Monday, October 26, 2015

The Donist World Required Reading Halloween Bash - 2015

Hello and welcome, Donist World Denizens, to the Donist World Required Reading Halloween Bash, or DWR2H…if you prefer a simplification that is actually more difficult to remember than the actual title of the post. I’m joined as ever by my Boston terrier executive team of Tulip (my dog) and the Reverse Obie (Tulip’s sister, my friends’ Boston terrier, who recently had a reversal of the black and white coloring of his fur…which brought along the additional bonus of making him easier to work with). Since Halloween falls later this week, I thought it would be fun to compile a list of MUST-READ comics that very much embrace the spirit of the season. I love this time of year, Denizens. The weather begins to cool, the leaves change, there are pumpkin flavored goodies appearing everywhere from pancake mix, ice cream, cornbread mix, chai latte mix, chocolates, frozen yogurt, granola, power bars, and the best of the best of beers (Avery Brewing’s Pump[KY]n, Dogfish Head’s Punkin’, Uinta’s Oak Jacked Imperial Pumpkin Ale, and Elysian’s Punkuccino are all phenomenal) — I draw the line at pumpkin-flavored coffee, which tends to be an abomination of the senses. But with the season also comes the need to read comics on the darker, scarier side of the spectrum, ones which Tulip, the Reverse Obie, and I are pleased to share with you below.

What follows is a list of horror-tinged comics which everyone who shares our fondness of Halloween should have read or have sitting beside their bed in their “To Read” pile. In no particular order, it’s…

The Donist World Required Reading Halloween Bash!

The Upturned Stone HC
The Upturned Stone HC - Most everythinged by Scott Hampton, lettered by Tracy Hampton-Musey, published by Heavy Metal/Kitchen Sink. Okay, I lied about the no particular order thing. This book stands tall alongside the book that follows as one of the best horror comics I have EVER read. I came very late to the party with Hampton’s masterpiece of art and the written word, and have talked about it many times here at Donist World (read my initial review here). The story is essentially a watercolored work of art in the guise of a cross between Stand By Me and the best of scary ghost stories. I love this wonderful work so much I tend to read it twice a year. You can and should pick this up for the ridonkulously low price of $5.00 and you can find it at the Heavy Metal site. It really doesn’t get better than this.

Swamp Thing
The Saga of the Swamp Thing - Written by Alan Moore, illustrated by John Totleben and Steve Bissette, published by DC Comics. As I have said many, many times over the past five or six years, Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson’s Swamp Thing (which you also need to read) is the comic that made me appreciate the work of a master artist, and later, once I was old enough to actually read, a great story. But when Moore’s take on DC’s muck monster came out, it was one of those things that showed me how a cool character with some great stories behind him, could be completely spun into something new. This series compelled me to read and reread every issue by Moore I could get my hands on, while making my skin crawl, then lifting my spirits, and ultimately horrifying me with some legitimately frightening stories. The Saga of the Swamp Thing is one of my stranded-on-a-desert-isle books and one I love to revisit again and again as a slow, steady tingle creeps up my spine.

The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead - Written by Robert Kirkman, illustrated by Charlie Adlard (and initially by Tony Moore). If you have never heard of The Walking Dead, then allow me to be the first to congratulate you on your recent freedom from the doomsday bunker you have been stashed away in for the past two decades. Seriously, I’m sorry that happened to you, but once you start reading this massively-successful creator-owned series, you will probably be scrambling to return back to that gawd-forsaken, concrete prison you crawled out of; this series about a zombie outbreak is about as grim and horrendous as it gets. Now, I freely admit I am behind by about five trades, and that I have not yet seen any of the latest episodes in season six of the television show (although I recently hammered through the entirety of the awesome season five), but I do intend to check in on Rick and the rest of his soon-to-be-deceased-in-a-shockingly-gruesome-manner crew in the near future. The Walking Dead is the undeniable king of zombie comic books. You should at least make it to issue 100 on this ever-popular series.

28 Days Later
28 Days Later - Written by Michael Alan Nelson, illustrated by Declan Shalvey, published by BOOM! Studios. Oh, man! Did I ever love watching 28 Days Later. I first saw the movie in the theater with Amy (Donist World intern, my wife), whose ever-tightening grip on my arm threatened to snap a bone, or at the least cause some bruising as she leaned over to whisper in my ear “What did you bring me to see?!”; this was during the first 10 minutes of the movie. <phew> Yeah, the film is damn intense, but I love it and the sequel 28 Weeks Later is dang scary, too, but the comic is no joke. A fantastic story by Nelson and gorgeous art by Shalvey, 28 Days Later sees the character of Selena, a survivor of the original outbreak, embarking on a mission back into the same infected zone that nearly killed her. Dang, I need to reread this one…I best plan on not sleeping afterwards, too.

