10 Horror Comics That Will Keep You Up At Night

Categories
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

Categories
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

Rise of the Goatman – Your Typical Night in the Woods

Categories
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.

The Autumnal – Folk Horror is Always in Season

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

Something strange is happening at Comfort Notch. Joining the ranks of other malevolent township imaginings such as Derry, Arkham, and Riverdale, this New England-inspired setting may fool you at first only to violently push you in a pile of leaves. Is it eco-horror or something more cosmic? Judging by the first three issues of The Autumnal (2020) we’re still early from raking in any answers, but that doesn’t stop the shadowy warnings from creeping into your subconscious.

Kat Somerville -donning a black leather jacket and a pair of sunglasses- is on her way to the principal’s office again to discuss another incident involving her daughter. Underneath the shades hides a black eye that gives a hint to her vices and proclivity toward violence. Her daughter, Sybil, shares that tendency (medically diagnosed as “Intermittent Explosive Disorder”). Kat – prior to the meeting- learns that her estranged mother has passed away, and that a mysterious party has bequeathed her the deceased’s home. So when things turn dicey at the principal’s office, they flee to Comfort Notch, New Hampshire leaving behind her daughters school and Rich Sybil’s absent father. Will this Fall-painted town offer the new beginning that she’s hoping for?

An overarching mother-daughter story is at the heart of The Autumnal, contrasting Kat’s protective relationship with Sybil against the – seemingly- non-existent one with her own mother. Surprisingly, Kat isn’t the only one with disdain for her matriarch Trudy, as the entire town appears to share the sentiment, resulting in an empty church for her funeral and the seemingly-chipper townsfolk to openly speak ill of her. Left with a house full of metaphorical ghosts and nothing but time to investigate, Kat will soon learn the reasons behind her mother’s questionable actions, and how she might be connected to the weirdness in this very uncomfortable town. 

Sometimes the best use of horror comes from evoking fear in the mundane. Look at how Hitchcock made you look twice before hopping in the shower, or how The Conjuring (2013) triggered audiences with a simple clap. Thanks to the artist, Chris Shehan, and colorist, Jim Campbell, The Autumnal somehow manages to transform fall foliage into an ominous void. Orange leaves clog the gutters between panels making for a menacing motif once we arrive at the enigmatic town. The townsfolk are constantly observed raking leaves and warning the characters to stay out of the piles leaving you to wonder what’s lurking beneath. Even worse, leaves are shown in more graphic imagery as part of strange deaths and odd funerary rituals. Nature aside though, the town itself is absolutely suspicious as we encounter haunting nursery rhymes and creepy infantile scribblings all hinting to something mysterious and sinister living in the trees.

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

The Autumnal Horror Comic Cover Featuring Scary Girl with sticks

Part of the joy of reading The Autumnal comes from the storytelling of author Daniel Kraus, who received recent praise for his co-authorship on George A. Romero’s posthumous novel, The Living Dead (2020). Kraus has also worked with Guillermo Del Toro on the novel adaption of the Oscar-winning film, The Shape of Water (2017). Clearly influenced by the previously mentioned counterparts, Kraus is soaring through the literary world at lightspeed and with a range that leaves you wondering what he’ll possibly unleash next. However, based on Kraus repertoire, we’ve just touched the surface of The Autumnal and we are most likely in for a treat.

These first three issues introduce us to an intriguing and authentic mother-daughter duo that I’m eager to watch develop in the coming issues. There’s also much to be learned about the pastoral town and whatever diabolical secret it appears to be hiding. This is definitely a series that you’re not going to want to fall behind on. However, while you wait for the remaining issues maybe it’s best that you avoid frolicking through any of those enticing-looking piles of leaves

The Thirteenth Floor – A Sentient Computer’s Nightmarish Playground

Categories
Best Of Best of Comics Featured Reviews

As British horror comics became more popular in the 1950s, so too did the controversy over content deemed repulsive and reprehensible. When the horror comic anthology Scream! was created in 1984, it ran stories that were more tongue-in-cheek and geared towards a younger audience. One of the publications most popular series was The Thirteenth Floor, written by the duo John Wagner and Alan Grant with illustrations by the illustrious Jose Ortiz. This series, about a crazed sentient computer that makes itself the moral arbiter of a 17-story apartment building, continued its run when Scream! merged with the comics periodical Eagle. The series ended in 1985, but thankfully 2000AD has resurrected it to be enjoyed by old fans as well as a new generation of comic enthusiasts.

