27 Noteworthy Moustache Aficionados from the Comics, in Ascending Order of Awesomeness
“Rugged. Self-assured. Adult. These are the words that describe the man who wears a moustache.” — The Tick
Hey, it’s Movember, so what better time than now to honor some of the great all-time comic-book moustaches? Below are a succession of soup-strainers submitted for your consideration, organized by means of a very complex algorithm that lists them from merely meh to most excellently awesome (it’s all science, trust me).
Also, if you’re someone who’s wondering what this whole “Movember” thing is about, this should help. Enjoy!
+1. (Honorable Mention) Stan Lee
Though technically not a comic-book character (despite numerous appearances as himself in his company’s books and movies), Lee deserves an honorable mention. Starting out as a fresh-shaven youth in his uncle’s publishing office, he started growing out his beard during the swinging ’60s and switched to sporting just a ‘stache right around the time Jack Kirby (who had left Marvel for DC under less-than-sunny terms) created a bearded character clearly intended as a satirical swipe at his former boss. Lee’s moustache, a fixture on his face ever since, has become so iconic that its absence was noted by fans at an April 2014 Q&A session. Lee started to explain by saying “I was doing some work on a hologram project–” when someone ran up on the stage to prevent him from spilling the beans. (Later, fans found out he did it for his cameo in that summer’s Guardians of the Galaxy.) He then told the audience, “I got home and my wife said, ‘Wow, you look better without the moustache.’ And the guys at Pow! said, ‘Oh, you look better without the moustache.’ Well, I don’t need a house to fall on me, so I want to keep it off. But now everyone says, ‘Where the hell is the moustache?!’ So I don’t know what to do.” My advice, Stan? Never underestimate the power of the ‘stache.
26. Turner D. Century
No, that wasn’t his real name, but I wouldn’t blame you for thinking that it was; comic writers can be cutesy that way. This rather unstable fellow travelled around by means of a flying tandem bicycle(!) with a mannequin on the back seat(!!), and came up with all kinds of crazy schemes to return America to a kinder, gentler time, even if that means killing every young whippersnapper to do it. All right, so he’s a slightly pathetic homicidal dick with a grandma fetish, but there’s no denying that’s a damn fine ‘stache.
Some guys have all the luck, and some other guys are named the Monocle. A Hawkman villain from the old days, he fought the forces of law and order with a laser-emitting eyepiece of his own design. Despite a sympathetic story and superior sense of fashion (not everyone can pull off an opera cloak), he got shot in the eye like a punk a few years back by one of DC’s Manhunters. He might be alive again; one never knows these days. The point is he committed larceny with style, and his pencil ‘stache always makes me think David Niven (ask your grandparents) would have been the perfect guy to play him in the movies.
Hey, did you know that comics starring the combat-happy Blackhawks routinely outsold most other non-Superman comics in the early 1940s? Believe it, or don’t! The squadron of ace pilots under the command of the man known only as Blackhawk included among its ranks Hendrickson, the Dutch sharpshooter and resident elder of the team who’s never, ever seen without his thick handlebar moustache. “Himmel!”
Also known as the “biker moustache,” the horseshoe ‘stache is, according to our old pal Wikipedia, “a full moustache with vertical extensions from the corners of the lips down to the jawline and resembling an upside-down horseshoe.” It’s usually associated with hyper-masculine types like cowboys and bikers, so it’s not at all surprising to see it on this guy, a DC alien with Superman-like powers who oozes machismo from every pore.
22. Angar the Screamer
David Angar was your typical hippie-dippie radical activist who volunteered for an experiment that gave him super-powers — more specifically, it gave him the power of super-screaming, which he used to deafen and disorient superheroes and/or entire crowds of civilians, depending on his mood. He later died in a botched bank robbery but came back as a “disembodied sonic spirit.” But did the moustache survive, man? What about the moustache???
21. Mr. America
This guy first appeared in 1938’s Action Comics #1, which explains why copies of that issue are so expensive these days. Fun fact: he was originally known as just Tex Thompson, a typical Texan playboy and adventurer, until Action Comics #33, when he took the name and patriotic costuming of Mr. America (just one month before Captain America’s own book hit the stands). Still later, he called himself the Americommando while taking on spy missions behind enemy lines. Whatever name he went by, one thing that never changed about him was his Clark Gable-esque ‘stache — the ultimate sign of manly sophistication in those simpler times.
Annnnnnnd then you’ve got this guy, who’s probably the opposite of Gable in every way. Maynard Tiboldt inherited a criminal circus from his Nazi-loving father, who used his touring circus as cover while his performers went around the country murdering government officials. Only in the Marvel universe is “inheriting a criminal circus” a viable career option for young people. Depending on who’s drawing him, he gets the Fu Manchu, the Salvador Dali, a full goatee, you name it. One thing he never gets, though? Better over time.
