Reading Requirements: Top 6 Required Horror Comics, Part 1 of 2

Posted on July 23, 2012 by editor

Reviews by Comix

Ladies and gentlemen, if you’ve ever been interested in reading horror/supernatural comics but didn’t know where to start, I’ve solved that problem for you! I bring to you the top six required comics for any horror fanboy or fangirl. These works are must -reads for anyone interested in dipping their toes into this underdog of a comic genre. Heck, these aren’t just good horror comics, but good comics in general, each receiving amazing recognition in the comic book community. These are the kind of comics that set precedents for other comics, the ones you reference when you say, “yeah, that was good, but not as good as…” They are the Halloweens, the Friday the 13ths, the Hellraisers. They have created careers, started comic booms, and defined genres. These are also the best and most widely available horror comics around, for the pure fact that they are awesome! Many of these I’m sure you’ve heard of, maybe even read, and that’s good. If you haven’t, that’s even better, because you get to start an amazing journey into these comics which’ll blow your minds! Now if, you will, please step behind the curtain:

6. Tales from the Crypt

EC Comics

(1950-1955)

Tales from the Crypt is the classiest of all classic horror comics. Started in the 1950s, it was the second horror comic to ever run as a series (the first being Adventures in the Unknown) and it’s the most widely-recognized comic where the words ‘horror’ and ‘comic’ come together. Go ahead, type in “horror comics” into Google and see what the first image is. Yup, even the internet knows what’s up. It was also one of the comics that inspired the Comic Code ban on all things vampire, werewolf, and ghoulie; after this move, Tales from the Crypt, in a form of rebellion and to the sadness of its many fans, shut down production in protest. Though they only published 27 issues in the series (46 collectively with previous titles), Tales from the Crypt left a mark on the horror world that is still felt today.

I don’t think I have to explain to you the premise of the comic, but in case you’re curious, it generally centers around some protagonist caught in a supernatural circumstance. Similar to my review of Creepy comics, each issue contains veiled morality stories in the form of justice for bad guys and horrific punishment for ne’er-do-wells. Many a fantastic creature makes an appearance, including ghosts, demons, vampires, and all manner of things…..spooky. Tales from the Crypt offered good, classic horror that made your grandparents’ spines tingle.

Though the comic is old, the Tales from the Crypt influence is still very powerful in the horror world. Do I need to mention all the movies bearing its title or the short-running horror series of the mid-90s? I’m also sure that if I even mumble the words ‘Crypt Keeper’, you can instantly call to mind the high-pitched corpse puppet blathering on about how nice it is to “meat” you. I struggled to decide where to put this comic in the line-up but decided on number six just because it’s a bit dated and dry for a lot of modern tastes. Don’t get me wrong, it’s completely awesome, but in the place where horror comics are now, some people struggle to take the comic seriously. Just read it anyway: it’s fun, it’s quick, and reminds you where comics have evolved from and how tame fears used to be.

5. 30 Days of Night

IDW Comics

(2002)

Ask almost anyone about their thoughts on vampires and you’ll hear two answers: too overplayed and too Twilight, two opinions which usually go hand in hand. Vampires have not gotten the respect they’ve deserved in years, which is why 30 Days of Night is a definite piece of required reading for anyone looking to remember why they loved vampires in the first place. Published by IDW comics, it started the career of Steve Niles and the super cute artist, Ben Templesmith, who are both now some of the biggest names in the comic industry, and it gave vampire literature a good kick in the ass. 30 Days of Night was originally intended to be a three-issue story arc, but it got so unbelievably popular that it inspired several more series and a movie in 2007. Though the creators have gone on to do bigger and better things since, this comic still remains their claim to fame and is required to form part of your horror collections.

