Art reflects art: this is the case with DC as it has honored stories of the past. The DC heroes are often labeled as modern versions of the Greek pantheon. So when it comes to darker and more macabre characters, it’s not surprising that creators take inspiration from famous monster movies.
Across Marvel, DC, and even Dark Horse comics, there is a plethora of characters that pay homage to famous monsters from movies, urban legends, and even ancient mythology. Monsters are a source of fear but also intrigue as they too can be just as, if not more fascinating than the standard superhero archetypes.
Intentional or not, Man-Bat is definitely a play on the classic trope of scientists foolishly mixing human DNA with that of another being. This has been used in myriad horror movies that warn viewers of the dangers of genetic power from The Fly to splice.
Like many monsters of similar concepts, it usually comes when a scientist has the best intentions but results in a horrifying monstrosity. With Man-Bat, it came when Kirk Langstrom was attempting to cure deafness but transformed himself into a hybrid of human and vampire bat.
A monster might be a bit of a stretch but according to The Hollywood Reporterthe Joker is famous for being inspired by a 1928 silent film called The Man Who Laughs. Their origins are nothing alike, with the titular character Gwynplaine being the victim of a group of gypsies who surgically give him a permanent grin, similar to Jack Nicholson’s famous Joker portrayal.
His pale white skin, permanent grin, and hair were the main inspiration for the Joker’s design back in 1940. However, Gwynplaine’s affliction leads to torment from people around him his whole life which slowly makes him descend into madness. This is not dissimilar to Arthur Fleck with his pseudobulbar condition in 2019’s joker.
Morbius, The Living Vampire
Michael Morbius’ story is rather similar to that of Man-Bat with a brilliant scientist mixing his DNA with that of a bat. Instead of a bat-like creature, however, he transforms into a genetically designed vampire. This gives him the ability to fly, have super strength, a strong healing factor, and control animals including bats.
Obviously, this takes inspiration from different vampires stories of the past. The biggest inspiration, however, would be Dracula, with Morbius wearing red and being portrayed more as a tragic villain of Spider-Man. Morbius’ thirst for blood makes him hurt those he loves, a staple of the vampire genre.
In Marvel Comics, Wendigo is one of the Hulk’s most famous villains. He is a monster that slays innocents in the forests and frames the Hulk. The Wendigo is the result of a curse inflicted on Paul Cartier as a result of resorting to cannibalism to survive.
However, rather than the skeletal design of Algonquin legend such as in the film antlersMarvel’s version of Wendigo is a large furry beast more akin to the abominable snowman, aka a yeti.
The Brood is an ancient race of insectoids that have been spreading across the stars, repopulating until they have dominated each planet that they landed upon. There is not even an attempt to hide it: the Brood is Marvel’s version of the Xenomorphs of the famous Alien franchise.
It’s actually surprising that Marvel’s attempts to copy the Xenomorphs did not result in a lawsuit. The drone-like Brood creatures even serve a bigger matriarch of their hive known as the Empress. The biggest difference, however, is that the Brood is more than savage beasts, showing more intelligence.
Swamp monsters have been a staple in fiction for years and Swamp Thing is the culmination of them all. In fact, Swamp Thing with his horror-centric stories with a tragic romance is reminiscent of movies like The Creature from the Black Lagoon from Universal Studios mixed with The Hunchback of Notre Dame and famous Bigfoot sightings.
Marvel also featured its own swamp monster, although he was a much darker creature known as Man-Thing. However, he hasn’t had as much impact as Swamp Thing, who has entertained superhero and horror fans for decades, especially since Alan Moore’s iconic Swamp Thing revamp.
Many stories have used the Kraken dating back to ancient Greek mythology, hence its famous use in Clash of the Titans. With Aquaman being the ruler and protector of the seas, it was only inevitable that he would encounter DC’s version of the Kraken, which has seen several portrayals.
There is the Karaqan, a massive crustacean that is one of DC’s most famous kaiju, but there is also Topo, an ally of Aquaman. Both were fused for the DC Extended Universe to create the Karathen. An actual Kraken label was used in both injustice comics and the DCeased comics.
Werewolf By Night
This is another obvious one, with werewolves being a famous monster across books, TV shows, and movies. It was only inevitable that comics would take advantage of the monster’s popularity after the likes of The Wolfmanwhich led to many other famous werewolf movies.
Werewolf By Night is the comic that introduced the titular character, depicting a more anti-hero version. The original debut depicted a more humanoid werewolf akin to the Wolf Man while future redesigns would hark closer to the likes of The Howling or An American Werewolf in London.
It should be pretty obvious what Abraham Sapien is inspired by. Hellboy comics deal with all sorts of monsters from the mystical to the Eldritch horrors to the Satanic. Abe Sapien on the other hand is his best friend, whom he values like a brother.
Abe Sapien is clearly based on the Gill-man from The Creature from the Black Lagoon but given a more eloquent and dapper personality. He’s intelligent with psychic abilities, which is a stark contrast from the savage monstrosity of the Gill-man.
Straight from creator Stan Lee himself, the inspiration for Marvel’s not-so-jolly green giant is the combination of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde and Frankenstein. Bruce Banner represents Dr. Jekyll, who conducts an experiment that unleashes the dark side of himself.
That darker side is the Hulk, who is Mr. Hyde but more in the form of Frankenstein’s monster. He is a freshly born being, a child in a monster’s body misunderstood by the world and is punished for it. It’s a tragic tale that Marvel has fully explored with both sides of the character.
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