Comic books and monster movies have always had a close connection, so it’s not shocking that Universal is attempting to copy the successful shared universe model that both Marvel and DC are using for their movies. Starting with The Mummy, Universal is looking to launch a franchise of connected monster movies, all based off of their classic lineup of horror icons. Starting in the 1920s and going all the way through the 1950s, Universal Studios made a name for itself by releasing one classic horror movie after another. These movies, which included Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931) the original The Mummy (1932) and countless others, shaped the face of horror at the movies for decades to come.
What’s interesting about Universal copying Marvel and DC’s style for their movie series is that both companies have been using the company’s famous monsters for decades. Since the majority of the properties belong to the public domain, both publishers could use the characters freely without having to worry about copyright or licensing issues. The majority of the monsters have been introduced to both comic book universes, and often times, in some very strange ways. While it can be weird to see Batman or Superman fight a classic monster, it’s even stranger to see one of the classic characters updated to fit into modern comic book lore.
15. MARVEL’S DRACULA
The world’s most infamous vampire made his Marvel debut in Tomb of Dracula #1 (1972) by Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway and Gene Colan. The vampire lord was introduced to the 616 universe when one of his ancestors inherited Dracula’s castle. A hapless visitor came upon the vampire’s remains and removed the stake from Dracula’s heart, unknowingly resurrected the monster.
While Dracula would go on to encounter many Marvel heroes (most notably Blade, who first appeared in a Dracula comic), he surprisingly became a common antagonist for the X-Men. The mutants have fought him several times, including one notable instance where Jubilee was turned into a vampire herself. Even more shocking, Dracula actually has a long history with Apocalypse, and his vampire army once almost destroyed the Clan Akkaba during the late 19th century.
14. DC’S DRACULA
While vampires do exist in the DC universe, along with their famous count, Dracula’s most infamous DC appearance actually came from an Elseworld’s story. In the graphic novel Batman and Dracula: Red Rain (1991) by Doug Moench and Kelley Jones, the detective discovers that vampires have come to Gotham. They’re being led by Dracula, who has control over any vampire created by his bite.
Of course, Batman gets bitten by a vampire, but doesn’t fully turn. This gives him enough strength to take on the vampires, who are all defeated after being lured into a booby trapped bat-cave. Unfortunately, Batman is bitten again and fully transformed into a vampire. This story was followed up by two sequels, Bloodstorm and Crimson Mist, which saw the vampire Batman taking on a vampiric Joker and feeding on the inmates of Arkham.
13. WEREWOLF BY NIGHT
While he isn’t technically the same werewolf that appeared in the Universal films, Werewolf by Night is Marvel’s resident werewolf. First appearing in Marvel Spotlight #2 (1972) by Roy and Jean Thomas, Gerry Conway and Mike Ploog, Jack Russell discovered that his biological father had been a werewolf and he had inherited the curse. After the death of his mother, Jack hit the road, and whenever there was a full moon, the werewolf would prowl.
He would eventually join both the Night Shift and the Midnight Sons, both groups of vigilantes with supernatural powers. As a member of the Midnight Sons, he would help protect the 616 Marvel Universe from the spread of the zombie virus from the popular line of Marvel Zombies miniseries by Robert Kirkman. Most recently, he was shot in the face by Deadpool when the mercenary caught him in bed with his wife.
12. FRANKENSTEIN’S MONSTER
The DC Comics version of Frankenstein first appeared as a Batman villain in Detective Comics #135 (1948) by Edmond Hamilton and Bob Kane. In this version of the story, Batman and Robin travel to the past and learn “the true story of Frankenstein.” Here, the monster is actually Frankenstein’s assistant, who has been revived and is under the control of the count’s cousin, who wishes to use the monster to gain control of the family fortune.
A more traditional version of the monster would later appear, who had made it to America at some point in the late 19th century before falling into hibernation. Once revived, he would go on to join both The Seven Soldiers and S.H.A.D.E., the latter being a military organization that deals with paranormal activity.
