Inspiration works in strange ways. Sometimes, our favorite characters look exactly right the first time their creators debut them, but other times, it takes a whole bunch of people decades (or centuries) to figure out that Dracula probably shouldn’t be balding, or that the Iron Giant shouldn’t look like one of the possessed toys from the end of Poltergeist. To whit …
#9. Gollum Was Accidentally Gigantic For A While
When he was writing The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien introduced an amiable fellow named Gollum who offered the hero, Bilbo Baggins, a magic ring in exchange for solving a riddle. In later editions, Tolkien changed Gollum into an aggressive ring-junkie to avoid contradicting his new trilogy, The Lord Of The Rings. Thus was born the conniving, possessive little wretch we all know and love!
Well, not quite little. Since Tolkien never specified Gollum’s size, the artists all assumed he must have been a giant, and also ridiculous. Here’s Gollum reimagined as a sad eggplant in the Swedish edition of The Hobbit:
Instead of a riddle, he forces Bilbo to sit through his minstrel show.
The Soviet version wasn’t any more flattering:
He has the sickly, deformed look of he who has fallen prey to material greed and capitalism.
The German artist, meanwhile, drew a morbidly obese toad and called it a day:
“GIVE ME BACK MY PRE– shit, I’m stuck again. Can you call the fire department?”
It got to the point that, when Princess magazine wanted to publish The Hobbit as a serial in the ’60s, Tolkien’s only condition was that he could “see the illustrations and that Gollum should not be made a monster.” The results are debatable, considering he ended up looking like Darrin from Bewitched wearing flippers and a turtleneck:
Bilbo’s afro is presented without comment.
#8. Most Batman Villains Started Out Looking Hilarious
In this age of gritty movie adaptations, it’s easy to forget that comic books are frequently the dumbest things in existence. This was especially true in the ’50s, when “looking like a cheeseball goofus” was the status quo, particularly for Batman villains. For example, before he was an ice-blue Terminator, Mr. Freeze looked like Yul Brynner playing astronaut in his backyard:
“And by ‘that’ I mean my warm, friendly smile!”
“Gosh dang it, he’s right!!!”
Meanwhile, here’s modern Deadshot (Will Smith’s character in the Suicide Squad movie), seen wasting a bitch:
And he had the nerve to give Carlton that speech about guns.
And here he is in 1950, looking like a rapist at a costume party:
Up to precisely 1950, hats were more valued than human lives.
While not strictly a Batman villain, Boomerang is another Suicide Squad member who has been on the receiving end of a Batarang. Until shockingly recently, he was Captain Boomerang, and dressed like he’d just accepted the vacant position teaching Hogwarts’ Defense Against the Dark Arts class:
You’ll never guess his nationality.
But the weirdest one by far is Catwoman. You already know her as a woman in a hooded leather catsuit with ears, which is an entirely different kind of confusing. Back in the day, though, she put a cat’s face on top of her preexisting human face. Fur and whiskers and everything.
The world wasn’t ready for a full-bodied furry yet.
She didn’t even change her dress. This disguise resides at the intersection of lazy and terrifying. But hey, at least we’re reasonably sure she’s never molested a feline, which we can’t say about her incestuous also-supervillain brother.
#7. Early Illustrations Of The Iron Giant Were Dopey As Hell
The Iron Giant is one of the few movies it’s illegal to judge an adult for crying over, but it’s hard to get emotional about the early portrayals of the titular titan for the original novel. In Dirk Zimmer’s 1988 illustrations, he’s less heroic Droid Jesus and more rictus-grinning hellbot. Here he is panicking at the discovery of his hilariously disproportionate feet:
More specifically, at the family of four now decorating the sole.
It’s not totally clear what’s going on here, but he appears to be walking through a river. Which can only mean a uniquely horrifying doom for any jet-skiers he happens upon.
“You’re going to catch your death of rust!”
But even those drawings are preferable to those of Andrew Davidson, who turned the childlike robot into a terrifying death machine who runs on lithium and souls:
That porcupine is freakishly large too, judging from those cars.
Be careful to maintain eye contact as you scroll, lest he leap off your screen and destroy you:
At least he has the correct number of nipples: four.
We’re with Mansley here — who cares how much he loves Superman, shoot that thing down immediately.
