5717 in-depth character profiles from comics, games, movies

Grotesk (Marvel Comics)

Grotesk


Context

Grotesk is a Silver Age  Marvel Comics villain. He wasn’t used much, and primarily fought the X-Men, Ms. Marvel (Carol Danvers) and Thor.

He’s easy to use, and comes with interesting back story about ancient underground civilisations (which this profile will extensively explore).

So he’s not a bad choice to base one or more story on, and is simple enough to appear as a “random encounter” sort as well. Gamemasters could also flesh him out a bit with low chances of being contradicted by future Marvel stories.


Background

  • Real Name: Prince Gor-Tok
  • Marital Status: Single, possibly widowed
  • Known Relatives: King Krono (father, deceased), Princess Ingar (listed as his wife by secondary sources ; deceased), Gor-Tok the First (possible ancestor), Thera (possible ancestor). Gor-Tok and Thera are confirmed as ancestors in secondary sources.
  • Group Affiliation: Former prince of the Gortokkian people, former king of the molten Lava Men
  • Base Of Operations: Mobile throughout Subterranea
  • Height: 7’2” Weight: 410 lbs.
  • Eyes: Black dots upon a solid pale red cornea Hair: Brown


Powers and Abilities

Grotesk is a mutate. Exposure to radiation deformed his features, augmented his stature and greatly increased his already superhuman strength. His first display of might was to stop a subway train with his bare hands, through the driver was already slamming on the brakes for several seconds when the impact took place.

Grotesk is stronger than even Ms. Marvel, though she’s a clearly better fighter. He can routinely crash through thick walls, pick up and throw things weighing dozens of tonnes, etc. In Marvel terms he’s probably “Class 60”.

He apparently hates missing. If facing fast opponents like the Beast, Grotesk will favour speed over strength. These quick attacks are likely to connect, but hit with only a fraction of his enormous might.

Grotesk (Marvel Comics) (X-Men enemy) stops a subway train

Grotesk and his now-deceased kin have excellent night vision. It’s keen enough to see in the pitch darkness of many Subterranean caverns.

Gor-Tok did not seem to be bothered by a major refinery fire, whereas the heat and smoke were affecting even Ms. Marvel. He also opposed strong resistance to mental assault – though how strong the attack was is difficult to determine.

Grotesk’s chestplate includes several detachable, specialised weapons. The first he used seemed to be some sort of smoke grenade, but the ’smoke‘ was actually as solid as stone, efficiently covering his retreat. The second are a pair of golden orbs that can deflect, reflect and emit energy. Those are almost certainly Deviant weapons.

Though it wasn’t directly observed, Grotesk seems able to operate and even repair Deviant technology.


Deeper underground

Grotesk’s extinct people was not even named during his fist appearance. Most facts about it were not known before the 1991 Annual issue of Avengers, by Peter Sanderson (well-known for his Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe work).

Grotesk’s now-defunct culture was the result of Deviant projects in genetic engineering. These took place after the Great Cataclysm that destroyed Atlantis and Lemuria. The Deviants’s stock of human slaves had been greatly diminished, and they tweaked survivors until they became adapted to their new underground milieu.

The main improvements were superhuman strength and the ability to see in darkness. Their level of strength is unknown, though I would guess — in DC Heroes terms — a 07 for the guys and 06 for the gals.

The first two perfected, fertile specimen were Gor-Tok (likely a direct ancestor of Grotesk, also called Gor-Tok) and his mate Thera. As the Deviants still treated their slaves quite poorly, the original Gor-Tok led this new race into a revolt.

Revolution!

The enhanced humans gained independence from their masters, made Gor-Tok their first king, and took the name Gortokians.

The Gortokians were a warlike culture. Their legends depict them as smashing all opponents in never-ending war. Their technological level was unclear. It was apparently a mix of pre-gunpowder technology and stolen Deviant items which they could fully operate, but not replicate.

Grotesk's extinct subterranean people

The Gortokkians looked human, with Caucasian and/or Asian features (hard to tell from the art). Their skin colour was unusual, though. One account depict them with pale yellow skin (like Grotesk), another with solid pink skin. This latter account is quite likely in error.

Grotesk stated that the Gortokikans’s wars in the underground were responsible for volcanic eruptions. The corresponding panel depicts what seems to be Cro-Magnon people witnessing such an eruption. This might hint that the revolt took place within a millennium or two of the Great Cataclysm, well before the time of Conan, back when mankind was generally primitive.

If so the Gortokkians are a truly ancient culture – though of course they inexplicably spoke modern English.

