Time for a geeky word association game! Ask a friend what comes to mind when you say “comic book villain”. Chances are those three words conjure up an image of the maniacally laughing Joker. DC’s demented clowny criminal is the bane of Gotham, Batman’s penultimate adversary, and was the swansong performance of the late Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. You’d be mistaken though, if you think this psychotic chaos mongering baddie is the only horrific villain on the comics block! The pages of Marvel’s Comics are also home to an array of villains deranged and disturbing enough to stand among the Joker. In no particular order here are ten of the Marvel Universe’s most horrifying villains.
A sociopathic billionaire and engineering genius, Arcade creates psycho unamusement parks with traps and games gruesome enough to make even Saw’s Jigsaw flinch. Arcade’s “Murderworld”s have tortured and tormented countless victims, hero and non-hero alike, all for his pleasure. Lording over his victims like a vengeful god, Arcade occasionally shakes it up with Hunger Games and Battle Royale deathmatches. The superpowered teen sorceress Sister Grimm is one of Arcade’s few known survivors. If you want to learn more about what makes Sister Grimm (Nico Minoru) such a unique survivor, I invite you to read this article on GeekForTheWin.
When the Symbiote spawn of Venom, Carnage, merged with the deranged serial killer Cletus Kasady all hell broke loose. After springing Kasady free from prison Carnage/Kasady gleefully went on a city-wide murder spree. With his jagged, toothy maw oozing drool and his wickedly sharp claws effortlessly slashing his victims into bloody pieces Carnage spread terror and chaos. More powerful and vicious than Venom Carnage also enjoys invading the bodies of his victims and smothering them from the inside.
A near fatal car accident into a truck brimming with experimental chemicals turned a devout churchgoer into an insane, death obsessed man with the power to heal himself…and shred his victims’ minds to madness with just his gaze. After dozens of failed suicide attempts from a raging case of survivor’s guilt, Madcap took to the New York City streets using his powers of emotional manipulation and lethal stare to unhinge anyone in sight.
Thrilled by the kill, Bullseye has been taking lives with his uncanny aim and penchant for turning anything into a weapon since the time he took out a pigeon with a yo-yo in his childhood. After a hasty career as a Major League Baseball player bored him to tears, Bullseye gave into his homicidal cravings– he became a mercenary for Kingpin and obsessed with destroying Daredevil. He’d go on to brutally murder not one, but two of Daredevil/Matt Murdock’s girlfriends– Elektra (with her own massive sai dagger) and Karen Page (impaling her with a billy club). The cold-blooded psychopath also has Adamantium bones, making him darn near untouchable.
- Red Skull
Perhaps most memorably embodied by Hugo Weaving in the MCU’s Captain America: The First Avenger, Johann Schmidt, or Red Skull, is one of Marvel’s most visually striking villains. The Nazi super soldier, Hydra leader, and Hitler’s BFF, caused so much destruction during World War II that his reign of terror and hate led to Captain America’s creation in the first place!
The Japanese Shinto religion’s God of Evil, Amatsu-Mikaboshi, gets the Marvel treatment in 2012’s Thor: Blood Oath #6. The “Chaos King” has such a potent demonic presence and set of powers that he was able to attack and seriously wound Zeus, Apollo and some other Gods of Olympus. He has entire armies of demonic foot-soldiers at his command, he can shapeshift into any freaky figure he wants (he’s a fan of tentacles!) and his dark “nothingness” means he’s a serious threat to the multiverse. You can read more about Amatsu-Mikaboshi’s Shinto, and non-comic book, portrayal here.
- Lady Deathstrike
Taught fear and violence at a young age Yuriko Oyama went on to become the cyborg assassin Lady Deathstrike, enemy of the X-Men, and Wolverine’s greatest hater. While she was growing up her super soldier creating father, and the first scientist to bond Adamantium to human bones, Lord Dark Wind (Kenji Oyama) mutilated her face in a fit of rage. Turning her trauma into spreading terror Lady Deathstrike is known for her savage, slashing fighting style that she used to cripple Wolverine’s mutant friend Yukio. Her razor sharp twelve inch long Adamantium claws, indestructible Adamantium bones, and superhuman powers make her frighteningly formidable.
- The Brood
What would a list of horrifying villains be without the obligatory creepy crawly aliens?! In the same vein as Ridley Scott’s sci-fi horror cult classic Alien, The Brood are a species of insectoid parasites that infect a host and lay dormant before D-Day. Unlike Scott’s chest bursters, The Brood implant eggs in their victims which, once fully grown, devours the host from the inside. Hive-minded and telepathically linked to Brood Queens these hard-shelled, fanged, and scorpion-tailed aliens are brutal opponents for even some of the most powerful superheroes. Throughout the comics they have especially preferred targeting the X-Men. On the brightside, um, at least the mutants are not in space so everyone can hear them screaming?!
- Baron Mordo
Once a dedicated follower of The Ancient One and a Sorcerer Supreme, Karl Mordo defected after Doctor Stephen Strange rose among the ranks of aspiring sorcerers. Mordo embraced a darker shade of magic. The soul-stealing, body-snatching Mordo, and all his mystical malevolence, drew him to the demonic Lord of the Dark Dimension, Dormammu. The master of Astral Projection, and amateur Necromancer was defeated on several occasions by Doctor Strange, and once by Squirrel Girl whom he totally underestimated. His defeats, however, hardly diminish his creepiness.
The Norse Goddess of Death* rules two of the Nine Realms of Asgard– Niflheim and Hel, both, surprise surprise, Underworlds. While in the MCU Hela, portrayed by Cate Blanchett, is Thor’s maniacal and banished half-sister, in the comics the Ragnarok baddie is actually Loki’s daughter. Immortal, and able to kill with her touch alone Hela is one of Marvel’s most powerful, and fear-inducing, villains. In one of Hela’s many attempts to seize more power, she built a ship out of fingernails from the dead, dubbed it Naglfar, and proceeded to raise an army of the undead to sail the ship to the other realms of Asgard and slay the gods. Her murder cruise was stopped in time by the Asgardian hero Skurge, but it wouldn’t be the last time we’d see the Hel raiser indulge in her dark side.
(*Note: Marvel’s Hela differs from the actual Norse Goddess, Hel. A Marvel fan put together a list of some of the ways!)
Human, alien, god, or superhuman. Whatever these men, women, or creatures identify as, all ten of them hold the distinction, in this fan’s mind, of being some of the most horrifying villains to inhabit the pages of Marvel comics. Did the Marvel villains that terrify you the most make the grade? Or are there other comicverse villains that make you scream?! Drop a comment below or tweet me @thebadgerbabe_ and let’s talk!