Every once in a while, a superhero or villain comes along with an appearance so bizarre, so unexpected, that comic book readers find themselves wondering what the artist was thinking.
If we’re being honest with ourselves, it’s not like comics aren’t already filled with odd-looking characters. A baddie with a grotesque crimson skull for a head? Check. A vicious clown that makes Stephen King’s It look warm and cuddly? Yep. An entire family of individuals who dress up like bats? Well, let’s just say that comics readers have grown accustomed to the unusual and the outlandish.
But the following character designs are so freaky, no explanation for their existence could ever be sufficient. These are 15 of Marvel Comics’ characters with the most peculiar designs.
Marvel history is filled with fascinating attempts at cross-promotion with companies outside the world of comic books. Few of them have been successful, and even fewer are looked back on fondly. But there’s no way we could get through this list without mentioning Rick Wilder.
Young Rick became the superhero Combo Man thanks to a PR arrangement between Marvel and Combos Snacks in 1996. And yes, it’s as dumb as it sounds. The promotional comic book came with a moral about standing up to bullies, but there was also a contest attached. Combo Man was made up of the powers and abilities (and visuals) of 14 different Marvel superheroes; if you could guess them all based solely on his appearance, you could become the proud owner of a jacket, t-shirt, or a hat featuring the mishmash hero.
An extremely obscure character you’ll be forgiven for never having heard of, the Bi-Beast was a very short-lived Hulk villain. He resembled a towering, enormous wrestler with gold skin, a light blue speedo, and his most prominent feature: two heads, one positioned on top of the other.
Bi-Beast was an android built by a race that was in turn engineered by the Inhumans (just don’t ask), but the people that built him went extinct long before Hulk encountered him. So it’s never explained why he has two heads, only that one of them knows about warfare, and the other knows about culture. Was his physical appearance based on the race that created him? Did they think it would be funny to build a two-headed robot? We’ll never know.
Rather than be defeated by Hulk — or an invading MODOK, who showed up at the worst possible moment — he destroyed his makers’ abandoned city by self-destructing. Or maybe he realized there were no other giant, two-headed androids in the world for him to love, and the poor guy couldn’t deal.
Dennis Dunphy has never been an A-list superhero. He’s not one you’ll find on t-shirts or who’s likely to ever star in his own series. It’s unlikely that he even has any passionate fans. He’s just kind of there — well-intentioned, but forever a side man, often used by bad guys to get at heroes he’s close to, and occasionally the butt of a joke. Dennis, aka Demolition Man, aka D-Man, has enhanced strength, stamina, and all that jazz. He’s fought alongside the Avengers and more than one version of Captain America. So why is he on this list?
Because of his uniform. His original uniform, anyway. When Dennis first set out to become a superhero, he did what lots of aspiring super-people do and fashioned his own uniform. But instead of coming up with something all his own, he decided to copy the yellow-and-red costume worn by Daredevil at the time (with a single D instead of Daredevil’s two overlapping Ds). For good measure, he added a cowl modeled after Wolverine’s. How can any would-be superhero who copies another hero’s costume be seen as anything but sad and pathetic?
Three hundred years ago, Dracula found himself in desperate need of blood and no access to humans. He did find, however, a cow named Bessie. See where this is going?
After the attack, Bessie rose from the dead as a vampire bovine that came to be known as Hellcow. She had one thing and one thing only on her still-animal mind: revenge. It’s unknown if she ever found Dracula but assumed that she didn’t, since they’re both still among the (un)living. She’s since been seen fighting Howard the Duck and teaming up with (who else?) Deadpool.
Hellcow is one nasty-looking animal, with fanged teeth, red eyes, and a dramatic cloak that changes into wings that allow her to fly. She stands on her two hind feet like a human, but her transformation into an immortal failed to grant her the ability to speak.
If DC Comics’ Mad Hatter and Harley Quinn hooked up, White Rabbit might be the result. She’s psychotically cheerful like Quinn, and utterly obsessed with Alice In Wonderland like Hatter. If one didn’t know better, it would be easy to think of White Rabbit, aka Lorina Dodson, as a Marvel Comics amalgam of various DC Comics villains. She even has an umbrella that shoots projectiles.
By all accounts, Lorina is a fairly low-rent, substandard villain. She never aspires to grandiose plans like world (or even city) domination, satisfied instead with the likes of petty theft. White Rabbit has no powers to speak of, and even her intelligence isn’t terribly high. But she’s able to use her family’s fortune to finance gadgets and weapons, including a humongous, rideable robo-rabbit that’s armed to the teeth.
