The Alternate Character Designs For Stranger Things 4's Vecna Are Even More Horrifying

After a nearly three-year hiatus, "Stranger Things 4" came back better, longer, and most importantly, darker. This season, the Hawkins underdogs struggle with the horrors and complexities of depression, trauma, and isolation, which called for an equally complex and dark monster. To achieve this, they turned to the series' senior concept illustrator, Michael Maher, Jr., who gave us all the nightmare fuel known as Vecna.

For most viewers, the dark wizard checks all the necessary boxes for a memorable monster. Vecna's entire body resembles an open wound with snaking vines that protrude from his back, which he uses to capture and choke his victims. A deep, soul-penetrating voice combined with an intimate knowledge of your deepest fears and regrets makes this a frightening creature, but he wasn't the most visually creepy monster in Maher's imagination.

On his Instagram, Maher shared alternative character designs for Vecna, and they are pure, unadulterated nightmare fuel. Check out the newly released concept art below!

Early Vecna concepts

This early version of Vecna is based on a prehistoric fish and includes beady, yellow eyes, and spikes that Maher describes as an "armored shell." In this design, the artist theorized that the harsh environment of The Upside Down might spark such an evolutionary change. It's a solid addition. You probably need all the help you can get as the newest kid on a block populated by Demogorgons and Mind Flayers. Shockingly, the artist made no comment on that bloody crater of a mouth, which will probably haunt many nightmares for weeks to come.

On his website, Maher revealed this early version of Vecna "has a very direct Hellraiser influence to it," which can be seen in the creature's bloody, lipless mouth, and the scarring around the multiple button-like eyes. While the artist wandered off into Cenobite territory here, there are subtle hints at the finished character hidden in this design. Look closely at the individual features, if you can stomach it, and you can see a resemblance to the final Vecna in the scorched skin and absent nose.

Here's another "Hellraiser"-inspired design. The large right hand with fingers capable of crushing a skull is certainly familiar, and will appear in Maher's finished Vecna design. This version has a network of what appear to be red veins all over his body, but Maher revealed that they're actually scars where segments of skin have been sewn together over his emaciated body. If you look closely at the monster's nose, or lack thereof, you can see a flap of skin stretched over the empty space. Maher doesn't reveal who stitched the creature's skin together, but it's fun to imagine he's some sort of Cenobite/Buffalo Bill mutant. We also catch a glimpse of Vecna's glossy finish in this early concept art.

It's unclear where Maher was going with this one, but it looks more like a Creepypasta creation than an early Vecna. Instead of a nose that's been cut off or covered by a flap of borrowed skin, this guy never seems to have owned one to begin with. There is a large scar in the middle of his face, as if the two halves of his head were joined with a dull needle and a prayer. This one bears no resemblance to the final Vecna at all. This one deserved to be saved for last, as his design is less terrifying than the rest, so maybe it will act as some form of palate cleanser after the genuinely eerie earlier iterations.

Expressions of a monster

Some might find these earlier designs more frightening than the final character, but Vecna needed to be more than visually terrifying. As Maher explained on Instagram, the dark wizard "needed to be expressive," which the earlier designs wouldn't have allowed. Don't let these alternative designs fool you: The Vecna that made it on-screen continues to be a terrifying sight. 

There's no doubt that creatures with protruding spikes, bloody maws, and patchwork skin are enough to plant nightmare-inducing images in any sane person's head. It could be argued that the scrapped designs are more visually terrifying than the final concept. One thing's for certain: You wouldn't want to run into any of the alternative Vecnas in a dark alley. But grotesque features are not the only thing that make a monster.

The creepiest thing about Vecna is not only his looks, but his ability to directly interact with Eleven and her friends. Any of the creatures above could stalk and kill our beloved Hawkins brood, but the majority of the earlier concepts didn't allow for human expression. In the end, the final Vecna needed to be able to sneer, glare, and smile while torturing children. That's far more horrifying than a creepy face or blood-covered mouth.  

"Stranger Things" season 4 is currently streaming on Netflix.