Top Ten Monster Characters in Comics (Festival of Dread Special)
Welcome to a special Festival of Dread edition of Top Ten. In keeping with the month’s theme, we’re spotlighting the top ten monster characters in comic books. Read on and be sure to let us know which characters we may have left out in the comments below.
Now… enter – if you dare!
#10 – I, Vampire
First appearing in House of Mystery #290 and created by JM DeMatteis and Tom Sutton, I, Vampire (also sometimes credited as I…Vampire) was a 16th century Lord named Andrew Bennett. Lord Bennett turned his lover Mary into a vampire as well, but her newfound power corrupted her and she became obsessed with taking over the world.
I, Vampire vows to correct his mistake and stop Mary (now known as Mary, Queen of Blood). Bennett tries to retain his humanity by refusing to kill human victims for their blood. Instead, he drinks from animals or bottled human blood he has collected.
His adventures were captured in backup stories in the original House of Mystery series, in his own self-titled series during the New 52, and as a member of the Justice League Dark team. I, Vampire is certainly a unique take on a longstanding tradition of vampire characters in comics.
#9 – Man-Wolf
Man-Wolf is in actuality John Jameson, astronaut and son of J. Jonah Jameson. Man-Wolf is unique on this list because even though he debuted in Amazing Spider-Man #1 in 1963, but didn’t turn into the Man-Wolf character until Gerry Conway added the lore ten years later.
When John Jameson was on one of his space missions, he found a ruby-like gem on the moon. He decided to turn it into a pendant. Doing so caused the mystical stone to graft to his neck, and it turned him into the Man-Wolf with the exposure to moonlight.
Man-Wolf was featured in several issues of Creatures on the Loose, and has sporadically appeared throughout the years in Marvel Comics. A character with a lot of potential, there’s a lot more to explore with this under-utilized monster at Marvel.
#8 – Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE
Frankenstein has been depicted at DC Comics for decades. He has surfaced in backup stories in Phantom Stranger, been a member of the Creature Commandos, and was even depicted as a villainous sidekick to Count Dracula. It was his inclusion in the Seven Soldiers of Victory by Grant Morrison that brought the character back to mainstream attention.
When the New 52 was launched, Frankenstein Agent of SHADE garnered its own title, and Frankenstein was definitely the focal point of this unique title. Frankenstein has also been featured as a member of the Justice League Dark, and even as a playable character in multiple Lego DC video games.
Most recently, Frankenstein appeared in the Young Monsters in Love one-shot from DC Comics. You may think you know the story of Frankenstein, but DC has definitely put their own spin on this classic character.
#7 – Morbius the Living Vampire
Our second entry from the Spider-Man universe (and our second vampire), Morbius was created by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane, first appearing in Amazing Spider-Man #101. Suffering from a rare blood disease, bio-chemist Michael Morbius was experimenting on himself to find a cure, when he accidentally turned himself into a vampire.
Morbius the Living Vampire was popular enough to spin off into several of his own titles, and has appeared as part of several Marvel teams, including Midnight Sons, and the Legion of Monsters. He also appeared in the Spider-Man animated series and has had quite a few action figures attributed to him as well.
This character is primed for a resurgence based on the fact that Jared Leto will be portraying him in an upcoming movie from Sony. For those of you trying to collect key comic book appearances, you may want to stock up on some Morbius issues now, before the film release makes those books harder to find.
#6 – Man-Thing
Writer Steve Gerber is so associated with Man-Thing that readers may be surprised to know that he did not create the character. First appearing in magazine format in Savage Tales #1, Man-Thing was the collaborative creation of Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway and Gray Morrow.
Man-Thing was once a biochemist (seems to be a dangerous profession on this list) named Dr. Ted Sallis who was attempting to re-create the same super-soldier serum that created Captain America. When A.I.M. forces (Advanced Idea Mechanics) attempt to steal the formula, he injects himself with it and unwillingly turns himself into the Man-Thing. A character devoid of human intellect and unable to speak, he still seems to find a way to play a crucial and heroic role in stories in which he’s featured.
Man-Thing has appeared in numerous comic book series, both ongoing and mini, at Marvel Comics. We’ve seen Man-Thing in animated series, video games, and even a motion picture. He’s a cult favorite character with a loyal following.
#5 – Werewolf by Night
The second Marvel Comics wolf character to appear on our list, Werewolf by Night first appeared in Marvel Spotlight #2 in February 1972. Created by Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway and Mike Ploog, Werewolf by Night seemed to initially be the product of the modified guidelines of the comics code authority, allowing for the portrayal of werewolves in comic books. The story followed Jack Russell (no relation to the dog breed) and his shape-shifting affliction.
Unlike a lot of the other monsters on this list, Jack Russell was not previously a biochemist or exposed to mystical objects. Instead, he was born from a long line of lycanthropes, and his transformations began to emerge on his 18th birthday.
