Spoiler alert: This article contains major spoilers for the fourth season of stranger things.
With Stranger Things’ Wrapping up the fourth season, the Netflix series brought revelations about the nature of the Upside Down, the role of the Mind Flayer, and the origins of Eleven’s power. Much of the new information hinges on Season 4’s captivating new villain, known to many characters as Vecna.
While Vecna takes its nickname from one of the most iconic villains in Dungeons & Dragons, viewers will notice striking similarities between Stranger Things’ new Big Bad and several other movie, novel, TV and comic book villains. Vecna draws inspiration from some of horror and fantasy’s most dangerous foes, adding to the satisfying nostalgia for which stranger things is loved.
stranger things Season 4 revealed that Eleven inadvertently created Vecna by banishing Henry Creel, aka “One”, upside down. Physically transformed and wandering in his strange new realm, Vecna discovers a new purpose for his staggering psychic powers, resolved to return and reshape the world. This origin story is reminiscent of Pinhead, the aptly named villain from Clive Barker’s hellraiser franchise.
Pinhead was once a man named Elliott Spencer. Spencer opened a door to hell using a puzzle box known as the Lament Setup. Transported to hell, he underwent ritual mutilation and became a cenobite hired to serve the god of the underworld Leviathan. During the hellraiser movies, Pinhead returns to Earth to wreak havoc. Vecna actor Jamie Campbell Bower admitted, according to Polygonthat he wanted the Pinhead references to go even further.
Before Eleven grafts herself onto Max’s mind from a pizza dough freezer, Max is alone in her mental escape from Vecna’s curse. Retreating to his fondest memory, the 1984 Hawkins Snow Ball, his relief turns to horror as the balloon decorations explode in a rain of blood. The specificity of this image highlights Vecna’s similarity to the terrifying villain of Stephen King’s 1985 novel THIS.
The computer’s favorite form, in the novel and later screen adaptations, is Pennywise the Clown. Often preceded by a red balloon, Pennywise targets, isolates and terrorizes children with hallucinations linked to their deepest fears. Much like Vecna, Pennywise creates horrors in the minds of his victims before attacking them. Also, IT’s true form is a giant spider. Vecna is inspired by Black Widows. stranger things draws a lot of inspiration from Stephen King and THISso this parallel is a fitting tribute.
Arguably the strongest influence on stranger things Season 4 is Nightmare on Elm Street. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the parallels between Vecna and 1984 slasher movie villain Freddy Krueger. There are even physical similarities, as both Vecna and Freddy have either a clawed hand or a gloved hand, and both are badly burned on their journey to the peak of villainy.
Just as Vecna attacks its victims from the Upside Down, Freddy also operates from another realm, targeting teenagers through their dreams. In full acknowledgment of the influence on Vecna, iconic Freddy actor Robert Englund makes a guest appearance as Victor Creel, Henry/Vecna’s father in the Season 4 episode “Dear Billy”.
One of the best X-Men characters, Erik Lehnsherr, aka Magneto, plays both villain and anti-hero roles in the X-Men comics, animated series, and feature films. X-Men: First Class depicted Erik’s tragic origins in Auschwitz, where Nazi officer Klaus Schmidt (later known as Sebastian Shaw) orders him to demonstrate his telekinetic ability. His story is reminiscent of young Henry Creel, the subject of Dr. Brenner’s relentless experimentation, abuse, and manipulation.
Although Vecna is far from sympathetic, even Eleven feels pity for the mistreatment he suffered at the hands of Brenner. Like Magneto, Vecna feels a sense of aggressive superiority, even wishing Eleven would join his crusade. Another easter egg amused X-Men fans: Magneto, along with Sebastian Shaw and many X-Men characters, is associated with an organization known as the Hellfire Club.
The Witch-king of Angmar
A terrifying dark force in The Lord of the Rings, the Witch-King of Angmar was, like Vecna, once a mortal man. He received one of the nine Rings of Power intended for the kings of the race of men. Deceived and corrupted by the ring’s power, he became a specter destined to serve the Dark Lord Sauron. Vecna, too, transforms into a supernatural, grotesque creature at the height of confidence in his own power.
