We love a superhero that dresses in all black, hides in the shadows, uses tools to hurt people, and can throw a nasty right hook! But this got us thinking: maybe it's not so rare to find horrific heroes. So read along as we take a look at a bunch of different classic scary hero archetypes, and then dig into some great examples from the past and today.
This is the classic creeper in the dark. With Batman leading the pack, we often see superheroes that prey on their "victims" (crooks, supervillains, etc.) by using fear as one of their chief tools.
Prime Example: Batman, of course! He has used everything from sonar to tripwire to keep his enemies guessing and, eternally, in the dark. He strikes fear in the hearts of most of his opponents. Therefore it's easy to see why he has trouble with a villain like The Joker, who seems to have no sense of fear and laughs at what would make an average thug pee himself.
See Also: Daredevil, that amazing, blind Marvel staple has had some pretty dark times in his recent past. And, without the need to see, he also takes advantage of darkness to strike fear in the hearts of his enemies.
It's a creature not of this world. It's body contorts in perverse designs unknown to human physiology. It's mind is a garbled mass of chaos. It's heritage, well, maybe it's from a distant planet, or from the very place you call home. In short: it's a monster and it's here to... save the day? Yes indeed! Some of our favorite superheroes are monstrosities that fight for the good of the land. They may not fit into spandex, and they may not always be understood by the people they protect, but damnit, we love our monster superheroes!
Prime Example: Swamp Thing. I mean, come on! Alan Moore's mid-to-late eighties run on this classic marvel monster changed the face of comics and launched the career of one of the most celebrated comic writers of all time! Sure he may be a mass of vegetation that absorbed a human mind, but he's also one of the most dynamic, interesting heroes you'll ever read!
See Also: Sleepwalker. Yes, this is an obscure hero from 1991. And yes, this may be the author's personal favorite superhero. But the guy is a true-blue creep and he deserves way more attention then he receives! Sleepwalker is a sort of dream-policemen. He guards The Mindscape and keeps it safe. Once tricked by his nemesis, Sleepwalker is forced to share a mind with a college kid from Brooklyn. He's got big bug eyes, bright green skin, and only comes out (of the kid's mind) at night, when his "host" is asleep. What a freak!
You make a deal with the devil and guess what? You're gonna get burned. Just ask any of the multitudes of superheroes who have made this mistake in the past! Many of these heroes bare the marks of bondage, with the chain as a recurring signature weapon. This is the type of hero you can really feel bad for. I mean, come on, who wants to owe the devil a favor or two?
Prime Example: Why, Spawn, of course! The story of Al Simmons is about as classic a "deal with the devil" story as you can get. After getting iced and winding up in hell because of his extensive work as an assassin, Simmons makes a deal with a dude named Malebolgia (that name! Way to go Todd McFarlane!). If he agrees to be a hellspawn he can see his wife one last time. We love Spawn because he's about as twisted as a hero gets. He has chains, necroplasmic powers, a super strong body and, oh yeah, he's covered in burning, rotten flesh!
See Also: Ghost Rider. This is another classic tale. Johnny Blaze, a stunt motorcyclist, makes a deal with Mephisto to save his dying stepdad. In the process of claiming Blaze's soul, Mephisto is hampered and can only partially get him. So, every night, when evil is afoot, Johnny Blaze's head turns into a flaming skull and he wields supernatural powers on his crazy flaming motorcycle. This was in a major, mainstream comic in 1972! Looking back on it just shows how cutting edge and scary a good comic can be.
We'll end our look at dark, frightening superheroes with a walk down the darkest lane. Murder. Very few superheroes have actually committed it. Batman swore to never kill. Superman could rip a dude in half and he doesn't. Even Wolverine, who has giant metal claws, only has a few murders to his name. Sure, any good superhero will throw an alien toward the sun or desiccate a robot, but it takes a certain type of hero to kill.
Prime Example: The Punisher. aka Frank Castle, the remorseless anti-hero of Marvel comic fame. The guy's whole M.O. is to hunt the bad guy, torture the bad guy to get all the info he can, then kill the bad guy. After Frank Castle's wife and child were murdered, he made a crazy-man vow to kill all the criminals he could. And that costume! I mean come on, the guy is straight up wearing a skull over an all black leotard. That's scary.
See Also: Watchmen. Seriously, almost all of them. Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' critically acclaimed "game changing" limited comic series about the ins and outs of the superhero world feature a cast of unlikable people doing bad things. Whether it's Ozymandias' apocalyptic scheming, Doctor Manhattan's disassociated violence, Rorschach's psychotic pursuit of justice, or The Comedian's forays in Vietnam, the comic is full of death and one of our all time favorites!
Honorable mention for scary heroes go to Evil Ernie (who causes the end of the all life on earth so, you know, he doesn't really count as a "hero"), Rick Grimes (who kills and kills and kills), and Cloak (who isn't much without his wispy friend Dagger). So tell us, friends, who are some of your favorite scary superheroes?