According to all those baby naming sites, the name “Carl” has old Germanic origins and means “Free Man.” It’s considered to be a form of “Charles,” but with that strong, German influence that gives us the “K(a)-rl” pronunciation. Is it a good name? Fiction seems to think so. More specifically, the comic book industry seems to think so because we have quite a few Carls hanging around the pages and panels. We’ve done the important work of gathering them all up here for your enjoyment.
Special thanks to Kat Overland, Nola Pfau, and the rest of our WWAC community for their contributions (Carltributions?) towards ensuring that this list truly is probably the definitive list of Carls (and Carl Variants) in Comics.
Ahead of Pride Month, Marvel recently revealed their newest hero, Somnus, who will appear on a variant cover for Marvel’s Voices: Pride #1 in a dreamy costume designed by Luciano Vecchio. The issue will introduce Somnus’ backstory, written by Steve Orlando and drawn by Claudia Aguirre. Accordingly to Orlando, Somnus is both an opportunity to explore his own queer family history and the struggles the 2SLGBTQIA+ community experience now, but also celebrate them.
That’s all cool, but what we’re really here for is Somnus’ real name: Carl. At first glance, it seems like an odd name choice for such a young character. But it seems that it’s not such an uncommon name for characters of any age in comics.
Turns out Carl Valentino isn’t the only young Carl at Marvel. They also have Carl Aalston, aka Rain Boy, who is now part of the New Mutants lineup after first appearing in 2005.
CARL is a webtoon comic created by HusseinT. In it, CARL plays a robot psychiatrist that isn’t supposed to have feelings — but of course, he does!
- Carl Kent: Appearing in 1969 in Superman #218, Carl is the son of Larissa Lenox and the Man of Steel, but Lois figures out that he’s actually Mr. Mxyzptlk.
- Carl Maddicks: Carl first appeared in Amazing Adventures (Vol. 2) #11 in 1972. He was the head geneticist at the Brand Corporation until the day Hank McCoy arrived. Carl botched a theft attempt on behalf of the Secret Empire and was left for dead. He survived and went on to father Artie Maddicks and cause trouble for X-Factor.
- Carl Carlson: Carl is a safety operations supervisor from Sector 7G of the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant and a recurring character on The Simpsons, also appearing in the comics.
- Carl Brutananadilewski: Carl is another TV-turned-comic book Carl, first appearing on The Cartoon Network’s Aqua Teen Hunger Force.
- Carlos Rodriguez: Carlos is a member of the criminal gang, the Y-Men, who gained super powers from tattoo artist Leon Nunez. He first appeared in 2008 in Young X-Men #3.
Karl Morgenthau, aka Flag-Smasher, fought for freedom from the oppression of national rule. In 1968’s Captain America #312 he says, “If we were to erase national boundaries and accept the essential unity of all mankind, the world would be a better place! Earth should not be divided into nations! We are the world – not a bunch of different species!” In the MCU, his character is adapted to become Karli Morgenthau, played by Erin Kellyman.
Carl isn’t exactly a Carl in comics, but this is my list and I make the rules. In Robert Kirkman’s Invincible comic and subsequent television series, the protagonist attends Reginald VelJohnson High School, which is named in honour of the actor who played Carl Winslow in the TV series Family Matters, which is also the name of the first volume of the comic. Coming full circle, VelJohnson voices the principal in the Invincible show.
You can’t hide from us by legally changing your name, Luke Cage.
- Carl Sands and Carl Hammer: Both Carls have been Hawkman’s enemy, the Shadow Thief, in DC’s Earth-One and New Earth, respectively.
- Carl “Crusher” Creel: Carl first appeared in 1964 as Rocky Davis in Daredevil #1. The professional boxer became the enforcer known as Absorbing Man.
- Carlos LaMuerto: Carlos was introduced by Tom DeFalco and Steve Skroce in Amazing Spider-Man #419 (1997) as the Black Tarantula.
- Karl Keller: Karl, who also goes by Carl, as well as Annihilator, is a Superman supervillain who first appeared in Action Comics #355 in 1963.
Who could possibly forget Dr. Karl Lykos, who was bitten by mutant pterodactyls and became the energy vampire known as Sauron?
Carl was the a dock worker who became the King of the Docks in Gotham City. After saving a young boy, he was gifted a statue that made him invulnerable. Batman was unable to defeat him until the statue was destroyed. After serving his time, Carl accepted an offer from the heroes-for-hire organization, the Power Company. He first appeared in The Brave and the Bold #81 in 1969. Then came his own one-shot in 1992. A version of him also appears in the Arrow series, played by Andre Tricoteux.
Karl is the eponymous main character in a 12-volume German series by illustrator Michael Apitz and authors Eberhard Kunkel and Patrick Kunkel. It’s a historical fiction series centred around events in the wine region of Rheingau.
Actual Carls in Comics
Having real people show up in comics isn’t new. Unsurprisingly, some of them happen to be Carls.
- Karl Malone: The basketball player known as “The Mailman” got his own comic from Allstar Arena Entertainment. Karl Malone: The Mailman #1 was published in 1998.
- Carl Weathers: The actor, director, and former professional football player isn’t actually in comics, but creators Fabian Nicieza, Reilly Brown definitely created Dr. Carl Weathers, scientist, as an homage to “Doctor Not Apollo Creed?” in 2015’s Deadpool & Cable: Split Second Infinite Comic #1.
