It just occurred to me just how much Marvel Comics seems to have been influenced by the horror genre when it came to creating some of their superhero characters. And no, I’m not talking about how many of them either made their debut in or had stories published in former horror/sci-fi comics such as Tales of Suspense, Journey into Mystery, Strange Tales, Amazing Fantasy, and Tales to Astonish.
Sure, it’s pretty obvious how certain horror stories influenced the Incredible Hulk. Dr. Banner’s (usually) unwilling transformation into the destructive force that is the Hulk nicely mirrors Dr. Jekyll’s relationship with his Mr. Hyde persona. Like Universal’s take on Frankenstein’s monster, the very large and very strong Hulk often comes into conflict with people who deal with things they fear (and don’t understand) by attacking them. Like Frankenstein’s monster, the Hulk’s limited intelligence and speaking abilities also impede his efforts to find peace. Those factors might also explain why both have befriended small children.
However, what you might not know is that the Hulk’s origin story seems to be lifted from The Amazing Colossal Man (which came out about five years before the first issue of the Hulk’s comic book). Think about it: both involve a scientist being mutated due to exposure to an experimental bomb blast while trying to rescue the driver of a vehicle stranded in the test area! Come to think of it, I wonder if the name “The Amazing Colossal Man” could have influenced Marvel’s decision to add adjectives to the titles of many of their superhero titles (The Amazing Spider-Man, The Uncanny X-Men, etc).
Even those without much knowledge of the character can tell that Dr. Henry Pym (aka Ant-Man) is based on The Incredible Shrinking Man. The influence become more apparent when one realizes that Dr. Pym made his debut in a science fiction story called “The Man in the Ant Hill” in 1962, wherein he is accidentally shrunk in an experiment and has to battle ants in order to survive. By his next appearance, Pym has mastered the ability to change size and created a device that lets him communicate with his former foes.
Also, is it merely a coincidence that both the Mighty Thor’s alter ego and the title character in Monster on Campus are both named Dr. Donald Blake? Pat yourself on the back if you guessed that the horror movie came out years before Thor made his first appearance!
But this (seeming) influence also works in reverse. The monster costume used in 1962’s Hand of Death appears to be a blatant rip-off of the ever lovin’ blue-eyed Thing, right down to the trench coat and sunglasses disguise used when both characters try to blend in with the general public. I must admit to originally thinking the Thing was the rip-off until I took the time to research the year the first issue of the Fantastic Four was published: 1961. But I have heard claims the film was already in production a few months before the FF’s first appearance and how it’s all just a big coincidence. Now if only I could get a definitive answer as to whether Full Moon’s Doctor Mordrid was originally planned as a licensed adaptation of Doctor Strange or if it was just a shameless rip-off…
UPDATE: Yeah, Doctor Mordrid was a rip-off. But it’s also a rip-off with a very interesting backstory…