Whether it's a weird uncle getting ripped to shreds by Cenobites, or James Woods sticking his own hand into his stomach, "Body Horror" has always been an integral part of the horror genre. And we can't help but see it everywhere, especially in comics! So what do we mean by Body Horror, exactly? Well, not every hero wears a cape, and not every villain wears a cowl. Some are maimed, mutated, or generally messed-up looking... and we're here to celebrate them!
Sometimes it doesn't pay to be the brains of the operation. Especially if that's almost all you're composed of. Such is the sorrowful fate of Marvel villain MODOK (an acronym for Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing), once known as George Tarleton. George was a bright guy at AIM, and as he was subjected to a mutagenic intelligence enhancement process he must have been pretty excited. Until his brain continued to grow, and grow, and grow. Now he's so smart he can calculate any mathematical problem or probability, but he couldn't have prepared for his giant, terrifying head! Wheeling around on a hover chair, and using clones to harvest his constantly failing organs, this is one nasty mutation. Just look at that huge head! Holy smokes!
Spider-Man's Extra Arms
In 1971, your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man went through some strange changes. Namely, he suffered through what's known as the "Six Arm Saga." Spidey was sick of being a hero, and sick of all the responsibility, so he concocts an "antidote" for his spideriffic mutation and powers. But things, as usual, don't go as planned for the web-slinger, and he wakes up after a fitful night with a batch of new arms bursting from his body. I'll never forget the impact as a child of seeing my hero in a deformed state. It was exciting, jarring, and still sticks with me to this day!
The Stalk from Saga
The tale of Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples' space-opera/fantasy comic Saga is really all about a story of parenthood. The twelve issue series follows Marko and Alana, two lovers from warring planets, who have an illegal child and are hunted by Robot Princes, bounty hunters, monsters, and mad men. One of the most shocking scenes involves a bounty hunter, presented at first as a weird, sprite-like armless, topless woman with eight red eyes. Her name is The Stalk, and she's out to kill the hapless parents. Once she reveals herself to be a bounty hunter, we see she's actually hiding a full-on spider's body beneath her robes! The fleshy body, carrying enough guns and ammunition to kill a small platoon, is a startling and ingenious revelation. But even she, like all the characters in Saga, gets proper treatment and characterization, and we end up understanding much more than we expected about her motives and backstory.
Hard Boiled. Just... everything in Hard Boiled. Frank Miller and Geof Darrow's wonderful, depressing, violent, fantastically grim look at the future of America is so filled with blood, guts, and gore that we could do a list just on that slim book itself. Whether it's the panel showing Nixon, our robot protagonist, being ripped apart (before we know he's a robot), or the bloody battle with an "old woman," the gore in this book is unreal. The absurd death toll, which must hit four or even five digits by the end, is illustrated in loving detail by the pair. Miller's view of the future may be so morose it borders on comical, but the blood, guts, gore, decapitations, and mutilations are enough to keep us reading and rereading Hard Boiled.
Tetsuo from Akira
Things were bloody from the start of the classic manga series Akira. People got shot in the face, people got their heads exploded with psychic powers, and all other sorts of terrible things happen in this darkened view of the future. But by volume five of Akira, stuff gets a little... weird. Tetsuo, who's been using and abusing his psychic powers, begins to warp and mutate. His flesh begins to grow uncontrollably, and he finds himself able to transmute other materials into flesh. Um... what? His "body" becomes disgusting, bizarre, and full of guts, pus, and tumors. Cronenberg eat your heart out.
Honorable mention goes to the Batman villains Clayface and Two-Face, who both get messed up and mutated, but who's brilliant character designs keep them from being nauseating.