Though I do have issues with the horror genre as a whole, comic books has a fine share from going outside of the superhero genre and into the realms of nightmarish drawings. What I love about reading horror comic books is like looking at an artist’s twisted imagination with violence, disturbing character & background design, and even tone within the storytelling. It’s almost like looking at a disturb classmate’s thoughts though his drawings and it makes it so exciting to be so curious. Sure, it’s not like horror movies, television series, or video games where they depend upon the jump scares, special effects, and intimidating sound effects to get its audience scared, but I consider horror comics underrated because it captures the artists’s deep and personal thoughts that makes of us vicarious. The best thing to get scared from an actual comic book is if you read these books by yourself, in a dark room with only one light to read it, and play some horrifying music to get the mood and feel like you’re in this world. I do it all the time whenever I read a horror comic book and these are the ten that scared me the most.
Number 10. – Swamp Thing
Swamp Thing is one of the most popular classic horror comics ever. The comic book series, featuring the plant elemental, is a classic example of a monster-themed comic book. Originally penned by Len Wein and drawn by Berni Wrightson, Swamp Thing first appeared in the July issue of the House of Secrets in 1971. The legendary character was quite popular till the early ‘90s. Still today, many DC comic book aficionados love to read the adventures. Filled with bizarre monsters and heroic adventures, The Swamp Thing is absolutely a must-read this Halloween. Sorry to put this comic series at the bottom of the list, but Swamp thing isn’t as scary as he used to be, however I’m still a fan of the whole mythos and the creation of Swamp Thing, which makes him still one of my favorite characters in the DC Universe.
Number 9. – GYO
Some of the best horror manga can surely be quite terrifying, but GYO is grotesque in every possible way! It has an unimaginable story that invades your olfactory senses. And yes, the theme is bizarre; zombie fish! An experiment goes awry and causes fish to mutate and develop a strange structure. The stinking zombie fishes attack people in the most unimaginable way. he artwork is vintage manga. The level of grotesqueness shown in Junji Ito’s GYO is beyond your imagination, so better be ready to get your senses invaded before you grab this manga. Sure, the whole concept is like a cheesy B-movie, but it’s one of those kinds that does scare the audience successfully. The best horror comics enthrall readers with their original storyline and excellent artwork. These comics are worthy to be in your horror comic book collection.
Number 8. – The Walking Dead
No matter how hard you try, zombies to me are more discusting than scary. The Walking Dead is no acceptation, but what really is terrifying is how the characters, all are human, changes over time as they adapt to the zombie-apocalyptic world. Basically this is just zombies mixed with a soap opera, but that’s what makes it so engaging to read. At times, I prefer reading the comic series more so than the popular television series currently going on. It’s crazy to imagine how everyone you met or know changes from being friend or ally to possibly be a worse enemy than the zombies themselves. As you follow the character development, it gets the audience more anticipated and yet more intimidated because so of us have experienced betrayal and frustration towards each other. Every character of the series have their flaws but grows over time the more they become adapted to the zombie world that they’re living in. Whenever there’s a huge plot twist or a big surprise it leaves all of us a huge impression that would last for a lifetime.
Number 7. – Salem Brownstone
This is a gothic masterpiece. I am really stunned at how this graphic novel took so much imagination and creativity to its limits. The eponymous hero is a young launderette owner who one day receives an urgent telegram informing him of his estranged father’s death. He inherits an imposing old mansion, some magical artefacts, and some terrifying foes. It turns out that his father was one of the mystical guardians who defend the Earth from otherworldly threats, and Salem must now take up his mantle. Fortunately, he is not alone; there is a colourful cast of circus characters to help him, with such splendid names as Cassandra Contortionist and Roscoe Dillinger, Tiger Tamer Extraordinaire who are all very creepy and disturbing in nature. It took similar art styles like Tim Burton and Edward Gorey and goes an extra mile by not being light-hearted whatsoever. There are just monsters that will you on edge and even a scary moments whenever there are scenes that doesn’t make any sense but keeps you wondering. If you thought the acid trip with the Yellow Submarine was beyond fucked up, just wait till you get to the part of the graphic novel where they enter another dimension. That part of Salem Brownstone blew my mind away. All in all, Salem Brownstone is a must have for any fan of the horror genre in general because if you have legends like Alan Moore praising another person’s work, you know what you’re in for!
