Fear. How does one measure it? Can you feel it? The chill-touch of ghost-fingers tingling down th’ length of your spine. See it? Hair-raising, sweat-beading. Hear it? Heart-pounding, pulse racing through your ears. Taste it? Salty-sweet on trembling lips. Smell it? Tangy, with a hint of spice. Sense it? Primal, instinctual… right behind you! Unrelenting, unremorseful, fear grips you like a vice and draws tight… leaving you breathless!
Horror has been a staple in popular fiction for centuries with the likes of Arthur Conan Doyle, Bram Stoker, Edgar Allen Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Mary Shelley, Ray Bradbury, and Robert E. Howard tapping into a well-spring of terrors, both real and imagined, and churning out literary chillers in dusty tomes and pulp magazines such as Weird Tales. Horror continued to grow in prominence (and notoriety) in the graphic medium, courtesy of Maxwell and William Gaines’ EC Comics: an American publisher of comic books specializing in horror, crime, satire, military, and science fiction from the 1940's through the mid-1950's, most notably with Tales from the Crypt, The Haunt of Fear, and The Vault of Horror. The popularity, of which, refuses to fester, courtesy of Gemstone Publishing’s glossy hardcover reprints. Decades later, the 1970's christened the Bronze Age of comics. A dramatic resurgence of horror followed, particularly from comics publishing juggernauts DC and Marvel Comics. While DC Comics conjured Ghosts, House of Mystery, House of Secrets, Tales of the Unexpected, The Witching Hour, and Swamp Thing (the series which ultimately heralded master scribe Alan Moore’s introduction to American readers in the mid-80’s), Marvel Comics summoned forth Adventure into FEAR, Creatures on the Loose, Man-Thing, Supernatural Chillers, The Monster of Frankenstein, Tomb of Dracula, Werewolf By Night, and the pulp-esque anthology magazine Monsters Unleashed upon a demanding audience. However, a new Renaissance of horror has recently emerged in the wake of the new millennium. While popular media has embraced horror voraciously with such contemporary televised standouts as AMC's The Walking Dead, CW’s Vampire Diaries, FX’s American Horror Story, HBO’s True Blood, MTV’s Teen Wolf, NBC’s Grimm, and BBC’s Bedlam and Being Human, the work of fright maestros such as Stephen King and Clive Barker have grasped ghoulish, new life in graphic form.
Looking to face your fears? Comic books provide a safe-haven to immerse yourself in a world of thrills and chills, minus the anxieties of constantly glancing over your shoulder. Tucked cozily within its rendered pages, you can experience the adrenalin-pumping euphoria that graphic fear provides in a multitude of gruesome flavors and crimson-hues. From supernatural blood-suckers, brain-munching shambling corpses, and sanity-blasting ancient deities, to body-snatching Xenomorphs, preternatural fiends, and grisly sociopaths, there isn’t a dark corner that comics hasn’t shed a creative light into.
Dark Horse Comics knows what scares you! Mike Mignola’s Hellboy and B.P.R.D., Eric Powell’s The Goon, Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Del Toro’s The Strain, Poe adaptations by Richard Corben, hardcover tomes amassing classic reprints of Warren Publishing’s, Creepy and Eerie, and any number of Japanese-inspired manga offerings including Gantz, MPD Psycho, The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, and Hideyuki Kikuchi’s, Vampire Hunter D are a testament to their commitment to shock and awe!
As DC Comics' Blackest Night gave way to the dawning of The New 52, Animal Man, Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E., I, Vampire, Justice League Dark, and Swamp Thing opened new doorways of dread. Meanwhile, Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, Garth Ennis’ Preacher, Scott Snyder’s American Vampire, and much of the Vertigo line continue to heighten the fright factor. Not to be overshadowed, Marvel Comics stakes its claim to creepy with Stephen King's The Stand and The Gunslinger - expanding on King's The Dark Tower universe while rekindling fiendish favorites like Ghost Rider, Legion of Monsters, and Marvel Zombies.
Dynamite Entertainment’s revival of The Shadow, The Spider, as well as new and vintage chroniclings of Vampirella, take pulp horror down dark and unexplored passageways, while IDW opens the floodgates of hell with Joe Hill’s, Locke & Key and Steve Niles’ 30 Days of Night. Robert Kirkman’s, The Walking Dead, and John Layman’s Chew, lead the wicked way for Image Comics as Top Cow stand-outs The Darkness and Witchblade routinely bring urban horror to your doorstep.
Continuing down the Independent front, Rachel Rising from Terry Moore’s, Abstract Studios, Avatar Press Stitched, Roman Dirge’s Lenore from Titan Comics, and Boom Studios' resurrection of Clive Barker’s Hellraiser.
But, horror isn’t limited to the mature minded. There’s terror aplenty for striplings yearning for fearful fun to fill their fervent imaginations. A haunting we will go as Antarctic Press’ Zombie Kid Diaries, ONI Press’ Courtney Crumrin, Dark Horse’s, Emily the Strange and Scary Godmother, and Bongo’s Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror bring their own brand of gruesome, yet giddy goodness.
So, this Halloween, bolt your doors, lock your windows, and hunker ‘neath the covers of some serious graphic treats. And, leave the nightlight on.