Solomon Grundy can't tell you much about himself. The exact date of his birth is lost to time, and then there's the matter of whether he was born as Cyrus Gold in the 19th century, or if Grundy's birth came much later than that, when he rose up out of the swamp wearing Gold's corpse like a suit. But everyone knows that Solomon Grundy was born on a Monday.

So this Monday, which is also Halloween, seems like the perfect time to pay tribute to the original zombie supervillain, who was originally created by writer Alfred Bester and artist Paul Reinman.

Grundy was a zombie before zombies were cool. In fact, he was a zombie before zombies were zombies. In 1944, when Solomon Grundy made his debut in All-American Comics #61, the word zombie referred to someone who was mind-controlled by a sensationalized version of voodoo, like in the Val Lewton horror film I Walked With a Zombie, which came out the previous year.

The shambling corpse zombie that we're use to now didn't really come about until the '60s, when George Romero made Night of the Living Dead, inspired as he was by the vampires of Richard Matheson's I Am Legend. But decades before any of that happened, a chalk-white figure shuffled out of the swamp near Gotham City, his corpse-like visage terrifying everyone around him.

 

Tim Sale

 

Nobody mourned for Cyrus Gold. By most accounts, he was a bad man: a gangster, a predator, a despised local miser. The people of the town, they say, chased Gold out into the swamp, and he never came back. Cyrus Gold died out there, buried in the muck, and his body sat waiting for a new purpose.

Cyrus Gold never came out of that swamp. What came out was named Solomon Grundy. Grundy's body is built around Gold's remains, but he's composed largely of the organic matter of the swamp, not unlike Swamp Thing, whose mythology later stories would connect him to.

 

Alfred Bester and Paul Reinman

 

The new name came from a criminal whose gang Grundy joined. All Grundy remembered was that he was born on a Monday, like in the nursery rhyme. So Grundy became a criminal, again or for the first time. He was often manipulated by the brainier crooks around him, but he wasn't what you could call an innocent. Grundy's mindlessness always had a darker edge, whether it was the residual unpleasantness of Cyrus Gold, or some dark power that had made him into Grundy.

 

Warner Bros Animation

 

Of course, that wasn't always true. Solomon Grundy is a creature that moves in cycles. At times, he has been an innocent, and a good friend to Jade of Infinity Inc, and the various heroes who used the name Starman. He also had some very sympathetic moments on the Justice League Unlimited cartoon, in which he plays the Hulk role in an homage to Marvel's original Defenders.

But eventually, Solomon Grundy will always play the villain, because that's the part he was created to play. In Starman, James Robinson offered an explanation that there's been a series of Grundys, each arising when the previous one dies, and with different personalities and motivations. That may not be DC Universe canon anymore, but it's still true at least metaphorically, as new Grundys continue to rise as up as stories call for them.

 

Craig Brasfield and George Perez

 

Solomon Grundy was a Green Lantern villain at first. Being made of plant matter made him resistant to Alan Scott's ring, which didn't work on wood. Over the years, he's been a pretty all-purpose villain. He's fought Superman and Batman, and the whole Justice League and Justice Society. He was in the Legion of Doom on Challenge of the Superfriends, as well as the Injustice League in Justice League. He's yet to appear in a live-action movie, but considering he's a huge zombie who fights Superman and Batman, it seems likely that he will, sooner or later.

Solomon Grundy's versatility is his simplicity. When you need a big monster for your heroes to fight, Grundy's always waiting. When you need a walking corpse to make things creepier, Grundy's perfect for that too. When the story calls for something huge lurking in the darkness, Grundy's never a bad choice. That's why he keeps rising out of that swamp. He's died on plenty of Saturdays, but Monday just keeps coming around, and Solomon Grundy is born anew.

 

Paul Reinman