- Carl Sagan: The famous American astronomer, planetary scientist, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, author, and science communicator kicked extradimensional monster butt in Atomic Robo and the Shadow From Beyond Time from 8-Bit Theater creators Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener.
- Carl Condor: Carl is the former leader of the High Flying Freedom Fighters and an ally of Sonic the Hedgehog who first appeared in Sonic Quest #1 (1996).
- Karl Mordo: Baron Karl Amadeus Mordo first appeared in 1963 in Strange Tales #111. He is played by Chiwetel Ejiofor in the Doctor Strange movie.
- Carl Mach: Carl was a mercenary working for the Life Foundation. He was chosen as a symbiote host during Venom: Lethal Protector #4 in 1993 and would become Phage.
- Carl Blake: In Ghost Rider Annual #1, Carl woke up with amnesia and would soon learn that he was a vampire who could syphon the memories of his victims by drinking their blood. Night Terror used this ability to piece together his own memories.
Karla was a psychologist introduced by Marv Wolfman and Frank Robbins in Captain America #192. She got herself gravity-based powers thanks to fusion with a Kree-designed gravity stone. She’s been a villain and antihero, even replacing Carol Danvers as Ms. Marvel for a time, and rolling with the Dark Avengers.
Carl the Llama
I don’t care if this isn’t a comic. Llamas with Hats is part of this list.
The Carlfire Gala
- Carl Zante: Carl, aka the Acrobat, tricked a young, disgruntled Human Torch into teaming up with him as part of the Torrid Twosome, a scam team with the goal of getting rich. He’s also impersonated Captain America.
- Carlton Velcro: Carlton was a drug dealer that first appeared in Master of Kung Fu #29.
- Carla Falcone: Carla is part of the Falcone crime family. She first appeared and apparently died in the Batman: The Long Halloween series.
- Carl Burgess: Assistant district attorney Carl Burgess was the first character to hold the Falcon mantle, fighting Nazis in the 1940s. He first appeared in Daring Mystery Comics #5.
- Carl Denti: Carl was a former FBI agent who discovered that his partner worked with Charles Xavier’s mutant underground. After his partner’s death, Carl made use of the equipment his partner had confiscated from mutants and became the X-Cutioner, hunting mutants for their crimes.
Some Carls are also parents.
- Carl Brock: Carl is father to Eddie Brock, aka Venom, first appearing in Amazing Spider-Man #375 in 1993.
- Carl Ferris: Carl was the owner of Ferris Aircraft, which, upon retirement, he turned over to his daughter Carol, aka Star Sapphire.
- Carl Draper: Carl was a security expert hired by S.T.A.R. Labs in Adventures of Superman #517 (1994) to design a holding cell for the villain Conduit. His daughter, Carla, suggested he should really challenge himself by designing a cell to hold Superman. He created a hologram called Deathtrap to do this, but then later became the Master Jailer. He also appears in the Prime Earth timeline in Suicide Squad Volume 5 #45 in 2018.
Carls in Charge
Carls aren’t just in comics, they are also in comics.
- Carl Potts: Carl is a Marvel writer best known for work on Punisher: War Journal.
- Karla Pacheco: Karla is currently writing Spider-Woman.
- Karl Kopinski: Karl is an artist who mainly works with major gaming companies and has done artwork for major IP game-related comics.
- Karl Kerschl: Karl is a Canadian comic book artist who is best known for his contributions to DC Comics, including The Adventures of Superman.
- Karl Kesel: Karl is an inker, writer, and artist, who also happened to work on The Adventures of Superman.
- Karl May: Karl (1842-1912) was a German author who wrote probably not racist travel novels about the Old West, Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East. His stories have been adapted into comics.
- Carlos Pacheco: Carlos is an artist who has worked with Marvel and DC Comics.
- Carl Barks: Carl is the influential Disney artist who drew the first Donald Duck cartoons.
- Carlos Gomez: Carlos is an artist who has worked on books including the new America Chavez: Made in the USA series.
- Carla Conway: Carla has written some comics for DC Comics.
- Carl Fallberg: Carl was a writer and illustrator for Disney Studios, Hanna-Barbera, and Warner Brothers, working on both animation and comics.
- Carl Pfeufer: Carl is the artist who drew Namor with the weird triangular head and exaggerated Asian features during the 1940s.
- Karl Bollers: Karl has worked on Sonic the Hedgehog comics.
- Carla Speed McNeil: Carla is best known for her science fiction series, Finder.
- Carla Draper: Walking in her dad’s shoes, Carla became Snare in order to give Superboy trouble.
- Carlos Quinones: Carlos, aka Fade, was created by Dwayne McDuffie, first appearing in 1993’s Blood Syndicate #1.
- Carl Delandan: Carl, also known as Karl, appeared in Marvel Team-Up #95 using his fancy Satan’s Claw weapon.
- Carl King: Carl, aka The Thousand (“aka basically Spiders-Man” – Nola), saw Peter Parker get bitten by the radioactive spider and decided that eating it would make him just as powerful. Instead, his body to broke down into a hive mind of spiders during the Spider-Man’s Tangled Web series. Ew.
I saved the most well-known comic Carl for last because he’s already hogging the search spotlight when the rest of the Carl-verse needed their time to shine. Anyway, Carl Grimes’ claim to fame is The Walking Dead, making his first appearance in issue #1 , going on to be played by Chandler Rigg in the television series and spawning many memes. Carl’s comic book fate is better than his television counterpart, being the only member of his family to survive to see the zombie apocalypse come under control and his father, Rick, honoured as a hero.
And you thought there were too many Peters in comics…