Robot 6

Can comics be scary?

from Pim & Francie: The Golden Bear Days by Al Columbia

from Pim & Francie: The Golden Bear Days by Al Columbia

You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a horror comic in this post-30 Days of Night, post-The Walking Dead age. Meanwhile, there’s a bustling alt-horror … well, “scene” and “movement” probably aren’t the right words, but there are plenty of those comics and cartoonists out there.

But are any of them, y’know, actually scary?

Blogger Curt Purcell of The Groovy Age of Horror has endeavored to answer that question — long a topic of debate among comics readers, many of whom are skeptical that comics really can hang with movies or prose for their sheer power to frighten — by rounding up thoughts on the topic from a variety of horror and comics creators and commentators. These include cartoonists Richard Sala (Peculia) and Josh Simmons (House); CRwM of the provocative horror blog And Now the Screaming Starts; Kimberly Lindbergs of the movie-focused Cinebeats; Karswell of the pre-Comics Code horror-comics blog The Horrors of It All; and (ahem) yours truly. The roundtable was inspired by a post from Richard Cook at The Hooded Utilitarian, so be sure to check that out, too.

Where do you stand on scarybooks?



I don’t know about jump-out-of-your-seat scariness, but I don’t think books really achieve that, either.

I will say that From Hell always creeps me out a little every time I read it (as much the notes as the main story; just thinking about that much unsettled, unsettling weirdness leaves me wondering what’s hiding in the dark, for a while).

Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys always frightened me. Even when things began to look up for the protagonists I was always scared, because I knew they were still gonna fuck up somehow or that the antagonists were a step ahead. The situation was truly frightening despite the lack of monsters or supernatural.

Comics CAN be just as scary as, say, books. It’s all about setting the mood and getting the pacing right. The closest comics has to a Steven King is Ben Templesmith right now.


April 20, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Comics can be scary and some definitely should be, but I think the execution of the creators is lacking.

Swamp Thing could get pretty scary in its heyday, as could Sandman (“24 Hours” and “Collectors”). I’d say the scariest comic ever though is Arkham Asylum. That one shot of the Joker still creeps me out massively. Pretty much anything by Charles Burns is at least unnerving, too.

Of course. It’s definitely a different feeling than movies or books. I like to describe it as a subtle dread. Rick Geary is really good at it. Swamp Thing, as Peter said, can be scary with Wrightson or Moore. I just read Swamp Thing Vol 2. #38 by Alan Moore and it actually scared me. It featured underwater vampires and their queen was insanely fat and ended up bursting open from vampire eggs. Yikes!

Can comics be scary? One word:


I’ve been pretty startled by The Walking Dead before. Most memorable was early on in the series when the group is exploring one of the Wiltshire Estates houses. Open the cellar door, turn the page and…

Also, the image of the cockroaches crawling out of Mrs. Arkham’s mouth in Arkham Asylum will haunt me for the rest of my years.

Al Columbia’s Amnesia has disturbed me more than just about anything I’ve ever read or watched.

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