10 Horror Comics That Will Keep You Up At Night

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

You’ve watched everything on Shudder. You’ve read every book Stephen King ever wrote. You’ve even seen every episode of Hulu’s Into the Dark. So now where can a horror lover get their next scare? Maybe horror comics are the answer you’ve been looking for?

Fortunately, comic book creators have been flocking to horror over the past few years. Like their superhero brethren, horror comics can offer mind-twisting visuals that other media can’t quite provide. By mixing words and images, comics involve readers’ imaginations while using pictures to push their minds into places they would never go on their own. 

With the expansion of third-party publishers like Aftershock Comics and with indie mainstays like Image moving away from cape books, writers and artists have many places to let their creativity run to the dark side. So if you’d like to get some four-color fear, here are ten recent horror comics that will keep you up at night. 

Infidel comic book scary horror comic art
Infidel Vol. 1. Art by Aaron Campbell, colors by José Villarrubia, Letters by Jeff Powell

Horror has always been an ideal genre for addressing social ills such as racism. But writer Pornsak Pichetshote takes it to the next level in his comic Infidel, drawn by artist Aaron Campbell. The tale of Aisha and Medina, two Muslim women of color and longtime friends living in an apartment building that recently housed a suspected terrorist, Infidel is a ghost story about the ghosts that still haunt America. Pichetshote grounds his characters with believable dialogue (even as they discuss heavy issues), and Campbell’s frantic linework creates figures who are both recognizably human and relatably flawed. But when covered with José Villarrubia’s unsettling colors and designer Jeff Powell’s inventive lettering, the human and the supernatural collide to make a terrifying, but ultimately compassionate, piece of fiction. 

Gideon Falls, Vol. 1 comic art
Gideon Falls, Vol. 1. Art by Andrea Sorrentino, colors by Dave Stewart, letters and design by Steve Wands

Too often, “Cosmic Horror” brings to mind only images of Cthulhu rising from the deep or unknowable aliens arriving from space. But in their series Gideon Falls, writer Jeff Lemire, artist Andrea Sorrentino, and colorist Dave Stewart add a new menacing figure to the sub-genre: the Black Barn. Over 21 issues, Gideon Falls unravels the mystery of the Black Barn, a haunted building that appears to those going mad, including the series’ protagonists, a struggling priest and a life-long mental patient. Sorrentino and Stewart create some of the most unique and disturbing visuals in horror of any medium, including a fantastic cubic double-helix that brings together two characters in different times and places. It’s the kind of thing one can only see in a comic book, a rare example of ineffable horror. 

Maniac of New York #1 comic art
Maniac of New York #1. Art by Andrea Mutti and letters by Taylor Esposito.

As a head writer for The Daily Show and Mystery Science Theater 3000, Elliott Kalan has made the very serious look very ridiculous. But Kalan does the opposite with Maniac of New York, offering a grimly realistic take on silly slashers like Friday the 13th Part VII: Jason Takes Manhattan. In Maniac of New York, Kalan and artist Andrea Mutti follow the municipal response to a seemingly unstoppable masked killer. By focusing on the mundane parts of a fantastical story, Kalan and Mutti heighten the horror in the established slasher genre, showing how people “just doing their jobs” can be the only thing between a normal life in New York and a grisly death. 

Something is Killing the Children vol. 1 comic horror art
Something is Killing the Children vol. 1. Illustrations by Werther Dell’edera, colors by Miquel Muerto, and letters by Andworld Design.

When it comes to dead children in horror, it’s hard to top Stephen King or Guillermo Del Toro. But James Tynion IV and Werther Dell’Edera come close with their Eisner-nominated series Something is Killing the Children. When the children of Archer’s Peak begin to go missing, a mysterious drifter named Erica Slaughter arrives to help. Dell’Edera is never precious about depicting young children being ripped apart by an insect-like monster, and colorist Miquel Muerto heightens the drama by washing the creatures in sickly greens and blues. But Tynion finds plenty of spaces for believable emotions and actual humor to enrich the characters, never falling back on “Man with No Name” stereotypes when writing monster hunter Slaughter. 

