Marvel has two “Hangman” horror villains, and they’re both from the same general era.
Harlan Krueger is the one who debuted in 1973 in Werewolf by Night, and who never had magical powers.
- Real Name: Harlan Krueger.
- Marital Status: Single.
- Known Relatives: None.
- Group Affiliation: None.
- Base of Operations: Los Angeles.
- Height: 6′ Weight: 210 lbs
- Note: Read on for more about these vitals.
- Eyes: Blue Hair: Bald.
Powers & Abilities
The Hangman apparently used to be a proficient soldier. He stays in good shape, and is fairly tall and strong. Nothing spectacular, though.
His acrobatic ability is more remarkable. He’s entirely capable of running along rooftops and elevated ledges, jump across alleys, etc.. Nothing spectacular *by super-hero standards*, and he’s clearly not an acrobatic fighter. But still surprising.
Generally, the Hangman is good against back alley muggers with a switchblade, or in a pub brawl. But if there are guns or skilled opponents, he’s probably better off running.
The Hangman is equipped with a 8′ scythe with 4′ blade, and 30′ of half-inch hemp rope ending with a hangman’s noose.
Here again, he can use these in his acrobatics with surprising ease – the scythe as a giant hook, and the noose as a swingline. The noose can be tightened or loosened from the other end of the rope.
How good he is with his scythe is unclear. Captions contradict each other, as well as the art depicting the fight. Furthermore the Werewolf was fighting evasively, making for an inordinately difficult target. Thus, even if Krueger kept missing him that may not mean much.
Harlan Krueger was presumably born during the early 1920s. As usual, see the Leòn Genetic Sequence article when it comes to ageing and the flow of time in the Marvel Universe.
As a boy, he was fascinated by movies. He would spend his Saturday mornings at the matinee. Krueger was mesmerized by the manly heroes – John Wayne, William Boyd (who played Hopalong Cassidy ), Humphrey Bogart, Tom Mix , Errol Flynn…
Apparently unstable, Krueger came to uphold a childishly black-and-white view of morality. Good guys were always justified no matter what, and bad guys did not count as human beings. Good guys always won and always made everything right.
Krueger was drafted during WWII and fought in Europe. However, his beliefs led to war crimes. These were so numerous and so heinous that he was court-martialed. He remained in the brig for six years.
When he got out he applied to become a police officer, but even the LAPD of the early 1950s rejected him. Perhaps he was one of the first to be affected by Chief Parker’s reforms .
Unstoppable nemesis of all evil !
Kruger presumably worked as a security guard or some such. But he continued to sink into bitterness, and was soon sailing along the coasts of paranoia. He grew convinced that the military, the police and other officials had become corrupt and weak and refused to confront “evil”.
Krueger went underground to train himself, and he created a pulpish killer vigilante identity as The Hangman.
It didn’t resemble the heroic roles he loved as a youth, though. It seemed closer to adaptations of pulps, such as the The Spider movies with Warren Hull , though even these were greatly toned down compared to the The Spider novels.
(In some ways it also evokes the Copperhead. Perhaps in the Marvel Universe there were Copperhead movie serials that skirted past the Hays code ?)
One gets the impression that the Hangman started hitting the streets of Los Angeles in 1970. The Pride — the hegemonic underworld power in L.A. — decided to leave him alone. He posed little threat to their business, and they preferred to keep some costumed criminals free to act for discretion’s sake.
Who hangs the hangmen ?
Due to his obsession about “protecting” women, the Hangman intervened in mugging attempts against female passerbies. He usually slew the aggressor then kidnapped the victim, to “keep her safe”. Which involved keeping the kidnapped women — who *just happened* to all be young and pretty — in chains in a hidden basement.
In late 1973, the Hangman intervened to “protect” Lissa Russell (and Buck Cowan) from the Werewolf by Night. His attempt to kill the lycanthrope availed to little. He did catch him in his noose when the beast was distracted, but the Werewolf chomped through the rope and broke free.
