Friday, October 21, 2011

Discuss: Monstrous Heroes

Karen: In honor of Halloween, let's talk about monstrous heroes! I'll throw out my favorite: The Thing! What other ugly weirdo good-guys do you dig?


Anonymous said...

Hi Karen,

It’s an interesting question in terms of history. I’m not a DC expert, but certainly, pre-hero Marvel i.e. Atlas comics are ALL monster / alien / supernatural / ghost stories, so they had a running start. If you read JIM, TTA, TOS and ST from pre-Thor, Ant Man, Iron Man, Torch straight into the hero-era, there’s a surprising amount of continuity. Certainly a lot of lumpy monsters which Kirby threw at his super-heroes were making a 2nd or 3rd appearance. I’ll just say Fin Fang Foom at this point, because I know you’re thinking it and it’s fun to say.

Actually, the original Thing from FF1 (the lumpy Thing that looks like orange porridge on legs) looks a lot like a lot of other Kirby monsters.

Dracula by Marvel was cool. Could have been done so wrong, but was so right, in terms of characterisation, art, inking, everything. They also wisely kept him away from the main flow of Superherodom, apart from the occasional playdate with Doc Strange or the Surfer.

Not sure you’d call him a monster, but I loved Deathlok. I thought the fact that cannibals could smell him putrefying was the most revolting thing I’d ever read in a comic (up to that point, little did I know).

I guess my favourite would be the Beast. I mean the proper gray then blue Beast. Is he still blue & furry? Don’t tell me, I don’t want to know. He’s probably a zombie Skrull from Earth 90210 now. Now HE had a good Hallowe’en once, I seem to remember.


david_b said...

Ben Grimm's always my favorite (Kirby in monster form, per his interviews..), but if you delve deeper into decade-long trends, I'd argue that the Hulk was more interesting in terms of development over the decades. Or at least left writers scratchin' their heads to figure out which direction to take him based on sales figures.

Depending on the successive writer tenures, he's gone through so many different characterizations.., starting from a more sarcastic, darker, knowing monster, then whittled down to a less-verbal cognitive beast (with outbreaks of humor and attitude), then his grey period, his fusion of Banner intellect while in monster form, the pure beast in the 80s, you name it.

Personally, I loved the retro Avengers 1 1/2 issue in particular, his banter with Thor was delightful. His Defenders stint allowed a lot of Gerber humor to come through naturally.

dbutler16 said...

The Thing is great. I also like the Beast and Nightcrawler because they were able to maintain a sense of humor despite their monstrous appearance. Not like your typical woe-is-me Marvel hero.

Inkstained Wretch said...

The Thing was always my favorite: He was like a big, rough-hewn uncle who always watched for you and was actually a big softie at heart. Marvel-Two-in-One was one of my favorite Bronze Age titles. Yeah, he was ugly, but he had personality. And of course when he yelled, "It's clobbering time!" you knew the baddies were going down.

Nightcrawler was another favorite. He looked like a demon but was so sweet-natured in those Chris Claremont stories.

I dug Beta Ray Bill too. Simonson tried to create a creature that was as inhuman-looking as possible and yet still noble. He succeeded.

William said...

I'm a Thing man all the way. I still haven't completely forgiven Byrne for replacing him with She-Hulk (and leaving it so for several years) during his run on the FF. Grrrrrr.

starfoxxx said...

Yeah, Thing, Beast and Nightcrawler are definitely top 3.

I also like Gargoyle, and I wish he was in the new Defenders line-up. He was under-used.

J.A. Morris said...

Count me as a Thing fan too! I like Beast(especially in the Avengers back in the 70s & 80s) and Nightcrawler too. But the Thing was my 2nd favorite Marvel character when I was a kid, after Spider-Man.

I didn't mind She-Hulk taking his place in the FF because the series was drawn by Byrne. And I was 12 at the time.

Redartz said...

The Thing would also be tops on my list. Much as I love the Fantastic Four, somehow Ben Grimm always seemed the most human of them all despite his outward appearance.

Another favorite: the Vision ( yes, he is humanoid; but a strikingly red, lab-constructed one with the mind patterns of a formerly-dead hero).

vancouver mark said...

Always loved Ben Grimm, but I always had some obsessive little thoughts about his actual biology that still greeble me out if I think about them: as he's made of stone, doesn't he crack and chip at his joints as he moves? Is his tongue made of stone? and as for other less mentionable body parts, I don't even want to think about them... But I did when I was twelve, and am still likely scarred in some way.
Loved Nightcrawler, especially how his essential goodness and his faith in God juxtaposed with his demonic appearance.
I always found the wisecracking furry Beast a bit tedious and tiresome.

My personal favorite comic book monster (if he qualifies) was Jack Kirby's depiction of Orion when his true face would come out.

William said...

I always liked Nightcrawler as well. Especially in the early days during the Byrne/Claremont X-Men era. However, I always thought his later characterization of being "uber religious" was forced and obvious in a "Hey, wouldn't it be ironic if the guy who looked like a devil was really a Jesus freak?" kind of way. In the same way that Fran Miller later made DareDEVIL into a Catholic. I've never been a fan of that kind of forced irony. Plus, I really don't like my comic characters being "assigned" a religion unless it is necessary to their character. Such as a hero called "Priest" or "Warrior Nun" or some such.

I don't read "super hero" comics to get a theology lesson.

Fred W. Hill said...

Seems the Hulk is by far the most prominent "monstrous hero" (counting only characters that were entirely original to comics, which omits Frankenstein's Monster, Dracula, etc.). Even The Thing isn't as well known to the general public (among non-comics fans who are aware of him, I typically hear him referred to as "that rock man"). Also, from that very first issue in 1962 it was hard to figure out whether he was really a hero or a monster; it's rather amusing that reprints of Marvel's most famed Silver Age anti-heroes, the Hulk & Sub-Mariner, appeared in "Marvel Superheroes"; I can't think of any major DC characters who were regularly featured as both heroes and villains in the way those two were, although by the Bronze Age despite a starring role in Super-Villain Team-Up, Subby was mostly featured in heroic roles.
Most of the other monstrous heroes looked monstrous but were mostly genuinely heroic in nature. Even Ben Grimm in his early, surly days, recognized in that first issue that he had to use his powers for good, even if he was bitterly unhappy about the freakish appearance that went with those powers. Of course, at least once every four years Stan & Jack (and later John Buscema) had ol' Ben undergo some mental transformation that made him go bad, just so we wouldn't forget the monstrous posibilities in the character.

Rip Jagger said...

Atlas-Seaboard had quite a few of these, as they seemed from the get-go to want to blend the mirth and madness of Marvel with the eerie atmosphere of Warren.

Grim Ghost, Brute, Tarantula, and Bog Beast all had that monster-hero vibe. Others like Cougar seemed headed that way before they got cancelled.

At Marvel I'd have to give the nod to the Thing, the ultimate man-monster of comics who seemed more than any other to feel his isolation. Even the Hulk while isolated was another personality and didn't seem as tortured all the time.

At DC, the monster hero who stands out is Metamorpho, who moped about it all the time even when he seemed to be cooler in that form than otherwise. Man-Bat is a neat creation too, and has had a much longer existence than I'd have imagined when he was concocted.

Rip Off

Garett said...

Man-Monster had a promising cover:
Seems to me the story was ok, with art by Buckler.

Joel said...
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