#6. The Ring And The Grudge‘s Villains Were Originally Crappy/Naked Low-Budget Versions
The Ring, that horror flick about Naomi Watts being haunted by archaic technology like videocassettes and landline telephones, is based on the Japanese movie Ringu — but it turns out there was an even earlier adaptation of the same book. Ring: Kanzenban is a gratuitously pornographic no-budget TV movie that is somehow way more Japanese than the feature film:
Anyone who watches this tape spontaneously gets crabs seven days later.
For reasons that will soon become clear, in this version, the vengeful TV ghost is an adult woman instead of a little girl. She’s also way less creepy. Instead of crawling out of the TV under a curtain of follicular cautionary tales, she glides out naked and glowing, like the guardian angel of static and boners.
This movie also doubled as the Japanese remake of Weird Science.
This at least explains why people kept watching the cursed video. Which, by the way, instead of being full of vaguely threatening images of wells and ladders and “fingernail” double entendres, features disco colors, random explosions, and whatever is going on here:
Nothing scarier than dice.
Meanwhile, the “original” Japanese version of The Grudge, Ju-On, is actually the third movie of that series, which started as an incredibly awkward short film. It begins when our hero gets a phone call from, as far as he knows, a cat, and proceeds to have a conversation with it like there is nothing weird about that.
“Cat-calling” has a different, more literal definition in Japan.
Then the series’ familiar naked ghost child appears sitting next to him, at which point the protagonist stares stupidly until the boy feebly vomits liquid eyeliner and makes even more cat noises
Audio conveniently provided by a forgotten feeding time.
So yeah. Their first crack at this was somewhat less chilling than the hundred-million-dollar franchise it has since become.
#5. The Original Dungeons & Dragons Artwork Looked Like Middle School Notebook Doodles
There wasn’t really a template for the first Dungeons & Dragons manual, since in 1974, role-playing games were not a thing. The publishers only had the budget for 1,000 games, which had to be hand-assembled, so a few things had to be rushed through or struck out entirely, such as rules that made sense or competent artwork. Something Awful’s Zack Parsons and Steve Sumner leafed through the original guide, and if you thought nothing would make you long for the D&D movie, you’re in for a treat. Most of the characters look confused, like they’re not sure where they are or what they’re doing there:
The Ent just wants to know if it has a belly button or a vagina.
Others look extremely bored and/or stoned:
“Dude, what was in that shit? I feel like I have snakes on my head.”
This orc was chilling on the couch watching Community. He is totally not prepared for this battle he’s found himself in:
This is us when we answer the door and don’t want people to notice we’ve just woken up.
Here’s a giant posing with his legs spread wide for maximum dick swing:
“Find out why they call me giant! (It’s strictly my height.)”
This wraith doesn’t understand the point of it all and has lost all interest in this sword business:
“But daaaaad, I don’t wanna destroy all living creatures! I wanna go to the mall with Jared!”
Meanwhile, this mummy wants you to watch him nae nae:
“Have you ever whipped with the devil in the pale moonlight?”
Keep in mind that these were the drawings that caused widespread moral panic among parents who believed the game was a secret gateway into Satanism. Because apparently the primary tools Satan uses to recruit children are apathy and bad dancing.
#4. The Original Beast In Beauty And The Beast Looked Like Bebop From TMNT
In the most widely available edition of the first published Beauty And The Beast story, the author is weirdly vague about the small matter of what the Beast actually looks like, describing him only as “frightful.” This has posed a problem for illustrators over the years — “frightful” could describe anything from a car accident to Ed Sheeran. As a result, the Beast’s look has largely been left to each artist’s interpretation. Disney went with the classy man-bear-lion design, but in the olden days, people got way more weird with it. In 1875, illustrator Walter Crane settled on a “warthog’s head sewn onto a man’s body” look, complete with fancy boots:
The way he drew Beauty was also controversial.
This bizarre game of Island Of Dr. Moreau Mad Libs really captured the imaginations of other artists. In 1913, Warwick Goble drew the Beast as a man with a horse’s head:
And fabulous pantyhose.
This guy decided on a warthog face, but with an elephant’s trunk and tusks:
Or a really awesome mustache. We’re not sure.
We get a little more creative here, where instead of a random animal head, the Beast is some kind of terrifying fucking shadow goblin who spends his free time restoring antique furniture:
“…hiss You’ll never believe the deal I got on this chair hiss…”
And eventually, Hollywood came around … at which point things took a giant step backward in terms of laziness. Special effects mostly consisted of rubber cement and prayer in the ’60s, so for the 1962 film adaptation, they rewrote the story to make the Beast a werewolf so they could justify reusing all their old Lon Chaney makeup.
