Fear is a complicated emotion. It can simultaneously motivate us, paralyze us, overwhelm us, and invigorate us. The medium doesn’t matter. Glossy images printed on Bristol board can haunt our dreams just as efficiently as scenes from the most grisly horror film. And why shouldn’t they? Some of the most creative and twisted minds contribute to the comic book universe – look at what Kirkman has done for zombies, what Ennis has done for…well, everything.
Although there has been resistance (yes you, Comics Code Authority), horror comics have spent the last few decades creeping and crawling their way into the mainstream and into our hearts. Some have wound up making pretty decent movies, like 2005’s Constantine. Others, like 30 Days of Night, have made great flicks with tons of replay value.
Deadpool‘s box-office success may have paved the way for a whole slew of darker, grittier comic book movies. Why not fill some of those slots with terrifying tales of deep-space poltergeists or cannibalistic witches? Why not give moviegoers a shocking dose of comic-inspired gore, driven by a story pulled right off the pages of these horrific titles? After devouring almost every issue of every entry on this list, we can tell you with the utmost certainty; there is plenty to fear beside fear itself, and that plenty lives between the covers of these comics.
Here are 12 Comics That Would Make Great Horror Movies.
12. The Disciples
The Disciples is a suspenseful and high-strung deep-space story that drops readers into a truly spooky missing persons case on Ganymede. Author Steve Niles spins a tale full of horror and misdirection while the incredibly talented Christopher Mitten brings Jupiter’s moon – and the terrors that inhabit it – to life with his wonderful artwork.
Set in the near future, Disciples follows a set of private investigators as they attempt to locate the missing daughter of a Senator. While the premise is simple enough, the events that unfold on Ganymede are anything but. Niles’ engrossing and tense story will have you hooked in no time, and the horrific residents of Ganymede will leave you sleeping with the lights on for the foreseeable future.
11. American Vampire
Forget True Blood; if you’re looking for a series that’s got longevity and its own highly-involved mythology, American Vampire should be your next read. Scott Snyder’s bloody and engrossing horror story is full of darkness, betrayal, fangs, and… well, blood. It’ll really get its teeth into you. GET IT?!
American Vampire reads like a train wreck. Our protagonists – Pearl and Skinner – are doomed to an eternity of chaos, violence, and tragedy, but readers are powerless to look away. In a world where vamps are divided into several secret sub-species, Pearl and Skinner are the newest, most highly-evolved monsters on the playground. Looks like Fangs aren’t just for Tweens anymore.
We could also see this comic playing out on the small screen.
Ever watch an ’80s slasher and think, “Damn, that would make an epic comic book!” Your prayers have been answered: Hack/Slash takes all the best parts of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dawn of the Dead, and every bloody, teen-hacking slasher flick ever made and rolls them into a whole heap of glossy pages.
Hack/Slash follows final-girl-turned-vigilante Cassie Hack as she hunts and destroys zombies, Satanists, killer dolls, and other ghastly ghouls. Her sidekick – a misshapen giant named Vlad – is never more than a few steps away. The unlikely duo smash, bash, and slash their way through hordes of would-be killers, gleefully taking on every genre trope you can think of. It’s a bit more light-hearted than the other entries in this list (think: Cabin in the Woods), though it certainly has its share of intense and gripping moments.
9. Harrow County
Stories based in any small, southern town are usually scary enough as it is. Maybe it’s that tune from Deliverance. Maybe it’s the Louisiana-style voodoo. Either way, there’s something about the deep south that can make it an especially terrifying place — especially when you add a whole forest full of horrifying monsters, malevolent spirits, and disturbing secrets to the mix.
Harrow County is a coming-of-age tale that layers fairytale magic on top of true horror roots, creating an experience that is both wonderfully dark and remarkably creative. The artwork — delivered by Tyler Crook — is so disturbing and twisted that you’ll be frantically rooting for our hero Emmy as she tries to navigate the wicked woods of Harrow County.
8. Locke & Key
There are few comics as immersive as Locke & Key. That’s not just fluff, either; it’ll have you laughing, crying, screaming, crying some more, and probably eventually hiding under your parent’s blankets.
Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez – the dynamic duo behind the Lovecraftian-masterpiece that is Locke & Key – have created a story more haunting and more involved than almost any other entry on this list. The series, which also catalogs the myth behind a set of magic, inter-dimensional keys wrought from demonic materials, is a prime piece of modern horror just begging for a big screen adaptation (or, again, a small screen one).
Critics often slam horror comics for failing to deliver a truly cohesive story packed with quality scares. Said critics really need to pick up a copy of Scott Snyder’s Severed and take a minute to re-evaluate their statements.
This isn’t so much a comic book as it is an investigation into EVERY child’s original fear: yes, there is a boogeyman, and yes, he is actually going to hunt you down and eat you very, very slowly. Snyder’s frenetic pacing drives each issue, while Attilla Futaki renders images that will sear themselves into the backs of your eyelids.