On the following night, the angry Werewolf tracked the Hangman down to his lair. They fought within, and the Hangman gradually lost his nerve. The brawl damaged the bars of one cell. This allowed one of the imprisoned lasses to get out, free the others and run.
The Hangman was trapped under collapsed, criss-crossed wooden beams. He begged the Werewolf to kill him, apparently to avoid arrest. Unnerved by this, the lycanthrope ran.
In 1974, Krueger stalked one Winston Redditch. This scientist was doing neurochemistry research, leading to sensationalistic reporting about a “Jekyll and Hyde” serum. Krueger wanted to kill him for having created a “serum of evil”.
However, as he was about to attack the Werewolf engaged a mutated Redditch, now calling himself “DePrayve”.
The fight left Redditch in a coma, but he soon recovered. Krueger then broke into the hospital, punched out a nurse and kidnapped the scientist from his gurney. He took him to his new hideout, an abandoned cinema.
But the Werewolf tracked them both down and engaged. This resulted in a three-way brawl between the Hangman, DePrayve and the Werewolf by Night.
The Hangman was manifestly outmuscled, but did manage to escape. He was almost immediately arrested by the police, but the only charge they had was that he was brandishing a scythe in public.
By 1978, the Hangman was still active in the Los Angeles area. He became interested in the depredations of the Brothers Grimm. Krueger interrogated and murdered thugs working for the Grimms. He eventually reached the villain, but at that point Grimm was fighting Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew) in a burning building.
The Hangman captured Spider-Woman by surprise, and left to “protect” her while the building collapsed with Grimm still within. He locked her up in a creepy, isolated, crumbling house. But once Jessica was no longer dazed, she easily snapped her bonds.
Krueger had already left by that point. Drew proceeded to wreck the house as she came under magical assault by Morgan Le Fay.
Let’s do the time warp again
The timeline for the Hangman after that incident is impossible. Mostly due to discrepancies in the Iron Man: Legacy LS
The simplest fix is to consider that the events Bizarre Adventures #31, published in 1982, actually occurred later. There are two possibilities :
- It took place in 1984, months after the ouster of Tony Stark from his company by Obadiah Stane. But that creates a conflict with the Serpent Society’s timeline.
- It took place in late 1985. But that creates a conflict with Tony Stark’s timeline, which is a higher-profile issue than the Serpent Society’s.
One fix suggested in our Serpent Society team profile is to assume that there was a brief-lived, “prototype” Serpent Society in late 1983.
Who jails the jailers ?
In 1983, a number of Los Angeles costumes were captured and locked up by the Locksmith and Tick-Tock. Beyond the Hangman and Spider-Woman, these included Tigra, Daddy Longlegs, the Needle, Killer Shrike, the Flying Tiger, Nekra, etc..
Since he was uncontrollably violent, the Hangman had been kept drugged and forced to endlessly watch children cartoons. He was constantly dazed.
Soon after her capture, Spider-Woman led a mass breakout. Since Krueger was severely addled by his treatment, he likely was arrested and transferred to a hospital for detox.
Unto a man of iron
Krueger then resumed being Hangman. It is likely that there was no case against him, and that the murders he committed had never been seriously investigated.
In early 1984 (modified date as discussed above), Hangman attempted to execute a vagrant named Tyree Robinson. Robinson was actually a brilliant engineer – but he was off his meds, and suffering from an acute paranoid episode. Iron Man (Tony Stark), who had recently become a vagrant after the Stane takeover, took the Hangman down to save Robinson.
Krueger was picked up by the police and jailed. The real power in Los Angeles, the Pride criminal organisation, then discreetly came in and telepathically interrogated him. They were concerned about Iron Man operating in Los Angeles.
Since Catherine Wilder was appalled that Krueger had attempted to lynch Robinson (who is Black), the Pride left a telepathic command for Krueger to hang himself in his cell. However, a police officer passed by in time to save the Hangman and get him to a hospital.
