Halloween horror: 13 frightfully good comics for holiday scares

Oct. 29, 2013 | 11:26 a.m.

With Halloween right around the corner, Hero Complex has compiled a list of 13 great comics offerings. Click through the gallery to see artwork from some of the selections. (Vertigo; Archie Comics; IDW; First Second; Vertigo)

"Ghostbusters" No. 8 continues the legacy of the supernatural comedy franchise. (IDW Publishing)

Jill Thompson's "Scary Godmother" comic book stories are collected in this 2011 volume. (Dark Horse)

"Afterlife With Archie" No. 1, by writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and artist Francesco Francavilla, features a cover by Francavilla. (Archie Comics)

"Anya's Ghost" by Vera Brosgol follows a young girl who befriends a ghost. (First Second)

The latest issue of Dark Horse's revival of "Creepy" was released in October. "Creepy" and "Tales From the Crypt" are both available to new audiences through Dark Horse, which has revived the former title with new stories and is reprinting the latter. (Dark Horse)

"Friends With Boys" by Faith Erin Hicks is a heartfelt coming-of-age tale with a supernatural twist. (First Second)

With "Marvel Zombies," "The Walking Dead" talent Robert Kirkman and artist Sean Phillips crafted an alternate Marvel Comics universe in which the heroes became flesh-eating ghouls. (Marvel Comics)

"Shuteye" by Sarah Becan includes six mini-comics that explore themes of dreams and reality. (Sarah Becan)

"The Complete Ouija Interviews" by Sarah Becan depicts adorable and funny conversations with dead people. (Sarah Becan)

The cover for "American Vampire" Vol. 1. The first arc of Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque's series had Stephen King scripting Skinner Sweet's part of the story, and Snyder handling Pearl's. (Vertigo)

"American Vampire" No. 28, set in the 1950s, kicked off the last arc before the series' planned hiatus. (Rafael Albuquerque / Vertigo)

"American Vampire Anthology," a one-shot featuring an all-star roster telling short stories set in the series' world, came out in August. (Vertigo)

"Coffin Hill" No. 1 by writer Caitlin Kittredge and artist Inaki Miranda features a cover by Dave Johnson. (Vertigo)

"Coffin HIll" No. 1 variant cover by Gene Ha. The series follows cop Eve Coffin as she is forced to move back to the home she left after a horrific teenage incident. (Vertigo)

"The Witching Hour" No. 1 has nine horror stories from talents including Kelly Sue DeConnick, Mark Buckingham, Lauren Beukes, Matthew Sturges and Cliff Chiang. (Vertigo)

"Locke & Key: Welcome to Love Craft" is the first volume of the Eisner-winning series by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez. (IDW Publishing)

"The Walking Dead" No. 115, released in Octo-ber, kicks off "All Out War." Cover by Charlie Adlard and Dave Stewart. (Image)

Conjuring horror in comics requires a masterful touch.

As “Coffin Hill” artist Inaki Miranda said at New York Comic Con earlier this month, “you don’t have music, you don’t have … camera movement, so you have to pick exactly what to put in each panel to create that sense of horror and suspense.”

Fortunately, a number of talented creators are channeling their darker impulses to craft wonderfully spooky reads, some violent, blood-soaked tales, others shot through with rich atmosphere.

With Halloween right around the corner, Hero Complex has compiled a list of 13 great offerings, arranged alphabetically by age-appropriate groupings.

Click through the gallery above to see artwork from some of the selections, and read on to see which titles made the cut.

For all ages

“Ghostbusters”: Fans of the 1984 comedy classic should understand that it’s nearly impossible for a writer to faithfully capture Bill Murray’s largely improvised lines as Peter Venkman from the film. But this ongoing comic series from writer Erik Burnham and IDW Publishing is still plenty enjoyable. The spirit (no pun intended) of the two films and the video game is very much in evidence in this continuation of the story, featuring all kinds of in-jokes for die-hard fans of the franchise.

