10 Great Homunculi of Nerd-Dom

By Matthew Catania in Daily Lists, Miscellaneous
Thursday, January 12, 2012 at 8:03 am
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Just about every creation myth involves deities fashioning humanity from mud. Throughout history, some humans have longed to emulate the gods and create new life on their own, but without the hassle of finding a sexual partner and waiting nine months. Generally, these people have been called alchemists, and the man-made men they've made "homunculi" (the singular of which is "homunculus"). Meaning "little man" in Latin, a homunculus can be created in many ways, including science, magic or a combination of the two. While what truly constitutes a homunculus might be debatable, generally they are human in form, are physically material, made in some unnatural fashion (natural = sex), and created without souls, although they might develop personalities on their own (using a soul turns the process more into a possession than a creation). However, they can be any size, color, material or disposition.

This list highlights some of the greatest imitation humans ever created. In addition to the above conditions, we're also excluding robots, because those metal soulless automatons get enough attention. This time the fleshy soulless automatons get their due! After you finish reading this, feel free to make your own homunculi at home.

10) Tara Boumdeay, Return of the Killer Tomatoes

Professor Gangreen discovered a way to transform dead (i.e. off the vine) contraband tomatoes into living simulacrums of various people using the power of music. His prize creation was Tara, a beautiful, toaster-obsessed tomato-woman capable of cooking 815 international dishes and performing 637 sexual acts. You wouldn't believe what she can do with a lawn chair, six milk bottles, and a tuning fork! She leaves the mad doctor after he throws the adorable Fuzzy Tomato away as a failed experiment. Although she appears to be nothing more than a chauvinist dream, Tara is highly intelligent, a loyal friend, and passionate about tomato rights. She teaches everyone a lesson about prejudice toward fruit that are frequently mistaken for vegetables.

9) Prince Koura's Spy, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad

In addition to being THE BEST TIMELORD EVER, Tom Baker is also a powerful magician down with the demons of darkness. As Prince Koura, Baker seeks the treasure of Lemuria to help him reclaim the kingdom his dad inexplicably bequeathed to the Grand Vizier. He frequently employs adorable little gargoyles he shares a mental link with. They're made the old-fashioned way from mandrake root, magic elixirs, and blood (plus Dynamation). These flying critters don't have the best of grips, but they turn to ash when captured rather than snitch. Koura also animates the figurehead on Sinbad's boat and a giant bronze statue of Kali that spontaneously generates scimitars, but those don't quite count for this list because Koura didn't make them himself like these little scamps.

8) Longshot, X-Men
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Reality TV-wise, the Mojoverse puts Earth to shame by literally manufacturing TV stars for its hyper-violent programming. To create a synthetic messiah to overthrow the deranged Mojo, Arize imbued the genetically engineered Longshot with the magic powers of improbably good luck, psychometry, an intermittently glowing eye, and a mullet that renders him ridiculously attractive to women. After his rebellion failed, this eight-fingered acrobat joined the X-Men, who promised they'd help free his people even though they (like most readers) don't care about the plight of alien slaves. Longshot eventually cancelled Mojo, but it didn't stick because Marvel writers are Spineless One sympathizers. The naïve Longshot currently throws razor blades at foes as a member of X-Factor Investigations. He also might be teammate Shatterstar's dad, providing Marvel ever feels like resolving that plot thread. Despite Longshot's affable nature, it has been conclusively shown that he has no soul.

7) Sally, The Nightmare Before Christmas

Sally was stitch-punk before the surprisingly dull 9 failed to make it popular. This giant ragdoll was created by Dr. Finklestein to be his nursemaid, but she longed for freedom like servants are wont to do. Instead of leading a violent uprising, she becomes adept at detaching her limbs and drugging her creator to sneak out. Her experience at sewing herself back together gets her the job tailoring the Pumpkin King's Santa suit. Despite her crush on him, she finds the guts to tell Jack Skellington that his Christmas coup will go over like a lead balloon. When that doesn't work, Sally attempts to rescue Santa Claus from the clutches of the terrifying Oogie Boogie by her lonesome. Not only does she become manumitted, Sally hooks up with the ridiculously tall skeleton of her dreams. Sally proves you can have a compelling romance without sacrificing the competence and personality of the female lead. You go, girl.

6) Roger the Homunculus, Hellboy
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Roger the Homunculus was created by a medieval alchemist but laid dormant until the BPRD found him in 1996. Unlike the rest of this list's entrants, he needs an external power source plugged into his chest socket to function. Roger became a member of the BPRD after he betrayed his homunculi brethren to save humanity. He does have a spirit, but it's not allowed into a shared afterlife due to divine prejudice toward inhumans. What really makes him notable is what he's got going on downstairs; most alchemists either make their homunculi anatomically correct or smooth as Ken dolls. Roger's maker tried to split the difference by giving him a block of wood with an iron ring in it. Roger's noble deeds will forever be overshadowed by the world's least useful Prince Albert.

