Movies & TV / Columns

Comics 411: Scariest Comic Books

October 14, 2020 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
American Vampire Scariest Comic Books

Welcome back! I’m Steve Gustafson and if you enjoy discussing anything comic book related, you’ve come to the right place. Each week we cover something in the industry and I always enjoy your input in the comment section below.

Previously on…

Last week we discussed Scariest Comic Book Characters Here’s what some of you had to say:

Excollector: “In a more subtle way Victor Zsasz is the creepiest villian out there. Look at the sheer number of tally marks he wears and think how many lives that actually represents. He’s a living canvas of pain of death.”

John: “Joker is probably the obvious answer (thats who I’d pick) but im going to make an argument for Negan

Let’s start with the comic…when issue 100 dropped it literally shook the comic book world…I wasn’t up to date at the time being a casual comic book reader but I have friends that read them all the time. They legit wouldn’t read the next couple issues for a while because it shook them that much. They obviously finished it out but it was hard for a little bit.

Now you move on to the show and anyone that knew about Negan knew that there was no way in hell they show that…hell some didnt even think they’d kill Glenn. AMC decided that this moment, biggest in a hugely popular comic, decided to give us a damn near panel for panel shot of Glenn’s death. To the point where viewers literally stopped watching. To me…that means you’re fucking scary and a monster.”

Ken Wood: “I’m going to add Billy Kincaid and Violator from Spawn. Kincaid was obviously a disgusting character but definitely creepy and Violator was just great.
I think of Scarecrow as one of Batman’s scarier villains. His drugs and psychological torture are some of my favorite parts from Batman stories. Victor Zsasz is another great Batman villain. I love that he carves himself for each of his victims.
Kraven the Hunter for Spiderman. The fact that he buried Spiderman alive and took over his mantle was just great. Venom and Carnage are up there for me too.
Lady Deathstrike is probably the “scariest” of the X-Men villains.
Darkness and Spawn deserve mentions as far as “scary” comic characters that are protagonists. They may be “good guys” but they do nasty stuff and look like they should probably be bad guys.”

Tayo Jones: “Chameleon may not look like much but if you read some of his stories from the 90s, you will see that he is a very scary and disturbing villain. One of his most recent stories (Amazing Spider-Man 602-604) involved kidnapping people, making them scream so he could listen and mimic their voices, drop them in acid and impersonate them. Why? To make their lives better.

Black Hand was once a camp silver age villain,until Geoff Johbs turned him into a death obsessed madman and Avatar of the Black lanterns. The moment he visited his family is one of the scariest moments ever depicted in a GL comic.

Kingpin may not have powers but he makes up for that by sheer intimidation. The scariest Kingpin moment was when he invited one of his subordinates into his office to punish him for Spidey running an operation, that was his responsibility. The build up to the moment he meets Fisk is terrifying.”

Eggplant: “Joker was never anything outside the cartoon or 66 tv show to care about in comics, he was always a pass because I found him boring .

Mr Zsaszz (?) was terrifying, because those psychos exist in real life, I remember reading a comic with him (maybe his introduction?) … I was terrified because he reminds you you’re still in the real world even though your lost in a comic book for a moment.. his whole shtick is exactly why Batman needs to kill a villain on the downlow .. Zsaszz is hands down the most bone chilling.”

poopsadaisy: “Carnage is easily the scariest to me. He’s a complete psychopath who can make knives out of his body and absolutely loves to murder.”

Benjamin Kellog “Two (or is it three?) picks from me. Historically, I’m torn between Shadow King from “X-Men” and the Demon Bear from “New Mutants.” Both can invade your mind and induce nightmares; the key difference is the bear’s a force of nature, but the King does this intentionally and gladly.
My most recent comic scare came from thinking about some of the twisted “heroes” created for the “Tales from the Dark Multiverse” series of one-shots. Specifically, I’m terrified of the prospect that I could be stuck on a broken world routinely running for my life from an uber-powered, no-restraints “crusader” like “Death of Superman” Lois Lane (just the cover alone gave me jitters) and “Judas Contract” Gaia (Terra with a cool cape, a new codename, and no moral compass). There’s another set of “TFTDM” stories coming soon, but I’m also holding out for that “Dark Crisis” DiDio proposed a while back which would involve these guys teaming up to take on an even darker menace (Batman Who Laughs? Prepetua? Insert terrible news story from 2020 here?).”

