Marvel’s Horror-Inspired Heroes of the 1970s
A more lax Comics Code in the ‘70s led to these horror-themed Super Heroes!
Thanks to a loosening of the Comics Code in the early 1970s, the stands once again played home to the likes of werewolves, zombies, vampires, and other delightful monsters.
While books like TOMB OF DRACULA, MAN-THING, and WEREWOLF BY NIGHT flourished and created darker corners of the Marvel Universe, horror themes and elements began making their way into the more mainstream Super Hero titles as well. Here are some of our favorite characters with roots on the dark side.
In 1954 the Comics Code Authority banned the very presence of vampires from the medium. Almost immediately after they decided to allow the blood suckers back in funny books, Morbius the Living Vampire premiered in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #101. In an effort to cure his rare blood disease, the brilliant Michael Morbius accidentally turned himself into a monster. Since his initial fights with Spider-Man, Morbius has continued to struggle with his scientifically-created bloodlust and how he related to more traditional vampires like he recently did in AVENGERS #12.
In her first appearance in the four-issue series THE CAT, Greer Grant Nelson became a Super Hero thanks to a gadget-filled costume. With 1974's GIANT-SIZE CREATURES, she joined Jack Russell in the were-world by becoming Tigra the werecat! This new role also made her the protector of the other-dimensional Cat People. Since then, she's become an Avenger and popped up recently in WEST COAST AVENGERS.
Classic teen comic star Patsy Walker -- who debuted back in 1944 – also got her paws on the Cat costume in AVENGERS #144 in 1976 and became Hellcat. In the ‘80s she married Daimon Hellstrom, the Son of Satan, and went down her own hellish path.
TOMB OF DRACULA became one of the breakout hits of the ‘70s monster boom, but every villain needs a really compelling adversary. In the tenth issue of the series, which hit stands in 1973, one came in the form of Blade the Vampire Killer (no offense to the Van Helsings, of course). Though he may not have succeeded in killing old Vlad, Blade still uses his hybrid human and vampire abilities to go after every bloodsucker he can find, which he's doing right now in AVENGERS. More importantly, the character inspired the major motion picture that helped lead the way toward today’s Super Hero films. Not bad for a guy who scored his first solo series in 1994, just four years before his first film opened.
He might not come to mind right away given his status as a time-traveling cybernetic assassin, but under the first batch of Code rules, Deathlok would never have existed. Luther Manning wasn't just upgraded with robot parts – he was actually a dead soldier brought back to life by the far-from-moral Simon Ryker. That would have fallen under the "walking dead" ban back in the day. Thankfully, that was out the door by the time Manning debuted as Deathlok in 1974’s issues of ASTONISHING TALES. Since then, a small army of dead folks have been brought back as Deathlok, including the one appearing in X-FORCE right now.
In these days where the undead seem to shamble all over the place, we might forget the origins of the word "zombie." Originally, the term referred to an individual resurrected from the dead, either in body or soul, for the specific purpose of serving a practitioner of some form of witchcraft associated with voodoo. These themes crept back into the public consciousness in the ‘70s including the presence of Brother Voodoo, who materialized in 1973's STRANGE TALES #169.
Initially a psychologist, Jericho Drumm delved into the mystic arts after his Houngan brother Daniel died. Jericho became an important part of the supernatural corners of the Marvel Universe, joined the Avengers, became the Sorcerer Supreme for a while, and upgraded his title to Doctor Voodoo. Doctor Voodoo’s story continues in AVENGERS: NO ROAD HOME and SAVAGE AVENGERS.
To save his surrogate father Crash Simpson from cancer, Johnny Blaze made a deal with the devil in his very first appearance in 1972’S MARVEL SPOTLIGHT #5. Surprising no one but Blaze himself, the demon allowed Crash to die in an accident and still turned the mortal into his own personal Spirit of Vengeance, Ghost Rider. Wielding a flaming skull, tricked-out motorcycle, and the destructive Penance Stare, Blaze traveled the planet and came skull-to-face with some of the darkest, most devious creatures and monsters around. Since then, Blaze has lost and regained the Ghost Rider identity a few times, but it seems like there's always a new one around to punish the guilty. In fact, the current one, Robbie Reyes, is doing exactly that on an epic scale in AVENGERS.
Though he wouldn't technically achieve a solo series until 1980, Moon Knight made quite a name for himself in the second half of the ‘70s. Initially, readers saw a soldier of fortune take on the now-iconic white costume from his employers in 1975’s WEREWOLF BY NIGHT #32-33. Eventually he became a sometimes-lunatic with multiple personalities who worships an ancient Egyptian god and has been known to cut faces off on occasion. Over the years he's gone through plenty of changes and iterations, but has never stopped taking on evil in all its forms. Check out MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS #4 to see one of the most recent!
As you can see, the legacy of Marvel’s horror-themed heroes has lasted until today’s current comics and beyond, certainly longer than the Code that tried to keep stories like theirs buried.
For more content about Marvel’s 80th Anniversary, visit marvel.com/marvel80!
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