The Marvel Universe is known for superheroes but it’s also home to some of the greatest classic monsters ever to shamble onto a comic book page. Beginning in the early 1970s, some scary residents moved in.
Marvel has its own Dracula, its own Frankenstein Monster, its own Mummy, its own werewolf (two actually) and even its own Manphibian (kind of like the Creature from the Black Lagoon…but not). These creepy residents lurked in their own little dark corner of the Marvel Universe, but the takeaway here is that they were IN the Marvel Universe and at times these vampires, lycanthropes, and corpses even met the famous heroes of the MU.
So join us my intrepid monster hunters as we recount the ultimate monster mashes and revisit a few special occasions where classic monsters met classic superheroes…
Dracula Lives #3 (1973)
by Roy Thomas and Alan Weiss
We already recounted the many times Dracula has stalked the heroes and villains of the Marvel Universe, but there was one team up we missed. Yeah, we know what you’re thinking: Conan and the other Robert E. Howard characters aren’t really part of the Marvel Universe, but listen, Spider-Man meet Kull and Red Sonja, and Spider-Man met Dracula, so this totally counts.
In Dracula Lives! #3 Roy Thomas and Alan Weiss gave us an ancient battle between Dracula and Howard’s famous demon hunter Solomon Kane. For those not familiar with Kane, imagine an Age of Imperialism Puritan Van Helsing that travels the world to spread the word of God while killing vampires and werewolves. Marvel published a bunch of Solomon Kane comics throughout the Bronze Age, and even though Kane had his following, the demon hunter never really caught on like Howard’s famous Cimmerian (probably because his adventures were always a wee bit racist).
But in this one magnificent tale, Kane and Dracula clashed! In this Kane adventure, the chaste Kane must navigate the world of vampire seduction and then face off against the Lord of the Vampires his own damn self. Kane kind of kicks Drac’s ass (in Dracula’s own magazine no less), but readers also get a sense of Kane’s honor. You see, earlier in the issue, Dracula saves the Puritan’s life. When Kane has Dracula on the ropes, the vampire reminds the honorable Kane that the demon hunter owes the vampire a boon. Kane lets Dracula go which pretty much dooms countless souls for like, the rest of eternity. So whenever Dracula needs a snack and kills some poor hapless soul, that victim can thank Kane for letting the fish off the hook when he was about to stake Dracula for good. Puritans, huh?
Anyway, this story remains a glorious Bronze Age oddity where two unlikely characters smack up against each other in glorious black-and-white.
The lumbering abomination of science known as Frankenstein’s Monster has a pretty long history in comics, one that predates the classic monster’s own comic at Marvel. Marvel’s The Monster of Frankenstein series premiered in 1973, but the bolt-necked behemoth stepped out of the late night picture shows and into the Marvel Universe a few times before it lived in its own feature.
X-Men #40 (1968)
By Roy Thomas and Don Heck
In X-Men #40, artist Don Heck and writer Roy Thomas (there’s that name again, it’s clear that Thomas is, was, and always will be the godfather of Marvel monsters) featured a clash between the X-Men and Frankenstein’s most famous creation.
The issue starts off with the X-Men enjoying a day of training in the Danger Room. Suddenly, they are summoned by Professor X who explains that he thinks he has located Frankenstein’s Monster. Professor X reveals that the monster is actually an android and furthermore, the android may have been built by a mutant. Holy Boris Karloff, that’s convoluted! The story would have been better served if Charles Xavier was all like, “I found Frankenstein, go beat him up,” and the X-Men were all like, “Yeah, sure,” and then they fight and stuff. But no, androids, mutants and aliens.
Wait aliens? Oh yah, it gets even more bonkers.
The X-Men attack the android and a big bad fight ensues. Iceman encases the monster in ice because he’s seen a movie or two and this defeats the Frankenstein android. Professor X then discovers that the monstrous android was built by aliens to act as an ambassador to Earth. The monster malfunctioned and went on a rampage thus creating the legend that inspired Mary Shelley to write her book. I like how Marvel took the elegantly simple tale of Frankenstein and made it intensely elaborate.
