At The Mountains of Madness – Illustrated

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

Francois Baranger’s illustrated version of HP Lovecraft’s At The Mountains of Madness, blown up to double its impact, rings out in the ears as if echoing from the highest snowy peak. This is only Volume 1 and for someone like me who has never indulged in this particular tale, it’s quite the cliffhanger. The line could easily be self-referencial of much of Lovecraft’s work, in that a lot of the ‘cosmic-horror’ that he coined and regularly explored relies heavily on the imagination of the reader. As I mentioned in a previous article on visualizing cosmic-horror in film, adding any form of physical imagery to Lovecraft’s work often poses the risk of detracting from its intended effect. That is, thankfully, not the case here. 

Imagination could conceive almost anything in connexion with this place.

H.P. Lovecraft – At The Mountains of Madness

The first thing to notice is the size of the At The Mountains of Madness Illustrated book, released by Free League Publishing. A hardback at 26x36cm, displaying the beautiful and atmospheric artwork of Baranger, has an obvious air of quality; a first glance bringing hopes that it only echoes the scale and majesty held within. It might be considered impractical by those wanting to read anywhere other than a desk, but the thing holds an intrinsic weight that makes your perusal all the richer. A foreword by Maxime Chattam compares the tale to the icy horrors of The Thing (1982) which, again for a first time reader, was rather exciting. 

Before reading I was asked by a friend, “Does he picture the monstrosities at the camp?” Of course I had no idea to which monstrosities he was referring, though it was a question I kept coming back to while wading through the heavy descriptions of the first few pages. Well-placed illustrations aid the flow of the story greatly, as well as some resizing of sentences for emphasis that helps bring home the point of many of Lovecraft’s ramblings without feeling cartoonish. Much of the artwork acts as flavouring, in the way sound effects and music would to an audiobook, and by the time the aforementioned monstrosities are encountered, and pictured vividly, it feels like a true horror payoff within an already interesting story of exploration. The things look incredible and prove Barangers skill and imagination to be far above that of simple docking ships and icy wastes, though these introductory scenes are inarguably stunning. 

Mountains of Madness art featuring people looking at alien bodies under tarps in the snow

While I can’t compare to the simple text-only format of this particular story, I can somewhat to other stories in Lovecraft’s oeuvre, and here the imagery is a refreshing and welcome addition. While I fully believe that the power of Lovecraft’s monsters exists in our inability to comprehend them on a physical level, seeing the big slimy nasties in this case puts us much closer to the mentality of the poor souls at the dig site. 

Baranger’s art expertly treads a tightrope between detail and atmosphere, displaying a degree of realism that should by rights be impossible to achieve alongside the sense of wonder permeating each piece. The more you look, the more layers reveal themselves within portraits of sunset-drenched mountaintops, views of meetings through frosted cabin windows and some sparse yet effectively-placed gore including the harrowing scene of a man’s bust-open chest. These aren’t simple accompaniments but integral parts in this telling of Lovecraft’s tale, inserted with intent to aid the reader’s immersion but also to stand as their own pieces, rich and textured. 

At The Mountains of Madness – Illustrated Book Cover

* Puzzle Box Horror may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

At The Mountains of Madness Illustrated Cosmic Horror Book Cover

The story itself is fantastic. A classic, even by Lovecraft’s standards. His style can be long-winded and hard to fall into for some, though this works for his longer pieces such as this one. The themes of exploration and the wonder it conjures were perfect to set up the icy horrors in the mountains; as the many details of the expedition are reeled off one can’t help but feel the excitement of it all. The overload of information, once pushed through, leads on to discoveries vivid and startling, made all the more realistic by their precursing pages. Lovecraft has the ability, mainly through his grounded and earthly first acts, to make readers begin to question just what, if any, horror (as we now know it) will be about to occur. This makes the subsequent deaths, tentacled abominations and nightmarish icy wastes that much more impactful and unexpected. All of this is helped greatly by purposeful and well-thought-out text formatting, mainly being some upsized sentences which add a great deal of weight to occurrences and help break up some of HP’s longer esoteric rants. 

