• Michael Dooley

Horror Comics: Image Comics is on Top

Horror comics are back. The genre hasn’t really raised its severed head since the 1950s, when an atmosphere of falsehoods, fears, and frightful foreboding infested our nation. And now that clandestine forces have managed to make America grating again, illustrated tales of terror have also once again become a thing.

Return of the Scary Thing from the 1950s

Graven Image

Back during McCarthyism 1.0, our country experienced a glut of comic book publishers – Fawcett, Key, Atlas, etc. – cashing in on the craze. Most creatively impressive among them was the EC Comics line, with titles like Tales From the Crypt, The Vault of Horror, and The Haunt of Fear. Editor-writer-artist Al Feldstein and his staff of artists – Jack Davis, Wally Wood, Harvey Kurtzman, “Ghastly” Graham Ingels, and such – applied their craft to scary short stories of shock and suspense that have since become legend. And once again we’re seeing a sizable number of top-tier pros engaged in the horror genre, and the most graphically innovative among them are producing for Image Comics.

Image’s Horror Comics are the new EC Horror Comics. They’re currently making excellent use of the best of the best of today’s extraordinarily accomplished talents. Among the standouts, I’d include James Harren of Rumble (warrior monsters), Lisandro Estherren of Redneck (vampires), Tomm Coker of The Black Monday Murders (horror noir), and Jock of Wytches (guess).

With a designer’s eye toward extraordinary illustration and bold graphic approaches to visual narrative, here are my picks of Image’s most exceptional comic book series over the past year, with links to their collected paperback editions.

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Gideon Falls

Writer: Jeff Lemire Artist: Andrea Sorrentino (issues 1-6)

This Twin-Peaks-meets-X-Files psychological thriller about religious obsession and madness is in development for a TV series of its own. But what future viewers will miss is the virtuosity and versatility of Andrea Sorrentino’s renderings and compositional flair. And it’s those such elements that uniquely enhance and graphically intensify Gideon Falls’s evocation of bizarre mystery and intense dread.

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Writer: Pornsak Pichetshote Artist: Aaron Campbell (issues 1-5)

This is a haunted house tale of an American Muslim woman and her family who move into a New York City apartment possessed by a horrific past. So yes, there are the requisite deranged demons, but they’re meant as physical manifestations of a very real and spreading internal corrosion: today’s sick, twisted climate of racism and xenophobia. Aaron Campbell’s intensely powerful, deeply disturbing imagery provides the perfect dimensions of dread to enrich Pornsak Pichetshote’s complex, nuanced storyline. The complete Infidel series is now available from Image as one of the past year’s most outstanding graphic novels.

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Cold Spots

Writer: Cullen Bunn Artist: Mark Torres (issues 1-5)

Cold Spots is a compelling missing persons detective story with a supernatural twist. Mark Torres’s stylized, hauntingly ethereal artwork and coloring evoke a dark, bleak atmosphere that complements Cullen Bunn’s tense, chilling spirit-world narrative. Indeed, Torres’s overall visual approach, particularly his handling of the ghosts, is exceptionally skilled.

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About Michael Dooley

Michael Dooley is the creative director of Michael Dooley Design and teaches History of Design, Comics, and Animation at Art Center College of Design and Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. He is also a Print contributing editor and author.

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