11. MARVEL’S FRANKENSTEIN’S MONSTER
Unlike the other classic monsters, Frankenstein actually had a fairly complicated path into the Marvel Universe. While most of the characters simply started appearing in the comics, Frankenstein’s monster made his first canonical appearance during a flashback in Silver Surfer #7 (1969) by Stan Lee and Sal Buscema. In that issue, one of Frankenstein’s modern ancestors attempts to recreate the experiment, although enhanced with the Surfer’s powers.
While this attempt failed, it established the existence of the original monster in the 616 universe. After adapting the events of the novel, Marvel introduced the original monster to the modern world by revealing that he had ended up in suspended animation. He encountered heroes like the Avengers and Spider-Man, and was recently drafted by Agent Coulson for the latest incarnation of the Howling Commandos. Speaking of which…
10. HOWLING COMMANDOS
Usually, when somebody mentions the Howling Commandos, people think of the special forces team from World War II led by Nick Fury. Over the decades, several other incarnations of the team have popped up, and they eventually started taking the name literally. In Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos #1 (2005) by Keith Giffen and Eduardo Francisco, a new team of supernaturally themed characters is introduced.
The team served as S.H.I.E.L.D.’s supernatural response unit, and were charged with bringing in Merlin during their first appearance. The team originally consisted of a clone of Frankenstein’s monster, Vampire by Night, the Mummy and Warwolf (a werewolf whose transformations are based around Mars instead of the moon), hitting all of the major Universal monster archetypes. Interestingly, Groot made one of his first modern appearances with the team, although this was before the current “I am Groot” speaking version was introduced.
9. THE LIVING MUMMY
Marvel’s version of the Mummy is actually a pretty tragic take on the character. N’Kantu was the leader of a tribe that was forced into slavery by the ancient Egyptians. Forced to build a temple for the pharaoh, N’Kantu led a rebellion and killed the pharaoh. Unfortunately, he was caught, and his punishment was to be turned into an immortal mummy, spending decades fully conscious but unable to move while trapped in a tomb.
He would eventually free himself, and ended up in the modern Marvel Universe. He would team up with heroes like The Thing and Captain America, and joined the previously mentioned Howling Commandos. Interestingly, during Marvel’s first Civil War, N’Kantu ended up on the anti-super hero registration side, based on his experiences with the Howling Commandos. Apparently, Mummies don’t trust government.
8. DC’S MUMMIES
Given all of the supernatural activity in the DC Universe, it’s not surprising that mummies exist. The popular monsters made regular appearances in DC’s horror themed comics, and are often used against magic themed heroes, although heroes like Batman and Green Lantern have faced off against the reanimated corpses as well. While the heroes usually face generic mummies, or a random prince or princess, there is one notable mummy that stands above the rest.
Hassan the Mummy first appeared in Countdown #37 (2007) by Paul Dini, Adam Beechen and several artists, where he served as Zatanna’s guard for Shadowcrest. Zatanna had brought Hassan to life and had control over him, and has loaned him out as a bodyguard to other heroes.
7. THE SONS OF DRACULA
In the Marvel Universe, Dracula has been alive since the 1400s, so it’s not surprising that he has a couple of kids. The first notable child is Janus, who first appeared in Tomb of Dracula #51 (1976) by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan. When a vampire hunter attacked Dracula soon after Janus’ birth, the baby was shot and killed. His mother revived him, however, by merging him with the Golden Angel, aging the boy to an adult and giving him angelic powers.
Dracula’s other son, Xarus, first appeared in Death of Dracula (2010), by Victor Gischler and Giuseppe Camuncoli. Angry with the vampires’ place in the world, Xarus killed his father and gained control of the various vampire sects. His actions eventually brought him into conflict with the X-Men, who used Wolverine’s healing factor to stop his spread of vampirism.
6. VAN HELSING
In the original Dracula novel by Bram Stoker, Van Helsing is merely a doctor who first recognizes the signs of vampirism. In later adaptations, however, he would be transformed into a fully fledged vampire hunter. Marvel used these later depictions for the basis of their Van Helsing, a vampire hunter who was active during the 1800s.
