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sky kites - front viewJOVIAN SKY-KITES

Classification: Alternate timeline (Reality-691) extraterrestrial (Jovian) fauna (flying predators) circa the 31st century A.D.

Location/Base of Operations: Upper atmosphere of Jupiter, fifth planet from the sun in the Sol system of the Milky Way Galaxy

Habitat: Gas giant atmosphere
Gravity: 252.8% that of Earth (at its cloud tops)
Atmosphere: Hydrogen, helium, methane, ammonia

Known Members: None identified (as non-sapient animals, sky-kites presumably do not even have names)
Estimated population: Unrevealed

Affiliations: None

Enemies: Any potential prey found in their territory (primarily Jovian sky-whales, but includes non-Jovian intruders like the Guardians of the Galaxy and members of the Brotherhood of Badoon)

First Appearance: Guardians of the Galaxy Annual I#1/3 (1991)

Powers/Abilities: Jovian sky-kites can fly through the air that makes up Jupiter's upper atmosphere at high speeds. However, although their four wings presumably contribute to their ability to fly, exactly how they do so is unclear. The fact that their wings appear to be both rigid (lacking any joints) and fixed in place indicates that the sky-kites are unable to flap them to generate either lift or thrust. This could mean that sky-kites are incapable of powered flight and that their long, thin wings function like those of a glider. If so, then this would mean that the flying ability of the sky-kites is externally powered because they use their wings to catch naturally occurring currents of rising air in Jupiter's atmosphere in order to carry themselves upwards and to remain aloft. In this scenario, sky-kites would hunt by soaring up above their prey and then gliding down to attack them, with their increased speed coming from the fact that they were accelerating as they free fall downwards towards their prey.

   It should be noted that the four wings of the sky-kites are arranged radially around their bodies and equally-spaced in a cruciform configuration (like a missile), with every wing being 90° from its two adjacent wings, and that they seem to prefer to fly with one pair of wings oriented horizontally. Since this requires that the other pair of wings be oriented vertically, this would would seemingly decrease the amount of uplift (lifting force) that they would receive from rising air currents. It's possible that sky-kites only fly in this position when they are rushing towards food.

   Alternatively, the sky-kites might be capable of a form of powered flight that does not require muscular movements by their wings. This would most likely be due to some form of natural jet propulsion. Similar to how some aquatic animals on Earth (like squids) can eject water from their bodies in order to create thrust, sky-kites may be able to suck in air through their mouths and compress it within their bodies before ejecting it through small anterior openings to produce jets of (compressed?) air. However, this possible explanation of sky-kite locomotion is only speculative at this time.

   Another possible method of sky-kite locomotion that would not require their wings to move would be electroaerodynamic thrust, in which an electrical current (generated within a sky-kite) could produce an "ionic wind" (or thrust) that could propel the creature forward. However, this is also merely speculation with no supporting evidence.

   The body plan of the Jovian sky-kite is very simple, consisting of a short tubular body with four long, thin wings. All of a sky-kite's four wings are identical in size and shape, with each being about ten times as long as their initial width (at the point where they connect to the body). The width of the wings slowly tapers until they end in backward-facing points. The initial widths of the wings appear to be about half the lengths of the bodies.

   A sky-kite's tubular body's length is only slightly greater than its width. The body is radially symmetrical but its front and rear ends are distinctly different. Attached to the front of the body is a slightly-bulbous head. Slightly wider than the rest of the body, the head's only visible feature is its wide circular mouth that is rimmed all around with between 15 and 30 long and pointed teeth. Resembling canine teeth, sky-kite teeth are presumably meant to be used to firmly hold prey and tear them apart into edible portions. These teeth are extremely durable and have been known to be capable of tearing apart a spacecraft hull (although presumably not without sustaining damage in the process).

    At the opposite end of the body from the head is the posterior region whose only feature seems to be a dark round opening that is about half as wide as the body. This aperture may be used for the excretion of wastes (or possibly the ejection of compressed air to provide jet propulsion).

   Sky-kites lack any manipulatory appendages (except possibly for tongues). Although it is not known what type of sensory organs they might possess, the fact that they can react to bloody whale-meat at a distance suggests that they at least have a sense of smell. Given that their behavior seems to be driven entirely by instinct, like hunger, they are probably not sapient creatures capable of thought.

   Nothing has been revealed about the life cycle of the sky-kites or how they reproduce.