So there you go, Frankenstein’s first Marvel non-appearance in a tale where the monster was almost a mutant creation, almost a classic monster, and almost an alien ambassador.
The Silver Surfer #7 (1969)
By Stan Lee and John Buscema
After the monster’s almost appearance in X-Men, fans did not have to wait long for the real deal Universal and Shelley inspired Frankenstein top pop up, and this time it was for real. Wait…no it wasn’t.
Okay, so in this issue Ludwig Frankensein, descendant of legendary monster maker Victor Frankenstein, wants to renew Victor’s forbidden experiments. So, Ludwig and his hunchback assistant Borgo kidnap the Silver Surfer in order to siphon the Power Cosmic into their own creation. They succeed and the Surfer ends up fighting, not the Frankenstein Monster, put a Frankenstein created Silver Surfer doppelganger. But take note Frankenophiles, the famous monster does make an appearance.
During the issue, Ludwig watches a film of Victor creating the world’s most famous monster. Yeah, we know movies weren’t created until well after the mid-1800s, but shhh, you’re going to argue about something like that in a comic starring a naked silver guy that surfs in space? Rest assured that the Frankenstein Monster that appears in that film is the real deal, establishing that the Monster did indeed stalk the Marvel Universe.
Avengers #131 (1975)
By Steve Englehart and Sal Buscema
Frankenstein’s Monster is known for many famous cultural moments. It starred in what is considered one of the every first genre novels, it was the subject of one of the most famous horror films ever created, and it has appeared throughout media in every genre from pure horror to light comedy, but did you know that the Frankenstein Monster once served on a team with Wonder Man? Damn, that’s just oddly random.
The Avengers didn’t have a really hard time with this group of almost corpses, but hey, listen, it’s a super team with Frankenstein’s Monster, that’s just odd enough to be awesome in our book.
Marvel Team-Up #36-37 (1975)
By Gerry Conway and Sal Buscema
True story, Marvel Team-Up #37 was one of the first comics I ever owned, and it blew my little mind that Spider-Man could actually team up with Frankenstein! How could Spider-Man team up with that monster that scared the poop out of me whenever Frankenstein aired on local TV? Not only did Spidey and Frankie appear in the same comic, they were helping each other! I think my love for superheroes and classic monsters may have sprung from my fevered re-readings of this very issue. So thanks Conway and Buscema, thanks for showing me the path.
Anyway, so in this odd duck team up Spidey and Frankenstein’s Monster join forces to take on the menace of the monster maker: Baron Von Shtupf! Who? Von Shtupf, that’s who. Man, for a comic so integral to my development as a nerd, it’s pretty darn trivial. Anyway, Spidey and Frankie meet as Spidey accepts the whole corpse regeneration thing at face value because he recently ran into a clone of Gwen Stacy (comics!). Eventually, Man-Wolf (who is actually the son of Daily Bugle publisher J. Jonah Jameson) joins the fray and things get even more Bronze Age-ier and crazier as Man-beast, man-wolf, and man-spider all battle man-Shtupf. Glorious, I tells you!
Iron Man #101-102 (1977)
By Bill Mantlo and George Tuska
And then there was the time Frankenstein met Robert Downey Jr. Yup, in Iron Man #101-102, Tony Stark finds himself in the Swiss Alps where he stops for repairs after fighting godless commies in Yugoslavia. There, he is ambushed by a group of diminuitive misshapen creatures known as the Children of the Damned (no, they were not Trump supporters, stop it). Frankenstein and Iron Man battle it out in a clash of billion dollar film superstars.
Then, some armored dude with a giant lance blasts Iron Man and golden super hero and shambling corpse must team up to face the Dreadknight! By the way, Dreadknight’s real name is Bram Velsing, so there you go. To be honest, these issues are filled with atmospheric coolness and just seeing the classic monster and Golden Avenger on the same comic page together is just so out of place that it transcends cheese and becomes awesome
Invaders #31 (1978)
By Don Glut and Chic Stone
You guys, this issue is called “Heil Frankenstein!” This is going to be so cool.