Demonic magma

During their early history, a Gortokkian faction started venerating a demon called Cha’sa’dra. This demon later turned his worshippers into the first Lava Men. Apparently, the first generations of Lava Men were still Gortokkian subjects, but they later broke away to form their own civilisation.

Meanwhile, the Deviants genetically engineered armies to reconquer the Gortokkians. Over time they developed two closely-related races of ivory-skinned, hairless humanoids who could see in the dark. Though very much outnumbered, the Gortokkians beat back those soldiers in what I assume were centuries-long wars.

The Deviants’ newer humanoids fled and would become the Moloids and the Tyrannoids.

During the XXth century the Lava Men were turned into a golden metallic form. They decided to fuse together and leave Earth. Some were left behind and recovered their lava-like form. This population, called “molten Lava Men” in this profile, would eventually join Grotesk.


History

Gor-Tok, named after the first king of his people, is the last survivor of a subterranean kingdom. This realm used to exist below the US, but during the 1960s the Gortokkians were destroyed by a nuclear explosion. This was apparently the result of weapon tests from the surface world, possibly using Dr. Hunt’s nuclear oscillotron technology.

King Krono, the ruler, was among the dead. According to one account, he had been plotting an invasion of the surface world, to be led by his son.

Gor-Tok attempted to take charge of his surviving subjects amidst the collapsed caverns and the carnage. But all survivors but Gor-Tok soon succumbed to the effects of radiation. The last to die was Princess Ingar, who passed away in his arms.

Mutated by the radiation, Gor-Tok began calling himself the Sub-Human due to his deformed features and inhuman eyes. His mind was also affected, making him somewhat insane and an amnesiac.

One-man invasion

Trying to remember who he was, the Sub-Human found his way to the large network of caverns and tunnels under New York City. From there he later reached the subway. After wrestling a subway train to a halt, the Sub-Human briefly clashed with X-Men Iceman and the Beast.

During the fight, the Beast described his opponent as being “so unbelievably grotesque”. Perhaps because the later term sounded somewhat like his forgotten name, Gor-Tok chose to call himself Grotesk from then on.

Gortokians of Subterranea destroyed (Marvel Comics) (X-Men)

Nuclear tests continued to rock the former Gortokkian realm. Grotesk renewed his efforts to avenge his dead kingdom. He took over the lab where a nuclear oscillotron was being tested, looking for a way to use it to destroy the Earth. The X-Men intercepted him, but Gor-Tok left on his own after having a vision of the man who had destroyed his realm.

It was a trap. The vision was a telepathic flash sent by Professor Xavier to lead him to another lab. However, Xavier failed to stop the mentally resilient Grotesk, who found a way to overload the oscillotron.

As the the other X-Men kept the subterranean busy, the Professor and Jean Grey managed to destroy the machine. But the process that would destroy the Earth was still underway. The Professor and Grotesk fought to stop the process, and the resulting explosion seemed to claim both of their lives – but the Earth was saved.

Later events strongly imply that the oscillotron was a Deviant device ; how it ended there was never revealed. The X-Men would also later learn that the man who had died was not Professor X. It was the Changeling, a mutant villain who had become an ally and was impersonating the Professor.

As for Grotesk, he was strong enough to survive the blast and dig himself out of the wreckage after everybody was gone.

The cavourite gambit

Years later Grotesk, still seeking to avenge the destruction of his realm, launched an underground attack on a refinery complex in New Jersey. He triggered a huge fire to cover his escape after stealing his prize, a cavourite crystal. The immense energy contained therein could destroy the Earth – but Ms. Marvel, warned by her seventh sense, came in.

Ms. Marvel beat the stronger Grotesk despite the ambient heat and smoke. But he unexpectedly rallied then stunned her, leaving her to be crushed by a gigantic falling storage tank.

A few days later, Grotesk commandeered an experimental laser cannon installed in an Army base. This weapon was powerful enough to detonate the crystal with prolonged bombardment. Ms. Marvel intervened anew. A minor explosion of the cavourite crystal sucked everything within a hundred yards into a singularity .

Ms. Marvel evaded the effect, but Grotesk was gone.

King of the men that burn

Gor-Tok somehow survived the flash micro-black-hole. Apparently it just hurled him elsewhere. Since he disappeared in 1977 and was not seen again before 1991, it is possible that it also displaced him into his relative future .

(This is the point at which his appearance inexplicably changes. If you wish to account for that, perhaps he was further mutated, or perhaps the Grotesk seen in 1991 and beyond is actually from a parallel Earth or somesuch.)

