Bitter Root Vol. 1 – Harlem’s Very Own Crew of Monster Brawlers

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Best Of Best of Comics Comics and Graphic Novels Featured Horror Books

Social Horror, which marries social commentary with the horror genre, which has existed as early as Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) experienced a resurgence shortly after the release of Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017). Peele’s culture shock paved the way for a variety of films, books, and comics. However, the best part of this impact may be the increased inclusion of diverse voices speaking to their own histories and adversities. It’s no coincidence that this story takes place during the Harlem Renaissance, because it is undoubtedly part of a new renaissance of socio-political art to come from a modern age of political unrest. 

Bitter Root Horror Comic art featuring a demon hand reaching for a man

Bitter Root (2019) presents a historical fantasy where the power of hate can literally transform your being. Told through a kaleidoscope of colorful images, humorous banter, and breakneck action sequences, this series is what you’d get if Mike Mignola combined his Hellboy comic series with the Lovecraftian-inspired novel Lovecraft Country. It’s a fun dark fantasy that balances a ton of themes while also managing to land each punch. 

The narrative is set in 1924 Harlem not too long after the 1921 Tulsa Massacre. It focuses on the Sangerye Family, who were once a family of notorious monster hunters before they were broken up by tragedy and personal differences. When a new supernatural danger hits the streets, the Sangerye’s must overcome their past challenges and reunite in order to save New York and quite possibly the entire world. 

Illustration of vampires

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This first volume serves as a quick introduction to the different members of the Sangerye family where, much like other comic book super families such as The Umbrella Academy and Doom Patrol, special attention is given to what makes each of them unique. Every character rocks their particular skill set while providing a distinctive perspective on their world that is both generational and intrinsic to who they are. A personal favorite of mine is Berg, who gets an A+ in etiquette and monster brawling. There’s also Ford, who is a Django-type legend that kicks ghoul ass with a massive glock like something out of Doom.

Horror comic art featuring a man with a futuristic gun

Despite a story that is built on serious themes, the content never feels heavy. This is mostly attributed to the vibrant art style that resembles Mike Mingola’s, along with a dash of whimsy found only in golden age Disney films. The opening quite literally has music dancing off the page as we’re introduced to the sights and sounds of 1920’s Harlem. Another standout in this comic is the liberal use of color. Each page seems to have its own color palette, always more bold and surprising than the previous page. 

Fans of Guillermo Del Toro and Jim Henson would lose their mind with the cast of monsters that we come across in these five issues. From orcs and Final Fantasy-like sprites to the more gargantuan crow-head behemoths, you will be treated to a smorgasbord of monstrosities. Most of the ghoulish entities are drawn with a cartoonish quality that gives this dark fantasy a satirical layer, like when a gaggle of Ku Klux Klan members are transformed into slobbering goblins. They appear as scary and ridiculous as the hate that created them. 

Illustration of a zombified man

While the pages are filled with action, the horror lies in the reality of the world that the Sangerye’s are living in. It’s a world that’s not too far from the Harlem it was based on or the state of America that still exists to this day. Despite the sunny disposition that this comic carries, this is ultimately a story about hate and how it can literally change you into something monstrous. There is a moment in the comic when the family wonders if this transformation can be reversed or if it’s permanent. The response to that question is answered, but I imagine that it will be examined more deeply in future issues. 

These five issues are undoubtedly a jazz set charging with energy, breaking only to give each character a momentary solo. This first volume of Bitter Root has nearly everything you could want from a dark fantasy comic series. The world-building balances neatly with its socio-political themes as we are introduced to both the magic and conflict that surrounds this whimsical family’s lives. This volume concludes with a stunning reunion and eerie revelation that will definitely have you ready for the next set of issues. The Sangerye’s are here to stay as they weave their magic, brawl through hordes of snotty imps, and stomp down on the hate that is attempting to consume their world.

Bitter Root Vol. 1 is available now on Amazon and Image Comics.

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Book Recommendation – Black Stars Above

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Best Of Best of Comics Comics and Graphic Novels Featured Horror Books Reviews

Puzzle Box Horror’s book recommendation of the week is Black Stars Above from Nightfall, an imprint of Vault Comics.

Black Stars Above is written by Lonnie Nadler, illustrated by Jenna Cha, colored by Brad Simpson, and lettered by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou.

Panel from Black Stars Above comic with alien creature

Synopsis

LET THE BLACK STARS GUIDE YOUR WAY.