A lot of the issues with visualizing Lovecraft’s elder beings are in no way as apparent here as within the realms of film and television. This particular undertaking allows the story itself, beholder of all of the real power here, to remain the focal point while all additions serve as flavor and make the whole ordeal that much more vivid and evocative. The mind still builds on these images, just as it would visualize on a story while reading. I absolutely must know what happens next in this tale, though I will wait to purchase the second volume of this version rather than find the classic story in a collection I own. That should say it all. 

Advertisements

Join Us

Best of Avant Garde Horror Comics

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

Let’s get weird! Horror is one of the most exciting genres out there. The sheer terror of the unknown and experiencing the fear of death in it’s many shapes with our favorite characters is something unique to horror. However, the moments when something is so far from our expectations or completely mind-bending, it can make a deeper imprint than the jump scares we’ve come to know and love. For those moments, we look to the avant garde horror genre.

Avant Garde, with a history rooted in challenging social norms, is art that pushes the boundary and stands at the forefront of what art can be capable of. Today, it’s much less associated with social change but is still known for its existence as an experimental and bold expression of art. This radical art form, combined with horror, can build adrenaline spikes in ways other subgenres can’t. In honor of that mind-bending style, here is our list of graphic novels and comics that bring the Best of Avant Garde Horror to life.

zumak comic book cover

Uzumaki by Junji Ito

I love everything about this avant garde horror comic. It’s black and white. It’s has that signature japanese style. It also is focused around the Uzumaki, or spiral, symbol that has cursed this coastal Japanese town. But it isn’t like the Ring, where you’re haunted by this undead girl. I would tell you what it is really like, but that would be a spoiler. This is a must-read, and you don’t know where or how far this is going to go. 

Ghost and Ruins comic cover

Ghosts and Ruins

Some artists fit very neatly into what we expect from our comics, and they work very well. Sometimes, they go for something a bit different, and today is all about different. Ben Catmull ditches the panels and text bubbles, laying out his stories in full page illustrations. With bits of background and flavor text to accompany each of the 13 stills, its amazing what our imaginations can do with such a minimalist and maximalist approach to horror. 

Sleep of Reason

This anthology from Iron Circus Comics features some pretty warped illustrations, and some of it reminds me of Midnight Gospel’s creative use of color and form. This collection of avant garde horror also avoids a lot of the typical tropes of horror and instead creates that creeping sense of unease that we are always unable to ignore.

Understanding Monster by Theo Ellsworth

This graphic novel may not exist exclusively in the avant garde horror genre, but I’m not sure it exists in any genre. The protagonist of the story finds his spirit trapped in a mouse, while his skeleton wanders around aimlessly. He’s aided by misfit toys and another spirit, this one trapped in a fly. The antagonists are equally diverse and include the Devil, a mummified pharaoh, and “The Mean Kids in the Wall.” They all exist in “negative time.” It’s weird. We like it. 

Bodyworld Avant Garde horror comic cover

Bodyworld by Dash Shaw

This web avant garde horror comic by Dash Shaw was compiled and revised into a graphic novel, and they both will blow you away. Our protagonist, Paulie Panther, is a deranged botanist who’s the kind of creep that imagines himself a romantic. His current obsession is a psychedelic drug that grows at the outskirts of the Boney Borough High School. It lets you feel what other people feel, and when smoked together, you can feel the other person feeling their feelings felt by your feelings. Get it? It’s a mind-warping story set in 2060, a post-apocalyptic civil war future, that dives further and further into a dark fantasy. 

I feel Sick avant garde comic book cover

I Feel Sick by Jhonen Vasquez

This Jhonen Vasquez comic is a spin-off of his previous work, Johnny the Homicidal Maniac. The unhinged approach is still very much alive in I Feel Sick, whose protagonist, Devi D., learns about the destructive psychological and supernatural influences that drove Johnny insane. The acid trip starts on page one, with Devi ripping up a painting, only to find intact a few panels later, and doesn’t end until everyone is entirely unhinged.