Hey, remember before when I said that the first mention of Frankenstein in a Marvel Comic was in X-Men #40, yeah, I lied. Way the hell back in USA Comics #13 (1944), Captain America and Bucky run afoul of the creation of the Frankensteins. In this forgotten Golden Age classic, Anna Frankenstein builds a new monster in hopes of selling an army of monsters to Hitler. Yes folks, Franken-Nazis! Cap foils the plan, but years later, in the pages of Invaders, Marvel decided to revisit this story and re-introduces those Franken-clones.
In this issue, Basil Frankenstein continues Anna’s work and tries to build that undead army for Hitler (that’s the oddest sentence I’ve ever typed). The Invaders (Cap, Bucky, Sub-Mariner, Human Torch, and Toro) arrive to take care of business and battle a swastika emblazoned version of the Frankenstein Monster. I know I make this sound crazy…guys, it’s crazier and ends with the poor monster killing itself so it can’t be used by the Nazis.
Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos #1 (2005)
By Keith Giffen and Eduardo Francisco
So we already discussed Frankenstein’s Monster as part of the Legion of the Unliving in the Avengers, but that doesn’t really count as a for real super hero team does it? I mean, Frankie was plucked for the past to join a non-team of not really dead dead people. Well, the Howling Commandos counts because it consists of a group of classic Marvel monsters conscripted by SHIELD to go on insane missions to bringsdown other monstrous threats. So this is the classic Frankenstein’s Monster, heavily armed and given a license to kill by Nick Fury, going on missions to keep the world safe from supernatural threats. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.
It’s like if Freddy and Jason joined the Expendables. GASP! I think I might have just stumbled on a billion dollar idea. Crap man, half the Expendables already look like walking corpses. Anyway, yeah, Frankenstein’s Monster once joined SHIELD.
Fear Itself: Fearsome Four #1-4 (2011)
By Brandon Montclare, Michael Wm Kaluta, Ryan Bodenheim, and Simon Bisley
So now we have three super teams that Frankie called his own, but the Fearsome Four was by far the strangest. Yes, the strangest team amongst a squad of time lost corpses and a team of monster soldiers. Because get this, the Fearsome Four consisted of She-Hulk, the Defender known as Nighthawk, Frankenstein’s Monster, and Howard the Duck. Yeah, beat that!
During Fear Itself, these four incongruous teammates must join together to face a mutated Man-Thing and the Psycho Man. That’s a lot of menacing hyphens right there. But somehow this team that shouldn’t have worked, did just that and four heroes that couldn’t be any more different found the unity to save the world. Frankenstein and a duck, teaming up and kicking ass. This is why we love comics.
Wolverine and the X-Men #19, 21-23 (2012)
By Jason Aaron and Nick Bradshaw
We’ve recounted the times the Monster has stalked the Marvel Universe, but the descendants of the creature’s creator has also caused trouble for the heroes. We’ve covered Ludwig Frankenstein in Silver Surfer, Anna and Basil Frankenstein in Invaders, and Victoria Frankenstein has even aided some Marvel heroes over the years. But here we have the evil works of Baron Maximilian von Katzenelnbogen, a contemporary descendant of the Frankenstein clan.
Von Katzenelnbogen may have just been barely a teenager but when he joined a youthful version of the Hellfire Club (it was like the Muppet Babies, but with more S&M and death), he and his vile pals send an army of Frankenstein Monster clones against the X-Men. Yes, an army of Frankensteins. But when the real Frankenstein finds out that his creator’s work is once again being used for evil, well, let’s just say the classic monster doesn’t take it well.
Werewolf by Night
Marvel Team-Up #12 (1973)
By Gerry Conway, Len Wein, and Ross Andru
We already covered the meeting of Frankenstein’s Monster and Man-Wolf in the pages of Marvel Team-Up. In addition to this creature feature, there was also another Spider-Man monster mash as Spidey teamed with Marvel’s leading lycanthrope, Werewolf by Night. We’re kind of going to gloss over Man-Wolf because, while the character is awesome, he’s more of a sci-fi character than a classic horror beastie.
