The Top Thirteen Occult Detectives in Comics

It was in the early years of Queen Victoria’s reign when my great-great-aunt Agnes was summoned to the royal court to do a bit of dog whispering. A beloved Pomeranian had taken to speaking in tongues and, in lucid moments, was issuing salacious remarks about the prime minister. Aunt Agnes confirmed the queen’s suspicions, determining that the creature was possessed by some lesser demon (a tragedy for her highness and a Thursday afternoon for my ancestor). Though the ousting of the fiend was complicated by the meddling of a parrot belonging to the Duchess of Kent (mimicking incantations can prove hazardous), the little dog was back to its regular yipping and yapping by high tea. Again, for Lady Agnes Montgomery, this was a typical chore, one of the milder incidents she was comfortable to share in her “public diary.”

See, Agnes was an occult detective. In service to the Queen and, really, anyone else with the right connections. It’s an honorable, if thankless, occupation. It’s also one of my favorite topics to read about. Luckily, there’s a great deal of crossover in comics. Let’s do up a list, shall we? 

The following thirteen individuals represent some of my very favorite occult detectives in comics. To qualify for inclusion, characters must be:

1. Someone who resides in a comic book
2. Someone who solves mysteries
3. Someone who tangles with the supernatural
4. Someone who is terrific

I’m undoubtedly going to leave a few out. It’s your job to speak up for these intrepid wraith hunters and courageous cryptozoologists in the comments section below.


13. Chris Luna, The Veil

Chris is a newbie, but she’s already off to an impressive career of solving crimes for dead people in IDW’s The Veil (written by El Torres and drawn by Gabriel Hernandez). Hers are colder-than-cold cases, as she deals directly with the ghosts of crimes old and new. If you’re looking for a new series more grounded in the day-to-day than some of the other books on this list, look no further than The Veil.  

12. Solomon Kane

Sol is the very definition of a puritanical bastard. As a wanderer of the wide world, he tends to stumble Mr. Magoo style into trouble, from haunted woods to werewolf infested castles. He’s a zealot for sure, but he favors the more exciting passages from the Bible (the bits with the dragons and such). Three parts Man-With-No-Name Eastwood, two parts John the Baptist, six parts Severus Snape. All adds up to a lot of fun in the 16th century.

Read my review of his most recent exploits here.

11. John “Proof” Prufrock, Proof

Proof has real history. A lot of his peers in the ghostbusting biz sipped tea with British royalty, but Proof bumped elbows with American presidents. He combines brute stength with age and experience. He’s also the snazziest sasquatch to ever don an ascot and tails. If this image isn’t evident, you might need more Proof.

10. The Amazing Screw-On Head

I can’t emphasize this enough; he has a screw-on head! The occult detective genre, in itself, is a genre bender, bridging mystery and crime fiction with fantasy and horror. Mignola’s one-shot concept (soon to make a return to comics) offers the additional element of steampunk. For wackier, lighthearted occult detection with plenty of bonus attachments, give Screw-on Head a whirl.

9. Doctor Strange

I gotta be honest. It’s the mustache.

I like to look at the width and breadth of the Doctor Strange back catalog as the secret case files of Vincent Price. No one devotes that much time to horror movies without wetting their toes in the real thing. He wore a big ol’ cape and peered into crystal orbs in his attic and you know it! Imagine that voice and the phrase “Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth” and you’ll understand why he made it on the list and Dr. Fate didn’t. Occult detection doesn’t really get more opulent or psychedelic than Doc Strange.

8. Lobster Johnson

What’s most interesting about the Lobster is that his own persona is even more mysterious than those of his foes. At least, to us. In fact, he was widely considered to be a fictional character within the world he actually inhabited (let’s call it the Mignolaverse). He’s also the strongest example of a pulp hero doing his darndest to foil the nastiest occult element of all, those Nazi scum. Captain America had a mean right hook, but Lobster left a mark. Literally.

7. Deadman

He’s a superhero, an occult element, and a former circus performer. What’s not to love? So far, dead people have either been the culprit or the client. Here, the spirit is a crusader for good. Here’s hoping his appearances in Wednesday Comics and Blackest Night result in more ongoing adventures. 