The year is 1887 and a storm brews. Eulalie Dubois has spent her entire life tending to her family’s trapline, isolated from the world. A chance at freedom comes in the form of a parcel that needs delivering to a nameless town north of the wilderness. Little does Eulalie know, something sinister hides in those woods and it yearns for what she carries. A chilling historical cosmic horror tale of survival from the deranged minds of Lonnie Nadler (The Dregs, Marvelous X-Men) and debut artist Jenna Cha.

Collects the complete five issue series. 152 pages.

Review

“A sterling example of elevated horror in comics.”

Newsarama

“An exemplary creative work that shows the heights a work can reach when creators pay respect to the work that inspired them.”

AiPT

“Sublime literary horror that channels the best of weird fiction. If you’re looking for something that expands on the work of Lovecraft – look no further. Fans of Alan Moore will eat this up. Beautiful, stunning, and haunting work by Cha throughout. Easily the best horror comic of the year.”

Zac Thompson, author of Come Into Me and I Breathed a Body

“I love the way the story is told and the strong cosmic horror elements. The format of narration-through-journal-entries gives it the feel of an old school text-based horror game. There are so many bizarre and unsettling scenes, plus a constant layer of dread blanketing the tale like snow. It’s a massive metaphor about coming of age, going out on one’s own, and identity – and yet it’s also so much more. Highly recommend!”

Ben Long, reviewer at @reading.vicariously

To read the full review, click here!

Black Stars Above is available now at Horror Hub Marketplace

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Ice Cream Man, Volume 1

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Comics and Graphic Novels Featured Horror Books Reviews

Your average storybook monster is, to be sure, frightening. Your vampires, zombies, bogeymen, ghosts and ghouls are often horrifying and quite deadly. But beyond these classic creeps, I believe there’s a particularly unsettling perversion when one takes something playful or innocent and twists it to evil. When comical clowns become stalking killers. When staring dolls begin haunting households. At this point it’s an overused trope to be sure, but still one that I find truly chilling. And Ice Cream Man Volume 1 is chilling!

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Ice Cream Man vol 1 horror comic cover
Ice Cream Man, Vol 1 horror comic cover

Yet even more disturbing and dangerous are the horrors that lurk in plain sight, hiding behind false smiles or inside the people we trust. In the real world the metaphor of “monster” drops away and the true ugliness of humanity is revealed. Murderers, rapists, pedophiles, psychopaths – even the scariest of creations don’t hold a candle to these that are both frightening and frightfully real. Give me Bigfoot over Bateman and Bates, Dracula over Dahmer and Bundy, Wendigo over Weinstein…you get the idea. 

So now we come to Ice Cream Man, Volume 1. The setting is suburban, idyllic, a 1950s American Dreamland (but with more racial tolerance). Up drives the titular treat seller, playing the tune we all have engraved in our ears from when we were kids. He’s full of pleasantries and colloquialisms as he hands out all the favorite flavors. Yet something is off. There is rot beneath the sugar sweet veneer. A shadow passes over his face. The eyes turn menacing, the grin sinister. And suddenly this harmless character from our youth transforms into something much more nightmarish.

ice cream man art from Ice Cream Man horror comic
“Lickety Split”

I really enjoyed my reading of this first volume in the Ice Cream Man series. Writer W. Maxwell Prince has structured it as a collection of short stories, varying in their plots yet tethered together by themes and the enigmatic Ice Cream Man. “Raspberry Surprise” is about a boy whose venomous spider has killed his parents, but he doesn’t tell anyone. “Rainbow Sprinkles” is about a pair of doped up lovers, one dying and the other distraught yet still hankering for her next fix. In “Good Ol’ Fashioned Vanilla” we see the washed up one-hit wonder Bud Hickey journey to a fantasy world full of rock legends who need his help. And finally, the last story “Every Good Boy Does Fine” is about a man giving the eulogy at his best friend’s funeral while his friend is trapped in an ever-changing hellscape. 

I love how different the stories are, and yet how connected they all feel. Each story has a self-contained arc, but pervasive in all the characters is a sense of immense suffering, whether from emotional pain, boredom, regret, or loneliness. And of course there’s the otherworldly Ice Cream Man who, whether he is a main character or mostly in the background, plays some important part in each tale. He is certainly not one to be overlooked, and he doesn’t let you forget that. It’s also difficult to pin down exactly who or what he is, as he seems to shift from friend to foe and from god to demon. Regardless, what is clear is that he enjoys playing a cosmic, and often deadly, role in the lives of these suburbanites. 

The art is a little different from most horror comics I’ve read, but it seems to fit the vintage-meets-surreal style the series is going for. The characters in particular are drawn in an interesting manner, with faces and features that are slightly Mike Judge meets Junji Ito

sweet place art from Ice Cream Man horror comic
Stuck in the Sweet Place

I will say that Martin Morazzo’s sharp-lined illustrations and Chris O’Halloran’s bold colors work well together in bringing these twisted tales to life. I also particularly like the design of the pages, which usually include a full image background broken up by smaller panels of action and dialogue. It’s a fluid and integrative composition that helps give a sense of immediacy and intimacy to the story.

