It’s that time of year again! That period in between summer vacation and the Thanksgiving season where ghouls, goblins, and ghosts are on everyone’s mind. We’re talking about Halloween, of course! And while superheroes are a popular costume of choice for kids heading out to do some trick or treating on a chilly autumn night, one doesn’t necessarily think of the horror genre when conjuring images of capes, masks, and superpowers.
In reality, before the Comics Code got ahold of them, horror mags were all the rage! Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had an unprecedented run of bloodcurdling monster comics in the 1950s and early 1960s that didn’t end with the coming of the superheroes. Some of the most well-known Marvel heroes such as Doctor Strange, Ghost Rider, Blade, and even the Hulk were born of the supernatural to carry on a long tradition of spooky tales at the House of Ideas.
In honor of All Hallow’s Eve we thought we’d take a look back at some of Marvel’s horror characters that were co-created by Stan The Man himself. So sit back, relax, and enjoy a scroll through some of the most diabolical demons the master of the Marvel Universe had up his sleeve.
6. Mister Hyde
Stan Lee always said that the creation of the Incredible Hulk came from his love of two monster stories: Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. A little over a year after the debut of the green goliath, Stan and artist Don Heck introduced a new villain whose inspiration clearly comes from the latter of Stan’s favorite gothic horror tomes. Mister Hyde first appeared in Journey into Mystery #99 (1963) as Calvin Zabo, a brilliant biochemist who was obsessed with the 1886 book The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The mad scientist proved that Dr. Jekyll’s experiment was possible in real life by concocting a chemical formula that, once ingested, transformed him into a deformed and hulking monster, strong enough to go toe-to-toe in battle with Thor. Zabo took the name Mister Hyde as an homage to his favorite novel, and became a creepy career criminal, often going up against Spider-Man, Daredevil, and even the Avengers.
Zombies moan, lumber about, and crave human brains as a midnight snack, but back in 1953 Stan Lee and Bill Everett introduced a zombie in the pages of Menace #5 that has gone on to have a somewhat heroic career in Marvel monster lore. Simon William Garth was a business executive who was kidnapped and murdered by a former employee who then brought Garth’s corpse to a voodoo cult. Garth was resurrected by the cult as a super-powered zombie who could be controlled by whoever possessed a magic amulet. Garth was used to commit a number of crimes until he overcame the amulet’s power and defeated those who controlled him. Garth disappeared from comics until he was resurrected in the mainstream Marvel Universe twenty years later in 1973 as a somewhat heroic zombie who could rise above his undead condition. He’s had numerous appearances since, including in Spider-Man, Blade, and Marvel Zombies. He even became pals with Deadpool’s severed head, and at one point he joined the Howling Commandoes. Good ole’ Garth makes us think that maybe not all zombies are bad after all.
4. Morgan Le Fay
You can’t have a Halloween-inspired list without a wicked witch! Morgan Le Fay is a Marvel Universe mainstay who pre-dates even the Fantastic Four. Created by Stan Lee and Joe Maneely in the Black Knight #1 from 1955, Morgan was inspired by the character of the same name from Arthurian legend. She is the half-faerie, half-sister of King Arthur who trained under Merlin to become a powerful time-traveling sorceress. A dangerous villain to Doctor Strange, Spider-Woman, and even the Avengers, Morgan is able to traverse the astral plane and possess powerful beings to be a magical menace to the Marvel heroes. Le Fay is also known for binding together the Darkhold, an ancient book of black magic responsible for the creation of vampires, werewolves, and a host of other supernatural creatures in the Marvel Universe. She may not wear a pointy hat or ride on a broomstick, but Morgan Le Fay will do worse things than turn you into a toad if you cross her path. Nuff’ said.
Nightmare was created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko in Strange Tales #110 way back in 1963 and has since become the Freddy Krueger of the Marvel Universe. Ruler of the Dream Dimension, Nightmare feeds off of the psychic energy of sleeping beings that he tortures with nightmares—hence the name. Nightmare’s trademark look includes the bone white skin of a corpse, wormy green mangled hair, a strangling tight green jumpsuit, and a ragged cape draped around his sickly thin body. Nightmare roams his dreamscape atop a demonic black-horned horse named Dreamstalker, looking for sleeping humans to prey upon. This nocturnal beast ensures that villains and heroes alike always question their subconscious when they lay their heads down to sleep at night. Pleasant dreams!
2. Green Goblin
You didn’t think we would leave the guy who throws flaming jack-o’-lanterns off the list, did you? Good ole’ Green Goblin first flew onto the scene in Amazing Spider-Man #14 back in 1964 and has subsequently gone on to become the web head’s most devious archnemesis. The father of Peter Parker’s pal Harry, Norman Osborn was a ruthless businessman and scientist who developed the “Goblin Formula” which enhanced his strength, speed, reflexes, and healing, at the cost of his sanity. While the green meanie is more of a super villain than a horror monster, he dons what could easily be mistaken as a Halloween costume. He carries with him a number of spooky-themed gadgets including his glider which was originally designed to resemble a witch’s broomstick, exploding pumpkin bombs, and bat-shaped throwing blades. His goblin mask alone is enough to strike fear into the hearts of spider-people everywhere!
Was there any doubt that Marvel’s own devil would top the list? Created by Stan Lee and John Buscema in The Silver Surfer #3 (1968), Mephisto was inspired by the character of Mephistopheles from the 16th Century legend Faust. He is considered by most to be the true devil of the Marvel Universe who rules over his own private dimension of Hell, always looking to make a deal with an unsuspecting mortal. Mephisto is responsible for many evil acts in Marvel lore, including imprisoning the soul of Dr. Doom’s mother in Hell, creating the Ghost Rider by bonding a demon to Johnny Blaze’s soul, and erasing Peter Parker and Mary-Jane Watson’s marriage from existence. There isn’t a shady deal that this denizen of the dark hasn’t made. Mephisto has taken on many forms over the years, from the traditional devil, to his classic red-cape look, to more bizarre and hellish incarnations. If by chance you should be offered a transaction by this fellow, just walk away. For the devil always gets his due.
Excelsior and Happy Halloween!