Top Ten Plus One: Scary Comic Book Characters
Welcome to the first of four Halloween themed Top Ten Plus One lists for this glorious season. Each list is going to feature a ‘scary’ angle on different passions of mine. In the past I’ve already done a list of favorite horror movies and horror novels, but my interests spread far and wide. For today we’re going to take a look at some of the scariest comic characters to ever meet grace the funny books.
Let’s kick things off with a few honorable mentions that didn’t quite make the cut:
Honorable Mention #1
Although mostly relegated to a comedic role in recent years, George Tarleton started off as an imposing frightful sight. A monstrously large head in a floating chair and mechanical arms and legs with psionic powers and a calculating mind able to rival any of the more popular ‘big brains’ in the Marvel Universe.
Honorable Mention #2
An interesting inclusion to be sure, but is there anything more troubling than a vindictive, strong willed man with an endless supply of bullets? Frank Castle may target those he deems criminals and villains, but it’s a slippery slope of vigilante, to anti-hero, to eventual outright villain. He’s a mass murderer on a self-righteous mission that could easily be seen in the real world.
Honorable Mention #3
One of Batman’s many lesser known villains, Lazlo Valentin doesn’t have an imposing figure, but is a scary sight nonetheless. His three-quarter pig mask underlies the menace behind the false face. He has a penchant for lobotomizing his victims and turning them into “dollotrons,” tireless, forever faithful servants and henchmen.
The main event starts here;
We’re starting the list with a possibly obvious choice, but there’s a reason Jonathan Crane makes it on most of these lists. Nearly 80 years old at the time of this writing, there’s a plethora of examples that exemplify what makes him the king of fear in the world of Batman villains. He’s spent years studying phobias, and in doing so developed his trademark fear gas. Abused as a child, Scarecrow uses his youthful trauma as an excuse to implement his fear based experiments on all who cross his path, men, women and children alike.
Little known among many comic readers, The Plutonian was created by Mark Waid as an answer to the question, what if Superman turned evil? There have been other stories that tackled the same question, however one thing that Waid did that was unique with The Plutonian, is that his starring comic, Irredeemable, starts after he’s already destroyed his home town, and lobotomized his former sidekick. We never see him as the hero the comic world knows him to be. The Plutonian embodies the fear that Lex Luther has over Superman, and is a stark reminder for the inhabitants of our favorite comic worlds that the heroes can be just as scary as the villains.
This entry isn’t for a single character, but for an entire alien species in the Marvel Comics universe. Aside from being hideous and horrific in appearance, the way Brood reproduce is truly the stuff of nightmares. The Brood impregnate a host body with an egg that germinates and grows within them until the embryo completely takes over the host, essentially killing them off. There’s something terrifying about the idea of having this alien parasite growing inside you and taking over everything that makes you, you. The Brood have a hive a mind, meaning what one of them learns from taking someone over, the rest of the race also learns; they also assimilate any powers/abilities the host may have. Literally everything that makes you special is just another aspect for The Brood to steal. When humans pride ourselves on our individuality, is there anything scarier than an alien race hell bent on stealing everything about us and assimilating it into their entire species? I think not.
The Saint of Killers
Religious fury in human form with twin six shooters. After his unquenchable thirst for vengeance literally freezes hell over, the devil and the Angel of Death help recreate this ordinary cowboy into God’s newest weapon. With two Colt guns forged from the Angel’s sword, the cowboy is now God’s unstoppable instrument of death. Once set on a target, there’s no stopping him. You better hope your affairs are in order, and nothing puts you on the radar of The Saint of Killers.
Zombies are the name of the game when it comes to The Walking Dead. They are the ever-lurking danger in TWD world, but that’s not to say they are the only thing the survivors have to look out for. Writer/Creator Robert Kirkman did an amazing job showing us that sometimes humans can be the scariest things in the world. Brian “Phillip” Blake is the self-appointed governor of the survival town of Woodbury, Georgia. Upon meeting the heroes of the series, he seems welcoming, friendly, and even helpful. However, we learn this is all a ruse and that he only wants to learn the location of the heroes’ prison sanctuary in order to pilfer it for any available supplies. In his efforts to accomplish this goal, he cuts off Rick Grimes’ hand, tortures Glenn, and rapes Michonne. In retaliation, Michonne cuts off his dick and right arm, and removes his fingernails and left eye. He survived all of that and continued to plague the survivors, leading to an all-out assault on the prison, resulting in the deaths of many innocents, and The Governors own people turning on him, killing him and feeding his body to a zombie horde. Even after his death, his actions were felt throughout the book, as the survivors were forced to flee their former safe haven.
