The Living Nightmare

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The Living Nightmare
© Juke Box Productions


Status: Active
Real Name: Inapplicable (current) or Unrevealed (former incarnations)
Earliest Appearance: 1962
Affiliation: Honor Guard
Base of Operations: Mobile
Range of Operations: Presumably Global

Personal Data

Eyes: Red
Hair: None


Headlines: August 9, 1995: Samaritan Checks Nightmare Rampage
Appearances (in Publication Order): Kurt Busiek's Astro City Vol.1 #1

Astro City: Local Heroes #2
Astro City: The Dark Age Book Two #1
Astro City #26, 31

Event Timeline


The Living Nightmare

The Living Nightmare was inadvertently created by a psychologist who attempted to eliminate fear but instead externalized the emotion into a violent and destructive physical manifestation of humanity's darkest emotions. The Living Nightmare has taken many forms over the years, even becoming a force for good on occasion.


Except for its laboratory origin, very little is known about the Living Nightmare. In the mid-to-late 1960s, and again during the 1970s, the monster was mentally controlled by a courageous Marine pilot. Under the pilot’s influences, the Living Nightmare became a hero and member of Honor Guard.

Over the past few decades however, the Living Nightmare had become a nearly mindless, primal monster, inexplicably drawn to the super-powered beings who had contained it countless times in the past. The encounter with Samaritan in 1995 is a typical example. It was soundly defeated then, but it was not, and never seems to be permanent.

The Living Nightmare’s appearance has changed over time, determined it would seem, by the good-versus-evil influences of the particular incarnation. Its most familiar and consistent visage is that of a dark, hulking figure, with multiple tentacles protruding from its skull, at least two sets of glowing red eyes, and a giant fang-filled mouth in its chest.


As the physical manifestation of fear, the Living Nightmare has a host of powers, many of which remain barely understood.


Superhuman Strength: The Living Nightmare is incredibly strong. Although the upper limits of its strength are unknown, it has been observed trading blows with the extremely powerful Samaritan and shrugging off Samaritan's Empyrean Web, which is capable of containing a tidal wave.

Energy Drain: The Living Nightmare can leech energy from its opponents, causing them to grow weaker as they fight the monster. Any and all physical contact with the creature causes drainage.

Nigh Invulnerable with Superhuman Durability: The Living Nightmare’s energy draining powers seem to protect it from many forms of attack, making it nigh-invulnerable. It can also survive in the vacuum of space.

Uncanny Senses: As of 1995, the Living Nightmare was inexplicably drawn to its super-powered enemies.

Teleportation: The Living Nightmare appears out of nowhere, making its attack all the more fearful. It then “blinks out of existence” when too far away from its power source, fear.

Shapeshifting: The Living Nightmare can change the shape of its body; this allows it to form wings which are capable of supporting it in sustained flight.

Empathic Assault: The Living Nightmare can absorb fear, amplify it, and project the result back. This appears to leave the target in a catatonic state, although it could potentially kill somebody by triggering cardiac arrest.


The Living Nightmare is powered by raw fear and can be defeated if isolated from these emotions (by sending it into space, for example). In addition, the tentacles on its head are said to be fear-receptors, and the creature has occasionally been defeated by blocking or modifying its access to the fear around it.

Psychological Profile

In most incarnations, the Living Nightmare has been a mindless creature who relentlessly attacks its enemies until on the verge of defeat or separated from a source of fear. It seems consumed by rage, blindly lashing out at its enemies. Fortunately, this also meant it was a rather stupid and predictable creature that could be maneuvered into tactically compromising situations during combat. During this time, it displayed no ability to communicate beyond growls, roars, and other incoherent noises.

However, when it reconstituted itself and escaped confinement on Kirby Mountain, it apparently had reached a point in its evolution where it became sentient. It learned to override the Domina-Rays which were being used to control it by observing members of Honor Guard conquering their fears, and spoke its first words before leaving the fight to hunt down and defeat Doctor Dominax. Currently, it speaks in short sentences, with somewhat choppy grammar, but it is capable of communicating deep concepts and speaking in metaphor, which implies that its intellect is greater than its speech would suggest.

Speculations, Theories

  • Samaritan observes that the Living Nightmare always seems to attack him when he is tired and theorizes this might "be a function of its current incarnation..." Whether the creature actually has the uncanny ability to sense when one of its prey is tired or weak, is suspect but not confirmed.
  • During at least one of its heroic manifestation phases, it seemed to be encased in a suit of armor built in a similar likeness to its evil incarnations as the Living Nightmare.
  • Since it draws its power from human fear, the upper limit of its powers is unknown. Hypothetically, in a sufficiently stressful situation such as an alien invasion, the combined fears of the world's population could render it unstoppable.