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Superheroes Who Almost Looked Way Creepier

For superheroes, costume changes are just part of the gig. When Iron Man first appeared, his suit looked more like a tin can than the red-and-gold power armor he later built. Spider-Man's stylish black suit wasn't just one of the highlights of Marvel's 1984 crossover, Secret Wars—the costume ended up being so popular, it was transformed into one of Spidey's most memorable villains. When heroes make the transition from the comic books to the screen, costume changes are even more important: while diehard fans love to see their favorite characters adapted as faithfully as possible, some superhero costumes (like Wolverine's) just don't work in live action.

That's a good thing, too, because some superhero outfits are downright terrifying, especially when you dig into the heroes' earliest designs. Be thankful that artists, directors, and producers decided to change these looks before their characters grew too popular—otherwise, our big superhero universes would be a lot scarier.

Groot

Before Guardians of the Galaxy hit theaters in 2014, it seemed like Bradley Cooper's trigger-happy bounty hunter Rocket Raccoon would be the movie's breakout star. Instead, it was Rocket's partner, the tree-like alien Groot, who stole the show. Thanks to Groot's big heart, limited vocabulary, and featured role in the film's best scene, audiences quickly fell in love with the Vin Diesel-voiced gentle giant, leading to a small galaxy's worth of Groot-themed merchandise and a short-lived dance craze. Marvel knows that it's got a good thing going, too. Judging by Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2's first trailer, Baby Groot plays an even bigger—and more adorable—role in the second movie than he did in the first.

In fact, Groot is so cute that it's easy to forget he started out as a bona fide monster. In Tales to Astonish #13, Groot—also called "the monster from Planet X"—attacks a small town, B-movie monster style. A mob of angry citizens band together to stop the creature, who wants to take the city back to his home planet for some ominous-sounding experiments, but rifles and torches can only do so much. Finally, a local scientist unleashes a flock of termites and dooms Groot to a quick, painful death. Later, Groot would terrorize both the Hulk and Spider-Man; it wasn't until 2006, when he joined Nick Fury's Howling Commandos, that Groot finally become a hero (and received a new, friendlier look to match).

The Mask

Almost everyone who grew up in the 1990s knows The Mask, the Jim Carrey-starring action-comedy featuring what were then cutting-edge CGI effects and Cameron Diaz's first leading role. In the movie, Carrey plays Stanley Ipkiss, an ordinary schlub who transforms into a green-faced superhero when he puts on the titular mask. Using the power of the trickster god Loki, the Mask is a living cartoon character who uses gags from classic animated shorts to take out the local mob, win the girl, and save the day.

But while Carrey's Mask is gleefully energetic, his comic book-counterpart is straight-up homicidal. As written by John Arcudi, the Mask is more of a psychopath than a hero, and artist Doug Mahnke gives him a look to match. Sure, on the surface, the original Mask resembles his cinematic counterpart, but his wild eyes and toothy smile take on a much more sinister air when the Mask is gleefully mowing down bad guys with a machine gun, shooting himself with a revolver, or tearing off his own skin to reveal the green monster underneath.

Deathlok

As played by Angel alumnus J. August Richards, Deathlok was one of the first characters to make the transition from comic books to Marvel's super-powered espionage thriller, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. And given the show's made-for-TV budget, S.H.I.E.L.D.'s producers did a reasonable job capturing Deathlok's look, outfitting Richards with a cybernetic super-suit and a nasty looking burn scar.

Still, as far as intimidation goes, the television version of Deathlok doesn't hold a candle to the original comic book edition, who is literally a walking corpse. Before he was Deathlok, Colonel Luther Manning lost his arm and half of his face in a concussion bomb blast. In Astonishing Tales #25, a government official named Simon Ryker fuses Manning's brain with a computer and rebuilds his body using state-of-the-art technology, but robs Manning of his humanity in the process.