5) Dr. Pretorius's Homunculi, The Bride of Frankenstein

Despite what its prologue would have you believe, The Bride of Frankenstein isn't how Mary Shelly ended her debut novel. The movie introduces Dr. Pretorius as an amoral genius who has created six homunculi: queen, king, archbishop, the Devil, ballerina, and mermaid. Each has their own personality and tiny clothes. The king and queen even have to be kept in separate jars lest they breed like rabbits. This is a colossal achievement that the movie doesn't bother elaborating on -- they could've made the whole movie just about them. So why is Dr. Pretorius so anxious to team up with Dr. Frankenstein to make a mate for his creature? Sure, making a living creature that's more than the sum of its dead parts is pretty great, but it ceases to be impressive once you've a made a 5-foot mermaid complete with gills by yourself from scratch.

4) The Golem of Prague

A golem (not to be confused with Gollum) is a giant homunculus made of clay used for hard manual labor and/or vanquishing anti-Semites. Golems are animated when the Hebrew word for truth is carved into their brows; they deactivate once the first letter is rubbed out to spell death in Hebrew, although the person doing the crossing out risks being crushed beneath an inert wall of clay. Some golems are fed their incantations on parchment to make them harder to destroy. Occasionally they go berserk as a cheap excuse for why nobody's ever conquered the world with a golem army. There have been many golems, but the one that turns up most frequently is the one made by Rabbi Loew in the sixteenth century to protect Prague's Jewish ghetto. If German silent films are to be believed, he sculpted it with an awful case of helmet hair.

3) Father, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

There's a great deal of homunculi n the world of Fullmetal Alchemist, but they all come from one source: a being called Homunculus, a sentient shadow festooned with eyes and teeth trapped in a jar. Once he tricked a naïve alchemist into giving him a body, Homunculus used Philosopher's Stones to create seven more homunculi, each embodying one of his flaws and named after the Seven Deadly Sins, and these lesser homunculi called him "Father." While Lust, Gluttony, Envy, Greed, Sloth, Pride and Wrath are all impressive homunculi themselves -- particularly Wrath, a terrifyingly skilled swordman and Fuhrer-King of the entire country of Amestris, as well as Pride, a child who transforms into a churning nightmare of eyes and teeth that can strike anywhere there's shadows -- they're all part of "Father," so he gets the nod in this list. Besides, Father created the entire country of Amestris and engineered wars for centuries just to create a blood-soaked alchemy circle large and powerful enough to transform himself into god... which he actually succeeded at doing. Sure, his plan was incredibly cruel and evil, but you have to admire his stick-to-itiveness.

2) Wonder Woman
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Wonder Woman is the embodiment of "Sisters are Doing It for Themselves." Rather than be defiled by a man, Queen Hippolyta of Themyscira sculpted a daughter out of clay and convinced the Olympians to give it life. They even granted the artificial baby divine strength, speed, flight, wisdom, beauty,and an affinity with animals; she later acquired unbreakable projectile-deflecting bracelets, a lasso that prevents its captives from lying, plenty of hardcore combat skills and depending who's writing her an invisible jet. The general populace doesn't even realize Wonder Woman is a golem, which is a testament to her fine craftsmanship (or public ignorance, given that only nerds realize that she's an ambassador from a foreign island of sporty pagan lesbians.) Even her counterpart in the 853rd century Justice League continues her homunculus status by being chiseled from living marble. Instead of getting hung up about not being a real live girl, Wonder Woman just rolls with it so she can focus on important stuff like punching out hydras.

1) Frankenstein's Monster, Frankenstein

Mary Shelly wrote Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus when she was 18-years-old, primarily to make everyone else feel inadequate. In it, Dr. Victor Frankenstein creates an 8-foot-tall jaundiced man with long black hair out of human (an possibly animal) remains he nicked while no one was looking. Rather than being just a patchwork zombie, the creature thinks, learns, and eventually even speaks. Despite his experiment being extremely successful, Frankenstein rejects his creation and reneges on his deal to make it a mate, lest they breed, and his creation becomes vengefully murderous because Frankenstein is too craven to assume responsibility. Although he able to tear regular humans apart like fresh bread, the monster can also speak eloquently on theosophy and the injustices of the world, although he does seem to focus on the injustices that have happened to him. Frankenstein's monster is certainly the world's best known man-made man, to the point where he's effectively co-opted his creators name in modern culture. Although the monster would likely be fine being called "Frankenstein" if people also started referring to Dr. Frankenstein as "That also scientist who created Frankenstein."

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