Because being born a good-looking mutant who gets to nail both Jean Grey and Emma Frost wasn’t bucking-the-billion-to-one-odds enough for Scott Summers, in 1977 X-Men readers found out he was also the son of a pilot who was kidnapped by aliens and escaped an alien prison to form a rebel alliance — uh, I mean “an insurgent coalition” — with other aliens fighting a tyrannical empire. Why yes, now that you mention it Corsair is probably what Han Solo would have looked like if Burt Reynolds had played him instead of Ford.
Oh, Oswald. He started out as a portly fellow prone to pulling pranks while committing robberies, a sort of poor man’s Joker with whom Superman could occasionally match wits. Later reboots gave him a trimmer physique and a greater yearning for the spotlight, hiring himself out to other nogoodniks as a high-profile distraction, keeping the cops and Superman busy while other criminals plied their trade. If I recall correctly, at one point his hideout was underneath an ordinary-looking joke shop and he had a bevy of beautiful female assistants at his beck and call. Man’s made some smart choices, is what I’m saying.
Anyone remember the Hulk cartoon from the 1990s, the one with Luke Perry as Rick Jones? I can’t see this guy’s face and not hear the voice Matt “Max Headroom” Fewer gave him. “So says… the Leader!” He’s another guy who’s gone from a pencil ‘stache to handlebars to a goatee, depending on who’s drawing him; my personal fave is his Jiffy-Pop noggin with the Hulk Hogan ‘stache, as seen here.
He’s an evil alchemist who has lived for centuries thanks to his mastery of pernicious potions. He’s not the brightest star in the Marvel universe — on so many levels — but I added him to the list based solely on the panels you see here. Cornered by the Fantastic Four, Diablo prepares to surprise them with… moustache power! “They expect me to reach to my cape for another potion, but I’ll use my moustache for strength–” DAMN SKIPPY YOU WILL!
15. Abra Kadabra
A master showman, Abra Kadabra came to our time from the 64th century to pursue a career as a magician, mostly because the advanced science of his time had made stage magic obsolete. For some reason, this pisses off the Flash. Everyone’s a critic. If loving a bad guy who sports a diabolically Dali ‘stache like that is wrong, then I don’t want to be right.
DC’s resident sharpshooter-for-hire makes a big deal out of the fact he’s a little bit messed up in the head, often making the point he doesn’t care if he lives or dies (which helps explain his long tenure as a member of the casualty-prone Suicide Squad). I respectfully disagree, because no man who spends the time it must take to groom a ‘stache like that can honestly claim he doesn’t care about being alive.
For the uninitiated: Asterix (or Astérix if you’re French) is the titular hero of the French comic series The Adventures of Asterix. Debuting in 1959, he’s a small but fearless Celtic warrior living in Gaul (ancient France) at the time of Julius Caesar. He and his fellow villagers are able to keep the Romans at bay with the help of a potion that gives super-strength to whoever drinks it; Asterix’s best pal, Obelix, fell into a batch of it when he was a baby, and has natural super-strength as a result. Fun fact: Gérard Depardieu played Obelix in all four live-action Asterix movies made to date. Man, remember that five minutes when Hollywood tried to make him star, but it couldn’t decide if he was better as a romantic leading man (Green Card) or a hapless father in a dumb comedy (My Father the Hero)? Wait, what was I talking about? Right, Asterix. He has a moustache. Moving on.
In an interview about his character designs, Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons said he deliberately went with a Groucho Marx-like look for the Comedian, giving the team’s resident anti-hero a moustache and a cigar to chew on since there was no point in going down the “painted clown” route and inviting endless comparisons to the Joker. Makes sense to me.
Fans of Bill Willingham’s Fables series were kept in the dark for a long time about the identity of the Adversary, and when they did find out — hoo boy. Far from the fatherly Disney figure that most people would recognize, this Gepetto is a woodcarver who turns his loneliness and love of puppetry into a worlds-spanning empire that slaughters and enslaves millions in the name of peace and security. This is why old people should not be encouraged to have hobbies, y’all.
If you haven’t picked up Robert Kirkman’s Invincible yet, you really should. And a big part of the reason why you should is Omni-Man, the father of the main character who also just happens to be Earth’s premier superhero, a man noted for his superhuman strength, speed, invulnerability — and a sweet ‘stache to boot. As it turns out, Omni-Man is a member of the alien Viltrumite race, where moustaches among all males is customary. Hmmm… “Viltrum,” “philtrum” — coincidence?
9. Alfred Pennyworth
Both Michael Caine and Michael Gough declined to grow a moustache for the part when they portrayed Batman’s butler on the big screen, and we’ll forgive them for that because they both did such a great job. But any true Batman fan knows the quintessential Alfred comes with a perfectly manicured ‘stache. Anything less would be… uncivilized.
8. Gen. Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross
The Hulk’s most relentless adversary — who also just happens to be the father of Bruce Banner’s hot girlfriend, I mean, hello, awkward — is a guy who sports a serious ‘stache. How serious? They got Sam Elliott to play him in the Hulk’s first film outing. Sam freakin’ Elliott, people. You can’t respect the ‘stache much more than that.
