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Horror

Horror Comics That’ll Give You the Chills

Steph Auteri

Senior Contributor

Steph Auteri is a journalist who has written for the Atlantic, the Washington Post, Pacific Standard, VICE, and elsewhere. Her more creative work has appeared in Creative Nonfiction, under the gum tree, Poets & Writers, and other publications, and she is the Essays Editor for Hippocampus Magazine. Her essay, "The Fear That Lives Next to My Heart," published in Southwest Review, was listed as a Notable Essay in Best American Essays 2021. She also writes bookish stuff here and at the Feminist Book Club, is the author of A Dirty Word, and is the founder of Guerrilla Sex Ed. When not working, she enjoys yoga, embroidery, singing, cat snuggling, and staring at the birds in her backyard feeder. You can learn more at stephauteri.com and follow her on Insta/Threads at @stephauteri.

Oni Press

Welcome to Elwich—an oasis of small-town perfection, where the schools overflow with cheery-eyed children, lovingly adorned homes line the historic boulevards . . . and only the crows can see the deep, festering rot that lurks beneath the pristine surface.

Murder.
Demonology.
Possession.
Obsession.

Elwich has them all on offer—and behind every dwelling awaits a horrifying new story to be told. Shock, terror, and wry humor pepper every page of Emmy Award-winning, Eisner Award-nominated cartoonist and animator Jay Stephens’s Dwellings.

I like all different sorts of horror. Comedic horror. Psychological horror. Horror with roots in the occult.

But the best sort of horror, in my humble opinion? The horror that keeps you up all night. The sort that creeps up on you, raising goosebumps on your arms, making the skin on your scalp and at the back of your neck prickle, giving you the all-over chills. This is the horror that leaves you feeling uneasy, even in the safety of your own home. The horror that makes you question every creak and moan of the house as it settles, that makes you afraid of the dark.

There are plenty of horror novels, of course, that do this well. In the case of those particular books, all I need is my imagination to freak myself out. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been consumed by regret over reading a work of horror right before bedtime, the dark looming outside my window, my spouse out of town. Why do I always do this to myself??

But there’s something about the visual aspect of comics and graphic novels that can elevate horror. The most talented comic artists can make a scary story even scarier. I have a rolodex of terrifying comic panels in my brain that have been so well done I’ll never forget them.

If you, like me, enjoy living in a constant state of low-level terror thanks to your creepy reading habits, I’ve got the list for you. Below, I share eight horror comics that have given me the chills. Maybe they’ll do the same for you.

The Closet by James Tynion IV et al. - book cover

The Closet by James Tynion IV, Gavin Fullerton, Chris O’Halloran, and Tom Napolitano

Tynion is one of my favorite writers in the world of horror comics, and this won’t be the only time he appears on this list. This particular comic is very wee (it’s a three-issue miniseries), but it really packs a wallop. In the first issue, we’re introduced to a young boy who’s afraid of the monster in his closet and the father who dismisses his fears. His father insists that whether the monster is real doesn’t actually matter, as they’ll soon be moving across the country. But problems such as these are not so easily outrun, and the eventual reveal of the monster — and what it truly is — is like a punch to the heart.

The Low Low Woods cover

The Low, Low Woods by Carmen Maria Machado and Dani

I’ve written about this one before. This comic made my skin crawl, and, well, the story has stayed with me. Machado is exceptionally good at dark and upsetting, and whether she’s writing fiction or nonfiction, her explorations of desire and sexual violence are powerful. At the beginning of The Low, Low Woods, we’re introduced to two friends and their hometown of Shudder-To-Think, Pennsylvania, a former mining town where strange and unexplainable occurrences go unexplored. But when El and Octavia wake up in the movie theater with no memory of the past two hours, things come to a head. El wants to know more. Octavia wants to forget it ever happened. This push and pull is at the heart of what’s wrong in their small Pennsylvania town. (Content warnings for sexual assault and gaslighting.)

