Halloween is upon us. This is the time when horror comics really shine and publishers of all shapes and sizes bring out their spookiest stories. Where do you start when there’s so much to choose from? Well, a few of us here at Comicon put together this list of some of our favorites to send shivers down your spine. Enjoy…if you dare!
Nailbiter – Whenever anyone asks me about horror comics (which happens frequently since I’ve been writing about them for ten years), this is the first comic that comes to mind. It’s a gripping tale about Buckaroo, Oregon, the birthplace to the most serial killers in the world. Writer Joshua Williamson, artist Mike Henderson, colorist Adam Guzowski, and letterer John J. Hill pick this story up after the latest Buckaroo Butcher, Edward James Warren is captured, but that’s just the beginning as we dig into why this place has created so many murderers.
The comic is equal parts horror and thriller with a healthy dose of action and a pinch of humor. It’s a dynamite package and I’m so glad to see it return with a follow up series. I could read this book forever.
Colder – You know the phrase “Don’t judge a book by its cover?” Well, you can ignore that with Colder because Juan Ferreyra’s cover shot gives you a good idea of what to expect from this incredible and twisted series. Written by Paul Tobin and illustrated by Ferreyra, the comic centers on Declan Thomas, a former asylum inmate who can cure insanity…at the expense of his own body heat. This goes against the villainous Nimble Jack who thrives on madness, gulping it down like a fine wine.
The series ran for three volumes, each just as terrifying as the last. Ferreyra perfectly captures the feel of insanity with some off-putting imagery that boggles the mind and sends shivers up your spine.
Witch Doctor – This underrated gem from writer Brandon Seifert and Lucas Ketner is like a supernatural version of House M.D. It’s a brilliant concept that’s as hilarious as it is scary. Vincent Morrow is a specialist in all kinds of spooky ails, from demonic possession to apocalyptic vaccines. He’s a bit of a jerk, but humorous and lovable. It’s a book prime for TV adaptation as there are countless possibilities.
Wytches – Bad Egg: Scott Snyder & Jock’s Wytches completed volume 1 years ago, and the duo have been promising a follow-up ever since. In the meantime they released Bad Egg, a graphic novel sized one-shot that fleshes out the world of Wytches even more, but also tells an absolutely terrifying standalone story. Seb and Jackson are two young friends with vastly different destinies. How they connect, and how their journey ends will scare the pants off even the most brave reader.
X-Men: Inferno – Though Inferno has a reputation as one of the first comics mega-crossovers, and the culmination of years of plots by Chris Claremont and Louise Simonson, fans often forget how creepy and unsettling the series is, especially as drawn by Jon Bogdanove, Walt Simonson, Rick Leonardi and Marc Silvestri. As the Goblyn Queen and the forces of Inferno take over New York City, the city quickly becomes corrupted. In some places, the corrupted sights of New York are played for their dark humor, but in others it’s absolutely terrifying, such as the innocent family that’s consumed by a demonic elevator off-screen. That’s not even including seeing our favorite heroes being corrupted and twisted by Madeline Pryor’s demonic magicks!
Afterlife With Archie – At first everyone thought Afterlife with Archie was sort of a joke. I mean it came from the United States’ premier humor comics publisher. However, right away Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla proved that the horror take on Riverdale’s beloved world could honor the classic while still being incredibly scary. The best part was that there were no sacred cows, as multiple Archie favorites became zombie chow, the bride of an Elder God, or vampiric girl bands! Really, the most terrifying thing about the series is that it’s unfinished, leaving several plotlines up to reader’s imaginations!
Sandman #6, ‘24 Hours,’ (1989) released by DC/ Vertigo, also available in the Sandman – ‘Preludes and Nocturnes’ TPB
‘24 Hours,’ unfolds over the span of that many hours in a small-town diner inhabited by five customers and a waitress (Who’s the cook? Never said).
There, the unstable John Dee, aka Dr. Destiny, holding the dream-god Morpheus’s Dreamstone captive, casually watches the people at the diner — as well as the world around him — descend into chaos and madness spurred by the powerful gem’s influence.