7. Dum Dum Dugan
Timothy Aloysius Cadwallader “Dum Dum” Dugan is Nick Fury’s right-hand man, helping to keep the world safe for democracy as Fury’s second-in-command in his army unit and, later, as his wingman at S.H.I.E.L.D. Rugged, determined, taciturn, mustachioed — if Ron Swanson was reincarnated as a comic-book character, he’d be this guy.
6. Hiram Lodge
Moustaches abound among Riverdale’s manly men: Archie’s dad, Pop Tate, Mr. Svenson, local racist/obvious closet case Samson Smythe, you name it. But the patrician moustache of Hiram Lodge can buy and sell the facial follicles of the rest of them combined. Generally portrayed throughout the decades as a benevolent billionaire whose only flaws were spoiling his only daughter and losing his temper with her boyfriends, recent issues of Life with Archie have recast him as a true moustache-twirling a-hole, using his wealth and influence to manipulate and destroy other people’s lives (especially Archie’s) just because he can. You know, the total opposite of how actual rich people behave.
So if you were a comic-book artist creating a villain for a DC Silver Age comic, you had a few options to choose from: an oversized head, a dorky outfit, a menacing-sounding name that ends with “O”, or a whisper-thin pencil moustache. Sinestro got all four. I’m not saying that every guy in the world who wears a moustache like his is automatically evil, it’s just… well, you’ve got a long way to go if you’re trying to convince people you’re not.
4. Tony Stark
Yeah, yeah, I know: Tony Stark doesn’t wear a moustache, he has a goatee, everyone knows that, etc. etc. In today’s books and movies, maybe. But back in the day, Tony Stark had a ‘stache that would have made Magnum, P.I, proud. That’s no accident, by the way — back when Lee and company came up with Iron Man, they purposely modelled Stark’s look and personality after that of Howard Hughes, a real-life inventor billionaire and ladies’ man who just happened to sport a dapper ‘stache of his own.
3. Doctor Strange
The Moustached Master of the Mystic Arts landed his No. 3 spot on this list the old-fashioned way: he goddamned earned it. Fact: aside from a few recent misguided attempts to appeal to the hipster demographic, he’s worn his trademark ‘stache right from the start, and it’s hard to imagine him with anything else. Fact: short of giving him two-foot-long fingernails and making him 800 years old, there’s no better way to suggest “wizened elder statesman of the Marvel universe to whom everyone else defers whether they like it or not” than sporting the kind of ‘stache that would intimidate Ron Jeremy. Fact: when word got out that Benedict Cumberbatch was in final talks to play the doctor in his upcoming Marvel Studios film, the Internet couldn’t wait to draw moustaches on photos of the leading man and discuss which moustache style would work best with his face. That’s branding, people. As in: Marvel better fire the first fool on the set who suggests giving the man a goatee.
2. J. Jonah Jameson
Man, it only takes one genocidal maniac to ruin it for everyone else. Before Hitler’s tour de force turned the toothbrush ‘stache into a serious fashion faux fas, it was a respectable facial feature and a reliable source of amusement when sported by such funny fellows as Oliver Hardy or Charlie Chaplin. Post-1945, though… eh, not so much. Until, that is, J. Jonah Jameson, publisher/tyrant of the Daily Bugle, made his glorious debut. I’ll be damned if I can remember which issue it was in, but I clearly remember a Spider-Man story in which Jameson (either talking to someone else or talking to himself) explains why he styles his moustache that way; no surprise, he views it as an act of rebellion, both against the jerk who ruined a perfectly good moustache and the other jerks silly enough to think a moustache is somehow wrong because one idiot once wore it. And dammit, Jameson’s right. You know he’s right because he’s been wearing that same ‘stache since 1963, and it’s as much a part of his unique style as Adolf’s ‘stache was a part of him. And yet, no one ever thinks of Hitler when they look at Jameson (well, except Parker when he’s looking for money, but that’s another story).
1. Commissioner Gordon
The main reason a man wears a ‘stache? Grit. Grit is that undefinable essence of manliness that makes a man manly: perseverance in the face of incredible odds, determination to see your goals achieved no matter what stands in your way, and an overall toughness of spirit that’s tempered with a passion for fairness and justice and a fierce protectiveness of those in need of protection. James Gordon possesses all these traits, and then some. How could he not, given his job is basically to keep an entire city from falling into chaos every time some murderous clown or perfidious plant-lady escapes from Arkham? Gordon’s walrus moustache is so iconic that all you really need to suggest “Commissioner Gordon” is a pair of glasses and a thick policeman ‘stache (with an optional pipe); no other wardrobe accoutrements are necessary. His ‘stache, which really hasn’t changed styles over the decades, is as much a sidekick to Gordon as Robin is to Batman; it’s that iconic. All of which is to say: people, I’m enjoying that Gotham show so far, but someone better slap a moustache on that Benjamin Mackenzie guy real soon before something bad happens on the set, capice?