The Monster Mash-Ups - Part 9: Comics Appendix


Okay, I said I wasn't going to do this, but here I am doing this.  The thing of it is; monster mash-ups in comic books went some truly crazy places, and I'd just feel like I'd done an incomplete job if I didn't at least try to drive past that cemetery on our way home.  I'm still going to do an incomplete job, but you'll have some kind of idea what has been going on out there.

Casper the Friendly Ghost & Friends
Harvey Comics - 1952

Casper began life (so to speak) as a cartoon from Famous Studios, and he was, in fact, first introduced to comic books in 1949, but it's his association with Harvey Comics that is best known.  In the 30 years that Harvey published Casper, his cast expanded to include friends like Spooky the Tough Little Ghost, the Ghostly Trio, Hot Stuff the Little Devil and Wendy the Good Little Witch.  Now that I'm reminded of them, it's startling to consider that they may have been a large influence on me as a young child.  And believe me, that's the only startling thing about these ghosts.

Warren Publications - 1964, 66 & 70, respectively

In the 60s, publisher Jim Warren took the idea employed by Mad Magazine -- publish magazine sized comics in black & white for the newsstand rather than the comics rack, thus escaping the scrutiny of the Comics Code Authority -- and applied it to horror comics.  These tended to be more monster oriented than the EC comics which inspired them.  With the addition of Vampirella to the line-up, the "host" character moved into the spotlight, and Vampirella had her own adventures which strayed, on occasion, into the other titles.  More than a mere vampire, Vampirella came from Drakulon, a planet of vampires where the rivers flowed with blood.  The character gained her own cast of characters, including ties to Dracula and Lilith, mother of demons.  She has also crossed over with other comics LIKE CRAZY.  There's a movie too, but you didn't hear that from me.

Dell Comics - 1966

Amid the monster craze of the late 60s, Dell Comics tried to get in on the action with three interrelated monster-themed superheroes based on the Universal Monsters.  They each lasted only 3 issues, across which the same creative team was spread.

The Frankenstein character had a sidekick named Miss Ann Thrope.  That should give you some clue what we're dealing with here.  Frankenstein ranked "highly" in the World's Worst Comics Awards.

You know, I'm honestly not sure that they even lasted long enough to meet each other, but it seems pretty evident that they were intended to form a team.  A terrible, terrible team.

Swamp Thing
Created by Len Wein & Bernie Wrightson
DC Comics - 1971

Swamp Thing was first introduced in DC's horror anthology House of Secrets, then moved to his own title in short order.  While the character (in its original incarnation) owed elements of story and tone to Gothic horror like Frankenstein, the character was an original creation.  Nevertheless, he would soon encounter a Patchwork Man, werewolves and much more as he went about his life of existential torment.  The character has gone through many changes over the past 40 years, but he remains the DC Universe's central figure in matters of supernatural horror.  Yes, Marvel's Man-Thing (obligatory snicker) predated it by a few months, but that character was never as well developed as Swamp Thing.  Then again, with Alan Moore delivering a large part of his narrative in the 80s, very little else comes close.

Tomb of Dracula
Werewolf by Night 
Monster of Frankenstein /Frankenstein's Monster
The Living Mummy (in Supernatural Thrillers)

Marvel Comics - 1972

In the early 70s, the Comics Code Authority loosened some of its restrictions (which were arbitrary and self-imposed in the first place) on what comics could depict, and Marvel took full advantage of their new freedom by introducing a whole line of comics based on classic monsters.  Not only did these monsters then cross over with each other, but they were considered part of the greater Marvel continuity, and crossed over with everyone from the X-men to Spider-man.  As a matter of fact, Marvel's first significant film success came from the Blade, a character that first appeared in Tomb of Dracula #10.

I've only read a couple issues of these, but I'd really like to read more.  It's my understanding that some of the comics are really pretty good.  Tomb of Dracula has some pretty extraordinary art from the legendary Gene Colan, and the great Mike Ploog took turns on both the Frankenstein and Werewolf titles.

Marvel's Man-Thing (which I was shocked to learn, predated DC's Swamp Thing by months) also crossed over heavily with the rest of their supernatural horror line.

Godzilla: the King of Monsters
Marvel Comics - 1977

Godzilla has been licensed to a number of comics companies over the years, but naturally it was during his two-year stint with Marvel that he did most of his crossing-over.  He mostly encountered super-teams like the Avengers (sadly the Hulk was not with the team at the time) and the Fantastic Four (so at least he met the Thing), but he did also clash with Marvel's own Godzilla knock-off, Devil Dinosaur.  Marvel created the Ren Ronin character for the comic.  Ronin was a Mazinger-like giant robot who would then filter back into the periphery of the Marvel Universe after the Toho license expired.  The greatest missed opportunity was that Marvel's publication of Shogun Warriors overlapped with Godzilla, and despite planning a crossover, they didn't get it together before the license ended.

In the 90s, Dark Horse published a one-shot called Godzilla vs Barkley featuring basketball star Charles Barkley.  Despite some super-growth, Barkley isn't strictly a monster.  Now, if it was Shaq...

Creature Commandos
DC Comics - 1980
Created by JM DeMatteis

The Creature Commandos were a special ops type unit during WWII.  They made their debut in DC's Weird War Tales anthology title in 1980.  The team included a vampire (named -- I kid thee not -- Velcro), a Frankenstein's monster, a werewolf, a gorgon (Medusa, for our less literate friends) and a normal human leader (such bigotry!).  Oh, sometimes a robot.  They were originally introduced into DC's Weird War Tales shortly before the "DC Implosion" when the publisher scrapped a bunch of titles and fired a bunch of talent.  Despite this, and at least 2 universal reboots, DC actually brought the concept BACK in 2000 and again within the past year in Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.

