Halloween Special: The 7 Strangest Spooky Characters In Comics
Despite the fact that there were rules in place for decades to keep them out, ghosts, monsters and sorcery are as much a part of comic books as radioactive spiders and rockets from the planet Krypton. From Anton Arcane to Zatanna, the supernatural side of things has provided comics with a host of characters based in spooky elements, and while plenty of them are no weirder than, say, a billionaire who dresses as Dracula so that he can punch out the mentally ill or a World War II veteran jacked up on super-steroids, some of them are just bizarre.
So today, as darkness falls across the land and Halloween night is close at hand, ComicsAlliance is taking a look at seven spooky characters who are downright weird, even by comic book standards!
DC did a lot of strange comics about World War II — so many, in fact, that they had an entire series called Weird War Tales that ran for 124 issues — and one of the crowning achievements was the introduction of The Creature Commandos, a team of monstrosities designed to scare the living hell out of the Nazis. Because, you know, there wasn’t enough about World War II that was already terrifying.
The weird thing about the Creature Commandos, though — OK, OK, one of the weird things — is that they weren’t actually the monsters they seemed to be. Instead, they, like so many other comic book characters, were just unfortunate victims of science. Sgt. Vincent Velcro the Vampire, for instance (no relation), was turned into a blood-sucking creature by an experiment he volunteered for to get out of jail time and had less to do with Dracula than he did with The Dirty Dozen, and the Frankensteinish Lucky wasn’t a reanimated corpse, just an unfortunate soldier stitched together after stepping on a land mine. Even Dr. Medusa, despite the awesome name, was completely unrelated to the infamous gorgon, instead having had the misfortune to science herself up some living snake-hair.
Griffith, however, was totally just a werewolf.
The team probably reached their greatest fame when they dressed up as clowns in a traveling circus so that they could infiltrate Hitler’s meeting with the Nazi High Command and rain hot lead down on them in a nightmare-inducing version of Inglourious Basterds…
…but the absolute weirdest moment came in their final story, which took exactly one page to tell:
Yes, by order of “General Paul Levitz,” a character that (purely by coincidence I’m sure) shares a name with the book’s editor, the Creature Commandos are screwed over, put on trial, sentenced to die, and then rocketed out into space with “R.K.,” who (purely by coincidence I’m sure) shares initials with series writer Robert Kanigher.
And since they ended up coming back from space 25 years later to help Superman fight Brainiac, that story’s actually in DC Continuity.
Dr. Terry Thirteen — alias the Ghostbreaker, which is probably one of the single greatest names in comic book history — is a detective of sorts who specializes in debunking claims of the supernatural. As such, he’s a hard-line skeptic who only believes in what is empirically provable by science.
In the real world, this is a perfectly acceptable choice of both career and belief structure. Heck, even in most fiction it’d work; it is, after all, the exact same premise of Scooby-Doo. The problem, and the fundamentally hilarious flaw in Dr. 13′s character, is this dude lives in the DC Universe, which is routinely saved from complete annihilation by aliens, demons and alien demons by people like a clay statue brought to life magically by the god Zeus, a reincarnated Egyptian prince who is also somehow from space, and a woman who does stage magic and sleight of hand for fun because using her actual witchity powers would make things way too easy.
Not believing in ghosts is one thing, but when you continue to not believe in ghosts after you’ve met the Spectre? That’s just dumb.
And in the ultimate irony, his own daughter, Traci Thirteen, is herself a witch of no small amount of power.
She also dates Blue Beetle, and it is one of the biggest crimes in comics that his series ended before Traci could bring him home for dinner to meet her old man. Seeing how Jaime would react to the DCU’s equivalent of a guy who rants about how we never landed on the Moon would’ve been priceless.
In one form or another, Ghost Rider‘s been around so long that I’m pretty sure we’ve all gotten used to him, but let’s take a moment to recognize just how monumentally crazy he is as a concept: Johnny Blaze was a motorcycle stunt rider who made a deal with the devil in order to keep his father figure from dying of cancer, only to have said father figure end up dying in a crash, and was then cursed to be bonded with a demon, which had the side-effect of making his leather outfit magically indestructible. Despite the fact that it was (at least at first) clearly a different entity with different motivations, said demon was also really into motorcycles, and would ride around on one that was made of the fires of Hell itself.
Also, he occasionally joined super-hero teams. He was briefly a member of the Legion of Monsters, which sort of makes sense (although you can’t say the same about anything that actually happens in the comic)…
…as at least here, he’s with a bunch of other supernatural characters, many of whom are equally ridiculous. Morbius, for instance, is a science vampire (a nifty little work-around of the comics code) who later just cold became vampire, and Man-Thing isn’t just a shambling swamp monster, he also protects the entirety of reality. So there, Ghost Rider fits right in.
The Champions, however…
…saw him teamed up with two mutants, a Russian super-spy and an immortal demigod from Olympus to fight zombie hobos (or zobos). Folks, there’s “not making sense” and then there’s “not making sense like Marvel comics in the ’70s.” Though admittedly, the latter is pretty awesome.
And all that happens before his long lost brother gets possessed by the spirit of a Puritain and gains the ability to look at people and make them feel bad.
Speaking of demons and hellfire, we have Dan Cassidy, alias Blue Devil! Created as one of the few lighthearted characters of the ’80s, Cassidy was originally a stuntman and technologist who was working on a movie about a character called — you guessed it — the Blue Devil, during which he invented a cybernetic suit full of special effects that, for some reason, features a gold hoop earing and sweet-ass double-goatee.
