Greetings, horror lovers. Are you ready for another creeptastic journey into the world of horror comics? If your answer is a resounding yes, you’re in the right place. Prepare yourself for a thrilling expedition into the eerie, the grotesque, and the downright terrifying as we delve into the dark corners of the comic book realm. Today, we pay homage to the ten best horror comic characters who have haunted and fueled our dreams. Let’s dive in, shall we?
First on our list is the iconic Hellboy, the brainchild of the prodigiously talented Mike Mignola and published by Dark Horse Comics. Hellboy first appeared in San Diego Comic-Con Comics #2 in August 1993. A well-meaning demon summoned from Hell to Earth as an infant, Hellboy was discovered by the Allied forces and raised under the guidance of Professor Trevor Bruttenholm. He grew up to be a massive red-skinned adult with a tail, horns (which he files off, leaving behind circular stubs on his forehead), and a colossal right hand. Despite his demonic appearance, Hellboy turned out to be a kind-hearted, humorous, and somewhat melancholic figure who works as a paranormal investigator.
2. Swamp Thing
Swamp Thing is a humanoid/plant elemental creature who just so happens to be the Longbox of Darkness’ absolute favorite character. Created by writer Len Wein and artist Bernie Wrightson, he first appeared in House of Secrets #92 (July 1971) and is published by DC Comics. Swamp Thing has had various human hosts over the years, but the most notable is Alec Holland, a scientist who was transformed into the Swamp Thing after a lab explosion covered him with chemicals and set him aflame, forcing him to plunge into the swamp. Swamp Thing is a powerful character with environmental consciousness and supernatural abilities, often grappling with complex philosophical and ethical issues.
3. John Constantine
The con man turned occult detective, John Constantine, is a fan favorite in the horror comic genre. Created by Alan Moore, Steve Bissette, and John Totleben, Constantine first appeared in The Saga of the Swamp Thing #37 in June 1985, published by DC Comics. This chain-smoking, trenchcoat-wearing, morally ambiguous character is known for his cunning, vast knowledge of the occult, and willingness to make hard decisions for the greater good, even if it means sacrificing those close to him. Arguably not a monster, but he’s done some truly monstrous things.
4. The Goon
The Goon, created by Eric Powell and published by Dark Horse Comics, first graced the comic world in Avatar Illustrated Summer 1995. The Goon is a muscle-bound brawler who claims to be the primary enforcer for a feared mobster. The stories have a paranormal and comedic edge and often involve ghosts, zombies, mad scientists, and skunk apes. The Goon’s distinct blend of horror, noir, and humor has made it a unique presence in the comic book world.
5. Skinner Sweet
Skinner Sweet, the star of the series “American Vampire,” is a newer addition to the horror comic landscape but has made quite an impression. Created by Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque and published by Vertigo (an imprint of DC), Sweet first appeared in American Vampire #1 in March 2010. A ruthless killer turned vampire in the Wild West, Sweet is the first of a new breed of vampire that can walk in the sun and is stronger and faster than the Old World vampires.
Next up is the stunning and deadly Vampirella. Created by Forrest J. Ackerman and Trina Robbins, and designed by Frank Frazetta, Vampirella first appeared in Vampirella #1 in September 1969 from Warren Publishing. Hailing from the planet Drakulon, Vampirella initially came to Earth in search of blood, a scarce resource on her dying home planet. Over the years, she has become a more heroic figure, fighting against evil supernatural forces. With her striking appearance and intriguing backstory, Vampirella remains an iconic character in horror comics.
7. Lady Death
Lady Death, a character born from the mind of Brian Pulido, made her first appearance in Evil Ernie #1 in December 1991, published by Eternity Comics. Initially, Lady Death was portrayed as the hallucination of a murderous teenager named Ernest Fairchild. Eventually, her backstory was expanded, revealing her as Hope, a young girl from medieval Sweden who renounced her humanity to become the queen of Hell to save her own soul. With her icy demeanor and ruthless drive, Lady Death quickly became a staple in the ’90s comic book scene.
8. Evil Ernie
Speaking of Evil Ernie, how could we forget this iconic character when discussing horror in comics? Also created by Brian Pulido, Evil Ernie first graced the comic world in December 1991’s Evil Ernie #1, published by Eternity Comics. Ernie is an undead, psychotic killer given the daunting task of exterminating the entire human race. He’s guided by his sentient, and often humorous, button pin “Smiley.” Despite his horrifying mission, something oddly charismatic about Ernie has continued to captivate readers for decades.
9. Etrigan the Demon
Created by comic book legend Jack Kirby, Etrigan the Demon first appeared in The Demon #1 in August 1972, published by DC Comics. Etrigan is a demon from Hell bonded to a human named Jason Blood. They transform into each other through a rhymed incantation, with Etrigan often speaking in verse. His adventures often involve battling supernatural threats and dealing with the duality of his existence. Etrigan’s rhyming dialogue and moral ambiguity make him a unique character in the realm of horror comics.
