Anurag loves horror comic books and sharing his favorites with others.
During the late 1940s, horror comic books emerged as a discrete genre. It was a time when adult males wanted something different from caped crusaders and mask-wielding crime busters. They wanted realistic, creepy, gory horror and violence instead of Kapows, Bams, and Eeks. Eerie Comics (1947) gave the required dose of scares and creeps to horror buffs and soon Adventures into the Unknown comic book series became a regularly published horror title for nearly two decades.
While Marvel and DC superheroes still rule the roost in terms of popularity and fan-following, there’s a sizeable population of horror buffs who never miss a single issue of horror manga, comics, and graphic novels. In recent years, there has been a significant rise in the horror graphic novels readership. The popularity of Twilight has encouraged many new and old comic book publishers to come up with their own vampire and werewolf-themed comic books.
However, there are many comic book aficionados who still look for good ol’ Tales from the Crypt and Swamp Thing.
This top ten best horror comic book compilation presents a list of some of the creepiest titles that have thrilled and sent shivers down your spine. You will find some of the scariest manga and indie graphic novels that have scared readers with their unique style of story-telling and artwork. Here's a sneak peek.
10. North 40
9. The Ring
6. The Drifting Classroom
5. The Swamp Thing
4. Scary Book
3. 30 Days of Night
1. Tales From the Crypt
10. North 40
Most horror graphic novel and comic fans love captivating artwork and an original storyline—and this is what exactly North 40 offers. Published by DC/Wildstorm Productions, this comic book series provides everything a horror fan wants, monsters, vampires, ghouls, gruesome creatures, witches and supernatural overtones. You should read the first issue to get a taste of Lovecraftian horror.
The artwork’s splendid, with some excellent watercolor washes and ink work. The rural setting is perfectly depicted and clinches to the Children of the Corn type of atmosphere. The comic’s monster elements are superbly done. If you are fond of a variety of horror sub-genres, then the North 40 comic series is well-worth to please your horror tastes!
9. The Ring
The movie, Ringu (US: The Ring), scared the daylights of most horror buffs. The misshapen eye of Sadako still gives Goosebumps to numerous J-Horror fans. The manga version of Ringu is equally terrifying and deserves a solid look. Some very brilliant artwork and additional insights into the story will take you deeper into the psyche of Sadako. Fans of Ringu shouldn’t miss this horror manga as well as its Birthday sequel.
Some of the best Japanese horror comic books can surely be quite terrifying, but GYO is grotesque in every possible way! It has an unimaginable story that invades your olfactory senses. And yes, the theme is bizarre—zombie fish! An experiment goes awry and causes fish to mutate and develop a strange structure. The stinking zombie fishes attack people in the most unimaginable way. Published by Shogakukan, GYO’s first volume reveals how the undersea experiment conducted by a bunch of Japanese scientists during the Second World War goes wrong and how the undead fish invade the mainland.
The second volume presents a solution to exterminate the grotesque fish and has two bonus short stories: The Enigma of the Amigara Fault and The Sad Tale of Principal Post. The latter is a heart-wrenching tale rather than horror. The artwork is vintage manga. The level of grotesqueness shown in Junji Ito’s GYO is beyond your imagination, so better be ready to get your senses invaded before you grab this manga.
The best horror comics enthrall readers with their original storyline and excellent artwork. Some of the top comics and manga include Crossed, The Swamp Thing, and the Drifting Classroom. These comics are worthy to be in your horror comic book collection.
With an excellent storyline, Crossed pushes you to the edge! It is a perfect example of extreme horror that will leave you spellbound with its original story and splendid artwork. Spanning ten issues, Crossed tells the story of survivors who try to evade a contagious plague that infiltrates its victim’s mind and evokes him/her to commit murder and carry evil thoughts. Victims of the plague have a strange cross-like rash on their faces. Published by Avatar Press, Crossed is a must-buy!
The first issue follows flashbacks that give readers an idea of the origins of the plague outbreak. The entire narrative is in the past tense. The second issue, Family Values, has an adult-oriented theme and is not for teens. It has instances of rape and grotesque violence. The story centers on a family who escapes the plague and seeks shelter in a mountain.