The Low, Low Woods #1 comic horror art
The Low, Low Woods #1. Art by Dani, colors by Tamra Bonvillain, letters by Steve Wands

For years, DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint was the premier home for horror comics, producing landmark Sandman and Hellblazer runs. But even though DC shuttered Vertigo in 2020, its spirit remains alive in the Hill House imprint, curated by author Joe Hill. For his first run, Hill scored a coup by recruiting Nebula Award-winning writer Carmen Maria Machado for The Low, Low Woods, drawn by Dani and colored by Tamra Bonvillain, with letters by Steve Wands. Set in the richly realized mining town of Shudder-to-Think, Pennsylvania, The Low, Low Woods tells a horrifying story of systemic misogyny and the cruelties of capitalism from the perspective of teen girls El and Octavia. Dani’s scratchy artwork recalls the linework of Vertigo in its prime, powerfully rendering women with sinkholes in their bodies and skinless men. But it’s the believable motivations of the city’s men that make The Low, Low Woodstruly terrifying. 

The Immortal Hulk #36 comic horror art
The Immortal Hulk #36. Pencils by Joe Bennett, Inks by Roy José, letters by Cory Petit.

While Vertigo may have established DC as horror’s home with the Big Two publishers, it’s important to remember that Marvel was in the monster business before it did superheroes. In fact, many of the first Marvel heroes, including Spider-Man and the Thing, were originally designed to be monsters. That’s particularly true of the Hulk, who was a Jekyll and Hyde riff who became a monster at night. Writer Al Ewing brought that element back for The Immortal Hulk, an environmental allegory that ties the gamma energy that transformed Bruce Banner into the Hulk to Satan and Hell. Artist Joe Bennett and inker Ruy José draw from Rob Bottin’s effects on John Carpenter’s The Thing to make Banner’s transformations feel painful and visceral. Combined with Paul Mounts’s other-worldly colors, The Immortal Hulk successfully mixes body horror with supernatural terror to create one of the scariest comics currently running. 

Billions Alone horror comic art
“Billions Alone.” Art by Junji Ito

Unsurprisingly, master horror mangaka Junji Ito goes to some pretty weird places in his collection Venus in the Blind Spot, including stories about a man hiding in an easy chair and body-shaped holes in caves. But the collection’s most chilling story is its first one, “Billions Alone.” Just as young agoraphobe Michio finally decides to enter the world again, he must deal with a killer who’s sewing people together. What begins with a lone joined couple quickly spreads to larger and larger groups, giving Ito a reason to draw disturbing tableaux of bodies joined together. But this grisly conceit serves to explore themes of loneliness and a fear of groups, a concept that hits that much harder during a pandemic. 

Stillwater vol. 1 comic horror art
Stillwater vol. 1. Art by Ramón K. Perez, colors by Mike Spicer, and letters by Rus Wooton.

First, I need to make this clear. The most terrifying thing Chip Zdarsky ever wrote was this one-panel Frog-Man bit in Original Sins #5. But Stillwater comes pretty close. Co-created and drawn by Ramón K. Perez, with colors by Mike Spicer and letters from Rus Wooton, Stillwater takes place in a town where no one can die. While that sounds good, the town’s strange ability means that no one can age, including children, which drives a desperate mother to sneak her toddler son Thomas out of Stillwater. But when circumstances bring a now-grown Thomas back to the town he no longer remembers, tensions and Stillwater grow between those who long for outside contact and the fascist Judge who wants to keep them hidden from the world. While that synopsis makes for good thriller material, Zdarsky and Perez take the story to some genuinely disturbing places, including characters being buried in the ground for weeks on end or living through a bomb explosion. 

Daphne Byrne #2 horror comic art
Daphne Byrne #2. Art by Kelly Jones, colors by Michelle Madsen, letters by Rob Leigh.

The other standout in Hill House Comics’ inaugural batch is the Victorian ghost story Daphne Byrne, written by Laura Marks and drawn by horror legend Kelly Jones. Daphne Byrne follows the adolescent title character after her father’s death in Victorian England. While her mother’s loneliness drives her to a disreputable medium, who has darker plans for the Byrne family, Daphne is visited by a dark young man who promises the girl companionship and power. In the classic Victorian style, Daphne Byrne blurs the lines between fantasy and reality. But instead of only asking us to question Daphne, Marks and Jones make everyone into an unreliable narrator of their own stories, from the man suddenly wooing Daphne’s mother to the elderly rationalist who offers his help. 