The Thirteenth Floor is about an advanced computer system named “Max” who runs the day to day affairs at the high-rise apartment building Maxwell Towers. He performs routine maintenance, takes messages, sends residents important reminders, and – most importantly for this story – operates the sole elevator in the building. As Max is quick to remind readers, the welfare of his tenets is his primary concern. In fact, Max is so protective that he creates a hidden virtual 13th floor where he can trap robbers, debt collectors, and other criminals who would seek to harm his residents in some way. The sci-fi horrors these offenders face may be constructs of Max’s imagination, but they are real enough to the unlucky souls who find themselves ensnared. And Max will get them to see the error of their ways, even if it means their death.

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

I absolutely loved this collection of what is essentially a series of interconnected short stories. The recurring format is simple enough: a person Max deems wicked enters the building, Max tricks him into the elevator, there’s a moment of “but wait this building doesn’t have a 13th floor,” and then Max deposits him into a nightmare world where the wrongdoer either has a change of heart or meets an untimely demise. And while this structure could quickly become monotonous (the comic ran on a weekly basis for almost a year), it’s actually a nonstop ride of excitement and cliffhanger endings that lead perfectly from one issue to the next.

Grim reaper art from The Thirteenth Floor horror comic
The Thirteenth Floor is full of nightmares

One reason the storyline works so well is the ingenuity of writers Wagner and Grant, who creatively conjure a steady stream of situations for Max to deal with. With each new enemy that enters the elevator, Max cycles through an unending variety of nightmares to get his point across, including spiders, snakes, centipedes, skeletons, rough cars, demons, disappearing floors, and so much more. The writers also come up with numerous conflicts to keep the story moving along. Max hypnotizes several people to aid him, and he is constantly having to outwit a police investigator who seeks to shut him down. Despite the formulaic set up, each issue managed to come up with some new twist that kept me engaged and allowed the overarching plot to build in ways that I did not expect.  

Another reason this series is so great is simply because of Max. He has such a big personality in the story, like HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey but with more sass. He is constantly breaking the fourth wall to address the readers, making us something of unwitting cohorts in his antics. I also love the way he narrates the story, giving us insight into the reasoning behind what he does (the morality of Max would make for a very interesting analysis piece, but I don’t have time to get into it here). He genuinely cares about the people he is responsible for, and even feels remorse when several decent characters get caught up in his escapades.

Max the computer art from The Thirteenth Floor horror comic
Don’t cross Max or his tenants

On the other hand, Max also delights in tormenting his victims, and regardless of their perceived crimes he comes off a little sadistic and unhinged. Actually, he reminds me of other beloved sociopaths from pop culture, such as Dexter, Hannibal Lector, Joe Goldberg from You, and numerous characters in the TV series American Horror Story. Max has a likeable personality and his heart is mostly in the right place, so we care about him. We are excited to see what schemes he concocts, but we also want his plans to succeed and we’re a nervous wreck when a wrench is, figuratively, thrown in the gears (which happens constantly for poor Max).

I would certainly put this series in the realm of dark comedy. Max enjoys finding ways to make the punishment fit the crime, whether it’s a debt collector being chased by grotesque versions of himself looking to “collect” or a loan shark being stranded at sea on a quickly crumbling raft. No matter the situation Max is ready with a witty, and often grim, one-liner to seal the deal. Not everything about the plot adds up, but that’s not the point and I was very much okay with it. Instead I allowed the story to lift my spirits and carry me along, cheerfully rooting for Max to find his way out of each new debacle. The Thirteenth Floor is billed as 17 stories of pure entertainment, and on that it won’t let you down.

The Thirteenth Floor horror comic cover

Signup to our newsletter