Karen: Marvel Bronze Age fans know that in the 70s, Marvel published a ton of monster comics. But how do the Marvel versions stack up against the Universal movie classics that obviously inspired them? Let's take a look.
Dracula: The bloody Count has been featured in numerous films, and played by many actors, but one name always stands above the rest: Bela Lugosi.
Lugosi left his mark on the role -and our psyches -with his interpretation of the world's most famous vampire. His Dracula set the standard for all images to come. On some levels, this includes Marvel's version. But the comics Count does have his differences.
Marvel's Dracula, as drawn by the legendary Gene Colan, was tall and lean, with a thin mustache, and oddly enough, pointed ears! Although he had the same widow's peak hairstyle as Lugosi, he may have owed more of his look to either John Carradine's version, or the then-current Hammer films vampire, portrayed by Christopher Lee.
The Frankenstein Monster: Most famously portrayed by Boris Karloff, the Monster was played by no less than four actors in the Universal films (Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr, Bela Lugosi, and Glenn Strange), and since then a ton of other films have featured some version of the Monster. But that Universal image, with the elongated, flattened head, drooping eyelids, and the infamous neck bolts, is the one most firmly entrenched in the public mind. Particularly at Halloween time, you see representations of it everywhere: on toys, greeting cards, I even saw a box of tissues bearing the image of the Universal Frankenstein!
Marvel's Monster certainly owed a strong debt to the classic look. His head had a high forehead and a somewhat flattened top. The eyes were typically drawn as half-shut. No neck bolts -that would've been too close to the Universal version, I'm sure. But interestingly, the Marvel version was typically shown wearing a fur vest, very similar to the Monster's garb in Son of Frankenstein. Perhaps the biggest change was making the Monster's skin tone a pale white. Although the original films were made in black and white, the commonly accepted skin color for the Monster has been green (you can still find some color shots floating around that depict a green Karloff in the role). Truthfully, the white skin seemed to make more sense than green. The Monster was drawn by a number of artists, including Mike Ploog, John Buscema, and Val Mayerik.
The Wolfman: The third member of the classic monster triumvirate is the bestial Wolfman. As portrayed by Lon Chaney Jr., the Wolfman was a tragic figure, cursed to become a beast when the moon was full. Universal's lycanthrope seems tame in comparison to modern movie werewolves, but in some ways, I think this classic version allows more of the humanity (and thus the tragedy) of the character to come through. The Universal Wolfman is hairy, with a wolf-like nose and fangs. Although the movies were in black and white, most representations of the character (such as action figures) depict him as having brown fur and skin.
In this case there are actually two Marvel characters who were influenced by the Wolfman. The first is Jack Russell, aka Werewolf by Night. He could almost be the Wolfman's twin brother. Same color scheme, and facially very similar, as WBN retains a more human appearance. One way they did differ: the Werewolf liked to run around shirtless! I'll go on record saying I prefer the Ploog Werewolf over all others.
On the other hand, the Man-Wolf looked decidedly different than the Wolfman. The most obvious difference is coloring: Man-Wolf had a white or silvery look to his fur. He also had a bit more of the wolf to his face, as he seemed to have a bit of a snout, and large, canine ears. He'd fit right in with werewolves in more recent flicks.
Now Marvel also had a Living Mummy, but there's not much to say here: both the Universal Mummy and Marvel's version were just guys wrapped up in bandages! As for that later addition to the Universal Monsters, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, there's no strong Marvel analog. Yes, Marvel did come up with a monster called the Manphibian for the Legion of Monsters magazine, who definitely seemed inspired by the Creature, but he was a one hit wonder. If any Marvel monster reminds me of the Creature, it's probably Man-Thing. Although they look nothing alike, the concept of the solitary , one of a kind monster, living in an aquatic environment (in Man-Thing's case, a swamp) is similar. But visually there's no comparison.