All Hallows’ Eve, All Saints’ Eve - Halloween. That time of the year when the leaves are changing colors (the Aspens are gorgeous, btw), the chill wind blows in and we seek to be scared. Be it movies, haunted houses, ghost hunter shows on tv or the books we read, we love to be scared this time of year. It’s very nearly a prerequisite of the season. With that in mind, I thought I’d do a list of Horror-themed graphic novels you could pick up. But be warned, you should never read these books when you’re all alone in the house…
The Sandman Vol 1: Preludes & Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman
No list like this could possibly be complete without The Sandman from Neil Gaiman upon it. In fact, Sandman often appears on ‘best of’ lists no matter the genre because of the impact the book has had on a generation of artists, writers, and fans. You might think it’s not a horror book at all, but it definitely fits here for our Halloween pleasure. Especially the beginning of the books, gathered together in Preludes & Nocturnes, Volume 1 of The Sandman. Gaiman is recognized as a master, and that shines through in his creation Dream - aka Morpheus - and the world in which he lives. Captured by an occultist who meant instead to capture his sister, Death, Morpheus escaped and goes on a quest. And we get to go along for the ride. Several of the original stories, including “24 Hours” fall very well into the ‘horror’ category, and won’t disappoint. If nothing else, pick this book up for the incredible art by Sam Keith and Mike Dringenberg. A few pages in and you will understand why this is such a groundbreaking book in story, art, and form.
30 Days of Night by Steve Niles
In one of the creepiest - yet logical - premises ever, darkness falls on the remote town of Barrow - and lasts 30 days. Perfect for your creatures of the night—those who truly dislike and fear the sun—to come out and play. And play. And play. The cover on this book alone is enough to creep you out and send you running for the hills. The interior art is just as bone-chilling, and the story one you can’t put down. If you want a non-traditional vampire story to break the mold and make you lock the doors and windows, this is the one for you.
From Hell by Alan Moore
Alan Moore is no stranger to horror comics. Swamp Thing, Providence, and Neonomicon prove that. But in From Hell, he takes one of the most brutal unsolved serial murder cases of all time - The Whitechapel Murders and Jack the Ripper - and exhaustively traces the paths and the theories as to who was responsible and serves them up to the reader along with the horror of the whole thing. The art by Eddie Campbell is just as disturbing as the subject matter, raw and brutal. The book taps into our shared fascination for Jack the Ripper and the women he butchered so long ago, and makes us take a look at it in all its gore and horror. As a side note, the movie starring Johnny Depp and Heather Graham is okay, but the book is much better.
Locke & Key by Joe Hill
Who better than Joe Hill (the son of Stephen King) to bring us the tale of a haunted New England mansion and the family within? With the subhead of ‘Welcome to Lovecraft’, you get a sense of what to expect from this eerie and frightening book. The torments of the family, the secrets of the keys, the demons, all are dripped out in masterful fashion. Hill delves well below the surface and offers up a chilling story, securing his place in the horror genre his father sort of wrote the book on. I’ve had so many people recommend this book to me through the years that I couldn’t keep putting it off and took the plunge.
Remind me to never, ever, live in a mansion in New England.
The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman
Arguably the most popular horror tv show of all time (Twilight Zone fans might have a thing to say about that), The Walking Dead has absolutely captured the hearts and minds of television viewers everywhere. But I am a proponent of ‘the book is always better’. Just when you thought zombies were done and over with, along comes Kirkman who puts the focus on the characters and not the running away and hiding. Although there’s plenty of that, too, we as readers end up being drawn in by Grimes as soon as he wakes up to find the world has ended. But even when the world ends, people are still people, still petty and jealous, and that, too, draws us in. The book is stark - the stories told in black and white, though they don’t feel stark. They feel anything but stark. If you’ve watched the show, consider giving these books a try - you’ll find a lot here that never made it into the show, and stuff that’s very different.
Again, a warning... Don’t read this or any of the others books on this list when you’re all alone in your house. Doing so may cause you to wonder a little too long about that odd noise coming from downstairs, or the creak of the door you swore you closed…
Patrick Hester is an author, blogger and 2013 Hugo Award Winner for Best Fanzine (Editor - SF Signal), and 2014 Hugo Award Winner for Best Fancast. He lives in Colorado, writes science fiction and fantasy, and can usually be found hanging out on his Twitter feed. His debut novel, Samantha Kane: Into the Fire is forthcoming from WordFire Press. His Functional Nerds and SF Signal weekly podcasts have both been nominated for Parsec awards, and the SF Signal podcast was nominated for a 2012, 2013, and 2014 Hugo Award. In addition to his Kirkus posts, he writes for atfmb.com, SF Signal and Functional Nerds.