Apparently demons in the DC Universe look like space pirates. For the record, I have zero problems with this.
Anyway, unfortunately for Dan, he was filming on location in a tropical island, and that has never gone smoothly for any fictional character ever. Thus, a demon is awoken and breathes hellfire at Dan, but instead of burning him, he gets the suit permanently bonded to his body.
The weird thing is that despite becoming part of him, the suit still has circuitry and science involved…
…until that one time he sold his soul to the Devil (well, a devil) to become an actual demon and joined a team with a talking monkey on it.
The Haunted Tank.
It’s a tank.
You might think there’s no way that concept could get any crazier, but to clarify here, it’s haunted by the ghost of the real-life Confederate cavalry general J.E.B. Stuart, who was tasked by the ghost of Alexander the Great to help his namesake descendant beat the Nazis. He did so, but also demanded that the crew fly the ol’ Stars and Bars of Dixie on their tank, which created no small amount of tension between Tank Commander Jeb Stuart (the only one who could see the ghost) and Gus Gray, his African-American loader. Also, the General was dead set against the crew using a Sherman tank, instead preferring, as you might expect, the M3 Stuart.
But basically, yes, it’s exactly what it says on the cover: A tank that is also haunted by a ghost. There’s no getting around it: That is crazy, awesome, and crazy awesome.
I’ve mentioned a few characters already who gained at least part of their craziness by joining teams, and while there was no shortage of madness during her tenure on Nextwave — the greatest comic of the modern era — she had her fair share of craziness from the start.
See, back in the ’70s, Marvel published a few adventures about this guy:
Ulysses Bloodstone, a relatively obscure character who started out as a barbarian in the Hyborian Age — you know, the era Conan’s from — who gained immortality when a meteor crashed and a magic gem embedded itself in his chest, which made him decide to hunt monsters for a living.
A few millennia later, Ulysses died, but as Marvel a) owns the name “Bloodstone” and b) hates to let their hard-earned copyrights go to waste, it wasn’t long before the brand was revived with Elsa Bloodstone…
…the original’s daughter, who was essentially set up to be the Marvel Universe’s equivalent of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but with a super-sexy British accent.
Originally, Ellie was portrayed as a normal girl who stumbled into monster hunting when she put on a piece of her old man’s meteorite and started attracting the attention of monsters and thus fulfilling her destiny as a member of the Bloodstone clan. After the initial four-issue mini-series in which she fought most of the classic Marvel monsters including Dracula, she was promptly forgotten about until Warren Ellis started looking for unused third-stringers for Nextwave, in which he rebuilt her from pure sass and tweaked her origin story just a bit to show her being trained by her pop:
All together, that makes her the sexy lady version of a monster-hunting immortal barbarian who got her start fighting N’Kantu the Living Mummy and now spends most of her time chopping broccoli-men to death with a shovel.
And finally, we’ve got a three-way tie!
In all of comics — not just supernatural-themed comics, but all comics — there are no characters that can match the sheer craziness of the Dell Comics versions of Dracula, Frankenstein and the Werewolf.
In the early 60s, Dell, which was then associated with Western Publishing, put out one-issue adaptations of the classic Universal Monster movies.but a few years later, when Western had formed their own comic imprint (Gold Key), someone had the bright idea to continue those titles with #2, revamping them as those kooky super-heroes the kids were into. And the results were amazing.
The most well-known of the three, Dracula, followed a descendant of the infamous count who, when doing science! at the family castle, discovered a way to give him super-powers that included turning into a bat. Thus, he decided to clear the family name by going to America and fighting crime as a super-hero… named Dracula.
Putting aside the fact that trying to calm down your average purse-snatching victim by shouting “Don’t worry, ma’am, it’s me: Dracula!” is completely insane, he also adopted the secret identity of “Al U. Card” (get it?) and was soon joined by his girlfriend/sidekick Fleeta (short for “fleidermaus“), whose real name was B.B. Beebe.
Frankenstein is even crazier.
In this one, the monster created by Dr. Frankenstein snoozed in the castle for a few decades while a major city grew up nearby — did I mention that according to Dell, the original Frankenstein was set in America? — then woke up, adopted the identity of “Frank Stone,” put on a rubber mask that fooled everyone into thinking he was a normal guy, and became best friends with a billionaire.
When said billionaire kicked the bucket, he left all of his money to Frankenstein, who decided to put it to good use by becoming a crime-fighter. So basically, this is “What If Batman Was Frankenstein.” Which is awesome.
The craziest of the three, though — and that’s saying something — has got to be Werewolf. It’s also the only one that got an #1 issue, as the previous adaptation had been published under the trademarked name “Wolfman.” Either way, while Dracula and Frankenstein at least tried to have some kind of connection to their horror roots, Werewolf threw everything out the window and went completely nuts.
Instead of your average lycanthrope, the series starred Air Force pilot Wiley Wolf, who crashed a plane, got amnesia, and was taken in by a wolf pack, who for some reason did not eat him. Once he was rescued by the CIA a few months later, he used the secret spy techniques he learned from the wolves (wait, what?!) to become an unstoppable secret agent that was also equipped with an all-black “stealth suit” that, despite being one molecule thick, was completely bulletproof.
Also he had a pet wolf named Thor.
The comics only lasted for three issues each (followed by three issues of reprints), and that ought to tell you something, since it means they were too crazy even for 1966 and an audience used to DC’s Silver Age. Seriously though, someone needs to figure out who has the rights to these guys, because I would bring them back in a heartbeat.