Later in 1984, the Hangman went after splatter films. With his obsession about “good, clean” old-fashioned movies, Krueger saw these as utter filth. In particular, he started killing the people involved in D-list movie Gore Galore.
One Matt O’Brien, a movie critic, had unwittingly helped. He had given Krueger a press kit with the film’s full credits. As the LAPD showed little interest, the panicking O’Brien did what he could to warn the victims that the Hangman was coming.
Krueger had already killed three persons, then went to attend a costume party at the studio. He murdered two more. However, the last victim was a woman, which the Hangman hadn’t noticed due to her costume. That he had killed a woman distressed Krueger, and he just stood in shock and crying over the body.
Matt O’Brien then caught up with the killer. In a sudden, unhinged spurt of bloodlust, he stealthily picked up Krueger’s scythe and backstabbed him – killing the Hangman.
You keep me hanging on
Secondary sources state that during his career, Krueger murdered over 30 persons. These mostly were low-level criminals, whom neither the police nor the Pride cared about.
Furthermore, five women he had locked up in his dungeon died of starvation – either after his near-death by hanging, or after he was actually killed. The police eventually found the place, freeing 10 surviving ladies from Krueger’s ghastly cells.
I expected you to be taller
The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe (revered spiritual progenitor of writeups.org, amen) gives enormous vitals for Krueger – 6’5″ and 310 lbs. These clearly do not correspond to his appearances. However, these and the illustration match the art in his final appearance, in Bizarre Adventures.
He could be chalked up to a difference in art – Bizarre Adventures uses a different, B&W comics magazine style of art. There’s also exaggeration to match the story’s tone. But Krueger *does* seem stronger. He can kill with his bare hands, whereas he didn’t seem that buff in previous stories.
One could make up many different hypotheses. Here’s one that involves the fewest extra entities :
- The Hangman felt humiliated by how easily Iron Man and the Pride had defeated him. He was also stung by their comments about how Angeleno costumed criminals were at best C-list.
- He kidnapped his old foe Winston Redditch. Krueger forced him to cook up a new and improved batch of the serum that had once created DePrayve.
- This *did* make Harlan Krueger markedly larger, stronger and more muscular.
The more spandexy costume is only seen during his encounter with Iron Man.
He speaks. He speaks a lot. Oh, how much he spoketh. He never stops. I’ve thrown in some extra quotes, because those playing him are going to need these. These also expound about his values.
The Hangman is more interested in talking a good fight than in actual action. He also has a fairly good idea of his capabilities, and thus of when to turn tail and run. He does come across as strong and deadly, but it’s mostly theatrics and deep down he knows it.
The Hangman lives in a childish, delusional fantasy world. The reality axioms therein are :
- He’s the hero, so he’s always right. Anybody who opposes him is a villain.
- Anybody who looks or acts in a way he doesn’t like is a villain.
- All authorities are villains, though he won’t attack them (since they would likely kill him).
- The lives of “villains” have no worth whatsoever. For instance they can simply be impaled from behind by surprise.
- Women are all innocent and defenceless, and must be under his complete control so as to be protected from the evils of the world.
- Though he makes abundant use of religious concepts such as “sin”, he never makes a direct reference to a specific faith.
In his second appearance Krueger does make a political reference (to “milksop liberals”) but that seemed out of character. Ditto for the more explicit religious discourse he used in Iron Man – Legacy. His inability to tell simplistic fiction from reality is sufficient — and more interesting — to explain his many crimes.
“Justice is the Hangman’s noose !”
“Women must be protected — they’re too weak to fend for themselves.”
“For where lurks evil, there must the Hangman be to battle.”
“I have seen the way sin worms its way into good. I have watched as innocents fall by evil’s wayside ! I’ll not allow that to happen to you, girl — even if I must protect you against your own will.” (hurls Lissa Russell back like an empty beer can)
“You can’t evade my blade forever, beast of the night — and when I finally catch upon its sharpened point — you’ll learn why none may escape the vengeful hand of justice. The justice of — the Hangman !”