Ok, I’ll admit it: I’m hooked. I’ve heard the off-kilter jingle and tasted the sickly-sweet treats, and I want more. Ice Cream Man, Volume 1 is a fun and frightening collection of intertwined short stories, full of lifelike characters experiencing bizarre and unnerving turns of events. If the rest of the series is this good then we have a new pop culture icon in the making, and I need to get my hands on the next volume. Lickety Split.


Ice Cream Man, Volume 1 is available now from Image Comics.

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On the Verge: Sci-Fi Horror Authors You Need to be Reading

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Best Horror Books Best Of Comics and Graphic Novels Featured Horror Books Indie Horror

In the world of sci-fi horror literature there are some common names that spring to mind first: Mary Shelley, Harlan Ellison, Philip K Dick, and Jeff Vandermeer. However, there are plenty of lesser known authors, or authors still early on in their careers, who are writing stories just as full of technology and terror as the genre classics. At Puzzle Box Horror we’re all about finding and promoting the best in horror, so we thought we would help shine a light on some of the newer or less known writers who need to be on your radar! When it comes to finding the best sci-fi horror books, you’re going to be glad you broadened your search and gave these authors a chance.

Sci-Fi Horror Authors

Joseph Sale

Sci-fi horror author Joseph Sale

Joseph Sale is a prolific novelist and editor. His first novel, The Darkest Touch, was published by Dark Hall Press in 2014. He is published with The Writing Collective and has authored more than ten novels, including his Black Gate trilogy, and his love-letter to fantasy: Save Game. He grew up in the Lovecraftian seaside town of Bournemouth. His short fiction has also appeared in Tales from the Shadow Booth, Idle Ink, Silver Blade, Fiction Vortex, Nonbinary Review, Edgar Allan Poet, Storgy Magazine, and numerous anthologies.

1. Tell me a bit about yourself and what got you started in horror writing?

My name is Joseph Sale, but many call me the Mindflayer. I am a writer of horror, fantasy, science fiction, and many things in-between, as well as an editor; two titles I edited last year went on to the Bram Stoker preliminary ballot, and one is on the Nomination list! I love helping writers achieve their vision. As I say frequently, “The aim of an editor is not to point out what is wrong, but to see what the writers intended, and help them achieve that.”

In terms of horror writing, it came slightly later on for me. When I was initially starting out as a writer, I was mainly trying to write sword & sorcery fantasy. They were very hackneyed and derivative, and ultimately, they didn’t really read like “me”. They were Tolkien clones, aping the archaic style (but falling far short of it). But one day, I encountered a little known writer called Stephen King! The first book I ever read by him was The Stand. It blew my mind. I think I felt like King had found a way to translate that fantasy epic feeling into a modern setting. From then on, I became a horror junkie, and I started to write horror. I quickly realized that horror facilitated an exploration of darker themes; it allowed me to take off the shackles of decency and normality and delve into the roiling darkness of my own psyche in a way my previous attempts at swashbuckling fantasy had not allowed. This was a very therapeutic and healing process. Ultimately, in exploring the darkness, which only horror allowed me to fully do, I came to the light, so to speak.

Black Gate book cover
Beyond the Black Gate book cover
return to the black gate book cover

2. We talk to a fair amount of new writers. What tips would you give yourself if you could go back to when you started based on what you know now?

Wow, this is a hard question. I think my first tip would be less is more. I had a tendency to over-write to the nth degree when I started out. I still think that maximalism trumps minimalism in writing, and I prefer over-written to the “stark” and soulless prose of many popular writers today, but too much is very clumsy and ultimately detracts from the very emotional power one is trying to generate. 

My other piece of advice would be to listen. By this, I mean to the inner voice. Sometimes, the intellect cannot solve a problem, only intuition and the deeper Muse can. It might sound flighty and poetic, but it is the truth in my experience. We all have this reservoir of knowledge. Our subconscious makes the right decision before we know it consciously. I too rarely listened to my creative intuition back then. Now, I am always waiting for that quiet voice to speak. 

Next, structure, structure, structure. Many writers seem to believe they can find their way without understanding the internal structures of narrative (and I certainly used to be one of them). However, now I’ve learned (and teach) the 5-Act structure, it has totally transformed my fiction. I would highly recommend the 5-Act structure for its simplicity, versatility, and clarity (for more information, check out my blog here). However, we all have to find the one that works for us! 