Grotesk (Marvel Thor Comics) with a lava man

During his lonely subterranean wanderings, Grotesk encountered the few Lava Men who had retained their molten appearance and remained on Earth. The Lava Men, left leaderless and remembering that Gor-Tok’s people once ruled them, made Grotesk their king. They gave him a throne, sceptre and crown.

This arrangement suited everyone. Prince Gor-Tok, now King of the Lava Men, announced that he was abandoning his planet-destroying schemes. He ruled his small kingdom for some months or years.

However, he had lied about renouncing his genocidal ambitions. Lest his subjects reveal his true goals, he somehow made them all mutes, likely by using some Deviant machine.

War in Subterranea

At this point, the Gor-Tok-led Lava Men found themselves swarmed by a new breed of mutates. These had been sent by the Deviants in a new campaign of underground conquest. The attacks hit other subterranean powers such as Tyrannus and the Mole Man. King Gor-Tok had to ally with those two to stem the tide.

The Deviants, who had just been through a civil war, wanted to re-arm. Their goal was to reclaim the considerable amount of weapons and supplies which the various, more primitive subterranean peoples had found over the centuries after the Great Cataclysm.

Grotesk vs. Ms. Marvel

Even the combined forces of the three main Subterranean rulers were not enough to repel the Deviants. They had to form an alliance with the Avengers. But the new leader of the Deviants, Brutus, then deployed an oscillotron to use against the Avengers.

At this point, Grotesk’s plan became obvious. He had expected Brutus to bring an oscillotron, and intended to use it to destroy everything. However, the Living Lightning foiled this plan at the last second by draining the machine’s power.

A second later, Grotesk was brought down by massed fire from the Avengers. He somehow escaped, though.

Rebellion of the Lava Men

Grotesk plotted anew. This time his goal was to use the Living Rock, a weapon of mass destruction of the Lava Men. He modified it so that the ever-expanding Living Rock would explode with planet-shattering strength after growing past a certain threshold.

The previous attempt to use the Rock had been foiled by Thor. Thus, the first action of Grotesk and his Lava Men after starting the Living Rock’s infernal growth was to kidnap Don Blake, from whom Thor had been separated, and use him as an hostage.

Between this and a clever ploy to deprive the thunderer of his hammer, the plan seemed bound to succeed. However the Godpack, powerful allies of Thor, rushed in and defeated Grotesk and his Lava Men.

At the conclusion of the fight Grotesk was violently slammed into the Living Rock, triggering a formidable implosion. Though no body was left and Grotesk had survived similar circumstances before, it would seem that he was actually killed by the Rock disintegrating.

The Lava Men, led by their former king (not identified – but it was not Jinku), then told Thor that Grotesk had been holding them under his mental sway. They departed in peace. Whether they were telling the truth is unrevealed. Perhaps Grotesk also used Deviant mind control machines when he made his people mute.

Getting spiritual

In any case, Grotesk still had followers among the molten Lava Men. They reportedly resurrected his spirit and housed it in mystic armour protected by a powerful force bubble. The Sub-Human and his followers attacked San Francisco in 2009 and clashed with Cyclops, Emma Frost, Armor, Pixie and Beast.

Nightcrawler teleported in during the battle, and removed the helmet from the armour. This disrupted the possession and dispersed Grotesk.


Description

Ms. Marvel described him as being “seven feet tall if he’s an inch”.

Grotesk’s appearance changes, without explanation, between 1977 and 1991. It seems to have been artistic licence rather than actual changes. But with further alterations of his looks one has to consider the possibility that his appearance is evolving for some reason.

Since the reason for this madly mutating mien is unknown, the illustrations in this profile favour his classic look.


Personality

Tough-talking, bitter, articulate barbarian warrior prince. He has the usual Stan Lee dialogue, proclaiming how powerful and mighty he is and how he will crush every one of his puny opponents, and stuff.

Grotesk is smart and scheming – he’s not just a big warrior. But he’s also insane and obsessive, perhaps thanks to the radiation damage. He’s born to rule, but his real plan is to destroy everything, including himself, in an orgy of posthumous revenge and nihilistic glory. He’ll sacrifice anything to achieve that.

Except during the confusion of his first appearance, Grotesk’s plans are pretty good. He can do subtle, he can do manipulative, and he can predict contingencies. He seems to be also pretty good at gaining intelligence about potential doomsday devices, probably thanks to Deviant observation systems found underground.


Quotes

“I shall waste no more time in useless combat with you, men of the outer world ! But when next we meet, beware of… Grotesk !”

