Johnny Horton was a street thug who was known for his big fist, bad temper and small brain. Johnny tried to make a name for himself when he joined a gang in New Orleans but wasn't going anywhere. A guy from Chicago hired Johnny for some local muscle and they were impressed so they introduced him to the Secret Empire. Johnny told them he wanted to be more than a cheap hood and the Empire promised to make him a super villain. Johnny agreed and underwent a dramatic operation where the Secret Empire permanently grafted onto him a mane, wings and replaced his hands with lion's paws. His face turned dead white after the procedure and the Griffin was born.
His first assignment for the Secret Empire was to kill the Beast. The mutant known as Angel witnessed the battle and intervened when the Beast kicked the Griffin in the face and Horton plummets from a great height. Angel tried to catch the Griffin but he quickly recovered and knocked out the mutant with one punch. Beast saved his friend while the Griffin retreated. Griffin informs Number One that the Beast was assisted by Angel so the Empire ordered him to kill Angel as well. The Griffin attacks the Beast after he attends a meeting with Patsy Walker and her husband, Buzz Baxter. Angel tries to help the Beast subdue their powerful enemy and a fierce fight ensues. Griffin goes airborne with the Beast in his clutches and attempts to bite him with his fangs. The Beast manages to turn his body around and use his long arms to grab the Griffin's wings. The Griffin is unable to control his wings and begins to quickly descend. During the free fall, Griffin is punched in the jaw by Angel and knocked unconscious.
Griffin was created by Steve Englehart, Tom Sutton, Frank Giacoia and John Tartag
Horton would continue to work for the Empire and still consume the serum that transformed him into the Griffin. The serum drove him insane and he ended up killing the doctor that performed the surgery. This led to a confrontation with Beast and Spider Man where the two heroes barely defeated him. The Griffin would later team up with Crimson Dynamo and the Titanium Man to battle the Champions. This group shortly disbanded after they were defeated. The Griffin's facial features would change during a confrontation with Spider Man and Wonder Man. The Griffin evolved once more and his face became more bestial. The Griffin was presumed dead when a burning plane he attempted to lift fell on him during that battle. The Griffin survived when he dug a tunnel with his claws under the burning wreckage. Griffin was discovered roaming the Adirondacks by Headlok and became his mental slave. They ended up battling the West Coast Avengers but Griffin was eventually subdued when Tigra was able to calm his bestial side.
Namor would run into the Griffin when Desmond Marrs enlisted him to kidnap Carrie Alexander in order to draw out of hiding the mystery man who is the real power behind Oracle Inc. Desmond and his sister Phoebe Marrs realized that the Prince of Atlantis was alive when everyone presumed he was killed during an Atlantean invasion a few months earlier. Namor battled Griffin near the Statue of Liberty and was able to defeat him by taking the beast out of his element and take the fight underwater. Namor caged the Griffin inside a dockside warehouse and was able to tame the beast. He taught the Griffin that Namor was his master and to remain docile under his command. Namor rode the Griffin and crashed a meeting at the Roxxon Plaza in order to get answers on why he was attacked. Namor got his answers and left the Griffin inside the Roxxon boardroom. Namor and the Griffin would reunite once more during an adventure to the Savage Land and come into conflict with the Super Skrull.
Griffin would return to villainy and join the The Hood's new iteration of the Masters of Evil and battle the Avengers on a few occasions. Griffin was later seen with the Masters.battling the Skrulls during the Secret Invasion crisis.
Norman Osborn would appoint the Hood as Camp HAMMER's new chief operating officer and his men are legally working for the government to capture dangerous fugitives. The Hood sent Griffin, Razorfist, Living Laser and the Scorcher to go after Gauntlet and Tigra when they went AWOL. He was also a part of the Hood's plan to steal a vast fortune from a rich Arabian prince. Later on after the robbery and the burning of one of Hood's hide outs, Griffin got drunk with other members of the gang and got arrested for their recklessness. He and the others would later be let free by the Hood. However Griffin was angry that the Hood didn't free them earlier. He tries to kill the Hood but is wounded in the process as the Hood shoots him multiple times in the legs.
The Hood has powered up members of his Masters of Evil with the Norn Stones which were given to him by Loki. The Hood wanted to juice up his crew so they could go hunt down some Avengers. The Griffin tells Mandrill that they are being used and that he had no interest to hunt the Avengers. He also tells the Mandrill that he's too afraid to run and have a price on his head. Mandrill tries to tell Griffin that this is the opportunity to become part of Osborn's A-list team and taking down the Avengers would be a great chance to bump up their status. Griffin tells Mandrill he would rather die and is only doing this for the money. Mandrill would spot Spider Man and Spider Woman with his suped up vision and the two engage the Avengers. Spider Man has noticed that the Griffin is more powerful than their previous encounter before he is blasted off the roof by a mind-controlled Spider Woman. Griffin and Mandrill enjoy the assault on Spider Man by the possessed crimson beauty. Spider Man refuses to strike Spider Woman as he gets bombarded by venom blasts and body blows. Spider Man keeps talking to Spider Woman until she tells the wall-crawler that she is being controlled by the monkey faced villain. Spider Man replies "I know what to do" as he finally falls from one final venom blast. The two villains approach Spider Woman when Mandrill gets webbed in the mouth and Spider Man knocks out the Griffin with one powerful uppercut. Spider Woman blasts the Mandrill in the mouth and Spider Man webs both villains together.
