17 Excellent Horror Comics to Read All Year Long
Halloween never has to end.
Comics and horror have a unique relationship. There is no shortage of comic books in the genre, but it's not quite as seamless a relationship as you get in movies. You lose sound and soundtrack. You lose jump scares. In short, you lose a lot. On the other hand, you gain the ability to transcend the confines of reality.
The challenges of making a truly horrifying comic, something that seeps into your subconscious and haunts your thoughts, is one that creators have taken up over and over. There are plenty of examples of comics and graphic novels hitting the same heights that a horror film can, from psychological terror to revolting moments to gory humor a la Shaun of the Dead.
There are more great horror comics out there than a single list could hope to highlight. You can make a list of worthy comics made by a single creator, like Joe Hill or Eric Powell or Mike Mignola. Nonetheless, here are some great horror comics that make a great jumping-off point for those who want their horror fix all year long.
The Walking Dead (2003–2019)
It's arguably one of the greatest zombie comics ever made, despite the variety of titles available at this point. Of course, The Walking Dead is immensely familiar now, and the early issues follow the story of the show closely. However, the comic is its own beast. From the first issue, you're dropped into a world of zombies dripping skin and guts across the country. Still, Rick Grimes and his crew discover along the way that the scariest thing in the world may still be humans.
Red Room (2021– )
In Red Room, Ed Piskor has crafted a meandering story that almost functions as a series of one-shots centered around "red rooms." Those are dark web live streams where people pay exorbitant amounts of money to watch people be creatively murdered, live. It's as gruesome as it sounds. It would be easy for a story like this to veer into campiness as a way of not looking the horror right in the eyes, but Piskor doesn't flinch. He explores the kind of world that allows these rooms to exist, the rivalry between streamers, how groups recruit new "stars," the fandom that follows streamers like Poker Face, and how they procure their victims. I feel a little apprehensive about adding a series that is only a few issues into its run, but Red Room is something unique. It is absolutely, 100%, assuredly not for everyone—at one point in the first issue, I had to set it down for a second to catch my breath before diving back in—but it's kind of like a car wreck, the kind of thing you shouldn't stare at, but you can't help yourself, even if you know it's going to give you nightmares.
As Jeff Lemire notes in the afterword, horror and politically charged stories are difficult to pull off in comics. But the team working with writer Pornsak Pichetshote and artist Aaron Campbell managed it beautifully in Infidel. The magic of the story of Aisha, a Muslim woman, is not only that it is fascinating, but that the horror is intense. Aisha, along with her fiancée, Tom, and stepdaughter, Kris, has moved into a building that was devastated by an accidental bomb explosion. The building is haunted by what happened there, as are the people who live there now, both because of the deaths and the way the incident has been discussed in public. But there's something more to the haunting. Infidel is like a haunted house Get Out with twists that have you rooting for the characters and empathize with their suffering.
Afterlife With Archie (2013– )
Archie comics probably don't spring to the front of mind when thinking about horror. The association with Riverdale or Chilling Adventures of Sabrina have maybe changed that a bit, but not entirely. Afterlife With Archie breaks the mold of what you know from these characters. They're tortured and just trying to navigate their raging teenage hormones in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. Artist Francesco Francavilla's shadowy art with a stark palette brings Archie and co. into the realm of horror. If you can stomach Jughead and Hot Dog becoming hungry for human flesh, it's the kind of series you'll devour in a single sitting.
Harrow County (2015–2018)
The stunning art of Tyler Crook in Harrow County is almost cutesy at times, which makes it all the more impressive that Crook and writer Cullen Bunn made this series so eerie. It's got a charm to it aided by the innocence of the protagonist, Emmy. But like Harrow County itself, there's something sinister lurking under the surface of the series. People like to say "nothing is at it seems" in promotional copy, and I've never seen that attached to Harrow County, but it'd be appropriate here. There are twists every few pages. It starts with a flashback to the hanging of a witch before dropping you into an idyllic southern town. Then, by the end, you're steeped in haints, a reincarnated witch, magical creatures, flaming ghosts, a shadow minotaur with four eyes, and a surprisingly tender friendship between Emmy and a sentient pile of skin.
