Horror and Comics: A Match made in the Crypt

Comics and Horror are an interesting blend when you think about it. Horror can be very effective in novels as the descriptive nature of a good author can help build the tension that some of the classics (Dracula, Frankenstein, the works of Stephen King) have been best at.
In a film horror can go 2 ways, really building tensions and making you care about characters like the books usually go for, or it can go for jump scares. Jumps scares seem to be most of horror movies nowadays sadly.
Why do I bring this up? Because I want to distinguish that those 2 forms of medium are very different usually with how they use horror. Novels have to be creepier and build tension slowly if they want to be fully effective and movies can go either way. Though comics can have a mix.
Horror comics can both build strong tension and give us jump scares because comics are both a literary and visual medium that blends storytelling like a book and visual medium like a movie. You read and see. So a horror comic is a very unique and special thing since it can 2 both 2 elements of horror easily.
Now I wanted to get that out of the way so I can mention the elements of horror and how they work with comics. I want you to know how that affects my judgment on the horror comics I’ll be talking about right now.
While I don’t have too much to say on them, the old EC horror comics of the 50’s obviously deserve at the very least a mention for being such a vital horror source of the time. Also helping inspire the great movie Creepshow.
I actually have a few EC horror comics such as Tale from the Crypt and I must admit they are incredibly dark and creepy. While they lack the over the top punch that most horror comics nowadays have they still have their own brand of horror that hasn’t been seen in years. Making it a really creepy and fun experience to read.
Now when talking about the horror comics of today I should warn you all my experience is probably more shallow then others. I haven’t fully immersed myself in every horror comic out there nor am I fully aware of every horror comic out there nowadays.
So if I skip a favorite of yours then feel free to let me know about it in the comment section. Just try not to chew me out too hard or you’ll draw blood, and that will attract the zombie sharks.
One of the first major horror comics that comes to mind when I think of this current generation of horror comics is 30 days of night. The little vampire comic that blew everyone away and has since become one of the biggest Indy comics out there. Even going so far as to make a movie.
I could make an entire post all about the 30 days of Night series but I’m going to try and condense this as much as I can since I have other comics to talk about.
The first mini was not the best for me, it was a great read but mostly for Niles doing a good job of establishing his characters. I always feel a horror story is only as good as it’s main characters, not just the villains. If I don’t care about the heroes what’s the point of watching their story of being in danger?
Eben and Stella are 2 great memorable characters that give us a great window into Barrow and the struggle as the vampire hordes attack. Niles succeeds most there for sure. Though he also gives us some great villains with the more ruthless monstrous vampires. My favorite being Vincente, their leader.
Overall the first comic was more like a good start to something that would become better really as I enjoy it’s sequels more. Well specific ones.
Dark Days was just all right, not much I really want to say on this one since I haven’t read it in a long time.
Return to Barrow is undeniably the best of all the sequels and mini’s out there. I hope to one day do a full on big review of this but for now I want to leave it at this. It has the best and most memorable cast of characters, it has the most memorable scenes, the art was much better even though I already loved Templesmith’s earlier work and it has a twist ending that was absolutely awesome.
Long story short if you had to buy one 30 days of night book (and there are quite a few out there) this is the one I give the highest recommendation.
The only other sequels I went through the trouble of buying after that where Eben and Stella as well as Red Snow. The others I’ve just read in my book store and I can be honest and say I wasn’t too impressed with them.
Eben and Stella wasn’t too great either to be honest. I only enjoyed it for filling in the gaps between Dark Days and Return to Barrow.
I already reviewed Red Snow and while I don’t want to completely restate it, I do find it to be the best of the sequels since Return to Barrow. It’s Nazi’s vs. Vampires with memorable and cool moments and beautiful art, what more could you want?
Since 30 Days of Night, Ben Templesmith has gone on and become a very popular artist. Mostly with horror comics as he’s done covers for Halloween, the art for the Dead Space comics, Aliens and even a Silent Hill comic.
I could make  the rest of this post about Templesmith’s horror work, but rather I’m going to pick one: Welcome to Hoxford, his werewolf mini-series from 2008.
I actually skipped this mini in order to collection wait for it. I finally got a chance to read it just recently and I must say I am impressed. Now I’ll do a much bigger more full review of this sometime in the future but for now here are my brief thoughts on it.
Templesmith did a great job with this mini in the span of 4 issues. Building tension nicely for when we finally see the werewolves. We get some really messed up characters that, to be honest, we don’t root for. The only character I can say I cared about was the doctor though she seemed to be the least developed.
Still this has some great villains with the werewolves and I really dig Templesmith’s designs with them. They looks great and wicked as all hell. Of course like always Templesmith’s art here is great.
I’d have to say the werewolf hasn’t benefited much from this resurgence of horror in movies and comics in the last decade. There haven’t been any memorable horror movies recently or horror books or comics. This is the first werewolf story I’ve seen in a long while and it’s certainly a great one. Werewolf fans shouldn’t pass this one up.
Now keeping to the indy comics of horror I want to briefly talk about The Walking Dead. Sadly I haven’t actually picked up this comic, I’ve just read online spoilers, scans and skimmed through it at the book shop.
