Classification: Extraterrestrial tripeds

Location/Base of Operations: Unrevealed

Known Members: None

Affiliations: Outsiders, Shi'ar

Enemies: None

First Appearance: "The Soft Weapon," Worlds of If Magazine (February 1967);
    (Marvel) X-Men I#125 (September 1979)

Powers/Abilities: Puppeteers are tripedal, with two forelegs and a single hindleg, all ending in hooves. Their brain is located in their shoulder hump, protected by thick bone, and their twin heads are mounted on snake-like appendages growing out of that shoulder. Each head serves the roles that in another species would be split between head and hands; triple sets of vocal chords per neck permit them an unmatched linguistic ability, allowing them to duplicate virtually any species' language, but the heads also serve as appendages for manipulating objects, with a forked tongue apiece and rubbery lips rimmed with finger-like knobs. Their native tongue sounds like orchestral music to humans.

    Despite being massive cowards, Puppeteers can fight if cornered, instinctively spinning round on the forelegs to turn their back to an opponent, twin heads turning back and spreading wide to triangulate on the attacker, and the hind leg then lashing out with sufficient force to shatter ribs.

    Puppeteers have three genders; two, considered the males, generate ovum and spermatozoa respectively, which they then deposit in a third, non-sentient "female" who incubates the offspring.  

Traits: Though highly intelligent and technologically advanced, Puppeteers are fearful about virtually everything (or, as they would have it, justifiably and sensibly cautious). Puppeteer-designed rooms and vehicles have no sharp edges to minimize the risk of accidental injuries. The Puppeteer ruler is known as the Hindmost, since the safest place to be in the herd is behind every other member of the herd, with them between any threat and you.  

    The only members of their species brave enough to leave their home planets, travel via spaceship or even communicate directly with other species, are considered certifiably insane by the rest of the species - useful, but dangerous to be around and forbidden from breeding lest they pass on their insanity to their offspring. Since other species aren't usually informed of this fact, it's worth noting that other species judging Puppeteers to be ridiculously cowardly is based on interacting with the "insanely brave" Puppeteers.

    Given their cautious nature, Puppeteers naturally view virtually every other species as a potential threat, to the point where they have covertly manipulated other species in what amounts to covert selective breeding programs to develop traits the Puppeteers consider useful or to make them less dangerous. 

    When the Puppeteers learned that the core of the Milky Way had exploded, unleashing a deadly radiation front that would reach their part of the galaxy in 20,000 years, they all immediately fled; one reason for not waiting was because most Puppeteers didn't want to leave their homeworld, so they instead moved the entire planet AND several attached agricultural planets. Though theoretically could have moved their worlds at faster-than-light speeds, since most of them don't like risking ftl even in the best of circumstances, they instead began running immediately at 0.8 light speed to ensure a head start. 

Type: Tripedal herbivore
Eyes: Two (one on each head)
Fingers: None (prehensile lips)
Toes: None (hooves)
Skin color: White with brown fur
Average height: 4'9"


(X-Men I#125) - A Puppeteer attended the first state ball in the reign of new Shi'ar Empress Lilandra Nerimani, attended by such other worthies as Lilandra's paramour Charles Xavier, Kyras Shakati, Popeye and the Phantom Stranger.

(Sensational She-Hulk#6) - A Puppeteer visited the interstellar Star Stop and was by the counter next to a Treen when the She-Hulk, Razorback and Taryn O'Connell arrived.

Comments: Created by Larry Niven, smuggled into Marvel by John Byrne and Terry Austin, perhaps with Chris Claremont.

     It's uncertain whether Claremont suggested having the Puppeteer in the background of X-Men I#125, or whether Byrne and/or Austin included it from a general remit to draw aliens in the crowd.

    Byrne was certainly responsible for the next use of Puppeteers in Marvel, in Sensational She-Hulk#6, and has also used them in DC's Ganthet's Tale, a Green Lantern Corps story written by Larry Niven and drawn by Byrne, as well as on the "B" cover of IDW's Leonard McCoy: Frontier Doctor#3. As such, it seems likely he's the person responsible for their appearance in X-Men I#125.

     Puppeteers originate from acclaimed science fiction author Larry Niven's Known Space stories, a series of novels and short tales all set in the same fictional future. Though we don't know the names of any Puppeteers in Reality-616, the first one introduced in Known Space was Nessus, who appeared in the short story "The Soft Weapon." Niven later adapted this tale for the animated Star Trek series; Nessus' role was played by Spock.

     In Known Space, Puppeteers are also known as Pierson's Puppeteers, after the first human recorded to see one, survey scout Olaf Pierson, whose description of them looking like "Like a three-legged centaur with two Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent puppets on its hands, and no head" gave them the name humans call them by; Olaf's fellow scouts initially thought he was drunk.

     Ironically, though the name Puppeteers is a visual reference, it also proved secretly appropriate in terms of their behavior towards other species. Puppeteers are innate cowards to a ridiculous level; any and all Puppeteers brave enough to leave their homeworld to deal with other species are considered quite literally insane by the rest of their species. In Niven's Known Space universe, fearing the Kzinti species (see N'rill'iree) who were carving out an interstellar empire through conquest, the Puppeteers covertly ensured several wars between the Kzinti and humanity (long before Puppeteers let humanity officially encountered them), ensuring humanity winning each time through covert assistance; their end goal was not just to weaken the Kzinti Empire, but to kill off the Kzinti's most aggressive members so that only the (marginally) less violent ones had offspring, effectively a massive scheme to selectively breed a less instinctively violent Kzinti species. And it worked.

    I don't think we know for sure whether the Puppeteers seen in X-Men and She-Hulk are native to Reality-616 or have traveled from their own reality to -616. Regardless, we are assuming that they possess the traits native to the previously seen Puppeteers, but we don't know that for sure, as they were only shown in a couple panels.

Profile by Loki.

Puppeteers have no known connections to:

Outsiders (?)

An Outsider apparently visited the Star Stop around the same time as the Puppeteer was inside ordering drinks.

Comments: Outsiders were created by Larry Niven. They are many-limbed aliens that live on the coldest worlds, as much of their body is composed of superfluid helium. I'm not strictly sure the being pictured right is an Outsider, especially since if it is then it strictly speaking shouldn't be hanging around anywhere warm enough for mammalian life. However, given the presence of the Puppeteer in the same issue, and the visual similarities, I figured it was at least worth mentioning the possibility.

--Sensational She-Hulk#6

images: (without ads)
X-Men I#125, p10, pan5 (main image)
Sensational She-Hulk#6, p18, pan3 (headshots)
Barlowe's Guide to Extra-Terrestrials (Puppeteers)
Leonard McCoy: Frontier Doctor #3 B cover (Star Trek appearance of Puppeteers)
Ganthet's Tale cover (DC Green Lantern Puppeteer)
Sensational She-Hulk#6, p18, pan2 (Outsider?)
Ringworld: Vengeance of the Patriarch video game (Outsider)

X-Men I#125 (September 1979) - Chris Claremont (writer), John Byrne (pencils), Terry Austin (inks), Roger Stern (editor)
Sensational She-Hulk#6 (October 1989) - John Byrne (writer, pencils), Al Gordon (inks), Bobbie Chase (editor)

First Posted: 02/20/2019
Last updated: 02/20/2019

Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.

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