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Recommended Reading: 5 creepy comics to check out this Halloween

by Mike Busch on October 22, 2012

 

That time of year has arrived once again. The trees have shed their leaves, the days have gotten shorter, stores have stocked up on fun-sized candy bars, and plastic swords have received a prompt boost in sales—October has come.

 

This fantastic month plays host to one of my favoured mainstream holidays, the harrowing All Hallow’s Eve—a wonderful affair of rubber masks, sugary treats, and spooky stories. This particular holiday has been wildly embraced by the entertainment industry, which often offers yearly specials of appropriately themed content. Television channels run monster marathons, Netflix logs a significant surge in zombie film viewership, and HMV stocks up on B-grade slasher flicks.

 

Not to be left out, the comic industry has also traditionally taken this opportunity to release some season-specific issues. Many of our favourite long-running series will see their protagonists face-off against hungry vampires or wicked sorcerers only to have the status quo return in the following month.

 

Now, while these Halloween specials are certainly a welcome feature of the season, I instead usually just take the occasion as a chance to reread some of my favoured older books that happen to share the holiday’s theme innately. These original supernaturally flavoured works of fiction always provide a more genuine sense of entertainment than the one-off specials, in my personal opinion. The books don’t suffer from the rushed feel that has been known to plague many a forced seasonal. The writers never have to worry about figuring out how to stuff their character into some foreign, occult context—the motif is already completely natural.

 

So, in the spirit of the holiday, I have decided to share with you five of my favourite paranormal comic books. While perhaps these books may not invoke a sense of genuine fear, they all feature a seasonally appropriate flavour which allows them to fit right in among the more targeted autumn entries. I’ve also decided to focus more on lesser-known, or potentially over-looked books, rather than the more obvious popular choices; for this reason you won’t see “the Walking Dead” or “Hellboy” on this particular list—even though both comics are more than deserving of your holiday downtime. Basically, if it has received a major motion picture adaptation, or is the progenitor of a successful multi-season television series, it probably doesn’t need my humble recommendation to garner your attention.

 

Now, without further ado, I present my five favoured creepy comics.

 

Beasts of Burden

The first series on my list is the excellent tale of furred investigators, penned by “Bizarro Comics” writer, Evan Dorkin; and illustrated by Jill Thompson (well known for her work on “Sandman” and “Swamp Thing.”) This short series started off as a recurring entry in Dark Horse Comics’ “Book of…” horror anthologies. The comic was given its own time in the spotlight with the publishing of a 4 part mini-series in 2009. It returned in a 2010 crossover one-off with the ever-popular Hellboy, and appeared again last year under the “Dark Horse Presents” title.

 

This comic really is just great; the characters are entertaining, the story and setting are interesting, and Thompson’s watercolour illustration gives the entire title a warm storybook feeling. The comic follows a group of extra-ordinary cats and dogs who moonlight as paranormal investigators in the quiet neighborhood of Burden Hill. The series sees its protagonists faced against ghosts, witches, demons, necromancers, and other various supernatural forces of darkness that constantly threaten the peaceful occupants of the small town.

 

While the whole premise may sound fairly cheesy on its own, perhaps a little childish, the book actually does a wonderful job maintaining a relevance to older readers, as well as younger ones—this is one of those stories that can truly be enjoyed by all ages. The comic isn’t overtly littered with blood or dismemberment, but at the same time it manages to retain a dark undertone that keeps mature readers invested. Characters face hardships, and death is a possibility; this book was never meant to be a purely children’s story.

 

As I mentioned earlier, the series started off in Dark Horse’s horror anthologies, but thankfully one is not required to hunt down those various books in order to experience the main-series’ prologue. The original stories are graciously hosted online as, completely free, eBooks on Dark Horse’s official website—I’ll provide the think below.

 

Whether you’re turned off by the idea of talking animal ghost hunters or not, do yourself a favour and at least give the free entries a try. If you find yourself intrigued by the quality of the story, pick up the original 4 part mini-series—it’s well worth a read.

 

[Link to the online stories: http://www.darkhorse.com/Features/eComics/1090/Beasts-of-Burden]

 

Alabaster Wolves

The newest entry on this list, Alabaster Wolves should still be fresh on the shelves of your local comic shop. Another Dark Horse publication, this book is brought to us by dark fiction writer Caitlin R. Kiernan, and artist Steve Lieber. Well respected for her stint as lead writer for “Sandman” spin-off “The Dreaming”, Kiernan once again returns to the world of comics—this time bringing with her an original character from her own novel series.

 

Dancy Flammarion, a knife-wielding, monster-hunting, albino girl, has arrived at a small abandoned town in South Carolina at the behest of her literal guardian angel. Things immediately take a turn for the worse when her attempts to leave the town are interrupted by some local werewolves—what follows is 5 issues worth of quality monster-slaying.

 

This book was a fantastic surprise for me; I hadn’t heard anything prior to its release, and I didn’t even wait for a recommendation before I bought it. I just picked it off the shelf and took it home. The art was the most immediate grab—Lieber’s illustrations are superb, and Rachelle Rosenberg’s colours compliment them perfectly—but the character is what really kept me reading. Dancy Flammarion is a truly interesting protagonist and her struggles with the forces of darkness, as well as her own personal beliefs, are quite gripping. After I had finished reading this comic I immediately ordered up Kiernan’s original novels featuring the fledgling slayer. I am eagerly awaiting the next graphic iteration of Alabaster—set to return in issue 18 of “Dark Horse Presents”—and am hopeful that the title will get its chance to truly shine in a future standalone series.

 

Until then, I would wholeheartedly recommend Dancy’s tromp through the cursed bayou to any comic fans looking for a genuinely great dark fiction comic—whether as a Halloween treat, or otherwise.

 

Creepy

How could I not include this series on a list that shares its very namesake? “Creepy” is a title that should be instantly recognisable to any long-time fan of horror literature, but for this entry I’m going to focus less on the classic magazine brand and more on the newly relaunched Dark Horse publication of the same name.

 

I was absolutely ecstatic when I head that “Creepy” was being resurrected as a modern comic anthology—the original magazine had been such an important influence of modern horror comics, and I was eager to see if this new incarnation could successfully honor the title.

 

Well, with 10 issues out, I can safely confirm that it does indeed live up to its name. Offering a little bit of everything, the comic manages to reach some laudable highs. The books do a great job of featuring some excellent experimental elements while still paying tribute to what came before. Anyone who has experience with the classic horror offered by “Tales from the Crypt”, “Vault of Horror”, or the original “Creepy” line should feel right at home with this series. It’s truly a heartfelt love-letter to the genre and I’d recommend it to anyone looking to scratch that Halloween itch. Now, that’s not to say every book is perfect; as with most anthologies, “Creepy” could be fairly labeled as a tad inconsistent—it’s just the unavoidable by-product of having multiple creative teams working on a myriad of vastly differing stories. But, while some entries may arguably miss more than hit, the collective offering is undoubtedly strong and deserves at least a look-through.

 

For any Lovecraft fans out there, I would recommend the recently released issue 10—it should more than satiate your thirst for horrifying, cephalopod-themed madness.

 

The Goon

Next up we have Eric Powell’s supernaturally comical series, “The Goon.” This title has been running on and off for over a decade. Originally published by Avatar Press in the late 90’s, the series has since moved to Dark Horse where it has thrived since 2003.

 

The Goon is an easy recommendation for the Halloween season; its stories are absolutely chock-full of good old fashion monster-bashing mayhem, and overall it's an exceptionally fun book that never takes itself too seriously. Franky and Goon’s adventures as mob enforcers against the undead hordes always manage to achieve new heights of bloody ridiculousness with every issue, and the crudely witty dialogue has little trouble keeping pace. Powell’s writing remains consistently entertaining, while the art manages to convey the violent humour perfectly with every panel.

 

The series garnered a respectable fan-base early and has managed to maintain its popularity, even after going on hiatus for years at a time. An animated film adaptation of the title has reportedly been in the works for some time (though its current status is uncertain.)

 

If you have yet to pick up an issue of this awesomely pandemoniac title, Halloween would be the perfect time to do so. It won’t give you many scares, but The Goon’s twisted humour and occult themes feel perfectly suited to the lighter side of the holiday season.

 

And really, who needs an excuse to appreciate the simple joy of beating zombies outside the head with a pipe wrench?

 

House of Mystery

For my final recommendation I offer another name that should draw forth some recognition from the older crowd of horror buffs. “House of Mystery” is a relaunched title, based on an older DC comic of the same name. The newer series was created by “Fables’” writers Bill Willingham, and Matthew Sturgess. It features a similar anthology format centering on a single unifying theme—the House of Mystery.

 

I really couldn’t overstate my love for this series; whether you are a horror fan or not is irrelevant—this is just a damned good comic. House of Mystery is one of the main titles I’d credit with maintaining the Vertigo imprint’s reputable pedigree. Luca Rossi’s art is absolutely breathtaking, and the writing is just superb—if at times slightly convoluted.  The story features some pretty crazy twists and turns, and comparisons have previously been drawn to television’s “Lost” so I would not recommend simply picking up one of the later issues and jumping right in. Luckily the series has been collected in a number of TPB’s, so it shouldn’t be too hard to start from the beginning.

 

The book keeps its spooky theme throughout its 42 issue run, but it becomes even more relevant with 2 excellent annual Halloween issues, and I really couldn’t recommend a better example of holiday specials done right. I truly advise everyone to go out and find these books while you can—this was a horror series to remember.

 

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And that’s it. Hopefully you’ll find something worthy of your holiday time. Obviously there are countless other books that I could unhesitantly recommend—not the least of which being “Locke & Key” or “American Vampire”—but overall this list features the majority of recent horror comics I found enjoyable. Give them a try—I doubt you’ll be disappointed—and have yourself a great Halloween.

Comments

Comments

lucstclair's picture

Those are all great choices, out of all your pics, I'd have to say that my favourite is Beasts of Burden. This wonderful series has a look & feel of a children's book, without comprising the horror elements for us adults. I've got a recomendation of my own, The Nocturnals was a comic originally published in the 90's under the Bravura line and is now available from Image Comics in beaitiful looking TPBs. Dan Brereton's halloween themed band of misfits is an absolute delight, plus it looks fantastic. Check it out on this link to amazon.ca http://www.amazon.ca/Nocturnals-Dark-Forever-Other-Tales/dp/1607060655/ref=sr_1_22?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1351013586&sr=1-22

 

whether you are a horror fan or not is irrelevant—this is just a damned good comic. House of Mystery is one of the main titles I’d credit with maintaining the Vertigo imprint’s reputable pedigree. buffet near me now

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