As we’ve mentioned before on countless occasions here at the Big Comic Page, we flat-out love horror.
Whether it’s a deeply engrossing horror comic, a sharply written novel, a pulse raising movie or anything in between, there’s just something about the sheer artistry of horror that speaks to us all.
And, while we’ve previously given you our recommendations for what we consider to be the best horror comics of the year so far, we thought it might be fun to throw the notion of horror open to some of our favourite creators and see what they had to say. We didn’t limit them in the slightest, so this isn’t solely a list of comics, movies or books, but instead we gave them the opportunity to say as much or as little as they wanted to about their own favourite horror.
Here’s what they had to say.
Cullen Bunn (HARROW COUNTY, SIXTH GUN) – @cullenbunn
“I’ve gone on and on in the past about my favorite horror movies (Alien, The Thing), my favorite horror books (The Shining, Skeleton Crew, The Books of Blood), and my favorite horror comics (Uzumaki, Gyo) so this time around I’m going to try something different. Today I’ll focus on a great writer you may not have encountered before. Since it’s Halloween, now’s a perfect time to fix that!
If you haven’t read The Traveling Vampire Show by Richard Laymon, you really owe it to yourself to check it out. It’s a fairly hefty novel, but it reads so fast, you’ll feel like you blinked and it was over. The story takes place in the summer of ’63, but it still works as a Halloween yarn, full of ghostly happenings, evil hounds, teenage shenanigans, and–yes–lots of vampires. This isn’t as bleak as, say, Salem’s Lot or They Thirst (two other great vampire books), but there are plenty of frightful moments to get your blood pumping. It’s a coming of age and sexual awakening story that touches on some dark and serious topics, but it still manages to embrace a sense of fun and adventure. It’s written in such a way that evokes thoughts of Ray Bradbury, but it maintains an easygoing, conversational style rather than aping Bradbury’s descriptive passages. It’s an unusual kind of horror story, timeless, and perfect for Halloween.
And if you like vampires, Laymon’s book Stake is also pretty terrific. It’s another unexpected twist on the vampire story. As an added bonus (if you’re interested in the writing process), it reads at times like a memoir on the craft.
As I’m looking over Laymon’s list of work, it occurs to me that I could mention dozens of his books that would be perfect for horror aficionados and perfect for Halloween. I wholeheartedly recommend seeking out his work. When Laymon passed away in 2001, the horror genre lost an amazing voice.”
Frank Barbiere (FIVE GHOSTS, BLACKOUT) – @atlasincognito
“I’ve never been a huge fan of the horror genre, more of a casual observer who happened to take interest in a few specific pieces of film and fiction here and there. To that end, my favorite horror film is THE FRIGHTENERS from Peter Jackson and starring Michael J. Fox. The Frighteners is credited as the film with which Jackson accumulated a ton of technology for special effects which he would later use to create Lord of The Rings, but it’s an awesome movie in its own right — the first half is a farcical ghost comedy, with a very fun and unique tone but something sleeping below the surface. The second half of the film is a more typical slasher/horror action film with some really unique and wonderful (especially for the time period) special effects. The real setpiece is a monster who extends out from walls, which has been done to death afterwards, but this was one of the first implementations.
On the comics side, I constantly recommend LOCKE AND KEY. While the series does have its roots in horror, its executed in such a brilliant character piece that this is a book I not only recommend to horror fans, but to anyone who has even a passing interest in comics. The haunted house premise with the conceit of keys, as well as an ancient evil trying to permeate the barrier of our world is all great fun and story, but it’s the characters and the bonds they forget that make this a truly endearing work.”
Peter J Tomasi (SUPERMAN, HOUSE OF PENANCE) – @PeterJTomasi
“Two words: The Thing (1982) – because nothing beats psychological horror mixed with good ol’ fashioned scary monsters done right with an amazing cast, director, script and soundtrack!”
Michael Moreci (ROCHE LIMIT, BURNING FIELDS) – @MichaelMoreci
“Halloween has, and always will, speak volumes to me. I had really liberal parents who introduced me to things like Friday the 13th, Elm Street, and things like that at a really early age. Like, I was maybe seven years old when I saw Halloween for the first time. What speaks to me about this movie is Michael Myers, above everything else (though don’t get me started on how Carpenter is the most underrated American auteur). The thing that’s so great about him is also the most simple: he’s evil. There’s no back story, no rationalization, nothing. He’s the bogeyman, and that’s all there is to it (which is why Rob Zombie and his dime-store psychology in the Halloween remake is such a disaster–like, how did this guy miss the ENTIRE point of the character?). You don’t see that often because it’s truly terrifying and real. Some people, they’re just fucking evil. We don’t understand it, we cant understand it, and we shouldn’t understand it. But it exists, and Halloween strikes right to the core of some real fear. I can’t get enough of this movie.”
