Monsters are a cornerstone of Marvel Comics, partly through Jack Kirby’s special affinity for them and the industry’s roots in pulp horror. Hulking brutes and animalistic heroes populate the multiverse in droves, some more popular and recurring than others. Readers can find them on the rosters of just about every team, and every hero has fought more than their share of beasts and critters.
Some monstrous Marvels, like Beast, Blade, or Sasquatch, use their minds to keep any bestial ruthlessness at bay (usually). Others, like Toad or Carnage, lean into their abilities and attributes hard, for better or worse. Then there are those monsters in the middle, whose struggles to find, maintain, or understand their humanity show readers how misunderstood they really are, reminding us not to hate or fear anyone for their physical traits.
10 League Of Monsters Members Were Already Misunderstood
Marvel’s spookiest monsters form the Legion of Monsters, whose mission is to protect other misunderstood creatures from undue harm. Led by Morbius, their shifting roster has seen werewolves, mummies, and fish-men galore. Unsurprisingly, they aren’t well received when they go out in public.
A few members were already established heroes when they joined, but Manphibian, the Living Mummy, and even Werewolf by Night had misleading reputations as vicious monsters. Most members joined with hopes of curing their conditions, but they usually find they’re stronger when they embrace their gifts.
9 Classic Hulk Was Surprisingly Careful
Some Hulks are actually very easy to understand. Doc Green is Banner’s fully integrated self and speaks his mind often. Joe Fixit lives up to his own hype and the Devil Hulk’s intentions are noble, but his methods are frightening. It’s the big monosyllabic green guy that people tend to misjudge.
Hulk had reportedly never killed a civilian prior to the events of World War Hulk. In fact, Banner had control before a gamma bomb to the face caused the off-page tragedy which broke Hulk’s roughly 36-year non-lethal streak. Other Hulks have said more recently that the dim-witted green hulk had been keeping that streak intentionally, and with great care. Not exactly “rage monster” behavior.
8 Groot Has Communication Problems
The original Groot invaded from the Planet X in Tales to Astonish #13, written by Stan Lee and Larry Lieber with pencils by Jack Kirby and inks by Dick Ayers. While he was definitely a monster, he stated his intentions clearly on the cover of the issue and isn’t as hard to understand as the updated version.
The Groot fans have grown to know and love, since his big screen debut, is among the hardest characters to understand in all fiction, given his manner of speech. Several conflicting explanations for Groot’s limited vocabulary exist, including puberty, despite his royal background and education. Regardless, the untrained ear cannot understand the nuance of his repeated self-identification.
7 The Lizard Isn’t In Control
Curt Connors is a good guy. A brilliant scientist, he dedicated his life to researching solutions for amputees and those born with physical deformities. It was his passion and hope that created the serum that turns him into the Lizard, a persona that seems to retain Connors’s intellect but not his mind.
The “reptilian brain” is the title given to the brain regions that control base instincts. Like a reptile, the cold-blooded Lizard seeks only to create more of his own kind and display dominance. If every hero he fought focused their efforts on changing him back into his human form instead of violence, he might even kick his Jekyll-like dependence on the serum.
6 The Wendigo Is More Than A Monster
Inspired by Indigenous North American folklore, the Wendigo is a monster that forms when a person’s soul is corrupted by cannibalism. The first to appear in Marvel Comics were tragic Hulk villains, but that sense of tragedy and weight was dropped in later versions to soften the morbidity.
Somewhere along the way, Marvel added to the myth, determining that the curse could be transferred by a bite from a Wendigo. Since then there have been a lot more of them and the impact of seeing one is slightly lessened as the meaning of the monster’s story is lost. If this new rule is ever retconned away, a few stories get a lot darker.
5 Venom Was An Outcast
Marvel’s original symbiote began life on Earth as a costume and quickly bonded with Eddie Brock, sharing his hatred for Peter Parker. When Venom became an antihero, the focus stayed mostly on Eddie, with the symbiote talking very little about its own backstory, if at all.
Knull’s invasion of Earth stirred up a lot of old memories the symbiote hadn’t shared, recoloring the symbiote itself as a rebel and a hero. Despite its fearsome appearance, the Venom symbiote has sought to do right for most of its life. One could argue that bad humans are to blame for their occasional homicidal tendencies.
4 Thing Can’t Catch A Break
In his first appearance, someone called Ben Grimm an inhuman nightmare. It was an uncharacteristic fit of egotistical rage that led his pal Susan to call him a Thing, which he later embraced. His heart earned him his Ever-Lovin Blue-Eyed nickname, but even that backfires. Most people also don’t comprehend his vast strength or multiversal importance.
In Zeb Wells and Clayton Crain’s 2010 Carnage #1-5, several Avengers make fun of Ben for talking about himself, his backstory, and his morals. Those values, however, led him to fight for the safety of civilians endangered by the civil war and kept him tight with the folks of Yancy Street, despite all those who still fear him for the monster he looks like.
3 The Zombie Can’t Seem To Atone
Simon Garth was a real jerk. A cutthroat businessman, he regularly mistreated his employees and anyone he met until his gardener killed him. After falling into the hands of a voodoo cult, the Zombie was born. One would think the horrors he faced in death outweigh his life’s deeds at this point.
The Zombie was a villain for a long while, acting as a servant for mystics or vampires with ill intentions. When he was able to regain control of himself, he tried to make amends with all the people he’d wronged during his life. The Zombie looks and sometimes acts like a monster but all he wants is the peace and atonement he’s constantly denied.
2 Wolfsbane Was Mistaken For A Different Kind Of Monster
Wolfsbane was born in Scotland and found her way to the New Mutants through a series of tragedies. Her time with the team was full of repressed complex feelings, and was made more difficult by the influence of the Brood and an overly zealous Professor X. It’d be nice to say things have gotten better, but her family and faith are constantly in peril.
It all began with a misunderstanding. Rahne Sinclair’s mutant ability makes her a lycanthrope, but the deeply religious people of her town wouldn’t believe it. They chased her out, believing she was a demon, but left her alone in the world with all the fears of her strict upbringing.
1 Man-Thing Cannot Speak
First appearing in Savage Tales #1, written by Roy Thomas with art by Barry Smith, the Man-Thing is more than a pulpy swamp monster. The accident that caused his transformation also granted him an empathetic power to burn people with their own fear. Unfortunately for him, Ted doesn’t want to hurt anyone.
Coincidence or not, the swamp Ted crashed into is part of the Nexus of All Realities, making Man-Thing its guardian. Readers know of his plight and his importance to Earth-616, but too often do the people he counters emphasize the importance of his underlying message. Man-Thing has always stood against fear itself, especially fear based on prejudice.
Next: 10 Best Ghost Stories In Marvel Comics
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