Around Halloween, my love of superheroes and comic books often diminishes. It’s not that those things can’t be spooky or horrific, only that those aspects are too often overwhelmed by traditional superhero mores like justice, adventure, and devices that control the weather.
It’s not just about being a monster, or monster-related, but about exuding that old-school horror vibe. For example, Ghost Rider is a skull-faced demon biker, but he often gets involved in typical superheroic behavior. He fights Dr. Doom alongside Spider-Man. That’s cool, sure, but not necessarily Halloweeny.
That said, there are definitely a few heroes and villains that carry that old-school Halloween shiver with them. Here, for your approval, are ten I swear by.
The cigar-chomping Nazi-punching Beast Of The Apocalypse takes on all manner of folklore and blasphemy in Mike Mignola’s classic underground comic. Not only packed with action and hilarious noir-ish dialogue, Hellboy unearths every awesome ancient legend and monster out there, merging both scientific and classical methods of witch hunting. A ton of fun, and super spooky to boot.
2. The Scarecrow
One of the cooler Batman villains, the Scarecrow is a former psychologist who uses hallucinogenic chemicals to make people see their worst fears. Though he sometimes gets caught up in long speeches about the psychology of terror, he has all the terrifying dramatic flair of any movie monster. Plus, his alter ego Jonathan Crane is a pretty solid Legend Of Sleepy Hollow reference.
3. The Goon
Like Hellboy, Eric Powell’s The Goon is a tough galoot confronted by a legion of monsters. What makes him especially Halloween-appropriate, though, is his traditional slant. The Goon resides in the Innsmouth-esque Lonely Street and fights voodoo zombies, undead apes, pirate sea monsters, and spectral vampires–awesome throwbacks to the horror classics.
4. Klarion the Witch Boy
While his origin is kind of ridiculous–he comes from a “witch world” where everyone knows black magic, thanks Jack Kirby–Klarion is a cool villian with awesome evil powers. His mixture of arcane menace and childish mischief make him perfectly appropriate for Halloween. Also, he’s a blue-skinned devil-horned sorcerer with a cat familiar, and he dresses in traditional Salem, Mass. clothing, which helps.
5. The Hanged Man
Shadow Hill, the dark magic-infested neighborhood of Kurt Busiek’s Astro City, is protected by The Hanged Man, a spectral figure with a twisted neck. The Hanged Man has apparently been around for centuries, and his powers aren’t easily defined, which only makes him even spookier. What’s going on beneath the canvas sack?
6. The Phantom Stranger
Like the Hanged Man, DC’s Phantom Stranger has no obvious set of powers or restrictions. He appears more as a wandering spirit out to right karmic wrongs around him. When supernatural menaces raise their ugly heads, he’s given otherworldly abilities to defeat them, but until then he is merely a shade out of time and space. In that respect, he’s extremely ghost-like, sad and lonely in his endless travel.
7. The Marquis
Guy Davis’ terrifying demon hunter takes dramatic costuming to extremes. Dwelling in a fictional universe modeled after 19th Century France, the Marquis fights unholy monsters in a Venetian opera mask and cloak, and uses a saber and a pair of machine guns to beat back the forces of darkness. There’s something about a hideous beast being fought back by a man in full costume that seems to visually sum up All Hallow’s Eve.
8. Anton Arcane
Swamp Thing’s arch enemy is every human monster rolled into one–a mad scientist, a demon familiar, and a living embodiment of rot and decay. His face is twisted in a sort of unholy cleft palate, as though his incredible mind and black intentions tore his entire being in half. He also often takes the form of one or more flies and vermin, which adds the creepy-crawler element of horror.
9. Brother Voodoo
On his surface, Marvel’s Brother Voodoo is just the Black Panther version of Doctor Strange. But the fact that Brother Voodoo uses the power of the Haitian Loa to cause cosmic change, to the point where he actually takes over as Sorcerer Supreme, speaks to how deep black magic flows beneath the surface of the Marvel Universe. That Voodoo is so powerful is a testament to the strength Marvel gives all magic traditions, even the historically shunned ones.
10. Merv Pumpkinhead
Whaddya mean Merv ain’t a superhero? I mean, those muscles, that work ethic, that smooth-talking class–and how could you resist that punim? This guy could be saving the world any day of the week, I tell ya! He just gets no respect. Yeesh.