He first appeared in a flashback in Tomb of Dracula #1 (1972) by Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway and Gene Colan, which detailed how he drove Dracula out of London and eventually drove a stake through the beast’s heart. Helsing would later team up with Apocalypse in the miniseries X-Men: Apocalypse vs Dracula (2006) by Frank Tieri and Clayton Henry. Not fully aware of Apocalypse’s evil, Helsing helped the mutant prevent Dracula from taking over the Clan Akkaba.
5. MR HYDE
While the Hulk could be considered a modern version of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, with the transformation of a mild mannered scientist into an aggressive beast, there actually is a true Mr Hyde running around the Marvel Universe. Calvin Zabo first appeared in Journey into Mystery #99 (1963) by Stan Lee and Don Heck, where he sought revenge on Dr Donald Blake, who refused to hire the man. Inspired by the 1886 classic by Robert Louis Stevenson, Zabo created a formula that turned him into the monstrous Mr Hyde.
Eventually, Hyde would move beyond his hatred for Thor and face off against most of the major Marvel heroes, including Daredevil, Spider-Man and the Avengers. Like the literary character, Zabo loses a bit of his intelligence when he transforms into Hyde. Unlike the original character, there is no moral conflict in Zabo at all about his actions of Mr Hyde.
4. DRACULA (MUTANT X)
During a battle with Greystone, Havok is caught in a explosion that sends his spirit to an alternate reality. This world, which debuted in Mutant X #1 (1998) by Howard Mackie and Tom Raney, was much darker than the 616 Marvel Universe. Here, Cyclops was also abducted by the Shi’ar with his parents, leaving Havok to lead the X-Men.
One of the major differences in this world was that Storm had been turned into a vampire by Dracula. The vampire was caught, however, and was held in his coffin in the vault. He eventually breaks free, and teams up with the Beyonder. The two nearly destroy the Earth, but are stopped by Havok’s team. Dracula ends up getting killed by Storm, ending his reign of terror.
3. BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN
As previously stated, when Marvel officially brought the Frankenstein monster to their universe, they adapted the original story. The first three issues of Frankenstein (1973) by Gary Friedrich and Mike Ploog, were a fairly faithful adaptation of Mary Shelley’s novel. In the second issue, the monster tracks down Frankenstein and forces him to make a companion for him. The bride, however, ends up being to monstrous for Victor, and he kills her almost immediately after bringing her to life.
While brief, this does officially make the Bride a member of the 616 Marvel Universe. DC Comics, meanwhile, introduced a radically different take on the Bride in Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE #1 (2011) by Jeff Lemire and Alberto Ponticelli. Here, she had four arms and her relationship with Frankenstein had ended after having a son who ended up being a terrible monster.
Based on myths of a race of half fish, half man creatures that supposedly lived in the Amazon, The Creature from the Black Lagoon was released in 1954, towards the end of the classic Universal monster era. Unlike many of the other monsters, it wasn’t based on a classic literary work (like Dracula or Frankenstein) or ancient folklore (like The Mummy). This meant that the characters didn’t exist in the public domain, and Marvel and DC couldn’t just use them. That didn’t stop Dave Cockrum, however.
A big fan of the movie, Cockrum designed a character based on the creature. He shopped the idea to Marvel, and Manphibian first appeared in Legion of Monsters #1 (1975) by Doug Moench and Val Mayerick. While it resembled the creature, its origin was changed to make it an alien that had chased another alien to Earth before becoming trapped underground for thousands of years.
When Dave Cockrum was first shopping his Manphibian idea around, he reportedly pitched it to both Marvel and DC. Both companies liked the concept, but Marvel bought the idea first. DC, however, still wanted it so Cockrum reworked the concept and changed the design. The result still bore a resemblance to the film creature, although with a different color scheme.
The creature was renamed Devil-Fish and made its first appearance in Superboy #202 (1974) by Cary Bates and Dave Cockrum. The Legion of Super-Heroes encounter the creature when it attacks several power stations in the ocean. Interestingly, the cover shows Devil-Fish with green skin, similar to how it appeared in the movie (as opposed to the orange it sports in the interior art).
Universal’s first entry in their Dark Universe franchise, The Mummy, will hit theaters on June 9th, 2017.