[Contains sweet Spanish almonds and SPOILERS!!!]
Although the Marvel Rising franchise marks Squirrel Girl’s first starring role, it isn’t the first time she’s appeared on TV: Back in 2007 she had a very brief (and desultory) cameo in an episode of Fantastic Four: World’s Greatest Heroes titled “The Cure” (#1.18), in which the eponymous do-gooders were auditioning for new recruits to replace a depowered “The Thing”. She’s only onscreen for (a little under) two seconds, sliding into the center of the audition area and shouting “Ta-dah!”, while her bushy-tailed buds swarm the table where the show’s buzzkill heroes are sat, peevishly dismissing her. Boo! Instead they opted for the rather more obvious (but far less amusing) choice of “She-Hulk”, voiced by Rebecca Shoichet… who, according to IMDb at least, also played SG here.
A couple years later her name/image was used as a throwaway gag in an episode of Ultimate Spider-Man (#2.24) (2013), when “Spidey” (Drake Bell) checked a popularity poll of New York superheroes, and found himself trailing behind our heroine, who he’s supposedly never heard of before. She’s also pictured on a view-screen in ep #3.3 (2014) as one of the newbies that ‘Nick Fury’ (Chi McBride) was hoping to train-up as S.H.I.E.L.D. agents… but Spidey didn’t get to see her in glorious/giddy action for himself until ep #3.5, when she took down “Juggernaut” (Kevin Michael Richardson) outside a diner he was patronising! It’s great fun seeing her tackle such a huge opponent, and baffle/scurry him into submission, though Spidey took a very dim view of her tactics, and the collateral damage to nearby buildings. As she cheerfully shrugged off his reprimand, and bounced out on the clean-up, I couldn’t help thinking that her characterization and voice (provided by Misty Lee, who also voices the hero’s elderly ‘Aunt May’!) were rather Harley-Quinn-esque… though that may just be my obsessive fanboy brain projecting on to her? Either way, I love ‘em both, so please don’t make me choose a favourite!
Side-note: I kinda hated a lot of the stylistic quirks of this series, such as the way Spidey kept pausing the action to talk at the viewer, and how every new character was introduced with a freeze-frame name-caption… but I did love the fact they chose to extend that convention to all three of SG’s senior squirrel chums, “Tippy Toes” (sic), “Monkey Joe”, and “Mr. Lieberman”!
Despite Spidey’s dim first impression of her, SG is later seen attending the S.H.I.E.L.D. Academy in ep #3.14 (2015), cheering his arrival at the Triskelion, and training alongside him (he even praised her as a “quick study” in his voice-over), but weirdly not speaking to him or anyone else, or saying anything aloud at all. There was a sight-gag of her squirrels sitting on a meditating “Iron Fist” though, so that’s fun. Actually, now I come to think about it, none of the female characters were allowed to speak or take part in the main storyline in that episode, which is rather a poor show, really. Thankfully, she had a lot more to say for herself when she returned in ep #3.17, accompanying Spidey and “Power Man” (Ogie Banks) on an illicit after-hours “burrito run” into the city, where they inevitably stumbled into a scheming super-villain’s path… specifically “Mesmero” (Dwight Schultz), who was using a bunch of hypnotised henchmen to help him hack into the city’s cellphone network, and turn everyone into mindless minions! Sadly, SG was the first/only hero to fall under his spell, but her friends were able to snap her out of it in time for her to kick some substantial bad-guy butt. Phew! Spidey had ordered her to leave all of her squirrels back at the base, so there’s no swarming action in this episode, but she did smuggle Monkey Joe along for a fan-serving surprise attack. Hurrah!
Her final appearance of Season Three came in ep #3.22, when a confused Spidey returned to find the squad’s dorm empty except for a “hibernating” SG, who couldn’t stay awake long enough to tell him where everyone else had gone… though the answer was, in fact, that they were out doing his Christmas shopping, leaving him free to have an It’s-A-Wonderful-Life-meets-A-Christmas-Carol-style nightmare courtesy of a villain named, er, “Nightmare” (Mark Hamill). She returned in ep #4.9 (2016) as one of a gaggle of students pestering Spidey with questions about their training schedule, but didn’t get anything to do beyond that. There’s a little more action in ep #4.10, where she helped to (temporarily) incapacitate a rampaging “Rhino” (Daryl Sabara)… and there’s a little pseudo-detective-work in #4.23, though it’s fairly inconsequential as her squirrels are distracted by a hidden packet of trail-mix while attempting to track a traitor, and SG herself got knocked out of the big-boss-battle pretty quickly/easily, with barely enough time to make a nut-related quip! Tch!
Side-note: This episode featured ten different major “spider”-themed characters (including the inevitable Tara Strong as “Spider-Woman”), which really seems like overkill to me! But if I keep picking holes in this show* I might be here all month, so let’s just skip ahead to the two-part series finale, “Graduation Day” (eps #25-26), in which SG was once again sidelined as a second-stringer among the bloated ensemble, playing a thankless role in one of several connected battles in Pt. 1, and then getting reprimanded once again by the “superior” Spidey… before shrinking back to just another voiceless face-in-the-crowd in Pt. 2, when the headliner’s gross incompetence/stupidity allowed “Doctor Octopus” (Tom Kenny) to trap all of “the world’s greatest heroes” under a shrinking energy-dome-thingy. D’oh! Never woulda happened if he’d had some squirrels on-hand to help, eh?
In retrospect, only eps #3.5 and #3.17 were really worth bothering with, and the rest were mostly just a frustrating time-suck… I certainly wouldn’t recommend watching this show unless you’re a die-hard Spidey-fan, or want to play a masochistic game where you slap yourself in the face every time someone riffs on the famous “great power”/”great responsibility” line (which seemed to happen at least once per episode!) Still, I do dig the character design here, and appreciate the time and effort that must have gone into drawing/animating the many, many squirrels that appear on-screen. They score full-marks for adorability there.
Over the years, SG has also featured in several video games, voiced by both Strong and Lee, and from the YouTube clips I’ve seen, the funnest of these appears to be Lego Marvel’s Avengers (2016)… though sadly, there doesn’t seem to be an actual mini-figure of her (or the “Squirrel-Buster” armor) available to buy anywhere. Shame!
Co-inky: I happened to be watching a couple of Wired “Autocomplete Interviews” t’other night, and one of them featured Anna Kendrick talking about how she’d once mentioned wanting to play SG as a flippant off-the-cuff answer to an interview question, and then found fans petitioning on her behalf, even though she actually isn’t that bothered about it. Given a choice, I’d probably cast Ellie Kemper… though that may just be because of her hair-colour, and the fact she titled her autobiography “My Squirrel Days”…
* Such as why all the heroes wear their costumes to bed at night, and why they keep locking villains up in such close-proximity with all their equipment/armor intact, and why Spidey repeatedly stresses how important it is to keep his aunt safe while steering villains straight towards her… etc., etc., etc.