Halloween is almost upon us and comic book stores are filling their shelves with plenty of suspenseful and horrifying comics series to get customers into the season. Horror books have long been a staple of the comics industry, dating all the way back to classic horror anthologies like Tales from the Crypt and Eerie Magazine. Many comics creators have made a living off frightening their readers with tales of grotesque monsters, terrifying ghosts and evil criminals. Today, Halloween has become a small holiday in the comics industry, with many stores celebrating the spooky season by giving out free comics to those brave enough to visit their stores.
To help get you in the mood for the Halloween season, here are five of the scariest creators in comics:
Best known as the current writer of DC’s popular Batman series, Scott Snyder got his start writing horror comics. His first series, American Vampire, reimagined vampires as a more monstrous race with abilities that varied by species and race. Other Snyder series have reimagined mermaids as dangerous, hypnotic sea creatures and witches as strange creatures that infest forests and grant favors to those who pledge unknowing victims. In mainstream books, Snyder has brought his unique style of horror to both Gotham City and the world of Swamp Thing. His run on Detective Comics introduced Jim Gordon’s son as a secret serial killer, while his Swamp Thing played on the ideas of infestation and body horror. Even his critically acclaimed Batman run is very horror driven. Both the Court of Owls and several arcs involving the Joker have involved claustrophobic settings and a callous disregard for human flesh. Even Snyder’s newest villain, Mr. Bloom, looks more like a monster out of someone’s nightmares than a typical Batman foe.
Junji Ito is one of Japan’s leading horror mangaka and has created several of the creepiest and most terrifying manga on the shelves today. Ito’s best known work is Uzumaki, a manga about a small Japanese town cursed by a weird spiral symbol that etches its way into the lives of townspeople, driving them insane. He also has written and drawn numerous short stories, usually featuring sadistic characters, intense scenes of violence or bizarre body horror. While most of Ito’s comics are strange and macabre, he has a sense of humor too. He also writes an autobiographical manga called Cat Diary about his experiences with his fiancee’s cats that often plays on tropes in his horror comics for laughs.
A respected horror novelist, Joe Hill’s comic resume is smaller than the other creators on the list, largely due to his busy book writing schedule. Hill’s best known comic, Locke and Key, was about the emotionally wounded Locke family discovering the connection between their father’s death and a collection of bizarre keys found in his childhood home, each of which has its own unique abilities. One of the best parts of Locke and Key was the sinister villain of the series, a warped childhood friend of the Locke sibling’s father, who seemingly returned from the dead to get his revenge and take the keys from themselves. Hill's gift for suspense and horror could be a family trait. His father is Stephen King, the renowned horror novelist and one of the undisputed masters of modern horror fiction.
Stephen Bissette is one of the founders of the modern horror movement in comics. Bissette got his start in comics illustrating stories written by RL Stine in small horror anthologies before moving onto a revived Swamp Thingcomic written by Alan Moore. In Saga of the Swamp Thing, Bissette and Moore revitalized the dark side of the DC Universe, creating characters like Constantine who added a bizarre and serious element that became the cornerstone of DC’s Vertigo imprint. Bissette went on to publish Taboo, an influential anthology series that featured work by comics greats such as Neil Gaiman, Mobius, Dave Sim and Chester Brown. After retiring from comics in 1999, Bissette now teaches at the Center for Cartoon Studies, teaching a new generation of art students how to make comics.
Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead franchise might be the hottest property in all of comics, thanks to two very popular AMC television series based on the comic. Kirkman’s horror comics are violent and intense, showing how dark and depraved humanity can be when the trappings of society are pushed away. The Walking Dead, in particular, is known for its shocking deaths, with Kirkman regularly purging the book of its cast. Kirkman’s taken an active role in The Walking Dead television show, writing several episodes and assisting in determining the general direction of the show. In addition to creating what’s become the quintessential zombie comic, Kirkman also writes Outcast for Image, a horror series about a man dealing with dark and creepy demonic possessions.