Rather than screen “Halloween” for the millionth time, why not do something a little more spooky — dim the lights, and read a horror comic in eerie silence. The following selection of comics is filled with mostly independent titles and offers excellent, spine-tingling starting points for anyone looking to take a deep dive into the medium. So without further ado, here are four chilling tales of ghosts, demons and witches that will haunt your dreams (and one that probably won’t).
“Infidel” — written by Pornsak Pichetshote, art by Aaron Campbell
In this update of the haunted house trope, demons are spawned from hate. When a Muslim American woman moves into a new apartment building, the Islamophobia of neighbors both past and present — ranging from subtle microaggressions to outright vitriol — creates a legacy of hatred that fuels an endless parade of ghouls. Even though the comic loses some of its steam by the final issue, writer Pornsak Pichetshote’s essential message of empathy remains intact, resulting in a story that’s as necessary as it is terrifying. In fact, “Infidel” is the scariest comic on this list. Artist Aaron Campbell and colorist José Villarrubia utilize splash pages to create jump scares rivaling anything found in the movies — there’s just no telling what horrors await as you turn the page. With a film adaptation already lined up, there’s no better time to pick up a copy of “Infidel.”
“Hex Wives” #1 — written by Ben Blacker, art by Mirka Andolfo
Printed under DC Comics’ mature label Vertigo, the debut issue of “Hex Wives” offers a wickedly bloody tale of controlling men and the women who defy them. Opening in 17th-century Salem, Massachusetts and ending in contemporary times, the comic shows how a coven of witches defeats a witch-hunting family over the course of several centuries. Artist Mirka Andolfo illustrates action with a dynamism that lends the issue a darkly gleeful sense of fun — that is, until the witches are backed into a corner, ending on a cliff-hanging tonal pivot that sets up a promising action-horror series. A fire quite literally burns in the background of the story, but it might be the patriarchy that’s going up in smoke.
“Wytches: Bad Egg” — written by Scott Snyder, art by Jock
For a completely different, scarier take on witches than the one above, look no further than “Wytches: Bad Egg.” In this one-off prequel issue to the hit 2015 horror comic, all-star writer Scott Snyder returns readers to the deep, dark lore of the “Wytches” series. Here, we’re introduced to a key player in 2019’s second story arc, and we’re given the backstory to an intriguing character from the original. On top of it all, Snyder plunges us deeper into the mythology of the series. Of course, it wouldn’t be “Wytches” if artist Jock and colorist Matt Hollingsworth didn’t return. The trademark art style of the series — featuring splotches of color that evoke mood and mimic droplets of tinctures and potions — remains as chilling as ever. With the series’s second arc on the horizon, fans have much to be excited (and spooked) about.
“Outcast” — written by Robert Kirkman, art by Paul Azaceta
Robert Kirkman is best known for writing the long-running “The Walking Dead,” but he might’ve outdone himself on “Outcast.” The comic draws easy comparisons to “The Exorcist” with its focus on a demon-fighting duo, but the series is set apart by its probing of the characters’ psychologies. And while Kirkman (whose dialogue is elevated by inspired lettering from Rus Wooton) might be the main draw, “Outcast” is rendered truly terrifying by artist Paul Azaceta and colorist Elizabeth Breitweiser. Their artwork allows evil to hide in the comic’s shadows, making each panel somewhat sinister. The comic’s scares are certainly effective, and while they might keep you awake, it’s more likely that you’ll simply be turning pages well into the night.
“Sheets” — written and illustrated by Brenna Thummler
You might want to chase the considerable scares of the previous comics with the wholesomeness of “Sheets.” Brenna Thummler’s young adult graphic novel focuses on Marjorie, a youngster grappling with grief, and Wendell, the ghost who hangs around her laundromat. Both are misfits in desperate need of a friend. While Thummler’s plotting is definitely targeted toward a younger crowd, her art makes “Sheets” worth seeking out, as she renders a world of pastel colors, buoyed by rich splash pages. The comic — heartfelt and sincere — is best read with a big bag of candy by your side.
Harrison Tunggal covers comic books. Contact him at [email protected].