If you’re anything like us here at TNL, then you take some level of masochistic pleasure in reading (or watching) something that keeps you up late at night. In this case we’re talking about horror comics, of which there are roughly a million to choose from. These stories range from the shambling undead, to charismatic serial killers, to demonic possessions. And guess what? They’re all pretty great. Some are more atmospheric, while others have dense lore and world-building to unpack. These are stories of tortured souls, ghost hunters, and Joe-blows who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. They are people who should definitely not go down the cellar stairs to investigate that weird sound, or into the woods at night. But they do, and no matter how many times they meet an inevitably grisly demise, we still pick up the next book.
Resident nerds Rachael and Matt sat down to discuss their favorite titles and realized that many of their favorites were comics fall into the horror genre. Needless to say, a listicle was developed to give a spotlight to the spookiest.
1. Nail biter
Rachael: Here’s the thing about horror comics that people don’t always realize: they can be a lot of fun. And Nailbiter is exactly that: a whole lot of fun! Sure, there’s body horror, blood, and enough gore for a disclaimer on the back cover that reads, “Rated M/Mature”, but it’s also ridiculous and I love every page of it. I’ve even picked out the perfect cast if Nailbiter is ever made into a television show (call me, Hollywood).
On the surface, Buckaroo looks and feels a whole lot like every other rural, backwoods town in America. It’s not. Buckaroo is, in fact, the birthplace of 16 of the most horrible serial killers in recorded history. There’s The Cross Bones Killer, The Terrible Twos, The Blonde, and Edward Charles Warren (the titular Nailbiter), to name a few. Warren claims to be a reformed man, that his killing days are over. When an FBI profiler goes missing he “teams up” with a troubled NSA agent and a local police officer to prove his innocence (at least this time around).
Matt: There’s always one superhero title that manages to defy genre and amaze audiences in ways In 2015, the comic to do just that was Marvel’s Vision. Written by Tom King with art by Gabriel Hernandez Walta, the series followed Vision as he settled into suburban life with his new wife, Virginia, and their two kids, Viv and Vin. The comic starts out seemingly innocent but gradually, it feels like an episode of the Twilight Zone meets The Avengers. The body count of this twelve issue maxi-series is as daunting as the questions the narrative presents. What defines humanity? What would you be willing to sacrifice to maintain that humanity?
Rachael: To say that Outcast is a harrowing, and emotionally exhausting ongoing story would be a massive understatement. It is consistently violent, and should come with trigger warnings for abuse, and mention of rape. It pulls no punches. That being said, the story builds a compelling, gorgeous supernatural mystery that will leave you feeling like you can never trust your neighbors again. Outcast’s protagonist, Kyle Barnes, is a painfully human character haunted by his past and burdened with the ability to exorcise demons from the bodies they possess. And, like every ‘chosen one’ Kyle is constantly torn between using his powers to help others or locking himself away from the world. But not all demons are easily dismissed and the forces of evil are gathering their strength.
4. Rachel Rising
Matt: Terry Moore is one of the greatest cartoonist to ever grace the comics page. With the recently completed Rachel Rising, he’s also one of the greatest cartoonists to grace the horror genre. The comic follows the protagonist, Rachel Beck, after she wakes up in the a shallow grave. She had been strangled by a mysterious attacker and begins to try to solve her attempted murder. If you don’t think a resurrected protagonist is spooky, well, prepare yourself. Rachel Rising explores witchcraft and demonology with a history in the Salem Witch trials and good ol’ Lucifer is a big bad. On top of that, there’s a child with a knife who is prone to stabbing and that’s downright terrifying.
Rachael: As we mentioned in the introduction to this listicle, if you’re in the mood for something that is as terrifying as it is aesthetically pleasing, Wytches is absolutely, 100% the book for you. It’s an incredibly suspenseful story, and I’m so happy that I no longer live near the woods after reading it. There’s a reason I don’t like to look out my bedroom windows at night, and it’s stories like this one. The Rooks family moves to the remote, aforementioned woodsy town of Litchfield, New Hampshire to start over after tragedy strikes. But the town of Litchfield is full of secrets and someone (or something) is watching from just beyond the trees.
6. Afterlife with Archie
Matt: I think this one has to be the toughest one for me to explain. On paper, Archie meets zombies and Lovecraftian horror doesn’t fit the 75 year old brand that Archie Comics has developed. The incest, murder, and rotting flesh just don’t mesh well with the picture-pefect, blue-collar town of Riverdale. And yet, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla turned the world of America’s favorite teenagers on their heads with this book in 2013. Sure, Archie finally chooses Betty over Veronica, but I’ll never be able to erase the memory of what happens to poor Vegas.