Scariest Comic Book Characters
Halloween is right around the corner, so it’s time for my annual sppoooooooky column highlighting something scary in the world of nerddom. Seeing as how last year I took at look at some scary comics on the stands, I figured this year I’d mix things up and feature some of the scariest characters in comics. These are some of the worst villains, monsters, and even heroes you’d ever meet, and not ones who you’d care to meet in a darkened room.
Few malevolent spirits are as driven and twisted as Dodge, the antagonist of Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’ Locke and Key series. Obsessed with obtaining the Omega key, Dodge has committed horrible acts on the Locke Family and their friends to get what he wants. This supernatural enemy is a creature of pure hate, and for many, possessing the youngest Locke child was the last straw.
Dodge is the perfect example of forces beyond our control messing with us. He’s everywhere, pulling the strings behind the scenes of Locke and Key, and driving us all insane by the fact that many members of the Locke family are powerless to stop him. Surprisingly, unlike most villains, the more we learn about Dodge’s history the more interesting he becomes. The entirety of Locke and Key rests on Dodge’s evil motivations to retrieve the Omega Key, and with the clock ticking down to the final issue of Hill and Rodriguez’ Eisner winning series, we can only guess what horrible fate lies in store for the Locke family.
Doctor Destiny has long been one of the more mainstream villains of the Justice League, and while his ability to manipulate dreams makes him an almost Freddy Krueger-ish bad guy, it’s his appearance in the first story arc of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman that earns him a spot on the list. Recently escaped from Arkham Asylum and in possession of Morpheus’ ruby, Destiny (real name John Dee) goes on rampage in a diner, causing the patrons inside to commit hideous acts until they are all murdered or commit suicide.
Destiny’s house of horrors goes on for a full day, leaving no survivors in its wake. When Morpheus finally arrives and fails to subdue the madman, Destiny shatters the ruby, believing that it will kill the lord of dreams. Unfortunately it has the opposite effect on Morpheus, and returns him to his full power. Morpheus spares Destiny’s life and places him back in Arkham Asylum.
While Doctor Destiny hasn’t been nearly as horrific since this 1989 story, the levels of depravity and evil he reaches here earns him a spot on the list.
The avatar of The Rot, Anton Arcane is one nasty individual, inside and out. Not only is he obsessed with death and rotting flesh, but he’s also tried numerous times to sacrifice his niece Abigail to the Rot. While his role in the “Rotworld” crossover was little more than as a cackling villain, the issues of Swamp Thing and Animal Man leading up to it showcase how horrifying and evil the villain is.
Crimson Mist Batman
Yes, the Batman is on this list. But not just any Batman. This Batman is a true creature of the night, a supernatural being that can fly, has superhuman strength, and needs to feed of off the blood of others to survive…
Yes, I’m talking about the Batman from the Elseworlds trilogy of books consisting of Red Rain, Bloodstorm, and Crimson Mist. While the opening installment finds our hero becoming a vampire so he may battle Dracula in Gotham, the following two episodes find Bruce Wayne trying, and ultimately failing, to combat the growing bloodlust within him now that he has become a vampire. While his abilities have been greatly augmented by his new condition, his personal “no killing” code directly conflicts with his survival.
After killing the Joker and feeding on him in a fit of rage, the Batman orders Alfred and Commissioner Gordon to stake him through the heart. However, years later, with Gotham in chaos, Alfred makes the decision to remove the stake from his master’s heart, and unleashes a Batman that is far more terrifying and violent than ever before. Driven mad by the isolation and hunger, the Batman begins brutally killing the villains that have been plaguing Gotham in his absence. In true horror movie fashion, the Batman taunts his enemies and former allies with his eerie abilities, but like all tragic monsters, there still remains a small part of Bruce Wayne within this monster. While the story is scary enough, it wouldn’t be nearly as effective if the great Kelly Jones wasn’t drawing these tales. His haunting panels have stuck with me since the very first time I’ve read them, and stand as his finest work to date.
Rick Remender’s run on Venom accomplished a lot of things: it created a new host for the symbiote, gave long time Amazing Spider-Man background character Flash Thompson a chance for the spotlight, and even placed the character on an Avengers team. However, the most important thing it accomplished was taking a C-List Spider-Man villain and making him into one of the most vile, horrific, and downright evil villains in the Marvel universe.
His real identity unknown, this version of the Jack O’Lantern was raised by the third Crime Master, and served as a member of his “Savage Six”. While all of the men who wore the giant flaming pumpkin head had a few screws loose, this one didn’t have any left. As a child, he mistreated animals and even killed his parents, and he now claims to have killed every person who wore the costume before him (his way of “cleaning up the brand”). After being horribly disfigured in his first encounter with Flash Thompson’s Venom, the villain went to a higher extreme, kidnapping Flash’s ladylove Betty Brant.
But this is chump change compared to the act the character commits in Venom #11. Forced to travel cross-country with Thompson, the two enemies stop at a local diner for some food. After excusing himself to go to the bathroom, the villain returns and explains to Flash his origin story, which includes his preferred way of execution: opening up victim’s skulls, and turning their heads into “Jack O’Lanterns”. Lantern’s chilling back story grows even more horrific when the final page reveals the fate of the owners of the diners, whose eyes mysteriously shine like candles in the shadows of their kitchen….
Is it any surprise that the Clown Prince of Crime has made it onto this list? From The Killing Joke, to Heath Ledger’s portrayal in The Dark Knight, to the more current “Death of the Family” storyline, the Joker has a long list of deeds that qualify him being on the list. Of all the villains that lurk in Gotham City, he’s the one that causes the most vacation time to be filed amongst Gotham’s finest when he makes his presence known. There’s no one moment that grants him a spot here, it’s really all of them. From kidnapping Commissioner Gordon and crippling his daughter, to taunting the Batman and his allies, to committing mass murder, the Joker is simply put, one of the scariest (if not THE scariest) villains in comics.