El Atomico: “There’s two things I’ve commented on repeatedly for this column. The first is how I thought The Joker was a dork, but then I read The Killing Joke, and I saw him as a sinister, threatening character.

The other is how much I loved Squadron Supreme. :)”

Al Lobama: “The ’90s Ghost Rider series had a bunch of scary villains that I’m honestly sad aren’t doing more in the modern Marvel Universe. Deathwatch was like a supernatural Kingpin who’s power got stronger the more he killed people. One of the great “holy crap” moments of the series is when Deathwatch blows up a building full of people just so he can…

1. Savor that many deaths at one time.
2. Super charge his powers for what he knows is going to be the final showdown with his rival.
3. Sit back and revel in the misery it causes Ghost Rider to witness that many innocent lives lost

I loved the way Howard Mackie reimaged b-level Captain America villain the Scarecrow into a darker villain who’s obsession with his rival drives him certifiably insane. He commits wholesale slaughters solely to try and get Captain America’s attention so he’ll come and stop him, and each time Cap doesn’t show he grows more and more crazy. Scarecrow keeps upping the ante by doing bigger and more vile murders, and when Ghost Rider finally shows up to stop him, Scarecrow doesn’t even care. He’s just mad at GR because he isn’t Captain America. Freakin’ awesome!

But my all time favorite scary Ghost Rider villain was Blackout. An albino with the ability to drain electrical power (which created an ominous visual whenever he entered a room – if you saw the lights go out in a panel, you knew something terrible was about to happen), Blackout was a serial killer who wasn’t a vampire but wanted to be, so he killed people and drank their blood as if he was one. He was also incredibly vain, so when he accidentally burns his face while trying to bite Ghost Rider’s neck Blackout takes a blood oath to make GR’s life a living hell; which he does in one of the most shocking moments of the entire series. The incident that gave Danny Ketch the power of Ghost Rider also put his sister Barbara in a coma, so one of the running sub-plots if the first year is Danny hoping and praying that his sister comes out of it. Those hopes are dashed when Blackout discovers Ghost Rider’s secret identity and pays Barbara a visit in the hospital. It was a moment that knocked the wind out of me when I first read it.

Damn, those first twenty-five issues of Ghost Rider Vol. II were freakin’ awesome! Go track them down if you haven’t read them already!”

Phenomenal: “The Corinthian from Sandman is really unsettling. Really wondering how they will adapt him on new Netflix show.”

Solomon Grundy: “Murmur is pretty hardcore. Guy likes torturing people, is a seriel killer, couldnt be put to death and decided to sew his mouth shut so he would stop confessing to murders.

That guy is crazier than the joker.”

So many great comments! Big thanks to everyone who shared their thoughts!

This week we discuss…

Scary Comic Books

The October spooky continues! As with every October, I like to do several Halloween-themed columns and while some might find it hard to believe that a comic book could give them the chills, I counter that some of these are just as scary as any movie or novel. I suggest reading this at night, under a blanket, with a flashlight.

Thanks to the power of strong storytelling and heavy visuals, comic books can quickly pull you in and leave a lasting impression. 

Someone recommended American Vampire to me and it was an incredible read from Scott Snyder with art by Rafael Albuquerque. The book sets up vampires as a population made up of many different secret species, and charts moments of vampire evolution and inter-species conflict throughout history. A fun read with plenty of twists and spookiness to keep you riveted.

If you’re looking for a book to read by candlelight that will make you look over your shoulder every few minutes, grab 30 Days of Night. I recently reread it and it still holds up as one scary book. Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith’s vampire tale takes place in Barrow, Alaska where the small population experiences 30 days of continual night during the winter. Niles provides perfect pacing and Templesmith’s art gives the book a truly horror-inspired look. The book hits all the beats and the slow build will have you turning the page with dreaded anticipation. I mean…“This is how it’s meant to be. Humans like bottles waiting for their caps to be popped.”