Friends have told me again and again I should read this and that I would love it. They are probably right. For one thing it’s in Black and White like one of my favorite films, Night of the Living Dead. While I really appreciate the hard work of colorists to me there’s always been some kind of special appeal of a black and white horror story.
I have kept up to date on the characters and it does sound like a heart wrenching story that I would love to read. I’ve been considering picking up the hardcover collections for the longest time now and I think it’s about time I do.
I am a huge zombie fan and even more so I am a huge fan of the Romero films. No offense to Return of the Living Dead, great movie, but I prefer the classic “shoot them in the head and their dead” zombies. Kirkman gives us that and for that I really would love this series if where to start reading it.
What’s kept me from reading it? Really just expense. I have a long list of collection books I want to buy and rarely do I start reading a series I’ve never read before when it comes to collection books. Though I am going to make an exception here.
Robert Kirkman is a writer who I respect a lot so his name on Walking Dead also helps. I will be giving this series a read and trust me, you will all be the first to know my thoughts on it after I read volume 1.
Now there are some comics that are considered horror like Hellboy. Sadly I’ve never read a Hellboy comic except a couple of Free Comicbook Day one-shots. I really want to read Hellboy, but so far my only exposure was the good 1st movie and the absolutely awesome 2nd movie.
Now there have been horror comics from Marvel and DC. DC usually it’s just something like a creepy Batman story or a Halloween one-shot and I never read their holiday specials so I can’t chime in on them.
Marvel usually uses it’s MAX line for horror comics. Stories such as for Man-thing (personal favorite of mine) or Werewolf by night. That’s all good but I think Marvel’s most prominent horror comic in recent years is the ever so popular Marvel Zombies.
I’ve talked quite a lot about the Marvel Zombies series and by now it’s no understatement to say that Marvel has milked this undead cow for all it’s worth and the milk is starting to go bad.
The first mini was an awesome read that proved the concept could work and was fun and over the top. It was insane and really went above and beyond what one would expect. It wasn’t amazing writing, but it was great for what it was.
The prequel comics where all decent to enjoyable. Dead Days was a useless one-shot though and the Army of Darkness crossover was really just a dumb idea that only worked out because of how funny it was seeing Ash’ reactions.
Marvel Zombies 2 was a more serious approach and surprisingly it worked very well. Making one of the best and most enjoyable horror sequels since Return to Barrow.
Marvel Zombies 3 saw a different writer in charge with Fred Van Lente and I must admit he did a great job. Sure Kirkman set the bar pretty high but Van Lente gave us a comic that I can only describe as Evil Dead 2 if Machine Man where Ash.
It was the same over the top greatness only in a different way. We had an actual hero this time and it worked incredibly well. Also Kev Walker’s art was gorgeous even if it didn’t mimic Sean Phillips’ darker moody art.
Then we have Marvel Zombies 4…which in all honest is Midnight Sons simply picking up a Marvel Zombies thread. It was a good read but in the long run a forgettable one. It had none of the Marvel Zombies charm and by now I was getting bored.
I’ve read through most of the Marvel Zombies Returns one shots and I can honestly say BLEH, the fad is officially dead and if Marvel has any good sense on them they’ll leave it dead and buried.
Marvel Zombies was an awesome idea that started out very strong. If Marvel hadn’t quite overdone it so much I’m sure it would remain in fans memories as one of the coolest and funnest comics in a long time.
Now I want to end this off by talking about a couple of younger horror based comics.
The Astounding Wolfman is a series I’ve really wanted to read for a while but the first few issues never really did anything with me. Kirkman’s use of the characters wife just as a dramatic death really irked me as it’s more typical writing from Kirkman and what one would expect.
Kirkman is a great writer but this series seems like something more I should be reading in the collection books. Which is what I’ll probably be doing sometime in the future.
Scarlet Veronica is similar to Astounding Wolfman in that it takes elements of horror but adds the super hero twist to it. Though Scarlet Veronica is much more closer to the original idea of playing within the realms of horror.
I’ve reviewed this comic already and I can’t say much more of how much I enjoyed it. It wasn’t the smartest or most brain picking comic but it wasn’t trying to be the next Watchmen or anything. The writers set out to tell a fun cool story with enjoyable characters and they did so.
Often horror can work when it has some lighter tones and gives us some fun along with the scares. While this comic never actually scares, it does do a great job of giving us a more fun and enjoyable outing like horror can do so well. So for that I really did enjoy the hell out of it.
I wanted to briefly mention Haunt, the new comic from Todd McFarlane and Robert Kirkman. Looking back at my review of issue #1 I do think I may have been a tad too harsh on the art. Though still all around I stick by the rest of what I said .
Despite issue #1 being a bit of a problematic start I remain hopeful for this series and fairly excited to read #2. I love the twist of ghosts and whatever other horrors Kirkman has in store so I’m really excited to check this book out.
Overall horror and comics has been an interesting marriage. Sometimes it works really well, other times it seems comics just play with themes of horror but don’t go all the way to be a fully scary comic. Either way it’s a great pairing and I love horror comics.
Now excuse me as I go face the greatest fear of all comic readers, watching Batman and Robin from start to finish!