100 of the Best Horror Comics

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100 of the Best Horror Comics

Aided by publishers like Warren and EC, the horror genre built itself into the foundation of sequential art just as vigorously as superheroes, romance or science fiction. When psychiatrist Frederic Wertham published the misguided comics-skewering Seduction of the Innocent in 1954, the moral crusade was in response to the glorious groundswell of murder, corpses and grotesquery on the comics rack. Despite the beating the genre took from the ensuing Comics Code Authority, horror has spent the following decades creeping out of the recesses around mainstream publishing, with Dark Horse, Vertigo, Image, Humanoids and various manga lines filling our nightmares with harrowing new atrocities. In honor of Halloween, this list proudly presents our favorite comic book chillers, thrillers, slow burns and monster mashes, guaranteed to terrify and provoke readers with all the gory gifts this niche offers.

(Updated from 85 to 100 on October 22, 2018.)

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30days.jpg 30 Days of Night
Writer: Steve Niles
Artist: Ben Templesmith
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Every time I read Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith’s grisly vampire yarn, 30 Days of Night, I say the same thing over and over: “How did no one ever think of this genius story before?” The setting? Barrow, Alaska—the top of the world. True to the title, a small population experiences 30 days of continual night during the winter. The vampire horror story writes itself. However, this script comes from the hands of narrative stalwart Steve Niles, one of the masters of modern horror comics, and Templesmith’s cold, brutal artwork fit perfectly. I still get chills every time the coven of vampires make their slow, vicious descent on the townsfolk, unaware of the true horror that’s come for them. Darren Orf

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afterlifewitharchie.jpg.png Afterlife With Archie
Writer: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Artist: Francesco Francavilla
Publisher: Archie Comics
In 2013, the Archie editorial crew took the definition of on-brand and fed it to a ravenous horde of flesh-eating shamblers. Archie Chief Creative Director and current Riverdale showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa matured Archie, Veronica, Jughead, Betty and the other varsity-jacket icons with a teen rating and a buffet of human organs in this excellent series. Though releases are few and far between, Afterlife hits a note of drama-heavy dread that’s not afraid to veer and twist among an electric ensemble, each character hiding a cemetery of skeletons in their closet. But this churning requiem for youth wouldn’t read so beautifully if not for artist Francesco Francavilla, channeling the dark side of Riverdale in reams of inky shadow. Each panel could be its own Giallo film poster from the ‘70s, the mood coloring echoing director Dario Argento’s hyper-stylized gel lighting. Watching lovable goofball Jughead transform from a burger-devouring lunkhead to a people-devouring lunkhead may be hard to stomach for longtime readers, but it does make for a delicious horror comic. Sean Edgar

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aliensdeadorbitx.jpg.png Aliens: Dead Orbit
Writer/Artist: James Stokoe
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Like fellow precision artists Geof Darrow and the late, great Bernie Wrightson, James Stokoe doesn’t stop drawing until nearly every millimeter of canvas is shaded, hatched and stylized. As seen in Orc Stain and his Godzilla runs, a microscope is required to appreciate Stokoe’s images in their hyper-articulate, chiseled depth. In Aliens: Dead Orbit, the cartoonist uses his talent to shape a cosmic graveyard of space junk, dwarfing in scope and mind-numbingly vast. Zoom in tightly enough, and one lone space engineer sits stranded in the wasteland. Though this miniseries utilizes one of the most iconic horror franchises in film history, it builds on its foundation by imposing a sheer sense of scale and futility. Yes, protagonist Wascylewski matches wits with the Xenomorphs and facehuggers, but Stokoe’s art begs what’s the point in a celestial vacuum of hope, light years from any aid. Aliens: Dead Orbit is a Venn diagram of awe, depression and the ghost of salvation, all splayed on 6.63” x 10.24” paper that feels as big as the universe at its most indifferent. Sean Edgar

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alienssalvation.jpeg.png Aliens: Salvation
Writer: Dave Gibbons
Artist: Mike Mignola 
Publisher: Dark Horse
The Aliens franchise has seen a host of worthy comic installments under the purview of longtime license holder Dark Horse, but few have tapped into the oppressive terror of Ridley Scott’s original vision rather than the guns-blazing sci-fi action of the sequels. Written by Watchmen’s Dave Gibbons and drawn by Hellboy creator Mike Mignola (with Kevin Nowlan’s unmistakable inks), Aliens: Salvation pits a pious space traveler against the unrelenting threat of the Xenomorphs. Like an extraterrestrial The Heart of Darkness, the true horror here lies with man’s capacity for violence, not the external threat of a “demon” with multiple mouths. Steve Foxe