There are so many ways you might expect a villain named “Doctor Bong” to go — but most of them would never survive printing in a PGish comic book. Suffice it to say, he began life as a Howard the Duck villain. Need we say more?
Okay, fine. Lester Verde is an expert in genetic manipulation (yes, another one) with a severed hand. He wears a helmet shaped like a bell, and in place of his missing hand, a clapper for the bell. Banging the helmet and clapper together, he’s able to generate sophisticated sonic vibrations that he can use to incapacitate his enemies, among various other improbably feats. After numerous unsuccessful attempts at villainy, he gave up crime and became a psychiatrist who counted Deadpool among his clients.
“Doctor Bell” must’ve been taken, because Doctor Bong is a cautionary tale about what happens when you dream up a character and then name him after the smoking apparatus you were obviously using at the same time.
Orrgo is your run-of-the-mill alien invader who’s 25 feet tall and can alter reality with his mind. You’d think a guy that big and that powerful would be unstoppable, but he was handily defeated in his first encounter. But his loss didn’t come at the hands of the Avengers, or Spider-Man, or the X-Men. Oh no — and this might be the best thing about Orrgo — he was beaten because he fell asleep and was subsequently bludgeoned by an angry gorilla.
There’s something kind of refreshing to find a Marvel supervillain who’s not some kind of crazy experiment gone awry, or a vengeful former good guy. He’s just a regularly old alien who wants to conquer Earth. That’s probably because he first appeared not in a superhero comic, but in an issue of the classic Strange Tales, written and drawn by the legendary Jack Kirby.
Dude’s butt-ugly, though. And he still doesn’t play well with others. That’s right, he’s still around. Despite his incredible, nigh-unlimited powers, he was marooned on Earth by the rest of his race and eventually pressed into service of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Howling Commandos. But why would you even need a team of monster soldiers if you have one giant alien willing to fight for you who can bend all of reality to his will?
Thursday Rubinstein has one of the strangest appearances in all of comicdom. Ruby Thursday often shows up as preposterously barely-dressed as most super-women in comics, but instead of a head, she has a red ball. No eyes, no nose, no mouth, no ears, no hair. Just a big red ball — like a clown’s nose, only shinier.
Okay, so there’s more to it than that. The red ball/head thing is made up of “organic circuitry” (of unknown origin), but it does more than just make Ruby smarter. It’s a shapeshifting living red computer ball. She can alter its configuration, extending up to eight tentacles, making sharp or hard weapons, even shooting out these objects at her opponents if she wishes. She can also separate the ball from the rest of her body if need be. Get this: Ruby can actually make the red ball explode without taking any damage — but causing great damage to others.
So it looks absurd, but if a Swiss Army Knife could be a head…
This disgusting mass of what-the-hell-am-I-looking-at? is Sugar Man. His real name, origins, and motivations have never been revealed, meaning he’s basically a “cackling bad guy” plot device. Created by Scott Lobdell and Chris Bachalo for the original Age of Apocalypse crossover event, the four-armed, two-horned Sugar Man came from the AoA universe, an alternate dimension (or timeline, or whatever) where Apocalypse runs the show and the X-Men are a resistance force lead by Magneto.
Anyway, his abnormal appearance — sort of a demon love child of MODOK and that squishy brain guy Krang from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles — has never been explained, but his powers include a long, Toad-like tongue that can pierce virtually anything, and the ability to change his size. He’s also a brilliant geneticist.
He’s crossed back and forth between the main Marvel universe and Age of Apocalypse Earth many times, even traveling through time and hiding for twenty years on the doomed island nation Genosha at one point. He still pops up now and again, opposing the X-Men with some new wacky genetic scheme. But unlike most comic book characters, who change appearance frequently, his hellspawn visage remains the same as when he was first introduced.
Yet another mutant with a bizarre power, Sarah is a former Morlock who participated in anti-homosapien terrorist activities until she was convinced to sign on with the X-Men. Marrow has a heightened metabolism that gives her accelerated bone growth, which often causes her bones to protrude from her skin. After learning to control her power, she’s now able to grow bones quickly and with some measure of precision, and even break them off and use them as weapons.
Yeah, it’s a little icky, and detaching them can’t feel very good, but on the plus side, Sarah can change use her bone protrusions to change aspects of her appearance at will. She can restrict her bone growth to keep them inside her skin and appear normal if she wishes, or she can grow them out to extremes that give her both weaponry and protection. Based on the artist drawing her, she’s sometimes depicted with pinkish/purple skin, though no reason has ever been given for this. Most recently, she joined X-Force, where she got a freakish new makeover.