The process doesn't do wonders for Manning's looks, either. Post-surgery, Deathlok sports dead gray skin, a red cybernetic eye, and a scarred and deformed face. It's so bad that Ryker's assistant calls Deathlok "repulsive," saying, "Just looking at him makes my flesh crawl." Thankfully, Deathlok—who broke a man's face with his fist one panel earlier—doesn't hear her.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

It started as a joke. As the story goes, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird were sitting in their Dover, New Hampshire studio when Eastman, on a whim, drew a picture of a masked turtle wielding nunchucks. Laird countered with a drawing of his own. Laughing, the two artists spent the rest of the evening sketching increasingly ridiculous ninja turtles (Eastman remembers thinking that the whole exercise was "the dumbest thing ever") and thus, and one of the most profitable and beloved franchises of all time was born.

As they've moved between numerous comic books, cartoons, and live-action films, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have sported many looks, but none are quite as odd as Eastman's original drawing. The very first Ninja Turtle was incredibly reptilian, with sharp claws, a thick neck, and a massive shell. The rounder, softer, and more human look that the fearsome foursome are known for didn't arrive until Laird picked up a pencil. If he hadn't, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would've looked very, very different.

Eastman's initial sketch wasn't the last time that the turtles were almost stuck with unsettling designs, either. While fans criticized the Ninja Turtles' "realistic" look in Michael Bay's 2014 live-action reboot, early concept art for the film (reportedly based on the idea that the turtles were actually an alien species) proves that things could've been a whole lot worse.

Legion

Downton Abbey's Dan Stevens, who stars in FX's X-Men spin-off, Legion, is a good-looking guy. David Haller, the character that Stevens plays, isn't—at least, not in his original incarnation. While Stevens effectively brings Haller's ongoing angst and confusion to the screen (and the show's visual style, while not as dark as Bill Sienkiewicz's moody artwork, is its own type of crazy), Haller's more sadistic tendencies seem to have stayed on the comics pages.

That probably has a lot to do with Legion's transformation from villain into hero. When he first appeared in New Mutants #26, Haller—the son of X-Men founder Charles Xavier—was locked away in a cell at Moira MacTaggert's Muir Island research facility. As a young boy, Haller was the victim of a terrorist attack, and the resulting trauma both triggered Haller's psychic powers and shattered his mind, leading to autism, schizophrenia, and one heck of a mean streak. Later, after Haller gains control of his split personalities, his look softens—although thankfully, he never loses that awesome hairdo.

El Diablo

Love it or hate it, David Ayer's Suicide Squad has a pretty distinct sense of style, and changing El Diablo's look to better fit with his Squad teammates was probably the right call. Shaving Jay Hernandez's head and covering him in tattoos is absolutely more in line with the DC Extended Universe's gritty and grounded aesthetic, and it certainly ties into El Diablo's past as a former gang leader. Still, there's a small part of us that wishes we could've seen Chato Santana's demon-luchador costume on the silver screen.

In the comics (specifically, 2008's El Diablo #1), Santana isn't just a criminal with pyrokinetic powers—he's actually Hell's number one assassin. After a Department of Justice raid leaves Santana crippled and stuck in a prison hospital, a corrupt officer named Alex Aaron spreads the rumor that Santana is willing to rat out his former associates. Members of Santana's gang show up to finish him off, but instead of dying, Santana transforms into El Diablo, the literal personification of vengeance. As part of his supernatural makeover, Santana gains glowing red eyes, a stylish poncho, a flaming whip, a horse, and a revolver that shoots fire—all nods to DC's first El Diablo, a cowboy hero who originally appeared in All-Star Western #2.

Rorschach

Zack Snyder's adaptation of Alan Moore and David Gibbons' Watchmen has its fair share of critics, but most fans agree that Snyder got one thing right: Rorschach, as played by Jackie Earle Haley, is a pitch-perfect translation of the character, from the animated mask to the straight-from-the-comics costume all the way down to Haley's eerie growl. It's a great performance, and one of the most unsettling portrayals of an on-screen superhero ever.

