|THE TOP TEN EVIL BUGS - PART TWO
|#5 - Lolth (Dungeons & Dragons)
|One of the most prominent, fan-favorite forces of evil in the long running "Dungeons & Dragons" gaming world,
Lolth is an invention of the game's original co-creator Gary Gygax. This "demon queen of spiders" is
worshipped as a goddess by the subterranean Drow, a sadistic, female-dominated race of "dark elves." In
earlier materials, Drow who displeased their multi-legged mistress were transformed into the mindless,
half-spider abominations known as Driders. In more recent publications, the transformation is granted more as
a reward, while the less fortunate are transformed into brainless leg-blobs known as Chwidencha.
|#3 - Mr. Mind (DC Comics)
Captain Marvel, also mistakenly known as Shazam, has a rather convoluted publication history stretching back
to 1939, conceived to cash in on the success of Superman and ultimately becoming a DC comics property
himself. Whatever his name and publisher, his greatest foes were the impressively-named Monster Society
of Evil, a world-wide organization of Nazis, terrorists, robots, vampires, ghouls and fiends of every sort united
under a single mad genius, the mysterious Mr. Mind. And what manner of unfathomable demon could a
freaking MONSTER SOCIETY OF EVIL possibly answer to?
Lolth's domain, the demonweb pits, are essentially an endless spiderweb constituting its own dimension,
inhabited by all manner of titanic arachnids and unsavory demons. Lolth's highest-ranking servants or
"handmaidens" are the foul-smelling, wax-like Yochlol, able to shape-shift into spiders of various sizes or
beautiful Drow women.
IN THE REAL WORLD: the male black widow can mate only once in his life, but is very rarely killed or
consumed by the female. She may even allow him to remain in her web indefinitely, sharing food and grooming
one another as a sort of "couple."
Finally revealed in the 26th issue of Captain Marvel Adventures, the nefarious Mr. Mind is nothing more than a
comical, tiny green caterpillar equipped with a voice box. This anticlimactic, outlandish form makes him easily
my favorite villain in the DC universe, and has landed him on many fan-lists of the all-time weirdest
Mr. Mind has seen a variety of redesigns, including as a whole race of "Venusian mind-worms" and even a
temporary transformation into a Lovecraftian, reality-destroying god-beast. He got better.
IN THE REAL WORLD: "Worm" is a scientifically meaningless term that we generically apply to many unrelated
animals with an elongated shape. We can only assume that the original Mr. Mind is some manner of arthropod
due to his antennae and caterpillar-like segments. Later incarnations have more obvious insect-like mandibles
|#4 - Edgar (Men In Black)
More or Less the Ghostbusters of the 90's, Men In Black was a box office smash that paired Will Smith and
Tommy Lee Jones as super-super-secret agents policing undercover alien lifeforms. Audiences were treated
to a plethora of imaginative creatures both welcome and unwelcome on the planet Earth, with none so firmly
planted in the latter category as the giant, carnivorous "BUG," whose very first order of business on our world
is to mutilate a nosy slob named Edgar and somehow cram himself into his victim's rotting husk. Edgar-bug's
scheme is kind of a long story, but his is a race that strives to perpetuate violence throughout the universe,
feeding and thriving off planets devastated by war. Actor Vincent D'Onofrio pulls off an unbelievably
convincing performance as a ten-foot cockroach in an ill-fitting skin, finely balancing the creepy with the
comical for an immediately memorable antagonist.
IN THE REAL WORLD: out of over 4,000 described cockroach species, barely a dozen have the necessary
adaptations to live as pests in a human home. Other roaches stick to forests, caves or deserts where they
include some of nature's most valuable pollinators, scavengers and even predators. Neither wild nor "pest"
roaches are carriers of disease, but like a cat or dog, their dander may aggravate asthma.
|#2 - Oogie Boogie (The Nightmare Before Christmas)
Throughout the stop-motion musical monsterfest that is 1993's The Nightmare Before Christmas, various
characters allude to a mysterious figure known as Oogie Boogie, a being presumably so frightening, so
mean-spirited that he had to be banished from Halloweentown - a community that welcomes vampires,
gangrenous corpses and even a freaking devil.
A bona-fide boogieman, Oogie's climactic entrance does not disappoint as he belts out one hell of a jazzy song
about just what an asshole he is. Residing in a subterranean casino that doubles as a torture chamber, Boogie
gambles on the lives of anyone unfortunate enough to fall into his clutches - including none other than Jolly
Old Saint Nick, whom the Boogieman threatens to boil and devour in a stew. Though our boogieman initially
appears to be some sort of corpulent, burlap ghost, his body wriggles and oozes with centipedes, spiders,
cockroaches and all the other oogiest, boogiest creatures known to science. When he finally faces off against
Jack, his burlap "skin" is torn off to reveal...
Nothing else. That's it. The gamblin' boogieman was a giant, seething mass of insects in a bag. After most of
them fall to their doom, a single green earwig is seen scurrying away, frantically squeaking "My bugs! My
bugs!" until stomped dead under Santa's boot. Was this Boogie's "true" form, or did every bug share his
sentience in equal portions?
IN THE REAL WORLD: common earwigs possess large, functional wings that fold 40 times to fit under tiny
panels on the insect's back. They are so rarely seen opening or using their wings that they may be in the
process of evolving away from flight.
|#1 - Tsuchigumo (Japanese mythology)
It often goes around that oriental "dragons" are virtually the opposite of those in Western folklore; powerful,
benevolent symbols of royalty and good fortune. In truth, Eastern mythology does have its equivalent to the
cave-lurking, man-eating, diabolical European dragon...it's just not a reptile.
Historically, the "Tsuchigumo" or "Earth Spider" was said to be a derogatory term for mountain-dwelling race or
a band of thieves, who came to be portrayed as literal arachnids in art and literature. Tales of giant spiders
may have actually arisen independently and reach back even farther in Japanese culture, but the Tsuchigumo
became the most famous by name, and is commonly portrayed as a colossal, predatory monster of great
magical power and malevolent intelligence. Armed with toxic silk, deadly breath and a wide array of duplicitous
transformations, it often appears as a beautiful woman or small child to ambush human prey. Paralleling the
dragon-slaying knights of medeival Europe, many stories pit the Tsuchigumo and similar monsters against
famous samurai warriors.
In perhaps the most enduring example, the warrior Minamoto Raiko, alternately referred to as Yorimitsu, falls ill
for many days while a young servant appears to tend to him. He alone suspects that he is actually being
poisoned, but is too weak to escape or even cry out for help. When he finally manages to swing his sword and
wound his nurse, the would-be assassin is revealed as a terrifying demon-spider. In some versions, the spider
is chased back to its lair and its body split open, spilling the skulls of several hundred past victims or
thousands of monstrous spiderlings. Forever after, Raiko's sword was known as Kumo-kiri, or spider-cutter.
Rarely, Tsuchigumo is portrayed as a more neutral or benevolent monster, but it is best remembered as an
antagonist and continues to inspire the villains of countless video games, comics and japanese anime.
IN THE REAL WORLD: out of roughly 40,000 species, the only spiders without venom are certain members of
the order Uloboridae and Holarchaidae. Contrary to common belief, a spider does not feed through its fangs
like a vampire, but possesses a normal, chewing mouth behind the fang-tipped chelicerae.
If you've had enough malevolence, enjoy a second, somewhat different countdown!