Lastly, I highly recommend joining a mastermind group / writer’s sharing group (again, something I never did until recently). The feedback and energy of a group is invaluable. That sense of community, being able to puzzle out problems with others, and also having access to workshops – all of these are so empowering. I am a member of Let’s Get Published run by amazing writer Christa Wojciechowski. It’s been a transformative experience.

The Meaning of the dark book cover
Seven Dark Stairs book cover
Orifice book cover

3. What is your favorite aspect of the sci-fi horror genre?

Horror and sci-fi have been linked for a long time, Mark Shelley’s Frankenstein being a prime example. I often conceive of science fiction arising from a place of anxiety. In the case of Frankenstein, this is certainly true – it’s clear that Shelley was disturbed by the idea of men playing God with galvanization, and, by virtue of doing so, supplanting the woman as the natural mother and giver of life. One need only look to the atomic bomb for further evidence that technology should be viewed with healthy suspicion. 

Another way to look at it is that in some ways, sci-fi horror is an oxymoron, and I am always interested in contrasts! Horror is sometimes said to be the only genre defined by an emotion. The aim of horror is to make us feel something: horror, revulsion, disgust, paranoia, perhaps even terror, the list goes on. That is a very raw, potent thing. Science Fiction, on the other hand, is in general more intellectual. It appeals to the left side of the brain. It is imaginative – hugely so – but it comes from a place of trying to logically envision a future, be it dystopian or otherwise. When we blend the two together, we have a recipe for success: the rational science – the logic of humankind – pitted against the irrational horror. In many ways, this is mythopoeic and psychological, it almost seems to describe the battle between our conscious minds with our unconscious fears. It is a marriage made in heaven. And, of course, we all know that logic will never truly triumph over emotion, which makes the presence of horror in a sci-fi universe all the more powerful. 

Biomelt sci-fi horror comic book cover
Nameless horror comic book cover
Frankenstein book cover

4. What are your top three favorite sci-fi horror books?

Three?! Only three? You are cruel. 

Biomelt by Carlton Mellick III has got to be up there. The book is a work of genius. The science fiction is perfectly blended with horror. In this crazy, crazy novel, the overpopulation problem has been solved by people being “combined” in a bizarre scientific procedure that merges their physical matter, experience, and personality. I can’t say much more than that or it will give the game away – suffice to say something goes horribly wrong. This book is overflowing with incredible ideas and characters, including my personal favorite, a serial killer known as Porn Eyes, because he has watched so much holographic pornography it’s been seared onto his eyeballs. Amazing stuff. 

To cheat a little, and branch out into the realm of graphic novels, I would also say Grant Morrison’s Nameless. Essentially, an asteroid named Xibala is heading towards Earth, and it’s going to be an extinction event. A group of astronauts is dispatched to destroy the asteroid, Armageddonstyle. However, it soon becomes apparent that Xibala is no mere asteroid, it’s a remnant of a cosmic war, fought by Lovecraftian beings, a gateway to a dimension best left unfound. It is a truly harrowing read that effortlessly moves between science fiction, terrifying cosmic horror, and finally, into a universe of dream-language. It is mesmeric and profound. Don’t expect answers to come easy, though!  

The last I’d have to recommend would be the great Frankenstein. Shelley’s prose is so potent. Every time I re-read Frankenstein, I see new things in it, new depths. Its relevance has only increased as time has gone on. Now, we have the capability to “improve” children by “removing” genetic defects – we are, more than ever, a society playing God, and if nothing else that has serious consequences for the psyche. 

There have been many attempts to artificially modernize Frankenstein but invariably – at least in my view – they fail because they remove the best part of it: the language. Shelley’s style, and her sense of “what lies beneath”, is what makes the novel the powerhouse it is. The only remotely successful attempt in my view is Junji Ito’s manga-isation, which is a masterpiece (and which also remains extremely faithful to the original). I think the key thing is that for all Victor Frankenstein’s wordy monologuing on science, life, despair, creation, much is left unsaid in Frankenstein, and that is its true power, and a lesson to all horror writers.

If you’re interested in learning more about Joseph Sale, check out his website at www.themindflayer.com. You can also follow the author on Twitter (@josephwordsmith) and Goodreads (@Joseph_Sale). Finally, to purchase books check out the author on Amazon.


Caitlin Starling

Sci-fi horror author Caitlin Starling

Caitlin Starling is an award-winning writer of horror-tinged speculative fiction. Her novel The Luminous Dead won the LOHF Best Debut award, and was nominated for both a Locus and a Bram Stoker award. Her other works include Yellow Jessamine and a novella in Vampire: The Masquerade: Walk Among Us. Her nonfiction has appeared in Nightmare and Uncanny. Caitlin also works in narrative design, and has been paid to invent body parts.

