Horror and supernatural comics

There is an oft-repeated argument that comic books are an ill-suited medium for horror because they are not sufficiently immersive, and their readers are always too comfortable since they control the pacing. I never quite understood it, and I think its proponents are too fixated on movies as a point of reference. While it might be the case that comics won’t give you any jump scares, their authors still have at their disposal a broad repertoire of techniques to create a sense of tension, an unsettling atmosphere, or reactions of outright shock and revulsion. The following list provides an overview of various approaches to sequential horror.

Comic book horror, just like its counterparts in other forms of media, is a very broad category. Some of the titles included on the list are firmly rooted in well-established subgenres like slasher, creature feature, or zombie apocalypse. There is some gross-out gore horror, subtle atmospheric or psychological horror, and even horror comedy. Then there are dark fantasy and supernatural stories that don’t primarily aim to frighten, but feature characters, creatures, and settings that can be generally classified as “dark” or “gothic”. On the other end of the spectrum, we find gritty crime stories about serial killers, some of which are based on true events. Finally, the list includes several truly one-of-a-kind works that invent their very own brand of dread; many of them are considered essential classics in the history of comic books, regardless the genre.

It is true of the horror genre across all media that some of the most effective spine-chilling narratives are very short, concise, and reliant on shocking endings. This explains the prominence of anthologies in this lineup, from the celebrated publications of EC Comics and Warren to their modern descendants.

The list is dominated by the offerings of a relatively small number of American publishers and imprints that specialize in creator-owned series. While they are usually described as “indie”, their horror output is still close to mainstream tastes in terms of both narrative and artistic conventions. However, as part of my research, I also wanted to find alternatives to this general style, so some examples of “alt comix” and foreign comic book scenes also made their way onto the list.

One notable absence from the list is horror manga. Because there are so many important works by Japanese authors, I decided that they deserved their own separate list. I also compiled a list of comics with extreme and graphic content, not all of which are “horror” in the strict sense.

The list