Comics, Novels, and Manga Have Brilliant Horror Villains, Too

·4 min read

Happy Nerdoween!!! This spooky season is the perfect time to celebrate some of our fave horror icons. But while our minds often go to scary movies and TV shows during this hallowed time, this year we are thinking outside the box. We’re looking to comics, manga, and books to fully explore some of those scary antagonists who get into our brains and refuse to let go. Here are a few print horror villains you need to know.

Tomie (Tomie)

A page from Tomie shows Tomie holding a knife
A page from Tomie shows Tomie holding a knife

Viz Media

We could have written an entire piece about Junji Ito’s terrifying creations. But to keep things simple, we chose one of his most nightmarish and iconic monsters. Murdered by her classmates, Tomie returns the next day to her high school intent on revenge. A twisted reinvention of the femme fatale, Tomie soon became a recurring figure in Ito’s short stories. The beautiful young woman often targets egotistical men, who she drives mad with her beauty. Both terrifying and awe-inspiring, Tomie works as both a mythical nightmare muse and warning tale to the kind of men who will drop everything for a pretty face.

Ayoola (My Sister, the Serial Killer)
The cover for My Sister the Serial Killer shows a young Black woman wearing a head scarf and sunglasses with the reflection of a knife in them
The cover for My Sister the Serial Killer shows a young Black woman wearing a head scarf and sunglasses with the reflection of a knife in them

Doubleday

One of fiction’s most frightening serial killers, Oyinkan Braithwaite introduced readers to Ayoola, the titular murderer of her stunning debut novel. A young, beautiful woman, Ayoola has killed three of her boyfriends by the time we meet her. While she claims self-defense, her lack of emotion, near sociopathic ability to continue on with her life, and the fact that she always calls her sister to clean up her mess hint at something darker.

What makes Ayoola so terrifying is the absolute normality that she represents. She’s the popular girl next door. The girl you might have a crush on, and one who absolutely wouldn’t blink at killing you. Plus, she has an enabler who will stop at nothing to protect her and hide her secret.

Carnage (Marvel Comics)
A crop from Amazing Spider-Man shows Carnage a red and black monster saying "Do you know why you're going to die"
A crop from Amazing Spider-Man shows Carnage a red and black monster saying "Do you know why you're going to die"

Marvel Comics

Another vital serial killer inclusion is Cletus Kasady. But you probably know him better as Carnage. Though you might not think about a nefarious murderer being a key part of the usually kid friendly Spider-Man lore, that’s exactly the case with Kasady. He was a cannibalistic murderer who ended up in a cell next to Eddie Brock. It was here he came into contact with the symbiote that transformed him into Carnage. Combining a sociopathic cannibal with an all-powerful alien is truly a terrifying prospect. While Carnage and Venom are seen as a little campy these days, at his core Carnage is a horror villain for the ages.

Violator (Spawn / Image Comics)
A splash page from Spawn shows Violator a giant multi armed monster with its wide toothed mouth open as if to devour something
A splash page from Spawn shows Violator a giant multi armed monster with its wide toothed mouth open as if to devour something

Todd McFarlane

Another descendant of Venom but in a wholly different way, Violator was born when Todd McFarlane left Spider-Man at the height of the book’s success and created Spawn. Violator is best known for his strikingly disgusting appearance as a horrifyingly horned agent of Hell. But that’s not his only form. This murderous beast also assumes the unsettling human body of a slovenly clown. That’s two ghastly guises to haunt your dreams! And if you need something to really keep you up at night, make sure to watch John Leguizamo in the 1996 Spawn movie.

Dio Brando (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure)
Promo art for JoJo's Bizarre Adventure shows Dio Brado a blonde haired man laying on a sofa wit a rose and armor on
Promo art for JoJo's Bizarre Adventure shows Dio Brado a blonde haired man laying on a sofa wit a rose and armor on

Viz Media

Nothing is simple in the world of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. Especially not the origin, motives, and power set of one of its most famous bad guys: Dio Brando. Though his outlandish looks and strong jaw might make you think he’s an odd pick for this list, don’t be fooled. As part of his never ending quest to terrorize his adopted brother Jonathan Joestar, Dio ended up turning himself into a vampire. Talk about commitment. But he’s not only a bloodsucker, he later becomes a Stand user, making him near all-powerful in the magical arts. Spooky!!!

Mephisto (Marvel Comics)
Mephisto looks evil
Mephisto looks evil

Marvel Comics

How could we not include Nerdist‘s favorite demonic presence? While Mephisto has yet to make himself known in the MCU, he’s been causing horrific havoc in the Marvel Universe since 1953’s Bible Tales for Young Folk #1 where he starred as the Serpent… no, really. Though the over-the-top devilish imagery might make him less obviously horrifying than some on our list, Mephisto is a truly powerful being who can literally make your life a nightmare. He also takes his name from Mephistopheles, one of literature’s most infamous villains. The Faustian pacts he loves to trick heroes into are also a reference to that very influence.

The Batman Who Laughs (DC Comics)
The cover to The Batman Who Laughs shows The Batman Who Laughs a creature with broken teeth and metal spikes over his eyes laughing
The cover to The Batman Who Laughs shows The Batman Who Laughs a creature with broken teeth and metal spikes over his eyes laughing

DC Comics

DC Comics has long been the home of some great rogues who’d hold their own against some of the genre’s most fearsome villains. But over the last few years, they’ve introduced maybe their most appalling creation yet. The Batman Who Laughs is an alt-universe version of Bruce Wayne. His pale visage and deathly cackle are a result of the Joker toxin. Yep, this is a combo of Gotham’s two most unstable men, and he’s as scary as that sounds. Did we mention that he also keeps jokerfied Robins on chains like pet dogs? *shudders*

Featured Image: Viz, DC Comics, Todd McFarlane

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