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americanvampire.jpg American Vampire
Writer:   Scott Snyder  
Artists: Rafael Albuquerque, Sean Murphy, Others
Publisher: Vertigo/ DC Comics 
Pop-culture depictions of vampires have alternated between sinister predators and brooding romantic figures. Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque’s American Vampire does a fine job of reclaiming the former camp-notably, taking a man who’s terrifying enough even before he develops claws, fangs, and a taste for blood as its central character. Tobias Carroll

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arkhamasylum.jpg Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth
Writer:   Grant Morrison  
Artist: Dave McKean
Publisher: DC Comics 
Batman stories frequently play at horror—Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s long run and Grant Morrison’s own Batman: Gothic with Klaus Janson being prime examples—but Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth is the closest the Caped Crusader has ever come to a full-blown Francis Bacon nightmare. A powerful early mission statement from a young Grant Morrison brought to singularly unsettling life by fine artist (and Sandman cover master) Dave McKean, Arkham is fundamentally a ghost story, even if you ignore the backstory about the manor’s murderous former residents. Locked in the Asylum with his greatest foes, Batman finds himself haunted both by a ghostly pale Joker and by the very Lovecraftian notion that sanity is a brittle, fleeting thing. Steve Foxe

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babyteethx.jpg.png Babyteeth
Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Garry Brown
Publisher: AfterShock
As scribe Donny Cates clarified in his interview with Paste, he doesn’t “find the Antichrist compelling whatsoever,” but is completely devoted to exploring “the girl who gives birth to it, and the impact it has on her life.” True to his word, Babyteeth took a progressive twist on the template laid by Rosemary’s Baby, The Omen and House of the Devil. Sex has consistently equated to doom in the horror template, striking a strong argument that the genre is, whether intentional or not, Christian propaganda. The proposition of a woman taking pride and responsibility for her bundle of heresy is a striking and refreshing evolution. Artist Garry Brown’s thick, marker-like lines lend a painterly, analogue touch that wouldn’t feel out of place on a ‘70s grindhouse poster. In these pages, new mama Sadie may face a parade of horror as her son, Clark, fills his unholy legacy, but she’s taking a Mother-of-the-Year attitude while rattling the literal gates of Hell. Sean Edgar

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batmanhauntedknight.jpg Batman: Haunted Knight/The Long Halloween
Writer: Jeph Loeb
Artist: Tim Sale
Publisher: DC Comics 
Before working on Marvel’s color quadrilogy, Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale toiled in the deep blacks, blues and grays of Gotham City. The Long Halloween and Haunted Knight paint suffocating visions of Gotham, rendered in Sale’s elegant use of contrast and iconic design. Though Long Halloween tends to receive more attention, Haunted Knight—which consists of three Legends of the Dark Knight Halloween Specials—is an absorbing descent deserving more recognition. The first chapter presents a capable Scarecrow tale, but the sophomore entry shows a young Barbara Gordon trapped in a deranged tea party hosted by the Mad Hatter. A frenzied Jim Gordon lends the narrative a dreadful gravitas, while Sales’s illustrations threaten to consume its heroes in liquid shadows. Sean Edgar

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beastsofburden.jpg Beasts of Burden
Writer: Evan Dorkin
Artists: Jill Thompson, Benjamin Dewey
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
This Eisner-award winning series needs an emotional disclaimer: the presence of adorable watercolor animals will not spare you from death and despair, including the demise of some of the aforementioned furballs. Written by Milk & Cheese auteur Evan Dorkin with lush, fully-painted art from Scary Godmother’s Jill Thompson (and, now, Benjamin Dewey), Beasts of Burden follows the “Wise Dog Society,” a band of dogs (and one cat) who protect Burden Hill from a growing evil presence souring the town. Dorkin seems to return to the gang whenever he have a story worth telling, and he and his collaborators know how to spook and tug at the heartstrings in equal measure. The perfect Halloween read for mature kids and grown adults who still get weepy thinking of Old Yeller. Steve Foxe

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beauty.jpeg.png The Beauty
Writers: Jeremy Haun & Jason A. Hurley
Artist: Jeremy Haun
Publisher: Image Comics 
The Beauty requires one hell of a suspension of disbelief to accept its core concept—an STI that makes you sexy overnight—but once you clear that hurdle, this Image series is ideal for horror fans who prefer a police-thriller bent to their chills, à la Silence of the Lambs or I Saw the Devil. Creator Jeremy Haun has been horror-adjacent for most of his career, drawing titles like The Darkness and Constantine, and he taps that vein in his first original series. Alongside co-writer Jason A. Hurley, Haun crafts mask-wearing maniacs and combustible corpses with equal aplomb. The Beauty’s storylines, which feature a more diverse and inclusive cast than average horror fare, have so far been relatively self-contained, working as “seasons” tailor-made for fans of Hannibal ready to take the comic plunge. Steve Foxe