In this issue, the first meeting between Spidey and Jack Russell (and yes folks, Werewolf by Night is named Jack Russell), Spidey and Wolfy team up to take on the evil wizard Moondark. Really, the issue consists of Werewolf by Night popping up and Spidey punching the poor were-beast into the middle of next week, and then defeating Moondark single handedly.
Spider-Man and Werewolf by Night don’t really spend much time together, but if they did, what were they supposed to do? Go for a long walk together? Play fetch? Punching is pretty much the order of the day when werewolf and classic superhero get together, and punch they did in the first meeting between hero and werewolf.
Spider-Woman #19 (1979)
By Steven Grant, Mark Gruenwald, and Carmine Infantino
So Werewolf by Night is pretty much the classic Wolfman character, just younger. Poor Jack Russell must battle his savage instincts when he turns into the Werewolf by Night and survive in a world that views him as a monster. But there have been times in the character’s long history where Russell has complete control of the werewolf. At these times, Werewolf by Night is kind of like a really hairy Spider-Man type, what with the crime fighting and the humorous quips. It can be said the Werewolf by Night is a perfect amalgamation of Marvel superhero and Marvel horror icon all wrapped up in a really fuzzy, fanged package.
The heroic Werewolf was on full display in Spider-Woman #19 as the costumed hero and altruistic lycanthrope take on the heavily armed mercenary known as Enforcer. This issue, Spider-Woman and Russell strike up a friendship that would be revisited a number of times over the decades. I guess every woman needs a werewolf pal to confide in? No? Well, how about we leave it at that this is a pretty killer atmospheric issue that fully utilizes all the heroic aspects of Werewolf by Night.
Spider-Woman #32 (1980)
By Michael Fleisher and Steve Leialoha
Look at that Frank Miller and Klaus Janson cover. Look at those perfectly rendered drawings of Spider-Woman and Werewolf by Night framed by posters of some of Hollywood’s most famous monsters. Is that not the most glorious Halloween looking comic cover you’ve ever seen? The insides of this issue ain’t bad either as Spider-Woman and Werewolf by Night renew their heroic bond by teaming up to bring down the evil Doctor Karl Malus and the mysterious villain known as the Hornet. During the course of this issue, Malus controls Russell’s hairy alter ego, but Spider-Woman is able to free her monster pal and take the fight to the villains.
But for real man, I can stare at the glorious Frank Miller cover until next Halloween.
Marvel Team-Up #93 (1980)
Man, Werewolf by Night teamed up with a lot of Spider people, huh? Well, in this spider/wolf throw down, Jack Russell and Spidey join together to face the Tatterdemalion. What is Tatterdemalion’s deal you ask (other than being impossible to spell)? Well, he is really strong and he really, really smells.
Tatterdemalion hates wealth and fancy things and dresses in a suit of horribly dirty rags and attacks the rich. He also sticks to things, so he has that going for him. The Tatterdemalion first appeared in Werewolf by Night’s own solo title and that conflict leaks over into the werewolf’s second team up with Spider-Man.
Think about it, Tatterdemalion is sticky and smells really bad, and Werewolf by Night is covered in hair. That can’t be an easy post-fight clean up. But Tatterdemalion is a perfect horror/super villain type of rogue. He’s a sewer lurker that is really unsettling and is right at home fighting super hero or monster, and he does a little bit of both in this monstrous team up comic.
West Coast Avengers #5 (1986)
By Steve Englehart and Al Milgrom
Here’s a fun fact. Two pretty important Marvel super heroes were introduced in books starring Werewolf by Night. First, the great Moon Knight was introduced in Werewolf by Night #32 (1975) and one time Avenger, Tigra the Were-Woman was introduced in Giant Size Creatures Featuring Werewolf by Night #1 (1974). Moon Knight went on to become one of Marvel’s most popular street level heroes (and inevitable Netflix star, you know it’s going to happen and the series better freakin’ feature Werewolf by Night) and Tigra went on to star in many Marvel team books.