1. Tell me a bit about yourself and what got you started in horror writing?

I started writing really young and never really stopped, though my interests and goals have of course shifted over time. In particular, there was a period after high school until my mid 20s where I convinced myself that professional writing was far too hard and unrewarding a field to pursue. It sounds very cynical, but it was actually extremely freeing. It let me just write what I wanted to, without needing to stress too much about what it was “for”. I wrote a lot of fanfiction and did a lot of text roleplaying back then.

The whole time, I was undeniably drawn to tell darker stories (though not, notably, tragedies – those are way too sad!), but for a long time I didn’t think I liked horror. Really, I thought I was too much of an anxious weenie for it! And yet there I was, sending my characters through hell, always reaching for the most unsettling, fucked up option whenever I needed some details. I wrote so many words about death curses, obsessive research that led to ecstatic oblivion, seances gone horribly wrong, the terror of your identity being changed without your permission… Eventually, around the time I started what became The Luminous Dead, I figured out that I’d been writing horror of some kind all along, and decided to lean into it and start doing my homework so I could make it scarier for everybody.

(There are still times where I wonder if I’m “really” writing horror, and then a reader will offhandedly mention that I’ve made low battery notifications traumatic, and it’s like, yes, okay, I might not be scared of what I write, but everybody else sure is!)

Luminous Dead Book Cover
Photo credit: www.ericarobynreads.com

2. We talk to a fair amount of new writers. What tips would you give yourself if you could go back to when you started based on what you know now?

Have fun whenever you can. It gets way harder the more pressure is on you, but no matter what point of your career you’re in (at least up to where I am now!). Stepping back and writing something because it’s fun is always some combination of relief, freedom to experiment, and opportunity to learn without necessarily realizing you’re doing it. Like I already mentioned, I spent so many years writing fanfiction or doing text-based roleplaying with friends, and I banged out more words and tried more approaches with the “fun” writing than I ever managed to with my “serious” projects. Plus it was just enjoyable, and kept me focused on the truth that, no matter how hard it gets (and seriously, it gets hard, it just does) I still just fundamentally enjoy writing.

3. What is your favorite aspect of the sci-fi horror genre?

Technology doesn’t care if it’s good for us (neither do the people who create it, in a lot of cases). Every helpful facet of every tech advance seems to come with either a tradeoff or an unexpected consequence. It’s just really fun to play with, honestly: how can I take this neat invention I’ve created because it’s cool or to solve a plot issue and use it to cause even more plot issues. With The Luminous Dead, Gyre has a suit that keeps her fed and warm and protected from the cave. It carries her gear. It connects her to the surface so she isn’t alone. Great! Now what horrible things also come along with that? How does she get plugged into that suit, and what does it feel like a week on, a month? What happens if the communications feature doesn’t so much stop working as work in a way Gyre doesn’t understand? What’s it like, to be cared for and constrained by the same indispensable object that has no feelings about you either way?

So not only does tech change the landscape of what your characters can do or explore, and not only can it be a weird and surprising new threat, but those two things can be completely linked. It’s elegant and honestly really upsetting sometimes!

Annihilation book cover
The Last Astronaut by David Wellington book cover
The Murders of Molly Southbourne by Tade Thompson sci-fi horror book cover

4. What are your top three favorite sci-fi horror books?

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer, which is a completely intoxicating mindfuck. I feel like it’s what would happen if The Thing and House of Leaves had a really environmentally-conscious baby.

The Last Astronaut by David Wellington does some extremely cool stuff with expectations of physical scale in space that I really, really loved. Not to mention some great psychodrama.

The Murders of Molly Southbourne by Tade Thompson is just a wild ride, start to finish. The sequel just cranks it up even higher. Clones! Secret government programs! Constant, relentless violence against yourself! It really has everything.

(Also, as a bonus: Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey – first of The Expanse novels, you may have heard of them – isn’t a horror novel per-se, but the horror elements in it? Incredible.)

If you’re interested in learning more about Caitlin Starling, check out her website at www.caitlinstarling.com. You can also follow the author on Twitter (@see_starling), Instagram (@authorcstarling), and Goodreads (@Caitlin_Starling). Finally, to purchase books check out the author on Amazon.


Scott Jones

Photo of sci-fi horror author Scott R Jones

Scott R. Jones is a Canadian writer living in Victoria BC with his wife and two frighteningly intelligent spawn. He is the author of When The Stars Are Right: Towards An Authentic R’lyehian Spirituality (Martian Migraine Press) and the weird fiction story collection Shout Kill Revel Repeat (Journalstone/Trepidatio). His debut novel Stonefish was published by Word Horde in 2020. He was once kicked out of England for some very good reasons.

