Dark Heroes

By AL J. Vermette


    They live within comic books, TV shows and movies.  They
fight the forces of evil with amazing powers, skill and strength.  
No they are not the men clad in red and blue spandex who are
loved by the people they help and save.  Stand for all things
American and given the keys to the city.  No... they are a much
darker brood of hero....those who hide in the shadows and
strike when needed.  Creatures who are at most... less then
even human, who are cursed to walk the Earth as beasts and
are the classic anti-hero's of story telling.  They are The Dark
Hero's of the comics who are vampires, monsters and big green
mean Hulks who are not looking for the glory or the girl but in
their own little way have changed the face of crime-fighting
forever.  They are disfigured humans, demons and avenging
angels who take it upon themselves to right the wrongs of
others....even if its not according to the law.  They are the bad..
bad boys of the hero world and for the horror genre, they are
just the thing that makes darker heros so loved by us horror
fans.  Note to all readers, some of these dark hero's have
allready been featured within our Creature Feature department
as others will someday also take their place among our
Creature Feature showcase of articles.


The Demons

Hellboy
    Created by writer and artist Mike Mignola in 1993, Hellboy tells the story
of a demon child who is found and raised by professor Trevor Bruttenholm
who teaches the little creature about right and wrong and good and evil.  
The child grows up to become a monster hunter and work for The Bureau
For Paranormal Research & Defense.  Hellboy from Dark Horse Comics is a
powerful creature and among his superhuman strengths, his bright red skin,
his filed down horns is his biggest asset of all, an over sized right hand made
of stone that can smash through anything.  Although Hellboy may not look it
from his scary demon appearance but this big bad ass looking monster is
really just a soft hearted guy on the inside.  He has a thing for cats...lots of
cats and a sweet spot for his girl Liz who in her own right has powers of her
own to start fires out of thin air.

    In 2004, Hellboy became a hit movie with genre actor Ron Perlman
stepping into the role of the big red guy.  The movie went on to spawn a
follow up film and two straight to DVD animated movies with the stars of the
live action films returning to voice the animated features.  Along with comics,
graphic novels and movies, Hellboy has also had his own video games and a
series of novels featuring the hero demon as well.  Not bad for the son of the
devil.

Spawn
    Like with Hellboy, Spawn is a creature from Hell but this nightmare was
once a man named Al Simmons (Yeah that's right a dark hero that has my
name) who through no fault of his own, was draged to hell and turned into a
hell-spawn by The Devil to do his bidding.  Ripped away from his wife and
child through death, now Simmons must return to Earth as this creature who
waits to be sent into battle as the leader of Hells army to fight for The Lord of
Darkness named here as Malebolgia.  In life, Al was a good man but his job
as an U.S. assinssn gave him no grace in God’s eyes and so he was sent
directly to Hell.  Now as Spawn, he only wants to be human again, see his
wife and little girl but his new asighnment as The Devil's solder keeps him
from those he loves.  Spawn is one of the most coolest of all the superhero's
ever made.  He is dark with a long flowing crimson cape that seems to float
on its own in the air.  His eyes glow a bright neon green and his voice is
deep, spooky and raw.  I dare to say that he is almost cooler than my
beloved Batman.

    Spawn created by artist Todd McFarlane was the top selling comic of
Image Comics since his debut in 1992.  In 1997 HBO ran an all adult
animated series of Spawn that was NOT for the kids.  "Spawn" the series
wasa very dark show with the lead character standing in the shadows most of
the time.  He was very scary and a well made series that ran from 1997 to
1999.  Also in 97 Spawn also had a live action feature film with Michael Jai
White as the dark hero and John Leguizamo as Spawns adversary the
creepy creature known only as Clown.  To help push his creation Todd
McFarlane started his own toy line to get the character of Spawn out into the
world with his own line of Spawn action figures.  Although Spawn rise to fame
was fast and he ruled the 1990s, Spawn sadly faded off and is not as seen
today as he once was. Yet his mark on the comic world is still ever present

