31 Days of Horror: 5 Underrated Horror Comics Perfect For Halloween Part One

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It’s October. The time of Halloween, horror movie marathons, and making sure your asshole neighbors didn’t put razorblades in the candy again this year. But what about horror comics? Sure you’ve read Hellboy and the various B.P.R.D. books. You’ve got the whole run of Locke & Key. You even have the non-Ben Templesmith drawn 30 Days of Night collections. And that’s great. Those are all great series’. What about Gary Gianni’s Corpus Monstrum? Deep Sleeper and The Coffin? F. Paul Wilson’s The Keep? Dan Brereton’s Nocturnals? Steve Niles’ Freaks of the Heartland? If you’ve read any of these wonderful books, you’ll realize how great they are, but if you haven’t, hopefully I can get you to change that. Over the next few weeks I’ll be showcasing these underrated and diverse horror gems, and many more, that are perfect Halloween reading.

mnmn11. MonsterMen/Corpus Monstrum

If you’re a long time reader of Hellboy, and not a trade waiter, you’re probably familiar with Gary Gianni’s brilliant MonsterMen/Corpus Monstrom. The series began it’s life as short back-up tales in the early Hellboy issues, and was eventually partially released as a collection by Heironymous Press in 2002. This book collects Silent as the Grave, which ran in Hellboy: Wake the Devil #1-5, as well as an illustrated prose story by William Hope Hodgson. Dark Horse collected the whole series as Gary Gianni’s Monstermen And Other Scary Stories in 2012.

Corpus Monstrum follows the adventures of Benidict, a member of the Order Corpus Monstrum, and wealthy film mogul Lawrence St. George as they tackle all things supernatural. The book is filled with haunted houses, curses, zombie cowboys, squid pirates, abominable snowmen, mustachioed skulls, movie phantoms, fat, flying demons, and all measure of things that go bump in the night. There’s horror and humor, and the characters are well written and mostly likable. Truly, even with the seemingly cliche premise, Corpus Monstrum is like no other horror comic. Steeped in Gothic horror, but with a sense of humor, Corpus Monstrum is inspired by Hammer films as much as Victorian literature, I assume.

It follows the horror pulp traditions closely, and with Gianni’s classic newspaper strip-style line art it definitely feels like a call back to an earlier era. His work is lush, highly detailed, and dripping with esoteric horror. You really can’t do any better than Corpus Monstrum for an evening of chills and thrills. Just remember to keep the lights on.

FPWs_The_Keep_graphic_novel2. F. Paul Wilson’s The Keep

The Keep is based on F. Paul Wilson’s novel of the same name, and adapted by the author himself. The original novel spawned a film directed by Michael Mann, but Wilson was never satisfied with it. He wrote the script for this series “Because I consider this visual presentation of The Keep my version of the movie, what could have been…what should have been.” Originally published as a five issue series, The Keep was collected in 2006.

The Keep concerns a castle in Romania, deep in the Transylvanian Alps, left empty for 500 years, and as WWII is just beginning, a group of SS einsatzkommandos take the castle, awakening something horrific, something hungry, and something that staggers the imagination. What is more terrifying than the horrors of war? Whatever it is, it’s in The Keep.

The story is great, with plenty of gore and action, and surprisingly distills the source material’s essence perfectly, even if so much had to be cut due to the limitations of the medium. It is a riveting page turner, and a true horror classic in every way. Matthew Dow Smith’s artwork is simple, yet effective, conveying the horror of not only the Nazi’s cruelty, but of what lies in the keep. He uses a monochromatic style, with a heavy use of shadow and negative space, that is highly effective, especially when blood is spilled. The design of the book by Tom B. Long is fantastic and elegant, making the covers simply striking in appearance. The Keep was an instant classic when released in 1981, and this adaptation is just as classic

dandcvol1_c13. Doll and Creature: Everything Turns Grey

While not a horror comic in the strictest sense of the term, Rick Remender’s Doll and Creature is definitely a perfect Halloween read. Originally published by AiT Planet Lar, and most recently collected by Image Comics, Doll and Creature is a greased up rock n roll horror adventure series.