We’re continuing our trip through the world of indie comics as we venture to the pages of Hellboy and one of the 369 Ogdru Hem, the children of Ogrdu Jahad. Sadu-Hem was imprisoned on earth so Orgdu Jahad would always have a connection on the planet. His monstrous appearance is enough for him to land on any top scariest list, a being of tentacles and claws, with a head of eyes and feelers, he’s certainly scary enough. However, after destroying an entire village, and presumably killed, Sadu-Hem returned as a piece of fungus that grew enough to control a human, and escaped to a remote town in Michigan where he transformed the entire population into vicious frog-men.
We go from one demon among many, to the king of demons, the prince of lies, the devil of the Marvel Universe, Mephisto. He rules the underworld, gaining more power with the more souls he captures, and with the amount of misery he causes. While unique in design, his image evokes thoughts of the classic devil, and that’s where his strength lies. His abilities are virtually limitless, much like the depths of his wickedness. With all he represents he’d rank higher on this list if he actually accomplished anything of note in the long term. He’s captured Ghost Rider’s soul countless times and ruined Peter Parker’s marriage, but that’s about it. Not to mention his disappointing appearance in the first Ghost Rider movie (pictured below).
I asked earlier if there was anything worse than having your individuality assimilated by a hive mind alien race, and I think the answer is retaining everything that is you, but having it controlled by a psychotic, murderous, sexual deviant that takes pleasure in torturing everyone around him. Zebediah Kilgrave has the power of mind control by either touching his target or pheromone absorption. This is an ability many other fiction characters employ, however few others do it with the glee, wickedness, and perverseness that Kilgrave does. He’s fathered many children against the will of their mothers, only hinting at how many other victims befell his machinations. As shown in the comics and the critically acclaimed portrayal of the character by David Tennant in the Jessica Jones Netflix show, his victims are aware that their actions are being manipulated and what they are doing, but have no control over what they do. Truly the stuff of nightmares.
He's a demon from hell that looks like the nightmare child of a velociraptor human hybrid with a little praying mantis thrown in for good measure, and of that wasn't scary enough, his human form is that of a clown. The Clown was assigned to keep track of the Hellspawn, Al Simmons, and groom him for servitude in Hell’s army. While he failed miserably at his job, he was certainly a frightful sight to behold, and what he was able to accomplish is terrifying in its own right. A general for the devil himself, Clown has influenced global governments to suit the needs of Hell, and does so with a twisted makeup smile on his face, no matter who stands in his way.
Cletus Kassidy was a convicted serial killer before he gained the powers of Venom, who has the powers of Spider-Man wrapped in an inky super alien symbiote. What this all means is that Carnage is a remorseless killer with the ability to do virtually anything he pleases, included corrupting others with his warped mentality and granting similar symbiotic powers. Cletus is able to use his alien host to create bladed weapons out of his own body, and seems to have no limitations on his vicious imagination. He began his super villain career as a Spider-Man foe, but as his powers grew, so did his ambitions as he’s tackled heroes all over the Marvel Universe.
You had to know he was going to be on the list, and as a Batman fan there’s only one spot Joker belongs in, the top spot. He’s been around for nearly 80 years, and while there have been hundreds of stories told about him, still not much is known about him. At the time of this writing, there is talk of Scott Snyder writing an origin story about the Joker, that will reveal there have been three different Jokers throughout the years, however it hasn’t been printed yet. Even without knowing the beginnings of the character, it’s evident how horrific he is. An ordinary human, with no moral compass, able to kill men, women, and children with ease, there’s a perverse genius that resides in his brain, able to concoct poisons and potions of different purposes, but all evil in nature. He’s proven to be the perfect foil for the Dark Knight, Joker has made his mark throughout a multitude of comics, cartoons, movies, toys, games, ad everything in between. The Clown Prince of Crime has earned his spot at the top of this list, and most any top list of fictional villains.
Come back next week for another Top Ten Plus One list with a frightful bend on one of my many passions. Keep reading and remember to enjoy life.