As I delve more into webcomics, I can’t help notice a serious lack of horror. Or, I should say, a lack of coverage for horror. Webcomics are already rarely covered in the mainstream comic press, and when they are it covers mostly fantasy and scifi, genres already making a comeback thanks to books like Saga and Monstress. Other genres that get covered that aren’t regularly so include slice-of-life and romance. But horror? Only once in a red moon it seems, which is not okay!
I freaking love horror. I love stories of butt-ugly monstrosities and psycho slashers hunting human prey. Yeah, the lesbian magic girl webcomic is nice and all, but you know what would make it better? If one of the lesbians were secretly a vampire witch trying to convert her angelic girlfriend to Satanism. As the meme goes, I’d buy that for a dollar! It’s sad horror webcomics don’t get the attention they deserve. I’m ready for a change. It’s time for the ghouls to come out of hiding and offer their filth to readers ever so thirsty for a blood-soaked tale.
What better way to kickstart the revolution than a listicle? I’m Ben Howard, and this is my first entry for 10 Horror Comics You Should Be Reading.
Keep in mind that while I have mentioned webcomics, I’ll also be including horror comics in other digital formats or even with print editions. The only requirement is that they be relatively unknown, or at least not popular. Books like Image’s Nailbiter, IDW’s Locke & Key, Avatar’s Crossed, etc., will not be included.
1) Numb by Niina Salmelin
“What would you do if your senses start blending between what’s real and fantasy? Levi and Sue attempt to meet again after a long pause in their friendship. However Levi ends up in an accident that has something else behind it than just careless street crossing. Old strains are being brought up and something sinister is lurking around…”
–from Numb’s official website
I’ve been a huge fan of this comic for quite a while. In fact, I reviewed Numb for the Outhousers back in 2016. What I love most about the series is that it’s entirely a unique story. Sure, it’s about ghosts, one of the oldest haunts in the genre, but all comparisons to other stories end there as Numb does everything to subvert tropes and defy expectations. It goes from a typical tale of ghosts to an existential nightmare of Lovecraftian entities ripping apart the boundary between life and death. The best part of Numb is the art. I have never seen other webcomics, or comics in general, experiment so much with color. Salmelin’s colors create a trippy, phantasmagoric canvas similar to that of Giallo masterminds Dario Argento and Mario Bava. Sometimes, I just read the comic to stare at the art. The glue to the story and art are the characters. They are some of the most relatable, realistic people I’ve seen in fiction with their own unique voices and quirks. If you come to Numb for the art, you’ll find yourself staying for the harrowing journey of Levi, Susan, Carl, Amy, and Nikita. With a unique story, surreal art, and lovable characters, Numb is a cult classic in the making miles ahead of many other horror comics.
2) Daniel by Sarah Nelson
“In 1930s Illinois, we enter the life of Daniel Groth, an unfortunate and timid man that was recently forced to become a gravedigger to pay the bills. He has been secretly in love with his best and only true friend, Christine, since he met her years ago. However, Daniel suddenly seems to vanish off the face of the Earth one day, and isn’t heard from again for quite some time. Until late one night, when Christine gets a single knock on her door. Daniel has returned to his beloved, but as an unnerving shadow of his former self. Witness an extremely tense downward spiral as the truth behind Daniel’s new, highly bloodthirsty nature is slowly revealed.”
— from Daniel’s official website
From a colorful tale of ghosts to a black and white tragedy about vampires, Daniel also defies expectations with unique art and great characters. This is another comic I’ve reviewed in the past, over at Loser City. If you can tell by the review’s title, what hooked me to Daniel is its use of vampires as a metaphor for toxic masculinity. What makes it so sinister is that the toxicity is not obvious, i.e. a loudmouthed jock that calls all women “toots”. No, the titular character is a much more subtle version: a meek man that uses his loved ones as an emotional crutch, eventually evolving into an abusive relationship that literally drains the life out of them. Daniel and Christine’s relationship is truly terrifying because they could be anyone you know, friends and family you wouldn’t know are trapped in such circumstances. At the same time, you’ll find yourself cheering for Christine as she resourcefully fights for her life. The best part is that Sarah Nelson doesn’t try so hard to hammer in these points. In fact, my interpretation is not the definitive one. Nelson tells Daniel so masterfully that one can interpret the story however they want while still enjoying a solid, terrifying yarn. The art makes the story not just because of the black and white color palette, giving the book the look of a classic horror film. Nelson also applies elements of manga art (dynamic panel layouts, highly expressive faces, and striking action lines) to make the most intense scenes truly visceral. You feel like you’re right there with the characters, terrified out of your mind as Daniel lumbers toward them with a fanged lear and unnaturally red eyes. If you want vampire stories that are hardcore in their emotional trauma with a vintage aesthetic, Daniel just might be for you.
