BY MATT TUCK
Halloween is the only time of year when even non-horror fans run through their lists of scary movies. The thing is, the best new horror that is rewriting the genre is not on the screen, but in comic books. As you gear up for the favorite holiday of cosplayers everywhere, take a look at these six titles.
ICE CREAM MAN
After 25 issues, Ice Cream Man remains the best horror comic in what is quickly becoming a sea of horror comics.
Has it been a month already since Ice Cream Man #25 hit store shelves? Sadly, there was not a new issue in September, and it will be nearly Halloween before #26 goes up for sale. In the meantime, I highly suggest you get caught up on your reading just in time for the holiday.
Although the series to this point has been an anthology of standalone short stories, Ice Cream Man #25 begins to pull back the curtain on the mythology of the comic. The main tale centers on the last moments of a crashing jetliner, with skewed and twisted tales from the passengers’ points of view. Like the other issues, these are oddly comical on the surface, but they become troubling - and sometimes disturbing - at its core.
At the heart of each issue is the fabled Ice Cream Man. With a Cheshire Cat, evil grin, the Ice Cream Man preys on the flaws of his victims. One tale after another, we see the Ice Cream Man’s magical influence over his subjects, bending their wills to his own as he extorts them in the most devilish of ways. In #25, we discover that he forced a flight attendant to load a bomb onto the flight, bypassing security.
The real treat of this issue is in the secondary story. Told in the vein of a classic fairy tale - and not the watered down versions, but the originals - the backup story brings together all sorts of interesting characters as they journey to the trial of Riccardus, the demon-god with the ice cream smile. Will we finally get to the bottom of his powers and his origins? It is simply painful to wait almost two months for the reveal. Alas, in the words of Tom Petty, the waiting is the hardest part.
Dark Horse has long been known as the place to go for off-beat titles that Marvel and DC typically shunned. For the superhero fan, Dark Horses’ Black Hammer and its spinoff titles are a great combination of capes and horror.
The idea is that a team of superheroes in the style of the Golden Age Justice Society of America staved off the destruction of their home, Spiral City. Led by Black Hammer, they fought back the Anti-God, but in the process became lost in another dimension. They found themselves in the town of Rockwood, a place with major Twilight Zone vibes. Shortly after arriving in Rockwood, Black Hammer dies, and the remaining heroes are desperate for a way out.
THE NICE HOUSE ON THE LAKE
How can we have a horror comic list without an apocalyptic, end-of-the-world tale? The latest from James Tynion IV, this series will have you hooked after the first issue. The only drawback is that it is a slow burn, so to speak.
The main plot of the comic is that a group of people have all been invited to stay at an elegant lake house in a remote part of Wisconsin. Their connection is one man, the unassuming and subdued Walter. While they wait on their host to arrive, word begins to spread of an extinction-level event happening around the world. Fire reigns from the sky, and people are burned alive in their homes. It is happening everywhere, that is, except for at Walter’s lake house. When he finally arrives, he reveals a secret that will keep you coming back for more.
NHOTL #6 will be released the first week of November, but the seventh issue won’t be available until March. That will give you plenty of time to catch up on the series before then.
THE DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH
Another James Tynion comic, the Department of Truth is quickly becoming one of my favorite reads. The issues have a literary horror feel that is mixed with the X-Files. The issue that got me hooked was DOT #10.
DOT #10 didn’t just explore the usually territory of Bigfoot hunting, but it captured the notion of cryptids in a way that I had never seen before. Here, the ideas of these creatures brings them to life. Those fantasies of extraordinary beasts lurking in the shadows eats away at people’s minds, driving them mad. What lies at the core of the story is less about Bigfoot and more about that infectious idea and the depths reached to eradicate it.
Witches. Necromancers. Shadowy monsters. Haunted woods. What else do you need?
I have not had the chance to read Harrow County (and the spinoff, Tales From Harrow County), but critics have adored Cullen Bunn’s horror epic.
The story is that in the 1930s, a witch named Hester Beck tried to make a normal life in Harrow County. At first, she was well received, but soon her powers became more monstrous. The people of the town burned her alive (after shooting, stabbing, and hanging didn't work), but she parted the world of the living with a promise that she would return. Fast forward to present day, and local girl Emmy is about to celebrate her 18th birthday. As the day approaches, she begins to have vivid nightmares, and the reader is left to wonder if Emmy is the second coming of Hester Beck, returned from the dead to take her revenge.
By no means is this the first or greatest vampire story ever printed in a comic, but it is worth your time to read. Before Scott Snyder became DC’s superstar writer during the New 52 era of Batman, there was American Vampire. What made this take unique was the starpower behind it. At the time, Snyder was a budding name, and he handled the first half of each issue. The backup tale had a bit more name recognition as Stephen King - yeah that Stephen King - put his stamp on the second half.
With all the vampire comics, movies, and shows coming into the mainstream spectrum in the near future, I would not be at all surprised to see American Vampire make the cut. Between King and Snyder’s names alone, it would be enough to draw interest in a movie or television series.
SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN
In the collecting world, SIKTC #1 is quickly becoming a modern holy grail. There have been eight printings (so far), and a spinoff series debuting later this month, House of Slaughter. The comic community is expecting big things from this Boom! Studios project, and it began James Tynion IV’s ascent to the top of the horror comic world.
As the title suggests, Something Is Killing the Children centers on the disappearance of children in the small town of Archer’s Peak. Those children that return tell unbelievable stories of monsters living in the shadows. The protagonist of the comic is Erica Slaughter, who just so happens to be a monster hunter.
Since the series debuted in 2019, it has been lauded with critical and fan praise. In July, Netflix announced that it was developing SIKTC into a live-action series, which only adds to the collecting appeal for that coveted first issue.
For a kid of the 1990s, I could not leave Spawn off today’s list. As a Todd McFarlane fan, his work on Spawn introduced me to the more mature brand of storytelling at Image. It also was my gateway into horror comics, and those early days of Spawn were definitely based in horror, and it was fantastic.
Spawn only recently celebrated its 300th issue, and McFarlane has begun expanding on the title to make a share universe for Spawn’s army. Before you dive headfirst into the character’s new era, it is well worth your time to read those early issues. While you’re at it, give the animated Todd McFarlane’s Spawn on HBO a watch. You can thank me in the comments.
One of these things is not like the others, right? True, it might seem odd to put a Hulk title on a horror comics list, but hear me out.
The entire 50-issue Immortal Hulk run that began in 2018 before wrapping up this year was a much different Marvel title than what we normally see. Al Ewing treated Immortal Hulk as a horror comic rather than a superhero title. While on the surface, that may not seem like the best combination, it worked splendidly. Particularly in the first major story arc that saw Hulk go to Hell and back, the horror themes were unmistakable.
A good deal of Ewing’s time on the title was spent delving into Bruce Banner/Hulk’s psyche, using dissociative identity disorder (what was formerly known as multiple personalities) to explain the changes in Hulks over the years. Despite the horror overtures, at times the story became very personal, and Immortal Hulk even admits to loving and protecting his human counterpart.
This is a splendid, groundbreaking series that redefined the Hulk in much the way Frank Miller redefined Daredevil. Those Alex Ross covers don't hurt the appeal, either.
Matt Tuck is the author of the novel, Lost Bones of the Dead. He is a professional writer, avid comic collector, former teacher, and an international man of mystery. You can follow him on his Facebook page, The Comic Blog.