Ghost Rider
    He is The Devil's bounty hunter known as The Ghost Rider.  They are
men who have made deals with the dark beast and now must do his bidding.  
Like Spawn, Ghost Rider is used as a tool to do as The Devil wants until he
beats Satan and uses his powers for a more noble cause.  Unlike Spawn who
must stay a monster hidden in the shadows or Hellyboy who was born a
demon, Ghost Rider can become human again and uses the creature within
him as his version of slipping into a costume only his face burns off and his
skull face is incased within a halo of fire.  In fact, not only is his head burning
but the flames also work their way down and over his motorcycle as well.  By
day, this dark hero is Johnny Blaze, stunt rider but when evil is a foot he
changes into The Ghost Rider and mounts his Hell Bike.  With black leather
biker jacket, chains as weapons and a bad ass train of thought, this hero
don't just bring the bad guy to justice as so much as do it and leave a lasting
impression on their soul forever.

    Published by Marvel Comics and created by Roy Thomas, Gary Friedrich
and artist Mike Ploog in 1972, Ghost Rider may have never become as big
as some of Marvel's other comic book titles like the ones of say Spider Man
or The Fantastic Four but his stake on fans of a more darker nature loved
the demon rider and in 2007 "Ghost Rider" the movie hit theaters with actor
Nicolas Cage playing the burnning skull hero.  In 2012 "Ghost Rider" was
followed by the very cool title of "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance" with
Cage returning to play the demon rider.


The Monsters

The Hulk
    Don't make him mad....you wouldn't like him when he's mad.  He's big
green and mean....he is The Hulk.  When doctor Bruce Banner exposes
himself to gamma radian he becomes something more than human whenever
his temper flares.  The once soft spoken man in his un-human rage becomes
a creature unlike anything seen before as he bursts out of his shirts (but
never his pants), his skin grows green and his body size grows like a football
player from Hell.  His power is unmatched by even the biggest army and
maybe the strongest hero ever created since Superman.

    Created in 1962 by comic legend Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby, "The
Incredible Hulk" comic book #1 hit stands in May of that year and this
monster hero has never stopped selling out.  Brought to the small screen in
1978 and ran for four years on CBS network.  Bill Bixby played Dr. Banner
for the series called David and playing his green nasty alter ego was body
builder Lou Ferrigno as the power house monster in ripped jeans.  The
series shortly returned a few years later with "The Return of The Incredible
Hulk" in 1988 as a TV made movie one of three and ending with "The Death
of The Incredible Hulk" before the sad and un-timely death of actor Bill Bixby.

    In 2003, a feature film was made now with an all CGI Hulk that although
closer to that of the comic book hero was not very welcomed by fans.  In
2008, film maker tried again with a new movie that did hit a little bigger.  Now
as of this writing in-fact in May 3rd 2012, The Hulk hits the big screen once
again as past of the new superhero movie The Avengers and teamed with
Captain America, Iron Man and Thor.

The Thing
    He is the forth member of the Fantastic Four and the most stand out of
this quotient of super beings.  Sure there is the invisible girl and the guy
made of fire and the one of the rubber arms and other parts but its that of
Ben Grimm, The Thing, who hits our list today.  Unlike the others, poor Ben
is transformed into a monster made of stone and can't fit into his own jeans
let a lone our human world.  Yet this unstoppable Thing can bash through
anything and has far beyond super strength.  Although he is part of this
super team, The Thing is maybe the most loved.  In his own way, he's funny
and who doesn't like a man made of rock kicking ass.

    Published by Marvel Comics in 1961 and created by Stan Lee and Jack
Kirby, The Fantastic Four was and has always been a hit with fans.  There
were endness TV shows on Saturday morning kids viewing and in 2005 the
group got their own feature film with a follow up bringing in the Silver Surfer.

The Toxic Avenger
    The Toxic Avenger was a horror/comedy from 1984 about a little man
named Melvin Ferd who by way of a drum of toxic waste that he falls into,
turns him into the superpowered Toxic Avenger.  With his trusty cleaning
mop that he wields as a weapon, this tongue and cheek movie is from the
good people at Troma Entertainment who are known best for making off the
wall fun little movies that make you giggle your ass off.  Being something of
Troma's flag ship movie and hero, The Toxic Avenger has become over the
years since its release a cult film and fan favorite of all the Troma films.....
and there's a lot too.