6. The Batman

Bruce Wayne has worn many cowls. He’s a vigilante, a scientist, a dark knight. He’s also a detective. You could argue that most superheroes are default detectives, but along with Ralph and Sue Dibny and J’onh J’onzz, Bruce is the real deal. Sherlock Holmes in a sea of Scooby Doos.
When I think back on Batman: The Animated Series, the
first sensation isn’t a visual. It’s the voice of David Warner’s Ra’s Al Ghul, dripping with condescension (and Lazarus fluid) as he says, “Very good, detective.” As for the occult dealings, much of the Batman’s rogues gallery is typically dismissed as weird science. But Elseworld tales have shown that he works well under gaslight. Oh, and if Ra’s isn’t one of the cooler occult villains in comics, whether he’s based in science fiction or fantasy, I don’t know what he is.

5. Mina Murray

The entire League of Extraordinary Gentlemen could’ve shouldered their way onto this list, but it’s Mina who holds it all together as leader and constant. She is also the most subtle psuedo-vampire ever. Just a scarf and eternal life. No fangs, no diamond sheen. She’s basically the Professor X of occult detection.

4. Sandman (Wesley Dodds)

Can we talk about one of the better cosplay options out there? Like the Batman, Dodds is essentially just a dude in a mask. But then there’s those prophetic dreams spurring him on in his harrowing exploits. There’s been several incarnations of the Sandman character, but when it comes to supernatural puzzle solving, Dodds was the classiest.

3. Sir Edward Grey

Another background character in the Mignolaverse soaking in more and more of the limelight these days, Edward Grey is a quintessential occult detective at her majesty’s service. Lately, he’s wandering foggy London town in his solo series Witchfinder from Mike Mignola and Ben Stenbeck.  He broods and turns down the advances of surly lookin’ harlots. If you dig the Holmesian Victoriana as much as I do, this is the beekeeper’s knees. 

2. John Constantine, Hellblazer

Nobody’s clocked in more hours, snorted more Kris Kringle, or flicked more ashes than John Constantine. He’s beaten both the devil and terminal cancer. Nobody, nobody, has a more entertaining internal monologue either. Urban fantasy is a huge industry tight now and all the Harry Dresdens of the world owe it all to the original and best street level sorcerer ever to drop his wand and hail a cab.

1. Hellboy

With Hellboy, it’s all in the attitude. No one has ever seen so much and flinched so little. Sure, there are plenty of jaded individuals on this list, but for Hellboy, more than anyone else, this is business as usual. Like Proof, he’s had a lot of adventures over the years but remains a vital action hero. He’s got the perfect combination of experience, wit, heart, and monstrous good looks to serve as comics’ greatest occult detective.

Paul Montgomery has the Lance of Longinus in his umbrella stand. Find him on Twitter or contact him at

Don’t forget to check out the adventures of Dr. Xander Crowe, Paul’s favorite occult detective in podcasting, over in Wormwood


  1. No Sherlock?

  2. But you forgot ____________________!

  3. I don’t want to point out the obvious but where’s Doctor 13?

  4. Whenever someone cooks me a meal, I make a point to tell them what’s missing as soon as possible.

  5. Sigh.

  6. By the way, I love the hell out of Wesley Dodds.  I need to go back and read that Sandman Mystery Theater in a big way some day.

  7. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    @zombox – Sherlock Holmes? He isn’t an occult detective.

  8. LOL @bclaymoore

  9. Ah, BClay, Hawaiian Dick is aces with me!

    Nice list, Paul.

    Constantine’s probably my all-time fave, but Hellboy’s a great number one. I’m also very fond of a lot of the DC occult characters like Phantom Stranger, Dr. 13, Dr. Occult, Mr. E., Dr. Fate, etc. Although, I think the term "detective" is used pretty loosely with some of these (as well as in Paul’s definition, so it’s all good).

    Poe from Boom! may also soon be a contender, if the first issue of that series is any indication.