3) Soul To Call by Katherine Lang
“The world has never been the same since the Fall. Over two thirds of the human population are dead, otherworldly abominations wander the ruins, and the occult runs rampant. In hopes of salvaging the only scrap of family remaining in her life, aloof courier Avril seeks an Anathema, a creature rumored to have the abilities that she’ll need if she wishes to be reunited with her blood.”
–from Soul To Call’s official website
You might be thinking, “Gee, another apocalyptic tale.” Yes, and what’s wrong with that? In all seriousness, Soul To Call is a unique entry in both genres of horror and apocalyptic fiction. Imagine if The Walking Dead had elements of Lovecraft, Resident Evil, and Silent Hill mixed together. Katherine Lang envisions a desolate landscape full of other-wordly terrors with striking visuals, and not just the crimson glow of blood. Each creature has distinct designs that will induce nightmares forever. The world-building is minimalistic, less use of heavy exposition and more visual symbolism. Soul To Call’s narrative relies on the reader to put the pieces together, and to its credit is pretty easy to grasp. Most of all, Soul To Call has amazing characters. Avril, the foul-mouthed parkour enthusiast; Eli, the timid bloodmancer; James, the no-nonsense mercenary with a heart of gold. Even after reading, you will remember these characters fondly. They grow over time, forming bonds with each other in meaningful ways. It makes the action sequences more intense as you cheer on and hope for their survival. Yes, they are in a nightmare world, but unlike the common cynicism of most apocalyptic tales, Soul To Call shows how forming friendships are key to survival. With over 100 pages so far, Soul To Call has plenty of story to read if you’re looking for intense apocalyptic horror.
And, yes, I also have a review for this too.
4) Ninety-Nine Righteous Men by K.M. Claude
“When Father Daniel suspects that one of his parishioners is possessed, he has no choice but to perform an exorcism. Too bad the monsignor does not believe him and the only exorcist still in the diocese is Father Adam, with whom Daniel shares a less than lovely history. A gothic mix of horror, drama, tragedy, and romance between the sacred and the profane, Ninety-Nine Righteous Men is K. M. Claude’s terrifying and tantalizing debut into comics.”
–from Ninety-Nine Righteous Men’s official website
Ninety-Nine Righteous Men has a special place in my heart. So far, it’s the only horror webcomic I’ve read with significant queer themes. Not only that, but K.M. Claude is a visual artist who, without shame, fuses eroticism and taboo into everything he does. Ninety-Nine Righteous Men is no exception. The comic is in black and white, making evident its many manga influences and showing up some of the richest, thickest brushed inks I’ve seen in webcomics. Character anatomy is eye-catching, everyone looks like an organic person with folds and lumps. The story puts a new spin on possession tales like The Exorcist. Religious themes of church and demons are fused with sexual themes of homosexuality and abuse. Characters are morally complex people, even heinous sometimes, particularly the disgraced priest Father Adaml. Ninety-Nine Righteous Men is not a long read, yet I guarantee it’s a gratifying one. The blatant sexual themes may not be for everyone, but it’s bound to satisfy the appetite of readers that delight equally in the delicacies of horror and erotica.
5) Arbalest by The artist formerly known as Mitsukaiten
“For six months of darkness at the top of the world, Haelu lives amongst the villagers of Arbalest. Like every Night Twin before her, Haelu is a monster, destined for sacrifice. Unlike every Night Twin before her, Haelu dreams of a way out.”