The Immortal Hulk (2018–2021)
Al Ewing and Joe Bennett took over the Hulk and crafted what might be one of the big green guy's greatest arcs, turning the series into a horror story that almost functions as a one-shot while still building a story that draws in nearly everyone that gamma has touched throughout the Marvel universe, as well as the mysterious Below-Place. Bruce Banner is stuck in his head, sifting through different incarnations of the Hulk—Joe Fixit, Banner, Devil Hulk, et al. The Hulks appear and disappear moving from reality to Banner's head to an ethereal realm that is pure gamma horror. In various forms, the Hulk battles his father, a minotaur, body horror of his own, and other foes of his past reborn as pulpy villains. Ewing just wrapped the run with an oversized Issue 50. It's a long time to stick with a single story, but The Immortal Hulk was remarkably consistent, and the finale was worth the wait.
Survivors' Club (2016)
Six people in LA are drawn together in this story written by Lauren Beukes and Dale Halvorsen because of separate traumatic events that happened to them back in 1987. Each story feels a lot like a horror movie from the same decade, its characters having survived a haunted house, doll twins, a professor hunting down a cursed video game, a serial killer with an imaginary friend who is also a giant and a killer. Survivors' Club moves incredibly fast with a big cast of characters, bouncing from story to story, building tension, and making it impossible to resist turning the page.
Batman: Death of the Family (2012–2013)
Plenty of Batman comics would make sense on this list. The Long Halloween, A Serious House on Serious Earth, The Batman Who Laughs. Even recent titles like The Joker or Batman: Reptilian fit the bill. But Death of the Family, a five-issue run written by Scott Snyder, is creepy as hell. It's maybe overshadowed some by the incredible number of good Batman comics and its place in the frequently maligned "New 52."
The Joker is supposed to be dead. His face was cut off. But he's returned to Gotham with the skin of his old face pinned to his head. He's got a plan to torture Batman and his family. There's the classic Joker/Batman dynamic, but it ultimately lands Batman in a haunted house fighting for the lives of his young teammates as all of his most famous enemies watch. It's a creepy story, in no small part because of the monstrous art by Greg Capullo.
It's easy to feel like no one is on your side when things are hard. Sadie got pregnant with the antichrist, who she named Clark, after Superman, at age 16. He drinks mother's blood instead of mother's milk and is being stalked by a series of would-be assassins and kidnappers from the government and a Satanic cult. For all that, Babybeeth is not as much about the antichrist as it is about the girl who gives birth to him. She is a devoted mother, despite seeing what Clark is and being told of the destruction he may cause. The art by Garry Brown is creepy and often funny, while the writing of Donny Cates, whose Redneck would be a great fit here too, creates an elaborate world for the antichrist's miserable childhood.
Ice Cream Man (2018– )
Ice Cream Man may be one of the creepiest ongoing series right now. (Right next to Red Room or Nice House on the Lake.) Each issue is essentially a one-shot story, all tied together by the presence of a terrifying, supernatural ice cream man. It's rarely terrifying in the way a slasher movie would be. Instead, it's psychologically devastating. You watch marriages fall apart, a child living with his dead parents, a crossword puzzle that knows every detail of your miserable existence. It's intense and imaginative. The misery of the characters somehow draws you in, but so does the writing. There's an issue that's a palindrome that reads the same forward and backward. There's one in Spanish. Three concurrent stories split across the page like Neopolitan ice cream. (Issue #6, which isn't a bad one to try as your first taste from the Ice Cream Man's truck.) At times, it feels like writer W. Maxwell Prince is playing games with the reader that are almost as sinister as the games the Ice Cream Man plays with his victims.