Severed burns long and slow, culminating in truly terrifying fashion. While tons of movies hit on the whole ‘boogeyman’ theme, none of them blend that idea with visceral, real life horror or create a monster quite like the shape-shifting, flesh-deprived Salesman.
6. Southern Cross
You’ve (hopefully) heard of Becky Cloonan – she’s done lots of work on DC’s Gotham Academy – but if you haven’t, you should check out her work right meow. Cloonan’s Southern Cross is equal parts murder mystery, sci-fi, and horror; set on Saturn’s moon, Titan, Cross follows a young woman as she searches for the truth behind her sister’s untimely death. As the story progresses, our protagonist (Alex Braith) uncovers elements that are much darker and more gruesome than she could have ever imagined.
It’s a claustrophobic story that channels Ridley Scott’s original Alien and will keep you guessing at every turn. It’s exactly the type of story that a mind like Christopher Nolan could bring to life on the big screen, with characters that you can’t help but root for. If you thought space was scary, just wait until you read Southern Cross.
What’s worse than a world-killing asteroid hurtling towards Earth? How if that same world-killing asteroid was filled with all sorts of fearsome and flesh-hungry Lovecraftian horrors? In Grant Morrison’s Nameless, an asteroid is cruising to wipe out the human race – but only if the rabid, inhuman inhabitants of a secret lab don’t escape and beat it to the punch.
There aren’t many comic (or novels, really) that operate on as large a scale as Nameless. Instead of focusing on small threats or isolated instances to advance the story, Nameless buries the reader in a sense of nearly unbearable dread through its ‘bigger picture’ approach. Morrison masterfully builds tension throughout each installment, telling a story that not only catalogs the collapse of civilization but also follows a team of astronauts as they attempt to uncover the asteroid’s heart-stopping secrets.
Two words: Alan Moore.
While we shouldn’t need to say more, we will; Moore basically created the graphic novel, gave new life to the superhero genre, and penned some of DC’s most important stories — all while keeping his darker side under control. Until recently!
Neonomicon is only four issues — FOUR! — but it is absolutely, positively, guaranteed to make you fear cry. All jokes aside, this is the only piece of entertainment (or art or blasphemy or whatever you want to call it) that we’ve had to put down and walk away from. A two-hour Neonomicon feature film in 2016 could have the same effect on audiences that The Exorcist did in 1973.
Pee Pee Pants City, Population: You.
If Steven King had a nightmare and committed it to the pages of a comic book, it would undoubtedly look and feel exactly like Wytches. This harrowing story follows a troubled young girl, Sailor, and the rest of her family as they adjust to their new lives in a quaint New Hampshire town. Sailor soon discovers that Litchfield’s woods are plagued by a clan of petrifying creatures, who really want to eat her. Scott Snyder’s creepy tale (his third on this list; we’re fans, can you tell?) features some of the most hair-raising visuals in comic book history and a story that will have you checking under your bed before lights out.
Wytches is a compelling piece of psychological horror that spends ample time delving into the town’s dark secrets and showcasing the struggles of the Rook family. It takes every story you’ve ever heard about witches and transports them to a far bloodier, more terrifying place. The idea of seeing dozens of children “pledged” to the witches in IMAX 3-D is absolutely the stuff of nightmares, but in a good way. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
It takes quite a bit to earn a number two spot on any list. Runner-ups usually have some fantastic qualities but just miss the mark, falling to Numero Uno by a slim margin.
Such is the case with Colder, a comic more grotesque and more evil than (almost) any other in existence. On the surface, Colder is a complex story about insanity, the deterioration of the human mind, and a young man living with the body temperature of a corpse. At its core, it is a horrifying tale with an equally horrific villain, Nimble Jack, who just wants to devour people’s souls.
If you’ve ever played Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem you’ll know how it feels to read through Colder. The five-part mini-series never stops messing with your mind, and readers are hard-pressed to determine what is real and what is not.
The above image is one of the very, very few from the entire Crossed series that we could comfortably publish for this article. Garth Ennis’ twisted, sadistic “comic book” is what you’d get if you tossed history’s most violent movies and goriest video games into a blender, added a few snuff films, sprinkled in a zombie novel or two, puréed on high, and baked it all at 425 degrees for a full week.
Crossed is a relentless, unforgiving, and caustic series that continues to find new ways to one-up its own barbarism. The unbelievable acts of violence that are splattered across its panels are unlike anything we’ve ever seen (or wish to see again). Part zombie apocalypse, part global pandemic survival tale, part Rob Zombie film, this is one bad Mamma Jamma that gives a whole new definition to NSFW.
Did we leave out any of your favorite horror comics? Be sure to let us know in the comments section.