Doc Stearn... Mr Monster
Created by Michael T Gilbert - 1984

Though loosely based on a twice-published 1940s Canadian comics character of the same name, Michael T Gilbert's Mr Monster is his own character.  He's a superhero, albeit one strongly influenced by the pulp heroes of the 30s and 40s.  He fights all manner of monsters with blazing pistols in both tribute to, and satire of superheroes and the monster movies of the 30s, 40s and 50s.

The books don't seem to have gained traction with readers, although more 10 publishers have been willing to present Mr Monster's adventure across that past 30 years.  You have to admire Gilbert's tenacity and commitment to a vision. 

It just seems bizarre to me that Mr Monster and Hellboy haven't had a crossover.

Aliens vs Predator
Dark Horse Comics - 1991

Once Dark Horse had acquired both the Aliens and Predator licenses for publication, it was only a matter of time before they figured out that the should meet... and kill each other.  The core premise is that Predators are the ultimate hunters in the galaxy, and Aliens are the most deadly game, so there's an honor principle at stake for the Predators.  The combination proved so popular that numerous miniseries have been published to date, also spawning a video game and returning the concept to movies.  While the comics occupy a future continuity that makes sense in the context of the original films, the movies based on the comics based on the movies have been set in contemporary times -- one presumes to reign in costs, since a future setting would cost more to design and build, taking away from the monsters budget.  Comic books cost the same to produce, no matter where and when they are set, nor how large the explosions or rampaging creature hordes.

The rivalry has spilled over into crossovers with Top Cow Comics' Witchblade & The Darkness, DC Comics' Superman & Batman, and The Terminator, also licensed to Dark Horse.  Both Aliens and Predators have crossed over with Judge Dredd in comics as well. 
The Terminator
Dark Horse Comics - 1991

Comics based on the Terminator films had been done before, but it was when Dark Horse started buying up licensing rights in the late 80s and experienced success with the Aliens vs Predator crossover that things really got rolling.  In addition to crossovers with AvP, Terminators have had miniseries meet-ups with the RoboCop (also published by Dark Horse) franchise and DC's Superman.  After all, what is RoboCop if not a Frankenstein in armor?  RoboCop vs Terminator also spawned a video game.

Dark Horse Comics - 1993
Created by Mike Mignola

The comic upon which the movies are based.  I love the movies but the comics are even better.  They're such a pure expression of Mignola's creative vision, combining Lovecraftian mythos, legends and folklore from around the world, re-imagined Universal Monsters and good ol' silver age face punchin', all told in his oft-imitated yet inimitable graphic arts style.

For an hilarious variation on the whole Hellboy thing, seek out the Hellboy Junior specials which put a Mad-Magazine-but-more-gross spin on the character, thanks to Bill Wray and other extraordinary talents.

Image/Wildstorm - 1994
Created by Whilce Portacio & Brandon Choi

When comics readers razzed Image Comics for struggling with schedules in their early years, they were mostly talking about Wetworks.  It wasn't the only one that struggled, but it was the longest delayed, and nobody really cared if Rob Liefeld wasn't taking a steaming dump on the comic racks for another week.  When the comic DID finally come out, it was about a black ops team (because ALL the image books were about black ops teams) that were armored with golden symbiotes.  Two members of the team were werewolves, and many of their foes were updated versions of classic monsters.  I know there was a pretty cool Frankenstein's monster in there, because I have the action figure and the head broke off.  Crap was always breaking off on those cheap/expensive McFarlane toys.  Oh yeah, Wetworks also had a crossover with Vampirella (but then who hasn't; you know what I'm sayin'?).

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8
Dark Horse Comics - 2007-continuing

A few years after the seven season run of the TV series, many of the writing talents behind the show got together to create a new "season 8" in comics.  Each writer took an arc within the greater "season" telling a story that built up to a whole.  There had been Buffy comics before, but excepting a few instances, they had been made by comic writers meddling within the established chronology.  Season 8, however, was considered new canon.  The transition to comics allowed the series to deal with all variety of monster madness on the much larger scale (think: Tokyo) that the narrative development really demanded.  The Season 8 arc has concluded, and the series has continued into Season 9.  With the success of the Buffy continuations, Whedon & Co have also been producing Angel and Spike comics which serve to continue from the end of the Angel series as well as bridging with Buffy.

What I read of Buffy was (mostly) good, but I must admit, I have considerable catching up to do.

Frank Frazetta's Dracula Meets the Wolfman
Image Comics - 2008

There aren't too many people in comics who can get their name above the title without actually doing anything, but Frank Frazetta is one of them.  Frazetta painted the image for the cover of Creepy in 1966, and then 42 years later someone else wrote and drew a comic book based on it, and he still got paid.  THAT is what you call solid brass BALLS, my friend.  What's more, it's not even the first time he's done it.  His Death Dealer painting spawned TWO comics series, in addition to being the main reason anyone ever bought a Molly Hatchett album.  You can also buy a statuette of the Wolfman wailing on Dracula for $225.


And with that, I can't think of a more appropriate bookend to an article that began with Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man.  Thanks for hanging in there, monsterphiles.  It was a gas, gas, gas.

Okay, so the facts have made me a fibber once again.  This was intended to be the final entry in the series, but new information has necessitated one more Appendix, so READ ON, dear reader for the FINAL final chapter, The Monster Mash-Ups - Part 10: El Hombre Lobo Appendix!

Or take it from the top, which is actually on the bottom, with The Monster Mash-Ups - Part 1: the 1940s & 50s!

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