In this issue of West Coast Avengers, the Westies believe that Tigra, who was transformed into a were-cat by a race known as the Cat People (well, what would you call them?) may have a link to Jack Russell. So the Avengers track down the Werewolf by Night and jump him. That’s not cool. It was a brief Werewolf by Night appearance but it was nice to see him reunite with Tigra. After all, she was introduced in a Werewolf by Night feature.
That’s our Wolfie, launching superhero careers like nobody’s business. Hey man, it just goes to show you that Werewolf by Night was a big deal once…and will be again when he get his own Netflix series (it’s going to happen, Den of Geek mastermind Mike Cecchini is currently willing it to).
Iron Man #209 (1986)
By Dennis Mallonee and Rick Hoberg
Hey check this out, Iron Man was a bit of a monster magnet himself, teaming up with Frankenstein’s Monster and now Werewolf by Night. In this issue, Werewolf by Night’s sister gets possessed by the evil magic of Morgan Le Fay. Tony Stark must team with the Werewolf to battle Le Fay and free Russell’s beloved sibling.
So you have a Universal Pictures inspired monster hero teaming up with a classic Marvel icon to take on a fatale ripped from Arthurian folklore. What’s not to love about this? Technology meets classic monster goodness meets ancient legend. Get thee to a back issue bin!
Captain America #330 (1987)
By Mark Gruenwald and Tom Morgan
Do you know that Werewolf by Night was a member of a superhero team? Huh, didja? Well, he was and they were a unique bunch of bananas, I’ll tell you that.
In Captain America #330, Marvel introduced Night Shift, a group of horror themed characters that were pretty much all the supporting characters and villains left over from the defunct Spider-Woman title. The team consisted of Werewolf by Night, Brothers Grimm, Gypsy Moth, Tick Tock, Digger, Needle, and Tatterdemalion and was led by the Shroud. The team fought crime by pretending to be a gang of criminals, but were in fact a team of strange heroes dedicated to taking the underworld down from the inside. Most of the team were reformed Spider-Woman villains, but the Shroud’s right hand man was Werewolf by Night.
Night Shift was such a weird concept that it really needs to be brought back. Think about it, the ranks of this strange team could be home to many of Marvel’s almost forgotten horror heroes.
X-Factor #222-224 (2011)
By Peter David and Emanuela Lupacchino
In these issues of X-Factor, the mutant known as Wolfsbane was about to give birth to a half lycanthrope mutant and half Asgardian baby. In honor of this event, many of Marvel’s wolf characters gathered to welcome this part mutant part werewolf part god to the world. Included in the gathering was Werewolf by Night. It was like a werewolf nativity scene and I’m just going to leave that sitting there.
Listen though, anything Peter David writes is worth reading and he really crafted a very interesting Werewolf by Night and I would read the heck out of a Jack Russell series penned by David.
The Living Mummy
Marvel Two-in-One #95 (1983)
By David Kraft and Alan Kupperberg
Yes, Marvel has a mummy to call its very own. N’Kantu the Living Mummy was once an African king who was imprisoned and cursed to walk the Earth as an unholy monstrosity. The Living Mummy starred in his own short lived series in the pages of Supernatural Thrillers and then appeared sporadically around the fringes of the Marvel Universe. Unlike the many Universal mummies, N’Kantu is a heroic if tragic figure. But he’s a dude that shambles around in dusty bandages so he hasn’t had the impact of Marvel monsters like Dracula and Werewolf by Night. But that hasn’t stopped the Living Mummy from getting around now and again.
Take this issue of Marvel Two-in-One. Ben Grimm’s best gal Alicia is possessed by an ancient spirit, the Thing and the Living Mummy must team up in order to free Alicia and defeat the evil Nephrus. Well, they don’t so much as team up but appear on a few pages together before the Mummy shambles off into the desert. But it counts, the Living Mummy and the Thing, fighting the good fight together, kinda, almost.
Captain America #361 (1989)
By Mark Gruenwald and Kieron Dwyer
The late, great writer Mark Gruenwald was never one to leave any obscure character unexplored, and he found a way to incorporate the Living Mummy into the bright and shiny world of Captain America. When Cap and his partner and lover Diamondback were hunting down the fabled bloodstones, they convince the Living Mummy to hand over the Bloodgem in a story completely unrelated to Infinity Gauntlet.
