One of the biggest misconceptions people have about comic books is that all comics are filled with muscle men in spandex, whipping out bad puns, as they beat each other to death. For many people, the world of comics is embodied by the old Batman TV show, staring Adam West.
Luckily this idea is far from the truth. Yes, in America, the superhero genre is the dominant comic genre, but there are so many different types of categories for you to choose from when browsing the shelves of your local comic book store. Instead of looking at flying men, trading POW! filled punches, you can watch a guy with a potato sack mask cutting the head off a horny teen with a SKLICH! sounding slice.
Some of the hottest selling comics on the stands are horror comics. This is not the first time in history this was the case. When comics first began, in what is considered the “Golden Age” (between the early 1930’s to the late 1940’s), comic book companies like EC comics, which specialized in horror, were extremely successful. G.I.s during World War II weren’t just stocking up on the first few issues of Action Comics (featuring Superman) or Detective Comics (featuring Batman), they were taking stacks of EC’s major books with them, overseas. You might even recognize some of these titles, Vault of Horror and the Haunt of Fear, which were inspirations for the Stephen King produced Creepshow, and of course Tales from the Crypt, which was made into a famous HBO television series in the 1990’s.
So what happened to EC, and why do we think of guys in tights instead of ghouls when we think of comics? In 1954, a class act kind of guy named Dr. Fredric Wertham wrote a book entitled The Seduction of the Innocent, which linked the rise of juvenile delinquency with the content that kids read in comic books. This caused parents to crack down on their children reading comics in general. Sales plummeted and many companies, went bankrupt, including EC comics. Superhero comics still sold, since parent’s weren’t able to find any sort of subversive material. Horror comics, unfortunately, were no longer a part of the main stream.
In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, horror comics had a revival, of sorts. Comics like 30 Days of Night (which later became a critically acclaimed film) and The Walking Dead were proving to horror fans that they could find better Vampire and Zombie stories in a comic book store, instead of at their local theater.
Since then, Horror comics have only grown more popular. Hack/Slash and Criminal Macabre are two comics whose stories are told in mini-series format (usually six issues or less) and feature slasher movie inspired monsters or your typical Vampire/Ghoul/Zombie. Both of those books are being optioned for feature films right now.
Freddy, Jason and Michael Myers have been stacking up the body count in their own individual comic book titles at Wildstorm Comics. Even the Re-animator and Chucky have seen some action in the past few years. Both have been featured in Hack/Slash, and the Re-animator has also teamed up with Ash in his own Army of Darkness miniseries.
Horror has become so big in comics, that even the two biggest publishers, Marvel and DC have taken notice. Marvel has made a ton of money in the past few years with their Marvel Zombies stories, where the noble marvel heroes have been infected by a zombie plague, and now have to scrounge for survivors to eat, in a world they have destroyed. The second Marvel Zombies story feature’s a Zombie Spider-Man eating Mary Jane and Aunt May. Can’t get much better than that right?
Hopefully, this trend will carry on and horror comics will continue to be written by individuals who respect the incredible amount of skill it takes to write a good horror story. And, just as the guys never fail to point you in the direction toward great horror films, I also hope to be your own personal tour guide, directing you to worthwhile comics each week.