James' Horror/Scary Comics Recommendations

It's still Spooooky Season, so I wanted to share some of my favorite horror/scary comics. I'm not a horror movie/TV person, but in comics form, I'm a lot more open to scary stuff. There are a lot of comics here that I think you'll love, depending on your tolerance for frights, violence, gore, and existential crises. Enjoy!

P.S. Nothing here relates to David S. Pumpkins, I just love that guy. 

Afterlife with Archie (Archie Comics) Roberto Aguire-Sacassa and Francesco Francavilla

Afterlife with Archie is a terrifying, harrowing series. It never really finished, but the one collected trade is worth reading. The premise of Archie meets Zombies sounds ridiculous at first (Archie Comics has a history of silly "Archie meets" type stories), but the creative team takes the story here completely seriously.  Francesco Francavilla is in masterful form here, as his dark, beautifully colored art evokes a world gone terrible. The great writing from Roberto Aguire-Sacassa is in perfect sync with Francavilla's art. The comic is haunting, visceral, and a great read. 

American Vampire by Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque, and Dave McCaig, published by DC Comics

American Vampire is a complex, sprawling, centuries-spanning tale of Vampires from around the world and the uniquely American ones that have come to prominence.  This was the comic that made me realize I could like Vampire stories. The art from Rafael Albuquerque is absolutely stunning. It's violent, action-packed, sometimes terrifying, sometimes funny, and always engaging. And writer Scott Snyder weaves a big, complex tale, that always brings the scares.

Basketful of Heads HC by Joe Hill, Leomacs, and Dave Stewart, published by DC Comics/Black Label/Hill House Comics

If you're in the market for a Horror-action-drama story (with some pretty great humor along the way), then I have excellent news. Basketful of Heads is here, and it's great.  It's a very satisfying, darkly funny, slightly terrifying, hugely entertaining story written by Joe Hill with art from the fantastic Leomacs and the always-spectacular Dave Stewart.  For horror fans, you'll love this. For non-horror fans, there's violence here but it's never gory, and the scares come from terrifically paced action and suspense. The "our hero is trapped on an island, or in a house, or on a boat...and someone out there is trying to get them" is of course a well-worn setup for a story, but the team here brings some original twists to the story while paying homage to a number of classic tales. 

Black Stars Above by Lonnie Nadler, Jenna Cha, Brad Simpson, and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou, published by Vault Comics

Black Stars Above is a fantastically unsettling supernatural horror book that perfectly evokes a world of desolation and loneliness. Black Stars Above takes place in 1887 in rural Manitoba, and centers on the life of Eulalie, who lives in a small cabin in the rural woods, with her family. Eulalie encounters a strange man who gives her an opportunity. He will pay her a considerable sum of money if she can deliver a package to the mysterious town north of the woods. Eulalie is desperate, and anything feels better than being trapped in her life. So she agrees. Eventually, Eulalie sneaks out and heads off. From there, things get weird, and then they get even weirder. Black Stars Above creates an atmosphere and a sense of place, as well as any comic I have read in a very long time. And that place is cold and desolate and freaky.  Artist Jenna Cha's work in Black Stars Above is a real revelation, in conjunction with some absolutely stunning work by Brad Simpson on colors. Cha and Simpson bring a terrifying world to life.

Blue in Green by Ram V, Anand RK, John Pearson, Aditya Bidikar, and Tom Muller

Blue in Green is a stunning, freaky, fantastic story of pain, loss, legacy and generational trauma. The creative team weaves a story here that exists in a dreamlike space where you don't know if some of the things in the story are actually happening, and that's ok. We are all just along for the ride. It's not exactly a horror story, but it very much exists in a "I don't know if this is real but it's weird and scary" place. There's a musician who considers a dark bargain in order to achieve greatness. Great, intense, emotional work. 

Deep Roots by Dan Watters, Val Rodrigues, Triona Farrell, and Aditya Bidikar, published by Vault Comics 

The elevator pitch for the Vault Comics book Deep Roots is “WHEN PLANTS ATTACK!!” but it's not at all what you'd expect with a premise like that. It's scary, weird, unsettling, and poetic, but also weird and beautiful. There's an "otherworld" that seems to be invading our world, and when some characters journey to other world, it's genuinely unlike anything I've seen. It's like a Van Gogh painting brought to life. This isn't exactly a horror comic, but it's full of moments of fear and tension, and is an amazing read. 