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beautifuldarkness.jpeg.png Beautiful Darkness
Writer: Fabien Vehlmann
Artists Kerascoët
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly
French import Beautiful Darkness is perhaps more horrific than straight-up horror, slowly unfolding its absolutely bleak miniature world in gorgeous watercolors. Like a classic children’s book straight from Hell, Beautiful Darkness follows a large band of oddly shaped Lilliputians struggling to survive—and constantly, flippantly meeting their violent ends—on, in and around the corpse of a little girl murdered and left to rot in the woods. There are potent metaphors about the human condition and capacity for cruelty at work here, and few comics will leave you as unnerved and inconsolable about our species. Steve Foxe

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blackhole.jpg Black Hole
Writer/Artist: Charles Burns
Publishers: Pantheon
Charles Burns’ masterwork is perhaps the apex of body horror, tracing the spread of an STD that mutates its victims. There’s little overt violence and few conventional scares, but the book worms its way into your mind with Burns’ starkly beautiful, woodcut-like images of depravity and teenage confusion, remaining with the reader long after the lights turn off. Picture old-school publisher EC’s horror titles without the narrative neatness or the veneer of humor. Hillary Brown

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blackmondaymurders-08.jpg.png The Black Monday Murders
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Tomm Coker
Publisher: Image Comics 
These last few years have offered a particularly gruesome portrait of capitalism’s failings. Bloodied passengers were tossed off planes, companies charged $100 for water in the wake of natural disasters and pharma CEOs put absurd price tags on life-saving drugs. Jonathan Hickman fittingly proposes that the “free market” is the work of the devil in The Black Monday Murders, a layered, labyrinthine comic delivered in stark monochrome by Tomm Coker. The devil has traditionally been the lord of the deal, trading in souls, but this series embraces the larger framework of stocks, recessions and finances alongside its grim goat-skulled demon lord. The world of The Black Monday Murders is unfolding to show different “schools” of warring investment groups and freaky familiars who only speak in symbols, arcanely designed by Hickman. An experience best read in trade-paperback chunks, Coker and Hickman work brilliantly with a corporate aesthetic, delivering whole pages that transform terse emails into omens of doom. This comic is the scariest financial horror story outside of your student loans, with style to spare. Sean Edgar

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514779-sx1280-ql80-ttd-.jpg.png Bones of the Coast
Editors: Shannon Campbell, Jeff Ellis and Kathleen Jacques
Publisher: Cloudscape Comics
American readers may recognize few names aside from Beyond co-editor Sfé R. Monster and Prophet artist Simon Roy, but Bones of the Coast’s haunting and hauntingly gorgeous brand of Pacific Northwest horror should resonate far outside the bounds of its native British Columbia. By building its anthology around a place rather than a subgenre, Bones of the Coast attracted everything from what-goes-there forest terror to subtle body horror to mythical monsters made real, all bound to the towering trees, rocky beaches and no-one-can-hear-you-scream forests of its corner of North America. Standout stories include a claustrophobic diving trip and a hiking excursion plagued by doppelgangers. Steve Foxe

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bprd.jpg B.P.R.D.
Writers:   Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, Others
Artists: Guy Davis, James Harren, Tyler Crook, Laurence Campbell and More
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
What began as a Hellboy anthology spin-off quickly became the Mignolaverse title most likely to dip into full terror. Mignola’s big, red doomed hero, by nature of being a literal devil with a fist made of stone, is a poor stand-in for genuine horror. The all-too-human members of the B.P.R.D., however, face mortality with much greater frequency. Creep master Guy Davis illustrated the first major chunk of the series, (and designed many of the distinct beasties that populate the book to this day) and the title has seen a murderer’s row of artists pass through since. The most recent runs are some of the bleakest post-apocalyptic scenarios ever committed to the comic page, but new readers can turn to 1946 or Vampire for solid standalone entries. Steve Foxe

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cateyed1.jpg.png Cat Eyed Boy
Writer/Artist: Kazuo Umezu
Publisher: VIZ Media
The Drifting Classroom creator Kazuo Umezu is widely considered to be a godfather of horror manga in his native Japan, and his wide range of appalling talents are on full display in Cat Eyed Boy, an anthology series loosely connected by the presence of the titular half-demon child with piercing feline eyes. The Cat Eyed Boy doles out punishments to the wicked while often taunting the innocent, allowing Umezu to dream up a panorama of terrors ranging from meatball monsters to serpentine stepmothers. One of the most effective tools in Umezu’s arsenal is the Boy’s unknowable moral system: he’s just as likely to invite doom as he is to prevent it, making the two hefty American volumes consistently unpredictable reading. Steve Foxe

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