Since Bram Stoker’s Dracula, vampires have captivated readers, and literature is filled with them. In my opinion, the most interesting vampires are the ones who break the mould and don’t fit the traditional image. Comics are a good example of this, with Morbius The Living Vampire and Emplate being two characters who stand out. Another unconventional vampire is Sauron, a vampiric pterodactyl that terrorises the Savage Land. Considered an enemy of the X-Men, Sauron is unique among his kind.
The character, created by writer Roy Thomas and artist Neal Adams, first appeared in 1969’s X-Men #60. Originally, the duo wanted Sauron to be a bat-like creature, though they were told by the Comics Code Authority that an energy vampire with a bat body could fall under the Code’s ban on the use of vampires. Thomas and Adams changed the character’s appearance to that of a pterodactyl.
Before he was Sauron, Karl Lykos was the son of an explorer’s guide. He travelled with his father to Tierra del Fuego on a trip that involved showing a wealthy family called the Anderssens around. Lykos fell in love with a girl called Tanya Anderssen, and while defending her from mutant pterodactyls, Lykos was bitten. This gave him the power to drain the life-force of other people and take their vitality.
Lykos wanted to marry Tanya, so he became a hypnotherapist and geneticist and gained her father’s support. Lykos became a colleague of Professor X and was sought out to help treat Havok. Lykos absorbed Havok’s mutant energy and it turned him into a pterodactyl-like creature. Seeing himself as a conqueror, Lykos named himself Sauron after the Tolkien villain. Although he resembled a pteranodon, he had a toothed beak and humanoid body.
Lykos’ lust for power was balanced by his love for his wife. He fled from Tanya to avoid hurting her and found out that he returned to human form whenever he didn’t have energy to drain. He ended up in the Savage Land and struggled to control himself, acting as enemy of the X-Men. Sauron has battled other heroes, such as Spider-Man and the Avengers.
Although he’s battled against the X-Men many times, Sauron isn’t a mutant. Lykos’ main power is his ability to absorb the life force of other living beings. This triggers his transformation into Sauron and he can gain the power of another superhuman temporarily. Sauron is dependent on his life-draining power to survive. He also possesses a powerful hypnotic ability that requires direct eye contact. This ability can cause his victims to suffer from terrifying hallucinations and bring people under his control.
In many ways, Sauron fits the role of a traditional vampire and in other ways he doesn’t. He’s worth reading about and remains one of the most distinctive villains of the Marvel Universe.