    Much like The Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Toxic Avenger really didn't
take off as a big movie until well after its release.  It took the movie being
played at midnight shows that slowly gained its fan base at New York's
Bleecker Street Cinemas. Since then, The Toxic Avenger went on to become
a short lived kids TV series, an off Broadway stage musical and two movie
sequels.

Swamp Thing
    In the DC comic "House of Secrets", a new character was introduced in
Issue #92 of July 1971.  This new hero or monster if you will was called
Swamp Thing, a creature half man half plant who lived far out in the swamps
where no one dare to roam.  Looking like a giant walking moss covered
humanoid, Swamp Thing really hit his best years in the 80's and early 90's.  
The year 1982 saw his first feature film and a string of new comic books
staring the plant man.  The ‘82 movie was followed by a sequel in 1989 and
a live action TV series in 1990.  Both films and the series stared actor Dick
Durock as the beast of the marshes who used the same monster suit for
both the series and movie number two.  Durock also played in an episode of
"The Incredible Hulk" TV series as a Hulk like creature who like David Banner
is turned into a big green pissed off monster.

    Like with The Hulk, Swamp Thing was once human, a doctor who worked
out in the marshes to help better the plant life but as in all these stories
something goes very wrong and he is turned into a monster.  Yet unlike with
The Hulk this monster keeps his mind and his humanity and knowns just who
he is. Saddly though unlike The Hulk, this creature never can again change
back into human form and must roam the swamps alone protecting the
wildlife from the evil of man.


The Vampires

Blade (see BMR issue #44 for Blades Creature Feature)
    This super bad ass vampire hero was born half vampire with a human
mother giving him all the best of both worlds.  He is fast, strong and unlike
any of the night creatures he hunts...he is known as "The Daywalker" by the
vampires that fear him.  Blade is the bad ass of all bad ass super hero's and
one of the coolest comic book creations ever made.  He was the brain child
of comic book writer Marv Wolfman (yes really his name) for Marvel Comics
in 1973.  His very first comic book appearance was in a book called "The
Tomb of Dracula" and was nothing more than a supporting character.  Soon
though his path to super hero history would come with a series of books,
three feature films and two TV series one live action and the other animated.

    Born Eric Brooks, Blade grew up a day walking vampire running the
streets in both the light and the dark not knowning fully what he was until he
was found my his foster father, a man named Abraham Whistler.  It was
Whistler who took in the young boy Eric and trained him in weapons, the
fighting arts and hunting the undead turning him into the thing even the
vampires feared most.....Blade.  The first three films starred actor Wesley
Snipes as the vampire hunter.  Rapper Kirk "Stickly Fingers" Jones starred in
the TV series both written and created by screenwriter David S. Goyer.  The
fighting skills of actor Wesley Snipes with traning in Shotokan Karate,
Hapkido and Kung Fu all served well in making the actor the kick ass
vampire killer Blade that he was in the three movies.  No one better could
have pulled it off more than Snipes.  The live action TV series too also was
bold in the fighting with rapper turned actor Kirk Jones now taking up the
long black leather coat and silver laced ninja sword.  Like comic book hero's
such as Batman and Spawn, Blade is one of the darkest and most coolest
hero's ever created.

Vampirlla (see BMR Issue #48 for Vampirlla's Creature Feature)
    She came from a dying planet far out in space where rivers of blood
flowed like water.  She and her kind, all vampires lay dying when a ship from
Earth crash lands on her world and she makes a discovery.  The young and
lovely Vampirlla finds that all the men on this ship brought with them her and
her peoples food souce with them......namely blood within their veins.  After
feeding her needs, she now the only one left alive or undead...what have
you takes the ship back to its home world where the dark haired lovly finds a
whole world of red blooded happy meals waiting for her.  Though a vampire,
she is not willing to kill for her meals and only takes what she needs to live
herself.  Only feeding on those who do evil, this vampire do gooder sets out
to help man kind and not over feed herself as one may think.  After all she is
the hero of these stories.

    Vampirlla is the creation of magazine editor Forrest J. Ackerman best
known as the editor of the long running and father of all monster magazines
"Famous Monsters of Filmland."  When working for Warren Publishing,
Ackerman was asked to create a new comic book for their expanding horror
comic book line and spin off of Famous Monsters.  Acherman wanted to use
a new female hero for his new book and one that was a vampire.  In the end
was a red clad, dark haired young pretty who was as deadly as she was hot.  
The now legendary red leather thong that Vampirlla hardly wears was
believe it or not designed by a woman named Trina Robbins.  I mean who
would have thought in 1969 a chic would have created such an outfit.....but
come on...are we not glad she did!