    I’m also looking forward to seeing what Rick Remender does with Dr. VooDoo. 😉

  10. I only read the first trade but I’m already quite fond of Atomic Robo and his supernatural experiences.

  11. Trying to remember, but I don’t believe Wesley Dodds in Sandman Mystery Theatre really dealt with a lot that was truly supernatural in nature, did he? Maybe there were some. It certainly FELT creepy most of the time. I seriously need to re-read my SMT collection. Great, great series.

  12. @ Josh:

    I thought the same thing. Except I need to BUY Sandman Mystery Theatre. 

    Though I can’t wait for Wesley to rise in Blackest Night.

  13. That page, from Starman, when he comes out in his full get up to rescue Jack… one of my favorite scenes of all time.

  14. Alright, alright a less snippy response:  I don’t think Batman should rank because he’s not really an occult detective, he’s a detective who by the nature of his universe and his connection to other more overtly occult characters is sometimes dragged into handling occult cases begrudgingly. He’s aware of the mystical world and its mores because he tends to be ultra-aware of things.  Doctor Strange seems out of place for the opposite reason; to me he’s not a detective.  His position as the Sorcerer Supreme makes him the perfect consultant for cases of a mystical nature and back-up for characters who couldn’t otherwise handle it but he’s not in any way hunting down clues and investigating crimes.  He’s kinda performing services like a P.I. would in that people come to him with problems but he’s always fixing them in a mystical way.  Doctor 13 and Doctor Occult/Rose fit the mold of occult detective much better to me (not just because they wear trench coats) because these are two guys (or 1.5 guys and a girl) who actively seek and research occult occurrences and investigate them using the same analytic tactics we would see had they been dealing with regular crime.

  15. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    @daccampo – Well he has the dreams, right? I’m working on a loose definition, I know.

     @psyguy411 – Atomic Robo is a great suggestion. I haven’t read a lot of the book, to be honest, but I’ll definitely check out the trades. 

  16. @Paul – heh, I was just about to say that. He does have dreams that give him information, so that’s just on the edge of mysticism. He certainly seems to fit with his counterparts anyway. And the book deserves a read either way. 😉

  17. @Josh comments like your first one are why you’re may favorite iFanboy.

    Great article Paul, there are a few on here I haven’t heard of and will definitely check out. It’s hard to beat a good supernatural mystery

  18. Ron Marz was upset you left off Witchblade over on the twitter.

    I’m willing to bet Paul’s hands have never even touched an issue of Witchblade.

  19. Byrd would rather drink than worry about his omission from online lists created by nerds.

    In fact, Byrd hasn’t even heard of "online," since he lives in 1954. 


  20. Amazing Screw On Head for the win. Still waiting for that Sci-Fi channel cartoon.

  21. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Full dosclosure. I had trouble thinking of many candidates from Marvel. Strange made the most sense, and fills the role of cosmic level detective on this list. I really tried to make it a well-rounded roster with a diverse crowd of occult mystery-solvers from various walks of life. I also hope it serves as a decent introduction for a few characters some readers might not have heard of.

  22. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    @josh – You’re not wrong. It’s funny though. When Witchfinder first came out I kept referring to it in the shop as "Witchblade."

    This is not a judgment on Witchblade. I just haven’t read any of it.  

  23. Was Cordelia Chase an occult detective?  She had the visions and stuff!  (I’m not even sure if she’s been in the ‘Angel’ comic books, just wondering).

  24. @Paul Isn’t that what they were going for with the limited look at the Ultimate Strange, anyway? I pictured him as a "Ghost Hunters" TV show personality, the way the descibed him in USM.

  25. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    @ohcaroline – I only read the first arc of Angel: After the Fall, so I’m not sure. But Giles was THIS close to being on the list. I decided it was cheating. 

  26. @PaulMontgomery  Oh, I think I’ve said this before, but Giles has some good moments in the old Buffy series.  If you ever read that omnibus, I’m sure he can make the list.  (I would hesitate to include any of the ‘Angel’ characters, even if the comic were exactly like the show, because while they were theoretically detectives, they were always kind of crap at it.  So they’d be like, ‘mediocre occult detectives.’)