As part of her super-metabolism, Marrow is also able to heal at an accelerated rate, similar to Wolverine and Deadpool. She also used to have two hearts for no good scientific reason, until Storm ripped one of them out. Ouch.
Chances are, you’ve at least heard of MODOK, even if you have no idea why he looks the way he does. The story goes that one George Tarleton signed up with A.I.M., who (you guessed it) genetically altered him, literally enlarging his brain to massive proportions. He turned evil and took on the moniker M.O.D.O.K., which stands for Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing.
MODOK is a longtime Captain America villain, though he’s tangled with just about every major Marvel superhero. He sits in a hover-chair because his head is too big for his body to support. Despite his heightened intelligence (and corresponding ego), he’s usually seen as something of a joke.
With a name like Maggot, you have to know you’re in for something wicked gross. Japheth is a South African mutant with blue skin and an extremely peculiar ability.
Basically, Maggot has two big slugs living inside him that can exit his body, eat absolutely anything without being harmed, and then absorb them back into his body. In this way, the three-eyed slugs functioned as Japheth’s digestion system. He even named the slugs, which were somewhat intelligent: Eany and Meany. The separation and reintegration process required by the maggots caused him extreme pain, but was necessary for his survival.
There’s no getting around the fact that Maggot’s mutation is out there. It’s like his creators were trying too hard to come up with a new mutant ability, and had a eureka moment that someone should have vetoed.
He may look like the mutant version of Ghostbusters‘ Slimer, but… Well, he’s pretty much exactly that. Rumor has it his creation was directly inspired by Slimer.
Doop is a little green blob with murky origins and an unclear power set, who inexplicably speaks an alien language and often fights alongside the X-Men. Marvel is never terribly clear about whether or not we should take him seriously, since he mostly serves as comic relief. Sometimes he’s a (somewhat) serious fighter with the likes of X-Statix and X-Force, and he’s been seen with enough strength to take on Thor. Other times he’s plainly ridiculous, functioning as a team videographer or a receptionist at the X-Men school.
Doop seems to come and go with his own agenda, and has undefined powers that seemingly conform to whatever the current writer feels like using. His body can contort to different shapes, though he’s not a proper shapeshifter, and even open a portal to another dimension called “Doop Land.” Over the years, he’s also had a large number of sexual partners.
You thought Beak (from the X-Men) was weird? Take a look at this guy. No really, take a good, long look into those manic eyes. Let that image burn itself into your mind. Good luck sleeping tonight.
Bird-Brain is one of the Ani-Mates (not to be confused with the Ani-Men, that’s a whole different thing). Bird-Brain and his ani-pals were genetically created on a remote island by a villain called
Dr. Moreau the Ani-Mator. Bird-Brain eventually escaped the island alone, and signed on with the New Mutants. Because that’s what you do when you escape illegal experimentation — just ask Wolverine.
Frank Quitely’s X-Men
In 2001, megastar writer Grant Morrison took over the flagship New X-Men series for Marvel Comics, in a high-profile move by the publisher. The revamp respected what came before, but Morrison brought in a ton of big, new ideas (such as the romance between Cyclops and Emma Frost) — some of which went over with fans better than others. His run is probably best remembered for the Xorn/Magneto shocker.
Then again, it could be remembered most for Frank Quitely’s unmistakable art, which featured in the opening story arc and again later. Frank Quitely is a gifted artist, capable of incredible detail and subtle nuance. (See: We3.) But he went full-on bizarre with his X-Men designs. We may never know if it was his own ideas that fueled the new looks or if most of it was mandated by Morrison, but the results bordered on grotesque.
Cyclops was a tall, skinny caricature, Jean Grey was just plain ugly, and Wolverine looked like he just wandered in from the nearest leather bar. He famously turned Beast into a cat, put Emma Frost into an outfit that can only be described as outside the laws of physics, and don’t even get us started about all the bizarre new mutants Morrison created — many of whom had genetic deformities instead of powers.
Actually do get us started, because we have to talk about Glob Herman, the guy made of wax whose innards you could see. And Martha, aka No-Girl, who was nothing but a brain in a floating jar. And poor Ugly John — oh how we pitied that sad sack — who was a normal guy with three faces sharing one head. Beak. Angel (the new one). Ernst. Kid Omega. Every single one of them looks like the ugly stick tried to kill them.
Maybe it was metaphorical, given the whole “disliked and distrusted” thing that mutants always face. Or maybe it was just to be weird. Regardless of why, Frank Quitely’s X-Men easily earns our top spot of the Most WTF Marvel Character Designs ever.
Did we miss any of your head-shakingly awful character designs? Let us know in the comments.