My favorite holiday by far is Halloween. It’s my happy time of the year. I love watching people dress up as vampires, ghouls, witches, and other creatures from the spirit world. For me it is the perfect time to watch horror movies on TV until deep into the night. Or curl up next to the fireplace and read comic books that have a nice Halloweenish flavor to them. If only I had a fireplace… Anyway, here are my Top 5 favorite ‘Halloweeny’ comics. By Michael Minneboo.
1. Nocturnals (Dan Brereton)
To me, it doesn’t get more Halloween-esque than the comic book series ‘Nocturnals‘ by American writer/illustrator Dan Brereton. Taking place in the fictional California town Pacific City, Doctor Horror and his band of misfit night creatures are fighting against evil vampire street gangs, hillbilly swamp witches and robotic hitmen that work for the mob. Doctor Horror is a scientific genius, master of the occult and father of Eve, aka Halloween Girl. Halloween Girl not only dresses like it’s Halloween every day, she also carries a plastic bucket in the form of a pumpkin head that contains toys that are possessed by spirits. Whenever Eve needs help, the toys come to life and transform into monsters that protect her.
Both dad and daughter are natives from another dimension. They traveled to earth after their native planet got overrun by the Crim: parasitic squid like creatures that could have walked out of an H.P. Lovecraft story. Unfortunately the Crim have also reached earth and team up with the malicious Narn K Corporation. This powerful bioengineering firm specializes in controversial experimentation and covert weapons development, and also creates animal-human hybrids. Some of these hybrids have joined Doc Horror’s group. Such as Firelion: a big guy that has the ability to conjure and control fires and Komodo, a young animal-human hybrid. He’s also known as Dragon Boy because, well, he looks like one.
Brereton mixes elements from gangster and horror stories, science fiction and Halloween lore into deliciously and beautifully painted adventures that breathe the spirit of Halloween.
2. Batman: Haunted Knight (Jeff Loeb, Tim Sale)
One could argue that with all the weird costumed villains running around Gotham City, living in Batman’s hometown must feel like it’s Halloween every day. Therefore, comic book stories about Batman have to be part of this top five. Luckily for us, there are a couple of great Batman stories connected to the holiday. Before the creative team of writer Jeph Loeb and artist Tim Sale made the impressive Batman story ‘The Long Halloween‘, for three years from 1993 till 1995 they cut their teeth on three Halloween Specials. These specials were collected as ‘Batman: Haunted Knight’. All three stories take place in the early days of the Dark Knight’s career, before he hooked up with the Boy Wonder, and all three stories take place on Halloween, or the days surrounding the holiday. In ‘Fears’ Batman is trying to hunt down the Scarecrow, who is knocking out power grids with his crew, so they can loot the city in the dark. The Scarecrow is an interesting villain because he uses people’s fear as a weapon, just like Batman is trying to evoke fear into criminals. In this story Batman has to deal with his own fears while he’s being trapped in a large maze with poisonous thorns, while Bruce Wayne has a new love interest that keeps a dark secret. In the story ‘Madness’ Batman is dealing with the Mad Hatter who kidnaps children to host a very twisted tea party. A young Barbara Gordon, James Gordon’s adopted daughter who later becomes Batgirl, is one of the victims and chosen by the Hatter to play Alice. The final story, ‘Ghosts,’ is Loeb’s reworking of the classic ‘A Christmas Carol’: Batman is visited by the ghost of his father, Poison Ivy, The Joker and Death, trying to get the message across that Bruce should be concerned about the legacy of Bruce Wayne. After all, Wayne and his money could do a lot of good for the world.
There’s a great Halloween-esque atmosphere in ‘Haunted Knight.’ Loeb and Sale are able to reveal something new about Bruce Wayne and the night his parents were killed. After more than 75 years of Batman stories, that’s quite a feat.
3. Locke & Key (Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodriguez)
The series ‘Locke & Key’ revolves around the Locke family. After the brutal murder of the father, the three siblings and their mother move to their ancestral home in Lovecraft, New England. The mansion is called Keyhouse and has magical keys and doors, giving the bearers of the keys magical powers. For instance, one key changes your sex. The Locke family will soon will find out that a devious demon, kept captive on the grounds, also has its eyes on the keys and is willing to shed blood to get them.
Author Joe Hill (yes, Stephen Kings’ son) gives an original twist to the haunted house theme and treats us to very rounded and likable characters. The three Key kids have a hard time dealing with the murder of their father and all of them do this in their own way. These characters imbue the horror story with a lot of heart. The horror and violence in ‘Locke & Key’ feel real and are not for the faint of heart. Gabriel Rodriguez‘s art style is very lively, consisting of stark, clear lines. It’s just cartoony enough to take some of the edge off of the depicted violent actions.
While not really a story revolving around Halloween, ‘Locke & Key’ is a must read for anyone who likes to be scared by a very well crafted and hellish comic book. Perfect reading for a lonely Halloween eve.
4. Hellboy (Mike Mignola)
One of my favorite comic book series of all time and one that has a distinct Halloweenish feel to it, is ‘Hellboy’ created by Mike Mignola in 1993. As an infant demon Hellboy was summoned from Hell to Earth by Nazi occultists and Rasputin to unleash the Apocalypse. This summoning took place in 1944, the last days of the Second World War. Hellboy was found by Allied Forces and raised by Professor Trevor Bruttenholm. He’s now an adult, although he ages a lot slower than humans do. Although Hellboy, with his red skin, cloven hooves for feet, an over-sized right hand made of stone and horns growing from his head, looks like a demon from hell, he’s a good guy fighting the forces of evil together with the an international agency called the BPRD (Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defence). Bruttenholm, who raised Hellboy as if he was a normal boy, founded the agency. Some of other members of the BPRD are strange creatures themselves, such as Abe Sapien, an amphibious man and Johann Kraus, an ectoplasmic physical medium. Together they fight against ghouls, monsters, ghosts, vampires and Nazi’s.
Mignola (and other writers and artists) combine superhero antics with the supernatural and folkloristic elements, creating a wonderful, somewhat goofy, Halloween-esque world. If it ever gets to too dark or horror like, Hellboy’s dry wit will always lighten the mood. Mignola’s expressionistic drawing style sets the right dark mood in which to visualize the stories.
5. Sticky Monsters (John Kenn Mortensen)
‘I was born in Denmark 1978. I write and direct television shows for kids. I have a set of twins and not much time for anything. But when I have time I draw monster drawings on post-it notes… it is a little window into a different world, made on office supplies.’ This is how John Kenn Mortensen introduces his sticky monsters: a wonderful collection of Halloween-esque creatures and creepy monsters, drawn on the famous yellow post-it notes. The creatures sometimes resemble something out of a horror story or nightmare, other times they look more like overgrown Muppets. Each drawing seems to contain a whole story and sparkles the imagination. Mortensen creates a world where kids and creepy monsters take center stage and offers perfect Halloween ‘Bat’-time reading.
Michael Minneboo is a comics expert, journalist and blogger. He has been a Spider-Man-fan for over 30 years. In 2017, his book 'Mijn vriend Spider-Man: Superhelden, geeks en fancultuur' (My Buddy Spider-Man: Superheroes, geeks and fan culture) was released. He blogs about comics and popular culture on http://www.michaelminneboo.nl. On Twitter he is @MichaelMinneboo.