–from Arbalest’s official website
By far, Arbalest is the most narratively experimental series on this list. Our protagonist ages rapidly over the course of six months in a strange ritual ceremony that’s super abstract. However, if you can deal with that, you’ll find Arbalest to be a spectacular tale of magic and sorrow. The winter setting has a moody, depressing attitude fortified by the use of blue. It’s the most prominent color, making the reading experience feel like a walk through a valley of ice and death. Things get stranger when the magical elements come in, occult symbols and cosmic creatures straight out of Weird Tales. They are uniquely designed with some elements of ye ol’ Lovecraft but other influences from around the world. Hey, long as it scares the bejesus out of you! Although Arbalest relies less on jumpscares and more existential dread. The protagonist, Haelu, is not human, yet she feels pain the same way. As she is slowly prepped over time for sacrifice, we get to see her perspective. She feels fear and anger at the prospect of being sacrificed over and over again. Most of all, she longs to be free. Her tale is one of being stuck in a cycle without escape, fearing what looks like the inevitability of a fate beyond her control. In turn, the reader does not fear Haelu but pities her. With moody art and slow-paced storytelling, Arbalest is the perfect comic for someone that wants a little more emotion to their horror.
6) I, Necromancer by Donathin Frye & various
“In the frozen halls of Lu’Ghul Castle lingers Vanion Knightwood, an ancient elvish Necromancer. As he reflects on his tragic past, his ambition, and being a father, he prepares to unleash an unholy plague on Mankind. I, Necromancer tells the ghoulish story of Vanion and the ragtag band of flawed adventurers who oppose him.”
–from I, Necromancer’s official website
In my venture to webcomics so far, I haven’t found a lot that star bad people. I mean really bad people, the type that would make Richard Nixon seem pleasant. But at the same time, there is a nugget of humanity buried beneath their granite-hard bile. I, Necromancer is such a story with added elements of dark fantasy and horror, so basically my kind of cocktail. The art varies due to changes in artists, but both Lukasz Marko and MHarz capture a gothic feel: foreboding moon, glowing cauldrons, eerie shadows, shaggoths emerging from portals, the works. Donathin Frye writes a mean story. It takes the Dungeons & Dragons setting and focuses on concepts such as family drama, revenge, and corruption. Vanion Knightwood is on the same level as Walter White, evil yet relatable. His daughter, Mischae, is a prisoner to her father’s will, only finding rebellion in taboo behavior. Then there’s Lady Ireena, her faith-fueled morality being both her greatest inspiration and weakness. These three and other players go toe-to-toe with increasingly questionable methods. Frye isn’t afraid to take a genre usually meant for high-falutin adventure and deliver a creepy tale of absolute bastards. If you’re looking for fantasy that reads like Game of Thromes meets the Cthulhu mythos, take a look at I, Necromancer.
7) Children of the Moon by Eduardo Barbosa & Mikaella Fusco
“Have you ever wondered why your cat keeps looking into that corner when there’s nothing there? Maybe there’s something lurking in the shadows that only cats can see. Something ancient and evil. But that’s not the case, of course. Your cat is intensely looking at that dark corner for no reason at all. You are safe. Join Black and Spike in their search for what lies among the darkness!
–from Children of the Moon’s Tapas page
You’ve probably noticed a lot of mentions to Lovecraft in this listicle. A lot of these books indeed have similar elements, including cosmic entities that psychologically torture protagonists. That just tells you how much of an impact the weirdo had on the genre. However, I haven’t read one involving cats until now. Admittedly, I’ve only read one chapter of this series, so I can’t go into too much detail. But believe me when I say it is well worth diving into. The story has a rich mythology behind it involving cats as descendants of gods, but not the handsome Egyptian kind. We’re talking the gods with big eyes and slimy tentacles. There is a split between two factions, some welcoming the gods as a way to free themselves from humanity, others thinking these world-destroying titans are worse. These cats capture you with how they’re like humans with pathos, politics, and complexity. Not to mention the protagonists, Black and Spike, and their enduring friendship. Most of all, what keeps me reading is the art. It does have flaws, but Barbosa and Fusco cam draw intense gore. Some of the scenes look like they could be album art for Cannibal Corpse! I would check out this series if you love cats and bloody horror.
8) Blood & Gourd by Jenz K., Lund, D.H. Shultis, & varous
“Through crowd-funding and sheer determination, the Dead Peasant team has successfully conjured up one of the most bizarre, offbeat, and exciting comic books in years. With its roots in the classics and its vines in the new, Blood & Gourd is like EC Comics meets ’70s cult horror in 2017. Murderous pumpkins and assorted Halloween horrors bring to the fore an all new set of myths and monsters like you’ve never experienced before.”