It’s hard to number these or rank them in any particular order. The stories are so engaging and the art so wildly entrancing, I think there’s something for everyone’s kind of strange in this list. We update these lists every now and again, so if you think your kind of strange is missing from this list, let us know in the comments below. Keep Puzzle Box weird, guys! Thanks for reading. 

Advertisements

Join Us

Best of Supernatural Horror Comics

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

The supernatural holds a strong place in the societal psyche. There aren’t many subjects that are as alluring in terms of the unknown and the extraordinary and also as terrifying. Searching for and approaching the supernatural is exhilarating, but finding it and seeing it is risky business. It’s enticing, spine-tingling, hair-raising, and if you’re reading this, it’s impossible to look away. What better to enjoy the best supernatural horror than in a comic book format?

Witches – check, demons – got em, ghosts – of course. This list of incredible supernatural horror comics demand to be read, and are the greatest reward to those that burn the midnight oil. 

Gideon Falls by Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorentino

Gideon Falls Supernatural Horror Comic Cover

Norton Sinclair, a recluse with interesting dumpster theories, and Father Fred, a pastor in Gideon Falls, have otherworldly visions of “the Black Barn.” Each of our leading men has their own riddles to crack, from clues hidden in city litter to sinister small town mysteries, but they both lead them to Gideon Fall’s central omen: the Black Barn, and the trip-fest inside breathe new meaning to ideas of “otherworldly doom.” Definitely one of the best supernatural horror comics out there.

Girl From the Other Side by Nagabe

Girl From the Other Side supernatural horror comic

“The God of Light took everything away from the God of Darkness, changing him into the shape of a hideous monster.” Well, I was hooked. Turns out, victors are not always fair, and the God of Light is no exception. This story follows Shiva, the only human in the Outside, the land of the God of Darkness. She is accompanied by her Teacher and lives among the Outsiders, commanded never to touch Shiva by the Teacher, lest they corrupt her. The mysteries of the Outside and it’s cursed denizens are numerous and devilish, and I loved every bit of it. 

Exorsisters by Ian Boothby and Gisèle Lagacé

Exorsisters Supernatural Horror Comic Cover

These sacred sisters are great for exorcisms on a budget. Coming-of-age stories are great pretenses for horror, and the Harrow sisters grow up averting the end of the world, defeating demon-obsessed boyfriends, and dealing with their mom. The Veronica Mars vibes are pretty high, with a bit of Charmed mixed in. Need I say more?

Redlands by Jordie Bellaire & Vanesa R. Del Rey

Redlands Supernatural Horror Comic Cover

Southern gothic and Southern horror are powerful. I’ve lived in the South for years now, and it has always struck me how it feels like the physical terrain holds the scars of the past, today. Redlands is another incarnation of this great American tradition, starring a coven of witches in a foggy Florida town and the citizens they subjugate. And when those citizens want to make a change, the supernatural exploits in Redlands, Florida, only get worse. 

BPRD by Mike Mignola

BPRD Supernatural Horror Comic Cover

Demon frogs, demon detectives, and the CIA paint the pages of BPRD, the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense. Mike Mignola’s expanded universe takes place after Hellboy leaves the BPRD, who still have to stop the End of the World as We Know It. Success becomes a very relative term as the story progresses, and the frogs become the least of their problems. Mike Mignola’s universe barely gives our heroes any breaks, and when it does–wait, does it ever?

Harrow County by Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook

Harrow County Supernatural Horror Comic Cover

What started as Countless Haints on Cullen Bunn’s website became Harrow County, a supernatural fairy tale told in a southern gothic style to hainting success. Emmy, a peaceful country girl, starts to hear things in the woods; monsters, ghosts, and shadows, speaking to her like old friends. An old oak tree at the edge of the farm calls out in her dreams, and a witch’s curse may come true, or so it seems. 