  27. Oh a huge oversight that the European-iFanboys are probably fuming about in their various languages is Dylan Dog

  28. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Dylan Dog is totally on my radar, but I haven’t read him yet. 

    Not a comprehensive list. Just my personal favorites.   

  29. Ah-ha because you didn’t title this "P-Money’s Favorite 13 Occult Detectives" then you are under the knife. Just poking fun, but I did see some characters on your list that I haven’t checked out or heard too much about, as well, that seem interesting.

  30. I’ll add The Question II (Renee Montoya) to the list) and Ghostly Ralph and Sue Dibny. Excellent work, you mad genius.

  31. You know…I expected Lobster Johnson to be at the top of the list.  A damn shame.

    Oh, and you forgot Nightcrawler.  He had a mini a few years back where he totally occult detected the hell out of some evil things. 😛

  32. I never got a chance to read The Amazing Screw On Head, but I saw the pilot that didn’t get picked up: it was awesome! Is Screw on Head going to be another one-shot or an ongoing?

  33. Great list Paul!

    Proof!! Yay! That book is awesome. I started reading Proof cause of one of the Video podcasts. I am one #3! Can’t wait to follow it on issues.

    Mike Mignola is amazing. I think he needs to get more credit for adding such great stories to the genre.  He’s got 5 detectives on this list. Alan Moore has 3 (counting batman). 🙂 


  35. Interesting list. I am absolutely SHOCKED that you have Hellboy #1. (<-Sarcasm) I’m at bit surprised to see Sir Grey so high up the list, but if Witchfinder maintains its quality level, then I might put him at #1.  

    As for a Marvel detective, perhaps Hannibal King.  He is certainly a supernatural detective. 

    I second Paul’s suggestion of Wormwood. I have just started listening and it is a lot of fun.

    Also, I have no idea who or what witchblade is. 

  36. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    @androidmoser – Mignola mentioned at SDCC that he was drawing three stories set in the Screw-on Head world. That’s all we know at the moment.  

  37. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Another honorable mention: Teddy Roosevelt in Frank Frazetta’s Creatures by Remender and Bergting. 

  38. Where is that picture of Batman from? It’s amazing…

  39. @paul: Gotcha! Cool! Hopefully there will be a nice collection soon, including the first one!

  40. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    @BrianBaer – That’s the cover to Detective #828 by Simone Bianchi. The covers from that run are stellar.

  41. I don’t know about Mina Murray. Being forced into a hunt for one vampire, and her not-very-occult dealings in LOEG (based on TP 1+2) doesn’t make her an occult detective.

  42. @chlop: I think she counts because she’s expressingly being put into service to hunt down ("snag, bag and tag" as Artie on Warehouse 13 would say) the "weird".  Volume 3 and the Black Dossier (and even the New Traveller’s Almanac have her dealing with some very occult characters.

    The Planetary crew would probably fall under the same category

  43. You’ve some how managed to stuff everything I love about comics in one page! This was a wonderful distraction in an otherwise stressful week of deadline.


  44. @PaulMontgomery: have to agree with you that, outside of Dr. Strange, there’s just not much in the way of occult detectives in the Marvel U.  The Tomb of Dracula gang comes to mind as, in their pursuit of Dracula, they often came across instruments of dark occult power.  Also, the Hellstorm: Son of Satan—Equinox Max Series from two years ago was a nice entry foray into the genre.  But I don’t think either warrant inclusion on the above list.


    BTW, have you ever read the The Sword of Solomon Kane limited series Marvel did in the 80s?  (If memory serves, Mignola penciled at least one issue, which would have been one of his earliest pieces for the publisher.) I read them when they first came out and, at the time, didn’t know what to think of it, especially when compared to the other Marvel stuff I was buying—i.e. Fantastic Four, Cloak & Dagger, Power Pack.  But, perhaps that’s why I still remember those issues so fondly.  And it looks as though Dark Horse will reprint the series in the upcoming "The Chronicles of Solomon Kane"—good stuff!