“One… two… or a hundred ! It makes no difference ! Grotesk shall destroy first you… and then the world !”

“I must and shall have revenge… though I myself perish in the holocaust !”

“A… woman ?! And a fool as well, if you think your puny human strength can stand against Gor-Tok of Subterranea !”

(About his Lava Men) “They obey me without question, thunderer… and turning the whole Earth into my funeral pyre has always been my fondest desire !”


DC Universe History

Grotesk would definitely have been a Cave Carson villain ! In keeping with the Doom Patrol/X-Men parallels, he also would have clashed with the classic Patrol during their early years. Decades later, it would have been revealed as a sidenote that the destruction of Grotesk’s people was an experiment in catastrophe theory by the Chief.


Sharing

The links to follow us and/or subscribe to our monthly newsletter are at the bottom of this page.



Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Grotesk the Sub-Human

Dex: 06 Str: 14 Bod: 11 Motivation: Nihilist
Int: 06 Wil: 05 Min: 06 Occupation: King
Inf: 04 Aur: 04 Spi: 05 Resources {or Wealth}: 006
Init: 016 HP: 040

Powers:
Flame immunity: 03, Iron will: 02, Growth: 01, Mind Field: 02, Sealed systems: 04, Ultra-vision: 03

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Flame immunity protects against flame and heat, but also against fumes and smoke
  • Growth is Always On and Already Factored In
  • Mind Field is Self Only and Always On
  • Sealed System has the Free Diving Only Limitation
  • Sealed Systems also increases RV vs. radiation
  • Ultra-Vision is Night Vision Only

Skills:
Gadgetry: 04, Weapons (Melee): 06

Advantages:
Area Knowledge (Subterranea under the New York state), Credentials (Molten Lava Men, High), Expertise (Deviant technology), Schtick (Conditional Recovery (Being Underground))

Connections:
Molten Lava Men (High, from Credentials)

Drawbacks:
Attack Vulnerability (-1CS OV and – 3 CS RV against attacks based on blinding light, such as most forms of Flash), Distinct Appearance

Equipment:

  • Hammer [BODY 08, EV 04 (15 w/STR). This mace isn’t robust enough for Grotesk’s superhuman strength, though he did not originally realise it ; it will likely shatter if Grotesk uses it to hit something with a RV above the hammer’s BODY]. Grotesk did not use his mace against unarmed opponents, and eventually broke it against Thor.
  • Chestplate studs. Grotesk used two studs on his chestplate as disposable weapons. Whether he can replace them, the other studs have powers, he has different sorts of studs at his disposal, etc. is unrevealed.
    • Solid smoke grenade [BODY 01, Force wall: 09, Grenade Drawback. Force wall is opaque to sight]. Grotesk probably has two of those. When thrown it functions as a smoke grenade, but the “smoke” is actually solid.
    • Energy reflection orbs [BODY 01, Energy blast: 08, Reflection/Deflection: 11, Note : Energy blast can only be used after Reflection/Deflection has been ; the APs of Energy Blast are limited to that of the highest blast shot during the last six Phases via Reflection ; Energy Blast has no AV (Grotesk uses his DEX) ; Reflecting energy changes its frequency to that of a generic Energy Blast (for instance, Cyclops was affected by the Reflected form of his optic blast, an energy type to which he’s immune]
  • As king of the molten Lava Men, Grotesk has access to undisclosed stores of Deviant technology. These stores do not seem to include personal weaponry, though, since Grotesk and his men just used medieval weaponry. What they do have is a bank of monitors that can do Remote Sensing with an unclear range (presumably all across the New York state and perhaps beyond), and weapons of mass destruction developed by the Lava Men weapons such as the dreaded Living Rock.

HP spending

Grotesk seems to really dislike missing his targets. If his opponent looks acrobatic or generally hard to hit, he will nearly always resorts to — in DC Heroes terms — Flailing Attacks. He was thus able to consistently hit the Beast, but inflicted surprisingly little damage given his enormous strength.

Against high-OV, high-RV opponents like Ms. Marvel, he will instead shrewdly spend HPs on his AV. However, if he starts taking a beating, he will reserve his HPs for Last Ditch Defence and perhaps a Schtick-facilitated Desperation Recovery.


2009 appearance

Grotesk was seen for but a few panels in 2009, where his new state was being a spirit possessing mystical full plate armour, protected by a force bubble.