Department of Truth by James Tynion IV, Martin Simmonds, Aditya Bidikar, Dylan Todd, Steve Foxe, and more

Department of Truth is a fantastic comic that I very much enjoyed and highly recommend to anyone looking for a dark, smart commentary on our current times. The central premise of Department of Truth is based around the idea that belief itself shapes reality. Not just in an abstract, philosophical sense of "your perception shapes your reality" but in an actual "what people collectively believe can change and warp reality itself" sense. This is a comic of shadowy figures and dark rooms, fitting when this is a story about the ways in which rumors and conspiracies can actually change reality. Simmonds' art here is scratchy, angular, sometimes messy, and often downright weird. And all of that weirdness and perceived imprecision works perfectly in telling the story and setting the tone of these issues. The whole story is filtered through the fog of memory and the haze of confusion. Come enjoy the paranoid, unsettling, reality-is-unstable vibes of a very timely and engaging story.

The Dollhouse Family by M.R. Carey, Peter Gross, Vince Locke, and Cris Peter, published by DC Comics/Black Label/Hill House

Dolls are creepy and terrifying. So, if a story is called The Dollhouse Family, I'm already freaked out before I've even read the book. But the great news is, this is a good creepy read, but it's also about a lot more than just scares. It's scary and unsettling, but also funny (at points), dramatic, and sweet (from time to time). There's a mysterious dollhouse, and impossible supernatural occurrences. There's unsettling phenomena, a dark past, and a larger overarching story. But The Dollhouse Family is very accessible. As soon as you start reading, you'll want to figure out what's going on.

Everything by Christopher Cantwell and I.N.J. Culbard, published by Dark Horse

Everything is a wonderfully clever, terrifically scary series from writer Christopher Cantwell (Halt and Cach Fire, Iron Man) and artist I.N.J. Culbard. It's a terrifying story about consumerism, conformity, and capitalism. A big department store comes to town and everything changes. Everyone is obsessed with the store, and spending time and money there. But there are much weirder and more sinister goings on than just capitalism. It's an unsettling series, with great, emotive art from Culbard. It's a profoundly weird series in the best way. 

Gideon Falls by Jeff Lemire, Andrea Sorrentino, and Dave Stewart, published by Image Comics

Gideon Falls is a comic that delivers truly scary and creepy moments, a complex and intriguing world, and some absolutely jaw-dropping, terrifying and gorgeous art. Written by Jeff Lemire, it starts as a "religious horror" series but it quickly expands into something much bigger, more weird and much more ambitious. It’s a story with mysteries and dark shadows lurking in the corners, which also has a religious bent to it, and it’s building some complex and interesting and completely bonkers worlds. The art from Andrea Sorrentino and Dave Stewart is some of my favorite art of the decade. It's seriously jaw-dropping. I love Sorrentino’s flair and style as a visual storyteller, and with Stewart on colors, Sorrentino’s work has never looked better or creepier. This is a profound, insightful and empathetic look at lonely, scared people trying to understand an insane world. It’s also one of the best looking and freakiest comics that you can buy. So, not surprisingly, I highly recommend it. This same creative team also collaborated more recently on the terrific, weird, sci-fi story Primordial, and has begun telling a big new horror story across multiple books called The Bone Orchard Mythos

Immortal Hulk by Al Ewing, Joe Bennett, Ruy Jose and more, published by Marvel Comics

Immortal Hulk began as a story of Hulk as a dark avenging force in the night, righting wrongs with a malevolent grin, but as the story has unfolded it’s clear that writer Al Ewing is telling a much bigger story about evil, destiny, and the darkness within (full of obscure Biblical references for you Holy Scripture fans out there). The art from Joe Bennett (and a few guest contributors) is scary and intense and with moments of dark humor. And when I say scary, I am saying there is some incredibly horrifying, freaky-ass stuff in these comics. Some very intense body horror that is appropriately horrifying (like Junji Ito-level stuff). This is an INCREDIBLY ambitious book, one that's telling a story about the nature of good and evil, and about inescapable darkness. It's a story that spans billions of years and is playing with huge ideas. This is the definition of a must-read book.