Dan Schoening (GHOSTBUSTERS) – @dapperpomade
“With the sweet smell of Autumn wisping through the air and the crisp leaves crunching underfoot, let’s go inside for a spell and watch a few classic Halloween treats. Animation has not only played a large role in my life, but it also takes on a life of its own in the season of the witch. Here’s my top 5 Halloween Classic Cartoons that with get you into the “spirit” of things, starting with number 5;
5. Lonesome Ghosts – “The original Ghost Busters. Donald, Goofy and Mickey, of The Ajax Ghost Exterminators, are called in to bust some specters. Little do they know, it was the poltergeists that called them in! Released 3 days after Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937, it featured the talents of many animation greats such as Art Babbitt and Milt Kahl.”
4. Garfield Halloween Adventure – “Based on a comic strip by Garfield creator Jim Davis, the story follows the lazy and opportunistic Garfield and his simpleton buddy Odie on an journey to collect as much candy as felinely possible. Released in 1985, Film Roman created a Halloween staple, with some creative animation (see Pirate ghosts!), catchy songs from Lou Rawls and the featuring the amazing voice talent of Lorenzo Music. Film Roman is also known for Bobby’s World and The Simpsons.”
3. Trick Or Treat – “Another Disney short, this time featuring Donald Duck, being his usual curmudgeonly/prankster self, his nephews (Huey, Duey and Louie) and introducing June Foray as Witch Hazel. With it’s fun gag filled animation, wonderful efx and catchy songs performed by The Mellowmen, this short film is one treat you don’t want to skip. And remember, if you aren’t generous on Halloween, you’re in for a cauldron full of trouble… Billy Goats whiskers? Repulsive!”
2. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown – “Premiering on October 27, 1966, The Great Pumpkin has become synonymous with Halloween. The director, Bill Melendez opted to use child actors, giving the show a more youthful spontaneity and sincerity, perhaps as much as Linus’ pumpkin patch. From the iconic opening scene, to the battle in the skies with Snoopy and the Red Baron, The Great Pumpkin was an instant hit with the 60s television audience and continues to be to this day… even if Charlie Brown keeps getting rocks.”
1. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow – “Narrated with the dulcet tones of Bing Crosby, this was the 11th Walt Disney theatrical animated feature, rounding out the 1940’s. Originally, Sleepy Hollow was to be it’s own feature, however due to the Second World War, internal creative decisions and budgetary issues within the studio, it was packaged together with the Wind in the Willows. With it’s stunning animation, intriguing characters and chilling ghoul, Sleepy Hollow is an amazing achievement in animated storytelling. With a majority of Walt’s “Nine Old Men” on the film directing animation, it’s no wonder the film still haunts us to this day.”
Now, grab yourself a hot apple cider, some pumpkin pie, a warm blanket, light that Jack O’ Lantern and enjoy these Halloween Animated classics :)
Grim Grinning Dan Schoening
Honorable Mention: The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror, Coraline, Paranorman and Mad Monster Party.
Kelley Jones (Batman, Swamp Thing)
“At this Halloween season, I have a few suggestions in finding those moments of ‘Pleasant Terror’ as the great M.R. James once said, to enhance Halloween viewing or reading.
First, for clarity in disclosure, I’m recommending horror that, as the French describe, will create in you moments of frisson. Meaning moments of terror, rather than revulsion, as in something gory (which I like,but this is Halloween). I also will recommend some more obscure horror entertainments, as I will assume you have read or viewed the more popular items like Kubrick’s The Shining, Carpenter’s Anything he’s made, and Lovecraft stories.
First I would recommend an often maligned and forgotten gem of a film titled ‘The Monster Club’. Based upon the great horror stories by English writer R.Chetwynd Hayes (find his books and read them,he’s one of the most original horror writers ever). The movie is an anthology, and I think the first and third segments are great tales of terror. True gothics. The film is on DVD,and easily found.
Next is something I find as one of the finest interpretations of Frankenstein ever done.It’s on You Tube and so you can watch it without hunting it. Ready? Mister Magoo’s Frankenstein… no, really. 24 minutes of perfection and… yes… terror. When the monster screams you will shudder. The plot is magnificent,and the animation is thrilling. I promise you will love this.
