All this month Group Hug has been featuring horrific heroes and villains in our HeroClix and HorrorClix battles from Hellboy to Jason and Freddy. Last week’s episode went full monster with a very interesting match up of supernatural teams from Marvel Comics: the Midnight Sons vs. the Legion of Monsters. If you haven’t heard of either then definitely check out the video of the show above, and read on to learn about the Legion in all of its glory!
Today, the comic book world is dominated by superhero books (though there’s lots of other cool stuff out there too), but that wasn’t always the case. In the 40s and 50s, horror reigned supreme on the shelves with books like Eerie, Adventures into the Unknown, Tales from the Crypt, The Vault of Horror, The Haunt of Fear, and many others. With the rise of the Comics Code Authority and changing tides, horror went on the decline, only to resurface again in the 60s. Marvel Comics saw an opening in the market and jumped in with Tomb of Dracula in 1971 followed shortly thereafter by Dracula Lives, Monsters Unleashed, Tales of the Zombie, and Vampire Tales. Despite offering visually arresting reinterpretations of tales like Bram Stoker’s Dracula and spawning cool characters like Manphibian these books would quickly pass as readers’ trends shifted more and more to spandex and superpowers. However, the creatures of the “Legion of Monsters” would live on in later adventures!
Most horror stories featured solitary monstrous characters; sometimes villains and sometimes misunderstood anti-heroes. The “Legion” changed all that, bringing together disparate personalities in new and unique ways. While the title was used previously in early 70s horror books, the first true appearance of the Legion of Monsters took place in 1973’s Marvel Premiere #28 by writer Bill Mantlo and artist Frank Robbins. That story featured the unlikely meeting of Johnny Blaze (Ghost Rider), Man-Thing, Morbius, and Werewolf by Night when an unnatural earthquake deposited a mountain in the middle of Los Angeles. The terrain brought with it an alien being known as the Starseed who only wanted to help… but the monstrous natures of the titular foursome led to his almost immediate demise. In the Starseed’s death throes, it revealed to the quartet their shared pain of losing their humanity, which bound them into a loose confederation of monsters. And thus the “Legion” was born!
The Legion of Monsters laid low for a while, resurfacing from time to time as bit players in other characters’ stories. They got some to shine, though, with a series of one-shots in 2007 focusing on Morbius, Werewolf by Night, Man-Thing, and Satana, then as a major part of the “FrankenCastle” Punisher storyline in 2011 and in their own series in 2012. The latter two arcs featured the Monster Metropolis (with its own Hall of Monsters!), a home for all manner of creatures in the old Morlock tunnels led by Morbius, the Living Mummy, and Werewolf by Night. Even so far removed from the world, the monsters were never safe and had to deal with rampaging ancient monster hunters, the Japanese Hunter of Monster Special Force, Dracula, a virus that only affects monsters, and more. More recent Legion of Monsters appearances included cameos in the “Haunted Hulk” storyline and a Daredevil arc involving the Sons of the Serpent and Lucien Sinclair.
So, just who are the monsters belonging to this Legion? Most of the stories include Dr. Michael Morbius, otherwise known as Morbius the Living Vampire. He was a brilliant biochemist whose scientific experiments to cure himself of a blood illness resulted in a vampire-like state, and while he suffers from occasional uncontrollable bloodlust, he is still a genius and the brains behind Monster Metropolis. Somewhat more feral is Morbius’ longtime friend and rival, Werewolf by Night, the experienced lycanthrope once known as Jack Russell. Rounding out the main cast are the Man-Thing, a swamp creature, once Dr. Ted Sallis, whose touch burns those who feel fear, Manphibian, an amphibious alien with a strong sense of honor, and N’Kantu the Living Mummy, a 3,000 year old undead creature who’s surprisingly calm and serves as a voice of wisdom to the group. The team has also included the half-demon Satana, Simon “the Zombie” Garth, Frankenstein’s Monster, the patchwork revived corpse of the Punisher, and allies like Dr. Strange and Elsa Bloodstone.
If you were a fan of the Legion of Monsters, for a long time you had precious few options for collectibles. Sure you can find plenty of Ghost Rider toys and the occasional Morbius or Man-Thing, but the others rarely show up in plastic. Thankfully for miniatures fanatics, the mad folks behind HeroClix decided to unleash the Legion in the Amazing Spider-Man set back in 2013. A prominent sub-theme of the expansion, the Monsters recruited no fewer than 12 characters ranging from original members Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider, Morbius, Werewolf by Night, and Man-Thing to latter day additions like Frankenstein’s Monster and Manphibian, and even guest stars like Daimon Hellstrom and Franken-Castle! As you can imagine these figures featured unique sculpts and dials representing the characters’ monstrous, demonic, and alien natures with cool traits and fun special powers.
What’s your favorite Legion of Monsters appearance? Tell us in the comments below and tune in to Group Hug every Friday at 4pm Pacific on Geek and Sundry’s Twitch channel for live HeroClix games with unique special guests!
Image credit: Frank Robbins/Marvel Comics, Neal Adams/Magazine Management, Chris Samnee/Marvel Comics, Juan Doe/Marvel Comics, Scott Rubin