Comic Book Day: Before John Tower, Five Prior Supernatural Sleuths
They find out what goes bump, and then bump back.
John Tower is a bounty hunter who tracks down demons, monsters and all other nightmarish beasties in the graphic novel series The Tower Chronicles, volume two of which is out today. He’s doing a good job, but with the amount of vampires, werewolves and other assorted horrors that lurk in comics, he can’t do it alone. Luckily for all of us, there are some world class ghost gumshoes for us to choose from. We wouldn’t mind calling any of these five the next time we encounter any incubi or succubi.
Doctor Spektor – No, not Regina’s physician father; he’s a world-traveling scientist, occult expert and monster hunter who had his own series, The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor, which ran from 1973-1977 in the pages of Gold Key Comics. During his relatively short run, he battled everything from vampires to mummies to underwater leviathans and was even himself changed into a werewolf for a few issues. He may also be the most dapper of the sleuths on this list, sporting a wardrobe full of frilly shirts, thin ties and cloaks that would make the Third Doctor jealous. And, if you’re going to fight evil, having a rakish mustache is never a bad thing.
Dylan Dog – Italian comics’ favorite nightmare investigator has more peccadilloes than Texas has armadillos. For starters, he’s afraid of spiders and bats, which he sees quite often in his line of work. Second, he’s got a sidekick named Groucho who, believe it or not, is a Groucho Marx impersonator who never stops impersonating. Thirdly, Dylan actively tries not to take cases, thinking most clients are just rich snobs who need a psychiatrist. So why does he do it? Well, for the women mostly; and someone’s got to fight those vampires and stuff.
Phantom Stranger – There might be no one more mysterious in comics than the aptly named Phantom Stranger. Starting in the ’50s as a debunker of paranormal activity, he eventually began fighting actual supernatural threats and his ancient powers came to the forefront. Throughout the decades, PS has been described as neither alive nor dead and even his edition of Secret Origins offers little hard evidence as to his true nature, offering four completely different beginnings for the character. He does not get along very well with the Spectre, who sees Phantom Stranger as a meddler, not unlike the Scooby Gang.
Hellboy – The phrase “it takes one to know one” should be modified to “it takes one to fight one” in the case of the BPRD’s favorite son. Being a big, red demon possessing the right hand of doom, Hellboy was meant to be the destroyer of worlds, but being raised by Professor Bruttenholm and taught to help rather than harm has made him one of Earth’s best protectors. While it’s true that Liz Sherman and Abe Sapien do the bulk of the sleuthing, Hellboy’s the one with the tattered raincoat and the big ol’ pistol. Besides, who else could beat Rasputin and Cthulu in the same day?
John Constantine – With a sordid past, crippling smoking habit and penchant for conning people, Constantine has to be the most complex supernatural sleuth in comics today. That he was created by Alan Moore is also a big help. Constantine seemingly knows everyone and everything involved in the occult which has helped him trick various demons and Lords of Hell when it suited his purposes. In fact, he tends only to use spells when he absolutely must, and generally relies on his cunning and ability to sweet-talk his way into or out of anything. Also, he looks like Sting, not Keanu Reeves.