The Night Eaters Book 2: Her Little Reapers by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda - book cover

The Night Eaters, Book 2: Her Little Reapers by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda

The first book in Liu and Takeda’s Night Eaters trilogy came out in 2022, and I really enjoyed the story of a pair of Chinese American twins who come to learn of an unbelievable family legacy (spoiler alert: they discover they’re demons). Book 2 came out late last year, upping the stakes dramatically for Ipo and Keon, who may just have to harness their brand-new powers to save the world. Beyond the story itself, I really enjoy the lush artwork in this series.

A Guest in the House by Emily Carroll - book cover

A Guest in the House by Emily Carroll

In this stunningly drawn graphic novel, Abby marries a man who was recently widowed and struggles to adjust to a new life with him and his young daughter. But the memory of his husband’s first wife soon seems to grow and expand, taking up even more space in Abby’s life. As Abby begins to have visions of her predecessor, she begins to question everything. Is she losing her grip on reality? Or, could it be possible that things are not what they seem?

Bad Dreams in the Night by Adam Ellis - book cover

Bad Dreams in the Night by Adam Ellis

Ellis is a comic artist and illustrator whose work I follow on Instagram and who used to be a staff cartoonist at BuzzFeed. So, I’m used to seeing his work in the context of just a small handful of panels. When I saw he had a book coming out — and that it was horror — I was pumped. In this graphic horror collection, described as a graphic version of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Ellis presents a number of standalone supernatural tales, eerie and perplexing and, in some cases, leading me to legit shout out, “Ew!” Each of these tales is accompanied by a short description of what inspired the comic. A quick but satisfying (and unsettling) read.

Nita Hawes' Nightmare Blog - book cover

Nita Hawes’ Nightmare Blog, Vol. 1: The Fire Next Time by Rodney Barnes, Jason Shawn Alexander, Patric Reynolds, Well-Bee, Luis Nct, and Szymon Kudranski

I’m not really one for vampire tales (well, not usually), but when I saw that the team behind Killadelphia had an offshoot series that trafficked in demon possession, I was in. I mean, just look at that cover art. In this first volume, paranormal investigator Nita Hawes — battling demons of her own — must test her mettle against a demon who’s inhabited the comatose body of a man who hungers for revenge. What makes the outcome particularly tricky is the fact that, just maybe, vengeance is warranted?

The Deviant - book cover

The Deviant by James Tynion IV, Joshua Hixson, and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou

I told you we hadn’t seen the last of Tynion on this list. In this case, though, he’s working with a different creative team. Volume 1 of this creepy series doesn’t come out until October, but you can already read issues 1-5 individually. In this tale, a man dressed as Santa Claus commits a series of gruesome murders. Fifty years later, a young writer compelled by his own complicated emotions interviews the man who ended up behind bars for the crime — though he’s always maintained his innocence. Come for the disturbing crime; stay for the explorations of deviance and queer identity.

cover of The Bone Orchard Mythos: The Passageway by Jeff Lemire, Andrea Sorrentino, and Dave Stewart 

Bone Orchard: The Passageway by Jeff Lemire, Andrea Sorrentino, and Dave Stewart

Finally, this book is the first in the Bone Orchard Mythos, an ongoing, shared horror universe featuring a mix of limited series and standalone graphic novels. I really dig everything this creative team does together, so I’ve been truly enjoying everything that’s come out so far as part of this project. But, for me, the very first book is still the most unsettling. It’s about a geologist sent to a remote lighthouse to check out an odd phenomenon: a deep pit that’s appeared out of nowhere. Where does it come from, and does the lighthouse keeper know more than she’s revealing? The creep factor here is high, and once you read it, you won’t be able to resist the rest of the books in the Bone Orchard universe.

Hungry for more? In addition to those older posts of mine linked to at the beginning of this post, check out these 12 terrifying YA graphic novels.