Born in Lithuania to an aristocratic family, Hannibal Lecter was traumatized in his early childhood by the murder and cannibalization of his sister Mischa by a group of soldiers. Orphaned by the war and haunted by his experiences, Lecter was held in an orphanage until his uncle came for him and brought him to France. Lecter's uncle soon died, and Lecter was stripped of much of his estate; he was sent to live with his aunt Lady Murasaki, with whom he developed a strange relationship. Unstable due to his experiences, Lecter committed his first murder as a teenager. He also began studying medicine at this time, a subject for which he showed great facility. He began pursuing revenge against those who murdered his sister, killing every culprit he came across in increasingly bloody and inventive ways. He was arrested for these crimes but released due to popular support for his murder of war criminals, as well as the lack of evidence. His aunt severs ties with him, and he leaves France and travels to Baltimore, Maryland, to continue his education with a residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Hannibal Lecter was originally created by Thomas Harris for his book Red Dragon. The character proved so popular that his history was expanded on and further books were written featuring him. He is based on the real killer Dr Alfredo Ballí Treviño, as well as taking some inspiration from the Monster of Florence. Other inspirations have been proposed but none confirmed by Harris. He made his first appearance in comics in Cracked Monster Party #33.
Major Story Arcs
Lecter was consulted by the FBI agent Will Graham on the Chesapeake Ripper case. When Graham realised Lecter was the Ripper, Lecter disembowelled the agent, nearly killing him. Lecter is captured and imprisoned, held in the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane under the care of Dr Frederick Chilton, whom Lecter loathes. Despite their difficult history, Graham consults Lecter on the case that he is currently pursuing, a serial killer known as the Tooth Fairy. Chilton discovers that Lecter has been secretly communicating with the Tooth Fairy, and has informed the killer about Graham's home address. Later, after the killer has attacked Graham and permanently disfigured his face, Lecter writes him a letter wishing him well and hoping that the disfigurement hasn't made him too ugly.
The Silence of the Lambs
Still imprisoned under the control of Dr Chilton, Lecter is approached by trainee agent Clarice Starling, who has been sent by Jack Crawford to present Lecter with a questionnaire, a ruse to seek his input on the ongoing Buffalo Bill case. Lecter agrees to consult in exchange for increasingly personal details about Starling's life and childhood. Lecter's cryptic clues prove correct, and following the kidnapping of a senator's daughter Starling is sent to offer Lecter a deal for transfer out of the BSHCI in exchange for his assistance. Doubtful of the offer, Lecter refuses. He is then approached by Chilton, who confirms the offer was false and presents his own deal for transfer, so long as Lecter reveals the identity of the killer and allows Chilton to take credit. Lecter agrees, asking to speak to the senator in person. Chilton oversees the transfer to Tennessee, where Lecter provides false information to the senator. Starling attempts to interrogate Lecter, revealing her worst memory to him in exchange for a final clue. Using a paperclip and some pen pieces that he has collected over the years, Lecter effects an escape, eviscerating and mutilating his guards in the process. He sends Starling a telegram congratulating her on becoming a fully-fledged agent, as well as sending a letter to Chilton, who soon disappears.
Seven years later, Starling's career is falling apart, which attracts the attention of Lecter, living in hiding in Italy. He reaches out to Starling, which draws the interest of her bosses at the FBI, who seek to use her to capture him. A former patient of Lecter's, Mason Verger, is also pursuing Lecter to seek revenge. Lecter manages to dodge Italian police and Verger's men and travels to America to pursue Starling. In America he is captured by Verger's men, but released by Starling, who is tranquilized in the process. Verger attempts to kill Lecter with wild boars but this fails, and Lecter rescues Starling and escapes. He abducts and restrains Starling, attempting to brainwash her with drugs and behavioural modification into taking on the role of his dead sister Mischa. She resists and convinces him to allow Mischa to live on in himself instead. Lecter captures the corrupt agent Paul Krendler and he and Starling cannibalize and kill him. They become lovers and escape to Argentina together.
Powers and Abilities
Hannibal Lecter is extremely intelligent and well-educated; he trained as a doctor and as a psychiatrist and distinguished himself in both fields. He is manipulative, and extremely knowledgeable in criminal techniques and forensic countermeasures. He is known to speak several languages, amongst them Lithuanian, French, and English. His tastes are sophisticated and refined, and he has extensive knowledge in various artistic fields, as well as being a skilled chef. He is physically strong and capable with a blade. He has a very strong and accurate sense of smell.
Lecter appears as a minor antagonist in this 1986 adaptation of Red Dragon, in which his name is spelt "Lecktor". He is portrayed by Brian Cox.
The Silence of the Lambs
Lecter appears as an antagonist in this 1991 film adaptation of the book of the same name. He is portrayed by Anthony Hopkins, who received an Oscar for the role.
Lecter appears as the villainous protagonist of this 2001 adaptation of the book of the same name. Anthony Hopkins reprises the role.
Lecter appears as a minor antagonist in this second adaptation of the book of the same name, released in 2002. Anthony Hopkins again reprises the role.
A young Lecter's early years are portrayed in this 2007 adaptation of the book of the same name. He is portrayed as a child by Aaran Thomas, and as a young man by Gaspard Ulliel.
The Hannibal Lecter Series
Lecter was originally created for this series of books. He appears as a major character in all four books in the series: Red Dragon, The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, and Hannibal Rising.
Lecter appears as the primary antagonist in this loose adaptation of the pre-Red Dragon continuity, exploring the relationship between Graham and Lecter prior to the latter's arrest and imprisonment. He is portrayed by Mads Mikkelsen.