Sandman writer and creator Neil Gaiman’s greatest strength has been in making fantasy, fables and mythology feel comfortably familiar, like old truths we’ve always known. Their wonder lies in their casual monotony even as they remain otherworldly, and, appropriately, dreamlike.
Here, Gaiman’s superpowers aren’t used to convey a dream but a viscous nightmare that unspools viscerally, consuming and overwhelming the diner’s six patrons — as well as the reader.
The realization occurs around hour ten that there is no turning back. No redemption, no saving, no hope, only a mounting awe and dread. Pleasure and pain between the characters grow more confessional, more violent, more savagely physical.
Gaiman even adds a subtle commentary on how faith can be manipulated and squandered. If there was ever a story that had Gaiman crossing over into Clive Barker territory, this is it.
The art by Mike Dringenberg, Malcolm Jones III (with special thanks to Dom Carola), and coloring by Daniel Vozzo acts effectively as the story’s unblinking gaze. There’s a sly six-panel sequence of Dr. Dream casually eating a fly that symbolically captures his — and ‘24 Hours’’ — hypnagogic cruelty.
Props to letterer Todd Klein for the issue’s only moment of brevity, a one-word caption uttered by Dr. Dream (“NEAT.”) while the diner’s patrons’ give in to their carnal desires.
In a story that literally had its titular character travel to hell and confront Lucifer only a few issues before, ‘24 Hours’ is a potent reminder. A bloody one that no devil or demon can come close to the depraved horrors lurking and ready to explode hissing from the basest dark of the human heart.
‘From Hell,’ by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell (1999) TPB released by Top Shelf Productions
‘Gutt Ghost: Trouble With the Sawbuck Society #1’ (2020) by Enzo Garza (covers by Enzo Garza and Mike Mignola) released by Scout Comics
Bone Parish Vol. 1, BOOM! Studios, Cullen Bunn/Jonas Scharf
Bone Parish is a compelling occult noir with notes of horror, crime procedurals, and mafia tropes. It’s like Breaking Bad and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein had a beautiful and horribly twisted baby in The Big Easy. It’s hideous and gorgeous, mean and emotional. It’s a story about family, in the best and worst possible ways. Also, haunted drugs.
Cullen Bunn has taken all the appeal and obstacles of running a successful illicit drug operation and thrown in a brilliant supernatural/horror twist. Jonas Scharf and Alex Guimaraes deliver an aesthetic that flips easily from gritty, dull reality to hyper saturated fantasy. This is a beautiful and intriguing book that has a rusty, razor-sharp edge.
Moonshine Vol. 1, Image Comics, Brian Azzarello/Eduardo Risso
You might think a backwoods moonshiner like Hiram Holt would be in over his head dealing with a slick New York mobster. You’d be wrong. Hiram’s hooch is finer than anything else on the market, he’s got a steel jaw, and is surprisingly savvy when it comes to business. He doesn’t even flinch at throwing an offer back in the face of that mafia boss. Might have a little something to do with that other thing, the fact that Hiram and his brood are werewolves and can handle their own.
Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso throw us headlong into a pretty messed up situation, where it really isn’t clear if there are any good guys. Murderous sociopaths and hillbilly werewolves, duking it out over ‘shine production and distribution during Prohibition. This one has mafia tropes and noir wrapped into a slick little piece of period horror. Even the name is dead brilliant. Moonshine. Moon. Shine. Come on!
The Goon Library Volume 1, Dark Horse Comics, Eric Powell
The Goon is another sort of supernatural mafia story, set in the 1930’s. This one features zombies, aliens, killer robots, flying Commie octopuses, skunk-apes, and man-eating rats the size of Volkswagens. The Goon and his sidekick Franky navigate through the crime underworld in an irreverently comical and ridiculously violent collection of stories that begins with The Goon’s origin.
This is my horror comedy entry for our Hallowe’en themed list. Powell’s script is full of horror and mafia tropes, and is laced with sick, dark, low-brow humor. The highly caricatured, but still somehow realistic art is equal parts charming and vomit-inducing.