The armour likely had a BODY of 06 or so, but the bubble was about Force Field (Self Only): 10, since it could resist the assaults of X-Men there (including Cyclops). The Force Field included a Magic Field (Self Only, Transdimensional) that also attacked persons attempting to cross it through mystical means with Magic Blast: 10 (Magic blast is its own AV) as an Automatic Action.

The hands could also shoot eldritch bolts, probably 10 APs or so given the other ratings.

This description is very tentative – Grotesk was seen in this state for a less than a minute. He was dispersed when Nightcrawler remove the helmet from the armour – presumably an OV/RV of 02 with 1 RAP being sufficient, unless Nightcrawler used the sort of aggressive teleportation he occasionally employed to sever robots.

Recent secondary sources list that armour as being 7’10” and 370 lbs.


Game Stats — DC Adventures RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Grotesk — Averaged PL 10.8

STR STA AGL DEX FGT INT AWE PRE
02 (13) 03 (11) 02 01 05 02 01 02

Powers

Hulking mutate ● 28 points ● Descriptor: Radiation-induced mutation
– Hulking — Growth 01
– Heightened strength — Enhanced Strength 05, plus Enhanced Strength 1 (Limited 1 to Lifting)
– Heightened durability — Enhanced Stamina 03, plus 4 Ranks of Impervious for Fortitude
– Heightened durability — Immunity 4 (Environment heat, environment radiation, suffocation) (Limited 1 to half-effect)
– Heat-resistant — Protection 2 and Enhanced Fortitude 2, both Limited 2 to heat/flame/smoke
– Mild anti-psi — Enhanced Will 5 (Limited 2 to psionic effects)

Gortokian born ● 20 points ● Descriptor: Deviant genetic manipulation
– Engineered for strength — Enhanced Strength 5, Enhanced Stamina 4
– Subterranea native — Senses 2 (Darkvision)

Enduring beneath ● 2 points ● Descriptor: Willpower, radiation-induced mutation
Regeneration 1 and Diehard, both Limited 1 (Only when underground)

Devices

Harness with trick studs ● 13 points (Removable) ● Descriptor: Deviant technology
Array:

  • “Solid smoke” grenade — Create 10, Continuous, Limited 2 to a static “cloud” of stone-like matter
  • Energy reflection orbs — Deflect 14 (Reflect, Redirect, Limited 2 to ranged energy attacks, Feature: changes the Descriptor of redirected and reflected attacks to a generic “energy”)
  • Energy reflection orbs — Ranged energy Damage 7 (Limited 2 – only if Deflect was successfully used within the previous 6 rounds, and the Rank is capped to that of the highest Deflected attack during that time]

Combat Advantages

Accurate Attack, All-Out Attack, Chokehold, Close Attack 4, Defensive Roll 1, Diehard, Ranged Attack 3

Other Advantages

Benefit 3 (King of the lava men, with access to their Deviant tech stashes), Equipment 1

Skills

Close combat (Unarmed) 1, Deception 2 (+4), Expertise (Subterranea under the New York State) 6 (+8), Expertise (Deviant technology) 6 (+8), Insight 3 (+4), Perception 5 (+6), Persuasion 1 (+3), Ranged combat (Deflection using studs) 5 (+9), Technology 6 (+8)

Equipment

Battle club Strength-Based blunt Damage 2, Quirk (reinforced, but not tough enough to repeatedly withstand Grotesk’s full strength) ● 1 point
Grotesk might also use some Deviant equipment, but this is rare.

Offense

Initiative +2
Unarmed +10, Close, Damage 13
Battle club +9, Close, Damage 15

Defence

Dodge 09 Fortitude 12
Parry 09 Toughness 11*/12
Will 7**/12

* Without Defensive Roll
** Against non-psionic effects

Complications

  • Appearance Grotesk looks brutal, mutated, towering
  • Vulnerability Defenses are lowered by 6 against bright lights, and any Impervious Ranks are moot against those
  • At least it’s an ethos Grotesk wants to destroy the world. People react badly to that.

Powers Levels

  • Trade-off areas. Attack/Effect PL 12, Dodge/Toughness PL 11, Parry/Toughness PL 11, Fort/Will PL 10
  • Points total 150 Abilities 36, Defences 18, Skills 18, Powers 50, Devices 13, Advantages 15. Equiv. PL 10.

Uncapped scale

Strength rises to 14, ditch the Lifting Strength, dance the Subterranea Lambada to celebrate.

By Sébastien Andrivet

Source of Character: Marvel Universe

Subscribe to our MINI-NEWSLETTER !

One bare-bones e-mail per month. Plain text. Short. To the point. Learn more.