And thus the entire industry that is manscaping was born.
#3. Bigfoot Looked Hilarious In Early Descriptions
We’ve all seen the blurry, ape-like form of the mysterious Bigfoot, but according to the earliest witnesses, he looked, well … a little different. He apparently wore a suit and tie, for instance, and had a fabulous mullet.
Excuse us, she. “Witness” Albert Ostman was very explicit in his description to the artist that this was the female Bigfoot, having apparently gotten close enough to determine genital configuration. It’s a very important distinction which the artist had to correct in his book on the topic, which was later made much clearer in the statues made from his drawings. That is, they gave her a bad wig.
Make Bigfoot Great Again
In fact, Ostman allegedly encountered an entire family of Bigfoot (Bigfoots? Bigfeet?) in 1924 — a mama Bigfoot, a papa Bigfoot, and two Littlefoots. They dragged him in his sleeping bag from the woods one night for some reason, then kept him prisoner in their cottage until, presumably after sitting in all their chairs and tasting all their porridge, he escaped after tricking Papa Bigfoot into eating an entire tin of snuff. Because Bigfoots are apparently Looney Tunes.
Ostman described the Bigfeet as about seven feet tall and 300 lbs., with “wide jaws, [and] narrow forehead, that slanted upward round at the back about four or five inches higher than the forehead.” Weirdly, they had surprisingly stylish hair, about six inches long with curled bangs on the women, explaining the statue’s Baloo-meets-Dolores-Umbridge appearance.
#2. Cthulhu Was Drawn Like The Sad Chubby Kid At Recess
H.P. Lovecraft’s tentacled god of wrath is such a terror that we can’t actually show him to you, because according to the author, you would go insane. Here’s Lovecraft’s description of him, and this is merely a figurine, mind you:
“It was hella creepy, is my point.”
Aaaaand this is how he drew it:
In his house at R’lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming of getting his lunch money back.
You can’t be a genius at everything, and Lovecraft was clearly more talented with words than pictures. The fearsome sea-beast looks more like he’s taking a fearsome dump after eating a sea-beast. In Lovecraft’s defense, this is clearly a quick “Here’s what I’m talking about” sketch he was using to convey how he imagined the Great Old One, and was never meant to be an official illustration, but when the best visual approximation you can make of the sleeping lord of madness is Dr. Zoidberg playing Bejewled on a YMCA toilet, it loses some of its nightmarish impact.
#1. Dracula And Frankenstein’s Monster Looked Like Ugly Dudes
When we picture Frankenstein’s monster, and most of us probably think of Boris Karloff’s green skin and cranial hardware. That’s the most iconic version of the monster, and it’s the one we’ve stuck with for the past 80 years or so. However, according to Mary Shelley’s original novel, that’s way off — Frankenstein’s monster was actually yellow. As in “golden god.” According to his daddy, “I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing.” Essentially, Johnny Depp with jaundice. But you’d never know it from some of the weird portrayals over the years, in most of which he looks like a weird hobo.
OK, still basically Johnny Depp.
Thomas Edison’s 1910 Frankenstein movie — yes, Edison made a Frankenstein movie — is probably the hoboiest, played by a similarly abominable Chris Farley / Christopher Lloyd hybrid, which you’ll notice is the mathematical opposite of Johnny Depp:
The forehead and hair were pillaged from the grave of one “O. Winfrey.”
Frankenstein’s creation wasn’t the only literary monster to get a bizarre makeover. Dracula, as originally portrayed in illustrated versions of Bram Stoker’s novel, looks like an elderly, confused Jude Law with ferocious gout:
“Dracula, get down from there.”
“I CAN FLY LIKE THE EAGLE!”
“Dracula it’s time for your pill.”
He was arguably improved in the first film adaptation, reimagined as the sexy Merlin no one ever asked for:
He looks like the sort of person who buys blind tickets to Coachella.
The thing is, Dracula was never supposed to be handsome. In 2012, a guy used police sketch software to visually translate Bram Stoker’s description, and, well …
Let’s just say we’re thankful he’s in a coffin during school hours.
He’s not exactly the relentlessly erotic seducer of women we’ve been making him out to be all these years. That’s why he has to use magic to convince anyone to go anywhere with him — he has the kind of face the FBI watch list makes room for.