In a world where religion has been outlawed, and pure hedonism reigns supreme, a new drug on the street, Grey Matter, has been turning the populace into monsters. Que Gristle, the eponymous Creature from the title, a Frankenstein’s monster created to stop the “Hydes”. Along with Doll, a blind woman he rescued and partially restored her sight, they do the dirty work that no one else, not even the government, wants to do.

Rick Remender is a very well known writer of superhero stories now, but once upon a time he wrote stories closer to the horror genre, and this is easily one of his best. The script is tight and action packed, and hits the ground running from page one. There is so much going on in this story, with political satire, social commentary, and religious overtones masked in a violent yet often funny script that mixes so many genres together that it creates its own. The art by John Heebink and Mike Manly is beyond perfect for the story Remender is telling. The action scenes jump right off the page, while the quieter moments are given room to breathe. There is a ton of detail in the backgrounds, making the book great for successive reads. This is the Return of the Living dead of comics; horrific yet at times hilarious.

coffin4. The Coffin

Phil Hester and Mike Huddleston’s brilliant The Coffin is a completely different type of horror. The original black and white series was published, and then collected, by Oni Press in 2001, with a 10th anniversary hardcover edition put out by IDW with a full color back-up story, and plenty of extras.

Dr. Ashar Ahmad has found a way to conquer death – a suit that traps the soul and allows it to go on living – but when mortally injured, Dr. Ahmad has to become his own lab rat, Can he stop a megalomaniacal tycoon from stealing his secrets, and rescue his kidnapped daughter? Does Dr. Ahmad have what it takes to become in death the man he couldn’t be in life?

Phil Hester, most known for his art on Green Arrow and the Wretch takes up writing duties for this harrowing tale, that mixes science fiction and horror to create a truly unique experience. The story itself, while not horror in the strictest sense of the term, is quite scary in a very visceral way. The pacing is quick and loose, with some really great action scenes, and quite an emotional punch. The art by Mike Huddleston is what grabbed me, however. This was the book that got me back into comics after a five year lapse. The style is brilliant, elegant ink lines with backgrounds painted in greys, plenty of shadows, and great uses of negative space. And his designs for the various suits are a thing of beauty, each one having character and life to them. His covers alone would look great framed on the wall of a gallery somewhere. If you like your horror steeped in technology gone wrong, with an antagonist who may be his own worst enemy, The Coffin is the book for you.

ToT5. Eduardo Risso’s Tales of Terror

Tales of Terror is Carlos Trillo and Eduardo Risso’s obviously EC Comics inspired tome, first published in the US by Dynamite in 2007. This black and white book has eleven tales of differing types of horror.

There’s a reason it’s called Eduardo Risso’s Tales of Terror, as Carlos Trillo’s stories aren’t all that great, and are mostly cliche ridden, predictable, and a few times downright laughable, yet not uninteresting due to Risso’s art. Just like the EC Comics of yore, Creepshow, or the more recent Trick r Treat, these stories of varying quality contain your standard horror tropes such as swamp creatures, werewolves, vampires, invisible women, mummies, and enough murder and mayhem to satiate your need for a late night read, but they won’t give you nightmares.

Risso is the star of the show, raising these stories up to the level of great. Showcasing his art in glorious black and white, the best way to view it, on glossy paper, Dynamite did a wonderful job. Risso’s crisp lines, brilliant use of negative space, mastery of chiaroscuro, and wonderful character designs are the reason to buy this volume. Risso instills the stories with mood, informing them with his unique and amazing style. Even if the stories themselves aren’t that suspenseful or scary, Risso’s lavish illustrations make it worth your money, and the perfect Halloween read.

 

 

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