1. Tell me a bit about yourself and what got you started in horror writing?

I’m a Canadian fella from the west coast of British Columbia, so I’ve been steeped since childhood in that weird PNW vibe. Also, grew up in an apocalypse cult, so combine the two influences and you’ve got me and my work: paranoia, things in the woods, ultraterrestrial entities offering bad deals, crumbling “real” realities, compelling false realities, and so on.

2. We talk to a fair amount of new writers. What tips would you give yourself if you could go back to when you started based on what you know now?

I’m pushing 50 now and I know I lost a certain momentum by taking a long break from writing at the turn of the century, which I absolutely should not have done. I’d tell myself to not take that break, basically. Consistency in output is key; it doesn’t have to be good output, even, just make sure you keep at it regular-like. I’m not a “write every day” guy because c’mon, that’s impossible for most, but yeah, be consistent with putting your butt in the seat and your fingers on the keyboard.

Stonefish book cover
Shout Kill Revel Repeat book cover
Cthulhusattva book cover

3. What is your favorite aspect of the sci-fi horror genre?

I think it speaks to a truth we are increasingly feeling to be relevant to our existence in the 21st Century. Lovecraft warned us of the “black seas of infinity” that surround our species and true to form, we are exploring that void of unknowing and correlating our contents! Will we go mad from the revelation? Seems we’re halfway there already. Sci-fi horror and weird horror are the genres in which we can explore these ideas most effectively, to my mind.

4. What are your top three favorite sci-fi horror books?

Solaris by Stanislaw Lem

Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer

Communion by Whitley Striber

If you’re interested in learning more about Scott Jones, check out his website at www.scottrjoneswriter.com. You can also follow the author on Twitter (@PimpMyShoggoth) and Goodreads (@Scott_R_Jones). Finally, to purchase books check out the author on Amazon.


JZ Foster and Justin Woodward

Sci-fi horror author JZ Foster

Born and raised in Ohio, JZ Foster moved to South Korea after college and lived there for 8 years, running a small English school, marrying a Korean woman and having a baby. In his time in South Korea, he’s become well versed in Korean politics and has done multiple radio interviews on South Korean and North politics. Since returning to the U.S., he’s launched his writing career and three series.

sci-fi horror author Justin M. Woodward

Justin M. Woodward lives in Headland, Alabama with his wife and two small boys, Nathan and Lucas. He is the author of three novels and dozens of short stories. You can follow him on all social media to reach out to him.

On a space station on Mars, a terrible mistake opens a gate to an alternate reality — and something comes through from the other side. After the station cuts off communication, a crew is sent to investigate, but they’re unprepared for the nightmare that awaits them…

Enter the world of Reality Bleed, a sci-fi thriller series by best selling authors J.Z. Foster and Justin M. Woodward (published under their press Winter Gate Publishing). Fans of Doom and Aliens will love this!

Reality Bleeds sci-fi thriller cover art with robot.

1. Tell me a bit about yourself and what got you started in horror writing?

J.Z. Foster: Like most horror writers, I’ve been watching horror movies and reading horror books since I was a kid. I still have a deep love for the Resident Evil games/books, and the movie Aliens has honestly had an impact on my life. I started writing because I had a hard time trying to find the types of books that I wanted to read. That and I love telling stories. I ran roleplaying games for my friends for years before I ever started writing, so I was telling stories then too.

Justin Woodward: I was interested in horror at a young age. I vividly remember begging my parents for the latest Goosebumps book every time we went to the store. I always wanted to create my own stories, even wrangling my babysitter into helping me “write a horror book”. To this day, I’m not sure what happened to that. Unfortunately, I didn’t start actually writing long fiction until I got the idea for my first novel, The Variant, which was more of a sci-fi thriller than horror. It wasn’t until the idea for Tamer Animals came about that I took the plunge to delve deeper into my dark side.

2. We talk to a fair amount of new writers. What tips would you give yourself if you could go back to when you started based on what you know now?

J.Z.: I only started outlining stories recently, and I found out that it helps a lot. I’d definitely recommend new writers do that! Other than that, I’d tell others (and myself) not to be too hard on their own work. Sometimes it’s difficult for writers to judge if their own work is ‘good’ or not, and all it ends up doing is slowing down the writing process.

Justin: Don’t waste time. Don’t second guess yourself. Put the content out there and be true to yourself. Don’t worry about following trends or the market, and don’t depend on anyone but yourself.

