Greetings from the Odinson,
In comic books, Superhero motifs generally exist in the realms of science fiction, drama, humor, and/or action/adventure. Normally, there are specialized operatives who handle the macabre, specially trained individuals who have the right tools and know how to deal with supernatural threats from beyond the grave and the magic of witches, warlocks, and wizards. Buffy Summers, Blade, Spawn, Doctor Strange, Dr. Fate, Ghost Rider, Daimon Hellstrom, Phantom Stranger, Zatanna, John Constantine, Hellboy, and Ash, just to name a few, are far better equipped than your average cape-wearing do-gooder to deal with vampires, ghosts, goblins, and all the other things that go bump in the night.
Superheroes do well against horrors whose origins stem from science fiction like when Spidey deals with Morbius the Living Vampire and Man-Wolf, or when the Champions, Avengers and Fantastic Four take on Godzilla, or when the X-Men team up with Ghost Rider to take down a Brood infestation, but when it comes to the supernatural horror, superheroes make the worst monster hunters, and every now and then, the supernatural creeps over into the pages of our favorite superhero comics.
Sometimes our heroes rise to the challenge and survive the experience, but other times, they don’t fare so well. The Odinson’s countdown to Halloween 2017 continues with a list of times the Horror genre took over our superhero comics.
Top 10 Times the Horror Show came to the Comics of Classic Superheroes
10 – Marvel Zombies – When an object falls from the sky and lands with a thunderous impact in the middle of Times Square, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes investigate. What the Avengers discover at the bottom of this smoking crater is the super powered Sentry infected with a virus that quickly spreads throughout the superhero community and turns our favorite heroes into flesh-eating zombies (first seen in the pages of Ultimate Fantastic Four). You want to know what’s scarier than fast-moving zombies, zombies that can crawl on walls, fly through the air, and toss cars around like they are toys. Mankind is doomed!
9 – Superman vs. Dracula – Needless to say, the Prince of Darkness will show up many times on this list. So, Dracula has used his dark powers to hypnotize the Man of Steel and freeze our hero in his tracks. Now, nothing stands between the King of Vampires and turning Superman into a super-vampire. However, as the fiend sinks his fangs into Superman’s neck, all the solar energy stored within the Last Son of Krypton courses through his veins and into the monster. Dracula is seemingly destroyed by the solar energy and Superman breaks free of his control. The Superhero wins! I guess.
8 – Night of the Beast – The notorious Great Beasts, incredibly powerful evil spirits of the Great North, were first introduced in Alpha Flight #1 when Canada’s premiere super team assembles to take down Tundra, a mountain-sized monster of earth and rock. A few months later, Sasquatch’s body and mind are taken over by another Beast named Tanaraq. The powerful hero would have murdered his teammates if the team’s resident goddess Snowbird had not intervened. She transformed into a shape of equal strength and slew Sasquatch. Next, the team ventured into the mystical realm of the Beasts where they fought the primordial creatures for the very soul of their fallen friend.
7 – The Return of Baron Blood – During the harrowing days of World War II, alongside his teammates in the Invaders, Steve Rogers faced the macabre might of the Nazi vampire – Baron Blood! They thought the monster had been destroyed. However, many decades later, now in modern times, Baron Blood rises from the grave once more. Barely surviving the vampire’s vicious assault, in a scene right out of a Hammer Film, Captain America makes sure Baron Blood will never rise again to plague the living. The Sentinel of Liberty uses his mighty shield to behead the monster. NOTE: Another great time Baron Blood haunted a member of the Invaders can be seen in the pages of Namor the Sub-Mariner Annual #2.
