Comics and graphic novels are a fantastic medium for tales of horror, revulsion, and suspense. Every turn of the page reveals some new terror, whether it’s a disturbing full-page illustration, or the latest cruel plot-twist forced on the characters by the author. We’ve picked the best horror comics that are essential reading for all horror fans.
If you like spine-chilling stories but don’t want to leave your friends out of the fun, you should check out our guides to the best horror board games, best horror RPG games, and best horror wargames – and you don’t want to miss our guide to the best graphic novels!
These are the best horror comics for horror fans:
- The Walking Dead – the ultimate zombie comic
- Crossed – the ultimate gory comic book series
- From Hell – a chilling horror comic starring Jack the Ripper
- The EC Archives – discover pre code horror comics
- Uzumaki: Spiral into Horror – the perfect gateway to horror manga
- Through the Woods – an anthology of folk horror comics
- Mother Nature – environmental horror from scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis
Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead series is an epic saga of survival and community in the face of the undead apocalypse. Police deputy Rick Grimes wakes from an accident into a world overwhelmed by the walking dead, and becomes the de facto leader of a band of survivors as they face flesh-eating walkers, starvation, and the cruelties of other humans.
Though it was the inspiration for the TV series of the same name, The Walking Dead’s plot differs substantially, with characters having different personalities and arcs. With 32 volumes this is a massive tale, but the early volumes are all killers, so don’t worry about having to read through any filler before it gets good.
If you think that people turning into mindless flesh-eating monsters doesn’t isn’t nasty enough, look no further than Crossed. The Crossed virus transforms its victims into sadistic, masochistic, hideously imaginative psychopaths. Each volume of crossed is a self-contained story of survivors and sickos. Content warning: Crossed puts the graphic in graphic novel, and if you can think of something awful being done to someone, it’s probably illustrated in here.
There’s no overarching arc throughout the series, but we can recommend a few good volumes. Garth Ennis’ first volume of Crossed introduces the monsters with a bang (literally – a nuclear power plant melts down and blinds a survivor in the first episode). Volume 3, David Lapham’s Crossed: Psychopath is about as stomach churning a read as you’re likely to find. Kieron Gillen’s Crossed volume 13 takes the story back to the paleolithic, while Alan Moore’s Crossed +100 imagines a world 100 years after the Crossed outbreak.
Alan Moore’s From Hell is a sordid thriller that reimagines Jack the Ripper as a psychopathic doctor, employed by the royal family to ensure the secret of a royal bastard is never leaves the slums of London. Illustrated in stark linework by Eddie Campbell, it portrays both the poverty and grandeur of Victorian London, and touches on an occult underworld of secret societies.
The EC Archives collection is a glimpse at a lost era of the American comics industry. If you’ve ever wondered why American Comics is dominated by superheroes, while continental European and Japanese comics are split among myriad genres, look to the Comics Code. Created by the Comics Magazine Authority of America in 1954, these rules for comics content were intended to deflect growing moral panic about the effect of comics on children.
The code was puritanical and infantilising, requiring stories to be bloodless, sexless, and morally simplistic. A comic that didn’t get the Comics Code stamp of approval was unlikely to be touched by distributors. The American comic industry shrank. Here’s YouTuber Casually Comics describing the code:
EC Comics three horror stories, Tales from the Crypt, The Vault of Horror, and the Haunt of Fear were all shuttered because of the code. The EC Archives collection reprints these classics, providing an amazing insight into the development of American comics style before the homogenisation brought about by the Comics Code.
Junji Ito is a master of horror manga, one of the greatest Japanese horror comic authors and certainly the best known in the West. Uzumaki: Spiral into Horror is a series of linked stories about a small town in which mysterious spirals begin to appear everywhere. If that sounds like it couldn’t possibly be scary… well, just read the first chapter of Spiral.
Ito’s stories start in a seemingly normal situation that inevitably succumbs to an invasion of the weird and impossible. You’re never more than a few pages away from an illustration that will make your eyes spin. Spiral has a fairly long arc, maintaining a feeling of uncanny disorientation all the way to the end – and yet it somehow manages to have a perfect and deeply satisfying conclusion.
Emily Carroll is a beautiful, painterly comics author with a knack for short, memorable tales of terror, and there’s no better place to get into her work than Through the Woods. Each of her tales has the rhythm and tone of classic folk stories, mixing the overclose emotions of rural life with the sinister silences of the wilderness. If you want to get a sense for the anthology, you can check out short tale ‘His Face All Red’ for free online.
Horror movie buffs will know actor Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode from the Halloween franchise, along with a string of other roles as a scream queen, but she’s also the writer and director of horror film Mother Nature, which this graphic novel adapts.
This explicitly environmentalist story follows activist Nova Terrell as she attempts to sabotage the energy company responsible for her fathers death, and discovers something far more sinister than corporate malfeasance at the root of their operations. Pen and water-color illustrations by Karl Stevens capture both the beauty of the New Mexico landscape and moments of surreal horror with equal ease.