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Comics 411: The Scariest Comic Book Characters

October 6, 2021 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
The Joker Death Of the Family

Welcome back! I’m Steve Gustafson and if you enjoy discussing anything comic book related, you’ve come to the right place. Each week we cover something in the industry and I always enjoy your input in the comment section below.

Previously on…

Last time we asked Is Todd McFarlane Right About Diamond Comic Distributors? Here’s what some of you had to say:

Excollector: “I’ve known three comic shop owners and across the board they felt that Diamond was the worst part of the job. Diamond often came across in a way that made me remember an early SNL skit about phone company where their motto was “We don’t care. We don’t have to.””

Iain: “As you noted, we’re going to see the impact over the next couple of years – that’ll tell us if he’s right. Launching a new service to save money is one of those huge risks that often suffer from “we didn’t think about that part”. Alternatively, you’d think Penguin would have a pretty good concept of what they’re doing, so that’s not likely as much of a risk. That both the big 2 would leave Diamond does suggest that there’s issues there that weren’t being resolved, or that the big two will find weren’t resolvable anyway,.”

Todd: “That Spawn Animated Series from 1997 on HBO was so good that it needs to come back. I used to watch it late at 12 midnight on Fridays. Miss those days and I wish it wasn’t a series cliffhanger when it ended at the end of season 3.”

Tony Zecco: “With how poorly Diamond treated the Comic Shops, I don’t blame them all for jumping shit. Diamond didn’t have to try to improve. They had no motivation to, because where were those people going to go to get comics? They were the only game in town. Penguin Random House is an established book-seller, and it just makes sense that they can handle this better than Diamond could. I’m still up in the air over Lunar.”

Some awesome comments last week! Go and check out the rest, if you can. Thanks for the input and keep it coming!

This week we discuss…

Scariest Comic Book Characters

Can you believe it’s that time of year again? Every October I open the tomb and pull out some spooky themed comic book columns for us to enjoy. Let’s start things off with a look at some of the scarier comic book characters out there. There’s plenty to choose from but these make my list.

Growing up, Tales from the Crypt Zombie from E.C. Comics scared me on looks alone. Then I got a good look at the Joker. Easily the first character you think of when it comes to horrifying behavior in comics. The Joker is the polar opposite of Batman. Both were created by a great tragedy, but Batman has since vowed to do whatever it takes to prevent similar incidents, the Joker revels in creating chaos and destroying lives, believing that life’s a big joke and psychotically demonstrating that in a moment, it can all change. From killing Jason Todd (sort of) to Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke (still holds up and becomes even more haunting as you get older), the Joker is without equal when it comes to scary. The man cut off his own face and then wore it as a mask. That alone gets him on the list.

Someone who would give the Joker a run for his money in the scary department, if he was more well known, is Kid Marvelman, later known as Kid Miracleman. Let me try to explain without going too far for those who don’t know him. Just know that Alan Moore got his hands on him and created one…wicked character. Kid Marvelman is a violent, sadistic sociopath who is near invulnerable. I urge you to look him up and read up on him on your own time. You’ll see what I’m talking about.  

Comic books are littered with the classic monsters like the Werewolf, Frankenstein’s Monster, and Dracula. I’d put Bernie Wrightson’s Frankenstein from IDW Publishing on the list along with Morbius, the Living Vampire and Werewolf by Night. Note, their earlier stories are much creepier than their modern ones. I was just on Ebay and you can get them for a steal. Get moving…after you read (and comment) the rest of this column, of course.

The devil makes his rounds as well across a number of publishers. In comics, a wide spectrum of demon related characters have popped up like Mephisto, who have both battled our superheroes and put fear in us. Add in Trigon, Surtur, Satana, and the Violator, who can all claim terror from some aspect of hell.

While Marvel’s The Zombie is scary, I’d put The Walking Dead’s The Governor and Negan as scarier. Both villains proved to readers that it wasn’t only the undead who they should be afraid of. Both villains have intense, horrific moments under their belt and are just as dreaded just as much as any monster on the list.

While Swamp Thing and Man-Thing may not come to mind at first, each have been involved in creepy stories and used in effective spooky ways.

Another character whose very presence draws the spooky is Ghost Rider. In fact, search out the 90s run that focused on Danny Ketch and tremble at the likes of Deathwatch, Scarecrow, and Blackout.

Other standouts that come to mind are Vermin and Man-Bat. Again, while they have been used in inconsistent ways, they’ve been in stories that showed they can be truly terrifying to readers. Vermin’s backstory and subsequent evil deeds are the stuff horror films are made of. Vermin is easily one of the most underrated baddies out there.

Every year one or two of you mention Batman’s Zsasz and he absolutely deserves a spot at the scary table. It’s those non-powered ones that creep up on you. 

Rounding out my list is Saint of Killers and Sadu-Hem. The Saint of Killers first appeared in the pages of Preacher and was a heartless murderer, who is transformed into the Angel of Death under the condition that he takes up the role of collecting the souls of those who die by violence. His presence was heavy and his purpose was clear. A memorable villain and even scarier presence. Making his appearance in Hellboy, the Sadu-Hem was one of the 369 Ogdru Hem, the children of the Ogdru Jahad. No spoilers but to find out why he’s on the list, pick up Hellboy: Seed of Destruction #1.

I named plenty of big ones but there’s plenty of meat still on the bone. Especially in the independent scene. Who makes your scary comic book character list?

That’s all the time I have. See you next week!

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Comics 411, Steve Gustafson