  45. Super glad you put Wesley Dodds up there, just recently grabbed the available trades of Sandman Mystery Theatre and it was fantastic, and if you like those stories, the current arc on Madame Xanadu, by the same author, is also a early 20th century occult detective story worth checking out

  46. @dandoody – If I’m not mistaken Hannibal King is a Marvel U occult detective.

  47. @danndoody – Paul and I were talking about the Solomon Kane miniseries a few weeks ago on Twitter.

    And here’s the really good news (Paul, listen up), that series is actually being reprinted by Dark Horse. It’s in the newest Diamond Previews. It’s not the book that just came out from DH that reprints older material. This is a new one that reprints stuff from the Savage Sword of Solomon Kane mini-series (and a few other things). I’m very much looking forward to that.

  48. Ok ok I got one what about Space boy or Kraken and the team… Seance? Horror? I mean they fought Vietcong vampires for christsake… paul paul paul…

  49. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Seance IS a good choice. 

  50. Where’s Detective Chimp?

  51. Just to preface: I am not criticizing Paul’s list. Instead, I am naming a few characters that would appear on my own, personal list of Occult Detectives in comics.

    Tycho Brahe and John Gabriel – This is pushing it, I know, but have you ever played Rain-Slick Precipace? Fantastic. And they made a prequel comic, so…

    Blue Devil –  He is Blue Devil, and terrific.

    Detective Chimp – The goofy character who somehow happens to be smarter than everybody in the room without making a huge deal out of it remains one of my favorite archetypes. Also, he is a monkey.


  52. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Detective Chimp crossed my mind. I haven’t read a lot of him though. 

  53. Got done reading THE DEVIL YOU KNOW novel by Mike Carey a few weeks back.  That’s right up this list’s alley.  If you dig the comic versions of characters like this, check out that novel, Paul.  It felt very John Constantine-ish.  Conor actually turned me on to that book after he answered an e-mail of mine a while back.

    Oh, and WORMWOOD too, of course.  I’m half-way through the first season! 

  54. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    @JeffR – The Devil You Know is about four novels away on my stack. I’m excited to get to it. If you like that one, try Charlie Huston’s Joe Pitt novels starting with Already Dead. 

  55. @stuclach, Yep, probably should have singled him out, but since most of his adventures revolved around Blade, Frank Drake, et. al, I just mentally lumped him in with the TOD crowd.  But now that you mention him specifically, a solo King adventure would make a good entry in the Dead of Night MAX limited-series Marvel has been doing recently.

  56. Hey would Eddie from the Damned count as well?

  57. Eddie’s technically a criminal, but he’s one of the great comic characters to appear in recent years.

    THE DAMNED is essential reading.

  58. I don’t really see any evidence of him being a straight up criminal but he is certainly benefinitng from and in the pocket of the crime family. But he was both using his supernatural abilities to do detective work and doing detective work centering around supernatural crime which is how I define occult detectives.

  59. As of late I’ve enjoyed Morbius in Marvel Zombies 3 & 4.

  60. Holy crap! That picture of Deadman gave me major flashbacks from my childhool. Did he have his own book? What was he in? Why does he look so damned familiar?

  61. Would jessica Jones count?

  62. @HailScott – because he looks like Daredevil?

  63. The second I saw this list I knew Hellboy had to be no. 1.

  64. I’ve seen Batman *sigh* take on Werewolves and Vampires…so he qualifies. As well he’s gone up against Cults, the Undead, Zombies, Demons and everything else….he probably kicked the crap out of a kitchen sink at one point or another in the 70s.

    I would have put Constantine at 1 and Hellboy at 2 but that’s nitpicking. I tried desperately to figure out who to knock off for Dr.Fate but failed. 

  65. Big Love for Constantine.  The Garth Ennis "Son of Man" run was one of my favorite read of all time.

  66. Out of curiosity would #5 or whatever number the time traveling kid/brother/whatever he is from the Umbrella academy count? He seemed very capable of deducing clues in the first trade, which again, is the only stuff I’ve read so far.

