Markley’s Fevered Brain: Oh, The Horror!

Wayne Markley

Wayne Markley


by Wayne Markley

One of the most popular genres in books, film, and television is horror, and comics are no exception. As in the other forms of entertainment, in comics horror takes many forms, from outright gore to subtle suspense to melodrama. In this blog I am going to look at a variety of horror comics that reflect all of these sub-genres, and while they vary greatly in everything from art quality to storytelling to effectiveness, all are worth reading for very different reasons.

The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead


The Walking Dead is probably the best known comic of this genre due to the success of the TV show. The irony here is the comic is not really about the horror of zombies as much it is a melodrama about human survival and what people will do to each other in order to survive. Writer Robert Kirkman does a very good job of moving the stories along at a very quick pace and keeping things interesting. He is not afraid to kill or severely injure a major character at any time so there is always the question in every story of who is going to get it next. The art by Charlie Adlard is perfect in black and white and over the years (the book has been going for over ten years now), has developed a very nice pacing for telling Kirkman’s stories. It is never gratuitous or violent just for the sake of violence, and when there is a scene of graphic violence, it is for a reason that is important to the story. There are times when the books does feel a bit like “here we go again” with similar storylines cropping up (which in inevitable given the set up) but Kirkman always finds a way to keep it interesting. It does read better in trade form though as the stories can be a quick read. There are currently 21 trades available from its publisher, Image Comics. As an aside, Kirkman also wrote the first two Marvel Zombies collections which are also excellent (the later Marvel Zombies stories are not as good).

Haunted Horror

Haunted Horror


Haunted Horror is a bi-monthly book by Craig Yoe that is published by IDW. It reprints classic horror stories from the 1950s from a variety of publishers. Sources for the stories include such publishers as Avon, Fawcett, Standard, Charlton, and others except for the industry leader, EC. (The EC titles, Tales from the Crypt, Vault of Horror, etc. are available in oversized full color hardcovers from Dark Horse or Fantagraphics has been collecting the EC stories by artist and not by title, and are in black and white.) Almost all of the stories in Haunted Horror are the typical horror stories from the 1950s, which are a little more gruesome than DC 1970s work, but not as good as the EC work. There are a number of gems buried in these color comics that would likely never see the light of day if not for Craig Yoe. These are all short stories mostly with twist endings. A lot of the stories are really crime stories (killers mostly), but there are a number of monsters that show up, such as vampires, ghosts, etc. These are fun reads and some of the stories are great, especially when you get art by Wally Wood, Howard Nostrand, Bob Powell, or a number of other underrated 50s artists. If you like the 50s horror, I would also point out that PS Artbooks has been reprinting all of the Harvey horror books in nice color trades (Witches Tales, Tomb of Terror, etc.) and AC Comics does a massive (over 120 pages per issue) quarterly book called Crypt of Horror in black and white.

Outcast

Outcast


Outcast is a new book by Robert (The Walking Dead) Kirkman and Paul Azaceta about Kyle Barnes who has been blessed (cursed?) with the ability to detect people who are possessed by demons. This first story arc of six issues is a slow build with revelations about his background and how this ability affected him and those around him. I really enjoyed this book as it is a subtle type of horror that is actually unsettling and leaves you creeped out by the time you are done reading it. It is not overtly gory or violent, but is disturbing at a subconscious level, in that unlike most horror comics, it seems possible in the real world. The trade of the first six issues is due out in January from Image Comics and this book is already is being developed as a TV show for the fall. One of the best books of its kind.

Crossed

Crossed


Crossed is almost the exact opposite of Outcast. It is outright violence and sexual mayhem taken to its extreme. This book is likely for adults only, even though it is not marked as such. The original story was by Garth Ennis and it tells the tale of the future where there is some sort of outbreak or virus, which leaves people of all ages, including babies, with a cross mark on their face. Once the mark appears, the person becomes ultraviolent and caters to their bassest sexual desires and ultra violence, all of which is shown in graphic detail in the stories (thus why I think it is adults only – extreme violence, nudity, and sexuality). Each story arc is by a different creative team, both writer and artist, even though both Garth Ennis and David Lapham have done multiple stories. This book is a like a car wreck in that on the surface it is horrible. The violence and sexuality is over the top, but the stories are so twisted you are drawn back to the next issue just to see where it is going and if the protagonists are going to survive.. As with any anthology, the art varies from arc to arc with some being better than others, yet all are competent. This book is not for everyone, probably a select few, but it is horror of the most extreme kind. There is also a second series called Crossed: Wish You Were Here which is a series of trades collecting the online Crossed comic which is just as twisted as the monthly comic but the violence and sexuality/nudity is greatly toned down.