Razorblades: The Horror Magazine #3 horror art
Razorblades: The Horror Magazine #3, Cover by David Romero

In addition to writing some of the best recent horror comics (including Something is Killing the Children!), James Tynion IV has teamed with writer Steve Foxe to bring back the anthology comic with Razorblades: The Horror Magazine. In its first three issues, Razorblades has already featured some truly memorable stories, but my favorite so far is “Strands,” by Jess Unkel and Jenn St-Onge. St-Onge’s vibrant linework and innocent figures belie a chilling story about a widower who notices bits of her late husband’s hair still lingering in her home. Both a sweet story about missing a loved one and a genuinely haunting tale, “Strands” builds to a satisfyingly shocking ending. 

Book Recommendation – Black Stars Above

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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

Hope…for the Future, Vol 1 – A Neo-Noir, Pulp Crime Horror

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Imagine the black and white pulp crime world of Dick Tracy mixed with the neo-noir of Frank Miller’s Sin City. Now, add in a dash of occult magic and envision the love child of James Ellroy and Alan Moore, a genre-bending mashup of L.A. Confidential and Hellblazer. Starting to get the picture? If you love any of those genres as much as I do, then you will be head-over-heels for 2000AD’s gritty detective graphic novel Hope…for the Future. 

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Hope for the Future comic book cover
Hope for the Future comic book cover

In an alternate post-war 1940s Los Angeles, where occult forces are a fact of life, Mallory Hope is a private detective haunted by his past… and by the demon he works with. When a new case involving a missing boy reminds him of his own lost child, Hope is determined to find him. But he soon discovers all is not what it seems, with dark powers lurking behind the lights of Hollywood

Our protagonist, John Mallory, is very much a John Constantine type: a hard boiled private investigator who’s tuned into the magical world existing beneath everyday reality. He’s a man on a mission, navigating the dark underbelly of 1940s Los Angeles with a dry wit and a grim disposition that makes him immediately likeable. He’s rough and tough, and when given the option to run or double down he always chooses the latter (at one point shrugging and saying “It’s been hours since my last beating”). But he’s also compassionate – demonstrated when he risks his life to save a misfortunate child threatened by a gang of violent goons. I was invested in him from the very first page, his narration really helps to carry the story and give it the necessary exposition and snark.

john mallory art from Hope for the Future comic
John Mallory takes a beating

In this story Hope is tasked with finding a young movie prodigy, a child star who has suddenly gone missing. His investigation will take him to various Hollywood locales, from glitzy film production studios to seedy underground clubs. Along the way we learn about his use of magical powers and how these supernatural interactions are slowly draining his life force. We learn about the enigmatic spirit he accidentally conjured, who wears a nun’s habit and gas mask and feeds off his misery. And we learn, to my great excitement, that there is an overarching storyline about him tracking down the dark being who stole away his wife and son.

demon kidnapping art from Hope for the Future comic
A demonic kidnapper

The writing of Guy Adams is on point here. Literally every single wistful, droll, and pessimistic line from Hope is gold. The story includes a good mix of drama, horror, and humor, and the core mystery of the missing boy would be compelling enough, but the added occult elements really elevate it. Inserting scenes of snake-tongued demons into a detective thriller plot is jarring, but in the best way possible. I definitely appreciate that magic is simply part of the story, and that it’s the dynamic characters who drive the momentum. We get just enough backstory on Mallory to make him engaging, but there’s suggestions of more intriguing reveals in the future. 

And that art from Jimmy Broxton…wow. Normally, I’m a fan of vibrant colors in comics, but the black and white illustrations here just fit so superbly. They’re grungy, gritty, and the art certainly feels like an homage to earlier horror/crime comics. I love the shading and stark contrasts, and how the style bends towards realism in the way the characters and settings are drawn. I also love how Broxton overlays swirling runes and symbols across the panels to let us know when magic is (literally) in the air.