Staying with adaptions of Mrs Shelley’s creation, I also recommend the TV film, ‘Frankenstein the True Story’. Starring the great James Mason with David MaCallum and Jane Seymour. Spectacular entertainment, and also easily attainable on DVD.
Available too is the CBS television adaption of Steven King’s ‘Salem’s Lot’. As good a horror film as you’ll find. Creepy and believable. Moments of dread that pay off, and scenes that will never leave you. Again, James Mason stars, and is stunningly sinister.
If you wish to read something, then I recommend the stories of Manley Wade Wellman’s John the Balladeer or Silver John. A couple of great collections, ‘Who Fears the Devil, or ‘Southern Mountain Stories’ contain tales of this wanderer of the southern mountains of America, confronting things and people of evil in the lonely, ancient places of North Carolina. Wellman’s stories are steeped in the true legends and mythology of the people who settled those hills, they came from Scotland and England and are fascinating to read. I guarantee you will be a lifelong fan.
Finally, a terrific horror film made for TV in the sixties that was so good that it was released theatrically. ‘Dark Intruder’ starring Leslie Nielsen. A Lovecraftian flavor film that ranks with the best ever of that ilk. Atmospheric and scary, this to is easy to get on a Warner Bros released DVD.
I have a bunch more, but then we’d be here all night.I hope you can catch a few of these and dig them as much as me!
Maybe next year you will come to my door and I can hand out a few more of these treats!”
John Lees (AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE, OXYMORON) – @johnlees927
“I love horror, live and breathe for it and have since I was a little kid. How can I possibly choose my favourite? This will just be a selection of my many loves, but even so this might take a while!
Greatest horror film ever made, in my opinion, is THE SHINING. Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece is this masterfully structured machine of dread, where every move of the camera, every note of the brilliant soundtrack, is engineered to make your blood run cold. I just rewatched it last night and it’s still as excellent, and as frightening, as ever.
Keeping up the Stephen King connection, he remains the best of the best for me when it comes to horror novels. Because he’s so popular and churns out so much – perhaps not all of it great – King doesn’t always get his due as the master storyteller he is, someone who in future centuries will be viewed as a defining literary figure of this era. He has such a skill for building up relatable human drama and characters you genuinely care about, before weaving in something monstrous that tears through those characters’ worlds, with much of the fear coming not from the ghouls but how much you care about the people facing them. THE STAND is my favourite book ever, but PET SEMETARY, SALEM’S LOT, IT and more are all masterworks… and very scary!
In terms of other great horror novelists, I would venture to say time has been very kind to the works of Edgar Allen Poe and M.R. James. You can still read their short stories and feel a chill running down your spine!
Going back to film, if I were to pick one director who stands supreme in the horror genre, it would still be John Carpenter. True to his Twitter handle, he IS the Horror Master! HALLOWEEN is another of my favourite films, I watch it every year on Halloween and have done for at least the past 15 years, likely longer. That alone would put Carpenter in the running as the all-time horror great, but then you consider he also directed genre classics THE THING and THE FOG, not to mention the less widely appreciated IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS. Seriously, go watch that film and you will find a major overlooked inspiration for AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE.
There are a whole bunch of horror comics I love. The Alan Moore/Stephen Bissette SWAMP THING run had its share of truly chilling horror. Recent standouts in the genre include SEVERED, ECHOES, HARROW COUNTY, CLEAN ROOM, HOUSE OF PENANCE. THROUGH THE WOODS by Emily Carroll is a graphic novel of short horror stories which feel like nightmarish dark fairy tales. But the creator who makes the scariest horror comics of all must be Junji Ito, the Japanese genius behind such cult mangas as UZUMAKI, TOMIE and FRAGMENTS OF HORROR, not to mention a vast collection of skin-crawling horror shorts over the years.
Finally, while it’s maybe not strictly horror… a special shout-out to THE MONSTER SQUAD, the 80s cult hit that quite possibly first sparked my love of all things spooky at a very young age.”
Paul Tobin (COLDER, BANDETTE) – @PaulTobin
“I had to choose between a lot of things, such as Harrow County and the works of Junji Ito, but I think the horror that has stayed with me the most is the films of Takashi Miike, in particular his 1999 movie, Audition. I watched the movie when my concept of “horror,” in film was changing. I’d always loved the “slow burn” style of horror in prose… that feeling of dread that just won’t let you exhale, but horror in films had become such a series of jump scares and “naked teens in a cabin” that it did nothing for me. Until I discovered the Japanese and South Korean horror films, the ones where they weren’t so much trying to scare you, as unsettle you. I love that. And Audition is a prime example. No monsters. No ghosts. Just one beautiful woman named Asami, who, by the end of the film, had me shaking. Shaking for weeks. Months. Years. In fact, I was just discussing what to choose for this article, and I mentioned to my wife (artist Colleen Coover) that I was going to choose Audition, and then I murmured a sound effect that Asami “sings” near the end of the film, and it made Colleen twitch in horror. So, yeah… Audition is a pretty fine horror movie.”
