One day, back when I was a full-time goth, I looked around and realized we were all nerds. Maybe it was while I was people watching through a Red Bull and vodka (please don’t ever drink this) haze at Das Bunker at the Catch One in Los Angeles. Maybe it was while I was vending at Bat’s Day in the Fun Park. Maybe it was during my millionth forced rewatch of The Crow or the millionth time someone referenced Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics. As with any other subculture, all sorts of individuals exist within, but I can assure you from personal experience that many of those individuals enjoy comics. Many of us pulled our aesthetic from comics like The Crow (and its adaptation) and Sandman. Many of us pulled our lingo from comics by Jhonen Vasquez. But guess what, old timer? There’s a whole new world of goth comics.
It was an interesting practice, figuring out which books should go on this list of gothy comics. Depending on who you’re talking to, there’s a certain mystique attributed to the goth subculture, and I well remember the days of Twilight when a chunk of fans in search of that vampy life flooded the clubs, did not quite find what they were looking for, and trickled out, leaving a handful of the converted (probably people who had never felt like they fit in anywhere, and who had not been particularly popular in high school) behind. Some people will forever match the subculture with the floppy-haired South Park sad kids.
It’s hard to encapsulate what makes something or someone goth. If you looked at me today, you probably wouldn’t think, Goth. But I still listen to the music and relate to the subculture. Before the pandemic, I even managed to drag my creaking bones to the clubs once in a red moon. In the end, I chose ten of the comics that spoke to the goth in me.
But first! If there’s one thing I’d love to see more of, it’s Black people represented in goth comics. So much of goth culture centers whiteness. When I was in the thick of things, you couldn’t escape the ideal of lily white/porcelain/(any other poetic metaphor for white) skin, for instance — an ideal I’m sure persists today. White supremacy exists in all sorts of places; it certainly exists in goth culture, and it made being a Black goth uncomfortable and unpleasant at times.
My first recommendation goes to the comics of Bianca Xunise, who you can find on Instagram and around the web. Bianca is a Black goth who creates comics about being goth, being Black, living with mental illness, and so much more. These comics speak to this goth on so many levels.
Another great artist I want to shout out is Jettila Lewis. I used to see Jetti at the goth clubz before we both moved out of L.A. to our respective new homes. Jetti is an exceptional artist and occasionally posts comics on Instagram.
Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki
I cannot with the talent of the Tamaki team. I loved This One Summer and snatched up Skim the minute I heard about the graphic novel. Kimberly Keiko Cameron, AKA Skim, is a Wiccan goth coming of age (I was a Wiccan goth!). This comic is so beautiful and so heartbreaking. It’s a powerful slice of high school life with the suicide of a student at its center, and it covers everything from queer exploration to shifting friendships. The art swept me into Skim’s alt life and back to the ’90s.
Destroyer by Victor LaValle and Dietrich Smith
Goth and gothic lit meet! Destroyer is a new take on the Mary Shelley classic Frankenstein, and is written by none other than master of horror Victor LaValle. The story tackles some heavy topics, including police violence and race violence following a scientist who loses her son to police violence and who then turns to her skills in an attempt to bring about justice. The story takes a hard look at the struggle of being Black in America and offers something both timely and familiar.
Giant Days by John Allison, Max Sarin, and Lissa Treiman
Not gonna lie. I picked up the first volume of this comic thanks to nothing more than the cover. Esther is my favorite thing about Giant Days, which follows the misadventures of three friends entering adulthood and attending the same university. I came into my own as a goth in college, but Esther is so much more extra and cool about living that life. I get to relive those years (they’re much more fun in the comic than they were IRL), but with an extra dose of gothiness alongside those oh so awkward hit-and-miss personal explorations.
House of Whispers Vol. 1: The Power Divided by Nalo Hopkinson and Neil Gaiman
Okay, so Sandman was hugely popular when I was a goth. I imagine it still is. And while I got burned out on that universe a while back, I was newly excited about the announcement of a series expanding the universe because Nalo Hopkinson, one of my favorite authors (go read Sister Mine), is involved! I couldn’t be more thrilled. Hopkinson enters the world of Sandman with this comic where Erzulie in the bayou learns that a group of girls might unleash a pandemic (eesh), which would then release a dangerous loa lord.
Adventure Time: Marceline & The Scream Queens by Meredith Gran and Pendleton Ward
I light up when I see gothy characters on the screen. Triana Orpheus from The Venture Brothers, Jane Lane from Daria, Wednesday Addams from The Addams Family (I mean, that whole family, really), and Marceline from Adventure Time. And guess what? Marceline got her own comic following her, Princess Bubblegum, and their paranormal rock band on tour. I’m guilty of fantasizing about being in a goth/punk band, but I think I’ll live vicariously through Marceline instead.
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
This one brought me back to Renaissance Faire and my days camping with SCA. What is it about goths and that Medieval life? I do not know, but it me. Nimona puts the cherry on top by wanting to be a villain; we root for the antiheroes. And she is an antihero because villainy might not be what you assume in this hilarious and touching graphic novel about a young, chaotic shapeshifter sidekicking it for Lord Ballister Blackheart.
Zatanna: The Jewel of Gravesend by Alys Arden and Jacquelin De Leon
I’m sorry. It looks like this one’s out of stock at the time of writing this, but I’m including it anyway because I love the aesthetic. I was definitely into the occult as a goth (still am!), and Zatanna embodies that more modern occult sensibility. This New York-set comic follows Zatanna, caught in a magical rivalry and unearthing the truth about a family legacy. The girl’s first kiss happens in a ride called the Haunted Hell Gate, and she walks her pet rabbit on a leash. Find me where whimsy, magic, and goth vibes meet. You can check out some of the pages here.
Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata
Manga and Japanese culture were big in the scene, and I had a major Gothic Lolita phase, so I had to include this manga featuring gothy Misa Amane. Misa is one member of a cast of characters in this mystery horror manga following Light Yagami, a student who finds a notebook dropped by a rogue death god. It doesn’t get much more goth than that.