Number 6. – The Calling: Cthulhu Chronicles
This obscure limited series from Boom Comics really had a lackluster story, not much use of the Cthulhu mythos, and it’s another one of those mystery stories that just has a cult trying to take over the world. So how did this comic manage to make it to the list? Well, there’s a side-plot in this story that became the scariest concept and art I’ve ever seen in my life. Basically, they took inspiration from Ju-Oh the Grudge where you take a picture of yourself and you see an unforeseen picture of a stranger coming closer and closer to the image you of took yourself. This stranger can’t be seen anywhere, but in the picture that our main character, Clay Diggs, continues to take. During the course of the comic, Clay often checks how much closer till his time comes.***SPOILERS***
Oh yes, the final page of the issue does include a shocker that makes this story feel like Michael Alan Nelson and Johanna Stokes have channeled Lovecraft, Stephen King, Rod Serling, and Koji Suzuki to scare the bejeezus out of any who dare read the story between the cover. I wasn’t too thrilled when the opening pages contained the murder of a mother and son, but as the pieces began to fall into place, I realized this is a spook story to be read during the daytime only. That very drawing is so frightening that I drop the comic and had goosebumps all over my body. I never had that effect before and it was sure as hell a humongous surprise that such a limited media (such as a comic book) could even do such a thing. I still find it uncomfortable to see that very image of that stranger finally touching Clay up close and personal, becoming the best final page of any comic book. I never felt so scared at a single drawing so much as the pictures he took kept building up to some of the biggest scares I’ve ever had from this medium. It was almost like it can be you that this person is coming to next and since then I don’t want to take pictures of myself as I normally do. If only they put that side-story was the main story, this would have been number 1 for me.
Number 5. – Tales from the Crypt
Everyone is more familiar with the show with the same title, but little does anyone remember of the monthly comic book back in the 1950’s. Each month, comic fans were given stories that deals with crime, monsters, witchcraft, satanism, sorcery, and all the horror you can think of. This was the pinacle of horror comics because it departed away from the typical superhero genre that still floods the entire media. Horror comics like Crypt had balls to show its audience scary images like they never seen before. There were legends like Johnny Craig and Wally Wood,George Evans, Jack Kamen, Graham Ingels, and the rest that wanted to share their twisted stories and drawings to show how fearful they can really be. The thing that sucks about this short-live comic book release is that they were in the time where the U.S. Government was very paranoid and wanted to get rid of comic books int the mid-1950’s. There was no way they could win their case against the U.S. government so EC comics had to shutdown and put an end to Tales of the Crypt. Some of the artists who worked on the project regretted being part of it, but we all know that this was a huge part of comic book history for being so damn original and we couldn’t let that go. That’s why there are reprints, references, and even a television show based upon the comic series years later! It gave us all a huge impression and inspired many to become better storytellers & artists in horror.
Number 4. – Black Hole
Regarded by many as the best graphic novel of all time, Charles Burns managed to make his most personal and darkest story stand out more than any other in the medium. You wouldn’t think a book about growing up in a small town would necessarily be terrifying, but Charles Burns book about a monstrous STD has a slow feeling of dread that suffuses every single panel. And really, what’s more terrifying than being a teenager who carries STD’s? This graphic novel is filled with a somber tone and the consequences of premarital sex as it has the worst outcome. I was very intimidated at how dark the subject matter really was and how much I really relate to the main characters for being so tempted and distracted with sex. We sometimes want our dream girl so bad and Charles Burns reflects on those issues that we all faced in High School. But the story doesn’t bang you over the head by giving the message of not have premarital sex, instead they did what Requiem Dream did; they show the aftermath of it all. And that’s the scariest part of Black Hole!