But there was something incongruously awesome about seeing a guy dressed as the American flag team with a dude dressed up like Boris Karloff’s second most famous monster.
Quasar #46 (1993)
By Mark Gruenwald and Andy Smith
Has everyone been a member of a super team at one point or another? Get this motley crew. Doctor Druid, Shadowoman, the Blazing Skull, and the Living Mummy- otherwise known as Shock Troop! This team of also-rans and never was-es helped Quasar take on the villain known as Quagmire (giggity).
I guess this team quietly disbanded soon afterwards because what else were they supposed to do? Marvel, bring back the Shock Troop. I mean, you’re leaving at least $2.13 on the table here.
Civil War #7 (2007)
By Mark Millar and Steve McNiven
You might think that Living Mummy is small potatoes as far as Marvel monsters goes but he actually took part in the biggest Marvel event of all time. N’Kantu can be seen as part of the anti-registration forces in the climactic battle between Iron Man and Captain America in the first Civil War. Now, imagine how cool it would be if Cap had a mummy on his side (no explanation, just a mummy) in the Civil War film.
The Living Mummy was present during Civil War because like Frankenstein, N’Kantu was a member of the Howling Commandos of SHIELD. The Mummy felt like he was being forced into servitude and not wanting to live the life (or unlife) of a slave, the Living Mummy rebelled. This led to imprisonment and the eventual riot that became the inciting event of the conclusion of Civil War. In the worlds of Ulysses S. Grant, “t’aint a proper Civil War ‘til a Mummy gets involved!” Or something.
Currently, the Living Mummy is a member of the Legion of Monsters and as such has met and fought with and against Deadpool (Deadpool Team-Up #894) and the Red Hulk (Hulk Vol 2 #52) but we just wanted to focus on the Living Mummy as a solo act.
Daredevil Annual #9 (1993)
Yup, Marvel has a zombie and his name is Zombie. Well, his name used to be Simon Garth until a voodoo curse transformed poor Garth into the Zombie.
Before zombies were really a thing in comics, Garth starred in the Bronze Age black and white magazine Tales of the Zombie. Unlike the zombies that are turned into jelly by Rick and Michonne in The Walking Dead, Garth maintained his free will. So basically, he’s a rotting, shambling, fresh hungry walking corpse, but he’s fully aware of this situation. That sucks for him.
Garth’s free will was on full display when he helped Daredevil defeat the voodoo queen and sometimes groupie of Kraven the Hunter, the evil Calypso. With all that Walking Dead money floating around, it’s a wonder that Marvel doesn’t do more with its Zombie. But hey, Garth met Daredevil once in this ultra-esoteric annual, so that’s something.
Uncanny Avengers Annual #1 (2014)
By Rick Remender and Paul Renaud
And we conclude with Marvel’s version of the Creature from the Black Lagoon: Manphibian! Man is that fun to say, Manphibian, Manphibian, Manphibian!
Anyway, Manphibian (Manphibian!) is actually an alien being that crash landed on Earth while pursuing the murderer of his mate across the cosmos. Both murderer and Manphibian were tapped on Earth and became monsters of myth and legend. Manphibian appeared in the Frankencastle saga (don’t ask) and also joined the Howling Commandos.
But for a very brief moment, Manphibian was a member of his own team of Avengers. In Uncanny Avengers Annual #1, Manphibian joined with Ghost Rider, Doctor Strange, Blade, Satana, and Man-Thing to become the Avengers of the Supernatural. This group of monstrous Avengers teams with the Uncanny Avengers against Mojo and then disbands five minutes later, which is a shame because I would spend good cash money to read about this team on a regular basis.
So there you have it, some classic monsters joining forces with the super heroes that share their world. We’re sure many more monstrous adventure are on the way to the Marvel Universe, so remember, sometimes the things that go bump in the night are just as brave and selfless as the bright and shiny super heroes that get all the press. So be kind to the shambling, snarling creatures of darkness, they deserve love too. Excelsior!