I am a self-proclaimed horror nerd but it’s not the only kind of nerd I claim to be. I’m pretty multifaceted in my nerdhood, but one particular thing that rivals my love of horror films is my love of comics. I’ve been reading them since childhood and the love has only grown deeper while working in a comic book shop. Thankfully I don’t have to choose between horror or comics because there are many, many cool horror stories in comic book form. Some big screen baddies like Freddy, Jason, and Pinhead, have all had their appearances in the funny books (including the fantastic Freddy vs Jason vs Ash), and great comics have become movies like 30 Days of Night. But this article isn’t about those. My goal for this article is to pair horror films (and TV) to horror comics, like a fine wine and cheese, to help bridge the gap for film fans to jump to the page or vice-versa, and find some horror stories they might not have heard of before.
Night of the Living Dead / Afterlife with Archie
Where better place to start than with the King of Zombies, George A. Romero (RIP), the birth of the modern zombie film, and Archie comics. While most people either know Archie from the squeaky clean comics or the Riverdale TV show, Afterlife with Archie is a criminally underrated comic. Not too long ago Archie Comics rebooted their brand, bringing Archie and friends to more modern settings with great creators behind them such as Mark Waid (Daredevil), Fiona Staples (Saga), and Chip Zdarsky (Sex Criminals). None of that would have happened without this book, which takes the idyllic town of Riverdale and turns it into a bleak, zombie apocalypse that rivals The Walking Dead. Writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa knocked it out of the park with this one, so much so that he became Chief Creative Officer of Archie comics. His writing along with the phenominal art of Francesco Francavilla make this a must read zombie comic. If there’s any horror comic that can hold a place next to the original zombie movie, Night of the Living Dead, it’s this.
Hannibal / Nailbiter
I love Hannibal. I grew up watching the films (probably way too young), and the television show remains one of my favourites long after cancellation. I do admit that I did find the second half of the third season a little weak (the Red Dragon storyline is great but Hannibal is much less entertaining when he’s stuck in a prison cell). The first season particularly was fantastic, starting each episode with another messed up crime scene with human mushroom gardens, corpse totem poles, and man-made angels with flesh wings. If you like those episodes with their cast of creative killers, you’ll love Nailbiter. I can’t shut up about this comic and have shouted at people to read it. Nailbiter (Written by Joshua Williamson and Mike Henderson) takes place in Buckaroo, Oregon. Buckaroo has a unique problem, it keeps creating serial killers. Sixteen of the worst serial killers in the US. The FBI has been sent in to figure out the mystery, sometimes seeking the help of the Nailbiter, Edward Charles Warren. Warren is the Hannibal of this series and he’s just as charming. Nailbiter recently finished, so it won’t take long to consume all six graphic novels.
Teeth / Insexts
Out of all the horror films I could pair with a comic, I doubt you would have guessed I’d pair something with Teeth. The 2007 horror comedy about the girl with Vagina Dentata seems like a pretty unique premise that would not be replicated, and that’s true. Insexts from indie publisher Aftershock is also a comic with a unique premise. A lesbian romance in Victorian England, the couple have become more than human. Insectoid, fairy creatures that take on a vigilante role against both those that seek to destroy them, and a Jack The Ripper style villain stalking the streets. I’d pair these two together for their shared themes of women reborn as powerful killers, as well as weird body horror.
The Witch / Harrow County
It’s interesting to see witches coming back in vogue as horror villains, both in films and in comics. What was once just green skinned women with big noses and boils, has now become something much darker and more interesting. The Witch, the 2015 film by Robert Eggers, is definitely one that has brought the sub-genre back into the light (although some would say films like The Lords of Salem, and Blair Witch also helped), and specifically the period-set horror witch. The Witch is a moody, isolated film that for the most part focuses on the paranoia of an exiled-family, afraid they have been cursed by the witch in the woods. The film is mostly ambiguous about the reality of the witch, and for the most part it could be thought that there is no witch and this family are creating a supernatural scapegoat (sorry Black Philip) for their suffering. Harrow County is another period-set witch story, although in this case there definitely is a witch, there definitely are monsters and demons, and it all comes together for a fantastic story. Emmy is a young girl, born of the witch who once terrorised Harrow County. Her powers manifest on her 18th birthday and Emmy just wants to make things right between the town folk and the creatures that lurk in the woods. The writing by Cullen Bunn is great but it also includes the artwork of Tyler Crook, artwork that manages to be skin-crawlingly creepy and also charming. Alternatively, check out The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, the horror reinvention of Sabrina the Teenage Witch from Archie comics, which also includes mind-blowing art from Robert Hack.
These are just a few comic/film combos that I recommend, although while writing this I realised there’s much more. Well I guess you’ll just have to wait for the sequel “Return of the thing from the Comic Book Shop”.