The Witch-King leads the Nazgûl, a group of Ringwraiths, all of whom have a psychic connection to the One Ring forged by Sauron. Relentless in their pursuit of the Ring, they can detect its use, much like Stranger Things’ the hive mind can detect intruders in the Upside Down. Much like Vecna, the Witch-King is ultimately defeated by a young woman whose power he once underestimated.
Vecna’s namesake from Dungeons & Dragons takes many forms, but is known in the most recent edition as Vecna the Archlich. A lich, in fantasy literature and video games, is a powerful undead entity, usually the reanimated form of a necromancer who has achieved immortality through dark magic. In the popular animated series adventure timethe heroes confront the evil lich, who plans to open portals to other universes, bent on mass destruction.
Like the rendering of the lich in adventure time, the ultimate goal of the Vecna murders is to open a door between worlds to destroy humanity. The lich, like Vecna, is methodical and determined in its determination to extinguish life. He also demonstrates psychic abilities similar to Vecna, which he uses to create hallucinations, disguise himself as others, and outright possess living creatures.
Before becoming the galaxy’s most fearsome Sith Lord, Darth Vader was Anakin Skywalker. Enslaved and abused on Tatooine, he found freedom in the Jedi Order, where he harnessed and honed his Force abilities. Skilled in telekinesis, telepathy, and single combat, Darth Vader’s power set is very similar to Vecna’s.
Both are also monstrous distortions of themselves, and both were recognized as children for their unique abilities. Much like Darth Vader once tried to persuade Luke to join him on the dark side and rule the galaxy, Vecna first envisions Eleven to his right. A stranger things fan theory even suggests that Vecna/Henry Creel is Eleven’s biological father, which would really make the Darth Vader connection clear.
Wanda has been on quite the journey throughout her time in the MCU, from secondary villain to Avengers: Age of Ultron to the redeemed hero in phases three and four to the main villain in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. In her first appearance, she is freed from HYDRA’s research base by Ultron, then puts her powers to good use by creating horrific hallucinations and psychic puzzles for the Avengers.
Vecna’s ability to turn her victim’s deepest fears and guilt into waking nightmares is reminiscent of this gift from Wanda. Vecna and Wanda escape the research facility and unleash their full powers with devastating results. Fans wonder if Wanda’s villain arc was heralded or deserved, but her raw magical power might stand up to a mental fight with Vecna (or Eleven for that matter!)
One of the most instantly recognizable horror monsters is the one that was resurrected on Dr. Frankenstein’s operating table. Frankenstein’s monster, called “The Creature” in Mary Shelley’s historical text, is less a simple villain than a tragic and pitiful outsider driven to wrongdoing by his circumstances. The creature, assembled as an experiment by a gifted but reckless scientist, resents its creator and humanity for rejecting it.
Vecna, likewise, bears a deep resentment for humanity. He too was experimented on by a zealous scientist who eventually subdued and rejected him. Taking on a monstrous form, he channels his desire for revenge and his hatred of humanity into untold atrocities. Like Vecna, the Creature also commits violent murders, for which others are responsible.
The Most Powerful Dark Wizard Harry Potter directness, supernatural powers and brutal nature of Lord Voldemort manifested early in childhood, much like young Henry Creel. Both Voldemort and Vecna seek to transcend the limits of human ability and remake the world under their rule.
Perhaps more importantly, Voldemort and Vecna both undergo seismic shift when defeated by children. Baby Harry Potter survives Voldemort’s killing curse. The rebounding magic tears Voldemort from his body and he must strive to regain his physical form. Child Eleven banishes One/Vecna in reverse, and the journey through the gate disfigures his body. In their new incarnations, the two seem to lack a nose, but carry enough vengeance to make up for it.
NEXT: Every Hidden Detail In Stranger Things That Predicted Vecna’s Reveal
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