Halloween is here again, and that means it’s time for ghosts, monsters and fiends — but, especially given the recent popularity of superhero movies, it’s also time for bright-costumed crimefighters. But what if you want to combine both and make yourself a Halloween costume that combines your love for superheroes with the holiday’s traditional ghouls? Don’t worry: comics have you covered.
Today, we tend to think of superheroes and comics as being inextricably connected. But for a period in the later 1940s and 1950s, it was horror comics that ruled the roost, with only the biggest of the superhero titles — Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman — holding on. The implementation of the Comics Code took a lot of momentum away from the horror comics, but many of the hits of the 60s come from incorporating monster-comic elements into superhero characters like the Thing and the Incredible Hulk.
With the season in mind, here are the three horror heroes who make the best Halloween costumes:
Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Grant Morrison does a weird but brilliant reboot of a character, puts it in the DC Comics toybox, and nobody does anything good with it thereafter. It’s happened more than once — but for a wonder, it didn’t happen with Frankenstein, a character Morrison featured in one of his Seven Soldiers of Victory miniseries. Frankenstein has actually been turning up pretty regularly in the DC Universe since Seven Soldiers. And yes, before you say it, there’s an explanation in the comic of why he’s “Frankenstein” and not “Frankenstein’s Monster.”
Taking advantage of Doug Mahnke’s art, which always has that sense of the grotesque to it, Morrison turns Mary Shelley’s creation into a brooding, gloomy James Bond type, battling immortal monsters together with a four-armed, pistol-packing Bride in the service of a secretive agency run by the mysterious Father Time. It’s absolutely bizarre, and it involves fighting mummies on Mars. As a costume, Frankenstein has a great look: the sleeveless military jacket and ragged coat make him look a buff undead goth Adam Ant, which is a pretty exciting style.
Look, I’ll have you know that Man-Wolf is not the same as Wolfman. Wolfman is a man, but he’s also a wolf. Man-Wolf is a wolf, but he’s also a man. Clear? Specifically, the man that Man-Wolf is is John Jameson, astronaut son of Spider-Man’s arch-nemesis J. Jonah Jameson. As you do when you’re an astronaut, Jameson got a lunar rock stuck to his throat that turned him into a wolf-creature during the full moon. Despite Spider-Man ripping the rock off, poor John Jonah Jameson III kept getting turned back into a white space werewolf.
Despite his bonkers origin, Man-Wolf is kind of a forgettable Spider-Man antagonist. What he does have going for him is the look. We’re talking about a white wolfman in a bright yellow and green sleeveless spacesuit that incorporates what look like old-timey gym shorts, with a bright pinkish-red gem stuck into his neck. It’s been revised various times over the years, sometimes well — medieval leotard with toeless bucket-top boots and a quiver of arrows? — and sometimes poorly, like when they gave him a tortured-hero trench coat. The only downside to this costume is going to be explaining who in the blazes you’re meant to be while wearing a full-head wolf mask.
For some reason, each of the Big Two publishers seems to think that it needs to have a fast-running guy, an archer … and a swamp monster. Although there’s no denying that DC’s Swamp Thing has historically been the better book, you can’t help but love Marvel’s rival creature, Man-Thing. Partly that’s because somehow the idea of publishing a comic called Giant-Size Man-Thing got past a whole lot of functional adults.
Both Man-Thing and Swamp Thing would be great costumes, but at the end Man-Thing has to come out ahead, if only because of the snoot. Unlike the more humanlike Swamp Thing, Man-Thing features a strange, alien-looking face dominated by a big old elephant-like hose nose. And if you can drape yourself in moss and foam rubber or whatever and still make your voice heard, you even get a fantastic catch-phrase: “Whoever knows fear burns at the touch of the Man-Thing!”