Showcase Presents: Secrets of Sinister House

Showcase Presents: Secrets of Sinister House


Showcase Presents: Secrets of Sinister House collects the first 18 issues of this DC Comic from the early 1970s. There are almost 500 pages of black and white glory here. What makes this book kind of interesting is the first five issues are traditional gothic romance stories. These are filled with haunted mansions with secret rooms and heroines dying to be saved by their prince charming. One of these Goth stories is even drawn by the great Alex Toth. The rest of the stories that round out issues six through eighteen are traditional horror stories that DC was doing at the time with Cain and Able and the crew. These were mostly watered down EC stories, being seven or eight pages with a twist ending. If you liked the Showcase collections of House of Mystery and House of Secrets, then this collection is for you.

Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 2

Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 2


Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 1 and 2 collect all of Marvel’s 1970s horror stories that were not long running series (I.e.: Werewolf By Night, Tomb of Dracula, Monster of Frankenstein). In these collections you get the Son of Satan, Brother Voodoo, Satana, Golem, Scarecrow, Gabriel the Devil Hunter, Living Mummy, and more. Each volume is over 600 pages in black and white. All of these stories are fairly typical for this time period at Marvel. It is almost like they were throwing concepts at the wall to see what stuck, looking to follow up on the success they had with Tomb of Dracula, etc. It is a mixed bag with even the worst being OK. Perhaps the best material is Satana because it was originally done in black and white and translates well here in an Essential, and there is historical value to the Brother Voodoo and Son of Satan stories that should not be over looked. There is a wide mix of creators that worked on these stories, including such greats as Gene Colan, Steve Gerber, Bill Mantlo, and many others. While both of these volumes our out print from Marvel they are pretty easy to find in most comic stores.

Spectre Vol. 2: Wrath of God

Spectre Vol. 2: Wrath of God


Some time back I wrote about the first volume of John Ostrander/Tom Mandrake’s Spectre series from DC Comics. Well, volume two recently came out and it is just as good, if not better than the first volume. Spectre Vol. 2: Wrath of God is basically broken down into two story arcs. The first story involves the Spectre trying to find his cause for being. He has decided all of humanity is basically worthless and wipes out an entire country because they are at war with themselves and he thinks that both sides of wrong. The Phantom Stranger, The Demon, Zatanna, and others gather to try and stop the Spectre from continuing on his quest to judge everyone while at the same time fighting Eclipso who has a hand in all of this. It resolves with the intervention of the Angel Michael and overall is a very good story and look at the morality, or lack of it, of humanity. This story is a logical follow up to the first volume that sets up the Spectre’s doubts of mankind and himself. Also, there is a fill in story in this arc by the late, great, Jim Aparo. The second story arc is about how humanity reacts to the Spectre wiping out so many people, and has a great story about the Spectre’s history with the JSA drawn by John Ridgeway. It ties in a lot of the DC history (pre-New 52) and involves the Spear of Destiny and Superman acting on behalf of the American government (and a certain Southern president) wanting the Spectre stopped. Within the story there is a single story about race relations featuring Jews and African Americans (which, even though this story was written twenty years ago, it could have been from last month as it is very similar to the recent news of the Michael Brown killing outside of St. Louis). The story also features Lucien from Sandman making an appearance or two. This second story is comic storytelling at is best and is very thought provoking in the way the story unfolds and how it reflects the modern world and the problems it faced, and still does face. A great read that I would highly recommend.

That wraps up my blog postings for 2014. I do hope you have enjoyed what you have read here and in turn have discovered some books that you have enjoyed. Everything I have written here today, and throughout the year, reflect my opinions only and in no way reflect the thoughts or opinions of Westfield Comics or their employees. I welcome comments or suggestions at MFBWAY@AOL.COM. I hope you all have a safe and enjoyable New Years and a great 2015.

Thank you.

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