The Hood would go on the run after the siege of Asgard was a failure and Norman Osborn is no longer the Director of National Security. Several members of the Hood's gang are arrested in Asgard but the Griffin is later captured in New York by Spider Man. The Griffin is caught in a giant web and the crowd is aggravated at the web-head for causing a traffic jam on Fifth Avenue. The crowd starts throwing trash at Spider Man and Griffin tells everyone that the wall-crawler is his partner and they're in cahoots. The Griffin is apprehended and sent to the Raft.
X-Men: To Serve & Protect
Griffin comes into conflict with Hercules and Psylocke of the X-Men when he apparently steals some money from a bank. Hercules places Griffin in a headlock while Psylocke stabs him in the head with her psychic blade.
The Raft Penitentiary is severely damaged when a mystic hammer lands inside the prison facility and nullifies the cell block's force-field. Several super-powered felons escape including Griffin, Basilisk and Man-Bull. They flee the island with a female inmate that has a raft boat and head to Brooklyn. The four criminals participate in a bank heist in Cadman Plaza and come into conflict with Hercules who has been depowered after his epic battle with the Chaos King. Hercules has been equipped with various mythological weapons and is still a brave, fierce warrior despite his lack of superstrength. Griffin is stabbed in the chest with the Sword of Peleus but Hercules avoided all major arteries and organs. Griffin recovers while Hercules is fighting with Man-Bull. Griffin grabs two handfuls of cash and flies through a window but he is gunned down by the Warhawks who are led by Kyknos, the son of Ares. Man-Bull and Hercules team up against Kynkos and help save Griffin. The crowd begins to go crazy and turns against Hercules, Man-Bull and Griffin. They find their female inmate laying on the floor with horns sprouting from her head and she's uttering some unknown language. Man-Bull and Hercules fend themselves against the Warhawks when the female inmate reveals herself to be Hecate, Mistress of Terror and Witchcraft. Hecate casts a spell that enrages the crowd and dogs throughout the city go wild. Hercules is rushed by the crowd when Man-Bull and Basilisk noticed a change with Griffin. The magic emanating from all the chaos had transformed Griffin into a real, mythological griffin and he saves Hercules from the crowd. Hercules rides Griffin like a steer and they come across some civilians going crazy from the magic. Hercules is wounded and Griffin takes him to a building rooftop. Hercules collapses and Griffin tries to provide nourishment by offering two wild dogs he just killed. Hercules treats his wounds while Griffin eats the rest of his kill. Hercules wakes up the next morning and hears Griffin whining. They are in awe when the city landscape has changed and overwhelmed by massive trees sprouting through various buildings.
A Council Of Masters
Max Fury, the leader of the Shadow Council has assembled a new Masters of Evil in the sovereign nation of Bagalia where Griffin is presently a member. Griffin is present when Max Fury and the Masters of Evil capture John Steele after he attempts to escape Bagalia with the Serpent Crown and the Crown of Thorns.
Powers & Abilities
Griffin is very similar to his mythical counterpart and quite powerful. Griffin has wings that provide him flight and he possesses razor sharp claws and fangs. He also has a prehensile tail he can use to strike and grab his enemies. During his early changes, he had the ability to control certain animals with his voice when he called upon a flock of birds to attack Spider Man and Wonder Man. Griffin has superhuman durability and strength. Griffin managed to overpower superhumans like Ghost Rider, Spider Man and Wonder Man with his bestial strength. The Griffin's senses are also heightened which make him an excellent tracker.
Griffin would be involved in several stories taking place in the Marvel Adventures comics which are standalone stories and does not take place in the current Marvel Universe continuity.
The Griffin would come into conflict with the Avengers when Iron Man and Captain America witness the villain land in a park with SHIELD agents around him. The Griffin was trying to kidnap a Chinese diplomat when SHIELD agents tried to stop him. Iron Man and Captain America call for reinforcements so Storm, Spider Man and Wolverine arrive. The Griffin's strength, speed and ferocity give the Avengers more than they can handle. The Griffin starts to gain the upper hand when he controls a flock of birds to attack Wolverine and knocks Storm down with a park bench. Tigra was watching the entire fiasco from a distance because she was paid by an unknown client to gather information on the Avengers for a book he was planning to write on the heroes. Tigra decided to intervene and kicked the Griffin behind the head. Tigra then flipped over the Griffin and planted a kiss on him. The kiss was a distraction and it allowed Iron Man to take down Griffin with a neuro-blast. The Griffin was placed into custody and Tigra was invited to join the Avengers.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
He is mentioned by John Garrett as the first prisoner he ever brought to the S.H.I.E.L.D. facility known as the Fridge.