   Although the Jovian sky-whale is presumably one of the native species which the sky-kites consume for food, it is unclear if they ever actually attack a living sky-whale. What is known is that, when they (somehow) detect that a sky-whale has recently died, the presence of (bleeding) whale meat will attract all of the sky-kites within an unspecified radius from the carcass and cause them to go into a feeding frenzy during which they will attack and destroy everything in their path. If sky-kites are for some (unknown) reason unable to attack and/or kill living sky-whales, then they, although being carnivorous, may primarily be scavengers/carrion-eaters. Further data is required.

Traits: Jovian sky-kites are fast-flying creatures who (apparently) prey on other, larger life forms that live in Jupiter's upper atmosphere, like the sky-whales. They are carnivores who are attracted by (presumably) the scent of "whale-meat" (i.e., the blood released into the atmosphere once the body of a sky-whale is no longer intact). Being in proximity to such food can cause them to go into a feeding frenzy (like terrestrial sharks) during which they will attack and destroy anything in their path, even non-living items like spacecraft.

Type: Radially symmetrical tubular flying lifeforms
Eyes: Unrevealed (perhaps inapplicable)
Wings: Four (equally spaced around their bodies)
Skin color: Purple
Average length: Unrevealed (sky-kites have only been depicted in isolation, with no other life forms present to provide a size comparison)

Type of government: Inapplicable. As a presumably non-sapient lifeform, Jovian sky-kites probably do not have any form of government, but their actions may be governed by some form of herd/pack behavior which enables groups to act collectively without centralized direction.

Level of technology: None

(Guardians of the Galaxy Annual I#1/3 (fb) - BTS) - The species that the Jovians named "sky-kites" apparently evolved in the upper atmosphere of the gas giant planet Jupiter. No details about their evolutionary path or how they were discovered and studied by Jovian scientists have been revealed.

(Guardians of the Galaxy Annual I#1/3 (fb) - BTS) - After the discovery of the sky-kites, knowledge of their existence and their potential threat presumably became well-known to all (or most or many) Jovians.

(Guardians of the Galaxy Annual I#1/3) <3007 A.D.> - When the four original Guardians of the Galaxy (Vance Astro, Charlie-27, Martinex, Yondu) teleported from Earth to one of the Floating Cities of Jupiter in an attempt to acquire a Terran space vehicle, they were ambushed almost immediately after their arrival by Badoon soldiers stationed there whose hook-up into the main computer terminal had warned them of the incoming teleport.

    Now unable to reach the Space-Militia air field, the Guardians were forced to steal a Badoon shuttle which they used to escape from the city dome and into Jupiter's upper atmosphere. Soon pursued by two Badoon fighters, the Jovian pilot Charlie-27 decided to use his knowledge of native Jovian lifeforms to destroy the Badoon craft.

   Charlie-27 began his plan by locating a big Jovian sky-whale, flying the shuttle up and over it, and then coming to a dead stop on the other side, placing the sky-whale between them and their pursuers. As Charlie-27 had anticipated and planned, the Badoon fighters chose to destroy the sky-whale to get it out of their way, and used their weapons to blast it to pieces. However, as Charlie-27 had also planned, the huge chunks of whale-meat not only prevented the Badoon fighters from moving for a few minutes, enabling the Guardians to put some distance between them, the scent of (the blood from) the whale meat attracted thousands of sky-kites and triggered in them a feeding frenzy that caused them to ferociously attack everything in their path. Trapped by the whale meat, the two Badoon fighters were quickly destroyed by the sky-kites as they consumed the sky-whale's remains.

Comments: Created by Jim Valentino and Steve Montano.

   Since I'm not a biologist or even a scientist, I have no idea what type of animals the sky-kites would be classified as being. Charlie-27 described their "feeding frenzy" behavior as being like terrestrial sharks, but that doesn't extend to their physical configuration.
    Yeah, I don't know either...they are somewhat unique...maybe somewhere between sharks and birds of prey...

   So far, Jovian sky-kites and sky-whales have only appeared in a single GOTG story that was set in Reality-691. Given how frequently the human species has evolved on the billions of alternate Earths that exist throughout the Marvel Multiverse, it seems incredibly likely that such Jovian lifeforms must have evolved on the billions of counterparts of Jupiter-691. However, since none of them have so far appeared in any other Marvel story, I have chosen to not assume that they must exist throughout the multiverse, and that is why the classification of this species specifies it as being from an Alternate Timeline.

