Leaves are on the ground, there’s a vein of cold in the breeze, and night comes sooner than ever. It’s Fall—and that means we’re nearing Halloween.
Thoughts often turn to horror as Halloween nears, but for many, that means haunted houses and horror movies. Even for comics fans, horror comics may not come to mind. Maybe that’s because horror comics haven’t spawned the kind of icons movies have, or maybe that’s just because fans don’t always know where to start with horror comics.
If you’re a comics fan looking for some good sequential scares this October, I’ve got 13 choice titles for you.
This installment offers up 7 sure-fire horror treats. Come back next Wednesday, Oct. 27, for my final 6 tricks, er, I mean tips.
A plague hits the teenage population of a Pacific Northwest town in the 1970s. It’s an unusual plague, though: it’s sexually transmitted and mutates the infected into monsters. While some of the mutations are terrifying, others are minor and just odd. Either way, those with the plague become outcasts, living in the forest and trying to make the best of their new, ruined lives.
Burns’ art is defined by heavy, lush brushwork, nuanced characters, and—crucially—some really sexy scenes. They’re not necessarily conventionally sexy, but if you’re willing to consider that a girl with a vestigial tail could be sexy, this is the book for you.
Black Hole is a true horror masterwork. You owe it to yourself to check it out.
Don’t let the art style fool you. Neely may look like he’s doing classic animation-style stories, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a story as creepy and obliterating The Blot.
While I normally shun wordless comics—they don’t feel like they can offer deep enough stories—this is a major exception.
The Blot takes what seems to be a break up as its jumping off point, and then disintegrates into a whirlwind of terror as the world becomes infected by an increasingly large splotch of ink that literally blots everything near it out of existence.
After a break up, parts of the world can feel like they’re being destroyed. Neely makes that feeling literal, visual, and terrifying.
The decades between the fall of EC Comics and the rise of modern horror titles from IDW, Boom, and others may appear devoid of horror comics. But look a little closer and you’ll find these classic 1960s and 70s black-and-white anthology titles from Warren Publishing.
Have a favorite EC artist? You can be virtually certain that they worked on Creepy or Eerie. Love the artists who manned darker Marvel and DC books like the late 70s and 80s? There’s a good chance you’ll find their early work here.
The stories in Creepy and Eerie aren’t too inventive (or, really, very good)—at least in the first few volumes of the archives that I read—but every story is a masterclass in classical illustration and comics.
These books are so beautiful that the stories don’t have to be very good to make them worth reading. But, as $50 deluxe hardcovers, you’ll need to save your pennies.
Think Lord of the Flies is an extreme case of kids descending into barbarism and violence? Compared to The Drifting Classroom, Lord of the Flies is like a tea party with a kindergarten girl.
The Drifting Classroom follows a school full of children that’s transported to another dimension by a natural disaster. While there are a few adults present, they quickly reveal themselves to be predators or useless, and so the children are left to organize, fend for, and protect themselves.
Needless to say, they don’t succeed too well.
While diving into the series means committing to 12 volumes, every single one of them is not only satisfying but also contains at least one “holy shit, I can’t believe that just happened!” moment.
And if that’s not what you want out of your horror comics, I don’t know how to help you.
Josh Simmons is some kind of horror savant. There are few really, truly, deeply disturbing comics out there. If you’re willing to take the risk of reading a comic that you’ll literally want to cover your eyes while you read, Simmons’ work is for you.
House, his nearly wordless tale of a trio of friends exploring a dilapidated, cavernous mansion, is less explicit, but worth a look. Its suffocating, despairing loneliness is affecting.
Batman, Simmons’s bootleg take on Batman, foregrounds the horror elements of The Dark Knight. This unauthorized story posits Batman as a mentally ill, homeless, ultra-violent version of himself, waging a war on crime in which nearly everyone looks like a criminal. Amazing stuff.
In a Land of Magic, a story that appears to be a traditional fantasy tale at first, blends truly explicit sex and horror in a way that may make you queasy. Don’t read this at work unless you work in a slaughterhouse. If you’re willing to take the chance, though, you’ll experience an absolutely virtuoso horror comic.
Based on the true story of a group of Philadelphia teenagers who murdered a classmate for no apparent reason, Fishtown paints a chilling portrait of empty people unable to fill themselves with meaning regardless of what they try.
With some terrific depictions of violence and the effects of drugs, Fishtown takes you inside these empty kids—a place you may not enjoy being, but one that makes for good comics.
Fishtown can be read in its entirety online, or in print from IDW.
Moore and Campbell’s masterwork takes the story of Jack the Ripper and extends it across nearly 500 pages of death, psychosis, conspiracy theory, and, well, the architectural history of London.
Not only is From Hell among the most compelling stories in comics, it offers a fairly unusual set of themes for horror comics (a millennia-long pattern of men’s aggression towards women, the already-mentioned architecture) and extensive, informative footnotes.
From Hell is essential reading for anyone who wants to call themselves a well-read comics fan.
Sam Costello is the creator and writer of Split Lip, a horror webcomics anthology that io9 has called “the webcomics answer … to the Twilight Zone and Night Gallery.” It offers nearly 500 pages of free comics.
Coincidentally, Split Lip vol. 3 is now available from pre-order directly from Sam.
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