Top Six Required Horror Comics: Part 2/2
Welcome back, faithful readers! I present to you the conclusion of Reading Requirements, Top Six Required Horror Comics. If you’ve been following along, our numbers six thru four were Tales from the Crypt, 30 Days of Night, and Hellboy. While those are great comics, these next three blow even these trendsetters out of the water with the sheer size of their cajones! These works have become bigger than the comic world themselves, inspiring even non-comic readers to switch teams to the nerd side. Now, don your reading glasses, slap on that Superman shirt, and follow me to our epic end!
3. The Walking Dead
Ah, yes, The Walking Dead. Unless you’ve been living on the forest moon of Endor (which would be awesome), The Walking Dead has taken the horror world by storm. Don’t think this is “just another zombie book,” because it’s not, its THE zombie book. Inspiring one of the most popular zombie series on TV right now, the comic has been in steady production since the early 2000’s busting out blood, gore, and drama at the monthly equivalent of a shotgun. This comic has taken an over-saturated zombie market and turned it upside down by not just focusing on the copious amount of violence, but also on building a relationship to the characters. Trust me, you’re gonna feel real bad when someone you spent fifty issues getting attached to suddenly gets their head ripped off by an undead lunatic with a death grip. A play on your emotions and your stomach, this comic has pushed the zombie genre to the next level.
The comic starts with our hero and bad luck charm, police officer Rick Grimes, waking up from a coma to a city of dead corpses wandering the streets like Mardi Gras morning after college students. He decides to travel to Atlanta, Georgia and finds his wife and son settled in with a group of survivors, led by Rick’s former cop buddy and best friend, Shane. As they get together, they begin to travel the country, looking to stay one step ahead of the zombies while dealing with the inner turmoil of not completely losing their shit. I can’t tell you anymore because it would ruin the plot for you, but lets just say some people don’t get along with other people, other people got eaten, and even others get crazy fucked up. It’s like a soap opera with the undead! Always careful to not lay on the drama too thick though, The Walking Dead carefully balances tight story writing with blood filled action that leaves you wanting more. Also, if you’re still not convinced, wait until you meet Michon, the best female character to ever grace the pages of a horror comic. Dual samurai swords anyone?
This comic is definitely still in production and one of the biggest cash cows for Image Comics. The Walking Dead along with Invincible (a superhero comic) has literally launched the writer Robert Kirkman into the bowels of the comic industry, lodging him right near our hearts. Trust me when I say, this comic made this guy into who he is now, a hilarious writer with a talent from the gods themselves. The art of the comic is solid, though it changes by the seventh issue when they switch artists to the current Charlie Adlard, who has been penning them ever since. Of course, you could always watch the show, the show is great! I mean, it’s just tops, the bees knees, and it’s just different enough from the comics that you can read the comic and get a whole different experience. It’s a great read between your re-watches of Dead/Alive and Land of the Dead.
Imagine that you’re a down-and-out preacher, living in the small town of Annville, Texas. You’re a hard drinking, dark hearted, son-of-a-bitch who has barely any faith left in the good Lord when one day, your entire church is flattened by the bastard love child of a demon and angel that has come crashing down from Heaven. Also, it possess the shit out of you and gives you powers that rival God himself. That is the fast start down the dark and messed up road that is Preacher. Preacher is that comic that once you start you can’t stop, and it becomes so fantastically addictive you’re going to need to get some methadone to kick the high it gives you. One of the most established comics in the DC/Vertigo universe, the comic has set the standard on how much crazy and vulgarity can be squeezed into a comic and still maintain it’s class. Which it does, it’s classy as shit.
Like I said, the comic circles around our main man Jesse Custer, a god-less preacher who suddenly finds himself infused with the power of angels thanks to the cross breed named Genesis, a being of pure good and pure evil. As his body is slowly bonded to the creature, he soon learns that he possess the power of “The Word;” anything he says becomes will to the person listening. It is then that Custer decides to travel across the good ol’ US of A to literally find God and make him owe up for abandoning Heaven when Genesis was born. As he travels, he meets up with his former flame Tulip and Irish-spewing, drunk of a bastard vampire named Cassidy. Of course, you can’t travel around with the power of God infused in you without meeting some unsavory characters, such as the Saint of Killers, an aborted suicide named Arse-Face, and several pissed off angels. Taking on the virtue of religion with its own twisted take, Preacher is a comic still identified today as one of the greats in the genre.
Preacher is created by the one and only Garth “The Menace” Ennis, who I’m sure I’ve screamed from rooftops is one of my favorite comic writers of all time. He takes his twisted dark humor and violent imagery and makes it something magical, something ungodly. Never afraid to cross boundaries (hell, to stomp them into the ground and hear them scream for their momma’s), Preacher addresses the issues of Christianity and God without so much of a flinch, infusing the story with whore-swindling priests, cowardly angels, and a very special Jesus. The art is pretty steady bouncing between two guys during the entire run, reflecting DC/Vertigo’s willingness to pay their artists a living standard. Preacher is a must-have for anyone who loves to be offended and offended you will be. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.
1. The Sandman
This is it people! What you’ve been waiting for, the number one top required reading in our countdown. I present to you, The Sandman! The Sandman is not only a great comic, it’s deemed to be one of the best pieces of literature to have ever been written. It’s one of the few comics to ever make it on the New York Times Best Seller List and has been recognized all over the globe as the precedent for dark and alternative comics. I don’t think I can put into words how influential this comic was. You just have to read it. The Sandman has a little bit of everything. Horror, fantasy, guys with teeth for eyes, the whole shebang! It has made legends of out its characters and turned generations into avid readers of both comics and books.
The Sandman is an epic telling of our subconscious dreams and nightmares and its creator, Morpheus, a dark and infinite being who reigns over the land of Dream. He and his siblings are physical representations of our emotions and each rule a section of “land” deemed to them. Morpheus, after being imprisoned for 70 years and having to collect his magical items from humans and demons alike, begins a journey of redemption on his past sins. He visits various areas of existence, among them being Hell, Heaven, Earth, and strange parts in between whrere we’re never quite sure of what they are. He meets various beings, evil and good alike, while the whole time trying to find his place in a world that had forgotten about him in the 70 years he’s been gone. Horror and fantasy collide in this epic of a comic in a most brilliant and poignant way that stays with you long after you’ve re-read several times.
I seriously cannot recommend this comic enough. You need to read it. Period. It needs to be done. The author Neil Gaiman, now one of the biggest writers in the industry, wrote this baby when he was young and hungry. It was a true reflection of where comics began their literal rise to glory and it inspired other comics in its wake such as Lucifer, The Dreaming, and Hellblazer (all awesome, by the way). The Sandman is available all over the place, from single issues, to graphic novels, to toe-smashing hard cover omnibuses the size of a newborn. There are also a couple of follow up Sandman works after the initial run, one work coming out as recently as 2010. As an industry standard, this comic has stood the sands of time and is still just as good and relevant as it was back in the early 90’s, so get up right now and go read this. Right now.
Please watch your step, ladies and gentlemen as you have reached the end of our two part ride into the world of must-read comics. I hope that I’ve given you a whole bookshelf of summer reading, not only to entertain but to introduce you into the world of horror comics and art. While it is a perilous journey, surely filled with monsters and men of all sorts of ungodly evil, I have faith that you will survive more or less unscathed. You will laugh, you will cry, you will have a face of pure fright! Perfect. Enjoy that feeling.