  67. A lot of my love for comics focuses on these occult detectives listed here. Great list here Paul. And the doubt concerning Wesley Dodds? Look no further than the brilliant Gaiman/Wagner/Kristiansen SMT oneshot. One of my all time favorites. I really need to check out Poe and the Veil.

  68. awesome article and those pretty much are the

    best ones

  69. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    @gabe – I don’t know that Jessica deals with any occult elements. If this were a straight-up detectives or super-powered detectives list, she’d be on there. 

    @psyguy411 – the Umbrella Academy is tricky. I wouldn’t consider time travel an occult element. Seance maybe. But not the other members.  

  70. DC does have a lot of great occultic detective characters. I would love a Detective Chimp book.

  71. Nice article on a favourite little niche in comics.  Reminded me I still have the most recent SMT trade on the shelf to read, although DC seem to have fallen behind on the reprints recently.  Since there have been mentions of novels in the discussion, can I suggest Christopher Fowler’s Bryant and May books.  While they don’t deal with the supernatural as such, the titular detectives deal with mysteries that often appear supernatural usually with a basis in stories of old LOndon.  Well worth a look if you appreciate Carey’s stuff..

  72. Also Deadman might have the coolest design of any other character out there. I’m surprised creators don’t use him more.

  73. Given the fact that I haven’t a clue about the creative team, I think Deadman is the suprise hit of Wednesday Comics. Fantastic stuff!

  74. Great list can’t wait to seek out some of this titles.

  75. @Timmywood – I love Deadman’s design. The Neal Adams stuff is great. And I even dug the Mike Baron Kelley jones stuff from the early 90’s (that’s a creeeeepy lookin’ Deadman if you’ve seen it). But I think he’s a hard character to write into a regular series. I suspect that’s why he’s not used as often. In fact, many of the occult characters from DC are tough to use in that regard. Phantom Stranger comes to mind.

  76. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    They make great guest stars though! As evidenced in this week’s Blackest Night books. 

  77. @Paul Speaking of Blackest Night, isn’t Barry Allen a detective? I’m not familiar with Barry, as much, but he’s deling with the dead and all now, and that’s got to count for something…

  78. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    I guess these days he’s dealing with the dead, but I wouldn’t say that’s a primary component of his character historically. 

  79. I have to ask where Detective Chimp is??  The No. 3 detective in DC universe doesn’t make the list??

  80. Yeah, there’s just been this imagery of death around him lately, especially with Blackest Night and his recent dealings with Black/Death Flash etc. Most of his rogues look like occult leaders, haha, just saying. From what I’ve perceived he was considered an equal to Batman in the past as far as detective skills go, too.

  81. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Lately, sure. 

  82. Haha, yeah that’s my familarity with him, though. I’m not saying him or other people I’ve mentioned before should be included on this or any other "Top Occult Detectives"…maybe Atomic Robo, but just seeing what qualifies as such, because they "seem" to have your 4 qualities.

  83. I have to say, it’s a nice list. Some really obvious choices. And some real confounders. Batman, mainly. And I don’t know that I would personally consider Kane a "detective", but I can’t really disagree with it.

    I would have added Jim Corrigan Spectre. (The classic stuff)

  84. Yeah Paul, you should probably put Byrd on the next list, or BClay will hunt you down!

    I totally guessed Hellboy and Constantine for No.1 and 2. But other than that I was clueless.

  85. @Prax – I also liked the Jim corrigan/Spectre stuff from Ostander’s 90’s series.

    someone also mentioned this, but Madame Xanadu is doing a little occult detecting in the current storyline of her series. Worth checking out.

    I have a serious soft spot for DC’s occult heroes. Some great obscure characters there.

  86. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Madame Xanadu is sitting on the to-read pile. It looks beautiful.  

  87. @Paul – it was a slow burn for me — I’m curious as to how it will read in trade. I didn’t love it from the start, but out of trust in Wagner, I kept with it, and I definitely appreciated it a lot more by the end of the first arc. And now I’m REALLY enjoying the current arc (set in the 40’s in NYC, more of a true occult mystery).

  88. C’mooon Just #2?? tsk tsk

  89. VERY glad HELLBOY was numero uno