Violent, disturbing, and transgressive comics

Sometimes morbid curiosity gets the better of me. I’m not proud of myself for compiling this list, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t have fun making it. It collects comics from various subgenres that explore dark taboo themes, push the boundaries of free speech, don’t shirk from employing gruesome or sexually explicit imagery, or openly seek to shock or offend the reader (but not necessarily all at the same time!).

At this point, I should probably issue a formal warning that while this page doesn’t contain any X-rated material (aside from some tiny risqué cover thumbnails), looking up some of the titles listed here can easily lead you into NSFW territory. Please exercise good judgment.

More pertinently, I should also warn you that some of the comics included on the list are just really, really dumb and trashy. They are exactly the kind of stuff that announces itself as “mature audiences only”, with the clear implication that its content is going to be embarrassingly immature and suitable only for adolescents. While technically they were “recommended” in my sources, it’s clear that references to them function as memes or bad jokes.

Fortunately, it’s not all crude edginess, gratuitous gore, and shock value for the sake of it. While sometimes it’s not easy to draw the line separating nihilistic ultraviolence or titilating sexual extravagance from more artful and thoughtful transgresiveness, a large portion of the included works are at the very least interesting. These comics confront you with striking plot points and imagery in a way that, instead of providing momentary excitement, needs to be processed in some deeper sense, either emotionally or intellectually.

A cursory glance reveals that the list is dominated by a small number of well-known British and American “big name” writers who specialize in various brands of edgy material. I was hoping to include more international comics, as well as more of the niche stuff like the American “outlaw comics” from the 1990s or representatives of the “alternative comix” scene. Fortunately, enough of them managed to squeak in to provide counterweight to various rehashes of the question “what if superheroes were, like, real people and also immoral?”. I didn’t go out of my way to find manga titles suitable for this ranking (partially because I was too meek to explore the more extreme examples of it); the few that are featured on the list were just popular in my general, Western-oriented sources.

If you’re looking for a more general list of horror comics, I’ve compiled one for Western horror and another for horror manga. My list of weird, surreal, and psychedelic comics might also be relevant. And if you prefer some literary edginess and transgression, I refer you to my list of dark and disturbing books.

The list