Juan Ferreyra (COLDER, GOTHAM BY MIDNIGHT) – @juaneferreyra
“Regarding Horror stories, when I was growing up, I loved Alien and Aliens, I was really scared about those. I also loved Jaws. When I was a kid I wanted my folks to take me to see the movie (I think at the time it might be Jaws 2) and they took me to see DUMBO. When I saw it on VHS later, along with Jaws 1, I was scared for life to even jump into pools. Then I remember one time I saw a movie in a drive through about a monster living in a Closet, I think it was a funny movie but at the time it scared me a, around the same time the movie Troll scared had me into having trouble sleeping. After that I think I saw the Shining and it was really scary.
“Then on the 90’s and 2000 I don’t remember enjoying horror movies that much, I liked “the Others” or “The Sixth Sense” but not that much, I tend to like a more psychological horror story where the common man or woman ends up being a monster.
From a comics point of view, doing things like COLDER for Dark Horse is a joy, and of course I have a great time doing it and I don’t get scared at all, because I enjoy drawing monsters and weird things all round!”
Jim Zub (SKULLKICKERS, WAYWARD) – @JimZub
“Emily Carroll’s work really strikes something primal in me. It doesn’t have shock or gore, just a steadily building sense of dread that stays with you long after you finish reading it. Most of her online short stories haven’t been released in print yet, but some of her earlier ones have been compiled in “Through The Woods” published by Margaret K McElderry Books. Her short story called “Out Of Skin” is probably my favorite.”
Riley Rossmo (BATMAN, BEDLAM) – @RileyRossmo1
“The scariest thing I’ve read recently was Junji Ito’s Uzamaki. The premise is amazing it’s about a town that’s Haunted by Spirals. Ito makes something as simple as a shape terrifying. He establishes a haunting anxiety causing atmosphere that’s punctuated with grotesk splash pages. I think every horror comic enthusiast should check out Richard Corben ‘s work, Corben’s done a lot in the genre there’s an amazing collection of his Creepy stuff. Corben also did a four part Hellboy story called Crooked man that like Junji Ito’s work balances Grotesk imagery with a anxiety causing atmosphere.”
Erik Burnham (GHOSTBUSTERS) – @ErikBurnham
“Man, favorite horror. That’s a tall order… but so I’m not here all day, I’ll try to keep it tidy and just stick to a few films.
Horror comedies tend to be my favorite mix of all — from the American Werewolf films (London is superior, but I’m a sucker for happy endings, and Paris does provide that) to Scream and its many imitators to the kookiness of Cabin in the Woods.
Then there’s Shaun of the Dead! Tucker & Dale vs. Evil! Fright Night! And of course, Army of Darkness. Horror and comedy share a lot in execution – pacing while you build to the reveal… and then, surprise! It’s a roller coaster I always enjoy.
But while those are my favorites, I also gravitate to the old Universal Monster movies. They’re all on my must-watch list (and more than once a year.) It’s tough to beat the Frankenstein-Bride-Son trilogy, but Dracula, the Wolfman, Invisible Man, Creature… dang, I think I need to throw some in tonight!
(And no, I don’t exactly consider Ghostbusters horror — but it did give my younger self a valuable lesson on how to deal with frightening things, so I’m giving it an honorable mention!)”
Matt Miner (TOE TAG RIOT, CRITICAL HIT) – @MattMinerXVX
“I’m a huge horror geek and something I’m loving right now are the special edition blu-rays being released by GRINDHOUSE RELEASING and DIABOLIK DVD. Diabolik just dropped a 3-disc special edition of PIECES, a film whose tagline is “You don’t have to go to Texas for a chainsaw massacre” and “It’s exactly what you think it is.” A buddy of mine got me into this movie awhile back and it’s the goriest and funniest old horror flick I’ve seen in ages – and that blu-ray 3 disc pack is gold, with the soundtrack and tons of features including a great documentary on old 42nd street and low-budget horror.
On my radar right now is WAXWORK COMICS from the folks who bring us all the amazing vinyl horror movie soundtracks over at Waxwork Records. They look set to bring back horror comics in a way we haven’t seen since the days of EC Comics – an all-horror publisher with comics that have vinyl soundtracks accompanying them. How freakin’ cool is that?