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What ever happened to horror comics

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Written By: David Pinckney

I'll be the first to admit I'm guilty of what just about the majority of comic book readers fall into, a pull list consisting mainly of superheroes from the big two. Do I read anything else? Yes, of course, as an indie comic book writer I do have a great appreciation for the indie crowd and things that aren't superheroes. So why is my pull list filled with capes and tights? Better yet, why are the shelves filled with so many? And what ever happened to horror comics?

It's fairly safe to say Dark Horse, BOOM! Studios, and Avatar Press are heading the way for horror comics, but in all honesty horror comics are very few and far between. Yes, there's Hellboy, The Goon, Crossed and all that but it seems like for every twenty or so superheroe comics we get, we only get one or two horror comic books. Is horror done? Is it not liked anymore in the form of a mainstream genre? That's not the case. How many horror movies to we get a year? Good or bad, doesn't matter we get them, so there is a market for it. The reason I believe we don't have many horror comics on the shelves is because the comic industry is dominated by Marvel and DC. So that's stating the obvious but, if we look at it from a comic shop owner perspective, they need to make a living so they need to sell some books. Shops are going to stock more of the mainstream comics versus the indie books (which I'd argue the indie crowd predominantly does the horror comics). Now, this logic applies not just to the effects on horror comics but indie comics as a whole. The point here is in general horror comics are created by independent creators. Comic shops aren't the enemy or anything like that, and all of us should be able to see why they purchase what they do, but at the end of the day the comic industry is a business.

So what does it take to horror back into the forefront? It seems that horror comes in sudden surges. For example whether you like it or not Twilight has lots of horror elements. Vampires, werewolves, etc. When the the Twilight saga started hitting theaters, vampires and werewolves were everywhere. Comics started having more horror elements in it, many of which were vampires. Take the idea that Marvel has a huge weight in the comic industry and with that take into the account that during this whole vampire craze we got several vampire themed books. The X-books are filled with them, we got a Dracula one-shot and mini-series, and other books with vampires. Marvel has put vampires, and subsequently, horror back into the mainstream comics, but the harsh reality is it's just going to be the 'flavor of the week'. But what if they weren't? Is that what it would take to bring out more horror comics? I think that would be a big help but what we truly need is not just one company doing horror, but several doing horror and doing it well. The industry has proved that a comic doesn't need to be apart of the big two in order to get recognition. Look an Image's Invincible. It's a superhero comic by an indie creator, for an indie company and there is no doubt that it is doing well in not only sales but in the sense of being accepted by readers as a good and solid superhero. Not only do we need more companies to do horror comics and do it right, but we would need it in a way that people can get to it. Which leads us into a semi-touchy subject of digital comics.Hack/Slash

Dark Horse is doing some great things with digital comics in the sense that they are doing some exclusive comics for a digital medium, as part of there Dark Horse:HD program, one of which is Hellboy. There are people out there who like comics, but not enough to go to a shop. Digital comics will help get new people. This isn't an article about digital comics versus printed, but it's something to think about. Does horror need an additional outlet to those who may not be in the know about horror comics in order to bring in more readers? Everyone knows who Superman is, but has everyone heard of Crossed or Locke and Key? Horror needs, not a new, but an additional outlet. Dark Horse is doing something very good for horror comics (even if bringing horror comics back wasn't there intention). Dark Horse can't do it alone, truly this is a thing other companies should be doing as well. Independent comics need help from other independent comics.

The obvious “additional outlet” besides digital comics is television and here is where I think we are going to start seeing some more comics soon. The Walking Dead, Locke and Key, Hack/Slash, and Chew have all been greenlit as shows coming to the small screen. This will help horror find there way back on shelves. Just like the Twilight fad pushed vampires into books, these shows could push horror back on to shelves. People who don't go to the comic shops who like these shows will inevitably learn that they were comics first and look into them. If they like the shows enough they'll look into reading the comics which means they will do one of two things. Buy the trade off amazon or download the comic. This is why horror needs more outlets then just being on the shelves at comic shops. A person who doesn't read comics all the time but finds some to download, will probably in someway find themselves looking into other comics of that genre.

All of these ideas I'm spilling on the page can easily be applied to things not horror (as said before) but horror is one of those genres that seems to be overlooked and seems to really just come in fads. If we want horror comics to come and stay instead of coming and going in waves I think what the genre needs are some solid on-going tiles as opposed to a few one-shots and mini-series here and there. For example Walking Dead, Locke and Key, Chew and Hack/Slash all have three things in common. They are horror comics, they are on-going comics, and they all have been optioned for television shows. I don't think it's a coincidence that the horror comics that are becoming wildly known not just in comics, but soon to be known also by the general public, are all on-going comics. Comics that have withstood the test of time and kept their story going and kept it going well. None of those comics are with the big two but they are seeing some major exposure. With all that said, I think it's the perfect time for horror creators to push their comic. With all of these horror shows based off of comics we will likely see, again, surge of interest in horror comics.

Before closing I'd like to give mention to the fact that Marvel and DC do have horror characters. In fact DC is coming off of it's epic universe cross over 'Blackest Night' which centered around the undead. Marvel even has large collections of horror comics along with their horror characters. Again though it seems that Marvel's collections of horrors has already seen its heyday and it doesn't look like they have any true intention of bringing back horror comics like Tomb of Dracula. It'll take more then just one or two companies bringing back horror.

For what it's worth, a lot of the horror comics that are on shelves now, are pretty good. Getting them known is the true tricky part, but with a combination of additional outlets, television shows, and good solid stories from a wide range of comic companies, I feel that horror comics can come back and stay as a predominant genre in the industry.

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Published on: 2010-10-26 (2877 reads)

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