Monstress by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda, published by Image Comics

Monstress a dense, fascinating, fully-realized fantasy world. From the first page of the book you will be overwhelmed by the incredibly detailed, lush art from Sana Takeda. There are pages of this book that you're just going to want to linger on, either because they're that beautiful, or terrifying, but in any event are detailed and memorable. And Takeda is working with Liu in telling a terrific story. It's a dense read that rewards careful reading and rereading, but even if you don't catch every detail, you'll still get the gist of it. This is a world full of magic, Chthlu-esque beasts, talking cats, fox-people, and all other manner of beings. It's a horror story, a war story, and an adventure story, and just a remarkable experience.

Nailbiter by Joshua Williamson, Mike Henderson and more published by Image Comics 

Nailbiter is one of those stories for people (like me) that don't think they like horror. Actually, more to the point, it's the horror/crime/mystery/psychological thriller/buddy cop/comedy-drama that you've been waiting for. I love genre mashups, and Nailbiter is a great one. There's definitely some gore, and there are plenty of scares, but there's also a ton of human insight, genuinely funny moments, and terrific dialogue, courtesy of writer Joshua Williamson, and the art team of illustrator Mike Henderson (Henderson is a co-creator of the series) and colorist Adam Guzowski. Nailbiter is not for the squeamish, but I thought it was a terrific page-turner of a series with big scares and great characters.

Nameless by Grant Morrison, Chris Burnham, Nathan Fairbairn, and Simon Bowland

Few writers are more skilled than Grant Morrison at creating a detailed, richly imagined world in a short amount of time. With detailed, vibrantly weird and unsettling art from Chris Burnham and Nathan Fairbairn, Nameless creates a scary world where the apocalypse is coming soon (or it's already here?), and the line between nightmares and reality is breaking down. It's psychological horror, and it's epic science fiction, all done with Morrison's dark wit and vivid imagination. This is terrifying horror set both in space and on Earth. There are monsters, giant ancient vessels, and some genuinely unsettling images. Burnham and Fairbairn provide some spectacular art in this series. Burnham's style is dynamic, visceral and detailed; he does some really virtuoso work.  Nameless is a book where the horror is existential but also just freaky. It will scare the hell out of you.

The Nice House on the Lake by James Tynion IV, Alvaro Martinez Bueno, and Jordie Bellaire, published by DC Comics

This book is so good, and so terrifying, but not for the reasons you might think a book called "The Nice House on the Lake" is terrifying. You might picture some sort of Friday the 13th slasher-type story, and that could not be further from what this story is. I don't want to give away anything abut this story, except to say that it is fantastic, and James Tynion is firing on all cylinders right now with 3 different, excellent non-superhero books (this one, Something is Killing the Children, and Department of Truth) (links to my reviews here and here). He's got an incredible read on the zeitgeist, as his books feel incredibly timely and topical and relevant for all sorts of depressing reasons. The art from Alvaro Martinez Bueno is absolutely stunning. I didn't know his work before but now I will absolutely want to seek it out. Fans of horror and great storytelling and art, you really need to check this book out.

The Night Eaters vol. 1: She Eats at Night by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda, published by Abrams ComicArts

The Night Eaters is the new graphic story from writer Marjorie Liu and artist Sana Takeda, the creators of Monstress. If you've never ready Monstress, I suggest you do that. It's remarkable, highly skilled storytelling. More to the point, Monstress is one of the most stunning-looking comics you will ever read. Takeda has an incredibly dense, lush, detailed style that each page is almost overwhelming sometimes. It's a profoundly beautiful book, even when the images on the pages are ugly or terrifying. I read in an article/preview that apparently Takeda is going with a somewhat simplified style in this new series. Rest assured, that will still be one of the most stunning comics you read. This team is very skillful at creating rich worlds full of terror and characters who fascinate and are compelling.

