Halloween. Samhain. All Hallow's Eve. It's a holiday enriched in costumes, candy, and tales of the unknown and macabre. Halloween means different things for different people, but one thing almost everybody likes is a good old-fashioned ghost story.
Horror comics have been around nearly since comics came into print. They were almost lost to us forever, but thanks to a resurgence in the early 21st century, books have never been scarier or devilish.
Here we take a look at 10 books that evoke the Halloween spirit. Whether you're looking for something scary, light-hearted, nightmarish, or just plain fun, there's something in here for anyone looking to get the most out of their October 31.
Imagine if Zorro had a sixth sense and joined B.P.R.D. That is Guy Davis's The Marquis.
Vol de Galle is a former Inquisitor that has the ability to see the demons and devils that lurk in the fictional Elizabethan era city of Venisalle. He knows many of them have disguised themselves as humans and are now living in high ranks of society. De Galle hunts these creatures with a saber and steampunk-ish machine-gun pistols.
Guy Davis is no stranger to horror noir, with legendary runs on Sandman Mystery Theater and B.P.R.D. under his belt. The Marquis definitely scratches that supernatural itch, and has some of Davis's best art. It's detail-oriented and ornate and, at times, more than a little disturbing.
The first volume, Inferno, has all of the early Oni Press stories as well as the beginning of its Dark Horse Comics' era material. Those that love Hellboy and that type of macabre adventure may be charmed by The Marquis.
Batman: Haunted Knight
Haunted Knight is a classic spooky story set-up - three Batman stories featuring the Dark Knight facing off against the Scarecrow and the Mad Hatter, plus a Christmas Carol-esque tale within the Bat-verse, with Thomas Wayne in the role of Jacob Marley. The three ghosts that visit Bruce are the Joker, Poison Ivy, and Death who reveals himself to be Batman's ghost.
Batman: Haunted Knight holds up to the rest of the Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's Batman oeuvre, and while Long Halloween has the holiday in the title, it's more of a year-long battle. Here, each adventure takes place on a different Halloween night in Gotham. Seems fitting, especially since the last tale is more of a ghost story and a warning for Bruce to not let Batman take over his life.
Locke & Key
You might say it's in the genes.
With Locke & Key, Joe Hill (pen name for Joe Hillstrom King, son of horror master Stephen King) and artist Gabriel Rodriguez have crafted a unique horror series at IDW Publishing in the vein of House of Mystery and H.P. Lovecraft that has garnered critical acclaim, numerous awards, and now a Netflix TV series adaptation.
The Locke family goes through a horrific series of events after moving into their old family estate, starting when the patriarch is murdered. While the Locke children are featured throughout the series, other events are seen in flashback, through the eyes of the person who murdered their father, and several other characters interlocking into an engaging and terrifying story that hasn't been seen since Neil Gaiman on Sandman.
Created by Mike Mignola in the early '90s, Hellboy has beaten mystical monks, demons, devilkin, and denied himself his destiny as an heir to Hell.
There's nobody that takes care of bustin' ghosts, ghouls, and demigods like ol' Red. His supernatural adventures are some of the best stories of the past 20 years.
Box Full of Evil is definitely one of those tales that's chockfull of mythical lore and great action scenes. In Hellboy, Mignola created one of the greatest and most recognizable characters of the modern era of comic books.
30 Days of Night
Although it started as an unsuccessful film pitch by author Steve Niles, 30 Days of Night debuted at IDW Publishing in 2002 and turned into a breakout hit, spawning numerous sequels and spinoffs.
By 2007, the pendulum swung around and it was adapted into a major motion picture, with a subsequent 2010 straight-to-DVD sequel.
Since one of vampires' legendary weakness is sunlight, what better way to feed on humans is to take your clan to Alaska during a time where sunlight is nonexistent? The vampires are visually similar to Max Schreck's Count Orlock in Nosferatu.
Add in the fact you have artist Ben Templesmith's unique, wiry style (later with artists like Nat Jones and Bill Sienkiewicz) giving the undead a definite deranged and animalistic appearance, it's definitely something a reader doesn't forget easily.
Imagine Harry Potter with a chip on her shoulder, and you've got Courtney Crumrin.
