October 28, 2015

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Halloween Horror: Emily Carroll's Web Stories

Pictures of ghosts and goblins and horrors so menacing only comics could contain them will haunt you all month long with our annual Halloween Horror feature. Join us as we try to scare you with posts relating to our favorite comics designed to put a chill up your spine or scratch that itch you get whenever someone mentions Boris Karloff! We'll be at this all month with a variety of posts. You can find them all--along with entries from past years--at this link. But don't blame us if you can't sleep after reading them....

Last year, James recommended one of Emily Carrol's horror comics as part of this feature. I knew the name sounded familiar, and it turns out that's because I had filed away her name as a person to look up later, thanks to some great online horror comics she wrote.

I was going to write up one specifically for the site, but instead, I'll point you to her main page(http://emcarroll.com/)  where you can find not one, not two, but six horror stories, along with some fairy tales and other short pieces. Her work is exceptional, and I love that Carrol takes full advantage of being on the web to pace her stories. These are not standard comics thrown up on a web page (not that there's anything wrong with that). Instead, they take advantage of the scroll, much like a paper comic uses the bottom right half of a page as a cliffhanger, luring the reader's eye across panels that would be difficult, though not impossible, to do in analog comic form.

Periodically, such as in the story, "Out of Skin," Carroll will also animate her art, again doing something online that isn't possible in a paper format. In another, links to the story are found by searching around the room, like an old adventure game. It's that kind of thinking that gets you noticed, because you're doing more than what we tend to see from web comics these days.

Obviously, innovation will only take you so far. You have to have talent, too, both artistically and in your plotting and scripts. Carroll does a great job with both. Her pacing, especially given the challenges of adapting it for a webpage, is very strong. All the stories I read kept me wanting to click on to the next page to see what terrible thing was coming next. Her linework is well-suited to horror, with sparse, thin inking forming a shell into which she adds the color. I think it's the coloring that makes her stand out, too--she's muted where it makes sense, blended when the story calls for it, and stark in the use of whites, blacks, and reds, which makes them pop when we see them. It makes for great visuals that you'll want to return to, after racing to see what happens next.

I'm glad James reminded me of Emily's work, and I had a great time revisiting it myself. I hope you'll stop by to see her creepy creations as part of your Halloween horror comic reading experience this year!