Spooky season isn’t just for prose, reader friends. Some of the best and most enduring denizens of crumbling mansions, dark forests, shadowy closets, and our imaginations have been immortalized in comics and graphic novels. Come and, allow me to make some introductions.
If you dare…
Destroyer by Victor LaValle and Deitrich Smith
Mary Shelley’s immortal monster isn’t interested in peace, love, understanding, or companionship anymore; he wants to eradicate the last vestiges of the species who spawned him.
Doctor Baker, a descendent of the original Doctor Frankenstein, is determined to have her son back after a terrible tragedy and has followed in her famous ancestor’s footsteps. The OG monster isn’t pleased that version 2.0 may or may not be an improvement over the original where morals and ethics are concerned. Clearly the “good’ doctors haven’t evolved much. Where does that leave the people between Baker and that which she has wrought? Where does it leave the monsters? And who, exactly do we mean when we say monster?
Who needs protecting from whom? Who’s the real danger to the world, man or machine? Creator or creation? Hubris or vengeance? In the end, do we all contain the seeds of our own destruction?
Swamp Thing: Twin Branches by Maggie Stiefvater and Morgan Beem
One of DC’s most enigmatic, powerful, enduring, and terrifying creations, Len Wein and Bernie Wrighston’s Avatar of the Green first appeared in 1974’s Swamp Thing #1. After a lab accident gave Alec Holland the power to control every cell of plant life on the planet, Swamp Thing became the monstrous guardian of the environment and, ironically, the humans constantly on the verge of destroying it.
Most of my favorite Swamp Thing moments involve his somewhat bemusedly exasperated dealings with John Constantine, who thinks he can command “Swampy” the same way he would one of his demons. He’s wrong and the evergreen tree tattoo on his ass proves it (canon).
Stiefvater and Beem’s graphic novel is a new spin on Swamp Thing’s origin story, exploring the ways in which Alec Holland starts to grow apart from his twin Walker in the summer before both start college and how Alec’s isolation leads him along the path to his destiny.
The Low, Low Woods by Carmen Maria Machado, Dani, and Tamra Bonvillain
Yetis are fuzzy. Jackalopes are cute. Lots of cryptid creatures are just begging to be cuddled. Then again, a fair number of them aren’t. Mermaids (ever seen a siren? Or a ningyo?)? Not cute. Mothman? Gah!
The creatures who inhabit Carmen Maria Machado’s Shudder-to-Think, Pennsylvania, are most definitely not of the good boi variety: rabbits with human eyes. Deer women. Trees that bleed. Of course, the town she’s crafted as the setting for The Low, Low Woods is based on Centralia, Pennsylvania, once a coal mining hub, now a settlement with a sum total population of seven (the state government relocated the willing remainder of the population after one of the coal mines caught fire in 1962. It is still on fire today) and who knows what havoc almost 60 years of toxic fumes has wrought on the local wildlife…
It’s only a four hour drive. Maybe someday I’ll get up the nerve to go find out.
My Neighbor Hayao: Art Inspired by the Films of Miyazaki Exhibit Curated by Ken Harman Hashimoto
This book is a little bit of cheat as it’s not technically a comic or graphic novel, but it is almost entirely images created by various artists in various media as tribute to the work of animated filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki. All of the works included have been displayed as part of The Spoke Gallery’s annual (alas, another 2020 casualty) Miyazaki inspired exhibit, inaugurated in 2017 and held thus far in New York, San Francisco, and Honolulu.
One of the most frequently represented characters in these diverse works is No Face from Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away. No Face is a lonely spirit who adapts to the personalities of those around it. It is unclear whether the spirit has its own corporeal form, though it does wear an ominously blank mask when in its natural state. Part of his adaptive ability allows him to consume other beings and take on their appearances and personalities—when it is around or swallows cruel, arrogant characters No Face becomes cruel and arrogant; when the people around No Face are kind, gentle, and happy, it takes on those traits. No Face is capable of independent thought and decision making.
No Face is both a fascinating and terrifying presence: it could capture everything you want in a friend but, at the same time, it could infiltrate your life without your ever knowing, a shape shifter in your sanctum, a shrike in your nest.
There’s also always the possibility you’ll be next…
Is your spine tingling yet? Who would you be most afraid to meet in a dark alley? To find under your bed?
Happy Hauntings, ghouls and goblins.
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- That’s a Dead Body, Damien: Horror Elements in Eve Silver’s DARK DESIRES
- 8 Great Picture Books for Halloween
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- 10 Great Books Featuring Cemeteries
- Why Are Teenage Girls So Scary?