After her parents leave her with old Uncle Aloysius, Courtney learns that there is more to the old man than meets the eye. Writer/artist Ted Naifeh has taken Courtney all over the world for a decade now, introducing her to the likes of vampires, a society of wolves, goblins, and, yes, witches and warlocks.
Along the way, Courtney learns magic, and becomes a seasoned witch in her own right. But, the biggest adventure lies ahead.
It's more kid-friendly than most of this list, but Naifeh's eerie environments and strange creatures are perfect for pre-teen trick-or-treaters that might not be ready for heavier material.
Tales from the Crypt
This one is a bit obvious. Many kids of the '90s angled to catch a glimpse of the TV show on HBO, which was based on an EC Comics series created by William Gaines and Al Feldstein. If there's a list of things that influenced a generation of horror writers, Tales From the Crypt is easily at the top.
At times Tales From the Crypt is so over the top you really can't take it seriously - but nobody was laughing when Tales received heavy scrutiny following the publication of Fredric Wertham's scathing indictment of the comics industry, Seduction of the Innocent. Tales From the Crypt was canceled, along with its offshoot titles, in 1954.
Since then, Tales has been reprinted numerous times and regained popularity with the HBO show, which spawned three films. There was even a Saturday morning cartoon... and a kids' game show, Secrets of the Cryptkeeper's Haunted House.
Sandman: Seasons of Mist
What does one do when the Devil retires from Hell?
One of the richer stories from Vertigo's Sandman is in the fourth volume of the series, Season of Mists, with everything a mythology nut could want.
Of course, Morpheus doesn't want to reign over Hell, but guess who does? Everyone else. Writer Neil Gaiman uses mythical figures from all over the world, but gives them all distinct personalities you'd think they could be wandering the Earth right now.
While the Sandman series as a whole is worth a read (or several), the premise of Lucifer closing up Hell and giving Morpheus the key to do whatever he wants is riveting and imaginative.
Plus, you've just got to love that last page.
Imagine the Universal monsters as superheroes. That's what you get with Dan Brereton's Nocturnals, which has been published by multiple outlets over the years including Dark Horse, Oni Press, and Image Comics.
Lead by werewolf Doc Horror, the Nocturnals defend the Earth from the alien force known as the Crim. Also on the team is Starfish, essentially a sultry Creature of the Black Lagoon; Gunwitch, a zombie gunslinger; Firelion, a human who suffered from spontaneous combustion, but was brought back to life by evil scientists; Raccoon, a thief and the victim of scientific experiments which made him resemble his namesake with claws and enhanced senses; Polychrome, the wraith of a dead woman destined to haunt this world for all time; Komodo, also a victim of animal and human gene splicing, who resembles a young dragon with scaly skin and fangs; and Halloween Girl, the youngest of the Nocturnals and Doc Horror's daughter, who has a Jack O'Lantern filled with possessed toys that can grow to monstrous forms and talk to her from the spirit world.
Quite a crew, huh? Brereton's fully painted series is just gorgeous. His story splendidly blends sci-fi and horror, with a unique take on old monsters. The best story for Halloween is undoubtedly 'The Troll Bridge,' where Halloween Girl gets in way over her head when she bargains with a Troll and receives a mysterious and evil Devil Lantern. Multiple artists take the reigns as Halloween Girl (real name Autumn Eve Horror. Seriously) travels through numerous dimensions trying to get back home.
Sure, Halloween is about being scared, but it's also about fun. Jill Thompson's Scary Godmother is a prime example of the holiday being fun, even if your job is to be scary.
Like Courtney Crumrin, Scary Godmother is a kid-friendly read that doesn't dumb down to reach its target audience. First published by Sirius and later Dark Horse, there are four books, multiple comic series, and one-shots featuring Scary and her Halloween gang.
There's fun, fantasy, and a bit of morality thrown in for good measure. The character has also starred in two made-for-TV animated specials, airing in 2004 and 2005.
Thompson's watercolors are exquisite, with a quirky flair. It may not be 'scary,' but it treats the holiday as something special and all in good fun. Young fans of The Nightmare Before Christmas would likely enjoy Scary's stories.