“October is here.
That means the ghosts and ghoulies appear.
As all Hallow’s Eve draws near.
It’s time to cower in fear.”
—Me (Bradley Fenton)
I LOVE this time of year. There’s just something about the Fall in Montreal and its environs that conjures Lovecraftian images of H.P. Lovecraft’s New England settings. Each year during October I binge watch plenty of horror movies. Some are terrible, but most are quite good. And I also love reading good horror comics. Here are some of my favourites that I think you may have missed as other more popular, but not necessarily better, titles such as The Walking Dead, Hellboy, Locke & Key, House of Secrets/Mystery, EC titles etc. have stolen the spotlight over the years.
I hope you enjoy them, but more so I really hope at least one of them gets under your skin and keeps you up at night.
1. Zombie World (Dark Horse Comics, 1997)
Those who know me or have been following me long enough surely know how much I dig this series. It’s an anthology of loosely based mini-series and one-shots set in a world where a Hyperborean necromancer has set a supernatural zombie apocalypse loose upon an unsuspecting world. The inaugural chapter from creators Pat McEown and Mignola, entitled the Champion of the Worms, is a campy Lovecraftian romp. Clearly, Mignola’s work here set the foundation for the later development of the B.P.R.D. in the Hellboy universe. Fans of his later work will surely love his work here. The rest of the series—from creators such as Stephen Blue, Gary Erksine, Pat Mills, and Bob Fingerman, among others—is even in tone but does not fail to deliver the goods. Sadly, Zombie World was ahead of its time. It certainly would have had more traction and a greater fan base had it been published 10-15 years later during the current zombie-crazy geek landscape.
2. Lords of Misrule (Dark Horse Comics, 1997)
A largely unknown black and white Dark Horse Comics mini-series from 1997 written by Dan Abnett (who helped revitalize the Guardians of the Galaxy), John Tomlinson and Steve White, with fantastically unnerving art provided by Peter Snejbjerg. It was later collected, along with other Lords of Misrule stories from Dark Horse Comics Presents, in hardcover format from Radical Studios, which I strongly recommend, despite my disappointment with the decision to colourize the black and white stories. I re-read the series every couple of years because it never ceases to make me feel uneasy, as if someone, or something, is watching me from the shadows as I find myself engrossed by the mad tale unfolding on the pages before me. The story combines Lovecraftian elements with the Lord of Misrule/Abbot of Unreason and Feast of Fools folklore to create a creepy and moody setting, which reminds me in many ways of John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness. I dare you to read it alone on a dark and rainy night. Be warned though, it’s a trip into madness that you might not return from…
3. The Light Brigade (DC Comics, 2005)
Angels, demons, and nazis sums up this series perfectly. From creators Peter J. Tomasi and Peter Snejbjerg (yes, him again!) The Light Brigade is a WWII era supernatural thriller that fans of Hellboy/B.P.R.D. should love because it contains many of the same elements that make those Mike Mignola creations so darn good. It’s short but sweet, having initially been published as a 4-issue mini-series, yet it feels rather epic. Kick back and enjoy it with a cup of coffee and watch the forces of good and evil fight for the Sword of God with a group of G.I.’s caught in the middle. Who wins? You’ll just have to read it to find out. Or, just wait for the eventual movie. I think it would make an excellent movie or TV series. Netflix, are you reading this?
The Light Brigade is likely a play on words and/or homage to the Charge of the Light Brigade where in this case “Light” is a metaphor for the forces of good.
4. Neonomicon (Avatar Press, 2010)
This entry, from Alan Moore no less, is by far the most outlandish one on this list. It’s definitely not for everyone. Initially published as a 4-issue mini-series. it’s the middle part of Mr. Moore’s Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos-inspired trilogy. The other two chapters are: Alan Moore’s The Courtyard, which I have also read and recommend, and Providence, which I have yet to read. This middle chapter involves cults and graphic sexual rituals involving amphibious creatures raping humans. As I said, it’s not for everyone, and it’s definitely rated M. All that aside, it’s a well-executed tale of terror that only Alan Moore can pull off. Stay away from it if the sexual aspect makes you feel squeamish, otherwise dive right in. The water is just perfect…
5. The Tomb of Dracula (Marvel Comics, 1972)
OK, you might be asking yourself “hey, this isn’t an obscure series, it ran for 70 issues plus many other appearances, and Blade made his debut in it.” You’re absolutely correct, but ask yourself this, “have I ever I read the entire series?” My money is on “no.” Heck, even I haven’t read the entire saga. I’ve always considered The Walking Dead to be a modern-era couterpart of the Tomb of Dracula. Both are epic character-driven stories told in a horror setting. The folks mostly responsible for this are Gerry Conway, Archie Goodwin, Roy Thomas, Gardner Fox, Tom Palmer and Gene Colan. That’s quite a legendary roster. Colan is at the pinnacle of his craft here. Together with Palmer’s inks, the artwork is absolutely stunning and creates the perfect mood and atmosphere. Believe it or not, the Silver Surfer makes an appearance in a truly memorable issue that doesn’t feel awkward given the completely non-superhero tone of the series. It’s an ultimate confrontation of good vs. evil as the Prince of Darkness faces off against the noble Norrin Radd.
I hope you all find something to your liking on this list and please feel free to share your thoughts and opinions in the comment section below; I’m always looking for great horror reads!