   Since the Jovian sky-kites only appear in two panels, neither of which depict them in the presence of anything except other sky-kites, that makes it impossible for me to even roughly estimate their size. As such, aside from the fact that they are almost certainly much smaller than the sky-whales, they could be anywhere from one toot to ten feet in length. Or they could be longer or shorter.

Origin story
   When I first saw the Jovian sky-whales and sky-kites, I was immediately reminded of some theoretical lifeforms that I had seen on PBS over a decade earlier. In the second episode ("One Voice in the Cosmic Fugue") of the 1980 TV series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, astronomer Carl Sagan talked about the possibility of life on a planet like Jupiter and referenced a paper ("Particles, Environments, and Possible Ecologies in the Jovian Atmosphere") that he and the physicist E.E. Salpeter had written while at Cornell University. Sagan and Salpeter had made some calculations about the life that might exist on a world like Jupiter and had come up with three types of life that they called sinkers, floaters and hunters. That episode of Cosmos presented artistic interpretations of what those lifeforms might look like, and Jim Valentino's sky-whales and sky-kites show a certain similarity in design to the floaters and hunters that appeared in that episode. Considering that Mr. Valentino chose to name a (fictional) volcano, Mount Morabito, on the moon Io after Linda Morabito, the astronomer who first discovered volcanic activity on Io in the real world, it seems odd that the story did not mention that the design of those Jovian lifeforms may have been inspired by that episode of Cosmos.

   Although I believed (and continue to believe) that the Jovian sky-whales and sky-kites were perhaps inspired by, respectively, the "floaters" and "hunters" from that Cosmos episode, there are several differences between the fictional sky-kites and the theoretical hunters.

   Anyway, here's a text version of Carl Sagan's narration of that segment about the life that might exist on a Jovian-type gas giant of a world:

   "Think of a world, something like Jupiter, with an atmosphere rich in hydrogen, helium, methane, water and ammonia, in which organic molecules might be falling from the skies like manna from Heaven, like the products of the Miller-Urey experiment. Could there be life on such a world?"

   "Well, there's a special problem. The atmosphere is turbulent and, down deep, before we ever come to a surface, it's very hot. If you're not careful, you'll be carried down and fried. So one way to make a living is to reproduce before you're fried. Turbulence will carry some of your offspring to the higher and cooler layers. Such organisms could be very little. We call them sinkers."

   "The physicist E.E. Salpeter and I at Cornell have calculated something about the other kinds of life that might exist on such a world."

   "Vast living balloons could stay buoyant by pumping heavy gases from their interiors or by keeping their insides warm. They might eat the organic molecules in the air or make their own with sunlight. We call these creatures floaters."

   "We imagine floaters kilometers across, enormously larger than the greatest whale that ever was, beings the size of cities. We conceive of them arrayed in great, lazy herds as far as the eye can see, concentrated in the updrafts in the enormous sea of clouds."

   "But there can be other creatures in this alien environment: hunters. Hunters are fast and maneuverable. They eat the floaters, both for their organic molecules and for their store of pure hydrogen."

   "But there can't be many hunters because if they destroy all the floaters, they themselves will perish."

   "Physics and chemistry permit such life forms. Art presents them with a certain reality but nature is not obliged to follow our speculations."

   "However, if there are billions of inhabited worlds in the Milky Way galaxy, then I think it's likely there are a few places which might have hunters and floaters and sinkers."

   It should be noted that the possibility that such theoretical lifeforms could actually exist within Jupiter's atmosphere were later greatly diminished. Apparently, some experiments showed that the forces of convection, powerful gusts in the Jovian atmosphere, would probably blow any promising molecules into the lower atmosphere where the rigid pressures and intense temperatures would kill them. So, the existence of any native life on Jupiter is improbable after all, at least in the real world.

   A painting called "Hunters, Floaters, Sinkers" was created for and featured heavily in that episode of Cosmos. An article about how it was created can be found here. Clips of that segment from that Cosmos episode can also be easily found online, like this video on YouTube.

Profile by Donald Campbell.

The Jovian sky-kites have no known connections to

images: (without ads)
Guardians of the Galaxy Annual I#1, page 49, panel 5 (main image)
      page 49, panel 4 (front view)

Only Appearance:
Guardians of the Galaxy Annual I#1/3 (1991) - Jim Valentino (writer/artist), Steve Montano (inker), Craig Anderson (editor)

First Posted: 03/08/2024
Last updated: 03/10/2024

Any Additions/Corrections? Please let me know.

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