New Comixology Originals series Grammaton Punch is a fast-paced action horror written by Miles Gunter (BPRD, Weird War Tales) and drawn by Briane Andan.
The series follows high schooler Van Nguyen who was born with the ability to see dead people all the time. From an early age he's been the target of predatory spirits who want to drain his lifeforce, but when he discovers that he can fight back by literally punching ghosts, he goes on the offensive.
With a manga-inspired aesthetic and a story that ably mixes comedy and horror, Grammaton Punch is off to a fine start. We spoke to writer Miles Gunter about five horror comics and manga that had a direct influence on the new series...
1 - Hellboy - 'Heads' (Dark Horse)
Hellboy grapples with the Nukekubi - a race of malevolent Yōkai with detachable heads - in this classic short story first published in Abe Sapien: Drums of the Dead, way back in 1998.
"Mike Mignola's writing style is pretty much tattooed on my DNA," says Gunter. "I had the good fortune of co-writing BPRD: The Soul of Venice with him and I'm still using the lessons learned from that experience. He is the master of knowing when to be creepy and when to be funny.”
Mignola’s storytelling had a direct impact on Miles’ own work, particularly on his current project. “I tried to strike a similar balance throughout Grammaton Punch. 'Heads' is such a beautiful example of the Mignola symmetry and is just as delightful as when it came out 25 years ago."
2 - Lovesickness (VIZ Media)
The master of horror manga shows off his range with this collection of 10 short stories.
"It’s hard to resist the urge to make this list nothing but Junji Ito recommendations," admits Gunter. "While I love the doom of Uzumaki and the freakout of Gyo, there is a tendency in his early works for everything to basically be screwed with no avenue for the protagonists to prevail. With Lovesickness, we get a romance comic version of Uzumaki, but Ito surprisingly steers things towards an optimistic outcome.”
Gunter says that this approach fed into his own series. "It’s easy to come up with horror from which there is no escape, but it’s hard to solve the horror. With Grammaton Punch we tried to go that route. I feel it makes for a more satisfying read."
3 - Damn Them All (BOOM! Studios)
Si Spurrier and Charlie Adlard's supernatural thriller follows Ellie Hawthorne, an occultist charged with tracking down 72 escaped demons and sending them back to Hell. Think Hellblazer with a hammer.
"I'm only two issues into this excellent demon crime comic, but what I really appreciate is that Spurrier has clearly done his homework on the Ars Goetia," says Gunter, referring to the real life supernatural text.
"It's seriously dangerous and precise supernatural business that's been lazily represented in media - I'm looking at you, Hereditary! - and I think this might be one of the only times it’s been presented with a degree of accuracy. It's cool when creators find new ways to spotlight occult content and this is very much something we shot for with our witch character, Rick Wallace, who looks more like an L.L. Bean catalogue model than someone on the faculty at Hogwarts."
4 - PTSD Radio (Kodansha)
"This cryptic supernatural manga was a big influence on my collaborator Briane Andan’s artwork," says Gunter. "It's genuinely unsettling and presented in bite size snippets, like a haunted equivalent of Instagram stories."
Reading the book, which focuses on the legend of Ogushi-sama, the God of Hair, is a deeply unsettling experience, something which Gunter puts down to the real life strangeness its creators experienced while making the book.
"Artist writer Masaaki Nakayama and his team had a number of paranormal experiences which culminated in Nakayama getting an autoimmune disease. Thankfully he recovered but it clearly rattled him and the project went on hiatus," he explains.
"I'm sure some folks might roll their eyes at this, but when you dedicate time and intention to a creative work focused on malefic supernatural stuff it can sometimes lead to those forces taking notice of you."
5 - Shadows on the Grave (Dark Horse)
This final entry was written and drawn by 2012 Eisner Hall of Fame award winner Richard Corben, whose comics work spanned more than 50 years. "I try to stay away from hyperbole but Corben was legitimately the GOAT of all GOATs," Gunter enthuses. "An absolute master of horror and weird fiction storytelling who only got better with age."
This eight-issue anthology was published in 2018 and covers everything from original horror shorts to a full-length fantasy epic, reminiscent of Corben's early work on Heavy Metal.
"Corben is like Mignola in that he always strikes a perfect balance between light and dark. There is a weight and a mass to his figures that is unlike any other artist in comics and he never ever skimps on anything visually. He gave 1000% on every page for every project he ever did. Reading his work is pure dark joy and I hope younger readers unfamiliar with his work will check him out."
Grammaton Punch #1 is out now from Comixology Originals. If you're in the mood for more scary stuff, check out our list of the best horror comics.