(Whosoever Holds This Hammer appears every Tuesday exclusively on comicbookdaily.com)
OOOOOOOOOO! So scary! Welcome to the Halloween edition of WHTH fanboys and ghouls! In the spirit of the season, I thought that I would talk a little bit about comic books and the horror genre. Why do they go so well together? It is true that comic books are merely a medium, but some types of stories seem to work much better than others. Since the very beginning comic books have been a home for the macabre, the gruesome, and the unholy. From the classic Tales from the Crypt stories of terror to the current House of Mystery series fans have flocked to pick up the latest and greatest in bone-chilling storytelling.
The horror genre fits well on the comic book page for a number of reasons. Firstly, comic books are a visual medium. The appearance of terrifying creatures is limited only the creativity and the sanity of the artist. I doubt that Swamp Thing, the Corinthian, or Solomon Grundy would look how they do if they first were created in movies or television. Comic book artists are free to experiment without the financial constraints faced by those in other entertainment industries.
Secondly, horror requires suspense. It requires the unseen to heighten the sense of urgency and fear in the reader. Comic books are built with an empty space between panels. The reader must fill in the blanks themselves; they must imagine the unseen. Comic books are ideally suited for this insertion and assumption of the unseen.
Finally, the horror genre has always been on the fringe, anti-establishment in a way. Horror shows the concerns of society manifested in a save, easily digestible way. Night of the Living Dead showed concerns over the nuclear age, Invasion of the Body Snatchers showed the public’s fear of the Red Menace, and the list goes on and on. Comic books too have always been a vehicle for creative types to showcase the concerns of society. It is these similarities that make the marriage of horror and comic books so ideal. Indeed, some of the best stories in comic books have been horrifying tales.
My favourites are too numerous to mention here, but I want to leave you with a recommended reading list. First off, check out the EC archives from Gemstone publishing. The original horror comics, these stories were so ball-bustingly awesome that an entire censorship code was created to shut them down. If you haven’t read it, the Alan Moore run of Swamp Thing is so scary at times that it will turn you white. Finally, for a great send up of the genre check out the Simpsons Treehouse of Horror comic books. This annual anthology always provides top-notch horror stories from some of the best in the business. Do yourself a favour and head into your local comic shop and trick or treat your way to some great, and scary, reads.