The holiday season has a way of bringing out the best in everyone, including the villains of the Marvel Universe. While the majority are happy to take a break from terrorizing the world around them, others have used the season as a reason to become better versions of themselves, even if unwittingly. This is precisely the case when it comes to the Rhino’s own transition from costumed criminal into Kris Kringle, and from there into the world’s least likely superhero.
1991’s Incredible Hulk #378 (by Peter David, Kurt Busiek, and Bill Jaaska) found the infinitely recognizable Aleksei Sytsevich, better known as the Rhino, taking on what may have been the smallest targets of his criminal career. After numerous defeats at the hands of various heroes, the Rhino decided to stay off their radars by flying completely off the grid. Donning a Santa suit, Aleksei used his intimidating presence to hassle cash “donations” out of unsuspecting civillians. When a nearby department store manager caught sight of him, Rhino’s endeavors took a decidedly unexpected turn. Despite not being the best mall Santa, Rhino made as much of an effort as he could, even after the Hulk showed up.
The Rhino Becoming Santa Was the Start of Something Big
Thanks to the Rhino’s cover being blown and his temper erupting shortly after, it wasn’t long before he drew the attention of the titular hero. While a mighty brawl between the two behemoths ensued, both combatants put their fists down once they realized the battle was doing more harm than good. By the time the dust had settled, both the Hulk and Rhino were seen dealing with the demands of unruly children and doting on them as best they could manage.
On the surface, this is a fun holiday story with a few funny moments and some decent punches being thrown. Taking in the wider scope of the Rhino’s career over thirty years later, however, it becomes the beginnings of one of Marvel’s least likely heroic transformations. There is something to be said about the Rhino wantonly throwing children in a fit of rage, but the genuine adoration he felt was something that more than obviously pulled on his heartstrings, and kids aren’t his only soft spot.
Rhino Becoming a Marvel Hero was Inevitable
Over the years the Rhino has established a reputation as one of the less keen yet incredibly savvy among the rest of Spider-Man’s rogues’ gallery. Even if he isn’t hyper-intelligent like Doctor Octopus or Norman Osborn, Aleksei knows himself better than any other supervillain, and he certainly knows the rest of them perfectly well, too. This has driven the Rhino to draw lines in the sand on multiple occasions, from turning his back on Wilson Fisk’s Thunderbolts during a suicide mission to standing directly in opposition of them during the final days of the villain’s tenure as the mayor of New York City.
Even more recently, Rhino has put his life on the line to defend the innocent from other villains and even teamed up with Miles Morales to do so. If anything, the past few years have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Rhino is a hero whether he wants to admit it or not. And, looking back, it is clear that it was always bound to happen.