Werewolf by Night enjoyed a very popular initial series in the 1970s, lasting 43 issues and introducing popular Marvel characters such as Moon Knight along the way. Since then, however, he has been used sporadically by Marvel. Werewolf by Night will be returning to Marvel Comics with a long-announced series, and speculation abounds that he will be making an appearance in the MCU. Only time will tell if this lycanthropic monster will have a proper return to the prominence he once enjoyed.
#4 – Man-Bat
Not a vampire, or werewolf, or swamp creature, the Man-Bat is the first real uniquely stylized monster on this list. Frank Robbins and Neal Adams created Man-Bat under the direction of editor Julius Schwartz, and the character first appeared in Detective Comics #400 in 1970.
You’ve seen it before, scientist (Kirk Langstrom) decides to test an experimental formula on himself. The formula has unexpected consequences, and the Man-Bat is formed. Intended initially to be a member of Batman’s rogues gallery, the character was intriguing enough that he’s even been featured in his own comic book series on multiple occasions. Man-Bat has become a true fan-favorite among Batman’s long list of recurring villains.
Even if you’ve never picked up a comic book in your life however, chances are you’ve seen Man-Bat. He was featured in multiple episodes of Batman: The Animated Series and was a popular character in the Batman: Arkham Knight video game as well as multiple Lego video games. There were even rumors of Man-Bat appearing in a feature film, but that has yet come to pass. Still, with the popularity of Batman never seeming to wane, there will be plenty more adventures including this monster.
#3 – Etrigan the Demon
No comic book top 10 list is complete without a mention of Jack Kirby, and here we have one of his more unique creations, Etrigan the Demon. First appearing in The Demon #1 in 1972, Etrigan is a demon from Hell bound to a human counterpart, Jason Blood, during the time of Merlin and King Arthur.
Beyond the whole “demon from Hell” business, another unique character trait is that Etrigan speaks in rhyme. Although not consistent, when this is utilized correctly in comic book form, it creates some interesting and fun dialogue that fans have come to appreciate and expect.
Etrigan has had multiple comic book series devoted to him, and appeared in multiple team books, including Justice League Dark. He’s also made notable appearances in multiple DC animated properties including The New Batman Adventures, Justice League, Brave and the Bold, and one of my personal favorite Justice League Unlimited episodes, “Kids Stuff.” Part man, part monster, all Kirby, this character has earned a high spot on this list.
#2 – Solomon Grundy
Solomon Grundy first appeared in All-American Comics #61 back in 1944, and was based on the classic nursery rhyme of the same name. Initially meant to be a villain of the original Green Lantern (Alan Scott), Grundy has gone on to become a major villain throughout the DC Universe. He’s battled all of the major super heroes at DC Comics, and held his own.
After more than 75 years in existence, you can imagine the number of origins of this character that exist. The most famous (and best in my opinion) is that of Cyrus Gold, a wealthy merchant who was murdered, and had his lifeless body dumped in a swamp. After several years, his corpse is reanimated as the zombie Solomon Grundy.
Solomon Grundy has appeared in a number comic books, but only one seven-issue series from 2009 is solely devoted to him. Even so, he’s been depicted in countless media, including video games, live action television, animated shows and movies, including being portrayed as the central character in the classic The Terror Beyond from the Justice League animated series. Although monstrous in appearance, there’s still something about Solomon Grundy that fans show great appreciation and sympathy for.
#1 – Swamp Thing
As much as I love all of the characters on this list (and many that didn’t make it) Swamp Thing was always going to be my clear #1. Definitely the most prominent character on this list, based on number of issues of their own series, Swamp Thing may have more comic books devoted to him then every other character on this list combined.
Swamp Thing was created by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson and first appeared in House of Secrets #92 in July 1971. However, that issue featured a character named Alex Olsen and was set in the early 20th century. After fan feedback showed DC that they had a hit on their hand, they revived the character in his own series with a more contemporary setting and with a new lead, Alec Holland.
Dr. Alec Holland was attempting to create a bio-restorative formula, and had ventured into the swamps of Louisiana with his wife to work in secret. Criminals find his secret location and attempt to extort Holland, who refuses to be strong-armed. They plant a bomb in his lab, and the explosion kills his wife and sets him ablaze. In agony, Holland runs to the swamp and dives in to extinguish the flames. From the ashes, the Swamp Thing is born. From here the story of Swamp Thing gets interesting, as time has changed his origin from a man seeking a cure, to a plant elemental understanding his true fate.
Swamp Thing has appeared in every aspect of media you can name, from animated shows and movies, to video games, to multiple live action television series, and even two motion pictures. Swamp Thing still sporadically appears today in DC Comics in his own title, be it one-shots, mini-series, 100-Page Giants, and even an upcoming Halloween special. Swamp Thing is more than just a great monster character – he’s become a staple of DC Comics with a long line of comic book creators clamoring to get a shot to tell his tale. He’s also very deservedly the greatest monster character in comic books.
Who did we miss? Get in the comments and tell how wrong we are, smart guy!
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Thanks for reading! To check out more of our Festival of Dread content, go here!