Horror comics are an inherently strange endeavor. Unable to rely on the conventions we’ve become accustomed to with film, such as creepy music and jump scares, comic creators must rely on different tricks allotted by their medium – suspenseful pacing, unsettling imagery, and, of course, stories that stick with you long after the lights go out. Some of these comics are slow-burn tales that get under your skin, while others have fun capturing that macabre Halloween vibe we look forward to in the fall.
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We’ll kick things off with a comic that is quickly becoming a contemporary classic. Released by relative comic publishing newcomer Boom! Studios, James Tynion IV’s Something is Killing the Children became one of the surprise hits of 2019, earning an Eisner nomination for best new series. When children start disappearing from a small town, a mysterious woman with a penchant for killing monsters shows up to set things right. While this comic’s premise is seemingly simple, it’s the execution that makes SiKtC one of the most engaging horror comics in recent memory. In the span of a few issues, Tynion IV quickly establishes some rather intriguing lore that will have you asking plenty of questions (and eagerly awaiting the recently announced spinoff book, House of Slaughter.)
The go-to example of squeaky-clean, traditional American funnybooks for a majority of its 80+ year history, Archie Comics has had a somewhat surprising renaissance in recent years with the success of the shows Riverdale and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. By introducing the massively popular Kevin Keller in 2010, the publisher’s first openly gay character, and venturing into horror, Archie has become a source of some surprisingly innovative, forward-thinking comics. Afterlife with Archie presents readers with a story as old as time: Jughead’s dog is hit by a car, so naturally, he enlists Sabrina the witch to resurrect his furry pal, which (spoiler alert) turns out to be a horrible idea. Francesco Francavilla brings his characteristically strong composition and carefully selected color palette to the artwork, giving the world of Archie and his friends an eeriness that sets the Halloween mood. If you’re burned out from The Walking Dead and want a zombie story that’s focused and personal, without sacrificing the horror, now might be a good time to give Afterlife with Archie a try. If dreary zombie survivalism is not your thing, check out the equally gory (but somehow much more fun) Archie Vs. Predator. For more occultism, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is your book.
It’s difficult for me to verbalize just how great Immortal Hulk truly is. In one of those extremely rare instances when a critically acclaimed work of fiction is absolutely deserving of its acclaim (maybe even more so.) Immortal Hulk accomplishes far more than the average monthly superhero book. A blend of horror, Marvel history, philosophy, and eerily relevant political commentary, this comic book somehow still manages to be a thrilling page-turner, with plenty of action from comics’ iconic Green Goliath. With nominations from the GLAAD Media Awards and the Eisners, Immortal Hulk has plenty of action and creepy monsters to entertain you this Halloween season.
Nailbiter is a comic that poses a big question: Where do serial killers come from? Well, it turns out, the answer is the small town of Buckaroo, Oregon. Once an FBI profiler goes missing while investigating why Buckaroo has produced sixteen of the deadliest killers in the world, his partner looks for answers by forming an uneasy alliance with famed serial killer Edward “Nailbiter” Warren. Joshua Williamson and Mike Henderson execute this rather clever premise to great effect, with plenty of twists and turns as this small town’s dark secrets are slowly revealed.
If the Johnny Depp movie of the same name left a bad impression, here’s your chance to sit down with Alan Moore’s vastly different take on Jack the Ripper. One of Moore’s denser and more challenging works, From Hell is a journey worth taking. Meticulously researched, From Hell is far less concerned about the gory details of the gruesome murders of Jack the Ripper than the institutions and philosophies that produce and support such horrors. Eddie Campbell’s loose, scratchy art style and claustrophobic panels provide for an eerie setting that is both familiar and jarring, even if it may take some getting used to.
It’s basically impossible to discuss horror in the medium of comics without mentioning EC Comics. Under the leadership of comics pioneer and iconoclast Bill Gaines, EC’s line of horror books from the 1950s became synonymous with moral outrage following Dr. Fredric Wertham’s controversial book, Seduction of the Innocent, which saw comic books as a leading cause of juvenile delinquency. While the content was certainly shocking at the time, books such as Tales from the Crypt, The Vault of Horror, and The Haunt of Fear nonetheless provided some insightful social commentary beneath the veneer of poor taste. With short, digestible stories from future legends like Wally Wood and Harvey Kurtzman, you can’t go wrong with any EC collection on hoopla if you want to set the tone for a spooky season. For more worthwhile horror anthologies, check out Creepy and Eerie from Warren Comics.
Few comic book creators have been as synonymous with horror as Mike Mignola. Drawing on his love of classic horror movies, gothic imagery, and, of course, the art of Jack Kirby, Mignola’s signature comic, Hellboy, has been a consistent source of joy for fans of the dark and macabre for nearly 30 years. While all of Hellboy’s adventures are worth your time, why not celebrate Halloween by diving into this one, in which he literally goes to hell?
Much like Immortal Hulk, Saga of the Swamp Thing looks like a superhero book from the outside. Before writing Watchmen and cementing his place in comic book history, Alan Moore revitalized one of DC’s lesser characters while paving the way for DC’s Vertigo line, an imprint of mature comics that included Preacher and Sandman. Within the first few issues, Swampy’s life turns into an existential nightmare as he discovers the horrifying truth of his origin. With plenty of demons, zombies, monsters, and trips to hell, Saga of the Swamp Thing is a sophisticated, slow-burn comic that doesn’t skimp on the horror.
Running for 112 issues from 1971 until 1982, Ghosts was one of DC’s horror anthology series, along with House of Mystery and House of Secrets. Not quite as gruesome or influential as the iconic EC or Warren anthologies, Ghosts is still notable for featuring lesser-known stories from some of comics’ greatest creators of the time, including Carmine Infantino, Curt Swan, Jim Aparo, and even Wally Wood. For quick reads that capture the eeriness of Halloween without keeping you up at night, check out this