Summer is upon us, and nothing helps to beat the heat like settling in the shade with a good read.
A recent trip to a popular comic book convention demonstrated just how popular ‘funny books’ still are, and – more importantly – exactly how strong the horror-based comic is at the moment. From graphic novel adaptations of popular literature and film stories to original tales of dread, there hasn’t been a more exciting time for comic fans of the scary stuff since the silver age of horror at DC and Marvel, when titles like ‘House of Mystery’ and ‘Tomb of Dracula’ had us peddling our banana bikes to the corner store every week with our dimes clutched tightly in our fists! Horror and monster themes have always had a firm footing in comics, but with comic-based film and television properties being all the rage these days, it comes as no surprise that creators are making the most of the situation and delivering the gruesome goods in ample supply. It would be difficult at best to list every available title, so here’s a small sampling of what lies in wait for the creepy comic fan. Er…I mean, fans of creepy comics.
One of the most exciting – and looooooong overdue – discoveries was the continuation of Bernie Wrightson’s ‘Frankenstein’ work by he and ’30 Days of Night’ writer Steve Niles. Bernie’s brilliant, near-inhumanly detailed work on the title in the ’70s has become THE definitive interpretation on the oft-misunderstood creature, considered by many to be the finest work of his career to date. Every bit as breathtaking today as it was upon its initial release, fans were treated to a gorgeous hardcover rerelease of the title a few years ago by Dark Horse Comics, resulting in renewed interest in Wrightson’s take on the misshapen monstrosity. Now, he and Niles have teamed up again to imagine the events which may have taken place after the end of Mary Shelley’s 1818 gothic masterpiece. Released by IDW Publishing, ‘Frankenstein Alive, Alive!’ proves why Wrightson is the REAL Master of Macabre, showcasing his incredible attention to detail by taking the brute from desolate wastelands to carnival sideshows in his existential journey of discovery. ‘Frankenstein Alive, Alive!’ is both a welcome sequel to a seminal classic and a fantastic first glance for younger readers not yet acquainted with the original work.
Another great announcement is the upcoming hardcover release of Jeremy Bastian’s ‘Cursed Pirate Girl’ collected edition from Archaia. A surreal tale in the fashion of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and ‘Alice in Wonderland’, ‘Pirate Girl’ takes the title character from the comfort of her real world to the treacherous Omerta Seas in search of her true place and family after being visited by her father in dreams. Rife with garish creatures and bizarre characters, ‘Cursed Pirate Girl’ looks and reads as if it were actually produced in the period in which it is set. Bastian’s weathered pages and detailed ink work, along with his vintage-style hand lettering, makes for a trippy, whimsical journey for the reader, who could become lost for hours in the intricately illustrated pages of this unique blend of horror, fantasy, adventure and self-discovery.
Dark Horse Comics continues to release its beautiful hardcover reprints of the classic Warren ‘Creepy’ and ‘Eeerie’ stories, giving readers an opportunity to collect the definitive versions of these beloved mini-masterpieces. Featuring top-notch work by the likes of Jack Davis, Bernie Wrightson, Neal Adams, Richard Corben and a virtual ‘who’s who’ of comic book legends, ‘Creepy’ and ‘Eerie’ hold up wonderfully after their original release close to fifty years ago, proving that real fear is both timeless and universal.
For those who enjoy a bit of genuine humor in their horror, Eric Powell’s ‘The Goon’ is still going strong. Consistently one of the most rewarding reads on the stands today, Powell’s writing and illustration are nothing short of exceptional as he details the adventures of a hulking, scarred mob enforcer and his diminutive hot-headed sidekick Franky and the unusual mix of characters they encounter. Zombies, barkeeps, werewolves, lounge singers, robots, gangsters, cats with human faces, bog monsters and giant spiders are just a few of the oddities that populate the world of The Goon – each with a personality that endears them to readers like family. Freaky, frightening, duplicitous family, but family nonetheless.
Of course, ‘The Walking Dead’ continues to dominate the comic racks, with graphic novels, games, action figures and more feeding the frenzy of fans both new and old. AMC’s critically-acclaimed series has spawned a sizable audience for the award-winning source material by writer Robert Kirkman and artists Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard, and a wide variety of trade paperback, hardcover and omnibus collections are currently available.
With the launch of DC Comics’ New 52 line, many favorite dark titles have re-emerged, and several new titles have been introduced. ‘Swamp Thing’ (co-created by the previously mentioned Bernie Wrightson), ‘Deadman’, “Red Lanterns’, ‘I, Vampire’, and ‘Justice League, Dark’ have all been well-received by fans and critics alike, with many titles going into multiple printings. Fans of DC’s classic horror and Vertigo titles will find this new lineup appealing.
There hasn’t been a better time to enjoy the darker side of comics in quite some time. If you’re interested in finding what the spinner racks hold in store for horror and supernatural comic readers, here is a brief rundown of some good reads:
Turf War – gangsters vs. vampires vs. aliens in the Age of Prohibition
Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter – the title says it all
Sandman Absolute Editions – complete oversized slipcased volumes reprinting the fantastic Neil Gaiman series, detailing the troubled saga of the Lord of Dreams
Army of Darkness – the comic book adventures of Ash, everyone’s favorite chainsaw-wielding anti-hero
Ghostbusters – who ya gonna read?
Green Wake – odd occurrences surrounding a series of mysterious murders
Locke & Key – detailing a family’s ordeals in the town of Lovecraft, Massachusetts
’68 – a Vietnam War zombie epic
Hack/Slash – once-victimized Cassie strikes back at monsters of all kinds, with the help of her gas mask-toting sidekick Vlad
American Vampire – just darn good storytelling
Your local comic shop staff can help you track down books in the horror vein, as each week delivers a brand new batch, so don’t hesitate to give them a try! And be prepared to pull the covers up over your head and read by flashlight…