Welcome, boils and ghouls, to last week of October, so close to Halloween, when we all take off our masks and wear our real faces! And what better way to celebrate than to read some creepy, creepy comic books? Here are ten of the creepiest comics you’ll ever read.
Please note: I am not including manga in this list because I haven’t read enough of it. That does mean I had to leave out Junji Ito’s Uzumaki, one of the creepiest things I’ve ever read, though. In any case: read Uzumaki, except if you are pregnant. Then please, for the love of all that is holy, do not read it. (Those who have read it will understand what I mean.)
The Sandman #6: “24 Hours”
Written by Neil Gaiman, with art by Mike Dringenberg
The Sandman started out as a horror comic before it transformed into a mythic fantasy epic and the first five issues really are pretty creepy, but it’s the sixth issue that takes the cake. In it, the supervillain Dr. Destiny takes control of everyone inside a diner for 24 hours and we see exactly what he does to them.
The creepiest parts of the comic are watching as the diner patrons slowly descend into madness, the madness of Dr. Destiny’s mind. He moves them around like puppets, like they are simply playthings for him. And one time, just for fun, he gives them back their own minds just so he can revel in their screams.
Doom Patrol #58: “In the Wonderful Land of Clockwork”
Written by Grant Morrison, with art by Sean Phillips
Morrison’s Doom Patrol always skirted the line between “weird” and “grotesque.” But this issue, which shows Cliff Steele trapped within delusion after delusion, pushes that limit and turns it up to eleven, showing the hidden machinery of the world.
The plot is at once simple and convoluted (like all things Morrison): Cliff’s brain was ripped out of his body last issue by the Candlemaker. Or perhaps it wasn’t - the issue starts with him inside a delusion, inside another delusion, and then it turns out he’s talking to a therapist...or is he? There are insects behind the television and machinery under the floorboards. The world is ending or perhaps it never existed.
Saga of the Swamp Thing #29: “Love and Death”
Written by Alan Moore, with art by Steve Bissette
Alan Moore really pushed the boundaries of horror in Swamp Thing, especially in a time when Vertigo Comics didn’t exist yet. This is never more illustrated by “Love and Death,” where one character goes through something completely horrific.
Abigail Arcane and her husband Matthew Cable had been helping out Swamp Thing for the past dozen issues and there had been a storyline about Matthew drinking and then getting into a car crash...from he miraculously escaped with barely a scratch. In this issue, however, Abigail finally realizes that the man she’s been living with, the man she’s been sharing a bed with, is not the man she married. He is in fact someone much, much worst.
Hellblazer #25-26, “Early Warning” and “How I Learned to Love the Bomb”
Written by Grant Morrison, with art by David Lloyd
Another one of Vertigo’s horror comics, Hellblazer has had plenty of creepy moments throughout the years, but none really compare to this two-part story about a small village with a nuclear base.
John Constantine, going off of a tip from a friend, arrives in the village of Thursdyke to investigate a local archaeological dig and the nuclear base itself. Unfortunately, something sets off vibrations in the earth which causes everyone to go insane. Including John himself. And the local priest declares himself Archbishop Bomb and decides to march to the nuclear base...
Ruins #1-2: “Men on Fire” and “Women in Flight”
Written by Warren Ellis, with art by Cliff Nielsen and Terese Nielsen
Switching to Marvel now, we find a journey through misery by Warren Ellis. This book came out about one year after Marvels by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross, which was a celebration of the Marvel universe. However, Ruins asked: what if everything that could go wrong did? What if we lived in a world of ruins?
In this world, reporter Phil Sheldon looks into various stories, like a concentration camp of Kree prisoners-of-war; a decaying Wolverine, his flesh falling off from his toxic bones; a Quicksilver whose legs were cut off; or the story of Bruce Banner, who was exposed to gamma radiation...and became a giant pulsating mass of tumors. In this world, nothing is right and nothing is good.
Wytches #1: “Chapter One”
Written by Scott Snyder, with art by Jock
Here is a newer comic from the writer of Batman, Scott Snyder, with a super creepy take on witches (or “wytches,” I guess). The art itself can give you nightmares as Jock makes everyone look just a little bit off.
The story is about Charlie Rooks, his wife, and his daughter Sailor, who move to a new town due to a traumatic incident that happened to Sailor. However, there is something in the woods of the town. And there is something wrong with the townspeople. And there’s something wrong with Sailor. “She has been pledged.” Who will you pledge?
From Hell #7: “Chapter Ten: The Best of All Tailors”
Written by Alan Moore, with art by Eddie Campbell and Peter Mullins
From Hell is Alan Moore’s exploration of not who Jack the Ripper was, but the environment in which he lived, the city of London and the East End. This was complimented by the fantastic illustrations of Eddie Campbell and Peter Mullins, who managed to make everything look scratchy without looking bad and managed to make Sir William Gull, an old physician, into someone physical imposing and terrifying.
“The Best of All Tailors” is the climax of the story. It is about Gull killing his last victim and what he does during it. Apparently, it was so grotesque that when Alan Moore described it to Neil Gaiman, it caused Neil to leave a restaurant and go outside to get some air. Gull’s final work is horrific to behold, although there are several more issues of the aftermath of what he has done.
Vertigo Resurrected #1: “Shoot”
Written by Warren Ellis, with art by Phil Jimenez
Warren Ellis’s run on Hellblazer was unfortunately cut short due to a story Ellis wrote called “Shoot.” The story was about a school shooting and, even though it was written before Columbine, it was scheduled to be published after. So DC pulled it and decided that the story would never be published, which Ellis disagreed with and caused him to quit. After about a decade, however, Vertigo did publish the story, in a book of reprints of old weird Vertigo tales.
There is nothing in the story itself that is gruesome. There is no blood, no gore, no demons or ghosts, nothing supernatural of any kind, actually. The story is, instead, about the aftermath of a school shooting and about a woman who is looking into it. And she begins to notice a man in the background. A man in a yellow trenchcoat.
Beasts of Burden #2: “Chapter Two: Lost”
Written by Evan Dorkin, with art by Jill Thompson
Beasts of Burden started out as short stories that Dorkin and Thompson did in various Dark Horse Halloween specials before it got its own book. It was about a group of dogs (and one cat) who protected their neighborhood, Burden Hill, from all manner of supernatural creatures. But hey, it’s about dogs and cats, how scary can it be, right?
Issue #2 was about a mother looking for her lost puppies. The Beasts of Burden Hill managed to find them...as ghosts. As incredibly creepy ghosts.
And what happens next is even worse. Seriously, for a book about animals, this is bloodshed and horror on par with We3. Go read it and see how creepy it gets.
Through the Woods
Written and illustrated by Emily Carroll
Holy crap this book is great. It is filled with gorgeously illustrated stories that are incredibly creepy. It’s like if a book of Grimm’s fairy tales were to cut out all of the non-creepy bits and leave only the parts where Cinderella’s sisters cut off their toes and heels or where the ravens plucked out the stepmother’s eyes.
If you want to read one of the stories before getting it, I would recommend His Face All Red, which is about a man and his brother.
So, in conclusion: