Sunday, April 19, 2015

Top 10 Horror Comics of All Time

Horror and comic books go hand in hand. From the early days of EC Comics to the modern titles published by lines like Vertigo and Dark Horse, horror comics come only second to superheroes in terms of what has had the most impact on the comic medium since its inception. Of course, for this fucking guy, horror comics are a way of fucking life. What are the best ones though? The ones that make your skin crawl? The ones that manage to stay with you long after you view the final panels of what you're reading? Well, here we go again.

I want to state first and foremost that this list I shit out here for your reading enjoyment does not include any of the classic EC titles or other horror comics from that classic era. So no, there's no "Tales from the Crypt", "Vault of Horror", "Creepy", "Eerie", or any of their contemporaries. The reason I didn't include them is because they are all anthology titles. Now don't get me wrong; they're all fucking great and have their place in history, but I couldn't include them here because ranking them in terms of what's better than another is fucking impossible. So instead, I'm focusing here on titles that were ongoing storylines.

Some titles didn't make the cut, like any of the Dylan Dog tales, Mike Carey's "Lucifer", or Jason Aaron's spectacular run on "Ghost Rider" from a few years back. I also debated putting "Spawn" somewhere on this list, but upon going back and re-reading the first run of issues, I realized that it honestly wasn't that good to begin with. Keeping all that in mind, I'm anticipating another lynch mob at the gates for my ass, so I'm just gonna say fuck it and dive into this balls deep and without protection...the way a real man does it. So here's my top 10 horror comics to scare the holy living fucking shit straight outta your ass. I apologize for nothing.

Writer: Alan Moore
Artist: Eddie Campbell

Chances are you know this one relatively well. "From Hell" was originally serialized from the late 80s to the early 90s before finding mass success as a collected edition and inspiring a half decent movie starring Johnny Depp in 2001. "From Hell" is Alan Moore's take on the Jack the Ripper murders being a mass conspiracy driven by the royal family. Loaded with many themes that often re-appear throughout Moore's work (and this will not be the only entry on this list to come from the man) as well as musings of the metaphysical and featuring stark artwork from Eddie Campbell, "From Hell" is a dense read, but worth checking out regardless. The story itself isn't filled with scares or even too much suspense, but the fact that this is based on the actual murders and uses nearly every fact associated with each case to its advantage is what helps make it as haunting as it is.

Writer: various
Artist: Gene Colan

In the early 70s, the Comics Code started chilling out a bit in terms of restricted content of horror and supernatural material appearing in comic books, so Marvel birthed this fan favorite in 1972. Featuring a revolving door of writers (including Gerry Conway, Arthur Goodwin, and Gardner Fox) until Marv Wolfman (Teen Titans, Crisis on Infinite Earths) finally settled in full time, "Tomb of Dracula" mostly followed the exploits of Frank Drake: a descendant of Dracula who teams with a group of vampire hunters to take on the evil vampire master himself in the modern day. When Wolfman finally settled into the title and began steering it in the right direction, "Tomb of Dracula" became a total blasts. It ran for 70 issues and was always drawn by the late, great Gene Colan with covers by the great Gil Kane. This series is also notable for introducing the vampire hunter Blade, who was very far from being the half-breed daywalker that was popularized by the Wesley Snipes movies.

Writer: Steve Niles
Artist: Ben Templesmith

Before it spawned a horde of sequels and spin-offs and inspired a surprisingly good big screen film adaptation (and a shitty direct to DVD sequel), the original "30 Days of Night" was originally pitched as a film itself, and wasn't received well. Instead it was released as a 3-issue mini-series from IDW, and put both Niles and Templesmith on the map in the comic book world. It's an ingenious plot, as a group of vampires descend upon a sleepy Alaskan town during a part of winter where there's no sun for 30 days. It's a survival tale as the remaining residents of the town contend with the vamps, made all the better with the wonderful, visceral artwork of Ben Templesmith.

Writer & Artist: Charles Burns

A 12-issue mini-series published sporadically over a decade, Charles Burns' "Black Hole" takes place in 1970s Seattle, revolving around a group of teenagers afflicted with a sexually transmitted disease that causes severely grotesque mutations. Thus becoming social outcasts, we see their respective fates as illustrated by Burns' beautiful black & white artwork that often borderlines realism and surreal horror. Loaded with metaphor and symbolism, "Black Hole" is a true work of art, and it will stay with you long after you finish it.

Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artist: Tony Moore (1-6), Charlie Adlard (7-current)

Before it was a hit show that spawned hordes of video games, merchandise, and an upcoming spin-off, "The Walking Dead" was a simple comic book about survival in a zombie-infested world that draws heavily on the works of George Romero. It mostly revolves around cop Rick Grimes, who awakens from a coma to find that the world he knew is gone and overrun with the undead. Eventually he finds his wife and son, and from that point forward we begin to learn that the worst part about trying to survive in this new world isn't the zombies, it's the survivors and what the world around them has turned them into. Granted I personally feel that the series has overstayed its welcome (it has been going strong since 2003 without missing a beat), that doesn't negate from the fact that "The Walking Dead" has left its mark as the best zombie-based comic series ever.

Writer & Artist: Mike Mignola (and sometimes various others)

He's the world's greatest paranormal investigator...and he's a demon summoned from Hell that has a gruff sense of humor. Mike Mignola's various series starring the titular character combine gothic, Lovecraft-ian horror elements with pulp and dry humor; which combined has always made anything starring Hellboy such a total blast. Not to mention that Mignola's artwork has become so iconic in terms of his style and character designs that it often proves difficult to look at "Hellboy" art not drawn by the man...there's just no comparison.

Writer: Alan Moore
Artist: John Totleben (mostly)

One of the most revered works by Alan Moore, "Saga of the Swamp Thing" sees Moore totally revamp the DC Comics character. Given nearly total free reign (in the beginning anyway), Moore re-tools Swamp Thing's origin, making him more beast than man, and adding a whole new mythology to the character that would continue to be kept (mostly) as canon. The Parliament of Trees, the Green, and even John fucking Constantine would be introduced during Moore's prolific run, which combined existentialism and outright horror to beautiful effect. No take on the character to come in the years since has had the impact that Moore's has had, and it will probably never be topped either.

Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Steve Dillon

There isn't much I can say about "Preacher" that hasn't been said plenty of times. One of the Vertigo line's most famous ongoing series to ever be featured on the imprint, "Preacher" is the perfect mix of hardcore horror, pitch black humor, and a handful of some of the best and well-developed characters to ever be seen in comic books. Jesse Custer is a Texan preacher with a very shady background who, along with his gun-toting girlfriend Tulip and Irish vampire Cassidy, travel all across America in an effort to search for God. No, not in a spiritual sense: God has abandoned the throne out of fear and gone into hiding, and Jesse (inhabited by the offspring of an angel and a demon) is on a mission to find him and get some answers. I could talk about "Preacher" for hours on end. It's perfect and was one of the comics that got me back into comics when I was older. Check it out and thank me later.

Various writers & artists

Alan Moore created John Constantine, and in the late 80s he got his own ongoing series. The chain-smoking master of bad luck black magic, "Hellblazer" stars Constantine and doesn't always present him in the most flattering of ways. In fact, he's kind of a dick. That being said, he does the right thing when he has to, even if he has to use his friends and loved ones as pawns in his schemes and struggles with evil. Jamie Delano was the initial writer of the series, and gave Constantine much of his backstory as well. Future writers to tackle the character into even greater effect included Garth Ennis, Paul Jenkins, Brian Azzarello, Warren Ellis, Andy Diggle and Mike Carey among others, with artists including Steve Dillon, Sean Phillips, David Lloyd, and the legendary Richard Corben as well. Running for 300 issues before coming to its conclusion in 2013, "Hellblazer" was Vertigo's longest running flagship title, and is one of the most revered comic book series' of all time.

Writer: Neil Gaiman
Artist: Various

You didn't think it'd be anything else did you? Neil Gaiman's seminal "The Sandman" is regarded as being one of the best comic books, well, ever...and for good reason too. The story of "The Sandman" revolves around Dream of The Endless, also known as Morpheus, and his interactions with the denizens of the spiritual world, and the physical world as well. There's much more to the story than that of course, but to be perfectly honest, I myself have never actually read "The Sandman" in its entirety. Not because I haven't wanted to, I've just never been given the opportunity to. What I have read however, trust me...all I can say is that one day I hope to finally get the chance. Throughout its run, many prominent DC Comics characters would appear, including John Constantine, Etrigan the Demon, and even Martian Manhunter to name a few, but no matter who would get thrown into the mix, "The Sandman" remained satisfying psychological, and occasionally visceral, comic book horror. It spawned spin-offs and even birthed some characters that would go on to prominent appearances outside the main title, most notably being Death, who is represented here as being a super cute and somewhat quirky goth girl. Oh, and if you're like me and slacking on reading the whole thing beginning to end, I recommend checking out the sixth issue (in the first volume "Preludes & Nocturnes"), in which psychotic Justice League villain Doctor Destiny uses his power to make a group of random people in a diner do horrible things to themselves and each other. This alone is one of the absolute best horror stories ever printed in a comic. No bullshit.

Well, that's all for now. So what'd y'all think? Did I forget a bunch? Do you not agree? Am I a piece of shit for never reading "The Sandman" in its entirety? Who cares? If you haven't read any of these, go fucking do it. You're doing yourself a disservice by not at least giving these a look.

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