“You must be destroyed — for the cancer — the disease that you are –! You’re a plague of sin — one which smites innocents with suffering and pain. But the guiltless need suffer no longer — for while the law has become corrupt, the Hangman stands only for justice… what ? No ! The police ! They come to stop my spreading of the truth !”
“She and all others like her must be shown the path to truth ! And so I must never give up my crusade — for the consequences would be catastrophic. Yet, there are times when even I doubt that evil could be vanquished from this world — especially when I see the guilty disguised as innocents — when evil pretends to be justice. There — below me — a police car patrols — not searching for crime. Rather, they look only towards keeping some mythical status quo. If crime were to suddenly vanish, they would lose their jobs, their income… They need — want — the evil — if only that they continue to survive themselves. So hear me, false minions of justice — stay your evil ways or perish — walk the path of good, and all its riches will be yours. So speaks the voice of justice — so speaks the Hangman !”
“Justice is now served – with the death of a fiend.”
“Society tortures you, the law ignores your cries. Only I stand in the wilderness, a beacon of light dedicated to the fundamentals of unadulterated justice ! And you poor women are mere blind sheep who must be led by the shepherd of righteousness.”
(After murdering a thug who squealed) “The fool expected leniency. And what else should he expect — in a society that coddles its criminals ? The police turn their backs on crime ! The courts dismiss evil-doers… return them to the streets to wreak more havoc on innocents who live in fear. But the good need cringe no more ! The law-abiding citizen has found his masked avenger to hunt these criminals down — to punish all who commit evil — and to protect all who are innocent. The Hangman lives – and he acts to quell the rage that dwells within us all !”
“Today there are no heroes, no good influences for our youth. The depraved violence of Clint Eastwood holds no candle to the unblemished humanity of John Wayne.”
Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG
Tell me more about the game stats
|Dex: 03||Str: 03||Bod: 04||Motivation: Psychopath|
|Int: 03||Wil: 03||Min: 02||Occupation: Vigilante|
|Inf: 03||Aur: 02||Spi: 02||Wealth: 003|
|Init: 009||HP: 012|
Acrobatics: 04, Charisma (Interrogation): 04, Martial Artist (EV): 06, Vehicles (Land): 03, Weaponry (Firearms, Melee): 04, Weaponry (Hangman weapons): 06
Bonuses and Limitations:
Martial Artist can only be used when wielding his Scythe.
Familiarity (Popular American movies of the 1930s to the 1950s, Military procedures and equipment (1940s US Army), Interminable soliloquies about justice), Headquarters (Confined).
Debt 1 (keeping his kidnapping victims fed), Serious Irrational Attraction toward Underestimating Women, Traumatic Flashback (Severely hurting a woman), Uncertainty (Delivering soliloquies rather than taking action).
- Scythe [BODY 04, Enhance (EV): 03 (cap is 08), Descriptor: Piercing].
- Rope and noose [BODY 02, /STR/ 06, Enhance (EV): 01 (cap is 05), Skin armour: 06, Stretching: 01, Limitations:
- Enhance (EV) only for Wrestling or Grappling (this is done by using the rope as a garrotte or wrestling aid, as opposed to lynching people).
- Skin armour only protects the rope, and only against Unarmed and Blunt descriptors.
- Stretching has No Fine Manipulation, and no defensive application in most circumstances.
- /STR/ only for Wrestling and Grappling, requires a Trick Shot, and requires a handy object to serve as a “pulley” for the noose. Usually that’s an overhead lamppost. Blindside bonuses when attempting the Trick Shot are easy to get though – simply not watching the Hangman at that point may be sufficient.]
I expected you to be taller
If he was indeed 6’5″ and 310 lbs. at the close of his career, this is simply one AP of Growth (Always On, Already Factored In) which raises his STR and BODY by one AP each.
Source of Character: Mostly 1970s Marvel Comics.
Writeup completed on the 18th of December, 2017.