With graphic scenes of mutilations and extreme violence, Crossed is strictly for grownups who want adult-themed horror comics. The violent death scenes will make the most die-hard comic book fan cringe and feel terrified. Not for the weak-hearted!
6. The Drifting Classroom
One of the best horror manga, The Drifting Classroom will certainly bother those who are squeamish towards extreme violence and graphic scenes. The story is centered on an elementary school that gets dragged to hell and it’s the job of a group of sixth-graders to find a solution to bring all students back to sanity. There are many grotesque scenes like children been devoured by insects, crucified at a stake and kids undergoing mutation after eating poisoned mushrooms (not for kids). The mid-70s manga artwork may seem a bit dated, but the story will certainly scare your bones away.
The brainchild of the manga series is Kazuo Umezu, one of the best writers of J-Horror and Science Fiction genres. In 1975, the series was awarded the 20th Shogakukan Manga Award in 1975. Published by Viz Media (US) and Shogakukan (Japan), The Drifting Classroom is terrifying and some readers may not like the visual torture.
5. The Swamp Thing
Swamp Thing is one of the most popular classic horror comics ever. The comic book series, featuring the plant elemental, is a classic example of a monster-themed comic book.
Originally penned by Len Wein and drawn by Berni Wrightson, Swamp Thing first appeared in the July issue of the House of Secrets in 1971. The legendary character was quite popular till the early ‘90s. Still today, many DC comic book aficionados love to read the adventures. Filled with bizarre monsters and heroic adventures, The Swamp Thing is absolutely a must-read this Halloween.
4. Scary Book
As the name suggests, this horror manga is indeed quite scary – partly because it is created by the “Stephen King of Manga” Kazuo Umezu. The author’s works has inspired many manga-kas like Junji Ito. Scary Book is a series of short graphic novels with some really bizarre tales that will remind you of Tales from the Crypt.
Published by Dark Horse, the series’ plus point is its originality. Every short story is distinct and scary and will appeal to every horror buff. In one story, a plain prank letter turns completely sour when things mentioned in the letter turn out to be true. In another one, a girl’s reflection replaces her original self and it’s up to her to find the solution before she gets trapped permanently inside the mirror. The illustrations are a bit dated, but manga lovers will surely get a taste of vintage manga artwork!
Whether bizarre stories or formulaic plots, horror comics and manga always thrill readers with their own unique artwork style and story. Take the case of Uzumaki – the story is quite unusual and takes surprising turns to shock readers. Graphic novels like 30 Days of Night tackle the same old vampire theme but add a fresh look to keep readers on the edge of their seats.
3. 30 Days of Night
Fans looking for vampire-themed horror graphic novels ought to check out this graphic novel’s superb artwork and story. Published by IDW publishing, this three-issue mini-series centers on Barrow, Alaska, where vampires take advantage of the dark to haunt the cold winters and feast upon the town’s inhabitants.
The best part of 30 Days of Night is its abstract graphics, courtesy of Ben Templesmith’s exceptional artwork. There’s also a movie of the same name, but it could not replicate the emotions and scariness of the graphic novel. A must-read if you are a fan of vampire-themed graphic novels.
Shapes and designs fascinate everyone, be it kids or adults. But what if a plain fascination for a particular shape turns into a maddening obsession? Well, this strange obsession with curls has engulfed a small town, where the inhabitants find themselves becoming strangely attracted to spirals. The story begins with a man’s strange obsession with anything spiral, from spiral drawings to objects. He collects them and just stares at them in rapt fascination. So, what’s terrifying if a man gets gripped by spirals? This is where Junji Ito’s superb storytelling skills come into play. The obsession infects every inhabitant slowly, which then turns into a horrific nightmare, with surprising twists that can certainly make your skin crawl.
Published by Shogakukan/Viz Media (US), Uzumaki is a vertigo-inducing classic that can even make Stephen King shriek with fear. It perfectly fits into the J-Horror definition: bizarre, skin-crawling and grotesque. Horror mangaka Junji Ito creates depressingly terrifying scenes with his exceptional storytelling skills. Ito’s artwork is impressive, something which some of the best horror manga comics are famous for. If you have an obsession with bizarre plots, then Uzumaki is your kind of book.
