Halloween is nearly upon on us, which means that horror fans are on the hunt for new spooky stories. But what happens if you’ve somehow managed to consume every scary movie, TV show and novel you can get your mitts on?
The answer is simple: you should check out one of the many delightfully diabolical horror comic book series on offer. Not sure where to start? Then this list should come in handy: reflecting all of the main “flavours” of supernatural horror story, at least one of these comics is guaranteed to keep you up at night!
5. If you like zombies, try… Afterlife with Archie
Sure, the obvious suggestion for those obsessed with zombies would be Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard’s The Walking Dead, which inspired the hit AMC television series of the same name. And you absolutely should check it out: it’s a great read which plays out differently enough from the show that you’ll still be plenty surprised throughout its 193-issue run.
However, for my money, the zombie comic book you have to read this Halloween is Afterlife with Archie. Building on the shock value of its perverse premise – an undead apocalypse breaks out in Riverdale, setting of the notoriously wholesome Archie line of comics – Afterlife with Archie by writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and artist Francesco Francavilla is a ghoulish treat that delivers a unique combination of genuine suspense and engaging teen romance melodrama.
4. If you like the Lovecraft mythos, try… Fatale
Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips have cornered the market on hard-boiled crime comics over the last decade and a half – and with Fatale, they add a little Lovecraftian horror into the mix!
The end product is a suitably unnerving affair: a sweeping epic that follows immortal bombshell Josephine (the eponymous femme fatale) as she tries to escape the clutches of a ruthless cult, encountering more than a few unspeakable terrors along the way.
Like Matt Ruff’s novel Lovecraft Country and its recent HBO adaptation, Fatale also explores the problematic aspects of the Cthulu Mythos – specifically, creator HP Lovecraft’s weird hang-ups over women – which elevates it above other, more superficial additions to the Lovecraft canon.
3. If you like a bit of everything, try… Hellboy: Seed of Destruction or Saga of the Swamp Thing
Joint entries are always a bit of a cheat, but comics have a proud history of mythological mash-ups – so it’s virtually impossible to pick just one (and hey, it means you get an extra recommendation!).
First up is Hellboy, writer/artist Mike Mignola’s beloved superhero/horror series that features damn near every creature international folklore has to offer – witches, demons, vampires, zombies, ghosts and more – with real-life monsters the Nazis thrown in for good measure. Start with the first volume, Seed of Destruction, and buckle up for a fun, spooky ride.
Once you’ve ploughed through all 10+ volumes of Hellboy, the next comic book series on your list should be Saga of the Swamp Thing; specifically, you’re after the legendary mid-1980s run by writer Alan Moore and artists John Totleben, Stephen Bissette and Rick Veitch.
Moore starts the book with a bang, dialling up the body horror aspects of the titular character to chilling effect before moving onto haunted houses, the hordes of Hell and everything in-between – while Totleben’s artwork in particular is the stuff of nightmares!
2. If you like vampires, try… 30 Days of Night
Forget David Slade’s underwhelming 2007 big screen adaptation: the 30 Days of Night comic book mini-series (and its prequels and sequels) are where it’s at. Creative team Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith take a fiendishly clever premise – vampires descend on a remote Alaskan town where the sun doesn’t rise for 30 days each winter – and milk it for all it’s worth, serving up a masterclass in tension and atmosphere.
Indeed, 30 Days of Night is easily one of the most frightening bloodsucker books of the last 20 years – but it’s also about more than just scares. Niles and Templesmith understand that horror without emotional stakes doesn’t work, which is why each mini-series revolves around well-realised protagonists we can root for (especially tough as nails recurring lead Stella Olemaun).
1. If you like ghosts, try… Through the Woods
Full disclosure: Through the Woods is only really a ghost story in the sense that (to me at least) it evokes the primal appeal of eerie, campfire stories. Having said that, writer/artist Emily Carroll’s horror anthology also boasts the kind of lyrical, restrained sensibilities associated with Edgar Allen Poe’s work, so you should approach it expecting thrills more in that vein.
Nevertheless, Through the Woods is very much about things that go bump in the night, and whether spectres feature explicitly in a given episode or not, the way Carroll slowly ratchets up the suspense is bound to remind you of your favourite ghost story. If nothing else, the sense of suffocating dread that grows with each turn of the page means it won’t be long before the hairs on the back of your neck are standing straight up!