Fatale by Deon Taylor

Fatale Supernatural Horror Comic Cover

Femme fatale’s are classic, badass, and electric protagonists. Fatale’s femme du jour is Josephine, an enchantress from the 1930s, alive in the present day, enchanting as ever. Interestingly, this attraction doesn’t always go in her favor, and the men around her typically pay the price. Struggling with her “gift” and battling a cult obsessed with her seeming-immortality are all in a days work for Jo, and her escapades keep her world, and our heads, spinning. 

Rachel Rising by Terry Moore

Rachel Rising Supernatural Horror Comic Cover

The trick to a good murder is making sure the dead stay dead. Rachel Beck has other plans. After waking in a shallow grave, apparently strangled, and with no memory of her death, she begins trying to solve her attempted murder. What she finds is witchcraft and demons, hellbent on destroying her town. Demons and the undead typically mean one thing: the end is near. 

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina by Robert Aguirre-Sacasa

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Horror Comic Cover

This teenage witch may seem familiar, and so too do the names and faces, but the stakes are more than a bit higher, and the spells much darker. Sabrina Spellman’s coming-of-age story collides with catty witches, dead parents, and satanic rituals. Such is the life of any half-witch high schooler. 

Nocturnals by Dan Brereton

Nocturnals Supernatural horror comic cover

The Nocturnals is a great of example of an ensemble supernatural comic, written and illustrated by Dan Brereton and published by Dark Horse Comics. We start with Doc Horror, the patriarch of the patchwork Horror family, a gang of supernatural outcasts, with extraordinary abilities. Our protagonists fight against supernatural enemies as well as corrupt corporations in a fictional California city, Pacific City. Here, we love horror, we love the supernatural, and we love ensembles. Nocturnals does it all.

These are my personal Tales of the Crypt, ladies and gentleman. These are the best supernatural horror comics I have read yet. They’ve kept me up at night–reading and otherwise. I love to hear from you all, so please comment and tell us where we screwed up or uncover that hidden gem only you have discovered. Discourse is the foundation of democracy, and the difference between seventh and eighth is a big deal, okay?! If you like supernatural horror comics you will also love cosmic horror comics.

Advertisements

Join Us

Horror Art Fundraiser for Social Justice

Categories
Featured Lifestyle

NO BARS BUT DIVE BARS // ART AUCTION FUNDRAISER50

Craft Fair Ganes is auctioning every piece of Ryan’s original artwork they’ve got left. 100% of the money goes to Denton Bail Fund & North Texas Mutual Aid. ++ AUCTION ENDS: Mon. JUNE 8, 2020 @ 11:59PM READ THIS FIRST: – To bid on a drawing, comment your bid amount on its photo (NOT the album thread) – DO: Keep in mind while bidding that this is a fundraiser for an important cause. – DON’T: Comment on photos if you’re not bidding. – If someone outbids you, feel free to bid again! – When the auction ends, the highest bidder on each photo will get that drawing. We will message each winner to get shipping info. – CW: Some drawings contain depictions of violence. – USA BUYERS: SHIPS FREE – OVERSEAS BUYERS: $15 flat shipping (no matter how many drawings you win) – PAYPAL/VENMO ONLY – PAYMENT MUST BE RECEIVED BY WEDS. JUNE 10, 2020 (If it’s not, we’ll move on to the second place bidder.) – NO LOCAL PICK-UPS – SOLIDARITY // MUTUAL AID // CHAOTIC GOOD FUNDS RAISED WILL BE DIVIDED EQUALLY BETWEEN: Denton Bail Fund: t.ly/D05T North Texas Mutual Aid: t.ly/Pm6f

Auction Link

https://www.facebook.com/pg/craftfairgames/photos/tab=album&album_id=2915330671911871&__tn__=-UC-R

Sample of Art From The Gallery

Craft Fair Games Art Gallery

Advertisements

Join Us

Puzzle Box’s Best of Gothic Horror Comics and Graphic Novels

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

We’ve covered a lot of different genres here at Puzzle Box, and it’s been a blast giving you guys recommendations and sharing our favorite comic book and graphic novel stories. 

