Like I said yesterday, we reached out to several comic creators this year to see what comics from the past or present left them with nightmares. Check some more responses out below, and check back tomorrow for another round.
When I was a child the comic books I bought came in four varieties; Disney comics, Turok: Son of Stone, Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth and what passed for horror comics in the early 1970s. These consisted mostly of the Marvel giant monster titles like Where Monsters Dwell, but also extended to anything that was the least bit spooky looking such as a copy of Marvel Team-Up that featured Brother Voodoo alongside Spider-Man, or pretty much any copy of Batman, or Mighty Samson.
I also read other horror titles such as Tomb of Dracula and lots of the anthology comics. No single story really leaps out to me as scaring me in particular, but some of the covers were things I had a hard enough time looking at during the day, let alone at bedtime. The covers were far stronger to me than anything inside the comic books. I think buying some of these comics was almost like a dare, to prove to myself that I could handle it, that I wasn’t too scared to take this image home with me. having it in my bedroom was like inviting the monster out from the closet, or under the bed where you could see it, and it could see you as well.
One of the covers I remember having that strange fascination/repulsion hold over me was the cover of Marvel’s Vault of Evil #13. Looking at it now, it’s hard to figure out why, but the big man who was obviously really mean, and the devil behind him, obviously meaner gave me the sense that whatever the story was that went with that cover should probably not be read. Of course I did, and it didn’t live up to the promise of the cover. The skeletal hand in the upper corner was an added bonus.
The EC comics were behind my time, but I did pick up Gold Key’s Grimm’s Ghost Stories fairly often. No single story comes to mind, but the witch who served as host to the stories within really frightened me. It was hard enough if she was in a little box at the top of the cover, but having her appear big on the cover was almost too much. Almost, but not enough to keep me from bringing a copy home with me. She reminds me of the blind housekeeper from the movie House on Haunted Hill (1960). I don’t know when I first saw that movie so i couldn’t say if the witch on the cover affected me so much because of the movie, or if memories of that witch made the housekeeper scene even more terrifying.
The last comic that really creeped me out was Ross Campbell’s The Abandoned. It’s a black, white and red zombie apocalypse gore fest, true to the classics in the genre. There were scenes in that comic that made me turn the page a little faster than I normally would have! It’s too bad Tokyopop dropped the ball on this one, it’s out of print and hard to find–but it’s a gem if you can get your hands on it!
Jamie S. Rich
The first thing to pop into mind when this subject came up was a fairly recent example. I am a big fan of Pixu by Gabriel Ba, Fabio Moon, Vasilis Lolos, and Becky Cloonan, and I was particularly taken aback when I first read the self-published issues by one of Becky’s sequences. In chapter two, Omar returns home and something feels weird. Claire is acting strange. She made him some soup, and when he sits down to eat it, he notices something gross–a fingernail–in the broth. Then there is another, and another, and one in his mouth. It’s such a simple thing but the way Becky shows it, first by letting us see some nails on his spoon, then one between his fingers, and then finally spitting it out–it’s so visceral, I feel a tickle at the back of my throat just thinking about it. Over a few panels, she effectively creates an unforgettable moment, one that extends beyond the page and causes an honest-to-goodness physical reaction. It creeped me out so much, I had to send Ms. Cloonan an e-mail to thank her for disturbing me. The whole of Pixu is fantastic, but that’s the moment that really nailed it for me–no pun intended!
Jamie S. Rich is the writer of You Have Killed Me, Spell Checkers and Love the Way You Love, among other comics.
“I don’t think I’ve found any comics that really inspired fear or disturbed me. I’m not sure the medium is really capable of fright in the same way film or prose is, maybe because of reader-controlled pacing and the nature of illustrated artwork, or maybe it’s just because it takes a lot to freak me out, but one exception for me are Becky’s sections of Pixu, about the young couple. I thought her stuff in that had great sense of tense, almost oppressive foreboding-ness. It’s not “scary” in the conventional sense or whatever, but her part of the story has great dread and unease. Then you get to the fingernail soup part, and blecgggghh! It’s both unsettling and gross as hell. I think Becky is probably one of the only comics creators working right now, if not ever, who can really do stuff that goes beyond just drawing a monster or gore and calling it horror. Come on, Becky, do a horror book!”
Ross Campbell, as mentioned above, created The Abandoned, as well as Shadoweyes and Wet Moon.
B. Clay Moore
SWAMP THING #30
I don’t know how old I was when I first read it, but this was my first exposure to Alan Moore’s SWAMP THING, and, needless to say, it spun my head around. John Totleben and Alfredo Alcala on the art. All I knew was that the Swamp Thing’s human girlfriend seemed to be crawling through a fly-infested universe of despair and degradation, as something several steps above sinister seemed to have the world in its grip.
But the panel that snapped me to attention was a shot of the Joker, wearing a straight-jacket, staring ahead with dead eyes, drooling. A character commenting, “The Joker’s stopped laughing.”
There was more to the story than that, but I’d never stumbled across a comic book panel that more directly and succinctly summed up the horror of a situation. I got it, and it scared me. And even at a young age, I’m pretty sure that’s when it hit me that the storytelling potential of comics was a lot bigger than I’d previously realized.