1. Tales From the Crypt
The reason Tales from the Crypt tops this best horror comic books compilation is because of its originality. And the best part is that most of its short stories do not always have a typical ghoul, werewolf or vampire-themed plots. There are some truly bizarre tales that send shivers down the spine, tales that are closer to reality, but far fascinating to imagine. The occasional black humor endings and the terrifying moments is what make Tales from the Crypt is different from other classic horror comics. Murder mysteries that take surprising turns, secret lab experiments gone awry, leading to devastating results and serial killers wreaking havoc on innocent people, you’ve got everything under one roof!
Published by EC Comics, Tales from the Crypt hit newsstands in November 1950, but soon ceased publishing any new issues after the March issue, which was published in 1955. Its scary narrator, the Crypt Keeper, became quite famous during the mid-1950s. Later, in the late ‘80s, the comic book series was revived in the form of a television series, with the classic intro sequence of the grotesque Crypt Keeper.
There are many short stories that send chills down your spine. My favorite: The first short story of the first issue, when Freddy manages to cheat death with the help of his old surgeon friend. The ending is superb, blending sarcasm and horror.
Anurag Ghosh (author) on February 05, 2014:
Amanda from Michigan, United States on February 05, 2014:
I've read The Ring and 30 Days of Night, but the rest of these are all new titles to me (with the exception of having "heard of" but not read Tales from the Crypt). Voted up!
Hugo Furst from Australia on November 12, 2013:
I have yet to check out some of the comic books listed on here! Thanks for this great hub. Voted up :)
Anurag Ghosh (author) on November 15, 2012:
Willliam B on November 15, 2012:
Nice list you have there. I read and write comics as a hobby. Although I'm much more into japanese and korean comics nowadays. I'll try to read #7 and 10. Due to It's my first time to encounter the two comic.
Domenick Dicce on August 19, 2012:
Great post. I am surprised Walking Dead did not make the list. I guess you could consider it a tale of survival with zombies as apposed to horror.
Only because I do not want Twilight to get to much credit I have to add that I believe a major reason for comic books going more into horror is because comic books have become a popular source material for movies in general. Beyond all the superheroes you have movies like 30 days of 30 nights and 300.
Anurag Ghosh (author) on June 02, 2012:
@Pam I agree with you. Horror manga comice are rare, but they are very scary.
Pam on May 12, 2012:
junji ito has more amazing mangas pretty scary too...
Anurag Ghosh (author) on February 05, 2012:
htodd from United States on February 05, 2012:
Nice collection ..Thanks for the nice post
Anurag Ghosh (author) on January 09, 2012:
heatblast92 from Malaysia on January 09, 2012:
I'm only familiar with Swamp Thing, by far the best and possibly most mind-wrenching among DC's New 52 titles, and 30 Days of Night by Ben Templesmith, who also did Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse, an entertaining read which blends squiddy Lovecraftian elements with the sharp wit of a talking corpse. Great list, certainly will keep an eye out for the rest of the titles here.
Anurag Ghosh (author) on January 04, 2012:
rednickle from New Brunswick Canada on January 04, 2012:
Hmm comic book of the ring? i think i would go check that out. I have read Crossed and though i agree that it has a unique story line, i didn't find it that horrifying.
Anurag Ghosh (author) on December 29, 2011:
jennifer moe from Brooklyn center,mn on December 29, 2011:
I enjoy magna drawings. They are very detailed pecies of
art. I also do magna.
Lina20 on December 01, 2011:
You should Vampire Knights, or DeathNote.
Anurag Ghosh (author) on November 24, 2011:
Thanks a ton!Tales from the Crypt is my fave too. Just love those bizarre tales. They don't have to be gruesome ghost stories, sometimes the stories are all about fate and death.
Marlin 55 from USA on November 24, 2011:
Another great article. I am familiar with Tales from the Crypt, but Crossed looks like a really great read. I grew up on Creepy (one of my favorites). And I loved to read all the cheesy detective stories. Good job on this article and the information.