This Best Of is a classic subgenre, and perhaps one of the most defining subgenres of horror: Gothic Horror. This dark extension of Romanticism produced classics like Dracula and Frankenstein, as well as Edgar Allen Poe’s signature masterpieces. These dark, haunting tales are deeply personal and, at times, disturbing. The comics and graphic novels in our Best of Gothic Horror bring the darkness of our minds onto the page, with terrifying effect. 

Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol

Anya, a Russian immigrant, is struggling to fit in at her private school in New England. One day, she falls into a dry well and finds a human skeleton at the bottom. The skeleton’s ghost Emily appears and starts to help Anya at school. But as their relationship grows, Emily’s amiable nature belies a darker past and a sinister truth. This may not be the Ring, but still, dead girls in wells don’t turn out to be friendly.

Gotham by Gaslight by Brian Augustyn and Mike Mignola

Part of D.C.’s Elseworlds series, this graphic novel finds Bruce Wayne transposed into 1889. Following a long missive with Dr. Sigmeund Freud, Bruce Wayne dons the cowl as a series of murders grips Gotham. What follows is a long trail of conspiracy involving the Wayne family and Jack the Ripper, with the terror closer to the Batman than he would have imagined. 

From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell

The story of Jack the Ripper is as terrifying as it is gruesome, and From Hell is the second story based on the serial killer to make the list. The darkness surrounding the terrible murders allows writers and artists to weave so many narratives into the legendary figure. Alan Moore is another one of those brilliant minds to use the mystery of Jack the Ripper to reveal a darker reality, while portraying Jack in very twisted, yet human, terms.

Hellblazer by D.C. Comics

John Constantine, the hellblazer, is a D.C. anti-hero who embodies the idea of the occult bad boy. A world-class cynic and working-class warlock, Constantine’s dark societal themes mix perfectly with the demons he tracks down and cults he takes down. Constantine’s stories, both mythical and earthly, are a strong representative of modern American gothic storytelling. 

Gloomcookie by Serena Valentino

Gothic horror can certainly lend itself to campiness, and Gloomcookie is no exception. Gloomcookie is about a goth girl named Lex, a more than willing participant in goth culture, and the mundane and supernatural encounters in her life. Featuring star-crossed lovers, Reality Warpers, and demon worship, Gloomcookie will take you back to the best part of your weird years.  

The Crow by James O’Barr

This dark superhero comic is tragic and disturbing, and takes the emotional weight of gothic horror to a pretty dark place. Our protagonist, Eric, is dead, and so is his fiancee. A crow revives him and acts as a guide to help him take his revenge. Eric and the Crow’s relationship is complex, especially as Eric wallows in his own pain and suffering. Edgar Allen Poe’s poem, The Raven, is infused throughout the story, making this a great comic for gothic horror fans. 

Dracula by Jason Cobley and Bram Stoker

The classic vampire is incredibly adapted by Jason Cobley and illustrated by Staz Johnson and James Offredi. A foundational piece of gothic horror as well as horror at large, the blood-sucking creature of the night, inspired by Vlad the Impaler, attempts to move from Transylvania to England, with Van Helsing standing in his way. Dracula is one of the most well-known stories in horror and this graphic novel does it justice.

That’s a wrap on our Best of Gothic Horror comics! This is probably my favorite horror subgenre, with its emotional weight making the twists and turns all the darker. A lot of our favorite tropes and classic works come from gothic horror too, so this subgenre plays a role in more kinds of horror than you may realize. Make sure you represent your favorite gothic horror in the comments below. Your favorite comics could make the list. Thanks for reading!

Advertisements

Join Us

Signup to our newsletter