Sunday, October 05, 2008

Decades before the mighty superheroes dominated box office draw, there was once an era where the mythic monsters of literary lore were the big screen kings! It was so long ago that star names, like Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, were lit in lights, celebrated for bringing to life (or undead) characters conceived before the turn of the century.

The tradition of modern Western horror, highlighted by characters like Dracula and Frankenstein's Monster, is but another piece of the historic puzzle that led to the gestation of superheroes.
Monsters marched boldy across the pages of pulp adventures, progressing naturally from there into the colourful format of comics! So natural was this progression that even urban mystery characters, like Batman, clashed with bizarre creatures eventually moreso than the Dick Tracy-inspired crime bosses associated with the character.

The presence of the macabre and sinister would be forever changed by one man - Dr. Frederic Wertham - author of, Seduction of the Innocent.
His postulations blamed the popularity of comic books for juvenile delinquency and a host of other moral quandries guaranteed to inspire fear in the hearts of 1950s conservative Americans. The consequences of his work conspired with corresponding congressional hearings that damned comics to self-regulation and excessive censorship. Horror was stripped of it's dramatic devices, reduced to a degree where major publishers of the time, such as EC Comics, were doomed to failure.

With the 1970's came growing acceptance of counter-cultural themes and a new era of horror comic books. The genre exploded in unison with similar movements occuring in cinema, giving birth to memorable mainstream characters like; Ghost Rider, Swamp Thing, Morbius, Etrigan, and a host of others!

Following is a catalogue of previous Infinite Wars entries that boast the modern integration of monsters into the superhero domain. These characters manage to remain ever-present, now simply a part of the fabric of these fantastic worlds. One can't help but wonder, however, what might have been had Wertham's sensational claims been recognised for what they were.
In a time where horror comics are again making a return from the grave (with popular titles like; The Walking Dead, Marvel Zombies, BPRD...) it's hard not to reflect on how the superhero's dominance might have been changed in an industry where companies like EC could have remained a consistent presence. Food for thought!

Captain America #408 (October 1992)
"Dark Dawn" Gruenwald/Levins

The deadly Nightshade teams with Dredmund, lord of the werewolves, in a sinister scheme to turn the people of Massachusetts into werewolves -- including the super-soldier himself, Captain America!

Fortunately for him the combined might of he, Man-Wolf John Jameson, Wolfsbane, Wolverine and others sees the day saved, but before Cap can be cured of his lycanthropy there's another shocking surprise in store!

Unbenknownst to he, a secret war is being waged by the evil spirit of Adam Warlock, Magus! Creating sinister doppelgangers of Earth's greatest heroes, Magus sends his shadows out to do battle with their counterparts.
Suffering fatigue of battle and Nightshade's cure, can Cap defeat his dastardly doppelganger, or is it curtains for America's greatest warrior?

Steel #20 (October 1995)
"Lethal Tendencies" Diaz/Flores

John Henry Irons was a man with many skeletons in his closet. Having moved to Metropolis to escape his past as an advanced weapons designer, he unceremoniously finds the BG-60 energy cannon in the present as part of a gangwar. Inspired by Superman, he turns his expertise to developing a suit of weapon that makes him a man of steel.

Having overcome humble beginnings in the ghetto; Irons is emotionally motivated to investigate when a high school coach, who was crucial to steering him away from violence and drugs, goes missing. He fears the worst, having discovered the coach's car hidden in the backyard of the Voodoo Crew.

Instead of a deceased friend, Steel discovers the slaughter of the entire crew, along with a brutal vigilante calling himself Lethal. Despite their ethical differences, the two heroes team-up to the follow the clues, finding a sleezy sociallite, and a restaurant venture that is dying to have the heroes for dinner...

Hawkman #33 (December 2004)
"Earth and Sky" Gray/Palmiotti/Smith

Hawkman and Hawkgirl have made the trek from their new home in St. Roch to visit The Big Apple, New York City; where meetings are held by the Justice Society of America.
The pair decide to follow-up a lead on a mysterious "golem" from Batman, but get more than they bargained for when their flight is interrupted by an exploding helicopter in the Manhattan airspace!

The chopper, carrying a very special cargo, was on it's way to an experimental research facility on Riker's Island. A Dr. Kinetti conducts experiments that seek to learn more about the super-criminal mind and physiology, but his unorthodox and wreckless behaviour has unleashed one of these evils, and he's none-too-pleased. Born on a Monday, he is -- Solomon Grundy!

52 #44 (May 2007)
"Deaths in the Family" Johns/Morrison/Rucka/Waid/Giffen/Darrows

Black Adam's nation of Khandaq has been plunged into a plague of darkness, and Adam's young protégé, Osiris, believes his committing a murder with the powers granted to him is what's responsible.

Convinced to give-up his powers, which free him of his condition as a cripple, Osiris is quickly slaughtered by Sobek, a crocodilian creature he rescued from the sinister mad scientist, Dr. Sivana.

Sobek reveals himself to really be Yurrd the Unknown, member of "The Four Ages of Dread Of Apokolips in it's anguished, bloody morning."
The NEW Monster Society, and remaining three horsemen of Khandaq's apocalypse reveal themselves, and launch their sleeping attack on Black Adam.

Spider-man Family #3 (August 2007)
"Electrical Problems!" Tobin/Alary

Bombarded by cosmic rays, the quartet of Reed Richards, Susan Storm, her brother Johnny, and test-pilot Ben Grimm are transformed in bizarre ways to become Marvel's first family -- the Fantastic Four!

The idols of millions, the FF would expand their membership over the years to include many allies, but alas, it never quite worked out for Spider-man, who early in his career attempted to join the team -- a point of lasting ridicule for the Johnny Storm, the Human Torch.

Co-existing on the same turf, Spidey just happens to be swinging through downtown as the team struggle to combat the giant-sized menace of Gomdulla, the living mummy monolith! Can Spidey provide the valuable assist, or are things destined to take yet another sour turn for the well meaning wall-crawler?

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