The Plot by Tim Daniel, Michael Moreci, Joshua Hixson, Jordan Boyd, and Jim Campbell, published by Vault Comics

The Plot gives me basically everything I want out of a horror comic. Existential fear and dread. A house that has something *seriously* wrong with it. Characters I care about, who are doing the best they can but are clearly in over their heads. A family whose dark history would make for a compelling story even without supernatural elements. A larger weird history and mythology underlining the story. Exceptional art paired with perfectly atmospheric colors, that skillfully brings the terrifying and weird story to life. Art that also scares the bejeezus out of you but still leaves things to the imagination. Horrifying imagery. The Plot has all of this and more.

Remina by Junji Ito, published by Viz Media

Remina, written and illustrated by the spectacular Junji Ito, is a masterful work of science fiction and horror that should please any fan of Ito's work, and more broadly, is an incredible example of using genre to convey dark, true, existential terror. The horror in Remina is vast and epic, on a cosmic scale. The threat in the story shows humanity our utter insignificance and powerlessness and the inevitability of death. Remina shows us (the reader) some equally terrifying, ugly truths about ourselves. We quickly embrace celebrities and heroes, and we love them. And because we think that we love them, we feel a sense of ownership over them. Just as quickly, we can turn on them. And if we (as a society) are facing something terrifying, sometimes our instinct is just to look for someone or something to blame. But even more than that, we’re looking for power in a situation where we are powerless. There are a ton of big ideas and scares in Remina, and it's a terrific read. 

Something is Killing the Children by James Tynion IV, Werther Dell'Edera, Miquel Muerto, and Andworld Design, published by Boom! Studios

Something Is Killing The Children (SIKTC for short) is a great, terrifying read that works on a number of different levels and feels especially suited for the world we're living in right now. SIKTC really gets at a fundamental idea, in a freaky and unnerving way.  Monsters are scary, sure.  But you know what’s really scary? Feeling alone. Feeling like no one believes you or understands you, and feeling like you’re in danger and there’s no one looking out for you.  It can be terrifying to know something terrible is out there and that you don’t know what’s going on. But what’s really frightening is the idea that the people in charge, the ones who are ostensibly there to protect you, don’t know anything more than you do, and they too have no idea to stop what’s happening. That’s far more terrifying to me than any freaky monster. SIKTC does what great speculative or genre fiction can do, which is to shine a light on our world with enough distance to give us an enjoyable story, but close enough to our lives to make us feel uncomfortable (in a good way). 

These Savage Shores by Ram V, Sumit Kumar, Vittorio Astone and Aditya Bidikar, published by Vault Comics 

If you're looking for a remarkably thoughtful story about love, war, commerce, politics, colonization, which also happens to be a sometimes terrifying story about vampires, then These Savage Shores is just the book for you.  This story starts off as one thing, and then turns into something else entirely. But that's part of the story - as you initially think it's going to be told from the point of view of an English vampire in the 1700's, setting sail for India. But then you realize it's not a story told from the perspective of the colonizer, but the colonized. The story moves from the lush Indian setting to the streets of London and to supernatural monster fights, all with great skill. There's scares, but also so much more. Seriously, read this book.   

Uzamaki by Junji Ito, published by Viz Media

I had not previously thought of the concept of spirals as scary but after reading Junji Ito’s Uzumaki I can say I legit find them terrifying. Ito’s story focuses on the madness that infests a small town as spirals begin terrorizing the town and its inhabitants. This is a idea, a meme, that infects and infests a whole small town, and it is horrifying to see. Ito’s artwork is detailed and tightly drawn, and as you move through the book, the physical transformations you see become more and more horrifying, and horrifyingly impossible. Seriously, there are images in this story that are burned into my brain and it will probably do the same for you. This is one of the most effective horror comics I've ever read, and maybe the scariest. Uzumaki is NOT for the faint of heart. 

Wytches by Scott Snyder, Jock, and Matt Hollingsworth, published by Image Comics

Wytches is a legit terrifying comic that will leave you with a chill down your spine and make you not want to be out in the forest. It's a story about a family who moves to a new home only to find out that there's something sinister in the woods. The art from Jock, with colors from Hollingsworth, brings the story to life here in the most horrifying way. Jock's lines are angular and scratchy and, combined with the cold, desolate colors from Hollingsworth, really evoke the terror and fear of the story. The fears are not just monsters, but the fears that you have as a parent, about not being able to protect your child (or anyone you care about). Wytches is a great, scary read.