–from Blood & Gourd’s website
As much as I like serious horror, sometimes having a good laugh is just as enjoyable. Blood & Gourd is a series that fully embraces the campy tone of classics like Evil Dead II. The art varies in style. Issue #1 illustrated by Dave Acosta and colored by Gamboa, has a bright, indie look to it; Juan Antonio Ramirez in issue #2 is more of the sharp-edged, dark look of 90s Spawn. Both have the power of getting you really into the action. There’s not a single boring page in this comic. It’s all blood-spattered, goofy fun. Plus, the designs of the pumpkin monsters are quite lively. Their bodies are made from veins pulsing with life and gourd heads glowing like a chasm to hell. This might come as a surprise, but Blood & Gourd isn’t just spectacle. There are truly intriguing characters. Some of them can be vile and even hypocritical, yet it’s these elements that are enduring. By having strengths and weaknesses, they actually come off as relatable. It makes watching them survive the onslaught of pumpkin demons more satisfying. For more details, check out my review. Blood & Gourd is simple fun mixed with some real dramatic backbone, perfect for people looking for a good time.
9) The Zombie Years by Juan Navarro
“Zombie Years is a post-apocalyptic tale that takes place in a zombie-infested Miami, a few years after the world falls. Survivors must now get-by in a land ruled by the dead. Only through survival skills, DIY, and Cafesito can the survivors hope to make a new world for themselves! This festival of flesh chronicles the lives of Delilah and her survivor allies as they struggle to feed themselves, gather supplies, and make sense of where they are and what else is out there.”
— from Creature Entertainment’s official website
I haven’t read this series in a while, and it has switched from webcomics to print format with no real clear publishing schedule, but hot damn is it a delightful read! Yeah, it has similarities to The Walking Dead as in it’s a zombie apocalypse focusing on the survivors. But it focuses on a cast assembled mainly of Latino and Latino-Americans. It takes place in Miami, Florida, a location more known for that funny little movie about a coked up gangster. As a Floridian, it does my heart well to see actual Florida locales used for a horror setting. Furthermore, Juan Navarro’s art style is a superb example of the DIY approach. He clearly draws from inspiration, taking cues from the various comic artists he enjoys, more than a purely academic learning approach. It looks punk as hell, black and white art with splashes of red for those sweet, sweet blood and gore effects. The characters are not exactly the most complex people, but they are enduring in how they fight like hell to stay alive. Honestly, I recommend The Zombie Years on pure visceral joy alone.
10) Long Lost by Matthew Erman and Lisa Sterlin
“Stranger Things meets Ghost World in Long Lost, the haunting story of two estranged sisters who find themselves drawn back to their small southern hometown to unlock the disturbing mysteries that are hidden there, with all roads leading back to their enigmatic, secretive mother. Join Scout Comics as they proudly debut this compelling, harrowing journey through family relationships, childhood trauma, and southern gothic horror.”
–from Long Lost’s Previews page
Long Lost is not as obscure as most of the entries on this list. In fact, it has slowly gained a cult following over six months with favorable reviews from popular comic websites, such as Maddi Butler’s reviews at Graphic Policy. That said, it would be a disservice for me not to include this excellent series. The art might make you think first of Scott Pilgrim, but as soon as the frights start it starts taking on the unsettling body horror of Junji Ito. There is a lot of untapped potential with black and white or minimalist coloring in comics, and Lisa Sterlin pulls it off masterfully rendering a southern setting run amok by plague and cosmic puppet masters. Matthew Erman approaches the story with an equal minimalism. Character motivations and plot points are to the point with very little elements that seem excessive. It’s like getting a perfectly grilled steak with almost zero fat. This doesn’t mean though characters aren’t complex. In fact, the two sisters Piper and Francis have the most complicated sibling relationship I can think of that isn’t over the top. Their traumatic childhood scarred and formed who they are now as adults, both Piper’s anti-social behavior and Francis’ need to think positive or else she gets depressed. The horrors they face reflect their scars, making the story not just fantastical but also relatable. Long Lost is a standard in telling horror comics that are both artsy and approachable. Even if you don’t fully understand the story, you’ll find plenty of disturbing imagery and brilliant character moments to keep yourself engaged. Here’s hoping Long Lost gets a movie adaptation over at A24 (and then I can complain about how “the comic was better” hahaha).
That’s all for now, but don’t worry. I’ll be making more recommendations in the future. If you have a recommendation for a horror comic, post in the comments below.