Batman: The Black Mirror - Written by Scott Snyder, illustrated by Jock and Francesco Fracavilla, published by DC Comics. I’m currently at the halfway point of my fourth reread of this phenomenal Batman tale. Snyder writes a fantastic Dick Grayson standing in as Batman in this comic that is more cerebral horror / noir crime tale than superhero book. It also brings in Commissioner Gordon in one of the best takes on the character since Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One. Jock and Francavilla deliver spine-tingling visuals that ramp up the unease you are sure to feel in one of my favorite Batman books to this day.

Afterlife With Archie - Written by Roberto Aguierre-Sacasa, illustrated by Francesco Francavilla, published by Archie Comics. Okay, I’m not sure what the heck is going on with the release schedule of this surprise offering from Archie, but this book has no qualms in turning their well-know, much-loved characters into the terrifying undead, and touching on some rather disturbing sequences. I just reread the first collection straight through, and was unnerved, sympathetic to characters’ plights, amused, and oftentimes moved by Archie Comic’s biggest and best risk to date. As I have said before, when I originally read the solicits for the first issue, I intended to write the comic off as kinda not for me, but then I read it and fell deeply in love with the fantastic story and Francavilla’s oh-so-gorgeous art. Don’t kid yourself, this is one of the best horror comics out there.

Manifest Destiny - Written by Chris Dingess, illustrated by Matthew Roberts, published by Image Comics. Want a revisionist history of Lewis and Clark’s exploration of the untamed West? I wasn’t certain that I did, but I heard some pretty high praise for this comic, so I bought the ultra-cheap first trade and was completely blown away. Read my thoughts of the first two trades here and here AFTER you read this awesome adventure, monster mash, horror comic that has me very eager for the third trade that arrives in mid-November. My goodness gracious, I cannot wait! Who knew being so completely freaked out could be so much fun.

Rachel Rising - Everythinged by Tony Moore, published by Abstract Studio. Mr. Moore is a modern day comic book master, and I have been singing the praises of his work since beginning Donist World, and it should come as little surprise that I LOVE this comic, too. Think Twin Peaks meets horror comics, with Moore’s stunning line and character work, and a story that is touching, compelling, and with characters you will adore. The story? A woman comes back to life in a grave deep in the woods with missing memories and a desire to find the person who killed her. There is sooooooo much more going on in the series than that, but you will need to read it for yourself to follow along with this Donist World Darling.

Chew - Written by John Layman, illustrated by Rob Guillory, published by Image Comics. Yeah, yeah, yeah, settle down, Denizens. Yes, I know Chew is predominantly a humor comic, and it has indeed left me laughing issue after issue, but the book is about an FDA agent who has the bizarre ability to get a psychic impression off of anything he consumes. He oftentimes comes across murder victims. How do you quickly solve a horrific murder case when the victim is lying in front of you, the clock is ticking, and you have just such an ability? Let’s just say the math adds up to a disgusting sum, but the sum of this laugh out loud comic — the most unique comic book on the stands — brings about some fairly gruesome and occasionally scary moments. All y’all already know you should be reading this great comic.

Creepy Presents… - Published by Dark Horse Comics. I totally flipped my wig over the first two volumes for Bernie Wrightson and Richard Corben (I gushed over them here and here), and I also quite enjoyed the Steve Ditko edition as well. I grew up sneaking peeks at these thrilling, terrifying, and oftentimes titillating tales of torment and tension as a kid, and I am happy to say that my fond memories hold true. These stories, many of which are written by Bruce Jones, are of a grand time when the Warren Magazine’s offerings were in full effect with the best of the best that comics had to offer. These beautiful editions need to be on everyone’s favorite bookshelf, which reminds me that I need to get ahold of the recently released Creepy Presents…Alex Toth.

Locke & Key - Written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez, published by IDW. I don’t have the newly released hardcover edition for the link above, but it looks to be even more kickace (and cheaper) than buying the first two individual hardcovers that I have. This series is fantastic, whether it is Halloween, Christmas, the Fourth of July, or Aunt Barthalomew’s birthday. The creators immediately pull you into the lives of the Locke family and keep you firmly glued to the pages of this mystical horror comic that is phenomenal from beginning to end, as well as every step in-between. The crazy thing — as of this writing — is that this graphic novel series is available in its entirety for FREE through Amazon Audible as an audio-only book. Seriously. Go grab this NOW before it is no longer free, BUT read the comics first all the way through, and then fire up the audio version to expand what you already know. I think I will reread these as I listen to the glorious audio version to better experience this masterwork that made me shutter, unnerved me, made me laugh, and tugged on my emotions and heart the entire time. No matter how you look at it, Locke and Key is something special that all mature comic fans need to experience.

Other Notables - Ack, I’m out of time, but here are some other books you should check out to celebrate the Halloween season: The Sandman, Revival (this one is great!), Wytches (creepy to the max!!!)Hellblazer, Midnight Nation (I need to reread this one soon), Batman: Arkham Asylum.

Did I Miss Something? - Please let me know if I forgot to add a particular horror comic to this list. I’m sure there are tons out there that I mistakenly forgot about, or have not yet read. One series I have owned for some time that I have not yet tackled is From Hell, which I fully intend to remedy very soon. Thank you for reading. Have a great and safe Halloween!


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