Dark Avengers

The Crow
    When rock musician Eric Dravan and his girlfriend are murdered by a
gang of thugs, they never thought twice that the man they had just killed
would come for them from the after life.  It is said that if you die by the evil
deeds of others that sometimes....just sometimes a crow who is said to have
brought the dead to the the after life can then return them to right the wrong
of there own murder.  One year after Eric was thrown from his apartment
window, he finds himself crawling from his own grave to the sight of a large
black crow purched atop his headstone.  The bird has brought him back to
seek revenge on those's who killed him and to revenge the death of his
beloved Shelly.  Now this avenging angel one by one hunts down the men
who killed him until they all fall to his wrath.

    Unlike most comic book heroes, this story is more of a getting even kind
of tale than catching the bad guys with lets say Batman.  This very dark hero
was the creation of writer/artist James O'Barr for this series of graphic novels
and comic that began in 1989.  The Crow as an avenger is best known for
his triad mark gothic clown make-up and black leather garments.  He is a
skilled fighter and even when shot he can not die.

    In 1994 The Crow movie was released and although the film was a hit, it
carried with it sad undertones of the very real death of its main star.  While
shooting a scene, actor Brandon Lee (son of the great Bruce Lee) was killed
by a dummy bullet which was fired into his abdomen killing the 28 year old
actor.  The Crow then spawned a follow up movie "The Crow: City of Angels"
and a short lived TV series.

Batman (see BMR Issue #35 for Batman's Creature Feature)
    He is the Dark Knight, the winged avenger of the people and the
protector of Gotham City.  By day, he is billionaire Bruce Wayne but when
the night casts its shadows, he dons his cape and cowl and takes to the
streets in his super powered transport The Batmobile.  Created in 1939 by
artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger with a first comic appeance in Detective
Comics#27.  Batman soon went on to star in not only his own comic books
but also eight live action movies, one live action TV series, endless amounts
of animated TV series and an array of animated movies as well.

    If the word cool was to be used for a superhero, that word would be used
for Batman.  He is the thinking mans hero.  Not only can he get the bad guys
but he is also the worlds greatest detective as well.  Unlike other super
heroes in the comics that wear spandex, masks and fight crime after the
crime is already in action, Batman will figure it all out before hand and then
spring into action.  Also unlike any of the dark heroes on this list..... Batman
is completely human and has no super power at all.  The only thing he has
going for him is the power of his mind, his skills, gizmos, weapons and well.....
his money too to get the job done.

Dark Man
    Long before film director Sam Raimi shot Spider Man, there was his first
path taken into the world of the super hero.  In 1990 the movie Dark Man
opened with star Liam Neeson playing scientist Peyton Westlake who was
working on a new project to create human skin for burned victims not
knowing that soon he too would need his own treatment.  When nearly killed
by the bad guys of the film, Westlake is turned into a Phantom of the Opera
look-a-like who must hide his face of horror from the world.  Once brought
into the hospital, his doctors, to help in his pain cut off all nerves in his body
resulting in his not feeling any pain at all.  This cause and effect make the
now Dark Man stronger than normal as he feels nothing and his plight as a
whole is making him slowly go mad.

    As he seeks revenge for the men who tried to kill him.....sort of like The
Crow, Dark Man hunts them one by one dressed in an old black over coat
and his face hidden under mummy like wrappings.  Adding to his mystique is
the fact that Dark Man uses the rubber face skin that he invented to disguise
himself as members of the gang who tried to kill him in order to get in close
before striking.  Dark Man went on to star in two more movies that went direct
to video.


    They are not be the blue eyed, good boy super hero dressed in
bright red, white & blue or follow all the rules.  They are of a darker
breed of hero who in their own way fight for the rights of others
even though they are themselves monsters and are shunned by all
humanity.  They are The Dark Heroes of the comics, the movies, TV
and sometimes all three.  They are the Dark Heroes and for the fans
of horror, they are our super heroes.
Creature Feature
Dark Heroes