6 – Cry Vampire – In this macabre tale set in the haunted bayous of Louisiana, a beautiful young girl is being hunted by the locals Universal Monster style, complete with pitchforks and torches. As Batman investigates some murders he crosses paths with this seemingly innocent girl. However, the Dark Knight Detective quickly learns that there is much more to this little girl than meets the eye. She’s a vampire! Even after Superman arrives on the scene things do not get much better. Superman and Batman may be the World’s Finest when it comes to heroics, but they quickly learn they may be out of their depths when it comes to dealing with the supernatural as they both barely survive this caper. NOTE: This special Annual features a mighty collaboration by two Modern Masters – John Byrne and Arthur Adams.
5 – Kulan Gath takes Manhattan – The sinister warlock, Kulan Gath, the notorious enemy of Conan the Barbarian, has risen in the present day and uses his black magic to turn the island of Manhattan into a realm of sword and sorcery. All our heroes have lost their memories and now reside in the bodies of warriors, thieves, and clerics. It will take the combined efforts of the X-Men, the Avengers, the New Mutants, and Doctor Strange to stop Kulan’s plan to enslave the world. The key to victory resides in the mysterious crucified young man simply known as The Spider! NOTE: Years later, Kulan Gath would return and try this trick again, but this time, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes are ready for him (See Avengers #28-30).
4 – The King of Vampires vs. the God of Thunder – When the Prince of Darkness sets his sights on the neck of the goddess Sif, he quickly draws the ire of the Son of Odin. What does Dracula have to fear? From Blade to Spider-Man, Doctor Strange to the X-Men, and even the powerful Silver Surfer, he has faced them all and proven more than a match for Marvel’s superhero community. The Mighty Thor quickly teaches the arrogant vampire king a lesson in the difference between fighting mortal heroes and facing down the immortal wrath of a god of thunder!
3 – The Morgan Conquest – The witch Morgan le Fey, yes, King Arthur’s sinister half-sister, returns and casts a spell that turns the entire world into an Arthurian landscape under her tyrannical rule. It takes the biggest assemblage of Avengers in Marvel History, and some truly spectacular heroics from Captain America and Hawkeye, to win the day here.
2 – Batman: The Vampire Trilogy – In Red Rain, arguably the greatest Elseworlds tale, the Dark Knight Detective meets his match when the Lord of the Undead, Dracula, arrives in Gotham City and threatens to overrun it with a plague of vampires. In fact, the only way Batman can defeat Dracula in combat is by succumbing to the Dark Gift and becoming a vampire himself. Bloodtsorm follows the undead Dark Knight as he tries to continue his fight against evil without giving into his blood lust. And finally, Crimson Mist shows what happens when Batman no longer suppresses his monstrous desires and truly becomes a creature of darkness. NOTE: This dark trilogy features some truly haunting and inspired artwork by Kelley Jones.
1 – The X-Men vs. Dracula – In Uncanny X-Men #159, the Lord of Vampires gets a taste for mutant blood and courts Storm to become his new bride. Physically, Dracula proves more than a match for the X-Men, but not even the Dark Prince can overcome the power of love, as Kitty Pryde is prepared to sacrifice all to save her friend. Their battle carries over into the pages of Uncanny X-Men Annual #6 where the X-Men, learning from their first battle, finally get it over on the vampire king. It is also in this tale that Marvel fans learn the ultimate fate of Rachel Van Helsing, one of the protagonist from the long running, and fantastic, Tomb of Dracula series. NOTE: This 2-part scare fest led to one of the best What If…? tales ever – What If Wolverine was Lord of the Vampires?, and it helped prepare the X-Men, for years later the Children of the Atom would go to war with the Children of the Night in the chilling Marvel event – Curse of the Mutants.
There have been many other times when the realms of darkness have invaded the worlds of our favorite superheroes. Above are my Top 10 times our heroes have faced the macabre, and anyone of these delightfully scary stories would be perfect to raise the hair on your arm and tantalize the senses this coming Halloween Night.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell
NOTE: Looking for a good scare this Halloween? Check out the Odinson’s love letter to the slasher-horror genre of the 1980s – The Survivors: A Glen Haven Tale.