Tournament of Terror Round of 16!
Welcome to the first proper round of the Longbox Graveyard Tournament of Terror. Thanks to everyone who voted to set our field of sixteen! In the end, there was a pretty clear divsion between the top fourteen monsters and the rest of the field, letting us go forward with clear voters’ favorties plus two write-ins based on reader comments. So before we get to the bracket, join me in bidding a not-so-fond farewell to Man-Wolf, Brother Voodoo, Satana, the Zombie, the Living Mummy, Scarecrow, the Golem, and It! The Living Colossus.
(Poor It! scored but a single vote … and then only after I went to Twitter to plead his case).
All right, on to the main event.
In years past, I’ve seeded our tournaments according to the selection round vote, but this has lead to static and predictable tournaments, with the higher seeds naturally marching through the early rounds. This time — given that our topic is monsters, and given that monsters are all about chaos and mayhem — I randomized the seeds of the qualifying creatures. It could have been a disaster, but the RNG gods were on-point, yielding some intriguing brackets and tasty first-round match-ups.
Let’s get to it! Please vote for your favorite monster in each of the eight contests below, then join me back here in a week for tournament results and voting in the round of eight!
The Match Ups!
Man-Bat: Punch line? Unwise line extension? Doesn’t matter — Man-Bat is in our tournament! Wikipedia credits Man-Bat’s creation to Frank Robbins, Neal Adams, and Julius Schwartz, and also notes his first appearance was in 1970 (earlier than I would have guessed). I remembered Man-Bat from his short-lived solo series in the mid-seventies, which ran just long enough to qualify Man-Bat for our ballot. And the world is better for it! He’s a freaking bat guy! And he fights Batman! And he got his powers from injecting himself with a bat extract. If someone injected themselves with a Batman extract, would they become Man-Bat-Man? (I need that book!). A bit of good luck awarded Man-Bat the #1 seed in our tournament … immediately offset by being matched with a #16 seed Swamp Thing! Alas, poor Man-Bat …
Swamp Thing: Top vote-getter in our preliminary voting, and the odds-on favorite to win it all. The immortal creation of the late and deeply-missed team of Len Wein and Bernie Wrightston, blessed by later and brilliant re-invention by Alan Moore, Swamp Thing isn’t just a great horror comics character, he is one of the all-time great comics characters of any genre.
Vampirella: I didn’t try to sneak Vampirella into my house when I first started buying comics at twelve years old — the Warren books in general were pushing my parental luck, and Vampirella surely would have been a bridge too far. Character creation is credited to my horror godfather, Forrest J. Ackerman, but I doubt we’d still be buying Vampirella comics without the costume design by Trina Robbins and Frank Frazetta’s cover work. Vampirella started off as a “horror host” character before being developed into a protagonist by Archie Goodwin — so I suppose a vote for Vampirella can serve as a vote for her Warren stablemates Uncle Creepy and Cousin Eerie, too.
Fin Fang Foom: Got into the field as an Editor’s Choice, as he failed the series headlining requirement, but gets a pass because of his Jack Kirby pedigree and those ludicrous, giant blue shorts. He’s supposed to show up in the Shang-Chi movie but you know the film version will never measure up against the original. Fin Fang Foom enters our tournament as the unofficial standard-bearer for decades of one-and-done monsters from Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko in Marvel’s pre-superhero days.
Blade the Vampire Slayer: The most memorable of the supporting cast from Tomb of Dracula, Blade has more than held his own, spinning off into several solo series, and most memorably transitioning to film in a series of movies that (along with X-Men) arguably birthed Marvel’s modern cinematic presence. A vampire who hunts vampires is cool enough by itself — when you mix in all of Blade’s vampire-fighting gadgets and add in the “daywalker” business you have a rich character that maybe still hasn’t lived up to his full potential. A new film has been announced and I expect Blade’s best days are still to come.
Werewolf (Werewolf by Night): Every time I remember this character’s name is Jack Russell, I can’t help but think he should be Terrier By Night. The Hardest Working Werewolf in Show Business (he never takes a night off, baby!), Werewolf By Night was one of the more successful 70s Marvel horror books, running 40-odd issues and assorted Giant-Sizes.