Hell on Mars book cover
Call of the void book cover
Crash Burn Die book cover

3. What is your favorite aspect of the sci-fi horror genre?

J.Z.: Certainly world building. I like creating a unique world for the characters to live in. I feel that in sci-fi, the world and environment needs to be a character itself.

Justin: I think I’m drawn to the fact that most things depicted in sci-fi horror are things that are actual possibilities in the real world, all we need to do is give it enough time.

4. What are your top three favorite sci-fi horror books?

J.Z.: That’s a good question, I’m not sure! Certainly a lot of Lovecraft and the Alien books, along with a myriad of comic books I’ve read in the genre. I can give you three movies though: Aliens, Pandorum, and The Thing.

Justin: Believe it or not, I haven’t read a ton of sci-fi horror. I was always into the genre as far as films go, but I never really got deep into the literature side of it. A few I’ve enjoyed are I Am Legend, John Dies At The End, and 1984.

If you’re interested in learning more about JZ Foster check out his website at www.jzfoster.com You can also follow the author on Twitter (@jzfosterauthor), Instagram (@jzfosterauthor), and Goodreads (@J_Z_Foster). Finally, to purchase books check out the author on Amazon.

If you’re interested in learning more about Justin Woodward, check out his website at www.justinmwoodward.com. You can also follow the author on Twitter (@justinmwoodward), Instagram (@justinmwoodward), and Goodreads (@Justin_M_Woodward). Finally, to purchase books check out the author on Amazon.

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Puzzle Box Horror’s Best Sci-Fi Horror Comics

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Best Of Best of Comics Comics and Graphic Novels Featured Horror Books

Comic books in the science fiction and horror genres have long sat adjacent to one another, but occasionally they cross paths and the results are spectacularly frightening. The best sci-fi horror comics have stories full of suspense and heavy with dread, as well as artwork that shocks and unnerves. In fact, comics and graphic novels are a great medium for the horror genre. The narrative format often keeps the dialogue and description to a minimum, increasing the suspense and allowing the images to speak for themselves. And, likewise, the artwork expertly compliments the prose, whether it’s using muted shades and darkened corridors to augment the mood or vivid colors and heaps of blood to highlight the horror. The writers at Puzzle Box Horror are obsessed with comics, and we’re very excited to share some of the best sci-fi horror comics on the market!

The Best Sci-Fi Horror Comics

Plunge (2020)

Plunge sci-fi horror comic cover

First on our list of best sci-fi horror comics is Plunge. A drilling vessel, the Derleth, that disappeared forty years ago in the Arctic Circle suddenly begins sending out distress signals from the Bering Strait. Wanting to investigate further, an oil company hires a salvage team and a marine biologist to go explore the ghost ship. Their mission is to recover the bodies and find out exactly what happened to the ship. The expedition quickly goes awry when they discover the crew isn’t exactly dead, though they aren’t exactly alive either. This six-issue miniseries is gory, surreal, and a wonderful homage to eighties horror.

Plunge (Image Comics) is written by Joe Hill with art by Stuart Immonen.

Come Into Me (2019)

Come into me horror comic cover

The story opens on a failed demonstration of InBeing, the process by which ropy entrails connect two different people by ports in the back of their heads and allows their minds to form a “synaptic connection”. Sebastian, the creator and scientist behind the technology, is quickly running out of money and desperate to find an investor. Enter Becky, a mysterious and seemingly desperate young lady who convinces Sebastian to bond their minds with InBeing, using his body as host. It’s strange for Becky, seeing the world through someone else’s body and forming a telepathic-like connection with another. If only she had been upfront with Sebastian about her past. As their minds are conjoined and their memories/experiences blend together, the host realizes he failed to anticipate just exactly what could go wrong…and that, like in our online lives, shared data is open to manipulation and exploitation.

Come Into Me (Black Mask Comics) is written by Zac Thompson and Lonnie Nadler, illustrated by Piotr Kowalski, and colored by Niko Guardia.

Destroyer (2018)

Destroyer horror comic cover

Though lighter on the horror than the other entries in this list, Destroyer is still an intriguing take on the creature at the center of Mary Shelley’s classic sci-fi story Frankenstein. In this story the monster has survived into present day America, but he has lost his emotional side and empathic nature. Instead he has become the Destroyer, bent on wiping mankind from the face of the earth. In his quest for vengeance he ends up partnering with Dr. Baker, the last descendent of the Frankenstein family who has recently lost her son at the hands of the police. Also caught up in all of this are two scientists, Byron and Percy, who find themselves desperately trying to protect humanity. It’s a story that is raw, powerful, and not afraid to shine a light on heavy socio-political topics. Sometimes the line between thriller and horror is slim but this one still made our list of best sci-fi horror comics as it fits the bill.

