Almost everybody loves a good scare. Is it any wonder that horror has become one of the most successful and beloved genres in media? While most everybody is familiar with horror literature, television, and cinema, there is a rich world of horror comics waiting to be discovered, for those who are willing to look. However, many people are turned off from trying comics because of the market’s superhero saturation. So I have compiled a list of five great horror comics that have nothing to do with superheroes. Sadly, this disqualifies many great horror titles put out by Marvel and DC Comics, like Swamp Thing, Man-Thing, House of Mystery, Adventure Into Fear, and Tomb Of Dracula.
My general rule of thumb in making this list was that if, at any point, superheroes were involved in a main storyline of a particular horror comic, then it was disqualified. So, without any further ado, here are the Top 5 (Non Superhero) Horror Comics, presented in chronological order from their first publication dates.
5. Tales From The Crypt
First Published: October 1950
Kicking off this list is one of the most infamous, reviled, and beloved horror comics in history. “Tales From The Crypt” was a bi-monthly horror anthology that was published in the early 50’s by EC Comics. The comic was hosted by the now-iconic Cryptkeeper, who acted as a guide for readers in-between stories. The stories were shockingly violent, bloody, and graphic. In fact, the explicit content almost destroyed the comic book industry. In 1954, Fredric Wertham’s “Seduction of The Innocent,” the book claimed that violent comics promoted juvenile delinquency and the corruption of minors. “Tales From The Crypt” was one of the primary targets. The backlash resulted in the title’s cancellation. Although it was shut down, “Tales From The Crypt” remains, to this day, one of the most influential horror publications in the medium of comics.
First Published: 1964
If EC Comics accidentally almost killed the horror comic genre, then Warren Publishing helped save it. After the foundation of the Comics Code Authority, which essentially censored all depictions of graphic violence and illicit acts in comics, Warren Publishing released “Creepy” in 1964. Much like EC Comics’ horror titles, Creepy was a horror anthology, with a host character named Uncle Creepy. But unlike, say, “Tales From The Crypt,” “Creepy” was released as a newsstand publication in a magazine format. This allowed Warren Publishing a loophole to avoid the Comics Code Authority. “Creepy” would also be instrumental in helping promote new talent like Neal Adams (who helped revitalize DC Comics in the late 60’s and 70’s) and Steve Ditko (co-creator of Spider-Man).
3. Dylan Dog
First Published: October 1986
A magnum opus of European horror comics, Tiziana Sclavi’s “Dylan Dog” is an ongoing series that has been published since 1986. Following a “nightmare investigator” named Dylan Dog operating out of London, the comic follows his case files against the nasty things that go bump in the night. Accompanied by his sidekick, a delusional Groucho Marx impersonator, the two investigate the supernatural, and occasionally fight against the evil Dr. Xabaras. Long unavailable in the States, “Dylan Dog” has recently been released by Dark Horse comics, and become the subject of an American film adaptation entitled “Dylan Dog: Dead of Night,” which, unfortunately, sucked big time.
2. From Hell
First Published: 1991
Though not technically a horror comic, Alan Moore’s stellar piece of historical fiction, “From Hell,” is one of the most chilling and unnerving comics ever written. The comic is about the infamous Jack the Ripper murders that took place in the Whitechapel district of London in 1888. Moore based the comic on Stephen Knight’s theory that the Ripper murders were carried out by Queen Victoria’s royal physician Sir William Gull, in order to cover up the birth of the illegitimate child of Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence. This theory has been disproven several times, and even Moore has come out in opposition to it. But Moore’s thoroughly exhaustive research into the Ripper murders helped create one of the most compelling examinations of not just the crime, but of Victorian England. “From Hell” is not for the faint of heart. It contains extremely graphic depictions of sex, and grisly re-enactments of the murders. But for those with the stomach for such things, “From Hell” is one of the most rewarding entries on this list.
1. American Vampire
First Published: March 2010
The most recent series on this list, “American Vampire” is the brainchild of Scott Snyder. He is one of the fastest rising stars in the comic industry, in large part due to this series, and his run on DC’s “Batman” and “Swamp Thing.” The series operates off the premise that there are different species of vampire in the world. In the 1800s, a new species of vampire, an “American” vampire, is created. The first “American” vampire was Skinner Sweet, an outlaw from the Old West who lives through many different eras of American history. Along with Brazilian artist Rafael Albuquerque, Snyder has created one of the freshest, and most endearing takes on modern vampire lore.
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