Occult magic art from Hope for the Future comic
Seeing the world through dark magic

This first volume, in my opinion, is a near perfect story. It’s a horror crime thriller with a solid plot  and great pacing, populated with wonderful character archetypes plucked from the supernatural noir genre that bred it. It has a self-contained storyline, but it expertly weaves in a larger plot and perfectly sets up the next book. At 66 pages it’s a very quick read and it leaves you hungry for more. I absolutely cannot wait to join Mallory Hope’s further adventures in the next volume!

Hope…for the Future is available now from 2000AD Comics

Killadelphia – A Horror Comic Fable

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Before I start a new book, I’m always interested to see who else is talking about it. I like to think if creators I respect are praising the book then I too will enjoy it. So it’s safe to say my expectations were pretty high when I came across the much lauded graphic novel Killadelphia, which Jordan Peele claims is the “stunning and fresh horror fable” he’s been craving and Tananarive Due says is a “genuinely frightening horror graphic”. But therein lies the double edge of the sword, where cover blurbs and comparisons can sometimes over inflate an otherwise decent story and put it in a realm of expectation that is impossible to meet.

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Killadelphia horror comic cover
Killadelphia horror comic book cover

So, the question is does the Killadelphia comic live up to the hype?

I’m happy to report that for the most part it does. It’s bloody, gritty, and completely engaging.

Killadelphia Horror Comic Synopsis

Jimmy Sangster Jr is a cop who has returned to his hometown in Philadelphia to bury his recently deceased father, detective Jimmy Sangster Sr. Their father-son relationship was never very strong, and the death comes as a relief to Jimmy. However, back in his childhood home he finds his father’s journal and reads a startling story about Sangster Sr and chief medical examiner Jose. Recently they had been investigating a string of bizarre murders and, as the bodies in the morgue come back to life, they realize the culprits they’re hunting are…vampires!

vampire art from killadelphia horror comic
Killadelphia is full of unexpected surprises

Turns out John Adams, a founding father and former president, is a vampire and has been slowly amassing a horde of followers over the centuries in a bid to take back the America he helped begin so long ago. His crooked revolution is 300 hundred years in the making and apparently now it’s time to put it into action. With the doomsday clock ticking down, Jimmy Jr realizes he’s going to need the help of someone he had finally let go of. With shovel in hand he digs up his undead father and together, with the help of Jose and a few others, they face the vampire army dead on in a final effort to save their city.

For a story about an undead former president trying to take over the city (and yes, I kept thinking about a certain Deadpool storyline from Brain Posehn), Killadelphia is firmly grounded in realistic characters and a gripping plot. Jimmy Jr has conflicting feelings about his father, who was at turns abusive and absent during his childhood. His mother was the glue holding their family together, and when she passed their fragile relationship seemed to have crumbled. But now father and son are going to have to learn how to work through their differences in order to save the city they both care for. As readers we care about their characters, but I am thankful their back and forth quibbling was kept to a minimum.

There are also many relevant social issues and ideas woven into the storyline, including class disparity, poverty, racism, gentrification, addiction, and political corruption. The city itself, with its historical implications and complex history of social unrest, plays a significant role in the plot and is the perfect setting for such a story. I also appreciate that this isn’t just a story of good vs evil, as arguably none of the characters are purely good or bad. Even Adams, with his disturbing plan to rebuild the country, truly believes what he is doing is right.

vampire attack art from Killadelphia horror comic
Resistance is futile in Killadelphia

Of course, in a story about vampires there is also going to be a fair amount of supernatural horror elements. Apart from the whole blood-sucking monster thing, there’s also an interesting twist involving a (relatively) young vampire named Tevin and a magical book that he is entrusted to carry by John Adams. Tevin is actually one of my favorite characters in the graphic novel, and I really like the arc his storyline takes. I can’t say much more because of spoilers, but I’ll just say the second half goes in some neat directions I did not expect.

