The cold comes creeping in, the leaves are turning colors, and pumpkins are everywhere, even in your coffee. Yes, my friends, Halloween is upon us, and that means its time to get into the spirit of things with some excellent media! This year, I’ll be doing a 6-6-6 series of spooky selections to thrill and delight.
This time around, let’s look at a few one-shot comics that will fill you with dread but won’t break the bank in buying multiple volumes.
1) The Cape by Joe Hill
Everybody wants to be a superhero, but sometimes having all that power can really mess with your mind. Eric feels like a loser, having just broken up with his girlfriend, having no job, and still living at home. But when he finds the cape he used to have that let him fly, well, Eric gets a new lease on life…much to the detriment of everyone in his life. Joe Hill, who in case you didn’t know is Stephen King’s son, is amazing at writing the worst of humanity and making it feel all too real. He’s no stranger to comics, having written the excellent horror series Locke and Key, but The Cape manages to pack all the horror and suspense you could ever want in a short story about brotherhood, jealousy, and entitlement.
2) Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
There’s nothing quite as ominous as a dark and dense wood, and artist Emily Carroll uses that to tell five dark tales that play off of our fairy tale expectations. The art in this one is stunning, and really makes you feel like you’re reading a storybook, at least until the horror elements kick in. My two favorites are “A Lady Has Cold Hands” and “The Nesting Place” though believe me when I say that each story is a winner in its own way. Carroll’s art style really lends itself to unsettling designs, sticking in your mind even after you’ve tucked in for the night. To say anymore would spoil the fun, so venture in on your own…if you dare.
3) Infidel by Pornsak Pichetshote
What makes a ghost story scary is that oppressive feeling, of being watched, of being hated, that you can’t escape from. But what if you already live like that? Infidel blends the horrific reality of how Muslims are treated in America with a terrifying ghost story where the spirits feed off of xenophobia. Aisha moves into an apartment with her non-Muslim fiancé after it is blown apart by a white supremacist. But as the ghosts of the past start to interfere, it’s about to Aisha and the others in her apartment building to figure out just how to do with the hatred, both in and outside of their homes.
4) Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann and Kerascoët
You might be familiar with Kerascoët, the French married duo that have unique fairytale style all their own that turns even the more mundane stories into fantastical nightmares. Beautiful Darkness is where this aspect shines the most, when the cute little creatures turn vicious. It’s the juxtaposition between the sweet design and the terrible actions of the characters that makes the whole thing so eerie. There’s also a sense of dark wonder about their environment, and if you look closely, you can see the secrets of the truth. Pair that with creepy but sparse dialogue, and you’ve got a beautifully eerie classic.
5) Batman: Arkham Asylum by Frant Morrison and Dave McKean
Now, you might be thinking, didn’t you say these were short one shots? Don’t I have to know about the Batman lore in order to understand this? And the answer is that you almost definitely know enough about Batman where this short story, unattached to any other series, will be both fascinating and chilling. Batman is sake to come to Arkham Asylum after the patients have taken the facility hostage, but as he comes to play their twisted game, the line between sanity and chaos blurs. The art adds to ambiance, with the characters more sketchy blurs than defined characters, which sounds annoying and terrible but is in fact really disturbing.
6) Uzumaki by Junji Ito
I would be remiss to leave out the master of horror comics Junji Ito. If you’ve ever seen a scary manga short floating on Reddit or Imgur or Tumblr, there’s a 90% chance it’s one of his creations. There are several short stories anthologies of his I could have picked, I went with the classic story of Uzumaki because it’s a good test to see if you can read his creepier stuff or if this is your spooky threshold. The story follows Kirie, a high school girl who suddenly notices that everyone is her town is becoming obsessed with spirals. But then the town starts to literally turns to turn into spirals, first in its people and then the town itself. The whole story is a slow and creepy burn, as you watch Kirie’s life fall into disarray and her powerlessness to stop it only makes it worse.