If you’ve seen the movie, then know that the comic is pretty similar to the film adaptation. The Alaskan town of Barrow enters its one month of polar darkness and gets fantastically swarmed by vampires looking for a month long vacation/buffet. The main character, Sheriff Eben, initially investigates the sabotage of all the communication equipment in his small town, only to learn that vampires have come to town and begun to slaughter everyone in their wake. Forget all that vampire emotional crap, these guys are pure hunger and strength. The comic follows Eben and several survivors as they try to live through the 30 days without becoming vampire chow.

On top of the excellent and gruesome writing, the art of 30 Days of Night is absolutely brilliant. Very mixed media, the art dips heavily into these globs of color and dark shadows, mixed with a scratched style pen art. The technique has been copied by many new artists since, but few have mastered it like Ben Templesmith did. As well as the 2007 movie, there has since been a straight-to-DVD sequel, 30 Days of Night: Dark Days. Also, a mini-series was released by Fearnet.com called 30 Days of Night: Blood Trails, a prequel to the 30 Days of Night movie. Both of the creators are now bringing new life to the stale horror genre through comics, so if you read this and want more, the pair have taken on horror crime, horror mysteries, and horror comedies as well. Read this one and see why vampires are nothing to fuck with.

4. Hellboy

Dark Horse Comics

(1994-current)

Hellboy is a well-meaning demon with a bad habit of saying the wrong things at the wrong time. He’s a lot like how Wolverine might be if he suddenly found himself with a pair of horns instead of claws and a strong fondness for cats and red-heads. He is one of the biggest icons of the horror comic world and brings monsters and legends from around the world to beat up into oblivion. I know that all of you have heard of Hellboy from the movies and probably most of you have even watched them, but let me tell you, Hellboy is much, much bigger than just the silver screen. He’s an ass-kicking, gun-toting anti-hero steeped so deep in folklore and mysticism that even H.P. Lovecraft is giving him a high five from his grave. Fighting monsters from all over the globe, he’s the modern representation of the wandering hermit collecting hitherto-unknown knowledge and black magic from lands unknown.

Similar to the Hellboy movie, Hellboy the character comes to earth as a baby demon after he is summoned to our world by a Nazi occultist. He is found by his adoptive “father,” professor Bruttenholm, an Allied scientist, and he is raised to be as normal as possible. As he grows older, he files off his demon horns (leaving him his iconic stumps) and tries to ignore his demonic side while fighting alongside other, similar “monsters” in the Bureau of Paranormal Investigation. The Bureau, also known as the BPRD, was developed to battle supernatural happenings around the world that are related to actual legends and monsters once believed to roam that part of the globe. Fighting ghosts, vampires, Baba Yagas and frog people, Hellboy fights to not submit to his predestined role of bringing about the Armageddon, which he totally could, because you know, he’s a motherfucking demon. He’s also super freaking strong, frequently ripping up trees and hurling them at his enemies while quipping at the poor bastards between punches.

Hellboy, and similarly the offshoot comic BPRD, were both created by the now legendary Mike Mignola. Both the comics are a staple of the Dark Horse franchise and have a huge cult following amongst horror and non-horror comic readers alike. The comics were also originally drawn by Mike Mignola with his iconic heavy inking art and dark color pallet, though now he simply writes them and has other artists (mainly Guy Davis) do the artwork. Hellboy has even seen some cross company promotion with DC Comics where Hellboy teams up with Batman and Robin. That’s right, the dynamic duo themselves! If you don’t feel like reading the comics, there are a couple of books that follow Hellboy on his journey to fight evil and of course, there are the movies, cross-directed by the amazing Guillermo Del Toro. There are even a couple of cartoons out for you animation nerds. The fun thing is that a lot of these comics are self-contained, so you don’t have to read them in order until you get to about the sixth or seventh graphic novel. Either way, this comic is a definite must-have.

Well my friends, that’s it for Part 1 of Required Readings. We still have the top three comics yet to come, so keep your eyes peeled onto Brutal as Hell. If you can guess what I have in mind, then you are clearly ahead of the game. If not, well hang on to your pants, because they are about to blasted off…

Check out Part Two here.