Morbius, the Living Vampire: Got his start as a super-villain, and sported a Gil Kane-designed supersuit pretty much throughout his career. He’s got a bit of everything — there’s a mad scientist angle, the anti-hero angle, of course all the vampire stuff, and super-hero origins that made him easier to cross-over with mainstream Marvel books than was the case with Marvel’s other monsters. He’s pretty irredeemably evil in his black & white Vampire Tales appearances.
Ghost Rider: Born of the Satanic Panic era of Marvel comics, Ghost Rider has remained more relevant than many of his contemporary characters thanks to frequent reinvention. Not every reboot has been for the best (and those Nic Cage films didn’t help), but Ghost Rider continues to get times at bat. A burning skull on a flaming motorcycle will always be kewl.
Frankenstein (Monster of Frankenstein): Frankenstein got his book as part of Marvel’s “try everything” horror explosion of the 1970s. Hey, he’s public domain, why not? He got his solo series start under Gary Friedrich and Mike Ploog (Marvel’s horror book go-to guy) in what was initially a fairly faithful gothic-era adaptation; later he would come to the present day, where he’d cross-over with Marvel’s superhero characters (rarely to good effect). More recently, he was part of Phil Coulson’s Howling Commandos … poor Frankenstein can never die.
Solomon Grundy: A “play-in” monster who wasn’t part of our initial ballot, but was one of the best suggestions to come out of our reader comments. His solo series was brief, but it was longer than Man-Bat, so he’s in! Plus he brings an additional DC Comics presence to a Marvel-heavy tournament, AND he traces his origins to a 1944 Green Lantern story by Alfred Freakin’ Bester … so he’ll also serve for all the forgotten monsters of Golden Age Comics. And no, it doesn’t matter that “Grundy” doesn’t really rhyme with “Monday!”
Hellboy: I admitted to a DC and Marvel Bronze Age fixation when I put together the first contenders of this tournament, but even that doesn’t excuse overlooking Hellboy, the singular and intriguing creation by Mike Mignola who has also enjoyed his share of film success. His series has demons, monsters, weird science, Nazis … really, I hang my head in shame for failing to mention him. So into the field he goes!
Man-Thing: Eternally the “other” swamp monster, but don’t sleep on Man-Thing. He polled exceptionally well in our first voting, and he has a Steve Gerber pedigree. Plus, with out Man-Thing there would be no Giant-Sized Man-Thing jokes.
Dracula (Tomb of Dracula): The Wolfman/Colan/Palmer run is an all-timer, though little remembered today outside of places like Longbox Graveyard. Had one of the longest headlining runs of the characters in our tournament.
Son of Satan: Exhibit A in any survey of “Books You Could Never Make Today,” I always loved that Damien Hellstrom was shocked to discover that he was Satan’s son. I mean, the guy has a horned haircut, a pentagram on his chest, and the name of the book is freaking SON OF SATAN! His solo series was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it affair, but Steve Gerber (the patron saint of weird and abandoned characters) made room for Damien in the Defenders, where he probably enjoyed his best years.
Godzilla: I don’t know if giant monsters really fit with “horror” monsters, but Godzilla has appeared on more than one cover of Famous Monsters magazine, and that’s good enough for me. His Marvel Comics run in the 1970s was better than it had and right to be (and he fought the Avengers, the Champions, the Fantastic Four, and S.H.I.E.L.D. to a standstill), and of course Godzilla has had a long comics career at other publishers, as well.
The Demon: One of several off-kilter books Jack Kirby created at DC after bolting Marvel in the 1970s, the Demon was a bit of a bastard child. Kirby reportedly had little interest in horror characters, and fans may well wonder why we got the Demon instead of more Fourth World stories. But considered on his own, the Demon has much to offer, from his penchant for rhyme through the opportunity his stories provided for Kirby to draw Arthurian knights and monsters.
That’s the field! Vote early, vote often, tell your friends, and explain your hardest choices in the comments section, below!
TOMORROW: Marvel Value Stamps!