Marvel Comics is a bit of a juggernaut these days. In fact, they have been for a few years. With the backing of Disney and a solid and formidable line up of creators, writers, artists and more, Marvel has been pumping out yearly (sometimes twice a year) events and right now that event is something that may have a certain shine to horror fans: MONSTERS UNLEASHED.
The current mystery is still unfolding but what we do know is that Kid Kaiju has the ability to draw and thus summon monsters, many of which are new, but some have existed since nearly the beginning of Marvel’s storied history. Everyone knows that Marvel has long been home to some of the most fantastic and amazing superheroes in all of creation, but sometimes the monsters, as they often do, stick to the shadows. With this piece, we are going to showcase some of Marvel’s Merry Monsters.
A few monsters may not be the most creative or original but boy, are they fun. First, it’s pretty impossible to leave this guy off of the list. Believe it or not (but believe it, it’s a thing that happened), GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS was once owned by Marvel and had a 24 issue run in the late seventies before his rights folded. In his final stand, he fought the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man and even the SHIELD Godzilla Squad to a standstill before returning to the ocean due to a young boy’s plea. No, really, for real. A little boy cried so Godzilla returned to the ocean.
FIN FANG FOOM appears to be a traditional Chinese dragon wearing purple pants, as dragons do, but he is actually a shape-changing Makluan from the planet Kakaranthara. Comics are weird, readers. FIN FANG FOOM gets weirder. He comes from a peaceful race of people but struck out with other outliers to conquer different planets. He became a somewhat regular “big monster” villain for the FANTASTIC FOUR and IRON MAN before writers decided to utilize him differently, one of the most notable storylines being when he adopted Buddhism and was shrunk down to human size to become the head chef of the Baxter Building.
Many of monsters across all of comic book lore are based on already pre-existing mythologies. Most comic universes have a version of DRACULA or FRANKENSTEIN’S MONSTER but not all of them have a WENDIGO. Based on the legend of the Algonquin people, the original Wendigo was Paul Cartier and was created as foil to fellow bruiser THE HULK because of not only his brute strength but also the tragic backstory of the creature. In Marvel lore, once someone IN CANADA is involved in cannibalism, they take on the Wendigo curse, turning them into a massive, white-furred creature with incredible strength, killer instincts and razor sharp claws. Throughout decades at Marvel, the monster has had many human guises, and has proven a match for Marvel’s toughest characters, including Wolverine, The Hulk, Sabertooth and more. As the years have passed, the Wendigo curse has even taken over the likes of the Hulk, run rampant through Canada, and was featured in the first appearance of Wolverine himself.
The world would be remiss if the suggestively named MAN-THING didn’t make this list. Often deemed as a SWAMP THING knockoff, it’s usually overlooked that Man-Thing debuted a month before his foliage-full compatriot. Created in 1971 by Stan Lee and Roy Thomas, Man-Thing was a run-of-the-mill monster before getting his cult classic series helmed by oddball genius Steve Gerber. Famous for introducing the world to Howard the Duck and comic books’ favorite in-joke, GIANT SIZE MAN-THING, Ted Sallis is more than just a swamp creature. Created by injecting himself with an attempted recreation of the Super Soldier Serum, he crashes into a swamp and is transformed into the empathetic, but powerful Man-Thing. Is his storied career, he has been revealed as the guardian of the Nexus of All Realities, joined the Howling Commandos and at one point famous writer Chris Claremont was even transformed into the infernal Man-Thing. With the ability to burn anyone who feels fear (guess Daredevil is alright), Man-Thing started as a stereotypical creature feature and transformed into a gonzo accidental hero who has battled ghouls, ghosts, time travelers, vampires and more.
Speaking of vampires, MORBIUS THE LIVING VAMPIRE is a bit of a staple when it comes to Marvel monsters. Michael Morbius was an expert biochemist who attempted to cure himself of a rare blood disease and instead turned himself into a “psuedo” vampire, mimicking vampiric powers and flaws, but still alive — hence the moniker. Starting out as a routine Spider-Man villain, Morbius would expand and become a much more interesting character. Always searching for a cure, he also embraces his gifts to eventually become a lethal protector, fighting alongside the likes of Blade, Hannibal King and Doctor Strange against supernatural foes and ancient evils. Over time, after the crime fighting team of The Midnight Sons disbanded, Morbius is recruited by ARMOR, an extradimensional SHIELD, to lead a battle against the savage MARVEL ZOMBIES universe before coming back and helping the Man-Thing create a Frankenstein version of Punisher dubbed Frankencastle. (Yes, this is real. Yes, it sounds dumb. Yes, it is awesome.) Morbius has always been an excellent foil for Spider-Man, presenting both brains and brawn, while still running around sucking blood from criminals to survive.
No list with a vampire on it would be complete with a werewolf, and in this case, it’s the best-named werewolf in the comic book biz (sorry, WARWOLF, it’s not you): WEREWOLF BY NIGHT. Jack Russell comes from a long lineage of lycanthropes, his great-great-grandfather was even slain by the Dracula, and really isn’t much more than an average werewolf with an extremely convoluted backstory, even by comic book standards. Of all the creatures on this list, he may have the most ludicrous history out of everyone, including the shapeshifting, pants wearing dragon. Jack has fought everyone from Z-tier villain Hangman to A-lister Sabretooth, has battled an army of werewolves (turned by him) called the Braineaters, has merged his werewolf psyche with his human psyche to gain true control of it, and fought alongside fellow supernatural heroes Moon Knight and Ghost Rider, but also true-blue superhero standards like Iron Man. His niece is even a fellow paranormal creature, dubbed VAMPIRE BY NIGHT. Marvel really knows how to take a generic monster and make him one of the craziest creatures in comics.
Easily over a hundred entries could be made to this list as the Marvel Universe has existed for over forty years and the “pre-superhero” Marvel was an era full of atomic age mishaps, extraterrestrial tyrants, and subterranean Wellian creations. One place manages to serve as a home for many of these creatures, THE ISLE OF MONSTERS. While once home to everyone’s favorite dragon FIN FANG FOOM and other famous Marvel monsters IT THE LIVING COLOSSUS and GIGANTO (made famous by appearing on the cover of FANTASTIC FOUR #1), it also is inhabited by a number of forgotten monsters from the sixties. It’s essentially the Island of Misfit Toys for comic book monsters. Some personal favorites include:
- The “blips,” a race made entirely of electricity, who are only called “blips” because the name they give themselves is the “shzzzllzzzthzz.”
- The Brute That Walks, once the man Howard Avery who gave himself a potion attempting to create super strength, turned into a giant furry creature with the aforementioned nickname.
- The Creature from Krogarr, who tricked a man into letting him come to our planet via his television set.
- Glop, a molten man who emerged from a movie screen with no explanation.
- Gorgolla the Living Gargoyle, son of Granitor, and his name pretty much says it all.
- Vandoom’s Monster, a gigantic wax figure come to life due a freak lightning storm, who is known to travel with the Mole Men.
Perhaps one of the greatest parts of the long history of comics, and Marvel, is how much we still haven’t uncovered from just forty years ago. With every day that passes, something new is made, and it’s comforting to know that horror lurks around every corner for us genre fans.