When it comes to a book being masterfully done, we have to talk about Sandman as well. While the series has its darker moments, I enjoy Season of Mists during this time of year as Neil Gaiman use of mythical figures from around the world in a way that makes them familiar. In the story, ten thousand years ago, Morpheus condemned a woman who loved him to Hell. Now the members of his family, The Endless, have convinced him that he needs to return to Hell to rescue his banished love. Lucifer, Hell’s ruler and fallen angel, won’t be making it easy. Sublime and superbly written, read this one outside on a cool night.

Joe Hill, who happens to be the son of Stephen King, and artist Gabriel Rodriguez created a modern horror classic with Locke & Key. This gripping series follows the Locke family’s attempt to rebuild after the father/husband is murdered by a deranged high school student. The family moves in with the deceased father’s brother at the family homestead in Maine and things go from bad to worse when the youngest Locke discovers a doorway with spectral qualities, along with a well that houses someone or something that desperately wants out. 

Hellboy was summoned from Hell to Earth as an infant demon by Nazi occultists. He was discovered by the Allied Forces; amongst them, Professor Trevor Bruttenholm, who formed the United States Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD). In time Hellboy grew to be a large, red-skinned man with a tail, filed off horns, cloven hooves for feet, and an over-sized right hand made of stone. His adventures cover many aspects of the occult and while the book isn’t the spookiest out there, several stories linger with you long after you put them down.

A while ago someone suggested I check out Severed. I’ve regretted it ever since! Not because it’s bad but rather it does its job too well! A limited series that’s set in 1916 that can be described as a “historical fairy tale” that has a cannibal boogeyman who takes on various identities to hunt children. Unpredictable, chilling, and terrifying. To say anymore would ruin the fun for you.

Speaking of fun, The Walking Dead should be a no-brainer. No pun intended for you Negan fans. Robert Kirkman and artist Tony Moore focused on Rick Grimes, a sheriff who is shot in the line of duty and awakens from a coma in the zombie apocalypse. He finds his wife and son, and meets other survivors, gradually taking on the role of leader among a group and later a community. I would say 99% of you know all this and know what happens after but the comic series was excellently written and full of genuine shocks and surprises. Even how they wrapped it up had its own sense of chilling.

You might scratch your head at my inclusion of Afterlife with Archie but give it a try. Depicting a zombie apocalypse that begins in the town of Riverdale in an alternative reality, this series surprised and created some real scares. Seriously.

Another recommendation made to me was Hack/Slash and I’m glad I gave it a read. From the mind of Tim Seeley, the series follows horror victim Cassie Hack as she fights the monsters, known as “slashers”, who prey upon teenagers. The cool hook is these slashers are a mix of original baddies and crossover appearances like Army of Darkness, Vampirella, and Reanimator.

Harvest by A.J. Lieberman and artist Colin Lorimer isn’t a horror series in the classic sense but its subject matter covering black market organ selling is certainly unsettling. A great read that will leave you looking at things a little different. OK, A LOT different.

A friend let me flip through Alan Moore’s Neonomicon but I knew it would cause me nightmares. Read at your own risk! That same friend said I should include Terry Moore’s Rachel Rising on this list. I did some research on it and…whoa. Too much for me. Read at your own risk…if you dare!

Of course I should add in issues of Swamp Thing and Hellblazer. Those should be read any time of the year though. As is Tales from the Crypt. I should throw in Coffin Hill in here as well. Highly overlooked and worthy of your time. 

But if I had to pick one book that might be the scariest out there is Garth Ennis’ Crossed. This book crosses the line more than any other comic out there. The simple premise follows survivors dealing with a pandemic (!!!!) that causes its victims to carry out their most evil thoughts. And they get evil. See for yourself but this series isn’t for the faint of heart. Seriously. 

I didn’t even touch any Japanese manga, which has plenty of titles that could be added to this list.

OK, now it’s your turn. What comic book gives you nightmares?

That’s all the time I have. See you next week!