Fairytales with a cruel twist of fate instead of a happily-ever-after or stories that explore the darker side of human nature, have always fascinated a certain category of people. If you’ve grown up watching Tim Burton movies or reading Anne Rice’s vampire novels or you just love tales that have a good dose of gloom, darkness and magic in them, then there are some really amazing comics that are tailor-made to suit your aesthetic.
Each of the graphic novels mentioned below, have gothic undertones and elements of supernatural and horror. Some of them are stand-alones and can be finished in a single sitting, while others span volumes. A few of them are also pretty light-hearted and can be enjoyed by both younger and mature readers.
So if you’re looking for some spooky magic to keep you company then take your pick from the list below.
10 The Sandman Series by Neil Gaiman
One of the most seminal graphic novel series ever published, Gaiman's The Sandman is soon to be adapted into a TV show by Netflix and Warner Bros. The series narrates the tragic journey of Dream or Morpheus, one of the Endless, who are anthropomorphic projections of human concepts, even as it interweaves elements and stories from history, folklore, myth and urban legends.
Apart from Dream, there's also Death, who is portrayed as a cheerful punk-goth teenager wearing an ankh necklace and who perhaps help found the "goth gal" image in the 1990s.
9 Fables by Bill Willingham
If you love epic tales and fairytale re-tellings, then Fables promises to be one hell of a ride.
The series feature characters from popular fairytales and folklore in a modern-day scenario such as Snow White, Rose Red, The Big Bad Wolf, Prince Charming and so on. These characters are different from the ordinary people or the "Mundies" and while some of the "Fables" have blended in with them, the ones that cannot, are hidden in "The Farm".
The series has won several Eisner Awards, inspired a video-game and spawn many successful spin-offs.
8 100 Bullets by Brain Azzarello
Published by DC Comics, under the Vertigo imprint (which also published The Sandman), 100 Bullets is sure to be a favorite among those who love film noir and pulp fiction.
Both the writing and the art greatly borrow from these two traditions and portray graphic and gritty violence, as they delve into episodic stories of crime, revenge and the dark side of human nature.
The comics ran for exactly 100 issues and have won both Eisner and Harvey Awards.
7 Gotham by Gaslight by Brian Augustyn and Mike Mignola
Goth fans should of course check out the usual Batman comics in general and Tom King's rendition in particular. But if you're looking for something short and steampunk-y, then Gotham by Gaslight is a must-read.
The one-shot comic places Batman in the Victorian century and faces him against Jack the Ripper. It's part of the "Elseworlds" story-arc, wherein DC characters are often placed in alternate realities and timelines.
6 From Hell by Alan Moore
And if you've enjoyed the former novel, then Alan Moore's exploration of Jack the Ripper persona in From Hell, should be right up your alley.
Serialized for almost a decade, the graphic novel is set during the Whitechapel murders and delves deep into the mythos and folklore surrounding the serial killer. It is based on Stephen Knight's theory that the murders were an elaborate conspiracy to cover up the birth of an illegitimate royal baby.
While some portions are fictionalized, Moore did extensive research to write it and has also provided copious end-notes to ensure credibility. Fans of history and Victoriana will devour this tome with glee.
5 Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol
This is a poignant coming-of-age tale that involves a very memorable ghost and has a distinct YA flavor.
Anya, a Russian immigrant to the States, finds herself unable to fit in with the students at her new school. Her best friend is Emily, the ghost of a shy soft-spoken girl who had died in a well, ninety years prior. But the friendship gradually turns toxic, as Emily’s influence over Anya grows increasingly demonic.
The comic drawn mostly in desolate shades of purple, brilliantly examines girlhood anxieties, teenage angst and high-school relationships and is perfect for younger readers.
4 John Constantine, Hellblazer
A critically-acclaimed horror comic series, Hellblazer focuses on John Constantine, a streetwise magician. He isn't the typical hero, but makes his way through guile, luck and skills in magic.
The DC character himself has appeared in numerous comics including The Sandman, Lucifer, Swamp Thing, Books of Magic and so on. The Hellblazer comics have been authored by numerous writers including Alan Moore, Brian Azzarello, Mike Carey and many other notable veterans from the industry.
If you have a fondness for cynical trickster heroes, supernatural and demonic conflict and pulp fiction, then you'll enjoy this long-running series immensely.
3 Through The Woods by Emily Carroll
This graphic novel contains five evocatively-drawn and deeply unsettling stories, all united by the theme of things going wrong in the deep dark woods.
Carroll’s writing recalls Angela Carter’s feminist fairytale collection The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories, and the art with her clever use of silhouettes and negative space, is equally haunting.
“A Lady’s Hands Are Cold” is a gorgeously creepy retelling of Bluebeard, while “The Nesting Place” recalls the horror of childhood nightmares, and sets the adrenalineracing.
If macabre is your cup of tea, then this book will give you the chills.
2 Gloomcookie by Serena Valentino and Ted Naifeh
Gloomcookie is literally a "gothic" comic in the sense that it delves into the goth subculture even as it tells a gripping urban fantasy story.
The protagonist is Lex, a Perky Goth who works in a novelty shop and frequents goth clubs. Then there's Sebastian who can manipulate reality and Chrys, his girlfriend who was originally a wax sculpture, and the mysterious Damion, who is cursed to fall in love with Lex and vice versa.
It's a fun and satirical take on several gothic and fantasy tropes that appear in YA fiction and other popular literature
1 Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba
One of the most popular manga and anime series, Death Note should be compulsory reading for all those who love stories involving demons and the paranormal.
The story follows the adventures of teenager Light Yagami who stumbles upon a mysterious notebook that once belonged to Ryuk, a Shinigami spirit. The user of the notebook can kill anyone whose name is written within those pages and this prompts Yagami to embark on a crusade and purge the world of all those whom he deems as "unworthy".
What are your favorite dark fantasy or gothic comics? Let us know in the comments below!