Horror Comics Again by Mike Baron

HORROR COMICS. AGAIN.

Comics are the worst medium for horror, yet the horror comic will not die. Comics fail at horror because of limitations. They control what you see, and they control the pacing, to a degree. But at any minute, you can close the book, look up, and say, “Oh. It’s time for lunch.” You can’t do that in a movie, unless you’re watching at home. Movies control not only pacing, and visuals, but sound as well. Think how important sound is to your favorite horror movies. That voice in The Exorcist. That creak on the stairs. And the immersive visual experience suggests half shapes and terrors. Who can forget when the camera pans up through the window to the werewolf in the trees, in The Howling? Or James Whale’s masterful jump frames when we first glimpse the monster in Frankenstein?

Novels are just as effective as film in conveying horror, because they too are an immersive experience. The power of the word. The power of description. The novel is that oldest of all fictions, a tale told around a campfire. No other medium is as effective as putting you in the protagonist’s head. Some of my favorites are The Shining, Michael McDowell’s The Elementals, and Robert R. McCammon’s Swan Song.

Has anyone ever been scared by a comic? Those old EC cautionary tales with the shock endings were good for a frisson, but I’m speaking of supernatural terror. Some people consider films like Saw, Last House on the Left, and Hostel horror. Maybe. But to me, they’re slasher films. And a slasher film is not a horror film. A horror film raises the hackles because it makes you believe in supernatural terror. Films like The Changeling, The Ring, and The Haunting. The latter, by the way, contains not a single drop of blood or special effects, but oh, that sound track.

I loved Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing not because it scared me, but because it was such a complex, plausible story. I devoured Creepy and Eerie, mainly for the art. But it never freaked me out. I should talk. Both DC and Graphitti Designs are releasing the Deadman I did with Kelley Jones in the eighties. Kelley is the consummate comic book horror artist, combining the best of all the old EC artists including Graham Ingels, and the new EC artists such as Berni Wrightson. Kyle Hotz is another. However, only Kyle is frightening in real life.

One thought on “Horror Comics Again by Mike Baron

  1. Mike Mignola’s art on his Hellboy comics with its heavy shadows and expressionist designs tends to create a creepy unsettling felling, but it is not really scary.

    The manga Uzumaki, however, is one of the scariest things I’ve read. Junji Ito, the mangaka, uses cinematic techniques to make it truly frightening. Also, he comes up with some real disturbing crap. It’s the comic that I’ve ever thought of as scary.

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