Something Is Killing the Children (2019– )
Erica Slaughter has come to a small town because, well, something is killing the children. Most adults aren't capable of seeing what's happening in the woods, but the kids and Erica can. The town doesn't know what's happening, only that children keep disappearing. The series from James Tynion IV, Werther Dell'Edera, and Miquel Muerto is almost a mystery series at times with the shadowy House of Slaughter looming over Erica's actions as she tries to stop the monsters from breeding and destroying the entire town.
Killadelphia (2019– )
It's not often you find a vampire story that feels fresh, but Killadelphia does. At times, it's absurd; at others, it's grisly. The first arc is the story of a son coming to terms with his recently deceased detective father while investigating an invasion of vampires in Philadelphia that may or may not have something to do with former president John Adams. Yeah, it's a strange plot. The art of Jason Shawn Alexander and colorist Luis NCT lets the horror sink in shadows and silhouettes but gives space to the heart of the story as the hunt for vampires brings Jimmy Sangster closer to his dead father.
Frankenstein Underground (2015)
As with any Mike Mignola story, this comic treats monsters with love. It opens with a witch tending to a dying Frankenstein's monster saying that people did to him what they always do with things they don't understand: They attempt to destroy. Frankenstein Underground might be a little less heralded part of the Hellboy universe, but if you love gothic stories, demons, the occult, and incredibly rendered monsters, you can't go wrong with a whole lot of Mignola's work. This book could easily be swapped with Hellboy, B.P.R.D. (especially the early stuff with art by Guy Davis), Baltimore (and the new Lady Baltimore), Lobster Johnson, Koshchei the Deathless, Mr. Higgins Comes Home, Witchfinder, or any of a number of comics in the world of Hellboy or the Outerverse.
Swamp Thing (1984–1987)
Swamp Thing is a character built for horror, and there have been a lot of good runs of it in comics. But stepping back to Alan Moore's 80s takeover of Swamp Thing—with art from John Totleben, Stephen Bissette, and Rick Veitch, among others—remains worthwhile. The shift in the character in Moore's hands created a new level of horror. Yes, there are monsters and werewolves and villains, but the real terror of Moore's reinvention was that the humanoid pile of vegetation is no longer Alec Holland. It discovered that it is not a person transformed, but something entirely different. It's a devastating shift in how it thinks of itself, which makes for an unsettling series that treats the character with great humanity.
Art Young's Inferno (2020)
This might be a little closer to an Evil Dead of comics than something genuinely unsettling. Art Young, who died in 1943, was a political cartoonist. He turned his incisive wit toward capitalism in his reinterpretation of Dante's Inferno in 1934, which got an expanded edition in 2020. In Young's Hell, the titans of industry and capitalist lickspittles populate a hell in which they've led a takeover to privatize the afterlife. It's not really a sequential story, but a series of vignettes, jokes, and images of what the underworld looked like when Young made his journey centuries after Dante.
From Hell (1989–1996)
There are few collections that have the power of Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's classic story of Jack the Ripper. There's plenty to keep you busy in their more than 500-page, brutal telling of one of the most infamous serial killers that's both intricate and thoroughly researched. Additionally, there's a new-ish edition of the collection with color that brings a little new life (and red, red blood) to a story that has captivated people for more than a century.
The Suicide Forest (2018)
The forest of Aokigahara is well-known for its connection to suicides. It's a primary location in this bleak story by El Torres and Gabriel Hernandez Walta, which, as the author writes in the afterward, strips any sense of glamor from the act. "It's too easy to fall into that gothic cliché," he writes, "when it is actually full of fear and urine and last minute regrets." In separate narratives that converge, the story follows a "gaijin" and his girlfriend through a difficult break-up. She commits suicide and returns as a spirit to get revenge on the people she holds responsible for the failure of their relationship. In the other narrative, an Aokigahara ranger tries to sate spirits in the forest. It's a sad story, and a sad location that works here because of the respect the creators give to the location and the sober way they deal with tragedy. It's an unsettling story that will stick with you long after the final page.