Horror is a famously difficult genre to pull off successfully in comic book form, but these 11 terrifying masterworks manage it with aplomb!
Writer: Neil Gaiman
Arists: Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, Jill Thompson, Shawn McManus, Marc Hempel, Michael Zulli, Dave McKean
The Sandman is the universally lauded masterwork following Morpheus, Lord of the Dreaming—a vast hallucinatory landscape housing all the dreams of any and everyone who’s ever existed. Regardless of cultures or historical eras, all dreamers visit Morpheus’ realm— be they gods, demons, muses, mythical creatures, or simply humans who teach Morpheus some surprising lessons.
Upon his escape from an embarrassing captivity at the hands of a mere mortal, Morpheus finds himself at a crossroads, forced to deal with the enormous changes within both himself and his realm. His journey to find his place in a world that’s drastically changed takes him through mythical worlds to retrieve his old heirlooms, the back roads of America for a twisted reunion, and even Hell itself—to receive the dubious honor of picking the next Devil. But he’ll learn his greatest lessons at the hands of his own family, the Endless, who—like him—are walking embodiments of the most influential aspects of existence.
Writer: Hannah Berry
Artist: Hannah Berry
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
All people could do was speculate on the fate of those who vanished – strangers; seemingly random, unconnected: all plucked from their lives and never seen again. The notes found left behind, apparently describing some slender reason for their removal, were all that linked them. They were all delivered by one man.
Rodney Moon had admitted seeing those who had been disappeared and to passing the notes, but denied any involvement beyond that. Who wrote the letters, then? Moon shrugged during the trial: ‘It has no name,’ he said. ‘It’s a bogeyman. A monster.’
He was not mourned when the vengeful bereft finally found him.
Some years later, four strangers; seemingly random, unconnected, all take the last train home. But something each of them has forgotten – or is trying to forget – is catching up with them; with a terrible, inexorable purpose. The devil is in the detail, as they say.
Writer: Alan Moore
Artist: Eddie Campbell
Publisher: Eddie Campbel Comics, Top Shelf Productions, Knockabout Comics
From Hell is the story of Jack the Ripper, perhaps the most infamous man in the annals of murder. Detailing the events leading up to the Whitechapel killings and the cover-up that followed, From Hell is a meditation on the mind of a madman whose savagery and violence gave birth to the 20th century.
The serialized story has garnered widespread attention from critics and scholars, and has been adapted into a major motion picture from Twentieth Century Fox starring Johnny Depp and Heather Graham.
Often regarded as one of the most significant graphic novels ever published, From Hell combines meticulous research with educated speculation, resulting in a masterpiece of historical fiction both compelling and terrifying.
Writers: Alan Moore (creator), Jamie Delano, Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman, Garth Ennis, Eddie Campbell, Paul Jenkins, Warren Ellis, Brian Azzarello, Mike Carey, Andy Diggle, Peter Milligan
Artists: John Ridgway (original series artist), Simon Bisley, Mark Buckingham, Richard Corben, Steve Dillon, Marcelo Frusin, Jock, David Lloyd, Leonardo Manco, Sean Phillips
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo
A long-running Vertigo Comics horror title that spun off from Swamp Thing in 1988, Hellblazer followed Con Man, Occult Detective, gambler and magician of ill repute, John Constantine, as he tangled with Hell, Heaven, the police and the criminal underworld.
The comic typically combined horror and fantasy elements (demons, ghosts, vampires. etc.) with a gritty ‘real world’ setting and an occasional dash of political and social commentary. The majority of the series was set in modern urban Britain, particularly London.
Writer: Joe Hill
Artist: Gabriel Rodriguez
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Locke & Key tells of Keyhouse, an unlikely New England mansion, with fantastic doors that transform all who dare to walk through them, and home to a hate-filled and relentless creature that will not rest until it forces open the most terrible door of them all!
Writer: Junji Ito
Artist: Junji Ito
Kurôzu-cho, a small fogbound town on the coast of Japan, is cursed. According to Shuichi Saito, the withdrawn boyfriend of teenager Kirie Goshima, their town is haunted not by a person or being but by a pattern: uzumaki, the spiral, the hypnotic secret shape of the world. It manifests itself in small ways: seashells, ferns, whirlpools in water, whirlwinds in air. And in large ways: the spiral marks on people’s bodies, the insane obsessions of Shuichi’s father, the voice from the cochlea in your inner ear.
As the madness spreads, the inhabitants of Kurôzu-cho are pulled ever deeper, as if into a whirlpool from which there is no return…
Writer: Charles Burns
Artist: Charles Burns
Publisher: Kitchen Sink Press/Fantagraphics
And you thought your adolescence was scary.
Suburban Seattle, the mid-1970s. We learn from the outset that a strange plague has descended upon the area’s teenagers, transmitted by sexual contact. The disease is manifested any number of ways – from the hideously grotesque to the subtle (and concealable) – but once you’ve got it, that’s it. There’s no turning back.
As we inhabit the heads of several key characters – some kids who have it, some who don’t, some who are about to get it – what unfolds isn’t the expected battle to fight the plague, or bring heightened awareness of it, or even to treat it. What we become witness to instead is a fascinating and eerie portrait of the nature of high-school alienation itself – the savagery, the cruelty, the relentless anxiety and ennui, the longing for escape.
And then the murders start…
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artist: Tony Moore, Charlie Adlard
Publisher: Image Comics
An epidemic of apocalyptic proportions has swept the globe, causing the dead to rise and feed on the living.
In a matter of months, society has crumbled: There is no government, no grocery stores, no mail delivery, no cable TV. Rick Grimes finds himself one of the few survivors in this terrifying future. A couple months ago he was a small town cop who had never fired a shot and only ever saw one dead body.
Separated from his family, he must now sort through all the death and confusion to try and find his wife and son. In a world ruled by the dead, we are forced to finally begin living.
Writer: Steve Niles
Artist: Ben Templesmith
Publisher: IDW Publishing
In a sleepy, secluded Alaska town called Barrow, the sun sets and doesn’t rise for over thirty consecutive days and nights. From the darkness, across the frozen wasteland, an evil will come that will bring the residents of Barrow to their knees. The only hope for the town is the Sheriff and Deputy, husband and wife who are torn between their own survival and saving the town they love.
Writer: Alan Moore (based on a character created by Len Wein)
Artist: Steve Bissett, John Totleben
Alec Holland was an idealistic scientist who was synthesizing a top-secret chemical in his hidden lab in the marshlands. But after a bomb in his office explodes, the young scientist is murdered. Or so it seems. Because rising in his place is the Swamp Thing, a creature made of vegetation that’s absorbed Alec Holland’s memories, personality—and grief.
The monstrous Swamp Thing can control every iota of plant life on this planet, from the fungus on stale bread to forests of towering oaks. Superhumanly strong and grotesque, he can grow himself a full array of titanic bodies from even the tiniest sprout of green. A living embodiment of the power and terror in our environment, the Swamp Thing protects both humanity and the environment—usually from each other.
Writer: Scott Snyder
Publisher: Image Comics
Across the globe, century after century, men and women were burned, drowned, hanged, tortured, imprisoned, persecuted, and murdered for witchcraft. None of them were witches. They died protecting a terrible and hidden truth: witches, real witches, are out there. They are ancient, elusive, and deadly creatures that are rarely seen and even more rarely survived.
My life as a fan of horror can be neatly divided into two parts.