A new villain is rising in the Marvel Universe, and he really pops! Meet Balloon Man, the floating terror of New York City! We’re not trying to string you along; this uplifting evildoer is sensational. Marvel’s mylar menace makes his debut in Spider-Boy #1 (written by Dan Slott, penciled by Paco Medina and Ty Templeton). Before you accuse us of being full of hot air, let’s break down why Balloon Man is so fearsome (and loveable).
Warning: Spoilers ahead for Spider-Boy #1
Who is Balloon Man?
Balloon Man’s real name is Professor Emilio Helio. He’s dressed like a 1920s candy shop owner, with striped pants, a red vest, and a straw hat. The cherry on top is the inflated balloon that he wears as a helmet. It makes him look like Mr. Freeze from the Adam West Batman television series. Why is he wearing a hat if his head is completely covered by a balloon? Because it brings his entire look together, and it’s awesome.
Oh, I’m leaving out the best part – the balloon helmet he wears is filled with helium, which means he talks in an extremely high-pitched voice. This causes Squirrel Girl and her squirrels to break out in hysterics. According to Spider-Boy, Emilio is very sensitive about this.
What are Balloon Man’s powers?
Emilio has the power to manipulate gas. “He’s like Magneto, but with gas instead of metal,” Spider-Boy explains. When a balloon is filled with gas, Emilio can manipulate it to do his bidding. You know those wacky-waving-inflatable-arm-flailing-tube-men that sit outside of auto stores? Emilio uses his powers to have them pop out of various sewer manholes. Best villain ever.
He then sends an army of small balloon animals after Squirrel Girl and Spider-Boy. “Get them, my stretchable stampede,” he commands. Magneto had the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, and Emilio has an army of cute balloon animals. Be honest, we all know Emilio’s henchmen are more interesting.
What is Balloon Man’s origin?
Remember when I said that Balloon Man breathes helium? He doesn’t just do it for kicks, it’s essential to his survival. According to Spider-Boy, Emilio gained his gaseous powers from an accident, which also changed his respiratory system. A tragic villain origin story full of pathos, irony, and helium.
We don’t know what kind of accident it was, so we could only speculate. Was it a balloon related lab accident? Did he fall into a chamber of helium? Did he dress like that before his accident? My imagination is running wild.
Dan Slott and Ty Templeton – if you’re listening, the world demands a Balloon Man: Year One maxi-series.
Who is Balloon Man’s archnemesis?
Doctor Doom has Reed Richards. Kingpin has Daredevil. Captain America has Red Skull.
Balloon Man has a 10-year-old unhoused kid.
Okay, I’ll admit, it’s a bit hard to justify that one. To be fair, the kid in question is Bailey Briggs, the Spirited Spider-Boy. Still, any grown man that has beef with a small child (especially an unhoused child) needs to take a step back and reassess their life.
Their rivalry is a bit complicated, because Emilio has no memory of any of their battles. That’s because Bailey was erased from the Web of Life during the End of the Spider-Verse storyline, causing everyone to forget he existed. (For more on Bailey Briggs, check out our exclusive interview with Dan Slott.)
How do you stop Balloon Man?
Some of you might be wondering why Spider-Boy and Squirrel Girl can’t just pop Emilio’s balloons. They can, but that plays right into Emilio’s hands. Each of his balloons is filled with different gases, from laughing gas, to knockout gas, and sometimes even poison. Squirrel Girl ignores Spider-Boy’s warnings and finds herself inhaling laughing gas after popping Emilio’s balloons. That’s right, Emilio is three steps ahead in their metaphorical chess game.
Squirrel Girl and Spider-Boy realize they can neutralize the balloons with static electricity. They grab the balloons, rub them on themselves, and then use the resulting static electricity to stick the balloons on walls.
Ask yourself this – have you ever read a comic where the X-Men defeated Magneto by rubbing the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants on their costumes? This is why Balloon Man is so awesome.
Don’t worry Ballooniacs, Emilio has a backup plan. Using his powers, he takes control of the balloons from New York’s Thanksgiving Day parade. Unless they have Pym Particles handy, I don’t think Bailey and Squirrel Girl can grow big enough to rub those ones.
How can they ever hope to stop Emilio’s balloon kaijus? We’ll have to wait until Spider-Boy #2 to learn their uplifting answer.
Other Balloon Men
Emilio Helio isn’t the first comic book character to call themselves Balloon Man. While Emilio rules the Marvel Universe, DC has their own stable of Balloon Men. Here’s a quick breakdown.
- Balloon Man – A giant balloon creature that fought the Metal Men in Metal Men #24 (1967). His origin was unknown, he was just a giant balloon monster. He later appeared in the 2018 film Teen Titans Go to the Movies.
- Balloon Boy – One of the many aliases Robert Reed went by. Using the H-Dial, Reed gained the powers to become weightless and fly. It also turned him into the shape of a balloon.
- Davis Lamond – A serial killer who appeared in the third episode of Fox’s Batman prequel Gotham. Lamond, who called himself Balloonman, targeted corrupt politicians. He would attach his victims to balloons and send them flying into the stratosphere. It’s like a horror version of Up.
Do any of these Balloon Men dress like candy shop owners? Do any of them have an army of wacky-waving-inflatable-arm-flailing-tube-men? Do any of them have a rivalry with a 10-year-old homeless kid?
Nope, and that’s why Emilio Helio reigns supreme. All hail Balloon Man, Marvel’s next rising star!