“Scary Godmother”: If you get up on the Fright Side of the bed like little Hannah Marie, you can visit the happy Halloween land of Scary Godmother, who despite the witch hat is welcoming and warm. Written and illustrated by Jill Thompson (“The Sandman: Brief Lives,” “The Little Endless Storybook”), this Eisner Award-winning series of children’s books and comic books has fun stories (and puns) kids can follow, laugh-out-loud moments for adults and delightful designs of creepy creatures. And it’s inspired a couple of animated adaptations. If you do enter the Fright Side, make sure Orson the vampire boy has enough red crayons.

Teens and up

“Afterlife With Archie”: Sounds goofy, right? Don’t dare dismiss it. This new ongoing series from Harvey Award-winning writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Eisner-winning artist Francesco Francavilla is really, really darn fun. In this month’s debut issue, Jughead’s canine pal Hot Dog is in trouble, so he turns to Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Good intentions lead to grave (or is that risen-from-the-grave?) circumstances. Soon, Archie and his Riverdale High pals will have to deal with the undead. Aguirre-Sacasa scripts fun scenes (Chuck and Dilton arguing about horror movies), and Francavilla’s art deftly combines classic Archie style with the ghoulish.

“Anya’s Ghost”: Vera Brosgol’s Eisner-winning young adult graphic novel “Anya’s Ghost” has been compared to Neil Gaiman’s “Coraline.” This beautifully illustrated tale follows Russian immigrant Anya, who struggles to fit in with her classmates at her preppy school. Anya accidentally falls down a well where she meets Emily, the ghost of a girl who died 90 years ago, and inadvertently takes her home. At first, Emily seems to be the perfect friend, but the ghost’s motives aren’t what they seem. The result is a story both haunting and humorous.

“Creepy” and “Tales From the Crypt”: Great anthology horror is hard to come by these days, but maybe that’s because EC Comics and Warren Publishing did it so well — all others are merely imitators. Back in the 1950s and ’60s, these two companies put out some of the most horrific and influential stories, starting with “Tales From the Crypt” from EC Comics in 1950. It was soon joined by “Vault of Horror” and “The Haunt of Fear” before being canceled in the face of the restrictive Comics Code Authority, which set out to limit these comics, feeling that they were corrupting America’s youth. However, Warren Publishing began its own anthology series, “Creepy” in 1964. Using the large-format magazine style, the new series “Creepy” and its eventual companion series, “Eerie,” were able to circumvent the Comics Code. Both series ran until 1983. “Creepy” and “Tales From the Crypt” are both available to new audiences through Dark Horse, which has revived the former title with new stories and is reprinting the latter.

“Friends With Boys”: Faith Erin Hicks, perhaps best known for her comic “The Adventures of Superhero Girl,” originally created “Friends With Boys” as a Web comic. Now a graphic novel from First Second, this spooky story introduces young heroine Maggie McKay, who is leaving her home-schooled childhood to face the outside world, the perils of high school and the melancholy ghost who has followed her since she was a child. It’s a heartfelt coming-of-age tale with a supernatural twist.

In the Marvel Zombies first series, the zombiefied heroes ended up going off planet after eating everything inluding Galactus -- and then they ate their way through the universe. So popular were the undead versions of Captain America, Hulk and others, a second series was created by Robert Kirkman. Some of the zombies began to lose their hunger, but not enough, and in the end, the heroes were sent through a portal to another dimension to save the remaining humans. -- JS

“Marvel Zombies 2″ brought back writer Robert Kirkman (“The Walking Dead”) and artist Sean Phillips (“Fatale”). (Marvel)

“Marvel Zombies” and “Marvel Zombies 2″: Back in 2005 and 2006, Marvel Comics, in all its alternate-universe glory, decided to create one where heroes came down with a plague-type virus, making them flesh-eating zombies. The series — from the creator of “The Walking Dead” Robert Kirkman and artist Sean Phillips — was spun out of “Ultimate Fantastic Four,” with zombie Reed Richards tricking his Ultimate counterpart into opening a portal to the zombie universe. These undead beings retain their smarts and, in the case of superheroes like the Avengers, their powers. While gifted beings with an insatiable, illogical hunger for human flesh already signals a very bad ending for the human race, throw in Galactus’ arrival, and the whole universe is now in peril. So popular were the undead versions of Captain America, the Hulk and others that Kirkman created a second series. Some of the zombie heroes lost their hunger as they returned to Earth, but it wasn’t enough to prevent a war with the human survivors led by the Black Panther.

