Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Countdown to Halloween Day 23 -- Favorite horror themed superheroes

If you can name a popular genre or sub genre, odds are good that at some point it has been mashed up with the superhero genre. Horror is no exception; below are some of my favorite superheroes who have some sort of horror theme to them. I tried to be somewhat limiting on my definition of superhero, which is why you won't see Hellboy or Swamp Thing listed.  So, in no particular order:

The Demon – Some might quibble about calling Etrigan the Demon a superhero, but I think he fits into the general superhero mold: he has a colorful outfits he transforms back and forth between a a super-powered and civilian identity, he has often teamed up with the likes of Superman or Batman, and, most importantly, has gotten into fights with other superheroes over a misunderstanding before eventually teaming up to fight the real bad guy.  If that last bit doesn't scream "superhero," what does? Granted, the level of Etrigan's heroism has varied over the years, but ultimately in my mind he will always be a demonic power for good.

Blue Devil – Originally, Blue Devil was horrific in appearance but not in reality: a stuntman who created an exoskeleton for our a devilishly themed movie, and then was permanently bonded to the suit by an encounter with a real demon. I was a big fan of Blue Devil's solo series back in the 80s, which was filled with weirdness and humor.  Blue Devil eventually sold his soul to Neron for fame during the Underworld Unleashed storyline and subsequently became a true demon.

Ghost Rider – Probably the most recognizable of the Horror-themed heroes due to his iconic blazing skull, I've always been more partial to the original Johnny Blaze incarnation than the 90s reboot, if for no other reason that the original was part of the 2nd oddest super-hero team of the 70s, The Champions.

Gargoyle – The hero known as Gargoyle was originally a senior citizen named Isaac Christians who made a deal with a group of demons known as The Six-Fingered Hand to save his home town, and in turn had his mind and soul trapped inside a demonic body as their servant. After rebelling against the Hand, Christians became a member of one of my favorite superhero teams, The Defenders (a.k.a the #1 oddest super-hero team of 70s). I always enjoyed the incongruity between his outward appearance and his cheery disposition.

Daimon Hellstrom, Son of Satan – The Defenders were often a home to the offbeat heroes with a mystical bent, and Daimon Hellstrom was one of the more prominent one for several years. Son of a demon claiming to be Satan -- although the actual identity of which demon fathered him has been retconned a few times -- Hellstrom rebelled against his father's evil ways and sought to do good in the world. Of course, during the grim'n'gritty 90s, that aspect of his personality went awry as he fell prey to his demonic roots for a time, becoming much more of an anti-hero.

The Confessor – A character from Kurt Busiek's Astro City series, The Confessor initially appeared to be just a religious themed vigilante, but was eventually revealed to be a former priest afflicted with vampirism who wore a cross on his costume because the constant pain it caused him helped keep his bloodlust in check. 

Madman – While not overtly Horror themed at first glance, the hero known as Madman  is actually a reanimated corpse named -- are you ready? -- Frank Einstein . . . named after Frank Sinatra and Albert Einstein, of course. 

The Spectre – The ghost of a murdered police office, The Spectre started out in the 1940s as a supernatural crimefighter with a penchant for bloody justice, but his deadly inclinations drifted away gradually until he became a more standard supernatural superhero.  But in the 70s  his bloodlust returned with a vengeance, which The Spectre killing criminals in inventively gruesome ways -- most often by transforming them into inanimate objects (glass, wax candles, etc) and then demolishing them.  After a return to a less murderous incarnation during the 80s, John Ostrander's take on the character fully established him as The Wrath of God permanently bonded with a human soul, and used the character's vengeful ways to explore questions of morality . . . while still maintaining a gruesomely horror-tinged tone.

Deadman -- The ghost of murdered trapeze artist Boston Brand was forced to roam the Earth trying to locate his killer, frequently aiding those in need with his power to possess people. 

Magik -- The younger sister of the X-man known as Colossus, Illyana Rasputin spent the bulk of her young life trapped in the demonic realm of Limbo, where she learned to become a powerful sorceress in order to battle the lord of Limbo, Belasco.  However, in defeating Belasco and usurping his place as Limbo's ruler, Illyana delved into black magic.  After returning to Earth, she became a member of the New Mutants and struggled to keep her darker impulses under control, a struggle which eventually resulted in her transformation into the Darkchylde and unleashing Hell (or, more accurately, Limbo) on Earth.  She eventually sacrificed herself, and, as this is the comic book world, would later be resurrected, albeit minus quite a bit of her humanity.

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