Marvel Comics has long been known for superheroes, but the adventures of these colorful costumed characters aren’t the only types of stories that the company has published. Once known for monsters and science fiction, Marvel would later turn to more supernatural forces in the 1970s to bolster their books. This gave rise to several prominent properties that are still very well-known.
Nowadays, some of these horror characters have been swept under the rug, but others have found fame outside the comics. Once published under their own book and “group,” doing so in the mordern era would be a great way for Marvel to expand beyond capes and tights while still thrilling readers with tales of action and suspense. Here’s how reviving the “Marvel Monster Group” would be a boon for Marvel Comics.
Marvel Comics Had a Horror Renaissance in the 1970s
The early 1970s saw the Comics Code Authority ease up, allowing comic book publishers to once again utilize more supernatural and paranormal themes in their books. These hadn’t completely gone away, but it had meant that more horrifying takes on vampires, werewolves, ghouls, and ghosts were effectively verboten. Following the Comics Code pulling back its stringent rules, Marvel followed suit by introducing several new characters that were more horrifying than heroic.
These new horror properties include the hell-raising Ghost Rider, a vampire hunting Blade, the howling Werewolf by Night, and the mystical Man-Thing. These characters were very much in the vein of the exploitation horror craze of the era, which was far darker than classic monster movies. Along with books such as Tomb of Dracula (published by Marvel Comics proper), there were also the titles Vampire Tales, Dracula Lives!, Tales of the Zombie and Monsters Unleashed. However, these books weren’t comics, they were magazines handled by Magazine Management with this distinction meaning that they could go further than even what the now relaxed Comics Code would allow. Violence, language and nudity were frequent in these books, making it clear that the titles were more like horror novels than comics.
Speaking of comics, the popular Spider-Man is very much a traditional superhero title that would introduce two horror villains — the Man-Wolf and Morbius, the Living Vampire. Though their origins were born from science and not the occult, they still fit in with the growing horror vibe at Marvel. This saw Morbius spin off into his own stories in Adventures into Fear and the magazine Vampire Tales. Once the horror craze of the movies died down, however, the popularity of these magazines would, as well. This saw Marvel firmly become a publisher for superhero comic books and not much else. Though that may be ingrained in the current culture, the legacy of these classic magazines and their characters could change that for the publisher.
Marvel’s Classic Horror Magazines Can Change its Current Landscape
Horror comic books and horror stories, in general, are seeing a resurgence in popularity, with titles such as The Department of Truth and those released under Joe Hill and DC Comics’ Hill House imprint being massive successes. While they might not be written by horror icons, they’re still popular on their own merits, seeing success without the appearance of major superhero properties. The same could easily be done with a relaunched Marvel Monster Group of magazines and anthologies, and the difference would be that these stories would feature Marvel properties. Many of its characters, namely Blade the Vampire Hunter, haven’t been given their due for years. Giving them an exclusive space to shine would do them wonders.
Even if these were theoretically magazines instead of comics, having Marvel characters in books outside the superhero genre would only expand its reach. For as popular as Marvel and DC are, there are some readers who simply wouldn’t touch a superhero comic. They might, however, be more tempted by horror and the occult, making the potential for these magazines far greater than traditional comics. The diversity of genres can only help the medium, and much like movies, it would guarantee some big monetary gain every Halloween. All it requires is for Marvel to publish at least one or two titles that trade wall-crawling for bloodsucking and replace tights with frights.