“Shuteye” and “The Ouija Interviews”: If Gabriel García Márquez teamed up with Rod Serling to make a comic, they might wind up with something that’s a little like Sarah Becan’s “Shuteye.” The indie graphic novel, which was published after a successful Kickstarter campaign, includes six mini-comics that explore themes of dreams and reality, each eerie story seeming to wake up from the last. If “Shuteye” is too creepy for you (and Hero Complex doesn’t recommend reading this comic right before bed), Becan’s first book might be more up your alley. “The Ouija Interviews,” produced with the help of a 2009 Xeric Grant, depicts adorable and funny conversations with dead people.

Mature readers

Art for "Coffin Hill" No. 1, Page 18. (Inaki Miranda / Vertigo)

Art for “Coffin Hill” No. 1, Page 18. (Inaki Miranda / Vertigo)

“American Vampire”: Homo Abominum Americana is a special species: Its bloodsucking members walk in daylight, and their sole weakness is gold. Skinner Sweet was a 19th century outlaw when he became the first of a new breed, Pearl Jones a 1920s aspiring actress when he turned her. Their relationship is, well, complicated as they deal with other undead races (and each other) across decades. Writer Scott Snyder and artist Rafael Albuquerque’s Eisner-winning, fang-sharp series, soon to return, has featured a heart-wrenching love story about Pearl and the human, aging Henry — and lots and lots of full-bore-gore vampire violence. The series to date is collected across five volumes.

“Coffin Hill” and “The Witching Hour”: Vertigo has released two bewitching No. 1’s this month, with the “Coffin Hill” series launch and the “Witching Hour” anthology one-shot. The former, from writer Caitlin Kittredge and artist Inaki Miranda, follows cop Eve Coffin as she is forced to move back to the home she left after a horrific teenage incident. She calls her family “the Kennedys with more madness and murder.” There will be blood, witchcraft, attitude and more blood. “The Witching Hour” includes nine fine horror short stories from talents including Lauren Beukes (messages from the dead!) and Kelly Sue DeConnick (spiders!).

“Ghosted”: This “supernatural heist comic” from writer Joshua Williamson and artist Goran Sudzuka follows a group of paranormal experts gathered to carry out a very unusual mission: steal a ghost from a haunted house. The series has been described as a mix of “The Shining” and “Ocean’s 11,” which should be enough for anyone remotely interested in the horror genre to sign up right there.

“Locke & Key”: After Rendell Locke is murdered, his widow and kids (teens Tyler and Kinsey and young Bode) move across the country to Lovecraft, Mass., and the Lockes’ imposing, mysterious ancestral home, Keyhouse. In writer Joe Hill and artist Gabriel Rodriguez’s Eisner-winning, gasp-inducing series, an evil wants loose in the world, and the Locke children may hold the (magical, mind-opening, out-of-body-experience-enabling) keys to its plan. Hill’s rich characterizations and masterfully suspenseful plotting combine with architecture-trained Rodriguez’s precise yet emotional art for an unforgettable, haunting read. Five collected volumes have been released. The kids’ story ends soon with “Locke & Key: Alpha” No. 2.

“The Walking Dead”: New readers to “The Walking Dead” coming to Robert Kirkman’s blockbuster comic series after watching the AMC TV show may feel slightly disoriented. Yes, most of the characters they know and love are here, as are the major locations. It’s just that things happen slightly differently than what they remember, or not at all. Kirkman has said that he doesn’t want to do a straight adaptation of his comic for TV, but instead has chosen to further explore things that passed quickly in the comic — such as Shane’s rivalry with Rick or the villainy of the Governor — or follow its own unique-to-TV muse, with the likes of resident badass Daryl, a character who was invented for the screen.

– Blake Hennon, Patrick Kevin Day, Noelene Clark and Jevon Phillips

Follow us on Twitter: @LATHeroComplex


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3 Responses to Halloween horror: 13 frightfully good comics for holiday scares

  1. Jet says:

    Terry Moore's 'Rachel Rising' should be here. Tsk tsk.

  2. spazticnerd says:

    I just came back from the comic book store! I should have seen this list first. American Vampire was among the ones I was looking at. T.T

  3. scooby doo says:

    haha very funny.

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