Last but certainly not least, we have Elvira, the Mistress of the Dark. Created by Cassandra Peterson for her TV show, Elvira was adapted into comic form and debuted in Elvira’s House of Mystery #1 in 1986, published by DC Comics. Elvira is a horror hostess who tells spooky stories with a side of sardonic humor. Despite not originating in comics, Elvira has become a beloved figure in the comic book horror genre with her wit, charm, and undeniable flair for the dramatic.
Sink your teeth into our next frightful character, Marvel Comics’ very own Dracula. Created by Gerry Conway, Gene Colan, and Marv Wolfman, this classic creature of the night first appeared in Tomb of Dracula #1 in April 1972. Steeped in all the traditional lore, Marvel’s Dracula is the quintessential vampire: charismatic, aristocratic, and absolutely deadly. He has fought against many heroes in the Marvel Universe, often bringing them to the brink of despair. His brooding presence and timeless allure make him a fascinating figure in the horror comic genre.
If you go down to the swamps today, you’re sure of a big surprise, for lurking in the muck and mire is the grotesque guardian known as Man-Thing. This monstrous muck-monster was created by writers Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, and artist Gray Morrow. Man-Thing first surfaced in Savage Tales #1 in May 1971, published by Marvel Comics. Once a scientist named Ted Sallis, Man-Thing was transformed into a creature of the swamps after injecting himself with an experimental serum and crashing into mystical waters. He is now a mindless, empathic creature that reacts violently to fear, secreting a burning chemical. Man-Thing’s stories often delve into the supernatural and existential, making him a complex and engaging horror character.
13. Jack Russel, Werewolf by Night
Finally, howling his way into our list is Jack Russell, better known as Werewolf by Night. This lycanthropic legend was the creation of Gerry Conway and Mike Ploog, making his debut in Marvel Spotlight #2 in February 1972. Born with a family curse that turns him into a werewolf, Jack Russell’s stories blend supernatural horror and tragic drama. His struggles to control his bestial side and retain his humanity make him a compelling character in the comic book horror scene.
14. Ghost Rider
Revving his engine and igniting the night with hellfire, Ghost Rider makes a blazing entry into our list. This flaming-skulled spirit of vengeance was created by writer Gary Friedrich and artist Mike Ploog, with his first appearance in Marvel Spotlight #5 in August 1972. The most iconic host of the Ghost Rider is stunt motorcyclist Johnny Blaze, who made a deal with the devil to save his father, only to be bonded with a demonic spirit named Zarathos. Ghost Rider’s chilling visual aesthetic, complete with flaming skull and burning motorcycle chains, combined with his tragic backstory, makes him a compelling character in horror comics.
15. Morbius, The Living Vampire
Rounding out our list is the tortured figure of Morbius, The Living Vampire. Created by writer Roy Thomas and originally designed by penciler Gil Kane, the character first appeared as an antagonist in The Amazing Spider-Man #101 in October 1971. Dr. Michael Morbius was a Nobel Prize-winning biochemist who accidentally transformed himself into a pseudo-vampire in an attempt to cure his own rare blood disorder. Unlike traditional vampires, Morbius was inflicted with a form of vampirism that was scientifically induced. Though he needs to consume blood to survive, Morbius struggles with guilt over his bloodthirsty nature, making him a complex and tragic figure in the realm of horror comics.
Before we wrap up, let’s shine a blood-curdling spotlight on some honorable mentions that add an extra layer of terror to the comic book world. DC Comics gave us the chilling tales of “I, Vampire,” where Andrew Bennett, a 16th-century nobleman turned vampire, fights against his own kind, and “The Creature Commandos,” a unique military unit composed of classic monster archetypes. We have the vintage but still spine-tingling “Frankenstein” by Dick Briefer, which was a fascinating mix of horror and humor. Marvel has its own gallery of ghouls, including Daimon Hellstrom, the conflicted “Son of Satan“; “Satana,” his devilish sister; Simon Garth the cursed “Zombie“; and “N’Kantu the Living Mummy,” who brings an ancient horror to the modern world. And let’s not forget Skywald Comics’ “The Heap,” a shambling mound of vegetation with a deeply tragic past.
These characters may not have made our top 15, but their unique blend of horror and heroism certainly left a frightening imprint on the comic book landscape. If there are any we forgot to mention, please leave a comment below, and we’ll get the discussion underway.
So there you have it. Fifteen of the greatest horror characters to ever grace the pages of comic books. Whether you’re a seasoned horror fan or a newbie looking to explore, this list offers a starting point into the hauntingly beautiful world of horror comics. If there are any characters we mentioned that you haven’t read stories of yet, try them. Who knows, like Dracula or Vampirella, you just might develop a ‘taste’ for them.
Until next time, keep those lights on and the pages turning.