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Comics 411: The Scariest Comic Books

October 13, 2021 | Posted by Steve Gustafson

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

“Filthy” Jake Fury: “I’ll stay with the Joker. Just read Three Jokers and it felt very much like a horror story.

Anton Arcane from Swamp Thing was pretty terrifying.”

poopsadaisy: “Carnage and Venom (when he’s a villain) are both terrifying characters if you imagine them in real life.”

DarthDaver” “Pretty much all of the infected in Crossed are terrifying.”

Camiwaits: “It’s The Corinthian for me.”

BiggMcLargeHuuge: “- Satan/The Devil from Garth Ennis’ “A Walk Through Hell”. That story’s lingered with me for a couple of years now, with the same sort of messaging at the end from the Big Bad that “I’ll see you all soon, it’s really just a matter of time”, like in John Carpenter’s Prince Of Darkness
– Spanish Scott, Monster, and Kretchmeyer from David Lapham’s wildly under-rated Stray Bullets series; they’re all human but each one is someone you don’t want to end up on the wrong side of – Kretch killed his own father by shooting him with a shotgun through the living room window while the old b*stard was watching TV, fer facks sake!”

Tayo Jones: “Kingpin maybe human but he is one of the scariest villains I have ever seen.”

Mojotheclown:  “Madder Red from Bedlam. He’s like Joker’s fucked up brother.”

Some awesome comments last week! Go and check out the rest, if you can. Thanks for the input and keep it coming!

This week we discuss…

Scariest 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 uses 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!

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Comics 411, Steve Gustafson