is nevertheless one of the best references to cryopreservation in American comics.
Terrified of being wiped out by atomic war in the 40s, Professor Raymond and his assistant Philip decide to build a cryogenic chamber. Together with their wives, they thus remain frozen for decades. Philip is the person in charge of checking on them and on the situation outside the chamber every few years. When he wakes up, he realizes that his companions are dead — yet their consciousness remains alive in the machine.
What solution is there to reconnect the consciousness of his wife and friends with the real world? Philip adopts the identity of the Cryonic Man and decides to steal transplanted organs from various hospitals, in order to build human bodies for his cryopreserved fellows. Of course, Batman and his superhero team, the Outsiders, will get in his way.
Looking at the other renowned American comics publisher, Marvel Comics, we can find plenty of references to cryonics there as well. We have decided to describe two of them briefly. Let’s see if you already know them.
The Winter Soldier aka Bucky Barnes
Now, this villain doesn’t use cryonics for treacherous reasons. And to be fair, he wouldn’t even be a villain. Not by his own choice, at least.
Sergeant James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes is a World War II veteran and the childhood best friend of Steve Rogers (aka Captain America). Barnes was injected with the Super Soldier serum, a chemical solution created to enhance the body and brain of US soldiers. During a mission in the Austrian Alps, Barnes is caught up in an ambush and falls from a train. Not managing to find his body, the US army declared him dead.
However, Barnes was still alive. The Soviet Union manages to find him, brainwash him and turn him into the infamous Winter Soldier, a deadly weapon against their enemies — he even killed U.S. President John F. Kennedy in 1963! Between the various missions in which he is used to annihilate the adversary, Winter Soldier is repeatedly cryopreserved in a Cryostasis Chamber somewhere in Siberia. This is to maintain his longevity and prevent him from aging. In fact, he commits multiple assassinations over the span of more than 70 years. We won’t tell you what happens next to avoid spoilers.
Gregor Shapanka — Jack Frost aka Blizzard
Dr. Gregor Shapanka wants to achieve something that many before him have sought to achieve: physical immortality. But to complete his quest, he needs a lot of money — which he starts stealing. This criminal takes the name Jack Frost because of the cryogenic suit he wears. In order to slow down cellular aging, his suit generates intense cold, keeping his body temperature and metabolic rate low.
Defeated by Iron Man and sent to prison, he manages to escape after several years. He chooses a new villain name, Blizzard, and comes back on stage in a highly enhanced cryogenic battlesuit, the Blizzard Armor. As Marvel fandom wiki reports: The Blizzard wore a battlesuit containing micro circuited cryogenic units (micro-cryostats) that enabled him to project an intense cold through the ducts that encircled his gloves. This suit allows him to trap enemies in a layer of frost and to create an ice-slide.
Will this incredible cryogenic suit be enough to stop our heroes?
Finally, our brief list of cryopreservation in famous comics wouldn’t be complete without adding some examples of cryonics in Japanese manga series. The idea behind cryonics started in the US with Robert Ettinger, but rapidly reached the whole world. Given that there are several mangas out there (there are currently 172 series of at least 40 volumes), it is likely that there are many more references to cryonics than these two!
Have you ever heard of Cowboy Bebop, the Japanese science fiction series which tells the story of a group of bounty-hunters, traveling aboard a spaceship in the year 2071? It started as an anime in 1997 (only later was the manga version published), and the series is still a great success.
The connection to cryonics may not seem so obvious. Yet, it looks somehow connected to the past of Faye Valentine, an attractive, arrogant and money-obsessed member of the Bebop crew. While she looks to be only 23 years old, she is actually 77. How has she not aged all these years? And how can she not remember her past?
Akira, a cyberpunk manga series, is a somewhat more niche reading. Published for the first time in 1982, it’s set in a post-apocalyptic and futuristic “Neo-Tokyo” run by anti-government terrorism and gang violence. Old Tokyo was destroyed more than two decades before (on December 6, 1982) by a mysterious explosion.
Reading the manga, we discover that the explosion was caused by a test subject called Akira, a young boy with powerful psychic powers. After the destruction of Old Tokyo, Akira was cryopreserved and is now hidden in a cryogenic containment unit among the ruins of the city, under the Tokyo Olympic Games Stadium. As the Akira fandom wiki reports: The containment unit is made up of many layers, with a liquid helium coolant being pumped between them. The center layer, in which Akira is stored, is kept at a temperature of -273.149 °C.
This is far, but not too far, from current cryopreservation technology, which allows us to store cryopreserved patients in cryogenic storage dewars filled with liquid nitrogen at a temperature of -196 °C.
Cryopreservation is an interesting topic and has stimulated the creativity of many writers, illustrators and filmmakers. Sixty years after the birth of cryonics as a science, there are countless works that refer to cryopreservation.
Some comics did their best to appear realistic, but most provide misleading information, which has created some misconceptions about cryonics over time. The important thing, when encountering cryopreservation in famous comics, is to remember that it is science fiction and enjoy the reading!
Have we forgotten any comics you’re crazy about? Let us know. Did we make you want to sign up for cryopreservation? Cryopreservation is not just science fiction, it’s possible today! Schedule a call with one of our experts or sign up here.