Monsters Unleashed, the newest Marvel event begins this week. The massive crossover written by Cullen Bunn and five of the publisher’s biggest artists - including Adam Kubert and Steve McNiven - promises to unleash all sizes of terror across the superhero universe. In interviews the creators have stated they plan to include as many different Marvel monsters">monsters as possible, as well as some new ones of their own invention. It’s a promising event, as well as one that is firmly rooted at the start of the company’s more than five decades of existence.
Before Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and Stan Lee started building the Marvel Universe, they were focused on telling monster stories. There’s even a clear point of crossover on the cover of Fantastic Four #1 in which Marvel’s First Family battles Giganto, an enormous monstrosity much like those found in prior months, on their debut adventure. Monsters have never really gone anywhere either. While the focus quickly shifted to superheroes, monsters have regularly featured as villains and misunderstood protagonists in those books and in many titles of their own. Fans have even seen some favorite characters converted into monsters, like The Punisher in “Frankencastle”.
Before Monsters Unleashed begins, we’re looking back at the 5 best monsters to ever appear in the pages of Marvel Comics to date. These are the most famous and influential horrors to ever impact this ever-expanding world of stories.
Created by: Tomoyuki Tanaka, Ishiro Honda, and Eiji Tsubaraya
Adapted by: Doug Moench and Herb Trimpe
First Appearance: Godzilla, King of the Monsters #1
Favorite Appearance: Godzilla, King of the Monsters #23
Many new readers may be surprised by this entry, but Godzilla once roamed the oceans of Marvel as well as Toho Studios in his very own series. This wasn’t just a Godzilla comic published by Marvel either; he regularly interacted with characters in Marvel Comics. Dum Dum Dugan, Nick Fury’s right-hand man, was the kaiju’s number one antagonist. However, the most memorable issue concerned a showdown in New York City between Godzilla and Daily Bugle publisher J. Jonah Jameson. It’s the sort of thing too wild not to be true. Godzilla is one of the most recognizable monsters in the world today and he left big footprints even after departing Marvel Comics.
Created by: Gerry Conway, Gray Morrow, Roy Thomas, and Stan Lee
First Appearance: Savage Tales #1
Favorite Appearance: Adventure Into Fear #19
There’s a chicken-egg type argument that follows Man-Thing and Swamp Thing wherever they go, but the truth is that comics are better off with both of them around. Man-Thing is a far more monstrous entity whose humanity is as faint as his memories of being scientist Ted Sallis. Instead, this creature functions as a mindless, but well-intentioned entity that can be exploited in a wide range of stories. This has encouraged a constantly changing cast to exist around him and helped to create other classic Marvel elements like the Nexus of Realities and Howard the Duck. Man-Thing’s burning touch and reflection of humanity has also led to some of Steve Gerber’s finest work as a satirist. From the 1970s to today, Man-Thing has slumped through the Marvel wetlands and delivered entertainment far beyond his own ability to appreciate.
Created by: Stan Lee and John Buscema
First Appearance: Silver Surfer #3
Favorite Appearance: Doctor Strange and Doctor Doom: Triumph and Torment
This may be a controversial pick, but Mephisto looks and acts as monstrous as anyone in the entire Marvel Universe. A superhero version of the devil, he has been retconned into an extradimensional being to avoid controversy, but readers still know that this is the best stand-in for Satan around. The beauty of Mephisto is his flexibility. He was originally introduced as a Silver Surfer antagonist and has continued to operate on a cosmic scale, playing an important role in stories like The Infinity Gauntlet. Yet he is also able to interact on a personal level, facing off against characters like Spider-Man and Doctor Doom over a single soul. Just like the devil of epic poetry, Mephisto can function to explore cosmic questions and the decisions made by individuals. That flexibility makes him truly great.
Created by: Bram Stoker
Adapted by: Gerry Conway and Gene Colan
First Appearance: Tomb of Dracula #1
Favorite Appearance: Uncanny X-Men #159
Dracula dwarfs even Godzilla both in terms of cultural impact and his presence at Marvel. He is the alpha and omega of the modern vampire, and has served as King of the Vampires whenever characters like the X-Men or Doctor Strange have faced off against the fiends, as well. Dracula isn’t just known for being a great superhero villain or making cameo appearances though. His own title Tomb of Dracula is renowned for great, short, horror stories and art. It’s also where fan favorite Blade made his debut along with a bevy of other Marvel supernatural characters. They say that heroes are only as good as their villains: Dracula has helped create plenty of new superheroes at Marvel, while raising the stakes for far more.
1. Fin Fang Foom
Created by: Jack Kirby and Stan Lee
First Appearance: Strange Tale #89
Favorite Appearance: Nextwave #2
Fin Fang Foom encapsulates just what it means to be a monster at Marvel Comics. On the surface Foom is an obvious creature. Powerful, destructive, and frightening in appearance, you only need to read a single appearance to know just what he is and how he works. Yet beneath that exterior lies multitudes. At various points in continuity, Foom has been intelligent or dumb, an alien or magical creature, vindictive annihilator or misguided behemoth. He can be transformed to tell so many stories, all without altering his stellar design. That’s probably why Foom has fought almost every notable hero at the publisher over the years. If there is an original monster that best represents the Marvel brand, then it has to be one of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee’s earliest creations: Fin Fang Foom.
Honorable Mention: Groot
Created by: Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, and Dick Ayers
First Appearance: Tales to Astonish #13
Favorite Appearance: Annihilation: Conquest - Starlord #2
While Groot has grown far beyond his roots into a beloved superhero, adventurer, and alien, we thought it was worth noting his origin as a Marvel monster. In his very first appearance, Groot was a mindless beast bent on destruction. It was only many years later that creators like Keith Giffen would start to reimagine him as a misunderstood alien of benign intentions. It’s one of the best face-turns in comics history considering how beloved Groot is throughout the world today. However, he’s still a notable monster, even if we wouldn’t dare call his current incarnation any such thing.