Killadelphia Vampires

Though the characters are strong and the plot is interesting, the vampires are definitely what elevate the story. Their design follows classic tradition for the most part: humanoid, yellow eyes, fangs, elongated fingers, and a healthy fear of sunlight. They can fly, they cohabitate in “nests,” and sleep hanging from the ceiling. Interestingly, they also are typically naked and cry tears of blood. They are also incredibly brutal, vicious, and efficient at killing. This is certainly a horror graphic novel, and there are several frightening and suspenseful moments along the way. It’s not Scott Snyder’s Wytches kind of scary, but it still works. I do love how much of the story is focused on the vampires’ perspective (be they “bad” or “good” they do make up most of the characters). And we get to see a lot of different perspectives on vampirism, from those who see it as a spiritual awakening or means to power to those who see it as a curse or form of slavery.

good vampire from Killadelphia horror comic
Not all vampires are bad

Killadelphia Comic Art

And the art! Oh my goodness the illustrations and colors are gorgeous here. The artwork of Jason Shawn Alexander excels in creating the dark, gritty noir atmosphere necessary for the story. I love the style, and it reminds me somewhat of comic artist John Bolton (whose style I also adore). Facial expressions and body movements are drawn in realistic detail, and it was interesting to learn at the end of the book how Alexander does photoshoots with live models to prepare for his pieces. Colors by Luis NCT perfectly compliment, bathing scenes in dark shadows and buckets of blood.

Here Rodney Barnes has given us a pretty solid story. There are some themes that didn’t quite pan out, and the romance angle between Jimmy Jr and Jose felt unearned and tacked on. But overall, I really enjoyed reading it. And though the primary storyline is wrapped up here, the ending easily sets us up for a sequel. I for one am very much looking forward to sinking my teeth into another volume of Killadelphia in the future!

Killadelphia is available now from Image Comics

Rise of the Goatman – Your Typical Night in the Woods

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

Rise of the Goatman (2020) feels like a teaser for a compelling slasher series that explores the Maryland-based legend of Goatman. This book has a plot as bare bones as they come, providing just enough intrigue and dread to make you salivate. It’s all guts and no filler. There is no exploration of character or why Goatman is hellbent on splitting-up and splitting apart couples. It’s no different from finding yourself at Camp Crystal Lake on Friday the 13th: You’re simply at the wrong place at the wrong time. 

Art from Rise of the Goatman featuring a man and a woman dricing a car

For those who are new to the urban legend of this ax-wielding man-beast, Goatman was a creature that preyed upon the local lover’s lane in Fletchertown Road, Maryland or at least that was the tale that the teenagers spun. His origin can also be traced to a sinister experiment conducted on goats that took place in the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center. Supposedly, this terrible act transformed one of these poor creatures into a vengeful, predatory beast that terrorized the wilds in the surrounding area.

This account builds off of the legend and follows a family that decided to spend their vacation in a seedy cabin in the woods. When they arrive at the cabin they are greeted with a plethora of signs signaling that maybe they should pack up and return home, but vacations only come every once and awhile so why waste it? Unfortunately, their decision has grisly consequences as they discover the Goatman, who’s sure to ruin their plans.

This simple story is perfectly paired with minimalistic art that is full of dark spaces and cinematic imagery. The illustrations reminded me a lot of the cel animation from A Scanner Darkly (2006) executing a fine balance between realism and minimalism. With the identity of a slasher, it doesn’t actually rely on gratuitous violence and instead employs a Hitchcockian approach by leaving a lot of the kills up to the reader’s imagination. While it works for the most part, there is a brutality to Goatman that goes missing in its simplicity. 

For a short comic in a single setting, we are treated to an extensive cast of characters that only serve as mincemeat for the sinister satyr. However, once the bodies start dropping and the titular villain takes the stage, the ride becomes all too brief as it speeds through kill after kill. 

Rise of the Goatman horror comic art featuring a man wit ha gun by a cabin

Goatman charges in full of sound and fury, but it’s curtains before you notice he was ever there. If the goal was to wet your appetite for more of this sinister Billy, then this one definitely hits the nail. You can’t call it in an origin story since this book adds little to no lore about this horned villain, but it serves as more of an introduction of the havoc that is to come. He’s been unleashed and I can’t imagine that this is the last we have seen of him. This book is very much a catalyst to a larger series that can potentially give this horror legend the spotlight it deserves as it leaves a messy trail of lads and lassies who should have just canceled their vacation plans.

Rise of Goatman is available now digitally from Afterlight Comics.

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