Gligar is another one of those monsters I used to not care much for, but over time I’ve really come to appreciate him.
There’s so much going on with this little guy, coming from different angles, but working together surprisingly well. He’s very clearly a scorpion, what with the pincer-claws and the barbed, segmented tail. Then he’s obviously a bat, given the leathery wings between his legs. But there’s also an element of a classical imp and a gargoyle in his mischievous glare, prominent tongue and fangs, and great big horns.
He’s all sorts of fearsome creatures thrown together in a blender and pulsed until you get something devilishly playful. Bats and gargoyles do fit together, and it’s not too far of a walk to imp from there, but scorpions are a different category altogether that just so happens to feel right at home as a “sinister” insect.
One of my favorite little touches on this guy are the little barbed hooks on his feet and wings. Bats kind of have these digits along their wing bones, but for Gligar they feel like they seem to serve a dual purpose – both for climbing in the mountains where they’re found, and for more points to secrete and inject poison from. Which it does – Gligar apparently loves to latch onto victims’ faces with all of its barbs while tail-stabbing them into submission. Perfectly rogueish.
By the way, how cool is it that we’re already hitting a repeat animal in the second generation, but the two feel nothing alike? As opposed to digging deep into “what makes a bat batty?”, Gligar glides in the opposite direction, mashing the creature up with a bug that biologically doesn’t make a lot of sense, but thematically feels as natural as can be, like the kind of thing you’d see in a tabletop monster manual. But, y’know, cuter.
He may be a bit of a runt, but Gligar sure is pulling his creative weight. A good bug-bat, this one.
Much like Gligar, Gliscor used to do much less for me, but the more I look at him the more I’m finding to like. The “vampire bat” theme is very obvious, sure; but having “scorpion” as a shot in the arm makes him feel less… simple.
Part of what used to get me was the splashes of color they added against the dark purple-greys and black “cape”. In retrospect, though, plenty of poisonous animals use these as warning color, and the pupil-less have a precedent both in cave-dwelling animals and elsewhere that I can see Gliscor drawing from. All this while accentuating his segmented, not-quite-a-Bug-type body, making him look like a squirmy creature that so happens to have a fearsome, chitinous armor.
The one thing that still gets me is Gliscor’s cape. Aside from clearly-vestigial body parts or, y’know, dragons, most biological Pokémon so far have at least followed reasonable body plans. Shellder isn’t a clam with extra appendages; he still has to propel himself with his tongue. Gliscor, on the other hand, has a wing-cape that makes about as much sense in the wild as Batman’s does.
Actual animal wings aren’t just stuck to an animal’s back like that – they’re part of the creature’s forelimbs. Without that skeleton attached as a structure to hold it up, his “cape” should collapse immediately when used to glide, even if Gliscor does weigh even less than Gligar. The fact that his flying apparatus looks distinctly more decorative than functional is enough to kick Gliscor from “cool concept” to “clearly a cartoon”, which is where other series tend to lose me. I always hate to see when Pokémon slips and commits the same error.
I mean, Gliscor still looks cool – he feels almost cryptid-like, with a menacing intensity that speaks to the edgy twelve-year-old’s soul we all have deep down. But I just don’t buy his physicality or ability to fly, which to be fair is a wild complaint to be leveling at monsters from a video game aimed at kids.
Luckily, Gliscor gets some points back with his usability – Ground/Flying is a great type combination barring a distinct weakness to Ice, and he gets access to a ton of diverse attacks. Oddly, he doesn’t learn many Poison moves naturally, but he’s still above-average in everything except a serviceable HP and Special Defense, and a Special Attack stat that he can safely ignore. Even without one of his very abusable hidden abilities, Gliscor is a beefy sky-bug.
Speaking of, I love that Gliscor and Gligar are possibly based on a pun on an insect name – scorpionflies exist, but they don’t seem to be especially related to scorpions aside from a for-show tail. So why not twist that into scorpion, who flies?
And that kind of gives Gligar an identity crisis. Scorpions are clearly Bugs. He’s purplish-pink, which in Pokémon design usually means “Poisonous” (especially when they’re based on an appropriate animal). You could even make a strong case for the vampiric Gliscor being Dark. But instead he’s a fairly-reasonable Flying and… Ground, somehow? Boy, is that a puzzler unless you encounter one in its mountainside habitat and do a bit of thinking. Maybe “ground-flying” is meant to play off how gliding isn’t technically flying, but just something similar done by a naturally-grounded animal?
This guy confused me for quite some time, which I kind of appreciate. He’s typically encountered late enough in a campaign that the player has the basic type chart down, so throwing him in there to play with expectations can really keep players on their toes. They’re not even wrong, since the line learns plenty of Bug and Dark moves. He’s a tricky bugger, which only plays more into Gligar’s impish look, and I appreciate having a few curveballs in the roster. They just need to be the exception, not the norm.
Gligar is a deeply interesting little fellow, but unfortunately he hasn’t been part of a game’s natural roster for about six years at time of writing. And Gliscor, fix your wings into something more presentable and we’ll talk. Until then, as neat as I think they are, the actual state of the series is pointing to these two being a Reserve monster at best.
Any and all appreciation for Gligar and Gliscor is welcome in the comments!