Destroyer (Boom Studios) is written by Victor Lavalle and illustrated by Dietrich Smith, with colors by Joana Lafuente and letters by Jim Campbell.

Nameless (2016)

Nameless horror comic cover

A group of billionaires have hired occult hustler “Nameless” in a desperate bid to save the planet. An enormous asteroid they’re calling Xibalba is hurtling on a direct course for earth, bearing a strange symbol on its side and a vengeful extra-dimensional god in its core. While trying to stop the death rock, Nameless and his team accidentally set loose the wrathful being and things go from bad to inconceivably worse. That’s the brief synopsis, but this six-part miniseries deals with so much more. Secret experiments, the downfall of civilization, lost planets, epic cosmic wars, a doomsday asteroid, and soul-destroying truths are all par for the course here. This sci-fi horror comic also has a strong cosmic horror vein running through it, featuring terrifying Lovecraftian beings and an overwhelming atmosphere of dread. What could be better in sci-fi horror than a touch of existential dread?

Nameless (Image Comics) is written by Grant Morrison and illustrated by Chris Burnham.

The Disciples (2016)

The Disciples horror comic cover

This sci-fi horror comic is Set in a bleak dystopian future where the solar system has been colonized by the rich upper class, The Disciples is about a girl who has gone missing and the bounty hunters who have been hired to find her. These hunters follow the trail to Jupiter’s largest moon Ganymede, where they discover a group of cultists who have awakened a horrifying force. Turns out the girl is the daughter of a Senator who has joined the cult, and things are about to get a whole lot worse for these well-intentioned investigators. Taunt and terrifying, the comic is reminiscent of the video game Dead Space but with more extraterrestrial ghosts. 

The Disciples (Black Mask Studios) is written by Steve Niles and illustrated by Chris Mitten, with colors by Jay Fotos and letters by Thomas Mauer.

Spread (2015)

Spread horror comic cover

In this post-apocalyptic sci-fi horror comic, a strange viral infection called “the Spread” has devastated the land and devoured its inhabitants. While most of the world lies in ruin, there are pockets of humanity struggling to survive in quarantine zones. In one of these zones a man named No happens upon a baby named Hope who can undo the virus with a touch of her hand. Insane creature designs and an interesting cast of characters help flesh out this dark and suspenseful tale of survival. The unholy baby of The Thing and Mad Max bathed in buckets of blood, Spread is full of extreme gore, tentacles, and body horror fun.

Spread (Image Comics) is written by Justin Jordan with art by Kyle Strahm.

Caliban (2015)

Caliban horror comic cover

In the future hyperspace travel has been invented, allowing humans to explore the furthest reaches of outer space. For all their searching no signs of life have been uncovered, but they have begun to harvest all the valuable resources the universe has to offer. At first it’s just a regular mission out in deep space for the crew of the mining ship Caliban. Everything is going according to plan, until they happen upon a strange alien ship. It would appear the unusual vessel was waiting for them, and what was once a routine trip quickly turns to nightmare. A vicious, hulking something is stalking the corridors, separating the crew and taking them one by one. It’s a tense and chilling thriller reminiscent of Alien, full of shocking moments and terrific artwork.

Caliban (Avatar Press) is written by Garth Ennis with art by Facundo Percio.

The Wake (2014)

The Wake horror comic cover

The Department of Homeland Security has identified an unnerving new threat, and so they reach out to Lee Archer, a marine biologist, for help. Though she initially declines, the government overrides her decision and sends her deep beneath the sea in the Arctic Circle. There’s an underwater oil rig in that part of the ocean where a group of scientists have made an unbelievable discovery. Part multi-generational thriller and part creature feature, The Wake is a ten-issue miniseries that manages to combine tense horror, beautifully bold artwork, and scientific questions on life and the human condition.

The Wake (DC Comics) is written by Scott Snyder with art by Sean Murphy.

Revival (2012)

Revival aci-fi horror comic cover

The dead have come back to life in rural Wisconsin. In the particular town where our story is set, the CDC has quarantined the area and sent in experts to help out. Revival, labeled as “farm noir,” is interesting because of its unique take on the genre. Yes, it’s a zombie tale full of scares, violence, religious zealots, and government busybodies. But a lot of the series also focuses on a brutal murder and the detective who is trying to solve the crime. Officer Dana Cypress has her hands full dealing with the media, the government, and a full-scale zombie invasion while also investigating a case where anyone, dead or alive, could be a suspect.

Revival is a staff favorite for best sci fi horror comics.

Revival (Image Comics) is written by Tim Seeley, illustrated by Mike Norton, and colored by Mark Englert.

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