And yet, it could've been even weirder, if Gibbons had used Rorschach's original design in the final graphic novel. As revealed in a marketing preview for Gibbons' behind-the-scenes tome Watching the Watchmen, early concept art covers Rorschach from head to toe in the same spotted material as his iconic mask, and while many superheroes wear full-body suits, in Rorschach's case, it makes him look naked. The face-like pattern on his torso and his pose don't help, either—in the sketch, Rorschach's opening his trenchcoat like a flasher. As a drawing, it's uncomfortable. On the screen, it would've been downright bizarre, especially given Snyder's slavish devotion to Moore and Gibbons' source material.

Squirrel Girl

Squirrel Girl might be quirky, but be warned: Doreen Green is no joke. In her first appearance, Squirrel Girl and her army of critters beat up both Iron Man and Doctor Doom. As a member of the Great Lakes Avengers, she took out M.O.D.O.K., Thanos, and Deadpool. Now, Squirrel Girl stars in her own critically-acclaimed comic book series, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. She's slated to be one of the leads in Marvel's New Warriors television series, while popular Hollywood actresses like Anna Kendrick and Shannon Purser (better known as Barb on Stranger Things) are actively campaigning to bring Squirrel Girl to life on the big screen.

That's especially impressive given that, in her debut, Squirrel Girl looked absolutely terrifying. As designed by Steve Ditko—y'know, the guy who co-created Spider-Man—for her Marvel Super-Heroes #8 debut, Doreen (whose mutant powers include super-strength and the ability to communicate with woodland creatures) is more squirrel than girl, with big puffy cheeks, buck teeth, no ears, and some baffling eye makeup. Things got worse before they got better: in 1997, a truly bizarre "mature" rendition of Squirrel Girl graced a Marvel trading card. After that, Squirrel Girl disappeared for a few years, and when she returned in the pages of Great Lakes Avengers it was as the cute, cuddly, and fearsome superheroine that fans have come to love.

Mr. Hyde

In Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D's second season finale, Kyle MacLachlan's Calvin Johnson finally undergoes the transformation from a run-of-the-mill mad scientist into Marvel's Mr. Hyde. Reportedly, MacLachlan's makeup took about two and a half hours to apply, and while MacLachlan doesn't look that different, the prosthetics do give the Twin Peaks vet a manic, frazzled edge.

Still, MacLachlan's Mr. Hyde has nothing on the Marvel original. In Journey into Mystery #99, Mr. Hyde debuted as a thief devoted to ruining Dr. Donald Blake, Thor's alter-ego. Inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, the thief (named Calvin Zabo) creates a formula that gives him super-strength—but at the cost of his well-manicured good looks. While Zabo normally sports a bowtie and a well-trimmed goatee, Hyde is a short, hunchbacked menace with a face like a neanderthal and a distinctly Victorian fashion sense. Thor stops Hyde, of course, but that's not the end of his story—Zabo has been a fixture in the Marvel Universe for years, including a short stint on the villains-turned-heroes super-team the Thunderbolts.

The Hulk

While Mark Ruffalo isn't exactly hard on the eyes, the Hulk himself isn't known for being a looker. In his book Origins of Marvel Comics, Stan Lee, who co-created the Hulk with Jack Kirby, compared the Hulk to ugly characters like Quasimodo, Frankenstein's monster, and Doctor Hyde, saying, "For a long time I'd been aware of the fact that people were more likely to favor someone who was less than perfect."

But it could've been worse. A few years before Bruce Banner put on his purple pants, Lee introduced a very different-looking Hulk to the world in a Tales to Astonish feature called "It Happened on the Silver Screen!" In the story, which is mostly wordless, the Hulk is a King Kong-sized movie monster who oozes his way through a major city, off the screen, and right into the theater itself. The filmgoing audience is appropriately terrified—at least until the camera pulls back and reveals that the invasion is all part of a different movie, and that the real-life viewers are free from harm.