Head for the bookstore on a dark and scary night
Halloween is just magical. Being able to go up to virtually any house in your neighborhood, ring the doorbell, and get free candy–could there be a better holiday for little kids? Plus you get to dress up like the protagonist from your favorite novel. (That was supposed to be a joke but then I remembered the ten million Harry Potters I’ve seen over the last few Halloweens and I realize it’s not a joke anymore–kids do dress up like book characters these days, thanks to J.K. Rowling.)
But let’s not forget the other side of Halloween: the dark and scary side. We can all use a little thrill now and then–the ghost story that makes the s’mores taste sweeter, the haunted house journey that makes your adrenaline pump, the slasher movie that gives you an excuse to cuddle up close to your date . . .
And, most importantly, the graphic novel that makes you clasp the covers closer to you and huddle in your comfy bed, hoping the monsters in your closet stay where they belong all night long.
You probably already know from reading this blog that I’m a huge fan of graphic novels in general. I think there are some absolutely amazing ones out there, some of them beautifully realistic and moving, others gorgeous and fantastical. But of course graphic novels are particularly brilliant at capturing the grotesque and the frightening–a picture may be worth a thousand words but when you combine the right creepy pictures with the right unsettling words, you have something that slips into your brain and discomfits you in ways no other art form can match.
So, if you want to get in the mood for Halloween, settle down with a good creepy graphic novel. Here are a few suggestions.
1. Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series. Kim gave me my first Sandman book which was not, oddly, the actual first Sandman book but the second one. Later, I read the first one, because the premise is so unbelievably weird that I couldn’t entirely figure it out. Having read the first one, I still don’t understand it. These books define creepy. The roam among different worlds and times, entangling the stories of both men and gods–and neither species is particularly noble or good. This series wins scariest of this list.
2. And, speaking of Neil Gaiman (have I mentioned I love him? Hello, Neil. I love you.), there’s a graphic novel version of his kid’s book Coraline that’s pretty wonderful. Since they made a movie out of Coraline last year, you might already know the basic plot–girl gets annoyed with her parents, finds “better” parents through a secret door in her house who are identical to her real parents except they have button eyes. Button eyes. Excuse me while I go turn on some more lights. Button eyes. Shudder.
3. Black Hole by Charles Burns. There’s a a sexually transmitted disease–a potentially fatal plague–and a lot of teenagers are catching it. Is it a metaphor for AIDs or just a physical manifestation of the way teenagers feel isolated, misunderstood, and ostracized? I don’t know–it works both ways–but some symptoms are more disturbing than others. One lucky girl grows a tail that’s downright sexy. But some of the other mainfestations of the disease are downright nauseating. This one is NOT for the faint of stomach.
4. It’s Dark in London is a collection of “short stories,” edited by Oscar Zarate. They range from the weird to the scary. And guess who wrote one of them? Neil Gaiman! All roads lead to Neil Gaiman. I’m just saying. The style of drawing and storytelling changes from one section to the next, so odds are good you’ll like something in there.
5. Any collection or edition of Tales from the Crypt. A couple of decades ago, I decided to collect as many of the actual comic books as I could and read them all. I don’t think I slept soundly for the next three months. They were so effin’ scary. A couple of them still haunt me–one about a “hidden twin” was pretty bad but the one about BUTTON EYES was paralyzing.
Button eyes. I have to go curl up in the fetal position for a little while.
6. Okay, I’m back, but please don’t mention either buttons or eyes for a while. I can’t take it. During my break, our “silent partner” in this blog just wandered in to measure something in our house (long story) and he suggested Ronin by Frank Miller. I looked it up online and, yeah, it looks scary. I haven’t read it but I think I might have to. I don’t think Ronin had button eyes.
7. And speaking of Frank Miller, I watched the movie of Sin City which famously recreates tales from his graphic novels of the same name with an almost panel by panel fidelity and I thought parts of it were pee-in-your-pants scary. Some parts were also pee-in-your-pants funny so it’s kind of a win-win situation, especially for the lovely people at Depends. I know we’re talking about graphic novels here, but this is one of my favorite movies of all time–it’s gorgeous. And very bloody.
9. V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd. I don’t know if this is as knock-your-socks-off scary as some of the other books on this list, but if you’ve ever had your 18-year-old son surprise you by suddenly coming into your room in the V for Vendetta Guy Fawkes mask (thanks, Max) then you know that that one simple visual image can set your heart pounding like crazy. The novel’s got all this creepy futuristic stuff, too. I love pretty much anything Alan Moore has written.
10. Batman–not your parents’ Batman, but anything written in the last decade featuring the Joker. Like Batman: The Killing Joke. Scary, scary, scary. Disturbing. And scary. Guess who wrote that one? Alan Moore.
So, to sum up: Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, and Frank Miller are the scariest, baddest, most interesting and altogether Halloweeniest graphic novelists out there. Grab a couple of their books from your local Indie and curl up for a scaaaaarry night of horror. (I’m channeling Joe Flaherty as Count Floyd from SCTV here, if anyone cares.)
Happy Halloween! Save me a Baby Ruth.