Iron Man: “It’s good to meet you, Dr. Banner. Your work on anti-electron collisions is unparalleled. And I’m a huge fan of the way you lose control and turn into an enormous green rage monster.” – The Avengers
One of fiction’s oldest tales is the story of a terrifying monster rampage that can only be stopped by a brave hero. But what happens when a monster becomes a hero? When a seemingly wicked creature becomes a symbol of truth, justice, yadda-yadda-yadda.
Who are the top 5 monstrous superheroes? Let’s start this monster mash and find out!
Played by Ray Chase and Dee Bradley Baker
Jason Blood: [transforming] “Gone, gone, the form of man / Arise the demon…”
Etrigan: “ETRIGAN! [conjures a sword] Once more with words of meat and rhyme comes Etrigan the Slayer, just in time!” – Justice League: Dark
In Camelot’s darkest hour, Merlin summoned forth a demon named Etrigan to fight the forces of Morgan le’ Fay. When the battle was finished Merlin bound Etrigan to a knight named Jason Blood. The binding made Blood immortal, allowing him to survive into the modern era.
Jason Blood and Etrigan dealt with countless mystical menaces, eventually attracting the Justice League’s attention. While the demon and host work with the team, they have never been allowed to join. Jason Blood and Etrigan were eventually recruited into a spinoff team called Justice League Dark, which opposes magical threats.
Etrigan has yet to get his own film. He’s appeared in several DC cartoons, cameoed in Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, and was a supporting character in Justice League: Dark. He’s also part of our list of superhero movies to make next, so hey, maybe check that out.
#4 Swamp Thing
Played by Dick Durock and Mark Hamill
Jason Woodrue: “You can’t kill a vegetable by shooting it in the head!” – Saga of the Swamp Thing #21
Dr. Alec Holland was a scientist who created a formula that caused plants to grow in hostile environments. A local gang stole the research and destroyed the lab. Dr. Holland was covered in the formula and set on fire. He fled the lab and jumped into a nearby swamp, where he died.
Unknown to Holland or the gang, the swamp was home to a plant elemental later called Swamp Thing. The formula and traumatic death caused Holland’s mind to imprint on Swamp Thing, making it think he was a mutated Holland. Swamp Thing avenged Holland’s death by destroying the gang. He has since resumed protecting the swamp from mundane and mystical threats.
Fans of 80’s movies might remember Wes Craven’s adaptation of Swamp Thing, which was popular enough to spawn a sequel, a cartoon, and a TV spinoff. DC Universe will debut a new Swamp Thing show in 2019 with Friday the 13th’s Derek Mears in the lead role.
Played by Ron Perlman and David Harbour
Hecate: “We were born to walk in greater worlds!”
Hellboy: “This world’s fine by me.” – Hellboy: Blood and Thunder
A squad of Allied soldiers investigated an island where Nazis were hiding during the dying days of WWII. The Nazis were working with the immortal sorcerer Rasputin to summon a demon. The allies drove the Nazis off, but not before an infant demon was summoned. This wasn’t just any demon, but the Antichrist.
A professor accompanying the soldiers adopted the baby, hoping nurture would overcome nature. He nicknamed the baby Hellboy and raised him under the auspices of his organization, The Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense. Hellboy eventually joined the B.P.R.D. and became one of its top agents, fighting monsters across the planet.
Hellboy received a self-titled movie in 2004 with Guillermo del Toro directing and Ron Perlman in the title role. Pearlman reprised his role for the sequel and two direct-to-DVD animated movies. A reboot titled Hellboy is scheduled for 2019 with David Harbour in the lead role.
#2 The Thing
Played by Michael Chiklis and Jamie Bell
Doctor Doom: “It’s time to end this!”
The Thing: [smashing through a wall] Actually Vic, it’s clobberin’ time! [punches Doom across the room] “Damn, I’ve been waiting to do that.” – Fantastic Four (2005)
The Thing was Marvel’s original monstrous superhero. Ben Grimm was a NASA pilot who agreed to fly a rogue mission with scientists Reed Richards, Susan Storm, and Sue’s annoying brother, Johnny Storm. Unfinished shielding exposed the crew to cosmic radiation. Ben received a larger dose than the others. The four mutated and developed powers based on the classical elements. Ben turned into a super strong golem who was later called The Thing.
The Thing struggled with his horrific appearance, but eventually came to terms with it. He’s fought alongside almost every hero in the Marvel universe and is considered its most liked hero. The Thing frequently gets turned back into a human, but always quickly reverts.
Michael Chiklis played The Thing in 2005’s Fantastic Four and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Jamie Bell took the role in Fant4stic. Sadly, John Carpenter’s The Thing does not star Ben Grimm, though now I really want to see a crossover between the two.
#1 The Hulk
Played by Mark Ruffalo, Edward Norton, and Lou Ferrigno
Detective Mayes: “See… I don’t think there was a cover-up. I don’t think it was a lie. Bruce Banner was dead. Bruce Banner can die. But then… there’s that other guy.” – The Immortal Hulk #1
The greatest monstrous superhero is everyone’s favorite not-so-jolly green giant: The Hulk.
Dr. Bruce Banner was a scientist working on an experimental gamma bomb for the U.S. Army. While testing the bomb Banner noticed a teenager had snuck into the test site and rushed off to rescue him. He got the teen into a trench but was caught in the blast and exposed to catastrophic amounts of radiation.
The radiation caused Banner to become an enormous green monster when he is angry or scared. This wouldn’t be so bad, but the monster form pulled a Mr. Hyde and unleashed all of Banner’s suppressed anger as the Hulk. The Hulk has been both hero and villain, usually ending up on the side of good.
The Hulk’s monster credibility was recently boosted when audiences learned that Hulk is immortal and will resurrect even if Banner is killed. This would be good, but Hulk has grown steadily more villainous, to the point where he could star in his own horror movie.
These five monsters are paragons who us that being grotesque or strange doesn’t make one evil. But there is a reason why the word “monster” has negative connotations. Check back next week as we look at five villains who take monstrous to the next level.
Jared Bounacos has written for Movie Rewind since 2017.