Number 3. – Panorama of Hell
Even bad drawings can still scare many, thanks to the twisted composition by Hideshi Hino. This is one of the biggest examples that most Japanese need help because you’re really more disturbed at the nature than anything else from this comic. Anyone can actually draw disgusting stuff like this, but Hino was just so sick that he made it stick out more than a suicidal high schooler’s drawings. It’s been a while since Tales of the Crypt where we actually see such a damn project filled with this very graphic comic. It is nearly 200 pages of disturbing imagery, but Hino wonderfully transforms the horror of the story as the book goes along from graphic otherworldly violence to, well, violence that is very much of this world. The story follows a strange artist who paints with his own blood in a post-apocalyptic world. As the story goes on, the artist shows us some of his paintings as he discusses the painting of his masterpiece, “The Panorama of Hell”. As you read it, it feels like you’re looking at drawings from a disturbed kid that you’ve met in school to only regret being too curious. It deals with thoughts of murder, hurtful experiences, and his deepest fears. There was at a point in the comic where I just couldn’t turn another page because it was just too much for me to bear. But I had to comeback and read the rest on my own. This is really a graphic comic book and one of the innovators of the indie-style drawings seen in indie comics, online comics and cartoons like Invader Zim.
Number 2. – Domu: A Child’s Dream
This manga was created by the great Katsuhiro Otomo who also made Akira. Though Akira has a compete sense of intensity within a post-apocalyptic world, it still does not compare to the horrors of Domu. Domu is just some of the most twisted manga I’ve ever seen. It’s a slasher, psychological horror, and pure horror into one. It’s about a little girl being haunted by mysterious senile killer. She moves into the complex who also has powers and she eventually becomes his nemesis (you would think that this would be a bizarre coincidence, but according to Otomo’s work, every third person in Japan has mental powers). The old man torments her in a chilling sequence that Jamie specifically cited as wanting me to reference. At times, you can see yourself looking at this very bizarre concept, but it became more of a neon like journey that turned out to be a horror come to life. Remember, this was the early 1980’s and nobody (not even Stanley Kubrick) could even innovate this style and dynamics that Otomo offered in this manga. It even inspire the likes of Guillermo Del Toro to create stories like this one. That should say a lot about Domu: The Child’s Dream.
Number 1. – Uzumaki
Sick! Sick! Sick! Japanese can be some of the most disturbing people you can ever meet, and I have never see anything quite like Uzamaki and I’m most afraid to see anyone more disturbing than Junji Ito! I’ve seen drawings of corpses, supernatural elements, and other stuff seen in the horror genre, but it was just shocking to see everything go above and beyond that I’ve seen in the horror. Well, this strange obsession with curls has engulfed a small town, where the inhabitants find themselves becoming strangely attracted towards spirals. The story begins with a man’s strange obsession with anything spiral, from spiral drawings to objects. He collects them and just stares at them in rapt fascination. So, what’s terrifying if a man gets gripped by spirals? This is where Junji Ito’s superb storytelling skills come into play. The obsession infects every inhabitant slowly, which then turns into a horrific nightmare, with surprising twists that can certainly make your skin crawl. Uzumaki is a vertigo-inducing classic that can even make Stephen King shriek with fear. It perfectly fits into the J-Horror definition: bizarre, skin-crawling and grotesque. This was the first time that I ever have to put down a manga/comic because it was just too much to bear. Yet when I got settled down month later, it got me more shocked to see any of this stuff to continue to get worse. This is one of those cases where the artist’s skills is so good that it’s scary. He creates a terrifying scene after another and delivered with some of the scariest drawings that I’ve ever seen. The only way any other comic book out there could even be number on the list is if they manage to become more insane than Junji Ito and be better in his drawings as well.